Choice

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If you ask, she will say she has known him all her life, and longer. This is not romance, but truth.

They grew up as neighbors, shoulder-to-shoulder, and when his talents blossomed, of course she followed. She has never questioned that. However distasteful she finds the military, the weight of a gun is easy in her hands, and in her mind's eye, she focuses upon the target of his ambitions. With the proper support, he could be carried beyond even his own expectations.

Love does not entirely compel her, nor duty alone. When they first met, before their lives began, she looked at him and saw a great man--but, also, a fallible one. She saw a man who would need her, not as a lover, but as a shadow who would never leave his side.

Because she knows him, she realizes this is easier said than done. He is certainly charming when he wishes, but also prickly, and very early he learned the politician's method of the silk-wrapped insult. Favors are his currency, which he doles out with the care and greed of a miser.

That is not to say he has not earned every step up the ladder he has made, or that he deserved the double-edged promotion that packaged them all off to East City, away from the heart of politics. She knows him far too well to believe that.

If you ask, she does not say she loves him. That word is too small and limiting.

She looks at him and sees the potential to change the world. In order to prevent him from crushing others beneath his feet--and to keep him from being crushed in his turn--she walks behind him, beside him, and keeps her gun ready at her hip. The Fuhrer himself has commented on her skill, and she knows there are those who question why she does not follow his example, and take her advantage to move up in the world.

But she will not leave him, not when he leans on her more than he realizes.

For the sake of a man who's life could not fade--for the promise she made to herself, and the pleased surprise on his face when he noticed her face among the hundreds of their classmates.

And so she looks at the girl sitting next to her, not yet tearful and mourning a choice not yet made. She looks at her coffee, at the rising steam, and hears the sound of his voice, coming loudly from the other room.

"There is someone I must protect."

--end--