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Three Ring Circus
Private story line with girl_ofsecrets.

It was kind of like falling into an old routine for him, dressing up and playing Golden Boy for the crowds that came to see him and his family. Sure, they all said it was for charity, to fight Multiple Sclerosis or whatever the cover was this time. Peter probably sounded like a man with a raging bitterness for charity work, but the heat was aimed more at his family. His mother, specifically. He loved her dearly, of course, but he no longer knew why she kept herself, her family in the limelight. After his father's death, he had been prepared for the Petrelli name to fade out, for the novelty of their name to finally lose steam. But it was as if Arthur's death had increased it tenfold, and now everyone was itching to peer into the glass box of his family's private life more than ever.

How frustrating.

So he stood near the edge of the room of the rented out banquet hall, champagne in hand, hair slicked back (God forbid his mother caught sight of those unruly bangs), suit tailored to fit him to the tee. He watched the crowd, the small throngs of people in their idle chatter, lightly amused. They all knew their parts quite well... not that he wasn't well aware he was committing a downright sin by lurking in the shadows.

Hors d'oeuvres made their rounds around the room, and he spared a glance at his gold wristwatch. His mother, surprisingly had opted for a buffet, and he knew the food was going to be brought out soon, as the appetizers were dwindling down. It would be quite the procession to watch, as this was a top-notch event and the caterers would not be able to disturb the flow of the party. So out they would come in a single line, buffet tray in hand, the other tucked behind them, and make their way around the buffet line to set their trays on the waiting flame before disappearing back into the kitchen. All in all, in should take less than a minute.

Peter wanted to get a good spot to watch (hey, it wasn't every day he got to see that kind of precision, EMTs flew by the seat of their pants), so he started working up towards the buffet line. Not surprisingly, no one else had an idea of what was to come, so he had no trouble getting close. Sticking one hand in his pocket, he took a sip of the champagne and smiled to himself as the first waiter appeared through the doors.

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"Claire, are you ready?"

The blonde in question looked over at her redheaded friend as she finished buttoning up the fitted, white top that was freshly pressed and crisp against her skin. "Yeah, pretty much." She turned to the mirror, making sure her long hair was pulled back from her face into a sleek bun at the nape of her neck.

She really didn't need to work for money, she could have used the money that she got from her family to go to school but a friend hooked her up with a part time catering job to help her get some extra cash when she wanted it. Her dad had tried to talk her out of it, citing that she should spend all her time on her school work but she made him a deal that she would quit if her grades suffered at all. If they didn't, then she could work once in awhile.

Which was the plan tonight; working at some charity being thrown by some fancy, Italian family. She would help with the buffet line, maybe help serve some drinks and then she would have a good amount of cash in her pocket by the end of the night. Nothing wrong with that.

She had to hurry to get her spot, taking her tray as she got into the line and waited for the little signal. She was at the end, the last one and the one that stood out as she was the only one with blonde hair strangely enough. As they filed out, she walked briskly, her heels making little noise on the floor over the noise of the crowd as she moved to the buffet line.

Interesting how the moment the kitchen doors opened, everyone flocked in a mad rush to the buffet line. He shook his head, feeling the pressure of people shifting behind him. The chatter hushed to a lull as the waiters came out, and he took another sip of his drink, before he felt a hand on his arm. Shifting his gaze, he caught sight of a familiar face that was grinning brightly at him, and his eyes nearly bugged out of his head as he lowered the flute.

"Hayley!" he exclaimed in a hushed tone, swallowing hard. Hayley was a co-worker that often manned the ambulances with him, and well... Peter had never seen her as she looked that night. He wouldn't have recognized her if it weren't for her trademark grin.

"Hey Pete. Fancy seeing you here," she teased lightly.

He chuckled, looking her over. "Wow Hay... you look great." At that she beamed more if it was evenly humanly possible, apparently proud of herself that she had managed to impress him. Peter was used to seeing her with her crimped and wavy locks pulled in a sloppy pony, a plain face, and a too big uniform. To see her dressed to the nine's was a treat, and she was suddenly much more feminine his eyes. Pretty, without any hesitation.

