Marcus had few relationships of import in his life.
The threads that bound him to the world were far weaker than even mere acquaintanceship. To the human secretaries, he was an employer of sorts, though with a clear deference to Aro and Caius. He was an employer merely by association, they expected nothing of him. The guards' were stronger, built up by time and familiarity, but there was also a distinct deference to Aro and Caius.
To Aro and Caius, he was bound by the memory of the man he once was, by the ever-growing distant hope that he might be that man again and an obligation to honor his memory and their once shared ideals.
To Didyme, Marcus was still bound, by a feeling he could not remember and a grief that was as eternal as it was paralyzing. Didyme, as always, had the strongest hold over his heart.
This had not changed for Marcus in over a thousand years. Those who passed through his life were merely shadows, just as he in turn must seem no more than a shadow to them.
And then, suddenly, it did.
Had he been walking, he imagined he would have paused. As it was, he had been sitting in the gardens. The sun had set and only a few hours had passed since the last lecture and as was increasingly common, Marcus was biding his time until the next one.
And hadn't that been strange? When he realized that, rather than whittling away at eternity itself in a blur, time was now divided into lecture and time spent waiting for lecture to arrive. It, far more than the desk calendar of the fat cat, helped partition his days in a way that felt wholly unfamiliar.
How long had it been when time had been divided by tasks that must be accomplished?
Regardless, he had been sitting when it occurred. The bond between him and Bella Swan, without his knowledge or input, had shifted dramatically.
Nothing, of course, had changed on his own end.
His bond with Bella Swan was not nonexistent but it was not particularly strong either. She had more distinction in his life than any of the secretaries but that was due to the circumstances. Marcus had an obligation to her, had spent enough time with her now that he could probably pick her out of a crowd if they met on a street corner, and by that distinction alone she was not one of the faceless masses.
He imagined that once she finished his course and left for America she'd fade back into the background.
Bella Swan's feelings for him though seemed to have changed significantly in the blink of an eye.
He'd suddenly been bombarded with a one-sided feeling of duty, kinship, obligation, and perhaps just a touch of fondness. It was reminiscent to the feeling of a vassal, not what anyone felt for him of course, but what some of the more devoted ones felt for Aro.
Somewhere out there Bella Swan had pledged her undying loyalty to him and meant every word of it.
He'd sat there, blinking, waiting for the bond to disappear.
For a few hours, he'd contemplated it, accepted it as a new part of his life. Apparently, he had just become Bella Swan's liege. It should have been no different than anything else that occurred in the haze that was his existence. Then the strangest thing had happened to him.
He found himself wondering what could have prompted it. He found himself turning over the week they'd spent in class together thus far, class that very morning, trying to find what could have possibly spurred this kind of a reaction.
He couldn't find an answer for the life of him but then, to his astonishment, he kept searching for one regardless.
After going over his own actions he started reviewing the little he knew of Bella Swan. And, when he managed to remember what little he knew of her, his mind started puzzling over how what little he knew contradicted this entirely.
This was a human who did not form relationships easily, someone who had openly admitted to suffering the aftereffects of her only true friendship gone wrong, and she had decided to become his vassal?
Had he asked her to become his vassal and merely forgotten about it?
Marcus would admit, his memory was not what it had once been, but that didn't sound like him.
And then Marcus realized, to his stunned amazement, that he had never spent this much time thinking about anything in a thousand years. Normally, the very thought of thinking utterly exhausted him, especially when it came to those questions which by their nature had no answer. And here he'd been, puzzling over a single issue with no answer in sight for hours.
In class, the girl gave no indication that anything had changed. Perhaps her dark eyes were a little brighter, perhaps there was a tilt of determination to her chin, but no unwarranted words passed between them.
She showed him her terrible drawings of an American film star named Brad Pitt. Marcus didn't recognize the man, but he was certain the gargoyle in her drawings was not an accurate representation.
They returned to live drawing, her results were no better than they had been the day before, then they went their separate ways.
Whatever the reason had been behind Bella Swan's sudden change towards him, she apparently had no intention of relaying it to him, nor that anything between them had changed at all.
