Title: Thirteen O'Clock
Summary: Peter and Claire discover they're related, but in a different way.
Spoilers: through Distractions.
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership over these characters. I am merely borrowing them from Tim Kring et al.
Feedback: Yes please! It makes me happy and keeps me writing.
Thanks to Kat for the beta!
A/N: Just pretend that Peter wasn't in a coma for several weeks; he just passed out for a few hours, then went back to New York with Nathan. Claire is 17 in this story.
A/N: Dialog borrowed from the episode "The Fix" and "Distractions" using transcripts from Shadow Anthology.
Burnt Toast Diner. Fri Oct 15, 6pm. – P
Claire let out a breath she felt like she'd been holding for a week. Peter was coming for her.
Life had been crazy since Homecoming for Claire Bennet. She'd already known she was a freak due to her ability to heal from anything, even death. But now she was a freak whose former best friend had been killed by a psycho looking for her and her new best friend no longer remembered them being friends.
It was enough to make a cheerleader give up her pompoms.
Claire had begged the Haitian that worked for her father to give her Peter's number. He refused the first dozen times that she asked. On the thirteenth try he relented and handed it over. Thirteen was her new favorite number.
Of course, once she had his number, it took her several more days to work up the nerve to call him. She stayed late after school so that she could call him from outside the gym, a place she felt close to him. It was October 13 th when Claire nervously dialed Peter's number and hit send.
"Hello?" came the wary greeting.
"Peter? Peter Petrelli?" she anxiously asked.
"Yes, this is Peter. Who may I ask is calling?"
"It's Claire Bennet; the cheerleader from Odessa," Claire informed him.
"Claire?" Peter's voice immediately grew warm, if a little worried. "How did you get my number? Is everything okay?"
Claire shook her head, despite the fact that she knew he couldn't see her. Tears of relief upon hearing his voice filled her eyes. "This guy that works for my dad had your number. I don't know how he got it, but he knows who you are. He's special too, like us, but different. I hope you don't mind me calling."
"Of course not," Peter assured her. "What's wrong?"
"Everything!" Claire wailed. "School's crazy now that Jackie's dead and that guy who tried to kill me is missing, probably still out there. My best friend doesn't remember anything about me healing or even that we were friends. At home I have to pretend that I don't remember anything about healing or how Jackie really died or anything."
"Claire, slow down," Peter said, wishing he were there to talk her down in person. "Now, what do you mean that you're not supposed to remember?"
"The Haitian, the guy who works for my dad, that's what he does. He makes people forget. He made my brother forget about me healing. He made Zach forget too. It was like one minute everything was normal, and the next thing he's saying we haven't talked in years. My dad told the Haitian to make me forget too, but he didn't. He said it was important that I remember."
"He's right. I don't know why you're important yet, but you are. I went to Odessa to save you, remember. There has to be a reason for it all."
"I don't know about all of that. I'm just a girl. What can I do?"
"I haven't quite figured that out yet," Peter admitted. "What is it that you wanted me to do about all of this?"
"I, um, I don't know," Claire said. "I just knew that I had to talk to you. You saved me from Sylar. I just knew that if I could talk to you everything would be better."
"I'm flattered. Has it helped?"
"A little," Claire said, a smile in her voice. "I just don't know how much longer I can do this, Peter. How can I keep looking at my dad every day as if I didn't know about freaks like us? I don't think that I can stay here."
"Are you talking about running away?" Peter asked. "I don't think I can support that. I know it must be hard for you—"
"You have no idea how hard it is," Claire interrupted. "My own father, well, adopted father, tried to have my memories erased. How am I supposed to live with the knowledge that he tried to take away part of who I am? He's a monster and it's getting harder and harder not to let it show how much I hate him."
"It's never fun learning about who your father really is, believe me, I know," Peter said, thinking of his own rocky relationship with his dad.
"Don't treat me like some kid," Claire hissed.
"I'm not," Peter hastened to say. "I just know what it's like to have issues with your father."
"Then help me," Claire pleaded. "I can't stay here much longer, Peter."
"Don't do anything yet," Peter said. "Give me some time to try to figure something out."
"Promise?" Claire asked, sounding happier already.
