Summary: Repairing something without the original blueprints is hard.
Rating: R, or maybe PG-13
Warnings: There is no sex in this chapter. I'm not sure if that's a warning or just an explanation as to why there isn't a warning. : )
Notes: ~ 3,500 words. I'll be posting the part that comes next immediately after this because I just finished my edits and I want to post it, so there. For the record, just because it's an interesting thing to note, I wrote this part weeks before my request for feedback.
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Sylar kissed Claire's forehead just below the hairline as she blinked at him sleepily, gave him a lazy smile, and closed her eyes. Soon she'd drift off to sleep, tired out by their activities. He felt the bone weary tiredness that came with physical exertion but, as Robert Frost so poetically put it, he had miles to go before he slept.
Out in the main part of the house he found Molly eating a bowl of ice cream and watching some
cartoon that he vaguely recognized. She didn't watch many cartoons, preferring the overdramatic soap operas for teens shown in prime-time. Vampire Books and Gossip Girls, or something. He avoided the living room when he knew they'd be on after one frustrating night of trying to read a book on the couch while she watched television and wanting to shoot his own brains out by the last voiceover. But those weren't on now. In fact, she seemed to be watching Scooby Doo.
He sat down, joining her on the couch, and watched a few minutes. It was Scooby Doo. He didn't recognize the episode but it'd been a long time since he'd watched this on his mother's small, living room television and maybe they'd revived the show anyway. Instead of leaving immediately, like he planned, he found himself staying through the episode until the theme song ran through the credits and Molly turned the TV off. "Done?"
"Yeah. Power Puff Girls are next. I'm kinda old for them." She said it with all the confidence and contempt a twelve-year-old could muster for something they felt they'd outgrown and he smiled.
"Oh. Do you like art?" One of the things he worked on with her was art, a mix of the methods and art history, but he didn't really know if she enjoyed it. Even reading her emotions sometimes went wrong because of the nerves resting above all her other feelings. They'd lessened in the last week though and he hoped they'd keep on until they disappeared.
"Enough you might be interested in taking a real class for it?"
She blinked and glanced over toward the wall blocking the front door from view then down at her feet. Today she wore striped socks; yesterday he'd noticed polka dots. He could feel a mental deep breath being drawn and she looked back up. "A real class?" Like, outside? With people?"
He nodded. "A real class. Outside. With people. Kids. A private high school I found has a program where middle schoolers with an interest in art can take a beginner class and get ahead. It's meant for the kids who'll eventually go to the school but I can put you in the records easily enough."
The last syllable barely left his mouth before she said, "Yes. Yes. That sounds great. Thanks, Sylar." Relief poured through her and washed out even the nerves for the time being. He might be insulted if he chose but he understood she needed contact with other children, friends. She started to step forward, thought better of it, and stilled... almost like she meant to hug him. Strange.
"It starts Monday and is from eleven to twelve-fifteen, if I remember it right." Of course he did. "You'll be going every day." Then he gave her a serious look, letting his smile dim a little. "Do I need to go over the ground rules again?"
She shook her head. "No. Don't tell anyone about this place. Don't say something that'd get you in trouble like I've been kidnapped or something. If anyone asks I'm living with an aunt and uncle and I have to ask before having anyone over to my house." The last bit, about someone asking to come over, was her own idea but a good one. It'd be believable and avoid the problem of her not living within five hundred miles of the area. But there was still one more rule left. "I can't contact Matt or Mohinder unless you say so."
"Very good." He clapped her on the shoulder. "Tomorrow I'm taking Claire shopping for new clothes and we should get you some for school too. You're already growing out of your own. And art supplies – the class has a list and everything." Molly nodded but he detected a hint of excitement at the prospect of a shopping trip. He added the cherry on top. "You can buy anything you want so long as it doesn't break any decency laws. Money's not an issue." A near teenage girl let loose to shop with an unlimited budget? He imagined a lot of girls had fantasies about being able to do that. Her excitement certainly went up.
"Thank you, Sylar."
