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CONT - Friday October 12th, 2007

Claire arrived on the third floor after a long day of classes too, and she slowed down briefly when she walked past Katie’s dorm, knowing she had cancelled on her earlier this week. Briefly she considered stopping there and apologizing. However she soon realized that she would have to explain things she couldn’t explain, so she pulled herself together and walked into her own room. Once there she quickly kicked off her shoes and she pulled out her phone to look at Samantha’s invite again.

She then looked around her room, looking for a sign of her sister and when she saw Payton’s bag she smiled, before walking over to the other side of the room where Payton’s notebook was placed on her nightstand. Claire flipped through a few pages of journalism notes and English essay prompts before she reached the notes on the spell from earlier this week.

She then started pulling ingredients from the place where they kept them hidden, and sat them on her bed. She walked to her dresser and considered her collection of necklaces briefly before she picked a fine delicate one and she smiled knowing it would match her dress.

She did the same over by Payton’s little make-up holder by the mirror, where she picked the one necklace she knew had no value to her sister. She then put the two necklaces on her bed and sat down cross-legged, smiling in pride of the spell that Payton had written down, before she started mixing the ingredients and read the words.

And that was the point where Seth frowned slightly, from where he sat on the other side of the hall, taking a break from his patrol to feed from his supply at the school instead of getting all the way across town. He had opted to play some music from the ‘Top 40’ charts so he would know what to talk about next time Max asked him if he head the newest song by Maroon 5. But the last thing Seth expected to hear was Claire mumbling in a language that he had only heard rumors about until now. A language that sounded so foreign in his ear, yet familiar. And beautiful.

And then it stopped. Abruptly too, and Seth frowned when Claire mumbled a panicked repeat of “no’s”. Seth looked down at the floor. Claire was doubting herself because of what happened at the previous spell. He was certain of it. For some reason she was doing it without her sister, and now she was struggling with it.

Three short knocks and then he lowered his hand again, and moments later Claire opened the door. Just narrowly, but she opened it. And then she saw him standing there, and she sighed in relief. “Sorry for… for interrupting. I just came here to refuel but I heard you and… I heard you stop. Why did you stop?”

Claire just blinked. Then she looked at the hallway, and she sighed as she opened the door further. “Come in. It’s okay, Payton’s not here.” She said as if she knew what he was thinking, and then she looked up with that look and of course. She knew exactly what he was thinking.

“Okay… Well, you don’t have to tell me what you’re working on or anything. I just… I guess I just wanted to tell you that what happened with the spell doesn’t make you any less of a great witch. We forgave you for that a while ago, and you can’t beat yourself up about it.”

Claire looked up at him and sat down on her bed. And Seth made a mental note that she was either being very unguarded, or she was testing him. He then took a look at the room around them, which he could only describe as the ‘peach and pastel’ collection of a furniture store. Then, Claire cleared her throat and all his attention went to her again.

“Actually I do. Have to tell you, what I’m working on.” Claire spoke. “It’s a pendant. To harvest magic.” Claire said, picking up the one she chose for herself, then sighing, looking up at Seth. “Jason asked Payton to take down the spell on the border. But we can’t do that. Not even I think that’s a good idea. However, there is a middle road.” She said, putting the pendant back down because she was close to saying ‘was’.

“Payton got the idea to channel the spell’s magic. Like our magic was damped back when we were kids. We could take the spell’s magic and put it in these pendants. Which we could wear, creating a link. And as long as we wore them and we remain unharmed, the spell remains inactive. Meaning people can enter town. If anything happens to us, or one of our friends, then we will take them off and…”

Claire knew she didn’t have to draw the picture there. She also knew Seth had paid attention, despite the fact that he had kind of started to wonder, looking around the room a bit more adventurous. Then he looked back at her, and he drops his glance at the pendants. “That’s a great plan, Claire. Solid, safe. I like it. So, why haven’t you finished it yet?” he asked.

