A/N: Hi there, folks! I'm back. I took a break from writing TWWT. But no worries, I will be back posting on it very soon. For the mean time, here's something a little different. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: In no way do I own The Morganville Vampire series. And I am in no way associated with Rachel Caine. The only thing I own is the storyline. That is all.
Sometimes she gets very little sleep, and sometimes not at all. She'd look at the grey canopy fluttering right above her bed and trace the wrinkled lines crested upon it, and she'd long memorized the curves and angles, that when she tries to close her eyes, it was all she could see embedded under her eyelids. It wasn't her fault, entirely. It was just the natural cycle her body has gotten used to. These past nights had been different, but very the same. It was all a blur to her, these nights. All of it had been one blob of monotonous spectrum overlapping one after the other. What she'd do when she was incapable of sleep was curl up in the loneliest part of her bed and wait for unconsciousness to come to her. But she'd realized soon enough that this technique does not work. Even Shane, who had long known of her insomnia, gave up. And let her be.
"You'd think that sleeping by my side would give you some piece of mind" he whispered against her ear some other night, when he found out she couldn't sleep.
"This is different" she told him "I'm not tired at all"
Even if she was around his iron-wrought arms, she feels weary. As if she was entrapped in cement walls and had no air to breathe out. For her not to hurt his feelings, she told him she felt it. The safety. But all in all, it wasn't the safety she was worrying, because in all honesty, they were very pretentious people. There was no safety here in Morganville. Only the weak thinks they were under some kind of blanket, protected by their own specific vampire protectors. But they too, weren't safe. Everything, she said to herself when Shane had his arms around her, was all pretend. They were in danger. All of them.
"What is it you want, Claire?" he said
"Do you want me to sing you a lullaby?" his tone was half serious.
"I doubt you know any" she replied against his chest, her fingers trailing along the line of his arm.
"You're right, I don't know any of that shit" and Claire laughed but returned sober again "Can't we just try to sleep?"
"Well I can try" she told him "But I might not be successful at all"
Shane had gone silent. As much as he was slower than her, he was not a daft. He had caught on just a bit of her line of thought. And as soon as he did, he had done a quick intake of breath and released her from his grip. "Claire?" he said quietly "Is this because we're leaving?"
She offered him no reply. What she did was, she curled up into a ball and looked away from him.
"Claire, please tell me. I'm going nuts over here"
"There is nothing to tell, Shane" she finally said after the silence "Nothing"
And he didn't believe her at all. Not in the tiniest bit, because he slowly sat up, her bed creaking loudly against the silent night as he did so. He put one hand against her hair and caressed it gently. She looked at him in the darkness. He was merely an outline, but the slender beam of the moon invading her window was enough light for her to see that his eyes were downcast. And she wanted to tell him, she really did. But she was tired, even if she couldn't sleep. She was tired of pretending. And she really wanted to sleep, to forget. But even that pleasure was taken away from her. Shane, she wanted to say to him, let me be.
"Maybe I should better be sleeping in my room tonight" he finally said to her
Then he left.
And her room had felt peculiarly bigger, and emptier. But she found that she can breathe easier after.
The heat never let off in Morganville. If anything, the sun had radiated its hottest. Every morning, when she walks to school, she sees very little humans out, even more so for the vampires. Even the Common Grounds was closed. She'd heard that Oliver only opened the coffee shop late in the afternoon, when the sun was on the verge of setting.
She sees the other houses too, but they were now empty. Void of people. Like it was a bunch a useless shells waiting to be terminated. Seeing the empty streets made her feel lonelier than ever. She had unknowingly quickened her pace, the satchel on her shoulder swaying against her hips. There were very little things that the town offered, but it best offered silence.
And terror. And death.
But everyone was so keen on hiding the true essence of Morganville. It was almost funny, hiding something incapable of being hidden.
The rest of her day was dreary. Due to lack of sleep, her movements were lethargic. She was even hoping to get some shut eye. But here eyes, no matter how tired, just wouldn't close and give her the satisfaction.
