When I was a boy, I was to be presented to the king, given to him to be his companion, his guardian, his friend and ally. Anyone who stepped before him had to give tribute of some kind, but I was only a child, and had nothing of my own to give, nothing I had created or owned. Instead, cut out my heart, and brought it to my king. I could feel it trembling against my fingertips. Pulled free of me, it hadn’t had stopped fluttering, but instead it lay within my grasp, beating as fiercely and quickly as a hummingbird’s wings. When I stepped before him, and offered it out, I stumbled. The whole court gasped, turning from my shame, not wanting to see me fall — but not my king.
He caught me.
His hands curled about my wrists, and he helped me up, and when he drew me close, I saw he was no older than I, nothing more than a child as well. He accepted my heart with grace and gravity, and while everyone’s back was turned, he offered up his own, to me.
I carry his heart within me, in place of my own, and each night as I drift off to sleep, I put my hand to my chest and feel it beating, strong and steady, and I know he does the same, palm to chest, listening to the twin drums that only he and I can hear.
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