Shane walked over to where Claire was seated and perched on the edge of the bed. Claire noted that he seemed a bit tense, so she started up conversation, "Hey, are you okay?"
He raised an eyebrow at her, "The girl with multiple bruises, cuts, scars and a broken leg is asking me if I'm okay? Claire, I think I need to be asking if you're okay? And don't give me some bullshit answer of yes just because you think it's what I want to hear. What I want to hear is the truth."
She gave her best reassuring smile and lay back on the bed, the pillows doing wonders for her minor headache. "For what happened, yeah, I think I'm fine. It's just that you took down Meghan all by yourself, and I saw you walking with a limp yesterday, so I wanted to know if you were alright."
"Meghan's a young vampire, and for the son of a vampire hunter, completely easy to take down. All I had to do was splash some holy water on her, and after she fell to the ground, bind her in silver chain. Everything was going good until the bitch managed to get her arm free and take a swing at my leg, but it wasn't anything a little rest couldn't heal. I'm perfectly fine now."
Claire nodded, fairly content with that answer, "So how did you guys figure out where we were. anyway?"
Before answering, Shane stretched and lay back on the bed beside her, putting a comfortable amount of space between them. "We tracked your cell phone signal."
She pondered that for a moment. It seemed too…simple. Surely Oliver had enough sense to know that all cell phones had GPS, but then again, so did the siblings. Sure, Meghan might not be the most intelligent vampire to exist, but any modern teenager has plenty of technological knowledge under their belt. So, that only left Chase, but he too had to know that cell phones could be tracked. That meant…
Claire groaned. When she had been kidnapped from the glass house, it was clear that Chase was the sibling in charge. It was more than likely his responsibility to ensure that Oliver's plan carried out without a hitch. He had to have skipped searching Claire on purpose. He wanted Claire to be tracked and rescued.
If Amelie sentenced him to death, Claire would feel like dirt. As soon as she saw him again, she needed to thank him, because she would most certainly be dead if it weren't for his good intentions.
After Claire was silent for a moment too long, Shane glanced down and noticed her lack of color. "Are you sure you're okay? You don't look so good."
She took a deep breath and nodded, "I was just thinking about whether or not Amelie is going to…you know."
"Hey, don't think about things like that. I know, it's hard not to, but worrying is pointless. Just hope for the best, and in the meantime, do something to take your mind off it," he paused and looked around the room, "Want to watch some TV?" Claire shook her head. "Read a book?" Negative. "Play video games, checkers, cards, listen to music?" He spouted off random ideas, all of which Claire declined.
"I just want to talk, if that's alright with you." He nodded and Claire gathered up the courage to ask something that had been bothering her for a while, "Are you hurt about Meghan?"
Shane looked disgusted, "She's a trampy fang-banger, and while I wish she didn't play both me and that bloodsucker at the same time, other than that, I don't really give a damn. I knew we were never going to work out, anyway."
"And why is that?"
He locked eyes with Claire, but didn't reply immediately, and appeared to be lost in thought. Finally giving in, he sighed and hung his head, "You know why, Claire, so don't make me say it."
Hope swelled inside of Claire, but she didn't understand why he looked so defeated. She shook her head, "I'm not entirely sure I do, so maybe you should say it."
He looked at her for the longest time, still with that certain look in his eye. It was only a mere second before the silence drove Claire mad that he finally exploded, "I've always known you were different from any other girl I'd been with, or hell, different from any girl I'd even known, but I don't think I ever fully comprehended just how different. Shit, that doesn't make any sense, does it? Damn, I'm sorry if I'm rambling, which I'm pretty sure I'm doing…" He scratched the back of his neck. Though she knew it wasn't appropriate find the situation funny, Claire had to retain a chuckle. She had never seen Shane so frazzled before and she loved that it was because he couldn't express his feelings for her in words. That makes two of us, Claire thought.
