It was about an hour after leaving the barn, and the awkward conversation with Ash, behind, and Claire had now resigned herself to her bedroom alone. It was then that Sean entered the room and gave her an only slightly questioning look as he closed the door behind him.
“Weren’t you out in the barn?” he asked her quietly as he moved toward where she sat.
“I was. Now I’m not.” she said simply, still not looking up from the dress she was currently fashioning.
“Oh, I thought you were planning on maybe going riding again tonight.”
“Do you need me to leave the room, Sean?” she bit out the response, which only caused Sean to crease his brow as he moved closer.
“Did I do something to upset you?” he asked with equal parts worry and concern, as it was already obvious to him that she was indeed upset.
“You’re the one who seems to want me gone, Sean.” she retorted, though rather than speaking with anger, her words were practically a whisper.
“I have never in my life wanted you ‘gone,’ Claire.” he said with sincerity as he leaned towards her, taking her shoulders in his hands, “Why would you ever even say that? What hap--” his voice then trailed off as if suddenly taken by surprise by some new observation, “You were with Chan?” he asked instead.
“Uh, she was out in the barn, with me.” she stammered the response to his unexpected question.
“I mean with her.” he clarified in the same quiet tone, dropping his hands from her shoulders while still not moving back from her just yet.
Claire’s eyes immediately flew to the floor as tiny pools of red formed at the corner of those emerald depths, “I’m so sorry, Sean.” she nearly choked on the words as she shook her head, “I don’t know why I even let it--”
“Claire.” he stopped her mid-sentence, and then moved his hands back to her shoulders once again, “Stop.” he added just as gently.
“I am sorry though, Sean.” she repeated in the same nearly inaudible tone.
“Let me just ask you one thing.” he continued gently, his tone almost as quiet as hers.
“What?” she nearly cried the word.
Sean then paused a moment, as though trying to find the correct way to phrase his next sentence, “Being with her, did it change how you feel about me?” he asked in the same whisper.
“What?” Claire repeated, her shock showing even more clearly in her tone than her shame at that moment.
“Do you still love me?” he asked her simply.
“What? Of course!” Claire exclaimed without pause.
“Then why are you apologizing?” was his equally simple response, spoken just as sincerely as nearly every word he had spoken to her in their nearly thirteen years together.
“Wh-what?” she found herself stammering once more.
“If you still love me, then no apologies, no tears. As long as I still have your love, then that’s all I’ll ever need.” he assured before leaning even closer to gently kiss her lips.
When Sean finally allowed the kiss to end and moved back, he found her looking up at him, her confusion more than apparent. Claire then just shook her head once more, casting her eyes down again, a million thoughts racing thru her head at once.
“But you’re still upset.” he sighed after another moment, “And not just at yourself, right?” he asked, finally moving back from her again.
“You’re only saying this is ok because of Baila, aren’t you?” Claire finally managed the courage to vocalize at least one of those myriad thoughts.
“Baila?” Sean returned, furrowing his brow again.
“Cause of what you’ve done with her.” she added, somehow forcing the emotion from her voice as she forced the sentence thru her lips.
“If you mean that I’m saying this because I know that ‘what I’ve done’ with her will never change how much I love you, myself, then yes.” he replied quietly.
Claire allowed another sigh as she finally set aside the long-forgotten dress. She then shook her head once more as she too planned her next sentence, “I know I have no right at all to say this, considering, but is this honestly supposed to suddenly be all right? Honestly?” she repeated.
Sean sighed as well before taking his own seat next to her, placing a hand over her own, “At least this all should be a little bit easier now that we have two of them.” he made a weak attempt at comforting her once again.
“But Ash doesn’t even talk to Baila, let alone do anything else with her.” Claire said softly.
“Of course it’ll take time, considering how madly in love with you that he thinks he is.” Sean returned, though Claire’s only response was another look of guilt, “Besides, we don’t really know for sure what they may or may not talk about, or even do, while we’re asleep.” he added.
“He barely even speaks to me, and that’s only because of who my grandmother was…and because of the bond, of course.” she added quietly.
Sean creased his brow at the odd reference to her grandmother, as it was hardly a widely discussed subject, even between the two of them, but he knew there were more important issues at hand right then, “His needs will eventually make him turn to her, if he has no one else filling them, I mean.” Sean stated quietly as he looked away briefly at the thought his words implied. Though Claire still seemed to not be comforted much at all.
There were then several long moments of silence as he sat next to her there, his fingers still gently caressing her hand as they both appeared to be quite deep in thought, despite their lack of words spoken aloud.
After finally looking back to note her still sullen expression, Sean found his voice once more, “I’m actually the one who should be apologizing, at any rate.” he told her softly as he gave her hand a gentle squeeze.
“For?” she asked with further worry.
“For turning you into this.” he answered with his own voice dropping to that same nearly inaudible level she had been speaking at earlier.
Claire turned toward him with narrowed eyes at the sound of his words before responding, “I asked you to make me into this, practically begged you. You know that.” she unnecessarily reminded him.
“I don’t mean a vampire.” he corrected her, his eyes then being the ones glued to their bedroom floor, though his hand did remain clasped tightly around hers.
“Turning me into what, then?” Claire asked for further clarity.
“Into this…this shell: This bundle of sadness that seems to be almost all of what you are, now. I never, ever meant to turn you into that. I was always supposed to be the one who did the opposite: The one who always could make you happy, no matter what.”
“Sean…I…” Claire could hardly bear the sadness in his own voice at that point, and let hers trail away again.
“Tell me what I can do, anything I can do, please.” Sean spoke desperately as he turned his eyes back to hers once more.
“Sean…” she began, though still could say nothing more, as there was no real answer to his question, or at least none that her brain could find at that moment.
