[memory] What: Memory Will characters be viewing the memory or experiencing it?: Experiencing Warning, this memory contains: Terminal illness and death.
You've been waiting for him to go. You can feel the thing inside him, pulsing with life, a wrongness that's overwhelming the life that is him, the right and proper him that you've been able to feel all these years, half your life, even when you were far apart.
Even doped to the gills with painkiller, he's a grumpy old bastard, the roughness in his voice smoothed very little by the drugs. His grip around your fingers is still firm, though his hands are rougher and drier than they've ever been. You stroke the back of his fingers with your own fingertips, feeling the fragility of the skin, the darkness under it. The sun is bright outside this afternoon, though it's still too cool for him to go out in it; he's bundled up in thick blankets as it is.
(You can remember him in winters past, his body full of warmth and life, not needing those extra layers to keep the chill at bay, but the thing inside him has drained him of all of that.)
His breath is rattling, an awful not-quite-choking noise. If you couldn't feel him, you'd think he was completely unconscious, but you can. You know he's still in there, still sensing your presence. It's why you come every day, why you read to him, why you sleep on the sofa in the hospice room sometimes in spite of the feeling of a place full of flickering candles, winking out one by one by one: he can feel it all too, and can't even tell any one. He was brave once, and if he is afraid, he shouldn't be alone.
You know he's got to be afraid because it all scares you.
They all scare you. His candle guttering out is gutting you.
There's a smell to the place, too. Someone melodramatic would call it the stench of death, but that's not it. You've seen dead things; you know what they smell like. This is the scent of dying, where half the person is alive but their body is failing, where no food or water cycles through the body, where things are starting to break down but haven't stopped going on quite yet. It'd be bad enough without feeling it otherways, you imagine.
His eyes flutter open, which you feel more than see, and his lungs strain harder for a moment. He whispers something unclear, which might have been your name, and you strain too, to hear it. "Yes?" you whisper, and your eyes are burning and you're crying, because you know what this is costing, that burning brighter means burning faster and there's nothing left to burn.
The next three words are clearer. "You're not alone."
He always knew what you were most afraid of.
You don't say don't leave me because it's not like he can help it.
You can feel the life leave him, the candle snuffing out, and you don't want to look up, but you feel the pull, so you do. And he's standing there, translucent limned in blue, all spirit, blond instead of gray, clean-shaven, body young, eyes so old, and he says the ritual words of parting.
You whisper them back as the vision fades.
All is silent.
Inside what's left of his mortal form, the darkness, still alive, is consuming itself, with nothing left of him to devour. In the hall, the arrival of the nurse breaks the stillness as you feel it, too, wink out into nothing.
By some miracle, even though your heart has left your body, you don't go with it.