Marcus was furious. The rage building up inside of him was too great to bear. He had never felt this much anger before, not even in the arena. Perhaps the only time his feelings matched was everything that happened with Dillard. And that didn't say much for the man that sat inside still. He imagined their faces as he walked out, hoping that his sudden walk out had made them realize their mistakes.
Marcus had to blame his lost memories as well. If he had never lost them, then he might have remembered what his family was a part of. But he blamed everyone for not telling him until now. Lucan must have known. He must have. And yet he never said one word about his history.
His emotions were complicated, because he still wanted to respect the man. Lucan had pulled him from Quintus, whether it was meant to be or not. He had treated him extremely well. He had housed him and fed him and gave him his freedom. But it all felt as if it wasn't from the heart anymore. Everything that had happened was just part of another, bigger plan.
Marcus could smell the fire now and the stench of burning flesh as he walked away from the villa. It took him only a moment to find the fire and the smoke rising into the sky. Lucan and Felix stood there, watching, their faces covered with cloth to try and help block the stench.
Marcus did not wish to speak to either of them and he was glad that they were facing away from him. From where he stood, he could see the charred flesh of the guards. Only their armor gave any clue as to who they were before. Some of them were Felix's men and others were Dillard's. Marcus remembered killing some of them himself and he turned away.
He did not regret the concern he felt for those who had stayed behind at the villa. He had not sunk so low to wish ill upon any of them and if it were to happen again, given what he knew, he would still fight to protect them. Their lies and deceit were not enough for him to wish ill upon any of them.
He turned away from the backs of the men by the pyre and started to walk in the other direction. He heard Alexandria call his name and he stopped for just a short moment. He turned back to face her. He wouldn't ostracize her for something her father had done. It had been clear that she was in the dark as much as he had been.
He waited for her to approach and suddenly he was overcome with adoration. She was the only one he could trust, now. He let her step up to him and he didn't stop himself from leaning down to kiss her cheek, moving her hair out of the way. Then he took her hand and together they walked in silence into the field behind the villa.
"We could run away from all of this," he said, though of course he didn't truly mean it. It was just nice to entertain the idea. "We could run far away from the control of Rome and we could find a small home. We could live there until the end of our days." He turned towards her, a sad smile on his face. He used the hand that was not in her own to cup her jaw. "We could forget all of this ever happened. Go somewhere that nobody knows us. Live a life of peace from here on out."
The more he said it, the better it sounded. But he couldn't understand why he knew it was just a dream. Something was pulling him back towards those in and around the villa. He had searched so long and hard for answers and when they were not what he wanted to hear, he threatened to walk out. He knew it was the betrayal of his trust that angered him more than the past itself, of course.
Alexandria didn’t move, thinking that the conversation didn’t concern her but she was also struggling to trust the man who had protected them only yesterday. She began to question his motivation, wondering if he had protected them just so he can take them down himself. That was when he began by telling them what his name was, not that it clarified anything for them, just added to the confusion. However, the one thing that became clear is that the stranger did not descend from Rome and that made her begin to piece some things together. Marcus himself wasn’t of Roman descent and she remembered how Aeliana had told him that he came from a line of Celts. Perhaps this ‘Titus’ knew him when he was a child. He certainly seemed to know enough about Marcus for that to be the case and this only deepened her concern.
He offered Marcus the knowledge of his real name and she didn’t know how he would feel about knowing. The last thing she wanted for him was to have his identity taken away from him again as he already questioned who he was twice since meeting his sister and she hated the idea that he would have been thrust into further inner turmoil because of this but she was put at ease when Marcus refused the information. She knew who Marcus was and what kind of man he was and nothing that this man would say to her would change her opinion of him and she was glad that Marcus was satisfied with who he was rather than who he was all those years ago. It would be impossible to let the child that had once existed change the man he had become.
Alexandria hated the silences between their exchanges because she wanted to know where he father was and the longer this conversation lasted was the less time she had to find out where her father was. She hadn’t realised until now, just how worried she was. Even though Aeliana said that he was safe she wasn’t sure she could even trust her anymore, especially since she had admitted that she was hiding something from Marcus, who she was supposed to be honest with her own flesh and blood.
Things began to make sense and they were slowly piecing together bits of information that they didn’t understand. He had known Marcus’ father and she could almost sense his pain when he asked for confirmation. It must have been difficult to grow up without a father and it was something she hoped she would never had to experience. She argued with her father often and there were many disagreements but she still didn’t want to know what it would be like to lose him. The man began to talk about how he had controlled the fate of his life and how he had saved Aeliana from a life as a bed slave and she could not help but feel angry. His life was not exactly a great one up to this point. Child labour would not have been much different than being condemned to a life as a slave forced to fight as a gladiator. If he was trying to protect him he had not done a very good job. She watched as Marcus lowered herself to a chair and had to fight the urge to go to his side, not wanting to intrude.
The man referred to the coin once more, talking about its importance. She had not had time to inspect it herself just yet but when he spoke of the fact it was an orchid she found something pulling at her memories and there was a flash of her father and a pendant that he had one worn around his neck. She wasn’t sure whether that was the same thing but she could visualise the orchid so clearly. She took a step forward, just enough so she could look over Marcus’ shoulder at the coin and recognised it instantly. What exactly did it mean though? He began to speak of an organisation and what their purpose was but she couldn’t help but wonder what that had to do with her father and why her father owned one too. Was her father who she thought he was? None of this made sense and she could feel the frustration building up inside of her.
That was when he began to speak of Lucan and she found herself wondering if he knew all along who Marcus was; who Aeliana was and this was all some part of a plan. Perhaps he had always intended to free Marcus and Alexandria couldn’t help but feel betrayed just as she imagined that Marcus was too. Her lips parted to speak, she wanted to know more; she wanted to know what it had to do with her and as if Marcus read her mind he wanted clarification on that matter too and she was relieved that she was not the one who had to ask.
