Enter The Realm of the Pendragon

Duplicity

Genre: Drama
Rating: 15
Word Count: 2,202
Author's Notes: Written for NaNoWriMo 2005
Claire is a lowly administration assistant in a local government office where she keeps very much to herself.
Dante is a young perky gay blond who does something important in marketing but seems to spend most of his time hanging out in a coffee shop with a select group of friends.
They live entirely seperate lives until one day; Dante disappears and only Claire knows where he is. She soon realises that he owes his life to her in more than one way. The question is, which one of them will survive?

Chapter Three

Claire shivered. She had totally lost all track of time and if it wasn't for the fact that her feet were like blocks of ice she wouldn't have noticed how late it had got. She glanced at her watch and sighed. "Gone ten already? Where does the time go?" She bit her lip in thought, looking between the computer screen and her watch and trying to come up with a decision. She did not want to finish just yet, but that was part of the problem, it was always hard to tear herself away from the computer even though she spent pretty much all day sat in front of one at work. She always thought it would be the last thing she wanted to do when she got home. "Okay, I'll just check my e-mail and then I'll go to bed." With a determined nod, she quickly opened up Yay! and typed in her username and password.

Half an hour later, she was attempting to sit on her bare feet in a vain attempt to keep them warm but apart from being rather uncomfortable, it made it difficult to type. She'd already checked her e-mails, deleted the ones that she didn't want and responded to others so there was nothing really keeping her there. She decided that maybe it was time to call it a night and with great reluctance logged off and closed everything down.

She was already in her nightwear, an old t-shirt teamed with a pair of leggings and a ragged hoody for warmth. None of it was stylish in the slightest, it was purely for comfort. At one time the t-shirt had been black but it was now a well faded shade of grey. The hoody was one that had seen her through college and her first year at university before she acknowledged that maybe it had seen better days and resigned it to the back of her wardrobe. She'd had a tendency to pull the sleeves over her hands to either keep them warm or just by habit and it had stretched them all out of shape. Now it came in handy for keeping her warm at night. She wondered if her reluctance to throw anything away was symbolic, maybe she had too great of an attachment to the past or something like that. Then again, it could just mean that she liked to get her money's worth and never threw anything away until there was absolutely nothing that could be done with it. She much preferred the latter. It sounded a lot nicer for one thing.

She walked into the kitchen and put the kettle on. Rummaging through the cupboard brought forth her favourite mug and the hot chocolate mix. Humming cheerfully to herself, she spooned generous helpings of chocolate powder into her mug and danced about on the cold lino while waiting for the kettle to boil wishing that she'd left her socks on at least. Once the kettle had switched itself off, she poured the boiling water into the mug, stirred it briskly and after grabbing the packet of chocolate digestives, turned off the light and went upstairs to her bedroom.

Switching on the lamp on her bedside table, she picked up the book she was currently reading and climbed into bed. She pounded the pillows into shape with her fists, propping them up behind her for support and settled back. Her hot chocolate was in reach, the packet of chocolate digestives lay on the duvet and her well-thumbed copy of Someday I'll Do It was on her lap. She smiled, wondering if there could be anything better in the world than this. Sliding a biscuit out of the packet, she took a bite trying desperately to avoid getting crumbs in bed and opening her book, started to read.

Before long, she found that she was once more trying to twiddle that piece of hair behind her ear that she used to play with before she had had her hair cut short. With a sigh of annoyance, she tried to concentrate more on the book and less on her hair. She read the same paragraph three times before her eyes wandered off the page and to some point in space. She reached up absent-mindedly with one hand, running the fingers of it through her hair time and time again, playing with some of the strands, rolling others between her finger and thumb. She wasn't really aware of what she was thinking, one thought flowed into another with no conscious control. Slowly she came back to herself and realised that she'd put her book down on her lap and had the fingers of one hand completely entwined in her hair. She was aware that some of her thoughts had been concerning her new hairstyle and how people had reacted to it that day.

Julia's comment of it being too masculine surprised her. She wasn't really sure what to make of it or what Julia was trying to say, but as she probed a little deeper, she realised that she wasn't overly sure how she felt about that. Odd. She shook her head, moving on to Rhea. Her reaction was rather typical for her, she got so excited over anything related to men and a new look fell into that area especially if it actually got the attraction of a man. And then there was the man himself. Blake. Claire hugged her knees to herself as a small smile played on her lips. Now he was a surprise. Before today she wouldn't have thought he even knew she existed. She was all too aware of him, but had never even so much as said hello while passing in the corridor never mind have the sort of conversations as they'd had today. She'd replayed certain aspects of them over again in her head, looking for the nuances Rhea had been after and trying to find meaning in the slightest thing before shaking her head in disgust at what she had become and forcing all manner of analysis out of her head. He had spoken to her. It didn't matter if he was simply being friendly or if he did actually want something more, the very fact that he had spoken to her at all was enough. She was very much of the opinion that a person could never have too many friends.

