The sound of a car approaching woke Kiora from her state of misery. 'Ben,' she thought, remembering the date she had made. She stood up, and wiped her face. Hopefully, her eyes weren't too red.
"Hey," he said, climbing out of the car. "Sorry, I'm early."
"That's all right." Kiora met him half-way up her walkway.
"Is something wrong?" he asked, his smile dropping away.
"No. Well," Kiora stared down at the ground. "Something came up."
"Do you want to reschedule?"
"Ben…" Kiora hesitated. "I—"
"Kiora?" Madeleine stuck her head out the door. She caught sight of Ben and her eyes widened.
"I'll be right in," Kiora said quickly. She wasn't sure Madeleine would have enough sense not to say anything in front of Ben. Knowing her, she'd be fascinated to meet another mortal, and wouldn't guard her speech at all.
"Um, okay." Madeleine ducked back inside.
"What's going on?" Ben asked. He put his fingertips under Kiora's chin and lifted up her face. "Kiora? Have you been crying?"
Kiora brushed aside his hand. "Remember….remember the night we met? At the bar?"
"We talked about getting drunk, and you said—" Ben stopped. "The guy. He's back?"
Kiora nodded. "I can't see you anymore," she said. As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she realized that she would leave with Jaime and the others. The mortal realm wasn't her home, not anymore. Even if she had to spend eternity unable to touch Jaime, she couldn't stay here. In Faerie, she fit. She was more confident, more certain of herself. She might be a human, but she belonged in Faerie.
"Well," Ben forced a smile. "No need to cry about it."
"I like you," Kiora bit back a sob. "I really do, but…."
"You love him." Ben shrugged. "It's okay. I've been in love. I know what its like."
"I'm so sorry."
"Don't be. I'll survive." He leaned forward and brushed his lips over hers. "See you around."
'No, you won't,' Kiora thought as she watched his car pull away. Exhaling, she turned to face the next ordeal.
Madeleine was hovering by the window when Kiora walked in.
"Who was that?" she asked. Kiora smiled; she couldn't help it. Madeleine would never be called subtle.
"A friend," Kiora replied.
"Just a friend?" Madeleine said quickly.
"Something like that." Kiora glanced around the room. "Where'd Toril go?"
"She went back to Faerie," Madeleine answered. "Tel'Arawn sent word that an alliance with the vampires was being formed."
"With vampires?" Kiora remembered how Jaime reacted after her meeting with Lykos.
Madeleine shrugged, her earrings jingling together. "I didn't get the details," she said.
Kiora sank down on her couch. Her bones felt tired. An ache throbbed down to the marrow. She stared at the closed down to her bedroom. "How's Jaime?" she asked, hating the way her voice scratched.
"He's awake. He asked to see you." Madeleine leaned against the wall and looked out the window. "I've never been in the mortal realm before," she said. "It's not as interesting as I thought it would be."
"You've only seen out my windows." Kiora rested her head on the arm of the couch. "Someday I'll take you to New York."
"What happened to old York?"
The door to Kiora's bedroom opened before she had a chance to reply to Madeleine's question. Zhi stepped out, her pale blue hair nearly glowing in the dim light. Here, surrounded by Kiora's ordinary possessions, she was even more unearthly. She smiled, and Kiora felt some of her tension drain away.
"Hello," she said, standing up. "Is Jaime okay?" Zhi crossed the room in three long steps. She cupped Kiora's face, then brushed her lips over the little mortal's forehead.
So worn. Zhi ran a hand down Kiora's hair. This is hard.
"Yes," Kiora choked out.
Little one, he will survive. But… Zhi frowned, and stepped back. She touched her fingertips to Kiora's temple. His mind is hurt. You help him.
"Me?" Kiora picked a strand of her hair and threaded it though her fingers. "What can I do?"
Zhi just turned and spoke to Madeleine in the slithery language that Kiora recognized as High Sidhe. Madeleine blinked and responded in the same language.
"She wants to know if you have a place for her healers to rest," Madeleine translated.
"Uh, the only bed is in the bedroom," Kiora said. "But the sofa folds out."
"Um, yeah." Kiora pulled the cushions off and showed Madeleine the metal handle. "You pull that and the bed pops out." She looked at Zhi and shrugged. "It's all I have."
Zhi answered in her language. Madeleine laughed and translated.
"She says after the cots at the commune your magic bed will feel like a cloud." Madeleine paused. "More or less."
"More or less?" Kiora raised her eyebrows.
