Title: Bloodlines, vol. 1 - Equinox (1/?)
Rating: PG-13, let's say? At least, for now.
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.
Had anyone asked, Claire would have freely admitted to being rather nervous as she slipped out the front door, envelope in her pocket.
Not that there was anyone around to ask her. That was one of the main reasons she'd barely waited until the sun had cleared the horizon before leaving the house, so that she could avoid any questions, or people trying to stop her, or tell her she was crazy. Also, her friends were still sleeping off the excitement of the night before, and she didn't want to wake any of them. (She'd barely been able to get any sleep, herself, as anxious as she was. She'd even resorted to doing a load of laundry, just for something to do besides fail to fall asleep.)
Besides, she had classes, later. No early morning classes, at least, thank goodness. She might actually be able to get two or three more hours of sleep after this was done, if all went well.
Which was probably a big if.
She had a sneaking suspicion she'd be relying on caffeine to get through the day.
It was a bit of a walk to the Day's house, but it gave her plenty of time to think. Not that that's necessarily a good thing, she reflected as she walked. The little bit of breakfast she'd hastily thrown together and all but inhaled was already sitting uneasily in her stomach, and dwelling on the situation was doing nothing to improve that.
She was about to sign herself over to Amelie. Had, in fact, already done so, if one wanted to be technical. She could always rip up the contract, though. Had come close to doing so more then once since last night. But she was stopped every time by the same thing that had made her sign it in the first place: knowing that if she didn't, her friends would pay for her selfishness. Possibly with their lives.
Or unlife, in Michael's case.
She was starting to think that maybe Amelie had a point in that regard. Sure, Michael was undead, but wasn't she, herself? She was alive, not dead, so she was technically-
Um, wow. Okay. A couple days of lousy sleep combined with almost constant tension made for some serious mental wandering, because she was getting so very far away from the point. This - making herself Amelie's... property, was the nicest way she could think of to phrase it, and even that sucked - was the only thing she could do to prevent any harm from coming to them.
She just hoped Shane would speak to her afterward.
Michael and Eve wouldn't be too thrilled with her choice, probably, but they would understand. Eventually. Shane... Well, she'd seen his reaction to the newly vampirized Michael. He'd probably view this as a similar betrayal.
Hopefully, he'd get over it, because she somehow doubted that Amelie would at some point just say, "Okay, I've changed my mind. You can go, now," and rip up the contract herself. Once Claire handed her the papers, that was it. She would be Amelie's.
She wasn't even letting herself think about school. Thoughts about CalTech or MIT would just paralyze her in her tracks, leaving her stuck in a morass of regret, anger, and bitterness. And if those thoughts got the better of her... It would mean Shane's life. Because the vampires would find an excuse, sooner or later. Hell, they'd kill him now, if they could get away with it. And if that happened, how long would Eve be able to resist the impulse to strike back with the contraband stakes, crosses, and other such items she had? Then she would die, too, and Michael... Well, it might start with Shane, but things would then snowball to include all of them. And if something happened to her, wouldn't her parents come to investigate, asking all manner of dangerous questions?
So she'd do it. She'd give herself over to Amelie, pray that she wouldn't throw up or do something similarly embarrassing, and try to go on with her life in Morganville, such as it was. It might not even be too bad. Amelie could be the most scary, badass vampire in town, but she didn't often show that side of herself. She could be... Well, not friendly, exactly, but calm and reasonable, at the very least.
When she finally reached the Day house, she wasn't really surprised to find Lisa on the porch. She had no idea if the girl had been waiting for her, and surprised herself by not quite caring. She didn't even bother to come up with a pretense for her visit. "I need to speak with her."
Lisa frowned. "Gramma isn't even awake, yet, and you're not-"
"Not her," Claire interrupted.
Lisa's eyes widened. Clearly, she hadn't forgotten the last time Claire had been there. She stood aside without a word, and Claire, her heart in her throat, entered the house. As before, she entered the second door off the hall.
