Time
By: Manna


xOx…

Her bright hair stuck out from the crowd, and his first thought was that she would make a great lighthouse. He had sauntered up to her with a grin, telling her so, but all she did was glare at him and pull the hood of her cloak over her head to hide her hair.

"Oh," he had said, "I was only teasing."

She said nothing, turning on her heel to leave him standing in the meeting room with a few other Ostians.

The next time he saw her, almost a full year later; she wore only a simple brown cloak with no hood, regular street clothes, and her eyes were tired. He had not given it a lot of thought back then, as he was between simple assignments, and he never wanted to dwell on womankind- they were too fickle and sometimes insane, as one particular cleric he had happened upon in the infirmary after his later assignment proved. He cringed at the thought, instead turning his attentions to the woman who was in the gardens of the castle, planting bulbs.

She was not the first woman he had ever thought to be attractive, but there was something different about her to his eyes as she shoved flower bulbs into the ground with dirty hands. Perhaps it was her hair—as bright as a lighthouse, as always—but he was not sure.

"Don't you have something better to do?" she had asked him, and it took him a minute to realize that she was talking to him.

He shook his head, blushing a bit for being caught staring before he walked to her side, crouching down beside her. "I'm between assignments. What are you planting?"

She turned to look at him as he spoke, and he noticed that she had eyes that were neither brown, nor red. They were almost as bright as her hair, he thought, but he said nothing.

"Lilies. Cannas." She threw him a smile and dug another hole, gently setting the bulb inside, roots facing downward, before covering it back up in the same manner.

"You like flowers?"

"Most of the time, they are dependable."

He laughed a little, and picked up a bulb, turning it over in his hand before giving it to her to plant. "You can count on them to grow…? Or just to be there?"

"Both."

"Do you have a favorite?"

She stared at him. "Do you always ask so many questions?"

He smirked, saying, "I have found that, over the years, asking questions is the best way to learn what you want to know."

Rolling her eyes, she went back to planting. "First, you compare me to a lighthouse, and then you want to know about flowers? I think you are completely mad!"

"Only partially."

"Fine, fine. Gladiolas. But…they are a summer flower, and there are plenty of them already planted here. I am sure the marquess and his wife do not wish to see more of the same everywhere… so I decided to try and change things up."

Raising an eyebrow, he turned to look around the garden. "Aren't there gardeners for this sort of thing?"

"I …enjoy doing this sort of thing," she said indignantly. "Besides, what business is it of yours?"

"Eh." He shrugged. "It's suppose it's not my business at all. But…"

It was hard to explain how, exactly, they had fallen in love with one another. Her name was Leila, and she had a temper and a tongue to match that fiery hair of hers. He would admit, on occasion, to loving that about her. After all, if a person were too meek, they would surely lose out in the game called life.

After a few years passed, he decided that it was high time to put their life behind them—especially her, because she deserved a better existence than the one she led—and he decided to propose.

He didn't have much, just a simple silver band. It certainly wasn't as elegant as the rings he knew suited her better, but he knew that she would love it just the same. He decided to wait, though, until one more assignment passed them by. After one final period of time apart, they would have all the time in the world together.

Tears silently traced down his face as he kneeled by the grave in front of him. The Dread Isle, a place he now both hated and feared, was her final resting place. Her hair seemed less like a beacon, now. It was dull, dirty, matted. Her eyes were blank. Her body was limp.

He traced the curve of her cheek, hating that her eyelashes didn't flutter at his touch. He held her to him, just once, for a moment, and when he pulled away, his eyes were dry again. She had slipped up, after all… It really was her own fault, wasn't it?

He felt the ring in his hand, felt the warm metal, felt her cold skin, and he sighed.

What good would the ring be, now? It would do him no good.

He slipped it on her finger and held her hand up to watch the light that bothered to filter through the thick foliage; it bounced off of the surface, reminding him of a lighthouse.

There were no flowers, here. No gladiolas, no tulips, no cannas, no daffodils, no lilies or irises or zinnias.

There were trees, dark and foreboding.

And fog, thick as the soup that Lowen made for the army on a regular basis.

And time, sorrowfully wasted time.

With a gentleness he scarcely felt, he lowered her body into the ground. It was just a body, he told himself, but it was Leila's body. It looked like her, smelled like her… It wore her clothes and had her hair and…

And his ring.

Things could have been different, he reminded himself as he covered the deep hole back up with dirt, burying her, his beloved, the woman he had intended to spend forever with. If only he had told her sooner, if only he'd gotten down on one knee before Uther sent her on that damnable mission, if only—!

He was out of luck, out of flowers and kisses and laughter.

But he had all the time—all of the damned time—in the world. It was just…now he would have to spend it alone.


xOx…

Author Notes:

This was requested by Tabby. Anyway, I hope this wasn't too mediocre.