When she was out of the campus grounds, she looked at her watch, and realized that it was too early to go home. She realized even more, as she took a quick turn into the street where Grandma Day's house was located, that she wasn't ready to look at the boxes upon boxes of things cluttered in their living room as Michael and Eve started packing. She didn't want to see all the hanged picture frames unhinged from the walls and stowed in bubble wrap. She didn't want to see their excited faces, blissful at the thought of finally given the freedom to leave the town just like every human was privileged to leave by the founder's orders.
Morganville is her home.
He was there when she descended down the wooden staircase. His back was turned to her, and his hair was dishevelled. She knew he knew she was here. But it would seem that her presence was unimportant enough to notice.
"I came back" she told him
His back finally stiffened at the sound of her voice. At once, he turned and was at her side. "I thought you left."
She looked up at his wide brown eyes, and longed to get lost into them. "We are about to" she said "But I wouldn't want to go without saying...goodbye"
"What's the matter, Claire? Have you possibly considered staying? You look terrified at the prospect of leaving."
"I am terrified, aren't I? I've been thinking. And I realized that maybe I don't want to go"
"That is preposterous! It is Amelie's orders for the humans to leave town at once. You should be enormously grateful she let you all go. She could have easily used you for supplies. It is dwindling down, if you must know. But we'll be fine on our own. The vampires can take care of themselves most excellently"
And she looked at him, and looked at him some more. He was fidgeting, and he wasn't really looking at her square in the eye like she was doing to him. His voice even, had a high tint to it, false and breathy. And she wanted to cry and leave, but she also wanted to slap and hurt him. Or she can do both all at once. It was what she wanted. She wanted to give him a clue.
"Now have you packed your bags? I suppose by the amount of the scholar books you have, they would weigh substantially!" When she had not spoken back, he cleared his throat before continuing, "And try to widen your scientific knowledge, don't you Claire? It would be wasted, if you didn't."
She offered him no reply at all. Not even an inclination of the head to let him know she understood anything he'd said. They stood there silently in front of each other again. The air had long dwindled down into a rigid atmosphere. He was rooted in place, like a troubled marble statue of Adonis. After about a fashion of gazing into each other's eyes, Myrnin finally moved. In lightning speed, he was there very close to her, his eyes never leaving hers.
"Claire" he hesitated "I...I―will miss you"
This was the very thing she was waiting for him to say. And it is happening, and she wanted to break down again, because it was just so depressing to think she would be out of this town, and this damned life that made her terrified and miserable. But despite these ungodly things Morganville let her feel, it led her to him. And she realized that maybe she didn't mind it one bit. She didn't care if there were vampires, or death. He existed, thrived and dwelled here. This was his home.
"You've let me go very easily" she said to him
"Because it is the right thing to do" he said, "After years of living illogically, I feel that I should set the rightness for myself and for you of course. You're better off without me Claire. You know how I am, don't you? This isn't me. There are many sides to who I am―"
"I have seen them all, Myrnin!"
"But you cannot tame them" He argued back "You are better off with Mr. Collins. Live a long and happy human life. It is better to live a life without fear of dying. After all, you have been very clear of how you feel. This isn't just a question between what I want. This is what you want as well. And I am happy to supply you this happiness. It is a great mystery why you returned here, of all places. I infer your friends are busy packing. And you, should stop dwindling and help. You are a few sleeps away from true freedom, Claire. And I would want you to have that."
"But you don't understand" she exclaimed "You don't get it do you? All these time? You thought it was a game, wasn't it? And what was I to you, Myrnin? A temporary Ada? Someone who...I don't know! Who served you the purpose of being satisfied? Who was there for you even at your worst moments? Tell me how you can just blow it off like nothing. I told you! I told you a thousand times. Why won't you understand?"