"I promise," Peter said. "I'll call you back at this number when I can."
"Thanks, Peter. Good bye."
"Bye, Claire," Peter said, disconnecting.
The next day she received the text from Peter with their meeting time.
Peter sat staring at the quiet cell phone in his hand for several minutes after hanging up with Claire.
"What was that all about?" Simone asked, stepping out of his kitchen with a bottle of water.
"Claire…the girl I saved in Texas…she's having some trouble at home," Peter slowly said, trying to process the information himself before he could share it.
"And she called you?"
"Yeah," Peter said. He shook himself out of his daze and set the phone down, turning his attention to Simone.
"You must have made quite the impression," she said, sitting beside him on the couch and running a possessive hand across his shoulders. "Should I be jealous?"
"Don't be ridiculous," Peter retorted, standing up. "She's just a kid."
Simone laughed. "I know. Just making sure. So what did the kid want?"
Peter huffed a laugh. "To run away from home."
"And come here?" Simone asked.
Peter shrugged. "Maybe. She didn't ask outright if she could come to New York, but she said she didn't know how much longer she could remain at home."
"You're not actually thinking of helping a minor to run away, across state lines, are you? You know that's illegal, Peter. If Nathan knew you were even thinking—"
"Don't tell Nathan," Peter said, cutting her off. Simone looked shocked at the harsh tone Peter used. He softened his expression and his voice. "It's just…you know how he gets when it comes to people with abilities. He's an even bigger skeptic than you are."
"What do abilities have to do with anything?"
"Claire can heal. She's the reason I'm not dead right now. She said that there's a man who can take away people's memories working for her dad, and he was supposed to remove her memories of the whole ordeal with Sylar, at her father's orders. But he didn't."
Simone's eyes were wide as she said, "I can see how that would make it difficult living with her father. But he is still her father and she is still a minor. You know you can't interfere."
"I know, I know," Peter said, plopping back down on the couch.
"You know how teenagers are," Simone continued. "Everything is life and death at that age, especially for a girl."
"With Sylar out there, Claire's life really is in danger. I don't understand how her father could put her at risk by denying her the knowledge that a psychotic serial killer is after her."
"Maybe he wanted to take away the pain that knowledge brought," Simone suggested.
"Whose side are you on?" Peter asked.
"I'm not on anyone's side," Simone said.
Peter stood abruptly, striding over to pick up his jacket and keys. "I need to see Isaac. Maybe he can lend his particular brand of insight to this situation."
Simone's features darkened. "You shouldn't be encouraging him."
"He's clean now. You know that. He's going to paint the future regardless of whether or not I ask him about this situation. He's a valuable resource and I'm not afraid to ask him for help."
"Fine, if you're going, I'm not coming with you," Simone said, crossing her arms.
"That's probably a good idea. Things are tense enough between us when you're not there," Peter agreed. He ignored Simone's hurt look as he turned to leave.
On the subway ride over to Isaac's, Peter went over his conversation with Simone in his head. She had a valid point; he knew that. It would be wrong for him to encourage Claire to run away from home, and even worse if he helped her. However, he couldn't help feeling like he owed it to her to support her decision.
There was a bond between them now. It wasn't just because he'd saved her life, although he was sure that was a large part of it. He'd felt it the moment they literally bumped into each other in the hallway at the high school. There was just something about Claire that shouted that she was supposed to be in his life.
He'd thought that maybe he'd imagined it. He told himself that he was allowing his imagination to run wild and it was just his ego being flattered by Claire saying he was her hero. Except that when he'd heard her voice today, he had felt calmer than he had the entire time he'd been back in New York.
Peter knocked on the door to Isaac's studio and anxiously waited for the door to open. He hoped the artist was home, suddenly realizing that he should have called first.
"Peter, I've been expecting you," Isaac said, opening the door.
"You were?" he asked, entering the studio.
"Yeah, Simone called to say you were on your way over," Isaac said, crossing to the canvasses set up in the middle of the room.
"Oh, yeah, I was just thinking that I should have called first," Peter said.
"That would have been the polite thing to do," Isaac pointed out.
"Sorry. So, um, did she tell you why I was coming?"
