This is the least Pelna could’ve asked for if he was requesting a warrior’s death. As he draws a shaky breath, he makes an assessment of himself; there’s no blood, not outside his body, at least. He’s not sure if that’s a good thing or not. As he tries to lift an arm, his muscles pull against the shattered remains of his shoulder blade and he coughs, warm and sticky.
Well. Now it’s outside his body.
Ultros had surely made a fool of him. He’d been so confident, so assured. After a decade on the field, he would’ve thought better of himself. Apparently he’s not that good anymore, he huffs, before coughing up a little more blood. As it lands on the floor next to his limp body, the airship shudders and lurches as the sound of metal chafing against itself nearly splits his eardrums.
So this is how he’s going to go out. At least it’s in a fight for something real, something important. He knew as soon as he laid eyes on Crowe’s lifeless body that this was so much bigger than any of them had anticipated, except for perhaps Nyx. The princess was in his hands now. Better him than anyone else, Pelna thinks to himself.
His extremities are starting to go numb. He tries to wiggle his big toe, and then his thumbs to no avail. Nerve damage. Another bad sign. His heart aches as he thinks of Crowe yet again, of the bloodless skin being covered by a starched, white sheet. She should have been here with them, not taken so unfairly, so early. He doesn’t know what he would give to see her again… see her smile. Her big, brown eyes. Her strong, Galahdian features. She’s so beautiful.
Pelna realizes he doesn’t know what he would give because he’d give everything, anything, just to have her with him, especially now. As the airship begins to sway, and he can feel himself begin to slide across the floor, he thinks of her. He thinks of anything he can remember. Something’s got to be a lifeline for him to cling to as he goes out.
There’s nothing else he’d rather have as his last thoughts than Crowe Altius.
He never knew what he did to earn the love of such a goddess. She was always strong. Capable. Assured. The woman radiated confidence on and off the battlefield. Pelna can still remember the way his hair stood on end in the wake of one of her mighty, dark clouds of lightning. He’d never felt more alive, or more awed.
A wetness clings to his cheeks that isn’t blood. Hot and heavy, tears spill from his eyes and trickle down his nose, into his beard. They’re so warm, like little fingers that caress his skin, cutting through the dirt, grime, blood, through his own death. Brown eyes crinkle as they smile at him.
He realizes he cannot smile back now, as the airship leans hard to the left and Pelna hits the wall at the end of the hallway with a bang. His body just won’t cooperate. His brain does, to some degree.
He better think fast. He doesn’t have much time left with her, even if they’re just memories.
What would Crowe want, if they had one last moment together? Perhaps a drink; Crowe always loved her Galahdian ales, and they would often share one in the cozy nook of their apartment. Maybe not that. It would be too casual, too boring. She was always on her feet, after all, always moving.
Maybe one last night together. Pelna has every bit of her memorized, and it wouldn’t be hard. Then again, she would give him endless grief if she ever knew that was what he was thinking of when he finally kicked the bucket. Pelna wheezes a weak laugh before sinking into a coughing fit that leaves him far more tired than he’d like to be right now.
A dance. Now that’s something that she always loved; Pelna was the only one that could keep up with Crowe. They were the only two that knew any old Galahdian dances, and not the ones that had been reduced to mere simple steps by the Lucians. No, they would twirl and kick and sway together like the momentum of Eos was propelled by their very own bodies, and Crowe would carry them alone if she could.
She’s still so beautiful. Gods, he really misses her right now. He misses the way her delicate, powerful arms would rest over his chest and shoulders, and the way her hips would brush and swing against his. Pelna’s heart aches as he thinks of the times she would lead, when their cheeks were flushed with joy and liquid courage as she twirled him under her arm.
The cart at the end of the hallway is gunning for him now; amidst the screams of Ultros outside, tearing everything apart in its rage, he can hear its squeaky wheels shriek as it rolls toward him at an unnatural speed. Suddenly, it lifts into the air, and so does he.
Closing his eyes, he thinks of Crowe. Of her grace, her beauty, her fire, her passion. He tries his hardest to remember what her slender, scarred hands felt like in his own. That little sliver just beside the pad of her left thumb is so damn real; he can almost feel the way it catches when he drags a fingernail over it and the way her skin tastes when he brings that same scar to his lips for a kiss.
Crowe’s arms, muscled, sinewy, strong, rest over his shoulders. They feel so heavy now, and so warm . It feels like Shiva is breathing over every inch of him with her icy kiss and Crowe is a ray of sunshine.
“You always were such a sap, Khara,” he can hear Crowe’s voice echo in his ears, “open your eyes and look at me.”
“I can’t,” he whispers, “I can’t.”
“You’re almost there, baby. Just let go. Open your eyes.”
Pelna opens his eyes to find Crowe’s lively brown eyes looking right back at him. Tears glitter in her eyelashes and she smiles her breathtaking, gorgeous smile before blinking, sending the tears scattering out into the space around them.
What’s just as incredible as Crowe is the scent of the old open-air market in Galahd he used to frequent. He can still smell the spices hanging heavy on the air besides the grill and the crackle of the long-abused stereo sitting on the counter beside the grill. Her smile looks even more perfect here, like she’s always belonged here. Like they’ve always belonged here.
“Crowe,” he chokes, and as he draws a long, fresh breath of air, he sends his own tears out to join hers.
She simply shakes her head and laughs before offering him her hand, which he happily takes, sweeping her into a Galahdian Waltz they’ve never attempted this sober. She’s so close. So warm. So wonderful. Every step is perfect; he feels so fresh and reinvigorated. Now, if only he could stop crying.
“You were so good, Pel. You tried so hard,” she says softly, wiping away his tears. “You can rest now, here with me.”
Pelna can only nod. As Crowe takes the lead, she drops him into a low dip, making him choke out a laugh. The kiss she bestows him with when she pulls him back up is sweet and spicy, just like they’ve always been, just like she will always be. Maybe it’s a gift from the Gods, maybe it’s just luck, but this perfect moment he imagined for himself couldn’t be any better. He just hopes it lasts forever.