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Promises of Forever

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Here I am staring at your perfection
In my arms, so beautiful
The sky is getting bright, the stars are burning out
Somebody slow it down
This is way too hard
'Cause I know, when the sun comes up
I will leave, this is my last glance
That will soon be memory

And when the daylight comes I'll have to go
But tonight I'm gonna hold you so close
'Cause in the daylight we'll be on our own
But tonight I need to hold you so close
Ooh whoa, ooh whoa, ooh whoa
Ooh whoa, ooh whoa, ooh whoa

I never wanted to stop
Because I don't wanna start all over, start all over
I was afraid of the dark
But now it's all that I want, all that I want, all that I want

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How did it come to this, Lucien asked himself as he pressed himself to the side of her building, watching as reporters rushed at her, like piranhas after the scent of blood.

*“Producer! What’s your answer on your program’s ex-consultant’s remarks at the press conference?” One shoved a mic into her face. Lucien winced, but held himself back from going to her rescue. His appearance would only make the situation worse.

*“We heard that you and Professor Lucien are not only co-workers, but also neighbors. Anything to share about him?” Another reporter jogged next to her.

“Yeah, aren’t you two neighbors? So you must be close!” The crowd clamored around her, and Lucien clenched his fists.

*“We heard that you two are inseparable. Could you please…” The reporter’s voice asked eagerly, and her eyes squeezed shut.

He watched as her lips pressed into thin, white lines. “I’m sorry, I’m just trying to get to work. Can you please stop asking me these questions?” She finally said softly, with an undercurrent of hurt, thinly veiled, but Lucien heard her all the same. The world seemed so dreary despite the colors, and Lucien knew it was because of her mood.

The poor security guards struggled, trying to clear a path for her so she can enter the building. Kiki and Anna appeared, extending a hand towards her, and pulled her to safety within the glass doors of her company. The world faded into shades of monochrome once more and it was then that Lucien exhaled a quiet sigh of relief.

How did it come to this indeed?

It was supposed to be a simple task, a mission he could’ve accomplished with a flick of a hand. It was supposed to be easy. She was incredibly innocent and quick to trust; all he had to do was show her a little bit of kindness. And yet, Lucien found himself bewitched by her, getting his eye sliced open to prove to Black Swan that he was still on their side. That had been nothing more than a mere inconvenience for him. And yet, when the grunts had attempted to capture her, he failed to accomplish that simple of a task and instead, had let her escape. Lucien recalled the look in her eyes as she bravely held the pen-the very one he had endearingly given to her-to her neck and crimson blood leaked from her neck. That look had destroyed him. Only she was capable of such a thing. If she asked for Lucien’s heart, Lucien would’ve willingly torn it out and present it to her on a silver platter. Except for the fact, Lucien’s lips flitted into a wry smirk, he had no heart. His heart had belonged to her the moment she showed him the true brilliance of the world, the indescribable colors that had changed and wreaked havoc on everything he once knew. And Lucien had willingly allowed her to do so. Black Swan may have saved his life, but this woman, this woman who had entered his life in an explosion of colors, this woman had saved his soul. And in that sense, she had saved his life as well.

Falling in love with her wasn’t supposed to be part of the plan. Those who knew him, knew him to be ruthless, emotionally detached, and ever-so-cold. But from the moment his world exploded into a vibrant myriad of colors, he was hooked. He had found himself wanting to see her every moment of the day, a message or call from her would allow a fond smile to spring up unbidden. Lucien remembered the poisonous jealousy he had felt when he attended one of her company dinners and her coworkers had asked her who was the most important person in her life. A little drunk and giving in to the green-eyed monster, he had confronted her only for her to tell him that it was him. The relief he had felt at that moment was ridiculous, like a tsunami of emotions flooding his entire system. He remembered gritting his teeth and clenching his fists at the sight of the officer who had shyly given her that ginkgo bracelet. He remembered the utter panic he felt when he found out she was in the hospital because of a stupid trick Black Swan had attempted to pull off and later, he remembered feeling the stifling frustration when the LFG CEO had barred anyone from seeing her. And Lucien remembered trying to focus on his research but hearing the idol singer’s bright voice float through the thin walls.

“Miss Chips! I brought the newest video game! Play with me!

He had hoped she would refuse, but to his surprise, she had readily agreed. And he had tried so hard to ignore the sounds of happy entertainment before giving up and angrily leaving his apartment. That had been the moment he had realized that, that simple, oh-so-easy plan was not so easy after all.

How? How could it have happened this way?

When did he start feeling these irritating emotions that made his chest clench so painfully?

Was it when he took her to the New Light Library to help her with materials for the show and he had blurted out, *“Will you teach me how to love?

Or was it when he had gifted her that gardenia and they had decided to take care of it together?

Or maybe it was when he had taken her to a firefly exhibition and she had defended the poor firefly struggling weakly to survive, saying that all life should be respected?

Was it when they went to the aquarium together and he had warned her, but she had refused?

Maybe it was when he had to go to Denmark, and she had followed him, getting sick in the process but had clung so desperately to him?

Was it because she had been the only one who had cared about him, about his birthday, and worried so excessively over his happiness?

Lucien had tried so hard to push her away, but every time she would come back, worrying when he got sick, calling when he didn’t respond to her messages. He had lived his entire life knowing only the cold shades of black and white. But with her, he was able to see the glorious pastels of a rainbow after a storm, the vibrant reds of the Canadian maple forest, the cerulean blue of the sea, the brilliant golden flashes of fireworks, and the warm orange flickering of the lotus lantern they had sent down the river together. She had been the one who had turned his birthday, which had been countless anniversaries that reminded him of the tragic events from his childhood, to something he actually wanted to look forward to every year.

He didn’t know the answers to these questions, but when Hades had tried to capture her for his foolish RESET plan on the day of his press conference, Lucien realized that for the first time in his life, he felt fear. Fear of losing her. Fear of her being in pain. Fear that someone saw the dazzling purity of hers and tried to use it for dark and polluted gains. For the first time in his life, Lucien had something to lose. Something so infinitely precious to him that it was more important than his own life. And yet, this woman had been hurt by his own hand.

Pain was not a foreign concept to Lucien. Being in Black Swan, it was readily available. He had utilized it upon his enemies, upon those who had cast doubt on him, and upon himself. But none of it could compare to the pain he had felt all those sleepless nights hearing the broken sobs of the woman he had hurt so deeply. For the first time, Lucien truly understood what a deadly weapon pain could be.

