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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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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.

Claire often wondered about the young man from the party, the one who had worried about her when he thought that she had burnt herself. She told herself that she only wondered about him because of the fact that she worried he had seen her heal. She never mentioned it to her dad, of course, she didn't see the point behind it unless the guy showed up on her doorstep and threatened to expose her. Not that he knew who she was and she hoped that no one from the catering business would tell him.

But no one ever did show up with the threat to expose or, or carry her off to some government facility where they would do tests and the like on her. So she let it slide from her mind as she focused on school and some work, especially her job at the hospital where she helped with some small tasks and paper work. Hopefully, after a couple years or so, she'd be an intern.

She was standing behind the desk when she heard over the line that the EMTs were bringing in someone who had a heart attack. She made sure that they had a room ready and then moved out of the way, her mind and gaze focused on some paper work before her when suddenly she felt like she was being watched. It was a tingle up her spine that had her lifting her head, her heart in her throat as she looked over to find herself looking at the same man from the party.

Ohh boy.

See, Peter had his reasons for thinking there was something strange about what had happened to the girl at the banquet, because there was something strange about him.

He had dreams that came true. And no, not in the Cinderella sense... in the real life prophetic dreams kind of way. And sometimes, he swore he moved things with his mind. Call it crazy, but it was beginning to happen more frequently. Peter would get a step or two ahead of himself in his mind, and a moment later, the thing he had been thinking about moving was already moved. Peter had slowly learned to accept these phenomenons, and in fact had even adjusted to them. What bothered him was that he didn't know where they came from. Stuff like that didn't just happen did it?

So he really couldn't help it that he didn't exactly believe her.

After he saw her, for a moment he wanted to pause and say something. But seeing as he was holding a stretcher with an ailing man on it, taking his pulse, that wasn't really an option. What would he say to her, anyway? Had she even seen him? Would she remember him? He focused once more to transfer the man on the hospital bed, and then craned his neck to look at the nurse's station.

She was definitely watching him.

Claire wished there was a way that she could deny or dismiss her ability as simply being some weird phenomenon but she couldn't. It was right there, a physical phenomenon as whatever hurt that happened to her was healed before her eyes. Before the eyes of anyone watching, something he knew but she had managed to convince him that it was just a trick that his eyes were playing on him.

The problem was that she wasn't sure that he actually bought it, she just had that feeling.

But she was also not expecting to see him again and definitely not at her work. She should have guessed that he was a nurse or EMT, he had that air about him when he rushed over to take care of her when he thought she had burned herself.

She watched him quietly, almost frozen as she hoped that he hadn't seen her but a quick glance over his shoulder told her that he was aware that she was there. Her eyes met his in a steady gaze for a second or two but it felt like moments, it felt like the whole world had slowed down and blurred on the edges. She had to physically force herself to look down to her paperwork, biting her bottom lip as she tried to remember what she was doing.

He wasn't sure what to do once he saw that she she saw him. Was he supposed to confront her, or just give her a quick hello. Neither felt right, really.

Peter was slow to move after he was dismissed from the room, once the nurses and two ER doctors had taken over. It drew a curious look from the nearest nurse, and a half hearted "Everything ok?" to which he swallowed and nodded, beginning what felt like the mile long trek to the nurse's station. Apparently he had already made up his mind that he was going to talk to her.

"Well I guess I have to formally introduce myself now, huh?" he quipped with a surprisingly natural smile. Peter wasn't sure where these words were coming from; it was as if his body had developed a mind of its own.

"How is your hand?" he asked. "Still sure you're not burnt?"

Claire wasn't sure what to do either. She half considered running away but she was sure that would be a little too suspicious.

She looked up again as she watched him start towards the nurse station, almost forgetting to breath as she tracked his movements. Was he coming to talk to her? Yes, of course he was. Then he made a quip, causing her to blink and look around before looking back at him to realize that, yes, he was talking to her.

"Oh, um, no." She held up the hand in question to show off that it was smooth and unharmed, "See? Still not burnt." There were a couple people watching them but it wasn't near as bad as it had been at the party considering everyone was busy at the moment. "So, you're an EMT?"

Oh that was cute, the way she was looking around as if she wasn't sure he was talking to her. She may have wished he wasn't, but given that there was no one else around, she had to talk to him. It was a good attempt at avoiding the situation, but Peter wasn't that dumb.

"Huh, that's crazy," he commented to the perfect complexion of her hand, not shying away from grasping her hand and running his thumb over the palm. "You really lucked out, I guess. Because I know that your hand went into the flame." It was said calmly, without accusation that she was hiding something; he said it as if it was a well-known fact.

Moving his eyes back to her face, he smiled warmly and nodded. "Mhm, for the time being at least. Are you a nurse?"

Claire nibbled on her bottom lip as she couldn't deny that he was standing there and talking to her. She didn't mean to have it come across that she thought he was dumb, she was just not sure how to approach the situation considering that she was trying to avoid talking about burning her hand.

But he wasn't going to let it go.

When he took her hand, her eyes flickered down at the feel of his thumb brushing against her palm and she was glad that he couldn't feel her pulse as it fluttered in response. "I...you're mistaken." She tried to keep her voice firm, tugging on her hand a little.

"Pre-med." She answered, "I'm going to school and I work here part time."

He let her hand go without a fight, dropping his hand back to the counter, where his arms were folded underneath him.

When she said pre-med, he couldn't help the slight surprise that crossed his face. "You're ambitious. I couldn't stay in school that long," he admitted. He had thought about it, his family had pushed for it, but he just couldn't. And not to mention that he had little interest in living the life of a doctor, who sold his soul and life to the profession. Peter wanted a family.

But he caught a small detail. "So you quit the catering position, then? I don't blame you. Too dangerous to your health."

He didn't know why he was being persistent, because he knew that she wasn't going to come clean to him, but he felt the need to plant the seed.

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