A/N. Disclaimer: I own nothing. Alexandre Dumas (père) does.

This story deals almost exclusively with Edmond and Mercédès. Their relationship, what it was, is, and might be. It should not matter whether it is based on the book or one of many films, as I plan to only include the two… and possibly Albert.

The story was meant to be short (primarily intended to be one-shot),but…

1.

"Count," Mercédès avoided to look him directly in the eye, so that he wouldn't see the fear in her eyes – fear that she wouldn't be able to behave properly, forgetting that her childhood lover, as she remembered him, was long gone.

"What has brought you here?" Her indifferent tone frightened her guest, as Dantès realised he was no longer sure whether it was a good idea to come to her at all.

"I don't know how to begin," he met her look, which, however, gave out nothing.

"Please, make yourself at home, Count," she gave him a cold smile.

"Mercédès… Please, don't address me by this title… you know very well it doesn't belong to me."

She has never seen him so disturbed… couldn't remember herself so much overtaken by his uneasiness either. But Mercédès felt she was not ready to call him by his name just yet – that would mean something was still there, refusing to die in her heart. The feeling she valued back in their happy days.

It would rise up the hopes she has been working on for so long trying to kill. His exquisite garments, his behaviour, even his sometimes frightening manner of speaking that has been enhanced by the education she has never had the chance to acquire… These things made her feel she did not belong even to the world they had both shared before the tragic line of events began to take place. "I'm sorry, I cannot…"

Mercédès was fighting with herself, and the worst thing was that she knew it was impossible for her to win the fight. Whenever this man wasn't near her, she kept telling and assuring herself she could forget about him. But now that he was only a few metres away from her, she was certain of nothing.

Dantès, feeling the tension of Mercédès, took off his hat and his heavily decorated coat, believing this would make her feel better. However, he, even seeing the apparent letdown of her tension, still refused to come closer to the woman that once was everything in his life. Mercédès, his Mercédès, was as beautiful as ever – now even more, as the pain she has gone through has somehow made her eyes give out the experience, the quiet resignation to the things she wasn't able to cope with or get away from. But he did not dare to even think that her feelings for him – be it Edmond or the Count of Monte Cristo – was also one of those things.

Neither would she admit it, though it was true that now she couldn't take her eyes off him – as different as he now looked from the young boy she had been planning her happy future with – he was still the same Edmond she had loved for so many years. And Mercédès did love him now, the moment he was standing a few steps away from her.

"Do you hate me, Mercédès?"

She smiled at him sadly, this time not turning her eyes away. "Hate you? What for?"

"For making you go through it all. I can only hope you did learn to love Fernand and see some of his positive sides." If he had any.

This made Mercédès want to laugh bitterly at Edmond's foolishness. Or maybe the mask she has finally learned to put on her face had its effect? For better or for worse, she could not suppress the bitter words.

"Do you really want to know it? What if I did love him? Despite everything?" All of a sudden she realised it was the worst thing she could have said, as she met his eyes.

Edmond covered his face with his hands.

No, no, no. "No, I did not love him," she hurried to assure the shocked man. "Not a bit. But then, did I have a choice?" Mercédès, without realising it, attempted to justify herself in front of the Count.

The look Edmond gave her burned her like fire. He saw something hauntingly familiar in her eyes. This made Mercédès turn her eyes away. She did not want him to see through her as well as he did many years before.

"I can only guess the reason of your coming," she whispered. "Sadly, Albert is not here with me today. Unless you are ready to wait until he comes back," Mercédès took a deep breath, trying to assure herself that their son was the only reason of this unexpected visit. She could have lied to him, but knew she wouldn't be able to.

"No, Mercédès… I came to see you."

She shuddered, thankful Edmond- the Count was there to sit help her down. "I will bring you some water, Mercédès," he whispered uneasily. He seemed to be… or was concerned about her. She wondered if he knew the weakness was caused by these simple words… uttered in that very tone she knew and loved so dearly. Was everything returning to her now? The childhood dreams reborn? She shook her head. That was impossible...

For a moment she wished her-their son was there with them. Mercédès was afraid. Terribly frightened… She could despise Fernand openly, as his love for her turned out to be nothing but mere lust… a wish to have her for himself. As a toy. But with Edmond, her one true love… it was different! It still was…

"Mercédès," Edmond began gravely. "I do not know if it's a good idea at all…" He took her hand, she trembled, feeling it reminded her of so many- too many things. "I wish I could have stayed with you always…" his voice fell, no longer sounding like that of the cold Count of Monte Cristo.

"Why are you doing this to me?" she could only whisper, wanting to reassure herself that her Edmond was gone, the Count being merely a shadow of a dream, once painfully shattered.

"Because I refuse to believe everything is over between us, Mercédès. This is not how it should have been."

She gave a cough. I can't listen to this. I won't listen to this! "I know," she made herself speak. "But we have a grown-up son now, Edmond." Edmond! This was the first sign that she has accidentally passed the border she has sworn she'd never-

Covering her mouth with her perfectly manicured, lady-like hand Mercédès for a moment gave Dantès the impression that everything was useless... That she had also become one of those empty-headed ladies from high society… He continued anyway.

"I have been dreaming about you, Mercédès. Day and night, night and day! All those years..." his voice fell. Dantès stopped, waiting for some kind of reaction from her.

"I thought you were going to hate me," Mercédès spoke about times much more recent than those of his torture. "For I apparently betrayed your love… our promises… our everything."

"Did you?"

Mercédès shook her head, no longer able to understand if this conversation was real or something caused by her constant reverie. She got up, no longer able to look at him.

"Don't torture me like this, Mercédès." He took a breath, before wording the final question. "Tell me if you want me to leave, I will." It was painful to see her so distressed and unsure of herself. "Or if you'd rather I-

She shrugged, feeling her face flush, just like it used to all these years before.

A/N. I will make it all my way. :)

Please, do post reviews… and don't be too harsh…