Glass House was a mess. There was blood all over the floor- both Hannah Moses' and various others who had been injured during the fight- and shotgun pellet holes in the walls and stairs. It looked like a horror movie scene, post-zombie invasion, which unfortunately wasn't that far from the truth.
No one had bothered to tidy up the night before. The bedrooms were to isolated, and terrifying, and so they'd brought all the duvets and pillows and blankets downstairs, and slept in the living room together, a small oasis of comfort and warmth in the desert of destruction, it had seemed. But the morning hadn't been the fresh new start that everyone had wanted, not at all.
Breakfast was first on the list. There were a couple of things in the pantry that hadn't gone off- tins of beans and soup and a packet of frozen half-baked rolls, and so breakfast was beans on toast, made by Eve, and coffee, made by Michael. Shane was searching in the cupboards for plates and mugs, and Claire was setting the table. It was strange to be doing normal things again, after more than a week of severely abnormal.
But abnormal, it seemed, wasn't finished with them.
The knock on the door startled everybody. Eve cut off halfway through insulting Shane and Michael nearly dropped the mug of coffee he was bringing over to Claire.
"Wow, nice vampire reflexes there." Shane said as Michael wiped the spilt coffee of his hand, the red burn already fading. Michael didn't smile.
"I'll get the door. Shane-"
"- Is coming with you. If there are still any draug about, you're the one they'll be looking for."
"I don't think the draug would knock, man."
Shane smiled, "I don't mind kicking vampire ass as an alternative."
Eve pointed her spoon at them, flicking bean sauce everywhere. "And what, you think us woman folk will just sit in the kitchen and cook while you manly men have all the fun. I don't think so."
Shane shot Michael a 'busted' look, as Michael winced. "I just think that it would be safer if you-"
"Don't you dare try and pull that crap, Michael, you're my fiancé, not my dad."
It was then that Claire noticed that Shane wasn't here anymore. The little sneak, she thought as she heard the front door open. Eve and Michael stopped bickering, and started running towards the door.
Trouble did knock, apparently, and so did the Founder.
"Mr Collins, I am pleased to see that you have survived the night. I am here to speak with yourself, and Claire, of course."
"She's busy." Shane said shortly, blocking the doorway with his body. Amelie was stood outside, one of her guards holding a pure white umbrella out to keep the sun off her. Myrnin was stood slightly behind her in his silly hat and coat, looking far more focused than Claire had ever seen him. He smiled slightly at her over Shane's shoulder, and Claire saw Shane stiffen in response.
"Ah, Claire, you're still alive. That's good. Would you mind letting us in? It's beginning to get a bit uncomfortable, and it is important." He said, looking her straight in the eye.
Claire shivered. She didn't know whether it was fear at the memory of being tied to a chair as bait while Myrnin 'protected' her, or the way he was looking at her as if he could see straight into her soul. It was unnerving, and a little bit scary.
"Uh, the house is a mess." She said, finding it a bit amusing that she was using her mother's excuse for avoiding guests.
Myrnin just looked at her. "Claire, believe me, I have seen worse." He said, smiling again. Shane's knuckles cracked as his hand curled into a fist by his side. Claire out a hand on his shoulder and gently pulled him away from the door to let the vampires in. She knew that if Amelie wanted to, she could have just walked straight through, and so slamming the door in her face was not a great survival tactic. The rules around Morganville were changing again, and this time it wasn't a good thing.
Amelie swept past them, all regal grace and perfection. She was like a diamond, unbreakable, beautiful and cold all at the same time, and right now, she was really channelling the I-am-in-charge vibe.
The guard folded away the umbrella and followed Amelie, who was now sat in Michael's armchair, and managing to make the battered furniture look like a complete tip compared with her icy perfection.
"Sit. I'm afraid I have bad news for you." She said, indicating to the sofa Myrnin was lounging against. Claire sat down first, followed by Michael and Eve. She tugged on Shane's hand until he sat with her. She didn't want to annoy the Founder until she was certain about how much had changed, and she didn't want Shane to get himself killed out of bitterness.
"Of course it's bad news. When do you guys ever bring good news?" Eve muttered. Michael shushed her.
