A drabble I started ages ago, and only finished today.
It was our secret playground when we were boys. We used to climb the rocks, watch for seals, play games and plan our strategies against imaginary enemies. No one knew of it; not John or Ben, not even Elaine who was as close as family.
But he'd brought her here.
Which was how I knew. I knew what he was going to ask before the question left his lips, what he wanted of me. He gazed out to sea, brows knitted in thought, hands clasped tightly on his knees. Calm Hugh; patient Hugh of Harrowfield, feeling anxious? I smiled wryly. How he'd changed. How she'd changed him. It had driven me mad when we were younger; how he would sit and wait until I was near bursting with curiosity, waiting for me to ask him for whatever secret he was keeping. He was the one who quelled my temper, who would have me bide silently rather than take action. And so I waited now.
The words are self contained. "I am going to leave Harrowfield. I will not be coming back. I am ceding the title of Lord of Harrowfield to you."
Once I may have been incredulous, disbelieving. But after what I'd been through nothing really surprised me anymore. I simply nodded. "What did you tell mother?"
"She already knows," he said, at last a hint of emotion creeping into his voice, "even if she does not understand. But I see no other way."
He met my gaze. I understand him. Of course I understand him. For Sorcha, I would have done it; I would have done anything.
But it wasn't me she wanted.
I knew, I think, even before she did, that she loved him. The moment she screamed his name and he leapt through fire for her, I knew.
It didn't make it hurt any less.
And now it was up to me. I knew that he wouldn't leave until he knew Harrowfield was in safe hands. I could spite him. I could refuse to do it. Go across the sea and try to make her love me.
It wouldn't be right.
I gazed across the water then looked back at Red. When all was said and done he was still my brother. He had searched for me, he had left her to look for me. I gave a bittersweet smile. It was all I had wanted, once upon a time. I would have been glad for him to go. I suppose I was now, even though it hurt.
"Safe journey," I said to him. An expression of gratitude and fearful hope flashed across his features and in a rare moment of feeling, he embraced me.