And now…

Lucien looked at the still clamoring crowd of reporters lurking around the entrance of her building and clenched his fists. Because of him, her life was upturned once more.

He had been keeping a close eye on her after he brought her from Hades’ dreamworld, fearing that Hades would discover the way out and go after her again. His hunches were right after discovering Hades’ minions lurking about her apartment community. He had disposed of them quietly, of course, but the reporters were a different story. Lucien knew she had been working late nights just to avoid the reporters.

Which was why Lucien was now sitting in his car, in the parking lot of her building, waiting for her to get off work.

Fool, a voice whispered inside his head, but he ignored it. He was currently the only one who could possibly protect her. As jealous as he had been with Gavin, Victor, and Kiro, he appreciated the fact that all three of them had protected her. But now, Gavin had gone somewhere, Victor’s whereabouts were unknown and couldn’t be reached, and he didn’t know what Helios was planning after abandoning his image as Kiro.

The dull gray lights suddenly morphed into a muted yellow and Lucien looked up. She had appeared at last.

He got out of the car silently and walked towards her. She checked her phone and let out an exhausted sigh, rotating her shoulders.

Show no emotion, Lucien reminded himself. He grabbed her arm and pushed her into his car before she even had a chance to react.

“AH!” She exclaimed in surprise, preparing herself to fight.

*“It’s me,” Lucien spoke softly to prevent her from struggling. She froze the moment she heard his voice and turned, wide-eyed, to look at him. Lucien forced himself to look straight ahead. “Fasten your seatbelt,” he commanded quietly, before starting the car.

She gritted her teeth, *“Why do I have to go with you? Where are you taking me?” She demanded.

Lucien clenched the steering wheel. Hearing her voice-albeit angry-reminded him that she was alive and breathing. And sitting next to him. *“To your place,” he answered her question passively, trying not to give light to the murky emotions that swirled within him.

She fell silent and he drove on. The way home never seemed so long, and the traffic lights were not helping, stopping them at every intersection. But Lucien was secretly glad; the longer he spent with her, the more content he felt. Even though she was still angry at him, Lucien cherished the time spent with her.

He could sense her eyes watching him, questions as clear as day on her face. When he couldn’t take the stare any longer, he met her gaze through the mirror. As if struck by a live wire, she immediately dropped her eyes. Lucien noticed how her fingers clenched white against the seatbelt and he gripped the steering wheel to prevent himself from doing something he shouldn’t (like grabbing her hand and smoothing out her tension). He hated himself for causing these reactions in her.

*“I came out to tell you not to go out for a while, unless you have to,” Lucien broke the silence quietly, his voice slightly hoarse. The reporters should stop bothering her after a few days.

Her eyes flitted to him in surprise, *“But I need to go to work! Don’t worry, I won’t tell the reporters anything,” she added hastily.

Silly girl, he mused silently, you misinterpret my intentions yet again.

*“Do you think I came all this way just because I was worried you might blab to the reporters?” Lucien asked aloud, pressing his lips together thinly.

She lowered her eyes, ashamed, and they fell in silence once more.

Nothing more than acquaintances, Lucien thought to himself bitterly. There used to never be awkward gaps of silence between them, but now silence permeated every possible space between them. She was only sitting next to him, but she felt oceans away. It was clear that she felt uncomfortable, with the way she was twisting her body away from him. And it was all his fault, Lucien supposed, getting stopped by a traffic light yet again. Her finding out who he was, however, was inevitable. And in that sense, Lucien thought that she should know earlier before she had completely given her heart to him. That way, she could still keep a bit of herself intact.

After stopping at the last traffic light before her apartment community, Lucien broke the silence once more, *“Anyway, don’t get caught up in any unnecessary danger,” he reminded her again.

*“You as well!” She piped up immediately and Lucien felt his heart clench.

Still worrying about me, my little fool. Worry about yourself first.

Instead, Lucien grated out a laugh, *“Who do you think can hurt me?

How ironic, Lucien sneered at himself, the only person who could ever hurt him was sitting right next to him.

They had finally reached the gate and Lucien rolled down his window so he could greet the security guard. *“Hello,” he said politely, smiling warmly.

The security guard’s eyes widened when he realized it was Lucien.  *“Professor Lucien, worked late today? It’s been a while since I saw you!”

*“Yes,” Lucien replied evenly, “I’m dropping her off at home.”

*“Haha, you are still so close!” The security guard teased, and Lucien saw her look away hurriedly, fingers clenching on her seatbelt again. Lucien nodded, still smiling as he drove away. His smile faded when they had reached the entrance of her apartment building.

They had arrived at last. It was time to say goodbye once again.

Lucien reminded her again without looking at her, *“Keep in mind everything I have told you tonight.”

She huffed at him, *“I know what I’m doing,” and opened the door in her haste.

Lucien reached over and she stiffened immediately. She tried to push him away, but Lucien held her wrists.

*“Let go of me!” She glared fiercely at him and Lucien’s chest tightened in response.

*“Are you that afraid of me?” Lucien whispered. She stopped struggling at those words and stilled. It was then that he realized belatedly that he had said his thoughts aloud. Lucien looked away, unfastened her seatbelt, and leaned away from her when he was done. *“You forgot to unfasten your seatbelt,” he informed her quietly, internally struggling to keep his emotions down.

*“…Thanks,” she said grudgingly and got out of the car. She took only two steps and turned around.

*Lucien rolled down the car window slowly, “What is it? Did you forget something?”

*He couldn’t read her expression as she shook her head. “You, not me,” she exhaled and continued. “All those things you left in my apartment; I’ve packed them up. Wait here, I’ll bring them down.”

*“Are they heavy?” Lucien managed to ask. This entire scene was funny as if they were going through a breakup, but Lucien didn’t laugh, couldn’t laugh.

*“No. I can manage by myself,” she replied curtly, placing heavy emphasis on “by myself.”

Lucien pressed his lips together and watched as she walked away, away from him, just like she did the day she found out who he really was. And then again on the day of the press conference.

Did my little butterfly already fly away?

He had no time to linger on his thoughts, however, as he soon noticed two men in black seemingly appear from darkness and look up in the direction of her balcony. He cursed under his breath. Hades. They were probably there to observe her movements and report them to Hades. He shouldn’t be seen by them, otherwise Black Swan will know of his betrayal. And she must not come out at this moment. Scowling, Lucien pulled out his phone.

