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19 May 2008 @ 03:42 pm
The Nick of Time 7/8 FRM (Heroes/Slither) Claire/Bill  
Disclaimers, etc. in Part 1.
Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8.

***Part Seven***
Word Count: 4,886 

Claire woke to her phone ringing, even though she didn't realize what it was at first. Everyone who knew her called or texted her on her cell. She opened her eyes, glancing out the window to be sure she hadn't overslept. Nope.

She picked up the phone by her bed. Bill wouldn't be calling her. She'd - oh my god - fallen asleep on him so he would have let her sleep.

"Hello," she mumbled.

"Claire?"

"Uh huh, who's this?"

"Kylie."

"Kylie? Bill should be home any minute, I don't think he left that long ago."

"That's why I'm calling."

"Claire? Are you there?"

"Huh? Yeah, I'm here." She must have dozed back off. She normally didn't get this tired. She'd blame it on the wine.

"Did you hear anything I just said?"

"No, Kylie, I'm sorry. I guess I'm really tired tonight." She sat up then, realizing Bill must have brought her up to bed. "What's up?"

"Bill's at the hospital."

"Did someone get hurt?" Her brain was all kinds of cloudy. She just couldn't understand why Kylie would call to tell her that.

"No, Claire. He's the patient." That got Claire's attention. "Someone hit him on his way from your place I guess, rammed his truck Paul says it looks like."

"I'll be right there," Claire said. "Is he…" She couldn't finish the question. Kylie had been through so much, she had to be beyond frightened at the idea of losing Bill so soon after her family.

"He's not conscious yet, but he's alive and everything. Well, Dr. Carl says he is anyway, he's got a tube or something to help him breathe and stuff."

That didn't sound good. "All right. I'll be there in a little bit. I'm going to shower so I wake up a bit, but I'll be there."

"You promise?"

"Yes, I promise, Kylie. I'm awake now, I won't fall back asleep."

"Okay." She sounded scared. How had Claire missed that tone in her voice right away?

"Do you have my cell phone number?"

"Yeah, he's got it written down in his wallet."

Claire closed her eyes, thankful that Bill hadn't thought to bring any condoms tonight. She'd be eternally embarrassed in front of Kylie if she'd opened up his wallet and seen those. Not that most guys over the age of sixteen didn't carry one. And that probably shouldn't be her main concern right now, but she was glad nonetheless.

"Okay, if you need anything call me on that, but I'll be there as fast as I can."

"Be careful."

"I will."

She hung up and threw the covers back.

"Problems?" Peter asked from the doorway.

"Bill was in a car accident."

"Is he all right?"

"I don’t know. Kylie says he is, unconscious though."

"I'll head over there."

"No, Peter, it's too risky."

"No one's going to know who I am but Bill. If they ask I'll just say I'm looking for someone, but I'll stay invisible."

"Are you sure?"

"Are you worried?"

"Yes," she said simply. "Paul told Kylie it looked like someone rammed his pickup from behind."

"You think it might be your flower guy?"

"I don't know. If he was here tonight." She glanced away, knowing she was blushing.

"Ah, he would have gotten an eyeful?"

"Something like that."

"Well, if he's got a thing for you, yeah, that could have set him off. I'll go see what I can learn."

"Thank you," she said, pausing in the bathroom door to tell him exactly where the hospital was. He'd probably spot it flying, though, so she wasn't too worried he'd get lost.

It didn't take her long to get dressed. She wasn't worried about how she'd look, she just wanted the shower to wake her up. Peter had started a pot of coffee before he'd left so that was ready for her. She poured it into her travel mug, let Lucky in (Peter again), and was out the door.

She glanced in her rearview mirror constantly for any sign of the pickup truck she'd noticed recently. She had the road to herself, though. She slowed to barely a crawl when she passed the spot on the road where the accident must have happened. The highway wouldn't be cleaned off until tomorrow so the road was filled with crushed headlight and taillight plastic. And some glass. Bill's pickup wasn't in sight. They must have towed it somewhere. The skid marks. Oh God, they went on forever, which made her look away. If they'd pushed him off the road and into the ditch there was no telling when anyone would have found him. Maybe that had been the plan.

