Prompt: "Five happy endings they never had."
i. never stop hoping
Fifty relieved exhales shatter the air, but all he hears is his own heartbeat, thud-thud-thudding in his ear like the pounding of a thousand hooves against the earth, like the crashing of waves against the craggy shore.
He touches her face and feels warm skin, feels a whisper of breath. He can't—won't, refuses to—let her leave him, not now, not ever. Her blood is hot against his trembling hands as he turns around.
"Serra!" he calls, and nobody's ever heard his voice sound quite so desperate before. "Serra! Serra, help her!"
ii. you're always in my heart
Strange, he muses as he watches her sleep, that time never stops. It marches forward like soldiers to war, and the only difference is that the soldiers, as determined as they may be, can be halted in their tracks. Time, however, stops for no man, nor woman, nor, he suspects, for dragons.
She smiles at him as she wakes to see him watching her, and the crow's feet at the corner of her eyes deepen. "What?" she asks when he continues to stare, and a hand goes up to unconsciously cover the wrinkles.
He pulls her hand away and tells her, with utmost sincerity, "They look good on you."
iii. i'll find you somewhere
It's strangely beautiful, her grave, marked by only a large white rock and twisted vines and dark green foliage. She might have preferred something plainer, with less decoration, but, he explains, his hand on the rock, he did the best he could.
The air is warm, but he shivers. "I just don't feel right leaving you here alone," he says, and there is no regret in his voice, only honest concern.
So her rock becomes his pillow, and the Dread Isle his home.
iv. and never let you go
"Taking me off the assignment?" Her boot stomps down against the floor with a muffled thud. "Lord Uther, if I did something to displ—"
His eyes are kind. "No," he says, "nothing like that."
"Then what is it? I'm the best there is! You know I can handle it."
With an irritating calm, he asks, "Would you stake your life on it?"
And she thinks, yes, she would. She has for every other mission! She's never failed; her life is yet her own.
But his hand rests against her back as he pushes her toward Matthew, who waits for her at the door. "And your happiness?" he questions. "No, this is a task Ostia should stay out of this time."
v. whatever it takes
"I just don't think it's a good idea," Lyndis says. Her head tilts to the side as her calloused fingers brush against the hilt of her sword. "I… You have spared my grandfather's life, and for that I am eternally grateful. But if, somehow, they realize you have betrayed them…"
"They won't know, not if you let Caelin think him gone." Leila's eyes sweep over the mostly empty room. "With all due respect, Lady Lyndis," she says, a smile touching her lips, "I have been trained for this."
Lyndis's eyes darken. "Would you throw away your life for so little?" she asks.
Little, Leila wonders. Little? As if Darin and the others are something little. "If I can get information to help," she begins, but finds herself cut off.
"If you are killed, nobody will ever hear the information you've learned of. Consider joining us, instead. If not for your sake…" She inclines her head toward the rest of the group, waiting outside the great double doors, but then gives a slight shrug of her shoulders. "Your life is yours to do with what you wish. I'm merely offering an alternative."
Leila considers the Caelin heiress's words carefully. Perhaps they are not so naïve as to trust her so completely. They have proved to have strange methods, and they might already know what she has done, and plan to eliminate her upon her return to the fold.
She thinks of Matthew, and what could be, and what might not be, and she purses her lips.
"Lord Uther will be most displeased," she says aloud.
"I should think that above all else, Lord Uther prefers your safety."
Leila sighs. "You are right, of course, Lady Lyndis. It is not worth the risk."
Lyndis fairly beams. "You will join us then," she says matter-of-factly, sounding quite pleased with herself. "Well, you should go speak with Matthew. I am certain he will be relieved to hear it.
The part titles are from the song Somewhere by Within Temptation. A quick explanation of the parts? Sure, why not.
Part I: Leila isn't dead when Matthew finds her.
Part II: They grow old together.
Part III: This might not seem happy, but I think it's a pretty happy ending in its own right. Matthew goes to live on the Dread Isle to watch over Leila's grave.
Part IV: Uther never sends Leila on her mission.
Part V: Lyndis talks Leila out of returning to her mission after Leila saves Marquess Caelin's life.
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