Loving Virgil Tracy made her vulnerable.

She had known it from the very beginning, but she had pushed
it aside labelling it no different from loving him as a brother. Love hurt, it
was the nature of the emotion.

She was wrong.

Yes, she loved her brothers more than life itself. But
Virgil, he had been her brother, but now…that rock may as well have gutted her,
it hurt so much. His lax face, his head on her shoulder.

His smile as he asked her to marry him, all the while
bleeding away.

She closed her eyes, hiding the sight of the room she shared
with him. Hiding his jeans discarded on the bed, the red flannel he so preferred,
the abandoned sketchbook he had been playfully cartooning with the night
before, goofy pictures of his brothers and the celebrities on the holovid they
had been half-watching before becoming far too interested in each other to
care.

She could smell his cologne.

She could hear his beautiful voice.

But he wasn’t here.

And it was too late. There was no going back. It was almost
as if part of her had broken open, a seal no longer airtight, and she had let
him into a place where she could hurt more than she had ever imagined.

And love him more than she had ever known was possible.

And he dangled his death in front of her.

Anger flared.

How dare he.

Anger was a familiar friend. It warmed and it fueled, it
protected her from pain.

It made her invincible.

Turning her back on the room she stalked to her chute.

She had somewhere to be.

-o-o-o-

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