A/N: Well, my lovely readers, it's been quite a journey writing this fic. Alas, here is the very last chapter. It's been such a pleasure to work on this story and to hear your feedback; I took a risk with writing this tale, and I'm so happy with the reception that it received! Thank you VERY much. Cheers to Neptune19, musicnlyrics, Isabell Winchester, lyndaflpn (Yes, I have seen "Lost in Austen" and totally LOVE it! Thank you!), Legolasgirl77, SarahELupin, witchbaby300 (Hmm, it's so difficult to cast Lourdes! She's athletic, funny, smart, and exotic; so far, I haven't really found an actress that entirely resembles her in looks or personality in my mind. I'll leave it up to you readers to imagine who she resembles! ;)), Guest (Whoever you may be! =)), I-Am-The-TARDIS, vampireprincessofempire, badwolfette21, Geckogirl123 and IsobelFrances for your amazing reviews! Thank you to those following this story as well.
Depending on your positive feedback, I might have a sequel in store; I already have many, many ideas! Hopefully I will have free time write this coming year. After you read this last chapter, you'll see why it would be super fun to continue this tale! What would YOU like to see in a sequel? Any feedback would be much appreciated! So, just in case there will be a sequel, make sure to keep alerted to this story. I will also post a note here to let you know of any progress! Enjoy this last one, folks! Looking forward to hearing from you. xx IFHD
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Chapter 25: What the Future Holds
Song Inspirations: "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri, "Between the Raindrops" by Lifehouse and Natasha Bedingfield, and "Never Let Me Go" by Florence + The Machine
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"Galahad! Galahad, come here, my son!"
The elated voice belonged to a statuesque, well-built man attired in a red cape and chainmail; a veritable knight in shining armour, it seemed. As he approached my line of sight, he continued to call out to Galahad; the little tyke was no more than five years of age. The young boy, finally hearing the repeated call of his name, snapped his head upwards in anticipation; his hazel eyes sparkled with mirth at the sight of a familiar face. Crying out in sheer glee, Galahad tossed his wooden sword upon the muddy earth, completely abandoned his six-year-old opponent, and sprinted towards his father as quickly as his skinny, short legs could carry him. The knight lifted the visor of his helmet, squatted down to his son's height, and welcomed him with open arms. Galahad unabashedly jumped upon his father's chest and wrapped his lithe arms around his neck. Coloured by laughter, they embraced lovingly; their emotions were so palpable that it made my heart ache with joy.
I was standing a few meters from them, frozen in my spot. The corner of my eye caught the sight of my garments. Looking down at the blue, empire-waist dress that adorned me, I found the garb, albeit beautiful, rather peculiar; it wasn't something I would usually wear, that was for certain. Frankly, I had never seen anything like it in my wardrobe - ever. What made me somewhat agitated as the moments passed was that, when I surveyed my surroundings, my vision remained blurry. I couldn't entirely place where I was - or recognize anything at all, for that matter. It appeared as though I were looking straight into the sun; the blinding, white light concealed the environment around me, and only the vision of Galahad and his father were somewhat visible.
The knight scooped the boy in his arms as he stood straight once more. He pinched the boy's nose teasingly, then cocked his head to the side. "Let us greet your mother together, shall we?"
They began to move towards me.
The light followed them, as though guiding their every move; nevertheless, I attempted to keep my focus upon them through narrowed lids. The knight's gaze never faltered from my form. As much as I attempted, I couldn't recognize him for the life of me, his helmet only revealed piercing, brown eyes.
They were now only a few meters away. Those same, chocolate eyes bore upon my own and blurred with new tears.
"I've missed you, Lourdes."
I awoke with a pounding headache.
Actually, "pounding headache" was probably a gracious euphemism. As I slowly regained consciousness, it was as though a million, sadistic elves were driving paving breaker drills upon every part of my head, never missing a spot, and they had no intention of stopping anytime soon. I took a few moments to reorient myself. I wondered precisely how I had driven myself into this God-awful state, breathing in deeply in an attempt to dissipate the pain. What in the bloody hell did I do yesterday? Drink an entire barrel of wine on my own? I had made many mistakes with the consumption of alcohol in the past, that's for sure; however, as a few more seconds passed, I realized that the sensation wasn't entirely akin to a hangover.
This felt much, much worse.
Life began to stir through my fingers and toes. A groan escaped my lips. I opened my eyes more widely and carefully allowed curious rays of sun to dance between my lids. The light seemed to sear through my pupils; I ignored the pain. With renewed energy, I attempted to sit upwards. I felt the mattress beneath me: it was soft and comfortable. I cradled my head between shaking palms, teeth gritted.
