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  Now and Forever
 Rosemary Beard
 1997
 Sequel to "Justice Better Served"
 Standard Disclaimers Apply.
 
 
 
 Claire propped herself up on an elbow and watched the sleeping form beside her. A mischievous smile crossed her features. Reaching out, she ran a finger softly down his cheek. He stirred slightly and continued sleeping.

Claire frowned. She'd have to try something else. Her eyes lit up as a wicked grin crossed her face. She peeled back the blanket carefully, exposing his bare chest. Her hand snaked slowly toward him. Reaching out, she grasped a few of his chest hairs and pulled. Lucien's eyes flew open and he glared at her. 

Claire giggled. "Good Morning, or should I say evening? I keep forgetting." 
 
"Have you been reading de Sade?" He asked her, rubbing his still stinging chest.

"Oh come on now," she said, her eyes alight with laughter. "It didn't hurt that much. 
 Don't be such a baby." 
 
Lucien looked at her. "How beautiful she is." he thought, looking at her small face. "She has lost none of her joie de vivre." 

 His mood became dark as he thought back to that night many months ago, when he had been forced to bring her across. She had trusted him to protect her. He still blamed himself for failing that task. 
 
Reaching out for her, he pulled her on top of him and kissed her. Claire looked down at him, her brown eyes tinged with gold, and 
 whispered. "Lucien,I love you." 

He could feel the love she had for him. He drew her head down and kissed her. Claire gasped as his hands eased gently down her back. He pulled her closer to him. He needed to taste her, to drink in her soul. Taking hold of her, he flipped them both over, so that Claire was now below him. Leaning forward he sank his fangs into the flesh of her neck.

Claire grasp his arm and sunk her fangs into his shoulder. Lucien gasped, he could taste the emotion that raced through her blood. She drank deep of his blood, willing him to do the same of her. Their minds reached out for one another, memories mingling in an endless communion. Claire raised her head and whispered his name. Lucien released her from his bite and cradled her in his arms, murmuring words of his love for her.

Claire lay in his arms, feeling a sense of peace that she had not known as a mortal. 
 "Lucien," she asked, "Will everyday be like this?"

"I hope not." he said smiling, rubbing his chest.

Claire slapped his arm and laughed. She snuggled closer to him. Turning her face up to him, she looked at her lover. She tried to imagine him as a Roman general, cruel and  zealous in his service to his emperor. "I wonder  what he looked like in a toga?" she  thought. "He does have cute knees." Claire giggled to herself. 

Lucien gave her a curious look, but said  nothing. He enjoyed the sound of her laughter,  her childlike joy in the things around her, her  insatiable curiosity. She was eager to learn everything he tried to teach her. At last he had found a companion to share eternity with him.

Lucien stretched his stiff muscles and took her arms from around him. "It is time to 
 rise, my love. The night awaits us." Claire made a face at him and sat up on the bed. 

"I'd rather stay here, with you." she pouted.

"Modern women." he said, as he walked toward the chair that held his clothing. "There 
 was a time when women knew their place." He turned away from her and began dressing.

Claire stuck her tongue out at him. " I know my place." she said, rising from the bed. 
 She walked across to where he stood and put her arms around his neck. Pressing her body against him, she smiled and said, "It's with you."

Lucien looked down at her and laughed. He picked her up in his arms and carried her back to the bed. Claire made a low sound, like a contented purr, as she snuggled against his chest. Holding her out away from him, he dropped her onto the bed, and stepped back out of her reach.

"No fair." she howled as she hit the bed. 
 
Lucien looked at her. "All is fair in love and war my dear. Now get dressed, there is still much I have to teach you."  He turned and walked to the door. Opening it, he stepped into the hallway. "I'll wait for you outside." he said. 

Claire watched as the door closed behind him. Picking up a pillow, she flung it at the door. 
"Men!" she said, as she pounded her fist into the blankets. 

 Claire got up and padded her way into the bathroom. Quickly she showered and dressed. Lucien was not one to be kept waiting.

