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A Time to Mourn

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He still looked exactly the same.

No surprise there, Duncan hadn't aged a day in well over four hundred years. She'd known for almost the last forty that he would still be young and splendid and gorgeous long after she became old and grey and wrinkled and she hadn't cared. Then. She still didn't care about that; let people think what they would.

Except. She wished she had cared about that, back then, been more vain and worried for her beauty and less in love with Duncan, but she hadn't been and Duncan had stayed with her. Just as he'd promised he would.

She'd loved him with all of her heart and never thought to regret their lives together. Until the day came when she realized that her life was far into its downhill turn, that there were many fewer days ahead than behind, that despite the art she was leaving behind she wasn't leaving the one real legacy of mankind. Someone who would have a chance to affect the world once she'd left it.

A child. An heir of the body. Someone with her blood, living on, making the world better for their presence.

She cared now, too much. But it was far, far too late to do anything to change the path her life had taken. She didn't remember when she'd first realized that she cared, that it bothered her that Duncan would go on long after she'd fallen to dust and ruin, while nothing of her remained at all. It didn't really matter when it had happened, because now that time was here and there was nothing at all that she could do to stop it. At times like tonight, when Duncan was in another city on business, it was a raw ache across her nerves.

She'd never learned how to stop worrying about the Game and if Duncan was killed in a far-off challenge she'd have nothing left at all and far too many years to endure her pain before she was granted any kind of peace.

Not that she'd stopped loving him, she hadn't. She still adored Duncan, she always would. Most of the time she could close her mind to the reality of her life, put it in the back of her mind and leave it there.

On those days, just the gift of his presence was enough.

But today wasn't one of those days. She'd been out shopping to distract herself from her worry for him and had seen the grandchildren of a long-time friend out shopping for Christmas presents with their mother and grandmother. Couldn't think of anything else while she stood and talked to them. Alone. Forced to remember that she was the last.

The longing was always infinitely worse during holiday season, with all of its focus bent on generations of happy families. Duncan knew it and tried so hard for her, sometimes spending a king's ransom on her gifts and sometimes spending almost nothing at all, but invariably his gifts surprised and delighted her. She hated the dark, bitter part of herself that insisted that it wasn't quite enough, could never be enough. But she couldn't banish it either.

She poured more cognac and settled back into the cushions of her chaise lounge, drawing the soft cashmere of her sweater tighter around her shoulders. She was cold, inside and out, and there was nothing in the world that could warm away this particular chill. So she lingered over her drink, artificial heat pooling in her belly, knowing that Duncan would be calling to check on her soon and she'd need to be happy for him then. She hadn't wanted him to know how much she regretted her life but she knew that he did. He'd never said anything but she could see the soft pain in his eyes whenever she had a bad day. And for all of her regrets she couldn't hate him, couldn't even stop loving him.

So she drank and she waited, knowing that as long as Duncan lived he would remember her.

It would have to be enough.