He saw her saddened eyes immediately; the dark green depths seemed to pierce him through to the soul as he dismounted in front of her. She was not so young anymore- nor was he- but she looked the same in his eyes as she had when he first met her.
"Oh, Lyn," he murmured, reaching out to take her in his arms. "I am sorry."
She hugged him for a short moment, but she did not cry, and it only served to remind him that she was the same strong, proud woman he had once known when they had been younger and more foolish.
Shaking her head, she pulled away. "It was not your fault."
Such simple words, but to him, they meant everything. She started walking, and he could only follow, leading his horse by the reins. After a minute, she stopped underneath a towering maple tree, and he found the shade to be relaxing, though not comforting in the least.
"I should have been here," he said, as she traced her hands gently over a crude headstone that marked the grave of someone that he had let down.
"No," she whispered, fingering a nearby flower's petals. "It would have changed nothing." She turned to him and smiled, but he could see there wasn't any warmth in it; it was only a hollow, empty shell.
He smiled the same dead smile back at her, but his tone was melancholy as he spoke, "I did not think he could die."
"Neither did I."
"Nor anyone else, I suspect." He paused. "I should have been here."
"Stop it, Sain." There were tears in her eyes, now, and he felt guilt clawing at him from two sides, rather than one. "He fought it as best he could," she said, lowering her eyes as she spoke. "He felt that he was letting us down, and it was all because I said once that illness failed in the presence of a strong heart. I do not think I regret saying anything more in my life than I do when I said that."
"Illness can not always be fought," he whispered, half to himself. "If they could, he would have won."
She looked into the branches of the tree, her expression wistful. "He had so many reasons to live…but even the strongest of hearts cannot prevail in the face of an illness such as that."
Silence overtook them both for a while, and he found himself sitting beside her in the grass.
"I loved him, you know." Her eyes did not leave the sunlit tree boughs. "I still do."
"He loved you more than anything."
She smiled at him, and this time, he saw some semblance of happiness shining in the corners. "He showed me every day, sometimes in the smallest of ways… but it still hurts, knowing that he is gone while I yet live."
He smiled at her softly and set a hand on her shoulder. "He would want for you to live."
"I know." She turned her eyes to the gravestone in front of her and sighed. "Sometimes, I wish that illness had taken me, too. But then I remember how he wasted away, losing weight and color…slowly turning into a skeleton that could only lay there and gasp for breath, and I realize that I am glad that he has gone."
"If you had been lying there beside him, both of you dying, I am sure he would never have forgiven himself." Slowly, he put his arms around her and pulled her into a hug. "Is it lonely?"
He could feel the wetness through his shirt after a few moments of silence, but he did not push her to answer him. Her tears gave him the answer he had been looking for.
"It's been a year, Sain. An entire year, four seasons… many, many cold nights…and yet, the pain does not lessen." She was mumbling against the fabric of his shirt, and he had to strain to hear her words. "Will it ever stop?"
Shaking his head, he buried it in her hair. "It never stops," he said to her, his own thoughts going back to his youth, and a marriage that had left him feeling complete. He would never regret marrying her, but when she had died all those years ago, leaving him with nothing but a broken heart and memories that only faded with time, he knew better than to fall in love again. "It lessens," he whispered, "but it never truly stops. Their face fades in your mind, but you can't forget about them- the things they did for you, the kisses you shared, your wedding night…"
"I'm sorry, Sain. I did not mean to-"
He shook his head. "It was a long time ago."
Silence overtook the two of them again, but they did not break apart. "He would be happy to see you again," she told him softly, her face still pressed against his chest. "You were like the brother he never had."
He felt tears gather in his own eyes at her words. That means a lot to me, he thought, but he only wrapped his arms around her more securely.
"Sain?" her question came to him a minute later, and he let her go as she started to pull out of his embrace. "Do you…think he's happy now, where he is?"
"There is no doubt in my mind," he said, smiling at her in a reassuring manner. "He's probably up there tapping his foot impatiently right this very second… wondering how much longer he will have to put up with some of our old friends before we get there, too."
"Perhaps you are right." She leaned against him lightly, her eyes half-closed.
"Or perhaps I am wrong, and he's looking down here right now, seeing us lying in the grass, moping as we are, and he wishes he could come back down here, if only to smack some sense into us."
"I hope that he is happy…I miss him, but if he is happy, that is all I need to know. He was such a good husband…a good man."
"And a good friend." He wrapped both arms around her loosely, and watched his horse graze for a few minutes. "He would only want to see you happy, as well," he added. "You have your life and your health… and you have me. I may be a poor substitute, but if you need anything, you can come to me."
She smiled slightly. "Thank you, Sain."
It is lonely, he thought as she slowly drifted to sleep in his arms. When you wake up in the morning, and there is nobody else there… when you leave the house and have no reason to return… When you see other people with their families, smiling and laughing. I have loved and lost… I know how it feels. I should have been here…if not for him, for you.
Wow, something different. Then again, maybe not. The only thing different about it is that Kent is dead, and Lyndis and Sain are survivors. Yes, yes, I love killing characters off. But in all honesty, it makes for some fun writing.
The characters in this 'fic, by the way, are supposed to be between 30 and 40 years old.
I hope everyone was in character, according to the age-to-personality ratio, and also that you at least enjoyed reading this as much as someone can enjoy reading angst.
Thank you for reading! Constructive criticism accepted, as always.