Kylie would have assumed in the morning he'd stayed at her place. He would have been missed when she got to work, but if he was that hurt that he was unconscious, it could have been too late by then.

"Claire I'm right here," Peter said as soon as she stepped off the elevator. She saw Paul, Brenda, the mayor, and countless others standing down the hall a ways and knew that had to be where Bill's room was.

"Thanks," she said, wishing she could see him and actually like hold onto his arm or something. "I can't do this."

He reached into her pocket and slid her cell phone into her hand.

"Hold this so it doesn't look like you're talking to yourself. You can. There's been no change in him and from what the officers are saying they didn't find anyone at the scene. There was some transfer of paint to his pickup and not all of the broken glass was from his truck. The headlight they're assuming is from the guy who hit him. So that's something. I'm going to go in with you. Kylie's in there with him by herself right now. See if you can talk her into leaving you alone with him for a little bit."

"Why?"

"You can heal him, Claire."

"What?"

"Adam did it for Nathan. You must be able to do it, too."

"But wouldn't that make him…"

"No, it doesn't work that way. It's temporary."

"I'm not sure Kylie will leave him alone, Peter."

"Why not?"

"She lost everyone only a few months ago, Peter. She chose to live with Bill over foster care because of what they'd gone through. Together. She's not going to let him out of her sight until she knows he's okay."

"Then you have a decision to make."

"Yeah," she whispered.

"You could tell her."

"Come on," she said, sliding her cell phone back into her pocket as she approached everyone. Everyone stepped away from the door they seemed to be guarding with their lives except the mayor. She couldn't blame them.

"Clara," the mayor said.

"Mayor Paxton," she said simply, stifling a cough to cover Peter's. "Paul, Brenda. Can I see him?"

"Sure, Kylie's been expecting you."

"Doctor Carl said only one at a time. I don't think any of us are going to be the ones to tell Kylie she's got to leave."

"Come on, Steve, she's his girl, have a heart. Doc ain't going to care if there's two of them in there for a few minutes."

She wasn't sure she liked being described as anyone's girl, but she saw the interim mayor hedge so she bit her tongue. Peter's calming hand at the small of her back helped, too.

The Mayor glanced at those around him, everyone but him was a police officer. And her. They were the ones putting their lives on the line, even if Wheelsy was pretty uneventful for the most part. Would he stop someone's wife and kids from being in there together? He seemed to recognize that as he stepped aside.

"Thank you," she said simply and pushed through, feeling as Peter brushed past her first.

Kylie ran to her and threw her arms around her. Claire did what came naturally and hugged the girl back, which only made Kylie cling harder. Claire had always seen her as so strong. It wasn't until tonight she realized how flimsy the strength she'd built up was over the past few months.

"It's okay, Kylie."

"They have him on tubes and so many things."

She drew away and gave a sigh. "I can help him."

"What?"

"I can help him, Kylie. I need to trust that what you see me do won't go beyond this room."

"Why?"

"It's a long story, and I promise to explain it to you when Bill is better and his life isn't on the line. To sum it up, I'm genetically different than most people. My blood can heal him."

"Are you sure?"

"Peter?" she said softly. And just like that Peter showed himself.

"Where…"

"This is a friend of mine. He's special, too. He's seen someone do this for his brother."

"It's not the same. I know you just lost your family, but I wouldn't have let someone harm Nathan for the world."

Her eyes were wide. Her hands still had a deathlike grip on Claire's forearms. If she didn't heal she'd have bruises the size of quarters on her arms tomorrow.

"Okay," she said softly.

"Do you want to leave?"

"I'll stay."

They walked to the bed then with Peter so he could help with the IV.

"I don't even want to know where you got that," she said with a soft laugh.

