Eternity's Smile

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Summary

What is time but an illusion? For Georgiana, it's much more real and presents her with a choice. Georgiana Henley had always been a mystery to anyone that met her, centuries of life had wrapped her in almost unending layers of complexity. Unraveling her secrets, or at least some of them, had led him to where he stood with her here and he wouldn’t change a thing.

Genre:
Fantasy / Romance
Author:
JustWatchMeFly
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
1
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
16+

Chapter 1

Cemeteries were like museums to her, the cold marble of a headstone just as beautiful and moving as the most grandiose statue; while museums made her sad in the way a graveyard might do for others. Looking at history laid out in clean halls and quiet rooms made her heart ache, for she knew how sordid and colorful the past really was, that it was deafening and never silent. Few shared her thoughts, though some had tried, a chosen few ever really came close to understanding her.

Liam watched the slender blonde as they stood there in the stone forest of grave markers, her eyes unfocused as her mind drifted. He wondered how she did it, something in her quiet yet vibrant spirit had the ability to make the time they shared stretch out and stop. He’d always been the dreamer and romantic out of him and his twin, but he’d never expected this.

Georgiana Henley had always been a mystery to anyone that met her, centuries of life had wrapped her in almost unending layers of complexity. Unraveling her secrets, or at least some of them, had led him to where he stood with her here and he wouldn’t change a thing.

“Is this the place Georgie?” he asked carefully, not wanting to upset her but wanting to give her a chance to say what was running through her mind.

When she had sat down across from him that night in the bar almost a year ago, he’d been having possibly one of the worst ones in a long while. His brother Scott had offered to set him up with someone that a mutual friend knew, he was always trying to help like that and he meant well by it. But things like this never worked out for Liam, so it was only par for the course that he should have been stood up that night, the fifth time it had happened in the span of four months. What he hadn’t counted on was a soft voice belonging to an even softer smile breaking him out of his embarrassment and asking him if he’d like to go find a better spot to have dinner. For something so spontaneous, he couldn’t have been more shocked at how well the night had gone along with the budding relationship that followed. And as she had expressed many times, it was one of the best decisions she’d made in decades.

“Georgie,” he said gently, pulling out of his own reminiscing and returning his focus to her.

For a moment only the wind answered him, a lonely whisper that swept across him as he began to wonder if coming here with her was truly a good idea, but she had wanted him to come so he did. He worried that perhaps it would just make her sad, what he’d learned of her past had him wanting to do anything he could to stay tragedy from her heart.

Liam still didn’t understand how fate could be so twisted as to bring them together, both a joy and a sorrow she was already preparing for.

~*~

The busy Florentine marketplace was no different than any other and after several hours of it Georgiana had had her fill, it was time to go home.

In her thoughts of what she would say in today’s journal entry she momentarily lost sight of where she was going and bumped shoulders with someone.

Before she could even apologize a sharp voice broke through the din of the busy market, “You should keep your gaze alert Signorina.”

The contrite words died on her lips as she saw the derision in the man’s eyes, he deserved no apology from her even if she had caused him to drop his parcels.

A cursory glance informed her that he was one of the young up and coming artists in Florence, if the bristles of brushes sticking out of one of the packages was any indication. One by the name of Leonardo if she remembered correctly, he was in high standing with the Medici along with a few others and all of them had egos bigger than any canvas they could hope to paint in their lifetime.

“Apologies Signor don’t let me hold you up any longer,” she replied, the lack of genuineness clear in her tone.

His brow furrowed, and he shot back, “You should have more respect for me girl.”

Girl? She was most certainly not a mere girl, three hundred years ago that might have been true but now she had long outgrown such a term even if she still looked like one. She had stopped aging at twenty-four, not a line of grey in her hair or on her face. And even when she had been truly young she’d never quite looked as old as she was, it didn’t help in cases like this when men who thought too highly of themselves decided that she was a child in need of their opinions. She rarely wanted them and unfortunately while society had advanced, the minds of men in regard to women hadn’t changed much.

“I give respect to whom I believe has earned it, you Signor da Vinci, as so far as I can tell haven’t done so,” she said, a tartness to her voice that indicated finality in her stance on the matter.

