A peaceful interlude makes Claire think. Rating:
R. No explicit sex. Warnings:
Kink is basically non-con.Notes:
* * *
Claire bit down hard enough on her lip that for the fifth time in a row it started to bleed and as the copper taste spread across her tongue a strangled whimper passed her tightly closed lips. He'd set the cage to shock her, over and over, through the night. Sometimes it took long enough she dozed off before a painful jolt of pain played her nerves like live wires while other times they seemed to come right next to each other. She hadn't slept in more than fits and dozes all night and the exhaustion pulled at her angrily, making her limbs heavy for a time before the next wind kicked in. It always kicked in eventually.
But now she felt the first real hope of getting out of the cage since she'd realized he'd welded it shut before leaving her for the night. She'd heard footsteps. Biting back on the pain and the anger, she curled up on the blanket a little tighter for what little protection it provided, and waited for him to open the cage.
It took too long with the aftershocks of electricity coursing through her but then she felt his hand tangling in her hair, stroking it. “Oh, Claire.”
She pulled back hard on a flinch, wanting to but worried how he might react. For now she needed to keep him happy and stay out of this stupid cage. For now she needed to lull him into thinking she'd been tamed so she kept it simple. “Please let me out?” Every muscle in her body screamed to break out when she heard and felt the shake of the metal being cut open but she waited for him to reach down and help her up. He took her in his arms, cradled her to his chest, and she mumbled, “Thank you.”
When her feet touched the ground only will power kept her from ripping her arm away from his grasp but Claire took a deep breath, leaned against his side, and let him help her out of the attic; it got her that much closer to a warm bath and that much further from that stupid cage. Anger warred with exhaustion as they reached the bedroom but, eventually, her self-preservation won out and she dropped to her knees just inside the doorway. It helped her body, though completely healed, still dragged with sleep deprivation – just because she could heal anything didn't mean she didn't feel it. She kept her head down and her mouth shut, waiting for some sort of response from Sylar. He just padded over to the bathroom. She listened to the bath being filled and realized he meant to take another bath with her. For the most part he seemed nicer during baths. Maybe this morning wouldn't suck too much after all. He came back, crouching down next to her to stroke her hair back from her face and she thought she caught a smile in the corner of her vision.
“I'm sorry I had to do that. You have to learn that fighting me won't get you anything. We can't fight like this forever,” he told her and maybe it was the exhaustion but she didn't clench her fists. “I want to be nicer to you. I want you to be happy here with me,” Sylar said in a low, warm voice that she might have found soothing on anyone but him. “Don't you want to be happy?”
Of course she did, but she couldn't be happy with him. “Yes.”
“Good, good. You'll see this'll start working out any time now. Do you need to go to the bathroom?” She nodded and he gestured that she should go as he straightened up. “I'll be right back.”
Grateful for even the short break from him she went pee, washed her hands, and watched the bath filling with water. Impulsively she found some of the bubble bath under the sink and poured a handful out under near the running faucet, smiling to herself. If she could hold onto the little things, like bubble bath or seeing Molly, then maybe she could survive this.
By the time he'd come back she'd put the container back under the sink and sat down on the floor next to the bathtub, waiting for him. “Bubble bath?”
“I like it.” Claire studied her hands. She desperately needed to fix up her nails. They healed but her cells didn't care about unevenness or rough patches. When he ran a hand over the top of her hair, pushing it back, she didn't do anything.
Sylar set down the container in his hands on the edge of the sink and pulled her up to sit on the side of the tub, her tan thighs contrasting with his dark clad ones. He hadn't dressed for the day in the black slacks or jeans he liked yet and the silk material of his black pajamas shined in the bright, artificial light. Like most of the rooms this place didn't seem to have windows. Besides the container he'd brought in a mug of coffee and sipped it slowly as her stomach growled jealously over the smell, not that she thought he planned to share.
“Why don't you get in the bath?” Cute of him to make it sound like a suggestion.
She smiled bitterly and lifted her legs over the side of the tub, slipping into the hot, bubbly water. It'd filled up toward the edge, not yet stopped automatically by the thing that protected the tub from flooding, but high enough the water hit chest high as the rest of her connected. Claire didn't wait, continuing the movement until she'd sunk all the way into the wet heat. Her hair drenched in stages, the waves weighing down with each inch of water, then the soapy taste brushed her lips, then the heat gently stung her eyes, until she'd made it all the way in. On the other side she opened her eyes to stare up into the white cloud of bubbles that blocked her vision of the rest of the room. In the water like this her hearing had dimmed except for the beating of her own heart and the sound of her breathing, reminding her that she still lived. Her line of sight had been blocked by the suds. Her sense of touch filled with the pressure underneath her stretched out body and the heat that enclosed her completely. She felt safe, warm, and floaty like this.