Her father had been someone else too and he just confirmed the suspicions that were beginning to form. Did that mean that she not Roman either and that she and Marcus might have none each other once upon a time. It saddened her to think that she had just as little knowledge about her heritage than Marcus and she was angry; angry that her father had lied to her all these years; angry that her father had managed to save them when people like Marcus were subjected to a fate much worse.
She looked towards Marcus, with her heart beating in her chest and she wondered whether their ‘shared history’ had something to do with how strong their connection was and she could sense that anger coming from Marcus and she wanted to comfort him but the news was just as shocking to her than it was to him and she was struggling to understand what any of this meant and he was shocked to hear what her father was up to. The idea of him having the ability to burn bodies, whether they were dead or alive frightened her and she was realising that didn’t know her father at all.
That was when Marcus turned to her, demanding to know how much of this she knew and she was offended by the way he spoke. It was obvious by the look on her face that she didn’t understand anything that had transpired so far. She shook her head because words failed her and she looked towards the floor as the raised voices of the two man began to fill the room, arguing about the next step. Marcus’ life had never been his own and to be told that it could still be the same was clearly too much for him to handles and she watched as he walked out of the room. Alexandria stared not really knowing what to do before Titus turned to her.
“You must understand this?” He seemed to question, obviously hoping that she might be able to do something to convince Marcus to help them. “Your father had lost much from this world and building the organisation back would help to avenge your mother’s death.” He attempted to appeal to her emotional side and she found herself growing angry.
“Don’t you dare try to use my mother in this argument! I will not be used either.” She went to turn away and follow after Marcus but Aeliana took hold of her arm before she could leave.
“Alexandria, please. Talk to him. He listens to you and I fear that I have damaged my trust with him.”
“You have done the same with me. I am with Marcus in this. We are pawns to no-one. If and when either of us decides we can trust any of you again, it will be on our own terms, not because of someone else’s say so.” She pulled away from her, leaving the room and walking out into the corridor. Marcus couldn’t been seen anywhere and she feared that perhaps he had left. She worried that he thought she might have a part in this and she hated the idea that they might have broken their trust within each other. She called out for him until she eventually found him and slowed as she began to approach him.
When the man finally returned to his seat, he looked up at them as if expecting them to come closer. Marcus hesitated, looking once more at the coin in his hand. Then he finally decided he would step close, but he would not allow himself to get too comfortable. He refused to sit.
"They call me Titus," he started. "But my given name was Judoc. Just as your name wasn't always Marcus. They do so love to make us Roman. Would you like to know your real name?"
Marcus hesitated once again. Then, without moving anything other than his lips, he replied, "No."
"I am who I am now. I've decided not to let myself be distracted by who I might have been." Marcus could almost hear Quintus riling him up for battle, asking him what his name was and what it meant. [i Warlike. That is who I am.] Titus seemed to understand, which surprised Marcus. There was another long pause in the conversation as the man before him seemed to try to grasp how to start this conversation.
"When I first laid eyes on you I almost mistook you for your father. Of course I knew it couldn't be him. You were too young and I knew he was long, long gone." The thought seemed to make him sad.
"You knew my father?" Marcus asked, his heart thumping loudly.
"I did. He was like a brother to me. We played together and we fought together, and if I had it may way we would have died together. But I knew he trusted me with your lives. Haven't you ever wondered why you weren't sent off for child labor? Or why your sister wound up a mistress instead of a bed slave? I made sure to head you in those directions. I wasn't there of course, but I pulled the strings behind the curtains. And I knew this time would come. The time for us to reunite. I lost track of you both when I set things into motion. I couldn't keep my eye on the both of you, but I knew you would be like your father, Marcus. You were capable and I knew you would live for many years. If I had left Aeliana, then I would not have been able to get her to the status she is now. I never meant harm to come to either of you."
Marcus finally gave in and he lowered himself into another chair in the room and sat forward to listen to what the man had to say. He continued to look at the coin.
"Do you know what kind of flower that is on the coin?" Titus asked him. Marcus shook his head. He had been a gladiator all his life. How would he know such a thing? "It's an orchid."
"I've never seen a coin like it."
"That's because most of them were destroyed when our village was sacked by the Romans. We weren't only Celts that they wanted to destroy. We were an organization. We were fighting back against the power." The way he spoke about it made Marcus's chest swell. He was obviously proud of his past and who he used to be.
"Organization?" he asked.
"I know you ran into one of the Serpent assassins."
"I was there. Watching the whole time. I was the one that tipped Lucan off to your sister's whereabouts. I was the one that hoped Lucan might want to buy you from your former master. I had to keep an eye on you after having lost you for so long."
"Then what of the assassins?" Marcus asked, trying to keep up and attempting to not let the shock of all of this confuse him. "Do they serve Rome?"
Titus almost laughed. "The Serpents [i are] Rome. They control everything. Still to this day."
Marcus couldn't follow. He flipped the coin over in his hands, looking at it as if it might give him clues. "What do they have anything to do with us? Why were they after Alexandria that day?"
"One thing at a time, boy. They were after her because her father was part of the same organization your father and I used to be a part of. The Orchid's were the resistance. Those coins," he said gesturing to the one in Marcus's hand, "were distributed as a subtle way of knowing who needed help. Anyone that held one was being plagued by the Serpents. And we attempted to put a stop to it. The day they found our camp- the same day you lost your memory- was the day the Orchid's died out. Now there are so few of us left. Which is why I tried my best to pull the strings so that Lucan would find you. You have a shared history. And we need your help."
