Author Topic: Home  (Read 712 times)

William Hawthorn

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Home
« on: October 30, 2019, 06:19:32 PM »
Modern travel was definitely a wonder, especially when it was tailored to the special needs of the supernatural. Less than twenty-four hours after reuniting on a mountainside in Bhutan, Sakura drove up a winding path toward a cottage nestled into the hills above Loch Ness, bringing the car to a halt outside. She looked over at her passenger with tender warmth, bathed in autumn moonlight.

"Home."

It had been something of a shock leaving the monastery after so many years of seclusion. While flight was a little scary, it was a much faster form of transportation than anything he'd ever experienced before. Everything, it seemed, was powered by some kind of engine, including the strange carriage she was driving to take them to the place she called home. A lot had happened in the last century, and he had a lot of catching up to do, but there was no rush. Thankfully, "home" was a small stone cottage surrounded by trees, quaint and secluded and peaceful.

"Complete with electric lights and heat?" he teased as he looked the place over.

"Of course." Sakura laughed softly, reaching over to squeeze his hand. "And indoor plumbing. I honestly believe, of all the inventions of the past two centuries, that one is the greatest." She leaned over to kiss his cheek. "Come inside, love."

"They say the Romans had plumbing," William pointed out, but that plumbing was certainly nowhere near as sophisticated as that of the modern world - at least, from what he'd seen, so far. Then again, vampires didn't really need to use toilets, but bathing was still pleasant. He smiled as she kissed him, touched by the simple gesture of affection. "Where you go, I follow."

"So they say," Sakura mused. "Freya says otherwise." She chuckled, absentmindedly releasing him from his seatbelt before her own, opening the door to slip from the car into the cool night air.

He looked puzzled as she released the belt that held him safely in his seat. He'd asked her at the start of the journey whether it had been necessary, seeing as how they were practically immortal, and she'd explained how there were laws to enforce such safety measures. Yes, the world had certainly changed; he only hoped it had changed for the better.

"Freya would know," he replied, swinging his long legs out of the vehicle to drop his feet to the ground.

"I don't think she had much contact with the Romans," the little woman mused, locking the car remotely as she rounded the vehicle to take his hand.

A howl went up on the hill above the cottage, picked up by other throats, until it was clear an entire pack were howling around them. Sakura laughed.

"Those silly wolves," she murmured. "I've only been gone a month."

He glanced back at the carriage, brows furrowed as it made a strange beeping sound, his curiosity quickly distracted by the howls that went up around them.

"Friends of yours?" he asked, a curious look on his face.

She smiled, nodding. "They'll be down in a few moments," she warned. "I've known all of them since they were born - they're no threat to us."

Indeed, as she spoke, the howl broke off, followed by the sound of several paws thudding on cold grass as shadowy shapes rushed down the hillside toward the cottage.

Not werewolves, apparently, or even shapechangers, but ordinary wolves, as tame as domesticated dogs, as far as Sakura was concerned, it seemed.

"How did they come to be your friends?" he asked, unafraid but wary, standing his ground at the wolves' approach.

Releasing his hand, Sakura knelt to greet the wolves as they reached the pair, padding around in excitable circles, scenting them both as she spoke.

"Their ancestors refused to let me die," she said simply. "I don't know why, but they covered my entire body with their pack and refused to let the sun touch me. They brought me to this place - abandoned back then. They looked after me, and these are their children's children. In return, no hunter sets snares on these hills. I see to that."

"I don't understand," he said, brows furrowing again. They saved her life? When? Why? Had she become injured somehow, or had she given up on living sometime during those years when they were apart? There was still so little they knew about each other, especially after they'd been forced apart.

"I gave up," she said quietly, ashamed of herself for that weakness. She didn't look at him as she spoke, stroking her fingers through the fur of the alpha female fondly. "I tried to end my eternal life. Their ancestors would not allow it. I don't know why."

"You weren't alone in that," he admitted with a frown. "If it wasn't for Julian ..." he said, trailing off with a shrug. It was Julian who had pointed out what a tragedy it would have been if he'd destroyed himself after all Sakura had sacrificed to save him.

A cold nose pressed into his hand - one of the wolves brave enough to ask him for a little affection in the way she gave to others.

"It is done now," Sakura said, still soft in the stillness. "We need never feel that pain again."

