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Come What May
Characters: Peter and Claire, others in the Petrelli Mansion?
Date and Time: Late afternoon, early July
Location: The Petrelli Mansion
About: Puppies and poodles!
Rating: PG

It was day two of an unknown number of Claire Bennet's stay at the Petrelli mansion. She had walked in all doe eyes and curls, claiming to be Nathan's daughter, unaware of the bombshell she had just dropped on the entire Petrelli family. Needless to say Nathan's reaction was less than ideal, and Heidi hadn't even been told the entire truth yet. She had been told Claire was a relative, something like a long lost cousin's daughter or something like that. Of course the white lie made Peter cringe, but he bit his tongue. He understood Nathan needed time to process her sudden, and rather unexpected appearance, in every sense of the word.

But Peter was reverberating for a totally different reason--she was literally the girl of his dreams (or dream, if you want to be specific). When he first saw her, you could've come up behind him and knocked him over with a feather. For a moment, her arrival couldn't have been more of a blessing, and he just stood there, happy as a clam. Her familiarity was instant, and the emotions that had been confined to the space of his subconscious suddenly flooded to front of his awareness.

And then just like that, the glass that was his bliss, shattered into a million pieces never to be repaired. She was his niece. The word resounded in his head like a death sentence, and he was left to agonize over all that he had fabricated her to be.

Since that moment, the mansion had never seemed so small. Every time he turned the corner, she was there, gracing the hall with her presence. The more he tried to avoid her, the more he saw her, the farther that nail was driven. It was getting to the point that he just wanted to stay secluded to his room and wait until she whisped away. But she was so captivating, so charismatic, he couldn't help but pulled to her. As much as he wanted to turn away was as much as he wanted to move towards her.

His inner turmoil wasn' t going to end any time soon, either, as he padded down the hall from the guest room that had been claimed as his own, to fetch a snack from the downstairs. He had just reached the top of the curved staircase, and who did he spy? A pretty blonde girl with bright eyes, just about to make her ascent. Oy vey.

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Claire was sure that she had just made the biggest mistake in her life in coming to New York and looking for the man that she thought was her biological father. Nathan Petrelli was shocked to see her and he wasn't really welcoming her with open arms. Instead he seemed to be hiding her right out in the open. He told his wife that she was a relative and the loose, kind of cold term hurt. She knew that his wife would be shocked to the know the truth but still, to be so casually dismissed was striking deep within her. She didn't even want to stay in the mansion but they insisted that she did but every hour was like torture as everyone seemed to be avoiding her.

Even Peter. The first moment that she saw him she was struck breathless by his presence. Every time he walked near her, she swore that she felt her system go on high alert and she was almost more aware of his body than she was her own. She was aware of every breath, every time his eyes flickered over her and every movement that he made. Like she waited with abated breath for him to touch her but he never did, instead he seemed uncomfortable around her. So she tried not to look at him too much but she often found herself sliding glances at him out of the corner of her eye.

But he was her uncle, right? Except that she wasn't feeling that family connection, it was a connection of something else entirely. He was the only one she felt connected to. Nathan, she felt nothing to him even if he was supposed to be her father. He was another stranger to her and she didn't feel anything more for him than she would feel for someone random on the street. She was beginning to wonder if perhaps a mistake had been made, that perhaps there was someone else that Meredith had been involved with at the time and maybe he was her father.

It was on her mind as she got to the top of the stairs and was about to start down but then her system was suddenly on high alert. She knew without looking up that she would find the handsome face with puppy eyes looking up at her. So when she did look up, she wasn't surprised to find Peter staring up at her but it was still like a little kick to the stomach. Biting her lip a little, she starts down the stairs as she wonders if he will bolt before she got the chance to say hello to him.

He had been so absorbed in his own reaction to her that Claire's feelings toward the situation had been a bit obscured. But as his feelings took up permanent residence in his head, she became more substantial. The discomfort was always on her face, usually masked by a smile and the will to be a polite guest. Nathan hadn't been exactly with cordial, and while Heidi had no aversion to her and was her usual inviting self, the fact remained that a stranger roamed her home. Peter wasn't much use in making her comfortable either, he knew, because he tended to avoid her.

Of course it had nothing to do with his supposed relation to her, at least not in its essence. In all respects he should have been rather interested in her, a pretty girl in his presence. But it was like he was in high school again, too afraid to talk to the pretty girl that sat in front of him in class. Too afraid to talk to his own niece. Sighing softly at this realization, he started down the stairs, hand grazing the railing as he moved. She had yet to move, obviously letting him pass before heading up.

"Hi Claire," he said softly, tipping his head in a nod and giving her a bit of a smile. "Are you hanging in there?" She practically shrunk in his presence, and it was hard not to frown. Was their family really that frightening, him included? Sure, his mother was scary, but Claire hadn't even met her yet... Hopefully she wouldn't for quite some time. If she was Nathan's daughter, it would be best to let her acclimate to the family dynamic in baby steps.

"If it helps any, Heidi makes a mean lasagna... so at least the food'll be good?" he smirked, chewing on his lip.

There were a lot of times that she wanted to talk to Peter, to follow him and demand to know why it was that he kept rushing away from her. Or maybe it was just her own self consciousness causing her to imagine that he was ducking out of her presence every time that she was around though with as big as the place was, they still kept running into each other all the time. He didn't just leave the place like Nathan did and she wondered if it was normal for the oldest Petrelli to be gone all hours like that or if it was just because she was there.

When Peter decided to actually speak to her, she blinked a little before ducking her head just a bit. Glancing at him through her long lashes, she brushed her fingers lightly against the side of her face to pull back a blond curl to tuck behind her ear. "Yeah." She murmured a little, shrugging as she glanced over her shoulder and then back at him as she caught him frowning but she didn't know why. It made her worry as she felt her tummy give a little flip as she wondered what was on his mind.

"Um, actually, I think coming here was a mistake." She admitted, shifting her weight as she cocked her hips to the side, "I'm going to see if I can find a hotel or something that I can go to." Then maybe she would arrange to fly back home. "I think I've caused a lot of tension by coming here." She shrugs a bit, clearing her throat as she felt suddenly sheepish about the idea.

Oh right, that was why he was too afraid to talk to her. Everything she did made his breath catch, and everything that he found dazzling was all subconscious and natural on her part. It was frustrating to be around her, to watch her brush her hair from her face, to see the way she looked at him through her eyelashes. It was when she did things like that that tore him apart and made him curse the heavens. Her looks, her charm, her relation to him would've been no big deal, if she hadn't been the one he had seen a few weeks before in his dream.

The dream all made sense now, from her beauty to the way he felt about her. Those protective tendrils were already reaching for her, and that anger had already welled up towards his brother. Strange, how all the pieces of the puzzle seemed to mirror the reality. Stranger still, how Peter didn't seem disturbed at all by the notion. It was natural to him for some reason that he knew ahead of time what was going to happen, and how he was going to feel about it.

But nothing in his dream had prepared him for the blow that she dealt him. "What?" he asked in unmasked surprise, his heart sinking to his stomach. He didn't want her to leave! "No, Claire," he shook his head. "Look, I'm sorry we're... not what you expected," he frowned and looked down, pushing his bangs away from his eyes. "Usually we're a lot more inviting, but you just kind of, dropped in, you know?"

Ugh, but it was coming out all wrong. He was placing the blame for everyone's tension on her, and that was not what needed to be said. Peter needed to say, 'Claire, you have to stay because you belong in my life one way or another. Stay. I'll make Nathan warm up. I'll follow your shadow. Just stay.'

