Summary: We all know how Claire feels about Shane. But just when, exactly, did he fall in love with her?
A/N: There is some unavoidable repetition of dialogue from the book Glass Houses in this little snippet. Sorry. But there's more description!
"You can't go to class with me!"
Claire was staring at him, indignant. Her hands rose up to settle on her hips—unconsciously, he thought—in the default pose of defiant women everywhere. He'd learned to dread the Hands On Hips look. It always preceded trouble.
"Hey, you're welcome to knock me out and stop me, but until you do, I'm your date for the day," he told her, slightly amused at the look on her face as she considered it. Claire was probably five foot three, at best. He knew for a fact he'd left six two behind ages ago.
"So. What classes?"
She narrowed her eyes, and rattled off a horrifying list. "Calculus II, Physics of Sound, Chemistry III, chem. lab, and Biochemistry."
Shane did his best to look undaunted—it wasn't as if he needed to be paying attention. "Holy crap. You really are smart. I'll take some comics or something. Maybe bring my iPod.
She glowered, but some of the fight leaked out of her as she realized he was serious. Her shoulders slumped.
"I'm dead," she moaned, burying her face in her hands.
His smile took on a slightly grim edge. "Not yet. But that's kind of the point."
Once she'd resigned herself to the fact that she wouldn't be able to escape the house alone, Claire had actually been pretty reasonable about the whole thing. She lent him a backpack, and made fun of him as he proceeded to fill it with the basic necessities.
"We're not going into the wilderness, Shane," she said, eyeing the Twinkies and bottles of water, "You don't have to take everything. There are vending machines, you know."
"Yeah? I didn't see lunch in that schedule," he pointed out.
She shut up, and let him follow her across the campus. It had been a while since he'd visited the college last…hell, it had been months. He'd been dating a sorority chick back then. Blonde, blue eyed. Shallow as hell, but fun for the moment.
He tried to imagine feeling that way about Claire. It wasn't possible. She wasn't someone you could meet, and then forget afterwards. There was something about her eyes, the shape of her mouth—he stopped himself there.
That way lies danger.
Despite what his friends thought, Shane wasn't much for dangerous pastimes. Especially when they involved underage, way too cute, new roommates. Not that he'd had many of those before.
The lectures were boring as hell. Just like he remembered: dry professors droning on about even duller subjects. But Claire seemed entranced. He paused his game and peered at her from the corner of his eye.
He realized at once he didn't need to bother being sneaky. All her attention was focused on the professor. There was a pencil in her hand, and a fresh sheet of paper on her desk, but she wasn't writing. She probably knew it all already, anyway. He'd seen all those hours she put in studying—it wasn't normal.
Her hand shot up into the air, startling him. The professor nodded to her and she answered in a clear, confident voice.
"The "operational" relationship between pKa and pH is mathematically represented by Henderson-Hasselbach equation."
The professor nodded approvingly. Shane shook his head in confusion, and went back to his games. Leave the equations to the smart people who knew what to do with them.
Chem lab, now there was a class he could enjoy. "Hey," he asked quietly, "Any of this stuff blow up?"
She looked at him in confusion. "What? Um…yeah, if you do it wrong, I guess."
He grinned and reached for the beaker of pale yellow liquid. She smacked his hand aside and pulled on her rubber gloves, leaning over the table to grab a pair of goggles. Her shirt shifted up as she reached out, baring her stomach. He couldn't help looking. He wanted to reach over and brush his fingers across her skin, and see if it felt as soft as it looked.
He wasn't paying attention, then, so it came as a total shock when she cringed and screamed, reaching around to grab her back. Her shirt was smoking.
Shane stared at her in horror for a split second, before his arm shot out to grab the girl—Nina, Jenna, whatever her name was—who'd done it. He wanted nothing more in that moment than to snap her neck. She had hurt Claire.
Who was, by the way, curled up on the floor with tears streaming down her face. The man in charge was frantically cutting away at her clothes.
Shane stared at the exposed skin of her back. It was smooth and creamy—except for one circular shaped blemish on the left side. He shook the girl he was holding, and twisted her arm behind her back viciously.
"It was an accident," she yelled, almost in tears herself, "I swear!"
The TA holding the scraps of Claire's shirt gave her a cold stare, not commenting on Shane's rough handling. "We weren't working with hydrogen sulfide. There was no reason for you to be walking around with it."
Shane ignored the rest of their conversation. He had eyes only for Claire, as she slumped onto the floor. Shane let go of the girl and rushed over to her, lifting her up into his arms gently. He was careful not to touch the wound on her back.
Someone would pay for this.
The doctors and nurses in the hospital didn't look too concerned, so Shane was able to relax a bit as he sat by her bedside. But not nearly enough as he thought he should.
He watched her sleeping, curled in a fetal position on the thin hospital mattress. He realized he didn't like her there—never wanted to see this picture again, no matter what he had to do to prevent it.
And then he knew. Bloody hell. He was in love with Claire Danvers.
End Notes: Inspiration strikes at the strangest of times. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten my other works in progress. The Chronicles of Elantra fic is next in line for an update, followed by the CoTN one. And then maybe I'll FINALLY get around to following up with the Labyrinth story.
A sequel to this is a possiblity, depending on the kind of response I get. If you want a follow up, you need to ask through PM or a review. Otherwise, I have other obligations :)