Claudia commented, "How awesome!" Then, apparently remembering, she glanced at her watch and exclaimed, "Oh, crap, Iím late for my nail appointment! I have to go. Nigel, get well. Sydney, see you tomorrow!" The little secretary ducked out the door without further ado, leaving Sydney and Nigel alone.
"Thereís more, if you want to hear it," Nigel announced softly. "Though perhaps you should read for yourself. Howís your thirteenth-century Etruscan?"
Confessing, "Rusty would be putting it mildly," Sydney nonetheless collected the brittle parchment. Her eyes skimmed the page, aligning finally with the last phrase heíd read. "Okay, hereís where you left off."
She traced the faded manuscript with her finger, her lips stumbling over the translation. "I think this says, ĎMy sweet Lady, -- I canít make out the next part."
Nigel reached for the page and read, "My sweet Lady, I have carried your heart through the portals of eternity. It is more precious to me than my own. While you traversed oceans and deserts in your search for the past, you never found the piece of your own history that would fill the hollow place inside of you. I give you back that piece now. You are free to fly away, if that is your decision. We will be united in another place and time, for your soul and mine are two halves, incomplete without the other. I love you. I have always loved you, since the beginning of time. Choose now. Will you send me away again in this life?"
Each word drummed home. Sydney swallowed, trying to tell herself that it was a coincidence, that the words didnít have anything to do with her. She was Sydney Fox, not Merlinís Lady of the Lake. She pretended not to see that Nigel recited the last words without looking at the page, his eyes riveted to hers. Besides, it wasnít like she was sending Nigel anywhere. "I canítÖ"...
"Sydney, I um... I got a phone call earlier today from Oxford. Iím not even certain how they found me here." He licked his lips, his face working with an obvious internal conflict. "It was a job offer."
Sydney felt like the earth just collapsed beneath her and she was wheeling through space. "Are you going to take it?" Her words sounded disconnected and faint. "What am I saying? A position with Oxford, of course youíre going to take it. Iím very happy for you, Nigel." No! No, you canít leave me! Not when I just found you again!
"I havenít given them my answer yet. I wanted to talk to you first."
"About what?" About the fact that my heart is breaking at the thought?
"I love you, Sydney. I have always loved you, since the beginning of time. Will you send me away again in this life?" This time there was no mistaking the speaker. It wasnít Merlin who asked her.
Her heart threatened to burst free of her chest.
"Nigel, itís Oxford." Do the right thing, Sydney. You can die once heís gone, but he deserves this. Heís too young for you, anyway. Itís impossible.
A tear slid down his cheek, and he turned his head away. "All right, then." For a moment he was so still, so quiet, she feared heíd slipped back into a coma. "Iíll call the dean and give him my resignation, effective immediately. Iím supposed to be released later today. I should be gone within the week."
"No!" The words escaped before she could stop them. "Please. Donít go."
He turned back to face her, his expression unreadable. "Why not, Sydney?"
Her voice broke. "Because... Because..." When did Nigel acquire the ability to render her speechless? I canít tell him. I canít!
"Why, Sydney?" Nigel prompted again. He reached up and cupped her face in his hands, stroking a thumb along her jaw.
It was her undoing. In a bare whisper, she replied, "Because... I love you. I have always loved you."
His lips settled over hers in an unmistakable claim of ownership, one she no longer denied. A light breeze lifted her hair, a murmur of air that sounded like a sigh. A fraction of a second later it was gone, but it left behind a tenuous change within her.
A soft voice spoke in her ear, but this time it wasnít Nigel, nor was anyone else in the room. We are whole again. You will search for your relics because it is your desire, but you will never again be torn apart over a slight misunderstanding.