Notes: The Myth Series belongs to Robert Asprin, not to me. I'm not profiting from his work. Etc, etc, you know the drill.
Bunny looks up as I enter the room and smiles faintly. She casts a final, fond look at the emaciated figure in the bed and stands, walking towards me. Even now, at such an age, she's still beautiful.
"I'll leave you two alone," she says quietly, putting a hand on my shoulder as she passes me on the way to the door. For an instant our eyes meet, and I see a look of deep understanding there. I want to hate that look. I want to hate it because it reminds me of what's happening, but I can't. I can't hate it because it will soon be happening to her as well.
I taker her now vacant seat in the chair by the bedside as she softly closes the door behind her. Looking at the pitiful form in the bed, I feel my heart clench. This shouldn't happen. Not to him.
His eyes flutter open and he smiles weakly at me. "Hey Aahz," he says.
I smile back, reaching out and taking the frail hand resting on top of the comforter. On the day of his death, I believe I can afford to show my former apprentice some affection. "How are you feeling?" I ask.
"I'm dying," he replies matter-of-factly. "But other than that, I'm fine."
"Hey, I'm supposed to be the sarcastic one, remember?" I remind him. God, he looks so small. I can hear his breathing, weak but steady, too slight even to make the heavy blankets on his chest rise. I clutch his hand a little tighter.
"He could be wrong you know," I say desperately, knowing how stupid it sounds but needing to say it anyway.
"He's Death," Skeeve points out. "It's not like he has a history of being wrong about these things." His eyes close, but he grins fiercely. "That was an adventure, huh? Meeting Death? Never be another one like it."
I nearly choke at the comment. "No," I agree softly, "there won't." I curse the day we met Death. I curse him for telling Skeeve when he would die. No one should have to know that. No one.
Skeeve is silent for a long time and I am almost positive that he's fallen asleep when suddenly he speaks again. "I'm glad you're here, Aahz," he says. "I'm glad you stayed."
I sigh, looking towards the window. I'm glad too, but he knows that. "Any regrets?" I ask.
He opens his eyes again, considering this. I'll miss those eyes. I'll miss seeing the adorable confusion in them when someone says something that he doesn't understand. I'll miss the sudden light that sparks in their depths when he finally figures something out or learns a new magik. ...Damn. Must. Not. Get. Sentimental.
"A few regrets," he answers finally. "But not many. I lived a good life. 115 is long past due for Death with my race anyway. And even near the end, I was never lacking for adventure. No, I'm content to die like this."
"You don't regret never having kids?" I question. "No one will inherit the spells you developed."
"Of course they will," he argues. "Any magik user can benefit from what I invented. And you, too. I'm leaving you all my research, you know. For when you finally get your powers back." He smiles. "That's one things that I regret; I never did get to see you work your magik."
I finally can't hold it in any more, and the tears start to slide gently down my cheeks. "I taught you just fine without them though, huh?" I ask huskily around the lump in my throat.
"You did." His voice is a mere whisper. God, it hurts to see him like this! I swipe at my tears with my free hand, changing the subject.
"You're leaving me your spells?" That's certainly flattering; it is his life's work.
He nods. "And Gleep. You will take care of him for me, won't you? I don't think I'd want anyone else to. If Nunzio were still around I might ask him, but I really do think that you're the best one for the job."
"Of course I will," I assure him. "But do you think he'll want to stay with me?"
"He said he would."
Even now, I still don't think I've completely adjusted to the fact that Gleep can talk. He reached speaking age incredibly young for a dragon. Even now, I still tend to think of him as Skeeve's dumb pet. But he and I have come to an understanding of sorts. There's no way I would abandon him. Especially now that Skeeve is leaving us.
"And look in on M.Y.T.H. Inc. once in a while, would you?" he asks.
"I will," I agree. "But I think Tanda has everything under control there. And their ranks are growing every day. They've turned into a regular corporation."
He smiles and it feels like just yesterday that he looked up at me with those wide, innocent eyes and asked, "Aahz, what's a corporation?"
"Tanda is rather capable, isn't she?" he says. He sighs and sinks back into the blankets, seeming to shrink in on himself. "Stay with me Aahz, please," he says softly. "I want you to be here when I go."
I kiss his forehead, his mammal skin warm against my scales, and smile. "Always, Skeeve," I promise. "Always."
Oh God, that was hideous. Let me complain to the author.