Claire hurried out of the room to find her master. She liked learning the things he taught her. She especially liked it when they practiced finding each other. They seemed to share more than a blood bond. They were one with each other. She could feel his mind as it reached out to touch hers. It was almost as if they shared even the most intimate of thoughts.

She was learning much from him. Even how to block her thoughts, so she could shield herself from him. It annoyed him and she only did it as a game. He was so much more experienced than she, and she worried that he would become bored with her.
 
She loved him so. He promised to be with her for eternity, but what real hold did she 
 have on him? He had released Nicholas when Claire became his, but what if he found another? Would he release her too?

Claire stood there thinking for a moment. A smile crossed her face. She knew what she wanted, and she would have it. Stretching out along the bond that joined them, she located him and hurried to where he stood waiting.

Running over to meet him, she threw her  arms around his neck and kissed him 
 passionately.
 "Lucien," she said, looking into his eyes. "Let's get married. I want a wedding. 
 A big old-fashioned wedding, with a church and a minister and a long white gown and flowers, lots of flowers, and a cake and all the trimmings. Please? May we?" she pleaded.
 	
Lucien stood there staring at her. Surprise was written all over his face. He looked down at this smiling female wrapped in his arms.

"You want what?" he ask her, his face emotionless with astonishment.		
 
 ***********************************************
 Claire felt as if a cold hand had suddenly seized her heart. Blood tears began to form in her eyes.
 
"Lucien." she whispered, taking her arms  from around his neck. "Don't you want to marry me?" 

"Weddings are a mortal notion. We have no need of such things." LaCroix said matter of factly. "I have promised you an eternity together. Is that not enough?"  

He could see the hurt in her eyes. 

"You must learn to let go of  your humanity. You are no longer mortal."

"Love is a mortal notion too. If we let go of our humanity, does that mean we must deny our love as well?" Claire wiped the tears from her eyes and looked up at him. "Don't you love me?"

"This not the same. What we share is deeper than the mortal idea of love. We are 
 bonded to each other, that is not possible for mortals."

"But I was mortal when you said you loved me. You are not mortal, yet you feel love. We were not bonded when you promised me an eternity with you. Doesn't that prove that love is something more than just a mortal notion?"

"It proves nothing." he said flatly.  "Weddings are for mortals. We are no longer 
 mortal. We shall not speak of it again." Lucien turned and took to the air. "Come." he called out to her.

Claire stood there, looking up into the sky. She watched as his image grew fainter and 
 more distant. Slowly she walked back into the house they shared. Walking into the sparsely furnished kitchen, she opened the refrigerator and took out a bottle. She poured some of the contents into a goblet and took a long swallow. 
 
"He just doesn't want to understand." she said sadly. Claire drew back the heavy curtains and gazed out of the window as a tear fell down her cheek. There were many things she still did not understand about him. Lucien had proven to be a patient teacher and a passionate lover, yet there was still a part of him that resisted her, 
 a part she could not touch. She knew that there were memories he held back from her. She felt their shadowy presence, hovering just out of her reach, names, like whispers, that flashed to the surface and retreated as quickly.
 
She had freely, willingly, given herself to him, withholding nothing. Yet he gave her 
 only promises, and would not open himself completely to her. "Who are these faceless names?", she wondered. "Are they why he is so reluctant to share himself?" She longed to wrap him in her love and protect him from them, if only he would let her. 
 
 ****************************
 
LaCroix stood looking at the progress that had been made in reconstructing the Raven. Claire had expressed a desire to remain in Toronto and he had allowed her to convince him that the Community required his presence there.

His Nightcrawler broadcasts had continued sporadically, many of which he taped in advance, so that he could spend more time with Claire, teaching her, loving her, surrounding himself with her love. Walking through the skeleton-like structure of the new construction, he found himself in what had once been his office.