"It's hard to translate," Madeleine said.
Kiora opened her mouth to speak, but a touch on her arm stopped her. Zhi smiled and tilted her head towards the bedroom door.
"Now?" she squeaked.
Zhi nodded. Kiora sighed.
"All right." She glanced over at Madeleine. "If you're hungry, there's food in the kitchen." Kiora took two steps and stopped. "Don't try to cook anything," she added.
Madeleine pouted. "I'd be careful," she muttered.
"Right. You'd be careful right up until the house burned down," Kiora replied dryly. She turned and faced the door to her bedroom. Inhaling deeply, she opened it.
The healers looked up as Kiora entered. One she recognized from her stay at the commune. The other, a woman with dark red hair fading to white, was unfamiliar. She smiled at Kiora the way kindergarten teachers smile at their class. Still smiling, she and the other filed out of the room, closing the door behind them. Without the healers, the room seemed airless, and Kiora's chest felt heavy. She forced herself to walk over to the bed, her eyes focused on the floor.
Jaime was pale; the scars were Zhi and the others had healed him stood out livid red against his skin. His mouth was opened, and his breaths came low and deep. After a minute, his eyelids fluttered and opened. He stared up at Kiora without speaking. They stayed like that, neither moving, tied together in the moment. Finally, Kiora spoke.
"How do you feel?" she asked.
"I've been better," Jaime replied. His voice sounded hoarse and broken. "How are you?"
Kiora blinked, then burst into tears. Jaime sat up, the blanket covering him falling to his waist.
"Don't do that," he said, pulling Kiora onto the bed. "Shhhh, I'm okay. Really." Kiora just sobbed harder. She curled into Jaime, burying her face in his chest. Her tears dripped down his flesh, leaving shining trails. "Please don't cry." Jaime wrapped his arms around Kiora. Slowly he stroked her back, making soft noises in the back of his throat.
"I….was….so scared," Kiora managed.
"You were scared," Jaime replied, arching an eyebrow. "What about me?"
Kiora laughed, unable to help herself. She wiggled closer, tucking her head underneath Jaime's chin. There was a long, oval scar on his shoulder. Her fingers traced over it, lightly brushing the rough skin. It was different then the others, wider and deeper. It looked at though a slice had been taken out of Jaime's flesh. Abruptly, Kiora realized she was touching Jaime's bare skin, and she bolted upright.
"What happened? Why can I touch you?" she demanded. Jaime looked down at his hands. A bandage was wrapped around his forearm, about an inch from his wrist.
"Nicholas took my magic," he said.
"How? How could he do that?"
Jaime's lips twitched. "He's insane," he replied.
"No, I mean, how was he able to do that."
"I don't know." Jaime shifted, adjusting the blanket. Kiora sensed that he was hiding something, but she didn't want to push him.
"Can you get it back?" she asked.
"I don't know. If I can't, Nicholas will be Goblin King." Jaime paused. "He is Goblin King," he corrected himself. "The labyrinth obeys him now."
"Oh, god. But Nicholas---"
"I don't want to talk about him," Jaime snapped. Kiora shrank back.
"I'm sorry," she said. Jaime sighed. He ran a finger down the ridge of his nose.
"No, it's all right. I just….I just…."
"I understand," Kiora interrupted. "You don't have to say anything."
"I want to," Jaime said. He stared at the blanket, then began picking out bits of fuzz. The silence dragged on.
"Well?" Kiora raised her eyebrows.
"I thought you wanted to say something."
"I changed my mind."
"God, you're infuriating," Kiora replied.
"Aren't you supposed to comforting me?" Jaime asked. "Where's the sympathy? Where's the cooing? There should be cooing."
"I'm not a dove." Kiora leaned over and touched the bandage on Jaime's wrist. "Why is this here?" she asked.
Jaime jerked his hand away. "Don't."
"I didn't mean…."
"It doesn't matter. Ignore it."
Kiora bit her lip. Talking to Jaime was like walking through a land mine. Each step had to be carefully planned. She wanted to ask him so many things, but every time she tried to move deeper, he snapped at her.
"Jaime," she began.
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to sleep," Jaime said. "A lot."
Kiora resisted the urge to smack him. It was wrong to smack people who had just been tortured by their sadistic elder brother. That wasn't something they taught in school, but Kiora figured it didn't come up in most people's lives.
"I mean it," she said.
"So did I," Jaime said with a hint of ice in his voice. "Stay out of this, Kiora."
