Can't Not


claire_icon.gif hiro_icon.gif

Scene Title Can't Not
Synopsis The time traveling samurai asks the indestructible cheerleader on a date.
Date March 23, 2009

Ruins of Midtown

Standing in the ruins of Midtown, it's hard to believe New York is still a living city.

There's life enough around the fringes — the stubborn, who refused to rebuild somewhere else; the hopeful, who believe the radiation is gone, or that they somehow won't be affected. Businesses, apartment complexes, taxis and bicycles and subways going to and fro — life goes on. Perhaps more quietly than in other parts of the city, shadowed by the reminder that even a city can die, but it does go on.

Then there is the waste. The empty core for which the living city is only a distant memory. Though a few major thoroughfares wind through the ruins, arteries linking the surviving halves, and the forms of some truly desperate souls can occasionally be glimpsed skulking in the shadows, the loudest noise here is of the wind whistling through the mangled remnants of buildings. Twisted cords of rebar reach out from shattered concrete; piles of masonry and warped metal huddle on the ground, broken and forlorn. Short stretches of road peek out from under rubble and dust only to disappear again shortly afterwards, dotted with the mangled and contorted forms of rusting cars, their windows long since shattered into glittering dust.

There are no bodies — not even pieces, not anymore. Just the bits and pieces of destroyed lives: ragged streamers fluttering from the handlebar which juts out of a pile of debris; a flowerbox turned on its side, coated by brick dust, dry sticks still clinging to the packed dirt inside; a lawn chair, its aluminum frame twisted but still recognizable, leaning against a flight of stairs climbing to nowhere.

At the center of this broken wasteland lies nothing at all. A hollow scooped out of the earth, just over half a mile across, coated in a thick layer of dust and ash. Nothing lives here. Not a bird; not a plant. Nothing stands here. Not one concrete block atop another. There is only a scar in the earth, cauterized by atomic fire. This is Death's ground.

It's so sterile in this part of town. What construction remains looks more lonely than it does ruined. More abandoned. It's dark, because it's night, but also because the street lights that maintain a helpful glow at night for the casual pedestrian do not so eagerly reach here. The disrepair of this place extends to its inky black at night, which does wonders for the sky. Ambient light pollution keeps much of the night sky from being visible but a few more stars peek out here than elsewhere.

The dark also hides the scum and the derelicts who want to hide and can. Patrols are easy to spot because police and National Guard always roll in with ample lighting to see with. It announces their presence too.

It's not always scumbags and derelicts that come to the ruins of Midtown Manhattan to hide. Claire comes here to think. Now more than ever, Claire finds herself enjoying the solitude of the ruins where people still worry about the risk of radiation poisoning. On top of everything else that's been troubling the extraordinary young woman, there are rumours that West Rosen is back in New York City, and he didn't contact her.

Furiously, the former cheerleader pounds her fists into the crumbling remains of a concrete wall until her fingers - her hands - are a bloody, broken, mangled mess. Bone knits itself back together and heals in the space of time it takes the dark-haired young woman to shake them out. The skin smooths out moments later and only the blood remains to tattle on her for her fit.

Following the noise of a girl punching concrete isn't hard. Probably anyone could do it, as unwise as it may be. The smart money says that's not how Hiro Nakamura knew to find Claire Bennet here. When he appears there is no immediate announcement. If anything he gives her a chance to notice that he's there rather than just come out with a spoken word or an outright noise that might startle her.

Hiro's seen how Claire handles a shotgun.

But in the gloom there is a sense of Someone There that resolves itself into a dark shape against the backdrop of the open space of the street. It's a darker spot among the duller, lesser black of the night. Only unlike so many silhouettes this one is a little distinctive for having that shape of a sword hilt peeking over his shoulder.

Breathing heavily after the release of anger, it takes Claire a few long moments before she realises that she is not alone. She doesn't see anyone yet, but she knows. She slings the shotgun off her back and sounds a warning.


"Who's there?"

"Hiro Nakamura." comes the answer, simple and calm. By doing so he announces his presence, identity, and location in one breath. There is a soft crunch and an instant green glow as he bends a chemical light-stick in two, shakes it, and tosses it on the ground between them. The light it offers is very slight but something to give their eyes a bit to work with without causing too much of a visibility hazard for undesireables.

"I'm sorry I haven't come sooner. But there were important preparations to make." As if the girl was expecting him or something. With the enigma that is a time traveller who knows? Perhaps she sent him here and just hasn't lived that moment yet.