"No," he murmured. "But we should not forget it," he pointed out, because they couldn't risk repeating the past ever again. He glanced down at the cold nose that was nudging his hand, and he turned his palm up to let the wolf inspect him and decide whether he was trustworthy or not.

Rising to her feet, Sakura stepped back to stand beside him, smiling as the young wolf at his side nuzzled into his hand before obeying the quiet command of the alpha pair as the pack turned to disappear back into the hills. Her hand slipped into his, lacing their fingers fondly.

"Shall we?"

"They just came here to greet you?" he asked, as the wolves made to depart and return to the wild of the wood that surrounded the house. "They watch over you," he murmured thoughtfully. He had a feeling the wolves hadn't decided it on their own - that someone older and more powerful had been involved.

William Hawthorn

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Re: Home
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2019, 06:19:49 PM »

"They do this every time I come home," she admitted. "I don't know why. Whenever the pack had a new leader, they come to greet me, too." She shrugged, smiling as she shook her head. "Perhaps I have become a strange sort of hermit."

"Perhaps they consider you part of their pack," he suggested, though he wasn't too sure. It was something of a symbiotic relationship, where they wolves watched out for her and she watched out for them. It wasn't unlike the relationship he'd had with the monks.

"Perhaps." Squeezing his hand, she drew him into the cottage, revealing that she had not entirely left her native culture behind. Each room evoked some blending of Japanese and Western culture, with a familiar sense of comfort wrapped around it.

 He followed her inside, still feeling a little disoriented, as if he was just waking from a very long sleep, casting a glance around and noting the mix of Eastern and Western culture that decorated the place.

"Why here, Sakura?" he asked her curiously.

"Do you remember when you told me about England?" she asked, leading the way into the kitchen. "You spoke about the greenery and the hills and the lakes, and you said you had never been anywhere as beautiful as Scotland. When I first came here, I fell in love with the wildness of the Highlands. I felt close to you here."

"How long have you been here?" he asked, letting go of her hand so he could wander around and examine this and that, familiarize himself with this place she called home.

"A little under a century," she said, opening the fridge. "Are you hungry, love?" She pulled a blood bag out, reaching to open a cupboard and find a cup. It had been a long couple of days for him on just one feed. "I found this place in about 1950, and it took a few years to fix it up. But this has been home ever since."

He furrowed his brows, that look on confusion on his face yet again. "Where did you get that?" he asked, as she pulled a bag full of blood from some sort of ice box that seemed to be powered by electricity.

"In this age, humans often donate blood to medical centers," she explained, carefully pouring a third of the bag into a cup. "They often end up with a surplus of certain types of blood, which vampires can purchase through intermediaries. I prefer it to the alternative."

"Are you saying you don't have to hunt?" he asked, incredulously. He hadn't fed off a human in over a hundred years; he had, in fact, taken an oath against it. But he had hunted and fed off the blood of wild animals in order to survive, and now she was telling him all of that was somehow unnecessary in this new world.

"No, it isn't necessary any longer," she said, putting the cup into the microwave to warm the chill off the blood. "And for those who prefer fresh blood from the source, there are gathering point where humans volunteer to be bitten. Only rogues hunt and kill these days, and the community polices them harshly."

"The community," he echoed, watching as she stuck the cup of blood into another electronic device and tapped some buttons. "Not the Council?" he asked, further. He knew the Council must still exist, as they had suspended the decree that had kept them apart, but were they still as powerful as they'd always been?

"The Council deals with larger issues these days," she said. "Mostly to do with keeping the secret, and they only have power in Western Europe. Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Americas, they all have their own versions of the Council." The microwave declared itself done, and she opened it up, offering him the cup of warmed blood. "There's no need for you to starve yourself now, William."

He absorbed what she was telling him, knowing he had much more to learn, and nodded his understanding. He turned his gaze to the cup of warmed blood, the old familiar hunger burning in his veins at the sight and smell of it - as tempting as food to a starved man.

"I haven't drunk human blood in over a century," he confessed, almost as if he was afraid of becoming an addict.

"It won't change you," she promised him. "I will not demand that you drink it daily, but regularly, please. You are starving, Will. I do not like to see it."

