True to his word, Aeron woke me at dinnertime. Now, I was sitting on the edge of bed trying to find the strength – and courage – to make myself stand up. I know, it sounds ridiculous.
"Do you want some help?" Aeron tentatively asked, for the millionth time.
"No!" I snapped.
Silence reigned for a few moments, and I tried to put off the inevitable by asking a question that had been bugging me for a while.
"Where's dad and Anna?"
"They were here for a while, but Selene took them back to Earth because they had been missing for quite a while. I can get them back anytime soon for you, if you want."
Again, the silence.
"Okay, give me a hand up," I finally relented.
I would have loved to be able to use my magic, but at the moment it was still trickling back and I didn't want to disrupt the flow, lest I truly became magicless. I held up my hands for him to help pull me up with, but his help never came.
I glanced up.
"So now you're not going to—"
The expression on his face cut me off. It was one of complete horror. I frowned in confusion. What the…?
I followed his gaze down to my arms.
"Oh damn," I sighed.
One of my arms had a big, handprint bruise on it. One that was the size of Aeron's hands.
Silently, he fell to his knees next to me and lifted up the shirt I was wearing slightly. I didn't stop him, even though the expression in his eyes nearly killed me. I heard a sharp intake of breath and glanced down to find another blue and purple handprint across my stomach where he had held me last night.
Without a word, he rose to his feet and left.
"Aeron!" I tried to call after him, but he was too far gone. Down our Bond, I felt his complete anguish. I pushed myself up off the bed but immediately went sprawling. No. I couldn't give up. Aeron was blaming himself for my weakness when it wasn't even his fault! If anyone were to blame, it would be Gerahd and myself! The weird thing was, was that I still felt my vine armour. I guess I was just too weak to put it to good use.
I tried reaching him through our Bond.
::Aeron, get back here right now::
No answer. Not even a flicker of acknowledgment. With fear, I realised that he was flying headlong up to the Brink. No, no, no!
::I'm serious! And you know what? I'm on the ground and I can't get up:: It was true. I'd rolled onto my back to get comfier, but I didn't have the energy to try to pull myself up again.
I felt a whisper of concern, but his emotions were still swirling angrily like a storm. I felt his presence somewhere outside the castle, so I crawled to the window and pulled myself up it. Panting, I searched outside for his figure.
I noticed the shattered door, and would've laughed if the situation weren't so serious. I finally found him, striding away from the castle, his hair white and gold magic whipping around him. All those in his way quickly dived out of it.
I tried once more through the Bond.
::Aeron, please:: This time I saw him stop moving and his minute figure turned around to face the castle. The gold magic whirling around him stilled for a moment.
But only a moment, and then he turned his back on me and strode away. I didn't know what the hell he thought he was doing, but I wasn't going to let him get away.
I searched deep inside myself and pulled up the small vestiges of magic that had trickled back. I concentrated on it, then threw it out the window. A few seconds later, a glittering blue box surrounded Aeron. I knew if he started throwing magic at it, he'd break it in no time. I just didn't have the strength to hold it there.
He threw one of his hands back, and I cringed, waiting for the onslaught of power. But nothing happened. I glanced down at him and saw him turn back around.
::Now can you please come back?::
The blue box vanished as he slowly walked back towards the castle, still on the Brink. He disappeared into the castle, then a few minutes later stepped through the still open doorway, hair white and eyes red.
"Calm down, Aeron."
His hair and eyes flickered – as if deciding whether or not to obey – then settled back to their normal, beautiful colours.
But the self-loathing was still in his eyes.
"Seriously, I'm not glass. And the bruises aren't your fault. I mean, look at your neck!" I smiled weakly, but my lame attempt at a joke barely got a response. I was extremely embarrassed about the hickeys that were covering his neck, but that would have to wait for later.
He said nothing. We were still at opposite sides of the room, me leaning on the windowsill and him hesitating at the doorway.
I sighed, knowing that this would take time. Unfortunately, unlike my moment of shallowness, this couldn't be resolved with a few words. Aeron would keep thinking he was harming me just because my body was weak.
