Note: This is not as predictable as you think it is. And I wrote it much faster than I thought I would, so…if it's rushed, forgive me. I had loads of fun with Claire in this. XD

Disclaimer: I own nothing. Including references to songs by Pat Benatar. And Ben & Jerry's ice cream. And Titanic and Pride and Prejudice.

Nevermore

Ebony hair was twisted piece by piece, a braid being woven as Mary's pale fingers ran through her dark tresses. Her eyes downcast, Mary bit her lip and tried to understand what had just happened—what had just crushed her with only a few simple words.

Only words. She laughed at how ironic the thought sounded in her mind; wasn't it she who saw words as nature's strongest weapon? Wasn't it she who had dedicated her life to the implications of words? Where was that woman now, and who was this girl scorning their power?

"Mary, I'm not sure how to say this…"

Why did he, then? Her fingers worked faster and faster on the braid, racing the tears that threatened to roll down her cheeks. If he couldn't explain it, then why did he try? Why did he have to give her the one thing that she couldn't handle, the one thing that killed her inside?

Why did he have to tell her the truth?

"Mary?"

The librarian turned away instinctively at the sound of the door opening, and as light poured in, a young woman sauntered forward. Flipping back her blonde hair, she repeated, "Mary? Oh my God, I'm so happy you're here!"

Unable to say the same, Mary simply continued braiding her hair and gave a slight nod. The visitor plopped herself in the chair by the counter, and grinning, exclaimed, "You won't believe it—I mean, I didn't for a second—but I opened my door this morning, and guess who invited me to the Starry Night Festival? Guess!"

Mary bent forward, her braid almost complete, and concentrated on the crack on the wall. She'd been meaning to tell Harris to ask Gotz to fix that, and actually, didn't Harris still have that book on botany she'd lent him…?

"He's so gorgeous, Mary!" the cheerful voice continued. "I mean, I just—ah! I feel like I could just scream! Isn't it crazy? I mean, we've been dating a while now, but he's never been brave enough to ask me to a festival or anything, so this is just freaking awesome!"

…and she had to baby-sit Stu next Thursday for Elli—after all, it was her and Tim's wedding anniversary—and so she'd have to find someone to watch the library, and then of course there was that surprise baby shower they were planning for them…

"And oh my God, just look at his arms! Damn, I guess working as a blacksmith does some good, huh? He was just so shy when he asked, too—God, I can't take it, Mary! I'm going to freaking explode from waiting too long for tonight!"

…Popuri had said she'd handle the decorations, and Ann would cook the food, and Karen would somehow get Elli and Tim to come at exactly the right moment, which reminded her she owed Jeff for letting her wrap her present for Gray on credit—

Gray.

"It's going to be the greatest night of my life, I can just feel it! He's so different than all those other guys in the city, you know? So honest, so straightforward, so—" The babbling ceased as Claire heard a strange sound penetrate the air; it was a sound she hadn't been expecting, and didn't quite recognize. "Mary?" The farm girl approached her slowly, and finally got a good look at the librarian's expression for the first time since entering the room. "Oh my God," she breathed. "Mary, are you okay?"

Mary's hold on her braid had faltered, and now a curtain of black hair obscured her face from view. Occasionally, the strands of hair parted just enough to reveal fresh tears clinging to her cheeks and welling in her eyes. Sobbing hoarsely, the librarian struggled to turn away from the girl once again, but Claire refused to let her grip on Mary's arm waver.

"Mary, come on, what did I say? What did I do, Mary, what are you--?"

"H-he loved me," she choked, and Mary looked up at the farmgirl with large pleading eyes. Her fingers clung to the blonde's overalls, and sobbing again, whispered, "He said he loved me, Claire…and I…I…"

It was too late; the dam had already burst, and nothing Mary could do or say could stop the new flood of tears she's been trying so hard to hold back. They sprung forth again and again, soaking Claire's shirt as Mary buried her head into the farmgirl's shoulder.

"It's different now between us, and I—I don't know why. Was I not pretty enough, or was I doing something wrong? I—I don't know, Claire, but he doesn't—he didn't—he's done with now, and I don't know if I'm done with him." She sniffled loudly, and Claire belatedly brought a handkerchief for the heartbroken girl. The librarian blew her nose, then murmured, "Th-thank you."

