Please allow me this self-indulgent little author's note.
If I have any excuse for this fic taking 5 years from beginning to completion, it's this: I planned on it being 10,000 words long. I knew Claire would attempt suicide, that she and Sylar would play dress-up, and that lulz would be had. Beyond that, nothing. And frankly, I felt that was ambitious (for me, at the time). By the time I noticed it careening wildly off track, it was too late to stop it. Still, there were moments when I could tell it was winding its way toward some logical conclusion, which turned out to be the beach on the Isle of Last Resort. But . . . yikes. Tragic.
Some readers, most recently richierich, have expressed a preference for a happy ending. Well, this epilogue is for them. For you, I should say. It is a compromise between what I originally intended (tequila and lulz) and what this fic became (vanished babies and death).
I plan on putting this up at AO3 now that I finally have an account. Editing is in order. Thank you for overlooking the many errors I made. And, above all, thank you so, so much for your support. I had no idea how good writing fanfic could be.
Claire hits the road with a hole in her life.
Rutherford is gone. Her marriage, an unsolved mystery.
Micah and Molly are gone. She tries to talk to their children and associates, but when she succeeds in gaining an appointment, she hits another snag. Her file is gone. She knows who to blame for that one, but when she tries to find him, he's gone, too, damn it.
In fact, he is even more gone than the others. The recent string of murders comes to an abrupt halt. The investigation is forced into hiatus. Sylar has vanished without a trace.
So she goes, trekking across the country, imagining she leaves inky black footprints on an immense, empty canvas. She always had a fear of the future. It was a kind of hyper-real nightmare, stretching endless with suggestions of alienation. Now that she finds herself immersed in it, wholly disconnected from the past, she decides it isn't so bad.
Most nights, she has weird dreams which both confuse and intrigue her. They seem to come out of nowhere, like her new life:
Waking in a dark, confined space, full of disappointment and anger. A lid like a casket opening, light breaking, his face looming above her. Fury.
Cutting him open in an unfamiliar room. Books and blood everywhere. He wears glasses. She wears her old cheerleading uniform. Drunken lust, frustrated.
Screaming fights that never really happened. Or did they? Blood racing. He takes her against a wall. She takes him in an unfamiliar bed and uses his love against him. More screaming fights. More sex and fury and racing blood.
Inconsistent patterns to the dreams. A hot night and a cool break and a sandy beach and the crest of a wave that crashes over her and sends her springing awake with a muffled sob totally beyond her understanding.
Months have passed before she allows herself the forbidden thought.
Maybe they're memories.
  
Somewhere along the line, after she hitches her way out to California, she lands her perfect job. Way, way better than serving coffee and pie at the Chocolate Chipped Mug. It's the kind of job she was born to do, she with her regenerative abilities and former gymnastic experience. She becomes a stuntperson for a big-budget sci-fi series about superheroes.
Every day is blood and guts and backflips. God, she's having a blast. Even when the second season starts up, and the ratings start to lag, she hits work every day, feeling independent and focused and alive. Then, one day, she stands on the sidelines, waiting for her moment in the spotlight, and watches as a scene is filmed. Really watches.
"What the . . ?" she mutters and glances around. Nobody else seems concerned.
"Cut!" yells the director.
"How's he speaking English?" Claire asks, hoping for an answer from anyone near her. "That character doesn't speak English!"
Everybody ignores her. She scoffs.
"Hell, I could write better than this."
  
Her first book, The Endless Ever After, is a year in the making. Acquiring an agent is another year. By the time her agent finds a publisher, by the time the period of editing hell is over and she has her hands on an advance copy, running her fingers over the shiny cover in wonder, the sci-fi series has officially worn out its welcome. Nobody calls her to say, "Don't bother coming into work," but she isn't surprised to hear of the cancellation.
So what? Nothing lasts. Her life is an endless evolution. For the first time, she's okay with that.
"I've just had the best news!" her agent raves over telephone one evening. "A top critic just released a review of Endless, completely bashing it for its, and I quote, wild scientific inaccuracies."
Claire is curled on the sofa in her lovely, clean, white apartment with its lovely, glittery city view out the wide window. Night has fallen. She curls the cord of the retro rotary phone around her finger.