Claire sighed at that, focused on the ingredients and the notes in front of her as Seth glanced around the room again. His eyes caught some pictures in picture-frames, but he looked away as soon as he noticed they were baby pictures with Claire’s parents. He actually stepped away from them, moving to the window a little bit where he noticed a post-it on Claire’s desk but when he looked over at her she wasn’t watching him so he didn’t mention it.

“Because my magic is like… It’s like it’s being blocked. And I’m sure it’s just me and the fact that I’m a bit insecure but right now it just doesn’t work.” She said. And it was Claire saying right now that made Seth glance on his watch. “Well, you still have 4 hours.” He said, moving back to his original position central in the room. Claire sighed and gave him a look that thanked him for trying. But Seth wasn’t going to leave it at that. He wasn’t just trying. He was going to succeed.

“Claire, you are one of the strongest people I have ever met. And that is saying something considering I have been around a few centuries. But you are a league of your own. You and your sister but you mainly. You’re not playing second violin to Payton, okay. It’s a damn duet. A beautiful one at that, and I know that the two of you together are invincible. But for me, you’re the strongest one. You’re out there believing in people when they give you every reason not to. Your heart is so big, that I find it heart to believe that it wouldn’t give you enough strength to finish the spell.” He said. Then he took about two steps back from where he had come to stand right in front of her bed.

He then looked down at the pendant and looked Claire in the eyes as he was trying to calm himself down. When had he ever given such a speech to anyone? Alyssa during detox? No. Jason when he was projecting on his past affiliations. No. “Anyways… You’re Claire Silverstone. You got this. The event starts at 8, I will be in front of the school at 7.25PM. I hope you’ll be there. And I hope you’re wearing that necklace.”

And then he was back in his own room, and he slowly closed the door behind him, and he nodded. That was the right thing to do. She needed to hear that. And he just had to put a bit more emotion behind it so she would believe it.

In the end, it worked too. Claire finished the spell on the pendant, and put it around her neck as she stood in front of the mirror. Then she changed out of her clothes from the day, and she pulled out the dress she told Payton she would wear. She briefly closed her eyes as she put it on and then walked to the full length mirror, and she smiled at herself once she took in the full picture. Because this was right. This was one of her mom’s dresses, and this was going to be the dress in which she created peace over Waterfall Creek. Because that’s what her mom would have wanted. And if those reasons weren’t enough reason to wear the full-length green-blue dress that perfectly complimented her eyes, then there was also the fact that she just looked absolutely stunning in it.

Claire then sighed and took out her phone which read a message by Justin, asking if she wasn’t coming down for dinner. Claire smiled a little, as he tried to persuade her by saying the menu included fish which was by far one of Claire’s least favorite dishes. So she declined, said she had other plans and then texted her sister asking where she was. And then she returned to the mirror, deciding 35 minutes was enough time to do something about her hair and make-up, as she sat down in front of the mirror again.

At 7.23 Seth turned down the engine of the car in the school yard and he looked aside at Jason who was checking his watch. “Relax. They’ll be here.” He said, and Jason sighed deeply. “I know, I know. But I just don’t like the idea that we have to wait for Claire to finish her make-up before we can allow the majority of our allies into our home. I just… I just wished I was able to do a better job convincing Payton to drop the spell entirely.” Jason said.

Seth frowned a bit at that. Because Jason had mentioned asking her at the rave. But he hadn’t said much about actually legit attempting to reach out to Payton, which he seemed to be indicating now. “Are you guys talking now? Has she said anything to you other than death threats?” Seth asked with a little smile, and Jason looked up.

“What, you think I can’t talk to Payton Silverstone without her trying to kill me? Yes, Seth, I am capable of having a conversation with Payton. I mean… I can tell she finds it hard but she is trying. And I’m trying to show her that it’s worth it.” He said.