Isaac rolled his eyes, hating being around the man who had stolen his girlfriend. "She told me to tell you not to go to Texas, regardless of what I had painted."
"Why does that not surprise me?" Peter grumbled.
"Because Simone is selfish and she doesn't want your attention anywhere except on her," Isaac answered the rhetorical question.
"I hate to ask, man, but have you painted anything else about Claire? Will she be in danger if she stays at home?"
Isaac shrugged, picking up a rag and starting to clean his brushes. "Look for yourself."
Peter turned to look at the freshly painted canvases surrounding him. He'd been so caught up on feeling guilty that he hadn't looked at the paintings yet.
There was one with an open hand, fire sitting on her palm. The manicured nails and bracelets revealed it to be a woman's hand. Peter was intrigued by the idea of someone who could wield fire. He had no idea what she had to do with Claire's situation though.
In another painting, a tall black man with a shaved head held a frightened Claire against his chest, a hand over her mouth. This must be the Haitian that Claire told him about. So this painting had already happened.
One was more of a landscape painting. A road sign welcomed a car to Kermit, TX - you could see a man with brown hair driving the car, a girl with blonde hair in the passenger seat.
"It looks like I'm headed back to Texas," Peter muttered to himself.
Claire had worked very hard to convince Zach that they were friends over the past week, and he was slowly becoming the friend she remembered. When she told him that she had asked Peter to help her run away, he had a suggestion.
"What about your birth parents?" he asked.
"What about them?" Claire retorted, confused. "I have no idea who they are. The people my dad introduced me to were phonies."
"Couldn't you try to track them down? What do you do know about your adoption?" he pressed.
Claire thought about it. "Not much, but I think I know someone who might know."
Zach stayed in the car while Claire went to her secret meeting spot with the Haitian.
"Do you have any idea how dangerous this is?" a familiar accented voice said as he approached.
Claire turned to face him. "You said if I had an emergency, to hang the chimes outside my window."
"Is your father becoming suspicious?"
"No. And it's kind of a problem. Every word out of my mouth is a lie. I have to laugh, and smile, and look him in the eye. My own father. It's breaking my heart," she said, her voice wet with unshed tears.
"Would you prefer I took your memory?"
She shook her head. "I need to know that one thing in my life is real. Do you know who my real parents are?"
"Of your father, I know nothing," he elusively said.
"And my mother?"
Reluctantly, he told her, "Only that she died in an explosion here in Texas fourteen years ago."
Claire was heartbroken. "My mother died? Are you sure?"
"Your father told me many years ago. He had no reason to lie. This is the last conversation we have about this. Now you need to go back home and forget about your real parents."
The Haitian left as quickly as he'd arrived, not wanting his betrayal to be discovered.
Zach drove them to the Burnt Toast Diner for some cheer-up junk food; and some privacy. While Claire munched on fries, he used the café's free wireless internet to browse the newspaper archives on his laptop.
His face lit up when he came across one particular article. "There was a fire in an apartment house fourteen years ago in Kermit, Texas. Kermit, why does that sound so familiar?"
"'Cause of the frog?" Claire sarcastically pointed out.
Ignoring her, Zach said, "Check it out. A 21-year-old woman was killed in the explosion. Meredith Gordon."
"Oh, my God," Claire gasped.
Zach continued to read, "Also killed in the fire was her 18-month-old daughter. Claire, I think that's you."
"But I didn't die," Claire pointed out.
"Somebody thought you did."
"What am I supposed to do with all this?" Claire asked, bewildered.
"You may still have a real family out there. Maybe you got an aunt or a rich, eccentric uncle," pointed out.
"Great, an uncle," Claire huffed. Not exactly what she was looking for.
"Who knows, one of them might even know who your real father is," Zach said, trying to remain hopeful, getting caught up in the mystery of Claire's past.
Later that night, Claire decided to do some research into Zach's suggestion that maybe someone would have known Meredith Gordon, her maybe bio-mom.
She went through the phone book and started to call anyone with the last name of Gordon. After three calls, no one had heard of anyone named Meredith. She dialed the fourth number with little expectation that this call would pan out.
A woman answered. "Hello?"
