Disclaimer: I don't own Trinity Blood. Gah.
Author's Note: The moment in italics at the beginning is a flashback... thing.
With Me when I Die
Surprised, Ion looked away from the city, at the young queen of Albion. "What is it?"
"Can you promise me something?"
Esther nodded quietly, gazing at the setting sun; she closed her eyes, brushing loose strands of hair out of her face. "Ion… when I die, promise that you'll be there with me," she murmured.
"What? What are you talking about? It's going to be a long time before you die!"
"I… I know. Just… just promise me that, okay? Promise you'll be with me when I die, no matter what."
Ion gaped at her, his mind spinning wildly. Why was she talking about death? For God's sake, she was only nineteen! She wouldn't die for another fifty or sixty years! Why was she thinking about it when it was so far off?
"I promise, Esther."
"Thank you, Ion."
Well, this was really unfair. Esther sighed, closing her eyes, her breathing shallow and rapid.
She was twenty-three years old. She'd been married for three years, had a two-year-old daughter.
And at twenty-three years old, she, Esther Blanchett… was dying.
The illness had come as a shock to many; to many except her, for she had sensed it years before it began ravaging her body from the inside out. She'd felt it at nineteen, and she'd felt it five months ago, when it had finally awakened inside her and gone on the offensive.
She was going to die. The illness had been fast, had been violent, had destroyed her before anything could even be done. She was going to die.
And strangely, she was okay with that.
A great cough clenched her, racking her thin frame and causing her to gasp for breath; her chest was beginning to burn even as the cough died when the door flew open.
"Milady!" A servant girl peered at her anxiously, stepping close. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, I'm fine." Esther smiled weakly, wanting to console the young girl. "Is Jerome back yet?"
"No, he… he'll be gone all day…"
"Right." She closed her eyes again. "Thank you for your concern."
The girl murmured softly before retreating again; Esther opened her eyes.
Her husband, Jerome, really was a sweet man. He loved her, in his own way, and he adored their daughter Laura. Over the three years she had been married to him, Esther had grown to like and respect him, as both a man and a husband.
But if she was brutally honest with herself, Esther knew she didn't love him.
Subconsciously, clinging to this final thought, her eyes drifted to the open window; she'd insisted it be left open, and a gentle breeze wafted through, tugging on the curtains.
He hadn't come. Esther realized she wasn't disappointed. It had been a foolish promise; one she'd asked him on a whim. She didn't even know why she'd asked him to come.
… Or maybe she did, and she didn't want to admit it.
On another sigh, Esther closed her eyes. She felt tired a lot now. Some sleep would do her well, she suspected. Maybe Jerome would be home when she woke up.
The air flow shifted. Slowly, Esther opened her eyes, tilted her head against the pillow to gaze at the window.
"Your timing is awful, you know." Despite the seriousness of the situation, his voice still contained that dry humor she'd known so well in her youth, and there was a gleam of humor in his crimson eyes. Silent as a shadow, Ion Fortuna turned and closed the window behind him. "And keeping the window open is just going to make you sicker," he added, crossing from the window to sit at the chair beside her bed.
"It won't do any worse than what's already been done." But Esther couldn't help smiling.
It still amazed her sometimes, how he could still look nearly the same way he'd looked when she'd been fifteen. He'd grown over the years, of course, and his voice had deepened a little; but his eyes were still the same, his face.
This feeling I get whenever he's around me is still the same, too.
"I'm sorry; you mentioned something about my timing. Did I interrupt something?"
"Only a peace conference with world leaders." Ion shrugged, studying the chart beside her bed, his heart sinking when he saw how steadily her condition had declined. "Grandmother's going to give me an earful when she realizes I bailed out."
"Send her my apologies."
All sleepiness was gone now; or almost gone, but Esther ignored it. "I think it's going to be today," she murmured at last. "I don't know why, but I just feel like it'll be today."
"You came." Her eyes flashed when she looked up at him. "You didn't have to, but you came."
Ion's throat tightened painfully; swallowing hard, he reached out, taking her hand in his and gently bringing it to his lips, his eyes on hers. "I promised, remember?"
Esther realized her strength was slowly fading; she murmured softly, her eyes fluttering shut again. "Laura's going to be three soon," she whispered; the illness had robbed her of her voice, the constant coughing making it weak and raspy. "She's been asking me when Uncle Ion is coming to visit. You'll come to her birthday party, won't you? She wants to see you again."
"Of course." The child was the mirror image of her mother. "Tell me what I've missed."
"She asked Abel where babies come from the other day." She smiled. "You should have seen his face. He gaped like a fish."
Esther laughed softly, recalling the scene with vivid detail. Her fingers tightened briefly against Ion's, then went limp.
"Ion?" Her voice was soft.
"Can you… make another promise?"
"Of course I can." His voice shook slightly. "You know I can."
"Yes… Ion, promise that you'll be there for Laura." Esther's voice weakened slightly, but she continued speaking. "She's still so young, and she loves you and looks up to you so much. I think it's because Jerome travels so much; he isn't there for her the way you and Abel have been. She still loves him, but… promise me that you will look after her, and be there for her, you and Abel both, the way you always were for me."
"I promise." His voice was shaking again.
A small smile drifted across her face; she had no regrets, except maybe one, and she didn't intend to die with it. "Ion… one more thing," she murmured.
"Esther… I don't think you should be talking…"
"Be quiet," she said mildly. "This is important." She opened her eyes to gaze up at him again.
"Thank you… for keeping your promise…"
Ion swallowed hard; his eyes widened. "Esther," he choked out.
She smiled tiredly, then closed her eyes. A soft sigh eased past her lips, and her hand went limp in his.
"Esther?" Ion's voice shook. His eyes flickered uncertainly. "Esther?"
She did not reply.
Tears welled in his eyes and streamed silently down his cheeks; Ion gently laid her hand down before burying his face in his hands, sobbing.
Outside, the wind tapped lightly against the closed window. Once it seemed to realize it could no longer enter, it swirled quietly away, and faded away until only silence was left.
Um... whoa. (blinks) What happened to all those humerous IonxEsther one-shots I was writing?
My first attempt at actual angst with these two, at least in the one-shot catagory. I'm not entirely sure if it turned out well or went horribly wrong...
Read and review, please!