You return, and none too soon. Percival rises from the stool
by my bed and squeezes your arm gently in comfort. You both look so pained. I'm
You speak in a low, choked voice to Percival, probably assuming that I can't hear you. "Thank you again for coming, Percival, I was afraid you wouldn't be in time."
Percival responds in an equally low voice. "Of course, I came the moment I heard... But... his breathing has become worse, and he's been asking for you..."
You nod, and Percival's hand lingers on your arm a moment longer before he leaves the room to update the doctor on the descent of my health. He pauses at the door and looks at me, attempting to smile as he mutters a farewell. As the door closes, I know I will not see him again. But I can accept that. I've told him all I wanted to say.
Now you take Percival's place on the stool beside my bed, and I weakly turn my head towards you so my unfocused eyes may attempt to view your beautiful face. Your forehead is furrowed in apprehension, but I know you're trying to look reassuring. Even when you're concerned like this, you are still so beautiful it's almost ethereal. I only wish I had the liberty of stroking your soft silver hair right now. I always liked it like that, unbound and natural around your shoulders. I never told you though... That colour green suits you. I never told you that either. I never told you anything... I didn't dare. I don't tell you now either. I just gaze at you in silence, simply glad that you are here in my final hour.
I'm not even sure how you got me back to Brass castle alive last night. I think I knew that I was dying, even before you tore my armour off and gasped at the bloody wound you found beneath. I always knew that I would meet my end in battle. A knight lives and dies by the sword, after all. I suppose I just didn't expect it to be so soon. It is nothing like I expected. I remember my teachers in combat training always said that my unbridled rage in battle caused me to be irrational, and would ultimately send me to an early grave. I guess they were right.
You were right there when it happened... I am grateful that you gave Salome charge of the battle and took me back to the castle. I'd much rather die in a comfortable place that I know well, instead of the cold, muddy battlefield. I just wish you'd stop saying things like 'It's going to be okay,' as though you believed it yourself. You know as well as I do that my death today is inevitable. The doctor was only able to postpone it for a few extra hours. But it is enough. Enough time to summon Percival from Iksay and for me to say my final farewell to you.
I know I won't be leaving you alone. You see, just now, before you returned, I made Percival swear to me that he will always be there for you, although I know he would be even if I hadn't asked him to. He has never told me flat out, but I know he's as in love with you as I am. He was just better at hiding it.
I can't help but wonder if the reason he's refrained from pursuing you all this time was because of me. Percival, although I consider him to be my unofficial rival, is also my best friend, and now I wonder if he backed off because of my obvious feelings for you. I was so determined, so unrightfully possessive of you. Percival never did like to complicate things too much. He probably tried to hide his feelings for my sake as well as yours.
When I apologized to him about being so selfish, he pretended not to know what I was talking about, and he told me not to waste my strength talking. But I know that he understood. Everything will be okay now, because I have put my pride and selfishness aside. It pains me slightly to admit it, but I know that eventually, over time, you two will find a future in one another. Percival is a true friend and a noble man; I can think of no one who deserves you more...
...I just want you to be happy, Chris.
You move your hands to the bandages over my fatal wound to check on it, but I manage to grasp your hand with my own. I don't want you to fuss over what is inevitable; I just want to be here with you in my last moments. I have never before dared to touch you in any way that was remotely informal, and it is probably this that causes you to freeze in surprise. I know I am not myself, but tell me, what man is really himself when on his deathbed?
I expect you to pull your hand away and preoccupy it with something else, but to my surprise, you hold onto it tightly.
It is coming. I can feel my life fading away with every passing moment. Even though I'm dying, even though I'm sure my feelings were fruitless, I must tell you. I take a deep, shaky breath, devoting all my energy to say that one simple phrase.
"I love you."
It is remarkable, how for all these years I was unable to say those words no matter how hard I tried, and yet they come so easily just now, in the face of my death.
You do not reply. I suppose you can't, for I can see it has become hard for you to breathe. To my surprise, your resolve to remain calm fails you, and the last shred of your mask falls away to reveal such pain and despair that I vehemently curse myself for having been the cause.
You are weeping... I... have never seen you cry before...
Despite the fact that your tears pain me, I can't help but smile slightly. You are such an incredible woman, full of so much compassion and emotion regardless of your efforts to hide it.
I hold your hand to my chest. It's really the only thing I have enough strength for. I doubt that you are surprised I have feelings for you. The way the others constantly used to tease me about it, and how I was overly protective of you, probably gave you some idea. However, it is obvious from your lack of composure that you had never expected me to confess it, even at a time like this...
You are trying to say something, I can tell. Your eyes lock with mine, and I no longer need you to speak because I can see your response clearly in your eyes.
I see what is unmistakably reciprocation.
We could have been. The feelings are there. Even if they are simply the seeds of a love, it was a possibility. Despite the rivalry of Percival and all the others who have fallen for you, I see myself there in your eyes. I had never known. I knew you saw me as a friend and comrade, but I was sure that was the extent of your feelings. But I see now that is not so. If only I hadn't been so terrified of rejection! If only we hadn't been so bound by our duty as knights!
But I shall not think of it that way. Despite my looming death, I am filled with an inexplicable joy like I've never known. My life was worth something, because I have a place in your heart.
It is extraordinary how approaching death can bring such acceptance, for upon this realization I feel content, and I feel no fear when my shaky, uneven breaths become scarcer still, blood flooding my lungs, throat and mouth. My body shakes in weak convulsions, but I refuse to tear my gaze away from your eyes.
Your crying is audible now. Your shoulders are shaking with each sob, and your face is contorted in more emotion than you've ever allowed yourself to show before in my presence.
You open your mouth, desperately trying to find something to say that will make me hold on to life longer, but this is it, and you know it. You clutch my hand in both of yours tightly, then fall off the stool to your knees and bury your forehead in my shoulder, sobbing uncontrollably.
I want to kiss you, but blood is trickling out the corners of my mouth, and the thought of tainting your flawless skin with my gory lips is unthinkable. For the first time since I was wounded, tears fill my eyes. Not because I'm dying, but because I'm causing you so much grief.
Gathering the remainder of my strength, I bring my free hand over and place it on the back of your head, in a final attempt to wordlessly comfort you.
What better sound is there to hear in the moment of death than the sound of the one you love speaking your name?