Claire began her rehearsed speech. "Hi, I'm looking for someone related to Meredith Gordon. She died in an explosion fourteen years ago. I've been calling everyone in Kermit with the last name of 'Gordon.' Any chance that you're related to her?"
"Who is this?" the woman suspiciously asked.
"My name's Claire Bennet, I'm calling from Odessa."
"What -- What is this about? And how do you know the name 'Meredith Gordon'?"
"I think she was my mom," Claire admitted.
"Is this some kind of joke?"
"Well, Meredith only had one daughter, and she died in the fire," the woman said.
"That's kind of what I'm trying to say is ... I didn't die. I think I'm her and I'm looking for any information I can find about my mom," Claire acknowledged.
"Well, then you made the right call. This is her," Meredith confessed.
"Mom?" Claire asked in bewildered wonder.
"Yeah," Meredith confirmed, lighting a cigarette with her bare fingers.
"You're not really going?" Simone asked in disbelief as she watched Peter pack a suitcase.
"Yes, I am," Peter insisted, throwing a couple of shirts and a pair of jeans in the bag.
Simone followed him into the bathroom, where he was now packing up what he'd need from there. "You're going to drop everything, again, to run off to Texas for some high school teenager?"
"How many times do I have to tell you that I am?" Peter retorted, growing frustrated by Simone's protestations. "Claire needs me. Isaac's paintings showed us in Texas together, again."
"Isaac's paintings," Simone huffed. "You know, I'm starting to regret ever having introduced the two of you."
"Isaac has a gift, whether you want to believe it or not," Peter said.
"I've always known that he has talent," Simone said, wistfully. "But that doesn't mean that he's painting the future."
"I've seen his paintings, Simone. I've seen them come true."
"He painted you dead, Peter," Simone reminded him. "I'm more relieved than I can say that he got that one wrong." She stepped in Peter's path to wrap her arms around him.
"He didn't get it wrong," Peter said, shrugging out of her embrace. "I did die in Odessa. It was Claire's ability that brought me back."
"So you're running off to be with her the second she calls you? Is this how it's going to be from now on, Peter?" Simone asked, her hands on her hips. "You're going to drop everything to go be with this teenager whenever she stubs her toe?"
"She wouldn't need to call me for that," Peter joked, but Simone wasn't in a joking mood. "Look, I know this seems crazy. I know it. But I also know that this is what I need to do. It's who I am. If you can't accept that, then maybe we shouldn't be together."
"I'm starting to think that you're right about that. We shouldn't be together. You're not even here long enough to be an 'us'."
Peter finally stopped his frantic packing to stare at Simone. He gulped. "Is that what you really want? To end this?"
"This has barely begun," she pointed out.
Peter closed his eyes and sighed. After lusting after Simone for so long, he was losing her already. But if she couldn't accept that he had to go help Claire, then it was probably for the best.
"I guess you're right. You should probably go. I have to finish packing. I have a flight to catch," Peter coldly said.
Simone looked stricken, but didn't protest. She picked up her purse and headed towards the door. She paused with the door open to quietly say, "Good luck, Peter."
Peter waited for the click of the door closing before he was moved. He could mourn the ending of the short relationship later. Right now, he had a cheerleader to save.
Claire was waiting for Peter at the Burnt Toast Diner as planned. A large duffle bag sat beside her chair in the diner filled with as much as she was able to fit. She could hardly believe she was actually doing this. She would have felt silly sitting with such a large duffle if this diner wasn't across the street from a bus depot. She just knew Peter had planned it that way.
Zach had been a great help in aiding her escape. He'd distracted her mother by asking questions about Mr. Muggles while Claire sneaked the bag out to his car. Then he drove her to the diner; her parents thought she was staying over at Zach's house to pull an all-nighter studying for a test. He'd offered to wait around with her, but she insisted that she was fine.
Peter walked through the door five minutes before 6:00pm, looking even better than she remembered. Claire sucked in a sharp breath at how handsome he was. His face lit up when he spotted her sitting by herself at a table.
He was still smiling when he approached the table. He stood there, just looking at her for a minute, before he said, "You're here."
"Of course I'm here," Claire said, still sitting in the chair. "I asked you to come, after all."