"Will you help me down to dinner at least?" I asked. He nodded his assent, and walked over to cupboard, pulling out a coat that I could put over my pyjamas. I shrugged it on, and put my arm around his waist as he wrapped his gently around my shoulders.
I sighed in irritation, but said nothing.
With him bearing most of my weight, we made our way down to dinner. When we entered the hall I heard multiple gasps. And the million questions started again.
"Are you sure you should be out of bed?"
"Did you eat the food I gave you?"
"It's about time you got out of that room! Aeron can't have you all to himself!"
"Aeron, is that a hickey?"
The final question stopped all others. To my complete and utter horror, everyone in the room turned to inspect Aeron's neck. And he just stood there with a self-satisfied smirk!
With my face the colour of a tomato, I cleared my throat and said, "Um… Where's the food? I'm hungry."
I wasn't really, but I couldn't come out with a better excuse at that point in time.
As we sat down for dinner, I noticed with a pang that everyone was decked out in black. Because of Helios. Grief ripped through me and if I had the strength I would've run from the room. Instead, I had to bite my lip to stop the tears. He was gone. I didn't have the strength to save him! I knew deep down that it wasn't really my fault, but that didn't stop me from feeling extremely guilty.
I set my fork down on the table and closed my eyes, willing the tears away. I heard Aeron set down his cutlery and felt him turn towards me. His hand brushed my arm, as light as possible but enough to gain my attention. I turned my face to him, and when he saw my eyes he announced to the table, "We'll be back in a second."
He lifted me up and I leaned on him as we made our way outside to the gardens. This total dependence was really getting on my nerves, but I was beginning to feel tired again. He guided me over to a chair and I sat down on it.
But he stayed standing up.
"Oh, just sit down. It won't kill me," I snapped, not in the mood.
He sat down a few inches away from me, as far as the small bench would allow, but I immediately leaned into him, placing my head on his shoulder.
"Does… do you know if anyone blames me?" I said finally. I didn't need to go into any specifics; he knew what I was talking about.
He turned to me sharply.
"No. No one does. And if they did, I'd kill them," he growled.
I smiled sleepily.
"Good." I paused for a moment. "I really miss him. But it must be worse for you." I twisted my head around so my chin was on his shoulder and I was gazing up into his face. "He was your brother; you'd known him for over a hundred years. You're always the one comforting me. This Bond thingy works two ways, and it's my time to comfort you."
He was silent, and after a moment I wrapped my arms around him, wiggling myself so half my body was laying on his legs. It took a few seconds, but he twined his arms around my body and pulled me fully into his lap.
"You don't need to do anything. Just being around you is comforting," he murmured into my hair.
That warm, bubbly feeling spread across my body.
"You do know what to say to a girl."
I tilted my head up and kissed him lightly on the lips, before ducking my head under his chin and snuggling in closer to the warmth of his body.
I was asleep within moments.
"So. The wedding."
I glanced up from the book I was reading to meet Elianore's eyes. She was perched on the edge of my bed, almost bouncing in excitement. It had been two slow weeks after I had woken up, and I was feeling a lot better. My magic was almost fully back, and I could last a full day without exhaustion taking over. However, Aeron still wanted me to stay in bed as much as possible, so he was down fetching my breakfast at the kitchen. Which was completely fine by me. I'd have breakfast in bed any day! Elianore had made full use of his absence, ducking in a few moments after he had left.
"What about it?" I asked cautiously, unconsciously twisting the ring on my finger.
"Have you two organised anything yet or do I need to do everything around here?"
"Well we've talked a bit about it…"
I sighed. "I don't know! He's a male; they all hate wedding preparations!"
"Push him harder then! It's not like he's going to do anything to you! Say, if I asked, he'd probably send me flying through the window."
I giggled at the image. "I'll try and broach the subject."
"Have you had any thoughts concerning it?"
"Well…" A slow smile spread across my face. "I want it to be a spring wedding."
"You'll have to move fast! It's almost spring!"
"I know! And I think I'll have it in Leninus and invite my father and Anna-Belinda over. Also… would you like to be a bridesmaid?"
She squealed, and her wings flickered about. "Yes! I'm so excited!"
I laughed. "I was thinking of having you, Anna, and Tiarna as bridesmaids."