How could she admit that it was also just a little hard to hard to be around him at times. Like the times when his bangs fell in front of his face because a lot of the times she just wanted to reach over and brush them out of his face. Or when he did manage to give her his shy smile and she found herself almost breathless which wasn't good because then she had a hard time speaking. She was sure that he thought that she was some kind of simpleton because she felt like a nervous schoolgirl whose tongue kept getting tied around him. Then she remembered that she was a school girl and she was nervous, and there had to be something wrong with her because she was attracted to the man who was supposed to be her uncle.

When he seemed so surprised to hear that she wanted to leave, she blinked a little at him as he stumbled over his words. At his last comment, she winced a little bit as she looked away and bit her lip. Then she frowned, glancing back at him, "I didn't mean to make everyone so...I just wanted to see who...I should have just called but I didn't think Nathan would see me and I just wanted to see him for myself." Her shoulders slumped a little as she fidgeted just a little.

"Look, it's no big deal. I just...don't feel right staying here." She nodded once more as she tried to remind herself just to be calm. "I think it would just be better for everyone if I went to stay somewhere else, I shouldn't make you guys awkward in your own home and then you wouldn't need to duck out all the time. Heidi is going to start really not liking me if Nathan doesn't come home." She shrugs a little bit.

"No no," he shook his head quickly. "That came out all wrong. It's just that this is as hard for us as it is for you. I didn't mean to make it sound like you were making us uncomfortable or something. We're all very happy to have you... myself included." He wasn't sure what made him feel the need to point out that he was happy to have her around, but it just felt right to say it. Because the truth was that he was happy to have her around, nerves or no. Perhaps just like any new situation, she would take some getting used to. But she was such a sweet girl, and if he really was her Uncle, well than he better start making her feel like part of the family.

"Nathan likes you too," he assured quietly, tempted to reach out and touch her shoulder. "He's just really busy with the campaign. Trust me. This is nothing unusual." Peter was used to it, but it frustrated him that it still bothered his sister-in-law and now it was affecting his potential niece. "Look, why don't you give it another night? I'll make sure Heidi lets you help make the lasagna and do the dishes if it will make you feel more like part of the family," he teased playfully.

"I could even give you a tour of the place later?" he suggested. "I doubt you've seen the whole thing yet... I don't even think I have," he laughed. "It'll be fun. But there's no reason you need to waste your money on a hotel when there are perfectly made beds already waiting here for you, and free. C'mon," he said and started down the rest of the steps, apparently no longer giving her an option in whether or not she stayed.

Claire tried to ignore the little trip that her heart gave when he included himself in being happy that she was around but at the same time she was a little dismayed. She couldn't explain it to him or anyone else, the fact that she wasn't looking at him like she was supposed to if he really were her uncle. She just wanted to leave and forget that little torturous tidbit because it was hard to be around him and not wonder what would happen if they didn't possibly share blood. Would he still be this normal around her? Or would he flirt with her? She could imagine the little smile he would give or the warm look in his eyes, she badly wanted to see it focused on her but she probably wouldn't.

As he continues to try to assure her, she finds herself trying not to fidget as she looked down and away from him for a moment. She wasn't sure if she believed that Nathan was normally gone this much and if he was, what chance did she have to get to know him? Wouldn't it just get worse if he won his election? Also, would she pose some kind of problem to his campaign? The illegitimate daughter coming out of nowhere? If he wouldn't tell his wife about her, would he tell the public? She didn't want to be treated like a dirty secret.

She looked up at Peter, sighing a little, "I..." But he was all ready moving and she had a feeling that she really didn't have a choice at the moment. She barely bit back her sigh as she moved to follow him, "Peter, I don't need don't need to force me on Heidi, it's a little weird. I'm perfectly fine just hanging out in my room," If he wasn't going to let her leave, "Do you have any books I could borrow?"

He chewed on his lip as she looked down, deep in thought. At the moment, he wasn't sure what to make of the conversation. It was really frustrating, to be honest. Here she was, uncomfortable and ready to leave. Here he was, trying to make it better for her... and she just seemed more uncomfortable than before. Peter wasn't sure what to say that would be the right thing, the right suggestion to make her feel more at home. So he just gave up and started leading her to the kitchen; she didn't have to stay if she didn't want to, but he wasn't too good at being a host.

"I'm not forcing you on her," he explained. "You don't have to cook with her if you don't want to, but she's better at doing this than I am." What 'this' was, he hadn't explained, but he figured she would understand. "Besides, I'll be helping out too. I just like to steal the noodles," he confessed in a whisper with a crooked smile. As they entered the kitchen, he leaned against the island easily, already eyeing the pot of boiled lasagna noodles that were waiting patiently to be assembled. Heidi wasn't around at the moment, but he knew she hadn't gone far.

"You can borrow my books, sure... but you don't have to stayed cooped up in your room," he told her, his expression soft. "There's plenty of room to sprawl out. It's a mansion, remember?" he teased lightly.

Claire really wished that it wasn't so awkward at the moment, she hated that she didn't know how to make this whole thing better than it was at the moment. She could see the look on Peter's face as he struggled with what to do. She tried not to be uncomfortable which is why she relents eventually in a way. If she had to stay, she could continue to stay out of everyone's way and just find ways to occupy herself. She watched him head towards the kitchen and she sighed before following after him.

She glanced at him as he began to explain to her that he wasn't trying to force her on Heidi, "She might be good at doing this but isn't she going to start to wonder?" She tilted her head to the side before catching the crooked smile which brought hers out as well. "Oh, so you want me to stop you from being a thief. I see how it is now." She actually chuckled then, looking amused as she glanced at the pot of boiled noodles.

"I know," She looked almost sheepish, "But I don't know where all I'm allowed to go or whatever." She admitted, thinking there had to be places that she wasn't allowed to walk in or spend time in.

"Wonder what?" he half smiled, amused. "Wonder if you're part of the family?" He shook his head at the young girl. "If that's what you're worried about, I hope she does." With that he moved over to the stove and stole a noodle, splitting it in half before he walked back in her direction. "It would be kind of weird for us to have a member of the family avoid us. We're Italian, don't forget." His smile was warm, more relaxed now that he had made the decision to simply hang out with her. It didn't have to be anything more.

He handed a half of the noodle to her as he chewed on his own half, feeding it into his mouth as it went. "No," he shook his head, "You can go wherever you want. This isn't like..." he paused and looked around as he searched for the right reference, "Beauty and the Beast or anything. Although the boys might get a little peeved if you decide to crash on their bunk bed."

With a sigh, he returned to leaning on the island, facing her. "So what's home like?"

She almost blushed when he stated that he hoped that Heidi would think that she was part of the family but at the same time, "I'm just not sure." As in she wasn't sure that she was, there was something that didn't click just right. She watched him as he got out a noodle, her eyes tracking his movements and noticing every once. She wondered if he was aware of himself, as aware as she was. She could feel her stomach tightening in response as he got closer to her and she wanted badly to squirm but she made herself stand as still as she possibly could. Also, the way that he smiled at her was entirely not fair as it made the butterflies tremble even as she gave a little smile back, "Right. Italians are big on family interaction, right?"

Taking half the noodle, she tilted her head back and dangled some of it into her mouth before lowering her head to look at him once more. As he brought up the reference to the Beauty and the Beast, she chuckled, "Who is the Beast?" She asked before nodding, "Well, I'm trying to avoid them. Kids tend to ask a lot of questions."

She looked at him for a moment before sighing about the home question, "Complicated." She murmured, lowering her eyes.

"Not sure that you're part of the family?" he questioned, his head tipping. The thought disheartened him slightly--in a lot of ways, he wouldn't mind if she was a family member, in other ways, he would--it was hard to decide what he felt. "Maybe not," he finally succumbed with a shrug, but his voice was quiet. Then he caught that tension again as he approached her with the noodle, as if she wanted to back away. For a fraction of a second, he hesitated handing her the noodle.

