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A Rock and a Hard Place

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When Claudette Morel was told that one day she would find herself stuck between a rock and a hard place she had always assumed that would be the day she would be forced to present her thesis to a large body of people or fail her graduate program. After all, she had never had to deal with too many hard decisions in her life. Living the life of an introvert and school 'weirdo' made things, in a way, easier for her. It was hard to find yourself in a compromising position when you spent most of the time by yourself. Honestly if she gave it any thought she had ever found herself faced with such a difficult choice once. It was when she had been forced to decide whether she’d endure being ostracized throughout the two month chemistry class she had been so excited about enrolling in for the summer or tell her parents she couldn’t take the misery inflicted on her anymore and stay home.

Now older and stuck in an endless nightmare she was ashamed of her past behavior. If she could go back in time she would tell her fifteen year old self to just pick something because in a few years you won't get a choice. That in a few years you're going to be running for your life from people hell-bent on killing you. That two of those said people were going to make you know how it truly felt to be stuck between a rock and a hard place.

As if being killed routinely and being trapped in some other plane of existence with little hope of escape wasn't bad enough.

Typically having a killer momentarily interested in you wasn't that big of a deal. It was largely accepted that some of them played favorites and not in the way that one would hope. Usually if you found yourself as the focal point of a killer’s attention you were in trouble. Laurie was testament of that with as many times that Michael had deliberately tore through the other survivors with the intention to save her for last. But they had history so it was for the most part understandable. Jake had dealt with his own unwanted attention from the Trapper though it had been decided it stemmed largely from his dismantling of one too many bear traps. Even Feng ran into trouble every now and again with the Doctor. But not Claudette. She didn’t have some previous established connection to any of their pursuers and did her best to not aggravate any of them yet somehow she still found herself caught in the crosshairs of not one, but two killers.

Thinking back on it, she really should have realized something was off when the Ghost Face had remained crouched behind a crumbling wall west of the Asylum. Usually when one of them spotted him he either engaged in a chase or slunk off like a shadow. However, when Claudette had spotted him from where she was working on a generator with Meg, he simply remained put. Had it not been for the fact he always made her paranoid she would have found the way he tilted his head at her and pressed a finger to the open mouth of his mask fascinating. Instead, she grabbed Meg around the bicep and booked it across the grounds as a cold chill swept up her spine.

Of course being ignorant towards anything that surpassed general civility and friendship, her initial thoughts was that he was toying with her. It wouldn’t be the first time a survivor had been messed with and from what she knew of the Ghost Face he was a prime candidate to behave in such a manner. Her theory, after several strange trials, was eventually crushed under the heel of a steel-toed boot when he found her hiding in one of the lockers at Lèrys and finally spoke.

“You know for such an unassuming wallflower, I never pegged you to be the one to play hard to get,” his voice was surprisingly soft, absolutely male but not the vicious rasp that she had always imagined he might have. He cocked his head at her then, clearly surveying her before he spoke again. “But you know what they say: never judge a book by its cover. I mean look at me,” the way he gestured to himself casually with his bloody knife was somewhat unnerving before his shoulders shook gently as he produced a low distorted noise. A laugh.

Strange how his voice hadn’t been affected in the same way. Part of Claudette was glad but it was only briefly. She was still trapped in a locker, blocked in by someone who was likely to stab her at any minute.

“That's good though,” his voice cut into her thoughts. She quickly returned her attention to him. “The unassuming ones are always the most interesting. I would know."

He reached out for her then and on instinct she shrank back, banging her head upon the back wall of the locker. A muffled click of a tongue made her flinch just as a glove hand seized a tight hold around her wrist.

“Now, now, if anyone is going to be hurting you it’s going to be me,” the Ghost Face chided then tugged.

With an indignant yelp, Claudette went stumbling forward and collided into his solid body.

“Sorry,” the words left her mouth before she could stop herself. Funny how even with the possibility of being killed horrifically she had defaulted into her usual meek ways. It was something that clearly didn’t escape the attention of her would-be assailant.

“Cute, unassuming and has manners? I’m going to have to introduce you to my mother if you keep this up,” the Ghost Face commented as that same distorted chuckle left him.

Whether it was a threat or not, Claudette wasn’t sure but she knew the minute he had turned with his gloved hand still firmly locked around her wrist she didn’t want to go anywhere with him. She might have had manners but she wasn’t such a pushover that she was going to let herself get hooked willingly. Jerking backwards, she tried to pry his fingers off of her to no avail.

“Let go of me,” she demanded, trying to dig her heels into the tile flooring but he was much stronger than her.