Marcus couldn't take this. There was way too much to comprehend. This man had known him when he was a child? He had somehow worked his way up so that he was able to manipulate those around him without even speaking to them. Titus was a mastermind.
"You didn't just help me in the arena simply because Dillard was a terrible man," he realized.
"I needed you to stay alive. Not only for you father, but for what is left of us."
"Where is Lucan?" Marcus asked, suddenly wanting another opinion on the matter. Had the man known this entire time who Marcus was? Was that why he had been so kind to him?
"He's burning the bodies of the guards," Aeliana spoke up, her voice soft. Marcus looked over to her, his eyes narrowing. "You knew all of this?"
Aeliana didn't reply at first. Then she nodded slowly. "I didn't know Titus was here. I didn't know he was even still alive. I was a child back then, just like you were. I had no idea who our people really were. I'm sorry, Marcus. I would never lie to hurt you. Like I said, it didn't seem relevant. Everyone that had to do with our past was dead. At least I thought so..."
Marcus couldn't look at her. He knew he would forgive her, but in the moment, he didn't want to even speak to anyone that had kept his own life a secret from him. He turned to Alexandria. "And you?" By the look on her face, it became clear that her father did not share any information about the Orchids with her. They were in this together, then it seemed. Both of them swept up in something they didn't even knew existed. But at least now Marcus knew they were fated to have met.
Marcus stood abruptly and Titus rose with him, worried that Marcus wasn't taking any of this well. "You're telling me I had no control over my own life. That everything I've lived through was just part of some big scheme to get me back into your hands ever since you lost me as a child? Everyone I've ever buried by blade into was just another death that had to be done. Another step to getting me closer to you?" His voice was rising. He had no idea how he should have felt, but grateful was not something he would display. Marcus tossed the coin onto the table in front of him. "I want nothing to do with any of this. I just wanted to be free of the life I lived and yet here I am, getting thrown into another mess."
Titus tried to reach out and touch Marcus's arm to calm him, but Marcus pulled away. "We have to do something. We can reform the Orchids. Your father was our leader and we made a difference then. And we can make a difference now. Just think about it."
Marcus shook his head, a look of disgust took over his face. "I'm not your pawn." He turned on his heel and headed for the door once more. He opened it with more force than he intended and it slammed against the wall as he walked out on the only people he had left in the world. Alexandria was the only one he could trust now, he realized.
He knew that he would wrap his head around this. He knew that he was overreacting. He might even come to find the organization his father had been a part of to be honorable. But Marcus couldn't feel any of that in the moment. All he could feel was rage.
Alexandria slowed behind Marcus who seemed to do the same. Perhaps he was just as scared as her, not really knowing what they might find when they walked into the villa and she was terrified that they might find bodies covered in blood and no guards here at all. What if they were dead before they were taken to the arena and that all this time Marcus was fighting for people who hadn’t survived.
There were no guards anywhere and there was an eerie feeling surrounding the villa as they made their way through the door and although she had no experience in protecting herself or others, she made sure that she was on guard at all times, knowing that just because they didn’t see them didn’t necessarily mean that they weren’t there. They might have just been leading them into a false sense of security and any minute now they could very easily take their lives by emerging from their hiding places but that didn’t happen.
That was when a voice could be heard, addressing Marcus directly. The voice was familiar but neither of them could detect who it belonged to and that much was clear in the way that Marcus looked to her for an answer. If it was her father or Felix, they might have recognised them instantly but that wasn’t the case. Alexandria watched as he took the corner and hesitated herself before she followed him and they were greeted by the senator who had helped them in the arena the day before. None of this made sense and the situation was made all the more confusing by the presence of Aeliana who was seemingly welcoming the man into her home. Had he reported what had happened to them and this was her way of thanking him for helping to keep her brother alive? Something told her that wasn’t the case though because Aeliana was trying to conceal some kind of guilt.
The benefit of being a high born and being forced to dine with them for much of her life made her extremely good at reading people and Aeliana had her emotions written all over her face. In that moment Alexandria didn’t know what to feel. Was this her doing and had she been playing them all along? If that were the case she didn’t think she would ever be able to forgive her, nor would Marcus. When she greeted Alexandria she didn’t say anything towards her and made it clear that she wanted answers, just as Marcus did and she was surprised that he began to ask about her father first. A wave of relief came over her when she told them that he was safe but she just didn’t feel like she could trust her anymore, especially when she admitted that she had not been honest with him. She remained a spectator and took a step back, knowing that this was about Marcus and she would be here if she was needed but it was clear that this had nothing to do with her; at least not yet.
The senator rose from where he sat and made his way towards Aeliana and Marcus and her eyebrows knotted in confusion as he began to confess his charade. Know she thought about it, it wouldn’t make sense for a senator to so willingly offer help to someone who clearly had no importance to them but it was evident that Marcus was important to him for some reason ad as he held out his coin the man who suddenly became a stranger once more appeared to have something he wanted to say.
Eventually Alexandria took his advice and settled herself down onto the ground with her head in his lap. He continued to stroke her hair gently, attempting to lull her to sleep. For the rest of the night, Marcus was alert.
He was sure that most of Dillard's men would disperse without having anyone to serve any longer. He assumed most of them were just hired hands. But some of them, a small number, would still be faithful to the dead man. Marcus could not understand why, since he had proven himself to be a horrible person with nothing but himself on his mind. Perhaps they owed him something and would not find it within themselves to abandon him even in dead until they repaid him. Marcus could understand that and he hoped that he would not have to end their lives before they realized how absurd that was.
