He kissed her feverish brow as the world around him seemed to burn. The girl’s eyes closed, her frail body was sizzling hot and damp with sweat. Her thin cotton nightgown stuck to her body, platinum hair curled and plastered to her neck and forehead. She breathed quickly, her chest rising and falling jerkily.
His hands shook.
He always remembered before she did. While everything else was random, this was the one thing that his punishment seemed to always get right. The first time he found himself caught in her bottomless blue eyes it would all come back to him, a flood rushing past a broken dam.
He was the first to remember. He was the first to forget.
Those blue eyes flickered open, lids heavy. Her hand tightened in his. “Come closer,” she rasped. Her chapped lips trembled slightly. “Please.”
He knew her time was running short, the same way he always knew when someone was about to die. Her edges were blurred and wavering in his eyes, like her soul was struggling to free itself, its light shining through her skin. Even locked away in the tallest tower of the Château de Coucy, the flames began to spread their poisonous fingers along the tapestries and paintings covering the stone walls. They were trapped. They were living their last moments in this lonely tower, the boy with the sad eyes and the girl with the stuttering heart.
Blinking his stinging eyes, he leaned into her. His fingers found themselves wound in her thick hair and soon her own quaking hands trailed up his chest, his neck, and traced his jaw, coming to a stop and cupping his face. An involuntary tear tracked its way down his cheek, and she carried it away with a swipe of her thumb.
Their foreheads pressed together. He stared into her eyes, trying to memorize every detail, every quirk, and flaw about her. Maybe… maybe if he tried hard enough, thought long enough, her image would never leave him. The creamy skin, pink lips, and the way she admired the world around her with a sparkle in her eye and a grin playing on her mouth.
“Listen to me,” she whispered, eyebrows furrowed in worry. She took a shuddering breath and at that moment he would have given anything to keep her alive; his heart, his mind, his whole soul just to see her okay again.
“Of course,” he murmured. She was his princess, his queen. For a moment, he let his eyes close and breathed in her scent through all the smoke and anguish. She smelled like lavender, from the oils she used. Floral and alive from all the flowers she cut and dried.
“This isn’t your fault.”
Her words stole his breath. His eyes snapped open but he was left grasping nothing but air.