Aidan took a lengthy pause as he thought on her statements, taking a seat upon the bed with her once more, “You would have your husband risk himself this way, just to allow me---us to stay here at court, together?”
Claire only looked down slightly, before finding a response, “Well, it’s apparent that none of us truly answer to human laws, which would only leave the Kindred ones. And, surely, this is a decision that Griffyn would approve of as well. After all, I’m sure he would have no desire to have to find and bind a new spy, now would he?”
Aidan allowed a knowing smile, though only briefly, before continuing, “So, you’re doing this for Griffyn, then, are you?” he asked wryly.
“Does it matter why I’m upholding his own agenda? As long as I am, then he will continue to allow me to remain in his territory, will he not?”
Aidan allowed a more sincere smile, “So, there is some guile behind all that quiet beauty, isn’t there?”
Claire looked down once more at his evaluation before offering quietly, “It’s just one of many skills I’ve had to develop since my death. Eternity is not an easy thing to bear when you’ve still only had less than half of a decade to adjust to the idea.”
Aidan was quieted only a brief moment as he allowed his eyes to move over her down-turned face before speaking, “You wouldn’t be trying to convince me to rethink my desire to become like you, would you?”
Claire allowed a soft sigh, “It is an easy thing to want something when it is only an idea, rather than a reality.”
“You must know how futile trying to make that argument to me will be, mustn’t you?” he told her, though still allowed a smile despite his refusal to sway his own opinion.
She allowed a sad smile of her own before making one last comment on the matter, “One thing to remember is something that Sean once wrote, long ago, in a piece of prose.”
“What would that be?”
“He once wrote, ‘when all of your wishes are granted, many of your dreams will be destroyed.’” she looked down slightly again, “He hides his discontent better than I, but his writing is always devastatingly honest.”
“So, you’re saying that your wish to be with him forever, it has destroyed your own dreams, then?” Aidan asked in a whisper as he moved close enough to allow his hand to gently graze her cheek.
She quickly looked up at not so much his touch as his interpretation, “That is not what I was saying.” she denied quickly.
“It isn’t?” he asked in the same soft tone, disbelieving though it was.
Claire allowed a sigh that was equally frustrated as it was sad, as she tried to explain herself, “My wish to be with Sean is not what destroyed any of my dreams….It was the wish to become, this….so I could be with him forever.” another pause, “It wasn’t being able to be with him that has made me so sad, it’s what I had to become to do so…” she let her voice trail off once more with a sad shake of her long locks.
Aidan paused another moment before responding, “It must be difficult to tell the difference, at times.” he offered, though warily.
She then looked up again, “No, it’s not, not for me.”
“It isn’t?” he asked again.
“For me, being with Sean is the only thing that ever makes becoming this worth it, at all.”
Another pause before he spoke, “But is it being with Sean that allows you to endure, or just having love, at all?”
Claire looked down again, “To me, there is no difference.” she stated in a whisper.
“But there could be.” he disagreed, though gently.
She then looked up at him in confusion, “What do you mean by that?”
“I mean,” Aidan began, “If it is simply the fact of having love that keeps you strong enough to survive your new existence, then anyone at all who loves you in that way, they could provide you with that strength as well, couldn’t they?”
Claire shook her head once more, “In thirty-five years, no one else, no one other than Sean, has ever loved me that way.” she admitted with a slight break in her voice.
“I find that hard to believe.”
Another sad look downwards, “The others who claimed to love me. Their love was not real, like his.”
“How do you define real love though?”
A slight scoff, “They only loved me because of the same reason you love Griffyn: The bond.” she admitted softly.
Another pause from Aidan before he dared to speak again, “But I have no bond to you, do I?”
She looked up with a slight furrow of her brow, “You barely even know me. You can’t be saying that you love me in that way. That kind of love takes a much, much longer time.”
Aidan shared another soft smile, “Well, then I suppose it’s a good thing that you want to stay here with me after all, and allow us that time then, isn’t it?”
His words shocked her more than a bit, but before she could find any more of her own, Aidan had already moved in even closer to her and finally covered her lips with his in a promise of that love he already seemed to believe he could someday feel so completely for her.
The next evening, Sean had just finished playing a bit of a haunting melody to accompany the royal family’s dinner, and was heading down the hall away from the throne room to return to his own quarters.