Marcus had to keep reminding himself that Dillard was indeed gone. What had only been a few days felt like an eternity of torture from the man. Along with the literally kind. Marcus would carry those scars on his back forever. But he was alive and Dillard was dead and that was enough for him. He would wear the scars with pride from there on out.
The ex-gladiator became lost in thought as he scanned their surroundings. There wasn't much to see, especially with the firelight turning everything else behind it into a shadow. So he and Alexandria sat in their own small circle of light.
When the sun finally started to poke its head over the horizon, he woke Alexandria gently before stomping out the remainder of the fire which had turned to mostly smoke by then. They got back onto the horse and continued their search. And just as Marcus thought, the clues to the villa presented themselves in the daylight and not an hour later they had arrived.
Marcus rode up quickly, not sure if the lack of Dillard's guards was a good or a bad thing. He pulled on the horse's reigns, signaling it to stop and found himself climbing off before it had even planted its hooves firmly in the ground. He stepped up to the door, swallowing the fear in his throat. What if they found their bodies inside? He had only just met his sister and the might have been taken from him...
He pushed on the door gently and entered quietly. Alexandria was just a pace behind him. Upon entering, there was complete silence. He could see no signs of struggle and he hoped that was a good thing. Just as he was about to turn a corner into the main room of the house, he heard someone within.
"I hear you, Marcus. Please, come in." There was something oddly familiar about the voice and he looked back at Alexandria who seemed just as lost. He prepared himself for a fight, just in case he were to turn the corner and face some of Dillard's men, but when he finally took the plunge and turned the corner it was only one man sitting in one of the plush chairs. Marcus recognized him as the senator who had helped him and Alexandria out in the arena.
Movement caught his eye and when Marcus looked, he saw Aeliana bringing the man something to drink. He could see the relief in her eyes when she saw him, though she must have already heard the news that he was alive and well. She handed the man the cup before coming over to greet Alexandria and Marcus. It was only then that he saw that other than the relief in her eyes, there was something else. Was it guilt?
"Where's Lucan?" Marcus asked, wanting to make sure he was safe before they moved on with what was sure to be an interesting conversation.
"He and Felix are fine. They're safe. Marcus... I..."
Marcus's brows knitted together in concern. "What is it?"
"I... haven't been completely honest with you... about our past." Upon seeing the look on Marcus's face, she held up her hands in defense. "Everything I told you was true. Every word. I only left some things out because I didn't know if they were even important anymore. And if they weren't relevant, then I didn't want to get you worked up."
Suddenly the senator was standing up and heading over to join them. "I'm glad your injuries aren't bad and I hope the aid I provided helped. I lied when I said I had my own gladiators. I was only in that arena for you. I had to ensure your survival." Marcus was confused and it clearly showed. "Your people have a very important history. Do you still have the coin I gave you?"
Marcus reached under his belt to hold out the coin. He looked at it one more time, the fully bloomed flower facing him, taunting his memory.
The senator looked at him and suddenly Marcus wasn't so sure he was a senator at all. "Let me tell you a story," was all he said before heading back to his chair.
She hoped that he would understand and that he would not meet her need to understand with anger. There was every chance that she could have angered him by even mentioning what he had to do because of her but when he looked at her, there was nothing but love in his eyes and he began to clarify things to stop her from worrying about what might happen between them. A sigh of relief was exhaled when he told her that nothing was tainted and it was as though she could relax herself slightly. She just wanted to make sure that he didn’t have any distain towards her for the events that had transpired before now.
When he spoke of how he worried about himself she ran her hand across his face, hoping that it would help him understand that he was exactly who he thought he was and he was who she thought he was too. He was still the man she had fallen hard for and nothing could have changed that. She was grateful for the sacrifices that he had made for her and she wanted nothing more than she shoe him how grateful she was for him being here with her but the scene was hardly appropriate for any kind of romance and neither of them would be able to relax completely until they knew that those who had been left behind were safe and Marcus expressed that concern as well. She nodded to show that she understood and she wanted nothing more than to tell him that everything would be alright but she didn’t know that she could. She could only reassure him that it wasn’t his fault.
He placed his forehead against her and kissed her as though he needed to prove to her that nothing had been tainted and he told her to rest as he ran his hand through her hair. “I will rest but you need to promise me that you stop punishing yourself for what happened. You did the right thing.” She said before she lay down, using his lap to rest her head before she eventually drifted into sleep.
They didn’t waste any time the next day and the second the light came they were riding the horse back to villa that belonged to Felix and Aeliana. After several hours she recognised a garden that was about a mile away from the villa and the nerves began to set in until they would learn the fate of her father and Marcus’ family. “We have about a mile left to go,” she said pointing towards the garden, hoping that he would recognise it to and as if to confirm that he did, he found a way to speed up the horse that had had acted as their transport for the journey and soon enough they were approaching the villa and they stopped the horse in front of the entrance and as if there was nothing else he could think about Marcus climbed down from the horse and made his way towards the door before Alexandria had climbed down herself. She tried to hurry to catch up with him, all the while her heart thumping with anticipation.
Just as he feared, Alexandria would not be having his evasion to conversation. She refused to rest until they had spoken. He knew this would happen because he had come to know her well, so he wasn't surprised. He had to admit that that was one of the things he loved about her, though. She was strong willed and determined and she wasn't going to take no for an answer. And he knew that sometimes they needed to talk instead of keeping quiet. So he let her convince him to speak.
When she brought up how he might have enjoyed taking Dillard's life a little more than he should have, he had to look away. She was right to worry about it tainting their relationship, but Marcus didn't see it that way. He forced himself to look back at her.