He knew it was true. Even the monks, who had taken vows of poverty, ate better than him, looked healthier than him. "I truly do not have to hunt and kill to stay alive?" he asked her again, reaching for the cup with a trembling hand.

Wrapping his hands about the cup, she stepped close, looking into his eyes so he could see the truthful sincerity in her gaze. "Never again," she promised him. "I have not hunted a human in sixty years. This way is better."

"Not even the evil ones or those who suffer?" he asked, uncertainly. This was a new world to him, a time of wonder, and it had only been a mere hundred years.

"The rule these days is that even if you hunt, you do not kill," she told him. "Who are we to say who is evil and who is not? Unless the person can give their consent, even those who are suffering should be left alone."

"Very well," he said, though he still had much to learn.

He turned his attention to the cup in his hand and the blood that was filling that cup. No more hunting, no more killing. He couldn't argue with that. He'd made a vow, but it was more a vow to never again take a human life, so much as it was to never again drink human blood. It was a temptation, as much of a temptation as whiskey was to an alcoholic, but it was also the essence of survival and food to a starved man. He tipped the glass and took a small sip. The blood was as warm as it might have been had it come from a living, breathing human, but it lacked the terror, the horror of death. It was like sipping one's first cup of coffee upon waking.

She watched him for a moment, just to make sure it wouldn't choke him, and smiled, turning to fill a cup for herself and warm it. It was a relief to see him taking in sustenance that would do more than simply keep him alive.

After another moment in presumed contemplation, he drained the contents of the cup, letting it warm his insides and take the edge off his hunger. It would take some time yet before he no longer had that starved look about him, but it was a start.

William Hawthorn

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Re: Home
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2019, 06:20:07 PM »
"What other wonders does this new world have to offer?" he asked her.

"Many," she told him, sipping from her own cup. "Cities do not sleep any longer. There is always something to do. And ..." She bit her lip even as she smiled. "One of Julian's friends, in America, developed a filter that can be put over glass that means we can feel the sun on our skin, see the daylight through it, and not be harmed."

He arched a skeptical brow at her last statement, though he had seen many wonders already since she'd come for him. "We can feel the sun on our skin," he echoed, doubtfully, though he had no reason not to believe her. "You are teasing me now."

Her smile brightened at his skepticism. "In a few hours, you will see," she promised. "I had the windows here fitted with the filter last year. There are others working on other ways for us to integrate with the daylight world - even my little brother has his own projects." She grinned. "I should introduce you to Tobias some time."

He instinctively knew that when she mentioned a brother, she didn't mean the kind of family who shared your genealogy, but the kind who shared a vampire's bloodline going back to the oldest of their kind.

"He is in the Americas, you say," he echoed, looking into his cup again, a small frown to find it was empty, but he wasn't sure it was wise to gorge just yet.

"He is," she confirmed, gently switching his empty cup for her half-full one. "No more after this for at least a day." Turning to wash the cup out, she went on, "Tobias lives in Albany, which is outside New York City. I would have to contact him ahead of time if we go to visit."

"How long does it take to cross the ocean these days?" he asked, debating handing the cup back, but he could not deny his hunger. He sipped the contents this time though, savoring it a little bit longer.

"Less than a day by air, around two weeks by sea," she told him. "Julian opened my eyes to a reasonable use of wealth in traveling comfortably by air, so I will have to make arrangements for that at some point."

"Two weeks," he breathed, incredulous once again. In his day, when he had been sailing, it had taken month to travel by sea, often longer by land. He'd never been to the New World, but it seemed perhaps he might make the journey someday. "That's incredible," he murmured, at a loss for any other word to describe it.

"In many ways, the world is smaller now," she agreed quietly, setting the clean cup to drip dry in the rack. "And there are ways to explore it without leaving your home. Perhaps that is where we will start, hmm?"

William drained the cup at last, licking the last of the blood from his lips, an almost amused smile on his face. "Perhaps we should start with the house," he suggested. "And each other."

Sakura's smile, so shy but so loving, shone forth again as she took the cup to wash it, careful to sweep away every last hint of blood before setting it aside. "Where would you like to start, my William?"

"I think perhaps I should start with you, my Sakura," he told her, turning her to face him. There was no mistake he was still hungry, but the hunger she found in his eyes now was a hunger of a very different kind.