In his mind's eye he could see the blast which had ended Claire's life as a mortal. 
Closing his eyes, the guilt and anguish he had felt that night washed over him. He felt the anger sweep through him, the desire for revenge, the desperation as he brought her across. "You must learn to let go of your humanity." he had told her, yet now he found himself struggling with his emotions as his own humanity tried to 
 resurface.

He had always maintained a tight control on such things, held these feelings in check, yet now he found himself powerless to contain them as they threatened to consume him. The centuries of loneliness and pain had taken their toll on him. He had dropped his guard for one instant and Claire had stolen into his heart. 

"Power comes with the absence of love. Love drains us of our strength." he had once said and yet he now found himself enslaved by it. "No!" he growled. " I am the master here." Turning quickly on his heel, he left the building and took to the air.	
 
 *********************
Claire walked out to the water's edge. The house felt so empty without him. She stood there looking out on the lake, her mind miles away. She heard him as his feet touched down lightly behind her. She heard the sound of dry grass and leaves under his feet as he walked up to stand behind her. 

Lucien put his hands on her shoulders and drew her closer to him.

"Lucien" she asked, turning her head to look up at him. "Who are Divia and Fleur, and why does their memory cause you such pain? Are they why you are so reluctant for a wedding?"

He gave her a shocked look. "Who told you about them?" he asked her.
"Then they are real. I sensed them in your mind. You try to shut that part of your mind out to me, but I can feel them lurking there. Who are they?"

"They are but shadows from the past." he said angrily, "Shadows that will remain in the past. You wanted a wedding. Come we have preparations to make." he said as he took Claire by the arm and pulled her along. Claire struggled to release his grip. 

"Lucien, where are you taking me?" 

LaCroix said nothing. He merely scooped her into his arms and took to flight. Claire was puzzled by the change in him. He looked angry and said nothing to her until they reached their destination. He landed silently and set her on her feet. Looking down at Claire, he said quietly. "You wanted a large church wedding. Will this do?"

Claire looked up at the building before her. It was a large cathedral, its spires reaching toward the sky. "It's beautiful." she said. "Oh, Lucien, it's perfect." Without thinking she ran up the stairs and flung open the door. The scent of candles filled the air as she stepped inside. Claire stood in the foyer, peering through the glass in the door at the stained glass windows that filled the sanctuary. 

She closed her eyes and imagined herself walking down the long aisle toward the altar. She could hear herself saying the words that would bind her to Lucien for eternity. Slowly she opened her eyes and reached out to open the 
 second set of doors.
 
The door handle felt warm in her hands, but she dismissed this and pulled open one of the large, heavy doors. Stepping quickly into the sanctuary, she was hit with a sensation as real and as powerful as the explosion which had 
 changed her life.

 She felt her breath coming in short, quick gasps. The room began to swim before her eyes and she could feel the walls closing in on her. A sudden fear gripped her as pain, like a hot knife, seared through her chest. She struggled 
 to reach the door.
 
 "Lucien!" she screamed, as she stumbled toward the doorway. "What is happening to me?  Help me!"
 
Claire made her way to the door and threw herself against it. It flew open and she found herself sprawled on the floor of the foyer. Claire crawled to the outside door and clawed at it, trying to open it by sheer force of will. 
 
"Lucien!" she cried, tears rolling down her face.

 The outer door opened slowly and she made her way out onto the steps. She could sense him standing over her, but she felt so weak she could not raise her head to look at him. 

"Why?" she sobbed. 
 	
His heart ached for her, her pain becoming his. Reaching down, he gathered her in his arms. Claire turned her tear-stained face up to him. 
 
"Why?" she asked again. "Why didn't you tell me this would happen."
 	
"Because my dear, some of life's lessons, no matter how painful, are best learned by 
 experience" he said. "If I had told you, would  you have believed me? You would have thought it an excuse not to give you what you wished. Now you see why this wedding is impossible."

 Claire laid her head on his shoulder and sobbed quietly as he helped her down the stairs.