Kiora's hand twitched. "Stay out of it," she said quietly. "Stay out of it?"
"You're mortal. It doesn't concern you."
"Doesn't concern me?"
"You're not part of Faerie. It isn't in your life anymore."
"Not in my life anymore?"
Jaime was beginning to realize that Kiora was just repeating everything he said. Something told him this was a bad sign.
"So," he said with a brilliant smile. "Where's my get-well present?"
"It's obviously not up your ass," Kiora bit off. "Otherwise you would have seen it by now."
Jaime gaped at her. "Er…"
"Not part of my life?" Kiora demanded, gathering steam. "You're in my bed!"
"I didn't show up on your doorstep, bleeding and comatose! I didn't drop in and say, 'Oh, please, my life is finally returning to normal. Come mess it up for me!' I had a date tonight!"
"This wasn't my idea!" Jaime yelled, his voice cracking. He leaned forward as coughs jerked through his body. "Dammit," he croaked.
"Oh, god," Kiora whispered. "Jaime, are you—"
"I'm fine," Jaime snapped, pushing the hair out of his face. "Don't worry about it."
"Of course I'm going to worry," Kiora shot back. "Idiot."
Jaime opened his mouth to retort, than changed his mind. He closed his eyes and fell back against the pillows. "I am an idiot," he said. Kiora didn't say anything. Instead, she reached out and brushed her fingertips over Jaime's palm. The spark that was always there before was gone. Kiora couldn't imagine losing something like that. She didn't know what it was like to have magic; how could she understand what it felt like have it tore away. Somehow it seemed worse than just losing an arm or leg. The body was physical; mortal. Magic was part of a person's soul.
"I'm sorry," Jaime said, without opening his eyes. "I wanted to keep you out of this. I wanted…..I want to keep you safe." He grinned without humor. "I should have known. I was never any good at that."
Kiora wasn't sure how to respond. She traced Jaime's life-line, following it down to where it curved onto his wrist. He had the longest life-line she had ever seen. It actually wasn't that surprising, she thought, considering that he would out live her by thousands of years. Or would have if Kiora stayed in the mortal realm. But she knew that nothing was going to keep her from returning to Faerie. If Jaime thought he knew stubbornness, he had no idea what was coming.
"You had a date."
It was statement, yet at the same time a question. Kiora refused to grab the bait.
"Yes, I did."
"What's his name?"
"Ben," Kiora said grudgingly.
"Been dating him long?"
"Jaime, so help me god..."
"What's he like?"
Kiora ground her teeth together. "You're changing the subject."
"I'm sorry. Maybe you should go talk to Ben." The sheer malice Jaime managed to put in three letters was awe-inspiring.
"Maybe you should stop being a prick," Kiora replied. "I know it's going to be hard, but I think if you really try—"
"—I think you could be capable of human interaction in, say, three or—"
"Kiora, shut up."
"—four months," Kiora finished.
Jaime opened one eye a crack. "It's a good thing you didn't become a nurse. You have a terrible bedside manner."
"Jaime, what are you going to do?"
Jaime sighed. "What do you think? I can't let Nicholas rule the Goblin Kingdom."
"You're going to fight him."
"But you don't have any magic left," Kiora said.
"How are you going to fight him?"
"I don't know!"
"From what I've heard, you're not too good with a sword either."
Jaime swore darkly.
"You need someone to protect you," Kiora continued, a giddy feeling rising in her stomach. "Someone who's dealt with Nicholas without magic before."
"You must be joking," Jaime replied, his eyes flipping open.
Kiora leaned forward until her nose was half an inch away from Jaime's. "Know anybody else who's given Nicholas a broken nose?"
Jaime stared at her for a moment. Kiora sat up, a smug expression on her face.
"You're insane!" he yelled. "There is no way you're coming back to Faerie. And there's even less of a chance of you joining the attack."
"Why?" Kiora asked. "I might not have any magic, but neither does Val. Or you, for that matter. At least I've been taking lessons from Toril."
"Weren't you just the one complaining about us dropping into your life?" Jaime pushed himself upright. "I thought you had everything back normal."
"I'm going back, Jaime," Kiora said.
"No. I forbid it."
Kiora snorted. "I'd like to see you try."
"How are you planning on getting there?" Jaime asked.
"I'll get Madeleine or Toril or Alex," Kiora said.
"I'll forbid them, too," Jaime replied. His face was steadily turning a bright scarlet.
