It wasn’t much later when Haven returned Claire to her and Sean’s home, which she barely even had any real recollection of since it had been rebuilt. Sean quietly opened the door to them with more worry and fear than even happiness at that point. Claire was barely able to even look up at him as she moved past where he stood in the open doorway while she shuffled past, eyes down. Claire then wordlessly stepped inside and began moving slowly around the place, trying to familiarize herself with the home and hoping for any memory of it to return to her at all.
Sean swallowed hard as he glanced at where she had not even managed a moment of eye contact. He then sadly moved to step outside where Haven still watched just as warily. Letting the door shut behind him, Sean furtively asked his sire “What does she even remember?”
“Being numb for a really long time, and then talking to you on the docks shortly before that last shipment came in” Haven replied just as quietly as his childe had spoken.
“So, she doesn’t remember what happened to Avan at all?”
“Remember it? No” Haven informed, and then added “I had to be the one to tell her what happened to him.”
“You really thought that would be good for her to hear?” Sean asked with obvious upset.
“It was the only way to make her understand why we had to do what we did” Haven returned.
“We?” Sean scoffed, but quickly moved on “and what else did you tell her about that night?” Sean had to know if his pleas to Awsha to keep their secret from destroying Claire even further were actually all for naught.
“No, I didn’t tell her anything else about that night. I knew that even killing a human wouldn’t crush her as badly as that; considering you have always been her only reason for being able to endure any of this life at all” Haven replied with a sad sigh before leaving Sean and Claire to make any attempt they could at repairing the wreckage that their lives had now been so thoroughly transformed into over this last decade’s darkness.
It was nearing midnight in their still painfully silent home when Claire was sitting alone on the couch staring out the window at the distant ocean. Sean was seated in the nearby chair, staring at the floor. Though he hadn’t been able to find many of his own words in the hours since she was returned to him, the silence was still beginning to get to him.
“If we’re never going to speak again, I may just have to put a stake in my own heart” he sighed, just barely allowing a sideways glance toward her to watch for any kind of response.
“I can’t even think of anything to say” Claire admitted hoarsely “I somehow doubt ‘sorry’ would really cover it” she added in a whisper.
“Then at least tell me how you’re feeling now. You can give me that much, can’t you?” Sean attempted, though his own voice was weak as well.
“Isn’t how I’m feeling obvious?” Claire returned, trying her hardest to keep her voice even, as difficult as that truly was. Finally, after another moment “since how I feel is more than apparent; you could try telling me how you feel. It can’t be any worse than I’m imagining already” she added even more quietly.
“I’d think it’d be easier to understand how I feel. You’re the one who went away for ten years. I’ve been here the whole time” Sean added, his voice breaking a bit then.
Claire closed her eyes tightly to gather the strength to speak again “there’s nothing I can do to make up for this Sean. I don’t even know where to even try to begin” she forced the words through her lips.
Sean looked down quickly in response to her words, despite the fact that she had not even been looking his way. She honestly hadn’t looked his way once since returning to the home. It was almost as though she thought she’d crumble into a million pieces if she were to see, for even a second, how broken she had truly left Sean himself.
Sean finally spoke again after another painfully long silence “If I try really hard to step outside of myself and look at the two of us here tonight” he began “it’s obvious that we both feel absolutely horrible right now. But I know the reason we feel so horrible is because we both feel like we’ve lost one another for way too long. And that’s a thing neither of us could ever bear.”
“And we lost each other because of what I chose to do. I know this is all because of me being too weak to be there for you when you needed me the most. And I have no idea how to make that up to you; how you could ever forgive me for that” Claire whispered, almost pained to even try to force that many words.
It was then Sean who closed his eyes tightly. He felt just as guilty for his recent actions, and desperately wanted to assure her that she didn’t have to bear such guilt alone. But he also knew that confessing his own crime would indeed destroy anything that was still left of her. Once again, he found himself paralyzed by his own knowledge.
Finally after another long, painful silence “I do forgive you though, Claire. I have to forgive you. It’s the only way I can ever have you back again. And I desperately need to have you back again. I need it more than anything else in this entire world” he assured her with all those emotions he had been forcing down for a decade coloring every word he now spoke to her.
Summer turned to fall without much headway being made toward a completely repaired relationship. It was as though neither Sean nor Claire felt they deserved to be allowed to rekindle their former closeness, whilst each wanting it desperately to be rekindled. They had somehow fallen into some strange sort of holding pattern over the next few months, each afraid to let go of their guilt long enough to try and re-establish what they once had and both still intensely needed.