Amelie glanced at Myrnin, who perched on the arm of the sofa next to Claire. Shane sent him a glare, and took Claire's hand.
"Frank has failed. The systems that sustained his state of homeostasis did not last the draug and as such, his brain was unable to survive. I am sorry for your loss, Mr Collins. Your father did a great service to Morganville, and will not be forgotten." She said.
Claire didn't know what to say. Frank was dead. She looked at Shane, who was staring at the Founder with cold eyes. "That's what you said last time he died." He said quietly. Claire gripped his hand tighter, leaning against him. She wished there was something she could do to make it better, but the truth was Shane's father had died for him a long time ago, and Shane had had no interest in seeing him since he'd come back, even before he was a vamp.
But now that Frank was really dead, they were back to the same problem as before, and the next in line was going to be…Claire. She swallowed hard, feeling sick. Surely, after everything she'd done, they wouldn't. But Claire knew too well that vampires cared about their own survival first, and Amelie put nobody above the needs of Morganville, not even herself.
"Does this mean…that…you know…?" she trailed off, not sure whether she wanted to ask that. She wasn't looking at Myrnin. She couldn't, not if he was about to remove her brain and put it in a jar.
Amelie looked grim, and Claire's stomach plummeted. "There is no other way, Claire. I must do what is best for the town, and there are very few appropriate candidates. Frank himself was far from ideal, and you were always going to take his place eventually." she said. There was no emotion in her voice, as if she'd turned off completely.
"What?" Myrnin's voice was like the crack of a whip. Claire looked at him, startled. He looked…angry. No, furious. His dark eyes were burning with anger, and it was terrifying. "That" he said "was never part of our agreement."
"What the hell is going on?" Shane said, looking from Amelie to Myrnin to Claire, sick understanding dawning in his eyes. "No." he whispered, as the penny finally dropped.
"Wait, what? Will someone please tell what's happening?" Eve sputtered, looking at Claire with confused eyes as Michael took her hand gently. She knew, Claire could tell, but she didn't want it to be confirmed. Amelie and Myrnin ignored her, too wrapped up in their own argument.
"Myrnin, you knew that this was going to happen. I warned you right from the beginning not to get too attached." Amelie said, obviously trying to calm him down. It wasn't working.
"Don't you dare, Amelie. You have no right to tell me how to do my job as long as it is done. And I will not do that, not ever. Unless you want to look for a new pet scientist, you will not test me on this." Myrnin said, his voice quiet and angry and his eyes focused entirely on Amelie. The power in the room felt like a brewing storm, and Claire couldn't tell whether it came from Myrnin or Amelie. She had no clue which agreement they were going on about, but this was her life they were discussing- she wasn't going to let them choose for her.
"If we can fix it, like we did before, would you let me live?" she asked quietly, trying not to sound as scared as she felt.
Amelie's eyes flickered to her, piercing her with an icy gaze. "Last time you nearly ruined Morganville." She said, her voice about as warm and understanding as her stare.
Claire swallowed. "That was because of…Myrnin." She said, her eyes flickering to him just for long enough to see the hurt and self-loathing he still felt about that. "It was what he did afterwards that made it go wrong. The machine itself technically worked." Claire said, barely daring to hope that this would work. She wasn't lying- it was Myrnin's fault that the machine had gone bad.
Slowly, Amelie nodded, and Claire felt Myrnin relax against her. She hadn't noticed that they were touching, but she couldn't bring herself to scoot away. Besides, it wasn't as if there was a problem with being sat next to him. Claire felt Shane's arm go around her shoulders and pull her against him. She felt a flash of annoyance at his possessiveness, but it was gone when Amelie started talking again.
"You have one week. If the machine is not fixed by then, then you will become part of it. You will go straight there, and you will not leave until it is done, am I understood?" she said, for a moment looking more like Amelie, the sometimes-almost-kind person that Claire knew. "I will not deny you rest, as I did last time, and you will of course be provided with food and drink, but I can't allow you breaks or visitors of any sort." She leant forward, holding Claire's gaze with her grey eyes. "We cannot remain defenceless for long, Claire. I trust you to fix this before I am forced to pursue less pleasant methods." Claire shivered at the implication, and then nodded in agreement to the terms. She wouldn't see her friends for a week, but at least she wasn't being hacked up and put in a jar- anything was better than that.