"Claire, please" His face had turned anguished. He pulled at the sides of his hair out of frustration as he let out a low growl. "Have you any idea how physically taxing it is to be away from you?" He placed both his palms on her shoulders. "Have you any idea that I have not slept for the past few days because I am constantly thinking of you finally going away? You have been in my head than I would normally like, and here you are: vastly unhappy of the things you should be happy about. Please, please be done with it and say you want to go, because if you wouldn't...I might find myself wanting you for myself. It is the most selfish thought I have ever accumulated. And I hate myself for thinking this"
"I want you to take me for yourself, Myrnin"
"No, Claire. I want you to be happy" He turned away from her.
"But I'm not!" she wanted to break something. Just so she can shove this point right up to his cerebral hemisphere. "I am unhappy! I don't want any of this to happen. I would want to live here, if I had a choice. I don't care of the risk. Please, please save me, Myrnin. Please help me from this torment"
"I am the torment Claire" he yelled "You are supposed to know this! Aren't you smart? I am the thing you should be getting away from! And yet you still force yourself to me. I can drink you, and empty your arteries and veins from blood in a blink of an eye, and you would be gone, even if the whole world continues to revolve. And it will be my entire fault, Claire. All the humans in this planet will continue to live, while I will want to die"
"But won't you be miserable once I'm gone?" The way she said it was a blank echo. It rattled along the dirty walls and bottle-stocked shelves.
His face softened, and for a moment, she thought that he had reconsidered. But his face hardened again, and has turned firm and unchanging. "My feelings are my own. I do not need to bother you with it" He returned to his laboratory table, and into tinkering a machine he seem to be fixing the screws of. "Please have a safe trip. And you may use the portal when you leave my laboratory. I assume it is getting dark outside"
She stood there, sucking up all the ill-feelings and built-up emotions that had long risen inside her. And she wanted to let it all out, and unleash it inside his laboratory, even if what surrounds her were humming machines and dusty books that were unworthy of being unleashed at. Slowly, she walked towards the portal, feeling her heart weigh its heaviest.
"Myrnin" she turned to look at him one last time.
He spun around, and his face was impassive. Too impassive to be called nothing. "Yes?"
"I would have wanted to become a vampire for you" she said "Clearly, it has been too late"
And she stepped through the portal and was gone.
It took her quite some time to quiet down. But when Eve called for dinner in the living room, she jolted from the toilet seat and finally splashed her eyes with water to tone down the redness.
She could have easily gone down the stairs and succumb into another hole of pretentiousness. But just this once, she wasn't in the mood to wear any mask. So what she did was, she yelled down at them that she wasn't hungry and that she would be crashing to bed extra early because they had a big test tomorrow. But a part of her suspected that they didn't buy her excuses. After her yelling, only a thundering silence followed. It was only after a few seconds later that Eve gave a half-hearted, "Okay, see you in the morning".
But Eve didn't see her in the morning at all. When Claire was staring into the grey canopy that night once more, waiting for sleep to find her, she heard a small knock on her door, before Eve's head popped into her door and asked if she could come in.
Claire sat up in a cross-legged position on her bed, while Eve sat beside her.
"Claire bear, are you alright?"
So many answers swirled around her head at the thought of what to reply to that. Some were brutally honest, but others were just like her, wearing masks. She was never one to dwell in deceit but she had a feeling Eve wouldn't understand if she told the entire truth.
"Eve, what if I don't want to leave?" She looked at her desperately.
Eve slowly took her hand on her own and squeezed it. "Amelie finally granted us the freedom to be who we want to be―"
"But what if in order to be who I want to be, I have to remain here in Morganville?"
Eve sighed. She looked so pale in the moonlight. Sometimes Claire would think she was Michael's other vampire half. They go hand in hand together almost too perfectly. "This moping around doesn't happen to be about your boss, does it?"
When Claire didn't say anything, Eve let out another of her sighs before pulling Claire to a half hug. Her pale hands went around Claire's shoulders. "Let it out honey. You seem genuinely crestfallen" She let herself be pulled against Eve's body. It felt nothing like Shane's iron grip, but she felt as if she's on a safety net anyway. A softer, frailer safety net, but safe just the same.