Peter shook his head nervously, grinning self-consciously. "I know. I guess part of me didn't believe that you'd show up."
"It's so good to see you again," Claire said, standing and throwing her arms around Peter's neck, pulling him into a tight hug.
Peter slowly wrapped the young woman in his arms, surprised, but relishing the contact.
When they pulled apart, Peter asked, "So, you ready to get out of here?"
"You bet." Claire grinned. She leaned down to grab her bag, but Peter beat her to it.
"Great," Peter said. "I don't know if you had any ideas about where to go, but I think we need to go to Kermit."
Claire stopped in her tracks, gaping at him. "What did you say?"
Peter stopped and backtracked to where Claire had stopped. He frowned slightly in confusion. "Kermit? It's a town about an hour west of here."
"How did you know I was going to ask you to go there?" Claire asked.
Peter's frowned deepened. "I didn't. You were going to ask to go to Kermit? How come?"
"I think my bio-mom lives there. I tracked her down last night. I was hoping we could go meet her," Claire admitted.
Peter's eyes lit up and a grin spread across his face. "I have a feeling she's definitely your mom."
"Really? How do you know?" Claire excitedly asked, continuing to follow him to his rental car.
"Let's just say that I have my sources," he said with a wink.
They had only been on the road for fifteen minutes when Claire turned wide, panicked eyes to Peter. "I can't do this."
"You can't do what?" Peter asked, glancing away from the road briefly to look at her.
"Meet my bio-mom," Claire clarified. "I need more time. Please don't make me do this yet."
Peter frowned. "How much time to you need? I mean, we can probably wait until tomorrow, if you want."
Claire vigorously nodded her head. "Yes, tomorrow would be great. I just need some more time to figure out what I'm going to say."
Peter thought about it. He had figured that they would need to find a motel to stay in tonight anyway, so they could just do that sooner rather than later.
"Okay, we can find a place to stay for tonight and discuss what you'll say to Meredith tomorrow. Sound good?" Peter proposed.
"Yes, thank you!" Claire exclaimed. She leaned over as far as she could with her seat belt on and hugged Peter, or at least his arm.
"Why don't you keep your eye on signs for motels, in that case?" Peter suggested.
It turned out that there weren't any motels along the way, but when they got to Kermit they found a couple. Peter got them a room with two double beds at the Kermit Inn. He apologized to Claire for only getting the one room, but it was all they had left.
Since they hadn't eaten at the diner in Midland, Claire suggested they grab a bite to eat at the pizza place across the street
"So how did you find your mom?" Peter asked, after they placed their order.
"Well, I asked the Haitian if he knew anything, and while he didn't have any info about my bio-dad, he said my dad had told him that my mom died in a fire."
"She didn't really die," Claire said. "Obviously. Just one more lie my dad has told over the years."
Peter reached across the table to cover one of Claire's hands, in sympathy.
"My friend Zach went online and looked up fires around the time I was adopted. He found a newspaper article that mentioned a woman, Meredith Gordon, and her 18-month old baby girl who died in a fire," Claire told him.
"So she thought you were dead too," Peter guessed.
"Yep. I started calling everyone in Kermit with the last name Gordon, hoping to find a relative who could tell me about my mom, and maybe who my dad was. You can imagine my surprise when I found my mom alive."
"I bet she was just as surprised," Peter said.
"Yeah, she sounded a little shell-shocked." Claire paused when their food arrived. "I wonder how she survived the fire. Do you think she can heal, like me?"
"It's possible," Peter agreed. "I haven't heard about two people having the same ability, yet, but I guess it wouldn't be far off for a parent and child to share the same trait."
"It would certainly make it easier to ask her about it," Claire said. "It's not exactly an easy topic to bring up."
"Tell me about it," Peter laughed. "Every time I tried to tell my brother, Nathan, that I thought I could fly he'd shut me up as fast as he could."
"You can fly?" Claire asked in wide-eyed admiration.
"Not really," Peter admitted. "I did a couple of times, when I was around Nathan. He can fly."
"That's so cool."
"Yeah, I think that's why I wanted it to be me so badly," Peter said.
"But if you can do what he can do, then you can fly, too," Claire reminded him.
"With some practice, yeah, I will," Peter agreed.