"Jaime," Kiora said softly. "I'm going." She picked up his hands and laced her fingers through his. "I'm going," she repeated, squeezing his hand. Jaime looked away.
"You know, if we actually manage to defeat Nicholas, I'll have my magic back."
"We won't be able to see each other," Jaime said, his voice sounding like it came through a long tunnel. "It'll be too hard."
"I know," Kiora said again. A hard lump was forming in her throat. It was excruciating just to speak.
"And if we fail, we'll all be killed," Jaime paused. "If we're lucky."
"If you're trying to discourage me, it's not working," Kiora said. "I already know all this, Jaime."
"And yet you insist on coming," Jaime turned to look at her. There was a rage on his face Kiora had never seen before. "Why?"
Kiora took a deep breath. "I love you." There, she said it. Kiora felt a piece of herself fly through the air. It was a freeing feeling, being able to tell someone you love them, and not have to hear it return.
"If you loved me, you're stay here," Jaime growled. "Don't you get it? I don't care what Nicholas does to me. The past few weeks have been easy compared to the thought of you dying. God," Jaime swore. "Not even dying, of you just getting hurt, of you being tortured, of you, dammit, I don't know, breaking a fingernail!"
"I'm glad you put my nail care right up there with torture," Kiora said. "It really makes a girl feel special."
Jaime buried his face in his hands, his body starting to shake. It took Kiora a moment to realize he was laughing. She waited to find out if this was maniacal, the-mind-has-snapped-laughter, or just ordinary you-don't-want-to-but-you-have-to-laughter. She hoped for the latter.
"What did I do to deserve this?" Jaime muttered. "Do I have bad karma?"
"Well, you did kidnap children and turn them into goblins," Kiora answered.
Jaime laughed harder, making Kiora think that this was the mind-snapping sort.
"I do love you," he said, in between giggles.
"I'm glad you find that so amusing." Kiora folded her arms over chest, struggling not to grin like an idiot. It was becoming rather difficult, especially was Jaime smiled at her like that.
"I wish…I wish…" Jaime shook his head.
"What?" Kiora's chest felt like lead. "You wish what?"
"I wish I didn't have to go back. I wish we could stay here." Jaime toyed with the edge of the blanket. "It feels almost as if Nicholas did me a favor."
Kiora inhaled sharply.
"If…when, I get my magic back, I won't be able to touch you." Jaime's eyes flicked up. "I won't be able to kiss you."
Kiora had never had a heart attack, but she was sure it didn't feel much different that how she felt now.
"I…er...um…well…" Kiora stammered to a halt as Jaime's hands cupped her face.
"I've wanted to do this for a long time," Jaime said, smiling faintly. He didn't move, but stood still, staring at her, his hazel eyes meeting her blue-green ones.
"What are you waiting for?" Kiora asked. She meant to sound unconcerned and flirty, but it came out as little more than a whisper.
"Nothing," Jaime replied, and kissed her.
It was surprisingly gentle. Jaime's lips were cool and soft, and they brushed over Kiora's, making her shiver at the slight touch. Her hands lifted on their own, coming to rest on Jaime's arms, just above his elbows. A fluttering grew in Kiora' stomach that matched the rising pace of her pulse. It seemed as though they stayed that way, apart but together, for a sweet eternity. Then Jaime's hands dropped to her waist, and pulled her closer. His mouth, cool before, had warmed until it was sending bolts of liquid fire through Kiora's body. All she could do was cling to Jaime, lost in the deepening intensity. Her fingers tangled in his hair; her lips craved his, the longer the kiss lasted the more she wanted. When they finally broke apart, both struggled for breath.
"Well," said Jaime, grinning like a madman on speed. "That was nice."
"Nice?" echoed Kiora. "Just nice?"
"Yes. Very pleasant."
Kiora blinked. Then, deliberately, she put her index finger and thumb against Jaime's forehead, and flicked him.
"Ow." Jaime rubbed the sore spot. "That's going to leave a mark."
"You deserve it," Kiora retorted. Jaime laughed and kissed her nose.
"You could kiss it and make it better," he murmured in her ear. A tingly bolt of lightening went straight to Kiora's glands, and she nearly moaned. 'This is ridiculous,' she thought. 'All he did was whisper in my ear and now he's……oh. Ooh. This is nice.'
