Shane was slouched across the battered sofa, eyes fixed on the dying zombies he was exploding on screen. Nothing about his posture looked angry or anxious to anyone who didn't know well enough to see the tension in his shoulders, and the fixed set of his jaw. Upstairs he'd seemed supportive and calm. Well, ish. But now, Claire could see the act that it had been, and realised how irked he must have been by Myrnin to go to such lengths. Not for the first time in the day, she felt nervous around Shane. It had to stop.
Claire found herself treading silently towards him and made an effort to make more noise. Acting anymore like a vampire than she had to was a very bad thing right now.
Perched cautiously on the edge of the sofa, Claire wasn't sure how to broach the subject that was the major elephant in the room.
"Shouldn't you be packing?" Shane said, his voice completely dead of emotion. Claire winced inwardly, but kept herself composed. She didn't have any more of a poker face as a vampire than she did as a human. Thankfully, Shane didn't look at her, but that was probably actually a bad thing.
"Do you want me to?" She asked quietly, glad that her voice didn't break or wobble.
Shane let the question hang for a while until the zombies overpowered his angry looking avatar splattering gorily over the screen. Shane paused the game and looked Claire in the eyes.
"No. But I don't want to keep pretending that everything is fine when it's not."
Claire tried not to let the anger in his voice affect her but it did. Was he seriously blaming her for this mess?
"Then you need to figure out where you stand, Shane. I can't do that for you." She said, before reaching for his hand and trying a different approach. "You need to talk to me." She finished softly.
Shane let out a breath and it was like his walls just...fell. "What can I say Claire? That sometimes I look at you and it takes my breath away that you're still here despite my lousy attempts at keeping you safe? Or that sometimes I wish that you'd never gone back to that guy Claire, and that you wouldn't keep going back. Is that too much to ask? That you stay away from him?"
Claire blinked. She hadn't expected that. All this time, she'd thought that the problem was her, and her newly sprouted fangs, but it hadn't been that at all. Shane's problem was with Myrnin, and whether that made it easier to solve or not, Claire felt a massive weight leave her shoulders, and relief flood through her veins.
Shane must have seen it too, because a look of disbelief flashed through his eyes. "You thought I hated you." He said in a strangled voice. "You thought that after everything we've been though, I could pos-"
Claire cut him off with a kiss before he ruined the moment, and he returned it with a sweetness that made tears prick in her eyes.
Claire pulled back, Myrnin's warnings echoing in her mind. A brief look of hurt flashed behind Shane's eyes, but he knew what she was doing. She could never allow herself to forget that she was a vampire, and that meant that Shane never would either. It would be dangerous for both of them, because they were both just as capable of killing the other now.
But maybe that would help make it work. Claire didn't have to worry as much as Michael did about Eve, because Shane was not nearly as breakable as all that. Not that Eve was either, but Shane, she knew, had enough trust issues to see a threat a mile off. If Claire fanged out on him, Shane would stop her. And that was enough for Claire to lean forwards and press her lips gently against Shane's one last time, testing her self control.
"I can try, Shane." She said "But he's my sire. Like Amelie is for Michael. Sometimes, my trying won't be enough." She bit her lip. "And I do still work for him. I don't know what I can do about that."
"Quit?" Shane said, ever helpful, and with only a tinge of bitterness at the repetitive argument. "Claire, I have my own job now, and you'll be back at school in a couple of months when they finish refurbishing TPU. Do you really need to keep your job?"
Claire blinked. She'd never really thought of her job as an expendable part of her life before. Sure, she could get a regular job, like Eve had, in a cafe or a shop, but she'd never really thought of her time with Myrnin as... work. Not in the way that Shane thought of it.
Shane must have read her reluctance on her face because he sighed, and leant in to kiss her on the forehead.
"Just think about it. Please."
Claire smiled and nodded vaguely, feeling more relieved than she wanted Shane to know. There wasn't much about her life that she considered expendable, not least her lessons, which is what they essentially were, with Myrnin.
But, for now at least, things between her and Shane were fine, and Claire wasn't about to ruin the moment.
Claire slid off the arm of the sofa and snuggled into Shane's side, relishing in the movement of his muscles beneath his shirt as he put his arm around her and pulled her closer. She felt warm and safe and loved, and Glass House practically hummed around her, trying to promote the happy feelings. It worked and Claire felt a smile tugging at her lips.
