"Fabian!" Merlin exclaimed involuntarily, regretting it instantly, as the fairie was intent on his own business and wouldn't have noticed the sorceror if he'd kept his mouth shut.
But the fairie spun around, saw who it was, and relaxed. "It's Genius, Merlin."
Merlin didn't drop his guard. He'd heard the story from Pudentiana during her vacation in Ostia, but hadn't known Fabian or Genius had returned from Tartarus. "How do I know I can trust you?"
The fairie laughed. "What difference would it make to that?" But the sarcasm was bitter, not cruel. Merlin was convinced, and relaxed in turn, waving to his companion that it was all right.
"Pudentiana's love brought me back. Now it's driven her away from me." Genius regarded Merlin almost casually. "You're the one who told her we can't be together, aren't you?"
"I only told her what you both already know," admitted Merlin. "Understand me, Genius," he went on before Genius could reply, "I know what this is doing to Pudentiana, and I can imagine what it's doing to you."
"I've died and been re-souled once or twice myself." Genius knew that was true. "And I too have some terrible things on my conscience.
"But you, Genius, are not a true self. You exist only," he had been going to say 'solely' and changed his mind, "through the curse on Fabian, whose existence is your natural - or supernatural - state. Your existence is artificial and fragile, and we've seen just exactly how fragile it is.
"I feel for you and I do wish it were different, but you're not trustworthy, and that's why I don't trust you."
"Yeah," said Genius after a moment. "Right. Thanks for your wishes, Merlin." He turned and walked off into the night.
Merlin sighed. "Do you think he believed me?" he asked.
"Who are Genius and Pudentiana?" asked Arthur. This was the CAVE's first landing on Rome since the ten-year-old future king had been brought aboard.
"Oldest story in the universe, Arthur: Starcrossed lovers. Fairie Bane and fairie."
"Will something like that happen to me when I grow up?"
"No, just to your, er, lookatthisI'vefoundourwayagain."
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