"Yes, very big. Especially with my mom at the head of the table," he half rolled his eyes. Angela could wear a guy out. "But, Nathan is definitely the Beast," he grinned. "Especially after a long day at the campaign office." Perhaps it was a good thing she hadn't had much interaction with Nathan to speak of.

"Complicated?" he echoed, frowning and lowering his own head to catch her gaze. "Why?" he murmured. She hardly seemed the type to have a hard life at home.

"Don't tell anyone," She murmured, "But I'm not sure Meredith was right, I'm...I'm going to ask her if maybe there's a chance that someone else is...well, if there is another man who could be my father." She wondered what he would say to that, would he tell Nathan before she was sure? She wondered if Nathan would make her leave and honestly, perhaps it would be better that way. Then she wouldn't just look like she's running away. She didn't know that he was taking the slight stiffening in her body as a bad thing, it was just her body reacting to being in close proximity with his.

"She seems a little...intimidating." Maybe that was just to Claire. A brow lifted a little and then she chuckled softly, "So he's going to lock me away? That sounds a little terrifying." But maybe she would make sure not to talk to Nathan right after he got back from the office. The more she was around him or talked to him, the more Nathan made her nervous.

"There's just....a lot of secrets lately." She looked up a little, surprised to find himself bent down just a little so that he could hold her gaze. "There's a lot that I can't really talk about."

"Huh," was all he said, and was all he really could say, in response to the suggestion that maybe Nathan was not her father. It was a big idea to take in, just as big as the notion of her even being his niece. "Are you sure you're just not feeling that way because you're uncomfortable here?" he asked. "I wouldn't jump to any conclusions, you've only been here a few days, and under the pretense that we're your real family. It's bound to be a little earth shaking."

He had to grin. "It's pretty sad you think she's intimidating already and you haven't even met her yet," he chuckled. "I wouldn't be too worried about Nathan locking you away, he's already got his Belle." It was said with a quick wink.

A frown came to him at the mention of secrets. "Wow, you seem pretty... this is more than who you have a crush on, huh?" he asked perhaps a bit ignorantly, but without any intention of being so. It was natural for him to assume all teenage girls had pink diaries they wrote who they wanted to marry in, right?

Claire wasn't sure what kind of reaction she had been expecting from Peter, whether she had been expecting relief or something else. Then she wondered briefly why she would almost want him to be relieved before telling herself that then maybe he would let her go if he thought that there was a chance that his brother wasn't her father. "I don't know." She shrugged a little bit as she glanced around, sighing, "I just don't I feel belong, I guess. But maybe it's just a thing where you're adopted and even if you're happy, you still wonder about your birth family. Then you imagine what it'll be like when you meet them and you hope that you'll" So far, she didn't feel that click. She didn't feel like there were any answers but instead she found herself facing more questions.

"Maybe that's why she's intimidating to me." She gave a little smile at him before laughing softly, "Well, there's a relief. Maybe I'm Mrs. Potts or that feather duster girl." She looks briefly amused.

As he mentioned the whole crush thing, she quickly lowered her eyes as a warm blush added a tinge of rosiness to her cheeks. Clearing her throat softly, she shrugged, "It's a little more...complicated than crushes." She looked elsewhere, sure that if she looked at him again she would blush even more.

Unfortunately for Claire, Peter wasn't empathetic to the idea of clicking with one's biological family. In fact, he had had the exact opposite happen to him nearly all his life. Nathan was his closest relative, hell, even friend, and the two were polar opposites. The majority of things within his life were kept from his older brother, if only to save himself from the scrutiny of the elder's cleanly pressed, black and white, fact or fiction mind. "You've got it backwards, Claire. You usually click with your surrogate family and feel like an outsider in your real one." He smiled lopsidedly.

The mention of her being other characters in Beauty in the Beast amused him, until he remembered the character of the feather duster. Wasn't she a playoff on a french maid? He swallowed at the mental image, french maids were bad enough to think about. But associating Claire with french maids (specifically their outfits?) was a big No No. He looked away to clear his mind, and then looked back at her, frowning as he saw her looking almost ashamed.

"Do you want to talk about it?" he asked softly, leaning in against the island and resting on his folded arms. "I'm a good listener," he offered gently, lifting a hand to brush his bangs away from his eyes. It was only then he noticed his proximity to her and licked his lips. The air was sweet smelling between them, and he wondered whether it was the scent of her shampoo or a perfume she was wearing.

"Well, lately I kind of feel like I'm the outsider in both." She admitted, not really wanting to sound like she was feeling sorry for herself but it was true. At home she felt tense, she felt like she couldn't talk to her family, she couldn't let them into what was going on with her and the changes. She was worried about losing them, about them turning away from her if they knew that she was a freak show but she also knew it was a double edged sword because of the fact that she was actually pushing them away in some ways.

She didn't really mean for him to think of her as a french maid but it sort of clicked in her head as soon as she said it. Clearing her throat, she tried to focus on something else instead of what she had just said and that he felt rather uncomfortable at the moment.

Looking back at him, she is suddenly aware of how close he is to her and she feels her breath die in her throat just a little. Biting her lip a little, she had to ask, she needed to know, "Have you noticed...anything strange? About you or someone else in the family?"

"I'm sorry," he replied sincerely. "If you don't think Nathan is your father... we can find out," he offered, swallowing. It was a big offer, but it was doable. This was Nathan's home, the DNA was abundant. Sure, he could've just went up to his brother and explained what was going on and asked for a hair clipping, but he felt this was something Claire needed to do privately; one shock through the Petrelli home was enough. "They have those tests you can mail in now, y'know? Let's do that."

He turned away from her and focused his attention on the lasagna that needed to be assembled when she asked if he had noticed anything strange. Yes, he had noticed plenty of things, with Nathan too, but he kept quiet. Suddenly, her hesitance to open up to him made sense. She had things she wasn't ready to share and so did he.


Several weeks later, the results for the paternity test arrived. There was a knock at the door and a slim manila envelope handed to him, which he had to sign off. The entire operation had been easier than he would have guessed, having managed to find several strands of Nathan's hair in an old coat he wore. After they were sealed up with Claire's long blonde strands, the kit was sent off and they were left to wait.

He held the envelope as if it was a prized possession, fingers clasped around it delicately as he read the return address. The urge to call for the small blonde was large, but Heidi was home. So he climbed the stairs to the second floor, wandering down the hall until he reached her room and gave a light knock. "Claire, it's here..."

Claire looked at Peter in surprise as he offered to help her find out whether Nathan was her father or not. She had thought that he wouldn't buy it, that she was being dramatic but it seemed that he thought there was a chance that she was right. She smiled a little more as she considered his idea, nodding her head, "Okay, let's."

She noticed the way that he didn't answer her but she didn't press. If he wasn't family, he probably wasn't different like her. She would need some other answers first before she could find some of the main ones. So she remained silent, holding her cards to her chest as she moved to help.


The more time that she spent in the Petrelli house, the more sure she was of two things. One, she wasn't a Petrelli and two, if she was...she was going to hell. It was pure torture being near Peter, all because she found herself attracted to him more and more. She adored the way his bangs fell in front of his eyes, she adored his crooked little smile and she liked the way that he was around her. Gentle, sweet and almost like he was scared of breaking her. There were plenty of times that she wanted to tell him that he didn't have to worry but she never could say the words.

But it was also torture because she couldn't touch him, she had to maintain her distance because she felt like she was being watched all the time. She had met Angela and truthfully, the woman intimidated her a bit. So she did tend to stick to her room more or she went out. She did a lot of reading which was what she was doing when the knock on her door came. Her stomach fluttered a it as she heard Peter's voice floating through the door and she hurried to let him in. "What?" Her eyes dropped to the envelope and she was almost breathless, "When did it get here?"

