Claire turned down another dusty Texas road. She would have thought that getting back to her home state would be like coming home but no. Firstly the region in North Texas she'd been driving through wasn't in any way familiar to her, well except maybe the heat and the general landscape that was passing by as she drove. Secondly she'd always imagined that when she'd ever get back to Texas, it would be for some joyful occasion, perhaps a vacation but certainly not him.
And now she was lost again. Claire let out a frustrated sigh and leaned over the passenger seat to track her finger on the map once more, trying to make out where she was. When she was satisfied with her result she drank a few big gulps of water before she turned the car around and headed on.
As she drove her thoughts travelled back to the reason she was in the great state of Texas again. Sylar. Naturally no other assignment would take her in her home state. Why had he picked Texas anyway? To ruin it for me, a small voice whispered in her head. Like that would work. Claire smiled to herself but had she seen that smile, she'd have had to admit it was more of a grimace. She made a mental note to be less bitter in the future.
She tried another smile, a genuine one this time. In the end, it was a beautiful day. The sky was bright blue above her, the landscape she'd hardly paid attention to was the one she'd loved since childhood rough and bare but utterly breathtaking.
Almost an hour and two u-turns later, Clare finally took a right turn and started slowly down a narrow dust road lined with a row of trees on either side. The trees seemed dried up and rather sad in this heat, Claire decided. She came to a stop in front of a modest two-storey building with a rusty pickup truck parked in front.
As she cut the engine, she couldn't help but feel a little nauseous. She wasn't scared, she wasn't angry, she'd just have been rather somewhere else. But then again she could see the logic behind the Company's decision the send her in particular. When the monster refuses to play by their rules, they send the one person who simply cannot be killed to retrieve him.
Gosh, when had she seen him last anyway? After the Central Park incident Peter had gone around as if half-mad, telling everyone who would listen that Sylar had made a miraculous "recovery" and set on a path of redemption. Okay, maybe that train of thought was a bit overdone by Claire's mind, she admitted, but it wasn't far from the truth.
Peter had told her how hard it had been at first to simply not hate his brother's killer, to not punch him in the face every single time just to wipe away that smug grin that too often sat there (even if the smirk was only a product of his imagination). And how hard it had been to finally forgive him. Claire hadn't wanted to hear any of it, hadn't been ready to give the man a chance. She wasn't sure she'd ever truly be.
Peter had had his time to come to terms with Sylar's "transformation" in some wacky dream world Matt Parkman had allegedly put them in. He'd had all these years to get used to the idea. Everyone else still knew that yesterday he'd been the psychopathic killer and now he was supposed to be… well, not a killer anymore.
Anyway, Claire had seen the man here and there ever since that night. Usually with Peter and, believe it or not, mostly pretty much hiding behind his only friend. He must have loved these events where everyone who hated him came together and he had only Peter and Emma to protect him, or as Claire saw it, protect everyone else from him.
At first Claire had not been… how to put it? very civilized. But time did do its work and by Peter and Emma's wedding she'd accepted the fact that maybe, just maybe, he had changed enough to tolerate his existence. Huh, their wedding must have been one of the last times she'd seen him. It had certainly been a night to remember or, well... Peter and The Haitian had joined their force to block everybody's powers to avoid any mishaps and things had gone a little hazy for Claire after a generous amount of liquor. Enough said.
After the wedding Claire had glimpsed him a few more times in New York when visiting Peter but he had rented his own apartment and knew how to keep his distance whenever she was around. Right after her graduation she'd been recruited by the Company and started her path down what she saw as her very Zen lifestyle of "stop saving the world and go with the flow". It was just easier to live that way and it made sense since joining the Company meant making morally gray decisions more or less every day. So since she couldn't feel pain anyway and jumping off the Ferris wheel had turned out so well… why bother, right?
And he, apparently, had somehow ended up in Texas.