*<Rest early. Just mail it to this address.>

After sending the message, he started his car and took note of how there were two additional men in black tactical gear near the entrance of her apartment. Hmm STF, he thought to himself. Interesting. He drove off, circling behind another apartment complex as to not draw attention to himself. It was late, she should rest anyway, given how exhausted she had looked when Lucien had picked her up. And she seemed to be well protected for now. He knew Hades’ men wouldn’t try anything with STF agents around. For now, it was safer for her that he left. And he needed to figure out how to deal with Hades.

Two days later, a package arrived for him, but he had no time to open it due to all the work he had. He sent her a simple, “Thanks,” but he had gotten no response from her. Lucien had checked up on her occasionally; but after a few days, as he had guessed, the reporters stopped bothering her as the city slowly dissolved into mild panic over how the virus had developed. His worry about her safety decreased when he had noticed that she had STF agents following her, but that didn’t extinguish the longing inside of his heart.

The days slowly morphed into weeks and Lucien had been quite busy. Hades had not made things easy for him, but Lucien didn’t mind the workload. Every step he made in his progress was a step towards her happiness, her safety.

After working straight for twelve hours, he stood up and stretched. On his way to the kitchen, he accidentally kicked the box she had sent up. He looked at the box for a moment before making the decision to open it. He peeled the tape that bound the box shut and the box revealed its contents. With growing despair, Lucien glanced at the variety of books and movies that he had lent the girl. Each title brought a special memory. The last things in the box were paper cranes strung up in long lines, cushioning the books and DVDs. He touched the cranes tenderly, smiling as he recalled the day she had taught him how to fold these cranes. He had pretended to be bad at the task, causing her to huff at him.

*"Seriously, are you pretending not to know how?” The girl frowned at him as she watched his fingers fumble with the piece of paper.

*"No one has ever taught me this before,” Lucien admitted sheepishly.

She straightened her shoulders proudly, *"Well, better late than never! This teacher has full confidence in your talent!”

Lucien smiled at her confidence. *"In that case, I will await your instructions.”

Under her careful tutelage, they had made many paper cranes that afternoon. *Lucien fondly unfolded each of the cranes carefully, remembering that she had written a wish inside one of the paper cranes. She had whispered it while writing it down and he had overheard it, pretending he didn’t.

It was a wish about them.

*Does that wish mean nothing to her anymore?

Lucien sighed and refolded the cranes. Perhaps he should be thinking like her, letting the past dwell in the past, he mused sadly. But despite his thoughts, he found himself hanging the strings of cranes up.

*The light outside the window shone down upon the cranes and the raindrops outlined the gray and dusty memory. The pouring rain couldn’t wet these cranes, but somehow, one of them had faint blots on its wing. He reached out and gently held it in his hands. It was the crane in which she had written her wish. Lucien swallowed, trying to keep the choking emotions from surfacing.

*“I wish Lucien and I forever…”

The rest of her wish was blurred by tearstains. But Lucien knew the rest. It was the same as his. Every single time she made a wish-be it on the candles of his birthday cake, or the glowing lantern, or this simple crane-all her wishes had aligned with those of Lucien’s.

Lucien caressed the crane, *when he suddenly saw a dazzling figure in a cream-colored dress in the midst of the gray rain. His eyes widened. She had appeared like a mirage, the manifestation of his thoughts and longings.

*Lucien frowned, Silly…How did you end up here?

Without a second thought, he *grabbed an umbrella by the door and hurried out into the pouring rain. The clattering rain drowned his accelerating heartbeat.

*Lub-dub, lub-dub...

So engrossed was she in her task, that she didn’t see Lucien approaching her. He held the umbrella over her, and she looked up in surprise.

*“Why have you come looking for me?” Lucien tried hard to quash the happiness in his voice. She didn’t respond and continued to stare wide-eyed at him. Lucien spoke up again, *“Why didn’t you call ahead?”

*“I…” her eyes skipped from his, *“I just want to return something, then I’ll be on my way,” she mumbled.

“What is it?” Lucien asked as he reached out to her to pull her closer under the umbrella. She shrank back, but slipped. Before he could even form thoughts, Lucien’s body reacted. He hurriedly grabbed her before she could fall and wrapped his arms around her. A sigh left his mouth that was lost in the rain as he felt her familiar warmth and smelled her comforting scent. She was safe.

In her panic, she tried to push him away, but Lucien gently took her wrists. They walked silently with the rain beating down on them. Lucien could feel her gaze on him once again. She raised her hand only to drop it back to her side. Lucien cast a glance at her, *“What is it?”

*“You’re getting wet from the rain,” she murmured as a dusty-rose colored her cheeks.

Lucien chuckled, and couldn’t help teasing her, *“Someone else also got soaked.”

Her cheeks reddened further as she looked down at her feet. She seemed to be at an internal struggle with the way she kept gripping her purse. Her eyes kept scanning around, as if looking for an exit route.

Lucien pretended not to notice and led her gently to his front door. *“Didn’t you have something to return to me? You’re leaving already? Come in,” he invited.

Stay a little longer. Please, Lucien pleaded silently.

She hesitantly walked through the door and ruffled through her purse. *“I’ll just leave this here,” she said softly, producing a DVD and setting it gently on the counter.

Lucien glanced at the title and his heart clenched. It was a film he had recommended her, and she had promised to give him a film review.

*“Wait a moment,” he managed to say, stopping her before she could leave him again. Lucien picked the disc up and came closer to her, caging her between him and the door. He kept trying to find reasons to stay with her a bit longer, just like he had done so at the end of the press conference. But this time, Lucien decided to let himself be a bit selfish. *“You still owe me something, right?”

*“Wh-what?” She stammered nervously. He saw through her purpose. She had obviously wanted to deliver the disc and leave as fast as possible.

*“A movie review,” Lucien answered, holding the disc up.

*She lowered her head guiltily, but Lucien lifted her chin, searching her eyes.

*“Or does our big-time producer not even have time to watch a movie anymore?” he asked. She didn’t answer, but he saw through her anyway. Lucien’s lips curved into a tiny smile. “This is a good piece of work,” he coaxed gently.

*“But I don’t want to take it back anymore…” she mumbled, biting her lips. Lucien saw her scan the living room and her eyes landed on the paper cranes. A wave of sadness swept across her face and she closed her eyes.