Claire had become such a fixture in his life, it was strange to think she had been around less than two months. She was lovely, in many ways he adored openly and in many ways he couldn't. She had this great way of making him smile, something he felt he did so rarely these days when his head was constantly spinning, trying to figure out what exactly was happening to him. But she always managed to center him, to calm him and bring him back to the present. She was more than a probable niece, she was a close friend.

He ached often to share what he felt for her, and sometimes he saw something in her eyes too that made him have to bite his tongue. It was like she was waiting for him to say something, and the pained look she got in her eyes when he hesitated killed him. But even still, he was glad she was in his life, no matter the type of relationship.

Smiling softly when she opened the door, it felt as though someone had taken the weight of his stress from his mind. "It just got here," he replied and entered the room, shutting the door behind him. The room was neatly decorated, with a young girl's touch here and there that multiplied the longer she stayed. "Open it," he directed, shoving the envelope in her direction as he took a seat in the desk chair.

Peter was the only person keeping her sane in the Petrelli house. A lot of the times she felt there was something crawling under her skin, something that made her uncomfortable and like she might scream at any moment but one look from him usually quieted the urge. It was almost like he knew what she was feeling at times and so he tried to calm her before she did something foolish. She wanted to know what was going on with her too but Peter had a way of making everything a little fuzzier when he was around, she was often distracted by watching him whenever she thought no one was watching. She didn't want to get caught ogling a man that could be her uncle. She was sure that was illegal in New York.

She wanted to open up to him, there was so much she wanted to tell him but she could never find the words. It hurt sometimes because there were times when it looked like he wanted to tell her something and she found herself breathless with anticipation but he never said anything. She didn't know what she was waiting for but she felt like she was waiting something.

As he entered her room, she was oh-so aware of him. Almost too much, like being aware of herself but in a different body. Her tongue peeked out, wetting her lips as she took the envelope in her hands and then promptly moved to shove it back into his hands instead. "No, please...can you do it?" She wanted to watch his face.

Edited at 2009-02-16 05:45 am (UTC)

Ugh, that was exactly the response he didn't want, and yet he knew she was going to say it. Nevertheless, he winced at the prospect of revealing her heritage. It was a hefty responsibility, but he could understand why she didn't want to do it herself. It must be terrifying to live every day unsure of who you are or where you come from. He licked his lips and gave her a pained look--so much was lying on the line here, and not even just about her.

The idyllic side of Peter told him that if they were not related, their relationship would change dramatically. His heart would no longer have to hold back, he could tell her how he felt and hold her like he so desperately wanted to. He could tell her about his emerging abilities, and she would listen and understand completely, never doubting his speculations. She would soothe his worries; he would finally unlock the key to making her happy here... it was all perfect and soft in his head.

But if she was his niece? Well then he was signed up for a life of torment, and he would have to watch Claire suffer in her discomfort. It was too much to think about. Seeing her at family gatherings, swapping Christmas gifts with her as an uncle to a niece...

The picture made his chest tighten, and his finger reacted by slipping underneath the lip of the envelope, opening it with a satisfying tear. He had to work to hold his hand steady as he pulled the paper from the envelope, unable to look at the number that lay at the bottom of the page until the paper was completely free.

When he finally did look down, his reaction was strangely lackluster. There was no release of the pressure within his chest, no bright smile that lit his face. The fact was that she was not related to him, and nothing had changed between them.

"Well, it's a zero percent match," he announced, sounding perplexed.

Claire heard him read out the result to her but it didn't seem to click for her right away. Instead her large green eyes remained focused on his face as the answer to the problem echoed in her head. She should have jumped up and down, she should have been excited and embraced the idea that she wasn't a Petrelli because now she could tell him of her feelings for him. She could embrace him and maybe press a kiss to his mouth like she had been wanting to do. Like she had dreamed about, shadowy dreams that left her breathless and aching when she woke up, remembering the lips that she had never felt against her own.

She could reach out, sweep his hair back and touch him the way that she wanted to even if she was still fairly innocent. All of her problems were solved and yet they weren't. The only problems that were solved was that she wasn't part of a family that she didn't feel like she belonged to. She didn't have to worry about having feelings for Peter because he wasn't her uncle.

But she also felt lost all over again. Once again her father was a nameless and faceless figure in her life. The identity that she had been searching for was once again out of her reach and she had no idea where to start. So she reached out, taking the results from him before she moved over to her bed, turning to sit down as she gave a little sigh.

She knew the ache too, she had to leave. She couldn't stay there with him, with them, if she wasn't part of the family but, "Where do I go now?" She looked at him, her eyes wide and showing the confusion as her fingers tightened around the papers, crinkling them a little.

God, she suddenly wanted to run into his arms but her legs wouldn't work as she lowered her eyes to the results once more. Who was she?

She just stared at him in this empty sort of way, and then he didn't feel so bad about reacting the way he did. Claire was just as torn; he wished there was something he could do to take her confusion away, but that seemed a daunting task when he was confused too.

"Where do you go now?" he echoed in a quiet voice. It was an interesting question, because Peter knew that it was meant in two ways: mentally and physically. She was back at square one in her search for herself, and on top of it she had nowhere to stay. She was a stranger to his family, and every uncomfortable feeling she had had about staying in the Mansion was probably multiplied tenfold now.

Peter stood and walked the length of the room to take a seat next to her on the bed, eyes focused on her fingers clasped so tightly around those papers. "It's gonna be okay, Claire. I'm not going anywhere. I'll help you." It was as honest as he could be about it, his dream had told him this was what he was supposed to do. His dream girl and come into his life, and like it or not, he wasn't going to let her slip away.

His hand reached out to her, to clasp over her own as he looked up at her face. "We'll find him together, okay? You can stay at my apartment or something," he offered with a nonchalant shrug. And then his brain caught up with his mouth and he froze. Well, that just kind of popped out, didn't it? He couldn't quite take back the offer, either...

Claire was confused by her own reaction because she knew that she should have been happy, the gut feeling that she had about not being a Petrelli was true and that made things so much simpler in respect to her feelings but it left her lost once more. She continued to stare up at him as he echoed her own question but he didn't seem to have an answer for it either. He was right though; she now felt ten times more awkward being in their house and she knew that she would leave right away. Maybe she would leave a note to apologize to Nathan for being wrong but at least they both knew now.

She watched Peter as he moved to sit down beside her and her heart jumped into her throat as he assured her that he wasn't going anywhere, that he would help her. She swallowed thickly as she looked back at the answers, wanting to ask him why. Did that mean it simply hadn't been her imagination when she used to see a look in his eyes that told her there was more to what he said and did than he was letting on.

As his hand covered hers, she felt tiny little tingles shoot up her arm as though he had touched her with a live wire and then she heard his words. His apartment? He would let her stay at his apartment? She almost got excited but then a taunting voice in the back of her head told her that he probably would stay here, he was just being nice. Just because he offered his place, that didn't mean he was going to stay there with her. The two of them. Alone.

Still, one corner of her mouth curled up a little as she gave him a little smile, "Thank you, Peter." She murmured and then leaned forward before really thinking about it. She didn't register why it might be a bad idea as her mouth touched his cheek, dangerously close to the corner of his mouth. Her breath pulled in just a bit as she realized how close she was to his mouth, freezing just a bit as her stomach tightened in reaction and she felt a bit of color climbing into her cheeks. Then she started to pull back, biting her bottom lip as she murmured a little apology.

He wasn't quite sure what to make of his own request now that it was out in the open. His mind told him it was a very bad idea, and for more reasons than the simple fact that he was attracted to her. His apartment was one bedroom, which meant that he would be taking the couch. Of course, this was fine by him, but if his time with Claire had taught him anything, he knew she wouldn't agree to such a thing. And if he offered the apartment to herself, she would adamantly be against it. Plus, what would her parents think of this entire set up? Claire wasn't even of age yet and Peter was well beyond that mark; he doubted her parents would appreciate their teenage daughter staying with a downright stranger 10 years her senior.

