"You shouldn't have used that damned machine, Marcus."
Those are not the first words Marcus expects to hear when he wakes up. Actually, he hadn't expected to hear any words as he woke up - nor, really, had expected to wake up at all.
"You can open your eyes."
He can even - almost - recognize the voice. Someone he knew - knows. A woman. Marcus prods at his memory, trying to find the name; he should know her name.
"Ivanova?" His voice is stronger than he thinks it should be, but it's still weak. Barely loud enough to be audible, but the question earns him a hand on his forehead, and a quiet chuckle.
"I was Ivanova." The hand strokes his hair back from his face, the calluses almost familiar to him, though he doesn't have many memories of them. "I haven't been in several years."
He frowns, trying to open his eyes, though it doesn't appear to do any good. There's nothing but darkness and Ivanova's voice. "Why can't I see you?"
"Because the sun's set, and I haven't lit any candles." The hand moves off his forehead, and the sound of something - flint on steel? - before he caught a faint glow. Behind him, and moving around into his sight, resolving into a candle flame as the holder is set on a surface that he can't quite make out all of. A table, perhaps.
Ivanova isn't in any sort of uniform, and her clothes look as if they've come out of a historical vid, or a museum. She settles onto a chair beside the bed, her gaze fixed on Marcus' face. "You've caused me more trouble than I've had in a long while."
"How?" He licks his lips, surprised they aren't dryer than they are.
"That's a story for later, when you're more awake." Ivanova helps him to sit up a bit, before bringing a cup from the table to his lips. Water, cool and sweet - tasting more of natural springs than recycled and reclaimed water. Somewhere on a planet, then, perhaps. "Right now, you've only been alive again for a few hours, and it'll take some getting used to the sensation again."
"I wouldn't know. I've never been dead before." Marcus can't help the retort, and he's surprised when Ivanova snorts, a wry smile crossing her lips.
"I'd be worried if you had. I try to keep track of these sorts of things." She set the cup aside once he's emptied it, letting him back down against the pillow more gently than he could have managed on his own. Marcus isn't quite sure why he feels so weak - though it could be the whole part about being dead.
"What do you mean?" It's a curious thing, what she's said, and he wants to know the answer to his question; with sleep dragging behind his eyes.
"That's also a story for later. Rest, Marcus. I'll be here when you wake up." She strokes his hair back from his face again, a small smile still on her face. "I promise."
"So long as you promise." He tries to reach up to touch her face, not entirely surprised when he can't manage it. The last thing he can feel as he slips back into sleep is her hand catching his, and holding on.
Katherine watches as Marcus slips back into sleep, the smile sliding away like water. She can feel him in the back of her mind, faint as an Immortal who hadn't met his first death. Except that if he was, it wasn't through any mechanism of his own birth or creation, but hers.
Once she was sure he slept deeply, she set his hand back on the bed, standing up and taking the candle over to the far side of the room, which was shrouded in shadow. The machine gleamed in the weak light, terrible and beautiful, and altogether more dangerous than anyone could have guessed when it was first found. She set the candle on it, staring at it for a long moment.
"Stephen should have destroyed you when he had the chance," she murmured, looking over the lines of the machine without really seeing them. "I'm glad he didn't. No matter what happens now."
No matter what she's made Marcus into in her ignorance of how the machine would work when used by an Immortal. If the creators could even have conceived of an Immortal when they made it. She rather thought they hadn't, nor could have. No other race seemed to have Immortals - yes, the Vorlons appeared to be immortal, pretty much, but not Immortal.
Snorting, Katherine turned away, to the open stasis pod next to the machine, reaching out to close the lid once more. She wouldn't need it for Marcus again. And he might just have the forever he never thought he'd actually have with her, even if they might never have anything more - something she wasn't certain of, not after her two experiences with the machine.
"What did you do to me the first time?" she murmured as she rested a hand on the machine. As if it could provide her an answer, though it was nothing more than an inanimate object. "He didn't need to drain his life for me, though I wouldn't have been able to remain in that life."
It had been a fight to keep her Quickening from healing the wounds, to let them steadily draw her to a slow death. A death she would have recovered from, that she had made arrangements for, just in case - arrangements that had been made moot by a foolish, hopeless romantic of a mortal. "Too much in love to let me go, Marcus, and now what? What have we become because neither of us knows how to let go?"
She studied the machine for a moment longer before she leaned down to blow out the candle, and returned to the chair next to Marcus' bed, slouching enough in it to put her feet up on the bed itself. Sleep was elusive, and she kept opening her eyes to look at Marcus, even though she couldn't really see him in the dark.
"Susan?" Marcus' voice was rough, his throat likely still dry from his long stay in stasis, and Katherine startled, surprised she'd actually fallen asleep. Dawn was starting to filter into the room through the high windows, enough for her to make out Marcus' face.
"I'm right here, Marcus." She lowered her feet to the floor, pouring more water into the cup from the pitcher. It was the work of a moment to help Marcus sit up, shifting the pillows behind him to keep him upright for now. Picking up the cup as she settled back into her chair, and holding it to his lips so he could sip at the water.
"Where am I?" He met her gaze readily, his expression a welter of emotion, though mostly confusion. "How did I get here?"
"A world where I don't have to worry about anyone asking about who I was." Katherine set the cup aside, though her own throat was feeling dry, and she should drink some of the water herself. "And through some convoluted process involving the Rangers, a very cranky doctor, and theft."
She didn't want to tell him more right now - didn't want to tell him about Immortality, about her uncertainty as to what happened when he decided to override her attempt to die, or really, anything else. "It's complicated."
"Unless there's still a war going on, I have the time." Marcus grimaced, his hand lifting from the bed to reach toward her, and Katherine caught it before the bone-deep exhaustion of coming back from the dead could force him to drop it.
"I know." She held his hand between his, watching him. "I just don't know where to start - and don't tell me to start at the beginning, that'll take too long."
"Will it?" Marcus grinned, his sense of humor firmly back in place, even so soon after being all but dead. "I don't have anywhere to go, so you could tell me the entire story of Earth from the dawn of recorded history, and we'd..."
"Be dead before I finished." Katherine interrupted him, shaking her head. "I need to get breakfast. And you need to eat. You should be hungry." She set his hand in his lap, pulling away, and moving toward the kitchen. The house was all one room, the sort of home she had been familiar with in her youth, though with a few modern amenities.