On this particular evening, Sean was returning from another council meeting, and had been the last one out of that meeting, as he was still barely present himself most nights. As he slowly moved across Haven’s living room to return to the home that still felt rather empty, Awsha appeared at the bottom of the stairs. Sean’s only reaction was a slight sigh as she moved to greet him with a gentle hug.
“So, how are things?” she asked as she looked up at him with a slight smile
“Things?” Sean repeated as he looked down at her warily, where she stood about nine inches shorter than his towering height of 6’4”.
“Well, it’s been a few months, you know, since she came back” Awsha attempted, looking down slightly.
“I’m sure you can see why I find it so strange that you would be asking about the state of my marriage” Sean told her flatly.
“Well, she’s off the drug” she then looked around and lowered her voice “and I kept our secret” her voice then returned to normal “so of course I’m wondering how things are for you now.”
“Believe me Awsha, though I am beyond grateful that you did manage to keep that one secret; there are still other things between us that make it just a bit difficult for me to act as though you and I are the best of friends suddenly.”
“But I did what you asked” she returned as she looked up at him as though hurt.
“Yes, and I thank you for that. But you’ve done other things too, Awsha. Things that aren’t exactly easy to forget” Sean reminded her as gently as he could.
“I haven’t done anything at all to Claire since I woke up from my own torpor, fifteen years ago. You know that” she retorted.
“That same torpor from which you tormented my little girl, for years? That same torpor from which you tried to make that fourteen year old girl seduce the closest thing she had to a father? Is that the one you’re referring to, Awsha?” Sean told her with a bit of coolness.
Awsha looked away with a shake of her head “well I can’t make any of that up to Erica now, and you know that” she told him shakily.
“Yes, I do know that” was the only simple answer he provided her with.
“So now I’m expected to try and make up for everything to you, Claire, and a dead girl? How am I supposed to do that, Sean?” she looked up at him again, speaking with more volume this time.
“I don’t expect that you’ll ever be able to. That is the main reason why I can never push all that aside long enough to act as though you and I could ever be as close as you want us to be. I can’t ever let you get that close. All I can do is try to get along with you as best I can for all the years we’re going to have to inhabit this planet together. That’s the most I can ever give you, Awsha” he told her softly as he moved toward the door once again, not looking back to see the pain he was sure his words caused. But he and Claire’s pain, as well as Erica’s, those were much more real to him than Awsha’s could ever be.
When Sean returned home, he did not find Claire solemnly staring out the living room window as she had done most nights. Nor did he spy her out on the beach when he left Haven’s home, which was another place she had often been found since her return to sobriety. So he could only assume that she was perhaps still in their bedroom, which was now in the cellar of the new home along with the servants’ sleeping quarters. He sighed slightly as he crossed the living room and started down the stairs.
Upon descending the cellar stairs, Sean was a little caught to find Claire in the middle portion of the cellar between the two bedrooms on either side of the main part of the room. She was dressed in nothing more than her undergarments, her wrists bound to the beam that supported the ceiling above them. She stood there resting her head against the beam, her cheek pressed to the wood that was just as cool as her pale skin. Next to her was the now open metal chest that they had normally kept in their bedroom closet for most of the nights that had passed since their London club had been burnt to the ground.
“Claire?” Sean swallowed a bit as he approached her, causing a slight tension to appear in her, though she did not look back at him just yet.
From her spot bound there, her back still to him, she found her voice “I know I hurt you. For ten years I continued to hurt you. Now, I need you to hurt me back. I need to feel that pain that I put you through” she whispered, still turned away and not able to look at him without being drowned in even more guilt every time.
Sean swallowed a bit as he moved closer “I thought the last ten years was about you not wanting to feel any more pain” he whispered, forcing back the urge to reach out to try and comfort her with that touch which used to be the one thing that could always bring her comfort.
“And you said it yourself before; feeling pain is one of the only things that remind us of what it was like to be human. Not feeling any pain for this last decade, that took away all of who I was. It took away that pain and that humanity that I need to feel again. I need you to make me feel it again, Sean. And I know I deserve the pain as much as I need it” she told him, nearly pleading with him then.