She reached out to pick up her mug of now slightly cool hot chocolate and happened to catch sight of the clock as she did so. In less than twelve hours she would be back at work, something which ordinarily didn't faze her in the slightest. Despite her earlier show of not trying to read the slightest meaning into the way Blake had said goodbye, it had somehow managed to create an issue which she would never have thought of before. Or at least not in the way she was thinking about it now. Thanks to Rhea and, to a lesser extent, Blake, there was a very important matter to consider, the matter of what she was going to wear tomorrow.

She put her bookmark in her book and placed it on her bedside table. Throwing back the covers, she got out of bed and went over to the full length mirror on the front of one of the doors to her wardrobe. Turning herself this way and that, she studied her reflection while hearing Rhea's enthusiastic chatter from earlier on that day playing in her head.

"It's your new haircut that's made all the difference, it's obvious that it was what was needed to attract the attention of someone like Blake. He wants someone young and fashionable and daring, you know. That haircut is a start. Next we'll need to get you into some better clothes, show a bit of leg or chest and you'll have him eating out of the palm of your hand."

Claire pulled thoughtfully at her lip. She tried to imagine what a young fashionable and daring version of herself would look like. A mental image began to take shape in her head based very heavily on the sort of girls shown in adverts for soft drinks, all smiles and bright colours and dancing about all over the place for no reason. In her mind's eye, she pictured herself with gorgeous shiny light blonde hair, all beautifully spiked and not a hair out of place using that invisible super strong gel that kept it looking beautifully spiked all day. Her make-up would be the sort that made it look like she wasn't wearing any, giving her perfect skin with not even so much as a freckle, never mind a blemish. It would enhance her large blue-grey eyes and her perfect white teeth. She'd be wearing a short skirt, probably denim, showing off her lovely long slim legs that were also clad in a pair of black leather kneeboots, like the ones that she kept seeing girls wearing around town. Her blouse would be a low-cut one, probably something tight too but there her imagination faltered, the image of the all new fashionable and feminine Claire faded away and she was left staring at her reflection in the mirror, all faded t-shirt and baggy leggings.

Not to be discouraged, she opened her wardrobe and rummaged through the clothes it contained even though she knew she was wasting her time. It didn't contain anything that would enable her to show off a bit of leg or a bit of cleavage. It was full of trousers and shirts, comfortable jumpers and jeans, nothing revealing, clingy or daring in the slightest. That simply wasn't her style. Even the bag she used for work was a plain simple backpack, not a glamorous handbag such as the one Rhea carried. Claire could never understand how she could fit anything in it, it looked barely big enough for her purse and mobile phone never mind half of the things Claire carried in hers.

Claire flicked through the hangers, pulling out the outfit she had intended to wear the next day and holding it up against herself. A simple pair of black trousers, the legs cut slightly wider at the bottom in bootcut style; a pale blue shirt with three-quarter length sleeves and her favourite comfy black boots with the thick sole. It was the kind of outfit she felt comfortable in. It didn't shout or demand attention, it looked smart and professional but most of all, it was her. She thought once more of the all new fashionable and feminine Claire that Rhea thought she needed to be in order to get Blake's interest. The very idea was not one she liked. None of it really made sense to her and it seemed to take far too much effort to be so uncomfortable. She hadn't been wearing anything out of the ordinary for her when Blake started talking to her, the haircut apparently had been enough for that. Did she really need to change her style as well? Did she even want to?

Claire narrowed her eyes. If the only way she could get someone such as Blake O'Connell interested and maintain that interest was by being something she wasn't, then she wasn't overly sure she wanted to do that. She wasn't even sure she really wanted him anyway, although the attention he had given her that day was very nice and gave her a warm feeling whenever she thought about it. However, the very thought of changing herself to please him made her slightly angry. She knew that there were things about her body she would like to change - after all, what girl was 100% happy with her figure - and she supposed there was some irony in the fact that the very things Rhea wanted her to show off were the very things she hated most.

She gazed at herself in the mirror once more. A nice strong jaw line would be good for a start, she didn't like the way her chin was all soft and flabby-looking. Then, a smaller chest definitely. Smaller hips too preferably. Maybe most women these days were a size 14 but she would much rather she wasn't one of them. Her legs were kind of chunky and muscular due to lots of gymnastics as a child. She had mixed feelings about them: the muscles in her thighs and calves were well-developed and she thought they looked good, especially hidden under a pair of trousers but if she ever happened to wear a skirt, her legs looked ridiculous and not in the least bit sexy. She sighed in frustration. She hadn't spent so long gazing at her reflection before and it was making her feel slightly uncomfortable. She returned the clothes she had selected back to the wardrobe and closed the doors before crawling back into bed. She wasn't overly sure she had accomplished anything by any of that, except make her late going to sleep. She thumped her pillow in frustration before snuggling down and turning off the light. Her last thought before she went to sleep was that Rhea was going to be very disappointed in her.

Chapter Four.

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