Rating: PG-13, for language
Prompt, from damson: 'Five Years Gone' verse. Present or Future!Peter and, of course, same goes for Claude. Bonus bonus points for a little Christmas/festive content, as to what festive content includes and/or actually is, interpret as you will!
A/N: This was originally published as part of the Plaude Christmas Fic Exchange in January ... but because it was posted anonymously at the time, and I was kinda busy, I never did re-post it here. So for completeness, and because I still really like its snarky, bittersweet vibe, here it is.
He followed Hiro's directions - it wasn't hard - and found himself in an alley between derelict buildings, amid a sea of broken, dirt-caked windows. Checked his wristwatch—well, all right, so it wasn't his watch, but Claude had never been all that bothered about ownership anyway.
Let's be havin' you then, mate.
It was a cold day; flat grey light and the sort of chill that got into your bones. Claude stomped up and down for a bit, keeping his toes warm, and found himself with a powerful craving for a cigarette—naturally, he had none. So he waited. Claude had more patience than people gave him credit for, but wasn't much for pointing it out. Didn't do to get a reputation as a soft touch, after all.
Around two-thirty (though by that point he was buggered if he knew which two-thirty it was; the watch's original owner had been several time-jumps ago, and Claude had long since lost track) Peter Petrelli popped into existence right there in the alley, the movement snagging Claude's peripheral vision.
He recognized Peter instantly: still the same pale, skinny kid, but with a more solid feel about him, more physical presence. He looked older; more somber. And the scar—Well, fuck. So much for pretty Peter Petrelli.
Even as he watched, the fresh, bloody scratches on Peter's hands and face faded and healed, though the fabric of his shirt remained torn. Claude experienced a moment of childlike curiosity, watching such complete and effortless control of powers. Fantastic. The last time he'd seen Peter, the boy's control had been, well, a bit crap.
He hadn't even moved before Peter saw him. Recognized him; the sensation brushed through Claude like wire.
"Don't—" as he saw Peter begin to flicker out of sight "—Peter. Just wait, yeah?"
That'd do for starters. Claude took a step closer, but just a step. He'd heard the stories; didn't need to experience them first hand, thanks very much.
Peter's scarred face hooked into a scowl. "How'd you find me?"
Claude grinned. "That's what happens when you've got superpowers, mate—leave a swathe of damage behind you a blind man could follow."
"Yeah, well, I was pissed off," Peter snapped.
Claude laughed. "Pissed off, he says. Christ—You're exactly the same, Peter: still a teenager." Claude paused, gauging Peter's reaction. He saw cold brown eyes narrow, but —Sod it. Waited a beat. "See you've had a bit of a go at self-harm, an' all."
He knew it was coming. Felt, rather than saw, the concrete of the building behind him as he hit it at a lazy 50 miles per hour, and all the air left his lungs.
Peter was in front of him in an instant; too fast. "Fuck you." Fist balled and ready to strike, but still hesitant, just the way Claude remembered: a gangling puppy, half-afraid of his own bloody shadow.
Claude sucked in a breath—Fuck, that hurt. Maybe he'd cracked a rib—and looked Peter in the eye. "Speed? Where'd you get that, then?"
Peter's glance flickered away just for a second, but then he looked back at the invisible man. "Some blonde girl; I don't even remember." It sounded and looked like a lie, but Claude barely had time to consider that, because Peter frowned, gesturing with his right hand, and Claude's head was suddenly and none too gently pressed back into the hard, pitted surface of the wall.
Peter leaned in close and snarled "What do you want from me?"
There wasn't much humanity left in the question; the boy reeked of paranoia and bone-deep exhaustion. He was evidently in pretty bad shape, and Claude felt the slow tightening of guilt in his gut. He sighed. "Bennet sent me."
Peter blinked then, looking more like himself for a moment. "Noah?"
"No, Gordon." Christ—he'd thought the kid might've wised up a bit, in the years.
