Reunion and Confessions

warning: this section contains lovers reunited after a long separation. Do the math


Aurora chokes back another sob and buries her face in the curve of his neck. "It was so hard without you, stuck in that place for nine hundred years. It may as well have been nine thousand. I have ached for you, my husband; reached for you in the night. Even after centuries."

Julian holds her closer, and kisses her shoulder. "I lost myself in the Forest of Arden. I made it my home, in part, because of you. You were never far from my heart, even if I tried to bury you in my mind." He turns his head, and kisses the side of her neck, inhaling her scent with a long breath, and closing his eyes to remember how her hair used to tickle his skin. He whispers, his breath warm across her ear, "You're still so warm." His hand runs through her hair, as he clutches her to him. Softly, he tells her whatever comes to mind, as he tries to make sense of — everything. "I went back, you know, back to Huntingdon."

She stills in his arms, and after a moment, lifts her head to look into his eyes. The grief in her eyes is as raw as if it were yesterday. "Oh, Julian," she whispers. "I tried so hard. I was willing to try anything, but it didn't matter what I did. I cursed and begged and prayed, tore that library apart — and in the end — all I could do was hold him."

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Julian's lips twitch slightly, and for a brief moment, he is tossed back to that very day. Aurora's 'death' had been hard enough, compounded by the loss of his Son, Alexander, it was a weight so punishing, that it largely put an end to his Shadow explorations. Certainly, Julian never dwelled in Shadow again, Arden became the home he constantly returned to; Shadow was just a place to visit. "Oh, Aurora, I know that you did everything you could." His hand gently cups her face, "I should have been there, I do not know what could have been done. I didn't know. I returned to get him when he should have been Twenty-five, I wanted to see my — our — beautiful boy. I thought you would live on in him, I had so many hopes." Julian stops himself, these were old thoughts, old feelings, and they had been kept to himself for centuries. He had never even told Gerard. Julian clenched his jaw, feeling caught between overwhelming emotion and the reflexive instinct not to appear weak before anyone. His lips tremble, however, showing Aurora that it is a battle he is losing.

Aurora could see it in him. She gently kissed his forehead before wrapping her arms around him again, this time in a comforting hug. She carded her fingers through his hair. "I'm so sorry, beloved," she whispered tightly. "I had those same hopes. He was beautiful, Julian. He looked so much like you. I saw you in his smile, in the way he held his bow, the line of his jaw and the way he sat his horse." She laughed shortly, softly. "The look he would get on his face when he had to deal with stupidity was so very you. You would have been so proud of him, and I made sure he knew that."

"It's not your fault, I should have been there. I never suspected that you were — you aged — and I thought I was doing what was best." She kisses him, and hugs him, and it is his turn to bury his face in the crook of her neck, hiding there as his legs simply fold under him. He keeps her there on his lap, breathing her presence in, and holding on to her tightly, feeling like a man in a storm tossed sea with Aurora his life preserver. "I was always so proud of him. Always." His voice is now a hoarse whisper, "John named his sons for me and for Alexander. I saw the mausoleum. I read your letters." Julian's hands move over her back, following her curves, as if making sure she would not fade away like a mirage. He straightens suddenly, and meets Aurora's eyes, before whispering words that only Aurora would ever hear from him. "I am sorry, Aurora. Terribly. Had I but known — I would have left with you both. I am so sorry."

"It is no more your fault then mine, my husband," she said quietly. "My aging was a spell. One of the first I taught myself in that world." She stroked his cheek, down the strong jaw line that had once been hidden under his beard. "We didn't know. I had been alone in the world for almost a century when I met you, and I was just a child when I was put there. I didn't even know what I was." She kisses him again, her hands never leaving him. Suddenly she stills and pulls back. Her hand tilts his chin up and there is a light of hope in her eyes.

"Julian," she breathes. "He may — it's possible. They may have picked him up and cocooned him. Like they did us. The AI on my ship told me awhile back there were over 15,000 of those things. Some were in Amber; some were recently uncovered at Ygg. There may be more here. He may be on my ship." So excited by the idea was she, that she completely forgot that the world was far more advanced then Julian could possibly know.

Julian regards Aurora silently for a long moment, and then says, "I have no idea what you are talking about." Then he kisses her again, delaying any further explanation or illumination. His hands slide into her hair as he does so. He cradles her to one side in his arms, kissing her hungrily. He lifts his lips from hers, and gazes into her eyes. "You are alone no longer. I do not know what has happened, or how I am here in the Far Far South of things, but I will not leave your side again. Nor will I let you leave mine." He kisses her again, punctuating his sincerity.

Just like before, he completely makes her forget what she was saying. Or even thinking. When next he breaks away, she has that slightly glazed look in her eyes. "Oui, mon Julian," she breathes. "Pour toujours et partout."