Then both of their attention got drawn by the sound of the doors to SJBS opening, and Claire appeared at the top of the stairs, her heart racing fast. Then Jason looked aside to Seth, whose wide smile faltered as soon as he noticed Claire was alone. Seth then frowned a bit and he looked down realizing he was wrong about Payton, as Jason got out of the car, and looked at Claire walking towards them.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know where she is. But I’m here. I’m going.” Claire said, and to that Jason opened the door of the car’s backseat for her, allowing Claire to get in to avoid the chilling cold of a mid-October evening. “Is the spell still going to work?” Seth asked as soon as she got in, and Claire looked down to touch her pendant. Then she nodded, looking up in determination. “Yes. It works. Thank you.”

Seth nodded as a ‘you’re welcome’ and then he turned back to the front, starting the car’s engine. A short ride later they arrived at the Dawson driveway and Claire looked out the window to see it was illuminated properly, and the front gate had a security system installed on it, which now required Seth to push a button on a remote in order for the gate to open.

“Security upgrade.” Jason said, and Claire nodded. In the back of her mind she wondered if the little pathway from the school to the house was now blocked by some giant fence, but she discarded that thought when she realized she probably wouldn’t have to use it anymore. After all they were allies now. And allies provided a personal taxi service.

“Seems like some people came early.” Seth then said, parking the car on the driveway. He then smiled as he heard the laughter coming from inside, and Claire noticed the two boys exchanging a look. “That’s Philip and Sophie, two friends from Ireland. They’re usually early.” Seth explained to her, and Claire recalled the names on the list, and a number 4 written down next to it. “Good friends?” Claire asked, and Seth nodded. “Great friends.”

Claire then got out of the car and she smiled when Jason offered her his arm, which she didn’t mind seeing as the driveway was a tricky thing even in small heels, but this fancy dress matched with high heels was just a disaster waiting to happen for Claire who couldn’t hold her balance even on a good day.

“I got you.” Seth then said as she took her other arm when she threatened to tip over, and Claire breathed out now that she had some stability on either side of her, and then she was able to move forward, into the Dawson house and passing through the front door until she was in the foyer. Then she paused as she looked around and saw a dozen people looking in her direction. Many faces she had never seen before, and others which she had, but not with the same look on them.

“Claire. How lovely that you came.” Elisabeth said as she walked towards her, and Claire’s arms were freed from Jason and Seth on either side so Elisabeth could hug her and kiss her on her cheek. Which was… unusual, to say the least. But then again Claire knew she was in for a night of unexpected things as she walked further into the house.

The biggest surprise of her first 5 minutes since arriving came from Nate though, who walked up to her with two glasses of champagne and handed one too her, which Claire took and then looked at it a bit uneasy. “Relax. Alcohol actually helps to ware off vampires. We don’t like the taste of it in blood. So drink up, I’d say.” He said. Then his serious face broke and he smiled. Claire smiled along with him, then looking at him and noticing how he seemingly had returned to his old self. Which was a relief, considering what happened not that long ago. And Nate must have noticed that Claire was staring, because he turned to her and his face became sincere. “Thank you, Claire. For doing this. For everything you have done.”

His voice was soft, genuine and emotional, and Claire knew what he meant by peaking inside of his brain for a bit. There she saw the words he didn’t speak out loud. The regret of taking the risk of staying in town too long. The regret for causing trouble between her and Payton. And the regret for not being able to thank her sooner. “You don’t have to thank me Nate. You don’t owe me anything. I’m trusting you guys because I want to. I’m here, because I want to. We’re all good.” She said. And to that Nate nodded with a soft smile, before he cheered against her glass briefly. He then walked over to the other side of the room where Lauren was waiting for him, greeting him with a big smile and a kiss.

From there on out Claire was usually accompanied by a relay presence of Elisabeth, Jason, James and most recently Seth, who kept her company at the side of the room. Occasionally one of the guests would walk up to them and Claire would smile politely at them as they greeted her by her full name. She would then try to identify the person by their accent or physical description but mostly she would fail.