"Wait, no! Claire, listen, you don't have to do this. They can't make you." Shane said, turning her to look into her eyes. Wasn't he listening? Of course she had to do this. She knew she was looking at him strangely; saw his jaw clench in anger, and his eyes flicker to Myrnin over her shoulder. Suddenly it dawned on her why he was so desperate for her to stay.
"Shane, I'm going to fix the machine so that they don't need to kill people, namely me, to make it work. I have to. I'll be back in a week, it'll all be fine again."
Shane laughed mirthlessly. "They won't let you come back. Not for long anyway, just until they have another suicide mission for you. That's all we are to them- pawns. Replaceable. Don't go." He said, for a moment sounding like a little boy, pleading.
"I have to." She said quietly, leaning in to kiss him gently before Myrnin took her arm and pulled her away. Shane stood up abruptly and shouldered his way through the kitchen door, not even saying goodbye. That hurt, more than anything. She didn't realise she was crying until Myrnin wiped her tears away. "There, there, little bird. Get your things. I'll wait in the car." He said, turning and hurrying out through the sunshine towards his car, abandoned in the middle of the road. Amelie and the guard had already left. Claire packed quickly, stuffing all her practical clothes into a bag, along with a stake and the shaker of red crystals. She had a feeling she'd need it.
Saying goodbye was hard. Shane didn't come out of the kitchen, and Eve was bawling her eyes out. Claire left, tear stained and upset, and climbed in the shotgun seat of Myrnin's car.
She nearly died on the way there, as did many other pedestrians, and several letterboxes, but they got there in the end, and Claire actually felt better for the crazy drive. Myrnin hadn't changed, she thought, and it was nice, because everything else had seemed to.
"You'll be in my room." He said, not even pausing to take his hat off before he started searching through the lab for things that they'd need. "You can use the drawers, but not the wardrobe, and do try not to make a mess. Ah!" he exclaimed as he found a dusty looking compression chamber, half filled with a congealed blue liquid. "I was wondering where I'd put that." He said as he blew the dust of and started trying to pry it open with a screwdriver. Claire rolled her eyes and went to unpack.
It's going to be a long week, she thought, and she would need to know about that agreement that Amelie had mentioned, because she had a horrible feeling that it included her.
At first, it was strange having Claire around all the time. Having her so close, but still separate. Nothing had changed, not really, but everything had. I'd betrayed her trust, and it showed, badly, in the way she looked at me, the way she flinched away from my touch, and the way she plunged herself so wholeheartedly into her work.
In the first day, we had found most of the components we'd need, and had ordered some of the ones we didn't have on the interweb thing that she was so fond of. I had said that we could build them ourselves, but Claire wanted this done quickly, so that she could get back to that pathetic boy of hers.
But it was nice. I was too used to her presence for me not to become accustomed to it. Before long I was wondering how I would cope when she left again.
We had found Claire's diagram of the original machine and we had begun assembling the parts we had, and preparing for the ones we didn't. Claire had already begun the programming for the new computer, and right now, I was watching her. She had her head down, tapping away at the keyboard. She was so focussed on her work that she didn't even notice me, her eyes fixed on the screen. She was enthralling to watch, the way she worked, understanding a device that puzzled even me at times. She used to remind me of Ada at times like this- they had the same single minded concentration that I'd always found both fascinating and fun to try and disrupt- but now I knew that she wasn't anything like Ada. Claire was Claire, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Claire noticed my silence and looked up, her face a question. "What?" she asked. I couldn't help the small smile that spread across my face. She was here, and she wasn't leaving. She was mine, at least for the moment. We were possessive over her, the boy and me, but right now, I had the advantage, and I was going to use it.
I glanced at the clock- 1:30 am. For Claire, it was pushing it, but I knew that she wasn't going to stop until she couldn't go on. She was too stubborn for me to simply tell her to, so there really was only one thing for it.
"Are you thirsty? Hungry? You haven't eaten yet." I asked, keeping my voice completely level. I could see the faint bruising under her eyes, not yet visible to human sight, but there nonetheless. I didn't want this to become a prison to her.