"Or, if you want I could pay for a hotel suite," he suggested, but his voice faded out as she looked directly at him, mumbling a thank you. He nodded, not prepared for what came next, the way she leaned in, a certain goal on her mind. When her lips finally reached his cheek, he felt his blood run hot and he swallowed slowly. Her lips had just barely grazed against the corners of his own, but it was enough to leave him aching at the tease. "No, no, it's... I.." Damn it, why did his words always stop working right when he needed them the most?

He twisted his body to face her completely, reaching out to cup her cheek before she withdrew too far. Peter just held her face there, silent, debating what he wanted to do know. It was strange how comfortable he was at the moment, even if his stomach was clenched with nerves. It just felt natural, right. He leaned in slowly, testing the waters. Subconsciously he liked his lips and took a deep breath. Yes, he could do this, he should do this. He finally crossed the gap and touched his lips to hers tentatively before he pulled back. He would have looked away, but he was too afraid too.

Claire had to be honest, she didn't really think about the reasons why she shouldn't stay with Peter, it didn't really cross her mind. Sure, her parents wouldn't be really pleased but maybe she could just fib a bit. After all, she was staying with a whole family that they didn't know and Peter had been around. A lot of people that she didn't know had been around. Plus she didn't want to go back home yet, she wanted to find her birth parents and she had a feeling that being in New York was the best idea for her. Perhaps it was partially because she didn't want to leave the man who was sitting beside her but what did it matter? She knew he was older and somehow it didn't matter.

"No." She shook her head, "That would be too much." She murmured at him, thanking him for offering his apartment. Her heart started to race as she leaned in to kiss his cheek and she felt the whole world shift. It definitely wasn't a kiss that someone would give a family member but that was the relief, wasn't it? They weren't family. So she paused a little, hearing him stumble over his words as she pulled back just a bit.

Then she froze as his hand curved against her cheek, her lips parting as her breath turned a little shaky and her skin got a little hotter beneath his palm. Heat was trickling through her body as she watched him lean in and she nearly shivered when he licked his lips before pressing them to hers. She didn't know how to react, she was almost scared to because she felt it would break the magic of the moment if she did.

But she got over it quickly as she moved forward then, her lips pressing against his as she brought her hands up so that her fingers could slide into his hair, her nails teasing over his scalp. She tilted her head then, deepening the kiss a little as she got a taste of him and she knew it wouldn't be enough but she needed it before he pushed her back because she was sure he was going to. Even if he had kissed her first.

The intensity with which Claire responded to the kiss shocked him, and it took him a moment for him to regain his bearings as she pressed into his mouth. The sensation of her hands in his hair was thrilling and soothing at the same time, and he responded by pulling at her bottom lip. His hand went to her waist and for a moment he got lost in the kiss. He had only meant for it to be a test of the waters, to see how she would take it, and well, she had taken it well to say the least.

Finally he got his head straight and pulled away slowly, reluctantly. The kiss had been better than he had imagined--correction. Her lips, the tenderness, the need behind them, had been more than he had expected, and his heart was currently floating around on a high in his chest. This was all happening so fast, but yet he didn't mind. The kiss told him they had both been waiting for this for a long time, and finally they had the chance.

"So... my apartment," he finally murmured out, perhaps on a subconscious level a hint that he yearned for more than a kiss, but meant as a way to collect his thoughts. "We'll have to tell Nathan," he caught Claire straight in the eye. She may have been okay with leaving a note and disappearing, but his brother deserved a clear answer and closure. He would talk if she was too nervous, but she would still have to be present. His foot would be firm on that.

The intensity shocked her as well, she hadn't been expecting the flood gates to open like they did but quickly everything came rushing out. A sort of desire that she had never really felt before took over as he tugged at her bottom lip, her breath shuddering against his lips as she leaned into the kiss a little more. She hadn't meant for this to happen but she had wanted it to for a long time now, for a couple months now.

But then he pulled back, disappointing her a bit but she struggled to keep herself under control as she drew in a slow breath. His own lips were a little firmer than hers but he had taken control of the kiss, leading her into a place where her mind had gone a little fuzzy and she couldn't think but only feel everything. Every line of his body, every wild beat of her heart and his breath against her skin.

As he brought up the apartment, she blushed a little because her mind seemed to follow the subconscious track that his mind had taken. Then he wrecked the mood a little but bringing up Nathan and instantly she came down off of her little cloud as she realized why he was looking at her that way, "You want to tell him before I leave, don't you?"

"Yes," he said simply. "Don't you think he deserves an answer? He's going through a lot right now, it's only fair that he gets a straight answer for what is going on. Besides, I'll have to tell him what the plan is so he doesn't think I've stolen you when you disappear and I stop coming around so much." Without realizing it, he just admitted to the fact that he only hung around the mansion so much was because of Claire's presence.

"I'll be with you, and I can do the talking if you want," he shrugged. "The paternity test was my idea anyway; I can take the blame." Absently, he moved his hair from his eyes as he thought, palms pressed against the edge of the bed. "Do you have any other leads as to who your dad might be? Did your mom mention anyone else?" He looked over at her with a somber look of curiosity. Was he walking into this blindly? He had a feeling he was... Claire was driven, but he had a feeling that she was perhaps a bit too eager and didn't take the time to plan things out fully.

Not that that was a bad thing, it was a trait that came with age and she was still young. "If you don't, could you get in touch with her? I don't want to play eenie-meenie-minie-mo with the phonebook," he quipped, sporting a bit of a playful smile.

Claire sighed a little bit because it wasn't like she didn't want to tell Nathan but now she was a little more nervous about talking to him. "He does, I know." She nodded her head, brushing some hair back from her face and then she caught what he said about not coming around here so much. So did that mean he was only coming around because she had been there? She felt the corners of her mouth curling a little more as she looked down, blushing faintly at the idea that he would stay with her more if she stayed at his apartment. Did that mean he would stay with her?

She looked up at him then as he promised to be there with her when she did talk to Nathan and so she shot him a relieved smile. "Thank you." She let out a little breath as she shifted her weight a bit before she frowned because there hadn't been much that she had been told. "Not really but I might be able to get a hold of her to see if she can tell me something else."

"I don't want to either." She chuckled a little as he gave her a playful smile, "But I will call her once we get to your apartment, see where she is and if she can give me another name." Reaching up, she brushed some hair back behind her ears as she shifted her weight a bit.

Since they had both agreed to tell Nathan the truth, they broke the news when he returned from the office after dinner that evening. The dinner itself had been awkward enough, with only Heidi and the boys, and no Nathan to anchor things in some semblance of normalcy. Walking into his office, catching him mid-phone call had been uncomfortable, while the pair of them stood there and he watched them, absently speaking into the earpiece. Finally he ended the call, and Peter dove into the situation.

He had listened at the very least, with his lips pressed to steepled fingers while he mulled things over. In the end he conceded that he could not force Claire to stay and she could do what she wished. However, he did express his feelings toward her need to tell her parents her plan, and gave Peter a meaningful look that made him shift uncomfortably. Just as they were leaving the office, Nathan pulled him back and they had a heart to heart about Claire's best interest, and Peter could only swear on his life that she would be taken care of. Pampered, if that's what it took to make Nathan happy.

She was eager to leave after that, and he helped her collect her things and pile them into his car in the driveway. The drive to place to his was short, but long in the sense that they barely spoke. Maybe it was the sudden way they had come together, or the situation itself, or maybe both, but the space between them had been thick with silence. Finally he pulled into his designated space and shut the car off.

"You alright?" he finally asked, looking over at her as he pulled the key from the ignition. "Are you sure you just don't want me to buy you a plane ticket back home?" He was worried this was too much for her; hell, too much for him. He had been expecting her answer, and so he simply nodded when she declined and got out of the car, moving to the back seat to pull out her duffel bag and one small box of things she had managed to collect in her room.