And, as before, she didn't end up in the bathroom that everything she knew about physics - and that was a fair amount - said she should have been in.
Rather randomly, she thought that Amelie might want to hire an interior decorator. The study was just so grim. It could use some lighter, warmer colors.
Right, because I'm sure that's what she cares about. Well... Yeah, okay, there was that.
Amelie was waiting for her. She seemed to be alone, but... Claire peeked behind the door before she closed it. No one there. Somehow, she doubted that there was anyone hiding behind any of the furniture. Amelie, the next time Claire looked at her, had a faint smile of amusement on her face. "They will come if I call for them."
Did that mean verbally, or... something else? Given the mental powers she'd already seen vampires employee - and been hit with herself - and given how much older and stronger then all the others Amelie was, it wouldn't have taken much to convince Claire that she could, in fact, communicate telepathically.
It made more sense then the freaking teleporting.
"I, ah, brought you something," she said, trying to keep her anxiety out of her voice. She was mildly successful in that. She walked up to the desk Amelie was seated at - did the woman sleep at all? - and reached into a pocket, carefully withdrawing the handkerchief and placing it on the desk. She hadn't even risked putting it in the dryer, instead using her hair dryer set on low, then letting it air dry.
She made a mental note to try and always keep a small package of tissues on her at all times, just in case. She didn't ever want to have to borrow something like that again. It just made her nervous.
"I see. And was that all you wanted to give me?"
Yeah, not like it was hard to guess why she might have been there. "I have... a few questions, first. If that's all right."
Amelie inclined her head. "Understandable. Unlike your friends, you were not raised in Morganville, thus you lack their understanding of certain matters. What is it you wish to know?"
Claire swallowed, her throat suddenly dry. "Well... For starters, what, exactly, am I agreeing to? I mean, I get the basic concept, but... I read through it several times, but it was a bit... vague, on the details. From what Oliver said when I visited him that night..." She couldn't quite finish.
Amelie was looking at her, again. She supposed she'd have to get used to that, but... Yeah. "I have neither the time nor any particular inclination to... What is the current phrase? Ah, yes. To micro-manage your life. Whom you marry, whether you have any children... That is your concern."
Which was a relief, to be certain. Provided Shane didn't give Amelie - or anyone else - and further cause to distrust him, at any rate. She felt an immediate wave of guilt at the thought, but it wouldn't quite go away. "And... what isn't? I mean, what is it that you do want from me, exactly?" Because there was no way - no freaking way - that Amelie was doing this out of the goodness of her own heart.
"From time to time, I may call upon you to perform a small task for me, or run an errand."
"What, like... You might send me to pick up your dry cleaning, or something?"
One shoulder lifted and fell in an elegant half-shrug. "As an example, yes."
"Oh." She could handle that. She was also fairly certain Amelie already had people for that. "Is that all?"
"Anything further can be discussed at a later date."
"You mean, after I give you a signed contract and have your bracelet on my wrist?" After it was too late to back out.
Amelie allowed herself a smile. "Just so."
Well, it did make a kind of sense, she supposed. Why should Amelie share what might be confidential information with her before she'd sworn not to tell anyone? To do it, regardless of how she felt?
Didn't mean it wasn't annoying, of course.
"Which would be my service," Claire said slowly. "And my life... Well, that's obvious." And terrifying, that she could be expected to die at Amelie's word, and she would have to do it. She'd been raised to keep her word, no matter what. "But when you say my blood..." Unconsciously, she reached up to touch her throat. "Does that mean that you'd, um...?"
Amelie's intense gaze followed the motion, fixating on her throat - or rather, on her carotid artery. Claire's hand drifted back to her side, and it wasn't until she stumbled and slammed her right hand down against the edge of the desk to catch herself that she realized she'd been leaning forward, neck exposed. She could feel her heart literally skip a beat as she had an even more horrifying realization:
Amelie hadn't even been trying.
Claire could instinctively sense that what she'd been hit with was, essentially, a sort of psychic spillover. Amelie didn't even seem to be aware something was amiss. If the Founder ever turned the full force of her hunger on her...