Peter ignored him. "What does Noah want?" He searched Claude's face for clues. "Is Claire ... trying to send me some kind of message? Is that what this is?"
Claire? Claude couldn't even begin to get his head around that. Bloody hell, Noah—proper briefing would've been nice. " 'S got nothin' to do with Claire. Christ's sake, Petrelli, put me down, or I'll make you wish you had."
The look Peter gave him was entirely cold, and again Claude felt that little squeeze of guilt. Shouldn't've left him; wasn't ready to deal with any of it on his own. Stupid bloody poodle. Still, the pressure of his head against the concrete eased a little, enough that he could uncrick his neck. He moved it around experimentally. "Bit sensitive, are we?"
"Screw you," Peter spat at him.
"Oh, very nice—an' there's me come to do you a favour," Claude retorted. He sniffed and took another experimental breath: yeah, definitely a cracked rib or two. He cast Peter an envious glance: empaths, healers, all of 'em — didn't know they were born.
Maybe Peter heard him, because he snarled, and Claude's head hit the concrete again and stayed there. "You don't know what I've been through," the empath told him through gritted teeth. "You don't have a fucking clue."
Claude sighed, exasperated. "So tell me, instead of getting all emo about it. Christ."
Peter turned away. "You wouldn't understand."
Claude laughed. "That's right: nobody understands you. Why don't you go and lock yourself in your room, Petrelli? Might as well paint it black, while you're at it."
Peter whirled around, face distorted . "Fuck you!" A finger poised, ready, and Claude could feel the pricklings of a searing, burning pain across his forehead.
No sarcasm, no subterfuge; just honesty. Claude strove to remember how everything had been between them, once upon a fucking long time ago. Up on the roof, right before everything had gone to shit; he'd trusted Peter, in that moment, and Peter had trusted him. Claude tried now to project that memory, reach out. Having this much eye-contact made him profoundly uncomfortable, and he fought to control the sudden weight of his own breath in the silence.
But Peter did stop. Stood watching him with wary eyes that seemed to Claude too old, and far too tired.
Claude exhaled; looked away. "Look— 'M sorry, yeah?"
"Sorry?" Peter almost spat the word out. "Sorry for what?"
"For leavin' you, mate." Claude's voice cracked a little. "Walking out when you needed me."
Peter shot him a venomous glance. "That's it? Sorry? Do you even fucking know what I've done?"
" 'S not all bad, mate: shot your brother, the way I heard it."
There was a brief silence. Then—"Damn it, Claude, that's not funny," Peter said, sounding faintly like his younger self for a moment.
" 'M not laughin', Peter."
Peter did laugh, though: a desperate, heartsore sound. "Yeah ... the thing with Nathan ... that's kinda the thin end of the wedge." His gaze alighted briefly on Claude, but shied away again, evidently unwilling to make any further contact.
Claude caught it, though. Yeah, I know what that's like.
Peter shrugged, apparently discarding his train of thought. Turned towards Claude again, frowning. "What does Noah want?"
"Just to talk," Claude said, watching Peter carefully.
"Talk?" Peter's voice was scornful. "Talk about what?" Suddenly Peter was staring at him, face open in disbelief. "Is this ... is this a fucking intervention?"
Sometimes, Claude reflected, subtlety just got in the way. "Somethin' like that, yeah."
"Jeez." Peter almost laughed. "The world's gone to hell and you want me to come in and talk about ... how I'm sorry I killed people and I'm gonna try harder to be a good person? Please."
Claude shrugged. "Listen mate, if it helps, I told him it was a fuckin' ridiculous idea."
"Yeah, so why'd you come?" Peter shot back.
The younger Peter had never been that direct, that focused, and for the thousandth time, Claude found himself wondering how things might've worked out. If wishes were horses— He shrugged. "Wanted to."
Peter shot him a caustic look. "So, do you feel better now that you've come here and absolved yourself?"
