The lanterns in the sickroom flickered, and Amadeo fought to breathe.
Every breath was ragged. Every heartbeat required effort. Every blink, every word, every movement was drenched in fever. The sickness had descended, and it had descended quickly. There was nothing to do but wait for death. He would not - he could not - live, when his Cassandra would be forced to die. It was either she lived, or they both died.
The ache in Amadeo's soul betrayed his worst fear. What if Cassandra chose to die? Would she spit on the face of his sacrifice?
She wouldn't do that to me.
Several times throughout the night, the doctor and two nurses came into the room to check on their King. And after they had argued, quite in vain, with Amadeo, they turned and briefly glanced at Cassandra. They did not care if she lived or died.
The vial of the life-saving medicine sat on the counter, untouched by those who needed it most.
The confusion was chaotic; often, Amadeo heard Cassandra call out in delirium. They were both dying. They were both forfeiting their lives for the other, knowing that it would all be futile. Yet Amadeo did not bring himself to drink the medicine. It was for Cassandra, and in his heart, he knew it always had been. From the start, he had known that he would give his life for this broken-eyed girl.
But what if she died, with the same brokenness in her eyes? Amadeo wept at the thought. Heart rent in two, he swallowed tremblingly, forcing himself to ignore the tantalizing call of redemption in a medicine vial.
The end was near.
When the colors of the room began to run together, and when the sound of servants rushing up and down the hallways turned into the sound of a million windstorms, and when Amadeo's coughing yielded blood so dark it looked like the color of death itself, he knew it would not be much longer.
And still...still, Cassandra refused to be healed.