She swallowed, with some difficulty.
If that happened, she was dead. Plain and simple, she was dead. She'd never even know something was wrong, would think it was a great idea. By the time she'd realize she'd been caught... she'd be dead.
Amelie's eyes had moved up to her face, now, which was a considerable relief. She straightened up, and Amelie inclined her head. "My apologies," she murmured. "I had not expected you until later, and have not yet fed."
She'd arrived before breakfast. Should she apologize for that?
"In any event, no, I would not feed from you regularly," Amelie continued. "I cannot say it will never happen, but that is not something you are likely to have to worry about in the near future. And if it does come to pass, rest assured that I will do you no lasting harm, and make the process as painless as possible for you."
"Thank you," Claire said, which just seemed like a ridiculous thing to say - thanking someone for saying they'll be gentle while they bite into your skin and drink your blood? - but was only good manners. And those mattered, when dealing with Amelie. Still, she felt relief at one less thing to worry about just then... and a tiny twinge of disappointment. Not that she wanted to be bitten, exactly, but... Well, she was curious as to what it would feel like. Her curiosity was what had driven her to learn as much as she had, to excel so drastically in scholastic matters.
And in Morganville, if she didn't keep it under control, it could kill her.
"Was there anything else?" Amelie, Claire had to admit, was being surprisingly patient with her. Sure, signing one's life away was a Pretty Huge Thing, and Amelie was certain to recognize that, but... Well, it reinforced the idea that there was something else, something big, that the Founder wanted from her.
Claire gave the question some thought. Was there anything else? She was fairly certain she grasped at least the basics of what Amelie expected from her, which had been the entire point of the conversation. But there was one thing... "What did you do to me?" she asked abruptly. "I don't mean now," she added before Amelie could ask if she was referring to the brief lapse of control that had very nearly snared her moments before. "Gramma- I mean, Katherine, said that you'd... marked me, somehow. That she could see it." She didn't say anything about how she was supposedly shining, not sure if that had been literal or metaphorical on Gramma Day's part.
"Indeed?" Amelie's eyes had gone flat, and Claire worried that she'd just gotten the Day family in trouble. "She was partially correct, but mostly mistaken. It was not I who marked you, so much as it was my house. You seem to have touched its Protections, and been touched by them in return. I'll not speculate as to your exact state of mind when you first moved in, but I suspect you were... upset."
"To put it mildly," Claire muttered under her breath.
A nod. "The Protections on the house are not meant to protect one from emotional harm, but as you saw with young Michael, it will act beyond its seeming restrictions. As to the how of it... That is a conversation best suited for another day." Unlike before, this time Claire got the sense that it wasn't that Amelie didn't want to talk about it until she formally owned Claire, so much as it was that they just didn't have time for that discussion right then.
Which was okay, because she was still trying to wrap her mind around the idea that the house had wanted to make her feel better. That was just... a little too much, at the moment. "Right," she said, then cleared her throat and tried again. "Right. So..." There was nothing else she could think of to ask - nothing else she could think of to stall with, she supposed - so before she lost her nerve completely, she reached into her pocket and withdrew the envelope with the signed contract inside it. After a moment's hesitation, she handed it to Amelie.
The Founder opened it and withdrew the papers, glancing over each one in turn until she reached the end. Once finished, she placed them on the desk and looked up at Claire, favoring her with a real smile. There was even some warmth to it. "Excellent," she murmured, then opened a drawer and withdrew a black box. It looked like a jewelry box, and Claire realized with a burst of giddy anxiety what was inside it. Sure enough, Amelie opened it and revealed the bracelet within.
Amelie rose gracefully to her feet, and Claire, without needing to be asked, held out her hand. She couldn't quite keep it from shaking, but Amelie politely pretended not to notice. Amelie's cool hands - she really did need to feed - glided over Claire's skin, distracting her until the bracelet was already around her wrist. Strange... She would have expected something that would affect her life so majorly to be heavier, but she barely noticed it.
