He seemed fine at dinner. In fact, he appeared hungrier than I’d seen him in a long time. He walked into the food room with Ana, his fingers locked with hers, and at first I thought they’d been fighting, because both of their faces were pinched with stress and Ana wouldn’t meet his eyes. But when he came to the table with his plate piled high, she relaxed.
She watched him with absolute focus as he ate. With every bite, her face brightened, as if a bit of weight was lifted from her shoulders every time he swallowed. Between every bite, he looked at her and smiled, and it was easy to read his expression. See? I’m fine. Nothing to worry about.
An hour ago, I went to take a shower, and I heard him in the toilet room, vomiting all of it up. He emerged, pale and clammy, wiping his mouth, and cursed when he saw me standing there. “Don’t tell Ana,” he said in a ragged voice.
"It won’t matter," I replied. "She’ll know."
He winced. “I know,” he whispered.
"The things in this city don’t nourish you anymore. Your own body is telling you it’s time to leave." Every word made me ache, and the pain was good and bad. He will have the Countryside. After his short and painful life, after his long and brutal years of service, my Captain will have peace. Is there anything more precious than knowing someone you love will have an existence free of pain and full of happiness? But at the same time, if that existence is far from you, the happiness is bittersweet in the extreme. "You should go to the Sanctum."
"I’ll go when I’m ready." His dark eyes bored into mine. "And I’m not ready. Because you’re wrong. She nourishes me.”
How simple it would be if that were all he needed. “What would Ana say if she knew you were staying for her? She already senses something is wrong—how will she feel if she believes it’s her fault?”
He squeezed his eyes shut. “None of this is her fault, and I won’t allow her to think that way.”
I couldn’t help my burst of laughter. “You honestly believe you can control that?”
He opened his eyes, and they were glittering with desperation. “I can’t leave her, Malachi. Not yet.”
"So instead, you will make her watch while you fall apart." I hated the harshness of my words and tone, but at the same time, my own desperation was rising up. I don’t want to watch him deteriorate when the remedy is so obvious. And I don’t think Ana would either, if she really understood what’s happening.
I reached out and put my hand on his shoulder. “I’ll take care of her. I’ll do whatever it takes until she’s ready to join you. She will not be alone.”
He swiped his sleeve over his eyes and sighed. “I’ll go soon. I promise. I just want a little more time with her. Can you understand?”
Though I wasn’t sure I did, I nodded.
"So will you let me tell her in my own time?"
I nodded again. “But don’t wait too long. If you die here—”
He held up his hands. “I know.” He squared his shoulders. “Besides, I’d love to destroy one last nest before I go.” He slapped my back as he exited the washroom, and I listened to his footsteps echo as he walked away.