Six months after that overly eventful summer night, the mood around Haven’s family was still rather somber on more nights than not. Sean did eventually return to his home; however he spent almost every hour holed up in his studio alone. He had even taken to spending his daylight slumber there rather than even hoping that he would be invited back to Claire’s bed. Though the cellar would have been safer, which is why they had moved all the sleeping quarters to the cellar in the first place; Sean did not seem overly worried about the possibility of the walls of the ground floor being ripped away around him while he slept, somehow.
Also, in those six months, Aidan had become Claire’s constant companion, trying as best he could to continue to keep her from drowning in her own despair. Sean honestly assumed the two had become lovers again, but he didn’t ever dare to ask, or so much as wander downstairs to find out for himself. After all, he had already endured Claire being in Aidan’s bed for the last decade of Aidan’s mortal life, and Sean had even gotten some fleeting glimpse of them as lovers much more recently; though that time it had admittedly not been Claire at all. But either factor didn’t give him the desire to confirm whether or not it was a reality once more.
Haven’s home was rather devoid of much life as well now that it was only Haven and his blood bound servants in the home. Though it was the most peaceful the house had ever been, it also was the most empty the house had ever felt. The one redeeming factor of the months since he had been forced to have Minna snatch Awsha’s very mind away from her, is that Baron’s attacks also seemed to cease, however temporarily.
On this particular January night, Haven rose from his slumber but didn’t appear to have any desire to do much more than that. He sat at the edge of his bed for a long while staring down at the floorboards beneath him before realizing that nearly two hours had passed. He sighed a bit at the chime of the clock and was attempting to force himself into any sort of motivation when his bedroom door opened.
He looked up to note Deborah entering his room with a shy smile. It had now been twenty years since those horrible things had been done to her by Baron’s minions. She had chosen to bravely try and keep her memories for fear of the idea of losing them making her less careful or wary; therefore somehow increasing her chances of another attack. She had slowly attempted to will herself back to some semblance of her former self, but there would always be part of her that never recovered.
“You’re still in bed?” she offered another shy smile as she slowly let the door fall shut behind her.
“Well, I’m on the bed, at any rate” Haven returned her smile, sad though his was as well.
“Is something wrong?” she asked in that quiet tone that had become even quieter since her attack, though she did manage to move closer to Haven. As he was still the one male vampire that she wasn’t terrified of being alone with.
“Just feeling a bit sad tonight” Haven admitted as he looked down away from the eyes that were such a similar shade to his.
“What has you sad?” she asked as she finally reached the bed where he was still perched at the edge.
Haven allowed another smile. He normally was never one to speak of his emotions much; but the fact that Deborah was bound to him, and so fragile herself, did make it a bit easier with her “tonight’s Awsha’s birthday” he managed.
“Awsha?” Deborah returned, swallowing a bit “that’s a name that’s not mentioned often anymore” she added as she kept her light eyes on his face.
“I guess it is a bit of a sensitive subject” he admitted.
Deborah watched him closely for any more words he would be willing to share. She then finally allowed a soft sigh as she moved to take a cautious seat next to him on the bed “I never quite really understood, totally, what actually happened with her” she dared, though in a small voice.
“I didn’t think she was among your favorite people. Or anyone’s really” Haven added more quietly, noting the way Deborah quickly looked down.
“She hurt people. It was hard to forget that” Deborah offered “but Taylor was worse” she added as she let her eyes move to him, gauging what reaction he would have to another name that surely had not been a subject of conversation too recently either.
“Yes. She did hurt people. They both did. People that are still hurting” he added in the same quiet voice “but I suppose that’s why I was forced to do what I had to do. It’s just hard to not feel remorse about it all. Especially tonight” he added quietly.
“Is there any chance though, that maybe Awsha will someday be…back?” she settled on.
“I don’t know how I ever could let her come back. I mean, Baron’s hold on her won’t just go away. And that means that if I ever do let her wake up…” Haven just shook his head.
Deborah narrowed her eyes slightly before speaking again “but she could wake up again?”