And then it was Friday.
As studio time drew to a close, Bella stood with a sigh of exhaustion, picking up her bag and putting her jacket back on. By the look on her face, she was looking forward to a few days without class or commute.
Except, there was a flicker as she regarded him, concern if he was reading her right. He stared back impassively, watching as she paused in front of him, searching for her words.
Finally, she smiled, or tried to, "You excited for the weekend, Professor?"
"No," he replied honestly, weekends meant very little to him, they had in fact had no meaning at all until Bella had refused to resign from his class. Now they were simply the days where he did not come to this classroom.
"No?" she looked surprised, apparently that wasn't the answer he was supposed to give in this situation. He would have to try to remember that.
"Is something happening?" she pressed.
"No," he responded.
"Oh, a boring weekend then?" Bella continued, her smile even less of a smile than it was before.
"No," he said again.
Bella didn't seem to know how to take that, all pretense of pleasantness dripping from her face to leave only consternation behind, "So, something is happening then."
"No, nothing is happening," Marcus clarified, "I am neither looking forward to it nor dreading it. It's simply a weekend."
Bella blinked at him once, then twice, then muttered to herself, "Well, that was very Zen."
She then forced herself to smile and said louder, "Well, that'll be nice, I guess. I'm not really doing anything either, might go wine tasting or something. It'll be fun."
He had no idea why she was telling him her weekend plans.
Evidently, she wasn't done, "You um—be careful of suspicious people, okay?"
She looked very earnest, more so than she had before, as if this was the true purpose of her conversation.
He had nothing to say to that.
Evidently, his silence alarmed her, as she put up her hands in defense and explained, "Just, there are… people out there who sometimes don't have our best interests in mind. They're not necessarily bad they're just—scared, probably, and we should be careful. Because when humans are scared, we do some pretty scary things ourselves so… Don't go down dark alleys by yourself or anything."
Was she concerned for his physical wellbeing? From humans no less? He supposed, from her perspective, it perhaps was a legitimate concern. Humans were very mortal creatures, and any number of calamities could befall them, including harm done to them by other humans.
But none of his other students had ever said anything like this to him.
Of course, while they hadn't known what he truly was, had rationalized his existence and projected humanity onto him, their hearts had known he was a demon. Bella Swan seemed to lack that natural insight. When she looked at him, she evidently saw a human man standing in front of her.
Except, and he felt his memory straining to go back this far, but of his dim memories of being human (made dim not only through time but also through the haze), he did not remember being warned of such things.
Aware of them, yes, but they had never personally caused him fear.
He didn't think human men were cautioned about such dangers, let alone by women. The world was very different, turned on its head a thousand times in three-thousand years, but he did not think that much had changed.
Perhaps he should ask the secretaries.
"Just, be careful," Bella insisted.
And it was with insistence, she meant every word, and by the look of her not only feared for his safety but also intended to protect him as far as she was able.
He didn't remember that either.
He opened his mouth, to assure her he would be careful out of some distant sense of politeness, only to close it. Was he ever careful? Truly careful? He couldn't say he was. Marcus had very few reasons to persist in this world, and all of those reasons went by the name of Aro, but he had no intention of leaving it either.
However, he couldn't say he took great pride in preserving his existence. Oh, he didn't seek out death and danger. He stayed in Volterra, the guards were usually in some proximity, and he certainly didn't seek out old enemies. However, he would admit to a certain lack of awareness of his surroundings.
If the old enemies came to him then while Marcus would try to defend himself, he couldn't say he would do so with any prowess, or that he would fight for anything more than a sense of obligation to Aro and his sister.
A man who often forgot to eat unless Aro made sure to tell him multiple times was not one who could be said to be careful with his own existence.
But he had nothing to fear from humans.
He decided it was best to simply say as much, "I have nothing to fear from men."
That was evidently the wrong thing to say.