"Nothing is tainted," he reassured her. "I'm just worried I'm not who I thought I was. I've been forced to kill my entire life but I've never once enjoyed it. Everyone knows that once you start liking it, then you've lost yourself. The gladiators that kill for enjoyment will die nothing more than a slave. But the ones who fight against the power are the ones who die free men, even if they were never actually freed." He paused, looking at the fire. She wanted to talk about it. So he would talk...
"I'm worried that there might have been word of Dillard's death. And if that is the case, then I'm afraid that his men had an order to kill their hostages. Your father, my sister, and Felix might be gone. All because I could not control my anger and my rage. All because I had to end a man's life." He paused for a long, long moment. Then he added, "But if I hadn't, he would have hurt you even more. And he would have never stopped chasing us. Not until I was dead and you were his."
Marcus leaned in to rest his forehead against hers. "I couldn't let that happen," he whispered and closed his eyes. Despite the moment and everything that had happened, he leaned in to kiss her gently, as if to prove to himself that it was worth it. When he pulled away, he ran a hand through her windblown hair. "Now rest. For me."
The feel of him excited her and as their kiss deepened Marcus' hands came to her hips, holding on to her tightly as though trying to control himself until his hands found their way under her shirt and his fingers ran up her back. The feeling sent a shiver up her spine and only added another dimension to their kiss. Marcus appeared to give in and while their lips were locked he rose from where he stood and made his way towards the bedroom and she found herself smiling and laughing in between their kisses and he struggled to find his way up the stairs as her legs were locked around him and distracted his attention away from the route.
When they finally made their way into his bedroom Marcus ensured that he shut Cato out who had seemingly followed them, prepared to spend the night with them but the way things were going between them there would be no time or thought spared for his dog craving attention. Alexandria pulled back from him for just a second to look him in the eyes as though she was about to ask something but the thought had left her mind as quickly as it entered and she found herself kissing him once again, and with quickened breath and a racing heart she allowed her hands to tug at his shirt.
[I [center Back to the Past]]
[center [pic http://i1213.photobucket.com/albums/cc477/linkthehero6/sura-photo-u3%203_zpsybddro8q.jpg]]
There was something off about Marcus and she couldn't quite put her finger on it. There was concern upon her face and she did not feel the need to conceal it for him. They had shared too much over the last few days for her to have to hide this from him. Besides she doubted her could really see her face in the darkness. He led her to where they would make camp for the evening and she lowered herself to the ground, expecting Marcus to follow but instead he visited himself collecting materials to start a fire. They would have to talk about whatever was bothering him because she was not one to allow awkward silences to hang over them. She wouldn't let that be the case with her father so she wouldn't let it be the case with Marcus.
When he returned and set up a fire to help them see and to provide them with some warmth. She hoped that Marcus would provide some too, knowing that neither of them were dressed for the harsh cold that had come with the night. She thought of her father and Marcus' family and what fate they might have been subjected to. She would never be able to forgive herself if anything had happened to the sister that Marcus had only just had the privilege of getting to know the sister he had been denied for many years. If that had been taken away from him when he had just earned his freedom she was unsure if whether he would be able to love her. It would have been her fault and she wouldn't be able to live with herself. Such thoughts had to be put aside for now; speculation was no use in situations such as this.
Alexandria took his hand and smiled towards him, not sure if he could even see her. He sat close to her and she listened as he told her to rest. She as at up and got closer to him, needing the heat. "We need to talk first." Alexandria was slightly worried about it, knowing that most men would not have liked to have a woman have an opinion or even speak her mind. Things were different with Marcus and she hoped his freedom didn't change that. "I can tell that something is bothering you. I want you to know that you don't have to hide anything from me. I understand, or at least I think I do. I know that you are mad at yourself for enjoying taking Dillard's life and I also know that it was necessary. I just don't want you to resent me because you did it for me. For us. The last thing I want is for our relationship to be tainted by this but if it is, I would like to know now. I don't want you to be distant, but I also need you to be honest with me."
Marcus couldn't help himself. He had to smirk when she told him she might have to take him up on the offer he presented. But he listened to the rest of her words and nodded slowly, understanding. He couldn't help but enjoy the idea of just letting it all play out. After all, that's what they had been doing since the beginning and it had seemed to work perfectly fine for them.
She sat up a bit and Marcus met her lips halfway, glad they had found another excuse to kiss. When she pulled away, he couldn't help but feel a little disappointed, but she was only trying to make herself more comfortable. She migrated to his lap and he took that moment to take his glasses off so that they wouldn't be in the way. Then their lips met once more, this time refusing to let go of each other.
She tasted like lip balm and sunshine and nostalgia and Marcus found himself happily lost. He pulled at her hips, realizing that she wasn't nearly as close as she could have been. They took breaks between kisses, though their lips never really left each others. Their breath mingled between them and Marcus found the hem of her shirt, testing the waters by running his fingers along her back.
In the end, he stood, picking her up with her legs about him to stumble through the house to his bedroom. Cato followed behind, confused, but Marcus closed the door too soon for the husky to follow them inside. The dog turned away after a moment, realizing the door wouldn't be back open for a while.
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[center [i Past]]
Night had fallen before they were able to make any kind of headway, even on horseback. Alexandria's arms were wrapped around him tightly so she wouldn't fall off and the horse was starting to foam at the mouth with the exertion of it's sudden run. Marcus had only a vague idea of where the villa was and he used the sky to tell him the direction he needed to go. Several times, after the darkness of night had truly surrounded them, he got turned around. He would jerk the horse back the other way, obviously angry at himself for not being able to find the place so easily. The darkness didn't help and eventually the clouds even blocked out the starts and the moon, making it difficult for Marcus to know which direction was the best option.
If he could just find himself pointed the right way and find something familiar, he would be able to get them there. But that would have been difficult even in the daytime. Now, every tree looked the same and Marcus was sure they had crossed their own prints in the muddy road.
