Well today was more excitement than I planned. Certainly, there's the trouble with the installation, which will be completed within the next few days if I can keep Amy from tearing apart those doing said installations. And there's that one breastplate that still won't turn up. Still, this was a startling turn of events. I haven't seen her for the past few hundred years. As she said, too damned long.
...Who taught her to speak like that? I know it wasn't me.
Amy stood outside, directing the new exhibit to be put in, keeping up a running commentary to Marcus about the relative intelligence and possible birth of the movers.
The tall blond stood at the crosswalk, peering over at the museum, wondering not for the first time if she was doing the right thing. Should I have called first? Sent an email, maybe? Well, I'm here now, so let's do this. Resolutely she drew in a deep, calming breath and started across the street.
They're only movers," Marcus muttered, "And they haven't broken anything yet. Besides, I think they stopped listening to you a while ago." He froze for a moment and looked over his shoulder and around.
The woman reached the curb and stopped. Her piercing eyes swept the sidewalk until her gaze landed on the dignified-looking man in front of the museum.
Amy caught the look in Marcus's eyes and started looking around for Phillip.
"Excuse me, Amy," Marcus said under his breath as he pinpointed the other who was still far enough to not get swept up in the chaos that was moving exhibits around.
She took one more step forward, her eyes fixed on her old teacher. "Marcus..." she breathed, hardly believing she'd actually found him. As he drew closer, her eyes filled with unexpected tears.
Marcus smiled widely and embraced her, nearly picking her up in the process. "Where have you been? It's been... well it's been a while."
She hugged him back with a sudden fierceness. "It's been too damn long," she said, with a small weak laugh. She drew back and looked at him, radiant even through her tears. "It's wonderful to see you. You look fantastic."
Marcus laughed and pulled a handkerchief from his coat so she could wipe her tears. "I'm glad you think so, but that's hardly my doing. You look very nice yourself. But what are you doing here? You're not in some sort of trouble are you?" He had immediately frowned at the prospect, knowing too well how much trouble was around.
"Thanks." She accepted the handkerchief and dabbed at her eyes. "No one's after me at the moment, if that's what you mean. But I do need your help--your advice, really."
"Well this is hardly the place to do it," Marcus said softly as he watched the crowd still moving their peices around. "Are you in Paris long?"
"For as long as it takes. I'm--I'm just at this really awful place inside my head, and I can't get away from it. It's...complicated. If you're not too busy, can we...can we go somewhere and talk?"
Amy approached quietly. "I can finish up at here, Marcus." She nodded and smiled a little at the woman, putting her hand on Marcus's arm.
The woman returned the smile and extended a hand to Amy. "I'm sorry, I'm being rude. I'm--Caroline Blake," she said, giving the name she'd used since 1997.
"Are you sure?" Marcus looked at Ceirdwyn, "My apologies, this is my wife, Dr. Amy Zoll. Amy, this is a former student of mine."
Ceirdwyn's smile deepened, showing unexpected dimples. "Well, belated congratulations! We have been out of touch, haven't we?"
"Thank you. It's a pleasure to meet you." Amy smiled, inwardly going through Marcus's file and his list of students and coming up with a name to match the face.
"From what I've been told, I live in a cave," Marcus nodded. "Though it does make hiding out so much easier."
"You aren't hiding that well," Ceirdwyn teased. "I Googled you, how do you think I found you?"
Amy covered her mouth and laughed.
Marcus cleared his throat, "Yes well that internet's going to be the damnation of us all, isn't it?"
Ceirdwyn giggled. "It was so much easier in the old days, wasn't it?" She caught herself and darted a cautious look at Amy, wondering how much she knew about Marcus's immortality.
"Yes, but how many weeks to send a message when everything's on horseback." Amy tssked.
Ceirdwyn relaxed a little bit. Obviously enough, she told herself, quietly relieved. "And that was if you could actually afford a horse," she quipped with a grin.
Marcus grinned slightly at the two, "Are you two quite done prodding me?"
"Oh, never." Amy grinned and kissed his cheek. "I'll go get this settled and should I cancel dinner with Phillip tonight?"
"I wouldn't want you to change your plans on my account," Ceirdwyn said quickly. "It can wait."
"It's just dinner." Amy shook her head. "It's common. Or I can just go with him?"
"If he can still make it, then I see no reason to cancel. It is only dinner." Marcus nodded before turning to Ceirdwyn. "And you should join us regardless."
"Oh, no, I wouldn't want to intrude." Ceirdwyn looked from Marcus to Amy, slightly embarrassed at herself.