"Yes, yes, yes!" Suddenly, her face went blank and she cocked her head to the side. "He's coming," she whispered. "I'd better go."
She darted out of the room, and a few moments later Aeron strode in, glancing behind him.
"Was that Elianore I saw racing around the corner?" he asked suspiciously. I just grinned at him and patted the spot he had vacated next to me. He sank down and put the tray in front of me, picking up a strawberry and popping it in his mouth. I watched his mouth for a second before blinking and shaking my head. I couldn't be distracted from my mission!
"What?" I asked, frowning in confusion.
"You've got that look in your eye."
"That look. You know, the one where your eyes get all twinkly and they narrow slightly!"
"I don't know what you mean," I answered haughtily, glancing down at the tray and thinking what to eat first.
Next thing I knew, his lips were covering mine. My eyes widened in surprise before shutting in bliss. I love strawberries.
I felt his magic swirl around me and the tray was lifted and placed elsewhere. He shifted so he was hovering over me, one arm holding himself up and the other stroking my waist softly.
Suddenly, I pulled away with a gasp.
"You're trying to distract me!" I accused, narrowing my eyes at him menacingly. He instantly looked guilty.
"I wanted to discuss our wedding!"
"Oh," he said, before his head lowered again for another distracting kiss.
I ducked out of the way and rolled to the other side of the bed, crossing my arms and looking at him angrily.
"No more kisses until we talk about it!" He still looked reluctant, so I decided to try another route. I made my eyes water. "You… You don't want to marry me anymore? Is that what you're trying to say?"
He instantly looked distraught, and on the inside I grinned wickedly.
"No—That's not what I—"
I slid off the bed so I could tower over him.
"You could just tell me you know! Instead of giving all these sly hints!" I turned away so he couldn't see my grin and began talking to myself. "How could I be so stupid? Now I'll have to somehow get back, but that'll be nothing compared to telling Isidori and Tiarna! And Ditreenos! He'll be furious!"
I turned around slightly so I could see his expression. He was absolutely horrified. He had sprung up from the bed and was now striding around it, his arms held out before him.
"No, Seraphina, of course I want to marry you! I love you! But—"
"There's always a but isn't there! All the time!" I screeched. I turned to the side and pretending to cover up a sob, when really it was a guffaw. How could he not see through this? He was so thick!
"I was going to say but I'm not a fan of wedding preparation! However I will talk it over with you!"
I could have ended it there, but I was having way too much fun.
"Oh, so now you say that! You just don't want a whiny, screechy woman underfoot!"
A knock sounded on the door, cutting Aeron's reply off.
He opened his mouth to tell them, in the most polite way I'm sure, to 'go away', but I got in first.
"Come in!" I sung out.
Lennox and Winaysha entered.
"Oh, hello Lennox, Winaysha!" I said cheerfully, walking over to kiss their cheeks.
Aeron stood there, stunned at the sudden change from weepy to joyful female.
"Don't just stand there, son, come give your father a kiss!" Lennox boomed, waving Aeron over. He jerkily went over, and when he pulled away his eyes met mine, and understanding dawned. They quickly narrowed in a dark scowl at how easily he had been fooled.
"Did we come at a bad time?" Winaysha asked, glancing between him and me.
"Actually," Aeron cut over me. "Seraphina, here, just bullied me into discussing the wedding preparations."
I smirked triumphantly. I am the man.
Winaysha's eyes danced. "It was much the same way with your father and I! Don't take it too seriously, darling, it's just the natural order."
Lennox snorted, very unroyal-like. "Yes, the woman always has to be the bossy one."
"What did you want to talk about?" Aeron shot peevishly as he noticed my snicker.
They instantly grew grave.
"Let's take a seat."
There were three chairs in the corner of the room, so Lennox remained standing with his arms behind his back.
"We wanted to talk to the both of you about the Crown." He paused. "We don't want you waiting for us to die to inherit, so we have decided, like Winaysha's parents before us, to step down."
I stared at them wide eyed as Aeron nodded slowly. "That makes sense. When will you be stepping down?"
