Heroes: Paire Challenge #10


Claire shut the book slowly, the slip of paper which had marked the page carefully palmed and out of sight. She consciously held her breathing steady as she set it atop the desk beside the care package addressed “Claire (the blonde Petrelli) Bennet” in Heidi’s careful script.

“Are there—?” West asked.


“What kin—”

“White chocolate macadamia.”

“Awesome,” he reached past her and into the box, and she let him. “I love your step-mom.”

Claire really liked her too, and the delicious smell that had worked its way passed the zip-lock seal reminded her of late night baking sessions at the Petrelli mansion. Two equally-nervous outsiders finding a scrumptious method of breaking the ice.

There were “artworks” by Simon and Monty, and a rubber-banded stack of family photos courtesy of Nathan.

But there’d be no mistaking who had put the book of poems in the box, and to let West see what page he’d marked would have simply been too much, too telling, too obvious. At least to her guilt-ridden mind.

Her back to him, she heard the springs squeak as West stretched out on her dorm-room bed. She looked at the piece of paper in her hand.

“Soon,” it said.

* * * * *

Peter sat in his armchair, newspaper in his lap but eyes on the sunset beyond the window.

“Where’s your Dale Dunn?” she asked, fingers on the spine tilting into the empty space the missing book left behind.

“I loaned it to a friend,” his response was carefully casual.

She tilted her head. “Really? You’re obsessive about that book. ‘That’s a first edition, Rachel.’, ‘Don’t break the binding, Rachel.’. I’m shocked you let it out of the apartment.”

He turned his eyes to her, his ‘stop the family’s questions’ girlfriend. He liked her, he truly did. Hated that she was always on the edge of suspicious. That he gave her reason to be.

“They’re another bibliophile,” he answered, the pronoun specifically gender-neutral. “It’s in good hands.”

Soft hands. Gentle hands.

“It better be.” She smiled. “I love when you read to me from that book.”

His lips echoed her expression placidly, neutrally. Read to her, pretending she was someone else. Always skipping a particular page.

His eyes drifted back to the window, and the west.

* * * * *

No one ever questioned that Peter made Claire’s flight arrangements when she’d return to New York; that he’d greet her at the airport; that he’d bring her to the house.

He never shared the flight times, so no one was aware, when their taxi would deposit them in the evening that she’d arrived in the early afternoon.

He always paid for the airport hotel in cash, so no one could see anything untoward on a credit card bill.

They never kissed at the gate, as hard as it was to wait until the room door closed behind them.

This was their time, their reunion, and they shared it with no one.

“I missed you,” Peter said, finally taking a breath that wasn't shared with her. “So, so much.”

“It’s getting harder,” Claire sighed.

He smiled. “That could mean a lot of things.”

Her eyes dropped to his chest, but were distant. “To lie.”

Peter’s pressed his lips to her forehead. “I know.”

“The wait is so difficult anymore,” her blonde locks drifted across her eyes, “but the lying…”

“And I didn’t make it easier, did I?”

She pulled away, moving to the bed and her carry-on. “It’s beautiful,” her hand slipped inside to the tenderly retrieve the volume within. The fingertips of her other touched the golden-edged pages and urged them open.

His hands slipped about her waist from behind; he pressed against her once more, unable to be apart from her for even a few moments. Their eyes scanned the text together, the torment of the words as exquisite as the heat of their contact, the burning in their blood.

Claire sighed, her gaze drifting away from the page. “But it’s all we have, isn’t it? Lying? To everyone?”

He turned her to him, eyes flashing. “No. The love is real. It’s true.”

“To us.”

“We’re all that matters.”

“Are we?”

“This time, this room, this feeling. All us.”

He kissed her. She let him.

“But after? When we go home?”

This is home.”

She closed her eyes. “It is. But is it enough?”

Peter took the book from her hand, and sat down on the bed. He looked at the cover. “This is as much as I can question it, Claire. With all that we do, can do, are meant to do… They can’t help me with that.”

She sat beside him. “I know. Only you… you’re the only one who is enough.”

He looked at her. “But…”

Claire swallowed. “But I can’t do it anymore. I can’t keep lying. It hurts too much.”

Peter felt an agony rip through him, a pain like bursting across the sky wasn’t.

And then she slipped the book from his fingers, and set it on the night-table. Off of their bed.

“It’s time to tell the truth,” she said, “our truth.”

His lip trembled, eyes pricking with a relief that spilled down his cheeks, as she pushed him gently to the bed.

She kissed him. He welcomed her.

* * * * *

That night, they held hands at the door, waiting for its answer. Heidi glanced at the entwined fingers briefly before giving her step-daughter a welcoming kiss.

“I get worried, you know,” she said as they passed by and into the house. At their pause, she continued. “At the wait.”

Two crooked eyebrows turned to her.

“From when she lands until she gets here,” Heidi said, then looked once again at their hands. “I trust I won’t need to be so worried anymore?”

And their hearts fluttered with their smiles.

* * * * *

If mist rolls down the whitewashed slope

In evening, and the darkness settles early,

And if I hold your hand in mine

While dusk and murk descend about our ears

Like curtains, more to keep the day within

Than the night without,

And if your hand is warm enough

To keep fog-dampened clothes

From chilling whitewashed flesh beneath—

Then why do I not long to see your face?

But when the dark rests fully on

Our shoulders, and the hand in mine

Speaks lighter with its touch,

And I play whispers through your hair

With mine, touch silk and spin webs

Swiftly in the air—

Am I not prey as well, entangled in

This web I whisper-weave?

Therefore I must pray quickly

In the dusk, which settles

All my fears, which night displays

In tactile grey — that dark

Might keep from me

The chilling sight your hand defies,

Denies; and that my own touch lies

On mist wet skin, not tears

Of one who knows as I

That dusk hides faces promised

To other eyes.

Author’s Note: If you’ve been to my home page (Galloway Creations), you may recognize the poem. Yes, it’s an original (Dale Dunn is an anagram), written quite a while ago now. The story is over two hundred words without the poem, so I hope the Mods don’t hold it against me!

To Other Eyes