"Good thing I'm a nurse, I know where to look for things. And how to start an IV," he said. "Kylie, can you watch the door, if anyone tries to come in I'll make Claire and I both invisible. But we'll still be here, okay?"

"Yeah," she said with a dazed nod. "He's going to be okay?"

"He should be ready to go home tomorrow, but because he'll have such a miraculous recovery the doctors will want to keep an eye on him probably for a day or two."

"Okay," she said, sounding more relieved at the idea Bill would be okay than shocked by what she was seeing.

"He's not going to wake up right away, Kylie," Peter said cautiously. "It'll take a while. My brother had radiation poisoning so his situation was a little more severe. Bill may wake up in an hour. I really don't know."

"How?"

"Long story. Like Claire said, she'll tell you when Bill's out of the woods."

"But you can't tell anyone Peter's here. That's the most important thing."

They all watched as Claire's blood started traveling through the IV line Peter had started going from her to Bill.

"This is why they wanted me, isn't it?" she whispered to Peter.

"Yes," he said simply.

"And how they saved," she broke off, not wanting to admit her father was alive. Certainly not right now, that would just be cruel to do to Kylie. "Noah," she said finally.

"Yeah," he said again. "Probably."

"That should be enough," Peter said finally, removing the IV from her arm. Kylie looked then, watched as the mark from the needle disappeared.

"That is so weird."

"Tell me about it," Claire said.

"And you can be invisible."

"Actually, I don't have any powers of my own, but I can take on the powers of people I come into contact with. So, I can heal and fly and lots of things."

"Fly?"

Peter chuckled. "Yes."

"Cool."

Claire took a seat next to Bill then and grabbed his hand.

"The few that know seem to think that's the coolest, yeah."

"Well, it'd be like Superman."

"You okay, Claire," Peter asked.

"I just can't help but think if I hadn't fallen asleep…"

"If it was a deliberate attempt they were likely waiting for him and would have no matter how long it took him to leave."

"I know," she said. "If I'd filed a report like he'd asked…"

"Claire, don't beat yourself up. This isn't your fault. A piece of paper wasn't going to give you the answer of who's been sending you flowers."

Kylie gave a soft sound, but Peter must have heard the door opening at about the same time she had because he was just suddenly no longer visible.

"Everything okay in here?" Paul asked.

"Yeah, sorry, I didn't mean to hog them," Claire said.

"I brought you some coffee," Paul said.

"Thank you," she said, realizing now she'd forgotten her mug in her car.

"Just returning the favor."

The nurses on duty didn't seem in any big hurry to rush them all out of there. Claire was glad of that. She imagined Paul and a couple of the others probably would have put up a fight. No one was planning to leave him alone until he regained consciousness.

She and Kylie never strayed too far from his bed. The others came and went, milling out in the hallway or going down to the vending machines for more coffee, pop, or snacks. No one but Claire and Kylie seemed to be holding out much hope, which made Claire wonder what the doctors had told them they hadn't told Kylie.

She heard his voice, hoarse as it was. She was getting to know it in all types of circumstances. She was admittedly glad that it was Kylie's name he called not hers. She wasn't sure Kylie would have taken that well tonight.

The tears Kylie had been fighting back for hours came out then. Until that moment, she probably hadn't really known if her decision was the right one.

"Shh. It's okay." He frowned, glancing at everyone's curious gazes. "In fact, I'm better than fine." He moved to sit up and the mayor put a hand on his shoulder to stop him.

"Bill, don't be exerting yourself. You're really banged up."

"I'm fine, Steve, but I wasn't planning on going for a jog or anything. I just don't want Kylie thinking I'm going to drop dead is all. Let me up," he said, though it came out as more of a growl than anything. It was the most authoritative Claire had ever heard him.

Kylie clung to him even as he sat up and the mayor stepped out of the room. Probably to get a doctor or nurse. The others headed out as well; evidently realizing Kylie needed him more than they did. They just wanted to be sure he was going to be okay.

"I should go, too," Claire said.

