Upon waking the next evening, the mood was still rather somber in Haven’s home as Sean and Claire quietly followed the three of Haven’s servants upstairs who had now finished their daily guard duty. Once Sean and Claire had safely disappeared, Awsha silently moved to exit her and Haven’s bed for the day. Only, he moved his hand to her arm to pull her back to bed.
“Did I do something wrong again?” she asked in a mere mumble.
“I was actually curious about last night” Haven returned, though gently.
“I was in my room by myself most of last night, Haven” she informed, still not looking back at where his fingers still encircled her arm.
“I meant when I found you crying on the stairs before dawn” he told her plainly, though in the same soft tone.
“Like, I said; it doesn’t matter” she stated, her own volume dropping again.
“If it didn’t matter, you wouldn’t have been crying” he pointed out knowingly, now finding himself in her usual position of trying to get her to communicate with him rather than the other way around, as it most often had been since they had left London in 1672.
Though her only response was silence, which caused a soft sigh from Haven as he adjusted his eyesight to see her aura once more. The prevalent colors of that aura were almost always those of anger and vengefulness for as long as they had been there in their new home. However he was a bit shocked to find that tonight her aura was almost entirely saturated with the much softer colors of sadness, regret, and heartbreak.
He sighed again as he looked down once more. It’s true that he had wanted to finally see the day when her anger and impulsiveness made way for a more mature and gentler outlook that he hoped the bond would allow her to finally feel. But seeing his childe in pain couldn’t help but sadden him as well.
He then glanced up the stairs and back at Awsha once more before moving to gently pull her across the bed to his side “What’s this?” she asked in a shocked whisper as he pulled her close and turned her face to his.
“Comfort” was his only answer before he moved to give her a much gentler kiss than any of the ones he had shared with her since leaving London.
Despite all that rage she had held onto for so long, comfort was indeed something she desperately wanted as she gave in to returning his kiss, and pressing even closer to the feel of his skin warming against her. Within moments, they both had brought their bodies to life and dispensed with their clothing as he moved to a spot above her, where he entered her more gently than any of the other times he had ever allowed such intimacy to take place between them before.
After having taken his evening meal from one of Haven’s servants, Sean headed outside to check on the lumber shipment which was due to arrive earlier that day. Due to his grief still being his constant companion, Sean wanted to bury himself in the rebuilding of he and Claire’s home, hoping that a new home and the new task of building it would keep that grief from swallowing him entirely.
Upon stepping outside, he once again found Avan there, having started preparing the lumber to be moved to the new build site “you again” Sean greeted him with an attempted smile.
“Sorry, lord?” Avan returned, not recalling ever having met the stunningly beautiful man that now greeted him, but assuming from his appearance and clothing that he was of a higher station.
“You were helping Claire unpack crates last night” Sean nodded to him as he moved to the dock to distractedly inspect the materials stacked there.
“Sorry I don’t recall having met you” Avan responded, beginning to wonder if there was any member of Haven’s large household that wasn’t devastatingly beautiful.
“I believe that could be due to you having had a bit to drink before I made an appearance” was Sean’s only smiled explanation as he moved to start loading the materials onto the waiting carriage.
“Lord, I…” Avan was a bit shocked by Sean beginning that task himself “you needn’t do that yourself, lord” he stammered a bit.
“But I’m sure it will go faster if I actually help instead of just watching you do it all” Sean allowed another small smile as he easily lifted the next bundle from where Avan quickly moved to take his own.
“But aren’t you one of Haven’s… relatives?” he attempted.
“And why should that keep me from helping you?” Sean returned.
“Well, you’re a noble aren’t you?” Avan added quietly.
“What exactly is the requirement to be a noble? I’ve always wondered that” Sean asked thoughtfully as he continued his task.
“Well you’re wealthy and… not a servant” Avan offered, never having really thought on the question himself.
“Haven’s wealthy. I’m simply his houseguest” Sean assured with another polite smile.
“So, you must be Sean?” Avan asked a moment later.
“Am I a famous houseguest?” Sean added in a teasing manner.
“I just asked Deborah, earlier, how many people were in Haven’s household. And you were mentioned separately from the servants” Avan attempted to explain his knowledge.
“Well, yes I am a close acquaintance of Haven’s and not a servant. But I still don’t know if that qualifies me as a noble or a lord. I’m just an artist, honest” Sean told him with another small smile.
“I have never met a wealthy family anything like Haven’s. They’re normally much less…approachable” Avan admitted with a combination of hesitance and admiration.
“Well, I’ve always thought that being ‘normal’ wasn’t a necessary virtue but rather, denoted a lack of courage” Sean grinned.
Avan was a little caught by that “that sounds like a quote from some writing or something.”
“I’m a writer too” Sean smiled once more.
“So, if you’re household isn’t ‘normal’ I suppose that explains a mystery I’ve been trying to solve recently” Avan bravely broached the subject that he hoped would not make them any less approachable.