Thankfully his place was only on the second floor, so the trek was short. Setting the box on the floor in front of the door he pulled out his keys and unlocked the door, shoving the door open and nudging the box inside with his foot before he caught the light switch.

"Well, here it is," he sighed.

Claire felt ten times more awkward at supper time, especially since she knew now that she didn't have a blood tie to the family who had been dancing around her as she tried to find some truth. She was relieved when dinner was done but at the same time she felt more apprehensive because she knew that she would have to face Nathan then; she would have to tell him that she made a mistake about thinking he was her father. Or well, that someone had been mistaken in telling her that he was.

She figured he had to be relieved to know that he didn't have an eighteen year old daughter suddenly hanging around. When he told her that she needed to tell her parents her plan, she caught the way that he looked at Peter and she felt herself blush just a little while praying that Nathan didn't notice. Knowing him, he did. As Nathan and Peter talked, she went back to her room to pack things up so that they would be easier to put in Peter's car.

Part of her wondered what Nathan had said to Peter because suddenly he was quiet and withdrawn. She felt nervous and unsure of herself, a different sort of feeling from just earlier that afternoon when they had kissed in her bedroom. She bit her bottom lip as he finally asked if she was okay and she shrugged a little bit, "I'm fine." She started, then paused as he offered to fly her back home, her green eyes darting to him as she frowned faintly. "No. Being in New York is the best plan for me at the moment."

Before he could argue, she got out of the car and watched as he grabbed her stuff. She moved to take the bag from him, shifting the straps over her arm as she followed him into the apartment. When they got to his apartment, she entered his apartment while glancing around. "It's nice." She nodded, dropping her duffel bag before sighing and looking at him, "Look, Peter, if you want...I can stay at a hotel."

Maybe she did have a plan if she wanted to stay in New York, at least he hoped she did. He accepted her determination with a simple nod. It made sense he supposed, the city could function quite easily as the central point of the country. It was a good place to start.

As he moved into his now lit kitchen, he set the box of belongings next to the breakfast bar and looked back at her. She was hesitating in the doorway, and he paused at her question. "No, no," he shook his head. "You are more than welcome to stay here. You can have my room, I'm fine on the sofa." Peter smiled. "I'd rather you stay here anyway," he continued, so I can keep an eye on you, he kept to himself. It wasn't that he wanted to keep an eye on her because he didn't trust her, but to moreso make Nathan happy. No doubt his brother would be calling to check in every now and then, and Peter didn't want her safety (or unsafety, for that matter) hanging over his head.

"Well c'mon in, make yourself at home. i can give you the grand tour. Or if you don't want to be in, we could go get some ice cream or something," he shrugged and leaned against the breakfast bar, watching her. Already he was a bit perplexed as how to handle her.

Claire wasn't entirely sure that she had a plan, she just knew that she had to get back in touch with Meredith and find her next clue that would lead her to her real father. Once again he had no name and he had no face, just another blur in her mind and an ache in her chest. She wanted to know the man who had helped to create her, she wanted to know if he was special like her and where she might have gotten this ability from.

Since it seemed he wasn't going to let her leave, she shut the door quietly behind her and moved to join her in the kitchen as she started to undo her jacket. "No." She shook her head, "I'm the guest and I'm smaller than you, I should take the couch. It won't bother me as much." She didn't want him to be sore or get a bad back because of her. Then she smiled a little as he assured her that he wanted her there with him which was nice to hear.

"No, I'm fine." She looked around while hanging her jacket over the back of a chair. "Unless you need to go get things from a store?" After all, she didn't know how much food he had in the apartment and if he would want to get more.

"You know, I think we better start compromising on something if this whole living together thing is gonna work," he teasingly pointed out, meaning that she needed to get over her guest etiquette fast, just as fast as he needed to get over his host manners. "But you're right, I probably should get us some food. I don't have a lot here," he confided and moved to the cabinets to look over the inventory. Indeed, they were close to embarrassingly empty. The refrigerator was just as bad.

"Well," he looked at her. "It's a good thing you said something, because otherwise we would've been eating ramen noodles for the next week. The grocery store I go to is down the street. Do you want to tag along or do you want some time to settle in?" He wouldn't take any offense to her staying behind, if it was him, he would want the time to get comfortable. But at the same time she might not want to be alone in an unfamiliar place.

Either way, he double checked to make sure his wallet was in his pocket and brushed his hair back from his forehead and chewed on his lip while she made up her mind. It would be good if she went along, just so he knew he was buying things she liked to eat.

Her stomach tightened a bit as he made the comment about them living together and then she chuckled a little bit, "Well, I can't just steal your bed." She nodded, "Maybe a cot or something?" She offered the idea, imagining that she could handle sleeping on a cot for a little while. She watched him as he checked the cabinets, biting back a smirk as she could see that he clearly needed to go get some groceries.

"For the next week?" The corners of her mouth twitched a little, "You only go shopping once a week or something?" She teased him a little bit before considering the offer of going with him or staying behind. She glanced around and then looked back at him, "If you don't mind, I think I'll stick behind and take a shower or something while you're gone."

She didn't know why but she suddenly wanted to smell fresh and clean, especially now that they were sharing a smaller space together; and not as uncle and niece. That made her nervous now.

"What about an air mattress?" he suggested, thinking it was a fair spot in between the couch and the bed. "They're cheap, and they make tall ones now so it won't be like sleeping on the floor. Cots aren't comfortable; I should know, Nathan says that we're all spoiled with our queen sized beds and pillow top mattresses," he rolled his eyes as if Nathan was speaking to him just then. "Otherwise, the couch is the lowest I'm allowing you." He sounded stern, but knowing Peter, he would do whatever she asked him to.

His brow furrowed and his bottom lip pouted in confusion at her amusement. "Is that not normal? I mean it's just me, I don't need to stock up and I like to eat fresh..." he shrugged. Peter had never thought he had out of the ordinary eating habits, but Claire did a good job of making him feel a little self conscious.

"That's fine," he waved her off. "Fresh towels are in the linen closet. Is there anything you want to eat? Snacks, dinners, what do you like for breakfast?" he asked. He wanted to make her feel as at home as he could.

"An air mattress works." She nodded after a moment, agreeing to that and then she gave a little smile, "I know, I think I'm a little spoiled after staying there for a couple months." It was going to be hard to go back to normal type beds but it was lucky that she really didn't get sore or anything. Her body would simply repair any hurt or annoying pain. "Okay." She laughed, the sound light and airy as she held up her hands in a small surrender, "An air mattress."

Then she felt bad as he started to pout, "Oh Peter, I was teasing you." She murmured, "I just meant I'm sure we could have gone tomorrow." She tilted her head a little, "My mom would go once or twice a week but that was feeding four of us." He really only had to feed himself.

She looked a little guilty as she looked down at her hands for a moment and then gave a little smile, "Fresh fruit? Oh, anything to make waffles and chocolate milk. I'm happy then." She nodded, suddenly feeling awkward all over again because she had made him feel self conscious.

He grinned at her surrender, and the way she threw up her hands. "Good girl," and then his smile faded some at the realization of what she meant by her comment. "Oh," he mumbled softly in embarrassment, pushing himself away from the breakfast bar. "Wait, you have a sibling?" he asked curiously, catching that she had said 'the four of them.' "Brother or sister?"

Peter had felt a soft twinge of something when she had murmured his name with a semblance of affection, and he looked up at her with a hazy expression, smiling lopsidedly at her simple requests. "No problem, Claire. I like fruit too so there would've been that regardless. But," he frowned, "I don't have a waffle iron, are frozen waffles okay?" Well really, she didn't have a choice, but he asked to be polite anyway.

"I'll be back in a little while then," he said as he walked past her towards the door, gently brushing his hand over her arm reassuringly along the way. "Have a good shower."

