Rating: PG-13 for spooky
Word count: 984
Summary: Ashe has so many ghosts in her life. It seems cruel of the fates to confront her only with this one.
A/N: I...I'm terribly sorry this isn't darker. Basch makes the face and I turn into a big mushball. I hope you can still enjoy it.
When she wakes, her room is still near-dark, lit only by the thin crescent of the moon through her window. Before her, she sees her consort yet sleeping, the cool moonlight bleaching his face almost ghostly, darkening his scar near to black. He still sleeps, his breathing steady and even, his skin warm where her hand lies across his chest.
There is a chill radiating from behind her.
She does not want to turn, for the same reason that she must: the chill is of the Mist, not the season, and one ignores the Mist at one's own peril. She takes a breath to steady her nerves, to prepare for what she might see, and rolls over.
Ashe has so many ghosts in her life. It seems cruel of the fates to confront her only with this one.
When last she saw her husband alive, he was young and proud and the most handsome thing she had ever seen. His armor shone in the sunlight, and his eyes blazed with power. When next she saw him, laid to rest in his casket, he had been tended carefully -- so carefully, she knows now, with so many corpses in her own wake -- so that he seemed almost to sleep, his skin too pale and his cheeks faintly sunken but his face calm, noble in its rest. When the gods sought to use his image to lead her onward, he looked nearly himself, painted in moonlit monochrome and silent.
The specter before her now looks like he did as she never saw him, and it is that, perhaps, that makes her believe her eyes. He stands by her bedside with his armor battered, his eyes dull, the snapped shaft of an arrow protruding from his chest and blood oozing around it, sluggish and dark. Mist bleeds from his edges; he looks tattered, insubstantial, as though a strong wind could tear him apart.
"Rasler," Ashe whispers, and naming him makes some strange thing flicker across his face, some sense perhaps of awakening. He opens his mouth, but though his lips shape words, slowly, he makes no sound.
Basch rolls over, behind her, and she can feel the instant when he comes awake, the tension rising in his limbs. "Ashe," he says, and then, "your majesty."
Ashe almost corrects him, but then Rasler lifts one gauntleted hand and reaches out, and she stills. She is not the one he addresses, this time. Again it seems Rasler tries to speak, but there is no breath in his lungs, not even a whisper of wind.
"Your majesty," Basch says again. His voice is rough with sleep, and taut, Ashe thinks, with distress. "I cannot ask your forgiveness, but --"
The ghost shakes his head, and Basch falls silent.
"Please," Ashe says. "Do not think ill of us --" and Rasler drifts closer, and to her shame the first syllable of the incantation for Holy rises to her lips before she's even had time to be afraid.
Rasler's ghost stills, hand yet outstretched, his expression so sorrowful that Ashe's heart breaks for him all over again. "Forgive me," she whispers.
"My lord," Basch says, the bed frame creaking under him as he sits up. "You do not mean us any harm." From another man it would be a statement, voiced like that, but Ashe can hear the question in it.
The ghost bows his head, and smiles, his eyes closed. The expression is so familiar, so welcome -- Ashe stretches out one hand, wishing, and almost feels some pressure, some touch against her skin, before her fingers pass through his. "Please," she says.
She finds herself moving before she's thought how strange it is, to make room for the ghost, but Basch seems to have the same thought; he edges toward the far side of the bed, so there is room between them. "My lord," he says, "would you have me leave?"
Rasler shakes his head, and climbs onto the bed between them -- he has no weight, does not depress the mattress, but he moves as though he lives, and Ashe feels a chill as he climbs over her legs. He settles into the space between them gingerly, his movements stiff.
"I am so sorry," Basch says, the words low and urgent, his formality forgotten with the same suddenness that he cast it aside when she finally took him to bed. "If I could have done anything to save you -- even for my own life --"
And Rasler leans toward him, even as Ashe thinks, the only way to stop him when he gets like this, and kisses Basch's mouth. She should feel shocked, especially with the way Basch relaxes into it, shocked or perhaps betrayed -- but she does not; what she feels is more relief, some easing of a tension that has lain coiled in her heart for so long that she forgot it could not be there.
"Basch," she says softly. "Rasler." They turn to her, and she finds she can read them both, the love in Rasler's eyes, the fear turning to hope in Basch's. She reaches up, brushes her fingers against the place where Rasler's bare cheek should be -- carefully, so that she does not shatter the illusion, so that she does not stray into the cool half-presence that he has managed. She watches Basch complement her gesture, his hand against Rasler's bare stomach, almost natural, almost as if -- and she thinks there is nearly flesh there, meeting her hand. "Will you stay, tonight?" she asks.
Rasler smiles, nods. His lips shape words, slowly, and she thinks she reads them, this time: If you will believe in me.
"Yes," Ashe whispers. "Yes." She shifts, when he moves to kiss her, meeting him there -- and he is cold, no breath on his lips, but for this moment, he is real.