"Seems like our little princess is finally up," a familiar, baritone voice called out from my right side.
Curiously, I twisted my head towards the sound. My father's recognizable smile greeted me. His cheeks further dimpled at my conscious response. Upon further inspection, I realized that he had completely shaved his moustache and stubble and even had...hair gel on. Hair gel? That was peculiar of him. He only primed himself up to this extent on truly special occasions. What was so special about today? "W-what happened?" I groggily asked, eyes still squinted. "What's going on?"
"You had a bad fall." Another recognizable voice sounded; recognizable, and yet, foreign. On the other side of the bed, Lucan stepped forward with purposeful strides and lithely placed a cool compress upon my forehead. My gaze lingered at his form for a few seconds, appraising his sight with slight wonder. The cad-like smirk that remained permanently etched upon his comely, oval-shaped face fell upon me. It seemed as though my memory were trying to recollect the last moment that I had laid my eyes upon him. Why did it feel as though it had been so long since I had last seen my older brother?
"A fall?" I grimaced and placed an arm upon my forehead. Despite my best efforts to somehow shield myself from the inner attack, the drilling refused to abate. I couldn't control the venom in my voice. "From what, a bloody cliff?"
My father and brother made eye contact with one another, amused by the dramatic display.
Lucan shrugged his wide shoulders nonchalantly. He plopped on the bed, unaware that the shaking had made the headache much worse, and ruffled my already mussed hair. He pursed his lips in thought. "Maybe it was from a horse or something. I wasn't there, so I'm only going by what I've been told."
"A horse?" I snorted in the most unladylike of fashions. "You know I don't ride horses, Lucan!"
The big oaf rolled his eyes and gestured to my ailing form. "Well, obviously."
Ah, Lucan. Always the smartass!
My father knew us too well. In order to prevent another sibling fight from commencing, Owain unceremoniously pushed Lucan aside with an elbow, threw him a pointed glance, and took my face in between his rugged palms. His emerald eyes surveyed me intently - almost apprehensively. "How are you feeling, darling? What do you remember?"
"Like I got run over by a truck." I released another groan, then began to tap into the recesses of my memory. It took so much bloody effort for some reason, as though I were walking through a thick blanket of snow and trying to see beyond the horizon hundreds of miles away. I became slightly panicked when I realized that I couldn't remember much - how I had hurt myself; how we had come to our cottage; if I had, in fact, fallen from a horse. My eyes flitted to my family. Perhaps they would be able to fill in some of the gaps. "The last thing I remember is coming home to my apartment from work. That's it." My breathing rate began to increase. "How are we even here at the cottage? I don't even remember packing. Am I going insane or...?"
Lucan and Owain made eye contact once more. This time, their bodies simultaneously tensed. By this point, they seemed to be more panicked than I was. The few moments of silence between us was enough time for my worry to increase tenfold. Eventually, both of the men discerned that they weren't making me feel any better. To ease the growing tension, Lucan piped up, "Wow, Lou. You must've really hit your head hard, lil' sis. I wonder how many brain cells you have left now, seeing as you really had very little to begin with..."
Without warning, I slugged him on the face with my pillow.
"Lucan, boy, you are not helping your sister." Owain scolded and dealt the grown man his own punishment in the form of a light slap behind the head. He grunted and motioned his head towards the door. He muttered gruffly, "Now go make yourself useful and start dinner, please. Lourdes hasn't eaten all day."
With a grumble, Lucan shook his spiky, dirty-blonde head, though obediently did as our father had bided. Lucan had always been a handful, for sure, but he knew to give respect where it was due. Before he left my side, he said, "Glad to have you back, sis." Disregarding my confused expression, he threw me a small smile and a nod before jogging down the wooden stairs, two steps at a time.
My father's amused expression suddenly shifted to that of worry. The creases in his forehead deepened as he sat upon the bed. He clasped his hands together in a tight bind that made his palms white. "Lourdes, there are some things that I must tell you and some things that you need to tell me..."
Despite speaking in a calm tone, his body language was alarming.
"What?" I attained the energy to sit up even further and face him directly. I grasped his arm and gave it a little shake. "What's the matter, dad?"
"Lourdes, your mother..."
My eyes shifted. "Yeah, what about mum? Is she here at the cottage or back home?"
Suddenly, Owain sat upwards in his chair, as though something had struck him without warning. His eyebrows had risen so high that it could graze the ceiling. A wash of sheer incredulity lined his face, followed by calmness. "You don't...you remember...?"
"Mum and I spoke on the phone just before I finished work. Why?"