Caught between the sink and the man she loved, Sakura laughed tenderly, reaching up to stroke his hair from his eyes as she met his hunger with her own. "It has been a long time, love," she murmured teasingly. "Are you sure you're up to it?"

"Please don't tell me that that's changed, too," he said, as he wrapped a possessive arm around her waist to pull her close. There were some things a man never forgot, even after three hundred years, even after becoming immortal.

"Oh, no, my love," she promised, rising up onto her toes. "This is one thing that will never change." She drew him down to her, lips pressing to lips in a tender kiss that exclaimed all the words she could not say aloud.

He was relieved to hear that lovemaking, at least, had not changed or been improved upon. How would one improve something that was already perfect, after all? Whatever he might have said was silenced by her kiss, which he returned with equal vigor. It was a kiss not only full of hunger, but of the love they'd been denied for so many years, rekindling once again the spark of love that the Council had sought to extinguish, but which had burned on.

It had, indeed, been far too long, and the last time they had been intimate, he had still been human. This experience might be a little overwhelming for him, but Sakura was certain her William could handle anything. He was a joy to behold. She knew he could handle this.

If there was one thing he had learned during his time at the monastery, it was control. Even now, when his desire for her was such that he was on the verge of losing self-control, he did not. He did not want that for his Sakura; she deserved a tender lover, not a demanding one. For a moment, he had to step back and take a slow breath, the hunger inside him almost too ravenous to hold in check.

"I need a moment," he told her, holding up a hand to ask for her patience.

She smiled, stroking his cheek gently. "We have all the time in the world," she reminded him, a little breathless herself with her own desire. "Would you like to see the rest of the house?"

"Yes, that-that might be a good idea," he confessed. It wasn't that he didn't want her; quite the opposite, in fact, but when he did give in to that temptation, he wanted it to be tender and loving. She deserved that much from him.

Her fingers curled into his, giving a gentle tug to begin a calm tour of the little cottage that was now their home together. From the living room and kitchen downstairs, to the bathroom and two bedrooms upstairs, it was a neat little space that had clearly been furnished with both of them in mind.

"Would you like to wash up a little?" she asked, as they reached the upper floor. "There is no rush, Will."


William Hawthorn

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Re: Home
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2019, 06:20:24 PM »
What did she mean by wash up, exactly? The monastery had not had many luxuries - certainly none of the conveniences modern people seemed to have become so accustomed to. He took the house in, simple and yet comfortable. To his mind, it was perfect, but it was the bathroom that drew the most attention from him with its modern plumbing.

"A bath?" he asked, not because he thought he needed one, but because he was curious how the thing worked.

"If you would like one," she said, "or a shower." She indicated the shower head. "It's like washing in a warm waterfall," she explained fondly. "Quicker than a bath, and some people prefer it."

He tilted his gaze to the shower overhead, one brow arching upwards. "A shower then," he agreed. Though vampires might not sweat the way humans did, there was no reason they couldn't enjoy a bath or a shower.

"As you wish."

With an odd sort of pride in her home, and pleasure that he was apparently pleased with it, Sakura ran the water under his eyes, showing him how the faucets worked, where the appropriate soaps and towels were.

"I have to call Julian," she told him. "I promised him that I would when we were safely home. I won't be far."

Apparently, she wasn't going to join him, but maybe that was best for now. He wasn't looking his best at the moment, and once he removed his clothing, she'd see just how wasted he'd become.

"Very well," he told her, almost relieved that she'd allow him a few moments of privacy. There was a lot for him to take in, and he still wasn't sure any of it was real.

She paused before leaving the room, leaning up to kiss his cheek. "Take all the time you need, love," she told him. "I'm not going anywhere. We're safe here."

"Arigato, Sakura," he told her in a soft voice, fingers tracing her cheek, thanking her for all she'd done for him, though mere thanks would never be enough. She had saved his life once, and now she had taken him away from the monastery and brought him here, to start his life anew.

She beamed her soft, shy smile once again, reluctantly drawing away to close the door and leave him to the refreshing steam of his first hot shower.

He could hear her soft steps moving away from the room, and it was only when he was sure he was alone that he started to remove the layers of clothing she'd given him and take a better look at this thing she'd called a shower.