“Am I too assume that that piece is the reason for the mood that is so easily reflected in your demeanor tonight, or vice versa?” was Aidan’s greeting as Sean moved past where he had been speaking with another nobleman in the hall moments earlier.
Sean paused a moment to stop near Aidan, looking him over in that way that allowed him to see much further than anyone’s surface, “I didn’t realize that you ever had given much thought to my own mood, especially in light of the last few weeks.” Sean responded, refusing to clarify whether he was referring to the queen’s death, or rather, another situation of recent nights.
Aidan looked down slightly but managed a wary smile, “Judging by your tone, the mood must have inspired the song, yes?”
“Just because I have all the time in the world, doesn’t mean I enjoy hearing one skirt the issue. What is it you want, Aidan?” Sean asked him with a bit of coolness.
“Your wife is much more pleasant to talk to than you are, you realize?” Aidan couldn’t stop himself from retorting, causing the briefest of cracks in Sean’s composure, as he guessed that it would.
“And you expect me to believe you brought her to court and moved her into your quarters, just to converse with her? We both know better than that, so do me the favor of not treating me as though I’m that naïve, and getting to your point.”
“Why such rudeness? I am just making conversation, am I not?” Aidan returned, his own wariness of Sean’s anger not yet rising to a high enough level to quiet him just yet.
Sean let out an impatient sigh before continuing, “And if I made your wife into my mistress, how much ‘conversation’ would you still desire to have with me?” he stated with an even colder tone.
Aidan raised an eyebrow at the question before making his own response, “Well, that would definitely be a conversation starter, that much is sure.” he said with a bit of flippancy, making his lack of contentment in his own marriage obvious.
It was then that Sean reached the end of the tiny supply of patience he already had for this man and moved to pin him against the wall, whispering loudly and slowly against the younger man’s ear, “What do you want?”
Aidan’s breath caught a bit at the strength with which Sean pressed him against that wall, when it was rare to find anyone who had more strength than what Griffyn’s blood had graced Aidan himself with, unless, of course that person was indeed Kindred, as the man who held him there now was.
Aidan swallowed hard to compose himself before managing to find his confidence once more, “Careful, Sean, if anyone sees the court minstrel handling a nobleman in such a way, it could be a very hard situation to explain to that witness…or to Griffyn.” he had to add.
Sean just scoffed and shook his head with disbelief. Though he did unhand Aidan and move back from him, if for no other reason than not wanting to continue to remain so close that he was increasingly distracted by Claire’s scent all over the younger man.
“I’ll pretend either of those threats mean a damn thing to me if you just get on with whatever reason you are hassling me at all tonight. Deal?”
Aidan raised an eyebrow again, adjusting his collar before speaking, “You need to not jump to conclusions so quickly, Sean. I was actually going to make you an offer that I think you would enjoy very much.”
Sean scoffed again, “I find it hard to believe that you would ever offer me anything at all that I would actually want.”
“Not even a chance to see your wife again, tonight?” Aidan finally got to his point, as requested, though after some force.
That seemed to silence Sean for a brief moment as he studied Aidan’s own expression and body language, and aura, before allowing his own response, “And what do I have to do in return?” he asked knowingly.
Aidan allowed a slight chuckle, “So trusting.” he couldn’t help the comment.
“Tell me.” Sean returned, his impatience with the other man never having really dissipated.
“Actually, she wants me to let her tell you.” Aidan returned, then couldn’t help adding, “Somehow she doesn’t think you would be very receptive to any of my own requests. Imagine that.” he tagged onto the statement wryly.
“You’ll be having her make all your requests for you then, will you?” Sean retorted, though with the slightest lowering of his tone.
“She wanted to make this first one, and unlike you and I, Claire and I have managed to develop a civil rapport.”
“Civil.” Sean repeated bitterly, though quietly.
Allowing himself to breathe again, Aidan continued, “Now, come this way, won’t you?” Aidan offered, ignoring Sean’s own nearly inaudible response, and gesturing for him to follow him in the direction of those quarters where Claire waited.
Once Aidan led Sean to his own quarters, Claire quickly turned to offer a loving smile to Sean as he was shown in. Aidan simply looked furtively between the husband and wife before taking a deep breath, bowing slightly to Claire, and exiting the room once more.
