Quietly, he tells me that he is leaving.
Our marriage isn’t over, he reassures me. It’s that the Consequences of this Summer’s Drama have spiraled far beyond his control, and he must tend to his Kingdom and People before all else.
I tell him that I understand. I will miss him, have been missing him already with him being gone so much, but I understand that being King is not something he can just put down.
I reach out to hug him, and freeze when my fingers brush empty air. He steps back so I can see him clearly, and I see that his once waist-length hair now only reaches his shoulders.
There are only two reasons why a Sovereign of Darkness cuts their hair.
The first reason is that war has been declared; the second is that they are in mourning.
He nods to my unspoken question. He had warned me this was coming, this loss, this grief of his. It’s part of the reason why he’s been away so much, he knows I would take his grief and internalize it as my own. This is a loss he needs to process privately.
“I’m sorry,” I say.
“There’s nothing you can do, dearest Heart,” he replies. “I will have Others watching over you, but this,” he tugs what’s left of his hair, “is something you cannot help with.”
“I can support–”
“Varian.” He sighs, holds up a hand. “I love you, honey, but the best thing for you to do right now is focus on your schoolwork.”
“No. You’re still too close to that trauma. I’d rather your wounds be healed as best as they can, before you start poking around at all that trauma. Do you understand me?”
He steps closer to me, his arms slipping around my waist.
“Do not hurt yourself,” he says, his voice low and intense. “Do not break what’s left of your Heart in order to satisfy some absurd demand that you need to be broken in order to heal. You are not glass.” His gold eyes flash when he says the last sentence.
I nod, unsure what to say in response to that.
He sighs and lays his forehead against my own.
“You are my Heart,” he whispers, “and no matter how much they smear your name, I will protect you as my own. I’ll stand by you, no matter how much they drag your name through the mud.” There is anger in his voice now, anger and tears.
I wrap my arms around him and he lays his head against my shoulder. We hold each other close, knowing this might be our last embrace for a long time.