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Slipping the Leash

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Slim pale fingers pressed into the flesh of his wrist, recalling other instances of their measured grip on his person. It was his own mistake for releasing them from his grasp, where he'd kept them safely since he'd come to kneel by her side and deliver his farewell. Jacinthe hadn't looked at him since he'd dismissed the servants, and still withheld her gaze, staring fixedly off to the side. She'd tried to withhold her ear as well, but he'd said his piece regardless, and as the tension in her body increased he'd grown surer of her attention.

"No," she spoke now, forbidding. Her answer fell into silence - he told himself he was drawing her out, but his throat was dry and his stomach clenched around all his words as the moment stretched. Then -"You may not go." Her tone was steel, but its edges were honed by fear. It cut the tension, reminding him that he did have power, that this was how she always hid herself.

"I need to, and I am." Softly, now - he did not fight her grip, though he wondered if she could mark him that way. That afternoon, he'd checked himself into a hotel, and was in the process of looking for rooms in Undertow. He'd heard of a good place in what used to be a multi-family home in what used to be a factory, where the younger generations had mostly grown and moved rather than import their own new families. Some tradesmen lived there, and some other adventurers from the Union. The landlord, he understood, was the type who was careful not to ask too many questions. "It's nothing formal." There was no sense in repeating the rest.

Jacinthe shifted her fingers and her elaborately lacquered nails dug in to his flesh. He wasn't sure if it was tension or intention, but though his training bade him endure, he reached out instead to cover her hand. She slipped from his grasp, and he was left with nothing save a mild stinging and a row of impressed crescents he carefully avoided examining for the moment. That weapon disarmed, she looked at him, finally - looked down at him, her gaze as possessive as her grasp, and as unnerving.

"Don't you trust me - to take care of you?"

She was in command of herself now, and her accusing offer was targeted at his certainty. He wanted it very much, to cry off, to call himself a fool and let her do just that, let her do whatever she wanted.

"You make me doubt myself." Until he said it aloud to her, he hadn't been able to grasp how all the words fit together, wrapping them both in culpability for his fragility, but placing the reins in her hands. For the first time, under the spell of her cool blue eyes, he felt afraid of her. Little hairs on the back of his neck stood up, because he knew she only clung to her power and had never understood it. "It's too much."

"You need me." His mind filled in the details, from the mundane to the erotic. It was true, despite his fear, despite everything, and he wished he was holding her hand again, or holding her, that he could kiss her and promise it would all turn out. But that wasn't right. What he needed was to get over her, to meet her on more equal footing.

"I always will. You’re my wife. The mother of my son. Of course I need you." He paused, not entirely sure she was still with him. "But I can't be what you need from me, Jacinthe, not anymore. I can't." Her eyes looked through, rather than at him, and now she turned her head away and folded her hands in her lap, disengaged. Nothing other than a slight hitch in her breath betrayed her state of mind. Vedran rose, stepping back. "I'm going to go see Macen, and check on the arrangements for my things, but then I have to go. I'm sorry."

He thought he heard a sob on his way to the nursery, but maybe he'd only wished or imagined that she felt as miserable as he.