"What do you think they're doing in there?" Madeleine asked. She was sitting on the couch, a dismantled remote on the table in front of her. It was joined by a coffee maker, telephone, and portable cd player. Madeleine was fascinated by electronics. She couldn't believe they didn't work by magic. Was she really supposed to believe a few brightly colored wires and blobs of silver allowed people to communication over huge distances? Zhi had prevented her from taking apart the television, much to Madeleine's irritation. Having exhausted her supply of small electronics, Madeleine was bored. There was no thought of putting them back together. It never even crossed her mind. Zhi was sitting in an armchair, writing some sort of journal. Her two assistants had disappeared. Madeleine frowned. She wanted to do something, not sit here and wait.
"They are most likely talking," Zhi replied, without looking up from her book. "Be patient."
Madeleine's frown turned into a scowl. She had tried listening at the door, but Zhi had enchanted it to be soundproof.
"Yeah," she muttered. "With their tongues."
Zhi looked amused. "That is usually how people talk, yes."
"You know what I meant."
"We can't keep doing this," Kiora said, breathlessly.
"We can try," Jaime replied. "Maybe we'll get a world record."
"I am serious. I mean, I don't know about you, but I can go without food for at least a week."
Kiora had to bite her lip to keep from giggling. "What about using the bathroom?" she asked.
"Hell." Jaime thought for a moment. "Okay, we can have breaks for that. And that's it."
"But Annie Hall is on TV tonight and I don't want to miss it."
"Annie Hall?" Jaime asked.
"Sorry," Kiora said. "I forgot you wouldn't know about that. It's a movie."
"Ah," Jaime looked mock-horrified. "You'd rather watch a movie than kiss me. It's okay, I understand. I just need to go find a handy lake and drown myself in it."
Kiora rolled her eyes.
"You're ridiculous," she said.
"And now you're adding insults." Jaime placed a hand melodramatically to his heart. "Alas, I am wounded."
"Oh, shut up," Kiora said, tugging his mouth down onto hers.
"I'm bored," Madeleine whined. "I thought the mortal world would be more entertaining."
Zhi ignored her. Madeleine folded her arms over her chest and pouted. She was still pouting ten minutes later when Toril appeared.
"What's going on?" she demanded. "How's Jaime?"
"He'll be fine," Zhi answered. "The little mortal is with him now."
Toril looked slightly taken back by this information. "Are you sure that's a good idea?" she asked.
Zhi tilted her head to the side. "No," she said.
"They are both injured in ways I cannot heal. Perhaps they can help each other."
"But they're just going to be tore apart again," Madeleine burst out. Both Zhi and Toril turned to stare at her. "Isn't it going to be harder for them this way?"
"Probably," Toril said, tugging on a braid. "I don't understand—"
"I know." Zhi stood up, and walked over to the window. Lightly she traced circles on the glass. When she spoke again it was in a halting manner unlike her usual graceful speech. "It is better to have known love, to be able to say farewell, to know that even though you will never touch this person again, you still have this one last moment. It will be difficult, agonizing even, this way, but…I could not have done anything else."
A wave of sadness and grief washed over the room. Toril realized she knew very little about the woman who had healed her wounds her whole life. Even when Toril was just feeling angry or restless, she knew she could see Zhi and soak up the calming aura that surrounded her. It was the first time she saw beneath Zhi's serene exterior. 'What has happened in her life?' Toril wondered. When Zhi turned around, she wore her normal tranquil smile. There was no trace of the sadness they had heard in her voice.
Toril cleared her throat. "How much longer until Jaime can come back to Faerie?"
"A day or two at the most." Zhi expression turned serious. "The wound on his wrist worries me. It is only a small one, but still it will not heal."
Toril nodded grimly. "I'm surprised it wasn't larger."
"He was not meant to die," Zhi said, sitting back down. She folded her hands in her lap. "There were signs of healing spells."
Madeleine gasped. "You mean, Nicholas would heal him just he could hurt him some more."
"I doubt it was him doing the healing, but basically you are correct." Zhi shifted slightly, sending a cascade of pale blue hair over her shoulder. "The cut the firys blade is just deep enough to reach a vein, and not any wider than a fingernail. It was carefully planned."
"Bastard," Toril hissed.
"He must really hate Jaime," Madeleine said.
"He's evil," Toril spat. "He isn't my brother. I refuse to share my blood with him."
"Unfortunately, it is not up to you to decide that," Zhi said. "My lady, you must return to your father. He needs to be informed of the king's progress."
Toril started, as if she was waking up from a dream.
"Yes. Of course." She vanished, once again leaving Madeleine and Zhi alone.