Julian caresses her cheek, and finally manages a small smile, a thing that is far more rare than it ever used to be. "Always, my Wife. Always." He kisses her lightly, and adds, "I think we have much to tell each other." He runs his fingers through her hair, taking his time to remember the feel of it, and the way it curls. "I do not want to grasp at straws where our Son is concerned, it would just be — too much, but I did fall out of a cocoon. Another held my armor, the bow and arrows, and the hunting horn that called you to me." Julian's lips brush hers again, "Where are we? What are these crystal cocoons?"

She makes a small mewling sound that might be disappointment, but she answers him anyway. "Mandorways," she answers quietly. "In Chaos. But it is not a Chaos you will recognize, my darling. Nor is Amber." Her hands pluck at the leather straps and metal buckles of his armor even as the formfitting suit she is wearing morphs into something cooler for the heat they are holding their conversation in; tan cargo pants and an forest green wife-beater shirt. "Aren't you hot in that?" She continues without waiting for an answer, her hands touching him constantly.

Julian raises an eyebrow as her clothes transform, but he does not seem terribly surprised. He shifts her back a bit, and helps her with his armor. "Yes. I have long since become used to wearing armor in all manner of climates. If this is still my armor, like your clothes, it holds magic." He kisses her, and then listens to her answers. He touches her just as often, his hands, more callused than she remembers, caress over hers and along her arms in slow appreciation of the softness of her skin.

Now that her arms are bare, he can see plainly that she is more defined then she had been back in Huntingdon a lifetime ago. Muscles rippled as she moved her arms and under the soft skin were the muscles of an archer, and someone who had more then a passing knowledge of hand to hand combat. Her eyes flutter closed briefly at the feel of his hands on her now exposed skin. It takes her a moment to continue.

"According to witnesses and records, Chaos and Amber were again at war. Someone on this end developed a biological weapon that got away from them. A plague. Once they realized it was going to take out everyone, a group made up of Amberites and Chaosians developed this crystal technology. It's very advanced tech. It allowed them to travel between shadows, dimensions, and times. They collected us at the moments of our deaths, encased us in crystal cocoons and brought us to this dimension. Our time in the cocoons healed us, repaired any damage we had accrued over our lifetimes. When the first of us woke up in Amber, it was not an Amber anyone recognized. I had never seen it, so I didn't know. But it was reduced to an island; most of it was underwater. It's been raised since then, but it sat for 5,000 years as a shell of what it once was."

"Time flows different in Chaos. Here it has been 50,000 years since civilization fell."

He does not comment as she speaks, but by the time she is done, he leans back on his hands, apparently stunned. "Amber is — gone? Five thousand years. That can't be. I was fighting Finndo, my Brother — shot me. I remember going over the Falls." Julian shook his head, "How is it you are still alive, Love? Cocoons. Plague. We must go to Amber. What of Arden? My brothers, Caine and Gerard?" He is clearly at a loss, his hand cups the side of her face. "Is there any chance at all that you are wrong?"

She looks at him silently and shakes her head as she sets aside another piece of his armor. "No. I can have the AI on the ship when we get back to it tell it all to you again. It was there; what I'm telling you is only second hand. I have not seen a Gerard yet, but that doesn't mean anything. There is a Caine in Amber, but based on things I have heard him say, I am not certain he is your Caine." She reaches up and cups his face in her hands as he had her.

"Julian. I know this will be difficult. It was difficult for the others who had known Amber to hear and accept. But there is more then one Amber. Listen to me; this dimension is the one I was born in. But it is not the one we met in. My father moved his children not just out into Shadow, but into a different dimension altogether for our safety. It's why we could never find the way home. The Amber that we go to from here will not be the Amber of your birth and death. I am not certain you can return to that one. If you can, I will go with you, for you are my husband and my life. But if you cannot, for whatever reason, we can make our new life here. I don't care as long as I'm with you."

"Difficult? I — I passed centuries defending Amber, and it seems I died in her service. To what end? For a plague to take Her and my Brother's from me?" Julian shakes his head, "I do not think I can grasp it, Aurora. It's like those silver trout I used to catch with my hands, when — when Alex was just knee high — it is too slippery, too large almost." He helps her remove another bit of his armor, and then, with then lifts the scale shirt over his head, placing it beside him with the rest of his armor, leaving only his under-tunic, with the quilted padding of the shoulders and chest.

She smiles reassuringly shifting in his lap again so she could remove the too heavy for this weather undertunic. Aurora leans forward and kisses him again. "I know, dearest. It is a lot to take in at once. There is still so much to tell you. But for now, perhaps we should put aside questions of dimensions until we are back where we can access my ship's library. Most of what you need to know is there."

"Dimensions? Then — perhaps my Amber persists? Aurora, you must see Arden — my Forest — it must have survived, there were trees older than we are, or were, great trees. I built my house among them, above the earth, with four mighty redwoods as the pillars. I kept our sketchbook, all this time, it had to be handled delicately, but I kept it." He pauses, and takes a breath. He has not spoken so many words all at once in a terribly long lifetime. "Aurora, even that is lost now." Julian shakes his head again, "It is so much. Five thousand years. I remember my battle with Finndo as if I had only taken a nap…" He meets her eyes, his own pale blue gaze is filled with a sense of loss that he cannot fully understand yet. "You are the only thing I can be sure of."

