Claude, invisible, watched the playground from a distance. It was late enough in the afternoon that most of the kids had gone home for dinner, but he wasn't paying attention to them, anyway. He was watching Rose, who was sitting in a swing, eyes distant.
He made his way over to her, only turning visible after he'd sat in the swing next to her. Her face betrayed not a single flicker of surprise.
"I used to live here," she said without preamble, nodding at the council estate by the park. "In the other universe. I lived in a flat with my mum. We never had much."
Sometime after they started having sex, Rose started to tell Claude little things about herself, never giving away much at any one time. Curiously, the more she told him, the more he wanted to know. He knew she came from another universe, and that Pete Tyler wasn't technically her father. He also knew she at one time traveled with an alien known only as "the Doctor" and that Claude bore a strong resemblance to him. Reading between the lines, he knew Rose had loved the Doctor very much, but they'd been permanently separated.
"Always wanted to get away from the Powell Estates," Rose went on after a moment. "I always wanted something more. When I found the Doctor, or he found me, I thought I'd never look back." She leaned into one of the swing's chains. "I've got everything I could want now, but sometimes I--I miss the old flat. Seemed simpler, y'know?"
"Sometimes, wishing's easier than having," said Claude. He didn't know where that little pearl of wisdom came from, but it felt true.
Rose's mouth twisted into something like a smile. "Yeah. Even with everything I've got now, I can't stop thinking about the one thing I can't have. S'been two years; you'd think it'd stop hurting by now, wouldn't you?"
Claude laughed shortly. "I'm not one to talk about getting over things." His mind flashed back to the Bennets, to eating dinner with them. He remembered Claire, Claire with the cherubic face and blond hair, Claire who saw him as a favorite uncle who gave her her first teddy bear and her nickname. He suddenly missed her fiercely, her smiles and her hugs. She'd be almost seventeen, he realized. Not that much younger than Rose. He wondered, if he saw her now, would her eyes hold the same darkness and sadness as Rose's did? Did Noah ever love her the way she needed him to? Or had he betrayed her, too?
"Guess not." Rose's smile became genuine. She reached out and ran her fingers through his hair, which was almost down to his collar again. "The Doctor kept his hair really short, almost shaved. Always wondered what it'd look like longer."
"D'you want me to cut it?" he asked her point-blank. Inwardly, he tensed a little, almost dreading her reply, and it disturbed him.
Her hand dropped away. "Nah. Looks good on you."
"I need to find someone," he said abruptly. "Claire Bennet, Noah Bennet's daughter. She should be sixteen or seventeen. I need to find out if she--I need to know what's happened to her."
Rose blinked at the sudden change of subject, but said, "All right. I'll look into it, see what I can find out."
He stood and offered Rose his hand. "Come on. It's getting cold, and I'm hungry. Let's get something to eat."
Her eyes widened. This was something new for them. They talked, and they shagged, but eating dinner together like they were dating was something they'd never done. Claude felt a twinge of uncertainty that he'd just tried to steer their relationship someplace Rose wouldn't go, and he wondered at himself for doing it. How Rose had managed to touch him so deeply, he didn't know, but he didn't want to chase her away.
She lifted her hand away from the chain a little hesitantly, and then slowly, as if it were somehow frightening, took Claude's hand and held on.