"When you left, I was so…destroyed. The only other time I felt such an intense emotion was at the death of my mom and Alyssa, and even though you weren't dead and wrote a letter saying you'd be back soon, the fact you were even temporarily gone completely crushed me. You didn't even say goodbye, Claire. How could you? But, still, I waited. I waited a month for you to return, and when you didn't…I started loosing hope. I started thinking, why would you come back to Morganville if you were finally free? This place is a hell hole. I'm not even sure I would have come back if I were you." He paused for a moment before shaking his head, "No, that's not true. I might have been deeply tempted to stay away from this town, but I would have came back. For you, Claire; I can't live without you." There was a deafening silence before he added, "I love you so much, Claire."
Claire didn't even realize tears were streaming down her face until Shane glanced back up, his mouth dropping at the sight before him. "Shit, I made you cry! God, I'm such a failure. It's no wonder you moved on and started dating other guys; I can't do anything right." He paused for a moment before asking, "The pain killers that you're on, how strong are they? Because it'd be pretty nice if they wore off, and in the morning, you completely forgot how much of a royal prick I am."
Claire let out a breathless laugh and wiped her eyes. "Shane, there aren't any other guys. The whole time I was away, my memory might have been fuzzy, but my subconscious knew that there was only one person I was meant to be with." The tears were falling freely now and she didn't bother to wipe them away. It felt good to finally let her emotions free. She continued explaining, "And these are happy tears, Shane, because it's nice to know that you return my love." He looked shocked, which caused to another laugh to escape Claire's lips, "Yes, Shane, I am completely and hopelessly in love with you, too. When I saw you with Meaghan, you have no idea how much that broke me. She was so beautiful and I never thought you would leave her to return to someone like me. I'm just so…mediocre and plain."
He shook his head, "As cheesy as this may sound, you have to believe me when I say that you are the most amazing, beautiful, intelligent, sexy, caring, adorable, and loving girl I have ever laid my eyes on. There isn't one thing about you that I don't love." He reached over to brush a stray piece of hair off her face, "You are the only girl for me, Claire Danvers."
That was all Claire could take before she crushed her lips onto his, enjoying the feeling that she had gone entirely too long without. She knew he was surprised, because his lips completely frozen at first, but he began to respond after a few seconds. Their kiss seemed to have every emotion known to man in it. It was full of passion, desire, care, lust, love, joy, hope; just plain and simple need. If not for their lack of oxygen, they would have never even broken apart.
As they did, their foreheads rested against each other and they attempted to catch their breath. Claire opened her eyes to see Shane staring at her. With their confessions of deep love still in the air, the atmosphere was very intense. He attempted to lighten the mood by chuckling, "I think fate is on my side."
"Oh yeah, and why is that?" Claire quirked an eyebrow, her breathing almost back to normal now.
"Because with your leg broken, it's a hell of a lot easier for me to resist the urge to be anything less than a gentleman tonight." Claire gaped at him. He couldn't possibly mean what she thought he meant could he? "And, yes, I mean exactly what you think I mean. I'm just far too nice of a guy to risk injuring your leg any further." Without Claire even realizing it, her mouth had fallen open. Shane leaned over her, mere inches away from her lips, and whispered, "Close your mouth, Jailbait; I don't want anything except my tongue going inside there." In response to Claire's dumbfounded look, he rolled back over and laughed.
Feeling annoyance and sexual frustration boil inside of her, Claire grabbed the nearest pillow and smacked him in the head.
He only laughed harder.
The next morning, Claire was woken by Eve banging on the door and yelling, "Time to get your ass out of bed, Gimpy. Have your boy toy carry you downstairs ASAP; you've got visitors."
It was at that moment Claire noticed her rather hard and warm body-size pillow. He stayed, her mind cheered. But, then Claire focused on what Eve had said. Visitors.
