Title: Bloodlines, vol. 1 - Equinox (2/?)
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.
Claire had never actually ridden in a limo, before. She knew she shouldn't get used to it, that Amelie was not about to have her driver moonlight - or would it be sunlight, when dealing with vampires? - as Claire's chauffeur. This was probably just a one-time thing.
It was just... really nice, was all. Almost made her feel elegant.
The drive back to her house took very little time at all, and before she knew it, the driver was opening her door for her. Unlike the time she'd seen him bring Amelie to Oliver's shop, he didn't help her out of the car, but that was all right. She hardly considered herself in the same class of importance as the town's Founder, after all.
Still... Part of her wished that he could have dropped her off at school, if only to see how Monica and her friends reacted. It was a small, petty part of her, but she couldn't deny that it was there.
She made sure to thank him, and he nodded in acknowledgment before walking back around to the front driver's side door and getting back behind the wheel. He hadn't actually said a single word to her the entire time, and she had no idea if he was unable to for some reason, or if he simply hadn't had anything to say. She didn't think he'd been snubbing her, though. Somehow, she couldn't quite see Amelie tolerating that sort of rudeness from any of her trusted employees, and he had to be fairly trustworthy if she allowed him to transport her anywhere, much less know where to pick her up from. Granted, she apparently could stealthily move around the town at will, but even so...
It occurred to her to that Amelie likely didn't really need a driver at all. So why have one? Maybe she didn't want to broadcast that she had that capability. Claire made a mental note to keep her mouth shut on the subject, at the very least until she knew more.
It also occurred to her that she had been standing motionless in front of the house for a full minute, and that she had to go in sooner or later. She sighed quietly, steeled herself, and marched up to the front door.
She'd barely started turning the knob before the door was torn open, making her stumble forward a step before she recovered her balance. Eve was standing there, looking at her with wide eyes. "Where have you been?!" she demanded, yanking Claire inside the house and shutting the door behind her.
"Good morning to you, too," Claire grumbled, tugging her wrist free of Eve's grasp. "You do realize that it's daylight outside, right?" Really, just because every window so equipped had its shades or curtains drawn for Michael's safety, she didn't see how Eve could have missed it, even before she'd opened the door. "You know, sunlight?"
"And you know that the vampires have people to do things for them during the day," Eve shot back. "And just because they can't be out in the sun doesn't mean they're not up and moving."
"Oh, I remember," Claire assured her, right hand briefly reaching up to touch her throat, where Oliver had been holding her the day before.
God, was that all it had been? Not even twenty-four hours?
"And add to that Shane's dad and his asshole friends," Eve continued, but Claire cut her off.
"Speaking of vampires, is Michael up?"
"Why? Where were you, anyway?" Eve asked, confused. Well, that was better then the angry/scared combination she'd had going moments before.
Claire ignored her questions. "Could you go get him? And Shane, too? I'd rather tell you all together, get it over with all at once."
Eve eyed her warily. "I'm not sure I like the sound of that," she commented.
You'll like the explanation even less. "Please?"
Eve hesitated, then sighed. "I'm not sure if Shane's even awake, yet. This may take a few minutes. We'll meet you in the living room." Claire nodded in agreement, and Eve, still looking unhappy, headed for the stairs.
Claire moved into the living room and parked herself on the couch, trying not to fidget. Oh, this wasn't going to be fun. They wouldn't kick her out, at least. And really, it wasn't as if she was the only one to take action of her own initiative that would affect them all, was it? Michael had become a vampire - and if he could stay after that, she knew she wasn't about to have to move back into the dorms - Shane had made that little deal with Brandon - because of her, and without telling her - not to mention calling in his dad and the Biker Brigade, Eve would have stormed the town square to rescue Shane without a second thought as to how that would have screwed all of them, even if she had died in the attempt...
She took a deep breath, feeling her stomach settle a bit. Really, compared to all that, what was agreeing to wear a bracelet? Nothing, that was what. (She hadn't exactly forgotten that it entailed more then that, but she needed to psych herself up for the coming confrontation, and it was all she'd had to do so far.)
"...the hell's the big deal?" Shane's voice asked through a yawn, and Claire looked up to see Eve herding him and Michael into the room. Michael looked even more tired, and Claire realized with a wince that, as a young vampire, being up during the day had to be hard for him. She regretted not being able to let him go back to sleep, but it really was for the best that they get all the discussion out of the way now.
