Peace Be With You
St. Joseph's Church, Paris, 1820
The church looked the same as it had when last she stood before its metal gate, and the welcome she knew she would receive once she passed through it was a balm to Celina's weary soul. It had been several years since she had last visited this place of peace; Duncan brought her here with him the last time they were together, and before he left the city, and Europe, for the shores of the New World...searching for a respite from the battles they, as Immortals, were inevitably drawn into. She well knew she couldn't escape the Game for long, but she knew too that, for a while, she would be given a rest from it. Darius would see to it.
She had taken no more than a few steps inside the gate when she felt the comforting presence of Darius approaching. A small smile of greeting was already upon her lips when she watched the heavy metal door of the church open, and the brown-frocked form of Darius appear there.
His soft green eyes glowed with his joy at seeing her, and when he reached her, Darius held out his arms to take her into a gentle embrace. "Celina...welcome."
Returning his hug with a kiss upon each of his cheeks, Celina replied, "Hello, Darius. I don't want to intrude, but would you have some time for me?" She felt his gaze upon her, and knew that he could sense the weariness in her, and her need for the balm to her soul Darius always gave to those who came to him in need.
The lovely young woman standing before him was exhausted, and Darius would do whatever was in his power to see that she had what she needed. She was a friend, and for that reason alone he would have taken care of her, but he would do it for another reason as well...this woman was a beloved friend of Duncan MacLeod, and Darius would care for this woman just as Duncan would were he here. Darius could, and would, do no less.
Placing an arm around her shoulders, Darius drew Celina along with him when he turned back to the doors of the church. "You're always welcome within these walls, Celina. Come. The church is small and a bit cramped for space, but I'm sure I can find you a room."
Sighing, Celina relaxed for the first time in many months, and allowed Darius to escort her into the cool, welcoming, peaceful embrace of the church Darius had called his home for centuries.
Once Darius had shown her to a small room, not much larger than a cell, and just as spartan, Celina's body demanded a rest. She disrobed of her traveling gown of lilac satin, which matched the color of her eyes, and when she wore only her underclothing, she lay down upon the small cot, and gave herself over to the healing sleep her body and soul craved.
A few hours later, she awoke, much refreshed, and after washing her face, and clothing herself in an afternoon gown in soft shades of rose and white, left her room and went in search of Darius. She found him in his book-lined study, sitting before his chess set.
He looked up at her approach. "Ahh, Celina...did you rest well? Would you join me in some tea?" He gestured with one arm for her to join him.
Smiling softly, Celina moved to sit in the chair he held out for her. "Yes, thank you, Darius. I did rest well, and yes...tea would be nice." She sat, and then watched as Darius poured a fragrant green tea into the cup he placed before her. Picking it up, she sniffed delicately of the steaming brew, and then took a small sip. A look of surprise, as well as delight, filled her eyes as she took another larger sip of it. "What is this?"
"You like it?" Darius asked, a glimmer of mischief glowing behind his leaf-green orbs.
"Actually, I do...but why do I feel as if I should deny it?" Celina grinned. "I hesitate to ask what is in it. Duncan has warned me about your...concoctions." When Darius quirked an eyebrow much as Duncan often did, Celina groaned softly. "Don't tell me...this is more of your moss tea, isn't it?"
"Nothing like that at all, my dear," Darius chuckled as he sat in the chair across from her. "Actually, it's Chinese green tea. It's from a supply a friend sent me while he was there."
Still grinning, Darius added, "How you and Duncan do go on about my teas. A man could develop a complex over it." The giggle that escaped Celina's lips brought another chuckle from deep within Darius' chest. Placing one of his large, yet gentle, hands upon Celina's own slender ones, Darius raised her hand to his lips, and placed a kiss upon it. "It's good to have you here, Celina."
"It's good to be here, Darius. You have no idea how much."
The events in the world during the past several years had come to weigh heavily upon Celina's spirit. Napoleon and his incessant need to rule the whole of Europe had been difficult on the populace, mortal and Immortal alike. Wars were never easy to live with, but when it added to the killing Immortals were constantly engaged in, it became unbearable to some, and more so to others. Celina had faced her own share of other Immortals in the battle to the death, being forced to kill a friend or two amongst them, and though she normally dealt with the sorrow and guilt then moved on with her life...at times it became too much to bear, and she needed to get away from the Game or go insane.