Even without the Entity imbuing the masked man with incredible strength, she was certain he still would have been able to pull her across the floor as easily as he was currently doing.

“I said-” she raised her fist to bring it down towards his wrist only to be swung around into the nearby wall.

The force knocked the wind out of her and sent a terrible pain from the back of her skull down to the base of her spine as she blinked rapidly, trying to refocus her vision. As the spots eventually faded her gaze settled on the white mask staring at her in silence. Just standing there made her feel small and insignificant especially with how he just looked over her. He was quite tall. Not as tall as the Wraith or Huntress but he still stood a head above her. He was still just as intimidating if not more.

“Anyone ever tell you that feisty is a good look on you?” the Ghost Face questioned with a tone that leaned more inquisitive than mocking as he boxed her in. "By the way you’re staring at me I’ll take that as a no, so let me be the first to tell you, it’s attractive. Even under these piss poor lighting conditions your eyes just shine. Here, take these off.”

Before she could fully digest what he had just told her, he was pulling back just enough to take a careful hold of her glasses.

“Wait don’t, don’t do that. I can’t see if you take them,” Claudette protested loudly and even dared to grab him about the wrist.

Her attempt was met with little resistance but it didn’t mean that her glasses were given back. On the contrary, the gloved hand that kept a delicate grasp on her frames deftly secured one of the legs into the collar of a leather cloak before hands settled on her shoulders and pushed her back into the wall.

“Shh, it’s alright, I’m right here and I’m not going anywhere,” the Ghost Face shushed her in a gentle voice and for one reason or another Claudette quieted down. “Good girl, now let’s get a good look at you,” fingers fitted around her jaw, tilting her head up so that she made direct eye contact with mesh covered eye holes.

The killer let out what she guessed was a hum as he leaned in.

“See, just like I thought. You’d make for one pretty picture. In fact I just happen to have good ol Philly on me right now,” he released her to push a hand into some hidden pocket of his jacket in order to pull out his camera.

All the air left Claudette’s lungs at that moment. With as many trials as she had had with the masked killer she knew nothing good ever came from that camera being in those glove clad hands. The bright light of the flash being triggered blinded her and in an act of both self-preservation and fear, she let out a cry as she threw her arms up in front of her face.

“No, no, no” the Ghost Face chided, pulling her arm away with his free hand. “I need to see that pretty face of yours. Tilt your head to the left a bit would you? Good, now just look directly at me and…perfect,” the flash went off again before he was eagerly looking back at the screen. “You really have a face made for the camera, you know that? I bet if you were a little taller and worked on that confidence of yours you could be a model but you're not and now you’re stuck here, not that I’m complaining,” he looked back up at her. “That just means I get you all to myself.”

The fact he sounded so pleased with that fact didn’t go over Claudette’s head. This entire thing was not only strange but nerve wracking and to make matters worse she didn’t think he was trying to mess with her in the least. If she wasn’t so flabbergasted she would have said something or at least tried. She didn’t have the backbone that Meg and Laurie seemed to possess so she remained still and hoped the others were getting as many generators as they could. Thankfully that had indeed been the case as not too far off the sound of a generator powering on to full functionality caught her attention. Subsequently, the Ghost Face was also alerted to the newly made progress as he looked over his shoulder in the direction the noise had come from.

“Oh so they are working. What’s that? Two now or is it three?”

“That makes two,” Claudette willingly offered if only to get her mouth working again.

“In that case, let’s take one more for the road,” the Ghost Face decided and without further warning drew her right up against his body.

Had she not been on the verge of a panic attack and feeling hopelessly embarrassed about the proximity and complete disregard of personal space Claudette might have enjoyed the warmth radiating off of the other’s body. Might have been able to question why despite his usual murderous intentions she felt strangely safe in his hold. She might have even noticed that the usual harsh scent of rubbing alcohol had been replaced with something more pleasant. More expensive.

“Say cheese,” the instructions cut into her thoughts and before she knew it the flash was being triggered once more.

A bit dazed, she watched as the camera was lowered and turned around so that they could both view the image taken. She hadn’t exactly smiled but she didn’t look particularly put off either. For what seemed like a long time she simply stared. When was the last time that she really looked at herself? Sure if you looked there were broken mirrors scattered around the Entity’s realm but they were often hazy and covered in a strange black film. But here, with this camera she saw herself perfectly. If she forgot that nothing about her new life was normal she could pretend that she had been roped into attending a Halloween party by Meg and Kate and that the man with his arm comfortably wrapped around her was a fellow partygoer instead of a knife wielding murderer.