"You can't know that!" Bella shouted, tearing at her hair, "You have no idea what kind of terrible things people are capable of when we put our minds to it! Have you seen any movies—"
Whatever else she had to say about humans and their latest art form was cut off. In her passion, Bella had taken a step forwards towards him, only, as usual she had stumbled over her own feet. It really was quite impressive given the utter lack of obstacles in her way.
She went tumbling down onto the floor only, instead of merely falling over herself as usual, she fell backwards. Her head hit the corner of a table. There was a sickeningly loud thud and then a softer crumpling noise as her body collapsed onto the floor.
Her face had gone slack, her eyes were open wide and unseeing, and she convulsed for a second or two. Her heart started beating more rapidly, her eyelids began to flutter, and she began to groan as consciousness quickly returned to her.
Marcus stared down at her, neither approaching her nor turning away.
Her hand lifted towards her head only to fall back to her side, she couldn't seem to keep her eyes open, and when they were open, they drifted about the room with no true awareness.
It dimly occurred to Marcus that, this time, Bella Swan appeared to have truly injured herself. He did not believe it was life threatening, her heart sounded steadier now and her breathing was falling back in line, but she also wasn't standing up.
Class was over and she could leave when she liked.
She remained on the floor.
From the way she looked, she would be remaining on the floor until Monday if left to her own devices.
Carefully, acting on half-forgotten impulses, Marcus lifted her into his arms, picked up her bag, and made his way quietly out of the academy. Once he reached the street he paused. Humans typically took their injured directly to healers in a common building, there was some name for it that was slipping his mind, but he knew he had heard it somewhere.
Aro had spoken of it often in relation to Carlisle Cullen, who, upon leaving Volterra had decided to become a doctor for the humans of all things.
The trouble was Marcus spent so much energy actively purging any memory of those conversations from his mind that he couldn't remember any pertinent details for the life of him.
If only Marcus could remember the name…
He supposed the name didn't truly matter, it was just a matter of finding the one in Volterra, as he believed most cities had one of them. Volterra, center of the vampire world as it was, would be certain to have one. Aro would have accepted nothing less.
Only, he had no idea where it was.
Well, down the street would lead to the walls and eventually the edge of the city, he did not believe it would be down there. Except, he did not believe he passed such a place when he returned to the castle either.
Aro, of course, would be certain to know, but he wasn't here.
Marcus supposed that he could carry the girl to the castle, but that seemed unwise and unwarranted. He could leave her here and find Aro himself, but that also seemed asking for trouble, especially given that she had been so concerned by humans with malintent.
"Where are we?" the girl slurred, her words barely more than a breath and her eyes still closed.
"Just outside the academy," he answered, "You knocked yourself unconscious."
"Oh," she said shortly, then, with a groan she asked, "We going to a hospital?"
"A hospital?" he asked in turn.
"I hate hospitals," she whined, trying feebly to squirm against him, such a pathetic effort that even had he been a human man she would have gotten nowhere.
Hospital, yes, that was the English word for it. Of course, knowing the word wasn't helping him find the place either.
He looked down at Bella, perhaps she would know, "Do you know where the hospital is?"
She let out a loud sigh, as if he had just brought up a truly impressive argument she could not win against, and motioned vaguely towards his hand, "My bag, you can look it up on my phone."
Phone. Yes, humans talked increasingly about telephones these days, they seemed to be portable now. He vaguely remembered that the guard all carried one, Aro had one as well, and that Caius had thrown a fit in refusal because he refused to be bothered by worthless chat. If Aro had given one to Marcus, then he had no idea where he had placed it.
Marcus held Bella up with one arm and began shifting through her bag until he came across what he thought must be the phone. It was a small, black, slate formed of plastic, glass, and what smelled like metal.
It also had no sign of how he could use it to get her to a hospital.
"You don't know how to use it, do you?" Bella asked, holding out a hand for the phone. Marcus gently handed it to her and watched as, with intense concentration to bely her injuries, Bella swiped her finger across the smooth glass surface and brought the instrument to life.
She clicked on a brightly colored picture of what looked like it was supposed to be a pin and then on a blank bar at the top of the screen. The Latin alphabet suddenly appeared on the screen and Bella tapped the letters one by one and then an arrow.
