Ok, this is an AU fic for MyrninsBitch, who requested something along these lines…it's basically all human, set in the Deep South in the early 1960s. You can find out the rest when you read the fic. :)
Oh yeah, and whilst I've studied American Civil Rights during this time period, I'm by NO means an expert, so if there are any historical inaccuracies, please ignore them! (But any British people, there IS a Birmingham in the USA)
"I'll have a doughnut, please," Claire Danvers says as she approaches the doughnut stand in the middle of the marketplace, money already out in anticipation of her purchase. "Oh, can it have extra sugar on it as well as some lemon juice?"
The doughnut-maker rolls his eyes at the lady's peculiar order—she makes it every day without fail, and has already made it for her—but hands over the packet without a word.
"Here's your money." Claire hands over the money she previously counted out and accepts the packet graciously, before turning and walking out of the marketplace. She's already bought everything that she wanted to, given her servants, Mathilda and Bernard, cover the food and cleaning purchases, so she begins the short walk home, her sharp eyes noting everything that she would rather not see.
Most men (and women) who walk past her have to step from the pavement as they pass, and although she tries to make eye contact with her, they never do. They're not allowed to, technically, even though she wishes they would; she hates the segregation that occurs here, hates that the descendants of the freed slaves are still mistreated so absolutely.
Down every alleyway her gaze notices, there are dozens of men and women sitting on the floor, signs around their necks that won't ever be read because the only people who go down there are themselves. White men, proper men, Claire thinks savagely, only go to the nice areas of town, because that's where they don't have to see the consequences their actions have upon so many thousands of lives in this part of the world; even those who may have a small sense of indignation about the blacks' treatment turn a blind eye because it's easier, and that's the general consensus around here.
Round these parts, if you help a black, you're nothing better than them.
Slyly, Claire does as she does every day; she leans against a wall to adjust her shoe and as she does so, she rolls a quarter or two down the alley towards whomever is currently situated there. It's not much—she spends more than that on one doughnut every day—but it's a little, and it's better than doing nothing.
She prefers to save her more illicit activities for nighttime, when there are no prying eyes to bear witness to her treachery.
Shane's already gone back to Birmingham by the time that Claire returns home, and the note he's left her indicates that he won't be back for another week. It's time that she appreciates nowadays, because it means that she can go to her group on a night, the one that's forbidden by state laws, and she doesn't have to lie about where she's going. Whilst she wants to tell Shane where she's going, she knows she can't; he's one of those government officials who are trying to suppress the blacks even further than they already have been, and he wouldn't understand her even having sympathy for blacks, let alone communicating with them. The only ones she's meant to speak to are those who work for her—them, as she'd never employ blacks in such a demeaning manner without Shane—and even then, it's meant to be fleeting conversations.
Claire hates that she has to lie to the man she once absolutely adored—she wouldn't be here, otherwise—but she has to; he wouldn't understand, and she doesn't want to end things with him. He's given her a good home, a good, stable life to allow her to pursue her dreams within science (he's not that happy about it, but there's nothing he can do, and he prefers to support her than for her to leave him) and she does love him, though perhaps not in the same way that she once did.
"I'll be back at about eleven," she tells Mathilda, who merely nods her head and doesn't speak—even when Shane isn't here, she doesn't dare converse with Claire for fear that her niceness isn't sincere. "Is there anything I can bring you in from the town?"
"No thank you, ma'am, though the offer is appreciated," Mathilda replies quietly, ducking her head and disappearing from the room almost before she's finished speaking.
Claire doesn't question this, as per usual, and merely gathers together her bag and resources that she always takes with her—some of the people in the meeting don't have access to the sort of things that she does—before departing her home. She leaves through the back, her head covered by one of the scarves kept hidden in the back of her wardrobe so that Shane doesn't see it, and slips out onto one of the side streets, keeping to the shadows as she makes her way to the downtown meeting location.
"Claire, you're just on time," Maurice, the man who stands on the door to the building, says as she approaches. "We have a new guest for you today, someone who's apparently one of the greatest scientific minds that the world has ever seen. I think he may be exaggerating…but still, you're the science expert, not me."