“We make for a cute couple if I do say so myself,” the Ghost Face hummed in appreciation as he finally withdrew his arm but he remained where he was. He turned his head towards her and tapped the LCD with a finger. “This is definitely going on its own wall.”

“Wall?” Claudette blinked before a thought struck her. “You print the photos you take of us?”

She must have had a look of mortification on her face as she received a light garbled chuckle as the killer slipped his camera back into whatever secret slot it had been confined in.

“Well it’s more like they just materialize but yeah sure. I’ve always been big on home decor even with the whole moving from place to place thing, gives me a nice warm feeling to come home and see my hard work immortalized on my wall,” he confessed airly then paused as he cocked his head at her. “Why do you think I have so many of you?”

Before Claudette could even think to question his far from cryptic comment, the Ghost Face was settling her glasses back on to her face before he stepped back.

“Give you a ten second start.”

It was all he said but for Claudette that’s all he needed to say as she turned on her heel and sprinted out into the hall.

As strange as the run-in had been it had only continued to become stranger that Claudette started silently worrying about her personal safety. She knew that death in a trial was by now a little bit more than an inconvenience but the Ghost Face despite all his personable ways was still, in every aspect of the word, a killer. The fact he could call her pretty, wave at her from behind a rock and still throw her up onto a hook with not a care in the world frightened her yet somehow she found herself, somewhat willingly, getting pulled into whatever morbid play he had chosen to cast her in. His presence wasn't isolated to trials either. On more than one occasion he had somehow managed to not only find her among what they had deemed the safer parts of the Entity's realm but had constantly caught her off guard while doing it. The way he acted as if it was normal for them to interact past their disturbing rendition of hide and seek never seemed to bother him.

She felt the leather of his gloves skimming over the peak of her bare shoulder before she saw his boots in her peripheral from where she was digging up Sweet William. While she had grown accustomed to his questionable presence she still jumped whenever he snuck up on her, which was always.

“At it again are we Miss Morel?”

“Someone has to do it,” Claudette shrugged noncommittally as she kept her focus on the task at hand. She always avoided severing a plant's roots whenever she could.

“Or so you like to tell yourself,” the Ghost Face snorted in return.

He moved then, staying close enough where Claudette could track his movements without having to raise her head. Eventually he stopped so that he was directly in front of her, boots mindful of crushing the flowering plant as he finally dropped into a crouch. His knee bumped into hers as he did but other than that he kept his hands to himself. She had expected him to speak but when thick silence remained hanging heavily in the air she finally looked up to find him staring at her.

“W-what?” she asked as dread started pricking at her skin. “Why are you staring at me like that?”

“You’re a smart girl, you figure it out.”

Even though his tone was relatively neutral Claudette still frowned. She might have gotten used to his presence but the way he sometimes appeared to be a completely different person always left her on edge.

“I don’t know.”

“Try,” the Ghost Face cocked his head at her. She could just barely detect his aggravation.

“I-I really don’t know.”

Silence fell between them again but it was only when he had righted himself that she realized she had been holding her breath. Taking in a much needed inhale Claudette tried to calm herself. She figured that she should venture in asking him exactly what it was he wanted her to figure out but the idea immediately left her when he reached a hand down to the side of his right thigh and unsheathed his knife. He had yet to cut into her outside of a trial but she wasn’t complacent enough to believe that whatever they had, in terms of a mutual relationship, would keep her safe if the need to cause her bodily harm ever rose within him. Luckily he didn’t seem inclined to do so at that moment as he smacked her hand away from the Sweet William she was still fumbling with.

“You’re wasting your time digging them up like this,” he spoke gently as he neatly sliced into the stems with a single swipe before gathering the flowers up to hold them out to her. “See? Easy and efficient and best of all no dirt under the nails.”

“Well I don’t have a knife,” Claudette pointed out as she took the plants from him and turned to grab the rucksack she had brought along with her.

“Want mine?” the bright offer made her look back to find the handle turned towards her.

“I uh...no that’s alright. I don’t mind using my hands,” she quickly objected as she hastily stored the flowers into her sack. “Besides don’t you need that for “work”? I don’t think you can really afford to be giving your knife to anyone.”

“Oh but you’re not just anyone,” the Ghost Face noted. “I thought I made myself clear on that front.”

“Yes, I’m the survivor and-”

“No,” he interrupted sharply as he twirled the knife between his fingers to point the blade at her. “You’re not just some survivor, Claudette Morel, you’re my survivor. Have a bit more respect for yourself, alright?”

Dumbly Claudette nodded to be rewarded with a gloved finger curling around one her dreadlocks and a slight tug before the killer retracted his hand and stood.