"It is hard isn't it?" she whispered in the darkness "Making choices? Sometimes we make the most trivial choices, but when the time comes for us to choose between something like life and death, we realize that choosing is synonymous to living. And that making choices is what we do in order to survive"
"It is hard" Eve replied just as solemnly "But not impossible. Sometimes, as humans, we limit ourselves to what we see. The thing is, there are not only two choices to this life Claire. You can also look the other way if you wanted, the problem is if you're willing to look into that direction or not. I see how you look at Michael and I when we carry the boxes to the living room. And I know this might be breaking your heart. And his too, if I know him for who he really is." She paused, then continued "If I really know him that well, I would say he's having a hard time just as much as you are"
"But what should I do? I feel so...conflicted. Like being in a tug of war. Should I be happy that I am finally out from harm's way? Or should I be depressed because―"
"You know I can't decide for yourself, Claire bear. You're a big girl. You can figure it out in like, no time. What I know is that, if you're sure, then there's no turning back. When I loved Michael, I loved him for who is. There's no turning back. Whatever bizarre, totally un-cool thing might happen to him, he's my choice. I could look at the other way sure, but I chose not to. And I have lived with that choice. Happily, at that"
"How do you know if you're sure?"
She was surprised when Eve let out a small laugh "Oh, Claire. There is no how do you know, there's only I've always known"
Their last day as Morganville residents has come. By tomorrow at dawn, a train arriving from another town would come and collect them away to freedom. Eve and Michael were talking too loudly about their post-departure plans, mostly comprising of a honeymoon trip to Europe, complete with specific names of cities and unfamiliar streets that had different 'high-end' fashion stores Eve was dying to shop into. Claire listened only half-heartedly as she ate her oatmeal. It wasn't that she was jealous. Maybe she was, a little. But she was jealous that they were excited about this.
Shane had noticed her silence. He took her hand into his and gave her a comforting smile, as if to say that they too, would have an extravagant plan after getting out. She only nodded once, before retrieving her hand from his grip.
He pretended not to notice her lack of enthusiasm, and joined in with Michael and Eve's conversation, throwing out 'Las Vegas' and 'Disneyland' too many times that she'd lost count. She observed them from her seat, and they scintillated from the anticipation, almost literally. Even their smiles have gotten too big for their faces.
She rose up sharply and exited into the kitchen to wash her bowl.
The light footsteps signalled her that Eve had followed behind. She washed her hands as an excuse not to face her.
"I think your hands are clean enough, Claire"
"No, I think they're quite dirty."
Eve sighed, and lunged for the faucet handle. Immediately, the water stopped running, and Claire had no choice but to look at her in the eyes.
"How long do you plan to be like this? Because seeing you acting like the saddest person in the universe just about breaks my heart"
"No need. I understand. Just tell this secret boyfriend of yours that if he can't get his act straight then I will go stake his ass for making you sad as hell"
Her last night spent in Morganville was muted. Although Eve threw a small farewell party that comprised of a handful of Morganville residents― Grandma Day, The Morrell siblings, Hannah, and a few of her college friends―she can still sense the foreshadowing of the emptiness that is to come, like a grey cloud, looming closer than ever.
She can feel the anxiety in her veins from this thought. It has pulsed very quickly in her head, but now, it had traveled down to the rest of her body. And the minuscule pulsing has transformed into a consistent throb that never left her. Funny, but it felt like she was carrying the heaviest internal organs ever owned by man, by the way she feels. In all truth, she feels light-headed and 'not there'.
She barely addressed the guests, and if given the chance to avoid them, she would duck down to the kitchen and pretend to rinse the dishes.
Somehow, this worked for the earlier part of the evening, rinsing the dishes. But Eve, who was given the gift of hawk eyes, sensed her budding uneasiness, and followed her in the kitchen.