Smiling, Claire takes a step inside the building so Maurice can shut the door, in order to prevent her loitering on the street, and she replies, "I've been waiting for someone to come down to us! I'll see what he's like and maybe if he's pretty nice and wants to be part of our group, he can join?"
Maurice nods his head, handing Claire a sheet which she signs to indicate her presence at this meeting of the thirty seven members of the group, and then accepts it back. "Yes, that's what we thought. It's up to you if he joins, of course, given that you finance most of this place."
Shaking her head, she walks through the corridor with Maurice towards the main room, saying, "it's your club as much as mine, Maurice; it's just that I have the disposable income in order to give people what they ought to have," as she does.
He doesn't argue, and soon bids her farewell to return to his position upon the door, leaving Claire alone.
She hesitates for a moment before entering, suddenly scared to meet the new person who will be working so closely with her; Claire realises suddenly that she didn't even ask his name, didn't ask anything about him...all she knows is that he's a brilliant scientist, and that he's here. That's it. But she gets over the fear suddenly, realising that if she doesn't like him, she just doesn't have to work with him. She'd never turn him away from this group, not unless he was hated by the rest of the well-established group, but she wouldn't have to associate herself too closely with him, if she doesn't want to.
Pushing the door open slowly, she's greeted with calls of her name and questions about how she's doing and what she's spent her day doing. Whilst most of these people have nothing compared to her or the other few beneficiaries this group has—of the other three white ladies and gentlemen who help fund this group, only one makes it down regularly, which makes Claire think the others do it mainly to appease their guilty consciences—there's no bitterness between the social classes, and Claire considers most of them the closest friends she has. To her, the differences between classes should barely be there, and if they are, it should be because those who succeed have tried and work to get to where they are, not because of the colour of their skin. The only shame is the fact that most of the government, particularly in the south, disagree with her opinion, and would never accept it.
On the far side of the room, near to the piles of science books of varying degrees of difficulty—they're not just for her, after all, because she wants to encourage everyone to have a basic understanding of science—is a man she's never seen before; his skin is a strange mix between the two races, and yet from this far away, her eyes can make out no blemishes on it. His hair is lusciously long and curly, as black as coal, and his eyes match in colour, and Claire can feel her breath being taken from her involuntarily as she stares at him. He hasn't noticed her, thankfully, but is staring at the wall to the side of her, and she takes advantage of this to clear her throat and begin to walk towards him, hoping that the blush has faded from her cheeks.
"Um, hi," she says, suddenly slightly awkward as she approaches him. She hasn't been like this with anyone in her entire life, she thinks; she's always been able to approach anyone. Well, everyone but Shane; when she met him, she was something like this, too. "I'm Claire…are you the new science genius?"
At this point, the man turns his attention to her, seeming startled that she's standing before him. His lips turn upwards into a smile and almost without Claire noticing, he's rising to stand also. Now, he towers over her, and to continue to look into his face (as is only polite, Claire thinks hastily) Claire has to move her head upwards.
"My name is Myrnin," he says, and Claire is immediately confused by his accent. It doesn't sound wholly Southern, not at all, and unless she's completely mistaken, is Welsh. "I see you're looking confused—are you aware of another Myrnin already?" he asks, taking note of her furrowed brow.
"I…where are you from?" she blurts out, unable to find a way to phrase it better. "Sorry, I didn't mean it like that…I meant, like, um, your accent is…" she trails off, not sure what to say, and is relieved to notice that Myrnin is nearly laughing.
"My parents are Welsh—though, if you are unable to tell, my father's heritage lies within Africa—and I was brought up there," he informs Claire, reaching out to take her hand, which she gives him without delay. "We have family here, and therefore when they died, I had to move out to America, which wasn't the best move for me…but I'll survive." His smile breaks Claire's heart with its subtle sadness, but before she can make a comment, he bends to press his lips to her hand in the old style. She hasn't had anyone do this, ever, and she feels the blush coming to her cheeks once again—if it ever left, that is.