Like the last person who came up to her and Seth. A cheerful older man, whose name was apparently Gerard and who the Dawsons had known since the first world war. He and Seth appeared close friends, so Claire stood by awkwardly as they recalled old stories of back in the day. Eventually Gerard acknowledged her and told her she looked beautiful, to which Seth smiled and Claire picked up on the fact that Gerard was a known ladiesman from the back of Seth’s mind. So Claire was glad when he walked off, and judging by his thoughts so was Seth.

“I thought you guys were friends?” she asked, and Seth rolled his eyes a little. “We are. But he hits on everything that wears a skirt. Or a ballgown, in this case.” He said, smiling apologetically. “Sorry. If you’re done with being stared at we could go to the kitchen. You’re hungry so I can try and see if we have some food.” Of course an all-vampire event didn’t have waiters walking around with hors d’oevres. Just a non-stop supply of champagne and other forms of alcohol, some of which Claire was certain wasn’t even red wine. “Yeah, sounds good.”

The kitchen was quieter right away and Claire thanked herself for agreeing to this. She then took a seat on the barstools at the kitchen island and kicked off her high heels. As they landed on the ground with a sharp thud, Seth paused his movement in opening the fridge and raised an eyebrow. “Don’t judge.” She said, as she wiggled her toes a little now that they had the freedom to move. Seth promised he wouldn’t, and then he pulled out some ingredients for a cheese sandwich which was fine by Claire. A silence then fell over them as Seth maneuvered his hands around the food, and Claire watched how he prepared it with more skill than she probably could, and a minute later a fancy cheese sandwich stood in front of her.

“Seth, I’m seriously getting worried. It’s 9.45PM” Jason then said, walking into the kitchen and frowning a bit when he saw Claire eating her sandwich. Which she paused abruptly after three bites. “About what?” Seth asked, moving away from the counter and walking up to Jason. “Alyssa.” Jason sighed.

And that caused some alarm bells to ring in the back of Seth’s mind. Because of Alyssa wasn’t there, then this whole thing would just look terribly bad. Their friends knew about Alyssa. They expected her here. They also expected Payton Silverstone, and neither of those two people showed up. That’s when Claire looked up and Jason caught her face turning worried as she grabbed her phone from her clutch.

“Have you heard anything from your sister?” he then asked her, and Claire looked up from the screen and shook her head. “And I wasn’t worried about that before but… she hasn’t even checked in with me yet. And she knew I would be here. She knows, I put the pendant on her bed…” Claire said.

And Payton would’ve missed it as she made her way back through the portal, looking around in her room before she sat down on her bed in exhaustion. She sighed briefly as she closed her eyes, and she trailed down the covers of her bed, ready to snuggle up and go to sleep for a few days, until she felt the cold medal of the pendant on her finger.

That’s when she abruptly opened her eyes and she stared at it, before delicately taking it into her hands. Then she cursed, and she reached for her phone and cursed even more when it was dead. Which, travelling across dimensions to a world where technology wasn’t so advanced, would do that to a device. So she sighed deeply and looked from the pendant to her closet.

Fifteen minutes later and across town Jason and Seth made their way to the foyer to drive over to the school when James clinged his glass, announcing a speech, and the entire place fell silent, heads turning into the direction of the fireplace first, and then over to the foyer as James noticed Jason and Seth. That’s when they exchanged a look and subtly made a 180 turn to face the living room, and James commenced his speech.

“Seriously guys?” Claire asked, and Seth looked at Claire while trying to pretend like he was paying attention to James addressing their allies. “Claire, this is important. If we leave on the moment that James addresses everyone here, it looks even worse than not showing up.” He said, and Claire shook her head in disbelief as she also turned to James and his speech in the middle of the living room. Claire then caught the looks of Dylan and Alyson through the crowd and she tried to relax her shoulders a bit as she listened to James, talking about how they counted on their allies to ward off intruders.