She'd recognized from her first visit with Darius when she came here with Duncan that here would be a refuge whenever she needed it. Here, and in Darius' presence, could she find the soul-mending peace her spirit craved.
So, while Darius fed both her body and her soul, he also became her confessor, listening to her as she spoke of her experiences and feelings of what she had lived through, and been forced to do, since they had last spent time together.
They spent as much time together as Darius' duties would allow. When he offered Mass each morning, afternoon, and evening, Celina was there with the rest of his parishioners. She had not been raised Catholic, but rather, being English, was of the Church of England, and yet, she felt closer to God here than she had in many years. This too was a balm her soul needed, and now that she knew she could find it within these walls, she vowed to return more often.
It didn't surprise Celina to hear that rumors were abounding concerning herself and Darius, especially as it was now known that she was staying in the church, and with no chaperone. She found it amusing, but was concerned that she may be hurting Darius' own reputation by staying there. She confronted him with it.
"Maybe I ought to leave," she offered, accepting the green tea Darius handed her. She'd come to love it, and knowing she preferred it to his other offerings, Darius served it to her at every meal they shared together. "I appreciate what you've given me by allowing me to stay with you, but I don't want to cause you any trouble."
"You are no trouble to me, Celina. Don't concern yourself over it. I have let it be known that you are my sister."
"Darius! You didn't!" Celina gasped, shocked that the honorable man before her would speak an untruth. It seemed so totally unlike him.
"I did, and I would do it again." As Darius gazed at her, his eyes filled with the affection he felt for her. Had he not known that she loved Duncan, and that she was special to Duncan in return, he may have allowed himself to love her as a man does a woman. But, knowing what he did, he kept his love for her as that a brother has for his sister. "You're dear to me, Celina. You are like a sister to me, and though we aren't siblings in fact, I care for you no less than if we were."
When tears filled her eyes at his words, she lifted one of his hands to her cheek and held it there.
Darius lifted his other hand to caress the silvery curls at her right temple. He was living the life of a priest, and knew he would continue to do so, but this woman could easily tempt him to change his life. But...he had things to do, and beliefs he lived by, and he would not allow Celina to change them.
Smiling softly, Darius drew his hands back, then commented, "I recall you play chess. I challenge you to a game or two!"
Appreciating his change of subject, and never being one to turn away a challenge, Celina grinned back at him. "Are you prepared to lay a wager?"
With another quirk of his eyebrows, Darius drawled, "What did you have in mind?" When he heard her response, he threw back his head and laughed in shocked delight.
Celina ended up staying with Darius for two weeks, and they were among the best days she had had in a long time. Even when Darius was busy with his duties, just being there on Holy Ground soothed her spirit, recharging her energies for what she would face once she left the walls of the church. She knew she couldn't stay there indefinitely, nor would she want to. She was too much a traveler of the world to stay in one place for very long. But she knew, too, that when the time came, as it would, that she needed a respite from the world and the Immortal Game she was a player in, she would find it here with Darius.
When she joined him in his office one last time before her departure, Darius held out a package to her. At her questioning look, he admitted, "It's just a bit of the green tea you love." When she accepted it, he added, "You don't have to leave yet. You're more than welcome to stay as long as you like."
"I know, and I thank you for the offer, but you've already done more for me than I can ever repay." Bending down to place the package of tea upon the small trunk beside her, Celina then rose back up and, reaching toward Darius, gave him a hug.
He tightened his arms about her in return, then pulling away, said softly, "Then I expect you to return soon. You'll always be welcome here."
"Thank you, Darius." Pulling his head down, she placed a light kiss on each cheek, then held them there with her hands.
They shared a tender look, then turning, Celina picked up her tea and small trunk and walked toward the carriage waiting for her outside. Before she passed through the gate, she turned for one last look at Darius. She lifted a hand to wave at him.
Waving back, Darius called out, "Peace be with you, Celina."
"And with you, Darius."
He watched as she boarded the carriage, and continued to do so until she was out of sight. Only then did he turn and reenter the church.
St. Joseph's Church, Paris, late 1995
As she pushed open the heavy metal door of the church, Celina's heart was aching. Even though months had gone by since Darius' death within these very walls, she still could not believe that he was truly gone and would never return. He was the best of them, and without him, the world would forever be a darker place.