It was the work of just a few minutes to call Julian and assure him that William was well and safe, and home. Sakura even took a little advice on introducing her lover to the modern world he knew so little about. That done, she turned her attention to lighting the fire in the bedroom and securing the house against intruders ... though any intruder out in the Highlands at night knew better than to approach this house of an evening.

Once he sorted out how it worked, he thoroughly enjoyed the shower of warm water, though he wasn't so fond of the more flowery scented soaps she'd left for him to use. He took his time, the water soothing the tension in his muscles as he let it pour over him. He wondered what other wonders awaited him in this modern age, but his thoughts kept straying to that of the woman who'd brought him here, amazed that she hadn't forgotten him and that she still loved him.

When he finally stepped out of the shower to look at himself in the mirror, he found a gaunt face looking back that he almost didn't recognize. There was no need to shave or trim his hair, as his vampiric blood kept him looking eternally the same as he'd looked when he'd been turned, but the lack of blood had left him looking underfed. Still, he felt better than he had in a long time, and he knew it was partly due to the blood she had given him. Once he was finished dressing, he stepped back out of the bathroom in search of her, a few unnecessary layers of clothes thrown over one arm.

He found her within moments, kneeling before a mirror in the bedroom, brushing out her long dark hair with slow, rhythmic strokes. She had changed out of her modern clothing, wrapped in a silk kimono robe, bare toes peeking out from beneath her backside as she hummed to herself in the quiet.

He paused in the doorway to watch her silently a moment before stepping inside and looking around for a place to stow the pile of clothing in his arms.

She had left a sliding door against the nearest wall to him half-open, revealing a closet with room for more clothing as and when they procured it for him. There was also a man's robe in the kimono style, should he wish to wear it, though she'd made no comment on his appearance.

He wasn't really sure what she expected of him. He'd spent the last hundred years or so in robes, with little thought to fashion, only function. Even now, it felt a little strange to be wearing pants and shirt, though he supposed he'd get used to it.

"How many hours until dawn?" he asked, having lost all sense of time during their trip here. He turned to the closet a moment, but in the end, decided to leave the pile of discarded clothes on a chair for now.

She opened her eyes, smiling at his reflection in the mirror. "A little over two hours, I think," she told him, setting the brush to one side and twisting to look over at him. "How do you feel?"

He frowned at her question, unsure how to answer it. "I feel ... strange," he admitted. It wasn't the blood that was making him feel that way, but the knowledge that he was finally, at last, free. He extended a hand to touch the kimono, rubbing the silk fabric between his fingers, as if to see if that, too, was real.

"In what way?" she asked, curiosity sparking in her eyes as she watched him in the dim glow from the lights by the bed. "How can I help you?"

"I don't know," he replied, uncertainly. "Everything is so different," he said, turning to face her again. "Except you. You haven't changed. You're still as lovely as the first time I saw you," he told her quietly, as he looked her over again, his gaze full of wonder and adoration.

Her smile softened at his words. "I have learned not to be so formal," she admitted, rising onto her feet to join him. It still felt strange to her, to wear a robe modeled on a kimono without underwear or an obi, but she enjoyed the freedom of movement it allowed. "The cub learned how to roar."

William Hawthorn

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Re: Home
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2019, 06:20:41 PM »
"Should I be afraid?" he asked, the hint of a smirk on his face. He had nothing to fear, where she was concerned, but he couldn't say the same for others. He reached for her hands as she came close, content for now just to look at her. "Tell me, did you ask the Council for mercy or did they decide on their own?" he wondered aloud. He'd assumed they'd forgotten about him a long time ago. He'd even worried she'd done the same.

"Every twenty years, I petitioned them to lift the decree," she told him. "They ignored me. I ... I believe Freya spoke for us when they asked her advice on another matter some years back. I can never repay that kindness."

"What did they think would happen if we were together?" he said, not really expecting an answer. He struggled to repress the anger he still felt toward the Council; anger he'd not let himself feel in countless long years. "Fools. We are less of a danger together than apart."

"They were punishing me, Will," she told him. "I gave you the kiss without permission or preparation. We were lucky that they did not kill us outright, but the length of our separation was entirely to hurt me, not you. An example had to be made."

"You saved my life, Sakura," he argued. It was the same argument he'd made to the Council all those years ago. Others had done the same; why had the Council decided to punish them? "They were punishing us both," he told her. There was no way they could punish her without punishing him, after all.

