"You're going to go through with it." It's a statement; not a question. It's said in an incredulous tone of voice, the speaker unable to comprehend why this is happening to him.
"It's too late to back out now," she replies, her face set firmly in a blank mask.
She's so wrong. This entire situation is wrong. She can't tie herself to someone she knows she doesn't really love. Yet here they are, standing in her room, crumbling to pieces because what they have isn't enough. It's not enough to fix this nightmarish scenario.
"You don't love him," he insists stubbornly.
Her eyes close, hiding her dark green eyes from his view. "I care for him. It's enough."
She's lying. To herself, to him, to the world. "You're deluding yourself," he snarls.
"Eric, don't do this," she pleads, spinning away.
He wants her to face him. He knows she's better than this cowardly shell of a person she's taken to imitating. She's willing to toss their relationship away, toss him away for the sake of appearance. To hell with feelings as long as no toes are stepped on.
"Don't what? Don't fight for you?" he demands loudly, grabbing her arm roughly, effectively preventing her from running away. "Don't fight for us? You love me!" he yells in her face, hoping to shake some sense into her.
Fear and anger spin a sticky web in her eyes. She jerks out of his hold easily enough. "I'm marrying Tobias. I'm sorry, Eric, but that's the way it is."
Her gaze turns cold, any feelings she might be struggling with are concealed by a carefully neutral expression. "So that's it," he murmurs, staring at a point just above her head.
"I'm sorry," she says, her voice trembling the slightest bit in the face of what's she's about to lose.
His laugh is bitter and unforgivably watery. He used to think love was for the foolish, for the naive who thought they could love without getting burned. Now, he thinks love is for the strong because only a strong person can love and get burned and still keep breathing after it's all over.
"I hope you have a fantastic life," he tells her, meaning it more than she might believe.
"Thank you," she replies, crossing her arms around herself defensively. She's done it enough in the past for him to know it means she's feeling a little lost.
Nodding tightly, he leaves, the closed door an effective obstacle separating them. The clicking sound gives the air surrounding him a sense of finality, making what just happened seem as real as it was.
Dazed, he strides down the hall, reaching his room in seconds. Shutting himself into his apartment, he slides to the floor, hunched over with his head between his knees. Feeling out of control, he slams his head back into the door, doing it again when the pain isn't great enough for him to feel anything. It’s too late – he’s numb.
He doesn't leave his apartment for days. Staring at the bare walls of his room is his new favorite pastime. Replaying memories of her is another pastime he indulges in, though the memories leave him raw every time.
What is one supposed to do when there's nothing left? How does one go on after losing everything? Is he going to have to carry on with the weight of his pain pulling him down forever? Will it ever get better? Will he ever love again?
The knocks at the door go unnoticed. The glass of whiskey in his hand has his full attention; nothing else mattered thanks to the numbness the alcohol provided. The world had faded nicely into the background, easily ignored.
He barely registers the opening of the door, or the person daring to enter his space uninvited.
Dragging himself from the couch he had been sitting on, he turns away from the intruder, sloshing the last bit of his drink out of the glass due to his less than graceful staggering.
He's going to need another bottle soon, he thinks. "Unless you plan on restocking my liquor cabinet, get out," he growls menacingly.
"It looks like you've had enough," the intruder points out, disapproving.
He knows that voice. He'd be willing to bet he'll be hearing it in his head for the rest of his life. It's clear he's going to need stronger whiskey if a full bottle of it can't get that particular voice out of his head.
Flailing his arms, he turns to her, the liquid courage loosening his tongue. "Stiff! You're just in time! Hope you came thirsty."
Reaching for an empty glass, he goes about searching for the elusive bottle. The room has started to spin, but he goes on searching, ignoring the decidedly unpleasant rumbling in his stomach.
He hears her sigh behind him. Her footsteps fade as she moves away, towards the bathroom located off the living room. His head is too fuzzy to contemplate the reason for her surprise visit.
She comes back with a damp rag and a trash can. "What's all that for?" he asks, slurring the words, making them almost unintelligible.
"They're for you."
Deciding to give up on the errant liquor, he draws up behind her small form. His hands unwittingly seek her waist, greedily pulling her to him. Shivering from the feel of her, he presses her back flush to his front, delighting in her answering shiver.
"I miss you," he breathes into her ear, kissing that special place behind her ear he knows drives her wild. Her presence is sobering him up faster than anything else ever could.
"I came to talk to you and I find you inebriated," she scolds lightly, twisting in his arms, her hands sliding maddeningly up his chest.
His forehead falls to her shoulder, seeking her comfort. She smells the same - spicy and warm like cinnamon. He's happy to find she's just as soft as she was several days ago.
