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The corner bistro was quiet this morning, and practically empty save for the two elves at a table on the patio: a dark-haired noblewoman in rich silks, and golden-haired holy warrior in simple but functional linen.  They stared at each other for several long moments before one finally broke the silence.

“You wanted to see me,” Astoreth said in even tones.

Cearalaith sighed and pushed her water glass around.  “Yeah,” she admitted.  “I needed to tell you something.”

Astoreth sat up.  “I’m listening,” she said.

Her sister sighed again, a small huffing sound.  “I needed to tell you… it’s not working out between me and Corael.  We’ve decided it would be best to go our separate ways.”

Astoreth blinked and frowned, suddenly uncertain of herself.  Why tell me? she wanted to ask, but she wasn’t at all sure she wanted to hear the answer.   “I’m – I’m sorry to hear that,” she said.

Cearalaith nodded her head; an acknowledgement that she had heard, nothing more.  “I needed to tell you… it’s not because of what happened.  We’re not even angry.  We still get along and all, we just…”  She looked from the glass on the table up to the sky without meeting Astoreth’s eyes along the way.  “We’re just too different.  We were apart so long – we’re practically strangers to each other.  And I’m not happy sharing my home with a stranger.”

“That… makes sense,” Astoreth said, still wary.  

“So,” Cearalaith continued, “I’m telling you, because you, and Firewing, and Stavier, and Kuvasei, all at different points offered to murder him in creative ways if he broke my heart.  I’m telling you he didn’t break my heart.”

Astoreth smiled softly.  “I know you are strong.”

“Stronger than you know, Astoreth,” Cearalaith replied quickly, firmly.  “Stronger than you ever knew.”

“Yes,” Astoreth agreed evenly.  “Yes, you… you truly are.”

Cearalaith nodded, her lips pursed, and silence fell over the table again.  After several moments she sighed and spoke again.  “This changes nothing else.”

“No.  I didn’t expect it would.”

“Then I’ll go.”  Cearalaith stood, dropping a few coins on the table for her untouched sandwich.

“Don’t –” Astoreth caught herself, biting her lip.

Cearalaith blinked at her.  “Don’t… what?”

Don’t go.  I miss you.  Let’s talk.  “Don’t… don’t bother paying,” Astoreth said.  “I’ll cover it.  You didn’t even eat.”

“I’ll pay my share.”

“I can afford it.”

“I know you can.  So can I.”

“On an Argent’s salary?”  Astoreth sneered.

Cearalaith scowled back.  “Oh, this again, is it?  I can pay for my own damned sandwich, Astoreth.”

“At least take it to go.”

ASTORETH!” Cearalaith glared at her.

It’s probably delicious!” Astoreth snapped, setting her jaw and matching her sister’s glare with one of her own.

They stared at each other for several moments in stalemate.

“You are fucking absurd,” Cearalaith growled, snatching the sandwich from the plate.  “This changes nothing.  You’re not my mother; you’re barely my sister.  You don’t have my best interests at heart and I am not your friend.  We’ll play nice in front of Kuvasei and our friends and family, and we’ll keep each other informed of things, and that’s it, Astoreth.”

Cearalaith spun on her heel and marched towards the door.  Astoreth heaved a sigh and stared down at her hands, until her sister’s voice caused her to start and look up again.

And another thing,” Cearalaith snapped, jabbing her sandwich at Astoreth for emphasis.  “Tell Firewing I’d better get a letter, or a notice, or a singing telegram or something when these kids are born.  Not hear about it weeks later like with Laurelia.”

Astoreth smirked.  “You could tell him yourself, you know,” she said gently.

Maybe I will!” Cearalaith retorted, and stormed out.

Astoreth watched her go, and continued watching the door for several breaths after Cearalaith had gone.

Then she set back in her chair and, smiling softly, began to eat her lunch.

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