*“You can finish watching it here,” Lucien offered.

*“ …I’m running late for the last subway,” she refuted weakly.

Lucien almost laughed, “I’ll bring you home when it’s over.” He knew she wanted to end everything between them, but couldn’t bring herself to do so. Lucien decided to be the bad guy once again to save her the trouble. *“Or, do you want to keep owing me this movie review?” It was easier for him to do the dirty work.

With no room left to argue, she nodded resignedly and Lucien’s heart soared triumphantly.

He handed her a towel for her to dry off and went to set up the movie. She sat down stiffly on the couch and Lucien sat by the window.

What are you doing? Lucien chided himself as he watched raindrops glide down the window. He could feel her eyes on him again. Breaking his gaze away from the window, he turned to look at her. *“It’s starting,” he reminded her gently when the opening credits ended. She hastily turned her attention toward the screen.

Lucien watched her. He had chosen this specific piece because it served as another warning: he was not who he said he was. Throughout all their time spent together, Lucien had given her countless warnings only for her to dismiss them and run back into Lucien’s arms. And if Lucien was being honest, he didn’t want to let her go either. The longer he spent with her, the further the line between Lucien and Ares blurred, until Lucien didn’t really know who he was either. But now, he had one purpose. To keep her safe. It didn’t matter if he was Lucien or Ares. Around her, he was simply a man wanting to protect the person most important to him.

After a while, she turned to look at him again and their eyes met. Flashes of sadness, surprise, and longing ran across her eyes. Silence filled the air, but it wasn’t uncomfortable or stifling like it had been last time.

Lucien paused the film. *“Is the movie not good?” He asked softly after a while, not wanting to break the pregnant pause.

She shook her head silently. Before she could answer, however, she sneezed suddenly.

*Lucien sighed and got up, bringing her tissues. He shrugged out of his coat to cover her small shoulders. “How do you still take such poor care of yourself…?” The words left his mouth, exasperated. Embarrassed, she shuffled in her seat. Lucien brought her a cup of hot tea and she inhaled the fragrance. Her lips touched the back of his hand as he tried to cover the mouth of the mug. Electricity ran from where her lips had touched his hand and left tingles up his entire arm. “Always in such a rush…” he said fondly. “It’s still hot, wait a bit before drinking it.” He was unable to keep the affection out of his voice.

She stiffened and Lucien knew she heard the tenderness of his words. He berated himself. “Why are you being gentle to me again?” She whispered brokenly, squeezing her eyes shut.

There was no going back now.

*“A very interesting question,” Lucien finally responded, “But, before answering you, I also want to clear something up.” He moved slowly until he was sitting next to her on the couch. Ignoring how she curled into herself as he approached, he asked the question he wanted to know from the very beginning. “Each time I push you away, why do you keep coming back to me?” Lucien felt the tiny flutter of hope within his chest.

Could it be?

She didn’t answer, but Lucien dared himself to hope. And for the first time, he felt he wanted to bare his soul to her.

*He leaned in closer to her when suddenly the paper cranes broke from the ceiling and landed around them. Slowly, he found the crane that contained her precious wish and pushed it into her hands. “That’s my answer,” he said finally. He let her see him for who he truly was for the first time. He continued, “But the process of achieving this takes time and patience.”

And there it was. His heart and soul and all the feelings it contained for the woman in his arms were all laid out in front of her.

There was a small gasp before she dissolved into tears.

*“Liar… You said you didn’t see it,” she accused him tearfully, hand holding onto the crane.

Lucien pulled her gently into his lap as he enveloped her in his arms, his heart finally feeling full after a long while. She clung to him just as tightly, her arms encircling his neck. “Silly… *Do I need to peek to know what you’re thinking?” He whispered against her hair.

*He pressed his lips against her neck, a silent promise of his answer to her question. He wanted to be selfish for once.

She tugged at his tie, lifting his head and she leaned in. “Kiss me properly, Lucien,” her soft breath brushed against his lips.

Lucien acquiesced. Their lips met, soft like the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings. He tasted the salt of her tears, but the sweet nectar of her lips overpowered everything. Lucien was hopelessly and irrevocably addicted.

They broke apart slowly, breaths still mingling. *Lucien held up his hands, just like he had when he accompanied her on her quest to find the truth. *“This represents two choices,” he began softly, gazing into her eyes.  “The right is to finish what you came here to do. To return the disc and leave, ending everything between us. The left is to pursue the path you want. To act upon these emotions between the two of us, but the path ahead is unknown. It could be dangerous. Even I don’t know what lies ahead.” He offered her a choice; whatever she decides, Lucien would be willing to go along with it.

*Without hesitation, she placed her hand in his left hand just like she had back then. She looked defiantly at him, eyes shining with confidence. “I choose this. I will not run away.”

*“And if this choice brings you harm and turns your life upside down? You’d still choose it?” Lucien repeated the words he had spoken to her long ago.

*“Yes, I most certainly do,” she answered, leaving no room for argument. A warmth in Lucien’s heart blossomed and swelled. This woman! She came into his life in a whirlwind of color and always acted differently from Lucien’s every expectations. Lucien had never met anyone like her, and he knew that he never will. She was the only one.

*Lucien laughed and closed his left hand, clasping their hands together tightly. “I understand your choice.”

For tonight, Lucien decided to let himself pretend that the woman in his arms belonged to him and only him. That there wasn’t anything or anyone against them. That she wasn’t in any danger. That there was no Black Swan, no plot to overturn the world, no viruses, no pain, and no fear. That they were the only ones in this world and the only thing that mattered. That they were simply a man and a woman in love. And Lucien decided it was time to put his thinking and all his worries on hold. It was time to finally give in to the emotions that had been slowly consuming him. For once, it was time to let his heart lead instead of his head.

He leaned in to taste her sweet lips again, licking at the seam. He was granted access as her fingers danced along his collar to pull him closer to her. “Lucien…” the sound of his name on her lips spurred him on, igniting a fire that blazed in his stomach. He traced the inside of her lip with his tongue and was rewarded with a soft moan.

Her fingers worked nimbly on his tie and deftly unbuttoned his shirt as he mapped the crevasses of her mouth with his tongue. She moved to straddle him and he ran his hands down her body until he reached her thighs, where he gripped them to wrap them around his waist. Cupping his chin, she pressed herself to him, lips moving desperately against his.