“Well, she’s not dead. As Sean was very keen to remind me. But if I let her come back, then that would mean just letting that prophecy happen after all” Haven finished with a sigh.
“Prophecy?” Deborah repeated with a raised brow.
“Well, the first part has already happened. And the second part…” he just shook his head once more, which caused Deborah to furrow her brow once more.
“I don’t remember ever hearing about any prophecy. Could I have forgotten that?” she asked innocently.
“No, love” he managed a small smile “only a few of us ever really heard much of that. But it was definitely unforgettable.”
“Doesn’t sound like it was a good prophecy” she added with worry.
“Not many are” he admitted “basically, if I were to let Awsha have her mind back again, it would most likely lead directly to my own death” he admitted as her eyes widened.
“That really does not sound good at all” Deborah managed.
“Hence the reason why I was forced to do what I did” Haven sighed once more “and the worst part is, it’s not like I value my life more than hers. That’s not really it. I just know that if I were gone, and Awsha was back here…and bound to Baron as well?” he shook his head “I don’t think I’d want to let that come to pass; mainly because of those I’d leave behind in a world I’m sure none of you would really want to live in” Haven finished sadly.
Deborah was quiet a long moment as she mulled over his words before speaking again “you know your death is something I’m completely terrified of, for obvious reasons” she attempted “so, I need to ask; is there any way at all Awsha might somehow come back? Like she did when she was in torpor?” she added with further worry.
“No darling, don’t be so frightened” Haven told her as he gently wrapped an arm around her shoulder “she’ll stay gone as long as Minna keeps her that way; which she will until I tell her otherwise” he added.
“You compelled her not to ever let Awsha wake up?” Deborah responded as she looked up at him for one more reassurance.
“Well, Minna’s not very dependable otherwise. I sort of had to use my will to guard against her erraticness” he added with a bit of regret.
There was another long moment of silence before Deborah finally looked up at him once more “but… what if something happened to Minna?” she had to ask.
Haven did look down then “well, I suppose if she were actually unable to keep Awsha in that state, then that would be the one loophole. But hopefully we’ll never have to deal with that. Or, if something actually did happen to Minna, we’d hopefully have time to go and put some other precaution in place” he attempted to assure the redhead further.
Deborah was quiet another moment before forcing any more words “and if Awsha’s ever allowed to wake up; that would mean that you’ll die instead?” she repeated in a whisper “I really don’t want to see that world” she added as she looked down again.
“Hopefully you’ll never have to” Haven replied in the same quiet tone as he hugged her more tightly against him.
The very day after Haven and Deborah had had their conversation, her body was found washed up on the beach. That turn of events only added another layer of sadness to the already rather dark mood that had been surrounding them all for so long. And the worst part was that there was no obvious explanation for how or why she had died at all. All it did was leave more unanswered questions where there were already so many.
As the attacks had slowed considerably, assuming Deborah hadn’t been a victim of the serpent as well; the meetings of Haven’s council also had gone from weekly to monthly. When it was time for February’s meeting, Haven sent out his servants to inform the Primogen, and waited quietly in his home for them to make their way there as well.
On this particular early winter evening, Aidan had gone to the kitchen to take note of their stores of blood since the servants did need a break from him and Claire feeding on them once in a while. As Aidan was just leaving the kitchen, Sean was just on his way out of his studio. Of course their eyes met for the briefest awkward moment before either spoke.
“Sean? Is that you?” Aidan decided to speak first, making a feeble attempt at humor in reference to the fact that he honestly could count on one hand the number of times he had even laid eyes on Sean since he returned to the home and had made the studio the sole space he ever spent any time at all in.
“Didn’t realize you and Claire ever had much reason to come upstairs” was his only response.
“As I didn’t realize that you ever left that room yourself” Aidan returned, though he couldn’t help watching Sean for any clue at all to the other man’s mood in the months since they had become so estranged.
Sean was quiet a moment, as though pondering whether to bother responding at all “I usually don’t. But there’s most likely going to be a meeting tonight and I was going to get a drink and head over early” he offered some explanation, emotionless as it was.