"not at all." Amy assured her. "I enjoy meeting Marcus's friends. It gives me so much more to tease him with."
"And for which you don't have, you can certainly make up," Marcus noted.
"Oh, I'm sure I could give you some dirt on him," Ceirdwyn said with a grin to Amy. "And the name's Ceirdwyn, actually. Just so you know."
Amy glanced at Marcus and didn't tell Ceirdwyn she already knew. "It's very nice to meet you. But I really have to go and make sure nothing is broken. Excuse me."
"Nice to meet you, Amy," Ceirdwyn said, and meant it.
"I'll see you soon then." Marcus said with a peck on the cheek before turning to Ceirdwyn. "Any particular place you wanted to talk?"
"Anywhere you think is good. I haven't been in Paris since..." The tears threatened again without warning, and she swallowed hard, mastering herself with difficulty. "In a long time."
"Perhaps private is better?" he suggested as he noticed Ceirdwyn's expression turn.
"Yeah. Yes, that would definitely be better, I think." She straightened her shoulders and managed to hold herself together--barely.
Marcus nodded. "There's a rather quiet restaurant not far from here."
"Lead the way, magister," said Ceirdwyn with a deferential half-bow.
"Very funny." Marcus cocked a grin.
Marcus sat at the table, one he asked specifically as far from others as possible. He tasted the wine the waiter had brought before finally breeching past small talk. "You seem troubled, Ceirdwyn."
"I've been troubled for a long time, Marcus." Ceirdwyn's eyes were downcast as she toyed with the corner of her napkin. "Funny, talking about ten years as a 'long time', isn't it? Barely a moment to people like us..." She sighed, a heartsick sound. "But an eternity when you're spending it in hell."
"You haven't been cast to the brimstone yet," Marcus muttered. "Time can pass as slowly for us as it does for everything else. Though I'm sure you have a reason for thinking so?"
Ceirdwyn put her hands resolutely in her lap and sat up straight, looking at Marcus steadily. Her eyes were haunted, shadowed. "I married my fifth husband in 1980. His name was Steven Jarmel." She smiled a little. "He was a business graduate, very bright, very promising. He was also very...persistent."
She nodded, her smile reminiscent. "After Clive died from the flu in 1918, I'd taken the oath, Marcus. Never again. No more burying a husband, no more getting involved with mortals. Ever."
"It's a catch-22, isn't it? We can't trust ourselves or each other enough to form lasting relationships, but mortals...well, they're butterflies, aren't they? Sooner or later, we lose them. I told Steven very plainly that I was perfectly willing to date him, but that I was perfectly happy leading a solitary life and had no interest in marriage. It took him all of seven and a half months to change my mind."
"Such oaths never work, unless you happen to be a monk or perhaps a hermit," Marcus countered with a shake of his head. "It's useless to shut yourself from them. We are grossly outnumbered as it is."
"He was persistent. I told you. And very, very persuasive." She chuckled softly. "Oh, it was heaven, Marcus. I don't think I've ever been so happy, even before, when I was mortal. We were together for fifteen glorious years."
"And how did he die?"
She steeled herself. "That last night...March fifteenth, 1995." She paused to let the irony of the date sink in for Marcus. "We were in a restaurant, not too different from this one. He'd just gotten a job offer in Spain. He was so excited--it was the opportunity of a lifetime for him. It would have made his career. He'd be in the Fortune 500 by now...if he'd lived." She took a sip of wine.
"Random act then?"
"I didn't want to go. I hated the whole idea of leaving Paris. This was our home, it was where we'd met, where we'd married...we were happy here. I was happy. You know how much I hate sudden changes. We argued. I could tell it was going to get heated, and I suggested we continue in private. He went to get the car..."
Marcus shook his head, "Why do you think you could have done anything?"
She was weeping openly now, not even trying to hold back the tears. "I ran towards Steven, and he shot me. When I didn't fall down, he fired again. I fell, and I got up. He kept shooting me until I blacked out. I should have been with him, Marcus! I should never have let him go alone."
Marcus moved his chair about to be next to her. "You can't be at his side at every moment, mortal or otherwise!"
"If we hadn't argued, he wouldn't have been out there for them to kill."
"How is that for you to know?"
She shook her head, in turmoil. "It was just so...wrong. Wrong for him to die like that, terrified and alone, bleeding to death on the sidewalk."
"Death and murder isn't meant to be 'right,'" Marcus said softly and firmly with a hand placed at his shoulder. "My previous wife died about the same time ago at the hand of one of my former lovers.
Ceirdwyn was startled out of her grief. "I'm...sorry," she whispered. "I didn't know."
