I strode across the battlefield, picking my way over the bodies to where she lay. The sun beat down on my face, beads of sweat mixing with blood, red droplets catching in my lashes. At least it wasn’t mine.
I knelt at her side, brushing her hair back. “Anya.” Her breath was fast and shallow, her eyes unfocused.
“Anya. Does it hurt?” She shifted and whimpered. Someone else shifted too, and I put my sword into his chest, letting it stay there for the moment.
“It hurts less,” she said. “But it’s so cold. Chris . . . I think this is it.”
“No. No, sweetheart. You’re going to be fine.” I knew it was a lie. I didn’t dare look at the ruins of her chest and stomach. I’d seen wounds like that. It would be mere minutes, at most. “You take it easy. I’ll stay with you until help gets here.”
Her eyes closed. For a moment I thought she would pass quietly. Then that familiar heat struggled to the surface. She fought for it, struggled for outrage. “Goddamnit, Chris, you will not let my last breath belong to that barbarian!”
“Anya . . . ”
She reached up, grabbing my collar with surprising strength. “Not like some animal waiting for the vultures! If I’m going to die it will be on my own–” then a coughing fit took her, and her blood sprayed into my face. I ignored it. Her voice was much weaker when she started again. “That hurt . . . oh god, it hurt. Chris . . . my life always belonged to you. Nobody else gets it. It has to be you! Don’t let that filthy bastard take me from you!”
I drew my knife and closed my eyes. I had resolved not to cry while she died, but I felt tears spill over, carving channels through the blood on my face. I had known for a long time that our romance wouldn’t last forever. Men and women like us, we didn’t die in our beds. With the certainty of loss came a certain kind of unmovable resolve. We’d both prepared ourselves for a day like this.
I leaned over her, lifting her upper body in my arms slightly, touching my lips to hers, the most tender kiss. Then I broke the kiss to look into her eyes, as the knife blade slid up through the gap in the base of her skull, through the base of her brain and her spine. The light went out of her immediately. Wherever that light went, I just prayed it left the pain behind.
Slowly, I became aware of my surroundings. Soldiers picking over the dead, the sun raging at me, wanting to bake me in my armor. The stench suddenly was overpowering, making my eyes water. A horn blew in the distance, and I sighed. That horn meant the enemy had been sighted again.
“Anya. I never said it to you. But I love you. I’ll always remember you. I have to go now, but I’ll come back to bury you.” I closed her eyes, and drew my sword from the dead man’s chest, joining the flow of soldiers back into formation.