Lucian had told himself over and over again that he was over Ellen. While he cherished her memory, and loved her more than anything, and missed her with every fibre of his body, she was gone. He knew that. It was his fault, he’d never see her again, and she didn’t deserve it, but she was gone. That was the fact of the matter, and no amount of begging, sobbing, weeping, or praying could change that. Acceptance hurt, but Lucian had no choice but acceptance. Being sad forever would be a betrayal to her memory, certainly- she would want nothing more than his happiness, he was sure. But he also knew she would be ashamed at the disgusting creature he had become anyways. Whether he cared about that anymore or not, he wasn’t quite sure. Perhaps the lure of revenge had been to much to resist, to stifle down, to snuff out. It was no longer possible, not with the dark energy in his heart.
Knowing that hurt. True as it was, he didn’t want it to be true. No, he couldn’t bear that it was true. It made his chest hurt, his stomach churn. The purpose his life served was to destroy the twin-horned vampire for what he had done to his lover. Ellen mattered to him mroe than anything, which was barely difficult- he had no regard for anyones lives, goals, property. Everything was falling apart around him, but he could barely bring himself to care.
No matter how monstrous he had to become, how much dark matter he had to absorb, how much blood he had to spill, even if he had to burn under the sun himself- he’d do whatever it took to avenge Ellen and destroy the one who had taken her from him.
She was dead. He knew that. He had accepted that. He had based his whole life around that. That was why Lucian was stunned silent when the door opened, and there before him was Ellen. Perhaps with different hair. Her eyes were a little more sad-looking, her skin lacking the healthy sun-kissed flush. A little taller, a little older, dressed differently- but still Ellen. The same Ellen he remembered.
His hands trembled, time seemed to slow around him as all he could do was look at her- take in this mockery of Ellen. A vampire bride, that’s what he should have expected in the first place. Lucian knew this is what the vampires had planned for her, a machinated clone of the only one he had ever loved, but what a terrible twist of fate it was to see her here, melancholy and still. All the energy, the charisma, the way she shined- it was all gone. The thought alone made him feel sick, and a choked sound escaped his throat.
She blinked. Tilted her head a little with concern. When she finally spoke, it was flat, as robotic as he should have expected. It was all muffled, the ringing in his ears drowning out anything she might have said. No, he needed to calm down, he needed to take deep breaths. That he did, eyes shutting as his expression returned back to a scowling mask, a hint of anguish still glinting in his eye.
He was able to forget for the next couple of hours. After all, if he got caught up, it would get in the way of his mission. With this new kid on his heels determined to ‘help’ him, Lucian had to focus even more energy than usual on being quick and quiet, which wasn’t so easy when you had a rowdy ten year-old Gunslinger practically pulling on your coat every five seconds for your attention It simply mixed in with the rest of his worries and concerns, melting into the constant buzz in the back of his head, all demanding his attention at once. Still, every time he sat down to rest, every time he took a moment to relax, every time the air was filled with silence, Lucian couldn’t help but think about her. Ellen- no, Carmilla- was so different from her, yet he still longed for her. He missed her just as he missed Ellen. What a betrayal. He gritted his teeth, stared down at his hands, and exhaled quietly.
Carmilla wasn’t Ellen, but Ellen was Carmilla. He just didn’t quite know how to process it.
Encountering her every so often when he entered Sheridan’s mansion for upgrades, the longing in his heart grew stronger and stronger- soon, he was too busy to stop by anymore, and his thoughts were filled were filled with other worries. He was happy for the relief from that heartache.
Still, once their journey was over, he had more time to relax. More time to travel. More time to bend to Aaron’s whims, given his growing affection for the boy he had come to appreciate as somewhat of a son or a little brother. And what Aaron wanted to do was go to Sheridan’s for his interesting set of books, and for the comfort he found in Carmilla’s motherly behavior.
That meant Lucian was forced to sit on the couch awkwardly next to Carmilla more often- to drink tea she had made, and tell her stories, and try his damnedest to make her laugh. He often nearly slipped up- catching himself on the edge of an “Ellen” and forcing himself to call her by her new name. It made his heart clench more and more with every syllable off his tongue, but all he could do was look neutral. That’s what he always did, anyways. What choice did he have? It would cause nothing but trouble for her to know rather than simply putting it behind the both of them. He was a fool if he thought she’d be anything like Ellen, share her memories, her likes, her speech patterns, her sense of humor. So he sat, and he smiled, and he chatted amiably like he didn’t feel like sobbing, crying, screaming, bursting into tears at any moment, begging her to just remember the past they had together.
