Pairings: Matthew Hawksworth/Lia Somerville, original characters by me and insanitychains, respectively.
A/N: The explanation I owe you for this can be found right here.
|And just like that, the Carnevale di Venezia was coming to a close.|
After two weeks of revelry, song, and dance, the hundreds of people littering the piazza were at their final evening; lent would begin shortly after, and life would return to (relative) normalcy - at least until next year's carnival.
Matthew chose not to wear a mask that evening. Most of those around him were too drunk from the last fourteen days to notice or care, and it allowed him to keep his vision unhindered - something he needed, since he was in search of someone. He walked through the crowd, listening for the same angelic voice that had caught his attention days earlier, but there was no sign of her tonight; no voice was floating over the rest of the noise.
After milling amidst the crowd for a number of hours (and rejecting several advances from intoxicated women), he rounded a corner, intending to take a seat at one of the many tables serving food and drink.
That was when he saw her.
She sat alone, her fingers toying with an untouched glass of red wine. She was looking out at the crowd - not really in search of anything, but more just in quiet observation. She was no longer wearing a mask either, but he knew it was her; he'd quickly memorized the shape of her mouth as he watched her sing. It was the first time he saw her entire face unobscured, and Matthew found himself captivated.
He was standing at her table before he realized it, and when her pale green eyes looked up at him, Matthew silently cursed his feet for taking him there before he was ready.
"Um... buona sera, signorina," Matthew greeted, bowing and quickly averting his gaze from her eyes. When he rose, she was still looking at him, and he found himself unable to read her expression. Having arrived in Italy a few weeks earlier, his accent and grasp of the language was amateur at best. He bit his lip for a moment, praying he didn't look foolish, then continued. "Mi displace, ma non parlo bene l'Italiano. Mi chiamo Matteo."
It was then that he noticed a certain light in her eyes, and the corners of her mouth were turned up ever so slightly in what seemed like the smallest of smiles.
She was amused.
Matthew cursed himself again. This was a horrendous idea. Absolutely horrendous. Of course the one woman in all of Venice he was interested in was the only one that wasn't drunkenly propositioning everyone else.
When she looked down, then momentarily back at the crowd, he decided that his audience with her was over, that his chance had passed. So he bowed one more time, murmured a good evening and a goodbye, then turned to leave.
He was a few paces away when her voice cut through his jumbled thoughts like a knife.
"Gift of God," she had murmured, and he turned around once again to face her.
Her gaze pierced his. "Matthew means 'gift of God' in Greek, doesn't it?"
She was right - it did. But the fact that she knew that wasn't what had caught his attention most.
"You speak English," he said, clearly taken aback. "You're English!"
"I am," came her brief reply.
Matthew stood in shock for a few more moments, feeling even more foolish than ever before, until he realized she was looking up at him again. Again, her expression was unreadable, but it prompted him to speak nonetheless.
"My lady," he began, smiling embarrassedly, "would you mind it if I joined you?"
She said nothing then, but nodded, and Matthew made a considerable effort not to look too enthused at her response as he took a seat across from her.
"My name," she said, pausing for a moment, "is Isabelle."
He grinned, grateful that she somehow read his thoughts and saved him the trouble of inquiring. "And you're traveling alone in Venezia, Isabelle?"
"You seem surprised."
"Well," Matthew replied, "I suppose I'm expecting an Earl or perhaps the King himself to show up and have me arrested for speaking to his wife. Beloved. Companion. Or something..." He trailed off, biting down hard on his lip. What was he thinking? He was a long-forgotten useless son of a minor knight, trying to engage in conversation with a woman from much higher nobility than he.
After a few moments, she spoke once more, disturbing his train of thought. "I've traveled alone for quite some time."
He'd expected some sort of elaboration, but she said nothing more beyond that, leaving Matthew curious. The silence allowed him to remember why he'd been searching for her in the first place.
"The other night... I heard you singing. It was an Italian madrigal. Caccini."
"Many people sing at the carnival. Surely you couldn't have pinpointed a single voice in disguise," Isabelle countered.
Matthew shook his head. "I know my music. And the musicality in your voice. And..."
"And?" her eyebrow arched.
"...you were wearing a mask that night. As was I. But there's no mistaking it. I... I have extremely good hearing," he decided to say, though what he was really thinking was that he had memorized the angle of her jawline, and yes, the shape of her mouth.
Isabelle was once again silent, and though Matthew could have sworn that he saw the corner of her lips twitch upwards, he wasn't quite sure.
"Your Italian is flawless," Matthew noted, "and your voice is, as well."
He was half-expecting silence yet again, and so he was delightfully surprised when she replied, however succinct it may have been.
"You're very kind," Isabelle said, finally revealing a smile. "Thank you."
"It's a shame I couldn't meet someone as amazing as Giulio Caccini," he sighed, deciding that music was a nice, safe topic for them to converse on. "His innovations in music are most impressive."
"His operas are indeed beautiful," she contributed, nodding.
"Have you heard of his daughter, Francesca? She was just as amazing with her compositions," Matthew continued. "She worked for the Medicis. I was but an infant when she died, though."
The smile on his lips faltered slightly once his thoughts had caught up to his words. Francesca Caccini did indeed disappear during his infancy, but 1641 was over forty years ago, and Matthew did not look a day over 25. Given the fact that Matthew rarely had any meaningful conversations since he became a vampire, getting his dates right in accordance with his appearance was not one of his strengths.
"I mean... she disappeared in the 1640s, didn't she?" he said, attempting to cover up his mistake. "She could have gone off someplace, lived a fuller life. But she'd have been gone long before I was ever old enough to meet her."
He awkwardly met her gaze then; if Isabelle had detected how he had faltered, she didn't show it. Matthew simply hoped that she hadn't known enough musical history to care.
Their conversation on music and travel continued on for quite some time, though Matthew treaded much more carefully from that point forward. Isabelle was silent for most of it, letting him do most of the talking, but what little she contributed was always worthwhile, and would always leave him wanting to hear and know more.
Before either of them realized it, however, the streets were beginning to empty; dawn was approaching soon enough.
Matthew eyed the horizon warily. "I... I didn't realize I had kept you for this long. I'm sorry."
"It's all right," she replied, covering her mouth as she yawned. "Though I must get home. Plenty of errands to run in the morning." They both stood, and Matthew had intended on walking her home, but Isabelle cut him off before he even began his sentence. "I had a wonderful evening, Matthew."
"As did I," he nodded. "It's almost a shame we didn't have more time. I'm sure there are many more things we could discuss."
Isabelle considered this for a moment, thinking quietly, and when she looked up at him a few moments later, she found herself face to face with his hopeful expression.
"Tomorrow evening," she offered. "We could continue our talks then? We can meet at this very spot."
Matthew's lips parted in a smile, and he dared to reach for her hand then, bowing and pressing his lips to her cool skin. "I shall see you tomorrow evening, then, my lady."
They parted ways after that, and Matthew walked briskly back to his dwelling place - an apartment he rented from an elderly blind woman. While he was surprised that Isabelle would make such a proposition, he couldn't deny that he wanted to see her again more than anything. They had spent hours talking, and yet Matthew still knew next to nothing about her. Isabelle's enigmatic nature only intrigued him further, and Matthew was glad he would have another evening to try and learn more about her.
For now, however, the sky began growing lighter, and so Matthew would retreat into his dark room, where he would sleep until sundown - until he would see Isabelle again.