"No," Kylie said quickly.

"Kylie, he's going to need to rest and I'm sure the doctor will be in here in a few minutes so we'll all be told to go anyway."

"Can't you tell Dr. Carl you want her here?"

"We'll see what he says, Kylie. Claire may want to go home and get some sleep, too, you know."

"I'm fine, I'll stay if the doctor says it's all right. Kylie probably shouldn't be alone and I imagine you'll sleep."

"I feel good actually."

She felt a comforting hand at her shoulder and knew that was Peter's way of telling her she'd done the right thing.

"Well, I hear you're awake and talking, wanting to sit up and go catch the bad guys." She'd never seen him before, but the white coat, stethoscope and chart in his hand told her he was the doctor.

"Something like that," Bill said.

"Well, let's take a look, shall we? Ladies, can you excuse us for a minute," the doctor said.

"It's okay, Kylie, you can come right back in when he's done looking me over."

"That's right, Kylie. He has some bruises and lacerations in places under that gown that he'd probably rather not be seen by you. Seatbelts save lives but there is a cost in collisions like the one Bill was in."

"Okay," she said, not sounding entirely convinced.

"We'll be right outside," Claire said, sliding an arm around Kylie.

"I told myself I wouldn't do this, be a nutcase if he got hurt, but I can't help it," she said once they were out of the room. "I mean, he's a cop. I know the risks even here in Wheelsy." Claire had to smile a little at that considering she'd had the same thought.

"It's totally understandable, Kylie," Claire said, offering her a hug. "You're so brave and strong. I can't even imagine functioning after what you've been through."

"But you lost your dad…"

"Not in the same way you did and it was just my dad, not my entire family. And Bill told me that whatever those parasite things were, you had one try to get inside of you but you managed to fight hard and pull it out."

"Yeah, I guess," she said.

"That was incredibly brave."

They grew quiet then, Claire wasn't sure what else to say, and Kylie evidently didn't want to say anything. So, they just stood there until the doctor opened the door again. They followed him back into the room. Claire hadn't felt Peter since that touch in the room, but she knew he was nearby. Hopefully, he'd tell her the truth if the doctor was exaggerating.

"Well, I wish I could explain it," he said, not really looking at them but instead at his chart, making notes.

"But he's fine. I've never seen anything like it. The bruises and lacerations are almost completely healed. I'll be honest, I wasn't sure he was going to make it through the night his condition was that critical. I was on the verge of calling around to see if there was a bigger hospital better suited to helping him than what we can offer here."

"But he's okay," Claire said.

"Yes, he's recovering quickly. We'll keep an eye on him. And you can both stay if you want to, though I can assure you the chairs do not make good substitutes for beds."

Claire smiled slightly. "You sound as though you speak from experience."

"More than I care to admit to. And I don't believe we've met," he said, extending his hand. "I'm Dr. Carl."

"Claire Baxter. I…"

"She's Bill's girl friend," Kylie said quickly.

"That, too I keep getting told tonight. I work at the sheriff's station."

"An office romance. Good for you. All right, good night then. I'll let the nurses know you have permission to stay."

"Thank you, Dr. Carl."

"You're welcome. He's a lucky man," he said.

Claire decided to give Kylie and Bill a little time alone. She'd seen how frightened the girl was at the thought of losing him and didn't want to intrude on that. So, she went down to the vending machines to get some coffee. She'd had more than enough tonight already so she probably wouldn’t drink it, but it kept her busy until returning to his room.

"I hear I've got you to thank for my feeling this chipper," Bill said when she returned to his room.

"Where's Kylie?"

He nodded his head toward the closed bathroom door.

"What did she tell you?"

"Not much, said she didn't know much. That you and Peter gave me some of your blood."

"Yes."

"And it healed me? Doc Carl says the cuts I have that should have taken days or weeks even to heal are almost gone."

"That's what Peter said would happen," she said simply.

"Care to explain how that works?"