"So," said Madeleine, after a few moments of silence. "Do you think they're done in there yet?"
Zhi sighed, and declined to reply.
"I don't think Zhi would approve of this," Kiora said, wiggling so that she was lying on her side, facing Jaime. "You're supposed to be healing."
"I am healing," Jaime insisted. "Look at me. Don't I look healthy?"
Kiora skimmed her fingertips over Jaime's face. There were hollows there that hadn't been before. "No," she said honestly. "You look like someone who just escaped hell."
Jaime stared at her for a moment before the gates closed down over his face. "I don't want to talk about that."
"I know." Kiora wrapped her arms around Jaime's neck, willing him to not pull away. "But, Jaime, this can't last forever."
"Why not?" Jaime asked. "Let someone else be king. I don't even know if I can get my magic back. Why can't I just stay here with you?"
Kiora was silent. There was a plea in Jaime's voice that she was afraid she wouldn't be able to resist if she spoke. Jaime sighed and drew his arm over his arms.
"I hate this," he said. "I hate feeling like this and not being able to do anything about it."
"You have to go back," Kiora said, although she could feel her heart breaking as she said it. Just when she had started to patch up the cracks, it was starting again. She didn't know love could be like this, a constant dull ache in her chest. Kiora had always scoffed at the notion that love could cause physical pain. My heart is broken, that was just a metaphor. But now she knew it was true, and there wasn't enough aspirin or alcohol in the world to make it go away.
"It's not fair," Jaime said, sounding like a petulant child. "Why can't I do something I want to for once?"
"Life isn't fair," Kiora replied, surprised at her own harshness. "It's messy, and painful, and sometimes you have to do things you hate, and sometimes—" Her brief rage abated and she choked on her words. Jaime lifted his arm and looked at her.
"Hey," he said, skimming a fingertip down her cheek. "No more crying, okay?"
Kiora inhaled a ragged breath. "I can't…I can't…It's just…" Bending her head, she let her tears slide silently onto the blanket. Jaime wrapped an arm across her waist, and rested his head so their foreheads were touching
"I love you," he said. "Sometimes, I love you so much, I think it's going to kill me." He paused. "Sometimes, I wish I didn't, because then this wouldn't be so hard."
A sob wracked Kiora's body, and Jaime's grip tightened.
"An other times, I'm glad I love you, because as much as this hurts, it's better than feeling nothing at all." Jaime smiled bitterly. "Alex could probably say all this better than me. He's good with words."
"Oh, who cares about Alex?" Kiora sobbed. "Jaime, this hurts. I'm so tired and if you ask to stay one more time, I won't be able to say no. And you'll regret it for the rest of your life. You won't be able to live in Faerie, not with someone else as king. You love the labyrinth, and the goblins, and your family—"
"They can visit," Jaime said.
"You are the Goblin King, it's what you were born to be. You can't change fate."
"You're my fate now." Jaime kissed her, barely a whisper of lips.
"Oh, god, Jaime." Kiora struggled to regain her composure. "If you stay, I'll age. I'll get old, and wrinkly and get dentures and forget things—"
"I'll remind you."
"Don't make this so hard," Kiora whispered. "I'll die." Kiora wasn't sure if she meant her mortality or if the wrenching pain of this moment would kill her.
"I don't want to be without you," Jaime said softly.
"You'll heal," Kiora replied. "Everything heals eventually."
"There'll be scars," Jaime said. "Nothing is ever completely fixed. Nothing is ever exactly the same." He kissed her again, harder this time, as if trying to hold her in place, to absorb as much as he could in this single moment. Every ounce of love, and anger, and regret, and lost, and joy he had went into that kiss, released in one great outpouring of emotion. "I can't forget you," he said. "Don't ask me to do that."
"I won't." Kiora dug her fingers into Jaime's back. "I don't want you to. I want you to remember me because I know I won't be able to forget you. At least…at least, I have that."
"That isn't enough," Jaime said, his lips twisted with bitterness.
"It'll have to be," Kiora answered. "We can't have anything more." She kissed the corner of Jaime's mouth. "There's still now," she said. "Kiss me."
Jaime did, with the fierceness of a dying man. Kiora flung herself into the kiss, willing her pain to cease, if only for an hour. An hour of perfect bliss, unmarred by worries of the future. Kiora was wrong, they could have something else.
They had tonight.
A/N: Dear lord, finally! It only took, what, 30 chapters?