He tried to avoid interacting with her any more than he had to, but eventually, he found himself talking to her on purpose- telling her stories he thought she might like to hear and inviting her out. Growing closer than he would’ve liked, getting more attached than he would’ve liked. Really, it was best that he simply keep his distance from her, but he couldn’t force himself to no matter how hard he tried. He always ended up drifting back to her, and he’d like to say he didn’t know why, but his infatuation was undeniable. He loved Ellen, and he loved Carmilla for having been Ellen, but at the same time, he loved Carmilla on her own. The notion alone made him anxious. He knew it was time to move on from his lost love, but somehow, it didn’t feel right.
Aaron told him he had the right to be sad. Ernest and Kay told him it was alright to grieve, and he knew that full well. He had spent years grieving, filled with bitterness and rage, but he felt it leave his heart when he had gotten his revenge, so what now? The self-assigned purpose he had was gone, so what could he do?
His only option was to live, but he didn’t quite know how to do that. He didn’t know how to live without anger and sadness constantly boiling through his veins and fueling his every action. He wasn’t used to this fatherly affection he felt, this playful irritation, this gentle kindness and sympathy. While it scared him, he welcomed it. What scared him more was the heart-pounding, tear-jerking pang in his heart he got when he saw Carmilla smile, heard her laugh, her soft words. His chest positively burned, tight and hot, while he forced himself to smile in return.
He was in love, yet again, and he didn’t want to be. He didn’t think he could bear it again. With his abhorrent luck, something would happen to Carmilla as well. He didn’t like it. He didn’t like feeling so vulnerable, and soft, and warm.
He was in love. He had no choice. He had fallen head-over-heels for Carmilla.
The notion alone scared him, but what scared him more was when he found himself hacking and wheezing after examining himself in the mirror- something solid was stuck in his throat, and he wasn’t sure why. He hadn’t eaten, or even swallowed anything other than his own spit in hours.
After pounding on his own chest, the object dislodged itself, and what landed on the counter was a single petal. Lifting it up with one shaking, pale hand, it was a soft and creamy tone- ruffled and veined, somewhat like a lily. Needless to say, he was baffled. How on earth had he managed to get a petal stuck in his throat?
For the moment, he shrugged it off. Perhaps he had accidentally inhaled something while he was out in the garden, though he didn’t remember lilies being present in the lush and fragrant field.
He was forced to finally look into it when he found himself doing it more and more often- fragments of petals, stamen, sometimes even entire blooms filled up his throat, some speckled with blood. It was terribly painful, burning in his chest, making his throat red and raw. Aaron’s concern at his frequent bathroom runs was appreciated, but he could only respond by saying he had picked up a little bit of a cold. He could tell the gunslinger wasn’t convinced in the slightest, but they never pressed on. On the night he finally hacked up a group of petals in front of Aaron, he had to admit that his condition was the cause to every time he suddenly interrupted a conversation or ran off in the middle of a mission to clear out his throat.
So, the two did some searching in Sheridan’s library, no doubt assuming it would be filled with countless accounts of botanical knowledge and medical texts. The taste of spring was bitter in his mouth as they searched, and he was forced to stop in his efforts when he suddenly found himself keeling over, the pain too much to bear as a string of florals mixed with thick, coagulated blood poured from his mouth with every cough he took. Weakly, Lucian collapsed to the ground, staining his armor in his own matter.
Aaron rushed to his side, and as his vision blurred, he could see Carmilla enter in the corner of his eye, but he couldn’t see much else before he passed out, wheezing out a final, perfect bloom.
When he woke up later in bed, Aaron told him that it was called “Hanahaki disease.”
“It’s caused by unrequited love,” he said softly, pity in his eyes. Lucian knew what he wanted to ask him, but he wouldn’t answer it himself. He didn’t quite have the courage to.
“It hurts,” Lucian said.
“The flowers?” Aaron reached for a jar of honey, dipping in a spoon to try to relieve the other’s throat- until Lucian put up a hand.