"Oh, um, that's pretty bad," she finds herself saying before realising that she hasn't introduced herself. "Well, I'm Claire, and yeah, that's about it really. I'm nothing special."
The look that Myrnin throws her as he looks up, releasing her hand, is one that sends shivers running through her; it's a look that she doesn't really understand. All she understands from it is that he can feel, and that he's attempting to pass on some sort of intense emotion to her that she just can't quite understand.
"Allow me to say this, my dear," he says, moving to pull a chair out for Claire. "We have barely met and I can already tell that you are something extraordinary, and most certainly not someone who will fall by the wayside. And so now, what would you like to cover today?" The change in his focus from discussing that she's special (she isn't, not really, Claire knows that for certain) to the subject that they're to share knowledge in is so fast that she needs a moment to process what he's said, and by this point, he's already guided her into the chair.
"Whatever you'd like to cover," she replies, not entirely sure what his speciality is; she prefers physics and chemistry over biology, but if it's a choice between biology and history, she'll take the study of living things over the past any day. "If you need any resources, they're all on that table there," she continues, pointing to the stacks and stacks of books just to their right.
Myrnin surprises her slightly by shaking his head and bending over to pick something up from the ground. "I prefer to teach without the use of textbooks," he tells her, removing a notepad and a single pen from his bag. "I find that generally, they're wrong in their approach to teaching, and often are incorrect in the knowledge they share with the person attempting to learn. If you wouldn't mind, I will teach you direct from my brain and share untainted information with you."
Claire merely nods, not concerned with the teaching methods of her new tutor who, she supposes from these few words, is most likely ten times brighter than the university lecturers who still insist that hydrogen has the potential to be a dangerous gas. Instead, her attention is drawn to the pen; it's a classic fountain pen, its nib poised to begin spreading ink across the paper, and the simple yet refined nature of it makes Claire realise that this man is not just a clear-cut black man—not that she ever thought he was.
He's so much more than that, she can tell; just like he can read into her soul, she can read his…and whilst it's probably wrong to say, she loves what she can see.
(But there's something else about the fountain pen, Claire realises…it's one of the most expensive ones in the shops. She doesn't dare think the question every other white person would: how can he afford it?)
The session finishes at almost ten to eleven, and as usual, most people have left by the time Claire is ready to. This evening, unlike usual, she's not remained so late in order to finish absorbing the contents of one of the many books, but rather to learn more and more from a real human being who understands more than she can ever hope to possibly know.
"Thank you," she tells him as they finish at a point he says is 'appropriate' to stop at. "You've taught me so much, so fast. How do you know all of this?"
Myrnin smiles as he puts his notepad and pen back into his bag, fastening the straps in order to secure the contents inside. "I had a great tutor as a child—my parents always advocated learning about what I wanted, rather than the curriculum expected in grammar schools—and he taught me most of what I know now. I kept his chronicles when I moved to the United States, and whenever I need to refresh a thought in my mind, I reread them." He sounds wistful and Claire's about to ask to see them before she realises how improper that would be; whilst he's a perfectly charming man (perhaps too charming for her) she's known him for mere hours...to request something so personal is inappropriate.
"That's certainly a good idea," she says, filling because she doesn't want this to end; she doesn't want this session to stop because she'll have to go home to an empty house and return to being a supremacist for the duration of the day tomorrow before she can return to here. "Well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow night?"
"Tomorrow night?" Myrnin frowns, his brows furrowing together. "Don't I need to be a member of this society in order to come to more than one meeting?"
Claire pauses for a moment, shocked and confused about what he means before she remembers: right now, he isn't a member of the club. He currently doesn't have the right to return tomorrow…not until she, or another benefactor, grants him it.
"Oh yes, I forgot to ask if you would like to join the club…so would you?" Claire asks, doing as she always does, and making it seem as though it's the other person's decision as to whether or not they acquiesce to her request and join the group.
Myrnin's face breaks out into a smile, something that makes his entire face light up, and Claire can't help but smile also. "I would be most delighted to join your group, Claire, and to continue to learn from you."
