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But Always Together.

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1. 1890 B.C.

He is a shepherd, the youngest of six sons, tending to one of his father's many herds. She is the oldest daughter of a priest, and he sees her fetching water at a well one day and loses all power of speech in the face of her beauty. He knows who she is- his father and hers are known to each other- and even though she smiles warmly at him, he cannot bring himself to speak to her. As the youngest of six he has nothing to offer her, and he knows she'll be married off to some oldest son, some fortunate man who stands to inherit much when his father dies.

One day when he's out with his flock, he sees her approaching in the distance. She's carrying a lamb in her arms- one of his that, it transpires, had managed to wander off without his noticing (he's been spending more time than he should dreaming about her). He thanks her profusely, stumbling over his words, expecting her to laugh at him at any moment, but she doesn't. She's sweet and kind and sits with him for hours, talking, until the sun in low on the horizon.

After that, they meet nearly every day, at the well or in the fields. It takes him months to get up the nerve to ask her if she's promised to anyone, and in response, she quirks an eyebrow at him and says, "I had assumed you would be asking for my hand, but maybe I was wrong."

So they approach her father, and of course, he's against the match, because he has nothing to offer her. He goes to his father to ask him to intervene, but there's no help to be had there: his father tells him he'll find someone more suitable to his station.

They leave, together, that very night.

It's difficult, far more difficult than either of them could have anticipated, and nearly every waking moment is consumed with ensuring their continuing survival- especially when children start to come- but at the end of every day, there are brief, fleeting moments of peace and love together, and it makes the rest of the hardship worth it.

 

2. 582 B.C.

She is a queen, and he is a servant in her household. He prepares her bath each evening, then stands silent and respectful on the other side of the screen as she bathes. There is always a peculiar energy in the air between them and she feels it acutely, even though he never meets her gaze, forbidden as he is to raise his eyes to hers.

One night, curious to know what would happen, she summons him to her side of the screen, and he comes. She orders him to look at her... and the charge that flies between them is so sharp and powerful that neither can resist it. He's in the bath and in her so quickly that it's over before either has the chance to wonder whether or not it's a good idea. Certainly the smart thing to do, in the future, would be to have someone else draw her bath, but as intelligent as she may be, this is one smart idea she rejects out-of-hand.

Eventually she makes an appropriate political marriage, of course, to the second son of the ruler of a neighboring kingdom. He has more than one occasion, over the years, to remark on her dedication to cleanliness, her absolute refusal to give up her ritual evening bath (or to ever deviate from having the same servant prepare it, night after night).

And if the new king notices that some of his children do not resemble him at all, he's smart enough not to comment on it.

 

3. 43 A.D.

They are both slaves in neighboring households in Rome. His master is a kind, learned man, and his life is a happy one. He catches a glimpse of her through the window and is immediately smitten. She is shy at first, only looking back at him in quick, fleeting glances, but as time goes by, she comes to expect seeing him each day at the same time, in the same room.

It's from watching this window that he learns that her master is nothing like his own.

The first time he sees her master strike her, he is downstairs and out the front door before he realizes that intervening is likely to get them both killed. So instead, he begins to save money, as much as he can, in hopes of helping her buy her freedom. When at last he has enough, he motions for her to meet him in the back garden. He passes the money over the wall and explains what it's for, and she thanks him amidst her tears.

It's the first time they've heard each other's voices.

But when she gives the money to her master, he takes the coins from her, then beats her, then pretends the entire conversation had never taken place. When she tells him what's happened, he goes to his master, begging him to help. His master approaches hers and offers to buy her, naming such an exorbitant amount that he can't possibly refuse.

They live out their days together in happiness in the kind master's household.

 

4. 1275

He is a monk, and she is a woman living in the village adjacent to the monastery. He glimpses her while in town during a religious ceremony, and afterwards, he makes excuses to go back and see her again and again.

They are not as cautious as they should be, and before long, they're caught. She is accused of being a witch, because it's the only possible explanation for her having convinced him to break his vows, and they are both put to death.

 

5. 1590

He is a writer, and she is a noblewoman, her husband one of his patrons. She inspires him with her wit, her intelligence, her beauty, and her kindness, and sonnets and plays pour forth from his pen in an endless stream. He composes poem after poem in praise of her, and her husband (though he is a good man who values her every bit as much as he should) never suspects that she is his true muse.