"I love you. Now that we have been given this second chance, my place is with you. Nothing will change that. You can be certain of me, beloved. Always. Circumstances in that prison of a shadow forced certain accommodations, but my heart was always yours. As it is now." She drops his tunic atop his pile of armor and presses herself against his now bare chest as she enfolds him in her arms again, her hands smoothing over the planes of his back possessively. From the curve of his neck down to the slope of his broad shoulder, she leaves a trail of warm kisses, savoring the taste and feel of his skin. "I would love to see your Arden," she said lowly. "For you to love it so, it must be magnificent. The one here, it had to be replanted."

Julian caresses her cheek, barely noticing the loss of his tunic. "Te Amo." He echoes her sentiment in Latin, and kisses her bare shoulder. "I do not know what we will find in the days ahead, but I will not leave you behind again. We were both young, let there be no more apologies or explanations." He sighs softly as her hands smooth over his skin, and through the hair across his chest. She kisses him and his eyes close, as her lips brush over his skin along the side of his neck. He growls softly, and gathers her close. "Aurora." Julian gathers enough of his wits to offer, "I loved it because I knew that you would, because it reminded me of You and our Son, in a quiet way. It was like a grand Sherwood." He hisses, "Replanted." The word manages to convey his shock, but the concern fades before the bright light of her presence and her touch.

He kisses her deeply, lingeringly, his hands smoothing over the curves of her lithe form.

All thoughts of everything again fled her mind. Being with him again, having his arms around her, having him kiss her in that way that no one else had ever managed, it made staying right where they were, in their own little world, very tempting. She had always felt safest in his arms, and now she feels like she has finally come home. Her hands splay across his shoulder blades; one of them followed the path of his spine downward. She pulls back from the kiss to nip gently at his lower lip. "Faites-l'amour moi, Julian," she breathed before kissing him again.

Julian meets her eyes, and holds her gaze, groaning quietly when she nipped and drew on his lower lip. A part of his mind warns him that this is neither the time nor place, that there were things lurking about, that this was Chaos, and that this could wait. He ignores every protest, every mental reflex crying out for his restraint and caution. He leans forward, rolling up onto his knees, and putting Aurora on her back. He rises over and pushes his breeches down after unlacing them hastily. He kisses her deeply, his hands roaming over her body. "Make these go away." He whispers heatedly, tugging her shirt up, so he can rain kisses across her flat belly. Julian sighs, "Your scent has haunted my dreams, Aurora."

Fingers tangled in his hair, she mutters under her breath and the fabric under his hands becomes an open robe spread out beneath her. Around them shimmers a dome of pale golden light; a shield powered by Aurora's emotions and the local magical energy. She draws him up and to her. Now was not the time for slow building passions. Hers were already a fire burning in her belly. Her body arched to meet his and she moaned his name with an urgency and need so deep he could taste it in the wind.

Julian gets his breeches off the rest of the way, tossing them atop his armor, beside his boots and blade. He sighs at the feel of Aurora's fingers tangled in his hair, and when the fabric parts under his touch, he kisses her skin, his lips caressing the center of her chest. She draws him up, and he goes willingly now that the last obstacle had receded like water across her soft skin. He looks into her eyes, covering her with his body, and when Aurora rises towards him, her shapely form arching, Julian lowers himself to her. Julian enters her with a long, patient thrust, pressing her back to earth, before he rolls his hips. He shivers, and then kisses her deeply, feeling all the years fall away, as he moves within her again and again, claiming just as he had in the tower observatory, surrounded by the night sky.

Though perhaps neither noticed, at this point, a feline creature emerged from the underbrush briefly, to drop the dented silver sphere she carries in her mouth in plain view: then this creature slinks back into hiding outside the dome of pale golden light stained with dots of black, and there watches over the two humans…

She whispers his name, moans her pleasure, as expressive as he remembers. For Aurora, it's like finding a piece of her that had been missing all this time; one that she had grown so used to missing that the sudden feeling of completeness threatened to overwhelm her.

Julian moves with Aurora, finding their rhythm as if they had only been apart for a day, and not a gulf of centuries. He whispers her name in response to his own, and she can feel his groans against her lips, or through his chest when he presses his body against hers. His eyes leave hers only for a kiss, whether to her lips or along the pulse in her throat. He drinks the sight of her in, the feel of her around him, and telegraphs the depth of his desire and affection with every deep, loving, intimate motion and expression. It is like returning home, and as he found on that first night long ago, he does not want to leave.

It was not long before she was bridging beneath him and shaking with the force of a release, muffling her cries in his shoulder when the intensity of emotions became too much look into his eyes.

