Rating: PG-13, let's say?
Comments: The prologue takes place about midway through 'The Dead Girls' Dance', while the rest of the story takes place immediately after the book ends. AU. Also, my muse is evil. Consider yourselves warned.
Legal Disclaimer: I do not own The Morganville Vampires. (Any other fandoms that may or may not appear in the future will be addressed in the relevant chapters, so as to not spoil any possible surprises.) The OCs present, however, are mine.
This can't be happening.
She had no idea how many times the thought had crossed her mind since all this had begun. A detached, remote corner of her brain had actually tried counting early on, but had long since given up. She was tempted to do the same, at times, but determination and sheer stubbornness had kept her going thus far.
There was going to come a point, though, when that wouldn't be enough. She was only human, after all. She had limits.
Limits she strongly suspected she was approaching even now.
She wasn't going to give up just yet, though. Shane was counting on her. And if she couldn't recruit Amelie to his defense...
It wasn't that Claire had expected the Founder to drop what she was doing and immediately leap to his rescue, especially after the failed attack during Shane's "trial". But there was a part of her, she realized, that had genuinely thought that, once Amelie had been made to understand that Shane was innocent, that she'd at least do something. Something other then... watch and wait.
Wait for what, exactly, Claire had no idea.
It wasn't working out that way.
She probably should have known better. Hadn't Amelie said it herself, back during that whole fiasco with the book? There were rules to living in Morganville. (She'd also called Claire "winsome", which - when she'd looked it up during a moment of calm later - she'd discovered meant cute. She honestly wasn't sure how to take that.) Why had she thought Amelie would listen to her?
Don't know why she marked you, child, but she did. Now you just got to live with it.
What did that even mean? Had Amelie placed some kind of psychic marker on her that amounted to a 'Hands off!' sign to other vampires? Because if so... it didn't seem to be doing much. And she herself didn't really feel any different.
If there was such a thing there, then, it obviously didn't matter. Right then, nothing seemed to matter. Even Shane's innocence didn't matter, according to Amelie. She'd been too stunned by that to correct the vampire's perception that she was Shane's lover. (Though it wasn't like she'd never tried to change that.) All she'd been able to do was sit there and cry. She'd been given a silken handkerchief and a quiet but definite dismissal, but it still took some effort just to get to her feet. Amelie seemed to understand.
When she saw the two bodyguards, she couldn't help but laugh. It started as a sad little chuckle, but quickly developed into full-fledged, borderline hysterical laughter. After everything that... This was just too much.
"Something amuses you?" Amelie asked her dryly. All Claire could do was wordlessly gesture to the guards, who simply stood there watching her. No doubt she wasn't the first person to have an emotional breakdown around the Founder. "I see. Shall I ask why?"
Claire was nearly doubled over by this point, and hadn't even noticed that her tears had started up again. Somehow, she managed to choke out a response. "T-Two of... For me? What... am I gonna..." Words failed her again, her laughter being the only thing keeping her from screaming.
And that was only just barely.
"Ah." Again, that faint amusement. "They are not here because of you. I suspect you could do me no harm, even if you wished to. As I've told you before, I'm never left alone."
Claire nodded, struggling desperately to get herself under control. There was no condemnation in Amelie's gaze - nor was there any pity, of course - but she doubted that the Founder really wanted to see her emotional collapse. "S-sorry," she managed. "I'm just... It all hit me at once, I guess."
"You need to sleep, Claire," Amelie advised, not unkindly. "Go home. We shall see how events play out."
Failure weighed heavily on Claire's chest, making it hard to breathe, but it was obvious that there was absolutely nothing she could do or say that would change Amelie's mind. "I doubt I could sleep right now if my life depended on it," she muttered, shaking her head. She began to walk toward the door, but halted after a step as something occurred to her. She was lost in thought for several moments before she finally managed to sort it out, and barely managed not to start laughing again. "Thank you," she said instead.
A raised eyebrow was the only thing to indicate that she'd finally managed to surprise Amelie. "For what, precisely?"
Claire turned to face her fully, not even stopping to dwell on the possible foolishness of locking eyes with a vampire, especially one as old and powerful as this one. She was past caring, just then. "For being honest with me. You know, ever since I set foot in Morganville, I think you're the first person who's ever been completely honest with me."