A look of astonishment at her lack of deference to him crossed his face before turning to one of irritation, as he stepped closer.

“Your father won’t be able to pay someone enough to marry you, a tongue like that will assure it.”

For some reason she found that humorous in a dark way, so she started snickering.

“My father has been dead for over three centuries, so no he won’t,” she managed after a moment, having very much enjoyed the look on his face as she’d laughed at him.

It was a challenge not to start laughing anew as his eyes widened, looking at her as if she might be mad. But sharp brown met stormy blue and in an instant his demeanor changed.

“You aren’t insane,” he stated, as if already knowing it to be true. “But you are a very good liar, it almost looks like you’re telling the truth. How old are you truly?”

Georgiana rolled her eyes at that and turned to leave, calling over her shoulder, “You should never ask a lady her age Signor, it’s simply indecent.”

With that she walked away, a satisfied smile finding its way on her face.

That day marked the beginning of many chance meetings between the two of them, it was almost a game to them both.

The meetings in the market became commonplace, and he would challenge her at every turn, something about the honesty in her eyes at things that were impossible driving him mad. She knew things that didn’t make sense, levels of detail that could only come from living through things, recall of things said by people long dead. She in so many words without ever saying outright wove the story of a life that had lasted for centuries and had no sign of stopping.

Georgiana always smiled that soft knowing smile when he called her Florence’s best liar, suggesting that if it were possible she should become a politician.

Public meetings turned to an invitation to his studio to look at some new sketches, and then another one to view a statue he was working on, all the while their debates continued with even more color to them.

She knew he just wanted to win and prove himself right, but she never changed her story. When she asked herself why she kept coming back, the answer was that she felt truly seen by him, once she looked past his arrogance and ambition there was a man that could appreciate her for what she was.

“You’ve not once ever stumbled in yourself Signorina,” he said, the afternoons sun filtering in through the window of his studio on one of the many days she was there.

Taking a moment to answer, she just looked at him playfully, raising a brow.

“Did you expect me to, after all this time?”

Shaking his head, he stood and slowly began to cross the room to where she was standing.

“For a time I waited for you to catch yourself in your own web, but in the past five months you’ve only created more of a mystery around yourself.”

The way he watched her was like that of cat. The artist started to circle her, each time bringing him closer.

“You infuriate me, nothing about you fits quite right.”

Eyes sparking, she started to reply, but he cut her off.

“Every woman I’ve ever come across is the same, nothing in their heads of substance.”

Another sweep around, his eyes never leaving her.

“I’ve never met a mind like yours and I’ve come to a conclusion about you,” he said, stopping finally in front of her.

The air between them was thicker, and she could feel her heartbeat in her ears as she inclined her head.

“Oh, what’s that?” she asked.

Moving his hand to touch her face, eyes calculating as his gaze never wavered from hers he said, “That you must be an anomaly of time put in my life to torment me.”

“You believe me,” she said softly, the smile that haunted his dreams appearing once more.

He replied by doing what he had thought of many nights and kissed her.

What they were playing for, neither really knew but the dance of two parched intellects became one that dominated the dancefloor of their lives.

~*~

Finally answering him she said, “No, he’s buried in France.” Looking back at him she sighed. “But this is where I feel him the most, before he was what history remembers, he was but a man and not even the best of them then.”

Standing there with her in the heart of Florence, he squinted as the grey dawn of the morning glinted off the headstones. None of them belonged to the one who she came to remember, but she had walked by this place with him so many years ago that it felt only right to be here on the five hundredth anniversary of his death she had said.

Liam didn’t pretend to understand what it must be like, but he would stand here and listen even if it took days. He would do anything for her, and more than anything he wanted to find a way to wash away the sadness that echoed in the soft blue eyes he had come to love so.

Nothing about Liam Mason was special, at least not to him; he found himself to be ordinary in so many ways. A humble high school history teacher that thought tweed jackets with elbow patches were fashionable and good dinner conversation consisted of the sociopolitical effects of the Crimean War. His brother had always been the interesting one, more outgoing and good at sports Scott had always had better luck in relationships. While identical in appearance the two of them couldn’t be more different and Liam had always been the shyer one. He lived an unassuming life of going to school to teach kids about things few really cared about anymore, and he loved it. One day he aspired to become a college professor, normal, and possibly even dull was very much how one would describe him.

But she believed otherwise even if he didn’t understand it.

His Georgie had loved many times, it was something she’d chosen to let herself have even if it always cost her dearly. She’d never hidden it from him when he had started asking the awkward questions one does at the start of a relationship. Every question he’d had, she answered honestly. Or as honestly as she could before she had told him the full truth.

What a bombshell that had been…

He and Georgie had been dating for almost five months when he started to notice something very peculiar. He’d been doing some side research on Jane Austen for one of his favorite students who had been curious if the author had had any close friends, so in looking for more information he’d come across something that stumped him. There were very few drawings of her but in the past several years a few more had come to light and in one there was a girl with the authoress. A girl that bore a striking resemblance to Georgie.

Laughing it off as an odd coincidence that he’d have to mention to his girlfriend later, he went back to his own work and brushed it aside. It was later in the week that something struck him as truly odd, in his dissertation research on the history of pictorial documentation of European royalty he found another likeness of her from an entirely different era and part of the world. A painting of the Queen of Denmark and her ladies maids, she was there sitting at the queen’s feet, the same longing look he’d seen many a time as she gazed out the window.

At first, he’d thought it was just his own growing feelings for her that was causing him to see her everywhere but that proved wrong when he found another, this time a painting of Queen Victoria at one of Shakespeare’s plays. She was in the audience watching intently, as if she knew the people on stage.

It was the strangest thing, perhaps she just had a very interesting family history and women in her family all looked very similar to each other?

The final straw was when a copy of one of Da Vinci’s lost sketchbooks had been digitalized for public viewing and upon pouring over it eagerly that Liam found a crumpled looking sketch of his girlfriend in perfect detail.

It could have been any woman that the legendary artist had drawn but looking at it Liam knew it was Georgie. The sketch was of the profile of a girl draped in a sheet with her shoulders showing, just the hint of a smile on her face. It didn’t seem like anything special until he noticed the birthmark drawn on the left shoulder that reached across her back like a spattering of stars.

He’d seen it many times and would know it anywhere, it was the shoulder he had kissed affectionately many times as he laughed and told her she was made of stardust.

Why was it was here, all the intricacies replicated as if the long dead genius had seen it like he had?

After almost driving himself mad trying to figure it all out, Liam finally approached her about it and she just took his hand and began to tell a story unlike any he’d ever heard.

~*~

“Ana don’t move the light is hitting you just right.”

She smiled at his pet name for her, pulling the sheet closer around her as Leonardo began to sketch on the canvas she had helped him stretch.

“You ebb and flow like the tide, raw beauty and untamable spirit. It must be documented,” he exclaimed, his charcoal scratching passionately as the morning sun kissed her face.

“But you’ve done so, many times. Why another painting Leo,” she asked, not really complaining as he smirked and set his charcoal down and came to lean over her.

“Because you are my muse, my mystery and unending puzzle,” he murmured, eyes that oftentimes were bright with an idea were now almost cold in nature, analytical as he studied her. He was always studying something, his mind never stopped.

She wouldn’t be surprised if he was remembered long after his time had passed.

Her relationship with Leonardo had become more than she had expected, one that she knew was growing into a love for the brilliant inventor.

They had been playing this game for almost two years now and Georgiana was beginning to think that things with him were evolving into something more. She knew he wasn’t going to marry her, he wasn’t interested in that. Deep down she even knew his physical fascination in her stemmed from a burning desire to understand why she was the way she was. He was not a man of passion in that way, his intellectual pursuits were where his true passion made their bed. She knew their debates and conversations held his interests far more than her body did, and for what she had with him that was alright with her. She had learned to appreciate love when she found it, and for the many lifetimes and loves she had known, if she had the opportunity to truly love and be loved she’d not pass it up.

It had been so long since someone had believed her, even longer since anyone had valued her mind the way Leonardo seemed to do. Perhaps somedays the way she caught him looking at her was more like that of one of his science experiments rather than a lover, but she wouldn’t fault him for his ever-curious mind.

He was addictive and she couldn’t stop herself from giving in.