Owain ran his hands through his face in relief. An elated chuckle escaped his lips. "This is incredible! And all this time, Lynette said that your memory was..."
I took his hands in my own, hoping that it would reassure him that I was beginning to feel perfectly alright...save for the pounding my head. "Dad, whatever you're going on about, I'm fine. I promise. Just a little headache now, but that's it. Some memories are a bit fuzzy for some reason, yes, but I honestly don't think it's anything serious." I pulled him into a long embrace and rested my chin upon his shoulder. It felt so reviving to receive such comfort. "Speaking of mum, where is she?"
"She's with a friend downstairs. Are you well enough to go and see them?"
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I could hear muffled voices sounding from the living room. Perhaps they had been talking about me, or about a subject related to me, because when I entered the sparsely-furnished room, the talking instantly ceased. I was acutely aware that their eyes were on me now and that, perhaps, the topic of conversation really wasn't for my ears; they seemed simultaneously nervous and surprised by my presence. Still, I took no offence from their abrupt silence; I put on a smile as I faced Lynette and her guest.
Lynette jolted upwards. What's with my parents being so fidgety today? It took a while for her to speak, as though she were choosing her words carefully. Her eyes began to become misty for some reason. "Lourdes, sweetie, I'd like you to meet a friend of mine."
My mother stood from the couch and gestured to the gentleman to her side. He mirrored her move; his stance was firm and unyielding. Upon my sight, he exhibited a similar expression of simultaneous awe, happiness, and...what was it? Relief? He appraised me with such recognition that it slightly unnerved me; however, I retained my composure, kept his glance with equal measure, and threw him a police smile. Had it not been for his peculiar garb, I would've thought that he was just any regular male. Well, male model, more like it. Holding my tongue had never really been my strong suit. So, as I surveyed his chainmail, cape, and protruding sword, I cocked a brow and blurted, "Hey, are you from the Medieval Fair or something?"
Lynette and the visitor eyed one another with mirthful gazes and then smiled back at me.
First my father and brother - now, my mother and this stranger. Was I super amusing today or something? Or was there an inside joke that I was obviously not informed about?
The strapping man stepped forward, illuminating his height. I never realized how tall he was until he practically loomed over me. He didn't seem to take any offence at my rather unthoughtful question. Instead, he kept his hands clasped behind his back and calmly responded with, "I am from another land."
There wasn't a twitch of joking neither in his voice nor his expression. Still, I snorted unabashedly, unconvinced, "Well, you may be wearing slightly antiquated clothing, good sir, but you sure don't look like an alien to me!"
Speaking of antiquated clothing...I wonder what he looked like removed of those garments?
I abruptly halted my inner voice and inwardly gasped. The sudden thought even appalled me. Heat quickly rose to my cheeks; I hoped that my flushed face wasn't that noticeable. The man only looked at me bemusedly, with a hint of a smirk appearing from the corner of his thin lips, as though he knew precisely of what I was thinking. His piercing gaze was too much, too knowing, and I had to break the stare.
Lynette cleared her throat awkwardly. "Well, sorry to interrupt this, but Lucan and I have to go and...check on...the property now."
Upon the mention of his name, my brother's head suddenly popped out from the kitchen. "What? We do?"
My mother threw him a pointed look and curtly cocked her head towards the door.
Lucan gestured to his "#1 cook" apron and raised his hands, which were covered in matching oven mitts. He looked even more like a doofus than usual! Visibly annoyed by the unjust interruption, he cried out exasperatedly, "Can't you see that I'm in the middle of..."
As Lynette and Lucan worked out their infantile plan to somehow get me alone with my mother's friend, the man took the opportune moment to stride to my side and ask, "Lourdes, could I speak with you alone?"
The request seemed to be a bit odd at first - worrying, even; but, seeing that my mother actually knew who he was and seemed to be encouraging a private meeting with him as well, I ultimately agreed. His eyes positively shone at the nod of my head and, without wasting another breath, motioned for me to follow him outside. What I found even more peculiar was that he seemed to already know where he was going; he was leading me half of the time! How did he know the property so well when I had never even seen him in my life? Well, it was possible that Lynette had given him a tour while I was out cold...
There was a veritable calm in the air as we strolled through the back of the property, illuminated by the oncoming sunset. The air was crisp, yet not biting; the perfect temperature for a walk outdoors, really. We fell into step side by side; I could see him conspicuously stealing glances my way, as though waiting for an expected reaction. When he saw that I merely gave him a smirk in response, he seemed troubled and immediately tore his glance away from my form. We remained silent.