And then, as if this whole situation wasn’t hard enough for Claire, James looked directly at her as he called the Silverstones a valuable ally, and that they owed a great deal to their strength. Which was the moment where Claire was overwhelmed by questions as to why her sister wasn’t there, and if Payton didn’t support the alliance.

Then the double doors at the front of the house opened, and Payton walked into the foyer of the Dawson house, her bright red dress flowing behind her as if she was leaving a trail of blood. Which could have been a possibility, had she not gone to Divitia.

Payton then looked around in the room and she swallowed deeply, before forcing a smile on her face. However that didn’t stop the dozens of vampires in front of her from staring. Payton was overwhelmed to the point where she wanted to make a 180 turn and drag her sister along with her.

But then Lauren moved towards her and welcomed her with a hug, and the next person Payton saw was Jason, who handed her a glass of champagne and a sympathetic nod. And he didn’t move away after that. He stayed closeby, almost effectively shielding her from the looks of the vampires in the room, who now slowly turned back towards James where he started to explain the strategy they were going to be using. Which soon caused for turmoil amongst the audience, and Payton felt Claire take her hand as they followed after Seth who walked them through the dining room back towards the kitchen, where Payton immediately exchanged her empty glass of champagne for another.

“You came.” Seth then said once she had taken a sip from her new glass, and Payton looked up. “Yes. I did. Although I almost didn’t make it.” She said, then looking at Claire. “There was trouble in Divitia. They’re not thrilled that we’re actively co-operating with vampires. They think it will upset the balance and undo the history of our bloodline.” Payton said. To that, Claire took Payton’s hand and she checked Payton’s temperature by putting her hand on her forehead. “You went to Divitia and came back between lunch and just now?” she asked, and Payton nodded. “Actually after my final class and now. The lapis argentum was freaking out when I got upstairs. Did you… Didn’t you see my note?” she asked.

Seth swallowed and stepped into the conversation. “I saw it. I’m sorry Claire, you were busy with the spell and I should have said something but I didn’t know what it meant and I also didn’t want to make it seem like I was snooping.” But that was exactly what he had been doing, snooping. Which was why Payton turned towards him and frowned. “You were in our room?” but before she could say much more Claire picked in by saying she said it was okay.

“Can you give us a minute?” Payton then asked the boys, and the two of them nodded, moving back to the living room and Payton waited until the doors closed. She wanted to talk, but Claire beat her to it. “Payton, are you really okay? You went through a portal twice within 4 hours.” Claire asked, and Payton removed Claire’s worried hand, taking both of them into hers. “

“Claire, I’m fine. And I’m sorry I wasn’t there for the spell but… Claire you don’t need me for that. You don’t need me for every single spell you do. And you did it.” Payton said, touching the pendant around her neck. “I’m proud of you, okay?” she said, wrapping her arms around Claire, who sighed in relief and nodded. “Thank you. I knew I could do it I just needed a… a little bit of a boost.” Claire said.

Payton then sighed and pulled her sister in an embrace, sighing deeply over her shoulder. “We’ll talk about Divitia tomorrow. Tonight we do what we have to do to keep our town safe, okay? Now, update me on the situation.”

And so Claire gave a brief update, and complained about her high heels, which caused for both of them to be laughing once Seth and Jason returned to the kitchen. They seemed to be exchanging a look of who shoulder talk, and Payton crossed her arms. “One of you. Speak.”

“We have an image problem.” Jason admitted. Payton frowned and looked over at Claire. “See, our strongest allie didn’t show up. Which doesn’t look good. So we need you guys. We need you to make a speech. Or… something. To take away the people’s attention from who’s missing.”

Payton sighed at that and she looked at Claire, taking another sip from her drink. “Don’t look at me. I travelled through a portal twice in 4 hours, you just said it.” “But Payton, I can’t do speeches. You’re a journalist. You write stuff like this for a living.”

