Rhodes, 224 BC
"Ana c'mere! Look at this!"
She craned her neck, searching their surroundings before following him with a sigh. "Liam, it's not-"
"'Safe for us to be out in the open,' yeah, yeah, I know. You say that everywhere we go. Don't you ever want to just stop and rest for a moment? Actually try to enjoy the era?"
She rolled her eyes. "It's not that easy, Liam."
"Sure it is," he replied. "And besides, how many times am I going to get to experience Ancient Greece first-hand?"
She sighed and looked at him, marvelling at how he practically hummed with excitement. "If we do this right, hopefully only the one time."
"Exactly. Once." He held up a finger to further his point. "Now, stop skulking, and come look at what I've found." He held out an elaborately carved ivory hair comb, decorated with inlaid gold lotus flower petals. "God, this would cost a fortune in the future."
Anastacia looked at it and felt a small smile tugging at her lips. She knew that comb well, after all. "It is...very beautiful."
Liam glanced over at her, surprised by the tender note in her voice and the almost wistful look in her eye. On the spot, he made a decision. "All right. Let's do this. How much is this, can you tell?"
"What?" She shook herself out of her daze. "Liam, there's, we can't buy it."
"Because first, we don't have any money. Second, we're already drawing enough attention as it is as foreigners, so the attention we'll get as foreigners-without-money is not the kind we want to be drawing. Third, we need…" She'd been looking at the crowd around them, spinning a slow circle when she froze, her heart in her throat. It couldn't be…
Without thinking, she moved silently, following after the black-haired boy in the too-big toga as he went from vendor to vendor. At one point, he turned his profile to her, and she realized that it hadn't been. With a dejected sigh, she turned back to grab Liam, weaving her way through the crowds as though she'd been doing it her whole life, which, in a way, she supposed she once had. She caught sight of him searching the crowds for her, and took a step forward to meet him when a soft whisper had her pausing. Her heart started thumping hard against her chest, and she almost felt as though her lungs had stopped working. Death's words to her from inside his office suddenly came rushing to the forefront of her mind. You can be happy in the future, Anastacia, or you can be angry about the past. It's your choice.
"Stacia?" the voice whispered again, this time a little bit closer.
At that moment, Liam found her, and with concern in his eyes, came walking toward her.
"Stacia?" the voice was stronger now, almost behind her, and almost against her will, she turned back, swallowing and looking at the boy--man--she once knew. The crowd parted almost cinematically, and all of a sudden there he was. "Stacia," he breathed, his eyes filled with tears and wonder.
Her heart in her throat, she almost choked when she felt a hand at her back. "Ana? Hey, what happened? You okay?"
She shook her head, swallowing but still unable to speak. Watching as he came closer, his expression darkening at the sight of Liam behind her, she took a step back, inadvertently into the circle of Liam's arm, and froze again.
Liam frowned, and looked up, trying to see what she had seen that had apparently scared her so much. He locked eyes with a man a few feet away from them, who alternately looked as though he were either about to break down sobbing, or break someone else down to sobs. "Ana, who's that? Hey, is that...I mean should we, should we be looking for an escape route right now?"
He heard her make a noise, about to speak, when suddenly the man was right in front of them, reaching out his hands towards Anastacia and looking as though his entire world was shattering and being brought back to life all at the same time. He cupped her face and pulled her gently towards him, tears welling in his eyes. "Stacia," he whispered, with a voice full of awe and wonder.
Liam saw her tense, and he watched her eyes close and her chin tremble as she pursed her lips. She breathed in, deeply, and opened her eyes, tears spilling freely over her lids as she exhaled. Carefully, gently, almost lovingly, she took the man's hands in hers, pulled them down from her face, placed a lingering kiss in each palm and slowly dropped them. She took his face in her hands and kissed him, tears running down both their faces as he closed his eyes and hugged her close to him. She pulled away, resting her forehead on his to catch her breath, before she stepped even further from his embrace. She whispered something, her eyes locked on his, her expression heart-wrenching. Liam watched as the man's eyes changed from wonder and love to confusion and heartbreak, and finally to a blankness he couldn't understand. A flash of light by Anastacia's wrist caught his eye, and Liam glanced down to see a glowing silver curl peeking out from under the edge of her long-sleeved shirt. When he looked up again, Anastacia had turned the man around to face the other way, and she started heading back towards the vendor where they had stopped earlier.
Liam followed behind her, confusion etching his brow when she reached a subtle hand out to grab the comb from the table and slipped it into the pocket of her pants. She took hold of his arm and pulled him after her. With her free hand, she swiped helplessly at the tears falling from her eyes.
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