Summary: Darker future fic, Claire/Zach. Time has been too kind on her, she hates that most of all because it destroys them bit by bit.
Spoilers: Nothing past the pilot.
Warnings: Mentions of self-harm.
Author's Note: My first Heroes fic, hope I did okay. Thanks to fanwoman for her betaing on it.
Golden curls frame her face, hair freshly cut into a bob. He’s happy that she's not denied that one pleasure, but his relief is short-lived because of her reaction upon giving it a second look. She'd been so happy at the shop - glorious smiles and sweet “thank you”s. He should have known better than to think a hair cut would fix anything, even temporarily. It maybe adds a few years, but to the world, she will always be a teenager. It’s a fact they can’t escape.
Frustrated, she slashes across her face, blood splattering the mirror. The red dripping down the glass is soon the only sign she has harmed herself. Claire screams in anger, letting loose all her fury in one burst, before subsiding into desperate sobs. It's become so usual that he doesn't bother comforting her. He already knows it's no use, and he doesn't fancy getting any bruises for trying. Sometimes, she forgets, just for an instant, that he's not the same as her. The rest of the time, it's painfully obvious - he's growing older while she does not. It’s the little things that tend to be the most irritating, like how she still gets I.D.ed for drinks where he doesn't, or the inevitable grey hairs and wrinkles that showcase his ageing. Occasionally, she is jealous of him, and he of her. What they really want is the same thing for both of them, not to watch the other passing them by.
He watches her from across the room, a safe distance. Maroon stains the mahogany, trickling sickly onto the carpet below the dresser. They're going to have to go furniture shopping again at this rate. The mundane, practical observation causes him to wonder if he should care more that she cuts herself over and over again. At least it's not deadly, like it would be for anyone else, but perhaps he should be afraid, because he knows what she wants. More than anything, she hopes that, for once, the knife will leave a scar, that her skin will not knit together seamlessly after its trail. She wants an imperfection marring her body to prove that she can change herself.
The best she can get are tattoos, which are oddly not rejected by her unique biology. She has eighteen, one for each year that does not mark her skin in any other way. Each is different, designed to record something she won't reveal to him. Together, they tell a very personal story, but what that is he can only guess. Not knowing what they mean has never been a problem. Obviously, he wants to know, but prying never works. He's long since stopped trying, just accepting them as part of her, the one part she sets aside.
It takes half an hour for her to calm down. Silence equals peace, and finally she is neither crying nor ranting about how much of a freak she is. Funnily enough, she never uses that word anymore, but to him, that's what she thinks of herself as being. She can change the way she says it, but the sentiment stays. He won't confront her over it, allowing her the small comfort of fooling herself in that regard, even if recognition of how she's changed might comfort her more. She accepted herself years ago, and ever since then, she hasn’t uttered the word freak. Still, that difference shows how she has changed.
Slipping over to her side, he places one hand on her shoulder. He stares into the mirror with her and wonders what she sees in it. The blood paints nearly every inch, the reflection partially hidden behind spots and smudges and spurts of the drying liquid. She turns to him, red-eyed, and he sees his time is now - she's ready to let him comfort her. He moves his hand to trace her cheek as he looks into her eyes.
“You look hot.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” she bitches back at him, partially teasing.
“No, but it's the truth. I just wanted to tell you that.”
“So I'd feel obliged to say it back by any chance?”
“No. Just because.”
“I love you.”
He wishes she could love herself, but he has to do that for the both of them.