"Not really, mate, but thanks for asking."
Peter made a careless gesture, and the force pinning Claude against the cold stone suddenly dissipated.
Claude stretched and rubbed his neck. "Cheers."
The light was fading now, temperature dropping fast. Claude blew on his fingers, which didn't seem all that well-disposed towards doing anything useful, such as having feeling in them. "Cold, innit?" he said, conversationally.
Peter shrugged. "I guess." But he looked cold: boy was only wearing a thin shirt, for Christ's sake. Probably too stubborn to shiver.
Claude sighed and started to remove his coat. "Developed a right bloody martyr complex since I last saw you."
"Screw you," Peter muttered. He held up a hand in refusal. "Keep your coat, okay? I don't need it."
"I won't offer again." Claude wasn't playing games; it was brass monkeys out here.
Peter ignored him; instead, flames shot from his hands and set fire to a broken wooden pallet leaning up against the wall.
Well, yeah, there was that.
Neither of them said anything for a while, but Peter didn't leave, and that, thought Claude, would do for just now, thanks. They moved closer to the burning pallet, watching the flames lick higher as thin strands of heat dissipated quickly in the cold air.
"I've been there, Peter."
Peter's gaze slid sideways towards him. "So, what, you're gonna tell me some heartwarming story about how you hit rock bottom, then had a moment of clarity and everything was all puppies and flowers? Spare me, okay?"
Claude grinned. "Wasn't, actually. Reckon that whole moment of clarity thing's a load of bollocks, yeah?"
Peter's mouth quirked into half a smile, and didn't entirely disappear even when Claude briefly met his eyes.
Silence fell between them again, but eventually, it was Peter who broke it.
"So what did you mean, you've been there?"
"You hate yourself, mate. Can't stand what you've become, can't find a way to undo it." He studied Peter's face for a moment, taking in the tiredness, the wariness, and that brutal, unapologetic scar. "Sound about right?"
Peter said nothing, working his lower lip between his teeth.
" 'S all right, Peter. Well, it's crap, but you don't have to be alone with it, yeah?"
Peter gave him a look that struck Claude as utterly teenage. "So, what—you want me to come with you to Claude and Noah's House of Infinite Healing?"
Claude snorted. "Sounds like a brothel, mate."
Peter made a noise that might have been a laugh.
Claude persisted. "Misery loves company—you'd fit right in."
"Sure," Peter said with what Claude felt was entirely too much sarcasm. "Thanks—I'll pass."
"Suit yourself." Well, couldn't say he hadn't tried, at least. "Don't know what you're missing, mind."
Peter folded his arms and leaned back against the wall. "Okay ... so basically, you live in this shitty basement in a room next to Noah. Most of the time you don't even speak to anyone, and when you're not trying to rescue people like ... like us, you just sit there feeling sorry for yourself and regretting everything you've done in your pathetic, sorry-ass life." He gave Claude a knowing look. "Sound about right?"
Bastard. And of course, Claude hadn't felt a thing. Bloody empaths, always poking their noses in where they weren't wanted. "Get the fuck out of my head, Petrelli. Now."
Peter raised an eyebrow. "Suit yourself."
Claude shivered. Christ, he hated that feeling: knowing you'd been pried open like a cheap padlock, and there was nothing you could do about it. The Company had insisted on regular screenings, back in the day; he supposed not everything had got worse since then. Just most things.
Peter must have caught that thought, too, because he gave Claude a grim half-smile. "Sorry. I'm just—I need to use it a lot, you know?"
"Yeah," Claude said, sourly, and shoved his hands into his pockets.
What little heat the burning pallet had been generating had sunk down now to a dull glow, embers sidling orange against charred black wood. The alley was now mostly dark, and Claude tried to suppress another shiver.
He turned to Peter, remembering an earlier thought. "Why haven't you ... ?"