Claire doesn't know much about Hiro Nakamura, but she knows that Peter trusted him, and so she too trusts the man. She settles her shotgun in the sling holster behind her back again with little ado about it. "I wasn't really expecting you, so your tardiness is forgiven," she responds softly, glancing down at the green glow between them. "What can I do for you?"

It's difficult to see in the emerald gloom, but Hiro smiles very slightly. It's good that she's not trying to hold him at gunpoint or anything. "Nothing for me. You already did what I asked, though I didn't ask you to do it. You survived." Only now it occurs to him that this is all of the second meeting he's had with the girl. Oh, Hiro's known who she was and what she was, and her significance to events for a while now. But he hasn't exchanged words with her more than that once as they rescued Flint Deckard.

"I've come here tonight to give you and invitation and a secret. The invitation is optional, but you're going to say yes because you are who you are. The secret is only optional in the sense that you can choose not to hear it. If you agree to hear it I'll have you promise to keep it. But it might become difficult to keep in the days ahead. I'm not sure." This is no prophecy on Hiro's part, nor is it future knowledge, or any of that mess. It's simple educated guessing even if that may very well seem indistinguishable.

"Haven't you heard? We Bennets are all about keeping secrets." The words are spoken a little bitterly, but it makes them no less true. "Let's hear what you have to say." Claire's blue-green eyes dart about once, cautiously. Though she does suspect that Hiro would know if they were being watched before she would. He's a ninja or something, she hears.

"Peter Petrelli is being held in Moab Federal Prison. In a matter of days there will be an effort made to break the prison open and release at least some of the inmates." The truth is that Hiro doesn't know how many people Phoenix and their usual cast of temps plan to release, but he's only going for one person. "I'm inviting you to be my date for the prison break." A small smirk at that. Then he adds just in case she didn't figure it out, "This is the optional invitation part."

"You're going to free Peter?" While Claire tries to remain aloof and even skeptical, she can't hide the light in her eyes. Rescuing Peter. Rescuing her friends from Moab? If Phoenix is involved, they'll be sprung - she hopes. Finally, a devilish smirk tugs the corner of Claire's lips upward on one side. "Sounds like my kind of date."

"Yes." That ought to be direct enough. Appearances aside, Hiro is not really in the business of giving nebulous explanations. "I'm going for Peter myself and I could think of no one else more motivated to see him freed." To wit, Claire and Hiro have completely side-by-side goals here. "I don't know who all else will be there, but if it's like anything else that happens where people are involved there will be a lot of chaos. That chaos can work for us as a diversion. Only a small, focused group will be able to make it in to where Peter is being held and succeed. There will probably be others that need to come out, but Peter is my priority." Beat. "So you'll do it?"

"Yes," Claire confirms, "I'll do it." She pauses a moment, "Peter's the priority," she agrees, "but I have another person I need to find." There's no doubt in Claire's mind that Helena will be rescued by the other members of Phoenix. Julian, however… He may end up forgotten if she doesn't act herself. "Once we have Peter, I want your help to rescue my friend." Practicality forces her to add, however, "If the situation allows for it. Do we have a deal?"

"So long as that friend isn't Sylar, yes." agrees Hiro, willing to accept that Claire's not talking about Ol' Eyebrows. Still, best to make sure. "I'm not good with walls and destruction. I hear you're quite the terrorist now. How are you with explosives?" Because he can ignore walls but other people don't do that so well. Also, he has a sword. They don't cut walls.

Icy tones proclaim, "Sylar will never be counted among my friends." The topic is moved past quickly, however, and Claire smirks once again. "I do pretty well with them, since I'm not afraid of what happens if I'm too close, or it goes off too soon." Claire shrugs. "If I can get my hands on the stuff, I can use it."

With a steady voice Hiro answers, "Mine either." Although he's less emotional about Sylar, he's lost too much to the man. He crosses his arms and takes a breath. This next part he's considered and reconsidered, and re-reconsidered. Time to just do it. "The secret. If I tell you then it's important that you not tell Peter specifically. Or anyone else. But I think it's important to know because it's about your father."

One might wonder which father he means.

He had her attention before, but now Claire is rapt. She straightens up a little taller and crosses her own arms under her chest in a mirror of Hiro's pose, so as to resist the temptation to fidget. "What is it?" Regardless of which father this secret pertains to, she's certain she's going to want to know it. But if she's not supposed to tell Peter, she can only assume it's regarding her biological father.