Winaysha was the one to answer this time. "As soon as possible, really. We want the ceremony to be in conjunction with your wedding."
"Helios's death has taken its toll quite heavily upon us both," continued Lennox, "and I just don't think we'd be doing as good of a job as this country deserves. What do you think about this whole… arrangement?"
The room was silent for a moment. I definitely wasn't going to answer. I was still in shock.
Me. A queen? That just didn't sit completely right. What would I be, Queen Seraphina? Would I need to add 'the First' to the end of my name? Would that make it sound slightly better? I was going to have millions of lives in my hands! What if I made the wrong decision and they hated me? How could I stand to live with myself—
A warm hand encased mine and I glanced up to find Aeron watching me with tender eyes, sending a silent message of support. After a second, he turned back to his mother and father, but his hand still stayed wrapped around mine.
"I think you should do whatever you believe to be right. If you think that Seraphina and I are ready, then I guess we are. I just…" He gave a tired sigh. "It's just so soon!"
Worry entered Winaysha's eyes. "We can postpone for a while if you think that wise—"
"Mother, it's fine," Aeron said firmly with a small smile. He let out a whoosh of breath. "When are we announcing it?"
"Tonight, probably, at dinner. The word will spread like wildfire across the whole nation anyway."
"We'll leave you to discuss this and your wedding plans," Lennox said, offering his arm to Winaysha. She grasped it with a warm smile and they walked out of the room. The sound of the door shutting sounded extra loud.
"Wow," I breathed. "Well I, for one, am hungry," I said, getting up and sliding back into bed after finding where Aeron had magicked the tray to. I munched on a piece of fruit as Aeron sat down on the bed next to me.
"About the wedding, here's what I've been thinking," I started. "Spring wedding in Leninus with Elianore, Anna-Belinda, and Tiarna as bridesmaids. And Selene would just have to be the flower girl. I mean, she's so adorable! My dress will definitely be white, no matter what weird customs you might have here. I'd like the colours to be bright, and not those soft, baby colours. Oh yes! And we'd need roses. Lots of roses."
I looked at him, expecting an answer. Instead, he looked baffled.
I sighed in irritation. "While you're getting your thick head around that, I'll be in the bathroom."
I got up off the bed, chomping on another piece of fruit. When I got to the bathroom, before I shut the door, I noticed the position the toilet seat was in.
I stomped angrily back to the doorway.
"Dearest fiancé, when you use the toilet you leave the seat down. Do you understand? Leave the toilet seat down."
He smirked from his place on the richly coloured bed. "And why should I listen to you?"
I smiled. "Because as your mother was saying earlier, I wear the pants in this relationship!"
He scoffed but didn't say anything, so I disappeared back into the bathroom.
It was the night before the Big Day, as we had begun to call it. In other words, the wedding/coronation. Butterflies had been wreaking havoc in my stomach all day, but now were quiet. I was lying in Aeron's arms on his chest, staring up at the stars as they twinkling back at me. We were lying in the small garden where Gisella's statue was situated, also where he had proposed to me. I smiled fondly at the memory.
"What?" Aeron asked softly, so as not to ruin the mood.
"I was just remembering how you proposed to me here, and how absolutely beautiful it was."
His chest rumbled beneath me as he chuckled.
"That took a lot of thinking and stress to find the perfect place, and I was unbelievably nervous."
"More nervous than what you'll be tomorrow?" I asked, and at this thought the butterflies stirred in my stomach again.
"Definitely. You could have said no then, but there is no chance of you backing out now."
I twisted around so my chin was resting on his chest.
"And what if I want to?" I murmured playfully.
"Too bad," he replied softly, his golden eyes veritably glowing like twin suns, even in the soft moonlight. "You're stuck with me for life, my little queen."
The words couldn't have been more true.
"And there's no other place I'd rather be," I whispered, smiling widely.
A/N: (28/06/2012) So, done with the edit! Like I said at the beginning, I'd love some feedback on it, especially if you've read the version before this one.
To everyone reading this, thank-you so much for reading my story! I hope you enjoyed it all!
THERE IS A SEQUEL: it's called His Captive and it's about their daughter – sorry if you were hoping for more Sera/Aeron action!