He'd been distracted that morning, unusually affectionate and, well, randy - even by his standards. She'd been goading him.

"Are you going to miss me?" She tossed coyly over her bare shoulder, heated gaze glancing through her lowered lashes, as he was attempting to extricate himself from their bed, to put on his clothes. "Tell me you'll miss me." A small pout, the sheets around her naked body slipped just a trace. He wouldn't ever say he was going to miss her, and she knew that well; even now, after almost six months together, he still had trouble putting his feelings for her into words. Habits are hard to break, and he'd never done well with showing vulnerability - even to her.

But he had other ways of communicating his feelings and desires, and as he had looked back on the tempting picture she's presented, he'd abandoned any immediate plans to get himself ready for his flight. Their lovemaking had been wild, passionate - unusually so, as though he sought to give both of them a little souvenir to look back on and tide them over during their coming time apart - and she'd been left in little doubt that he would, in fact, miss her greatly.

They'd drifted off still wrapped around each other - another rarety, although admittedly one that had become more common since they'd gotten back together - and she'd awoken with a start barely an hour and a half before his flight was set to take off. Then followed a frantic twenty minutes of rushing around as they threw together some clothes for him and she packed him out the door with a hurried kiss goodbye, a short "love you, bye". If she'd known then that that would be the last time they would kiss... that she would never again have the chance to tell him how much she loved him... She shook her head as her eyes filled with yet more tears, wishing yet again that she had savored those last few moments with him.

The call had come just a couple of hours after he left, from Walter de Courcey himself. The voice of Global Television had been stunned and gentler than she'd ever heard it before as he'd gently broken the news to Florence over the phone. A technical malfunction that hadn't been caught before takeoff... nothing the pilots could have done... a failed emergency landing... the plane had crashed, killing everyone onboard.

She had no idea what she'd said to Walter, what she'd done after hanging up the phone, but she must have left her apartment at some point because she came to wandering around Kensington Gardens in a daze, towards the chess boards where she'd come across him again six months before. Others were there now, playing the game, unaware that one of its greatest players had just been wiped out of existence, sacrificed by a chessmaster far greater than even he. To what end, Florence found herself wondering brokenly. What had been the point of that move, she thought, gazing up at the sky as though expecting an explanation from above.

Then the pain set in - the realization that she'd seen his face, heard his voice, kissed his lips, felt his arms around her for the last time. He'd never be with her, laugh with her, laugh at her, infuriate her, love her - ever again. And then the tears came. Torrents and floods of them, like a dam breaking, right in the middle of one of the most crowded London parks, in the middle of hordes of gawking strangers - a spectacle she would have been mortified to cause on any other day. She must have made her way to one of the benches - or perhaps someone had been kind enough to guide her there. She wasn't sure. With the tears came the denial. Then the endless rounds of if only - if only they'd caught that malfunction before the plane took off; if only the pilots had realized the problem sooner, and managed to land the plane; if only they'd made love one more time that morning (oh, and how that thought pierced her heart!) he would have missed his flight altogether. The alternate scenarios rolled through her mind in a jumble of wishes and recriminations, mixed with the slowly solidifying realization that this was it. This was the end. He was never coming back to her, and there was no way to get around that, no way to see past that.

When she next became conscious of her surroundings, she noticed that the sun was on its way down. Her face was swollen, her head pounded, her mouth was dry, and she was dizzy. She put her hands up to her cheeks and they came away sticky with dried tears. She was still almost in a trance, the pain in her chest far more potent than any distraction in the outside world. This pain and her confusion threatened to overwhelm her, but with a manful effort she managed to resist succumbing to the lure of her despair. None of it made any sense, of this she was fully aware; but it was beginning to get dark, and the park was emptying around her, and for her own safety she needed to go. She stood up, feeling her head spin, and slowly, agonizingly, began to make her way back to an empty apartment.