"Abby!"

She froze in her tracks. It had been so long since someone had called her by name, it almost sounded foreign to her ears. When she first came to this place, she'd been called bitch and whore and worse. When she'd been there for a while and some of the novelty had worn off, she'd just been 'slave' or 'girl.' More often, the people just ordered her to do the stuff that needed to be done. There was food to be picked, dishes to scrub, clothes to wash and iron, guests to entertain… She shuddered inwardly, suppressing the unwanted images of having to do certain favors for the more distinguished guests. Still, if it hadn't been for them telling her to do these things, the people would otherwise ignore her completely. She didn't know what was worse, bearing the brunt of the many crude remarks or having people look through her, as if she didn't exist.

But of all the people to call her name, why him? Her mind quickly brought up images of the two of them once upon a time, long ago, when she had thought she had everything she could have ever wanted in life. She was powerful, she remembered that. Despite her youth then, people looked up to her and followed her, trusting her with their lives as she trusted them with her own. But then she had to fall in love, seduced by the man who now called her by her name. He had swept her off her feet and she followed him blindly to her own downfall. He carried her away, auctioning her off to the highest bidder the first chance he got. Because that was who he was. He searched for the rising ones, the girls who were becoming powerful in their own right, seduced them, and then broke them once the slave collar was fastened around their necks. And for the next few years, she spent her time learning to obey orders while he lived a life of luxury. Bagging Abby had been his greatest triumph and he had spent his time since then traveling, rubbing elbows with those who shared a similar status.

"Abby," he called yet another time.

Seth called her name again before he could stop himself. He took a few steps forward and stopped when she slowly turned around to face his direction. He noticed how she kept her eyes to the ground, waiting patiently to hear his reason for calling her. To be honest, he didn't know why he had called out to her. He'd just returned here after a lengthy stay, coming home to settle down after he'd had his share of exploring the world over. He didn't expect to see her still here as well, right where he'd left her. He'd figured that she'd be passed on from owner to owner, no one wanting to keep her because she was too wild. But she wasn't wild anymore. She was docile, the perfect slave. He wasn't sure if he approved of the change.

When he'd first come back, a huge banquet had been called for in his honor. He'd laughed and joked around, bragging about his exotic trips to the friends and family he'd left behind for a time. But he was home now, and this was where he'd stay. It was his time to fulfill the expectations called for him and he would do so willingly. Still, when he'd first seen her again… He was drunk, he recalled that. He'd called for more alcohol and she'd come by with a full glass. In return for the favor, he'd tripped the girl, and he and his companions around the table had roared with laughter. He idly watched her get up, head still bent, and then he'd had to do a double take, squinting through hazy eyes to make sure it was who he thought it was. He shook his head a little to clear away some of the haze, but when he'd looked again, she was gone, and another glass of beer had been pushed into his face. He'd forgotten about her until now, when he saw her taking the clothes out to be washed.

He approached her. "Abby," he said her name quietly this time, hesitating and unsure of himself for the first time in years.

She waited quietly. A bit of her curiosity was peaked. He remembered her, and that thought surprised her. Surely he didn't remember all his conquests, did he? There were others in this place that he'd enslaved. Why single her out? Hadn't he had enough of disgracing her? As if it really mattered how she felt though. Even if she still wished he would apologize to her – for tripping her the other night, for subjecting this to her in the first place – she knew it wouldn't happen. She was a nobody, just another body to do the work in this place. He could do what he wanted with her. And she would submit. Because she couldn't do anything else.

Seeing that she wasn't going to respond to him verbally, he stalled. An apology was forming in his mind but he kept his mouth in check. He still had his pride after all. What would it look like if he'd stooped down so low as to apologize to a slave? But he couldn't will himself to stop as a hand reached to tilt her face up. He swallowed hard when he looked into her eyes. They were so empty, so void of life. And he'd helped do that to her.

He drew his hand away quickly and took a step back, suddenly afraid of this hollow stranger before him. She returned her gaze toward the ground, and he quickly threw the bundle of dirty clothes he had brought with him at her feet. "Here. You forgot these." He silently thanked his instincts, which had told him to grab it on his way out after her.

She gave a slight nod before she bent down to pick up the sack of clothes. Then she turned away and put it in the boat along with the rest of the dirty laundry. She hesitated a little though, and she timidly raised her voice a little so he could hear her. "Seth?"

"Yes?"

She paused a little bit, unsure if she wanted to ask the one question that had been burning on her mind since he'd left her on the auction block years before. But she needed to know. "Did you love me then?"

