Disclaimer : The Gates is the property of ABC et al.

Title : Instincts

Rating/Warnings : T (for vampires doing what vampires do best). Spoilers for (and it won't make much sense without seeing) Season 1, Episode 10 – "Little Girl Lost."

Summary : Claire encounters a force of nature too powerful for even a vampire to resist.

A/N : Much as I love me some werewolves, I cannot help but be enthralled by the vampires, especially Dylan and Claire. Claire in particular fascinates me. She seems to easily tempted by blood, and yet she has a delectable little morsel running around under her very nose and never does a thing about it. The aforementioned episode didn't do much to answer my questions, but it did get the wheels turning in my head. And besides, Mamma Bear Claire is pretty badass.

The style of this one is not my usual fare – heavy-handed prose, and in present tense to boot – but I think it worked out well.

In any setting, she could be said to be beautiful, but here in the squalor of this pathetic excuse for a home, she is nothing less than magnificent. It is not a superficial beauty, but a bone-deep sense of harmonious rightness. This is what she was born – reborn – to do. She is perfection.

Her prey is hardly worthy of her. Their minds and bodies are as filthy as their house. There is a chemical taint in the blood, but no matter. It is one of the many things that can no longer harm her.

She relishes the taste, polluted though it is, because it is infused with terror and awe and pain. She also takes a certain naughty thrill in hunting alone. The ease with which she takes down her prey without the aid of the males is almost as intoxicating as the blood itself.

She cradles the remains of her last victim in a parody of comfort as she finishes her meal. She would have been content with one, but she knows better than to leave loose ends. Besides, the sense of rightness is too strong to resist. She is a hunter. They are the prey. That is the way of things.

As if choreographed, the instant she allows the body to slump to the floor, there is a cry from above. She is immediately alert. Just as suddenly, she is aware of a permeating scent so strong that she is bewildered by how she failed to notice it before. It is fresh, new, and pure – wholly out of place in this filth. How could she possibly have missed it? It's beautiful, and it sings to her as powerfully as blood.

She follows the cry and the scent to its source. As she approaches, the cries grow stronger and a feeling of wrongness infringes upon her euphoria. This is not as it should be. Something is dreadfully amiss.

It is an infant, of course. She remembers that much from the dreamy haze of her previous life, though she had had little experience with them then and there hasn't been much opportunity for more, given the life she currently leads. But she knows enough to know that it is very obviously unhappy. This is Very Bad. She knows this with equal certainty, but the source of this knowledge is less clear. However, it is of no consequence. If it is wrong for the infant to be unhappy, then it must be made happy. Then maybe the sense of rightness will return.

She isn't quite sure how to go about this, and so she is cautious as she draws near. This is the offspring of her prey, of course. Could it sense their fear as they died? Can it smell the blood on her hands? For the first time in this life, she feels a prickling of guilt.

But the infant is not afraid. Wonder of wonders, it stops crying as soon as it fixes those huge, innocent blue eyes on hers. She moves forward without being aware of it, drawn to those eyes as surely as a green growing thing is drawn to the sun. When she lifts the infant it curls against her willingly and rests itself against the warmth of its slain parents beating beneath her skin. She cannot help but to stare down at it in awe.

The feeling of rightness is so strong now that she knows she has tasted only the shadow of its ghost before. This is right; this is perfect. Nothing else can hold a candle to it.

Perhaps that is why she doesn't notice the male's approach. The sound of his voice startles her and she clutches the infant protectively before she recognizes his familiar tones and analyzes what he has said.

Don't do . . . what? Surely he cannot think that she would kill this tiny innocent? That she would destroy the perfection she has found?

She turns slowly, and is stunned to see the same sense of rightness in his eyes.


She stands over her kill, puzzled by the strange feeling of detachment. Always before, her kills have been associated with some sort of strong emotion – the joy of a successful hunt, the rage of a betrayal, the pride of defeating a rival. But now, after what have surely been the most emotional few days in her entire life, she stands in her moment of triumph feeling annoyingly blank.

This male was once a companion, a friend, even a lover, but now he is nothing. He stares sightlessly up at the stars as his body cools in the damp air and she is sure that she feels nothing more than he does. Even his blood, pooling rich and dark from his lips and the ruin of his chest, holds no more appeal for her than the murky water of the swamp at her back. Strange.

Despite what her mate seems to think, she is not foolhardy when it comes to killing. There is a very clear distinction in her mind between Those I May Kill and Those I May Not Kill. Of course, the only permanent residents of the latter category are her mate himself and their daughter. Anyone else is at best a temporary ally with an alliance that could be dissolved at any time.

The male was once such a long-held ally that he was almost as trusted as her family. Almost. And she is well aware of how that turned out. He had come dangerously close to crossing that line when he broke her bond. Stealing away her daughter had irrevocably forced him directly from Those I May Not Kill to Those I Must Kill. He had infringed upon her territory, threatened her friends, and come damn near to shattering her family. She would not stand for it. He could not be allowed to live.

She tipped her head, considering. Perhaps that was it. Through his actions, he had become a creature more lowly than even the meanest of those she had considered her prey. Once he was no longer a threat, he became just another loose end. He simply had to be removed.

Satisfied with her own logic, she turned away.

"Goodbye, Christian."