This shocks Claire. "Learn from me?" she repeats, spluttering slightly. "You're the genius not me, Myrnin; I'm learning from you, not the other way around."
The man makes a slight bow, something which embarrasses Claire (she doesn't want him to feel awkward around her, not at all), before taking a few steps away from her towards the door. "The way that you learn is inspiring, honestly," he tells her, throwing his bag over his shoulder. "And you're teaching me to believe again, Claire. And that's something I've not done since before I left Wales."
He's gone before she can say anything in response.
Not really sure what to think, or indeed feel, Claire packs up her things in a hurry, realising suddenly that it's nearly five to eleven and it takes her seven minutes to get home. Whilst it isn't an issue tonight, if she gets into bad habits by being late when Shane isn't here, she'll do the same when he is…and a suspicious Shane Collins isn't something that she wants, not at all.
The next two weeks pass in much the same manner: Claire goes about her business every day, attending classes at the university and shopping, and on the nighttime, she heads down to the group where she learns from Myrnin. He's taught her things that she doubts she'd even get to cover in her fourth year of university, given the theoretical basis to many of them—he theorises that recreating things like diamonds will be feasible within the next sixty years, cloning within fifty—and she's enthralled every evening. It's getting harder and harder to leave him, and often when she's daydreaming, she catches herself thinking of him before she stops herself. That's dangerous waters to be swimming into; she already thinks of him too much for someone who isn't her boyfriend, and if Shane found out anything about another man, let alone a black man, she'd lose everything. She already finds Myrnin far too attractive for her own good, and thinking of him will only lead to desires, and to fulfil those desires would be sinful, completely and truly.
So she forces herself to be friendly, but not too friendly as he teaches her, ensuring that he could never make anything out of her choice of words, and thus a steady balance of friendship is created—but she can tell that, like her, he wants more. They're similar but not too similar to make that a potential situation, and more than once she's had to scurry out of the room when they've been the last two in order to ensure that she doesn't do anything she'd regret in the morning.
All her pre-occupation with Myrnin, however, is lost when Shane returns home.
He's back on a Monday morning, his appearance remarkably dapper for someone who's lived in a hotel for a fortnight or so, but Claire, as usual, never questions it. For the first few days when he returns, you see, everything's how it used to be; she's in love with him, happy to see him, and her interest in the secret group wavers for a short while. Sometimes, she wonders if she'd choose him or the group, if she had to choose one or the other, and it frightens her how easily she'd give him up—even when he returns to her, even when she's reminded of why she loves him and his personality.
He's harsh and sharp, a believer in white supremacy and someone who will never accept that there can be more moderate opinions than his, but sometimes, that's ok for Claire; the effort he puts into his work he puts into love, and when that effort's in her direction, there's nothing better.
She just wishes that he'd understand; that he'd understand how she feels with regards to the blacks in the world, how she needs someone who doesn't just believe in oppression of anyone weaker than them. She wants someone balanced, someone who comprehends how much she needs science and education, and someone who makes her feel things that, unfortunately, Shane hasn't made her feel in almost a year and a half.
"Shane!" she can't help but squeal as he enters the house. "I've missed you!"
He hugs her and presses his lips to hers, but the familiar spark has gone; it's just a mundane, everyday feeling, seeing him—and yet she tries to pretend that everything's normal, that she's missed him as much as she used to, because otherwise things won't be the same. And she can't let things change, can't end this because then she'll have to leave university and the group in order to get a job to make ends meet—and what a fall from grace that would be.
"How are you, sweet pea?" he asks, walking with Claire through to the living room where he sits down and pulls her onto his lap. He smells of some perfume that Claire doesn't recognise, and whilst before she would be indignant about that, now, she can't say she really cares. "Have you been alright whilst I've been gone sorting out those idiots?"
She pretends to simper and cuddle close into his chest, anger rising within her as he continues to insult the blacks in their society even before she answers, and in her mind, all Claire can think about is how she can get back to the group tonight and get back to people who understand her.