“From the servants?” Aidan asked, making any attempt he could to prolong the conversation enough to gauge Sean’s mental state. Normally, he would just read the aura of a person whose state he was so curious about; but as Sean was two vampiric generations older and more powerful than Aidan himself, it was always a bit difficult for him to get any kind of read on him at all.
“No” Sean stated simply as if that was the only answer required. However Aidan simply nodded, looked around awkwardly, and continued to stand there in the doorway between the kitchen and the main room “was there something else?” Sean finally asked with a bit of impatience.
“There it is” Aidan responded with a smile, sad though it was.
“There what is?” Sean returned in the same impatient tone.
Aidan swallowed before offering an answer “some sign that you’re still in there somewhere.”
Sean simply scoffed at that statement “there really is nothing we need to say to each other. So why pretend there is?”
“Nothing to say?” Aidan raised a brow “don’t know how accurate that is.”
Sean allowed the briefest darkness to touch his expression before forcing the emotion-free expression that had been glued there prior “so you just came upstairs to call me a liar in my own home?”
Moving past that brief touch of darkness that barely lived on Sean’s features, Aidan continued “so you are still considering this your home, right?”
“Whether I wish for the role or not; I’m the clan Primogen. Haven built this house for our clan. So, I’m sort of stuck here” he offered as his only explanation.
“So where would you rather be, then?” Aidan asked, though his voice was soft.
One more scoff from Sean before he responded “you’re assuming I want to be anywhere at all?”
Aidan sighed heavily “well, you haven’t killed yourself, so you must assume there’s still something to live for.”
That was when Sean sighed briefly himself “you know, I find it ironic that everyone is telling me they think I have something to live for” a slight pause “everyone except the one person that would actually mean something coming from. So pardon me if I have a little trouble believing it” Sean finished, emotion breaking into his tone at last, which he quickly pushed away before leaving the room and the house behind once again.
When Haven entered the meeting room to await the councilors at nearly nine that evening, he was a bit more than surprised to find Sean already waiting there “my servants got word to you rather quickly” he greeted Sean quietly as he moved into the room.
“I ran into them on the way here. I just assumed since it was the first” he simply shrugged, eyes down.
Haven sighed a moment as he glanced at the door, then back at Sean “so, how are things?”
Sean just rolled his eyes but replied “the same as they’ve been for six months, Haven” he stated in that same flat tone.
“Sounds terribly exciting” Haven returned wryly.
“Well, exciting usually is never good around here anyway” Sean offered in the same tone.
‘So I heard you’ve been spending a lot of time in your studio. Replacing all that art you burnt up?” Haven asked, forcing hopefulness into his voice.
“No. It’s just the one place where I don’t have to deal with anyone else” Sean admitted quietly.
“You do realize it’s been almost eighty years since that isolation was imposed on you. Do you miss it that much?” Haven asked pointedly. Though Sean only scoffed.
Though before their conversation could continue, Haven’s servant, Devon, appeared at the door of the meeting room, with Minna in tow. The troubled woman looked even more troubled that night, as trails of red dotted her cheeks. Minna also had a bloody stain gracing the hole at the front of her rather plain dress, right where her heart was.
“What on earth?” Haven asked with more than a bit of worry as he stood to approach Minna and Devon.
The young man then shakily spoke “when I went to her house to tell her about the meeting” Devon took another shaky breath “her own servant was dead. He had been for a while” Devon added shakily. “And she had a stake in her heart” he finished, more than a bit shaken up, himself.
That was when Sean and Haven both immediately snapped their attention to Devon and Minna, both wearing fearful expressions then. Haven finally braced himself to ask “and Awsha?”
“Awsha?” Devon asked in confusion.
“Was Awsha still there, in the basement?” Haven forced himself to ask.
“I didn’t see anyone else. Is that where…where Awsha was?”
Haven just shook his head, not able to look at anyone else in the room right then; least of all Sean, as he was sure he would not want to see that reaction at all.