She flashed him a quick, pretty smile as he seemed pleased by her giving up the argument for the moment and then she caught when he realized that she was just bugging him. She nodded a little bit when he asked about having a sibling, "A brother, he's adopted too. He's a couple years younger, his name is Lyle." She smiled faintly with a touch of affection but maybe that was because Lyle wasn't around at the moment. They were still at this weird stage of arguing a lot when they were around each other.

The lopsided smile did funny things to her insides, making them twist a little as she decided that had to be her most favorite look for him. "Okay." Then she considered it for a moment, "Hmm, can just get the stuff to make pancakes then. You have frying pans, right?" She figured it didn't hurt to ask, she didn't know how much cooking he actually did.

As his hand brushed against her arm, she caught his hand and then stepped backwards before leaning over to kiss his cheek softly. "Thank you, Peter." She murmured softly before letting go and moving to find the bathroom so that she could take a shower while he was gone.

"Lyle?" he chuckled at the name; not in a mean laugh, but in more of a sympathetic way. What was it about the younger sibling getting the more unattractive name? Claire was a nice, well suited name for the pretty blonde standing before him modern and feminine, much like Nathan's name suited him without being too old fashioned. Peter, however, had always felt like his mother had pulled the short straw when it came to his name, and that wasn't even considering his middle name, which was an entirely different ball game.

For whatever reason Lyle being adopted as well surprised him, even if it made sense once he thought about it. Her mother was probably unable to have children, and one kid often led to wanting another.

He shot her an unamused look as she asked about frying pans. "Yes, Claire, I have frying pans," he clicked his tongue. "I may live by myself, but I know how to cook--and with more than the microwave. I'm italian, and a nurse. Good food is in my blood," he laughed.

The kiss on his cheek in response to the gentle brush across her arm surprised him in a good way, and he smiled warmly at her. He felt his body flush as he moved, but it wasn't enough to redden his cheeks thankfully. "Of course," he replied simply.

His trip through the grocery store was a quick one, mainly because it was a mom and pop place and he was only getting enough food for the week. His concerns were on Claire as he picked out food, making sure they weren't too au naturale for a sixteen year old's tastes and that he would actually have enough to serve the two of them. First things first, he got the chocolate milk and pancake mix like she asked, and then meandered down the fruit aisle, getting what felt like one of everything, just so he had all his bases covered.

He tried not to get too much of one thing, but when it came to chicken, he was a hopeless case. It was his favorite food, and he had learned to make it every way possible, especially with pasta and over salad. He would take a good piece of grilled chicken over filet mignon any day, even though his brother tended to stare at him like he had five heads when he did.

Some other essentials went into the handbasket: bottled water, cereal, yogurt, frozen veggies, a couple bags of pre-made salad and granola bars to put in his lunches for work. The checkout lady smiled brightly when he appeared, greeting him warmly. "Peter! Good to see you, honey. Got a full basket today, hm?" she noticed as she checked the items out methodically. He smiled affectionately; he had shopped at the same place for a good two years now, and the place had only three workers: the near elderly husband and wife that owned the place, and the young kid they had hired to stock shelves.

"Yes ma'am," he replied, ever the gentleman. "I have company."
"Mmm, planning to make her breakfast I hope?" she asked, a wry smirk on her lips.

He blinked, for a moment unable to respond. How had she?... Old people and their sixth sense, he sighed. "We'll see," he shrugged. "She might insist on making her breakfast."
The older woman chuckled and told him the total before continuing. "Oh, don't look at me like that. It was written all over your face."

As he left the store he was in a scowl, upset that he could be read so easily.

Claire smiled a little as he gave a soft laugh, "Yes, he's kind of a pain but he's not so bad." She decided out loud, brushing a curl back from her face. As for Peter's name, she liked it and she thought that it suited him well. It was a nice name, sweet even and that was one of the ways that she saw him. As he shot her the unamused look, she had enough good grace to look a little sheepish before laughing, "Just checking, I know my brother or my friend would just microwave whatever they wanted to eat."

After Peter left, Claire opened her bag of stuff and found the toiletries that she would need. Her citrus and violet scented shampoo and conditioner as well as the vanilla body wash that she enjoyed so much. She found a couple towels then, walking into the bathroom where she set up to take a shower.

She tried not to take too long under the hot spray of the water, sighing softly as it washed over her body and helped to ease the tension in the back of her shoulders. She didn't know when Peter would come back, so she washed her body and then her hair, making sure to rinse of completely before eventually getting back out.

After she dried off, she pulled on a pair of panties and then looked around as she realized that she had forgotten to grab a fresh change of clothes. She looked around, spotting the robe at the back of the towel and she bit her lip before reaching to grab it. Surely Peter wouldn't mind and maybe she could get it off before he would notice; after she changed into clothes of course. Pulling the blue robe on, she belted it around her waist before stepping out of the bathroom, rubbing the second towel against her hair as she padded over to where she left her bag by the couch.

He sprinted up the two flights of stairs, unfazed by the extra weight of the sustainable canvas grocery bags pulling down on his arms. As he reached the door to his apartment he checked his watch, unsure how long he had been gone. A little longer than a half hour? Not too bad, considering it was a ten minute commute total, and he was shopping for an extra person. Usually it took him a meager twenty minutes; unsurprisingly, the extra ten minutes had felt like a lifetime.

Not out of the ordinary, he left the door unlocked, knowing his possessions would be safe. Not only was Claire there to hold down the fort, but he knew the majority of the people on his floor, and they all kept an eye out for each other. He felt safe, even if it was New York. So easily he opened the door, setting the bags off to the side before the smell hit his nose at full force.

It smelled wonderful, clean and fresh, so easily identifiable as the smell of a girl. It seemed as though the scent had invaded his entire apartment, not that he minded in the least. It had been an admittedly long time since a woman had been in his apartment, so the scent was a welcome change. It easily put him in a good mood and Peter smiled to himself, just about to move fully into the kitchen to put the groceries away when he caught her eye.

The first thing he noticed was her wet hair, and the way the tendrils clung to her face. The second thing he noticed was that she was wearing his robe, and the water droplets that had beaded on her bare chest, nestled into the shadowed cleavage line of her breast. Peter swallowed and pulled his eyes back up to her face. He suddenly felt tense, and for some reason like he had been caught red-handed. "Oh, hi," he cleared his throat awkwardly.

It had felt like a long time to her and she wondered about the selfishness of that. She had spent nights apart from him but that had been different, that had been her suffering in silence because she had thought that she was having inappropriate feelings for an uncle but he wasn't her uncle. Now he was a guy that she could care freely about, a man who had kissed her and made her body feel like it was on fire even if he had barely touched her. Now it almost hurt to be apart from him for nearly a half an hour but she filled her time by taking the shower that distracted her for awhile. She wanted to be clean and smell nice for him, plus she liked the fact that her scent was taking over the apartment, blending with his and creating a medley that was pleasing to her senses.

She heard the door open, glancing over her shoulder as she folded the towel and set it on the chair before she turned around to face him. He was smiling, that seemed like a good thing and then she stopped as his eyes found her. Suddenly the air felt tense but in a different way, it felt much like it had when they were about to kiss. A charge that she could feel across her skin, making it tighten over her frame as her stomach tightened and she could feel her nipples hardening as well; making her thankful that the robe probably hid the reaction.

She cleared her throat a bit as she moved forward, trying to act natural as she gave him a warm smile, "Hey. Let me help." She hurried around to his side, lifting her arms to shake the sleeves down a bit, or rather shake them up her arm so that her hands were free as she reached for one of the bags. Her fingers brushed against his hand, sending tingles up her arm as she took the bag and hefted it to counter. The robe parted a bit, showing off her legs a little more as she rose up on her tiptoes to reach into the bag.