She looked surprised. Really, was I that thoughtless? "Uh, I guess I could have something to drink. I'm too tired to eat." She said, looking at me. I looked right back, watching as she blushed slightly and returned to her work.
I fetched her a mug of cocoa, the sweet chocolate would cover the taste of the drug. I watched her carefully as she drank it, but not so that she'd notice. She was out in minutes, sleeping deeply with her head resting against the side of the chair. Suddenly, I didn't know what to do. She looked so peaceful, so small, so beautiful like this. Claire had an innocence about her that I'd never seen before, an unending call to her blood that few possessed. It made me want to both tear into her throat and kiss her at the same time, and the conflicting thoughts inside me held me still, watching her, marvelling at her every breath.
I could have this forever, if I wanted. And I really did want it.
The thought of what she'd do if I took her now snapped me out of my thoughts and threw reality at my face. I gently scooped Claire up into my arms and carried her into my room. I had tidied it while she was working, not that I ever used it really. Claire sighed and snuggled into my arms, and my un-beating heart nearly started again. I held her for a moment more before laying her on the bed and pulling her shoes off. I pulled the covers up around her and just watched her sleep for a while. In the dim light she could almost be mistaken for one of my own, her pale skin nearly glowing. It was only her steady breathing, and the sound of her heart that gave it away. And I was tempted, I was so very tempted to take her. She would forgive you, my mind whispered to me, she wouldn't mind in the end. She would never leave you, never sicken, never die. She would belong to you. She would hate me, I told it desperately. She'd run away from it, from me, and she'd never come back.
Claire stirred and rolled onto her side, murmuring sleepy nonsense. Random words from earlier today, names of elements and parts of the machine, all jumbled with assorted sounds and sighs. I smiled fondly at her, even though she couldn't see me. Trust Claire. Even in sleep she fought it, my stubborn little bird.
"Myrnin…" she whispered, and it was like bells started ringing in my mind. She had mentioned Shane, of course, and I immediately started trying to squish my hope. Because hope hurt more than most things, in my experience.
I didn't notice that I was falling asleep myself until it was too late to do much about it. So I drifted off, sat in my chair, and dreamt of my Claire.
Claire woke up sharply, sitting up so quickly black fringed her vision and her head spun.
Where the hell am I? she thought wildly before her brain caught up with her body, and she remembered.
But that didn't explain waking up in a bed, Myrnin's bed at that. The room was the same as it was before- functional, with a thick, heavy tapestry hanging from the far wall as the only decoration. But Claire hadn't come in here, she'd been working outside in the lab.
He drugged me, she thought. That was enough to spur her out of bed, and marching into the main lab. If she'd been annoyed and upset with him before about using her as bait, she was furious now. She was not just something he could do what he liked with, a toy that he could pick up and put down when he felt like it.
Myrnin had his back to her when she walked in; holding a glass tube up to eye level as he carefully measured a clear liquid into it with a pipette.
"You drugged me." Claire said, pleased when her voice didn't tremble or crack with disuse.
Myrnin sighed and put the tube in a rack. "Would you forgive me if I said it was for your own good?" he said, turning to look at her. Claire was surprised by his expression. Myrnin looked….well, sane. Focussed in a way Claire had never seen him before. It was a bit of a shock, and Claire recoiled slightly, a blush rising in her cheeks. Right now, Myrnin looked human, and it wasn't good for her to be this close to him.
"No. You can't keep doing this Myrnin. I am not your doll, your own personal property that you can do what you like with! And if I can't trust you, I can't be around you."
An entirely fey look entered Myrnin's eyes. He didn't look human now, he looked more. Super human. And it scared and thrilled Claire at the same time. Myrnin was extremely attractive in his own right, and even Eve had noticed it- a comment which had earned her a world class glare from Shane. The only thing that had really stopped Claire having too much of a crush on him was how dangerous he was, and it scared her that that might not be enough anymore.
"Oh, little Claire, you don't have much of a choice any longer." he said softly. He was using his hunting voice, and it should have made Claire run, or at least grab a weapon, but it didn't. She felt oddly... relaxed, sleepy even. She tried to hold on to her anger, reaching into her last reserves to keep her brain functioning properly.