Sean inherently understood her need, considering how badly he felt it himself just from nearly killing an enemy; when Claire had actually killed someone who had been her friend for all intents and purposes. And the fact that she felt like she had hurt Sean over and over for so long was sure to only deepen her desire to pay for her wrongs. It was true that Sean had forgiven her for those wrongs, but she needed to forgive herself. And if this was the only way, then he would do that for her as well.
He sighed slightly as he gave her one more look of sadness before moving to retrieve a red-jeweled dagger from the box. He moved close to her and paused another moment from his place now towering above her tiny frame which was bound there before him so vulnerably “Any time it’s too much…” he stated softly.
“It’ll never be too much” she returned weakly as she braced herself for the pain that she felt she deserved so badly.
Knowing that denying her claim would be futile right then, Sean braced himself and moved in close to her, gently touching her bare shoulder for the first time in longer than he could remember. He allowed himself a moment of long held memories as his fingertips gently moved over her skin, causing another obvious bit of tension in her. Taking one more moment to indulge his own needs, he leaned down to gently kiss the place his fingers had just been caressing.
“Pain, Sean” she reminded him in a choked voice.
Finally forcing back his long repressed desire to give her the complete opposite, Sean finally moved to brush her long beautiful locks off of her back, exposing more of her alabaster skin to him. Another moment before he moved his free hand to gently lower each of the straps of her translucent undershirt down off of her shoulders. One more pause before he finally lifted the dagger point to just barely kiss the skin that was exposed above that thin white material.
“Please, Sean” she whispered after he got lost another moment in his own desire for her.
Her voice steeling his nerves, Sean finally gripped the dagger hilt more tightly and made himself pierce her pale flesh with the very tip of that deadly sharp blade. That of course caused the slightest gasp of pain from her as that first drop of blood broke the surface of her skin. Willing himself to continue to give her what she was sure she needed, he slowly dragged the tip of that blade further across her upper back as more of that powerful blood began slowly making its way from that long scratch and toward the thin material that still covered the main portion of her back.
As she still voiced no protest, Sean began a second slice, this time lower, as his other hand moved to undo the laces at the back of her undershirt. Claire whimpered slightly at the feel of that second cut, and pressed herself more tightly to the beam, but she still made no move to stop him as he finished making that second bloody trail across her back while his other hand finished unlacing the undershirt and pushed the thin material away from her skin to save it from the growing drops of red crawling slowly down her back.
Now that her entire back was exposed to him, Sean moved closer still, taking a place on his knees behind her. Though even he was not able to stop himself from pressing a gentle kiss to the small of her back above the waist band of her equally thin underwear. Claire tensed again at the feel of his lips against her skin, but made no protest as she simply waited for him to deliver more of that pain she had asked for.
Sean braced himself again from that new position now kneeling so close behind her that his chest was nearly touching the back of her bare thighs. He then forced himself onward, finding it so much more difficult to inflict that pain on her tonight than it had been when they had done this sort of thing on a nightly basis at their club. After all, at that point in their lives, they were much more content with each other, as well as their kingly lover, that the pain didn’t seem real to either of them then. Back then, there was so much more pleasure in their lives than there ever was pain. Now, it seemed that pain was the only thing either had felt in so long; and that somehow made it seem so much more hurtful to Sean to inflict even more on her, even though she had indeed asked him to.
Steeling himself once more to do what she asked, Sean forced his way through many more bloody gashes across her back. Her whimpering grew louder with each cut, and her blood was so plentiful now that Sean had also had to discard his own shirt. Her blood now covered his chest and trailed down over her remaining undergarment, staining almost the entire back of it red by the time he had finished covering her with those bloody cuts, almost whimpering himself as the sound of her pain intensified.
“Claire” he finally whispered her name as she was now sobbing against the beam, her body shaking with the strength it required to remain standing “please tell me this is enough” he added in the same whisper.
“It’ll never be enough” she repeated through another pained sob as she felt another trail of blood start down her legs.
“Claire” he repeated her name, noting that she had lost so much blood that she likely wouldn’t even heal from her injuries until she fed again. He shook his head and let the bloody dagger slide from his equally bloody fingers as he reached up to loosen her restraints.
“No, it’s not enough” she whimpered as he freed her. Though, the way she couldn’t stop her body from sliding down the beam to fall to her knees upon being released from those leather straps belied her words.
Knowing how much she could take better than she seemed to know it herself right then, Sean just gathered her shaking and bleeding body against his own, holding her as gently as he could. He then kissed her forehead as his own bloody tears slid down his cheeks to mix with hers as they held each other there in one another’s arms for the first time in way too long.