He smiled. "I do want to take care of you while you're with me and I'm hoping you'll make friends. If these kids don't work we'll try another place for you to fit in. I have to go out now for awhile. Claire should be sleeping but if she comes out, wondering where I am, tell her I'll be back by eleven."
Sylar stood, mentally frowning as he remembered his unfinished project. The playhouse should have been done by now – he'd have to get to it the day after tomorrow. Outwardly he smiled and nodded. "Have fun." While she headed out the door, he teleported.
The world changed from the comfortable familiarity of his own living room to a drizzly cold of a dirty alley in a northeastern late fall and it made him glad he'd grabbed his jacket. The cold wouldn't kill him but he still felt it. After zipping his jacket up he took the left way out of the alley and entered onto U Street. The unimaginative naming of streets in Washington D.C. always made him raise an eyebrow – at the capitol of the entire country they couldn't come up with something better than letters, numbers, and states?
Sylar didn't have to go far before he found his destination. Earlier this week he staked the place out for a few hours and done some walking to get a sense of the area's habits, not to mention easy exits. The precautions were probably unnecessary but he was going to be a father; he needed to be more cautious. The front security door came unlocked easily with a flick of telekinesis and he slipped inside toward the elevator. In less than two minutes he reached his final target and saw the light coming from underneath the door, indicating that someone was home. Instead of entering on his own he did the polite thing and knocked.
It took a minute and he suspected he knew why, but then he heard footsteps approaching the door which, as it happened, had no peep hole. The door swung open and he kept his expression carefully neutral. Two seconds later he stood in front of Noah Bennet while the other man pointed a gun at his head. "Put that down. It won't work on me, will cause questions to be asked, and I'm just here to talk anyway. If I wanted to finally kill you I wouldn't have knocked."
Bennet stared at him, his bright blue eyes practically unblinking. Claire had her father's eyes but not this father. "Get inside." He didn't jerk the gun, just took two large, steady steps backward. "And close the door behind you." Then they'd have a little more privacy if he snapped and shot Sylar on principle, at least until someone came to investigate the sound. For his part, he decided to play along, mostly in amusement. He put his hands up, stepping inside as asked, and used telekinesis to shut the door as a reminder that he could take that gun anytime he wanted to. "What are you doing here, Sylar?"
"I told you. I came to talk. Whether you like it or not you are my father-in-law, in a way, and even though she's currently pretty angry with you – furious, really – Claire does love you and want to continue a relationship with you when she can forgive you," he told Bennet patiently as he put his hands back down. "I'm going to go take a seat at your kitchen table, try not to get trigger happy and, for the record, I moved the spot." He strolled over to the small table and sat down in one of the cheap wooden chairs, glancing around the apartment. It looked like Bennet still hoped for a reconciliation from the way he refused to move fully into this place; of course, Sandra did let him come home now, or so Sylar picked up, but he stayed in D.C. part of the time because it was Claire's last known location. How... desperate. Maybe he didn't yet know Sylar could teleport.
"We have nothing to talk about unless you want to discuss the terms of your releasing my daughter and Molly Walker."
Sylar raised an eyebrow, huffing. "No, that's not going to happen. But we do have plenty to talk about. Please, sit. Keep your gun if it makes you feel better."
Bennet glared at him. "I'll stand. What do you want?"
So be it. "A few things. First, Thanksgiving is coming up rapidly and, well, ideally I'd like an invitation to Costa Verde for myself, Molly, and, of course, Claire. Claire is hoping to spend the holiday with her mother and I told her I'd at least try." He didn't mention that he'd allow her to go half the day even if he didn't get that invitation because he could guess it'd be important to her to see her mother on a holiday about getting together with family. When he didn't get a response, he went on, "We also have some big news. Claire's pregnant."
Bennet's finger flexed against the trigger and for a moment it looked like he shoot as he glared in agitation. Eventually his finger relaxed and he said, "You son-of-a-bitch. I know this wasn't Claire's idea. I don't know what the hell you did to her but I know she's only with you because you threatened her."
