A/N: This was written for the gift exchange ficathon on the RH BBC Yuku boards. It can be found there in its entirety - however, the version posted here will be an edited/revised version, with a slightly different ending and with a bit more meat in the middle. As I am only revising this story and not writing it completely anew, you can expect frequent updates.
Chapters will be short, for the most part, and each one will contain a drabble(ish-type thing) from Guy and Djaq's POV, alternating between the two. Also, since most of the events in this story take place in Acre, Djaq is mostly referred to as 'Saffiya.'
WARNING again for character death, in case you missed it in the summary. Guy loses Marian. Djaq loses Will. The bulk of this story is about the grieving process, though there is an honest-to-goodness happy ending.
Reviews are always welcome and greatly appreciated.
Sad wanderer, once you conquered the South,
Commanding a hundred thousand men;
Today, dismissed and dispossessed,
In your old age you remember glory.
Once, when you stood, three borders were still;
Your dagger was the scale of life.
Now, watching the great rivers, the Jiang and the Han,
On their ways in the evening, where do you go?
-Liu Chanqing, A Farewell to Governor Li on His Way Home to Hanyang
The dream is long and frightening, but as he climbs the steps to his waking, he fears that the terrors of the dream will somehow be less than the terrors of reality, and it is a fear that lingers as he climbs, that grows heavier around his feet with each ungrounded step, and when he approaches the opening of his eyes, he feels a great certainty that he was right, he was right to be afraid -
He can still feel the grit when he wakes. The sand over her grave has somehow traveled across the kingdoms to rest in his mouth, and he reaches for water, only to find that there is none. It is dark. His cabin is stifling.
He leaves the small, hot room and goes up on deck. Two more months, perhaps, and he will be back in Acre. Two more months, and he will put an end to these dreams. He will silence the pain.
The waves are black and silent. He stares out at the delicate, lifting shades of pre-dawn while the ship carries him closer, closer.
Her husband's moans are thin, but they fill the cramped room in which he is dying. Sunlight glows through the window (she wanted to give him light these final days, free him from the darkness of the inner room in which he was at first confined). Her hands move gently over his brow, dampening the fever-hot skin with a linen cloth soaked in jasmine water. She no longer hurries. The urgency she felt in the beginning is gone. Frantic cries and the heavy pounding of pestle against herbs have been silenced. The sickness has won. Now there is only waiting, as one may watch the embers in a stove long after the house is silent and dark with sleep.
He has ceased his restless writhing - his body is too exhausted. But she imagines he is lying still because he is listening, watching. She sings with a hushed voice, and speaks to him of her love and of the happiness he has given her.
The helplessness is vast. She puts her hand in his, and despite her desire for him to be at peace, when he closes his eyes, she is afraid to let go.