Julian's fingers twined with hers, and when she arches towards him, feeling her climax build to a crescendo, his hands press hers to the ground, as their bodies meet. His own body arches in response, their hips grinding together as he feels her clasp him tightly in her arms, his long moan unabashedly mingling with her cries. He shakes with the power of it, and for a long moment, it is all he can do to catch his breath. When their bodies relax, as he gathers her into his arms, and rolls them over, her small form light. Julian's hands grip her bottom, holding them together as the powerful then waning aftershocks roll through them both. He holds her there, silent beneath the shimmering bubble, his fingers running gently through her hair as his breathing very slowly returns to normal.

"I have missed you," she murmurs after her own breathing has been brought under control. "Missed this. The feel of you, your scent, the sound of your heartbeat. I could stay like this forever." She sighs and pushes herself up on one hand. "But there is much left to explore here. My family's home was an offshoot of Mandorways. That is why I am here. To try and find it." Aurora leans down and kisses the line of his jaw. "That was before I learned the number of years that had passed. Now, I am not certain we will find anything. But if your cocoon was here, I should be certain no one else's is. I would hate to strand someone."

Julian nods, his fingers combing through her hair, as his other hand roams over her body. His fingertips trail over the line of her spine, and the swell of her bottom. He heaves a sigh of contentment in the moment. "That first year away was the hardest. I saw you everywhere, heard your voice." He lifts his head to kiss her lightly, "These are not thoughts I have allowed myself to experience in centuries, but in my heart, I have always missed you, wanted you, loved you." He meets her eyes when she pushes herself up. He shifts his hips slightly, one corner of his mouth curling into the ghost of a smile. "You are descended from one of the Great Houses of Chaos then?" He sighs as she kisses him, and lifts his chin to let her reach his neck more easily. "Cocoon. I am still trying to understand that. I've not a scar. Not even the ones that you knew."

She smiles then and smooths his hair back. "And we have forever this time."

"Forever." He whispers. His fingers curl into her hair, and he pulls her down for another searing kiss. When it breaks, he nuzzles her gently; "We should continue your search then."

"Always." She kisses him again before rising to her feet reluctantly. Her robe morphs back into the shirt and cargo pants from earlier. On her feet are sturdy hiking boots. Aurora offers him her hand. "I have a duel heritage, according to my Grandmother," she explains as she pulls her hair back into a high ponytail. "My father was a son of Corwin. My mother, the daughter of Fiona and Mandor."

Julian takes her hand, but he does not really need her help in standing. He rolls up to his feet, and stands with the strength in his legs alone, muscles rippling beneath his skin like those of a tiger. The years have not detracted from his previous grace, quite the opposite, if ever he seemed physically powerful and dangerous; there was something about the mantle of years that only made him more so. He is possessed of a physique that is virtually unchanged, perhaps even a touch leaner than even in the distant past, but there is something about the way he moves, and the look in his eyes, that tells Aurora her Julian has had a long and dangerous road — and come out ahead. Julian raised an eyebrow at her lineage, "All this time. What young fools we were."

"Hindsight, my love," Aurora replies and then stands on her toes to kiss his cheek. "Even with everything that happened, I would not trade those years before for anything in all the worlds."

"Yes. Hindsight." Julian leans down when she gets on her toes to kiss his cheek, "I would not give up those years either, Aurora."

"Why don't you let me change those leathers and gambeson into something more fitting for tromping through a forested oven, beloved?" Aurora lets the dome around them drop and surveys the area. "The cocoons healed everything. One day I hope to sit down and talk to Merlin about all this; the man is brilliant." She pauses as something occurs to her. "And my uncle, actually. Huh." She shakes her head and walks over to a nearby bush to pick two of its broad leaves. Aurora returns to near Julian, not wanting to be far from him for long, and drops cross legged to the ground and focuses on transfiguring the leaves into a duffel bag for his armor. "It is easier to change then to create," she explains. "After this I will deal with fresh water and something to carry it in, since I have no idea how big this place is. We were not expecting this to walk into this wildness."

Julian nods, "Very well, Aurora. I wore the armor because it was all I was provided." He surveys the area, and arranges his sword, bow, and arrow against a rock in a more organized fashion. Nude, he sees to his armor and leathers, and stacks them neatly as Aurora works her magic. "Yes, the cocoon seems to have healed all but the scars one does not show on their skin. I remember everything." He watches her sit on the ground, before simply examining their surroundings. "I will be glad not to have water for a little while. I was breathing fluid when I was roused by the sunrise." Julian glances to the sky, "You said you could scan the surroundings somehow?"

"Yes. If Ghostwheel is undamaged, he can surface scan." Aurora looks around her spot and plucks six wheat like grass stalks. "My scan will be to see if we can find more cocoons," she explains as she braids the stalks into two lengths "It is how we found them in Amber." She plucks a hair from her head and ties off the ends of the braids. "You will still need water, mon Julian. Even we get dehydrated." She looks up at him with a wholly mischievous smile. "And you will need to keep up your strength."