When the distant sound of a voice tried to break through her bubble she ignored it, shutting her eyes. Her lungs burned, another reminder that she still lived in her body and that no matter what else happened she could control this, she could do this. It felt like jumping off the roof of a building in reverse. The burn of pain came first, like a crash landing, but then she was floating, floating, flo –
Rough hands gripped her shoulders and yanked her hard out of the water, drops and waves splashing everywhere in the upset as she gasped in unwanted air and rubbed at her eyes as she coughed. At the last second she remembered not to open her mouth and ask him what the hell he thought he was doing; he'd probably tell her anyway. “What the hell was that?” he barked and she sat back as far as his tight hold would let her.
“It was warm.”
“You were under for over a minute and a half. You could drown like that.”
A smile played over her face. “I'd just wake back up. It didn't even hurt that much.” He shook her hard and her smile dropped even as his fingers loosened their grip and let her sit back against the porcelain edge of the tub. Right. How dare she tried to relax? Tears pricked at the edges of her eyes but she forced them back, drawing her mouth together. “Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you.” Stupid me; I forgot I can only almost blackout when you decide it. She couldn't be sure Sylar hear that thought but she wasn't sure at all if she cared if he did.
“Claire, it's time for breakfast.” And now he'd decided to drop the subject entirely as he offered over the Tupperware container and a plastic fork. She cracked it open and the smell of sugary strawberries struck her senses a second later as they smothered what looked like crepes.
They didn't say anything else to each other as she picked at the crepes until her stomach felt what had started to be uncharacteristically full and he let her wash it down with a swallow of coffee before he got her a glass of water. Only after she'd finished her breakfast did he strip down and join her in the bath, wrapping his lean body around and against her.
He seemed to like holding her like this. When she could forget the mind behind it all it even felt sorta nice. He had a nice, strong body – she admired the chiseled ab muscles and the tense strength of his arms in the rare moments she enjoyed herself with him – and he held her... differently than anyone ever had. It didn't matter if it was romantic or familial because all of them, from West to Peter to her dad, held her close to their bodies like they could be used as human shields to protect her from falling apart and if they let go, even a little bit, she'd disappear or die or lose it. Something horrible, something she couldn't control. They hugged her lightly, even when she clung to them, and tried to cover the vital bits like her head without being too obvious about it. She'd first noticed Sylar didn't do that back when he'd still been Nathan.
Now it seemed so stupid, like one more sign she'd missed because the few times Nathan had hugged her before his death he'd held her just like all the other men did. Sylar didn't. He held her like he'd fall apart if he let go and she, by being there and being something to hold onto, could keep him together. His touches weren't soft, even when they were gentle, and instead of stretching out to cover as much as her as possible he crouched down to touch as much as her as possible. Even naked, in a bathtub, it didn't feel sexual. It felt needy.
She didn't get that. He needed a lot of things but her? No one needed her except for her power and he already had that.
Her chest beat a little faster as he dragged her into his lap with one hand resting on her thigh and the other on her hip on the same side, crossing her stomach. His collarbone felt distinct against the back of her skull but it was the kiss to the top of her head that let her know he'd settled down for now. He always did that – he always kissed the top of her head and breathed in deeply, taking in the scent of her.
Like he wanted to hold her there to remember her for as long as possible. Like she was his touchstone.
That started the tears prickling again and she sniffled a little, refusing to break down right now. Later, when he left her alone for a few minutes, she'd have a good cry and handle things but she wouldn't do it in front of him. He'd pick and pick and pick at it until they were yelling at each other again and then he'd hurt her. She'd learned her lesson there.
“Are you okay?”
“It's humid in here,” she answered, sniffing again like she had a runny nose and not teary eyes. Since they were closed he'd never know the difference, she figured, and he wouldn't turn her around to check. Breathing deep to push back the lump in her throat, Claire reminded herself that his current good mood needed to last. She couldn't take another night like last night. “And... I'm worried. I'll sleep with you tonight, won't I?”
He kissed the top of her head. “Yes, Princess. I missed you last night.” A shiver went down her spine, through her stomach, and came out her throat but she kept her body as still as she could. He squeezed her thigh. “I lost my temper last night. We both did. I'll do better next time and I know you're sorry.”