Shane grinned back at her, raising his eyebrows in a suggestive, unspoken question. For one brief moment, the day seemed headed in an entirely unexpected, but wholly thrilling new direction. But only for a second, before Michael walked in from the kitchen, a black sports bottle in his hand.
It was warm. Claire could tell by the smell of it that it was warm, and O negative. The intoxicating scent seemed to wrap around her, filling her with a thirst that was both immediate and consuming, and repelling. She still hadn't shaken off the sick feeling she got from the smell of her new diet, but her instincts were screaming at her.
Stiffly, trying to keep her movements deliberately slow, and human, Claire got up, putting the now necessary distance between herself and Shane. She'd been fine, but her newly sparked thirst wasn't going to go down without a fight, and she needed to be closer to the bottle than Shane, for both of their sakes.
"Way to ruin the moment, Mike." Shane said, his voice only slightly strained. Michael flashed a look at Claire. He'd done it on purpose. Claire didn't know how to feel about that. On the one hand, she was a little hurt that he didn't think she'd be able to handle the situation, but on the other, Claire knew that Michael would only have done it to keep everyone safe. She couldn't blame him for being cautious around the newbie vampire. Everyone should have been.
"Shane asked me to get you this. We had an extra delivery this morning; it's all in the back of the fridge." He said, handing her the bottle. It felt warm to the touch, but Claire knew that it was human body temperature. Michael usually just drank it straight from the fridge, but the effort was noted, even if her stomach still churned at the thought.
Claire took the bottle gingerly, turning away from Shane to gulp back a few mouthfuls. It sent a warm shiver through her body, but it tasted... bland. And Claire didn't know why that was. Didn't all blood taste largely the same to vampires?
Or maybe it's just me, she thought, but quickly dispensed all thoughts of this, and the sunshine occurrence the day before. Being a vampire was going to be hard enough, without being an anomaly. She still made a mental note to ask Myrnin about it later, though. And she would see him later, she knew that.
Michael was watching her carefully, so she smiled at him, and he smiled back reassuringly, visibly relaxing. He turned to Shane, who was desperately pretending that the awkward tension in the room didn't exist by resuming his game.
"Shouldn't you be going to work today?" he asked. Shane just grunted, and three more zombies met grizzly deaths onscreen.
"Shane, you can't skip work again. They'll fire you. I can look after Claire." He said, walking over to pause the game.
"Hey! I don't need babysit-"Claire started to protest but two sets of raised eyebrows silenced her. Claire couldn't argue their unspoken logic.
"We'll be fine." Michael said again, and Shane gave him one long, measuring look that Michael held steadily, then nodded. Huh. Boys, Claire thought, had a language of their own.
Shane had to hurry then, because he was already late. He caught a lift with Eve, also late, and within ten minutes the house had lost half its members, and the only sound was the various out-of-sync ticks of the three analogue clocks, one on each floor. Usually, Claire didn't notice them, but the stillness and her newly improved hearing changed a lot of things, and this was the least of them.
Claire opened her mouth, but the words that needed to be said just wouldn't come. She stopped trying for a bit, and after a hasty and somewhat rushed excuse to Michael, she ran up the stairs to occupy herself with things that had nothing to do with the fact that she was a vampire.
"It wasn't your fault, Michael." Claire said softly. She was sat in the living room after a nice long shower listening to him play the guitar with an open, but otherwise ignored, book in her lap.
Michael looked up, stilling the strings on his guitar and slipping the plectrum under them out of sheer habit. He avoided looking her in the eye.
"What wasn't my fault?"
Claire gave up the pretence of reading and closed the book (another one of Myrnin's volumes about alchemy) and looked at Michael till he met her gaze. "You know exactly what I'm talking about, so don't play dumb. It wasn't your fault, Michael, and I'm sorry. I just... I'm sorry."
Michael didn't say anything. He recovered the plectrum and started playing again. Claire could see the frown line between his eyebrows that Eve had dubbed the 'worry wrinkle'.
He didn't say anything.
Claire didn't know what else she could do to fix the mess she'd made.
I'm sorry. I've run out of excuses. I just...A levels...blergh...
Review to make me happy?