"It's done." She pulled him over to the bed, purely so she could stand on it and meet him eye to eye. There were definite drawbacks to being a very small woman. Hands cradling his cheeks, she held his gaze with warm promise. "It's over, William. Don't let them poison you again."

He let her tug him over to the bed, a little surprised to find her climbing up on it so that she could meet him eye to eye. If she didn't look so serious, he might have been amused. He met her gaze, his hands going to her waist, as if he needed to hold her steady. "I won't, Sakura. I promise," he assured her, seriously. "I won't risk them separating us again."

"If I lost you again, I ..." She bit her lip, not wanting to show him sad eyes again. "I couldn't bear it, Will. I need you. We risked everything once, and we lost. I won't make that gamble again. I can't."

"You will never lose me, Sakura. I swear," he assured her again, searching her eyes to make sure she believed him. He brushed a dark strand of hair away from her face with a gentle finger. "I love you, Sakura. I have always loved you. You are the only thing that's kept me going all these years - the hope that I would see you again someday. The hope that we could be together ... and now we are."

"We are," she agreed softly. "And we will never be parted again. If ever they try it, I will face God and walk backward into Hell to be with you."

He couldn't help but smile a little at her threat. "As much as I would like to see you do it, I don't think you will have to." He had no intentions of doing anything to put her or their relationship at risk again, but God help anyone who tried to get in their way.

She giggled a little in the face of his smile, brushing the tip of her nose to his tenderly. "I doubt the devil would notice me," she teased. "I'm a little smaller than most who end up down there."

"You're a little smaller than everyone," he reminded her, amused at the affectionate way she touched her nose to hers. "Do you trust me, Sakura?" he asked her, turning suddenly serious.

"Always." The answer came without the need for thought behind it. She had always trusted him, right from the start. Her fingers stroked his cheek. "Do you trust yourself?"

"I spent the last century learning how to control my emotions," he told her, as if that was answer enough. "I haven't been with anyone since you," he added, though he had a feeling she already knew that. "I want you, Sakura, but I do not want to hurt you," he confessed quietly.

She kissed him gently, skimming her fingers through his damp hair as she smiled. "You can't hurt me," she promised him tenderly. "I am older and stronger than you, and I know how to manipulate the bond between us now. I can stop you, if I need to. Do you understand?"

"How?" he asked curiously, though it hardly mattered. He'd rather go back into seclusion than risk ever hurting her. He understood that she could stop him, but he didn't understand how.

She held his gaze, knowing he needed a demonstration, but hating it all the same. The imposition of a sire's will could be painful on a childe of blood. But he needed this. She concentrated, focusing on the bond between them, and sent a command to him along that silvery thread. Step back.

He blinked only once, finding himself unable to break away from her gaze, his eyes locked on hers as she compelled him away from her. He felt as though he was no longer in control of his own body, his hands falling away from her waist as his feet moved almost as if of their own accord to take a single step away from the bed and away from her. He wasn't sure he liked how it felt to not be in control of his own body, but at least he knew she could protect herself from him, if she needed to.

As soon as the comprehension showed in his eyes, she released him, shaking her head. "I will never do that to you unless I have no other choice," she said quickly. "And you will never drive me to it, I am certain."

"I hope not," he replied, looking a little paler than he had before she'd asserted her will on him. He drew a slow breath as he stepped closer, his hands moving to her waist again so that he could lift her from the bed onto the floor in front of him. "I would sooner die than hurt you," he confessed.

"I forbid you to die," she informed him, her tone light, trying to ease them past what had just been demonstrated even as he lifted her down onto the floor. Her head tipped back, holding that eye contact fondly. "I will be terribly put out if you do."

"I have far too much living to do," he assured her quietly, fingers sliding through her hair as he dipped his head to meet her lips. He lifted his free hand to touch her neck, fingers sliding along her shoulder to ease the kimono away from her skin and bare her neck and shoulder to his fingers and lips.

The silk slipped easily from her skin under his touch, that first fierce flame tempered now that they had taken a little time together. As the robe pooled at her feet, Sakura slipped her own hands beneath the hang of his shirt, each kiss traded back and forth between their lips sweeter than the last.