Unfortunately his conversation with her pulled his attention away and he missed the procession, but Hayley's eyes were sharp. "Oh, sweetie!" she yelped, her eyes wincing. Peter looked over in just enough time to see a girl a few steps ahead of them nearly drop her tray, but catch her balance quickly enough to set the tray down without even the smallest spill of pasta. Just as he was letting out a sigh of relief, her hand took the blow of the misstep, and went palm down into the flame below.

"Shit," he hissed, flipping into paramedic mode and scurrying forward to her side. "Are you okay?" he asked quickly.

It was all going rather smoothly, she wasn't having any trouble till just a few steps from the buffet table. Someone took a slight misstep, throwing her off just a tiny bit as she nearly dropped her tray. Luckily her reflexes were rather quickly; whether it was thanks to being a cheerleader or if it was just in her to be quickly, she managed to catch the tray without spilling anything. She merely straightened and set down the tray, not realizing it right away when her hand went into the flame.

It took her a second or two to realize the tiny flash of pain was from the fire licking over her skin. She heard someone to her side as she clenched her jaw a little, pulling her hand back and pressing it to her side as she tried to hide the burn so that she had time to heal it.

Are you okay?

She turned quickly, her wide green eyes focusing on the man that was coming to her rescue. "I...what?" She blinked at him a little, seeming surprised that he was suddenly there at her side. "Yes, I'm fine." She glanced over her shoulder to her co-workers who were already walking back to the door and her friend was looking at her.

"Thank you." She mentally cursed herself, turning a bit as she moved to walk away. She was sure that her hand was healed and for the most part, it was. Everyone who might be watching could see that she wasn't burned but he would be the only one close enough to see the last tiny burn going from angry red to golden smooth skin once more.

For a half second Hayley frowned, but that was petty of her. The girl needed help, obviously... she had just burned herself pretty badly. Of course it would happen on the one night Pete noticed her.

Peter's brow furrowed at the girl's reaction; she seemed more confused than he was about the entire situation. "You just burned yourself," he pointed out flatly. "Badly. You just tried to pet a flame. They're not cuddly, you know. Now let me see your--" but she was already moving away from him, in a big hurry to get back behind the doors. Poor thing was probably embarrassed out of her wits.

"Wait wait, I'm a paramedic," he called as he caught up with her right as she entered the kitchen. He managed to grab her uninjured hand and haul her to stop, quickly switching hands. "We really need to get some water on this..." he trailed under his breath as he turned her palm to look at it. And found nothing. "Where'd it go?" he muttered to himself, quickly switching hands. There was nothing there, either.

"I could've sworn your hand went right into that flame," he whispered, eyes locked on hers. Peter was so confused!

Claire was confused, or maybe more startled than anything. More startled that someone had seen her burn herself which meant that someone possibly saw her healing. Her dad would have a fit and he would probably demand for her to come home; but only if he found out. As long as she could get out of there, then things would be okay.

She swallowed thickly as he told her that she had burned herself, even tried to make a joke about petting flames and the fact that it wasn't a smart thing to do. He caught her when she tried to walk away and then suddenly he was holding up her "injured" hand, looking at the smooth hand to find it not burned at all.

"You were mistaken." She gave an awkward laugh then, her eyes darting sideways before turning back to him, "Obviously I'd be in a lot of pain if I had put my hand in a flame, right?" Another faint laugh that sounded a bit forced.

If Pete had been crossing the line by following after her to make sure she was okay, he was definitely crossing a line now by being in the kitchen. As a seasoned benefit-goer, he knew the place was restricted to guests. And being in a sharp suit did nothing to conceal the fact that he was breaking the rules. In fact, the caterers were beginning to stare.

"Yeah, I guess..." he admitted; she had a point, if she had really burned herself, she would probably be racing to find something to stop the stinging burn. And there was no burn, no missing skin or red mark to speak of. Still, he was inclined to believe something fishy was going on.

He let go of her hand and gave her a weak smile in response to her forced explanation. "Well, pardon me then, miss. The champagne must be making my head fuzzy. I think it's time for some soda."

With that he took his leave, no less comforted than when he had followed her into the kitchen.

Claire was startled a bit that he had followed her into the kitchen, her eyes darting to the others that she was working with and then she looked back at the young man who was trying to figure out why she wasn't sporting a horribly burnt hand. She shifted her weight almost nervously, trying not to let her nerves show too much because that would only make him question her more.

