Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Heroes. Alas.
She stood at the steps leading up to the entrance to Sunnydale High, hiked her backpack up her shoulders, and sighed. There were people all around her, joking, laughing, reuniting after a summer spent lounging on beaches and generally being teenagers. They all shot curious glances at her as she passed, all wondering who the new girl was. She felt very alone.
She had gotten to the school with some time to spare, and wandered the halls for a while before stumbling across the library. It would be good, she thought, to get some of her books before classes began. It was certainly the diligent thing to do. She’d always been a good student in the past, but never consciously—she’d never really tried. Maybe now, at a new school, was a good time to start. It was a good way of blending in, too. She could become a nerd.
And lose any chance of ever fitting in, she thought. It was too late for that, anyway.
The library was dimly lit and had a general air of disuse that probably had little to do with the fact that the summer had just ended. If this school was like any other high school on the planet, the library was probably the least frequented place in the building.
Still, she’d thought that at least there would be a librarian there.
“Hello?” she called.
An “oomf” came from behind the librarian’s counter as the man hit his head trying to stand up. When he straightened she saw that he was slightly musty looking, and distinctly British.
“Oh, dear,” he said, looking at her with an odd little smile. “I’m so sorry. May I help you with something?”
She glanced at her schedule. “Yeah. I’m new, and I thought I’d drop by here to get—”
“I know just what you’re looking for,” he interrupted.
She blinked. “I guess there aren’t many new students here.”
He smiled briefly before bending behind the counter again and coming up with a thick, dusty tome that he dropped triumphantly on the counter. The cover said only “VAMPYR.”
Her eyes flew wide and she took a step back. “Um, that’s really not what I was looking for.”
He frowned. “Ms. Summers?”
She shook her head, still eyeing him in trepidation. “Butler,” she said. “Claire Butler.”
He took off his glasses, polishing them with the hem of his sweater. “Oh, I see. I’m Rupert Giles, the librarian.” He tried to unobtrusively slip the book back beneath the counter, and plastered a warm smile on his face. “What can I help you with?”
She handed him her schedule, and within minutes was loaded down with what seemed like an impossible number of books.
“Thanks,” she said, struggling to balance the books while walking.
“Oh, let me help you,” he said, opening the door for her.
“Thanks,” she said again with a smile. She shook her head as she walked down the hall. “Strange man.”
She turned a corner and bumped into a girl with long red hair, promptly dropping her armload of books.
“Oh! I’m so sorry,” the girl said, kneeling beside her to gather the books.
“No, it was my fault,” Claire said. “I wasn’t watching where I was going.” She stuck out her hand. “Claire Butler.”
The girl shyly shook her hand. “Willow. Uh, Rosenberg. Willow Rosenberg.”
She seemed about to hurry away, but Claire, sensing that an opportunity was about to escape her, said, “I’m new here. Would you mind helping me find Mrs. Davis’ class?”
“I’m in that class too!” Willow said. “Come with me.”
They talked until they got to class, Claire feeling at ease for the first time since entering Sunnydale High. Willow reminded her of her friend Zach, in some ways—a misfit, but insightful and loyal.
At the end of class they parted ways, but not before Willow said, “If you’re interested…no pressure, of course…but, if you’d like, I’m going to be going to the Bronze tonight. If you want to come.”
“The Bronze?” Claire repeated.
“It’s really the only hang out for people our age in Sunnydale,” Willow explained.
She smiled. “That sounds like fun. I’ll have to check with my dad, though. He’s sort of overprotective.” That was putting it lightly. Since the events at Kirby Plaza, and since their house was blown up, and since Claire had been revealed to be a freak of nature, Noah Bennet had taken overprotectiveness to new heights: changing their names, moving to a new town, insisting that Claire do everything possible to avoid standing out.
The next class Claire found herself sitting next to a girl who reminded her of Jackie in every way except that this girl was a brunette (and alive, with the top of her head still attached). She introduced herself as Cordelia Chase and promptly asked the question Claire had been dreading.
“So, Claire,” she said loudly, not caring that everyone else in the class was listening. “What were you, back at your old school.”
Claire opened her mouth to answer, closed it again. She knew what she wanted to say. She wanted to tell the truth: I was co-captain of the cheer team. I was homecoming queen. I was popular. Instead she swallowed and said six words that would seal her social fate forever: “I was on the chess team.”
Cordelia visibly drew back, as if to avoid contaminating herself. “Oh, God,” she laughed. “If that isn’t the lamest thing I’ve ever heard. At least Buffy’s not a freakish geek.”