He swallowed hard. For some reason, that innocent question tore him up inside in ways he couldn't understand. He wanted to say yes, if only to get back the girl he once knew. For some strange reason, he missed her, the way she had been when he'd been courting her. But he couldn't say anything to her. It was too late. If there was a time when he needed to say those words to her, they were long gone. Those moments belonged to another day, another lifetime.

Still silent, she nodded a little again to herself before she got into the boat herself and rowed the short distance away to the little island in the lake where she lived, isolated from everyone else. There, she'd spend the rest of the day scrubbing away the slightest speck of dirt before folding everything back up to be returned in the evening. She was a girl with nothing to live for anymore. The last question that had plagued her mind had been answered. She could rest.

He spent the rest of the day feeling incredibly guilty. He hadn't meant for this to happen. He hadn't felt anything toward her then though, so why should he feel at fault now, years later? He sighed and knew what he must do.

It was nearing sunset when he came out again. He made his way toward the lake and saw that the boat had returned, piled high with bundles of clean clothes. He frowned a little, wondering why she hadn't returned these to their rightful owners yet. She'd get a beating for slacking, he knew that. Why would she tempt fate like that? He called for a couple of other slaves to get the clothes before he rowed himself to the island.

Silence blanketed it there. If it was possible, even the water lapping up onto the shore was muted. Just as silent, Seth stepped onto the shore and followed a worn path into the brush that covered most of the island. He took his time, letting his senses adjust to the quiet. At the same time, he still fought with himself inside. Why was he here seeking her out? Why did he feel the need to be forgiven by her after all these years?

He trekked onward, and in less than a minute, he'd broken through to the other side of the island and spotted Abby sitting on the beach with her knees drawn up to her chest. The entire world was still as he stared at her, her back to him as she faced the setting sun. Clenching his jaw, he walked forward until he sat next to her. His eyes remained focused on the distant sunset, never turning his head to look at her as the sun dipped ever closer to the horizon. The silence pressed down on him though, and he cleared his throat to speak.

"Abby," he began. "I'm sorry. I don't know what else to say but that. Being back here…" He shook his head and started over. "Do you know why I stopped the trade Abby? It was because of you. When I first heard about you, I just thought it'd be another, simple case where I just win the girl and bring her back when she's least suspecting. Do you know how many others wanted you as their own trophy? How many were after your tail besides me? But I'd claimed you first, and unless I failed, someone else would have done the exact same thing as myself."

He paused, trying to figure out what he wanted to say next. "You were different," he decided. "You were a challenge to try and get through. When you did something, you had to give it your all, or it wouldn't matter. That's why you couldn't fall in love with me at first. You'd seen more than your fair share of this world's bad side, and you tried to push me away as far as you could. You didn't think it was fair if I fell in love with you to only lose you in the end, you of course knowing that you'd die young the longer you stayed in the game. If only you knew how right you were to try. But I kept at it, knowing that once you fell, you'd fall hard and would never be able to go back. And I was right. It took time, but I was right in the end. And now I'm sorry."

He stalled again, unsure if he should be saying what he was saying. But he couldn't stop himself now. "Do you know why I pulled back after I looked into your eyes Abby? I was scared. You frightened me. You're so empty now, and I can only blame myself. It's all my fault, isn't it? I didn't think they could break your spirit, but apparently, they have. Maybe that's why I left to go travel. Maybe that's why I wanted to be anywhere but here. I didn't want to see you break. I didn't want to see them crush your spirit. But I'm here now to see the final result and I'm so sorry Abby," he said, tears slipping down his face as his voice cracked with emotion. "I didn't think it would be this hard, seeing you like this. I thought the time apart would have helped, but it hasn't. What am I talking about?" He gave a cruel laugh. "You asked if I fell in love with you then. I did. It took me all these years through today to finally figure it out, but it's true. That's why I ran. Getting you to fall in love with me meant I had to fall in love with the enemy as well. I couldn't deal, so I left."

He sighed. "I don't know how to explain myself. I don't know why I got emotionally involved in this one, but I can't deny it anymore. Not to you. Not to myself. I loved you then Abby. I miss you, and I'm so sorry for ever putting you through this hell."

He finally turned to look at her, the sun having set just moments before, leaving the sky a wonderful shade of ever darkening red and purple. His breath caught in his throat and he gave a wry smile. "Go figure," he whispered to himself. "Here I am spilling my soul to someone already dead." He took in the peaceful look on her face, her blank eyes staring at the exact spot the sun had disappeared from. Gently, he raised a hand to close her unseeing eyes. "Good-bye Abby, and good luck. May you find whatever you're looking for out there." He raised a hand and called Fire to her remains. He moved a little away and turned to watch as the red and orange light consumed her. After all, it was the last thing he could give her.