Sorry she'd been put in that stupid cage even after apologizing maybe but she'd needed to get out before she lost herself completely.
* * *Title:
Redoubt : Part ICharacters/pairings:
An unexpected vulnerability gives Claire an opportunity. Rating:
NC-17. Explicit violence and rape. Warnings:
Kinks are penance/punishment and violence. There is also non-kink violence.Notes:
~6000 words. Additional warning: Molly's in this chapter and not in a good way.
* * *
The world faded slowly in and out of focus as he blinked with sleep-crusted eyes, groping for some purchase in what felt like a soft, downy bed. His fingers wrapped themselves around the edge of a feather-filled comforter briefly before he laid his palm out flat and started to push himself up -- only to realize that a noticeable weight rested on and against his body. Not quite ready to open his eyes to the bright light he could see through his eyelids his hand reached towards his hip where some of the weight Flesh registered first, warm skin with defined muscles underneath it, belonging to a woman if the size said anything. Hovering his hand just above her skin he followed its path back to the body that made up most of the weight against him. Now that he knew the object he could make out the curve of a brow pressed against his upper ribs and a leg thrown over his.
He chanced blinking and bit back on a groan at the sudden influx of artificial light from a bright ceiling light above; when the white spots passed he saw her hair first. Shortish but flowing and blonde it covered the features of her face where his side didn't. Otherwise he found only golden tan skin following the curves of a well-made body. It didn't add up. He'd remember going to bed with a woman this beautiful. He'd remember going to bed with a woman at all – he knew, he didn't make it a policy to drink to blackout. When he looked around he didn't recognize anything either, not from a night before or any other visit.
Why couldn't he remember even a name?
He blinked, a sudden thought striking him as he took a deep breath in while trying not to disturb her rest. He didn't remember his name either. No, worse, he didn't remember anything at all. With his mind grasping at straws to try to give himself a name he knew he'd have to wake the woman up and hope she knew more about him than he knew about himself. After all, she'd gone to bed with him, curled up against him, so she must.
“Um,” he started as he reached for her shoulder to gently rock her awake. “Could you wake up, please?”
She groaned, batting at his hand. “I dun wanna.” That made him smile but with the worry creeping up on him he persisted in trying to wake her up until she grabbed his larger hand with her warm one and grumbled, “I'm up. I promise,” before opening her eyes.
Her eyes pierced through him as they took in first the environment around them, almost as if assessing the situation, and then the expression on his face, which he knew likely looked lost. She had the most amazing green-blue eyes though to go with her features. If not for her clearly small stature he could have thought she was a model. He finally realized he hadn't said anything since waking her up as an awkward silence hung over them and he cleared his throat. “This is going to sound a little strange but do I know you? I mean, is this place familiar to me? Or, do you know if I suffered a head injury?” Head injuries were the only cause of global amnesia he could think of.
“You don't remember anything?” she asked tensely as she pushed herself up onto her stomach and elbows to get a better look at his face. “At all?”
“Afraid not.” He gave her a sheepish smile. “Maybe we could start with our names?”
She nodded slowly, wavy hair falling across her bare shoulders as she fiddled with the comforter and the first joints of her fingers. “Okay. I'm Claire and you're... You really don't even remember your name?”
How many more ways could he say it? He had global amnesia, no question about it, and a head injury of some sort despite a distinct lack of throbbing in his head. He'd investigate that later. “I wish I did... Claire.” Or that hers sounded familiar. She felt familiar somehow and important to him, more than a simple one-night stand, but when had he gotten a girlfriend? And where we they – her place?
“It's Adam,” she told him with a smile. “Adam Green.” Strangely, and undoubtedly a side effect of hitting his head, the world shook for a minute as she said that and it took him a second to reorient himself.
Adam Green. It seemed even less familiar than Claire. “Alright. Thank you.” Glancing down at the brief covering the sheet provided her in its current placement and the way she hadn't moved to cover herself up as soon as she'd woken up, he pressed on. “We're dating? Are we at your place or mine?”
“Um. Let's go with the second question first,” she started, sitting up now and finally dragging the sea green sheets around her perky breasts, unfortunately obstructing his view in the process. He should probably keep his eyes on her face anyway. “I don't know where we are. We're being held somewhere, by a man. You've, uh, been out for awhile.”
The world rocked again and he shook his head to clear it, but she took it for a denial maybe. She frowned at least. “No, I believe you. Why would you lie to me about something like this? I'm just a little disoriented from the trauma. I must have a concussion.”
