First published in Huntress #1. Should make sense even if youhaven't seen S3.
"Cold," he whispered. "So cold."
They bent to tend him, the younger man tucking the blankets closerwhile the woman gently placed a warm, wet cloth on his forehead. Theman on the bed reached up and feebly grasped her wrist, pressing itonce in gratitude.
"Catherine..." he breathed. "Thank you."
Diana didn't blink as she dipped another rag in the hot water andwrung it out, and Jacob marveled at her composure. "He's a bitdelirious," he said in apology for his father's error.
Blue eyes flicked expressionlessly at him. "It's actuallysomething of a compliment, Jacob," she said calmly.
"Jacob?" whispered the voice from the bed. "Father?" A wanderinghand encountered the stethoscope around the young man's neck. "Father? Is someone sick?"
Jacob swallowed hard against the lump in his throat. Hisgrandfather and namesake had died decades ago, while he had stillbeen in medical school. "Everything's fine," he lied. "Try to getsome rest now." The request was unnecessary, for Vincent had alreadyfaded into the light doze of the overtaxed elderly.
"How is he doing?" Diana asked quietly from across the bed.
"Not... not well," Jacob choked. "I don't think he'll last muchlonger."
She nodded and readjusted the blankets, then took Vincent's handand simply sat, patiently waiting.
Jacob watched them in the flickering candlelight. The yellow glowstained his father's white hair back to its youthful blond, and theheaps of blankets padded the body beneath out to the muscular bulk itonce had. But a closer look showed how sunken the blue eyes were,how withered and thin was the clawed hand that Diana held gently.
The years had treated her no more kindly. She was moving muchmore slowly than Jacob remembered, and her flaming hair had faded toa nondescript gray. Wrinkles intersected the faint scars ofadventures gone wrong during her career with the police. But herface was serene and her eyes were dry as she watched by the bedside. Jacob found himself wondering if she had sat just that way forty-fiveyears ago, the night she found Vincent dying on Catherine Chandler'sgrave.
The thought of his mother sent Jacob's musings off in a differentdirection. "What do you mean, it's a compliment?"
The only sign of confusion was the blink. "Excuse me?"
"Why do you think Dad's calling you the wrong name is acompliment?"
"Because Catherine Chandler was the most important person in hislife."
Jacob mulled that over, unsatisfied. "That's what everyone hasalways told me. But it doesn't seem real. It doesn't seemfair."
"Fair? How can it be fair or not? It's simply the truth."
"It's not fair to you!" Jacob blurted. "All I ever hear is howperfect Mother was, how much Dad loved her. Nobody could be thatperfect! And she's been dead for years! You're the one who savedhis life, who rescued me, who got me a start in the world Above! Nother! You!"
His rant cut off abruptly as a blue glare nailed him. Suddenly hefelt six years old again, about to be called on the carpet formisbehaving. "Look," he said weakly, "it's not as though I meandisrespect to the dead, but..."
"But having lived all your life without Catherine you can'timagine what losing her was like to those who knew her." It was aflat statement of fact. "And," she added with a faint smile, "youcannot see why your father only loved me as a friend when thingscould have been so much more... interesting."
Jacob felt himself blushing. Fortunately for him, she didn't waitfor a response.
"You're very flattering. But you forget how your father and Imet. Before I knew who he was, before I knew where he came from,before I even knew his name, I knew how much he and your mother lovedeach other. That love was as strong and unchangeable as the law ofgravity. Death couldn't change that." She settled back in herchair. "Nor will death change what Vincent and I have had. Youdon't have to be someone's lover to love them, you know. Friendshipborn in trial is also a strong tie, and I'm content with what I'vehad. I shared his life. Catherine shared his soul."
"And that never bothered you at all?"
She shrugged. "Does it matter? I learned early in my life thatmy feelings are of no particular concern. They don't change whathappens. Sorrow never brought back anyone I was too late to save. Happiness never made anything good last longer. So I take what Iget, and I'm grateful for what's good and I work around what's bad." The fleeting half-smile briefly curved her mouth again. "What a pairwe were. Vincent's life was ruled by his heart, and mine was ruledby my head."
As if responding to his name, Vincent jerked back to awareness. He stared blearily at Diana and whispered "Hello," before hisattention was caught by something in the dark corner behind her. "Oh, it's so good to see you again!" he breathed fervently.
Diana patted his hand. "It's good to see you back, too."
Vincent went on, unheeding. "Oh, how I missed you! Wait, I'llcome with you." He strained to rise, and Diana and Jacob pressed himback down into the pillows, murmuring polite fictions about lettinghim up as soon as he felt better. The hand in Diana's twitched,extended...
...And closed warmly and firmly on Catherine's as Vincent rose totake his beloved into his arms. Catherine's smile was blindinglybright, as bright as the sunlit park he could see behind her, thepark she took his hand to lead him to.
While behind them in the tunnel darkness, Jacob wept as Dianapulled the blanket up to cover the still, white head.