Peter gave him a bitter smile. "If Linderman had said he could heal your scars, would you have let him?"
"Wouldn't've let that prick anywhere bloody near me."
"Yeah, well," Peter said, shrugging in acknowledgement. "But, you know, if it wasn't him. Someone else. Would you have done it?"
Claude thought about it for a minute. "Nah, mate."
Peter shrugged: there you are, then.
Claude grunted. Maybe the boy had grown up a bit. Not a lot, mind. But a bit.
Just then, a fragment of movement caught his eye, and he looked up: tiny snowflakes were beginning to fall. Claude caught one on the back of his hand, saw its six points twinkle in unique geometric perfection before it twisted and melted away. Not that his hands felt warm enough to melt anything.
Beside him, Peter gave a bitter smile. "Snow on Christmas Eve. Nice."
"Christmas Eve?" Claude experienced a moment of profound disorientation. "Bloody hell." Occupational hazard of time-jumping, he supposed.
"I always know what date it is," said Peter, a little sadly. "I mean, I don't even know how I know—I just do."
"You'll make someone a smashin' calender one day," Claude scoffed.
Peter scowled. "Don't you have somewhere else to be?"
"Not really, no." It was actually quite entertaining, watching Peter's obvious unease: explosive little sod obviously hadn't spent much time around people in a while. Not that Claude was exactly impervious to that irony.
"Yeah, well ... I kinda do," Peter said. His body language reasserted itself, and Claude realized this was it. And hadn't he done a bang-up job.
"Peter, wait." Claude could handle Noah's disappointment—hell, he'd practically cultivated it from seed—but he wasn't ready for Peter to go, damn it. Didn't want him to, a quieter, inner voice insisted.
"It was, uh, good to see you," Peter said carefully, not looking Claude in the eye. Snowflakes twinkled against the dark fabric of his shirt.
Fuck's sake— Claude shook himself. Sod disappointment; there were bigger things at stake. "Look—Peter, you need help. Stop tryin' to be a bloody hero and come and talk to Noah, for Christ's sake."
"I said no," Peter said forcefully, sounding so much like Nathan in that moment that Claude just stared. Peter blinked and shook his head. "Jeez—I'm sorry, okay?"
"You were a lot easier to deal with when you were a whiny little nurse," Claude muttered.
Peter moved suddenly, catching Claude unawares: the boy leaned in and hugged him. Claude flinched as stronger arms than he remembered gripped his shoulders. Pinning him.
"Jeez," Peter said, somewhere beside his right ear. "Loosen the fuck up."
After a few seconds, Peter released him and stood there, looking uneasy. "I, uh, I gotta go."
Claude sighed. "Fine—might as well bollocks up some more of the future, while you're at it."
Peter frowned, and Claude felt a thought wash over him: I'm not a fucking kid.
Claude shivered, not enjoying the projection any more than telepathy. He folded his arms. "Well, when you change your mind, you know where I am."
"Tell Noah—" Peter shook his head. "Fuck. Tell him you couldn't catch me, okay?"
" 'S not Noah I'm worried about, mate."
Peter gave a dismissive shrug. "I'm fine."
"You're not fine: you're a mess, Peter. Just—Come in for a little while, yeah?"
But Peter shook his head. "I can't." Weight of the bloody world, and Claude experienced a strangely familiar urge to smack the boy across the head. And then maybe carry the little sod home over his shoulder, steal him a decent meal, and talk some sense into him. Yeah, just like old times, that caustic inner voice insinuated. Fucking perfect.
Peter gave him a wry, sad little smile. "Can't go back there, huh?"
He grunted. if Peter tried that trick one more time, Claude was more than willing to rip him a new one.
"So anyway," Peter said, redundantly. "Seeya."
Claude's hand stopped, raised halfway in farewell, as Peter blinked out of existence. Well—bugger.
He sighed, stuck his hands in his pockets, and left the alley. They were going to have to try another way.