Just for tonight, Lucien promised himself as he reached up to her face, brushing her hair back softly, just for one night.

He ran his fingers through her hair as he assaulted her mouth, biting, sucking everywhere he could reach. She finished unbuttoning his shirt and slipped her hands inside. Lucien shuddered at her touch, her fingers tracing fire and leaving sparks across his chest. He pulled away to stare at her. “I think I’m at a disadvantage here,” he pretended to frown.

Her laughter was infectious as it rang through the air. “Then you should catch up,” she quipped, bright eyes sparkling with mirth, cheeks ablaze with pink. She looked so beautiful that Lucien had to literally bite down the urge to take, to claim.

“So I shall,” Lucien breathed, fingers playing with the hem of her blouse. Still staring at each other, she slowly raised her arms and Lucien tantalizingly dragged the fabric over her head.

Lucien’s breath caught. She was dressed in a white lace bra that cupped her breasts enchantingly. A pink flush crept up her body and Lucien’s gaze changed. She shyly averted her gaze when she noticed how dark Lucien’s pupils had become. Lucien reached for her, crashing his lips against hers. “Mm!” She gasped against his unrelenting mouth. Lucien picked her up and stood up, causing her to squeak out a surprised, “Lucien!”

“As much as I’d like to have you right here, I think I’d prefer to have you on my bed,” Lucien’s voice was low, hungry. “Also people might see and the idea of sharing you is not particularly appealing to me.” He walked purposefully towards his bedroom; her legs wrapped tightly around his waist. Despite his heated words, he took care to set her down gently on the bed, removing her skirt when he did so. He knelt on the bed to kiss her again, hands making quick work of her bra, and leaned back on his feet to look at her.

She swallowed hard when she met Lucien's heated gaze as he cupped her breasts. A small moan bubbled from her throat. Lucien watched, enraptured, as she closed her eyes and arched into his hands. His thumbs flicked over her nipples and he squeezed them gently, causing her to gasp softly. Beautiful. He was utterly captivated by this amazing woman in front of him. He bent down to suckle at her collarbone as he rolled her nipples between his thumbs and forefingers, nipping her skin when he felt her nipples harden. He ran a hand down her stomach and teased a finger along the band of her panties, smiling against her neck when he heard a sharp intake of breath. Pressing a soft kiss against her neck, he let his lips travel upward and lightly nipped at her ear. 

“Mm,” she leaned into him, “Lucien…” she sighed his name, setting his heart and body aflame.

“Yes…” Lucien whispered as he leaned down to devour her lips, “Keep calling me, I want to hear you.” He kissed her deeply as he cupped one of her breasts, his other hand pressing her closer to him. He sucked at her collarbone and a scarlet rose blossomed beautifully.

“Lucien…” she moaned, arching as she pushed herself into Lucien’s warm hand. The sweet sound sent fire coursing through Lucien’s veins.

“Yes, beautiful girl…Just like that…” Lucien sighed as her hands pulled his neck down in an attempt to be closer to him. She leaned back on her elbows to look up at him and Lucien gazed at the sight from the foot of the bed, awed. Half-naked, hair mussed, lips swollen, she was truly a sight to behold.

They stared at each other, heated gazes meeting, acutely aware of what was going to happen, what they were about to do.

She bit on her lip as he shed his shirt and made his way back to her. They met in a fiery kiss with Lucien nipping at her lower lip. She moaned in his mouth and he swallowed her sound. Her sweet noises of pleasure were for him and him alone. He moved down to her neck, pressing open-mouthed kisses to the heated skin and felt her swallow. 

He nipped at her collarbone and kissed a path through the valley of her breasts. He kept his gaze on her as her breath hitched as he slowly moved his hands up her waist, making her moan breathily. “Beautiful,” he whispered, his breath sending a cool puff of air across the trail of saliva he had created and she shivered. She held her breath as Lucien descended on her breast, his violet eyes never leaving her face. Lucien took her nipple into his mouth, making her moan sweetly. He swirled his tongue around the nub, making a satisfied hum when it instantly hardened at the stimulation. He brought his hand up to tend to her other breast. She moaned lowly, arching her back, her hands landing in Lucien’s hair. He bit down and felt her fingers tighten in his hair, earning her a hiss of pleasure from Lucien. “Beautiful,” he proclaimed, letting go of her breast. He trailed his tongue down to her stomach, to her belly button and pressed another soft kiss there. Lucien traveled further down, making her breath hitch in her throat.

She swallowed hard, her breath quickly becoming short and staggered. She had never felt like this before. The way Lucien looked at her and touched her, worshipped her. He made her feel beautiful, made her feel like a goddess. He never had been one to be shy with his affections. But this. Even though she could never guess what Lucien was thinking, she felt his love through his touches, his kisses.

Lucien traced the band of her panties with his tongue. He kissed the apex where her thighs met through the lace material of her panties and felt her shudder. Smiling, he closed his teeth on the band and very slowly, gently, he tugged. “Lift yourself for me,” he breathed, sending puffs of warm air across her skin, which raised goosebumps instantly. He hooked a finger around her panties and she obliged, raising her hips so that Lucien could take the material off. Tantalizingly slow, he dragged her panties down her hips, down her thighs, down her calves, and finally over her feet. Kneeling between her legs, Lucien gazed up at her. “Beautiful,” he voiced, wonder lacing his word. Her breathing quickened as she noticed how hungry Lucien's gaze was. Slowly, he leaned down and pressed his lips to her knee, kissing a trail up to her thigh. He let his tongue trace over the skin of her inner thigh, his hand sliding up to do the same to her other leg. She trembled, needing his touch, she was so aroused. Tentatively, he kissed closer to her slick heat. Meeting her gaze, he slowly licked a stripe over the most sensitive part of her. He watched as she arched off the bed with a breathy moan, hands grasping at the bedsheets. 


“Delicious,” Lucien murmured, his mouth on her, sending a wave of pleasant vibrations. He committed all of her actions and reactions to memory. Lucien loved the way she reacted to the simplest of touches. He loved the way she moaned his name, perfect lips parting in breathless pants. He loved the way she trembled. He loved every little sound that came out of her mouth. Wanting more, he lapped gently at her heat.

“Lucien-“ his name on her lips was a shaky moan.