With a slow, soft nod, she tucked the sheets in a little tighter and hesitated on the edge of the bed, almost holding her breath. “What's the last thing you remember?” He shook his head in return and answered with the truth: nothing. Then she glanced at the door and, slipping the sheets off her curvy body, she dropped to the floor on her knees. He swallowed hard, his stomach twisting, disturbed at the action. Why would she be doing that? She caught the look on his face and stopped, shoving her hair back behind one ear. “It's a rule. I'm not getting put in the cage again.”
“Cage?” More churning and he hoped he didn't throw up. “He's making you crawl? What's the cage?”
She shivered and sat back on her heels, staring at her hands in her lap. “It's a small metal box with an electric current running through it in the attic. It's tiny and dark and it hurts and he left me in there for an entire night earlier this week. I am not going back there.”
“I won't get you in trouble,” he promised as she started... crawling toward the nearer door. He tried not to watch the enticing movement of her hips and thighs as she scooted away and focused on calming himself instead. Right now definitely didn't seem like the best time to have an erection. A brief glimpse behind the door before she closed it showed a large bathroom and he filed that away for later before standing up to go check the other two doors. The first revealed a closet and the second had no door knob, no handle, and no apparent way out. They were trapped?
Just as he glanced around to look for some sort of exit he finally registered the décor, or lack thereof, of the room and gasped in horror. Weapons and instruments of pain of all sorts, from whips to belts and clamps to knives, decorated different sections of the wall. A partially open bureau had rope spilling out of it. It looked like a torture room. His thoughts went back to Claire and the odd pattern on her back, almost like lacing, came to mind. He'd thought it was a tattoo but from the piercing kit sitting on the dresser he had a feeling the man had really forced her into a real piercing. Dear god. He still stood, silent and gaping, in shock and horror, when the bathroom door open and Claire crawled out and back to the bed.
“I see you found his toys,” she commented without tone. Her expression when he glanced back looked equally blank but she wouldn't meet his eyes. She didn't have to look at him if she didn't want to, he supposed. He turned around, ready to ask her about the door, when a bitter smile played on her lips. “I guess you like them.”
What? “No!” They were horrible, inhumane, nothing that should ever be done on an unwilling body.
She pointed one delicate finger down at his waist – no, below it, at his still active erection and he covered himself as quickly as he could before easing back toward the bed and better cover. “Sorry.” His skin lit up with warmth and, probably, redness. “It's an unconscious reaction to having a beautiful, naked woman in the room. I don't mean to be rude.”
“It's fine. After all, I've been used pretty much every way you can be in the last week, what's being looked at to me?”
Bile rose up in his stomach in protest as the image the words spelt out. But he could be wrong, couldn't he? He could be wrong. “He didn't – He didn't rape you, did he?”
Claire snorted, flicking her head to the side in a way that took her hair away from her face except for one thin strand. “That's not what I'd call it. It doesn't seem big enough. He's violated pretty much every inch of me.” A bitter smile twisted her face. “Oh, yeah, and we're going to have a baby! Isn't that nice?”
“No.” Adam – why didn't the name sound right to his own mind? – shook his head decisively. “That sounds horrible. He must be an awful man.”
She blinked at him, exhaustion etched on her face, and slowly slipped back down under the covers. “I'm going back to bed. You should probably try to rest too. You might need it.” Rest where? He didn't feel right laying back down in bed with her, though some small part of him pushed him to do exactly that. He resisted, perching on the edge with the unused corner of the comforter over his lap instead, and watched as she got settled back in. The room had a slightly elevated temperature, not helped by his embarrassment, but apparently Claire thought so too because the comforter stayed low around her waist and the sheet only came up to her breasts, not over them. It struck him, a bit pitiously, that she really seemed to think him seeing her like this was no big deal and he turned to keep from cringing before getting up to examine the door again.
Twenty minutes later she'd drifted off and he'd given up on the door, going to the one area of wall in the room without the torture racks to get a book from the bookshelf. Most of it was non-fiction, much of it science, and he picked up a book called 'Activating Evolution' on a whim, flipping through to the table of contents. What he found made him laugh. Spontaneous regeneration? Telekinesis? Human flight? Opening the book to the chapter on healing, he settled in to read for the amusement value.
But the more he read, the more familiar it seemed, as if he not only read this before but seen it in action. No, not just seen it in action but felt it in action. Almost in a trance he walked over to the closest knife, picked it up, and slid the sharp blade over his overstretched arm. “Holy shit.”
“Wha?” Claire grumped sleepily from where her face pressed against the sheets, slitting her eyes open and tensing when she saw him with the knife. Or maybe at the small amount of blood that'd seeped out of the wound before it'd healed.
