“In the kitchen!” she called back from deep within the labyrinth of the Petrelli mansion. Peter effectively followed his nose, trailing the scent until he came upon the underused and oversized, state of the art kitchen. Claire was standing to the side of the sleek stainless steel appliance, muffin tin on the counter in front of her. She let out a content sigh as she admired her work, biting her bottom lip in contemplation of something—frosting perhaps?—before she turned, resting her backside against the edge of the granite.
By this time Peter had taken a spot up on the barstool, chin resting on his palm. His niece had only been living with her biological father for a few weeks, but the nurse/superhero had already become accustomed to her presence and her habitual baking. It seemed every time he came by, she was making a new recipe. He could guess Monty and Simon loved her for it. “What did you make this time?” he asked as they surveyed each other from across the room.
“Cupcakes. My… mom used to make them for me all the time.” She stumbled over the explanation and he frowned slightly. It was no secret was having a hard time adjusting to her new family. But Noah had insisted on it for her safety. Baking was a quiet reminder of home, a way to stay connected.
“I don’t see any frosting,” Peter pointed out, lifting a brow as he straightened out, slipping off the barstool.
“It’s in the fridge, silly,” she replied as if it was obvious, her trademark smirk accompanying it. “I have to wait for them to cool first.”
He made a face, obviously not satisfied with her answer. “No you don’t… you can frost them now.”
“Nuh uh,” she shook her head, her perfect curls bouncing from side to side around her face. “Then they’d melt.”
“Um, not if we eat them right away,” he grinned impishly, moving to the fridge and opening it, leaning over to hunt for the tub of sugary topping.
“Twelve cupcakes!? You expect me to scarf down twelve cupcakes?” Claire replied incredulously, her eyes wide on his bent frame.
He emerged from the fridge, frosting in hand, looking at ease with the prospect of eating twelve cupcakes between them. “Six, actually.” A wink went to his niece, and the frosting was set next to the muffin tin he stretched around her to reach.
Claire stared at the surprisingly close profile of her uncle, her eyes narrowed. “Oh yeah, that’s so much better. I won’t be able to walk for a week.” She crossed her arms over her chest and pouted at him, but Peter was too busy pulling the still-warm muffins from the pan to notice.
“Don’t Peter!” she whined. “They’re not ready!”
“They’re fine!” he retorted impatiently, too amused with her apparent OCD to really be irked with her.
However, in a desperate attempt to stop him—those powers had gone to his head, dammit—Claire wiggled her arm underneath his and pulled the tub of frosting off the counter. “Ha!” she waved the tub in front of his face tauntingly.
Oh, that was it. He took a step back, staring at her with raised eyebrows, as if to ask if she had really just done that. She grinned back, but it began to falter as his expression didn’t change, and Claire had the sudden feeling she had just started a war.
With a squeak, she was off and running, Peter a step and a half behind her, grasping at air to get to her. “Come back here!” he demanded, laughter in his voice as he chased her around the center island.
“Nope,” she grinned back at him, still a step ahead of him, but her lead did not last long and before she could really rub it in that she was winning, he had grabbed her by the waist and now had her pinned against the door to the cabinet pantry.
“I win,” he announced proudly, his voice husky as he caught his breath.
“Yeah but, I have the frosting,” she sighed dramatically and shook her head sadly as she pried open the top of the tub. “This is going to be such a shame,” she announced as she dug her finger into the frosting, reaching up to leave a smear across her uncle’s cheek.
“Oh you brat,” he growled, the hand that was on her waist wiggling to tickle her. She let out a peel of laughter, her body doubling over to the side, the frosting tumbling to the floor before he sent another wave of tickles, causing her to collapse into his chest.
He grinned, pushing her back to look at her. “Give up yet?” The smile on her face hit him full force, and for the first time he noticed how pretty she was when she was laughing. He swallowed, blinking as he saw that his hand had somehow made its way to her cheek, several fingers toying with her hair.
Claire had yet to notice, and continued grinning, trying to catch her breath, chest heaving. “Never,” she whispered, and he smiled weakly down at her, a little lost. Her brow furrowed as she finally noticed his hand on her cheek, and the all too serious look on his face.
“Peter—“ she began, cutting herself off as he pulled his hand away. He seemed to have come to his senses, but Claire found herself missing the feeling of his gentle touch, and so she took his hand in her own, returning it to her cheek and closing her eyes.
He frowned at her but leaned in, pressing his face into her hair, his hand moving to match it. “Claire, I—“
But she didn’t want to hear what he had to say, the things she already knew; she just didn’t care anymore. “Shut up,” she breathed, her fingers finding his chin and pulling his face down to her level. “I changed my mind, I give up,” she breathed, and Peter felt her moist breath against his lips.
“Peter, are you here yet?” his older brother called out as the two abruptly pulled away, straightening themselves out (the frosting wiped off with his hand) and putting several feet between them as Nathan entered the room.
“Oh good, you’re here,” he said and smiled at Claire, oblivious to the guilt on their faces. “What did you make?”
“Cupcakes,” she told him. “But they aren’t ready yet.”
“Save me one, okay?” he asked as he turned to leave.