The end is the beginning is the end...
So this is how it ends, she breathes to herself as she lies on her back in the damp grass. An old woman, nameless and alone, in the plains with the wet cold nosing through her thin nightdress and biting her skin, chewing at her open wounds. Her vision dips and dims but the stars whorl overhead brighter than ever, as clear as she had seen them at seven, at seventeen.
Something itches at the periphery- (Rinoa!)- but it dissipates under the loudness of her breathing.
She watches the sky.
He took her hand and ran once the Loire presidency ended and Esthar ceased to be a sanctuary, once Balamb, Galbadia, and Trabia were SeeD-encrusted and tense. They hid amongst the heady scent of flowers and the past in Winhill. She whispered some words and melded a shield around them, a sleight of hand so that no one who idly glanced at them would see them but just a man and a woman, simple and clean.
He gave her a flower once, pressed gently by a hotsummer breeze and she smiled and tucked it in hair that would never go grey. His hair turned a paler shade of brown, first sunkissed and then simply from age. His hands grew papery but two things never changed: his mind and his eyes, both solid and bright, nimble and unchanging. She suspected it was herself rubbing off on him, she who looked forever young when she was so old.
But they came for her, soldiers, all bluemetal uniforms and murky visors. They laughed to see her so young. Fingered her nightdress as if at the market, pulled her outside in the early hours as if she was no more than an animal. Jeered as her knight roared (wounded lion they said) and fought as she clenched old spells in her head and threw them. She soon learned from their swipes and shallow cuts that they didn’t intend to kill but needle. But needle what?
“Give it up, Sorceress!” Give up what? She’d already given up her name and old life, what else is there to take?
She saw a red dot tracking his forehead before she could scream and he fell and she followed, waves of magic shoving bodies aside as she knelt by him. He clasped her hand with old fumbly fingers, and she ignored the cuts they made on her back while she watched him die with his eyes open. She didn’t notice she was howling like a child- “a sorceress without her knight is unstable,” she heard, once- and she screamed.
“Now! She’s slipping- be ready!” Ready for what?
Things flew out of her with a sound like the tearing of a seam. They pushed a young girl forward. The girl is one of them, with a helmet loose on her head and whiteblonde hair trailing from it. Like a shooting star, the older woman thought as her legs folded, like the one we saw when—
It is softer and dimmer down there in the grass, with murmurs collecting in her ears and spilling away, unheard. A girl flutters down beside her- minutes or hours later, she can’t know- and she thinks she sees lips moving in apology before the girl’s head turns, called elsewhere, and she staggers away.
She watches the girl’s hair, bobbing bright against the dark armour and horizon, until it fades into the grey. The grass feels sticky beneath her fingers. She can hear nightsounds faintly, muffled by her thickened senses. There is a whisper, a—
The last few stars blink at her when she tumbles into wakefulness. “There is always time for stargazing,” she had always told her knight with mock-seriousness, and how true it is for her now with all the time left in the world to watch the sky. Five seconds, five minutes; she has time, time enough to enjoy being her and her alone.
You’re not alone, you know.
“Sis?” It comes out as a wet, salty croak.
I felt it leave you. You— you were screaming, his name and then mine. Then only mine.
A laugh escapes her at this news, red and burbling. “He’s not here. And I won’t be, he’s gone he’s gone they took it and, and—”
I know. I. She thinks she hears sobbing.
“Stay with me. Please, I can’t, alone...”
You’re not alone.
It is like being held by a mother, a sister, a lover all at once in those stretched minutes, and that is her power, and she coughs and her lips split into a smile, and—
—and nothing, just a distant, broken crying.