Thankfully, broke out of the quagmire for a fleeting couple of hours last night to dash this thing off. To make a long story short (no pun intended), it didn't come out nearly as emotional as I wanted it to be, and reads more like a cheesy Asian drama than anything else. Sorry...? I'm really too exhausted to care at this point.
Well, I hope you enjoy nonetheless.
Title: (None. I couldn't come up with anything even remotely decent.)
Warnings: Post-game, no spoilers. Character death. Not for the faint of heart. Really, really sappy.
Notes: This story is full of flangst. (Fluff + angst.
Summary: Ten years later, it's time to let go.
It started almost three months ago. You wake in the middle of the night to the sound of his coughing, the entire bed shaking before he’s on his feet and stumbling to the bathroom. He never closes the door completely; always leaves a little sliver of warm light, a false beacon of hope for you to stare desperately at because beyond the door you know he’s spitting blood into the sink.
Fonon deterioration. That’s the label the doctors have given it, the label that’s going to give them their dissertations, their papers, their presentations, their awards years and years from now. Case study, their eyes say every time they look at him, and it makes you want to scream, to yell that he’s not a specimen, something to be dissected and analyzed, he’s your lover, your world. Your everything. But they wouldn’t listen.
The funny thing is, at first, he wouldn’t either. You couldn’t understand, almost a decade ago, when you first started pursuing him, why he refused your advances, why he constantly met every awkward smile and stuttered invitation with a soft but firm “No, Guy, I’m sorry.” You came up with all the usual reasons—he didn’t like men, he was seeing someone else, he was really a calloused sociopath who couldn’t love even if he wanted to—but in the end, it was Peony who gave you the answer, whispered softly to you over the steeple of his fingers, blue eyes sad and resigned.
“Jade’s sick, Guy,” the emperor said. “Very sick. And he doesn’t want you to suffer more than you have to.”
But Peony had been lying. It wasn’t a sickness; it was punishment. Punishment for Jade’s past sins, for being a foolish little boy who arrogantly thought he could use the Seventh Fonon without consequence, and ended up thoroughly contaminating himself as a result, all the fonons in his body—his skin, his blood, his internal organs—dying, slowly but surely destroying him from the inside.
Jade wasn’t just sick; he was dying, and he deserved it. At least, that’s what he told you later that night when you confronted him about what Peony had said, spent a whole twenty minutes yelling at him until you exhausted your voice and finally gave him a chance to explain. There’s no way to stop it, he’d said, the light from the fireplace dancing in his blood-red eyes like a spirit. I don’t have much time left. It’s best you not let yourself get too attached to me in the meantime, Guy—it’ll only make you hurt more in the long run.
When you heard that, you got so pissed you punched him on reflex. Then you kissed it better. He didn’t stop you.
That was ten years ago. You’ve both come a long way since then—he’s now an admiral, commander of the entire naval sector of Malkuth’s military, a man both feared and respected throughout the world. You’ve reestablished the Gardios name among the higher circles of the aristocracy, and your patronage has funded most of the advances in fontech for the last decade. Your…relationship (it’s difficult to define what it is exactly that you two share, and most days you try not to think too hard about it), while a bit of a shock at first for obvious reasons, has long since faded from the public eye, and if the older ladies still occasionally whisper and blush whenever you slip your hand into his while walking down the street, or if the wrong last name is sometimes used when you’re introduced to others, well, you have bigger concerns.
Like how, three months ago, Jade entered into what the doctors have deemed the terminal stage of the illness. It’d only been one night a week, at first, and back then, you’d panicked. Followed him into the bathroom, held his hair back (starting to show some grey now, finally, ten years overdue) and watched in horror as red splattered onto the white porcelain like a perverse work of art. You couldn’t decide what was more terrifying: watching your lover cough up what looked like half a pint of blood into the sink, or knowing there was nothing you could do about it.
He must have sensed your fear, because the next time it happened, he wouldn’t let you into the bathroom after him. He doesn’t want you to see him like this, you know, so you don’t press the issue. You let him keep his pride; it’s one of the only things he has left.