"Nathan Petrelli," Hiro begins, revealing that he is in on the small circle of people who knows Claire's parentage, "is one of the ones who made it possible for this to take place. No one can know that. I came to him in the Oval Office and suspended time. I spoke to him without anyone else knowing." He takes a step toward Claire raising a fist to gesture with slightly as he searches for Claire's eyes, "Claire, I grew up thinking my father was a cold, distant man who was only disappointed in me. I would have given anything if someone had told me the complete truth about him. I'm very lucky that I realized he wasn't what he seemed, and neither was I, before it became too late. I don't know what your future will bring, but you have to know this: That your father is a good man. He could have ignored me or refused me. I did not threaten him. He helped of his own free will. In your life, the things that you do and how you think of him is all up to you. But I want you to know these things."

Claire can't help but be stunned. Not by the fact that Hiro knows the secret of her lineage, but that he's sharing this with her. And for the reason that he is sharing it with her. "It's for Peter," she says softly. "Nathan…" For a moment, she considers calling him 'Dad.' "He does things to protect Peter. He always has. And he always will." Whether this makes him a good man or not is debatable. Noah Bennet always claimed he did everything he did for Claire and her family, but that didn't make him a good man in her eyes. Not after all the lies and deceit. It leaves her with conflict visible on her face. "Thank you," she says finally. "For telling me."

With a simple nod Hiro agrees, "I know it's for Peter, but it's not the act of a man who is evil and absorbed in his own schemes. I know what people think of him. I just want you to be better informed and on this matter at least to know what I know." That went smoothly, really. Another business Hiro is not in is absolving or excusing sins. "You're at that bar a lot. Old Lucy's." this by way of giving him a means to find her again.

"I can be." Claire unfolds her arms and stuffs her hands into the pockets of her coat restlessly. "I'm here a lot, too." Though a meeting at a bar is far less conspicuous if one's followed, she supposes. "I can be wherever you need me to be."

"We'll need a way to keep in touch." Hiro produces a small slip of paper, unlabelled, unmarked except for ten digits printed in a default font with no punctuation, no dashes or parentheses to clue their purpose. "The number of a phone I carry on me, area code included. Do you have one?"

"Yeah." Claire flips out a phone and punches in the number on the paper, sending a quick text message. "That's me," she says. "If a man with a Southern accent picks up, just hang up before he has a chance to ask you if you're my boyfriend. I'll get back to you." She slides the phone back into her pocket and hands the paper ot Hiro once more.

Paper's retrieved and Hiro pockets it again with a nod. "Thank you. I'll let you know the specific date as early as possible. Use that time to get prepared. Be thinking that they have countermeasures for Evolved persons since their prisoners are mostly that. Be prepared that they may have a way to render you normal, so try not to plan to rely on your abilities entirely."

That isn't something Claire is sure she can do. A woman who has no fear of physical harm has a completely different mindset than someone who does. But she doesn't argue the point, because he's right. She has to be prepared for the possibility. "Do you think we can do this?" A question she sees as fair. They have to try, she realises.

"I have reason to believe we pull it off." says Hiro again with a nod, checking to make sure he saves the number Claire dialed him with before pocketting it. "There was an artist who made some paintings. I'm sure you've heard of them. He wasn't as good as Isaac Mendez. Not as exact or useful in his subjects, but one is of a prison with a bird rising over it. That bird was described to me as a phoenix." He doesn't have to spell out to Claire what that could portend. They both know the obvious conclusion. Of course he doesn't add that there is more to the painting than he is describing. "If Isaac Mendez painted it we would probably have an exact picture of events, but this other man, Brill, he was too symbolic for that. But it's something. We've had shaky experiences with future-paintings before."

"The future isn't set in stone," Claire quotes Peter. They did manage to save her, even if they didn't manage to save New York. A burden she and her uncle will carry their entire lives, she's certain. "It bodes well, at the least. I'll choose to see it as a sign of encouragement." Even if her smile is a little shaky.

This is the part where Hiro snorts and gives a dark look that isn't all about Claire or even focused on her. He turns his back to her and sighs. "Isn't it? I've given up trying to change the future, Miss Bennet. Some version of me tried to save you. It turns out that saving you changed nothing. Not one of Isaac Mendez' paintings failed to come true. The future is most certainly set in stone."

"So it is." She isn't about to belabour the point with him. "Then the painting says we win. Sounds like a good future to me." Claire stares down at the glowing stick on the ground and the pebbles and chunks of concrete it illuminates.

A nod and Hiro begins to walk into the dark. "I'll keep in touch." he says. "Be careful." Even invincible girls can get hurt.

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