She'd never given up on him. (Spoilers for the end of the series)
The candle has almost burned down before Lykouleon returns, a thin, flickering light almost swallowed up entirely by shadows. Lykouleon looks much the same as he kicks off his boots: always tired, grey with exhaustion and pain and the weight of pretending it is not so. Even now he smiles and she would have embraced him but he waves her away.
"Just a second-- I need to--" He readjusts the bandage on his wrist that meant another trip to the infirmary, already spotted with blood. "There." Now he moves to embrace her, but the warmth of his skin as she rests her head on his shoulder is not the same as it has been; she can feel his ribs through his shirt. He's losing weight again, Nadil slowly whittling him down to skin and bones, drawing his game out as long as he can.
Lykouleon has been keeping his distance from her lately, as if he thinks he can protect her from the truth that way, but it doesn't take a mind-reader to see his light is dimming.
"I never see you anymore," she says quietly, leaning against him.
"I'm sorry," he says. "There's so much to do..."
Yes, things to be done, plans to be laid in place. Even simpler things take longer for Lykouleon these days, and although she only has a glimmer of what he's thinking about, she can guess what his plan is. Always thinking of others. She can't even be angry at him for giving up, except...
"Come here," she says fiercely, and drags his mouth down to hers. His taste is metallic, the aftertaste of blood, but it won't hurt her and it feels so long since they last kissed, touched, talked, held each other, dreamed, loved; a world away now, lost in darkness and pain.
"Raseleane, I shouldn't," he says against her mouth and tries to draw away but she holds him fast, nails digging into his shoulder. Nadil will rob her of him too soon for Lykouleon to inflict the same pain himself.
"Please, it's been so long," she whispers and he sighs, a tiny exhalation as if that is all the breath he has left in his worn-out body, but she feels him smile against her cheek.
"Very well," he says, and undoes the laces of her dress.
How different it is now from when they first came together, when they had loved each other for hours on end and she had dreamed of peace and children, a shining future stretching on endlessly into eternity. Lykouleon's hands tremble and fall away, and in the end she shrugs her dress off and unbuttons his clothing herself.
So fragile, his hands, spiderwebbed veins showing against parchment skin, like she could easily tear him to pieces herself. But his body is still warm and still hers, and Nadil will not take it from her so easily. He joins with her, and for a few precious seconds the reality they both face slips away and he is something like the man she married, firm and glorious and strong. She wraps her legs around him and urges him into her.
His movements become erratic and gradually still.
"I'm sorry, Raseleane, I can't..." He falls away tiredly, shame written across his face, and she cannot bear to see him look so defeated. She pushes him onto his back and climbs on top of him.
"I won't let him have you. Do you understand?" she demands. "Don't you dare give up on me, Lykouleon."
He cups her face tenderly and her heart breaks a little further.
"I won't let you die."
"Don't. Don't say anything," she says. How she wishes she could be angry at him for caring so little about himself, wishes she could pour some of the fire in her blood into him and use it to keep him going, even for just that little bit longer. He reaches up and gently wipes away tears she hadn't even realized she was crying.
"I can't live without you," she whispers.
"You must," he returns gravely. "I need you to. Promise me, Raseleane."
"It's not fair," she says, voice breaking.
"Raseleane." He kisses her gently, so gently, and then smiles somehow, so that she can't help but smile back, as watery as it is. "Promise."
"Of course," she chokes out; how can she say otherwise when he has always asked so little of her? "But..."
"Don't cry," he says, catching her tears with his thumb, and she dries them as best she can. How can she be weak when he is so strong, strong enough to do what must be done? "There's still a little time."
There's still time. She cherishes the words. Yes, there's still a little time, and they must use it while they have it.
She kisses him.