DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to Ryan Murphy and the WB. No infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A huge thank you to Redlance for giving this the 'suck-check' for me. You're awesome! No: awesome just doesn't cut it anymore. I have to come up with a new descriptive. This one is dedicated to Boomwizard. It was her prompting that got me to write this.
CONTINUITY: This is in my Bram!verse and is next after 'Revelations'. The character in this is the Professor from 'Prelude to a Fic', so if you haven't read that one, you'll need to for this to make sense.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Epilogue (for Hannah)
He wasn't the only one who noticed her. Everywhere she walked heads turned-then turned again. She seemed oblivious to the effect she had on passersby, but he noted with some amusement that she left in her wake a trail of stupefied gazes and seething girlfriends.
A breeze tousled her hair and she smiled into the wind's light caress. And it was the smile that did it.
He knew this girl. But from where?
Of all the gods of Olympus, it was Mnemosyne whose favor he desired above all others. In his youth he had fancied himself Odysseus-the hero of Homer's epic poems. He too had traveled the world-accumulating enough experiences for ten lifetimes.
Who but the goddess of memory could he trust with this: his greatest treasure?
Thankfully, she did not fail him today.
"Miss McQueen?" The name may have taken a moment, but that face? He would never forget that face.
Like the legendary Helen of the city from whence the USC football team got its nickname, hers was the kind of beauty that in antiquity launched a thousand ships.
No-you didn't forget a face like Brooke McQueen's.
But that wasn't why he remembered her. He remembered a girl who years ago seemed so excited to attend his class, who'd had one of the top scores on their first test--
And disappeared on the last day of drop/add.
Sure, students dropped his class from time to time (albeit, not often) but it was almost always expected: a disastrous test score, too much partying, never showing up in the first place...
There were a myriad of reasons.
But she was a surprise. And she stuck with him all these years because on that last day she'd looked completely bereft.
The light that radiated from inside of her-the inner beauty that matched her outer beauty-had gone out of her. In just a matter of moments this angel fell from grace, and then disappeared forever.
He always wondered what had become of her.
Brooke McQueen studied him, and he knew the moment she made the connection. Her expression changed to a warm-but guarded-smile.
"Professor Mallory," she smiled. "How are you?"
She remembered him. That was unexpected. "I'm good," he replied truthfully. "How long has it been? What are you: a junior now?"
"Senior," she replied, and then rolled her eyes a little. "Well, technically I'm a fifth year senior. I added a second major, and won't graduate until December."
"The years fly by," he shook his head. "I'm still teaching freshmen lit."
"I remember your class was highly recommended," she offered graciously.
"Apparently you disagreed." He smiled to take remove any hint of accusation, but he had to know.
She looked away, searching, before turning back to him. "I was a lot younger," she acknowledged with a smile. "I wasn't as sure of myself back then."
His mind cast back to that day: to the peculiar conversation they'd had at the beginning of class. He had just told the class about being a naïve young man-still two months shy of his twentieth birthday-wooing a beautiful French maiden on the banks of the River Seine.
Fleurette. It was funny: he'd met so many beautiful women in the course of his life-from all corners of the globe. But none were as sharp and crystal clear in his mind as Fleurette.
"You were in love," he remembered.
"Yes," she smiled, "very much so." She hesitated on the verge of elaborating. "I know now that there were certain ideas that I wasn't ready to have challenged," she admitted. "And maybe never will," she added with a shrug.
"You seemed very distraught that day," he said.
"I was," she acknowledged. "You made me feel unsure about the love of my life." But she too smiled gently when she said it: water under the bridge after so many years.
"I'm sorry," came unbidden from him. It was completely unlike him to apologize for challenging a student's world view. After all, that was what he was supposed to do.
But this time he'd broached into personal territory. He'd always wondered if he was responsible for how she looked that day. And now he knew it was true.
But that was years ago. She would understand now-wouldn't she? With a little more experience under her belt, she would certainly understand what he meant about the fragility of first loves.
"So what happened," he questioned, "with your love?"
The smile was different this time. This smile was not for the breeze, or for a beautiful day. This smile lit her from within-this smile was for the love of her life.
She held out her hand, and his eye was immediately drawn to the wedding band on her third finger.
"She married me," she beamed.
"Showing off your ring again?" an amused chuckle sounded off to his left.
Miss McQueen turned to the newcomer: a stunning beauty with soulful brown eyes and dark, chocolate tresses. She observed the blonde with a smile that could only be described as 'reverent'.
"And you love it when I do," his former student answered back.
"True," the brunette grinned.
They twined hands. Miss McQueen gestured to the brunette: "Professor Mallory, this is Sam McPherson-my wife," she smiled. "Sam, this is Professor Mallory. He was a professor of mine in my freshman year."
"Nice to meet you," the brunette supplied, and shook his hand.
"And you," he added, trying not to act too surprised by Miss McQueen's rather unapologetic declaration of her sexual orientation. "Miss McQueen started to tell me about you...about four years ago."
"Actually it's not 'Miss McQueen' anymore," the blonde corrected him.
But if there was more to tell-and there was certainly more to their story-he would never know it. "It was good seeing you again, Professor," she said-effectively ending the conversation.
And the brunette, like any good spouse, immediately picked up her cue. "Nice meeting you," she said simply.
He nodded, and waved as they walked away.
"Who was that?" he overheard the brunette.
"Do you remember the day you proposed? You came home and I was a total basket case?"
"Yeah," the brunette chuckled. "How could I forget?"
"Well, I was--"
The wind carried the rest of their conversation away. But he watched them until they disappeared around the corner of the building.
Four years ago, he tried to enlighten Brooke McQueen about the 'realities' of life and love-to bestow upon her the benefits of his experience and wisdom.
He always wanted to be worldly: to experience everything humanly possible and be jaded before his time. Falling in love at nineteen? That just didn't fit the plan.
He just assumed somewhere along the line there'd be another like her: another Fleurette. He was nineteen. You didn't meet the love of your life when you were nineteen.
He continued to stare at the spot where they disappeared, but his gaze peered into the past-to Paris almost fifty years ago.
To a girl who said she'd wait for him.
He could still see her there-in his mind's eye-and her expression mirrored the ones he saw today.
Dear God, had he passed on the love of his life in his quest to see the world-a quest that inevitably encompassed a search for what he so carelessly took for granted?
Was that why he remembered her still: a snapshot of a perfect angel, captured forever with the sun in her hair-looking at him longingly from the banks of the River Seine?
Waiting for him to return...
Instead he went searching. Not realizing, all those years ago, that what he really sought was right over his shoulder-watching him as he disappeared forever.
He turned away from the spot where he last saw Brooke McQueen. He had no idea how long he'd been staring.
It took him fifty years to understand what Miss McQueen had known when they first met. And he was the one who was supposed to impart wisdom upon her-the wisdom he'd supposedly accumulated upon his many travels.
But he didn't feel like Odysseus anymore. He felt like a lonely old man with memories he'd just as soon forget...
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