He stands at a deceptively casual parade rest position, assuming it more out of habit than comfort. Despite Julian's lack of armor or even clothes, he still manages to look both proud and strong enough to lead men into a battle, or to fight if necessary. He was bit pale, glistening from recent exertions, and soaking up the sun like a snake on a stone. Julian looks up at the sky, "I can show you where my cocoon was, perhaps from there your — Ghostwheel — can establish a pattern to find the others." His eyes return to Aurora, watching her do her work. "True enough." Julian raises his eyebrow, and nods. "Yes, I do want to keep that up." There was equal mischief in his eyes, and he smiles. He tilts his head, "A sorceress. You should have a look at my hunting horn. Like the bow and arrows, they were with my things, but they were not mine originally." Julian bends his knees to pick up the horn, "I have certainly owned hunting horns, but I did not bear one into my last duel."

She falls silent as the mottled green duffel forms under her hands. Aurora examines it carefully before handing it up to her husband. Her hand trails down his thigh slowly. "Clothes next for you, I think," she says huskily. "Before I forget what I'm supposed to be doing. Again."

"As you wish, Countess." Julian replies, meeting her eyes

His wife sighs and turns her attention to changing his gambeson and leathers into an outfit like hers. The t-shirt will fit him snugly but honestly, who can blame her?

He accepts the duffel and places his armor within it, balancing out the load as best as he can, and placing it near his weapons. Julian notices something out of the corner of his eye, and turns to investigate. He nods in its direction, "That silvery sphere protected you." Julian walks over to it, "Is it safe to handle? It would be a shame to leave such a loyal device here." He looks over at Aurora, "Is this your Ghostwheel?"

She comes back from wherever her thoughts had gone for a moment and scrambles to her feet to where the sphere lay. "Oh, no," she groans as she kneels beside it, running a hand over the dented surface. "I have absolutely no idea how to fix you." She sighs and picks it up. "Well, luckily they have found Merlin, so he'll know what to do when we can get to him. Assuming Ghost doesn't have an auto repair function."

Aurora places it carefully beside her own pile of gear and frowns as she picks up a black stick and looks at it carefully. "Damnation," she mutters. I should know better then to try and hurry things." She looks over at her still nude husband.

"Julian. Bring me that duffel so I can bind the transfiguration. Then get dressed before I jump you." She smiles. "Then it will take us years to get out of here."

The one-time Warder of Arden brings her the duffel as asked. "You can place the sphere in there as well, it won't be a burden. I will try to work Shadow, and perhaps find a solution for your metal friend, once we leave this place. I am not an artificer, but sometimes Shadow provides." Julian smiles slightly, "We've years to catch up on, but I will get dressed." He puts on the pants, and stamps his feet into his boots. Then he slips into the fitted tank top, and tucks it in neatly. He lifts his knees a handful of times to get a sense for how much range of motion he had, and then buckles on his swordbelt. He shrugs back into his quiver, ties the hunting horn to his belt, and then leans lightly on his bow as he waits for Aurora to finish with the duffel. "How large an area did you want to cover? Without your friend it will take a lot more time to find other cocoons, if others there are."

"No, I wasn't using him to look for cocoons," she says absently. "I will try to scan for those myself. But having him airborne and able to map out the lands of this Ways would have been very helpful." She scowled at the stick that had been her knife. "And I lost my blaster when I fell into the water. Even if I could summon it out - and I will try - it's likely unusable." She looks up at him and smiles. "You can relax, my love. Avarya is guarding us."

Julian regards his long-lost Wife with fondness in his gaze, "Blaster? Things have certainly changed." He nods, "Your feline companion? I'm afraid it will take more than her watchfulness to make me feel at ease." he smiles slightly, "Amber and Chaos made war once, and I have spent my lifetime on the hunt or in battle." Julian does take a seat across from her, however, and balances his bow across his knees. "Can your friend assume other forms? A hawk perhaps?"

"We can ask her," Aurora smiled over at him. "She was shifting wings when I started across the pool, so if not a hawk, then something that flies." She set the machete she had just transfigured across her lap and reached across for his hand. "This lifetime will perhaps be not so fraught with hunting and fighting. I intend to make certain you remember there is more to it then that."

Julian nods, "If she can, she should be able to see for quite some distance, and serve as a guide. Not as thorough as the Device, but certainly a great help." He watches her work her magic, and smiles slightly. "I have rarely seen such feats of sorcery so casually done." He takes hold of her hand, and meets her eyes. "I intend to make certain that you do." Julian glances over at the falls, "Not only was Arden Amber's defense, it blended in and out of numerous Shadows. From there would come all manner of beasts, and they often had to be hunted before they escapes the Forest. Once I returned to Amber, I went into Arden and only rarely left its green paths." He turns his eyes back to Aurora, "How did you fare after you left Huntingdon?"