“I can heal myself! Watch.”
As he moved to slice his arm again she interrupted. “I know. I'm the one –“ Her jaw caught and she tried, “I'm the only person with that ability besides you. You must have copied it from me somehow.” Stretching the pause between each word as if trying to phrase it perfectly, she added, “I overheard the man talking about how you have something called intuitive aptitude. You can pick up other abilities, I guess, and figure out how things work. Like that door.” She pointed. “It's telekinetically locked but you should be able to open it if you concentrate.”
If he hadn't just seen the principle of advanced human abilities in action he would have scoffed at her but, as it was, he merely walked up to the door, putting the knife down in the meantime, and examined the door again – this time, with his mind. After five minutes of heavy concentration at pushing the door to open he heard a lock click undone and the door swung outward without protest. “Amazing.”
“Yeah. Amazing,” Claire agreed flatly, crawling out of the bed and over to one of the bureaus. Apparently one of them held clothes her size and she tugged them out, slipping on a dress and some thick socks with no shoes or underwear in sight, before glancing up at him again. Then she crawled toward the door. “There's another hostage. Molly. She's fourteen and her door locks like this too. It's on the next floor, down the hall, to the right. You go do that, I'll catch up to you. We should be as quick as possible.” The short, staccato sentences didn't phase him – she had to be shaken up – and he nodded his assent before starting for the stairs.
Up a floor, down the hall, to a right. The path seemed unnaturally familiar to him but he shook off the strange feeling of deja vu as he reached the metal door. Until he could open it he didn't want to get the girl's hopes up, so he focused on unlocking the door as Claire slowly made her way to him, shuffling on her knees almost gracefully. She called in. “Molly? A man, Adam, he's here to help us. He doesn't have any of his memories, doesn't seem to know who he is, but he has our captor's abilities, okay? He's going to unlock this door. Be careful.”
He smiled at her effort to put the girl at ease. “You really take care of her, don't you?”
The look she shared could have frozen air. “I have to. Hurry up, please.”
He nodded, hearing footsteps on the other side and then the sounds of rummaging. As the door clicked open it parted to reveal a skinny, brunette girl shoving belongings into a large duffel bag swiftly. Packing. It wasn't a bad idea. She froze as she saw him, her hands jerking to a stop, and turned her eyes hard to Claire, who shook her head. “It's okay. His name is Adam Green, he's helping us get free. I woke up next to him this morning and he's been pretty nice so I think we should go with him.”
The girl nodded slowly, running toward Claire and all but bowling her over as she wrapped thin, bony arms around the older girl. Woman. Barely a woman, at that. “You're okay! I was so scared. I thought for sure Sylar was doing something awful to you.”
Sylar. It brought a moment of recognition to him, better than his own name, but that passed. “I'm fine. I promise, I'm fine. Sylar was gone when I woke up; Adam's here now. We're going to be okay.” She whispered something further, probably reassurance or encouragement as he took over packing for Molly. When he'd finished he brought the bag back over, dropping a hand on her shoulder and watched her flinch. Dear god, had this Sylar hit her too?
“I'm sorry. I shouldn't have touched without asking.” He offered her the bag. “I can carry it?”
For the first time Claire, glancing around the room, stood hesitantly and, rocking back and forth on her feet with her hands behind her back, she put her hand out. “I've got it.” Not wanting to argue with her in her fragile state, he nodded and gestured them out of the room, ladies' first. “Okay, time to get out of here.”
As they started down the stairs to the first floor he began to get a sense of how large the house must be with at least three stories – he'd seen the staircase – and an attic along with being wide and long. What could they possibly need such a large house for with only the three of them? “Are there others?”
Claire shook her head. “Not that I know of. Come on, hurry up. I don't want him to wake up or whatever and find us.”
So he hurried, taking the bag from her after all because he'd be quicker to carry it. “Let's keep moving then.” The front door, to his frustration, proved to be as impossible to unlock physically as the other two had, taking him several minutes to get undone. He smiled in triumph as the door swung open.
Then he felt a presence behind him, prompting him to turn around. Before he could a sharp, quick pain punctured the back of his skull and then everything went black.
* * *
Molly gasped as the simple, straight-bladed knife slid into the back of 'Adam's' head with only the slightest, quickest amount of resistance, giving Claire long enough to sink the blade in before she glanced down at the younger woman from a reaction. Aside from having gone pale and taking a step back, Molly seemed steeled for the next step and, quickly, she stepped over Sylar's collapsed body to grab her bag.