While that accusation held merit, there was another reason. "And because I've promised to stop killing except if someone's stupid enough to attack my family. I'm not going to deny what I did; did you expect me to? I made the choices that I made and we're all going to have to live with them. The thing you should be considering is that I was effective. She isn't going to leave me voluntarily at this point and you have little chance of taking her away from me. Or keeping her if you somehow managed to retrieve her. "You're going to have to learn to live with me, Noah. For Claire's sake and because the sooner you do the sooner she's likely to forgive you. Making things harder for her doesn't help." Sylar pushed back the urge to take Bennet right there and go through with the fantasy-threat that he and Claire talked about.
"Claire shouldn't be with you. You kidnapped her and another defenseless girl. What else did you do to her?"
"Things she'd probably be uncomfortable with me telling you about them." He shrugged a shoulder. "What does a person usually do when breaking down a persistent thought pattern to replace it with its opposite?"
Bennet's knuckles went white around the grip of the gun and he fingered the trigger closely again. "You tortured her, either psychologically, physically, or both. Does that make you feel like a man, Gabriel?"
"Well, you do know something about fucking with defenseless people, don't you? So, you tell me. Did it make you feel like a man when you came after me during the eclipse? Or how about when I was unconscious and you pushed Nathan into my mind? Or, forget me. What about the countless specials you poked, prodded, and then turned back onto the street with only a gap in their lives and no explanation that they were not alone even? I could go on, such as your complicity in the torture of Elle by her father. Or your continued loyalty and allowance to a company which exploited, hunted, and even killed specials as a matter of course. Were you also in on Angela's plan to blow up Manhattan and get Nathan elected? And we can't forget about how you took Gabriel and manipulated him into becoming a killer even though he wanted to do the right thing. Oh, once again, I'm not Gabriel."
With each new question Bennet's teeth clenched together tighter and he ground them together. "You don't want to admit that you were ever weak, powerless, and insignificant but you were, Gabriel, and while the abilities might give you power they don't change who you are: a nothing."
It took effort to ignore the bait there but Sylar managed it by thinking about Claire. "You really haven't figured it out yet? After you tried to strip me from my body some things happened. I went with Matt, inside his mind, and was able to appear to him, even control his body with some effort. Meanwhile, your fake Nathan was executed and woke up with a sort of amnesia, at which point Gabriel was in control." He said the next part slowly, "We're distinct personalities. I'm not Gabriel."
Though Bennet knew how to hide his emotions well – barring the overwhelming hate he felt toward Sylar – it was a physical defense and not one that protected against empathy. Sylar could feel his surprise; he really hadn't been kept up on the developments, not even by Angela. "All that means is that you're not even really a person. You are a nothing, a hitchhiker on a disturbed mind."
"I am what I've made of myself. Which, well, is a man who has a nice house, a beautiful and loving wife, and a child on the way. A man who can't be killed and has amassed enough power it would be suicidal for anyone to attack him or his family. It seems to me that I've made out pretty good. But I came here with a purpose. Claire, as I said, is pregnant. It's still early on, of course, but she'll probably want her mother as the pregnancy progresses. I want you to negotiate Sandra visiting my home – alone, of course – because, honestly, I don't really want to tell her I got her daughter pregnant. She seems like the mother bear type."
"You want me to send my wife, with you, to an unknown location, alone. You're delusional. I'm not letting her get into a car with you alone." Bennet shook his head, his jaw set.
"No car. I picked up Hiro's ability. Handy, don't you think? I'll teleport her to and from the house. It's not like I'm going to hurt her or keep her hostage. It'd be counterproductive for my goal of making Claire happy and the pregnancy easier for her."
"You're talking about her being happy?" He chuckled once in a dark, foreboding tone. "You can't make her happy. You destroy everything you touch."
"Claire's invincible so I'm pretty sure she'll be the exception. I'm trying to help her and make things easier. This is something she wants, like going to Costa Verde for Thanksgiving, and not my idea. If you want to deny Claire something she so badly wants then I'll just explain to her that, once again, you prioritized screwing with my plans over her. I wonder how she'll take it this time?"
"Shut up," Bennet growled. "Are you finished?"
"No, but I'd like to know your answer. Are you going to help Claire or not?"