Smiling, he let his tongue trace lazy circles around her sensitive nub, making her whimper with pleasure. He didn’t tear his eyes from her face as he sucked on her folds, tongue picking up her sweet juices. Her breathing was starting to become short pants and Lucien slid his tongue inside her. She keened at the sensation, fingers tightening around the bedsheets. Lucien started to pick up his speed, licking more roughly, sucking harder.

“Lucien…. oh…. ah…mmm….” she cried as her eyes closed at the sensations, head lolling back. Every sound she made sent fiery waves through Lucien’s veins. He increased his speed, tongue going further, harder. She was close, Lucien could feel it in the way her legs tightened, her toes curled, and the way she clutched at the sheets. “Lucien-please…” She pleaded, and Lucien doubled his efforts. Her moans were getting louder as his name left her lips in breathless pants. 

“It’s alright, beautiful girl. You can release,” Lucien coaxed, pressing his tongue on that sensitive little bud. “Let go.” 

With a choked moan, she came apart, back arching and her thighs tightened around his head, toes curled in pleasure. Lucien admired the way her stomach muscles contracted and her breasts bouncing slightly and quickly committed the sight to memory. He didn’t want to miss a single detail. She was breathtaking in her pleasure, pleasure that Lucien had given her, and Lucien didn’t think he had seen a more beautiful sight. Without any hesitation, he slid two fingers into her and put his mouth back on her, making her whimper. Allowing her absolutely no time to come down from her high, he began working his fingers and mouth. Fingers curling inside of her to find her sweet spot and he grinned in triumph as she mewled loudly, muscles involuntarily clenching around his fingers. “Please…” the cracked whimper sent fire straight through Lucien’s body and he growled softly, increasing his efforts to make her fall apart again. “Luci-Lucien…I Oh!” Indiscernible sounds made their way out of her parted lips. 

"Come for me once again, butterfly," Lucien whispered, fixated on her as she threw her head back, mouth open with silent cries. "Come for me," he coaxed, fingers moving more urgently as he worked his tongue. 

"Lucien-I... I'm...Oh... Lucien please!" 

"Yes, come for me..." Lucien urged, followed by a soft nip of her sensitive bud as he curled his fingers inside her. With a shuddering moan, his woman fell apart beautifully once again as Lucien watched in rapture. The undulations of her body as she trembled before him from the full force of her orgasm. So tantalizing. So beautiful. Lucien didn't think he had ever been this aroused before. He pressed his mouth against her heat, tasting her tangy nectar as she shuddered around him. Withdrawing his fingers from her, he leaned back onto his knees, and while gazing down at his beautiful girl, he slowly ran his tongue over his slick fingers. She swallowed hard as a bright pink flush painted her cheeks when he popped his fingers into his mouth, sucking hard to clean them. She gazed back at him, chest heaving as her breasts bounced lightly from her exertion, looking like the prettiest picture of perfection. Lucien felt a sense of pride in his beautiful masterpiece. 

"Lucien..." she struggled to catch her breath as she weakly sat up. He leaned down and pressed a heated kiss against her parted lips. She moaned into his mouth when she tasted herself on his tongue.

“I’m not done with you just yet, butterfly,” he whispered, catching her as she collapsed against him. 

“Then you better take your pants off,” she demanded.

Laughing breathlessly, Lucien leaned back to unbuckle his belt. Slowly, he unzipped his pants, eyes never leaving her face. Her hands joined his as they removed his pants and underwear together. He kicked the garments off the bed and kneeled between her legs. Slowly, Lucien palmed himself, still maintaining eye contact. He was already hard from pleasuring her and so he stroked himself roughly. “Like what you see?” Lucien’s voice was hoarse.

She eyed him, “Very much so,” And with saying that, she licked her lips.

Lucien chuckled but it died in his throat when she tentatively reached for him. He groaned when she wrapped her hands around him. She stroked him gently and Lucien swallowed thickly, throwing his head back with a low moan. Her touch was electrifying, carrying tingling sensations all over his body. Lucien whispered her name, hips gently bucking into her warm hand when he couldn't help himself. Another moan made his head tilt back once more as she caressed his tip with a soft thumb, spreading the leaking moisture all over. Lucien closed his eyes and began to lose himself in the sensations of her warm hand. He felt her lips on his throat and he shuddered when she bit down on the skin, sucking hard to make a red mark.

“Mine,” she breathed, tongue lapping against the mark.

“Yours,” Lucien replied, gazing at her with such tenderness that she felt like crying. He leaned forward and pressed her into the sheets gently, his hands coming up to frame her face as he rested his weight on his elbows. “I belong to no one else but you.”

“Lucien…” she whispered his name, tears springing to her eyes, “I love you…” Her confession was hushed, but her words pierced Lucien’s heart as well as his soul, shattering the walls he wrought up to keep out the world.

Instead of replying, Lucien kissed her fervently, putting all his emotions into the kiss. Silly girl, he mused silently, why would you love a person like me?

But that was just the kind of person she was. Doing the unexpected, the unconventional. She abided by no rules except her own. It was the thing Lucien admired most about her. And he had promised himself this one night...

And for this one night, he allowed himself to love this woman, the way she deserved to be loved.

Kissing her deeply, Lucien ran his hand down the length of her body, caressing every inch of her until he reached her dripping arousal. Dripping with need for him. And only him. That thought filled Lucien with wholly satisfaction. That he is the only one to see her, touch her, hear her, taste her like this. He slipped his fingers within her wet folds as she moaned into his mouth.

“Lucien…” she choked out his name in a breathy whine.

“What is it, butterfly? Tell me, what is it that you want?” Lucien’s voice was rough. He increased his speed and sucked at her neck.

“You…I want…you,” she moaned breathlessly as her thighs clamped around his hand.

Well, if it’s what she wants… Lucien thought he ought to deliver.

He slowly extricated his fingers from her, making her whine shamelessly at the loss of sensation. “Just a minute, butterfly,” he said hoarsely as he reached for the drawer.

Her arm came up to stop him. “No…” she panted, “I want…I need to feel you.”

The outburst made Lucien pause, his eyes widened in surprise.

She tugged at his arms, “Please, Lucien…I need you,” she implored. The way she looked at that moment should be illegal, Lucien thought to himself. Her hair was messy, her eyes were blazing with want. And Lucien would be the bad guy if he didn’t give her what she wanted.