It made Claire smile. “I don't know what got into his fruit loops this morning and I don't care. The door's open.” Speaking of, she shoved it the rest of the way open. And gaped. “Crap.” Directly outside the front door laid an endless expanse of white, packed snow with more falling every second and neither Claire, or Molly, with shoes. It didn't matter, it couldn't, because the house didn't have phones and they couldn't stay here. Buttoning down she remembered Sylar's closet having a couple of thick, heavy coats, and she decided to chance grabbing them. He'd be out for the long count with a knife in the back of his skull. “Wait here. I'm going to grab some coats. Don't worry, he's not going to wake up.” She sprinted off.
Stupid Sylar. Stupid fucking Sylar. It was just like him to strand them out in the middle of the fucking tundra like this, she thought, as an added precaution they'd never be able to free themselves. As soon as she found a town, and a phone, she'd call...
No, she couldn't call Nathan. No one could call Nathan anymore.
She'd call her dad first, then her mom, and ask for someone to contact Angela to get someone to pick her up. As she decided that she reached the bedroom and flew in, all but throwing the wardrobe open to find the coats she'd spotted. Finding them hiding all the way in the back, she grabbed the first three she saw – two for Molly to keep the little girl warm, bundling them up, and hurried back toward the front hall.
The first sign something was off was the complete silence in the hall as she approached but until she'd turned the last corner blocking her view of the front door she hadn't realized exactly how bad things were. Sylar, looking rageful with blood dripping down his neck and the front of his shirt, held Molly flat up and pliant against his stomach and legs, gripping the girl's thin throat and squeezing down enough her chest moved in small, gasping motions instead of normal breathing. Claire stopped, every inch of her body screaming to run but unwilling to leave Molly behind. No, no, this couldn't be happening. She'd hit him! She'd hit him in the right spot!
“Claire, so nice of you to join us on this chilly morning,” he drawled, pushing the door shut with one errant foot before he kicked Molly's foot out from under her, tightening his grip again. Her small hands came up to claw at his. “I'm not sure exactly how all of this happened but what I do know is that you've been a very, very bad girl. Not only are you trying to run but! You tried to kill me. Is that any way to treat your husband and the future father of your child?” Her stomach churned at the thought of it. “Oh, by the way, I moved the spot. Shapeshifting's nifty, isn't it?”
Dread yanked at her insides at the announcement, ripping her of all reassurances she'd only made a mistake and missed the spot by centimeters. He'd told her that, hadn't he? He'd told her and she'd forgotten because she wanted to get out so badly. Her only hope had just been crushed so, slowly, deliberately, she set the coats down on the floor next to her, got on her hands and knees, and crawled over to him. With the right apology she might be able to sway him away from hurting Molly, an innocent in all this. Claire had been the one to manipulate him, it'd been her plan, and she'd take the brunt of the punishment on her own if she could.
His eyes flashed with anger, or so she thought from her brief glimpse of them to check her progress as she reached his long, sweats-clad legs. Swallowing her pride, and everything else she wanted to say to him, she butted her head against his knee instead and rubbed it there, like a cat. “Sylar, you were acting really weird. You couldn't remember anything, not who you were, who I was, where we were, nothing. I got scared. I didn't know where we were either. And you've told me to take care of Molly, haven't you? What if we ran out of food? Or she got sick? Or we needed something else? Without someone getting out, without that, she could have starved. You wouldn't want her to starve.”
He snorted down at her, sneering when she looked up quickly before dropping her head again for another rub. “And the knife? How do you want to explain that?”
“Instinct? You were standing there, unpredictable and unable to control your powers. I got worried you'd hurt yourself or Molly or someone out there so I tried to stop you. I didn't really mean to.” She turned back to look at the coats, getting an idea. “I even brought three coats and we could have taken you with us. I didn't want to leave you out here alone, not knowing when you might wake up or ever.” Close enough to the truth not to trip his bullshit meter, she hoped that Sylar would accept the explanation.
His head didn't cock and the edges of his anger faded but she could see, thoroughly, he was in no way convinced. “You're trying to bargain your way out of me punishing Molly, aren't you?”
She swallowed dryly and nodded. “Yes.”
“You already knew the rules. You know I'm only doing this so that you learn that trying to leave is a mistake. You're taken care of here, you could be pampered, but instead you continue to struggle and disobey, putting yourself and Molly at risk.” He smiled a cruel, vindictive smile, shaking Molly like a rag doll before he let her go. She gasped in pain and coughed over and over as air flooded her lungs and she fell to the floor. Then he yanked her to her feet. “And what do you have to say for yourself?”