After a long while of roaming, Alexandria finally decided to offer her advice: to wait until morning. Marcus shook his head at first, unable to let himself give in that easily. He hoped that word had not reached the guards about Dillard's death. If they had an order to kill their prisoners if such a thing should happen, Marcus would never forgive himself. It had only occurred to him then that that might be the case and he killed Dillard out of hatred without thinking of the consequences.
That's why he couldn't just give up so easily. But as it turned out, not giving up was just as difficult. After another short span of getting even more lost, Marcus finally gave in. He slowed the horse, defeated, before veering off the road for a ways. They would have to make camp and continue their search in the morning.
Alexandria climbed off the horse with which seemed thankful for the chance to rest. Then he climbed off as well. He still felt so defeated that he almost wasn't ready for Alexandria to hold pull him close to embrace him. She thanked him, of all things. He wished she hadn't. Her father might have been dead if they received the order to kill and it would have been all his fault. He didn't say any of that aloud, however. He simply took her hand and led her over a few feet to a small dry patch of land where they could sit and rest.
Alexandria lowered herself to the ground while Marcus went about gathering anything he could that would burn. That alone was difficult in the dark, but he managed to get a small pile of brush together. He was glad he remembered how to start a fire with the wood nature gave to him. The night air was significantly cooler than in the day and neither one of them was dressed appropriately.
"You should rest," he finally said to her, looking over at her. They sat close together and her hand found his in the firelight. "I'll keep watch just in case anything should happen. And I'll keep the fire going."
She could have stayed like this all night and perhaps even longer. There was something comforting and familiar about the way his absently ran his fingers through her hair whilst she caressed his free hand. It was as though they needed to touch each other and be in that direct contact all the time and she quite liked the feeling.
Their conversation was one that allowed them both to reminisce about their lives but also share a little bit more about each other. They could be themselves and they could do so completely knowing that there was no need for false pretences and they didn’t seem to mind sharing the embarrassing parts of their lives that they had perhaps never told anyone. That was why she told him how hard she would find it to leave him. As though to comfort her, his hand returned to her hair and she watched as he seemed to struggle to find something to say and she hoped that she had not made things awkward now but she was surprised when told her she could stay and as if he was worried that she might so no he began to list reasons for her to do so and she couldn’t help but smile.
“I would be careful with what you say.” She said with a smile, “I might just take you up on such a generous offer. I think I should hear back over the next couple of days about when this role will begin but until then I am literally a target for both my father and that stupid idiot who keeps taking my photo wherever I go.” She said thinking for a moment. “I guess we can just see what happens? Make no plans and just let the chips fall where they may.” Alexandria smiled before sitting up once more and met his lips with her own, feeling like it had been far too long since they had last kissed. She put all of her emotion from the day into it and ensured that he knew how grateful she was for everything he had done for her that day. She pulled away from him for a second to adjust the way she sat so that she could kiss him more comfortably without her neck cramping up. Eventually she settled on the only position she could move to easily and she lowered herself to his lap and continued to kiss him and pressed herself up against him, not wanting to waste any more time talking about her father or the paparazzi. For now it was just about Marcus and Alexandria and they allowed the world to fade away from them as she continued to share herself with him.
[I [center Back to the Past]]
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After several hours of riding the night began to fall upon them and they were still several hours away from the villa. She was amazed that Marcus appeared to know where he was riding to considering the first time he went there he was pretty much out of it. Perhaps he had taken note of landmarks when they had been taken so he would be able to find their way back. With the darkness fell total blindness to direction and even though Marcus wanted to keep going until he arrived there Alexandria tried to convince him that they would be better off if they waited until first light.
“Marcus, we must stop riding.” She said as she rested her head upon his shoulder and allowed her arms to remain tightly around his stomach. “We have been riding for hours and we will not be able to see where we are going for much longer. Let’s just camp out here for a few hours and let the night time pass.” She said hoping that he agreed. It only took him another ten minutes of riding to realise that Alexandria was right and they really could make themselves worse off if they continued to ride, blinded by the darkness. When they stopped Alexandria climbed down first, using Marcus’ hand to allow her a steady landing and she looked up towards him, waiting for him to join her and when he did she held him close. “Thank you for listening to me.”
After he had set his laptop aside Alexandria seemed to gravitate towards him and he could not have been more okay with that. He wrapped his arm around her so she could lean against him as they watched another episode of a comedy they both enjoyed.
But after a while she curled up on the sofa beside him to use his lap as a pillow which he offered happily. Their hands seemed to constantly be in each others, no matter the position they were in. At that moment, his arm draped over her to meet her fingers and with his free hand he stroked at her hair absentmindedly. They started up one of their conversations and by now they seemed used to the ease of all of this.
Somehow they got onto stories of embarrassing moments and their laughter filled the house, making Cato howl once or twice. The truth of the matter was that Marcus couldn't remember the last time he felt so alive. And he wasn't even doing anything significant: just sitting on the couch talking to a beautiful woman. But he couldn't help but feel like she had brightened up his life these past couple of days. It was as if everything before Alexandria was a blur. It was just a montage of putting up with his father and random scenes with his sister. He had gotten so comfortable with where he was in life that he didn't even realize how much he wasn't even living it anymore. Then he met Alexandria and the paper loved his interview with her. It was thanks to her that he had a new, stable job which was something he had been dreaming about for several years.
When Alexandria spoke her mind about how she would feel when it came time for her to leave, Marcus felt the same exact way. He looked down at her head in his lap as his hand ran through her hair gently. He chewed on his lip, debating with himself on whether he should say what he wanted to or if it would be inappropriate. Then he figured that they were past the stage of nerves and fear and he decided to speak his mind.