(It's never going to happen though, her leaving Shane, at least she doesn't think.)
(She can't see him letting her leave.)
Myrnin can tell there's something up with her when she goes to the group that evening, Claire pretending to Shane that she's off to 'meet Mary to discuss the lecture that morning' as he sits in his office making new plans to beat up those who are under him in the social system, and he presses it as soon as she sits down.
"Is he back?" he asks her, and Claire knows exactly what he means without any further clarification.
"Yes," she sighs, tapping her pen against the notepad in front of her. "I mean, I do still like him, obviously…I just disagree with most of his philosophies nowadays—not that I ever did, I mean—and I just don't see why we're together. But I can't leave, not without somewhere to go or whatever."
She half expects Myrnin to suggest that she can come live with him, no matter how forward that would be, and she's almost disappointed when he merely tells her that they should probably finish this problem now so that they can move onto the next task.
It's quite bad, Claire thinks, just how much she was expecting the answer to be different.
Later on, just after ten pm, Myrnin sets his pen down, confusing Claire. "Would you like to go for a walk with me?" he asks quietly, and Claire can hear the hesitation in his voice. It's one thing them being together in here, where it's relatively safe for them to be together; it's entirely different for a black man and a white woman to be walking alongside one another on the streets outside.
She doesn't hesitate for a second. "Yes, certainly, but only if you'll flatten that hair of yours; I'm not going anywhere with someone who hasn't brushed his hair in about a year!" she replies, laughing as she packs away her things.
He acquiesces to her request, flattening his hair as they pass the mirror, and everyone's eyes are on them as they exit the building, Maurice raising an eyebrow and wolf-whistling as they leave. Claire's cheeks flush a brilliant red and she's thankful for the darkness to obscure the colour as Myrnin turns to face her.
"Where would you like to walk?" he asks, and Claire reaches out to give him her arm.
"Perhaps around the blocks a few times?" she suggests, not wanting to say explicitly that she cannot be seen with him on the main streets. He understands, though, she can tell, and he doesn't judge her for it; he knows what the situation is like, and that she can't do anything to change it.
They converse as they walk around the block, discussing Myrnin's childhood and Claire's favourite books throughout the past years, and she can't remember ever having so much fun. It's even greater fun than when she's with Myrnin discussing science, because now she's getting a chance to see the real Myrnin underneath, rather than just Myrnin the scientist.
"You know that I could live anywhere in the world if I wanted to," he says casually, and it's a confirmation of what Claire suspected: he's rich. "I inherited a great fortune from my parents, yet I still chose to came here. I chose to be here with people who are like me, but yet are persecuted because of the actions of the white man against their ancestors. I was lucky to be born where I was; these people are less so. I remain here to give support to those I can, but I don't do enough…and it's ripping me apart to not be able to help them because here, I'm in the exact same situation as they are." Myrnin's voice is suddenly ripped through with agony, and they stop in the middle of the path so that Claire can face him.
"Hey," she whispers quietly, lifting one hand to press it against Myrnin's cheek softly. His eyes are burning fire and rage, yet she knows that it's a fleeting emotion; tears will come soon to this emotional, brilliant man. "You're doing all you can, there is nothing more you can do. You came here so that others have the chance to get out of the situation they're in…and there isn't anything more you can do. You're doing more than most people are in this country, and this isn't even your problem, not really! It's what makes me love you—" she cuts off suddenly, realising what she's just said, and as their eyes meet, she knows that there is no chance of him not having heard these last words.
Before she can think about it, Myrnin's pushing her backwards against the wall, his lips upon hers, and he's kissing her and she's kissing him and everything's a blur of hands and skin and emotion when she suddenly hears a yell.
"You! Get off her!"
There's a man further down the street, Claire notices as she breaks the kiss off rapidly to turn her head to look, and he's running towards them—with a knife. He's heading for Myrnin, she knows it, and it's with haste that she pushes him from her.
"Go!" she hisses at him, shocked at how fast the situation has changed. "He hasn't seen you, you can make it away! Get away now!" To show what she means, she pushes him off her, and he staggers backwards for a few paces before he gets his wits about him.