Her smile fades and her eyes grow distant. "I killed that Bishop," she says distantly. "He came to tell us about your 'brave and noble exploits in the taking of the Holy City'. We had already heard tales of the whole scale slaughter, and I knew you would have had no part of it. I had already felt you leave that plane so I knew he was lying. I called him a liar and would have clawed his eyes out had not Alex come in. But that didn't stop me from cursing him in the back when he left. I blamed them for your death, you know; the Church."

Julian's eyes harden briefly, "Bloodthirsty zealots. I do not think that The Christ would want them for his representatives." He falls silent for a moment, "That the Bishop did not die well — pleases me, even after all this time."

Aurora picks up the blade and runs her palm down the backcurve. "Some of the Muslims you saved came to Huntingdon the year after I —" she takes a breath. "After Alexander died. They stayed awhile and when they left, I went with them. Back to their land. When the Muslims under Saladin retook Jerusalem in 1187, I was with them." She gave him a faint smile. "You would have liked him, I think. I had a vision that one of my brothers was near, so I went looking for him. I spent a century and half within my brother's house in Egypt before I returned to Europe. Italy. I could never go back to England. Just thinking about it made my heart hurt."

He listens and reaches out for her hand, just as she had to his a moment ago. "Did they? I was a guest in many tents. I warned those that I could, and fought only those I had to. My choices became less and less as the war raged on." Julian shakes his head, "So much learning and knowledge lost to Christian torches. I saved what I could of that as well, though my Brother, Gerard, did not thank me for the arm-loads of scrolls I dumped on him." He smiled slightly, and sighs as he recalls that his Brother may be long dead and gone, along with his Son. "I knew Jerusalem would be retaken. All that was needed was a unifying leader, I have read of Saladin, and he was indeed that." Julian's voice is quiet, the pace of his speech still patient and clear. "I did not go back to Europe either. In fact, it was a long while before I ventured into Shadow again, and I never lived in Shadow after you, after Alexander and Huntingdon."

"Would that I could have left," she says with an old bitterness that has lost much of its bite. She sighs and smiles again. "Ah, Julian; Italy in its Renaissance was a wonderful time. It was like watching the sunrise after a long, dark winter. Venice was a glory all its own. I found one of my sisters in Florence, and later another brother. I spent time in Milan and pestered the Church whenever I could, no matter where I was. I went back to Calais eventually, then Greece and eventually to America. I went to Egypt in 1922 and activated the ancient curses on the tomb of a boy king because the spectacle made by those tomb robbers offended and disgusted me. Then I went home and started a new religion."

She looks uncomfortable then. "Not all things changed; I could not attend Medici's university, and there were other places I was forbidden because of my gender or my lack of father, husband or lover. Sometimes, I had to play the courtesan, I had to marry again a few times-but the rites were lies, and I didn't love any of them, though I admired most of them. I had given you my heart and it was no longer mine to give again. I had children, but they were not immortal, just long lived. My brother believed it was because we had been cut off from our home. I think now it had something to do with being in the wrong dimension." She smiles faintly, tugging at the grass beside her. "I named my second son Julian Alexander. He was a Healer. My last son was born in 1948. Another Julian. He was going to college to major in Astro-Physics. Then he was drafted into the army to go fight in a war neither of us believed in. It was all too familiar." She sniffs and leans her head back to look up at the sky. "They sent him home to me in a box and I swore I was done with it. I couldn't take it anymore."

Aurora shifts position and hugs her knees to her chest as tears slipped down her cheeks. "More times then I can recall, I just wanted to die. So I could be with you and Alexander in the Summerlands. I never really gave much thought to the afterlife until I thought you had died; then it was all that kept me going. Even though it was something I had to do, every time another man touched me I felt dirty; like I was cheating even though I believed you dead. I didn't even care about finding a way to my family home anymore there towards the end, even though we believed we had found a way. Home to me had been with you and Alexander and I couldn't have that. Not in life. When the end came I welcomed it. It finally meant I could keep my promise to Alex and we would all be together again."

It has taken more out of her then she expected to tell him all that. She has never told anyone all of that. Aurora drops her head down to her knees and lets herself cry.

Julian listens to Aurora without interrupting her. He can see that once the door is open, it will not close until she is done speaking. At first, his expression is impassive, though he reaches out to hold her hand. His eyebrow rises when she describes founding her own religion, an action that seems so unlike the woman he knew had a distaste for organized worship. He had always understood that Aurora was an acutely intelligent woman, it was part of what made her so alluring to him. When she begins to talk about her time as a courtesan, and the children she as lost, he tilts his head slightly as he processes the information. His expression becomes sympathetic when she tells him the names of her children, and how they were lost. He gives her hand a squeeze when she gets a bit sniffly, and feels a surge of pleasure that he still knows her well enough to read the smallest motions and flickers of expression across her features.