"Come." he said, "It is almost dawn. We must return home. You need to rest."
 
 **********************************************
 
 Claire slept fitfully, calling out for Lucien several times. She opened her eyes and 
 looked at him. 

"How tired and drawn he looks." she thought. "Lucien," she whispered, "Have you 
 slept?"

"No." He said quietly. 

 He had lain awake all day watching her sleep, not daring to close his eyes for fear she might need him, drawing her into his arms when she called out, to quiet and comfort her fears. 
 
Lucien searched her face. He had knowingly  caused her pain. He was sure he would find anger in her eyes, yet there was none, only a sadness that he could not understand.

 Claire reached out for him, pulling him closer to her. Gently she laid his head on her 
 chest and began to stroke his hair. He could feel a sadness in her that had not been there before. 

"You must sleep." she said, "I will remain here until you do."

 Lucien gave her a puzzled look. "Are you not angry with me," he asked, "For causing you pain?"   
 
Claire closed her eyes, trying to shut out the memories of the pain. 

"No," she said bluntly, "Life is full of both pain and joy. In order to appreciate the joy, you have to experience the pain as well." Lowering her head, she kissed him. "You are my joy." she said as she released his lips. "If this is the price I must pay for an eternity with you, then I will pay it."

Lucien looked up at her. There were tears  in her eyes, yet she said nothing. Claire slid herself down the bed and hid her face against his shoulder.
 
 Placing his hand beneath her chin, Lucien gently turned her face up to his, his lips taking possession of hers. Claire moaned softly as Lucien's hand lazily made its way down her side. Releasing her lips, he began scattering kisses down her throat.	
 
Lucien raised his head and looked at her. She was so beautiful. He was suddenly struck with the realization of exactly how much he loved her, how much a part of him she had become. Drawing her closer to him, he made love to her. Afterwards, their passions spent, she lay enclosed in his arms. Lucien closed his eyes 
 and drifted off into a deep, dreamless sleep.
 
 ************************
 
 
  Lucien woke to find himself alone. He had slept soundly for the rest of the night and all  the next day. It was just after sunset when he woke. Throwing off the blanket, he called out her name, only to be greeted with silence.
 
Walking to the window, he pulled back the heavy curtains and looked out. Claire was standing by the water, staring out over the lake. Quickly he dressed and went out to join her.
 
Claire stood silent and unmoving as he approached her. She gave no sign of recognition as he came up behind her and gathered her into his arms. The same sadness he had felt earlier, still hung over her like a cloud. 
 
"What is it?" he wondered. "Is she mourning the loss of her humanity?" The spark of life had left her eyes, her childlike laughter gone, replaced with a sad resignation that he could not understand, nor dispel.
 
Claire sensed his uncertainty. She could not explain to him what she felt, there were no words. She loved him achingly, and she knew he loved her, but for how long. He had told her they were bonded. What did that mean? He still would not open himself to her completely. How could she tell him about the doubt and fear that 
 were in her heart. 
 
Lucien pulled her closer. Claire tipped her head backward and rested it on his shoulder. Looking up, she could see the stars, shining like diamonds against the black velvet of night. 

 "Aren't they beautiful." she said. "Their light is so reassuring, so enduring."
 
Lucien felt a stab of longing and loneliness. Claire seemed to be slipping away from him. She had begun to close off parts of her mind to him. The thought of losing her haunted him. Stretching out along the bond between them, he tried to touch her mind with his own, only to be shut out. She had become so strong in such a short time. Placing a hand beside her head, he drew her to him and sank his fangs into her neck.

Claire made no effort to resist him. Once again her memories flooded his mind. The sense of doubt and fear rose to the surface as he struggled to understand what she felt. Suddenly he knew what he must do, how he could dispel the 
 cloud that surrounded her. Releasing her from his bite, he turned her around to face him.
 