He was finally content to stop at the dock overlooking the yellow-and-orange hued lake. With a brooding expression, he turned towards the still water and scrutinized the tree-lined horizon. He seemed to be deep in thought and wrestling with conflicting emotions. His face remained hard, jaw taut. Finding his actions interesting, I mirrored them; though, I couldn't help but peek at his form and survey his pleasing countenance and imposing stature. He was right out of a fairy tale, for sure - with the matching outfit to boot. Was he looking for something in particular?
"That's a beautiful necklace."
I was engrossed in my own thoughts that his sudden voice caught me by surprise. Necklace? What is he talking about? I followed the line of his gaze and looked down at the jewel resting upon my collarbone. My brows furrowed. The tips of my fingers curiously grazed the crescent moon's metal surface. "Oh, this?" I gave my head a shake. "It's funny, because I don't even remember where I got it from."
His eyes twinkled. "I used to have one just like it."
The jewel reflected the setting sun; it appeared even more beautiful. "Really? 'Used to'?" I turned to fully face him and gave him a sidelong glance. Genuine curiosity overtook me. "What happened to it?"
He shrugged nonchalantly. It wasn't difficult to discern that he was attempting to downplay something. "Ah, I gave it away."
"Why would you do that?" I eyed him, amused. "It's...a beautiful necklace!"
"She was worth it."
"Ah." I nodded in understanding. A smile crept upon my face at the thought that the man before me was a romantic. Where were these kinds of men nowadays? If they did exist, were they hiding specifically from me or something? "Well, wow. She must have been some kind of woman, then."
"She was." His tone was lined with velvet. He turned upon his heel and faced me entirely. "And still is."
I gave him a genuine smile. "Well, I seem to have one thing right about you. You are a romantic! I like that." My eyes fluttered towards the horizon once more. The setting sun was now halfway hidden behind the mountain range. "I like the idea of a love everlasting, you know? A love that can stand the test of time."
"As do I." Though I was already in his proximity, he moved a few more paces even closer to me. I remained still, feeling that his closeness bore no threat. The pained expression in his eyes spread to his entire countenance like a plague. His troubled state was palpable. "Which is why I couldn't marry her, Lourdes."
My face instantly scrunched at this. "What?" I shook my head, then even proceeded to scratch it. "I thought that you...I thought that she was...ah, you're confusing!"
He didn't bother to explain. Instead, he blurted:
"I'm in love with you, Lourdes. I couldn't just let you go."
Ooookay. Creep alert! It's bad enough that I still didn't know his name. Now he was professing his love for me? What does someone actually say to that? "Oh...thanks...?" I laughed awkwardly, trying to find some humour in the situation. He didn't budge, clearly signalling that he didn't particularly find any of this funny. He was entirely serious? At that point, I began to plan my route of escape. However, before I actually thought to bolt from his side, I couldn't help but ask: "...Who are you?"
He didn't reply to that, either.
With no warning, he enclosed the space between us, cupped my face in his calloused hands and, without another moment's hesitation, pressed his lips upon mine. I could have kneed him in the abdomen - or a bit lower - and made a run for it, but I was rooted entirely in place, as though I actually wanted to remain there. I closed my eyes. My brows knitted as I realized that his taste was sweet and...familiar somehow. I couldn't explain it. Instead of reeling back, however, I allowed him to press upon me even closer and rest his trembling hands upon my waist. My instincts were not alarmed as a result of this act, either; if anything, it seemed to encourage it.
Our intimacy persisted despite my reeling thoughts, and I found myself automatically wrapping my arms around his neck. He deepened the kiss, and my breath instantly caught in my throat at the unbridled emotions that he exhibited. I was about to pull back, completely overwhelmed by the passion that he displayed towards me, when a bright, shining light appeared in my mind's eye. The white light's presence wasn't blinding, no, but it felt as though the fog that had previously clouded my memories were being obliterated, molecule after molecule.
Eventually, my clouded memory became entirely clear.
Never underestimate the power of love, I was once told.
I managed to step back, trembling from head to toe. The alarm quickly dissipated; it was only to be displaced by disbelief.
Barely able to breathe by this point, I croaked out, "G-Gwaine?"
He attempted to fight the tears that began to well within his eyes as he cupped my face in his hands. "Lourdes."
My emotions burst forth like a geyser, and reckless tears began to stream down my cheeks. I held Gwaine's face in my hands and kissed his cheeks, nose, forehead, and lips. I did so again and again. I remembered everything - all the pain, the sadness, the happiness, the love. The memories were rushing through my head all at once that it was almost difficult to control my haphazard emotions. But what had occurred in the past was the least of my worries. Right now, Gwaine was here, with me, in my arms - and that was all that mattered.
"I love you, Gwaine. I love you."