"I'll meet you tomorrow to take you away!" he tells her, and she's as confused as he was by what he means—when did they agree to run away?—when she realises that that's what she wants. She wants to run away with him, to get away from this city and the pain and heartbreak of watching Shane's actions destroy the black people here. She wants freedom.
Claire watches Myrnin's back as he runs as fast as he can, his bag moving across his back as he sprints away from her and around the corner. By this point, the white man has approached her and turns to face her with a manic expression on his face.
"What did you do that for?" he yells, and reaches out to slap her across the face, causing Claire to recoil from him. "I could have killed him…wait…you're the Collins boy's official one, aren't you? You're not the one from Birmingham, Olivia, are you?" he says, frowning slightly.
That's the proof that she needed—not that she wants it—that Shane's been playing away, and it merely makes Claire more defiant. "I'm the official one, not the whore," she says, though immediately realises what she's just been caught doing.
Before she can say anything though, the man's reached out and slammed her head against the wall, and her last conscious thoughts are of pain.
Claire wakes up in her bed in the house she shares with Shane, her hand moving slowly to touch her throbbing head.
"Don't touch it." She hears Shane's voice, harsh and cold, from beside her, and opens her eyes to see him sitting on the side of the bed. "It wasn't Fred's best idea, but it brought you home to me without running off with that disgusting beggar."
It's starting already. What she didn't want, for Shane to know that she even associates with blacks let alone is in love with one of them, has happened, and she regrets her actions already. But it looks like it's time to defend everything that she's done.
"Don't…don't talk about him like that," she argues, trying to be strong but instead barely able to speak. Claire doesn't know what day it is, what time it is, but she gets the feeling that it's been at least a few hours since she was knocked out. "He's a better man than you."
It's with a great effort, she knows, that Shane resists slapping her, and she's slightly thankful to the man named Fred for already causing her an extreme injury. It means that her last memories of Shane aren't entirely tainted by his violence.
Even though he most likely wants to shoot Myrnin—and would, if he knew the identity of her lover.
"You know that people called me an absolute idiot for fucking the girl in Birmingham when I have you at home," he says finally, and Claire involuntarily flinches at the brutal way in which he admits his affair. "They said that you're perfect, that you're always there for me and that you'd never look elsewhere…and for a while, I felt bad. But then I realised that you always seem quite happy, and then it got me thinking that maybe Claire isn't as pure snow as she makes out to be—not that you're pure any more, sweetheart, I made sure of that when I took you the first time—and now I have the proof. You're basically no better than them, nothing more than a servant."
Before Claire can say anything, Shane's standing up and he's spitting in her face, something that's absolutely revolting for her since she can't even wipe it off. "You're nothing more than scum. Now as soon as you're able to stand, get out of my house and never come back—I never want to see you again. Be thankful that I haven't had someone break your leg."
With this, Claire realises just how frightening Shane is, finally for the first time understands the force that's been unleashed against the blacks in their town—and she gets why the situation only seems to get worse. If he's like this with her, the girl he loved and then 'betrayed' him (which, in fairness, she did, she gets that, though he did it first) then what is he like with those who were born inferior to him, in his opinion?
The door slams shut, and with it goes all of Claire's fear. All that's left is defiance and anger, anger that Shane couldn't even understand why she did what she did—or even just be disappointed. If he had asked her why, if he had tried to sort things, then she wouldn't be doing what she's doing now.
But he didn't. So she's doing what he said; she's leaving and she's never coming back—she's just leaving when she wants to.
Wincing, she manages to stagger to her feet and moves slowly towards the wardrobe, grabbing some clean clothes and slowly pulling them on; it seems that Shane or someone stripped her naked whilst she was unconscious, and she's suddenly aware of the bruises on her body. Where they came from she doesn't know, but all she knows is that she wants Myrnin to press soft kisses against them; only that could alleviate the pain, she thinks, the kiss of someone who does love her.