“No. Something else.” Before he could continue, he felt a stream of blood escaping from the corner of his mouth, thick and bitter. The floral scent stuck in his nose was making him sick, but he couldnt get rid of it. He crawled at his neck, his face, his chest, but nothing relieved his pain. When he lurched forward to eject more flowers, Aaron could do nothing but try to get him to lay back down, and get up to clean up the blood.
Every night, Carmilla came in to change the sheets and put a cold washcloth on his forehead. The touches made him shiver, but they made his heart hurt even worse than it already did. He was scared that he had fallen in love, he was scared of this condition, but he was more scared of something else than any of these things.
Carmilla didn’t love him back.
Aaron told him himself that the disease was caused by unrequited love. He had loved her for so long. He had loved Ellen, he had loved her after he lost her, and now he found someone new. He found someone to love, someone to help him move on. A beautiful woman, strong and polite, with ideals and dreams and strong morals. Someone absolutely amazing, someone he could finally let himself live for. Of course, with how terrible his luck was, he couldn’t ever expect someone to love him back. Why did he even bother dreaming? This wasn’t Ellen. Just because she loved him didn’t mean Carmilla would. In fact, she and Carmilla were almost complete polar opposites. He wasn’t surprised that Carmilla didn’t love him.
Could she even feel complexly the way he did? She was only a robot. Some terrible, twisted mockery of the one he had loved. And all of the sudden, his heart started to burn with rage again. He felt like he was melting every second he was awake. It was cough, vomit, cry, sleep, repeat, and every waking moment, he felt nothing but guilt, and fear, and sadness, and anger at his misfortune. He couldn’t blame Carmilla for any of this, he wouldn’t dare to. it wasn’t her fault at all. It was the vampire’s fault. It was his fault. It was anyones but hers, and he didn’t have the right to take his anger out on her at all. So all he could do was thank her every time she helped him out, and avoid her as much as he could on the other hand. She didn’t come in to talk to him very often. He didn’t blame her.
Aaron started leaving the house more often, and Lucian was bedridden, practically drowning in his own blood. He felt sick, disgusted with himself, pitiful and weak. With a shiver, he buried his head in his arms.
He wanted to heal. He wanted to get better. But what did it matter? There would always be a gap in his heart. Now that he had helped Aaron do what he wished to, he had gotten his revenge, he had nothing to look for. The one he loved didn’t love him in return. Aaron was better off without him. What did he have to love and cherish? What reason did he have to stay around?
So Lucian sat, and he stewed in his own anger and sadness, and he closed his eyes, and he wished it stayed that way. He was forced to wake up, and go to sleep every day as the disease gradually worsened and worsened, flowers building up on his chest, neck, arms, beside him- he could barely stand the sight of the petals without wanting to gag on instinct. He wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to stand the sight of flowers ever again, even if he survived this, which wasn’t likely.
The only cure for the disease was to get the one you love to love you in return, and that wasn’t going to happen. He knew it wasn’t. So he’d be content just laying here, and dying. Frankly, he’d rather end himself right there and now. There was nothing left for him to do. He had accomplished his purpose, and now that that was solved, his need for revenge was gone. All he could feel anymore was the residual sadness and anger from knowing he would never be loved in return. It hurt, but that sure wasn’t something to live for.
It kept getting worse. Every time he woke up, he’d think he was dying.
One morning, he knew he was right. His vision was blurry, his whole body hurt, and his throat burned. In his peripherals, even through the dizzying smear, he could see them. Aaron, Alice, Ernest, Kay, Bea, Carmilla, even Sheridan. He let out a weak laugh, eyes rolling back to stare at the ceiling as he coughed and wheezed. He was dying. He knew he was dying. It was about time, anyways.
He sat up and hugged Aaron. Leaned his head against his shoulder. Gave him a gentle kiss on the forehead. Gave Alice one tight hand-shake. He gave the Gunslingers a peace sign, something familiar from his days as Sartana.
To Carmilla, he beckoned, with a weak smile. He took both her hands, and captured her in a kiss, smearing her lips with his own blood.
For a moment, he thought he felt his throat clear.
Before anyone could say anything about what had occurred, he collapsed backwards, limp.