Author's Notes - This angsty one-shot is for everyone. Ship it with whatever pairing you wish, for it flows for many. I've included elements for all our heroes and heroines. There are no names used, only female/male points of view. Until the next saga, I leave you with this. - Nika
Seconds bled into minutes, slipping slowly into hours, dragging out into days.
In the darkness there was nothing but the ragged sound of her own breathing as her body struggled to keep itself alive.
She knew it was the end. Knew it was going to be over soon. She was stronger than this. Stronger than them. But even she couldn't control the effects of blood loss and starvation on the human body.
Days without light. Without brightness. Without air and wind and sky and softness.
Her eyes ached to see color… Silver towers. Green grass. Blue sky. Complex shadows and light. Reflections of the sunset playing across the city at dusk. White caps on the ocean. Stars. Moon. His eyes. His face. His shape and body and strength of presence. His smile.
Her prison was so dark she worried she'd gone blind. She had to rely on her hands to confirm that her eyes were still open by the feel of her eyelashes blinking against her dirty and blood coated fingertips. Yet she saw no light.
Only endless darkness.
She'd never seen her attackers. Never felt them until it was too late. They gave no warning, and no confirmation. She was left with nothing to understand why she was there. Ransom? Trade? Torture? They'd taken her, bound her, confined her, and abandoned her to the fates in the damp blackness of her tomb.
She would leave this existence without a chance of ever seeing him again. Never again to be graced with his warmth and strength upon her face… her skin… her body.
She'd never see the sun.
She'd never see her city.
Never see him.
It hurt with such pain she willed her dry eyes to cry tears she could not cry. She had nothing left. Her heart. Her soul. They ached with a pain so sharp it overrode all else.
She would be the one he lost.
The one he couldn't save.
The one thing she would give all else not to be. She would cause him pain she could not heal; could not help; could not stop.
For she was dying. Dying alone. She knew it. Felt it. Smelled it. Dying as the one who'd come before her had done. Unknown and unfound. The dead woman who's grave she shared. Discovered only after she'd released her wrists from the sharp burn of the heavy twine that bound them that she was able to explore her cell. The blood helped. She'd been able to slide her fingers through the sticky wetness to loosen the bindings.
God she was cold.
But the sharpness of the icy air across her bare limbs meant she was still alive. Still breathing. Still hanging on to whatever strength she could find. Hold on until they came. Until they found her. They were looking.
He was looking.
Faith. Faith she still held. Faith in him above all else. She'd prayed to them all, yet above the Fates of her past, present and future, she held only to the faith that he would never give up. Never stop looking. Never let go.
She crumpled inside to know what he'd discover. How it would destroy him to find her so. Alive… or dead. For she knew how she would look.
In laughter, they'd taken her jacket first. Then her shoes. Blindfolded, she saw nothing. But she heard. She smelled. She felt their hands and fingers as they took her socks, then her pants. Heard their laughter as she struggled, fear of what they would do ripping through her mind and soul.
They groped. They squeezed. They implied.
Then they left her alone.
Blindfolded and half-naked.
Left her alone to gag against the rotting smell of death in the darkness and the dirt.
Left her alone with the body. The decayed skeleton in the corner.
She couldn't smell it any more. Either she'd lost the ability, or she smelled worse.
Time passed, blurring between dreams and hallucinations. He was there. Sometimes clear enough she thought she was rescued. Other times he was hazy and faded. Close enough to touch yet her fingers met nothing when she'd still been strong enough to reach for him. He would smile. He would beckon. He would hold his arms out but she was too weak to move. Too weak to cry out. Too weak to do more than whisper his name into the darkness she knew would be too complete to truly recognize him. There was no light.
She knew he wasn't there.
And she no longer cared.
Warmth brushed her face and she tried to open her eyes, a halo of light causing pain. Light and brilliance surrounded her. Surrounded him. She'd recognize his silhouette anywhere. Beside her. In front of her. Illuminating her with its blinding brightness. The white light of the heavens. Calling her. Calling her home. He was there. He'd come. Touching her face. Saying hello. Saying goodbye. It was time to go. She closed her eyes and willed the angels to take her quickly. To save him the pain. To give him someone else to love. Someone more deserving. To give him a future as it should be. Give him love. Life. Happiness.
She whispered his name, and in that single word she said hello, and she said goodbye.