Buffy, it turned out, was the other new student at Sunnydale High—and in some ways she and Claire bore a strong resemblance. They were both petite blondes and, though Claire couldn’t admit it, they had both been cheerleaders and homecoming queens at their previous schools. Claire met her at lunch, where they were both interrogated by Willow and her two friends, Xander and Jesse, who were clearly the resident social outcasts. Claire thought they were nice enough. Buffy seemed friendly, if a little withdrawn.
Buffy’s last name was Summers, and Claire wondered whether she’d met the creepy librarian yet.
As predicted, Claire’s father was not okay with her going to the Bronze. “But why not?” she demanded. “You don’t want me to stand out, right? Well, never going out is going to make me stand out!”
Noah shook his head. “I’m not budging on this one, Claire bear,” he said. “I don’t want you walking alone out there at night. It’s dangerous.”
“Not to me,” she reminded him. “I’m indestructible, remember?”
“Claire,” he said sternly. “I said no.”
She sighed heavily and stomped up to her room, furious.
The next day, Jesse was missing and Willow, Xander, and Buffy were nowhere to be found. In the days that followed Jesse never came back and it became public knowledge that he had been killed, somehow. Claire was surprised that no one made a big deal about it—when Jackie had died, after all, the whole school had shut down for days. It seemed that murders were more common here, which was odd as Sunnydale was a small town. After Jesse’s death Willow, Buffy, and Xander formed a little trio of their own that, though they probably didn’t mean to, effectively excluded Claire.
Buffy’s friendship with the two effectively ruined her own social status, but she didn’t seem to care. Claire admired her independence; she herself had been too shallow to appreciate Zach until she needed his help.
And so, feeling lonely and constantly dodging the advances of a short boy named Jonathon, she bided her time as the weeks began to drag by. Claire longed for Peter to come and rescue her from this hell, even as she wondered whether he was still alive. Last she’d seen him, he’d been exploding above the New York skyline. Her biological father, Nathan Petrelli, had survived, but there was no guarantee that Peter had.
Sylar had survived, too. It had taken her dad weeks to admit that little fact to her. “We’re safe here,” he insisted. “He won’t be able to find us.”
Sometimes she seriously doubted that. Sometimes she imagined that Sylar was waiting around every corner, just looking for the right opportunity to take her ability and her life.
When cheerleading tryouts rolled around, she was seriously tempted to disobey her father’s orders. Cheering would give some normalcy to her life, she thought—just one thing that she could hold onto, feel comfortable with. She restrained herself, though, and after hearing bizarre tales of spontaneous combustion and inexplicable blindness she was just as glad that she did.
And so time passed, and Claire found herself continuously bored by the sleepy town. Until one day, with winter approaching and the nights growing longer, she stayed late at school to finish working on a computer project for one of her teachers, Ms. Calendar. When she was halfway home the sun set, and she realized that it was the first time she had been out after dark since coming to Sunnydale.
Her steps quickened, compelled by a feeling of unease she couldn’t quite shake. She was horrified to hear an echo, as someone picked up the pace behind her.
Lengthening her stride, she broke into a sprint, reaching into her pocket even as she ran for the knife her father insisted she carry. The footsteps were quick and loud behind her, drawing ever closer. Her pursuer was fast. She let out a cry of surprise as a huge, cold hand grabbed her bicep from behind, yanking her to a halt. She was spun around, and stared in horror at the distorted visage of the man—was it a man?—in front of her. His face was inhumanly lumpy, and he had two long, gleaming canine teeth.
He smiled viciously. “Hello, pretty,” he said, twisting her back around and grabbing her hair, jerking her head to the side to expose her neck. She struggled in his grip, but he was just too strong. Inhumanly strong. Then there was pain in her neck, a bright burst of agony as he bit her and began to greedily gulp at her blood.
A normal human would begin to feel woozy almost immediately from the blood loss. Claire Bennet was not a normal human. She felt some weakness, but she was horrifyingly conscious as she was slowly drained of the life-giving fluid. Desperately, she flipped open the knife and used it to slash at the eyes of the man-monster-thing assaulting her. She didn’t feel the knife make contact, but abruptly he was pushing her away with a monstrous roar of pain.
Not thinking to question her luck, she ran for home, hearing the monster’s cries of pain recede as it did not follow her, the twin punctures on her neck already healed, and through her shock and horror she found the calmness for one thought: what the hell was that?