“That’s my girl.”

“Are you going now?” she asked suddenly as a sense of disappointment seemed to fill her. “I mean it’s just that you usually come here for a reason.”

“Who said I didn’t?” the Ghost Face crooned as he stepped around her only to lean down towards her ear. Abruptly he latched on to her ponytail where she had it secured at the base of her neck. “I want to play a game of keep away with you. Is that alright?” he questioned though they both knew she had little choice in the matter.

Claudette answered anyways.

“Okay...we can do that. What are we keeping?”

The soft laugh prompted her to look up into that white masked face.

“You,” it was said so matter of fact that she didn’t even think to protest it. “From who you’re probably thinking, well that’s easy, everyone but more specifically Frank Morrison.”

“Frank Morrison?” she furrowed her brows. The name didn’t ring a bell.

“Legion’s leader.”

Oh. Claudette should have known things would eventually head in this direction. It seemed she was having the worst of luck with killers inexplicably developing some form of interest in her. The Legion or Frank as it were, seemed more intent on terrorizing her compared to the Ghost Face even when she wasn’t marked for obsession. She hated it. His behavior had dredged up too many memories of being singled out when she was in school and had gotten to the point that she would either freeze up or hide during trials if he was the assigned killer. One particular trial had been so bad that she had actually hid in the far back corner in the basement at Badham and tried to block out the screams of her fellow survivors. He had found her eventually but instead of killing her on the spot or simply hooking her, he had joined her on the stained floorboards and just sat there. It was the weirdest thing but somehow it had been the exact thing needed to put an end to his little reign of terror. From then on he was more civil.

He was nothing like the Ghost Face though. Frank was rather rough around the edges and didn’t make any effort to change his behavior either, not that Claudette expected him to but he still managed to surprise her. Sometimes when he hooked her or managed to incapacitate her he liked to hang around and talk despite the fact that she wasn’t exactly the best conversationalist especially with a giant meat hook piercing through her body. It was one of those conversations that made her privy to the fact that Frank, to some degree, was aware of the Ghost Face’s attention being directed towards her.

“So what is he your boyfriend or something?” Frank asked, pushing her over onto her back as he crouched beside her.

“B-boyfriend?” Claudette winced. She really needed to stay still. Moving was just serving to aggravate her wounded side more than just breathing did.

“Yeah, the masked guy with the camera,” the Legion elaborated as he crossed his arms over his knees and swung his knife idly between his fingers. “Really has a thing for you from the looks of it. Nearly gutted my girl Susie when she got too close to him all because she happened to see a picture of you on his camera. Said he was just sitting there staring at a shit ton of photos of you.”

Even while bleeding out Claudette felt embarrassed. She wasn’t responsible for what any of the killers did but to have someone question her about the Ghost Face’s proclivities when it came to her left her completely flustered. Deciding it was better to not answer she pressed her lips shut and looked towards the bales of hay next to her. That, however, just seemed to spur Frank to further broach the topic.

“Want one?”

“What?” she snapped her gaze back to his face or rather the bloody smiling facade he hid under.

“You heard me. Do you want a boyfriend?” Frank pressed much to her surprise and absolute horror.

There was no way he truly expected her to answer him. Claudette had never had a boyfriend in her entire life let alone a male friend before being pulled into the Entity’s realm. Ironic how she had faced more adult decisions here than she had back in the real world.

“I uh-”

“I’ll take that as a yes then,” the Legion announced as he got back up onto his feet.

“Wait, wait j-just a minute! I didn’t say yes,” she panicked as she tried to sit up but the pain shooting up her body was nearly paralyzing. Why did he have to stab her so deep? At this rate she was going to bleed out.

She hadn’t bled out though. Frank had left her alone long enough that Laurie had managed to find her inside the barn just in time to patch her up. They had escaped shortly after albeit Claudette had her suspicion that it had nothing to do with their own efforts. Legion had sort of just left them alone though he did camp Jeff as if to give the perception he was indeed doing his job. Really Claudette had expected him to forget their little talk but that proved just to be wishful thinking on her part. For someone who had assumed that the Ghost Face was her boyfriend he sure didn’t seem to care if he was. He also didn’t seem to know whether he preferred threatening her during trials or pushing her into a locker to force her to talk to him. She had quickly found out that he didn’t take too kindly to her avoiding him.

The whole thing was truly maddening and now with the Ghost Face apparently aware that Frank was, for the lack of a better word, targeting her, the whole keep away thing was going to stress her out beyond her limit. It was bad enough that she was already having to assure her friends that she was fine after trials. Now Claudette was really stuck between a rock and a hard place.