"You dummkopf." Deryn muttered at Alek's limp form on the mortician's table. She had taken an airship and a train into Vienna that same day, but the grief hadn't hit her until she had seen Alek's lifeless face. It had seemed unreal. Not tangible unless she saw some sort of proof to confirm what she didn't want to believe.
But it was true, and Alek's body lay on the uncomforting metal table, his head elevated slightly by a block. His face was already pale and his lips were blue from the chill of the cold room.
She struggled to remember the last time that she had kisses those lips, and what it had felt like. She couldn't remember if it had been a passionate, bloodthirsty or if it had been slow, and spontaneous. She pulled the sleeves of her jacket closer to her hands, trying to get them to cover her bare wrists. The cold had already started nipping at Deryn's cheeks and her exposed fingertips. There was no awful smell of death and decay in the room, just the faint scent of anti-bacterial cleansers.
Deryn didn't cry. Not there, not alone in a room with what was formally Alek. She didn't even know who the man on the table was. He was much too white to be Alek. His lips were blue, and they were not upturned in his casual smile. No arrogant smirk, or sneer on his face. But it wasn't, and couldn't be, anyone other than Alek. It was as if she was simply watching him sleep, as she had so many times before. The man on the table seemed at peace.
The man on the table had gone to Vienna for a conference to reinstate him as Emperor of Austria. She had warned him against it. When warnings did not work, she begged him. Begged him to think of her and their children, and to not make the same mistake that his own parents had made before him. But he didn't listen, not even after she'd threatened to withhold sex and to divorce him if he went. He said it was his duty to his country and his people. It was his duty to his parents. It had never been his duty to get himself killed. He had a duty to stay alive for her and for their children.
"Why didn't you just learn?" She said through gritted teeth. "You have left me all alone. I have no one anymore." Tears fell from her eyes, as if they simply could not bear to stay in her eyes any longer. "Why couldn't you just listen to me? Why couldn't you just let providence go fuck itself and stay with me?" She ran her long slender fingers through his mahogany hair, letting the softness sweep her palm. "I love you, you dummkopf." Her voice was no more than a whisper. The exact words were her last to him.
The last time his green eyes had gleamed at her was the moment he looked back before boarding that damned train. He had turned back to look at her one last time. "I needed you to stay with me."