But thankfully he was dropping it, especially since she had pointed out to him that she would be hurt if she had truthfully put her hand into a flame. Which she had but he didn't need to know that it wouldn't really affect her, not long term.

"Might be." She gave a little smile, watching him as he turned around and left the kitchen. Immediately her friend was at her side, demanding answers. She didn't really give her any but she excused herself after that, deciding that leaving was the best option for her. She wouldn't get a job as a caterer again but everyone had to make sacrifices to keep their secrets.

He would have been lying if he said the girl from the benefit dinner had escaped his mind since that strange evening, but she was still hanging around the back of his mind at all times. Thankfully he had his job to distract him from her, from the idea that something besides a trick of the eyes had happened. That morning was no different as he and two other paramedics worked on loading a man into the back of the ambulance. He had just suffered a mild heart attack by the looks of things and was still suffering from after effects.

"You'll be just fine, sir," Peter soothed as he shut the doors before walking around to the front passenger seat. It was a quick ride through New York city traffic with the lights rolling, and in a matter of a few minutes they were backing in to the wide sliding doors of the hospital emergency room. He hopped out of the truck and went to brief the waiting doctor and nurse. "It looks like he had a heart attack. He's still having some chest pain and trouble breathing, I would watch him for another attack," Peter explained, and as he went to roll the man in through the doors and check his vitals and condition once more, a familiar face caught his eye that made his own heart miss a beat.

Well I'll be damned.

He entered the house without knocking, setting his coat and messenger bag on the armchair near the door. Peter had just come off his shift not long before, and had stopped back at his apartment long enough to shower and change. But he couldn't keep his mom waiting when there was a family dinner planned. His hair still wet and slicked back, he walked through the mansion, calling out. "Mom? Where are you?" Calling for her probably wasn't necessary, because he had a good sense of where she was, and the answer back confirmed it.

"In the kitchen, Peter." He followed her voice and entered the kitchen to find her standing at the counter, chopping vegetables. He automatically joined her side, but not before Angela took him by the shoulders and kissed his cheek. "You could've worn something a little nicer than a t-shirt and jeans," she critiqued offhandedly, to which her son rolled his eyes.

"Hey, at least it's a black t-shirt. I put some thought into it," he protested as Angela shook her head.

"Yes well, you'll just have to make up for your transgression by helping me peel potatoes."

He couldn't help but frown to himself, and wish he just would've worn the button down shirt like he considered. Nevertheless, he fell right into the role assigned to him and began peeling potatoes. They made quiet chit-chat as they worked, talking about everything from Peter's switch in jobs to Monty's role in the spring play at school. So it wasn't surprising that Peter sliced a formidable gash into his palm. He let out a hiss of pain and there was a spurt of blood as the potato tumbled to the counter.

Peter moved quickly to the sink, but when he went to study the wound--there was no trace of a slice underneath the blood. Staring at his palm intently, Claire Bennet came into his mind for the first time in a number of weeks. He didn't notice his mother's keen gaze on him the entire time.

Claire was glad to be done school for the summer, a relief that made it a bit easier to breathe now that she was done with finals and studying. All the things that gave her a headache. Only thing was that the hospital was going to give her some more hours if she wanted them but she wasn't so sure that she did. She knew it was a good job but after the year of schooling, she wanted some time to just relax and have some fun. Maybe even travel someone like a beach where she could lay in the sand and just enjoy the sun. Maybe she would even go visit her parents. Scratch that, she would have to go see them because they would expect her to come back and spend some time at home with them. She suspected that it was because her mom and her dad didn't have as much to do without her there now, even if they had Lyle.

She was at the hospital just finishing her shift as she considered her options for the summer, standing in the changing area as she wriggled to pull her jeans up over her hips. Once she finished buttoning them up, she reached into the small locker to pull out a simple black tanktop to wear under her red jacket. Once she was done, she shut her locker and locked it before grabbing her bag to sling over her shoulder.

Now that she had free time on her hands, she found herself wandering aimlessly or watching movies which happened a lot. She was almost done her movie collection as it were which made her consider stopping by a video store. Maybe she would stop by Starbucks too and get herself a drink.