"I would if I could. Like I told Kylie. I'm a genetic anomaly. Or special as my dad said. There are a few of us. We all seem to have special abilities, or just an enhanced version of senses we already possess."

"And yours is healing?"

"Yeah. And my blood heals, though I'd never seen it put into practice until tonight."

"Peter had?"

"Yes, there's a man like me he helped save Nathan's life."

"Nathan?"

"Peter's brother."

"She said his brother had radiation poisoning."

"Yes," she said simply.

"And Peter can fly?"

"Among other things. He doesn't actually have any abilities of his own. His is being able to mimic the abilities of those he comes into contact with."

"So would his blood have healed me, too?"

"I'm not sure. It must not be able to otherwise he could have healed Nathan instead of needing Adam to."

"That why you running?"

"Yes. There's a guy, Sylar is what he goes by. I'm done running I hope, but I'm trying to stay off his radar."

"Read about him. Serial killer, cuts up peoples heads and takes the brains out or something. Some speculation he might eat them. Others speculate he's doing something else. Don't quit blame you for not wanting to be captured by him."

"Yes," she said, arching her eyebrows in surprise. She supposed it shouldn't surprise him he knew about the case. "Well, I'm not sure of the technicals, but he's able to gain abilities as Peter does but only through killing he does. That's what it seems like anyway."

"And your ability would be pretty handy to have. Can you get hurt?"

"Well, I can. I mean, I feel pain and bleed and stuff, I just heal any damage real quickly."

"Hmm," he said simply.

"There's this place my dad used to work for. They're looking for me, too. So, between the two of them I just decided getting away from my family and anything familiar to me would be best."

"And coming to a town that claimed to be visited by alien life forms?"

"Well, I figured who'd look for me here?"

She shrugged.

"If this is too freaky for you… I mean, I can go. I came here to start over. To get away from places I'd been where people knew my family and got suspicious of me. Us. I can start over again. I never dreamt I'd be in a position to use my ability or for anyone to find out about it. But someone always does no matter where I go."

He slid his hand over hers, taking hold of it. "Not so fast, Claire. I don't recall asking you to leave, here or town. You said you'd tell me if all hell was about to break loose again around here and I trust you'll keep to your word. Am I right?"

"Assuming I know in advance."

"I understand. Doctor Carl says he thought I was a goner."

"He didn't tell Kylie that, but I got that impression from a few things he said and the way the others were acting."

"He wouldn't have told her, he knows what she's been through."

"Lying to her isn't going to help her," Claire said, feeling defensive of Kylie and the idea that people felt they had to lie to her for her own good. She had hated that when her parents did that.

"No, but taking away her hope isn't either."

"You're right, but kids aren't stupid. I'm sure she knew anyway."

"You saved my life…"

"I don't want you to want me here because of that. I've kind of grown to like living here honestly. It's a different pace of living, but it's nice. And the people are so friendly. Well, for the most part," she said, realizing that probably sounded bad considering he'd just gotten rammed by another truck. "I'm happy I was here, but if this is too freaky for you."

"Come here," he whispered.

She slid closer. "Yes?"

"If Kylie weren't in the bathroom just a few feet away I'd be more than happy to show you how unfreaky I find you."

"She's been in there a while."

"I think she's trying to give us time to talk the same as you did us."

"That obvious, huh?"

He smirked. "Just a little, especially since you set the coffee cup down and haven't touched it since. That's all right, though, I appreciated it. I've never thought of what kind of parent I'd make or how I'd handle responsibility of this sort. I don't claim that having her for a few months makes me an expert, but until she decides otherwise she comes first."

"Totally."

He reached then, sliding an arm around her so he could kiss her.

"Remind me when I'm out of here to thank you properly."

"A simple thank you will do I think."

He slid his thumb along her lower lip. "I'm sure I can come up with something better than simple words."

"Maybe," she whispered.

"Now, I want you to take Kylie home. You stay there, too. She's not going to do me any good here. If she wants to stay home from school tomorrow, that's fine, but I don't want her here all night."

