Word Count: 1,153
Disclaimer: Heroes characters belong to Tim Kring.
A/N: For the Plaude Bingo prompt "karaoke." Sadly un-schmoopy for a fic posted on Valentine's... sorry about that.
Summary: Charles has a new nurse, Claude does some investigating. (Working under the assumption that Claude didn't know about the Petrellis' involvement in the Company.)
Claude’s looking worse for wear. Charles understands why he keeps his visits to the penthouse sporadic, but it doesn’t stop him from offering one more time. “At least make use of the somewhat palatial bathroom. Someone should.”
Claude makes a face and shakes his head, “Nah.”
Charles fixes a look on him, “Claude. I insist.”
That earns him a narrow blue gaze and mutterings about “airs and graces” as the man strolls past Charles and into the bathroom. He doesn’t hold back a smile. He always liked Claude, more than anyone else at the Company, by the end. He had brains the others couldn’t hope for, and a heart to match. It’s probably what made them both outcasts. Charles managed to save his friend’s life when they finally caught up with him, but he worries still. Claude’s brain and heart are out of balance now, the former sharpened and the latter damaged by betrayal. But Charles has a plan.
Claude is out on the rooftop with a towel around his neck when Charles’ new nurse arrives. Charles looks up from his newspaper, “Ah, good afternoon, Peter.”
“Hello, sir- Charles,” he corrects himself with a self-conscious smile, “How are you feeling today?”
“Fine, fine. And yourself?”
“Nothing to complain about. Lemme check your blood pressure really quick.”
“Mmhm.” Charles lets him get on with the tedious process of dying, casting a glance through the French door windows to Claude. The man is invisible, of course, but Charles senses his mind still, spiking with caution by the pigeon coop.
“It’s about time for your medication,” Peter says, “Do you want tea with it?”
“Okay.” He moves towards the kitchen, but pauses by the bathroom, “Did you take a bath on your own?”
Charles hides a frown. “Yes, that was me.”
Peter’s face lights up, “That’s great, Charles! I’m glad your mobility is so good.”
He heads for the kitchen, and Charles sighs. Tries to decide if it’s worth it to take the conversation from Peter’s head. He doesn’t want his nurse to have any illusions about his health, good or bad, nor does he want even the whisper of a suspicion about Claude. It’s been years since he’s had to alter a person’s mind, but it leaves as bad a taste in his mouth as ever.
Peter returns with tea and the latest volley of pills, and over the course of their conversation Charles leaves Peter’s memories untouched. After all, he’s hoping everything will become clear to him in time.
Afternoon is fading when Peter leaves, and Claude still waits another ten minutes before coming back inside.
“Come warm up,” Charles says, “It must be cold out there.”
“You could’ve bloody mentioned you were expecting company,” Claude snaps.
“He’s my new nurse. Nice boy.”
“Yeah? What do you know about him?” Suspicious, of course, eyes glinting with curiosity that never used to be so cold.
Charles has to be careful. “Fairly fresh out of school, went back after his undergrad career didn’t pan out. Comes from a wealthy family. Influential. Bit of a black sheep, but he manages to love them anyway.”
Claude gives a fake grin, “Adorable.”
“He’s got a big heart, Claude.”
“Mm, we’ll see how it treats him.” He stands, “See you in a while, Charles.”
“Come back tomorrow.”
“Have it your way.” And he’s gone, buried so deep in invisibility even his mind is faint.
Claude’ll be damned if he lets some little rich boy with the ink still wet on his diploma take care of Charles, sight unseen. A bit of luck lets him catch up with this Peter on the street, and Claude grudgingly admits he’s smart enough not to waste money on a cab. He doesn’t risk following him up to his apartment when they get there, instead stationing himself across the street with a stolen pretzel and coffee.
The hour grows later, and Claude watches a group of four people lean on the buzzer of the apartment building. A couple of minutes later, Peter emerges and joins them as they make their way down the street. Claude’s not far behind.
The bar they choose would have a nice pub feel to it if it weren’t for the twentysomethings hanging all over it. And the karaoke machine is just a disgrace, especially since it seems to be the main attraction for the crowd. Peter earns another sliver of a point by staying in his seat nursing a beer while his friends take turns abusing the microphone. While they screech “Don’t Stop Believin’” he stands and maneuvers through the crowd until he reaches the bar, and also Claude on his left.
“Another one of these, please?” he says, holding up the empty bottle.
Claude takes the opportunity to get a better look at the kid than what he could see from the rooftop. He finds that Peter is... worth looking at. More than.
He forces his gaze back to the karaoke stage, and winces as the “singers” rip a high note to shreds. Haven’t they heard some things are best left to the professionals?
He hears a chuckle beside him, “At least they’re enjoying themselves.”
He turns to see Peter looking through him as he should, but with an unnerving hint of unmet expectation. Training kicks in and Claude draws a veil over his thoughts while he tries to make sense of the last few seconds. Surely Charles would have mentioned if Peter was a telepath, and there is no way the older man can’t have known. Therefore, Peter didn’t hear his thoughts just now. Right.
Meanwhile, Peter hasn’t left the bar, instead leaning back against it with his fresh beer as he watches the spectacle his friends are making.
Though paranoia demands he get moving, Claude finds himself not particularly willing to follow the order. He feels strangely comfortable here, next to Peter. The crowd forces him closer than he should be, but even then it’s as if the angles of his and Peter’s bodies fit, allow him to be close without quite touching. Close enough to run his eyes over the clean lines and inviting skin of Peter’s neck, and catch the scent of laundry.
Claude allows himself the priceless luxury of proximity to Peter until his friends finish their songs and he returns to the table he shares with them. The sense of loss Claude feels drives him out of the bar.
Not that he really needs to, but just for fun Charles says, “Let’s hear your report.”
Claude puts a scowl on his face, “Someday I’ll start chargin’ to be your errand boy.”
“It’s not my fault you seem to enjoy working for free.”
Claude huffs, crossing his arms and looking away.
“So,” Charles continues, “Is Peter what he appears to be?”
He feels the name ripple through Claude’s mind and down to his heart, and there it is at last. Balance.