“I want to go home,” Molly cried and wrapped her arms tightly over her chest. “You're scary and mean, then you hurt Claire and me for being scared and wanting to see our families, our real families. You're not my dad! I want Matt, I want Mohinder.” She glared with defiant, tear-filled eyes even as Sylar grabbed her upper arm and dragged her over to the couch, tossing her on it.
“You are home. This is your new home. I don't care what you think of me as – father, big brother, uncle, guardian – so long as you behave and stop trying to run away. I won't tolerate it, not from either of you,” he bit out the words in a hushed but raging voice as Claire caught up with them on her knees. “And I'm a man of my word. If I tell you you're going to get something, I'll get it. Or if I'm going to do something, I'll do it. What did I say would happen if you disobeyed me, especially like this, again? Claire?” He raised an eyebrow. “Molly?”
The young teen stuttered with fear, pale as a ghost as his exact words came to find and her stomach heaved. She couldn't let that happen! He'd said he'd butcher her if Claire ever tried to escape again; she hadn't even thought of that, she'd just taken the chance when it was open. Oh, god. “Please,” she started, pressing hard against his knee where he stood next to her to get his attention. “Please don't do that, don't kill her. She, she won't be good leverage if you kill her.”
“I could revive her,” he answered coldly and she caught a whine coming out of her throat.
“Sylar, Sylar, you have to have some mercy, you can't just butcher a little girl for something I did. Look at her, look at how terrified she is.” Molly stood still as a statue except for the uncontrollable shaking that'd taken over her body. The stench of piss filled the room and darkened her pajamas as Claire's words brought back his exact promise and, with that, she collapsed into a ball on the couch, hugging herself, rocking, and crying roughly. “She, she needs you to be forgiving, like a dad would. Unconditional love, right? If you kill her, if you kill her, I'll never be able to forgive you because you had the choice and decided to be cruel and a monster. I'd only stay because I had no choice, if I stayed at all.”
She couldn't tell, from his thoughtful but impassive expression of narrowed eyes and an even, closed mouth, if he'd been swayed by her begging as he moved over to sit on the couch. Like a snake his hand snapped out and grabbed the struggling child to him, into his lap but not over it, as he pinned her against the couch side with the outside of one forearm. “Put out your hands.”
Her hands stayed fisted, digging into her sides in fear and he tugged the first one forward, prying her fingers open and holding her palm flat as she begged him not to hurt her. “Claire, please, Claire! Stop him,” she begged. “Please stop. Please, I'll be good. I've been good! I'll do everything you tell me and double homework and my chores and I'll behave and please don't hurt me, Sylar. Please. I'll study really, really hard.”
His face stayed passive and his eyes on Claire. “This is only happening because of what you did. It could have been prevented but you had to be selfish and inconsiderate, immature and unthinking. If you'd thought about it you would have realized what a foolish idea it was but you didn't, you reacted, and now Molly is going to pay for it.”
She wailed, a high-pitch cry-scream that turned into a shriek as Sylar snapped her pinky finger on her right hand. Even as she struggled to yank her hand away unsuccessfully the bile rose in Claire's throat, making her gag before she could, tears down her cheeks, say anything. “Please, that's enough. You've hurt her enough. Do it to me. Hurt me. It's what I did, it's my punishment.”
“This is your punishment – part of it, anyway,” he answered. “Plus, I promised I would do something if you tried to escape again. You're lucky it isn't butchering her.” Just as calmly he snapped her ring finger, Molly's wails growing frantic now as Claire started to beg again. Anything, she'd do anything he wanted if he'd just stop hurting Molly. He could lock her to the bed to make sure she never ran away again or do the tendon thing or blind her, but he needed to stop hurting the only innocent one of them in all this. He didn't listen, snapping two more fingers before, even as Claire screamed for him to stop, for god's sake, stop, he shifted his hold and snapped her wrist. Then he let her hand go.
Curled up as best she could, Molly held the injured hand to her chest and sobbed with all the hurt of the beaten twelve year old she was, and Claire knew, without a doubt, this was her fault. If she hadn't selfishly tried to escape again, knowing she didn't have a great chance of succeeding or staying free because Sylar always seemed to get out of it somehow, no one would be suffering now. They'd be sitting down to breakfast. She tugged on Sylar's pant leg, crying against him too, even as he stroked Molly's hair and tried to soothe her, taking her wrist again – this time gently.
