"I'm leaving." I spoke the words with such candor that I was surprised at myself, surprised that I had the nerve to tell her that I was going to be gone.

Her pretty smile crumpled, the hand that had been straying up to her red hair falling back to her side. "Why?" It was no more than a whisper, and I knew then that she understood. I wasn't just leaving for a short while, I was going to be gone, for who knew how long.

If I was lucky, I wouldn't let myself come back to find her- If I loved her, I'd leave her now and let her get on with her life.

"I... I have to go." It was all I could do to keep my voice steady, with the tears rapidly welling up in her eyes. "Priscilla, I'm sorry. But... I do. I have to go."

"No, no you don't," she choked out, stepping away from me. I reached out to touch her hand, try to draw her to me, but she pulled away from my grasp. "You don't have to leave, you said that you'd stay by my side."

Staring down at my hands, I realized with a start that they were shaking uncontrollably, clasped in front of me like an anxious boy, waiting for a pretty girl he liked to notice him. "I'm sorry. I- I have to go. For your good."

"Heath, don't say that. Don't say it. You- I won't ever forgive you. If- if you leave me now, I won't." Tears were still welling in her eyes, but she refused to brush them away, staring defiantly at the ground. "I s- swear, if you leave now, I-I'll f-f-forget you a-and never think of you a-a- again..."

Damn. I had sworn to myself that I wouldn't let her get to me, wouldn't let her change my mind, but she was beginning to sob, and I was doing nothing. Nothing, standing there as if I didn't care. "Priss, don't cry... Don't cry. You- you knew this- please, don't."

She stepped forward then, wrapping her arms about my shoulders. "You- you could stay. I- I don't have to go home, I can stay with you. No one would ever have to know."

I couldn't help but smile as that, even as I pulled her closer against me. The innocent romance of the idea was appealing, but yet unrealistic. No matter how else we might wish it. "You know that wouldn't work."

"I- I know," Priscilla sniffed, burying her face in my shoulder. "I just don't want you to leave. Not yet."

She knew as well as I that if I didn't leave now, I never would. "I have to. Hyperion's already ready to leave. I'm leaving."

"No, don't leave, don't leave me." Sobs wracked her frame, and I pulled away, her hands still clasped around my neck. "Don't leave me..." She leaned forward, lips brushing mine as a tear rolled down her cheek.

"I'm leaving. I'm sorry." I reached up to remove her hands from around my neck, my hands moving without a command from my mind. "I'll come back for you one day, Priss, I promise... I'll come back. When I've cleared my name, I'll be back for you."

I turned away from her then, pushing aside the flap of the tent to find Hyperion waiting outside for me, head low. Priscilla was outside of the tent almost immediately, but I had already swung onto Hyperion's back.

"Don't leave me, Heath, please!" she cried, crumpling onto the ground, face buried in her hands. With that, Hyperion rose into the air, wings stirring up dust eddies around her white-clad form.

With the wind from the east, the sound of her sobs was carried to my ears for far longer than I wished to hear.