Claire sensed what he wanted her to do. Holding him close to her, she buried her fangs into his throat. Lucien opened his mind to her, and the bittersweet memories of Fluer flooded her mind. Drinking deeper, she sensed a foreboding evil that had been long buried. Images of Divia floated to the surface. Frightening, sinister images of an evil stronger than she had ever known.
 
Claire cried out as she released her grip on him. "Lucien," she sobbed, placing her hands on either side of his face. He pulled her into his arms and placed his cheek against her hair. 

 "I wanted to sheild you from these memories, this guilt," he said softly. 
 	  
They stood holding each other for a long time. Lucien released her from his arms and they walked back to the house in silence.
 ************************************************
 
 It had taken much time and effort, but at last the day arrived. Lucien had gone on ahead to make last minute preperations for the grand re-opening of the Raven. Claire had remaind behind at the little house to take care of the rest of the packing. They would spend tonight at their new home.
 	
She was going to miss this house, but she would be glad to be back at the Raven, where they had met and fell in love. Claire moved quickly about the house, gathering up the last of their possessions and placing them carefully into the empty boxes by the door.
 	
Walking into the bedroom, she was suprised to find a large white box lying on the bed. Attached to the lid was a handwritten note. Picking up the paper, she looked at the signature. It was from Lucien.

 "What is he playing at?" she asked out loud. 
 Carefully she read the note;
 
 	I would like to see you wearing this tonight,
 	 for the opening. It holds many memories.
 		Lucien
 
 Claire smiled. She had never known him to be so sentimental. Opening the box, she gasped as a flash of blue caught her eye. Pushing away the tissue paper, she found herself staring at the dress she had worn that night, so many months ago, when Lucien had realized he loved her.
 
Inside the box were the shoes and the purse that matched the dress. Lying beside them was a single, perfect rose. Claire could feel the tears gather in her eyes. How had he managed to save this, and why had he kept it?

 Hurriedly she finished the packing and dressed to meet Lucien at the club. Picking up the rose, she raced out the door and literally flew to the Raven.
 	
Entering the front door, she was met by Lucien, who offered her his arm. Claire laid her hand on it, and he drew her into the darkened club. Looking around her, she saw masses of flowers, of every size and color. Candles cast a soft glow around the room. 
 
Members of the Community were seated on either side of a center aisle spread with a golden carpet. She saw Nick and Nat seated together, near the front. At the head of room, in front of the bar, stood a solitary figure. 
 	
Lucien led her down the aisle to stand before this man. He turned to Claire and took her hand in his. Gently he raised it to his lips and gazed into her eyes. "Welcome to 
 our wedding my love." he told her.
 	
Claire could hardly believe what she was hearing. She looked up at him, her eyes wide with suprise. Nick walked up and stood beside LaCroix. 

"It's true." he whispered, smiling. Nat went to stand beside her. Placing her hand on Claire's shoulder, she leaned over and kissed the bride's cheek.
 
"We are here to witness the joining of these two in love." the man started. "They have come to pledge themselves, before this community, to each other throughout  eternity.
 
Lucien, still holding Claire's hand, turned to her, his eyes looking deeply into hers.
 
"You have brought something into my life I never hoped to find again." he began. "The pain of endless centuries has been wiped away by your presence. This heart of mine, too long cold and unfeeling, quickens with a passion inspired by you. In you I have found a companion, a lover, a kindred soul. My life is yours, for all eternity." he vowed, as he slipped a ring of gold onto her finger.
 	
Claire's eyes were filled with tears as she looked up at him. "Lucien," she said, her voice full of emotion. "I pledge myself to you for all time. You are my life, my joy, my peace. In you I have found a teacher, a lover, a friend. All that I am, and all that I shall become is yours."
 	
"Be it known, from now through all time, that these two are pledged and bonded to each other." the man told them, "Let none stand between them."
 	
Lucien looked down at her, the spark of life and laughter had returned to her eyes, the fear and doubt were gone. He pulled Claire to him and kissed her. Claire was so happy, she poured her joy into that kiss, willing it to last forever. 

END

End