Day One, 9:51 A.M.
Nathan clicks the remote unlocker for their rental car, shiny and beige and just like the other hundred on the lot.
"Can I drive? Please?"
Peter and Nathan answer simultaneously. "No."
Day One, 5:47 P.M.
The setting sun glints off the hoods of the cars gridlocked all around them. NPR does nothing to drown out the cacophony of car horns, but Nathan's adamant about listening to the news and Peter, surprisingly, is on his side. Claire knows she should want to listen, but the traffic makes it hard to concentrate and she's bored, victim of the relentless, restless boredom that can only be alleviated by a massive outpouring of energy-- like singing along to Kelly Clarkson on the radio. She has her iPod, but listening to it makes her feel cut off, although from what she isn't sure.
"Remind me why we had to drive."
"Those people are out to get me," Claire says mechanically. A solid week of planning and debate have gone into this trip, ever since Wireless contacted them. Yet in that week, Claire couldn't find enough to keep her occupied in the car. It's amazing.
"They'll be at all the airports, and it's easy to kidnap someone in an airport-- tight security, no escape routes. Plus the whole family bonding thing." Claire can hear Peter rolling his eyes.
"Some family," Nathan mutters, disgusted. Funny, Claire was just thinking the same thing.
Day Two, 8:03 A.M.
Peter and Nathan are trying to keep their voices quiet, but even so they're sharp enough to pierce the music playing low on Claire's iPod. It rouses her from the sleep she'd fallen into immediately upon stumbling into the backseat of the car at ridiculously early o'clock, but she keeps her eyes closed, disoriented and distantly curious.
"--don't see why we had to bring her with us--"
"--can't leave her alone--the Company--"
"--more dangerous to leave her alone--"
"--closer watch--knows me--"
"--knows--barely--four hours is not knowing--"
"--leave her alone just because you're nervous--family--"
"--can't say those things--awkward--jealous--have to get to know her sometime, Nathan."
And then there's nothing but Jesse Lacey singing in her ear and the low, insistent throb of her neck, twisted awkwardly in sleep. She brings a hand to her eye, twists, feigns a sleepy noise, pushes herself to sitting slowly. "...time's it?"
Day Two, 2:39 P.M.
It's a warm, sunny day and Peter's got his window down. The wind whips his bangs out of his face. He checks the rearview, smiles slightly at Nathan, listening to a book on tape and fiddling with his PDA. He lets his left arm dangle out of the window, turns his palm and pushes against the wind.
"Peter, don't do that! Someone could hit your hand!" Claire hisses, sounding uncannily like his mother. It makes something churn deep inside his chest.
"Why not? I've got you here." He winks.
Two tiny lines appear between Claire's furrowed brows. She tilts her head, considering. "Actually, I'm pretty sure you have to be mostly intact for the healing thing to work. If your hand was severed, I don't think you'd grow a new one."
A motorcycle whizzes by and Peter yanks his hand back in the window. "Do you know if there's a word for having your hand cut off? Like having your head cut off is decapitation?"
Claire just looks at him. "You are weird." And they both hear the unspoken second half of that statement: I can't believe that I'm related to you. The feeling's mutual.
Day Three, 1:17 P.M.
When Claire's riding shotgun and Nathan's driving, Peter thinks it's the funniest thing ever to cover his mouth, take a few rasping breaths, and intone "Claire, I am your uncle."
For the record, she did laugh the first time, because it was kind of funny. But now it's just getting old. Claire tries ignoring it, but after, like, the bajillionth time, she finally turns around and snaps, "Peter, that's not funny. Would you knock it off?"
Peter huffs, sits all the way back, and stares out the window looking petulant. He makes himself invisible for good measure. Claire frowns.
"Don't worry about it, Claire," Nathan murmurs. "That's just how Pete gets. He's a big fan of the silent treatment."
"The Petrelli way?"
"More or less. I'm more like your grandmother, though." Claire feels a tiny thrill go through her at the words 'your grandmother.'
"Icy but not overtly impolite. Or using politeness as a weapon, sometimes."
Claire thinks of her dad, the one who isn't in the car, and murmurs, "That's how I am, too."
Day Four, 7:33 P.M.
They're in the middle of nowhere, on a two-lane highway, and the stars are just starting to come out. Claire's looking up at them, one finger tapping her thigh to the rhythm of the music on her iPod. The road stretches out in front of the car, a river of asphalt. The car's engine is a low hum and only Nathan's occasional snores from the backseat break the quiet.
Claire shifts in her seat and Peter's eyes flick over to her. She looks back at him. She pulls the left earbud from her ear as her eyes light up. Peter recognizes the glow from hours spent with Simon and Monty. She keeps her voice quiet. "Can I drive?"
"No." He smirks. Kid just won't quit.
She glares at him but it's fake, and they both know it. "You're mean."
"You don't know how to drive."
Clare sighs enormously, looking put out. "Fine." She puts the earbud back in and goes back to looking out the window.
Uh-oh. She was faking, right? He's sneaking nervous glances at her, trying to tell. She gives him a tiny smile, and it just isn't fair. This girl is his niece, but he has none of the memories of her he has of Simon and Monty-- the birthday parties, the countless hours spent babysitting, the games of catch and hide-and-go-seek in Nathan's enormous house-- and none of the memories he will have, first days of middle and high schools and first dates. It hurts. And it hurts for Nathan, too, who'd been trying for a third child before the accident, and secretly hoping for a baby girl. But no matter how much a part of the family Claire becomes, Peter knows it's too late for her to be Nathan's "princess."
Day Five, 11:25 A.M.
"Remind me why we had to drive again."
Claire singsongs, boredom driving her to silliness. "Those people are out to get me. Airplanes are very public and easy to track. They'll be watching all the airports. If they see her once, she's done. It's easier to evade the operatives in a car."
"Operatives." Peter snorts. "Like in Serenity."
"I love that movie!" Claire squeals.
"Oh, and you forgot the part about family bonding, Claire."
"Some family..." Nathan and Claire mutter simultaneously. A beat of awkward silence follows, but then Claire crows "Jinx!" and they are laughing, laughing, laughing.
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