"Claire, Shane asked me to find you"
No he didn't. She wanted to say back. But it sounded so cruel in her head that she chose not to say it instead. "Tell him I'll be right out in a minute. I just need to rinse these―"
"You know you don't have to do that 'til later, right?"
"Yeah, um. Eve? Talk to you later okay? I really want to get these dishes cleaned"
After a long, gruelling silence that deafened her, Eve sighed and said, "Fine. Be like this. It's better to tell him you know, than feel the torment. It's not healthy for the both of you. I mean I've never had a 'secret boyfriend' before, but if I was sure of my choice, I'd go for it head on and never look back"
Then she left, and Claire stood there with a bunch of dirty dishes, thinking about what Eve had said.
She wiped away the wetness forming in her eyes.
Eve was right. He had done absolutely nothing to stop this. It must mean that he chose to retreat and return to his mundane life. It must mean that he hasn't chosen her at all.
Having arrived to this conclusion, she turned the faucet off and wiped her hands clean with a wash cloth. She returned to the living room to try and forget her thoughts.
And there they were, all scintillating people sitting in the living room, laughing and swapping stories as if they had known each other in a long time. But it was just too shiny, it near blinded her eyes. It sickened her to see Monica Morrell and Eve become fast friends as they shrieked and gushed about shopping out of town, apparently becoming quick friends. And Hannah was telling them safety measures and survival tactics about how to live in a new town. It was all they could talk about, these people. They never once spoke about missing Morganville, or sympathized with the vampires.
But of course, why would they? Morganville had felt like prison for all of them. She sees Monica and Richard, and remembered that they'd lost their father. And Michael, who had his arms around Eve, had lost his grandfather, Sam Glass. Even Shane, had lost the rest of his family. Here in Morganville. They were trying to move on, she realized. They wanted this. They wanted it so bad they would kill for it.
"I hope Amelie has a back-up plan about this whole thing" she heard Hannah say to Richard, when everyone broke down into their own little conversations. She was sitting there near them, reading a town map. And she heard them talking quietly. She stiffened, and listened.
"She might" said Richard "She is the founder after all. I mean, do I think that letting all the humans go was a good idea? Definitely. But is it the right thing to do? I don't think so. She must've been that desperate to come to these terms. We've waited for this a long time, and it has come. We must be grateful, instead of reading behind her purposes"
"Yes, yes. We're all happy. But you do realize that once we cross over the barrier, we'll forget everything we've ever done here? All the loss and sufferings? Do you think it is a good idea to just forget?"
"Maybe it is. For once, we need to have a fresh start"
"Or maybe there's no such thing as a fresh start. We're merely pretending that we are. Doesn't that make us pitiful?"
"Not if you choose to look at it that way" said Richard "We have choices, you know. Life itself, is a choice"
Hannah gave a small sigh, and she saw that Richard proceeded to pick her hand up and kiss it subtly. "Trust me, it is better to hide from the nightmares than thrive into them forever"
Hannah gave a small nod. "But what about them? How will they survive without the blood?"
"As what I've heard, Amelie and the rest of them will be moving away as well. They will choose another place to thrive into. Soon enough, Morganville will just be another barren land here in Texas. So much history, but in the end, it will be empty"
"I'm just wondering why they're doing this to us. After all these years, why choose now to give freedom?"
"We are an experiment to them, Hannah. Haven't you realized that? Apparently, we do not meet their requirements. They needed a much bigger town, with ample resources, technology, and...well, humans"
"Did Myrnin figure this all out?"
At the sound of his name, Claire stiffened, her fingers crumpling the sides of the map.
"Yes. but he's in a terrible state, I heard. Which, coming from him, is weirder than usual. He shut out even Amelie, when she visited him a couple of days ago. What terrible mood"
"Maybe he isn't pleased about this whole thing." said Hannah silently "I wonder if he's secretly in love and didn't want anything to go and change"
"We can never tell. The guy's as unpredictable as next day's weather."
Claire stopped listening and turned to Grandma Day.
