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46. A lingering kiss before a long trip apart

“Do you have to go, Uncle Alarik?”

Alarik looks down, forcing a smile for his distraught niece. Neta’s eyesware wide, and sad- an expression that surprises him.

No one had ever cared before when he’d left. No one since- no, best not to think of that now.

Alarik kneels down to Neta’s level, and is further surprised when she rushes to him, wrapping her arms around him as far as she can and burying her head in the crook of his neck.

“I don’t want you to go. Why do you have to go?” Her voice is muffled by his shirt, and he feels a damp patch growing there. Alarik hugs her back, smoothing her hair and fighting back the rising lump in his throat.

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