A Game of Hearts

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Chapter 18- Forever unchanging friends

“However rare true love may be, it is less so than true friendship.”

-Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Looking at Killian now reminded me of how he was before Georgiana, dark and brooding, his smile never fully reaching his eyes. Olivia’s deception had taken a piece of him. Just when he thought he had no family left, she swooped in, but it all turned out to be a lie, a way to worm herself back into his best friend’s good graces.

Georgiana watched Killian from my side as he spoke with Tobias, her brows furrowed. She sighed heavily before turning towards me. “Are you okay?”

I patted her shoulder. “I’m fine but will you and Killian?”

“He’ll be okay eventually. Killian knew Olivia wasn’t here for us since the beginning but he never one hundred percent accepted it. He held out hope that she had wanted to be a part of our lives.”

“He’ll realize that the only family he truly needs is already by his side,” I said, trying to comfort her.

She smiled sadly.

“So, have you had a chance to speak with Viktorya?” she whispered, changing the topic of our conversation.

We both looked over at Viktorya as she quietly spoke with Opal and Diamond. She had yet to make eye contact with me once today. I couldn’t really blame her. Things between us had been awkward and tense for the past few days. I had wanted to talk to her about Thomas since I’d realized he was the one she cared for but I had two other conversations that needed to take place before hers. Now that I had done just that, I was ready to settle things between us.

“I’ll speak with her today,” I mumbled.

“You spoke with Thomas already?” Georgiana asked.

I nodded.

Killian called Georgiana over to join his conversation with Tobias and I finally had a small moment alone. I let myself fall back onto the throne, attempting to mold myself into the stone. I laid my head back and closed my eyes. The morning had been anything but serene and my pulse was a testament to the state of my nerves. I attempted a technique Trixie had shown me to regulate my breathing and it worked, my heart rate had slowed and my mind wandered to the conversation I had with Thomas the previous day.

Thomas swung his axe forcefully into an erect log on top of an old weathered stump, splitting the log into two. His back muscles clenched and released with every swing of his tool. Sweat slowly cascaded down the side of his face and down the crevices of the muscles of his body.

“Jeez, put a shirt on will you,” I groaned.

Thomas laughed heartily. “It never bothered you before.”

“Well that was...well... before,” I replied stupidly, taking a seat against a nearby tree.

He laughed loudly, following it with a sigh. “I guess you’re here to talk about us and Viktorya?”

“How did you know?” I asked.

“You forget that I know you better than I know myself, Pen,” he said, inhaling and exhaling deeply.

My heart clenched painfully.

He did.

He picked up the balled up shirt on the ground and pulled it on before taking a seat opposite me instead of beside me. He’d drawn the first line between us. “I gave it some thought after we talked that afternoon after the fair and you were right. There is something there between Viktorya and me. I didn’t let myself see it because I was so enthralled by the mere opportunity of finally getting a chance with you that I missed it.” he dug his knuckles into the ground. “Know that I never planned to act on it,” he assured me.

I bit my lip. He wouldn’t act on it. I knew that. He would never purposely hurt me even if it meant throwing away a chance of true happiness, but I wouldn’t let him squander a chance at love because of me. I loved him too much for that. And he could be happy with Viktorya. Thinking back at all of their interactions, it was clear as day that they could have something really special. How had I not realized it sooner? Had I been so caught up in my own life that I had failed to see everything else around me.

“You and I had our moment,” he smiled sadly. “And we missed it. Even if we tried to recapture that time now, it’s impossible. Your heart is taken. We fooled ourselves into thinking otherwise. I think a part of me knew that you and I would never be more than what we already were. Fate always had something else planned for us.”

I choked back a sob and furiously wiped away the tears that had begun to fall. Our friendship would change. This conversation would have been easier if I had never seen Thomas as anything but my best friend but that cat was forcibly yanked out of the bag and there was no putting it back in. We would adapt. We had to if we wanted to continue being part of each other’s lives. Lines would have to be drawn and boundaries enforced. The change in our relationship would require us both to man the lines, never allowing the other to cross them. We both understood that we didn’t belong together, not in the way we had tried to force ourselves to.

I wanted to ask what this meant for him. Would he leave the palace? Or stay? Would he find Viktorya and choose a life with her? Would he ever forgive me for crossing the line between us in the first place? But what right did I have to ask these things?

Thomas stood from his spot opposite me and kneeled in front of me. He wiped away a few stray tears. “I’m really glad that I was able to have a friend like you in my life.”

“We’re forever unchanging friends,” I said, choking back the anguish in my voice.

“Be happy, Penelope.”

“You too, Thomas. Be happy, too,” I whispered.

Thomas smiled at me once more before leaving.

“Penelope,” Tobias called, pulling me out of my memory.

I subtly tried to blow air at my eyes, trying to dry the moisture in them before facing him.

“Ready?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied firmly, ready to accept what my heart already knew.

Tobias’ crystal blue eyes steadied me and soothed my aching chest while his velvety voice enveloped my bruised heart. His hand reached out to me and I wholeheartedly grabbed hold of it.

**A/N- Hey everyone! Sorry for such a short chapter but it felt like a good end. Maybe I’ll put it with the next chapter down the road. Anyway, for those that are curious about her conversations with Tobias and Viktorya, they'll be in the next chapter. Thanks for being such loyal readers! <3

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