She swear to herself that this was the absolute last time she'd ever shed a tear for him. She cried her hardest too, trying to muffle her shrill sobs with the use of her pillow. But it never worked. It still sounded so loud. For the first time in a long time, it rained. And the sound of the rain pelting the roof of the Glass House made her even more depressed. Her entire room was cleared of things. The only furniture that remained was the empty cabinets and dressers that went with the house's furnishing. Her clothes were neatly stowed in her bag, and her books were in boxes.
But it doesn't matter at all. Because it was over.
She was leaving in a few hours, and after she crosses over the barrier, she will forget everything about this town. She will forget who she'd been, who she'd been with. She will forget about him and his entire existence. And maybe it was a good thing. It was just what Eve had said. Choices. He had the choice, but he chose to look away, into the other direction. Maybe it was good that she will start new, with her bruises and scars hidden at the very back of her brain.
A fresh start, Richard Morrell had said.
She couldn't bring herself to stop. The tears just came pouring out after the other. She knew this was bad. Very. But it was the last, she promised.
She was sleeping, when she felt a slight jostle to her left. At first, she thought she was still dreaming. But when she felt it again, she was convinced that it was Shane or Eve, telling her to wake up. So she drowsily sat up in her bed, feeling like the shittiest person. Her eyes stung still, and when she opened them, it hurt a bit. Maybe crying was a bad idea.
Once she had her bearings, she realized that it was still night time. The moon was still up, although the rain had stopped. And the one who had jostled her was not Eve, nor Shane.
"Claire" he said "Listen to me"
"Myrnin?" his voice was like ice thrown down her back. She sat up very rigidly, and was wide awake. "What―? What're you―?"
"This is all a trick" he was panting very quickly, and his eyes were big and fearful. "Once you all leave for the train tomorrow, you will be drained."
"What― drained?" she was having trouble absorbing this. He was here in her room, in the middle of the night, on her bed, sitting very much close to her. But then after a while of pondering, she understood what he was saying. He was warning her about something extremely important.
"Oliver's plans. All of it. Once you leave town, nobody survives. He will kill and spill blood for supplies. It will be merciless."
"But why? Where is Amelie?"
"Gone. Ruled over. Her body is thrown over a cliff. I saw it all. I saw it all, Claire" and he broke down right there on her bed as if he was a small boy who was afraid. He clutched her arm as if it was his life saver. And she let him relax into her. She caressed his hair and whispered comforting words to him.
When he recovered, he reached for her at arm's length and looked at her very seriously in the eye. His brown eyes had never bored into hers like this. This was life and death. This was the eyes that had a choice. "Claire, come with me"
"But what about the others? Shane? Michael? Eve?"
"I've informed Hannah and Richard about the situation. They are planning to have a decoy train by morning. Once Oliver is distracted they would leave to the opposite part of town. Many vampires helped as well, vowing to avenge Amelie"
"Myrnin" she said to him, her heart beating so quickly it was going to explode right inside her "I can't come with you. I need to help them."
"But I love you, Claire" he said, passionately too, that it sent her head whirling "And I want the both us to get out of here. Out of harm's reach. I swear to protect you, and love you, and be with you until the world ends"
And he did it, as if he had not made her miserable for the past few days. He kissed her with such ardent fervor her brain entirely disentangled from the rest of her body, leaving her light-headed. He kissed her to tell her she was his everything. And it would ruin him if she died. He kissed her so deeply and passionately that no vampire could compare. He kissed her with fear in his heart, silenced by her reassuring presence there with him. He kissed her with everything that he's made of.
She kissed him back with the only way she knew, and tangled her arms in his body, his hair, everywhere. Her heart rejoiced at the thought that he made a choice, after all: her.
"Come with me" he whispered against her lips.
She knew there were many sides to him. And that the way he asked might not be the way he'll ask the next time. But she's seen them all, his sides. And she loved every side of him.
She placed her hand in his, and rapidly, they crossed over the portal together.
A/N: Thank you for reading!