“A mystery huh?” Sean returned, trying not to worry over what that could mean, as he adjusted his eyesight to assure himself that there was no malice in Avan’s words.
“I met Claire first, on the dock as she said goodbye to Aidan, I believe she called him” he took a short breath “I had assumed he was her husband due to their…familiarity” Avan decided on “but she assured me that he was not” he added as he watched Sean’s reactions to gauge whether he had crossed any boundaries with his words.
“No, Aidan is not Claire’s husband” Sean confirmed with a small smirk at the way the boy was obviously struggling to ask what it was that he honestly wanted to know.
“So, I assumed that she was possibly a widow, but she implied that she was not” Avan dared further, holding his breath as he waited for his words to cause some offense.
“No, that she is not” Sean couldn’t help grinning again as he looked down.
“So, then where is her husband?” he finally forced himself to ask, to which Sean allowed a small chuckle.
Sean then took a step forward and offered his hand in greeting “Nice to make your acquaintance. My name is Sean Beringer. I believe you’ve met my lovely wife, Claire” he added with a smile as he took the other man’s hand as a blush rose to his features.
“You’re Claire’s husband?” Avan managed to choke out the words as he let Sean shake his nervously unsteady hand “which I probably should have figured out by now, huh?” he added more quietly.
“No worries. We do operate independently of one another on occasion” Sean smiled again, finally relinquishing Avan’s hand.
“When I said familiarity…” Avan quickly spoke up, trying to back pedal through the beginning of the conversation.
“It’s quite all right. I don’t go insane with jealousy when another man seems to show an interest in my wife. I would be more surprised if a man didn’t notice how beautiful she is, honestly” he assured quietly.
“You really are quite different, aren’t you?” Avan asked, his surprise at that reaction knocking most of the volume out of his voice.
“Quite” Sean agreed as he bowed his head slightly before moving around to take his seat at the reins of the now loaded carriage, giving Avan one more polite nod before prodding the horses into motion.
Shortly after Sean had made his departure, there was a hesitant knock at the door of Haven’s home. The sound easily disturbed Claire from where she had been solemnly sitting alone upon the couch. The servants had since gone to bed for the night in preparation for the next day’s duties, and Haven and Awsha had still not ventured from the cellar.
She sighed softly as she slowly moved to the door to greet their visitor, who was Avan once more. Claire managed a slight smile in greeting, awaiting his own words “Good evening my lady” he immediately smiled, his eyes inadvertently traveling over her once more before continuing “the lumber has been taken to the build site for your new home, but there’s a few other crates still waiting on the dock. Did you want them brought in tonight?”
“Sure, that’s fine” she spoke barely above a whisper before returning to the couch, leaving the door open for him as she moved away, her sadness still so apparent.
Avan swallowed slightly before taking a breath and moving to his task. Once the crates were all brought into the home, nearly half an hour later, Claire still had not moved from where she stared silently at the floor, almost seeming unaware of his continued presence.
Avan took another shallow breath as he awkwardly looked over at her and spoke again “that’s the last of them. Did you want me to stay and look through them again with you?” he asked hopefully.
“I suppose that’s something to busy my mind at least” she agreed somberly as she got to her feet once more.
Though she agreed to his continued company, she still barely spoke a word as they looked through the shipment over the next hour or so. Avan found himself wishing he knew how to cheer her mood, but as they were still rather unacquainted, it was a difficult thing to do.
“What on earth is this?” Claire asked as she opened one of the final crates to reveal what looked like a stash of some sort of plants she wasn’t all that familiar with, considering her odd life away from the sun.
Avan swallowed a bit as he looked down “I believe they’re poppy seed plants, my lady” he offered quietly.
“Why would anyone store plants in a crate? Not to mention ship them across an ocean like that?” she asked as she furrowed her brow.
“I believe they have certain uses that make them quite valuable” Avan offered what knowledge he had of the plants from talking to others on the crew who had been in the shipping business much longer than he had been.
“What uses?” she asked as she finally turned those emerald eyes to him.
“I suppose the safer answer would be medicinal?” Avan offered as more of a question than a statement of fact.
“There’s a less safe answer?” she asked curiously.
“Recreational?” he offered though more quietly.
“Recreational?” she repeated, not expecting that answer.
Avan took a deep breath before clarifying “I believe these are the plants they make opium from” he admitted quietly.
“Opium?” she replied more loudly than she had meant to.
“That’s what the other crew members and dock workers told me, anyway” Avan added more quietly.
“So, you’ve never… tried it?” Claire asked softly.
“It’s quite expensive, my lady.”
“Please call me Claire” she returned, her eyes turning back to the crate “so people smoke this to make them…feel better?” she asked softly.
“I believe that is the case” he returned.
“Would you like to try it?” she asked suddenly, her eyes turning back to him once more.
“Try it?” he repeated, a little startled by the offer.
“We could all use a little bit of feeling better, couldn’t we?” she asked him, once again feeling that desperation to make her pain and grief stop plaguing her however temporarily, in any way that she could.