A.N: lalalala… yeah, I don't typically get comments on my written stuff, so I'm accustomed to churning out stuff for the audience with little to no feedback. I get plenty on my comics, though.
Time had no meaning in heaven and that was part of Cuchulainn's biggest problem. However, it was also a blessing, for, if he knew how much time passed and how fast or slow it went, he would be driven mad by the passing of it. So, when he made his way through heaven to find Emer his mind decided against trying to remember how long it had been since he last visited that old oak and enjoy his wife as he should. Indeed, very few women could compare to Emer in beauty and cleverness and every day he and she would enjoy just being in each other's company like old friends.
Everywhere he looked he could find others he didn't recognize and others he could recognize from his own home in Ulster. He found one of his foster fathers, Fergus MacRoich, flirting with a few women as he was wont to do, but he also found a woman who so resembled Arturia that it was frightening to look upon her. She was young, very young, her blonde hair cut short like a boy, but she was indeed a young woman. Her eyes, however, betrayed the battle hardened core of her. She was a soldier inside. He knew the look well and had seen it not only in his own eyes, but those of Arturia as well. There was an almost ethereal glow to her, though he knew she was no angel. She was a human soul, but clearly she was a very faithful soul.
Cuchulainn couldn't resist. He moved closer toward the young woman and bowed to her with a bit of a flourish. "Hello there, fair maiden! I am Cuchulainn, hero of Ulster!"
The girl eyed him with in disgust and moved away from him slightly as though he were going to sully her. Looking at her, he realized she even wore the same clothing as a man; a single cross on a chain around her neck was her only decoration. There was something incredibly familiar about her and he couldn't place her for the life of him. Never deterred by a woman spurning him, he continued smiling at her pleasantly and crossed his arms in front of his chest. "You're not a very friendly sort, are you? I gave my name; it's your turn to return the gesture. You know, 'I'm Seamus' and 'Oh! I'm Willy' and that sort of thing?"
"Jeanne," she said in a somewhat gruff tone. So, the girl was French.
"Jeanne? That's a pretty name," he said, still attempting to keep his pleasant attitude up, "Well, it is very nice to meet you, Miss Jeanne."
"Why are you talking to me?" she said, still glaring at him with those hard blue eyes of hers.
"Because you remind me of someone even in your hostility to me," he said, grinning at her, "Also, because you were over here and I've never seen you before. Is that so wrong?"
She flushed faintly and looked away. "I am sorry. I apologize for my behavior," she said. She had a rather thick French accent to her voice, but it wasn't unpleasant. He'd heard worse accents from his Scottish teacher Sgatha.
He smiled faintly and leaned down a bit to look her in the eye. She was fairly short, but not overly so. She certainly wasn't nearly as small as Arturia. "You're somehow familiar to me and I can't quite put my finger on it. You're awfully young to be up here in wherever when, aren't you? A female wearing men's clothing at that."
She looked off into the impossibly colorful garden before her, seemingly thinking about what she should say next before Cuchulainn noticed that the entire area around them changed to that of an old Roman ruin and one stone cross stood not far off. "I fought against the English to help the men of France drive them out as per God's will. He bade me to free France from the oppression of the English." She stopped and gripped the cross on her chest with one hand before she continued in a somewhat shaky tone. "The English got a hold of me and the dauphin wouldn't retrieve me from them. The English called me a heretic and held me prisoner. They charged me with the crime of wearing men's clothing and posing as a man for so long," she said softly, a wry smile crossing her fair features after a moment, "They tried to make me say that I heard the devil speaking to me and not God, but I know what I saw and what I heard and I would have none of their lies."
Cuchulainn eyed her and thought to say something when she spoke once more. "I was burned at the stake for being a heretic." She twitched slightly and rubbed her arms a bit as she moved away from him slightly, keeping her gaze averted from him. "I can still feel the fire sometimes, though I am in a place of peace."
That made some sense at least. It was probably a good thing Arturia wasn't there, however. Cuchulainn was certain that she would be saddened by what Jeanne was saying about her countrymen and the kings who ruled them now. "I know of one English king that you would like," he said.
"The English have no kings that I would like. They are cruel, but they will soon find their judgment in His eyes when they come up here," she said in a hard voice.
"Ah, but this one you would like. She's a bit like you, you know," he said, grinning at her as he leaned on the stone cross. Jeanne eyed him warily before slapping his shoulder sharply and shooing him off the cross like a mother shooing off a naughty child from some family heirloom. Cuchulainn laughed lightly as he moved away from the cross, which earned him a reproachful glare from Jeanne.
