September 6, 2008
Italics: As he grew up as the heir to his small, mountain kingdom, Devon had always somewhat expected this day to come, but had at the same time, wished that things could be different. But he knew that was a foolish dream; there were just too many obstacles standing in his way. And he couldn't show tears now. He had to be strong. (End italics)

Devon put all his weight onto the top of the pack, willing it to close, but to no avail. The latch was still a good two inches from the bag, and there was absolutely no way he was going to get anywhere unless he unpacked some things.

"Devon?" A small voice piped up from the doorway, and he turned to see the wide, green eyes of his little sister, Emilie. At six years old, it was already apparent that she would one day be gorgeous, but at the time being, all that beauty manifested itself into an adorable cuteness that no one could resist. Even now, Devon felt his heart melting as she gazed up at him pleadingly. "Will you play hide and seek with me?"

"Oh, Emilie, I wish I could." He tousled her golden curls with a rueful smile. "But I'm busy. Later, I promise, okay?"

She looked up at him, her eyes sad but understanding at the same time. Devon turned back to the bag, expecting her to leave and search for someone else to play hide and seek with, but then she quietly asked: "Why're you leaving?"

Devon cringed. He knew that she would have to know sometime, but he hadn't expected her to know so soon, or actually comprehend what it meant. Turning to her, he saw sorrow in her expression, but also maturity beyond her years. He pulled her into a hug, and she grabbed onto him so tightly that he felt himself choking up.

Forcing himself to stay calm, he pulled back a bit and looked in her tearing eyes. "Emilie, no tears. It's better this way."

"Why?" she replied, a sob muffling her voice.

Devon rubbed her back gently as he murmured his response. "You know how much I hate diplomatic work, don't you? I just can't sit still in meetings and develop battle plans, and goodness knows how much I hate being tethered down. Noble-work just isn't for me. Besides, since I am the eldest, and a boy, you automatically don't get any inheritance, but we all know how insane that is. You deserve it, and with I'm gone, you'll get it." He smiled at her. "Hey, I said no tears." He wiped away the offending droplets from her face, and she gave him a weak smile in return.

But then the smile faltered as her gaze grew accusing. "That's not everything."

Devon bit his lip. He hadn't wanted to tell her, but she was so perceptive, and there seemed to be nothing anyone could keep from her. It was better to tell her now than let her find out in a less-than-desirable situation later. Sitting on his bed, Devon pulled her into his lab. "Emilie, do you know what gay means?"

She frowned. "It means happy, right?"

"Sort of." Devon sighed, wondering how on earth he was going to explain sexuality to a six year-old. "That's one meaning, yes, but I was talking about the other meaning. Do you know it?" Emlie shook her head. After taking a deep breath, Devon continued, faltering slightly. "You know how you're supposed to one day pick a nobleman to marry, and I a noblewoman?"

"Yes." Emilie's eyebrow sank in confusion as she looked at him. "So?"

"Well, I don't want to marry a woman. I want to marry a man."

Emilie cocked her head to one side, absorbing this piece of information. "That'd mean I'd get two brothers to play with me, right?"

"Well, yes," Devon replied, surprised at her response. "Although, technically, only one blood-brother. The other would be a brother-in-law."

Suddenly, a radiant smile lit up Emilie's face. "That would be so much fun! You'll tell me when you find your nobleman, right?"

Devon stared for a moment, then laughed. This was completely unexpected, but definitely in a good way. "Of course." He ruffled her hair, but stopped as her radiant smile faltered.

"But why does that mean you have to leave?"

Devon bit his lip, sorrow flooding him at the memory. "Since I'm gay, I can't have a biological heir - and don't ask. That's a talk for when you're older." He cut her question off with a small smirk. "But anyways, Grandmere convinced Father that the only thing to do was to have me exiled so that you could take over instead." And now he doesn't even believe I'm his son . . . the thought pained him beyond belief.

Emilie's eyes widened in shock. "But, Devon -"

He cut her off with a shake of his head. "Don't worry, Emilie, I wouldn't like being a king, anyway. You love that kind of work, so it's much better this way."

"I know that!" Emilie replied, exasperated. "But exile means you can never come back, right?"

A sharp pain gripped his heart. That was the one thing he really regretted about this new arrangement, and he knew there was no real way to sugar-coat it for her. "It does, but I can still write to you."

Tears welled in her eyes, and she threw herself against him, wrapping her arms around him tightly. "When I'm queen, I'll change it, and you'll come home, right?" she promised between sobs.

"I'll definitely visit, I promise," Devon replied, patting her back.

"And you'll bring your nobleman?"

A smile tugged at his lips. "He probably won't be 'noble' if I find him when I'm in exile."

She raised an eyebrow in a sly gesture that easily portrayed her perceptiveness. Laying her hand over his heart, she said: "But to you, he'll be noble, won't he?"

Devon chuckled as he gave her a tight hug.


A week later, Devon watched the son rise over the horizon as he sat upon a sturdy gypsy mare - one of the only possessions he was allowed to keep. A small pack was slung over his shoulder, and as he glanced back, it tore his heart to think of everything he'd have to leave behind.

His father stood at the gates, eyes downcast. Devon waved at him. "Good-bye!" he called out, but his father did not even meet his gaze. He felt another pang of regret, and turned to leave before he was forced to endure any more pain.

Before he could kick his mare into a trot, however, a small figure sudden tore past the gates, crying his name.

"Emilie!" Devon replied in shock, sliding off his horse to sweep his sister into his arms. "What are you doing here?"

"I wanted to say good-bye," she said, smiling brightly despite the tears in her eyes.

He smiled, ignoring the look of utter horror that crossed his father's face. "Good-bye, Cecelia. I love you."

"I love you, too." She wiped her eyes. "You'll remember your promises?"

"I'll write to you, tell you as soon as I find my 'nobleman', and come home as soon as you're queen and changed some laws," he recited as he gave her a tight hug. Cecelia clutched at his shirt for a moment, but then Devon finally pulled away, tears in his eyes, and remounted his horse.

"I'll see you, then."

She nodded. "Bye."

And Devon spurred the mare into a canter, trying to clear his eyes of the tears that threatened to overwhelm him.

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