She flew out of bed, or flew as quickly as she could with a broken leg, and shook Shane. He rolled away from her and grumbled, "Just a few more hours…"
Claire shook him a bit more roughly, but he still made no attempts to get up. She began glancing around, a smile inching its way over her features as she caught sight of a water bottle on her nightstand. It may not have been cold, but it would have to do. She hopped off the bed, unscrewed the lid, and gave Shane one last warning, "You have three seconds to get up or else."
The pillow was over his face, so Shane had no idea what she was planning. He mumbled, "Ugh, the sun's not even up, yet." Claire determined that she was just going to have to do this the hard way. A devilish smirk spread across her face as she snatched the pillow off Shane's head and tossed the remaining contents of the water bottle on him. He shot up and frantically looked at her, "Claire! Holy hell, you could have woken me up like a normal person, you know."
She glared at him, "I tried that, but you rolled over and attempted to shut out the rest of the world until noon."
"Well that sounds like a damn good plan to me. Why did you find it necessary to wake me up at five in the morning?"
"Because Amelie is downstairs and I need to hear what she decided," Claire looked up at him with desperate eyes.
A smirk appeared on his face, "And you need me to carry you downstairs? Is that right?" She narrowed her eyes at him, but he continued on, "Just ask me, Claire, and I'll do it, but you've got to ask me first."
Giving in, she sighed, "Fine. Would you pretty please, with cherries on top of a banana split smothered in nuts, whipped cream and hot fudge, carry me downstairs?
The smirk turned into a triumphant grin, "You had me at banana split." He scooped her up and they headed downstairs, where he carefully set her on the loveseat and plopped down beside her.
It seemed as if everyone had taken their same seats from yesterday. Claire didn't take it as a good sign that Mr. Howard, Chase and Meaghan were still bound together on the sofa.
She looked over at Amelie and waited for her explanation to begin, "As you already know, I am here to inform you of my decision regarding those guilty of treason," Claire held her breath as Amelie continued, "I have concluded that what they have done is a despicable offense and they shall not be forgiven." Oh no, Claire gulped, this speech is definitely not off to a good start. "And due to this reason, they are to serve two weeks worth of community service, of my choice, before being exiled from Morganville."
Claire let go of her breath. She couldn't believe it. A smile threatened to overtake her face, but she held it in. She definitely didn't think Amelie would appreciate it.
After a mere two weeks of volunteer work, Mr. Howard, Chase and Meaghan would be free to leave. Sure, they could never return to Morganville, but that hardly seemed like a punishment. More like a…condition. Claire watched as Amelie stood up and walked over to the stairs before turning around, "Follow me, Claire. I would like to have a word with you in private."
Dread began to fill Claire again, but she followed her up the stairs, anyway. Once they were inside Claire's room, Amelie shut the door. "I brought you up here to discuss the more private aspects of our agreement. Starting Monday you are to begin your classes back at the university and assisting Myrnin with his research again."
"But I thought he had a new assistant?"
If Claire didn't know any better, she would have swore that the corner of Amelie's mouth began to lift into a ghost smile, "It's been taken care of."
Claire didn't like the sound of that, but she didn't press the issue any further. She pondered, It's been taken care of…is that code for "we turned him into a snack"? Her frightening thoughts were interrupted by Amelie handing her a small, blood red, velvet box. When she offered no explanation, Claire slowly lifted the lid.
Apparently too slowly, because Amelie chastised her, "Child, it isn't going to bite you. Now if you would, please open it before the sun comes up and I am burned to ash."
Not wanting to add broken fingers to her injury list, Claire popped off the rest of the lid and stared at the silver bracelet inside. When she looked up, Amelie was giving her an expectant look. Claire sighed, knowing that now was the time she had to give up her freedom, but at least she was giving it for a good cause. She knew that sacrificing her freedom was worth saving three people's lives.