"Don't lean on the cross!" she said. "It's disrespectful!"
Cuchulainn laughed again and shook his head. "I don't rightly care much about this symbol or any other. It holds no meaning to me."
"You are not a Christian?" She didn't look very surprised, but she did have a rather inquisitive look to her. "A pagan?"
"Eh, you could say that I suppose," he said, grinning even more at her.
"Why is a pagan in God's realm?" she asked.
"You do like asking a lot of questions don't you?"
"You were the one who began talking to me, not the other way around," she said stiffly. "If you do not wish to answer then go ahead and leave me be."
"You certain you aren't the twin sister of this little king I know? I swear you look almost exactly like her, give or take a few bits of your appearances, and you certainly act a lot like her." When Jeanne didn't respond Cuchulainn blew through his lips in irritation and rolled his eyes. "All right. Fine. I'll answer your fucking questions, though I can't guarantee any good answers."
"Don't use such foul language in God's realm," said Jeanne, once again resembling a stern mother.
"I'm sure that isn't the first time you've heard the word 'fuck' or any derivative thereof, lass," he said, now getting a bit irritated with her.
"No," she admitted after a moment, "But this is not the world of the living, this is God's realm and I'll not permit such language here no less."
"Fine," he said with a heavy sigh.
"Why is a pagan in heaven?"
Cuchulainn thought about God's answers to him and shrugged. "God said he created everything so, therefore, we are all his children. You are. I am. I wouldn't know since I only know of my own father who was a sort of god himself."
"You are the son of a false god?"
"No, just the son of a different one… though not so different, since God said he even created the other gods." Jeanne had a very strange look on her face until she got a good look at his eyes and moved away from him a bit. "Ah, yes, so you finally noticed my eyes, then, eh? Yeah, that parts from him," he said, smirking toward her rather impishly.
The Roman ruin before them suddenly became more like a dense forest instead of an ancient clearing. He glanced around and found the place looked similar to the one with the old oak tree he enjoyed visiting. Jeanne, however, suddenly looked rather uncomfortable. "This is not the old ruins in Doremy," she said.
"You two certainly know how to make a royal racket," said a voice up in one of the trees. It was a man wearing older English attire, he could not tell how old, but it was older than Jeanne's clothing by its appearance. He wore a long, dirty scarf that at one time might have been green around his neck that concealed part of his face, his shirt sleeves pulled back to his elbows where archer gloves were strapped to his forearms. He had a wide brimmed hat that had a multitude of feathers sticking out of the band around it, one of which looked like it had belonged to a pheasant and soft leather boots strapped to his legs and feet. From what little could be seen of him, Cuchulainn was able to pick out that the man had very dark, almost black wavy hair and bright emerald green eyes.
Jeanne looked less than pleased to be near another man who spoke English. "I'm surrounded," she muttered.
"Je pourrais parler français si ce c'est ce que vous voulez," said the man in the tree. When he saw Cuchulainn's face he added, "I said 'I could speak French if that is what you want', by the way."
Cuchulainn rolled his eyes and looked to the astonished face of Jeanne. At least she was somewhat impressed. "I am Cuchullainn and this is—"
"I know who you both are. It's sort of hard not to hear you both when you're both so very loud," said the green eyed man, though he mainly eyed Jeanne. "But I think I might prefer her company to yours. I always did enjoy a pretty face, even if she's French."
"You have a problem with the French and yet you can speak the language well enough?" asked Jeanne.
"Yes, well, you don't get very far with outlaws and transients when you can only speak one language," said the green eyed man.
"And what is your name, stranger," said Cuchulainn, eyeing the man for a moment. "You know ours, clearly, and who we are, but who are you?"
"Yes, I know."
"Be fair in God's realm. You are here therefore you must be a good man," said Jeanne. She gazed directly at him and looked a bit like she was about to head into battle or something before the man rolled his eyes and jumped down from the tree and leaned against its massive trunk. Now that Cuchulainn could see him fully he noticed that the man's entire attire was dirty and faded. His tunic might have been a fine green at one time with some gold embroidery, but now it was dirty, faded with age and torn in several areas. His shirt was just as dusty and grungy, though it might have been wholly white and expensive at one point in time. In fact, practically everything he wore looked as though it might have at one point in time been a beautifully made and expensive garment, but now everything on him was torn, dirty, faded or any combination thereof.
The man regarded Jeanne for a moment, wholly ignoring Cuchulainn at this point and crossed his arms in front of his chest as he lifted his head a bit from his long scarf, which had been partially obscuring his face. He sported a well groomed and trimmed goatee of black hair that matched his dark hair and his skin was somewhat darker than Jeanne. "All right," he said as he continued to regard her with those bright green eyes of his, "My name is Robert."