Tired of being vertical, he pushes her gently onto the couch. Following her, he presses her into the couch. She lets him maneuver her the way he wants, not saying a word as he lines their bodies up the best he can.
"I might not let you leave this time," he mumbles, ducking his face into the crook of her neck.
Her small hands grip his biceps, hard. "I don't want to leave."
Of course she doesn't. They love each other despite her stubborn need to prove otherwise. He knows she doesn't want to leave, but she will anyway. She always does.
Dipping his hand underneath her thin shirt, he draws random patterns along the small of her back. "Please don't go this time," he pleads earnestly. "I can't...without you there's nothing, I'm nothing. Please."
He tightens his hold when she cards her fingers through his hair. His moan of pleasure pleases her he can tell, her smile pressed into the skin of his throat. "I'm not going anywhere," she vows.
How many times has she promised she wasn't going anywhere? How many times has he willingly believed the lie?
Usually, he's able to embrace it, just happy to have her with him for as long as he can have her. Tonight, he can't let their last conversation go. Sobering further, he wrenches away from her, stumbling to his feet. The sudden movement causing his queasy gut to rebel, forcing him to bend over, expelling the contents of his stomach.
"Baby," she soothes, rubbing his back through the tremors shaking his body.
Wearily, he wonders why she's here. It's over. They're over. There's no need to show up, digging her unavailability in his face. "You should go."
Bent over the trash can, he misses the hurt look decorating her pretty face. Her uncertain gaze is unseen by him, which is probably for the best.
Her hand glides down the length of his arm, causing the little hairs to stand on end. "Is that what you want?"
"You know what I want," he retorts, jerking from her touch.
He's done pretending they have a future. She doesn't want him. She doesn't want a future with him. Why is she digging the knife deeper? Can't they move on? For his sanity if for nothing else?
Tugging him off of the floor, Tris encourages him to take the couch, which he does because he's too tired to fight her. "Sleep," she orders, placing a blanket over him, making sure his feet are covered.
She moves away and he stifles the urge to beg her to stay. Again. Even if she agrees, she'll leave before he wakes, and he'll find himself more miserable than he is now. It will be wiser for her to leave. Who knows...maybe this time it won't hurt so badly.
He falls into a deep sleep, unaware of the body next to him.
Spin, spin, spinning. The world is twirling on its axis like a ballerina doing a pirouette.
Groaning, he rolls over, hiding his eyes from the rising sun that's peeking through the window opposite him. With the jackhammer coming down between his eyes like a persistent woodpecker, he decides he's never going to drink again.
"You're up," someone says.
Mumbling words that have yet to exist, he pulls the blanket over his head. Whoever it is needs to go away; he's not in the mood to be bothered by anyone. He would much rather wallow alone, away from prying eyes.
"You should hydrate yourself," the person encourages.
Huffing in frustration, he drags the cover off, and glares around the room through narrowed eyes. He finds her almost immediately. Tris.
"What are you doing here?" he asks, directing the question at the blanket.
Taking pity on him, Tris sits on the end of the couch, by his feet. "I was wrong. I'm here because I'm hoping you can forgive me."
"Forgive you," he repeats dumbly, staring into her eyes, trying to decide if she really means what she's saying.
"Four and I...we care for each other and together we would be...comfortable," her hands are clenched in her lap while she talks, seemingly as nervous and uncomfortable as him. "With you, there's passion, there's fire," she says, smiling hesitantly. "How could I settle for anything less?"
Hope and fear rage war in his chest. Leaning forward, he reaches for her tightly clenched fists, encouraging her to unwind them so he can wrap his fingers around hers.
"You mean it? You’re not getting married?"
He's so desperate for her answer it's heartbreaking. He's so desperate for her because he knows there will never be anyone else. No one could top Tris Prior's strength, her courage. She's his equal in every way, the one and only person who can tame the beast that lives inside him.
"Tris, do you mean it?" he repeats the question after several seconds go by and she's still not said anything.
Laughing happily, and a little apprehensively, Tris threads her fingers through his. "I mean it. I'm not marrying Four."
"Tris," he gasps, lunging for her still form, holding on so tight he knows she must be having a difficult time breathing, but he can't seem to loosen his grip.
"Tris," he pants, his hands roaming her back, wanting to be closer, needing to be closer.
"I love you," she says breathlessly.
"I love you too," he replies, pulling back to look at her. He's surprised when he sees tears in her eyes. "You're crying. Why are you crying?"
Worried, he brackets her face with his hands, and impatiently waits for a response to his anxious inquiry. "I'm just so happy," she explains. "I almost lost you."
"You're never going to lose me," he promises, kissing every inch of her beautiful face.
Everything's going to be okay now. She's not going to marry someone else. Everything is going to be fine. Just fine.
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