"I guess it is pretty unbelievable," she admits, appreciating the irony. "How is that good news?"
"Because we can quote the critic as saying '. . . wild . . .' and just stick an ellipse on either side."
"One little bone I want to pick before you start on book two in the series: about this psychopath who keeps clashing with your heroine. I'm sensing a little tension there, yes? Possibly of the sexy variety . . ?"
". . . Maybe."
"Ha!" cackled her agent, ever-enthusiastic. "I love it, she gives nothing away! Seriously, however—could you make him a little less psychopath-y? Because in the end, readers are going to want an HEA, and if he's carving out hearts left and right, it's just not going to work."
"An HEA? The hell is that?"
"Happily ever after, silly!"
Claire smirks, while one of the dreams-which-are-maybe-memories springs to mind and with her inner eye she watches him snap a book shut, hears him say, "They die. They always die. The happy ending is just a cop-out . . ."
"That's kind of a cop-out, don't you think?" Claire speaks into the phone. "I mean, sure, they're immortal, but that very fact negates a happy ending. Right? Sun's gotta burn out one of these days. That's why the book is called The Endless Ever After. Endless, not Happy."
"Oh, Claire, give the readers what they want . . ." the agent returns, and Claire can practically see the babyish pout on her middle-aged face. "You'll at least think about it? Pretty please? It could make or break you."
"I'll think about it," she concedes.
After hanging up the phone, she rests her chin in her hand and appreciates the silence and the view. Readers. To think that she has readers. Never the brightest in her class and—according to her editor—hardly the best writer in the field. But, with some polish, she has managed to produce something interesting, and now she has readers. Who are just people, really, she reflects—people with their expectations of a happily ever after. What a bunch of naïve—
The doorbell buzzes. It goes off a few more times before she climbs off her butt to answer it.
She looks out the peephole. Drops back onto her bare heels for a moment, blinking. Looks again. Fumbles with the chain and throws open the door.
There he stands. Him. Gabriel "Sylar" Gray, cool as a cucumber, rocking Johnny Cash's favorite fashion ensemble.
Her mouth is hanging open. She claps it shut. Clears her face of any visible surprise.
"Sylar. I was just thinking about you." She looks down. "I see you've abducted a child. Murder stopped making the news?"
There, sitting on his hip, wrapped in his left arm, is a small boy perhaps four years in age. The child has a mop of blond hair and large, owlish eyes which discomfit her, somehow. They probe too deeply, sweep her face with a kind of infantile, intimate hunger. She averts her gaze, finds Sylar's dark gleam and hides her distress with a prim smile.
Yes? her expression prompts.
He reaches out his free hand. His fingers form a purposeful shape, as though he would cup her face, stroke his thumb across her bottom lip. Want crosses his features, very similar to the intimate hunger, yet far less infantile. He retracts his fingers a second before she leans into them. The dreams, oh god.
She swallows, and he clears his face of the odd hunger.
"May we come in?" he asks, all politeness.
"May you—I—yes!" She has a wild urge to laugh. "Yes, please. Why not? Sure, you somehow instrumented the collapse of my thirty-year marriage, tore a gaping chasm in my memory, totally abandoned me on the Island of Dr. Freak's Freakish Freakfaces, then waited till the exact moment I re-established some semblance of success in my life to stroll back into it, but you know what? Hell to the damned yes! Come in, come in! Put your feet up. Have coffee. And do please bring your tiny victim. Would he like some milk?"
"Chocolate," suggests Sylar, as he blows across her threshold, "if you've got any syrup."
Ten minutes later they are all cozy as can be in the lovely white living room. Sylar is on the sofa. The boy is on his lap, happily sucking chocolate milk through a straw and watching her with his big eyes, somehow familiar, like her father's eyes without the horn-rims. Strange, the way the boy clings to Sylar.
Parents must have been some real shitheads, she thinks.
"So, uh . . ." She barely knows where to begin with her inquiries. The boy seems safe enough, natural enough, so long as she does not look at him. She gestures toward his head with a sweep of her hand. "What's this about, seriously? You felt bad about leaving an orphan for once? Or you're training him up as an evil sidekick? I mean, what, really? This is weirder than normal. Which is saying a lot."
