A wave swept through him, one of joy … no, relief … no … ecstasy. The deed had finally been done, the time was now here, and had he a beating heart, Death’s would have been pounding in anticipation. He couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face as he silently watched the scene unfold, watched as the people around her realised what was going on. It didn’t matter, it was too late. The only thing that kept her in her world longer was that damned corset she insisted on wearing, even at sixty years of age. The wound was still fatal, despite the fact that she had walked all the way to the boat. and Death needed only wait until she joined him.
Finally. After all these years, after all the ways he’d entreated her, Elisabeth was finally his to have. He had courted and wooed her for so long, to no avail, but now it was time, it was her time.
No. It was their time.
Her son had been lovely to have, of course, and he cherished each moment he spent with his dear Rudolf. But Sisi … she had always been the one he’d truly desired, the one he’d wanted to claim. But her spirit was strong, her will solid, and he’d been unable to sway her like he had Rudolf. There was only once, after Rudolf’s death, that she would have willingly come with him, but when she crumbled before him, he was filled only with disgust. No, he hadn’t wanted her that way, not like that. That wasn’t his Sisi. His Sisi was strong, she stood tall in the face of adversity, and he found that he did not want her any other way.
And so he’d rebuked her, turned her away, refusing to even entertain her as he had in the past. When he finally claimed her, he didn’t want to do so because of her own hands, not anymore. Because it wasn’t just her that he wanted, he craved that indomitable spirit of hers. Without it, she was simply a shell, a pretty thing to look at and moon over until one grew bored and sought out some other entertainment.
She was getting close now, her breaths slowing, her heartbeats drawing to a close. If he had a breath to hold, he would have been holding it, likely becoming dizzy as he waited for her to pass, to join him. The people around her frantically worked to undo the deed, but there was nothing to be done. The file had punctured her lungs and her heart, Lucheni’s aim true despite the crudeness of the self-fashioned weapon. Sisi’s eyes roamed, out of focus, unseeing, until they finally rested on him. Oh yes, of course she could see him. Many people did as they slipped from the waking world into his realm of slumber. He smiled at her, his grin cunning and triumphant, not soft and comforting. He had won, and she drew a shuddering breath as that knowledge took hold.
Her spirit found itself in a fog, as many people did as they passed. But instead of staring and wandering aimlessly, Sisi looked with purpose. “Where are you?” she called out, and Death pondered if he should leave her to wander for just a little while. He found he could not, however. He had been waiting for her too long to deny himself this pleasure.
He parted the fog and approached her, reaching out to her, offering his hand. “It’s time, sweet Sisi.”
“Time?” she asked as she slipped her hand into his. “Is my exile over?”
Death chuckled as he reached up to cup her face. “It is over.”
She let out a half-chuckle of relief. “I was beginning to wonder if you’d ever come for me. After Rudolf …”
“I would always come for you.”
Sisi shook her head, looking away. “I found his journals, you know. I know about you two. I thought that, perhaps, you’d moved on with him.”
Gently, he pulled her gaze back to him. “Oh Sisi, you really think I couldn’t love you both? You really think I am limited by such means?” A light blush coloured her cheeks, and that was all the response Death needed. “Now come, I’ve been waiting a long time for this.”
And with that, he effortlessly pulled her close, their bodies flush with one another as he leaned down and claimed her mouth with his own. Her lips parted of their own accord as Sisi finally submitted to him, allowing him the pleasure for the first time in her final moments. It was world’s different than when he’d claimed Rudolf. Instead of sorrow and tears, it was full of relief and longing. Truly, this was how it was always meant to be, was it not? No matter how hard he’d pursued her, no matter how sweetly he’d wooed her, if he’d claimed her before now it would not have been the same, wouldn’t have been as sweet and satisfying. Instead of being broken, her spirit was just as strong as it had always been, and it shone through in that kiss. And that … that was precisely what Death had wanted all along. Patience was a virtue for a reason, and now he finally not only had Sisi, he had her fully, completely, exactly as she was when he’d first found an interest in her.
As they parted, Death took a moment to relish his victory before he beckoned her further, murmuring as he pressed a soft kiss to her forehead, “Come. Join me in eternity.”
Sisi smiled, the worries and cares of the world falling away as she replied, “With you? Gladly.”
Death encircled her, embracing her spirit as he lead her away, away into comfort, into peace, into her restful slumber. The cacophony that she left behind only heightened as her heart finally ceased, but she did not know it, did not care. After a lifetime of struggle after struggle, she was finally at peace, and she let the world worry about the rest.