He weakly smiled at the passing nobility before excusing himself. Stumbling out into the cool, dark air, he drew in a deep breath, his chest heaving with fear and worry. Running a hand through his hair, he paced up and down the length of the enclosed garden. Ignoring the light, carefree laughter from inside, the warm light and the cheery music floating amongst the well-groomed hedges, he anxiously beat his own path.
For days he had deliberated – and obsessively so – over the silence. Her reply should have arrived three days ago, and yet, his writing desk stood proudly, gleaming and unoccupied. He had wondered if it was something he had written her – was it the compliments he had paid her? Of the inner musings of his heart? The mere thought had filled him with despair – they had been his simple truth. To think that she was bored or offended by them broke his heart. He had had no intentions for either. But now, as he stood amongst the whispering flowers, he grew to wish that his worst fears were the case as the Princess, he had just learned from a duke who had arrived earlier that evening for the gala – his dear wife, the beautiful and lovely creature whom he missed with all his heart – was bedridden, unjustly punished by the Heavens with consumption. Of all the chains to give her, to burden her with consumption was simply– Just– How–
His aid stood in the light with a slight bow. The Prince understood without having to be told. To stand here, he knew, would cause the already fragile relationship between the two nations to stir and tremble in protest in the face of the forced friendship. Nor did he have the option to retire to his quarters, much less return to his people and his wife and take her hand as he sat by her bedside and prayed for her deliverance. No, the only choice he had to him, as a man who had been born beneath the banner, was to forget all those human weakness and join the rest of the free and blessed. That was his duty, and as a prince, it was imperative – binding – that he obey his duty.
All the same, the duty did little to prevent him from expediting the glacial course of the negotiations so that when the Princess blearily woke in the early morning light, she felt the warmth of her husband’s hand and lay witness to his insomniac, disheveled appearance and was delivered by the love and gratitude brimming from his eyes as the royal physician informed them that the worst had thankfully passed and that her Highness would soon be able to resume her daily strolls in a few weeks’ time.