Somehow he constructed a makeshift cast using gauze he'd floated from the kitchen and his ability to solidify it, making sure that Molly's hand would heal right. Then he gave her a pill, telling her it was for pain, and gently put her down on the other side of the couch. “When you feel up to it, you can go back to your room. Or you can sleep here.”
Then, as quick as he'd grabbed Molly, he crouched down between them and grabbed Claire's hair instead, yanking her head back. “Look at me.” She brought her head up. “No, look. At. Me. In the eyes.” Each new pronouncement left him shaking her by her hair and she winced at the sudden influx of pain before meeting his eyes. “Molly, go up to your room and don't come out until dinner. You'll go without breakfast or lunch today as punishment.”
It could have been worse, it could have been so much worse, and Claire found herself trying to smile bravely for Molly as she waved for the girl to go. “Go on, sweetie. You'll be okay. Sylar's not going to kill me.” She hoped. He cocked his head as if that pinged on his internal lie detector because, yes, she was fairly sure he'd kill her, at least once, before the day was through.
Molly stayed where she was, taking the drink he held out with her uncasted arm, sobbing under her breath and apologizing to Sylar over and over, promising to be good. Claire kept watching Sylar's dark hazy eyes, looking for some indication of mercy or, at least, a plan. He stared back darkly, his mouth caught in a thin line as he watched her watch him, and finally let go of her hair with a little shove. “I'll handle you later.” Then, to her surprise, he got up and picked Molly up too, cuddling her to his chest as he carried her toward the stairs, apologizing and trying to explain his reasons for hurting her. As his words faded from Claire's hearing she heard, “It was nothing you did. You've been a very good girl and a good student. I like having you here.” as Molly sniffled.
“Damn it.” She groaned, leaning against the front of the couch with a sigh. This was her fault as much as Sylar's. She knew what he'd said and she knew he didn't bluff, he could very well have killed her today. He probably would kill Claire as a lesson with the moral that she couldn't even use death to escape him. It turned her stomach and even as she tried to wipe away the tears from begging some still fell.
When she heard his footsteps approaching she didn't look up or react at all until he started with: “Claire --”
“I know what I did was stupid,” she cut him off, pushing the tears to the front of her mind and into her eyes. Enough fear rolled through her to make them real. “I was stupid and jumped into things, like I always do, like you're trying to get me to stop doing. I know I shouldn't have done it. I just wanted to be free and see my mom and get Molly safe from punishment and protect us both so much that it seemed worth the risk. I'll--” More tears spilled over onto her dry, cold-blasted cheeks but she didn't reach up to wipe them away this time. “I'll take whatever punishment you decide without complaint.” Why complain when all that would do would make it more severe?
“Really?” He huffed out a laugh, a sick, wide smirk on his face to mask his anger. That came back soon enough, making his expression sober and sharp, his eyes piercing into her as his lips pressed together in a thin lip in the bottom of her vision. “You think I'm going to kill you for this. How?”
Shuddering, not wanting to put the thought she already had into it, she had an answered prepared. “Stab me, or beat me to death. You're angry enough to do it.” Somehow saying that made it seem real and she started to shake, not an act but real, uncontrollable trembling that tugged on her hair in his grip as she struggled to make herself still and control the sobs. She'd have plenty to cry about later, she felt sure.
“How scared are you right now?” What sort of question was that?
“Terrified. I'm terrified of you and how angry you are. Is that what you want to hear? Does it make you feel like the strong man that you can make me cow at your feet like a kicked pet?” She only whispered the words but they sounded so loud and final to her ears. The shaking continued and, against his orders, she closed her eyes briefly. He let her. “You hurt a little girl.”
“Because of your behavior.” He yanked her hair. “Get up.”
The order shocked her into opening her eyes, but a second later she figured he must not want to wait for her to crawl toward her punishment. Walking would be that much quicker. She stood, taking shallow breaths to keep the worst of the crying at bay, and flinched when he reached out to touch her face. She couldn't help it, already imagining the amount of pain he planned to inflict on her today. She would have taken a step back if she could without getting slapped. “Wh-where should I go, sir?” Again, she whispered and, again, it sounded final, making her sick to her already upset stomach.
The room dropped into silence except for the hitching of her chest and her quiet tears while he thought that over. “Go to the kitchen.”
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Comments, critiques, confusions, etc. welcome. (Please?) This is un-beta'ed but if anyone would like to volunteer I'd take you up on that! I really do appreciate the comments that I get even if I don't always reply, please know that. And sorry for those of you who asked for more and didn't get a response. I've been bed-ridden; it's not fun.