He moves to sit beside her when she curls up, hugging her own knees, and when she is done; he pulls her into his lap and hugs her close. Julian does not try to talk to her while she cries; he just lets her get it out. He does not need to imagine the long gulf of years feeling alone, nor does he need to imagine what it feels like to think there is nothing else. He never believed in the Summerlands, to him Arden WAS the Summerlands, so the loss of Aurora and Alexander to him was irreparable. He did not think he would ever see them again. Julian had spent too long learning to hide himself behind a somewhat bemused, somewhat bored facade; but his feelings were like a storm inside him. He is dangerously happy about finding Aurora, but the feelings that finding her has stirred up have yet to be fully examined, and this was not the place to do so.

Julian nuzzled Aurora quietly, and lifts her chin from her knees. He wipes her tears away, and without saying a word, kisses her with all his love and affection, all the desire and longing he had held within himself for centuries.

She throws herself into this kiss with a near desperate abandon. Her hands again reassure her that it really is him, and he's here, and despite everything she's had to do to get to this point, he still loves her. Fingers twine in his hair and a gentle wave of her magic washes over them, making Aurora shiver in his arms. If Julian hasn't grasped the depth of his wife’s love for him before, that magical burst makes it very, very clear.

The landscape melts as Aurora unleashes unfocused and undisciplined energy: nearby trees shiver and transform into butterflies, the water briefly flows back upward across the waterfall, nearby ordinary stones start to float upwards against the force of gravity, as though the local laws of physics are not entirely stable… only the dull black crystalline rocks below the waterfall remain as they are.

Julian growls softly at the back of his throat as Aurora kisses him in return. He shivers slightly as her fingers work their way into his hair, and he groans against her lips when he feels the wave of her love and magic wash over his skin like a warm breeze. He kisses her more fervently than even a moment ago, the feeling reminding him of his early days in Arden, when every sound and caress of the wind reminded him of his Wife. He fails to notice the change in the environment, neither the water running in the wrong direction, nor the sudden storm of butterflies all around them. He would surely have been struck by their simple beauty if he had. Julian's whole attention is on Aurora; his hands roam over her back, and along her curves. He does not stop kissing her.

Once again she is facing him with her legs wrapped around his waist. She cradles his face in her palms as the kiss deepens. Completely unaware of what’s going on around them, she moans quietly and deepens the kiss. He can taste her desire on her lips, feel her undying love and affection as she presses against him, hear it all in the way her lips vibrate with her sounds of pleasure and happiness. Were it up to her it would have gone on forever. But even Amberites need to catch their breath. When she does pull back, it is only far enough to rest her forehead against his and look into his eyes.

Julian's hands caress along her bare thighs as her legs wrap around him. His soft growls and groans join and mingle with her sounds of pleasure, as he unconsciously expresses his own desire, affection, and sensual pleasure. After roving over her curves, he ultimately grips her bottom, and presses their bodies together. He remains in something of a state of shock at having found her, but she belongs in his arms, and his instincts are easily given sway where she is concerned. She calls up the oldest and best parts of himself, making it easy for him to forget the years they have been apart, and throw himself wholeheartedly into the moment. Julian kisses her hungrily, starved for the touch and feel of his long-lost Wife. When the kiss breaks, he makes a deep sound of protest, and contents himself by pressing their hips together.

"I love you, Julian. Through everything, I always loved you."

"And I love you, Aurora, and have all these many years." He kisses her lightly, "I retreated to Arden. Rangers gathered almost by accident, and in time, Oberon appointed me the Warder. When Eric took the Throne, I supported him. He was the best choice for continued peace, and I was encouraged by Gerard's choice. Under Eric, I was asked to marry a Rebman noblewoman, her name was Calypso. It was a marriage of state, when Eric died, I had it annulled with her blessing. For years I was alone, until Gwendolyn. She was one of my Rangers, a fine woman, you would have liked her I think." Julian shook his head slightly, "She aged and passed on. I buried her in Arden, under a hill, just as she asked."

Julian kisses her again, and then. "We should move on, or I will never let you stand up."

"In a bit," she replied quietly. Her thumbs traced over his cheekbones and her eyes traced over his face. "I am not ready to move yet -and, I have something more to tell you that you need to hear before we return to the Fury, and this is as good a time as any."

"After I woke up in a strange place surrounded by strangers, I was a bit..," she bites her lip thoughtfully. "Not quite myself. Truthfully, I have been out of sorts for awhile now, I think. I latched on to the two people who had gravitated to me. We were comfortable together; the son of Benedict and a daughter of Corwin. We have been in an unofficial arrangement since. I am fond of them both, but finding out Sophia is my Aunt-," she smiles crookedly. "Well, it's made it weird. I was gearing up to tell them I was moving on after this mission. But," she bites her lip again and caresses his cheek. "I have a daughter. Persephone. She's fifteen. She and Tytus were born and raised out in Shadow. I have a hard time connecting with her sometimes; she is nothing at all like I was at fifteen."