She knows, though.

She comes to his home one day while her husband is out and thanks him for his beautiful words... but it goes no further. She is rigid in her morals, terrified of the effect a scandal would have on the lives of her children, and devoted to her husband, who has never done anything but right by her.

In time, he marries another, and while they are happy, he never gets over the feeling that his life is not quite right, that by not meeting her earlier, before she married, he has missed a rare opportunity to truly know the sublime.

 

6. 1781

He is a colonel in Washington's army, and she is a soldier under his command, a woman posing as a man in order to fight for her newly-birthed nation. He discovers her true identity when she is wounded, and against his better judgement, he promises to keep her secret for her.

She saves his life in battle, taking down an English soldier aiming at him from only a few yards away while he's busy re-loading his own weapon, and he never forgets it, not for the rest of the war, and not for the years that follow. When the conflict is over, he returns to his father's farm, which he runs after his father's passing.

One day, he is in Philadelphia on business, and on the street outside of the bank, he sees a woman whose face is incredibly familiar, though he can't quite place it. He starts across the street without checking for oncoming traffic, just as she is turning to look at him. She sees the carriage barreling towards him, though he does not, and she cries out his name, making him pause on the curb... saving his life for a second time.

The moment he sees her terrified expression, he knows exactly who she is.

They are married the following spring, though both his mother and her father insist on coming up with a fake story of how they had met, and his father's farm is passed down through generations, flourishing all the while.

 

7. 1863

He is a soldier in the Confederate Army, and she is not a she at all; she's his sergeant, and he is engaged to marry a woman named Sarah Kavanaugh... but something in his sergeant's eyes captures him, and he cannot stop thinking about the man, no matter what he does.

The first time is in the woods, unplanned, and they tell each other after that it was wrong, a sin, repeating the things they've been told repeatedly by their fathers, by their churches. But neither truly believes it, and it happens again, and again, and again. He feels guilty for deceiving Sarah, whom he loves dearly, but he feels that somehow his soul and his sergeant's, their very essences, are knit together in such a way that they can never be truly separated.

Both men die in battle in Hamilton County, and their final thoughts are of each other, both speaking an unheard promise as their lives expire: I will find you again.

 

8. 1993

He is an FBI profiler fallen from grace, tormented by the loss of his sister, and she is a green, young agent assigned to debunk his work and bring him back into the bureau mainstream. At first, he's wary and mistrustful and she's exasperated and skeptical, but as time passes, they come to trust one another without reservation (though she remains, to the end, skeptical- and often still exasperated). Together, they uncover a conspiracy that goes deeper than either could ever have imagined, and they make it their lives' work to bring it down.

And somewhere along the way, they fall in love.

They overcome abductions, illnesses, injuries, and multiple separations that should, by all rights, have torn them apart. They have- and eventually have to give up- a son, and for a time, a darkness grows up between them, and it seems as though their relationship might be broken... but it's not. They find their way back to one another, and eventually find their way back to their son, and when the forces they have fought against for their entire lives are finally vanquished, the happiness and the peace they find together make all the suffering worth it.

 

9. 2194

They are scientists on the team selected to be a part of the first manned mission to the Trappist-1 System. They share a nervous joke on the cryo-deck, right before being put in stasis for the trip out, and the last human contact either of them have before being frozen is when they shake hands and introduce themselves.

There's a malfunction with his cryo-tube on the other end of the journey, and it's her quick thinking and medical knowledge that save his life. She tends to him in the infirmary, and when he's well enough, they make the trip down to the surface of the habitable planet- creatively named "New Earth," much to the disgust of every member of the team.

Originally, he had been a part of the team that is scheduled to return to Earth, while her team remains on the new planet, but when the time for departure arrives, he finds that he cannot possibly conceive of leaving her behind. So he stays, and they build a life- and a family- together.

At the moment of his death, he has a fleeting thought, born of a deeper knowledge that is far, far older than his body: What if she's on Earth in her next life, and I am here? Will we find our way back to one another with so much space between us?

 

10. 2942

But they do.

 

11. 4729

They always do. No matter how great the distance, they always find one another again.

 

12. 10,284

Forever.