She handed it back to him, "It's GPS, it'll tell you how to get to the hospital, just follow the directions."
Looking down at the phone, it was hard to tell, but he thought he could make out blurry English words telling him to travel to his right. This, like all other human technology, had been designed for human eyes and not his own. Unfortunately, glancing at Bella, that seemed all the help she was able to give him in her current state so the phone would have to do.
"Turn right in 500 feet," the phone blared out at him in English. It was a woman's voice, but there was something wrong about it, synthetic not simply in the bland way the words were spoken and pronounced but the very tone of it.
Warily, Marcus turned right at the corner, which he assumed to be 500 feet.
"In two-point-five miles, take an immediate left."
Marcus wasn't one to like or dislike objects. However, he had the dawning, distant, feeling that whatever this phone was he did not like it.
Regardless, by following its demands, he eventually arrived at the building he assumed was the hospital. Upon carrying Bella Swan inside, the girl was immediately deposited onto a stretcher and carted deeper into the building.
He had not been invited to accompany her and had been left sitting in what was called the waiting room. It was a place filled with anxious looking humans and glossy magazines. He wondered why he was still here.
One of the humans had told him that visiting hours had ended, if Bella Swan were to stay the night, he could visit in the morning. If she were released, she would be able to call him to retrieve her, and it would likely be a few hours yet.
However, by all rights, he should be making his return to the castle. He did not have to deliver Bella Swan to the hospital, but now that he had, there was no reason for him to linger. He was suddenly aware of how very out of place he looked in a setting like this. This was a mortal place, not meant for his kind.
He picked up one of the magazines.
A blonde human woman smiled at him from the cover. Flipping through it, other blonde human women smiled at him from inside the pages, accompanied by printed Italian text. He set the magazine aside and instead turned his attention to the sole clock in the room.
It was late, far from sunrise, but also long past since when he ordinarily would have arrived back at the castle.
Marcus had never been late before. Of course, he'd rarely left the castle in the first place, only recently to teach these classes every evening. Although he couldn't predict Aro with any confidence, if Marcus remained out any later, he was certain the man would take some drastic action.
Which, of course, could not possibly lead to a good outcome.
Marcus stood, only to find himself hesitating. The girl… she would be fine, yes, the humans would take care of her head injury. She had no further need for his assistance, not until the following Monday at least.
His part in this was done.
With that, he strode out of the hospital waiting room and back out into the night. He made his way through the streets, wishing idly he'd kept Bella's phone so that it might somehow direct him back to the castle. Regardless, Saint Marcus' square was a central location and easy enough to find, so despite his meandering he was certain he would find it before sunrise.
Or would have, at least, had Demetri not run into him first.
"Master Marcus," Demetri greeted him from a back alley to his left, "I'm glad I found you, Master Aro was getting worried."
Ah, yes, of course Aro would simply send the tracker, that did seem very efficient. A pity he hadn't shown up sooner, he could have easily directed him to the hospital.
The man looked relieved upon finding Marcus, but this quickly turned to confusion as he took in Marcus' modern clothing and their surroundings.
"Did you get lost?" he sounded as if the very idea were inconceivable.
Marcus glanced at his surroundings and noted, "I have never travelled to this part of the city before."
Or, if he ever had, then he had no memory of it. Small details, like the layouts of human cities which burned to the ground and rose again, often escaped him.
"Ah, well, I suppose it's good that I'm here," Demetri supplied, "Though I do have to wonder what brought you over here in the first place."
He could explain that he had to deliver Bella Swan to the hospital, but that felt as if it would open things to too many questions. Easier to just let Aro read his mind later rather than have to explain it in words to his underling.
Demetri seemed to be expecting an answer but seemed to realize that one would not be forthcoming. He offered a stiff smile, and motioned with his arm for Marcus to follow him. Not long after, Marcus was back at the castle as if nothing had happened in the first place.
Author's Note: It was only a matter of time before Bella somehow hospitalized herself.
Thanks to readers and reviewers. Reviews are much appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight