His words were so preposterous, so ludicrous, that even she was surprised. Sitting up, she looked past the rich brocade of the bed’s canopy and ignored the goosebumps on her bare flesh as the blanket pooled around her waist. She frowned as he pretended not to notice, busying himself with the buttons of his shirt before tending to his cuffs and collar.
When he could no longer find any distraction, he reluctantly met her piercing gaze.
“What is it?”
“Not impossible,” he sighed. A sense of déjà vu washed over him – how many times had he gone through the same repertoire with Jeremiah and his sisters? With his mother? With his cousin? His best friend? “Just very, very difficult.”
“…And dangerous, yes.”
“Have you told your family? Your cabinet?”
“Yes, I’ve informed my family of my intentions. As for the cabinet…They would only use the information for their selfish gain. I have no interest in divulging information of this sensitivity to them.”
“So I’m not quite the last to know.” She smiled bitterly. “I’m flattered your opinion of me is higher than that of your advisors.”
It was petty to react this way. She knew. He was obviously saying this to her because he had given it immense thought, because he had reflected and had decided that this was for the best. And she knew she had even less of an excuse than anyone else because he was willing to go through such great risk for her, just for the simple act of being with her, but it still made her angry. All her life, she had only known hatred, had only known cold and darkness. It hadn’t been until she met him that she was shown genuine warmth and kindness, not for her body or her blood, but for her person. And to think that he wanted to throw away his life, his family, history, everything and everyone who had shaped him into the man she knew today just for a sliver of a chance to…to be “normal” with her! She could understand his death wish for his immortality. She could understand him protecting her, him tearing apart one of his subjects, but she couldn’t – wouldn’t – understand his desire to become human again. Why should he go to such lengths just for her? Surely there would be other women in the endless march of time to catch his interest for as long as she had. Surely there would be others that unusually gentle gaze of his would alight upon, that he would chide and kiss and hold as he dried her tears.
As if he could read her mind, he sat on the edge of the bed – now their bed – and shifted towards her. His hair was still tousled, and his cravat was but a swathe of silk, but his grim expression excused his dishevelment. Not one to be intimidated, she wrapped her arms around herself but refused to be the one to look away first.
He folded. Clenching his jaw, he turned, showing her his back. The last she saw of his front was his hands tightly laced together, mocking them both with a shadow of a prayer, a plea for mercy to the god that had abandoned them both long ago. He sat still for some time, his shoulders hunched and resignation oozing from him. If he had remained still for a second longer, she might have reached out to him, might have held her close and comforted him as she had in the past, but he hadn’t, so she merely listened as he quietly said: “I’m tired, C.C. I’m so tired. I may look young on the outside, but I have been withering for some time. I can no longer taste anything. No longer hear music, no longer see colors. The only time I can is when I’m with you. No one else I’ve ever met can do that for me. Except for you.”
Her nostrils flared as her nails dug into her palm. Grateful his back was to her, she sat, her back straight as a pin, tense as the diminutive fracture in her stone heart grew larger and larger, running all the way to the bottom where it would then indubitably shatter into an infinite number of shards, one for every tear she had never shed and another for every tear she would shed for him if he were to continue with his delusion.
“I don’t want to do this anymore, C.C.” he whispered hoarsely. “I can’t. I…just can’t. Not without you by my side. And when the day comes when you can’t, when you leave forever…”
His voice broke, betraying their promise to never become attached to one another, to never go beyond the confines of their contract. Even when they had been in Edenia together, during their strolls amongst flowers that man had lost the privilege of knowing, even when he had leaned against her, asleep peacefully for the first time in a century and a half, neither had acknowledged the stirring in their cold hearts. But now, after such a long struggle to ignore the truth, he quietly crushed their pact with the weight of his heavy heart.
His heart clenched as he heard the rustling of fabric and purposeful padding across the thick carpet. When the door slammed shut, he bit his lip. He knew that she wasn’t running away from him. It couldn’t be possible. Not with the soft smiles, not with the ridged scar she allowed him to run a finger over, and especially not with the fear he had glimpsed in her reflection when he had told her of his wish to regain the humanity that had been so cruelly ripped away from him so that he could join her and be with her until the end of their days. But even so, he couldn’t help but choke as her perfume lingered in the dimly lit bedroom and the shadow of her warm embrace in his battered heart.