Marcelina told Ramon all she had been through since being captured: the carpenter, Poseidon's storm, the double-bond, and the few friends she'd made. Marcelina tried to skirt around Emilio as much as she could, knowing it would kill Ramon. She finished her retelling with a measly sigh, well aware that Ramon could read her face and know she was hiding something. At the moment, Ramon could only stare at her, feeling such an intense array of emotions, but none so much as relief. Marcelina was able to come home, largely unscathed, and retain all her majesty, her own person. He pressed kisses to her forehead, then each cheekbone. It was a sign of gratitude and praise.
Marcelina reached up to bring his face to hers and touch their foreheads together, drawing strength for the final confession. "Marcelina--"Ramon--" the first speaker smiled and nuzzled Marcelina's cheek. "Now we're at an impasse. Who shall speak first?", he teased, pulling back to wink at her. Ramon's face fell flat at the guilty look on hers. "I guess you should...", he trailed off, a light frown marring his face. However, Marcelina couldn't force the words out. She felt like a backstabber, as though she hadn't been faithful to her friend while gone. She was terrified of losing her oldest, closest friend.
Without realizing it, she was crying, barely feeling the sting of the tears on her cheeks and temples. Ramon practically panicked. "Marcelina? What aren't you telling me? Please, stop crying!" He wanted so badly to wipe the tears away, but it would burn them both like jellyfish venom. "Ramon, please, you have to promise never to leave me for what I'm about to tell you. Promise that our friendship is stronger than this", she pleaded her eyes full of desperation and true fear. Ramon felt a chill run down his spine, having never seen such a look from her. Shakily, he nodded, and Marcelina shut her eyes tight and practically spit out the words, "I... I started converging. The one I formed a double-bond with, Poseidon has deemed him to be the true match. I'm so sorry, Ramon!" She burst into actual sobs, turning away and hiding her face. Ramon went stiff as the rock walls around them.
He could never have Marcelina as a true mate. Somewhere in his mind, Ramon was mournfully aware of that, but he was foolish enough to hope that she would still accept his love, and let them live as mates did. Now, even that shred of hope was gone. For as much as he prayed and hoped and genuinely loved her, the truth that all his efforts were in vain hurt the most. There'd be no one else for him now, his worst fear would be realized. Ramon would die alone, never knowing the soul-binding love of another. His shock quickly faded away into wrath and bitterness. Blinking slowly, Ramon turned his eyes back to Marcelina, still shaking and crying. At least she felt bad about it, though Ramon wasn't sure if he felt more guilt or bitter joy. "Marcelina." Ramon would've recoiled at the whispery gravel of his voice if he could register it.
Marcelina risked looking at him and felt the coldness of his rejection. "You should go. I'll respect your converging and will cease to act so boldly." He was ordering her, backing away with resignation. Marcelina wanted to curl up and die. "You...you promised you wouldn't leave me, Ramon! Please don't make me leave like this, I don't...I don't know what to do," She begged, her breaths shallow, her voice rising in pitch with her rising turmoil. When she got no answer, her heart shattered. An absolutely dreadful whine bubbled from her throat, followed by an almost childish, quivering wail. Marcelina was close to throwing her head back and truly lamenting, anything to get his attention. Pushing off the bed, Marcelina swam slowly towards Ramon, tempted to cling to him and force his hand. Maybe she'd kiss him, just to prove where her loyalty was, to prove that she still regarded him high in her heart.
Right now, she couldn't bring herself to, consumed by self-resentment and guilt. Still whining and loudly sniffling, Marcelina took one last, long look at her now ex-best friend. She wouldn't--couldn't--say she didn't want her converging, that she wanted to love him. She wasn't cruel enough for that. So she did as he ordered and left his cave system in a rush. It would be impossible to hold herself together if the girls saw her like this. Marcelina didn't stop her rapid swimming, nor her crying until she reached her own cave. It was very late, all the water was either black or just short of it, and were it not for Marcelina's internal magic and the bioluminescent sea lights, everything would be invisible. A part of her felt guilty for leaving Emilio in that darkness, alone and unsure of anything.
She found him asleep on the pile of lounge pillows. Marcelina wiped her face, ignoring the sting of her tears on her hand. Laying on her belly across from him, Marcelina took in Emilio's face, comparing it to Ramon's. She touched Emilio's cheek and he visibly relaxed, sighing out quietly. Marcelina wanted to hate that innocent, loving face, she wanted to kill Emilio for being her soul's match. Why couldn't it have been Ramon? Ramon knew her inside and out, offered himself to her despite it not being his natural purpose. He wanted her happiness, he wanted their bond to last forever. Emilio dashed away that dream as easily as Marcelina could break his neck. Marcelina felt her chest tighten, and for a moment, surrounded herself in bitter rage. It didn't last long the longer she stared at Emilio, the more she dipped into herself, pulling up her earlier thoughts of him, the conversations and interactions she had. There was no way she could kill Emilio, much less harm a single hair on his head.
Emilio was her dear friend, too. She'd made that bond with him out of her free will and affection. In many ways, Emilio had been like Ramon, wanting nothing but her happiness, her comfort. Now, it was Emilio who wanted their happiness to last forever, and to follow through with Poseidon's plans for them. Marcelina knew what she had with Emilio would be deeper than anything she had with Ramon, and even now, with a half-baked bond, she could feel the subtle emotions Emilio put out. He had fallen asleep worried, afraid, but resolute that she would come back. Emilio had faith in her. Ramon wasn't like that, never could be like that. It hurt Marcelina to the core, but she faced the truth and took it. The longer she looked at Emilio, the more that truth rose and forced her to take it. However, it was starting to become a comfort, knowing the security of her future with this man, the lack of doubt in their fates.
Marcelina eventually left Emilio to sleep, putting her caught fish in a small niche in the rock for the morning. She felt her face for any burn scars, pleased to find none. Braiding her hair, Marcelina laid across from Emilio on the lounge pile and stared at the clusters of sea lights until she fell asleep.