~*~

It was the continual choice to hang on to her humanity, to love and form relationships when in the end she always lost them that made Liam ache for her, while at the same time respect her even more.

She refused to hide it from anyone she grew very close with, they were always given the choice to stay or to leave. So she told him everything, how she had watched her family slowly fall prey to time, men that she had loved fully and children she had borne and raised die as she stood by frozen in time. The inky embrace of death took them all and then she was once more left alone when all she had wanted in her entire existence was to keep hold of someone.

He had wanted to argue, tell her that was impossible.

But she had a story to go with every picture he showed her, truth in her eyes as she spoke, and what’s more there was an ageless sadness in her that spoke volumes.

He knew it was insane but as his favorite detective in history was known to say, once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

Georgie’s truth was hard to wrap his head around but soon his own amazement won over and he found himself falling even deeper in love with the girl that had so randomly swept into his life.

Maybe it should bother him that she had been married so many times, that so many had come before him, and even that she was centuries old.

And for a time, it did but he soon came to realize that she lived every life to the fullest. And if she had chosen to have him in this one that he would be a fool to refuse her. She’d told the truth of her life to everyone who she ever decided to become involved with, that wasn’t different than any other.

But he wanted to be different.

He was sure he wasn’t the first to stubbornly tell her that he would find a way to be with her through the ages, many had done that.

What made him different was that she knew that he was the first one to make her consider closing herself off for how much she knew it was going to hurt when she lost him.

The silence in the graveyard wasn’t intrusive as he thought on how he had come to be here with her, it was comforting in a way. Coming around in front of her, he brushed a loose bit of hair out of her face as the wind lulled.

Some days he couldn’t tell what was going in her head, and he’d give almost anything to be able to.

“What was he like,” he asked, knowing that being here put her back in the days when she walked the streets of Renaissance Florence.

She paused for a moment before looking up at him.

“He was brilliant,” she whispered, catching his hand with hers in a silent gesture of needing him. “But oh, he was cold…it’s true what they say about genius, how it separates a person from the simplicity of human emotions.”

~*~

“What,” she said, having heard him perfectly fine but not believing it.

He rolled his eyes and moved close to her on the bed, tracing the line of her figure with his hand. The way he looked at her was almost reproachful, as if she shouldn’t question him.

“Think of it Ana, a child of ours would be a gift to this earth! If it were to have your longevity, my genius and talent, they could change history,” he said, ambition and hunger in his eyes.

She had told him of her past and of her children, some of whom had lived to ages unheard of, others who had gone on to live perfectly normal meaningful lives, and others still that inherited her intelligence and gone on to make a name for themselves. She never knew how they would be affected and the loss of a child never stopped being painful.

The death of her children was the only other thing that made her question if it was all worth it, the deep wrenching pain of one by one watching them die. Not all of them had even lived full lives, sickness and accident had taken some. Her last family, the kind and gentle blacksmith that she had found herself with, along with their four children were all stolen from her by the Black Death when it ravaged England. That had been what made her leave for Italy in the first place, losing them had been so sudden and she’d been unprepared to say goodbye.

Every time it was a chasm in her heart that only time seemed to lessen and even then, she never forgot.

Georgiana couldn’t die.

It had become very clear to her when she had stopped aging and her family marched on. Her mother had died at the age of twenty-four, the same age that her whole world froze. She had been young, and her father had never told her how or why it had happened, but she always thought that there had to be a connection somehow, it seemed too coincidental.

Whatever magic, miracle, or misfortune that caused her life to be unending, she didn’t know, and perhaps she never would. She had no choice but to carry on.

And so she did, even when she questioned why she had.

Watching him she could tell he was serious. For all the time they had spent together he had never once been truly interested in the act of love, taking precautions to never go very far with her, but when he looked at it in the terms of how he might extend his reach over time, he wanted her.

“Perhaps I could unlock the secret of your blood, a child could be the key to it all! Immortality Ana, something men have sought after since time first began,” he trailed off, looking at her proudly. “And I’ve found it! Ah you, my radiance, I’ve found you.”

Pulling away from him she sat up, shivering at the greedy tone in his voice.

It wasn’t so much that the idea of having a child with him was horrifying to her, not at all. It was the motivation, he wanted to unravel her and find a way to replicate it for himself and he thought a child of theirs was the answer.

