Disclaimer: I did do some research for this (unsurprisingly), but by no means was it nearly exhaustive. There is so much I would have had to research to do it all right that I skimmed over most of it in the story. If anyone wants to correct me, please! Do! I would greatly appreciate it.
He leaned back against the tree, his eyes closed, the beads slowly moving through his fingers while he meditated. The words echoed in his mind unconsciously, the habit of praying while meditating so long engraved in him that he did it automatically. Pater Noster, Ave Maria, Gloria Patri; Pater Noster, Ave Maria, Gloria Patri...
The real mystery was why he was still hear to think. The real mystery was why he still existed. The real mystery was how he could die in countless different and imaginative ways and yet still return as whole and as strong as he was in the beginning. The real mystery was how he had kept any sanity throuh the years.
He frowned, gripping his beads a little bit tighter.
Pray for death? Pray for purgatory? At this point, he would pray for hell if it meant he could remain dead... This was a hell in and of itself – could it be worse?
He sighed. Ora pro nobis peccatoribus...
Just one of his lives should have been declared a saint by now. He was certainly incorrupt, and he had lived through enough tribulation that it had to count for something. Was this why he was left on earth? Until he was sanctified? Until he was full of grace himself?
He despaired to ever be released from immortality then.
Ave Maria, Gloria Patri, Salve Regina...
O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria!
He sighed again, putting away his rosary and opening his eyes to look at the man that interrupted him.
"You're a soldier, not a saint, Gallo." The young man dropped to sit beside the Immortal.
"We are called to greatness."
He grimaced. "You should be in a monastery – always praying, always quiet, always alone..."
He hummed noncommittally. "A youthful indiscretion – perhaps when I am older. What did you want, Suero?"
He shrugged, and then flushed. "They're telling bawdy stories and -"
He turned to look at the boy in amusement and exasperation, reminded how very young this one was – even compared to the others on this expedition. "So if I told bawdy stories, then I could have solitary?"
"You're aspiring to sainthood, no mortal sins and all of that."
he looked away, the pang that reverberated through him at the thought of permanently dying now very muted, although it was still there. "Pray for grace yourself, child – the monastery might be a good fit even for you."
"I'm going to get married someday – have a round woman, have a house-"
"And yet you are an explorer."
The boy glared at him. "There's gold-"
"You have been listening to too many stories. We are here to bring the gospel to this New World, and to claim it for Spain. Not to get rich."
"Yes, Father Amaranto..." He almost crossed himself, but refrained at the Immortal's harsh glare. Suero rolled his eyes. "You can live in spiritual and physical poverty, Brother – I'm going to get rich."
He shook his head. "You are young. Very young," He emphasized when the boy tried to argue. "You will learn."
The Immortal had come on this expedition out of curiosity, out of boredom. Every decade, every year there always seemed to be something new being discovered or brought into existence – but a new world? A new land, untouched by any of Rome's influence?
He was almost dying to see it, to explore it. He toyed with the idea of getting 'lost' on it and simply never returning to Europe. But he knew that even he needed civilised company, and he resigned himself to have to leave this new land soon.
As he looked around, he knew that he would come back. There was something clean about this new world – something untarnished. There were no bad memories associated with the trees or landmarks, and the Immortal imagined living somewhere where he could make joyful memories for once.
And then he got a fever.
The Immortal wanted to find Lady Fortune and strangle her for giving him the worst hand of chance in the history of time.
But he couldn't. So he prayed and meditated and stumbled through each day until he was constantly burning and freezing and he couldn't see straight.
"You need to rest, Gallo."
"I'm fine, Suero."
"You aren't. You're burning up-"
"Don't touch me," He grit out, trying to slap the boy's hand away.
"I'm not going to-"
"I will be fine. You don't need to get sick too." He weakly tried to pull his blanket tighter around him, tried in vain to get any heat.
"It's not that bad – it's just-"
"José Suero. If you touch me I will kill you." He opened his eyes, staring at the boy; and he sighed in hurt and relief when the other flinched and then backed down at the look of certainty he saw in the Immortal's eyes.
"Have it your way." He threw his hands up and stood, walking away. "If you want to die in your bed of misery alone..."
The Immortal almost smiled as Suero left him, but then he closed his eyes again and let himself doze off – only paying attention to his surroundings enough to keep everyone away.
He woke up again sometime in the night, feeling himself slipping into delirium. He could feel himself losing control of his faculties, and he knew that he was going to die.
And come alive.
He stumbled upright, somehow staying quiet. He had to protect his secret – he had to die somewhere else. That thought filled his mind, pulled him out of bed and out of camp. He could feel the pistol in his hand, and the dagger still hanging from his belt; and he pulled his blanket tighter around him as he stumbled over a log and fell to his knees.
He had to get out. He had to die. He had to get away.
Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiscant in pace...
"Gallo – where are you going?"
Fear twisted in him as he left the camp, as he heard Suero's voice behind him.
"You're sick – come back here! Come back to camp."
