The moonlight bathed the landscape in ethereal light. It had been years since he had been at this place, and it had taken years and a promise to bring him back. Pausing to get his bearings, he turned to his right and started walking.
So much had changed during his absence. Another person wouldn't recognize it. Yet, he did. This place had been his home, a spot of love and laughter, despite the battles and the scars.
Oh, the scars. The cool night air made his joints ached. He wasn't an old man, barely thirty. Yet, the years of fighting had taken their toll on his body. But there were deeper scars.
He cursed under his breath as he nearly tripped on a large stone. Looking back, he realized the rock was really a chunk of marble. It too was a scar, marring the green grass with the remembrance of a time long ago.
Memories were funny things. The past few years were a blur. He couldn't recall where he had been at certain times in the years of his wandering. One place blended into another. Nothing stood out, except for the memories.
He would wake up in the middle of the night with his head filled with visions of sunlight and flowers, of laughter and friends. Yet, before he could process the fragments, the memories would fade away. Only in his dreams was he truly happy, and only there did he truly remember.
Here he was surrounded by the past. The fragments slowly came together, forming a tapestry of his past. Faces began to take on unique features and names. Places now had some vague meaning in his mind.
"I'm here," he whispered to himself. "I'm here."
* * * * *
He held a blonde woman in his arms. She was dying. He held his breath as she smiled and reached up to his face.
"I'm not scared," she whispered. "It's so peaceful."
His arms tightened around her, and he realized he was crying. "Stay with me," he begged.
She smiled gently at him. "Remember."
He said something to her, making her smile more. Then, her hand fell to her side, and the blue eyes closed. Even though he still held her in her arms, she was gone.
* * * * *
In his tears, he tripped over another rock, landing hard on his right shoulder. The thorns of the single rose in his hand drew blood. Slowly, he rose to his feet, trying to retain the memory.
The gentle night breeze caused the long grass to sway, reminding him of a willow. There had been a willow in the blonde woman's garden. Something important had happened there.
"Remember," a voice whispered.
"I'm trying!" he cried.
He was nearer now. He quickened his pace, watching out for more chunks of marble and steel. "Not much longer," he told himself.
Then he was there. Slowly he made his way to the spot and knelt. He gently placed the battered rose on the stone base.
It had been a tombstone, he remembered. A rather simple because there had been too much confusion and chaos to erect one suitable for her station. However, only the stone base remained, the rest gone with the passage of war and time.
But he knew the name. That was why he was here. She was the reason why he was here in this place at night.
Immediately he buried his face in his hands, trying to hide his tears from the night. She was there, underneath this ground, his mind screamed.
"Remember," a voice whispered.
"Allura," he sobbed.
The name opened the floodgates of memory. She was gone like everything else he loved. The team, the castle, the people, and the planet had all been destroyed by one man's greed and hatred.
"Damn you, Lotor," he said, his voice cold with malice. "Damn you to hell."
The tears were gone, replaced by a heavy sense of guilt. He should be with her now, he thought. It had been his duty to protect her, and he had failed.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, his fingers caressing the stone base. "It should have been me instead of you."
"I'm not scared," she whispered to him. "It's so peaceful. Remember."
Now he remembered what he had said to her. "Always." Then he had laid her down on the ground and returned to the desperate battle that had claimed her.
He hadn't been allowed at the burial, his injuries too serious for that kind of journey. Arus had lasted for three more days, before falling to the Doom Empire. It had all been for nothing, Keith thought.
"The bastard, in the end, had won," he mumbled.
A hand touched Keith on the shoulder. "He didn't enjoy too long, Keith."
"I know you," Keith whispered, trying to recall the stranger's usual half-grin.
"Yeah, you sure do. It's Lance, Keith."
Keith stared openly, trying to match the name with his past. The stranger, Lance, just smiled in sympathy. So much like Allura's smile, Keith thought absently.
Keith turned from Lance and looked down at the rose. He had failed in his promise to protect her. He would not fail in his final promise to her. "I remember, Allura."
Lance's face tightened before softly saying, "We all do."