"You could stay," he said softly. It sounded more like a question than anything. "After all, your father is breaking into your house and the paparazzi are right outside your door." He continued to play with her hair as he spoke. "I mean, at least until you start your mystery role in your mystery show that you can't talk about," he added with a smirk, remembering her talking about the upcoming work she had, but never being straight about it either since they were wanting to keep it on the down low. "By then you'll probably stay on set a couple nights a week. But my door is always open to you. If you just want to get away from everything for a while, you can always crash here. For as long as you like."
He couldn't believe he was offering this to her so soon, but he had to remind himself that he wasn't exactly asking her to live with him. Only to stay. That was hardly the same thing. Right?
Marcus had no idea what the difference was, but it didn't exactly matter to him. He didn't want to be without her and she didn't want to be without him. If that feeling was mutual, then what was the harm in staying together even longer?
Alexandria was grateful that Marcus was supportive of her because she honestly thought that he had potentially made herself look ridiculous in front of the man who was slowly beginning to win her heart. “Well you’re the lucky one. He tries to control everyone and everything and he has not yet figured out that he will never be able to control me.”
She was glad when he changed the subject because the more they spoke about it, the angrier she would get about her father and she didn’t need any more fuel for that. In fact, she hadn’t realised just how hungry she was until he spoke about it and she found herself looking at her watch to check the time. Where exactly did all that time go? It didn’t seem that long ago that they were eating breakfast together but it was evident that they had spent quite a lot of time walking around the shops.
Time with Marcus seemed to pass quickly and she wasn’t necessarily sure that was a good thing when she wanted to spent as much time with him as possible. Eventually there would be a time where they would have to separate and she wondered if time would then slow to an unbearable rate.
Alexandria followed Marcus into the kitchen and waiting patiently until he decided that he would make pasta because he had some left that he would need to use and she smiled in agreement. In actual fact, Italian was her favourite kind of food so she was more than happy for help him make it and she welcomed the distraction. She chose the sauce as he requested and began to make one from scratch from the ingredients he had lying around. She was a true chef at heart and didn’t believe in tinned sauces. The way they moved around each other in a routine made it seem like it was something they had done many times before, and something they would be able to do again if they decided that they wanted to see more of each other. The way things were going she assumed that would be the case.
She was actually really glad when he suggested that they go and sit on the sofa. If they were at a dining table the conversation might turn onto her father once more and that was something she wanted to avoid and never talk about again. The show he chose was a light comedy; something that she chose to watch when she allowed her mind the chance to rest. There wasn’t much brain power needed for this kind of thing. Eventually their food was finished and Marcus had made himself comfortable, ensuring the dog was occupied while they had eaten. He had insisted that Alexandria should stay where she was while he washed the plates collected him equipment so he could work for however long it would take him to complete it.
Alexandria looked over at the glasses he wore when he began to work and found herself smiling at him. They made him that little bit more endearing, even though she was not sure that would have been possible. She was content with the situation now, her mind completely off her father and drowned with the comedy that she kept on the television as Marcus worked and she found that she would be able to get used to this kind of closeness. When he finished working she took the opportunity to move closer to him and rest her head on his shoulder and once again they became lost in conversation and as they did she found that she had migrated so that she was lying on her back with her head in his lap and she couldn’t remember the last time she had laughed this much.
"I really don't know how I am going to cope when I have to leave here." She admitted, hoping that the thought didn't scare him.
"No, he really didn't," Marcus agreed with her when she spoke of how her father shouldn't have been at her place at all. He didn't care that he was sounding blunt. "I don't get on too well with my father either, but he would never pull a stunt like that. I'm just sorry you have to put up with it."
And he genuinely was sorry. He had never seen anything like that in his life. Her father held no respect for his own daughter or her choices or her privacy. At least his own dad didn't go completely out of his way to scold him like hers did. Breaking into her house just so he could yell at her?
Marcus didn't understand what made him so offended in the first place. He should know that the stories they printed about her weren't true and if she were to try and completely avoid the tabloids she would have never been able to leave her house. Everything a woman did in this life got some kind of backlash and that was the part of the scene that Marcus hated. Her father would expect her to spend a dull life locked away or at least following in his footsteps no doubt. He was proud of Alexandria for sticking up for herself, though.
Marcus checked his watch out of curiosity and realized that half the day had gone by. He felt like they had eaten so recently, but according to the clock it had been longer ago than he thought. No wonder his stomach was starting to protest.
He could tell that she probably didn't want to speak about what happened any longer, so he changed the subject to dinner, instead. "Well, I don't know about you, but I could use something to eat." He moved to the kitchen to open the pantries and the fridge to see what he could find.
Most typical men in his position tended not to have anything to eat at home, but Marcus actually didn't mind cooking. He actually enjoyed it every once in a while. "I've got some pasta I need to use up," he offered. When they seemed to agree to that he started to boil water on the stove top before getting everything else out that they would need.
After a while he persuaded her to join him in the kitchen and he poured them something to drink while they cooked. He let her choose the sauce and once again he felt as if they were in some kind of terrible romantic comedy skirting around each other as they both did their parts to put the meal together.
In the end it appeared that they made a good team and Marcus went about serving them. He led her back to the living room so that they could sit on the sofa to eat. He hoped that didn't put her off, since he rarely used his dining table for anything. Perhaps he should have, but when you lived alone you gained certain habits that you just couldn't pull away from.
Marcus turned on the television and found a show that they both mutually liked. He was glad their older conversations were starting to help him in the now. Not a minute later he heard the jingle of Cato's collar as he hobbled into the room sleepily.
