A/N: This might be the first time I've ever written a fic with a soundtrack—this one was entirely inspired by Apocalyptica's "Farewell," a bit of hybrid cello-metal filled with a profound sense of heartbreak and loss and edged with a hint of darkness that's perfectly suited to a twisted pairing like Raph/Cass.
As it happens, this one isn't really dark in any sense of the word—it is, however, very sad and bittersweet. I hope it'll make for a satisfying, angsty read. Enjoy.
It shouldn't end this way.
Cassandra watches him carefully for a reaction as she fastens her short travel cloak, slowly, deliberately brushing her fingers over the worn, watered lace edging. Her skin is pale, dulled, but her eyes faintly glow in the early morning light. Blue, green—color swirls within their depths, translucent and washed, but already it's clear she's coming back to herself.
The clatter of nearby stable hands at work echoes faintly through the still morning as they stand silently at the entrance to the courtyard, the first hints of sunrise painting cold iron and grey stone with hues of warm orange, pink, gold. She's radiant where he burns, golden and alive.
Raphael's suddenly weary, fatigued, and he nearly reaches for her, muscle memory and familiar habit, intending to bring her to his side, hold her, chain her, fight to keep her as best he knows how even as she so easily slips away.
She doesn't notice his discomfort, his frustration. Doesn't turn away from the rising sun.
"You can stay."
It's the closest he'll come to truth, even though he speaks with a careful lack of inflection, expressionless, staring dispassionately towards the looming snow-capped mountains, cold, imposing, the rocky and treacherous gateway to his frozen, barren domain.
And yet it is they who are the first to feel the warmth of morning's light. He pictures gaunt timber wolves slinking once more into shadows and snow-lined caves, clusters of spreading bellflower and shy yellow wood-violet blooming beautifully in stolen moments of sunlight.
"Not this time," Cassandra responds quietly.
He wonders how they would fare plunged into eternal darkness.
"I have a chance," she continues, voice soft, and she's standing strong, straight-backed, but he knows she's struggling. The lightness in her eyes is inconstant.
But it's there.
He's fought, destroyed, twisted and broken…
But somehow, it's still there.
"I…I have a chance…out there. Not here, Raphael—not if I stay…"
"I'm allowing you to leave." A pang, a dull thud in his chest, and he'll never acknowledge it but that's there, too. Has been. Will be.
If you love something…
He doesn't love her.
She wouldn't come back even if he did.
Sunlight slanting brighter over her, and she's growing stronger as he weakens. Cassandra slides her fingers through his silver-blond hair and pulls him to her for a kiss, soft and slow, painful and bittersweet. Her lips taste of burning sun where he once drank of starshine and moonlight. He brings one white-pale hand to her cheek.
Weakened by morning's first light, Raphael thinks, but he doesn't pull away until she does.
"Come with me," she pleads. She reaches out, runs her fingers over the twisted silver clasp of his cloak, doesn't flinch as cursed metal hisses and burns against her flesh.
He doesn't answer—won't. Instead, he brushes her hair aside—golden now, he sees, wonders why he never noticed before, but he pushes the thought away, reveling for a moment in the painful warmth of her as he presses his lips to her throat.
He straightens. Her eyes flash to his, and they're bright, dim, shaded, brilliant—moving, changing, but even as her spark has wavered and fallen into darkness, it has never died.
An increasingly familiar dull pain in his throat, his chest.
She's steady, dry-eyed, even as he hears her pulse, quick and uneven, and he knows she's trying to be brave.
The stable hands appear at a distance, impatiently shooed away by a finely-attired driver and footman. One carefully examines the exterior of the polished carriage beside them, buffing a dull spot with a pristine white sleeve. The other yells to her in rough Greek.
Cassandra ignores the call—doesn't turn her eyes from Raphael's intent gaze for a long moment.
He doesn't speak. Knows she wouldn't have expected him to.
The sun climbs ever higher.
She finally closes her eyes, bows her head, presses her fingers to his lips.
He watches her turn from him, make her way across the broken stones and flowering vines of the courtyard. She exchanges the briefest of words with the waiting men before coming to the carriage. She pauses upon the step, hesitates, one hand shaking slightly as it rests against the lacquered frame, and begins to turn her head the slightest fraction.
He waits for her return.
Waits for her to play her familiar role.
Waits for her to dismiss the servants. Waits for her to sigh deeply in resignation, cross the courtyard and take his hand. As she has done so many times, as she always does.
She turns away. Boards the carriage.
Within minutes it departs, moving swiftly down the cobble-stoned road before disappearing entirely behind a line of bowed birches and oaks.
The steady drum of hoofbeats and the wooden squeak of carriage wheels linger for a bit, fading slowly until all that remains is silence pierced by the tired, mournful call of an eagle owl.
And he is alone, features inscrutable, standing silent and steady as he stares towards the rising sun, towards the frosted, desolate mountain peaks.