Sylar smiles, the kind of satisfied smirk that goes right up to his eyebrows. She looks at them and wants to smooth them with her thumbs. They look so happy when he smiles, almost sentient, as though they would purr.
He said something. She was fantasizing about his eyebrows. Shaking her head, she snaps out of it, because really Claire, what the shit?
"Um, you said what, now? He's—?"
"He's mine," Sylar repeats, smoothing the boy's hair. "My own. My son."
She laughs openly. He stares at her, perfectly deadpan, holding the child in his lap like a narcissistic liege holding forth his offspring for worship.
"Dear god. You're not joking. Wow, what dumb blond floozy let you copulate with oh my god!"
She claps her hands over her mouth to muffle her scream as it breaks: the dream whose recollection has eluded her these long months. A waking shock of surreal truth like the crest of a wave breaking over her head.
  
Claire has replaced Sylar on the sofa. Her son, Noah, is asleep in her arms. She half-listens to Sylar babbling in the background as he paces before the window. Her fascination is reserved for the milky exhalations her son puffs into the bend of her neck.
"I'll tell you about it someday," Sylar is saying. He threads his fingers through his hair as though wearied. "I can still barely wrap my mind around it. It was a kind—a kind of Twilight Zone. Like being trapped in a dream. Subject to its reality . . ."
"Uh-huh." When she rests her hand flat against her son's spine, she can feel his heartbeat against her palm.
"In order to take something out of this place, I had to give up everything," he continues. "And I mean everything. I'm not sure I even have a soul anymore."
Oh, whine whine whine.
"Yeah, so what else is new?" she mumbles.
He stops pacing, considers, and appears to perk up.
"Touche." With a soft clap of his hands coming together, he turns to face her full-on. "Well, Claire-bear, I guess you know where I'm going with this."
Dragging her eyes from her son's shoulder, she finds Sylar's dark gaze once more and tries to retrace what he's just said. Baffled, she shakes her head.
"I'm going to need another look at your brain," he enlightens her.
Claire sits for a moment, staring at him, no change on her face. Quietly, she rises and carries Noah from the room. The boy does not wake. In his childish way, he flops easily in her arms, and merely mutters half-conscious words as she tucks him into her bed. She kisses his forehead, and her heart swells for him. He will never sleep so easily as he does now.
Returning, she shuts the door and sets her fists on her hips, turning her eyes about the room, lovely white space that it is. She just had to have carpet.
"Can we at least put down a tarp or something?" she asks.
Likewise, he examines the creamy carpet with furrowed brow and bitten lip. He seems to consider swiping the coffee table bare and to dismiss the idea in the same moment. Optimism floods his face.
"We could do it in the bathtub," he suggests.
  
"God, this is boring."
She hopes he isn't just placating her. Was her first decapitation this monotonous? Did it take him so long? She recalls adrenaline, a chase, being thrown down on a table—all quite unpleasant, to be sure, but memorable now that she looks back on it. Lying here in the bathtub, waiting on him to finish up already, is like watching the last bit of suds burst at the end of a bubble bath. She wants the adrenaline again. The racing blood in the dreams. She squirms, can barely wait for him to finish and reposition her scalp and turn on the faucet so she can pull him in with her and-
"Hmmmm . . ." he hums over some particularly interesting bit of grey matter. His voice approaches a growl, and a zip of electricity pings through her synapses.
"Hey, Sylar," she says, a growing discomfort within her, somehow pleasant, like an ungainly butterfly flapping its wings in her belly.
"Yeah . . ." She knows that tone—half-listening, half-absorbed in the voluptuous curve of her frontal lobe or amygdala or whatever part of her brain he's currently wrist-deep in. Hell, she never claimed to be a biologist. All she knows is, his eyebrows are a couple minutes away from purring again.
"Love you," she confesses with an almost grudging affect.
Did he hear her?
A sudden cessation of motion behind her. A shadow falling over the white porcelain tub as he leans forward, and a dusting of his warm sigh across her open brow. His eyes align with hers. Their eternal spark ignites, flies between them.
"Took you long enough."
LONG LIVE SYLAIRE!