Quite oblivious of their audience, both Lhurriel and Corsair both sat in silence for a long moment as Lhurriel absorbed his words.
Yes... I loved him. But if the Fates intervened in such a way, then I was not destined for him since the beginning.
Lhurriel couldn't help it, as emotion clogged her throat. While one part of her understood that she and Corsair could never be together, the other part of her heart denied it with every silent tear it shed. When the accident had first happened, Lhurriel had been devastated - not only because two people had died on her account, and almost all the rest injured, but also because she had developed a fear of storms and heights...
But because now, duty - both her's, and Corsair's - barred them from ever getting married.
I loved him so much... I thought he was my soulmate. It felt right, it felt true... Perhaps that was my fault, to think that the Fates had blessed me with not only powerful magic, but two men who loved and cared for me. First Roland had died... and then the magicycle accident that had changed her life. Lhurriel choked back a sob as tears began running down her face, and was suddenly glad for Corsair's presence as he embraced her tightly, letting her tears wet his clean shirt. He murmured incomprehensible things to her in his soothing voice as she struggled to compose herself.
"I'm sorry I brought it up. But it hurt - for both of us."
It still hurt, sometimes, knowing that one simple event had forever altered the course of their life. They had been speaking of marriage, before that... but now, it simply wasn't possible.
"I'm sorry," Lhurriel finally whispered, when her eyes were dry again. He offered her a handkerchief, which she took and used before returning it.
"But you and I know... yes. I know. Because my duty demands that I find a spouse who will provide me heirs... that makes you unsuitable," Corsair said. Despite how softly they were speaking, every word coming from their mouths could be heard clearly by their silent audience just outside the door.
"If I had not made my vows as a mage of this kingdom - I might have considered tossing duty out the window and overruling my own wisdom. But I have to be rational - we both have to be," Lhurriel said with a weak chuckle. "Even love can't remove the fact that I have my duty to the kingdom, and you have yours to your bloodline. But Corsair..."
He smiled bitterly. "I know, Ree. But until I can in clear conscience say that you are my friend - and only that - I can't even think about looking for a wife. It would not be fair to her if part of my heart still belonged to you."
Sensing a lightening of the atmosphere, Lhurriel smiled and reached up to hug him, wishing that things may have worked out differently.
"Pretty words, my lord, but you'll have to let go eventually," she said lightly. She impulsively cupped his face with her right hand, seeing in his eyes a ghost of the haunted look that had been in them when he had burst into the room she was resting in, deeply in pain, after receiving news of her dreadful injury. Sometimes, the nightmares and ghost-pain still haunted Ree - she would wake up sweating, breathing hard, her heart beating unevenly as she struggled to remind herself that that was not her future.
She rose to her feet gracefully, smiling crookedly when Corsair when he did the same.
"This is goodbye then," Corsair said ruefully. Lhurriel nodded, not trusting herself to speak. They stared at each other.
They both reached for each other at the same time - Lhurriel, for Corsair's shoulders, and Corsair for her hips - and for a long moment, the two of them were transported back to the past, when they had been so deeply in love and so full of dreams and visions of future happiness. Lhurriel returned his fervent kiss with every drop of her soul, knowing that this would likely be the last time she would ever be the only female in Corsair's heart. Next time, they would be close friends - but only friends.
A sudden noise in the doorway made Lhurriel jump... eyes narrowing in suspicion, she strode to the half-open door and yanked it open all the way.