132 ~ Anala

Aro stood with his hands clasped behind his back – a familiar stance – face stoic as he watched her read the paper in her hand. Her eyes scanned it once, twice, three times, and then she set it down on her desk and looked up at him, keeping her face unreadable.

“I cannae say I expected this o’ ye, Aro,” she said quietly, after a long silence.

He cleared his throat and looked at his feet briefly before meeting her eyes again. “Neither can I,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper.

She nodded once, a brief movement that settled the matter. “Verra well then. Ye have a day ta clear out your room.”

He stood at attention and saluted. “Thank you, ma’am.”

She nodded again and stepped back, needing distance from him. “I’ll miss ye, Aro,” she said, and by some miracle her voice did not break. “Ye’ve been a damned fine major. I daresay tha best I could’ve known.”

They looked at each other then, eyes searching the other’s face. This was it, then. It was as plain as night. Even though she screamed inside for him to say something – anything – to stop what was happening; even though she could see his eyes begging her to make the move that would save them along with his military career; even though it was obvious neither wanted this, that all they wanted was to embrace, crushed chest to chest, and never let go, neither of them spoke.

The eye contact broke and she turned her face away, stony as ever. “Go,” she said, voice ragged.

She did not look as he left her, refusing to view him so blurrily. It was only when she heard the door shut and his footsteps recede that she sank to her knees, covering her face and thick tears that ran down it with her hands as her body was violently racked by silent sobs.

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