I dream of my mother that night. She's a common appearance whenever we sleep in the mansion, and usually I find her pressence comforting. Today, however, it's harrowing replays of the last few months of her life - I get to relive the first time she couldn't remember my name, and then how she also couldn't remember my face. Images of her shuffling through the nursing home play in front of my eyes, until eventually she only walks when she has to go from the living room to her bedroom, or the other way around - and then finally, she becomes bed-bound. A woman in her late thirties, looking like she's eighty years old. No longer a mother, and certainly not mine.
I wake up in a cold sweat.
It's barely 5 am, but I don't think I can sleep anymore. Careful as not to disturb Emma, still lost in what are hopefully more pleasant dreams, I get out of bed and head for the bathroom to wash the claminess off of me. When I head outside to smoke afterwards, the sky is already starting to lighten - a clear indicator of spring, despite the fact that my breath still condenses so early in the morning. I can't quite shake the dream, vivid memories still on repeat in my head. Some of happier times, some the same scenes that haunted me earlier. I try to imagine what it would have been like to tell her that I was engaged. If she would have liked Emma, if she'd been like Nancy Middleton and immediately adopted her new daughter-in-law into the family like she was her own. I make myself only sadder by trying to imagine her at my wedding.
By the time I go back inside, it's fully light and the only way for me to warm back up is by taking another shower.

Emma looks adorable with her hair all messed up and wearing one of my tshirts, as well as a sage-green satin robe. She rubs her eyes as she waits for her coffee to be done. She looks pleasantly surprised as I walk in, leaning into the kiss I give on her cheek.
"You're cold." She complains, rubbing her cheek to get rid of the feeling.
"Yeah, it's cold out." I smile and hold up a paper bag. "I got us breakfast. Pain au chocolat, and tartelettes à la confiture."
Emma eyes the bag for a moment, then looks at me. "It's barely nine thirty, and you're already in and out of the city? At rush hour?" It's not an accusation, just genuine curiosity.
"I... was up early."
"Just like I was up late?"
"How late were you still up?"
"Then yeah. Wait - why are you up already?"
"Because I've been getting up at six for the past two weeks, so my body decided that thirty past nine was late enough." She yawns, picking up her cup of coffee. "What time did you get up?"
I'm not sure if it's because she's just woken up, but Emma blinks once at me, then closes her eyes as she tries to wrap her head around the ridiculously early time I just mentioned. As she does, her brow furrows. "...Why, exactly?"
"Bad dream about my mother." I say, knowing there's no point in lying to her. "Couldn't sleep anymore, so I went into the city to... visit her. Figured I might as well get us breakfast while I was there."
"Efficient." She smiles. "How was it?"
"It was... good. I hadn't been since Christmas, so instead of telling her I was planning to propose... I got to tell her you said yes."
There is a spark in Emma's eyes that I can't quite place, as well as a understanding smile on her lips. "Does she approve?"
A chuckle that lands somewhere between sad and sentimental escapes me, and I kiss her cheek once more as I pass her to grab us fresh fruits to go with the pain au chocolat. "If Madeleine Reyes had still been with us, her love for you would have rivalled mine. And it might have won."
      Because tomorrow afternoon we will have to be on a plane back to Edinburgh, we planned to head into the city today. We don't make any official plans except 'maybe visit a museum or something' and 'possibly the aquarium because I just like it'; we'll just go where the city takes us. The weather is awful nice, and Emma complains that she isn't ready yet to deal with me getting tanned, because it'll only make her look paler. When I suggest she gets a salon-tan so she can look orange instead of white, I get a bottle of sunscreen chucked at my head.
"Well come on then, wrap up your basic white girl habits and grab your coat." I grin as Emma makes an unconvincing threat with a butter knife and comments on how she's cleaning my mess. "By the time we get into the city, it'll be time for lunch."
"Oof, absolutely not." Emma shakes her head with a laugh. "That last tart might be my undoing, I'm not eating until dinner."
"You say that now, but once you see all those bakery windows..."
"Lucien du Castellon, are you calling me fat?" She's switched out the butter knife for the serrated one she used to cut strawberries.
"Absolutely not." I hold up my hands in innocence and smirk. "I'm just commenting on your adorable sweet tooth."
Her eyes narrow, but then the knife lowers and she huffs. "You do the same thing with salty snacks."
"I promise that next time I over-eat on nachos, I won't complain."
She snorts, shaking her head. "I don't believe it for a second. Ready to go?"
"Yeah, just a second. If you don't want to eat lunch in the city..." I grab the paper bag with one chocolate croissant remaining. "I'm taking this one. Eschieve isn't home anyway."
Emma's head tips sideways. "What about your father?"
"The man lives off of coffee and fancy dinners cooked by others." I shrug. "Not perfectly good croissants that have every business being as expensive as they are."
"I think you should leave it."
"Seriously?" I frown. "It'll just go to waste. I don't remember the last time I saw the man eating breakfast."
Emma can't hide her smile, but still shakes her head. "I really think you should leave it. A gesture of good will."
I scoff, but toss the bag back on the counter. "Not that he's shown us any..."

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