He reached for her. Afraid to move. Afraid to blink. Afraid to touch her for fear she was a figment of his lost soul. Afraid of everything he had ever wanted to believe save for the woman who's deathly still body he knelt beside.
For she was his life.
His past, present and future entwined.
She brought him hope, and without her, he had nothing.
He'd experienced a thousand deaths in the days she'd been missing. A thousand torturous thoughts of where she was, what was happening to her. A thousand murderous plots of what he'd do to those who'd dared to touch her; hurt her.
And a thousand nightmares that would come now that he'd finally found her. So still. So lifeless.
They'd smelled death when they'd entered the bunker. Smelled the decay of rotting flesh and had all known, all decided, all thought without speaking.
They were too late.
They'd taken too long.
They hadn't pushed hard enough, worked fast enough, searched far enough.
When he opened the door his heart shattered without warning. Exploding every thought, breath, and feeling within his body. Under pressure of the single sight of the bloody and bruised body that lay so lifelessly in the dirt at his feet, he fought. He battled with every memory of her that lived in his heart, to believe what his eyes were telling him.
He dropped so hard on to his knees, the jarring sensation rocketed through to the base of his skull. He reached. He hesitated. Afraid to touch. Afraid to confirm the lie behind his eyes.
His fingers brushed skin so cold… so cold… yet not the skin of a corpse.
Then she whispered his name with such softness, he ached for her to repeat it, so he could believe he'd truly heard it.
He touched her. He lifted her. Cradled her.
She should be heaver. There should be more substance. She should have weight and solidity, yet she was nothing to him. He lifted her effortlessly. He lifted her without thought to the repercussions of not being able to reach his own weapons. He cared not of his own life. He would use his body, his life, to shield and protect her. He would give everything, anything, if only to see her smile. Hear his name on her lips. Feel the taste of her sweet kiss. Look upon those beautiful eyes.
He saw the look on their faces as he turned. The horror at seeing one so beautiful, so full of life, now so lifeless. The same stunned expression he knew existed on his own face. The same expression that hardened into anger and fury and a need for justice.
No one would stop him from taking her home.
He carried her forward, surrounded with familiarity and encircled TAC with vests and weapons. Blanketed in a protective ring as he brought his precious cargo – their precious cargo – out into the daylight.
Heat slammed across his shoulders under the sharp power of the double suns, contrasting the icy chill of her skin where it touched his bare forearms.
Sharp echoes of gunfire surrounded them and he heard, but did not listen. Did not jump. Did not flinch. He didn't stray from his destination of the yawning opening of the jumper in the corner of rock walled compound.
When he turned, his shadow moved, angling her body into the rays of the sun. Accenting the bruises. The dried blood. The implications of a half clothed body. He heard the open discussion in his ear she'd been found, and with each face he passed, with each glance chanced their way, he saw the reflected decision of her rescuers.
He knew their thoughts without needing to hear the orders.
He knew it as surly as he knew he would never again take for granted her smile, her laugh, her touch, her warmth.
They would pay. And they would pay dearly.
No one would be left alive.
As they rose into the blue, the fires burned below, a beacon and warning to those who followed. She was his, she was theirs, and all would die who forgot that.
She pushed away the curtains clouding her mind, and tried to move through the sluggish sense that she was somewhere concrete. Somewhere real. Somewhere that smelled sharply of antiseptic. Soft whirring sounds permeated the fog as she fought to open her eyes. Blinking. The ceiling. The intricately carved rooftops of the city.
She closed her eyes, letting the tears fall freely, following each other out of the corners and down her skin to her ears, getting lost in the softness of the pillow.
Heat seared her cheeks, brushing softly at the moisture, accompanied by whispered words of comfort. Promises of safety. Promises of forever. Pleas for her to live… to survive… to come back to him.
Her heart sang to hear his voice, to feel his touch.
Their eyes met as his face hovered above hers, his hand cradling her cheek. She watched the pain, the worry, the fear he carried, fall from his eyes.
Her fingers lifted, with effort; slowly, purposefully, to brush at the tears which soaked his cheeks.
"Hi." She whispered.
"Hi." He whispered.
"I knew." She said softly. "You came."
"Always." She smiled.
"Forever." He pledged.
"Forever." She committed.
In heart and mind, there they stayed, hands touching, eyes locked, ignoring all else but each other.
Forever and always.