"Well, see? That wasn't so hard," said Cuchulainn, "See, if you answered us before instead of making us wait then we wouldn't find you so damned suspicious."
Robert snorted and shook his head slowly. "You have no idea, hound." He looked to Cuchulainn and smirked faintly at him as he moved his hat up just a bit from his head. "I am an outlaw. I have been for a very long time and my old habits die hard, I suppose."
"What is an outlaw doing in God's realm?" asked Jeanne, looking on guard now. Indeed, if she had a sword on her she would probably have had her hand on its hilt. "What madness is this?"
"Madness, you say," muttered Robert before he rolled his eyes and looked toward her. "Yes, I suppose it would be mad that an old bandit like me would end up in Heaven, given that I'm a thief."
"A thief should never set foot here," said Jeanne quickly.
Robert seemed genuinely amused by Jeanne and, indeed, smiled at her in a most charming way that Cuchulainn recognized in himself. Cuchulainn found the whole thing rather funny, though Jeanne seemed very interested in gutting Robert. Cuchulainn had no idea who this thief was, but one thing was very clear to him: Robert had not always been a thief nor had he been poor. The clothing he wore, while worn and faded and dirty, had at one time been richly colored and decorated clothing and no poor man could afford such finery even if he was a great thief. No thief would dare wear such fine clothing in case he should be caught easily, as well.
"You seem to enjoy staring at me, friend. Care to divulge your thoughts to me or will you just entertain yourself there like a good dog."
Cuchulainn glared at Robert and snorted. "You've got some nerve," he said gruffly to Robert. Robert rewarded him with a devious smirk.
"You have a quick temper it seems," said Robert. "Just like an Irishman."
"Do you enjoy being rude or is this some sort of personality quirk you were born with?" asked Cuchulainn.
Robert's smile faded all at once and he gazed at Cuchulainn with a steady, quiet and very cold glare. "I'm afraid it's been learned." With that he turned and jumped up at the branch above him and swung himself up onto it like a lazy cat. "And if you'll excuse me, but I'm going to catch up on my sleep."
All at once, the entire area seemed to fade away almost as quickly as it had appeared, turning back into the ruins at Doremy that Jeanne had seemed so attached to. Cuchulainn gazed at the place where the massive tree had been and where Robert had been and wondered what sort of mess the man had been through to make him become so suddenly cold and rude. What had forced him to become a thief? And, if Jeanne was to be believed, a thief could not get into this "God's Realm" then why was a self professed thief there?
So many questions rushed through Cuchulainn's brain and he knew he would have to find out the answers on a much later date. Jeanne turned away from Cuchulainn and crouched down before the stone cross as he watched her. "I will never understand why men must be rude to each other upon meeting one another," she said softly.
"Primal instinct, I suppose," said Cuchulainn, smiling faintly. "I'm afraid that's just the way your God made men."
"God made Adam from the Earth and found that Adam was lonely, so he made Eve from Adam's rib to be his wife," said Jeanne as she closed her eyes.
"Sounds about right, I suppose," said Cuchulainn, chuckling. "Or it could just be some stupid tale to explain why we came to be."
"It is not a stupid tale!" Jeanne growled low as she turned slowly to glare angrily at Cuchulainn. She stood up finally and walked right up to him, though she could not go eye to eye with him. "The point is that man and woman were made to keep each other company, to be together, not apart. The point is that God made us to be able to come together so we might share in the friendship and love of being his creations. Man without woman is lonely and woman without man is lonely. The same could be said of friends, lovers and family!"
Cuchulainn smirked faintly and leaned closer toward Jeanne. She didn't budge in the slightest. "So, are you going to keep me company then?"
Cuchulainn wasn't certain how on in Heaven or Hell he had ended up being tossed to the ground, but he was certain that it involved a well placed blow to his face by Jeanne's fist flying at him. By the time he managed to sit up and rub his jaw where she had decked him she had walked off in her anger and disappeared from view. He wanted to laugh but his face hurt from where she hit him, so he decided on shaking his head and counting his blessings that she seemed to decided only slugging him was more beneficiary than outright trying to kill him all over again like Boudica had.
Cuchulainn stood up after a while and dusted himself off before heading back into the wherever to go to Emer. He was certain that he would one day see Robert and Jeanne once more, but decided that finding something else to do besides picking on other people would be a good idea. After all, this was eternity wasn't it?