Still, that doesn’t make it any less terrifying. It happens almost every night, now—his wracking coughs wake you both, and he hurries to the bathroom while you remain in bed, staring at that single strip of warm yellow light as you listen to your lover dying just a few feet away and feel utterly, completely helpless. It’s ironic, really—your family was massacred when you were six, you’ve fought countless assassins and bandits and monsters, you faced off with a man who nearly destroyed the world and lived to tell the tale—yet you’ve never felt true fear until now, the cold feeling that twists in your stomach as you stare at the door, each shaky cough that echoes from beyond a blow to your heart that Van and all his minions could never come close to inflicting.
You always pretend to still be asleep every time the bathroom door opens again, and he lets you pretend, even though you and he both know it’s a lie. He needs it, this façade of normalcy, and you keep your eyes closed and listen as he shuts off the light and slowly crosses the room, footfalls almost silent on the carpet before he slides smoothly under the covers again, and you turn and reach for him instinctively, pulling him to you and burying your face in his chest and refusing to look at him because you know that if you do you will see his eyes dark with remorse and something so much more painful, and it makes you afraid.
He returns your embrace, arms tightening around your waist and breath warm in your hair, and you breathe in his scent and swallow against the sob of relief that rises in your throat because he’s still here, Jade hasn’t left you, you’ve bought another day.
It can’t last though; you know it, he knows it. When he was first diagnosed two decades back, the doctors said he wouldn’t live past forty. Through careful fonon regulation and sheer force of will he’s managed to salvage five more years, but no man is immortal—especially not him, as you’re painfully reminded of every night.
He brought the notary over two months ago, when it became evident that he wasn’t going to get better anymore. He bequeathed everything to you—his estate, his investments, all his assets, and he asked you to take care of Nephry and Peony for him. You sat completely silent through the entire thing with only the occasional numb nod, and when everything was finished, after you’d checked all the boxes and signed your name next to all the little x’s, you politely excused yourself and went to the bathroom to throw up. That’s where he found you ten minutes later, and when he pulled you to him without a word you clung to him and sobbed for what felt like hours, let your anger and grief and fear take over, and cursed the world for robbing you of happiness once again.
It’s better now—not much, but a little. You’ve put all your own affairs on hold, and accompany him everywhere—to his office, to the market, to his meetings with Peony. Jade’s childhood friend isn’t taking things too well, either—you can see it in the sag of his shoulders, the dimness in his eyes that echoes of resignation, but his smile is still genuine every time Jade goes to see him, which is almost every day now. You’re not the only one counting the days.
In the meantime, you and Jade quietly make the most of what time you have left. You walk together through the shady groves of Grand Chokmah’s parks, or sit together at the edge of the harbor and count the ships that dot the horizon. When Luke, Tear, Anise and Natalia come for visits (which is more often than not, now—they don’t know the details, but they know what matters) you smile and reminisce and share stories about kids and family and life in general, and all steadfastly ignore the paleness of Jade’s complexion, or the fact that he has to sit down every ten minutes. And some nights, when it’s just you and Jade alone, you sit on the old couch in the sitting room with your head in Jade’s lap, watching the flames dance in the fireplace while he pretends to read a book, but there’s no mistaking the way his arm remains tight against your chest, clinging to you like a final lifeline. You try not to think about just how true that might be.
When he collapses in the market two weeks later, you’re the first one by his side. His face is deathly pale and his breaths come short and shallow, and you know immediately, inexplicably, even as you lift him up and make a dash for the hospital, that this is it. The doctors make their announcements—it’s time, there’s nothing else we can do, you have our deepest condolences—and you nod and thank them and shake their hands even though the only thing you want to do is hurl them against the wall. With Peony’s backing, you get the hospital to release him, and bring him home for the last time.
The doctors have told you that he probably won’t wake up again, and it’s true—he sleeps through Luke, Tear, Anise and Natalia, through Nephry, even through Peony. They all understand, though, and soon it’s just you, keeping a silent vigil by Jade’s side, waiting. Because he wouldn’t leave you, not like this. Not without saying goodbye first.
Two days later, you wake from a catnap to soft red eyes, and almost forget to breathe. For a long moment you just stare at each other, ten years of memories and hardships and endless love in absolute silence, and you can’t stop the tears. He just smiles though, pained but genuine, a soft smile that says Everything will be okay, Guy, and squeezes your hand, and you know this is his farewell.
And so you bring his hand up and press it to your lips, and watch through your tears as his eyes slowly flutter closed and he sighs and finally goes still. And at long last, after ten years and absolutely no regrets, you bid farewell to Jade Curtiss, and finally let go.