Aurora leans back a little, her expression pensive. "It would not have mattered even if it had been more then casual. You're my husband and my soul and the possessor of my heart. I belong with you. But you are a stepfather, and I didn't want to spring that on you over dinner. And, well, Kieran is on the Fury and I am going to owe him an explanation when we get back."

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Julian does not say anything, yet again. He leans gently into her touch when her thumbs caress his cheeks, and meets her eyes when she tells him there is something that he has to know. His eyebrows rise, and she already knows the she has his complete attention. He is understandably curious, as he can tell that she is very concerned about this part of her story. Julian does not think there is anything she could tell him that would change how he feels, considering the course of her life, if he was going to have a change of heart, he would have had one by now. Still, Aurora needs to say what she needs to, and so he will listen, just as he would have years ago, when something go under her skin and she would tell him all the whys and wherefores in the tower. He does not interrupt, though his expression becomes increasingly difficult to read as she gives him more and more food for thought. Today's Julian is able to raise and lower his walls with surprising alacrity, though his expression moves from bemusement to pensiveness.

When she leans back he continues to hold her gaze until she falls quiet. He continues to simply appear thoughtful, his pale blue eyes unreadable, as he silently explores Aurora's own green eyed gaze.

"Aurora, " There is a long pause, before he draws her back to him and kisses her soundly. "You are a silly woman sometimes, Wife of mine." Julian smiles slightly, his blue eyes brightening. "We were not dead. We each thought the other was. If one of us had passed in truth, would we have wanted the other to live out their lives in loneliness and darkness?" He touches her face, tracing her jawline with his fingertips. "I am not surprised that you are someone's Mother, well, other than the fact that m'Lady is remarkably fertile for a woman of her lineage and advanced years." Julian might be smirking, "I think we will leave it to Persephone whether or not I qualify as her step-father. She is your daughter, so of course she will be important to me as well. Children are especially precious to the Blood of Amber. As for your Kieran and Sophia, I leave that to you. I will support whatever decision you make in that regard."

She smiles, and the relief is bright in her green eyes. "There is no decision to make. I am your wife. With you I will always be. They'll understand." Aurora leans forward and gives him a slow and lingering kiss before continuing. "Persephone is old enough to decide where she wants to live." She chuckles. "No doubt it will be somewhere with lots of cute boys."

She cards her fingers through his hair again when she sits back a bit with obvious reluctance. "I need to spend some time binding these enchantments now. But when we get back to the Fury? I'm locking us in a cabin and get started on making up for all those lost years."

Julian smiles in return, "That is not quite what I meant, Aurora. I know that you are mine." He is about to say more, but then he is properly kissed and that silences him handily for the moment. He groans softly, the sound vibrating gently against her lips. He takes a deep breath, and sighs. "Is she? I would think her still a bit young for that. I was not truly allowed off on my own until I took the Pattern." He smiles and shrugs, "But I'm a bit of a dinosaur, am I not? A relic of another time."

"You and me both, beloved," she smiles.

He nods, "I understand, of course. You do that, I will keep watch for mutant beasts." Julian kisses her, and gets to his feet, carrying up with him easily. "A cabin with resilient furniture." He sets her on her feet, and takes a moment to run his fingers through her curly hair. "You had best get to work before I distract you again."

"Just knowing you are within reach is distracting," she replied. "But stay that close anyway."

Aurora drops down to the ground and closes her eyes to center herself. She frowns after a moment. "Searching for crystals will not be as easy as I thought. This black crystal they used here is not very friendly and blocks my scans. We will have to walk and stop so I can try again. But that is for later." She frowns again and does a double take at the landscape. "Wasn't there a tree there before?" She shrugs, not terribly concerned. "Ah, Chaos."

Julian nods, "And there are so many more butterflies now." He pauses after glancing around and picking up his bow. "They're lovely really."

Taking the duffel back into her lap, she lays her hands over it and starts the binding. Time passes as works on his bag, her harness, and machete. She pauses between each tasks just so she can kiss on her husband some more. During one of those times, she refreshes the transfiguration on his clothes. Those didn't need to be permanent, but they do need to last a bit. When she is finally done, she rises to her feet and stretches, reaching for the sky and arching her back like a cat.

He is there, accepting both duffel and kiss when she was done with the bag. By the time she is done with the rest, the bag is slung over his shoulder, the straps of the bag and the quiver making an 'X' across his chest. When she stretches, Julian is there, supporting her from behind, his arms encircling her, as he softly kisses her neck and shoulder. "Do you need a moment? I was thinking we should get to the top of the falls again, and have a look around from there. Perhaps your friend will consider a new shape."

Her head lolls to one side and an arm reaches up to caress the back of his neck. "Mmm…," she responds softly. Moments like this, she could almost forget the years that they had spent apart. She turns in his arms to face him and smiles up at him. "I want you so much right now. But we really need to get this done first." She rises to kiss him. It is a quick kiss compared to the ones they shared previously since being reunited.

Aurora turns to pick up her pack. "Avarya!" she calls.

TOCExploring the Gardens of Chaos

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