"Oh, you got chocolate milk." She smiled brightly at him before carrying the jug to the fridge and pulling it open. She crouched down, the robe falling open more which allowed him easy view of her legs. All the way from her ankles, to the bending of her knees and up to her outer thigh close to where it would meet the curve of her backside. She slid the carton into the fridge before rising, turning as she tugged at her robe to close it but not before he would have gotten a flash of pale pink material.

"What else did you get?" She asked, not aware as she belted her robe closed a little more and then leaned against the counter, bracing her arms on the edge as she watched him.

It was as if the air in the room instantly thickened as they locked eyes, because Peter was suddenly finding it very difficult to move ant part of his body, especially his eyes. It was bad enough that he had caught her barely decent, but then she had to go and seem a little too entirely comfortable with the whole situation. Peter wished he could blame the slight moisture on his skin on the sprint up the stairs, or the fact that his apartment was reeking with humidity, but the real reason was staring him straight in the face.

Finally she broke the moment and his chest expanded in a sigh of relief, as he felt the ability to move return to him. "If you really want, but you can go get dressed first..." he suggested meekly, biting back the nervous quiver in his voice. His suggestion was of no use, however, as she quickly took command of the situation by unloading groceries. She was efficient in her movements, and it was hard for him to not steal glances at her profile as she moved methodically, arm reaching in and out of the bags. His tongue ran across the inside of his bottom lip as she brushed her hand against his, and he fought hard not to clasp it within his own. What he might have done had he gotten that far, he didn't allow his brain to ponder.

"Mhmm," he replied simply to her comment, looking her quickly in the eye with a tight smile, his face a stony attempt at self control, and he had to wonder how well he could be read now. It was as if she was purposely tormenting him, he thought, but his inner voice faded out as she crouched to reach into the refrigerator. His lips parted, and tongue ran across his lips as he took her in greedily.

Peter's thoughts went instantly to what it would feel like to run his hands over her legs, to caress and cup her silky skin that was the perfect sunkissed tan. And then to graze along her inner thighs, to hear her breath come out in a soft gasp, to see her cheeks flush... His hands would find no resistance in the feeble covering of the robe as they moved under the fabric to discover the curve of her hips, the gentle hill of her backside, and then to move up to cup her breasts. Just the thought of touching her... of feeling her, made him ache, made him nearly angry with want.

It was easy to see the scene in his head, her legs curled around his waist, his hands on her thighs with her back pushed up against the door of the refrigerator, the stainless steel cooling her hot flesh....

Her voice pulled him out of his fantasy and he turned his head to look at her, blinking in surprise at the bright, chirping, smiling girl that had been the object of his lust a mere second before. His eyes scanned her face and rested on her lips for a moment before he found her eyes and smiled. "Oh, just the usual. Fruit, cereal, chicken, salad..." he shrugged nonchalantly, fighting the urge to grab her face and devour her in a kiss.

No one had ever wreaked so much havoc on her body just by standing near her, she had never felt the rush of heat and electricity that made her feel like she was coming to life. She had felt that sensation before; it was cold, hard and jarring. She hated the first breath when she came back from what she was sure was death but this felt ten times better than that. She drew in a breath as though to savor the moment as they stared at each other. She felt hot, soft and like she was tingling from head to toe.

As she stood up from the fridge to look at him, she had a feeling that she just interrupted some moment as he looked so far away and tense. Then he turned his head to look at her and she could see the heat in his eyes as they dropped to look at her mouth. Her lips parted underneath the invisible pressure as her chest felt suddenly tight, like her lung were suddenly devoid of air again and her mouth felt dry. Her pink tongue snaked out, just peeking at him as though to tease him even though that wasn't her intention. Her body seemed to be taking over as her tongue touched to her bottom lip and then slid along it to leave the plump flesh wet before wetting her top lip softly.

She tried to pay attention to what he was saying as she nodded her head, blinking a little as she was almost lost and he had made her feel that way just by looking at her. She couldn't even imagine how scattered her thoughts would be if he actually touched her. And then the thoughts were there in her head.

He could step close to her, close the distance between their bodies and slid his hands over her hips while tugging her close for a kiss. No one else was in the apartment, no one would catch or stop them. She could lose herself in his taste fully, could imagine her tongue scraping and curling against his as he pushed her against the counter. She knew that his hands wouldn't stay above the robe for long, they would slide under to find her skin and the thought of his hands doing just that nearly made her whimper. She managed to swallow the sound down though.

It wasn't that long ago that Brody had pressed against her and tried to go too far but she imagined she would like Peter pressed against her. The length of his body, the hard lines, pressing to hers. She imagined they would fit perfectly, like two pieces as she wrapped her legs around his hips and he made a soft noise against her ear...

She had to push the images out of her mind, barely breathing as her whole body was throbbing like an exposed nerve and she swore if he touched her, she would probably come undone. She had never had such strong desires and images when it came to imagining something so intimate with someone else. She squirmed, shifting her weight to press her thighs together as she tried to focus. "Um, what kind?" What the hell was she asking? She didn't even know. So she grasped for anything, "Cereal. I mean cereal." She finished lamely, her cheeks flooding with color.

Peter felt the functioning of his brain slow to the viscosity of mud as he tried to follow what she was saying, but his mind and eyes were intent on noticing and focusing all alertness on the movement of her tongue. His stomach curled in envy of the muscle that got to grace her lips without so much as a hesitation, and he was again struck with the extreme urge to push a forceful kiss against her lips, to finally claim her.

His physical want was intense, and he suddenly felt a bit guilty as he tried to place the reasoning for it. Peter had come across many attractive women in his day, and yet none had stirred within him this amount of longing. It was as if he and Claire shared some deeper connection, but they hardly even knew each other. He couldn't even blame the lust that was bordering on animalistic on a wanting to know her more completely than he already did.

It was all just very raw, driven by something he couldn't place.

And it was driving him nuts.

He watched as her tongue danced across her lips and reigned in the twitching of his hands and arms to reach out towards her face, to pull her for a kiss. Instead he allowed himself to lean in towards her again, and his ache was somewhat quelled. At least then his need wasn't such a distant dream when she was so close, and he got to fully experience the scent, the aura around her. It was heady, but focusing on her cleared his head and he smirked to himself at the way her cheeks flooded red, he hoped because of his proximity.

"Honey Bunches of Oats," he replied in a breath, his fist going to support his jaw, feeling the heat of his own breath reflected back to him. "How was your shower?" he asked, but was really looking at the complexity of her eyes, the flecks of pigmentation. He wanted to tell her they were beautiful, but he didn't want to push the tentative line that the tension already threatened to break.

Peter worried about how they were going to live in the same space, crossing paths, indefinitely. His sanity wouldn't last long. This need, want, was too primal.

Claire knew that she had to have some kind of control, she was innocent and not used to controlling herself but there was no excuse for not being able to focus. She needed to prove to him that she wasn't some young girl that couldn't control her emotions, her hormones or her young body. He was probably used to women after all, mature women that knew exactly how to act and what to say. She was aware of the fact that she was quite a bit younger than him and so she felt that she had to compensate for her youth somehow.

So she tried to remember to breath, blushing just a bit as she watched him smirk just a bit when she stumbled over asking about the cereal. She was embarrassed, she wished that she could be more smooth than she was but he was terribly distracting as he watched her mouth. She could feel his eyes on her and when he leaned closer, it was wreaking more havoc on her system. She could almost feel his warm breath on her skin and she craved it more, she wanted to hear and feel it catch as she pulled him closer.

Focus, Claire!

She got over scolding herself just a bit, clearing her throat a little before offering a small smile, "It was good, nice and warm." Then she glanced down at herself before straightening, needing just a bit of space between them as she tucked a curl behind the delicate shell of an ear. "Speaking of which, I should probably get dressed."

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