The old signature wouldn't do. He'd thought it was so full of vim and power, but now it just looked like a child's rounded hand; he'd been child, no shame in admitting it. He tried it with a flourish to the C, the rest tucked illegibly inside the wildly curved initial. Perhaps not. Possibly something slicing the cross of the T through everything? He tore the paper pressing too hard, but it was definitely better.
"You're worse than a girl," Millie said, and plunked herself on the desk. "Christopher, come on, let's at least go and *do* something?"
"I am doing something," he replied mildly.
"You're practicing your magical nine lifed enchanter signature," she said derisively. "That's almost as lame as me telling people I was a goddess once."
"Not that you would ever do such a thing," Christopher murmured with gentle malice, and Millie kicked him.
"I grew up." The implication was clear.
Christopher shrugged and tugged the paper out from where Millie was sitting on it. "You've got ink on your skirt," he pointed out, and she heaved a sigh.
"Tedious beyond belief," she said, and stood, snapping her skirts smooth as she did so. The blotch of ink disappeared along with the creases.
"If you will sit on the desk of a working man--"
Christopher rose to his full height and looked down at Millie: with the best will in the world one could only really call her comfortable. And annoying, he conceded, as she poked him in the belly.
"Don't you look down your long nose at *me*, Christopher Chant. *I* know where the bodies are buried."
"Well, that's because most of them are your bodies too."
Millie grinned. "True. Oh, come on, this place has been so grim since Gabriel retired, as though he was dead instead of enjoying a well earned rest. What would it hurt?"
They looked at each other, and although they both knew better, Christopher began to waver, and Millie could see it. "Aha!"
"Let me tell the Ministry--" he began, scuffling his papers into stacks, (mentally entitled: not urgent; irrelevant; why did you send this to me?; and forwarded from Gabriel de Witt. The latter pile was the biggest and probably the most urgent.)
"Get your coat or you'll go in your shirtsleeves and braces," she told him briskly.
"Millie, wait, let me --"
"I know how to make you hurry," she said wickedly, and he turned hastily, suddenly sure of what she was about to do.
"Millie, now, don't, you said, we agreed, you know we--"
"Chrestomanci--" she began in a sing-song voice, and disappeared from sight. A second later he felt the tug that was someone calling his name with intent a second time. A split second of warning was all he had before she did it again and, clutching his coat, he was dragged will he nil he, out of the Castle and straight to Millie's side.
"That," he said, dusting his coat completely unnecessarily, "was completely unnecessary." He shrugged his coat on, and tugged it straight.
"You fraud," Millie laughed, and started down the street, "Come on, we're going to live a little."
Christopher followed, his eyes narrowed. "Series Five!" he said triumphantly as he caught up with Millie. "I knew I recognised it. Where are we -- I thought Conrad was in Series Five?"
"Well done, you passed the first test," she said earnestly until his startled expression as too much and she let out a peal of laughter. "Your face! Yes, Conrad's around somewhere," she said vaguely, "But you know, that's not the only reason to visit Series Five." She slowed her steps and nudged his arm with her shoulder.
"Trust me?" She tucked a hand into his, and that was so incredibly distracting and puzzling that for a moment he missed the changes around them.
The road twisted and dropped steeply down, cliffs slowly rising above the narrow track. Sand crunched underfoot, and Christopher breathed in deep. The sea! He looked up eagerly, and as they rounded a bend in the road it went from dirt track to white sand, the turquoise sea rushing and retreating in the distance, wave after wave, glittering under the setting sun. "Oh."
He stopped in his tracks, his eyes wide. He knew this place. When he was only little he'd come here and played in the water, played with the --
"Millie, no," he said hoarsely. He'd done his best. He'd testified against Ralph Argent. He'd tried to ignore the whispers about how he was a crook, a thief, a murderer. He'd tried, tried and tried. "No, I can't."
"Yes you can," Millie tugged at him until he turned to face her. She took his face between her capable hands and said firmly, "You, Christopher Chant, Chrestomanci, you can do this." Her face blurred and he shook his head.
"They all died. Me. I. They all--"
"You were a *baby*."
"I wasn't that young," he said grimly. "I knew something wasn't right. If I'd just --"
"Oh, I could cheerfully kill your Uncle," Millie snapped. "It was his fault. You came here and played, didn't you?"
"To start with. Millie, I really shouldn't be here, it's not appropriate."
"Rot," she said crisply, and seized his hand. "I have something to show you."
She hauled on his hand until he followed and dragged him down to the rocks. Careless of her skirts and his immaculate suit, she pulled them both up onto the slippery rocks and further and further out until all they could see was sea unless they turned around.
"Conrad told me about this," she said, a little breathlessly. "And when I started asking, it seemed like practically everyone had something to say."
"About what?" He slipped on a piece of seaweed and nearly fell in. Belatedly he glanced at her feet and realised she wasn't actually walking on the rocks at all, but just above them, her pretty slippers safe from the salt water and wrack. He pursed his lips and hoisted himself up to walk on the air to meet her without a word to suggest that he was annoyed he hadn't thought of that already.
"Shh," she said, and he drew in a breath but stopped, and let it out on a long :
"Ohhhh," as he caught the sound of singing.
The mermaids were playing in the waters. For a second it was as though twenty years had just slipped away, and he gasped silently. Mermaids! He rubbed at his face, trying to see more clearly, hear more truly. Perhaps the ringing voices would try to name him ("Why are you a clistoffer?"). He wiped his face again, and must have made some sound, because a second later their heads snapped around to stare at the two of them. A moment after that they were gone, just the ruffled water showing the least sign that the singing and the flipped flukes had been anything more than his imagination.
"Christopher," Millie said. "It really wasn't your fault."
He swallowed a little, and turned his hand around hers to hold it tighter. "Yes. Yes it was." He couldn't help smiling out at the wine dark ocean, shadowed by sunset and memory. "But I -- *we*. We made it right."
"That we did." She smirked a little, "Us and Throgmorten." Christopher choked back a snort of laughter.
"Yes. And even if we didn't get it all right -- they're still here. Some of them are still here." He turned and smiled down at Millie. "Thank you." She grinned up at him.
"You're welcome. Idiot." She leaned into him for a second and made to turn back to the shore.
"Wait -- Millie?" He folded her hands between both of his.
"Yes?" She met his eyes with a clear, understanding smile.
"What was your name before --"
Millie stopped him, "Don't say her name," she warned, and then shrugged, "I don't know. She ate that name when she took me as Hers. I don't remember it." Her eyes were untroubled, her face composed. "I chose Millie, that makes it real."
He nodded, and ducked his head. "Then: Millie, would you, I mean, I think we should, if you agree, I wondered if--" He stopped, unable to get the words out, and she laughed.
"Yes." She stood on tip toe and pressed a kiss to his lips, and he couldn't help the huge grin that spread over his face.
"Really? I mean, I didn't even--"
Her face creased up with a matching smile. "When did you ever have to ask me?" Her hands turned in his. "Yes."
And he leaned down and kissed her.