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The Last Sense to Go

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He'd had a bad feeling when they'd taken the contract, but Aiden had assured him it would be fine, despite everything and Lambert...well. He'd trust Aiden with his own life. Of course he trusted his judgment.

He should have been more skeptical, should have been more insistent about the dangers, about the risks. Even Aiden wasn't infallible, he knew, but--

Aiden was supposed to meet him outside the Duke's residence early in the evening, but he doesn't show, and Lambert's got a sick feeling in his gut thinking about it. He knows deep down that something's wrong when the Duke's courtiers return and no one seems to know anything about Aiden, anything about their work.

He doesn't really want to go looking for Aiden, doesn't want to be gone when he eventually shows up, late as he sometimes is, but...but something's wrong and Lambert can feel it. He knows.

So even though he doesn't want to, he sets back out down the path in the general direction of the mage that had supposedly set the curse, the one Aiden had been going to deal with.

He finds his body less than an hour's ride from the Duke's home.

He's laying off the road in the shallow ditch just before the tree line, and something in Lambert's chest gives way at the sight of him, still and bloody.

"Fuck," he hisses, heart pounding, hoping beyond hope that it's worse than it looks.

He throws himself down from the saddle and scrambles into the ditch, his horse, Cinnamon, coming to a stop behind him as he drags the bulk of Aiden's torso into his lap. He coughs, weakly, but it's not a reassuring sound. Lambert's chest seizes.

"Fuck, Aiden, fuck--" his hands are shaking and he's digging in his thigh pouch for a bottle of swallow, but even as he does he knows he's too late, knows it won't be enough. "Here," he gasps anyway, tipping the vial against Aiden's lips. He sputters, coughing as the potion obstructs his airway briefly and then he's swallowing, throat working weakly. "Aiden--"

He coughs again to clear his throat, forehead resting against Lambert's stomach. "Hey there, Lambs," he gaps, gold eyes staring up at him through half-lidded eyes. His chest is ripped badly, his stomach slashed open and gaping. Lambert's scrambling to gather the slick rope of his intestines to try and piece him back together, but Aiden's hand on his wrist stops him. "'S okay, Lambert."

"It's going to be," he agrees, horrified to find his voice has gone weak and watery, "it's going to be, Aiden, you're going to be fine--"

"No," he interrupts, fingers flexing weakly around Lambert's wrist, "I'm not, Lambs."

"Aiden--" this can't be happening. It can't. He should have...he should have...

"I'm glad you're here," he says, and his eyes are closed again, breathing weak, "I'm sorry you have to see it, but I'm glad you're here."

"Don't you fucking die on me, Aiden, don't you dare," he hisses, but it's pointless and he knows it, "don't leave me alone, Aiden, please."

"Don't want to, puppy," he whispers, tugging his wrist up towards his face to kiss the delicate skin of his fluttering pulse gently. It's barely the brush of his lips, not even a real kiss at all.

"Aiden--" he can't seem to get the important words out, the ones he needs him to know. The I love yous and the I'm sorrys. Even with Aiden dying in his lap he's too much of a coward to say it.

"Don't be too sad, Lambs," he breathes, and Lambert chokes on a watery laugh. Don't be too sad. As if Lambert can feel anything past the aching numbness, the mounting pain. Sad doesn't even begin to cover it.

"Real fuckin' rude of you, leaving me with a contract like this," he spits out, and Aiden laughs, a weak, painful thing.

"I know," he says, eyes cracking open again to peer up into Lambert's face. He's never even kissed him and now it's too late-- "I love you, Lambert," he says, and his fingers shake where they press against his wrist. It's a weak grip, like a kitten, "I don't...I don't want you to think I don't, okay?"

"Fuck, Aiden." It's too little and it's too late and it's ripping him open. "Don't say that."

"I do," he says, voice rough, and there are tears slipping down his cheeks now, "and I know you do too. I'm...I was waiting for the right time. I'm sorry."

"Fuck, Aiden," he repeats, but it's a sob this time, raw and painful, "you're a real fucking piece of work, you asshole." His lips turn up in a weak smile, just a little.

"Kiss me?" he asks, and Lambert does, soft and gentle. He tastes like blood and ash, like death. Aiden sighs softly when he pulls away and Lambert presses their foreheads together tightly.

"I'm gonna miss you so fucking much," he mumbles, and he can feel the burning in his own eyes, the tears on his own cheeks. The swallow's bought them a little bit of time, but Aiden's breathing is already growing labored again and weak.

"I know," he says, voice faint, "I'm so sorry, puppy." Lambert clings, eyes closed tight and one hand tangled in Aiden’s hair, cradling his head. The other shifts to better clasp his hand, thread their fingers together.

He doesn't speak again, and eventually the warm puff of his breath stills against Lambert's lips. He sobs without meaning, shifting to bury his face in the curve of Aiden's neck, alone with his grief.

"I love you," he breathes into his still-warm skin. He'd heard once, a long time ago, that the last sense to go when a person dies is their hearing. He doesn’t want the last thing Aiden to hear be his sobs, "Fuck, I love you so much, kitten, Aiden, gods, I love you."

"I love you," he says without breath, pressing the words to his throat. He has to convince himself that he hears, that he knows. It's the only comfort he's going to have for a long, long time.