Title: "Home and Away"
Author: monimala
Fandom: Heroes/Friday Night Lights
Rating/Classification: crossover, AU, Claire, gen, Heroes future-ish + FNL now-ish.
Disclaimer: I don't own either set of characters.
Summary: 1315 words. Claire hates away games.
Notes: I have no idea where fictional Dillon is in relation to real Odessa, so liberties are being taken. (Technically, going by the book, Dillon IS Odessa.)

Then.

Claire blinked the dust out of her eyes, plopping down on the bleachers as the other team tossed the pigskin around and gave their cheerleaders the opportunity to go through a few pyramids before kickoff. Yeah, for some reason, they felt the need to warm up even though they had the home field advantage. Fall, Claire thought, because then this'll at least be a laugh. Next to her, Marybeth sneered at the other squad, calling the captain a "slut," and she bit her tongue so she wouldn't point out the obvious "takes one to know one." Marybeth had never met a jock she didn't like.

Claire was sick of them. Sick of all of this. Shouting, "Ready! Okay!" was so lame when she didn't feel "ready" or "okay" anymore.

God, she hated away games. She hated away games at Dillon most of all. At least in Odessa, there were other things to do. (Not much, but still…) Here, it was like being in one of those dumb, inspirational, sports movies: football was life and everybody was *so* intense about it. Every game was The Big Game. It was like all the joy got sucked out of the pep squad the minute they crossed the city limits into Dillon. Forget pep, it was all about battle lines. The sweat always started trickling down the back of her uniform and she felt like Lyla Garrity and her girls were going to whip out knives and chains just to defend their territory.

She tuned out Marybeth, letting her eyes drift over the boys in the blue uniforms. The Panthers' QB was practically a legend already. Jason Street. All the girls talked him up, like he was God's gift. Of course, Lyla Garrity would probably pull out her knife and her chain to defend him, too. They were inseparable. It was revolting. And… and Claire envied it. That stupid, made-for-each-other Prom Court normalcy.

Minutes later, when they were back on the grass, she dug her heels into the dirt and pasted the obligatory toothpaste commercial smile on her face. "Ready! Okay!"

Fall, she thought, as the Panther girls and guys alike lined up ready to rumble. And when she spilled from the pyramid, she felt the blood well up beneath her tights, scab over, and begin to heal. That, at least, was a laugh.

Now.

They all return to Texas after it's over. Like some caravan of freaks headed to a carnival midway. Nathan says it's safer in the dust and the tumbleweeds and she doesn't believe him until they're driving through Dillon on their way home and she sees that nothing has changed. It's untouched. A different kind of wasteland than New York. That same diner with the tired waitresses, the same car dealership, the same high school with the kids trickling over to the mini-mart for six packs right after last bell.

"This is why I came here, Claire," Nathan whispers, his tanned arm resting on the wheel, sleeve rolled up. "All those years ago."

She thinks about Meredith, blond hair and faded eyes like every homecoming queen who wants to make it out and will do it on her back if she has to. And she thinks her father came for that, too, but she doesn't say it out loud. She just listens to Hiro in the back seat whispering to Ando as they all pretend they're not thinking about the fact that Peter's not in the car. That he's never going to be in the sideshow again.

On impulse, she tells Nathan to pull into Dillon High's parking lot. It's not a game day --the town's not all decked out-- but maybe, just maybe, she'll see that perfect QB and his perfect girl and remember when football was life and normalcy made her teeth hurt.

"Do you know these people?" It's a politician's question. Claire Bennet is on the casualty list printed in most of the national papers and Nathan doesn't want people to ID her. Not after everything. He made Niki go out and get a box of hair dye and some styling shears somewhere in southern Pennsylvania. It was Jessica who actually gave her the bob and turned her into a redhead… and then stabbed the shears into Nathan's leg and told him to "fuck off." She's in the motor home a half a mile behind. They've finally learned to keep their distance from each other.

"It's okay. They don't know me. They never did," she assures as kids keep flowing out the doors. "Just give me five minutes."

She hears Hiro, with his startlingly perfect now English, even as she's climbing out and stepping onto the asphalt. "Let her go, Flying Man. Let her remember."

She doesn't even have to hear Nathan's response. It's "Don't call me that anymore." They've been doing this for weeks. Months. Maybe years, because that's what it feels like.

Claire goes straight to the field. There's a couple of players in practice jerseys tossing the ball and some groupie girls lingering on the bleachers. The grass smells sharp and freshly cut, the farthest thing from smoke and death and annihilation. She remembers drills and cheers and falling off the pyramid. She whispers, "Ready! Okay!" and laughs.

She's still laughing to herself like an insane person when the guy in the chair rolls across the ten-yard line, his upper arm muscles bulging with the effort of turning the wheels on uneven terrain. He's wearing a cut-off t-shirt and she sees the groupies check him out for just a second before they look back at numbers 7 and 20. He is hot. She'll give them that. But after spending time cooped up with Mohinder, she's practically immune to a handsome face.

He catches her eye and grins and she thought she'd forgotten how, but she grins back as they trade the obligatory "Hey."

The boy --almost a man-- squints at her, trying to decide if she looks familiar. "You're a sophomore, right? Moxson's sister?"

"No. No, I'm just passing through." She's said that so many times in the last 700 miles, she almost believes it.

He chuckles a little. "People pass through Dillon, sure. I just don't know why they'd stop."

Claire thinks of big city bustle, of cabs and traffic and noise… and then sudden silence. She scrubbed blood from her hands for days. None of it was hers. "You'd be surprised. Besides, I hear they have a killer football team," she adds, lightly.

His grin vanishes. Okay, so that wasn't the best thing to say to a guy in a wheelchair. Claire opens her mouth to apologize and he shakes his head, shrugging it off. "It's alright. I'm a master at quad rugby. It's a total chick magnet." The twist to his lips tells her he's maybe kidding, maybe not.

For a minute, they just stare at each other and she wonders what he sees in her eyes. Hopefully that she once had a life that was white painted lines and marching bands and crowds, too. Hopefully that being able to walk (to heal, always heal) doesn't make her any less broken than he is.

The moment is ruined by one of the guys yelling across the stadium. "Yo, Street! Get your ass out here! Saracen's throwing like my grandma! Boy needs some learnin'!"

"I'm being paged," says Street, tilting his head apologetically. "I'd better go."

Claire politely murmurs, "see you around," (they both know she won't) and waits till he's rolling away before she lets her jaw drop in shock. Jason Street. God's gift. The legendary QB that all the girls yammered about in the locker room.

Maybe this place isn't so untouched after all. Maybe it's changed. Maybe the whole world changed while she was falling.

But it's still intense, like a dumb, inspirational, sports movie.

And, at the least, a laugh.

--end--

March 24, 2007.

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