It seems too fast, merely two weeks or so since they met, for them to be in love, but they are; people fall in love faster all the time, she reminds herself, and she doesn't see why she shouldn't have the chance to be with someone she loves just because their relationship is so new. She's going to Myrnin now, and she's never coming back to this white supremacist, not even if he was the last man upon the planet.
Using the wall to support her, Claire moves slowly out of the room and down the corridor towards the servants' staircase, sliding her way down upon her backside in order to prevent falling down the steep stairs. Shane never comes to this part of the house and she's glad because she's taking far longer than she should do in getting out down through the kitchens and the back door. Bernard and Mathilda both look at her with a mixed expression of respect and shock as she disappears from their line of view for the last time.
She's never coming back.
And she's glad.
She lingers outside the group building for about an hour, waiting and waiting for Myrnin to turn up—but he doesn't. It's Maurice first, who's already heard every detail about what happened the night before, and runs into the building in order to get her an ice bag for her head, something she accepts with thanks. Yet she refuses to leave the front of the building as she waits for Myrnin, no longer scared about being scared. Now, she's no longer Shane Collins' girl, she's the girlfriend (or she hopes) of the black man Myrnin—and she's never been prouder.
Every member arrives and yet there's still no sign of the man she's waiting and waiting for. Claire's about to give up, being told by Maurice that if members aren't there by eight pm they're generally not coming, when she hears something that changes her belief.
He's at the far end of the street, just barely visible to her eyes, and he's running faster and faster as he approaches her. In his hands are two huge bags, and she gets the feeling that he's packed everything up to be able to leave town.
"You came!" she squeals, suddenly realising how scared she was that he wasn't going to turn up, wrapping her arms around him as she does so.
"Did you think I'd break the promise I made to you—even though we didn't discuss it whatsoever?" he asks, and Claire's suddenly hesitant. "Wait…you do want to leave with me, don't you?" he questions, realising how the girl in his arms has stiffened with his words.
She nods slowly, tears spilling out of her eyes as she does so, and Claire struggles to understand why she's scared, why she's anxious when this is what she wanted to happen. "I was scared you weren't coming…and that you wouldn't want me if it's not forbidden," she whispers.
Myrnin makes no attempt to respond; instead, he merely presses his lips to hers softly, their first (proper) kiss everything Claire hoped it would be. "Do I look like I'm the sort of person to want you because you were forbidden?" he asks her, his eyes burrowing deep into her soul. Claire can see that everything he's said, everything he's ever said to her, is the truth. "If only because we have so much more to learn together, Claire, we need to be together! And there's also the slight issue that I feel as though I'm in love with you, and cannot bear to be parted from your side."
Claire makes no attempt to reply, simply falls into his chest, the pain from her head overcome by the elation in her heart at this moment, though she suddenly feels deathly tired. "Take me somewhere we can be together," she whispers as Myrnin steadies her.
"It's already sorted," he replies, and together they walk away from the place that brought them together without even a second glance.
They settle in a house not too far from where Myrnin was brought up, in a place where his ethnicity is more than just accepted, it's not even mentioned when they're in a social situation. Science is the only thing that matters to them, even as their relationship becomes official with the marriage certificate, and it even remains in their top five priorities when their two children, making scientific advancements at the same time as warming milk for the baby.
Sometimes, Claire wonders what Shane's doing in the USA with the apparent situation that everyone's equal, wonders whether or not he would ever have changed. She doubts it, and Myrnin does too whenever they discuss it together. It's something in him that made him bitter towards anyone he considered below him, and Claire realises that she doesn't really care; she has everything she needs in her life in Wales.
And so the pair of them recite the story of their meeting, of segregation and Shane and illicit romances (though they stress that 'Mummy' wasn't doing the right thing when she kissed 'Daddy' in the street for the first time) whenever their children want to know, and when their grandchildren, then great-grandchildren ask, they repeat it again.
Until it's left for only Myrnin to repeat in his methodical manner that old age has brought, and not long after that their story is left only in the minds of those they passed their word on to. And all they can hope is that they made an impression.
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