Claire got out of the car and closed the door intentionally loudly. Invading the monster's lair unannounced was bad enough, she wasn't planning to take it by stealth attack. Of course he'd hear her anyway even if she tried. And if he was going to run it was out of her hands plainly because he could fly and she couldn't.
She climbed up the porch and knocked on the door as any civilized human being would do. Should I have brought a housewarming gift? she wondered sarcastically while waiting. No one came. She knocked again and then once more but still nothing. She was losing her patience grabbing the doorknob only to discover the door was open. Okay, here goes.
She entered "the lair" as she'd already conveniently named it. She wasn't exactly expecting corpses and torture devices, not anymore, but she wasn't also expecting something so normal. She walked through the small entrance hall and found herself in a spacious living room.
"Hello," she called out warily her eyes darting around the room prepared for him to jump out of the shadows trying to slice open her skull at any moment. As that thought hit her, she couldn't suppress the burst of laughter escaping from her lips. Absolutely ridiculous. Claire knew perfectly well he'd changed but somehow her mind always conjured up the absolute worst situation of everything when even remotely associated with him.
She took in the modest furnishing. Everything stood still and silent large fireplace, couch coupled with two armchairs, several bookcases, TV that seemed to originate from the previous century. She stalked to the kitchen that was almost as big as the living room. Also so completely normal. And it smelled of coffee and cinnamon instead of dead bodies. Stop it, Claire forced herself not to laugh at her twisted mind.
"Is anybody home?" she bellowed, encouraged by all this normality. No answer. She started to think Sylar wasn't home or, more so, that she had the wrong address. As it was rude to rummage around somebody else's house, she exited through the back door and found herself on another porch that opened to the backyard. Fruit trees, berry bushes, greenhouse and garage. Nothing out of the ordinary.
She took a few steps further, stretching her hands skyward. She did have a long drive behind her and another one ahead. The sun had sunken low and the heat had receded, making the weather quite nice. Claire was about to turn around and call it quits when a dark head of hair darted up behind one of the large berry bushes. She jumped up like she'd been electrocuted which, by the way, reminded her that's something he could do.
"Claire?" Sylar said incredulously. He looked as out of character as an ex-psycho could get wearing a checkered button-down shirt and holding a pair of clippers. "What are you doing here?"
Claire took a few quick breaths to calm her heart down. "Looking for you," she said in an even voice. "Did you really think the Company would just leave you be when you stop answering your phone?"
"No," he said slowly, frowning. "But I didn't think they'd send you."
Claire quirked an eyebrow as if it had been obvious. "The only person you can't kill?"
Sylar gave her a slightly annoyed look but the nasty smirk she was expecting didn't come. She was almost disappointed. That was one whole reason to despise him.
Instead he wiped his brow with a handkerchief he'd dug out of his pocket when she didn't notice and started towards the porch his pair of clippers still swinging in his hand. When he finally noticed the focus of Claire's eyes, he set the tool down on the edge of the porch, a small smile lighting up his face.
"You truly have an inexhaustible imagination," he quipped. "Coffee?"
Twenty minutes later they were sitting on the very same porch drinking no other than coffee. Perfectly civilized.
"So," Sylar started tactfully. "You've come here to… drag me back to New York?"
Claire took a sip eying him carefully over the brim of her cup. He didn't look concerned. Not good. Did that mean he had no intention of coming without a fight? And to be honest, there wasn't a fight on earth she could win against him unless it was a cheer leading competition.
"Yes," she answered coldly. "Kicking and screaming if I must." It's all about self-confidence, right?
She was startled by the barking laughter that came from him. "Sorry, Claire but He made a strange choking noise before he burst out laughing.
Claire had spent a lot of time telling herself she no longer feared Sylar but the truth was, well, the truth was he still scared her. How to explain? He was a scary man. But she supposed that that very moment would go down in history because for the first time she didn't find him scary at all.
To her own utter surprise she emitted a chuckle.