"All right," Claire said.

"My keys. Well, she's got keys. And you've got your car."

"I'll send Peter to my place for something for me to wear tomorrow."

"Thank you," he whispered.

"You're welcome." She giggled softly as his thumb moved to her cheek, tickling her as he did. "You'd have shown me here?"

"Damn straight. Small bed and all."

"I'll have to keep that in mind for the next time I'm in a position to save a man's life."

"Don't go rushin' out to save anyone else's."

"Why not?"

"I have plans for you."

"Good plans?"

"I like to think so. They involve you and me and Kylie."

"And Lucky?"

"Wouldn't want to forget the dog."

"Never!"

"And something real in my life not built on fantasy, wishes, or what-could-have-been's."

"You don't fantasize about me?"

"Now, I didn't say that! You're incorrigible, you know that?"

"I've been told. So, are you saying you want to be with me. Like a girlfriend type thing?"

"That is what I was getting at, yes."

"Hmm. Only one thing…"

"What's that?"

She lowered her face to his. "You'll have to protect me."

"From what? Me? That would defeat the whole purpose of my plan. Unless you're talking about what I didn't bring to your house earlier. Then I'm all about not leaving home without them again."

She laughed, kissing him. "No, from the single women of Wheelsy who have their own plans for you."

"I'm not the one with an admirer running you off the road."

She froze at that. "You think that's who it was."

"Pretty sure. The truck came out of nowhere. He wasn't on the road driving when I pulled out I remember that much."

Her heart caught in her throat. If she'd told him about the pickup she'd seen could this have been prevented?

"I'm sorry."

"No apology necessary. It's not your fault you have some nut after you, but I assure you none of the women who may have thoughts of me in that way are going to harm you."

"No, but Janine might just start spitting in my coffee."

He chuckled then. "Nah, she'd just haul off and hit ya' if she really wanted to get a message across." He set his hands at her shoulders, setting her back a bit. "Just to set your mind at ease about that. There's no one I've been seeing lately or anything. And even then, never anyone regularly or seriously. There wasn't room you know? With the ghost of Starla and all it was already pretty crowded and no one seemed to want to be the third in the ménage à trois. At least not that kind of one."

"Well, they might think now that she's gone…"

"I've got who I want right here. If I needed proof of that, Kylie's reaction to you tells me everything I need to know."

"We do get along."

"Too well. Sometimes I think you two will conspire against me one of these days."

"It'd serve you right." She laughed and leaned in, kissing him. "I'm going to take her home now."

"Thanks."

"Get some rest."

"I'm sure that won't happen. I imagine nurses will be coming in here all night to take my temperature or blood pressure or whatever."

"We'll see you in the morning."

"I'll be here."

She smiled, drawing away, surprised to see Kylie standing in the doorway of the bathroom. She looked as though she'd been there a while.

"You ready to go home and get some sleep?"

"You sure you'll be all right?" she asked Bill.

"I'll be fine, and will rest easier knowing you and Claire are snug as bugs in a rug in real beds instead of these chairs here."

"Okay."

"And besides, someone's got to bring me breakfast in the morning. Have you seen what they try and get away with serving as food here?"

Kylie laughed and walked to his side, leaning down to hug him.

"Get some rest, Kylie."

"You, too."

"You bet."

She waited until they were alone in the elevator.

"Peter?"

"Yeah."

"Can you go to my house?"

"Yeah, yeah, get you some things for the morning. I'm on it. I'll see you in a few minutes."

"Thank you."

"Night, Kylie, glad Bill's going to be all right."

"Me, too, and thank you!"

"You're welcome," Peter said, taking off as soon as they were off the elevators and out the doors.

"That is so cool," Kylie said, watching him.

Claire only laughed, leading Kylie to her car. It was both scary and exciting, the idea of spending the night in Bill's house without him there. She wasn't sure what those feelings meant exactly, but she'd told him she would do it and for Kylie's sake she would.