She brushed her hair in the mirror - it was coarse and wholey gray, but he thought it was silver and she was happy to let it be so. For him. And her movements were no longer strong, no longer graceful. It hurt to stand, and to walk, and even to shrug on the long satin robe he'd gotten her last Winterfair. She'd thought it was more than he could afford, but she'd been wrong about that. She wore it every chance she had.
He walked in from the garden, his hands full of cuttings. The garden had been a gift from milady - all native to Barrayar, she said, but all beautiful. Flowers the Admiral couldn't touch, but she wanted them growing someplace.
He'd always be the Admiral to her, but milady couldn't be called anything else.
"How are you, my dear?" His smile was as bright as the sun at noon. Even her bones felt warmed by it.
She shrugged. "Better for you being here."
"And where else would I be?" He arranged the cuttings in a vase, tying it with a pink ribbon. She remembered when she wore pink, before Lady Alys taught her better. But he knew she loved it.
He bent to kiss her cheek and brush her hair back from her face. "So beautiful."
She wanted to shake her head, but he hated when he did that. He was wrong, he was always wrong. She smiled, instead. "They look nice under that window."
He smiled and held out his arm. He didn't need to brace himself when she leaned on him to stand. There was a time when he would have prepared himself, but then she didn't need the help. He supported her to the sofa and eased her back. "You can see them there, right?"
"Perfectly." He smiled again, before disappearing to their kitchen. He returned with a teapot and a plate of far too much food. "Milord came by while you were sleeping. His cook made it."
She smiled. And when she was done, half the food was still there. She knew she needed to eat more, and it was as heavenly as ever, but she couldn't make herself. She watched him take the tray away, could see the worry in his eyes. Even for him...
"What are the flowers for? It's too early for real cutting, isn't it?"
He sat next to her on the couch, holding his own tea cup and stroking her hair. "Milady forced them under a frame so they'd be ready today."
"Today?" She frowned. Oh. Ohhh. How could she forget? "I have nothing for you. I'm sorry."
"I have the best present. One more year with you." He kissed her thoroughly. "Happy fifth anniversary, Taura."
And last year, the doctors said she'd never make it.