There is a timeless moment between when a person draws their last breath and their actual death. He knows those moments all too well, for they are his moments, the moments when he appears to each and every one of them. Few are happy to see him, because it is in those moments when they know him for who he is, and few humans ever wish to see Death.
This one doesn't see him at first. She draws breath, or thinks she does at least, to continue crying. His lifts her out of her bed, smoothing her damp hair back from her forehead.
"Don't cry, Sophie," he says, with a soft tenderness that would surprise many who have known him. "It's all over now."
The girl hiccups softly and looks up at him, eyes wide. She's only two, but here in the timelessness between life and death, that is no barrier to understanding. "No!" she says, with all the force and arrogance of a todller used to getting her own way. She throws herself backwards, no longer the weak, sick child she was but a moment ago, yet his hold stays firm. She tries to wiggle away, but he merely strokes her forehead again and shakes his head slightly.
"Yes" he says, and is there a hint of regret there? He would never admit to such a thing, but Sophie senses something and quiets.
"Don't want to die" she pouts.
"Most people don't"
"Momma's gonna be sad"
He pauses a little at those words, his eyes taking on a faraway look as he considers. "Yes, she will be." he says finally.
"She'll be mad at you." Said with a child's certainty, and innocence that would amuse him if the mother she talked about was any other woman.
"Yes, she will," he says quietly.
"So you should let me live." Two-year old logic is simple and blunt.
He lets out a short laugh and shifts the girl's weight onto his hip. "Do you really want to go back to that?" He jerks his head to where her physical form lies on the bed, dehydrated and weakened from the weeks of dysentery. Sophie looks at herself and he watches her think. She would have grown into a beauty. Not quite as beautiful as her mother, but who could be? Normally he does not regret the lives he takes, but this once he finds himself wishing she could live, that he could see what kind of woman she would become.
"No" she says finally, breaking his thoughts. "It hurt. I don't like hurting."
He smiles with a warmth and compassion that would surprise her mother most of all. But then again, Elisabeth is determined to cast him in the role of antagonist, and it is all too easy to get swept up in that role, to be what she wanted him to be. Since he wants to be her everything.
But with this young girl, her child, he feels only compassion as he brushes her hair back one last time and kisses her gently on the forehead. "Don't be afraid," he says, and she looks at him with trusting eyes, so much like her mother's it breaks the heart he barely knew he had. He lifts her chin slightly and lowers his head to press his lips softly against hers, and the room dissolves into mist and darkness.