Thirty-four seconds passed before he answered grudgingly. "I'll pass it on to my wife so that she can decide what she wants to do."
Sylar smiled. "Great. I'll tell Claire that when I get back home. Do you have any water?"
Rolling his eyes, he stood and walked over to a cabinet, touching it and receiving the image of Bennet taking plates out and putting them in. The next cabinet he had the same images for cups and he opened it, retrieving a glass and going over to the fridge, then the sink. Once he had water he drank deeply, quenching his thirst, then returned to the table and sat down. "Really, you should sit. This might take awhile and you can shoot me just as easily from there, if it helps." The strain of holding a gun in ready position for so long had started to show. To his surprise Bennet sat down angrily and braced his elbows on the table for support. "Before I go on do think of the fact that I'm not going to let her go, not for any reason, no matter what. That isn't a solution that exists. Otherwise... Things had been progressing pretty much how I hoped with Claire with surprisingly few glitches. She wasn't broken down but her thoughts had started to change into something more friendly to me. Then I lost my temper and reacted badly when she miscarried her last pregnancy. No, I might as well tell the truth. I did something unconscionable, even by my standards, and instead of gradually nudging her in my preferred direction it broke her then and there." With every second Bennet's face got redder, his knuckles whiter, and the anger crashing like waves from him grew in intensity. "I've admitted I was wrong and apologized but that doesn't undo the damage caused. Right now I need things that will remind Claire of who she is independent of me. Seeing Sandra should help. I'm going to take the rest of the things left here and her things from Costa Verde within the next couple of days, in hope that helps. But what would also help is your cooperation when she visits her mother or comes to visit you when she's ready. Do I have your word that if I leave her alone with you and/or Sandra you won't do anything like trying to hide her away?"
Silence answered him and he sighed. "She'll only get agitated if you do and I'll still find her, then I'll find you and even though I can't kill you without breaking my promise to Claire I can make your life hell."
"You already have, when you took Claire." Now that seemed a little melodramatic.
"Then a worse hell. I will retaliate and I'd really rather not do that, for her sake. All I need is your promise that you won't interfere with the visits by pestering her with hiding away or physically taking her to a hiding place while she struggles. I'll trust that you're a man of your word." Though Bennet was ruthless enough to go back on it if he thought he'd profit; Sylar knew that for a fact. Still, promises had weight and it might make him hesitate. "Will you promise non-interference?" He picked up the mostly ignored glass of water as he waited for the answer.
"I'll hold off for now but if she's as bad as you say I will get her out of the situation somehow. I will protect my daughter," Bennet ground out, clenching his teeth briefly at the end as his hand flexed, loosened, and he finally put the gun down. "I despise you. You're a coward for taking Claire and Molly. But, for her sake, I'll participate in this little charade for now."
Sylar quirked the side of his mouth up in a smile. "Good. In that case, Claire and I would like to invite you and Sandra to dinner tomorrow night at our home. Dinner's at six and I can pick you both up from your respective houses shortly before that. Interested?"
Just like he expected, Bennet couldn't resist the opportunity to see where Claire was being held and he nodded sharply. "I'll come and I'll ask Sandra."
He nodded easily in response and sipped from his cup. "Her things. Visits. What else?" Could he do something else to help Claire? He knew a lot about her and when he touched her things he'd get her history so he didn't need that from anyone. "I guess that's all." Slipping out the chair, he stood with glass in hand. "I'll be back tomorrow around 5:50. It'd be a bad idea to set up an ambush." Over at the sink he finished most of the water, washed out the glass, and turned it upside down in the sink before looking back at Bennet, who'd only followed him with his eyes. "Her things are where?"
"Claire can pick up her things herself."
Oh, fine, she can. "Later, then. Goodbye, Noah." He teleported back to the welcome of his bedroom.
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As always, thoughts, comments, feedback of any sort welcome.
Revelations 22:20 Masterlist (Prequel to TSZ); TSZ: Chapter One (Warning: miscarriage); TSZ: Chapter Two: Part I; TSZ: Chapter Two: Part II; TSZ: Chapter Two: Part III; TSZ: Chapter Two: Part IV