He shook his head blindly. He couldn't let them know – he had to die somewhere else. He had to get somewhere safe. He would find his way back from the water...
"You're going crazy – come on back! We'll take a few days off, get some rest – Gallo!"
Deus det nobis suam pacem, et vitam æternum...
There was crashing behind him, and then Suero ran up and grabbed the Immortal's arm to turn him around.
He struggled free of the hold, panic overtaking him.
The mortal fell back, and a crack echoed in the Immortal's head as the boy hit his head on a rock. He looked down at the human, blindly taking in the blood and lax expression. Iron filled the air, and some part of him noted that Duero was or would be dead. Part of him wanted to take it back – wanted to help the boy.
But he hadn't seen the Immortal die. And part of him was glad for that.
He turned and stumbled away again, getting lost in the woods.
He couldn't be seen. He had to get away – was it safe yet? Could he die?
His foot fell in a hole and there was a crack as his ankle broke; and he screamed.
The world went black for a moment and when he came to again, he was lying on his back struggling to breathe.
He had to die. He was alone – he had to die now.
He pulled the knife out with shaking fingers.
He was safe now. He could die.
Dona mei requiem.
He broke the surface of the water with a desperate gasp, coughing as he inhaled drops of water. He treaded water for a moment, getting his breath before looking around.
The spring he was in was icy, but clean, and as he turned to the closest shore and started swimming he was glad he wasn't going to immediately die from some infection.
Or reptile attack, he added as he remembered the 'logs' he had seen in the swamps that looked similar to the crocodiles of Africa and Egypt. That had been a horrible way to die, and not one he wanted to repeat. Ever.
He crawled out onto the bank, and shivered as a breeze blew over him. He closed his eyes and sighed in exasperation as he wondered – for the millionth time – why he had to come back sans clothing.
Muttering himself about how immortality was itself a burden, that it didn't have to be made worse by having to try to find his way through unexplored countries without any garments, hoping he was wandering towards some camp or structure before he died of exposure again; and that whatever powers that were keeping him alive surely had better things to do.
His mutterings didn't stop, and only grew more explicit and audible when he stepped on a sharp rock and then stubbed his toe before gingerly picking through the woods.
Gallo had given up finding any form of civilisation before he died when two days had bassed and the only thing he had learnt was that briars were attracted to human flesh.
And that he got more sarcastic as time went by.
But between running off in delirium, and then killing himself to reappear in a spring somewhere, he had no idea where he was, or how far he was from the expedition's camp. He only knew that he was aching and bruised and bleeding and he was shivering again and would not survive another night.
Absently, he compared it to Europe, where he could just walk in a direction for a while and eventually he would come to a cottage or a herder and he would be clothed and fed and warmed. He missed that. He missed the heavy cloth of the cassock and the woolen tunics and hose.
He missed clothes, and again he berated his Curse.
he flinched, and froze to realise that he had collapsed to the ground and hadn't heard the approach of feet. He blinked as he finally registered his name, and then he frowned in confusion as he looked up at the man that was pulling out a blanket to wrap around him.
"...Gomez?" He coughed, looking over the man.
"You wandered off in your delirium, and Suero cracked his skull while looking for you. We thought for certain you were dead just for the fever in your head."
He frowned. "Seuro is...?"
He automatically crossed himself. "How did you find me?"
"We weren't looking – you were comended to our blessed Lord. We just...found you here." He set about making a fire as he waited for the rest of the expedition to catch up.
The Immortal, pulled the blanket closer, relaxing again as he realised he might survive this.
"How did you get better? You were a dead man already, Gallo – it is a miracle."
"A...miracle. Yes..." he frowned.
"You were muttering about water when you left – was there a spring? A fountain that healed you?"
"This isn't a magical land, Gomez." He chided.
"But you are healed! And in your right mind!"
"Something you and your superstitions will ruin."
"It was a miracle."
He frowned at the glint in the man's eye, and mentally resolved to take the first ship back to the Old World as soon as he could. He would rather be bored than be here.
Charles carefully closed the history book and then stood, crossing the room to the fireplace.
"What are you – Why are you burning that?" Abigail quickly stood, crossing the room to rescue the American History book he was tearing up. "Charles..."
"I refuse to listen to that story one more time." His teeth were clenched together.
"The bloody Fountain of Youth and Ponce de Leon! He wasn't there for superstition – he was there to claim Florida for Christianity and for Spain – not some-" His words broke off in a strangled growl.
She stared down at him in bemusement. The room was quiet for a while as the rest of the book burnt to ashes, and then the Immortal stood with a satisfied nod.
"Charles, you wouldn't have anything to do with that legend, would you?"
He groaned, crossing to his chair and sinking down in it. "I really ought to be canonised by now..."
AN: Written for radpineapple. She requested a story where Adam had something to do with the Fountain of Youth.
Originally, Suero was supposed to find him, but that didn't fit the story right. And Adam doesn't entirely have a problem with death so... It stayed.
Amaranto Gallo means 'unfading proud man'.