"And I can't trust you at all! You tied me to a chair, and used me as bait!"
Myrnin frowned a little, his eyes blurring slightly red. "I would have protected you-"
"From something you couldn't see? I don't think so, Myrnin. And what deal were you on about last night with Amelie? Because I don't remember ever being told about one."
Claire instantly regretted her last response. Myrnin's eyes focussed on her like a cat's, glaring.
"I was trying to protect you." Myrnin snapped, "In all your grand adventures, you never paused to think of the consequences of being so muddled in with vampire politics? They want you silenced, Claire, and by any means. And trust me, you wouldn't like it if they did." Myrnin smiled mirthlessly, his eyes dark and full of shadows. Claire didn't know what to say any more. She just couldn't stay angry at him.
"What do you mean-'silenced'" she whispered, slowly stepping back, away from Myrnin and towards her room. She knew that there was a lock on it, if she had to get away. Myrnin was on edge now, unstable, and Claire didn't know what to do.
Myrnin's eyes filmed over with crimson slowly, driving out the last of the man she knew as he stepped carefully towards her.
"You know you shouldn't run, Claire, you know how much I like games. They don't want you dead, at least not properly. But they want you to have a vested interest in our secrecy, and for that, I rather agree with them."
Claire shivered as understanding dawned on her. "You don't meant that, Myrnin." she said levelly, keeping the fear out of her voice, thinking through her options. There weren't many.
"Actually, I rather think I do. Have you ever even thought about it Claire? Secretly longed for it? A thousand lifetimes to learn everything, all within your grasp. I could give you that." he said silkily, his voice almost seductively soft. They were playing a game of cat and mouse, every step Claire took backwards, Myrnin matched with predatory grace until Claire's back was against the wall, and there was no where left to run.
"Check mate." he whispered softly.
Claire dived for the handle of the door, her fingers brushing against the cold metal before Myrnin's arms closed around her waist, turning her back around and holding her against the wall. Claire froze. Myrnin was pinning her, his body pressing against hers and way to close for employer/employee contact. But it wasn't bad. It wasn't terrible, or scary, or gross. Her heart pounded fast and she knew that she was blushing, none of which would help extend her current life expectancy of virtually zero. She needed to stall him, because he wasn't himself. His eyes were still a murderous crimson and fixed on her jugular.
Claire didn't think about it before it happened, but somehow, her lips had ended up pressed against Myrnin's in a brief, soft kiss.
Myrnin stopped, and looked briefly confused. His eyes were darkening to their normal deep brown and flickered to meet her eyes, full of an emotion that Claire couldn't understand. Suddenly, Claire wasn't so sure she should have done that. Myrnin didn't move away from her, stood still holding her against the wall, absently reaching a hand up to her face to move a lock of hair out of her eyes. The movement was so natural that Claire didn't think about it for a second, and then it hit her at full force.
The fierce emotion in his eyes- it was love.
"Claire?" he asked, and Claire didn't know what to say. Shane. Think about Shane. You love him, this doesn't change anything. But it did and Claire knew it. She nodded, hating herself for not hating Myrnin's embrace as much as she should, because it definitely was an embrace now.
"Did you mean it?" he whispered, so softly she barely heard him. His eyes were wide and vulnerable and full of hope. So much hope it hurt. Confusion ripped through Claire. She'd known that Myrnin had cared for her, all the signs were there, hell, Shane had told her. But she never considered...that. And now that he was here, and so obviously desperate for her to say 'yes', she realised that her answer wasn't 'no'. She had meant it. And it scared her. Scared her, thrilled her, worried her, made her want to scream, cry and smile all at the same time, because now she and a choice, and there was no going back.
But that was okay. Because she didn't really want to go back.
"Yes." she whispered, and it was like the world lit up with his smile.
I'm sorry if this sucked, I've never written a one-shot before, and as such, I wasn't really sure how to end it, so I skipped to the very end, but oh well. This was written for MyrninsBitch, and she gave me the idea of Frank needing to be fixed/replaced, and Claire being trapped there again to fix it. So, I hope this was good enough, and if not, PM me, and I'll re-do it or something.
So review, please, people. :)