AN: Because mortality sucks.
Disclaimer: I do not own Fairy Tail or its characters – Hiro Mashima does.
by Miss Mungoe
She doesn't leave him quickly.
In fact, her passing is almost deliberately slow as she drifts away in his arms. As though he is being mocked by some force greater than himself. Allowed time, to hold her, to savour her. And there is nothing he can do but wait as the colour slowly drains from her rosy cheeks. Her breathing is a laboured thing in the air between them. Weak, trembling. Pitiful.
He almost wishes it were quick.
She smiles at him through it all. There is blood on her chin, and he wipes it away roughly, as though it's a stain on his very existence. And it is, for his existence is slowly dying in his arms, and there is nothing he can do but wait for it to happen.
It is an inevitability that makes him want to howl.
But he doesn't. He holds her, and she smiles. And wants to tell her that if she fucking leaves him, he'll kill something, everything, and she smiles and smiles and smiles–
She tells him she's missed him. Over and over and over and he can't help but think how cliché isn't this for a death scene? And he can't even utter a word, and he can't look at her without glaring, because he is so angry – so fucking furious she has to go this way – he can't think, can't breathe, can't focus on anything but the small shape in his arms that is slowly leaving him.
But he waits, and he holds her; clutches her skin until it bruises black beneath his fingers. If it hurts, she doesn't say anything, only smiles and brushes her fingers against his wrists, shaking with the effort not to break. There is no battlefield raging around them, the way he had always thought it would go down. No blood, no fading screams, no clashes of blades and magic. The ground does not heave beneath them, and the mountains aren't crumbling – they loom in the distance, unshakable and unperturbed by the sheer fucking disaster happening in the world at their feet. The heavens don't weep, either; the sun shines like it's just a normal day and not the last in his life. There are no evil wizards or dragons threatening to upend the world, but there doesn't need to be, for the world is ending either way, and there is nothing he can do to stop it. There is no one he can defeat – no wrongs he can make right.
"Don't go being lonely without me now," she says, and it's a teasing wheeze that shatters the rusted remnants of his black heart. He doesn't say anything. She breathes out heavily, as though the action demands effort, and it probably does.
"Have you been happy?" she asks then. "With me, all these years? Have they been happy years?"
He still doesn't say anything, and she breathes. For now, she only breathes. There is blood on her chin, and he wipes it away, for he will not let her go without a fight. And if that is the only fight he can keep up, then so be it. His enemy is ancient, too ancient and too powerful for him to defeat. He has tried. Tried, and failed.
"I've been happy," she says.
He knows. And he has, too, but he doesn't say that, because she knows. He knows she does, but his fucked up soul can't take speaking the truth aloud.
She closes her eyes. He doesn't want her to, for her eyes are the only things that haven't changed. Her eyes are the same, but she is tired, and so she closes them to rest, and he lets her.
She smiles. "I love you, you know? Have I told you that, lately?"
She hasn't, but he doesn't tell her that. He doesn't tell her that this is the first time in three years that she's actually remembered him. He doesn't tell her that the fact had made him want to break down the wall, the room, the very foundations of the building because he'd known what would happen the minute she'd looked at him and said his name. His goddamn name. For the first time in three years, the sound of it had nearly brought him to his knees, and she'd laughed at him as he'd stood there in the doorway to her room, rendered completely speechless.
It was the end of the battle.
He hadn't bothered to call the doctors – hadn't bothered to say anything to anyone. He'd closed the door and locked it, and walked over to the bed where she was resting. He'd lifted her small frame and settled down on the rumbled blankets, tugging them over her shivering form and keeping her so close he could pick out the erratic beat of her heart against his own. She'd placed her nose in the crook of his neck like she'd always done and breathed and smiled, and it had been the best and the worst moment of his life since the day he'd woken up and found that she didn't know who he was anymore.
"I've missed you," she says, and he bristles, but he says nothing as he holds her like he used to do – keeps her close like a priceless treasure, to keep and to guard lest someone rip her away from him. It's futile, he knows, because something will take her, but for these last few moments, he won't let her go. There is blood on her chin, and he wipes it away, and she breathes. The room is silent around them, and he's already tuned out the footsteps in the hallway and the muffled chatter from the lacryma screen in the neighbouring room. He only has ears for her – for the beat of her heart and the slow, measured breaths of her lungs.
"I'm sorry I was gone so long," she says then, her voice hoarse and the apology a heavy thing in the silence between them.
He snorts – because he always does when she's being stupid. "Ya came back." And it's the first time he's spoken in years. It isn't, but it feels like it. He's spoken to her often – too often for him, she'd have teased him if she'd known who he was. Maybe that's why he'd kept it up – kept bringing up stories, memories, anything that would bring that spark back to her eyes that told him she knew. But for three years she hasn't known, and he's simply been a person amongst many who comes to visit and tell her stories of things she can't remember.
But she remembers now, and she smiles against his neck. "I'd never leave you forever," she murmurs into his skin. "I never will."
He says nothing to that, only holds her. Holds her and waits. She is small in his arms. She always has been, but she seems smaller now, if possible. He tells her this, and she laughs – the sound a hollow echo of what it is in his memories.
"That's not possible. You made me big, remember?"
He does remember. And the fact that she does, too, breaks his ravaged, cursed heart to pieces. But he doesn't tell her that.
"You'll always be a shrimp," he says instead, and she laughs again. Her hearts leaps against him, erratic like the wings of a small bird.
"I'll forget, soon," she says then. "The names."
"Shrimp," he tells her then. "Midget. Shortstuff." As though it changes anything.
"Shorty," she adds, and he wants to break something. Anything. The wall, the room, the building. The world.
"And...and..." she stops, and her voice breaks, and he closes his eyes, and something close to exhaustion sweeps over him.
"Levy," he tells her. Reminds her. "Levy."
She breathes. "Levy," she repeats. "Levy...McGarden." The word is uncertain on her tongue. It's been years since she's used it, but not for the reason she thinks.
"Redfox," he corrects, and it nearly tears him apart – nearly breaks the last resolve he is clinging to with strength he didn't even think he had anymore. His entire form shakes with the effort it takes him to keep in control.
She inhales sharply. "Oh."
He says nothing, and for a while, neither does she, and then it's only the two of them, and the silence, and the empty room.
"Redfox," she breathes then, and he knows. Knows with a certainty that is nearly staggering, but he says nothing as he continues to hold her. Their time is up, but he says nothing, although his heart is turning to rust and the last bit of light in the fucked up existence that has been the past three years flickers and is gone.
She breathes, and then she leaves him. Quietly, without a fuss, she lets go. Drifts away in his arms with a sigh of contentment, and the smile that hasn't left her face since he walked into the room stays. Her small form goes lax in his arms, and he holds her, and waits. There is blood on her chin, and he wipes it away. Tomorrow, he will tear down the walls, and the room, and the building, and the world.
Now, he will simply hold his wife, and remind himself that when she left, at least she remembered that she was.
"See ya on the other side, Shorty," he tells her, and means it. And in her stead, he breathes.
Tomorrow, he will tear down the world.
AN: Having worked with people suffering from dementia, the sorrow of those left behind has always hit me the hardest.