“Actually I don’t make any money off of it, but true.” Payton said. She took another glass, and Seth moved it a little further than the inch away from the edge of the counter where Payton put it down. “So you’ll do it then?” Claire asked.

Payton looked at her contemplating, and then she nodded. “Sure. I’ll give a speech.” She said, throwing her hands in the air a bit. The Silverstones then made their way back into the living room, where James looked at them hopeful and Payton nodded, before she stood in front of the fireplace and clinged her glass.

“Hi. Hello. I’m over here.” Payton said when all the confused looks turned around. She smiled softly, and took in the crowd in front of her. Who probably all saw a walking and talking bloodbag in front of them. Lovely.

“I don’t think I need to introduce myself. Which is fine. I actually don’t have to introduce myself in the place where I just came from, because over there I’m a queen.” Payton said, and she smiled. “Just like many women in my family have been queens before me. We’re meant to oversee the peace in our world. And I guess in that way, it’s not so much different from my role here. In this town. My town. The town where me and my sisters live which we welcomed you in tonight. Just like we welcomed the Dawson family.”

Payton lifted her glass and drank from it briefly, then continuing her speech. “Which you won’t hear me say was the easiest partnership. But it is one. A partnership. An alliance. We all want to keep this town safe. This territory safe. I want to keep my family safe. And I will do anything to ensure that.”

Payton then looked several people in the crowd in the eye, and then she sighed. “That means we will probably have to fight. Because people are out there, after us.” She said, clutching onto her glass a little tighter.

“But we will defeat them. And if we do, we will not only survive. We, will thrive.” Then Payton started blinking, and Claire looked at her before she hit Seth’s arm, telling her something was wrong. Then Claire walked to stand next to her sister, and she held on to her waist firmly.

“As my sister was saying, we will work together as allies. So, to the alliance.” Claire said, raising her hand in the air. A murmur of the words “Alliance” went through the room as everyone cheered, and then Claire put on her bravest smile as she walked through the glass doors outside, onto the patio. There, Jason was already waiting and he casually walked on the other side of Payton to a place behind the conservatory.

“I got her.” Payton heard Jason say right before her eyes closed and her knees gave in, and moments later her muscles were resting on a soft bed with satin sheets. She smiled dopey and happily, and a good minute later Claire walked in, not through the window like Jason had come, and she sat down next to Payton to feel her temperature.

“Yeah, it’s the travelling and the alcohol. Damn it Payton.” Claire said, shaking her head. “She’s bad with alcohol?” Jason asked frowning, and Claire sighed, annoyingly. “She’s not. She usually doesn’t drink much though. Our dad was an alcoholic.” Claire said. This caused for Seth and Jason to exchange a look.

“She’s not even old enough to drink…” Jason then commented, and Claire rolled her eyes. “She’s 18, Jason. Her 18th birthday was basically all of us getting drunk around a campfire.” She said. She vividly recalled how Payton stated that in most of Europe, like the UK and France, the drinking age was 18 and so Payton had dedicated that night to the knowledge that she was free of the French guy in her life but they could still party to their laws.

A few minutes later Elisabeth walked in and she put her stuff on the bed before turning to the boys. “Okay, down you go. You too Claire, people need to see you. Don’t worry, I brought a change of clothes and I brought some ice to cool down her temperature. I will stay with her the entire time, do you trust me?”

Claire looked up at Elisabeth and back down to her sister, trying to figure out what Payton’s answer would be. When she wasn’t entirely sure it would be no, Claire sighed and she nodded. “I trust you.”

Then she got up and she took the shoes from Payton’s feet, and she helped her out of her dress before she put her in a set of pajamas which made Claire wonder who owned them. Elisabeth then tucked Payton in and Claire stepped away backwards, slowly, before she was out the room. Payton awoke slightly from the sound of the door, yet her eyes didn’t open and she softly mumbled as she continued to sleep shortly after.

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