She lifted up the bracelet and wrapped it around her wrist. As soon as she clasped it, the bracelet tightened until only a toothpick would be able to squeeze between her flesh and the chain. This satisfied Amelie and she began heading towards the door, but not before turning back with a warning, "You should know that this is the first second chance I've given within decades. But third chances? No such a thing exists with me, so do not make the same mistake again."
Claire didn't even bother to reply. She was too defeated at the moment to do so, so she just followed Amelie back downstairs and watched as the trio on the sofa was unbound. Seeing them being let free lightened her spirits a bit. This really is for a good cause, she reminded herself.
"Mr. Howard's service will start tomorrow at dawn and end at dusk. The siblings will work the opposite shift, starting at dusk and ending at dawn. Those who do not show up or who are even two minutes tardy will be prosecuted any way I deem fit."
As Amelie and her guards left, Claire prayed that everyone would be promptly on time for their community service. She knew that that punishment wouldn't be nearly as merciful as this one had been.
A silence seemed to ensue a few moments before Eve clapped her hands together and began conversation, "Well, since we're all up, how about I go fix us some breakfast? We can all eat together like one big, happy, dysfunctional family."
"Sounds good to me," Michael stated as he followed her into the kitchen, "How about eggs and bacon?"
"And toast," Claire called.
Meaghan seemed like she wanted to protest the idea of sticking around, but Chase shot her a glare that made even Claire shiver. "Fine, whatever," She huffed and dragged her feet across the floor as she also headed into the kitchen.
Chase rolled his eyes at his sister's antics and turned towards Claire, "I just want to say thanks for getting us out of trouble. I know you had to give up a lot, and for that, I'm truly grateful. I want you to know that Meaghan is too, but she's too vain to suck it up and say thanks."
Claire waved her hand as a dismissal, "It's no problem. Besides, I think I'm the one who owes you a thank you, Mr. I-forgot-to-confiscate-any-traceable-cell-phones."
He grinned, "They can be tracked? Damn, I'll have to remember that for future reference." He took a big whiff of the air, "Oh, I smell bacon. Race you to the kitchen!"
Claire didn't have the heart to tell him that Eve couldn't cook for anything and that the bacon would be burned to a crisp before she decided it was ready to serve. As she turned, Mr. Howard caught her eye. He was still frozen on the sofa, so she walked over and sat beside him, "Hey, everything alright?
When he looked up at her, she saw unshed tears in his eyes. "I'm fine. It's just that these past few days have been so crazy. I can't believe that something I thought only existed in books and movies are actually real, and let me to you, that's an absolutely terrifying fact to discover."
Claire sympathized, because she knew exactly how Mr. Howard felt. When she first moved here, she thought that this town was full of loony people, because really, vampires exist? Science-loving Claire scoffed at such a theory. Now, here she was; showing loyalty, assisting, and living with vampires.
"Claire, I just want to thank you for everything. I don't think I'll ever be able to show you how much I appreciate you doing what you did. I might not be entirely sure of what exactly you did do, but I can imagine that 'serving', as you called it, such a creature isn't a good thing." He gave her a deep stare, "Claire, are you sure it's safe for you to live here in this town? Because I'll do anything to get you away from here if you are, in any way, at danger…"
Quickly, Claire cut him off, "No, Mr. Howard, I appreciate your concern, but I belong here. It's where all of the people I love dearly are." When he didn't look convinced, she continued to explain her feelings, "When I was away from them, it just felt like my heart and mind had this huge, black hole in them. I couldn't remember a thing about them, but I knew that something was missing from my life. It's a terrible feeling to know that your life isn't complete, but being unable to figure out what the missing piece is. I can't go back to living like that; they mean too much to me to have them completely wiped from my memory again."
Mr. Howard appeared to be more understanding, but he still had a pessimistic look in his eye, "Well, if you ever change your mind, call me and I'll be here in an instant; risks be damned." He paused as he prepared himself for the next topic, "I also want to thank you for…thank you for being there for my baby girl during her last months. I never got a chance to say that before since you left so abruptly. I know that she appreciated having a friend like you around her during such a tough time."