Stepping outside, she looked at the dark sky before adjusting the pack on her back. She pulled out her phone, glancing at the screen as she turned up the volume and headed East.

Thankfully the the dinner went quietly, with idle chit-chat and talk of the next event the Petrellis were supposed to attend, which thank God they didn't have to host. But of course, Nathan had prodded him about a date. Brotherly love and all that. Shortly after dessert he excused himself, grabbing his things and giving his mother a quick kiss on the cheek before leaving.

The sun setting as he walked down the sidewalk, his mind returned to the disappearing act the cut on his palm had done. It was frustrating to think he was daunted with yet another phenomenon, but this time... he knew where, or rather who, it came from.

Running his hands through his hair, he tried to think of how he could approach her. He hadn't seen her at the hospital lately; either she was avoiding the ER or their timing had just not matched up. He didn't think he was appropriate to really try and track her down... was it even that big of a deal? Well, yes it was. Apparently she had a power, and he had absorbed it, which explained a lot of the other powers he had found within himself.

Frustrated with the conundrum, he turned a corner, not really paying attention where he was walking--and ran right into someone, knocking them back. "Oh my God, I'm so sorry!" he cried, reaching out to the grab the person's arm before they fell over. When she was straightened out and he saw who it was, he laughed internally.

"Claire," he said quietly.

Claire was somewhat relieved, and disappointed, that she hadn't seen Peter since their last exchange. She wondered if it was maybe their hours that kept them from running into each other or was there some reason that he was avoiding her? It didn't make sense to her because there wasn't a reason for him to considering the fact that it was him who was trying to find out things about her. Then she told herself not to be paranoid, it was just because she had finals that she hadn't seen him or anyone else for that matter.

Not that she should be paranoid or disappointed if he wasn't coming around to see her. It shouldn't matter. He was some guy, a little strange yes, but he was just a guy. A rather cute guy with an adorable crooked little smile and bangs that she kept wanting to play with every time she saw him but he was just a guy. A guy who had seen her ability and she knew that was dangerous. If her dad knew, he would force her to return home to avoid any risk of exposure.

It was playing on her thoughts as she turned a corner and ran right smack-dab into someone. She gave a little squeak, dropping her phone as she tried to catch herself but the other person managed to catch her arm before she fell right over.

As she straightened, she heard her name and so her eyes snapped to his face as his name left her in breathless surprise. "Peter."

Before he could really process who it was, he heard her iPod fall and he instinctively reached down to pick it up after letting her go. He glanced at it with slight curiosity--what kind of music did she like?--before handing it back to her and giving her an awkward, slightly nervous smile.

If this wasn't serendipity at its finest. "Out of all the people to run into," he commented softly, shaking his head. Not that he minded seeing her again in the least, and not just for the fact that he needed to talk to her. She was really cute, although maybe a little too young... pre-med made her an undergraduate, but it was obvious she was beyond her years.

"Are you ok?" he asked suddenly, realizing he had forgotten his manners. "I hit you pretty hard..." he licked his lips, giving her a once-over.

Honestly? She liked all different kinds of music and it would be rather hard to pin down what her style was by going through the list that she had on her iPod since she kept the songs on shuffle. She watched as he grabbed her iPod for her and she had to admit that she was a little charmed by the smile that he gave her even though she told herself that she had to be wary of him.

Still, it was rather interesting they kept running into each other. "I know." She murmured, brushing some hair back from her face as she reminded herself to not look at him too closely. He was older than her after all, he would have no interest in a young woman like her. He was probably more interested in women his age.

"No, I'm fine." She laughed softly, brushing it off. "I'm sturdier than I look." She waved a hand in dismissal at him before arching a brow. "Are you okay?"

For a moment he just stood there awkwardly, not sure what to say, and she didn't look to sure either. He had a feeling she expected him to leave then, now that she wasn't injured and her iPod was returned to her, but he wasn't passing up this opportunity.

"Well I'm actually glad I ran into you," he chuckled, "No pun intended, but I need to talk to you." He shoved his hands into his pockets. "Can we get coffee and talk? Something happened today I think you might be interested in hearing about."

Peter looked around, trying to find the nearest coffee shop or diner. Spotting one, he turned back to her. "Please don't think I'm... being forward. It's important."

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