“What can I possibly do to even make things just a little bit better, please tell me.” Sean asked before allowing his own sigh as Claire continued looking downwards again, “After all, we do have a long, long time to live this life now. I need to know how to make you happy again. Please.” he added once more.
Finally, after a long pause, Claire had to find some response, “Sean, this isn’t for you to do. This is all me. As Haven always says, you’re the one who’s adjusted to this. I’m the one whose having so much trouble doing so. We all already honestly know that that is the truth.” she confessed, her voice trembling as she spoke, “I suppose all we can do is hope that I just need more time, and that eventually I’ll manage to erase what I thought was the way things were always supposed to be between us. Cause they can’t be that way ever again, not any more. And like I said, I’m the one who has to come to terms with all the facts of this new life. You’ve already done your part to accept these things. It’s my turn now. And that’s why Chan and I did what we did. It was supposed to help me to do that. And it did at least prove to me that I can still love you, completely, even after being with someone else, in that way. And I believe that was her point. I just need time to somehow convince myself that anyone, meaning you, could ever love me as strongly as I love you. I’ve always had trouble believing that, remember?”
“If you want me to get rid of them, her, I will. Just say it, and I will.” he promised.
“Sean, we need them for both blood, and safety. I do know and understand that. After all, the point to living forever was to be with each other, forever. And to do that, we need to actually live.” another sigh, “As much as I appear to be fighting it, I know our only choices now are to either spend eternity with each other, as well as our servants, or else spend eternity as nothing but dust. And that second choice would mean sentencing ourselves to never have even one more happy moment together, ever again. And, if that had been a choice either of us could have truly made, we wouldn’t be sitting here together right now at all, would we?”
A few weeks later, official plans had still not been made for when they would continue their westward journey once more. Baila had spent yet another of her endless days of guard duty curled up on the small sofa near their bed, attempting to struggle thru one of the numerous novels that Haven had in his extensive collection of works of art which had been claimed all over the world, beginning with those attained during his early days in Europe, as his embrace had actually taken place nearly three decades before Columbus had even set foot on American soil. Ash usually spent his own hours of guard duty standing or pacing inside the bedroom doorway, his eyes never moving from Claire’s sleeping form for long.
The sun had still not set when Ash glanced away from where Claire and Sean slept and narrowed his eyes in thought at the way that Baila had spent nearly the last hour squinting her eyes at one particular page of the novel she had been attempting to make her way thru since having arrived at this new home of theirs.
“Is it that interesting or that confusing?” he finally asked in reference to her continued study of the page before her.
“You’re speaking to me?” she responded, more than a bit startled away from the jumble of words as she looked up at where he always insisted on remaining inside the door instead of even making an attempt at finding a comfortable spot to wait out each day of their guard duty.
“You read that every day.” was his only response, rather than actually answering as, by speaking at all, he would already be answering her question, anyway. And ‘a man of few words’ was definitely a fitting description for him.
Baila simply sighed as she set aside the book and looked downwards, “I try to, anyway.”
“You can’t read?” he asked as he narrowed his eyes further, at last turning slightly toward her as he spoke, though still remaining near the bedroom door.
“I can read, some.” she admitted quietly.
“Yes, I started to learn a little, ‘til my parents died.” she told him in the same quiet tone as she glanced once more toward Sean’s sleeping form, which was where most of her attention was always focused, and even more vigilantly so during the day.
“And you’ve been a ‘servant’ since?” he asked her in the same tone.
“In a manner of speaking.” she returned, looking down as though to blush.
“How long have you been here, with them?”
“A little over a month, I suppose.” she admitted with a slight shrug.
“You were a servant somewhere else before that?”
“A different kind of servant.” Baila answered with another look downwards.
“What kind of servant?” Ash pressed with another puzzled look between his continued glances toward Claire.
After a pause, Baila finally responded, “Do you want me to show you?”
“Show me what?”
“Show you what kind of ‘servant’ I really was, for most of my life.” Baila replied quietly as she moved to stand and warily made her way toward his self-assigned post at the door.
He silently watched her approach, casting the slightest scowl toward not only her pale skin, but also the blonde locks and blue eyes as well. Though his thoughts soon suffered a blow when Baila did reach him and moved to her knees upon the floor, only inches in front of where he still stood.
When she reached towards his pants with the obvious purpose of releasing that perfect body of his from them, is when Ash spoke again, despite the unwanted desires that now affected his own clarity of thought, as well, “What are you doing?” he asked her, though his desires did draw some of the harshness from his tone, against his own will.
“Showing you what kind of servant I was.” she told him with an only slightly uneasy smile before her fingers did finally reach his clothing.
“You were a whore.” he stated simply, still not moving his eyes from her, nor stepping back from her hands, either.
“I suppose that’s one word for it.” Baila answered in a small voice, as she averted her eyes, though still continued to reach for the ties that held him behind the animal skin pants he still insisted on wearing rather than any finer clothes that Haven or Sean had offered to him.
“And now you’re his mistress instead. So what is the difference?” he asked her in the same flat tone, watching as her fingers slowed, and she slightly bit her lip at the sound of his words. He then added the final part of the statement, “Other than the fact that you no longer even get paid for your attentions, that is.”
“I love him, Ash.” she managed in a small voice, finally dropping her hands from the ties she had been about to loosen, while remaining on her knees in front of him, head cast downwards, still.
“But he will never love you.” he told her in an even colder tone.
“And you think she’ll ever love you?” she finally bit out, a tinge of Ash’s usual coolness at last seeping into her own normally docile tone, as she stood, quickly turning away from him once again, attempting to hide a sadness that nearly matched Claire’s, nearly.