He propped himself back onto his elbow and stroked himself urgently with his other hand. As he aligned herself at her entrance, he searched her eyes. “Are you sure?” His voice was strained, but he had to make sure she was absolutely sure about this, that it was her decision.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him to her. “Absolutely,” she breathed against his lips before pushing her hips to meet his. In a swift movement, Lucien entered her. For a moment, it felt like he was home. She moaned, arching to meet him as their lips crashed.

Lucien pulled back and thrust into her, trying to find the spot that had made her unravel so beautifully. She wrapped her legs around his waist, pushing him in deeper. Lucien growled, a low sound in his chest, as he adjusted his hips and was rewarded with the sweetest sound he had ever heard.

“Lucien!” She whimpered, rocking her hips to meet his thrusts, arms clenched tight around his neck.

“Keep calling me,” Lucien panted, speed increasing as their passion built. “I need to hear you.”

“Lucien…Lucien…” His name was a chant on her lips like it was the only thing she knew how to say. She was so tight and so perfect around Lucien as if made for him and him alone. Doubling his effort, Lucien pressed his thumb against her sensitive bud. “Lucien!” Her nails dug into his back and Lucien relished in the sweet pain, thrusting harder. He knew she was close with the way her thighs clamped around his waist and the way her walls tightened around him.

“Come for me,” Lucien commanded breathlessly, thrusting relentlessly into her, his thumb circling her nub. “Come for me, beautiful girl, I want to see you undone.”

One more thrust, and she exploded as waves of pleasure washed over. She tightened around Lucien and a choked gasp fell from his lips. Breathless and quivering with pleasure, she sank into the mattress, still clinging tightly to Lucien.

Lucien knew that in that moment, if the world ended right then and there, he wouldn’t have cared.

He paused slightly to press his forehead against hers before continuing to thrust into her, his movements getting more urgent. She shakily cupped his face as she slotted her lips against his, silently urging him to chase his own pleasure. Lucien didn’t need any more heeding as his hips jerked frantically. His brows knit in concentration and his lips parted with effort. Lucien grunted as he felt her tightening around him once again.

“Lucien…Lucien…” she blabbered against his lips, entirely incomprehensible.

Lucien swallowed her every pant, every moan as he reached between her legs once more. He wanted to see her in the throes of passion as he came. 

“I love you,” she panted, “I love you.”

It was those words that made Lucien utterly fall apart. He tensed as his hips stuttered to a stop, spilling heat within her. His body shuddered from pure bliss as he slumped into her arms, breathing harshly against her lips. Stars erupted behind his closed eyes, the most brilliant and vibrant flashes of gold danced in his vision. His actions coaxed another release for her as she climaxed around him. The feeling was indescribable, and Lucien thought that if he were to leave this world, he'd absolutely have no regrets.

Trembling, she fell back against the bed, pulling Lucien down with her. He took great care not to crush her and laid down on his side, his arms encircling her waist. Their pants mingling together until they weren't sure who was exhaling and who was inhaling. They gazed at each other, still breathless, still connected. He could hear both of their hearts beating in time, synchronized thudding to a beat that was unique to only them. Lucien had never felt more complete. He reached out to brush a strand of hair from her eyes.

“Lucien, I love you,” she breathed, staring deep into Lucien’s eyes.

He leaned in to kiss her, lips conveying the words of his heart, the words he was unable to speak out.

I love you too, my little butterfly.

Moments passed, the two of them were content to lay in each other’s arms. After a little while, Lucien gently extracted himself from her, prompting a soft whine. He pressed a finger against her lips, shushing her, “Let me clean you up. I’ll be right back,” he promised.

True to his word, he came back with a towel which he used to wipe her down carefully. She opened her arms invitingly when he was done, and he obediently fell back into her arms. Shifting slightly, he maneuvered them so that she was laying on his chest and he pulled the blankets around them.

“Are you tired?” He asked gently as he stroked her hair.

She shook her head, “Can we talk?” she asked shyly, voice muffled by his chest.

Lucien smiled, “About what?”

She shuffled so she was looking into his eyes. “I…want to know…about Black Swan,” she said hesitantly. “About how and why you joined. And…about Ares…”

Lucien simply nodded, unsurprised. He knew this conversation would come up sooner or later. “Are you sure you want to have this conversation now? It’s not exactly a happy story.”

“I want to know,” she bit her lip gently.

“Alright,” Lucien agreed without hesitation, “Where would you like to start?”

Her eyes widened in surprise, obviously not expecting Lucien to agree so easily. “How about…how you came to join Black Swan?”

Lucien’s lips pursed in thought, “Well, there’s not much to it,” he finally said. “A car accident happened when I was seven. It took away my parents and left me in critical condition. People from Black Swan found me, saved my life, and I’ve been with them ever since.”

She digested this information, “And…Ares?” she hesitantly said the name.

“Ares is the name I use within the organization,” Lucien told her gently, “I’m sure that you’ve noticed by now, that we prefer Greek god names.”

“But…” she dragged out the word slowly, “You seem like two different people when you’re…Ares and when you’re Lucien.”

Lucien sighed, “Ares is me. Lucien is also me. Ares and Lucien are one and the same.” There was a bitter tone in his voice.

She was silent for a few moments. “Maybe that’s true,” she murmured, “But I know you would never hurt me. And that includes Ares.” The last part was full of confidence.

Silly girl, Lucien sighed internally, “I did…certain things when I was Ares…Because of that, I have a certain image within Black Swan,” he started haltingly. She nodded like she understood. “I approached you as Ares pretending to be your version of the ‘Lucien’ that you know. I needed to get close to you so I could accomplish my mission. But…I failed.”

“How?” She asked him quietly.

Lucien chuckled, “What do you think? It’s all because of you, silly girl. I’m supposed to bring you to Black Swan, and I’ve had all these opportunities to do so. And yet, here you are.”

“Did you…get hurt?”

“Can you please worry about yourself for once?” Lucien tweaked her nose and sighed.

She wrinkled her nose, “I don’t need to worry about myself because I have you protecting me,” she smiled. “You said I’m an asset to you.”

“Are you always this trusting?” Lucien asked, exasperated.

*“You told me you would ensure my safety. And that you don’t engage in worthless endeavors. I thought that was because I am the Queen. But now like you said, I haven’t been taken to Black Swan, so what is it that you’re protecting me from? Why would you protect me from Black Swan when you’re a member of Black Swan?” She raised her chin, challenging him.

She had seen right through him. Lucien’s lips curved into a small smile.

