Remembered Kisses: Chapter 10: Tattered Edges

“I know losing her was hard,” Sam said.  They sat in the small, cramped study of his apartment, on
old wickerwork chairs padded with old green cushions. “It’s always hard to lose someone.”

“Is it?”  Marcus said, not looking at him.  There was a lit cigarette in his hand and he watched the smoke slowly trail upwards towards the corners of the room. “I had no idea.”



Sam fixed the young undergrad with a look.  “The sarcasm is unhelpful, Marcus,” he said.  “I want to talk to you.  I want to help you.  I can’t…”  He couldn’t say that this wasn’t the first time that he’d known loss to the dangers of this city. The death of Sofia’s sister, and the way it had hardened Sofia’s heart, still hurts.  It still haunts me.  How many times have I failed to protect someone?  How many times has the power of the Collegium... has my OWN power, not been enough?

“If you wanted to help, Sam, now’s the wrong time.  Could have helped a few weeks ago.”

“Marcus, there was nothing I could do.  There’s an agreement.”

“I don’t give three shits about the agreement.  Those monsters killed Kendra.  They drank her dry and no one in the god damned Collegium did a thing about it.  I thought the mages were here to help the city, not to stand by and do nothing.”

Sam glowered back, his own anger rising.  “It wasn’t like that, and you know it.  There was never any proof.  We don’t know that it was them.  They keep their hands clean of any murders, and we…”

“And you keep your hands clean of them,” Marcus spat bitterly. The smoke was all gathering by the mantle in a small cloud. “You don’t go into their dens.  You don’t investigate. You’ve got your heads in the sand, Sam, all of you, and people are dying because of it.  There was proof enough six weeks ago. Kendra died in my arms. A husk.  Drained dry.”  Marcus paused and met Sam’s gaze; his eyes were full of fire and hate. “And I couldn’t do a damned thing to help her.  I can’t sit around and watch any more: not knowing what I know now. I won’t let that happen to anyone else, ever again.”

“Marcus, if…”

“I left your bloody college.  Anything I do has nothing to do with you.”

“Without the support of the college, they’ll kill you.  You can’t take them all on alone.”

“Can’t I, Sam?”  Marcus’s eyes were hard, and the blue-white smoke coiled around his head like a dark, twisted crown. Clouds of it were everywhere in the study now, its smell heavy and thick. “Watch me.  Everything burns.”

Sam stared at him for a long time. Their eyes locked, Sam’s dark eyes staring into Marcus’s.  At last the young mage took a deep breath and looked away.  “I’m sorry, Sam,” he said, his voice low and almost broken.  “I just… I can’t.  It’s killing me.  I hear her voice at night calling for me to help.  I loved her.  I still love her, but she’s gone. The only time I can see her anymore is in my dreams.  All I have now is trying to punish the people that did this to us.  I have to act.  I have to punish them as hard as I can and make sure this never happens again.”

Sam nodded, still watching Marcus, and his own expression softened, the firm angles of his glare relaxing into worry lines.  “I understand, Marcus.  I understand the need for vengeance.  I just… I don’t think we can assume that it was the Lorenzos, just because it looks like them. They have a lot riding on the peace, too… and I like to think that even if they broke it, they wouldn’t be so sloppy about it.”

“Sloppy?”

“They let her get away.”

Marcus thought it over.  He put his cigarette out in his ash tray.  “If not them,” he said.  “Who?  Who else would drain someone like that?  Who else could? She wasn’t without protection.  I mean.  She wasn’t a mage, but…”

“But she had talent.  I know, Marcus.  I know.  And I don’t know who, but…”  Sam sighed.  “I know some people.  If you can wait, just a little, I’ll find out what I can.  I’ve already been working on it.  And Marcus?”

Marcus looked up.

“Try to relax.  You need it.  You won’t do anyone any good if you’re wiped out.”

“I’ll try, Sam.  No promises.”

Sam nodded.  Marcus stood, and put out his cigarette in the ash tray.  He met Sam’s eyes one more time, then left without saying another word.

*
He is in a bad place, Sam.

“I know, Methuselah,” Sam said. He knew who it was, of course.  Only one person (or not-person, as it were) had that same slow, perfect intonation that still somehow wasn’t words, just the memory of them.  Only one other person had been watching that conversation: only one other person could have.  Methuselah, the Genus Loci of the Dusty Covers. Reality rippled, not unlike a pond under a mild breeze, and there he was.  An older gentleman, wearing a simple style of tweed coat not unlike Sam’s own, though perhaps a few decades out of date.  Spectacles on a wizened face, and eyes the same deep oak as the bookshelves down below.  He stood there, in Sam’s study, leaning calmly on a withered walking stick.

I’m worried. When humans begin to lose grip of their sensicallity, things go awry.  You are all so rapid in your actions.  Mages worst of all.

“Hey," Sam said defensively.  "I’m a patient man. I think first before acting.”

For a time. Methuselah looked over his glasses at Sam, looking at him reprovingly.  He knew better.   And then, when you act, it’s one thing after another, and reality itself feels the ripples you cast. Though necessary to protect your proverbial flock, Samuel, your methods can be... dangerous.

“Don’t you think I know that?”  Sam asked.  He knew.  He understood.  New Tamsbridge had been a hotspot of eldritch activity since the town’s founding back in the late 18th century, the early days of the United States: probably before. The literal centuries of magic use are part one of the reason reality is so close to the Otherworld, here, Sam thought.  That and the Dead Court. He shuddered a little to think of it.  “It is part of the job of the magi.  To have the wisdom to know to act, and when not to. To speak and to be silent.”  He sighed.  “That’s harder than it sounds.”

Do you think he has much wisdom now?  Emotion corrupts reason.  Let us think of the good Mister Darcy, swayed from all logic in pursuit of the Bennet girl.  Invariably, Humans do not have reason when love is involved.

“You’re not wrong,” Sam said.  “I’m worried, too. I’ve got a couple of ideas what it might be, but… it’s all so hard to pin down.  So much was happening that night.”  He sighed and stood up. “I’m going to try to get to sleepsleep early, Methuselah. I’ve got an important meeting in the morning. Have a nice night.”

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