Her teachers and fellow students had all pretended that Morganville was a normal town, quietly dismissing any - valid, she now knew - worries she might have, and actively concealing the truth about the town from her.
Monica and her friends... Well, they just lied to everyone, didn't they? Including themselves. (And the whole planned murder thing didn't exactly endear her to them, either.)
Oliver was one of the bigger offenders in that respect, pretending to be some peace-and-love hippie... but she didn't want to think about him, yet. That, unfortunately, would come soon enough.
Even her housemates had lied to her. There had been Michael, trying to convince her that it was her age that made him want her gone at first, rather then worrying about the vampires. Trying to pretend that he wasn't dead half the day. That he wasn't trapped inside the house. He'd even been lying to Eve and Shane about that for a while. The house had needed a living resident, after all, and he hadn't quite counted anymore.
Eve had been the first to tell her about Morganville's undead residents, but even she had her secrets. Her brother, and Brandon... The latter of whom had ended up nearly killing Claire. She wasn't sure what she thought about the younger Rosser sibling, given that they'd never really met.
Shane... She didn't even know where to start with Shane. There was the obvious, of course, given the situation: he'd come back to Morganville to act as a scout for his biker dad's anti-vampire war. It was a shame Frank Collins and his gang were such assholes - and she could refer to them as such, if only in her own head - or she might have been able to side with them, rather then hope they just went away. His sister... But she couldn't blame him for not wanting to discuss that. Though if she reminded him of her - due to actions, or circumstances, or general attitude, or whatever - enough to affect the way he treated her... Well, she thought she deserved to know then. She didn't want to be Alyssa's replacement. (Frankly, given her feelings for Shane, that would just be so incredibly wrong.)
In some fashion, be it big or small, occasionally or constantly, every single person she'd met in Morganville had lied to her.
Except for Amelie.
She didn't know if it was because of manners or some moral code - and this was the woman who'd just calmly admitted to having a hit put out on Shane's mother, claiming it had been the right thing to do, had been merciful - but Amelie had never lied to her. "I may not like what you're saying," Claire continued, some part of her hoping that she hadn't zoned out from the conversation long enough to be overly noticeable. "And in this case, I really don't, but... You may be brutally honest, at times, but you're always honest." She took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "It's not meaningless to me. I just... thought you should know."
Amelie inclined her head gracefully, saying nothing. She didn't really need to, though. The gesture said 'you're welcome' as clearly as anything, and the look she was giving her... It might have been respect, or amusement, or maybe even a certain level of fondness. Claire honestly couldn't read Amelie's expression, beyond the fact that it seemed positive, and was directed at her.
And even that didn't matter.
She turned away and headed for the door, only to pause again. If Amelie was always honest with her, she'd likely appreciate the same courtesy in return. "Michael wants to see you. He didn't tell me why. I didn't press." She sighed quietly, not looking back. "He probably would have just lied, anyway." It's nothing, Claire, don't worry about it...
"I see." The vampire sounded thoughtful, and she had no idea if that was good or bad. "You may tell him you delivered his message." She didn't say anything about whether or not she'd actually go see him, Claire noted. Which meant that when he asked... She'd have to tell him the truth: that she had no idea what Amelie was going to do, and, gosh, maybe if he'd given her a few more details to offer...
She hid a smile, but suspected the Founder knew it was there, anyway.
"At least I came to you first, this time," she muttered, looking down. She hadn't brought anything with her, but she used the excuse of making sure she had everything to avoid eye contact with anyone else in the room. Plan A had failed, which meant that it was time to start preparing herself for Plan B.
The hell of it was, she couldn't really even resent Amelie for it. Shane had betrayed her trust - all of their trusts - and it had lead to the death of one vampire... and who knew if there'd been any humans, as well? Eve's brother might have had absolutely nothing to do with that poor girl's death.
She really hadn't liked the look of some of Mr. Collins' men.
"Indeed. You must know, however, that it is unlikely in the extreme that Oliver will wish to aid in your lover's defense."
"He's not my-" She cut herself off, shaking her head with a sigh. "I hope you're wrong," she said instead, giving Amelie a resigned look. "He's my next stop." She looked away again. "I really wish you'd said yes," she said quietly, before finally heading out the door.
She could feel Amelie's gaze boring into her back the whole way.