Summary: She’s wearing her old sweatpants, and he’s bad at asking her out.
Warnings: None. Fluff!
Pairing: Peter/Claire AU.
This my contribution to heroes_valentines, and dedicated particularly to Hebrew_hernia. I hope y’all like it.
It’s been obvious that there’d been something on Peter’s mind, and that it’s been bothering him for a few months now. It took her roughly the same time to figure out what exactly it was. After all, it wasn’t like she had the wisdom of the ages—her first foray into romance ended up with her on a steel table in the morgue, so it was pretty safe to say that romance, all that boy-girl stuff, wasn’t her number one priority. With everything that had happened in the past year, all she saw in that now was meaningless and trivial.
There was Peter, of course. She liked Peter, for the simple reason that she was a girl and she had eyes. Peter was kind, intelligent and funny. He was once her knight in shining armor, but he’d become much more than that since then. He took her in that rainy April night when she ran away from home, a kid lost in the big city, and she’d been home ever since.
He was her home. For that fact alone, Claire kept away from such thoughts (not that she had a shot in hell anyway). Peter had a complete life before she even came along, even had met the merry band of “circus oddities” as she had jokingly termed themselves long before she met anyone else. Peter laughed at her lame jokes, took turns in washing dishes with her, cooked truly awful tuna casserole she forced herself to eat anyway. It was too simplistic to call it a crush, too weird to call it family, but Peter had been the most real thing to her for a long time: Zach had forgotten her, and so did her mom and Lyle, and even her biological mother turned out to be a liar and a con. She knew that Peter would never lie to her, and that was enough reason for her to stay. Forever, if she could.
Anyway. All her reasons were long and sensible, and she really didn’t have time to list it all down in her head. She had to. She had convinced herself that it was practical, necessary—but she knew anyway that what she really didn’t want was for him to look at her kindly, pat her on the head, call her cute, thanks anyway, but all he saw her was like a little sis…
“So, uh, do you want to go out?” he finally said. He had been standing around for so long, saying nothing that Claire had forgotten that he was there.
She threw him a puzzled look. “But you just asked me to call in for pizza. Which I just did.” She gestured to the phone beside her.
“Oh! Well.” He looked down on his feet, and she noted that for some curious reason, even his toes were fidgeting. He was fidgeting a lot, so much so he almost looked like he was dancing some weird one-man dance known only to himself. “I mean, not tonight, but some other time.”
She shook her head slowly, wondering what she might be forgetting. “Is it…your birthday this week? Have I forgotten something? Wait, don’t tell me.” She held up one hand, brow furring in concentration as he opened his mouth to speak. “Nathan’s throwing some big shindig again and he wants you to go and so he can go and tell everyone that you were so sick when you were a kid, but by the miracle of God you were able to stand up and walk again?”
Peter stared at her as if she had just sprouted a second head before shaking his head. “No.” he sat down across her and rubbed the back of his neck. “That’d be a good one, though. You should tell him to try it.”
“What can I say? Politicians and cheerleaders are the same. Only cheerleaders have cuter costumes.” She shrugged and grinned, before turning back to her crossword puzzle. Only she was aware that Peter was still looking at her. She looked back up again.
“It IS your birthday, isn’t it?” she demanded.
“No!” he replied quickly. “I mean…Claire, do you want to have dinner?”
Now she was wondering if she really just grew a second head or developed some sort of new ability that made Peter look at her so strangely. With any luck, and with the way her abilities were, she wouldn’t be surprised. “I told you. The pizza’s still coming. If you’re hungry, you can, I dunno, pop some popcorn or something.”
“I mean on a date.” He said it so abruptly that he almost sounded angry, and made Claire jump.
“I’m really bad at this.” She heard him mutter to himself. When he looked up, he saw that it was her turn to stare, her jaw slack with utter disbelief.
“You’re asking me out.” She said finally, after many awkward seconds that felt like eternity.
“You’re asking me out.”
“On a date?”
He exhaled, then chuckled. “Did you not hear me?” but Claire had the same expression she did like the day when he asked whether she was a natural blonde.
“You’re asking me while I’m sitting here all gross in my sweatpants waiting for pizza?!”
“Oh, so I should’ve waited for you to change into your princess gown.” He was trying to make light of the situation, but she saw that he looked really nervous. “Claire, I just…” he brushed back his hair, a nervous habit. “I wanted to ask you for the longest time, it’s just that…the right moment never seemed to come up.”
“That’s because I don’t have the princess dress, and that’s when magical moments happen.” She was still pouting, but it was only to hide a smile she was trying in vain to hold back.
“Exactly.” He broke out into a relieved smile. “I just thought I might as well ask you now.”
“But we’re roommates.” She pointed out.
“Is this how you ask all the other girls?”
“Number one: There are no other girls. Number two: Whatever I do to ask girls out, it’s never been successful anyway.”
That wasn’t the last of her questions. “What happens after we start going out?”
He gave her a small, shy smile. “I don’t know. I want to find out.”
It was all sinking in now, and she realized her heart was beating madly in her chest. He looked so hopeful, and unsure. He was Peter. He was her roommate, her friend, and he was asking her to go out with him? Where was this going to go?
Oh, shut up, Claire.
He was wearing an old shirt and his faded jeans, hands in his pockets, shifting uneasily. She decided that he had never looked so wonderful before. She put down her crossword and stood up to cross the living room. She smiled into his eyes.
“Shining armor or not, I think you just saved my life all over again.”