Claire winced and decided to get her guilt off her chest, "Mr. Howard, you really shouldn't be thinking me. I…I didn't help your daughter in any way. It may have appeared that way, but in reality, I just dragged her down more. I could have helped her. I could have kept her away from parties, away from boys, away from…"
Now it was Mr. Howard's turn to cut her off, "No, Claire, you have no reason to feel guilty." He sighed, "When Cara was growing up, her mother and I kept her so sheltered. I can't even tell you one mistake she made, because that's just how much of a tight guard we kept her on." He paused to wipe away the tear currently sliding down his cheek, "But when we found out that she had cancer and the chances of her living were…slim, I realized the mistake in how we raised her. She never got to have a normal childhood or be a normal teenager and do the things that every adolescent does." He gazed into Claire's eyes, "But you helped her. In the few months she had left, she got to experience the things she should have experienced anyway; the things that we took away from her. For that, I am forever grateful, because my baby girl got to die happy."
Claire was appalled, "But she got drunk and high and started fights and screwed meaningless guys! All because of me. I could have stopped her, but I didn't. How could want that for her?!"
"So she made the mistakes that we all make at some point in our lives. You're forgetting the more important things you did with her. She finally got to go to an amusement park and ride a roller coaster that we never let her get on before because we thought they were unsafe. She got to take karate lessons that she always wanted to, but we never let her since we thought they promoted violence. She got to learn how to play the piano which we thought was useless because being a musician isn't a promising career. She got to eat an average teenager's diet full of junky, sugary, fatty foods that we prevented her from eating since we didn't want her to have clogged arteries or diabetes. Claire, don't you understand? You helped her live and be a normal, carefree teenager through a time period that was most certainly not light or carefree. But, not once did she ever show any signs of being deeply depressed or regretful." He got up from the sofa and enveloped her in a hug, "She was living life to its fullest and that was all because of you."
Claire could feel tears streaming down her face as she hugged him back as tightly as she could muster. "Thank you," she whispered through her sobs.
But, not one to be overly emotional, Mr. Howard pulled away with a chuckle, "Alrighty then, there's some toast in the kitchen calling my name. Say, have you guys got any jam?"
Claire laughed, "I think so. I believe its grape flavored."
He clapped his hands together, "Perfect!" Then, he headed on his way into the kitchen.
"Claire, are you okay?"
She spun around, completely unaware that Shane had been there during her whole conversation with Mr. Howard. After the initial shock wore off, she responded to his question by nodding. It was true, she was alright, but there were a few things that still didn't seem right. During her whole time back at Morganville, she had been so evasive and closed off about her whereabouts and feelings for the past three months. She didn't want that anymore. She wanted to get everything off of her chest, to be open and honest.
So, Claire decided to start with the person she cared the most about, "Hey Shane, would you mind taking a walk with me?"
And he nodded.
So it's finally finished! I was so sad, and was even tempted to drag this story out because I adore it that much, but finally decided against it. All good things must come to an end, right?
I left the ending fairly open and decided not to write an epilogue because I want you to draw your own conclusions. So, feel free to tell me what you imagine in store for Claire, Shane and the rest of the Morganville clan's future.
I deeply want to thank all the people who reviewed, favorited, alerted, or read this story. Since this is my first story I've published for the public to read, you have no idea how much your encouragement meant to me. I love and appreciate you all! :D
On my final note, as for future projects, I'm doing a Twilight Fanfic. I wracked my brain for more Morganville storylines, but I couldn't think of any I really liked. I'm not sure how many of you guys like Twilight, but if you'd like, be on the lookout for my next story. It's called Perception and should be posted within a week or so. It's an Edward & Bella story, centered on the whole opposites attract concept, in case you're wondering.
But, for now my lovelies, I bid you all adieu!