The moment the door closed behind Aidan, Claire moved quickly to embrace Sean, covering his lips with hers again, having not really been in contact with him at all in the weeks since they moved to court. Sean did allow a tiny bit of surprise at her rushing to greet him so lovingly, but the feel of her arms around him and her lips on his both did well to cancel out any other reaction as he returned both the kiss and the embrace.
Once they finally ended the kiss, still clasping each other’s hands, he softly smiled down at her, “Seventeen years, huh?”
Claire allowed a soft giggle at his words before responding, “Thank you, but I think you know very well that I’m thirty-five today, not seventeen.”
Sean smiled back down at her, “I was only counting the years since I met you.”
She then returned his smile at the words, squeezing his hands gently, “What did Aidan tell you about why you were able to come be with me, tonight?”
Sean allowed a small sigh as he finally let go of her hands and glanced around the room. His eyes first moved to the large bed, but he just as quickly moved them away and instead came to settle on another choice of seats. He turned slightly back toward her and held out his hand once more to lead her over to the lush sofa that was well away from the bed, itself.
“Shall we sit?” he said quietly as she nodded back and moved to take a seat next to him.
“Did he explain anything yet?”
“Does he ever?” Sean replied with a bit of bitterness remaining.
Claire quickly hid her scowl before continuing, “You know his position at court is in great danger now that Elizabeth is dead?” she began, attempting to move on from the obvious animosity her husband held towards her newest companion.
Sean tried not to allow a smile through his slight scoff, “And yet he still tries to threaten me every time I speak to him.” he stated, more to himself.
“Threaten you?” Claire’s eyes widened a bit, “How do you mean?”
“Maybe ‘intimidate’ would be a better word. He always tries to convince me to allow him his arrogance for fear of otherwise being punished by our new Prince.”
Claire frowned a bit before continuing, “You know it’s all an act, don’t you?” she managed, though softly.
“One he seems to fall for, himself.” Sean scoffed again.
Claire shook her head slightly, “He has to behave one way in public because of who he is, and where we are, but he’s truly, a completely different person in private.”
Sean’s eyes moved quickly back to her, studying her as she spoke, while planning his own response, “Did you ever try and bind him to you?” he asked, his question seeming to surprise her.
“No…why do you ask that?”
Sean paused another moment as he thought on her response, “Because, the bond would explain why he would treat you with so much more reverence than I’ve ever seen him display to anyone else, except perhaps, Griffyn.”
That was when Claire looked up at him again, releasing his hand from her own, “So, you believe the only people who would treat me kindly are those who have been poisoned by my blood?”
Sean was caught again, “That is not what I meant, Claire. I was ref---”
“That’s what it sounded like you meant.” she denied as she turned away.
Sean let out a sad sigh at the way she had interpreted his words, “I was referring to this particular man’s ability to show kindness and respect, not every other person’s.”
“Of course you were,” she managed, then in a mumble, “after all, you’re bound to me now, too.”
“Claire” he began his argument, but was quieted by the way she moved to look out at the nighttime stars outside Aidan’s window.
Claire allowed a long sigh to compose herself, after her statement had done well to silence Sean as well, “Not that it matters, but what I wanted to ask you was to use your ‘persuasion’ to convince the king or his advisors to allow Aidan to stay at court, therefore allowing me to stay at court.” she told him in a quiet tone, her eyes still directed away from him and out into the darkened skies above.
Sean looked down a moment, thinking on her words, “That’s the request Aidan spoke of earlier?”
“Like, I said, his continued role at court is in danger, so my role here would also be in danger.”
“Your role as his mistress?” Sean returned, though nearly inaudibly.
“A role I took only so I could be near you.” she retorted firmly, “But like I said, not that it matters.” she repeated, her voice trailing off again.
Sean closed his eyes against her words before managing another response, “I swear Claire, the way you took my earlier statement is not how I meant it at all. I am the one person who knows for a fact that loving and respecting you, without any damn blood bond, is completely possible. I…” another pause, “I just didn’t want to believe it was possible, for him.” he admitted at last.
Claire looked down once more before speaking, “I’m sure he doesn’t love me like that yet, and though I wish to be his friend, I know I’m not in love with him…” her own pause, “It was just really nice to believe, that someone still could love me, again, without that bond.”
That was when he moved across the room and pulled her against him, “I may be bound to you now, but believe me when I promise you that someone always will.”