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Unless we were free.

It's a moment forever trapped in the amber of memory.

I have loved my best friend with all the passion in my twenty-year-old heart for what feels like forever, and has only been about a month so far. Merely meeting him was enough to teach me that everything I'd learned about love before this had been incomplete: flawed and twisted. I had been engaged before we met, and married in all but the eyes of the law. I broke faith with my betrothed and handfasted husband on the sudden knowledge that marriage should at the least include mutual respect and trust. My new best friend and I have known each other not much longer than I've loved him, and it feels as if we've known each other forever. We don't have to use words half the time; we have conversations in a glance, a gesture. When I am upset, he can feel it from miles away, and will call just to make sure I'm all right. I love him with all my heart ... and he loves my sister.

She isn't my sister by birth, but she might as well be. We had clutched each other close in the absence of close or reliable family, and I know that I would rather die than hurt her in any way. We'd both fallen for this same young man and done the "You first," "No, I insist, after you," dance, and in the end I had prevailed and she was dating him. He had chosen her when I stepped back out of the running, and he loves her enough to warm her desperately lonely heart. They have been sickeningly sweet with each other, and have been exquisitely careful to not shut me out too much. I have been pretending that their happiness has been enough to make me happy.

She has gone into the computer lab for some errand or other, and he and I are waiting for her on the benches outside. The waiting stretches and melts into a syrupy timelessness, and our eyes catch together. This, too, becomes the moment, and I am falling into him as we sit a careful distance apart, not touching. I know -- we both know -- that if either of us moves, we will be kissing, and from there it will be no turning back.

We breathe at each other, suspended on the edge of where love becomes betrayal. I'd betrayed the vows I'd made before the eyes of the gods, and I'd betrayed them for the hope of him. How easy would a second betrayal be, in the absence of any vows to be broken between my beloved and my sister?

I am the first to speak.

"It would break her heart," I say.
He says nothing.

We look away from each other, then, and wait for her to return.
Gone away, gone ahead,
Echoes roll unanswered.
Empty, open, dusty, dead.
Why have all the Weyrfolk fled?

Where have dragons gone together
Leaving weyrs to wind and weather,
Setting herdbeasts free of tether;
Gone, our safeguards, gone, but whither?

Have they flown to some new weyr
Where cruel Threads some others fear?
Are they worlds away from here?
Why, oh why the empty weyr?

-- "The Question Song", Anne McCaffrey
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