"Did you just wake up?" he asked the husky who sat patiently to the side and looked up at Marcus and Alexandria's plate. Marcus kicked off his boots and propped his legs up on the coffee table before throwing Cato a bite. "I'll feed you in a bit," he told him as the dog chewed happily.
After they had finished eating, he got up and rinsed their plates off before making good on his promise to Cato. Afterward he went to his room to grab his laptop before heading back into the living room. He knew he had to at least get started on actually working before the day was over. He didn't have to finish everything that day, but he would hate himself if he left his work undone until the last minute like he had several times before.
He still felt bad that she might take it as him ignoring her, so when he sat down, he apologized once again and gestured to the remote, telling her to make herself at home while he worked. He pulled out his glasses so he wouldn't have to strain his eyes before starting.
Something wasn't right, though. His mind kept going back to the encounter they had with her father and he knew that her mind was probably doing the same. So, after an hour or so he gave up, closing the laptop and setting it aside. "Good enough for now," he said, though he was moreso trying to convince himself.
He didn’t even stop to ask any questions or even try to convince her that she should probably try to talk to her father and she was glad for that. People who didn’t understand often accused her of being irrational and not allowing her father that chance but that was only because they didn’t know the things that she had known; they hadn’t seen that things that she had seen.
They climbed in the car quickly and before she knew it they were driving away from her father was watching his car drive away. She knew that he would be angry and she knew that perhaps she had acted childishly but her father had invaded her space, her privacy and her life and she had just about enough. At least he didn’t know where Marcus lived and he wouldn’t be bold enough to try and find it either. Eventually she would have to go back to her house and he wouldn’t be keeping tabs on her place, waiting for her to return to have the conversation he tried to have today. She was just grateful that Marcus was there and that he could take her away from it.
Alexandria couldn’t help but laugh at Marcus’ attempts to improve the atmosphere and all things considered he did a pretty good job especially when he took hold of her hand and pressed it against his lips. She wanted her lips to be on his and she wanted him to help her forget about what had happened and she was sure that he would be able to do so when they arrived back at his place. As much as she wanted to talk to him and allow the conversation to flow as it had in the past, it was seemingly more difficult for her to do so when she had so much anger pent up inside of her so they both seemed to find comfort in the silence that hung between them. Alexandria hated to think what Marcus might have thought about the scene that had unfolded at her home and she wouldn’t have been surprised if he never went back there again. In honesty, she was surprised that he didn’t leave when her father had asked him to. He was a scary man at times, and she knew that she had acting like a spoilt child in some respects but that was just how her relationship with her father went.
Eventually they pulled up outside of his home and she felt a feeling of relief come over her as though she had entered a safe space. She knew his place now and there was a feeling of familiarity as they got out of the car, leaning over the back seat to collect the bag that she had packed that would last her until the next day. She figured that some time she would have to go home but now that she knew her father had been there, that was the last place she wanted to be right now.
She placed her bag in the living room and took a seat on the couch, thinking things through as Marcus began to get his photography equipment from the car and she couldn’t deny that she appreciated the space and time to think but she was also glad when he returned to her, asking her if she was alright. A faint smile attempted to appear upon her lips and she nodded almost vacantly. “I am fine. I am sorry you had to see that.” She said, shaking her head. “He just had no right to be there and I just snapped.”
Marcus wished he didn't have to let Alexandria defend him, but this was her house and it was her father and he didn't want to overstep his boundaries by saying something he would regret. As it turned out, though, she wound up saying most of what he had been thinking. He still wouldn't have felt right to talk to harshly to a man he only knew from the news, though. So he stayed silent as she told her father off.
Then suddenly her hand was in his again and she was dragging him to what appeared to be her room. Her father's voice got even louder as she walked away from him. Once they were in her room, Marcus watched her grab some clothes and other necessities, shoving them into a bag angrily.
Marcus wished he had time to observe her place properly, but all the commotion prevented him from even noticing the color of the walls in her bedroom. Minutes later, she seemed ready to leave. Marcus couldn't blame her. There were so many secrets and low blows being passed around that he didn't understand and the tension was so high he could almost feel it in the air.
Marcus let her take his hand again and she led him back outside with her father trailing after them, wanting to berate her further. Marcus broke away from her to fish out his keys before she even asked if they could leave. She didn't have to ask him twice. Together they climbed in and Marcus pulled away from the scene. Halfway down the street he looked in the rear view mirror to see her father standing there on her driveway fuming. Then he turned the corner and he was gone.
"Well, that was significantly terrifying," he said, trying to lighten the mood. "Do you think I made a good first impression?" The joke was lame, he knew, but he just wanted her to know that he wasn't going to be affected by any of this. And as if to prove it, he reached over for her hand, this time knowing he was doing so. He brought her fingers to his lips to kiss as he drove.
There wasn't much he could say on the subject since he was unfamiliar with her father and their relationship. Of course he had seen the man in the news, but that was the problem. The news wasn't always right. Of course he would know that. His job wasn't exactly in news, but he still provided people information about others and the lines crossed as some point.
Marcus let the silence hang in the air on the drive back to his place. He wanted her to process what had happened in her own time and in her own way. Every once in a while he looked behind them in the mirror to make sure they weren't being followed. Either her father or the paparazzi could have been stalking them, but Marcus found no evidence.
He was glad that they were going to his place. No one of significance knew where he lived, so they wouldn't expect to see cameras in the bushes. He was glad that he could at least give her that.
When they pulled up outside of his house finally, they got out and grabbed their bags from earlier. Alexandria slung the bag with her things over her shoulder as well. After unlocking the door and tossing his things inside, he went back to the car to retrieve his photography gear. He brought it all back to his room to put in their respectful places before returning to Alexandria.
Finally, he decided he would ask. "You alright?"
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