William Hawthorn

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Re: Home
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2019, 06:20:56 PM »

Hands and lips wandered further, brushing soft kisses against her neck and shoulder, while his fingers slid upwards from her hips to the soft curve of her breasts. He had a feeling she'd never been with anyone but him, and yet they had only slept together once, and he knew he had to go gently with her.

Yet for all her inexperience, she responded to him with a fierceness that stole even her own breath, turning her lips to his neck as her hands traced up over his back beneath the hang of his shirt. She could feel his bones, unable to disguise the quiet worry that came from his wasted state, but did not allow what she felt to change her touch. It was Will, that was all that mattered.

For the most part, he was still the man she had fallen in love with all those years ago, at least physically, albeit the fact that he was now as immortal as her. Yes, he had a starved look about him, but he would fill out soon enough now that he was no longer in his self-imposed state of atonement. Even so, he remembered how to make love to a woman and had enough energy to please her, ignoring his own needs for now so that he could focus on her, remembering the single night they'd had together once upon a time long ago.

But Sakura would not let him focus on her entirely, determined in her own quiet way to make love to him as much as he wished to make love to her. She gave no sign of any repulsion at his starved form, showering his skin with kisses and touches, tempting him, teasing him, showing him as much as she could just how much she had missed him.

He had never been shy before, but he found himself reluctant to shed his pants, which would allow her to see the further results of his self-imposed starvation. Still, it was apparent enough from his body's reaction to her that everything still worked and that he shared a mutual desire to recapture what they'd once had long ago. He growled with desire as she taunted and teased him, returning the favor with equal fervor, but always with a tender touch.

That tenderness was the mark they left on one another, even through the wildest moments of joining. From the first kiss to the last cry, they were always tender with one another, lingering in one another's arms as the lightening sky beyond the window declared that the sun would soon rise.

It was Sakura who finally convinced him to shed the last of his clothes without even saying a word, and he surrendered himself to her, trusting her implicitly, like he had all those years ago when she'd given him the vampire's kiss. As the darkness of night gave way to morning, he at last understood that this wasn't a dream, as impossible as it had seemed. Coupled together, still clinging to each other, he wondered what would happen when the sun rose. Would they be safe there in each other's arms with the sun rising just outside her window?

She felt that tension rippling through him, her hands soft against his skin as she sought to soothe his concerns. "Be easy, my William," she murmured, each word a kiss of warm breath against his flesh. "There is no danger."

He had no choice but to trust her, though there was no reason to believe she had brought him all the way here only to let the sun consume them both. "I trust you, Sakura," he murmured back, even as he clung close, his arms wrapped snugly around her. There was, in fact, no one he trusted more.

She smiled, nose to nose with him amid the crumpled sheets, simply enjoying this closeness. "Anata o hont┼Źni ais***eimasu," she whispered to him, the words coming more naturally in her native tongue than they had in English.

He smiled as she expressed her feelings for him in her own native language, the flowery words sounding even sweeter in her native Japanese. "I love you, too," he whispered back, touching a kiss to her lips, as if to prove he meant what he said. "Do you think we should get married?" he asked her, out of the blue. He didn't think it was necessary really, but it was a romantic notion, nonetheless.

The smile that rose on her face was as brilliant as the sun beginning to make itself known above the hills. "I never thought ..." she began, cutting herself off with a soft laugh and a kiss. "I would very much like to be your wife, William."

"It's probably a silly idea," he admitted, an almost shy smile on his face. And yet, they were both from a different time and place, where people made formal vows to love, honor, and protect. It seemed fitting that they make those vows to each other in this time, even if it was only a formality.

"I do not think it is silly at all," she promised him, nuzzling closer into his embrace, her sheer delight at his even thinking of marrying her palpable across the bond they shared. "I would be honored to be your wife."

Of course, they could never have children, but that hardly mattered. They'd found each other again after so many years apart; that was all that mattered. "We'll never be parted again, Sakura," he promised her, holding her close in his embrace as the sky lightened outside the window and the two of them grew sleepy.

"Never," she agreed, drawing in a slow breath to rest - for the first time in almost four hundred years - in the arms of the one she loved.

For the first time in almost four hundred years, the two of them would rest easy, knowing the one they loved was right there, right beside them, never to be parted again.