As she walked slowly down the aisle between the wooden chairs, her footsteps echoing through the quietness of the sanctuary, Celina could still feel Darius' presence. He had lived within the ancient stone edifice for so long, his personality and life of peace filled this space he no longer inhabited.
She missed him so much.
Wiping tears from her face, she made her way to the rear of the church and into his office. There, more than any other part of the building, she felt him, and remembered the hours she had spent with him there. The many games of chess they had played (he won more often than she did, for the very fact he teased her, made her laugh, making her lose her con-centration,) the meals they had shared there, and the pots of tea he had served her. She smiled thinking about it all.
She was standing at one of his bookcases, glancing over the titles kept there, when she heard the door to the church open. Footsteps echoed as hers had, and as she turned to face the door of the office, she sensed the presence of another Immortal. She waited. Even though Darius had been killed there on Holy Ground, it had been at the hands of mortals...renegade Watchers. Even so, she kept her sword hidden, trusting that she would be safe there.
She sighed in relief as Duncan passed through the doorway. "Duncan!" She quickly made her way to his side and threw herself into his arms.
"Celina...what are you doing here?" he asked as he wrapped his arms around her. When
he heard her sob softly against his chest, he raised a hand to her head and drew her more tightly within his embrace. He caressed the pale blonde curls under his hand, and swept his other over the rest of the curls that fell down past her hips.
When she finally spoke, Duncan felt her warm breath through the dark t-shirt and denim he wore. "I came to say...good-bye...to Darius. I miss him, Duncan."
"I do too, Celi," he admitted, his own voice husky with sadness. "I come here once in a while, when I miss him the most."
Pulling out of his arms, Celina nodded her agreement. She turned and walked over to the table where Darius' chessboard had once sat. "What happened to his chess set?"
"I have it," Duncan admitted. "He left it to me." Walking over to join her, his steps muted by the rug beneath their feet, he took one of her hands in his, and added softly, "He wanted you to have something as well." When Celina looked up at him questioningly, he continued, "He knew how much you enjoyed his teas. He wanted you to have them, as well as the recipes he used to concoct them."
When Celina chuckled lightly, Duncan joined her. They both remembered teasing Darius about his teas, and how he would trick them into trying them...even the moss tea.
"I have it back at the barge for you. I should have given them to you earlier, but, well..."
"I know," Celina acknowledged. "A lot has happened since then. Thank you, Duncan. I'll get them later."
"Okay." Duncan nodded his assent, then backing up against Darius' desk, sat down on
the edge of it. He drew Celina with him, and pulled her close to stand between his open legs. As he wrapped his arms around her waist, he asked, "How have you been, Celina? I haven't seen you for a while."
"I'm fine," she whispered. Running her hands over his firmly muscled chest, she leaned her head forward against Duncan's own. They stayed that way a few minutes, gathering strength from one another, sharing their sorrow over Darius' death.
When Celina sighed softly, Duncan pulled back slightly and pressed a gentle kiss where their heads had touched only seconds before. He understood completely what she was feeling for it was exactly what he'd been feeling since he found Darius' body months before. Pain such as this one never got over. You only learned to live with it.
"Duncan...why did this have to happen to Darius? My God...he should have been the last of us to die! He should have been safe here--!" Tears began to stream down her cheeks, and even as Duncan wiped them away with his thumbs, more fell in their stead.
"I know. I know..." Duncan sighed raggedly. "I will make sure he is revenged, though, if it's the last thing I do," he promised.
"Even though I know it is the last thing Darius would want you to do, and that he would want you to let his killers go in peace...I'm too selfish. I want them to pay with their lives! Make them pay, Duncan!" Celina's violet eyes glistened with the need for revenge.
"I will. I promise." Taking her hand, he pulled off the edge of the desk, and drew her with him out of the office. Their footsteps echoed once more as they made their way toward the door of the church, and when they reached it, Duncan stopped. Raising his voice, and sending it to echo throughout the open sanctuary, he called out, "I promise, Darius, your death won't be in vain...good will come of this!"
Together, they turned and walked out into the bright sunlight, and when Duncan closed the door behind them, it's clang of finality sent a chill down Celina's spine.
She whispered softly, for the last time, "Peace be with you, Darius."
As they walked away, passing through the gate, a soft breeze blew through the trees, and the leaves seemed to echo Darius' reply...
"And peace be with you, my friends..."