She couldn’t believe that he could be so callous, did he even understand what he was asking of her?

Georgiana stood, wrapping the sheet around her and backed away from him, the realization that she had been refusing to acknowledge coming to light. Leonardo had never truly cared for her, not as she had for him. He was fascinated in the mystery of her. This should have been clear to her when he seemed so disinterested in marrying her, she was nothing more than one of his many science projects, a riddle to puzzle out.

“No,” she said softly, watching him frown as shock formed in his eyes.

“What,” he asked, confusion and irritation coloring his voice.

She closed her eyes, knowing now that she had been deluded and foolishly hopeful.

“You don’t love me; your motivation is purely selfish Leo. Children are creations of love! They are not a science experiment for you to play God with!”

This was a new kind of pain for her, she’d experienced heartbreak before but this…

This was a stinging kind of betrayal that she couldn’t help but blame herself for.

She should have listened to the nagging in the back of her head that their relationship was skewed too far to one side and not let her heart be in control.

Outrage flashed in his eyes as he also stood, watching as she started to dress.

“You are the selfish one Georgiana, very possibly you are the one being in the known world that holds such power. And you would refuse to share it? What I could do with eternity, my brilliance would never die!”

For a moment the madness of his genius shone through and she knew that what they had together was over.

Shaking her head, she looked at him sadly, tears gathering in her eyes.

“Everything must die, just as my love for you did today. No child of mine will be used for what traits of mine they might or might not have, and you cannot bottle time. No one can, not even me.”

He started to argue with her, but she cut him off before he could, “This is the last time you will ever see me, you care for only yourself and I won’t give you what you seek.”

As she left she sighed in relief when he didn’t pursue and let tears silently fall as she walked away. The sounds of yelling and crashing echoed in the early morning, followed soon after by the smell of burning canvases.

~*~

He often wondered what it was about him that she was drawn in by, when she’d known so many great men that he didn’t begin to come close to. He had his moments of insecurities, it was what their first fight had been about. He’d had trouble coming to terms with her past and understanding how she felt he could ever measure up.

He had told her that he didn’t know how to compete, for goodness sake Lord Byron had written her poetry, how was anyone supposed to follow that. He wanted to be with her, but how could he?

A shy teacher was no one, he was a no one.

At hearing this she told him that to her they were just men and not the perfect glowing ones that history made them out to be. Then her eyes had grown soft as she told him that it would be so easy to cut herself off from people and how there had been decades of time where she had. Looking in his eyes made her remember why she didn’t, the very thing that kept her going lived in them with such strength that she was drawn like moth to flame.

Hope.

He was so full of it that she had known the joy of loving him would be worth the pain of one day losing him. There was no comparison to her, and even if this was hard to swallow it was true.

Love kept her alive, to harden her heart just to save it from sorrow would be a truer death than any and she had chosen to love him.

That didn’t lessen the longing she felt to never again feel the sting of heartbreak, or the ardent desire to have something that truly lasted. There wouldn’t come a day that it did, and he knew this.

Looking at their intertwined hands, Liam wondered if the pain of loss ever crippled her. If the refusal to completely cut herself off from forming attachments and then to see them eventually severed ever made her question herself.

Glancing up at him, her lips twitched upwards ever so slightly.

“He never forgot, I think he even tried to apologize for what he did by using my smile. Though I don’t think he meant to make it famous.”

“Why come here Georgie, why remember?” he asked, not sure if he was asking about Da Vinci or about the past in general.

Looking out at the headstones once more she said, “I suppose I remember because it makes me who I am.” Turning her to face him, he watched her as she finished, saying, “We are but made of our experiences.”

The empathy in his eyes almost her undoing and without a word he wrapped his arms around her, vowing to himself and to her he would find a way to stay with her even if she didn’t believe it possible.

She loved him, that he knew and had no doubt of. But he also knew part of her was already grieving for him, she hadn’t loved this truly in centuries and he never had at all. All he could do was love her with all he had, and he had every intention of doing just that.

Pulling her closer he closed his eyes, trying to hold on to this moment.

“It makes us human,” he whispered into her hair as he held her there in the desolate cemetery.

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