His fingers traced gentle circles on her waist. “I think you already know the answer to that,” he murmured. “You should know…I never intended to lie to you, but my intentions were never good to begin with,” the last part of his sentence was a little quieter, as if Lucien were talking to himself.

“What changed?” She asked curiously.

Lucien heaved a self-deprecating sigh, “You,” he said, simple and straightforward. She looked at him, confused. Lucien cradled her face gently and smiled, “You did. You changed everything. You turned all of my plans inside out and my world upside down.”

Her brow furrowed, “Me? What do you mean?”

“You brought color into my world,” Lucien said simply, leaving her to wonder what he meant by those words. Before she could respond, he continued, “*You taught me all the beautiful things, like folding a paper crane. You showed me how beautiful a rainbow after a storm could be. *I used to not fear death, but I started fearing it only after I met you. And because of you, I want to live.”

Her eyes turned watery, “Lucien…”

“What?” he sighed, brushing his thumbs on her cheeks, “Why are you crying, silly girl? It’s all true.”

She sniffled, “I’m not crying,” she said hastily.

“Alright,” Lucien chuckled, pulling her closer and placing a chaste kiss on her lips. “You should sleep, it’s late.”

She pulled back to gaze into his eyes. “You’re going to hypnotize me, aren’t you?” Seeing his startled expression, she smiled wryly, “You were never this open with me before, something must be up.”

“Do you regret it? Your decision?” Lucien asked instead.

“Of course not,” she replied firmly, “I’m just glad that precious memories like these exist. And you can protect these precious and happy memories for us.”

“I know you made your choice,” Lucien started hesitantly but she shook her head at him.

“Lucien, I made my choice, but you must have your reasons. I’m choosing to believe that your reasons must have something to do with protecting me. And if it’s because of that, then I’ll allow you to do so. I respect your decision and your choices, just like you did with mine. And right now, I’m happy just to be able to be in your arms like this,” she gazed deeply into his violet eyes. “Being able to create these memories with you is enough for me. I shouldn’t be any more greedy and wish that I can cling onto these memories as well.”

Lucien’s breath caught in his throat. “Do you trust me?” His voice was low, full of unspoken emotion.

She nodded without hesitation. “I do. And I trust that you will come back to me.”

Lucien swallowed hard. “Then I will cherish and protect these beautiful memories,” he vowed hoarsely.

She beamed, and it was still the single-most bright and dazzling thing Lucien had ever seen. “Good.”

“Aren’t you afraid of me? And…the dark part of me?” Lucien finally voiced his worries.

“Lucien,” she smiled, wrapping her arms around his neck, “Just like you said, Ares is you. But it is only a part of you. Ares is not completely Lucien, nor is Lucien completely Ares. Everyone has a dark side, why should you be any different? I love and accept all of you, including Ares. I’m not afraid because of that. We may have different viewpoints and we might disagree with one another, but I’m not afraid of you. I was afraid, however, that all these memories we created together meant nothing to you. That they were all just part of the plan. I was afraid that your feelings weren't real. But now, I know how you truly feel about me and my fears couldn't be further from the truth. Your dark side is only a small part of you, but I love the whole you. As long as you’re Lucien or the part that is ‘Lucien’ exists, I will love you. And you already said earlier,” she touched the mark she had made earlier on his neck. “You’re mine.”

“Yours,” Lucien promised, voice thick with raw emotion. His heart swelled. He didn’t think he could love this woman any more than he already did, but she had proven him wrong. Again.

She smiled with satisfaction and leaned in, “I love you, Lucien,” she breathed across Lucien's lips, setting Lucien’s heart aflame.

He was going to do everything in his power to keep her safe. To return to her. So that the next time, they meet, they can love each other openly without fear. And that was a promise Lucien fully intended to keep.

“Wait for me,” he murmured, pressing his forehead against hers.

“I will,” she replied steadily.

There was a sigh of relief and Lucien tucked her under his chin, holding her close. “Sleep,” he commanded quietly, “It’s late.” He pressed his lips tenderly against her forehead, thumbs rubbing soothing circles into her back.

It was amazing how comfortable Lucien felt with her body against his, lying in his arms. He had not been this relaxed in a long time. She made him feel whole, as if she completed the missing part of his heart. 

And maybe you are, Lucien thought to himself, smiling as he occasionally pressed kisses to her temple, the person at the end of my red string. My little butterfly.

When she had finally fallen asleep, Lucien looked at the slowly brightening sky. His heart tightened. He wanted to freeze this moment forever. The pink-tinged sky didn’t grant his request and instead brilliant hues of orange and red started spreading across the sky, as if taunting him. He didn’t have long before they had to part. Slowly, Lucien eased away from the sleeping girl. He put on the clothes strewn around his room and tenderly dressed her, taking great care not to wake her. He caressed the light purple mark on her collarbone and smiled sadly. It was time. He picked up the girl gently. A bright white light flashed around the room.

They reappeared inside the girl’s apartment. Lucien carried the sleeping figure to her room and tucked her in. He then took out his phone and sent a message to her phone.

<Thank you for returning my disc to me. We had a bit of wine while you watched the movie so you can give me that film review. You got drunk and I brought you home. *Next time do not come to see me without notice. Take care of yourself. -Lucien>

He leaned forward and brushed her bangs back softly to press a soft kiss against her forehead.

“I promise you,” he whispered, “I promise we’ll go fly a kite when spring comes. I promise to celebrate all my birthdays with you. I promise to ensure your safety. I promise I will always come back to you. I promise that we’ll be together. I promise that I belong to you, and to only you.” He repeated all the promises he made her. “Wait for me, butterfly.” He hooked their pinkies together and kissed their linked fingers softly. “I promise.”

He then placed a tender, final kiss against her lips and breathed out the words that had been hidden under his heart for so long. “I love you.”

Lucien stood up and walked to the door silently, before turning around to take one last look at her. She was sleeping soundly. The gentle sun of the early morning cast a soft pink over her, a beautiful but cruel reminder that told Lucien he was out of time. The night he had promised himself had come to an end and now it was morning. It was time for him to go.

He had set a glass of water, along with two painkillers on her bedside table. There was also a paper crane standing guard. It was the one with her wish.

*“I wish Lucien and I forever…”

Underneath her wish, Lucien had added a set of words. Another promise.

*“For every forever that you wished for, I’ll be there.