The easy conversation continued throughout their meal. When they finished eating they returned to the hotel. Claire flipped through the cable channels on the TV, but didn't find anything she wanted to watch, while Peter returned a call from his brother. Claire tried not to eavesdrop, but it was hard not to.
"Is everything okay?" she asked when Peter finally hung up.
"Yeah, it will be," Peter said. "He's not happy about me being here, with you."
Claire frowned. "Because of what happened before?"
"Partly. He's worried that I have some kind of Hero complex, especially when it comes to you." Peter sighed. "Simone also told him that I was helping you to run away. Nathan's running for Congress, so he's worried about how this will look to the press if they find out."
"Who's Simone?" Claire quietly asked.
"My girlfriend," Peter automatically replied. "No, make that my ex-girlfriend."
He missed Claire's small frown, then smile, as he spoke.
"You have a girlfriend?"
"Not anymore." Peter kicked off his shoes and stretched out on the bed he'd chosen, looking up at the dirty ceiling. "She didn't understand why I had to come when you called. She said that if I came here that we were over. And here I am."
Claire slid out of her shoes and moved to sit next to Peter on his bed. "I'm sorry," she apologized.
Peter sat up. "Hey, it's not your fault." He brushed Claire's hair away from her face, his fingers unconsciously caressing her cheek. "Me and Simone, we were pretty new anyway. We just got together a few days before the first time I came here. I hate to admit it, but I was her rebound guy."
"I'm sure that's not true," Claire said, capturing Peter's hand as he started to withdraw it.
"No, it is. She slept with me the same day she broke up with Isaac." Peter's cheeks flushed as he realized he'd just told this teenager he'd had sex with Simone on their first date, and it wasn't even really a date.
Claire was blushing herself as she mumbled, "Oh."
Rather than focus on Peter's sex life, she latched on to the other name he'd mentioned. "Isaac, why does that name sound familiar?"
"I think I may have mentioned him when you came to see me in, um, jail. He's an artist who can paint the future," Peter said, grateful for the change in topic.
"He's the one that showed you where to find me," Claire remembered. "Did he convince you to come now?"
"Yeah. He did a painting of us driving into Kermit," Peter admitted.
"Cool. So he's your ex's ex?" Claire asked, her forehead scrunched in confusion.
"Heh, yeah. It's kind of complicated."
"Sounds like it," Claire agreed.
"So, uh, do you have a boyfriend?" Peter asked, hating how nervous he felt just asking the question. Just because he thought she was cute didn't mean that anything could happen between them. She was still in high school, for one thing.
"Nope, no boyfriend," Claire said. "I'm kind of a social pariah since I crashed the quarterback's car, with us in it."
"What? Why would you do that?" Peter asked in alarm.
Claire shrugged. "He tried to rape me. He didn't. He killed me before he got that far."
"Oh, Claire," Peter said, sympathetically. Before he could stop himself, he reached out and pulled her into a hug.
She returned his embrace, taking comfort in his solid form, knowing he knew what it was like to die. "A branch punctured the base of my skull. I woke up on the autopsy table after they removed it. I had to hold my skin together from where they'd cut me open." She was surprised to find that she was crying.
"Hey, hey, don't cry," Peter soothed her. He pulled back enough to brush the tears from her cheeks. "It's over and you're safe."
"I know," Claire said, squeezing his shoulders. "I feel safe with you. More than anyone else. I trust you."
Peter smiled. "I trust you, too."
"I know that we barely know each other, but I feel like I could tell you anything," Claire admitted, blushing faintly.
"I know what you mean," Peter said. "It feels like I've known you forever."
He leaned forward to brush a kiss against Claire's cheek, just as she turned her head to say something, causing the corners of their mouths to brush instead. Peter froze, afraid of having crossed a line of impropriety. But he didn't pull away.
Meeting his beautiful brown eyes, Claire tilted her head a bit more and gently pressed her lips to his. At first Peter just sat there, too surprised to move. Her lips were soft and moist against his, and a moment later he was kissing her back.
Peter drew one hand up to wrap in her luscious hair, the other sliding around her waist, pulling her closer. One of Claire's hands was teasing the hair at the back of his neck as the other held his face.
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