"So... is there an easier way to get in touch with you, if I need to?" Claire asked randomly, forcing herself to stop looking at her new accessory. It wasn't like she wouldn't have plenty of time to study it later, after all. "It would be rather... impractical, to run down to the Day's house every time I needed to speak with you." Not that she was hoping it would happen often, but knowing the way her luck usually ran, 'just in case' would likely turn into 'sooner or later' eventually.
Amelie withdrew something else from the drawer, then closed it. She handed it to Claire, who blinked when she saw that it was a cell phone. Its casing was midnight blue, and she could tell that it had cost far more then her old one. She hadn't even known that Amelie had been aware of the fate of her previous phone. Then again, she always seemed to know far more then she should, so why not? "It has been pre-programmed with the number of someone who will be able to handle most issues, and can transfer the call to me in case of an emergency." She fixed Claire with a look. "Try not to have many emergencies."
"I always try," she defended. "It's just... The rest of the town doesn't usually seem to want to cooperate."
Amelie sighed noiselessly. "A feeling I am far too familiar with."
"So... You gave me your secretary's number?" Claire asked, just to clarify matters.
Amelie considered that, then nodded. "Yes. You will keep that phone on you at all times, so I might reach you more easily. If I have need of you physically, I will be able to summon you just as easily from your own house as Katherine's. If not more so."
And wasn't that just creepy to think about? "Will do," she said, slipping the phone into her pocket. For a long moment, she was honestly unsure what to do next, and looked around the study for inspiration. Her eyes locked on the couch, and a memory she'd almost forgotten about floated to the surface. If Amelie hadn't brought up her first night in the Glass House, she doubted she would have thought of it, but now... "About that book of yours that we found..."
Amelie's eyes narrowed. "What of it?"
"Have you ever sat there and read it?" she asked, gesturing to the couch. "Or perhaps on a couch like the one back in that room at our house?"
Well, she'd successfully confused Amelie. If that was what she'd been going for, she would have felt proud of herself. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, this is going to sound weird, and you may think I'm crazy-" She broke off as she took stock of her situation, then huffed out a quiet laugh. "Then again, I'm standing here talking to a vampire who brought me into her study via some kind of magic teleportation, so maybe you won't." She shook her head. "Anyway, the first night I stayed in the house, I had this dream..." She hesitated, suddenly unsure if this was a good idea. Too late to worry about that now. Taking a deep breath, she pressed on. "There was someone, someone that I think could have been you - only this was long before I'd ever seen you, let alone met you - sitting there, reading a book... and... crying..." She trailed off, gulping at the suddenly very intense gaze Amelie was giving her. "Okay, yeah, you know what? Never mind. It was probably nothi- Ack!" She stumbled back a step as Amelie was suddenly there, right there in front of her. The vampire had a hold of her arm before she even made it a step, and she knew she was going nowhere. Amelie's grip was tight, but not enough to bruise.
So, there was that.
"That," Amelie whispered, "was a very long time ago. Before your grandparents' grandparents were born. How is it that you dreamed of that?"
Utterly bewildered, Claire stammered, "I... I-I was kind of hoping you knew." Okay, Amelie was very close, now, and all Claire could do was hope that her hunger didn't choose that moment to speak up.
"No... I shall have to think upon that." Abruptly, she released Claire and stepped back. "It is time, I think, for you to depart. I will have a driver waiting at Katherine's to return you to your home."
"Thank you, ma'am," Claire said, wasting no time in moving toward the door. "I'll see you... when I see you, I guess."
Amelie's lips flickered ever-so-briefly into what was almost a smile, but the serious look in her eyes never faded. "Indeed."
Never in her life had Claire been so grateful to find herself in a bathroom. Though, really, anywhere else would have been good just then. She looked down at her bracelet for a long moment, then sighed and headed back for the front door. All she had to do now was tell her friends about what she'd done.
Compared to that, facing Amelie might have been the easy part.