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At The End

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He felt Hollin's hand on him and heard his kind and gentle voice, but they were not Rankin's. Levitas lifted his head in hope at the sound of footsteps, but it was Temeraire's Laurence. He sighed and closed his eyes. Perhaps there was something lacking in him. Hollin and Laurence were good to him, but they did not know him as Rankin did. The pain he felt threatened to overwhelm the physical pain of his wounds.

He heard Hollin's voice from afar. "Levitas, come along now; look who's come."

He opened his eyes but everything was dim. "My captain?" he said uncertainly.

"Yes, I am here," said Rankin. Levitas heard him swallow as if he were afraid or overcome by emotion, and say, "You have been very brave."

It sounded forced out, but suddenly it became clear to Levitas: his Rankin was one of those humans who disliked and suppressed feelings, yet he had finally made himself show them at the end. "You came," Levitas said softly and licked at the cool water that must be from Rankin's hands. He sighed and relaxed, at peace.

And spread his wings and rose, beating up into a vast love, vaster than any he had ever imagined, deeper and wider than oceans and skies.