Marcus shook his head. "There's little to be done about it now. I hated myself for a very long time, not that long now that I think about it because what is a few years? But still, it was my fault. I brought the woman into my home and I put my wife in a position of danger. But destroying myself over it would have accomplished nothing."
"Did you kill her?" The question was the farthest thing possible from an accusation.
"How could I? I still loved her as well. Someone else did, or I would be dead now."
She nodded. "I'm glad you're not. I went after them--the bastards who killed him. I killed the one who'd shot him. I would have killed them all, but Duncan MacLeod stopped me. He made me remember what I'd taught him once--what you'd taught me."
Marcus smiled slightly, "And what was that? My memory seems to fail me."
She sighed softly and smiled again, this time a bit sadly. "That there has to come a time when--when it's finished. When it's over and done with. Killing never makes anything right or better or fair. It's not wrong to punish those who've wronged you, but there has to come a time when the punishment ends."
Marcus nodded. "I must have been wise in my younger years. So you hadn't killed all of them?"
"No. Not even when they ganged up and came to try and kill me." She shook her head. "One of them was only twelve, Marcus."
"Twelve?!" Marcus sighed, "What is the world coming to?"
"The world's always been an ugly place, Marcus. We always knew that. But with Steven...I allowed myself to forget."
"It's not always ugly."
"No." Ceirdwyn fisted her hand on the table. "I've been foundering for ten years, Marcus. Every time I think I'm okay, something reminds me of what happened, and I just--I fall apart. I can't go on like this. What am I supposed to do with myself?"
Marcus let out a deep breath and put his hand over har fist. "I have no idea. Busy yourself? You had to get over your previous husband somehow to date this Steven."
She sighed. "It was different with Clive. Oh, I grieved for him, and he died before his time, but...how do you punish a virus? Who do you blame for the plague taking someone you love?"
"It's the same once everything falls, Ceirdwyn. A virus or a thug, once the person you care for passes, you still must learn to move past. Or else you're suffering eternally and no one who has ever cared for
She hung her head. "I know," she said softly. "It's just...it's different this time, Marcus. I've buried four other husbands, and two of them died violently, and another before his time...but it's never been this hard."
"You'll find a way," Marcus said confidently. "You were always persistent in your own right."
She laughed a little at that. "You should know. I gave you enough trouble, didn't I?"
"That wasn't persistent. That was damned hardheaded," Marcus laughed softly.
"That's what you get for being an insufferable know-it-all."
"I'm a well meaning know-it-all."
"Yes, well, you did teach me how to read, no matter how much I resisted. I will admit, you were right about the value of the written word."
"Yes well you Celts had a distaste for things like reading, writing.. bathing regularly.." Marcus grinned.
Ceirdwyn kicked at his ankle lightly. "Excuse me? We didn't have any need for a written language, all our history was oral. As for bathing, it's a little hard to stay squeaky clean living out in the open!"
"Cave dwellers," Marcus said with a chuckle when he was kicked.
"Yes, and why not? No one really owned the land--or claimed to, before you Romans came along." She wrinkled her nose at him.
"I'm the one with a doctorate in classical history, I'd like to think I know what happened," Marcus said pointedly.
"History is written by the winners," she said with no rancor. "And I was there, too, remember?"
"Yes, but you were a cave dweller," Marcus noted as a counter argument, though he was chuckling under his breath.
She laughed more brightly then. "Oh, Marcus...I knew talking to you would make me feel better..." She sobered a bit. "But I'm still at a loss for how to fix things. I can't go on like this, it's ridiculous."
"Exactly how are you getting along?"
"Oh, I've made investments...I don't have to worry about money."
"Well that's good for you, but I meant otherwise. You live here? I suppose you're doing something, you don't seem to be a happy housewife."
"No. I've been in Canada for a while. Before that, I sailed halfway round the world." She tugged at her blonde hair. "The sun bleached me out, and I liked it, so I kept it."
Marcus nodded, "That sounds very distracting."
She rested her chin on her hand and sighed. "I haven't really done much of anything with myself for the past seven years, frankly. Puttering around in Montreal, teaching myself how to use the Internet... I was in a bar in Montreal last New Year's Eve and this old Scot got up onstage and started singing "Auld Lang Syne". The real one, all four verses. It made me bawl like a baby." She spoke more slowly, wonderingly, speaking aloud what she'd never acknowledged to herself. "When I moved to Montreal I bought an old ramshackle mansion and restored it and redecorated it, top to bottom. Then, when it was done--I sold it. I never even spent a single night in it."
"Then why did you do it? You aren't like most of the interior decorators I've ever met."
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