"I don't know. Apparently, Claire has something to tell us," Eve replied, settling onto the other end of the couch. Michael claimed one of the chairs, and Shane, after another moment's hesitation, plopped down on the other one. Part of Claire would have liked to have had him closer, but maybe this would be better. Just in case he didn't react as well as she'd like.
Not that she believed for one second that Shane would hurt her. That was just ridiculous, at least in physical terms. Emotionally, on the other hand...
Well, that was another story.
"Something to do with how you snuck out so early?" Michael asked, shaking himself a little more awake.
"I didn't sneak," Claire defended. "I walked right out the front door. And yeah, it is about that. I had... something I needed to do." She held up her wrist.
"Semantics. You know... what..." He trailed off as he got a good look at her new fashion accessory, and silence descended over the room as the three of them stared at it, processing exactly what it meant.
Eve found her voice first. "Why?" she asked quietly.
"Because I had to," Claire replied, just as softly. "Because her informal protection wasn't good enough, anymore. For any of us. Especially in relation to Oliver."
"So you decided to sell yourself to Amelie?" Shane asked harshly.
"She was the best possible choice," Claire shot back. "After Oliver tried to... It's better that it's her. I can trust her."
"More then Oliver, anyway," Eve muttered.
Shane had that look on his face, again. Not quite to the same degree as when he'd thought that Michael had wanted to be turned just to be able to come after him, but definitely reminiscent of that. "And what did she want in return for...?"
"In return for Protection for all of us? Me. She wanted me." She allowed her hand to drop back to her lap.
"You shouldn't have had to do that," Eve said, shaking her head.
Unsurprisingly, no one had an answer for that.
"Wanted you for what?" Michael asked hesitantly.
Claire shrugged. "If you're asking if there's some specific something she wanted me in particular for, she hasn't said anything about it, yet. When she decides she wants something, she'll let me know."
"How can you be so calm about this?" Shane demanded, getting up to pace. "Selling yourself to one of them? To her? She's one of the worst of them!"
Inexplicably, she felt defensive about the absent vampire. "She is not! And she's saved our butts before, remember?"
"She didn't seem to have any problem with tossing me to the wolves before!"
"Because you betrayed her!" She was on her feet by now, fists clenched as she stared him down. The strength of her reaction surprised her. Evidently, she'd been more upset with him then she'd thought. "But it wasn't just her, was it? It was all of us!"
He'd frozen in place when she first shouted at him, and now flinched back as if she'd slapped him. "Claire-" he began, but she kept going, rolling over any protests he might have made. Now that she'd started venting, she couldn't quite stop just yet.
"If Michael hadn't been bound to the house, he'd be dead right now! Eve and I would have been killed trying to save you! And your father and his friends... Do you know how many people they killed? And yes, I did say people, not just vampires. Or what else they would have done, if they hadn't been pressed for time?" Unbidden, the memory of the biker that had cornered her and Eve surfaced, and she shoved it back down with a shudder. They were fine, Michael had revived and gotten there in time. "How about when we went to that damned dance to look for Sam and see if he might be able to help you? Do you have any idea what almost happened to me?! And I'm not even talking about your dad and his commandos. And now Michael's trying to get used to being a vampire, all because of what Oliver did to him back when, and all you can think about is yourself?"
Dead silence had fallen over the room as Shane gaped at her, broken only by the ragged sound of her breathing heavily as she strained to keep some scrap of her temper in check. Michael and Eve were staring at her in shock, obviously too stunned by mousy little Claire finally exploding to intervene, but she barely noticed.
"So yes, Shane, I am trusting Amelie. Because I can trust her. Because she's the kind of person who'll warn you very clearly before she does anything violent. Because she's never once lied to me. So, yeah. I signed her contract. I'm wearing her bracelet. And you know what? I'm okay with that. So you're going to have to figure out how to handle it, too." She looked around the room. "All of you."
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to calm down. "So, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go get ready for class." Because there was no way she was going to get back to sleep now, no matter how much time she had left. "And, quite frankly, I cannot wait to see Monica's reaction when she sees this." She tapped her bracelet. Without waiting for a reaction - not that any of the others had recovered enough to speak, quite yet - she headed for the stairs.
In theory, that could have gone worse.
But then, who knew what would happen once everyone had a chance to digest everything she'd said?