"Anytime," Claire assured her, giving her a tight hug. "Oh my God, Mary, I'm sorry. Here I am, talking on and on about my great love life, and you're suffering from a break-up. God, I'm an insensitive friend, huh?"

"No, not at all. You didn't know," Mary smiled weakly. "And you're pretty, Claire, and you're smart, and you're strong and confident, and it's no wonder Gray likes you. It's no wonder he's…happier with you than me."

"Hold up. Gray did this to you?"

To the farmgirl's amazement, Mary bobbed her head yes.

"He broke up with you last night?"

Again, the librarian nodded.

"Holy crap, and I thought I was insensitive!" Claire exclaimed, squeezing Mary again with a renewed ferocity. "That—that jerk! He breaks up with you and rebounds the next morning? God, that's so—so--urgh!"

"It's okay, I'll be fine," Mary mumbled, wiping her eyes. "You should have fun tonight, Claire. You should go with him—"

"I am not going anywhere with a jackass, Mary." Claire brushed the bangs from Mary's eyes and smiled. "There's only one place I'm going to be tonight, and that's with you at my house having the best damn sleepover of your life." Wide-eyed, Mary listened as Claire continued, "We're going to sing Pat Benatar karaoke, and do each other's nails, and watch chick flicks, and eat ice cream until we're sick."

"…Y-you promise?" Mary squeaked, clinging to Claire's arms.

"I swear," Claire grinned. "Now let's run on over to your house and tell your mom that I'm kidnapping you tonight. We're going to have a blast."


Gray stood at the door to Claire's house anxiously. Shuffling his feet nervously, he adjusted his jacket and cleared his throat. He probably looked so under-dressed. Claire was a city-girl; who knew what modern fashion she would be sporting tonight? He should've worn that other suit of his, the one with the cuffs—

"Hello?"

The door opened wide, and Claire leaned in the frame of the doorway. Bright yellow polka-dots were scattered on her pink cotton shirt and pants, and bunny slippers poked out from under the bottom of her baggy pants. Gray simply stared for a moment, dumbfounded, before saying, "What are you wearing?"

"You like?" she smirked, turning to show off her clothes in all their polka-dotted wonder. "They're my slumber party jammies. Pretty spiffy, huh?"

"…I don't understand," Gray spoke, scratching his head. "You're coming with me tonight dressed like that?"

"Oh, here's the thing," the blonde laughed. "I'm not coming with you tonight. I've kinda had a change of plans."

The blacksmith looked over the farmgirl's shoulder to see Mary in a long nightgown seated at Claire's kitchen table, her newly painted nails drying as "Love is a Battlefield" blared on the record player. "Why is Mary here?" he whispered, a lump rising in his throat.

"Oh, it's a funny story, actually," Claire replied, crossing her arms. "Some creep dumped her last night. And the next day, he had the nerve to ask out some other girl. We're having a girl's night to get her mind off of him. Insensitive bastard, huh?"

He took a few steps back, his breath rapid and hoarse. Knees buckling, he stammered, "Claire, what are you--?"

"When were you planning to tell me?" she accused, stepping forward. "When were you planning to say that you had been dating Mary all this time? You know, while you were dating me? You've been cheating on her, Gray. So what, now you think everything's cool between us just because you've kicked her to the curb? Well, I've got news for you, pretty-boy." She brought her face so close to his own that he could feel her breath blowing on his cheeks. "No guy—no matter how hot—is worth seeing a friend cry. You're not worth that, Gray. Nothing is."

The farm-girl backed up, and Gray felt his legs slowly solidify from jelly to something that could produce movement. "Claire," he persisted, "you know I love you—"

"Love me?" she laughed. "Gray, you don't even know me. I haven't even been here a whole freaking year. And if you'll excuse me, I've a sleepover to host." Turning her head towards the room again, Claire shouted, "Hey, Mary! Which movie do you want to watch first: Titanic or Pride and Prejudice?"

And the door slammed with a jarring thud, leaving Gray alone in the cold while two friends had a double-date with Ben & Jerry's.

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Well, that was incredibly fun to write. So ignore, review, flame, whatever floats your boat.