landslides and landmarksMature

Chapter _; book i
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 landslides and landmarks 

Inside of his ribs, his heartbeat thundered riotously; he could almost taste the adrenaline that flew through his veins."Your excuses aren't good enough anymore; you can't even look me in the eyes."  His voice was strained, but it wasn't shaking.  He wasn't backing down this time.  He would confront her because it was all he had left, even if it meant stomping on his own illusions to do so.  When she didn't respond, his irritation seeped into his tone.  "How can you just stand idly by and watch as we fall apart this way?  What happened to you?"

"Nothing happened to me!"  She was hollering, despite the quiet way he spoke to her,  "I'm the same frightened girl you left eighteen months ago."

He bristled at her flippant reference.  How dare she?  In the face of everything he had been through, how dare she throw that at him like it had been a choice?  Who did she think she was talking to?  He wanted to call her a coward, to call her spineless and hollow.  He wanted to tell her that she was poisoned by her drugs and her self-absorption; that she was less than a shadow of the woman she used to be.  What he said was, "There's a difference between fear and cowardice, Eden; and what I see in your eyes isn't the former."

"You have no idea what it's like to be in this situation; I'd appreciate it if you considered the repercussions of what you are on those around you."  Beneath her steady speech, she was agonized.  Torn equally in opposing directions.  She hated hurting him, the knowledge that she was had been gobbling her up piece by piece; she stayed up most nights mulling over the situation but the harsh truths she kept preparing herself for just wouldn't come to light.  There was something inside of her that kept her from facing their reality, though she couldn't deny the stench of rot that had begun to smother their interactions.  She could almost see the gradual decomposing of their feelings.  Most of the time, it was easy to spot the differences in him.  Most of the time they were glaring, florescent changes that she couldn't move beyond; but from a few feet away, he almost looked like the Pilot she remembered.  The complexities of his eyes were too distant to make out, his scent didn't perforate her very being.  He looked worn, battered, and she couldn't deny the twist of guilt in her gut.  

His shoulders slumped, buckling under the weight of the anger he tried to hold back.  He couldn't fight his temper, not when she was so blind to the impact her callowness could have.  What else was there to be done?  For six months he had bitten his tongue through all of her slicing remarks, undertones, and submissive avoidances.  He'd waited, hoping she would realize her cold behavior on her own, hoping that she would adjust if given time.  She didn't seem bothered by the slow deterioration of their relationship.  He'd watched her draw lines between them, invisible graphs of silent rules and escape plans.  His frustration mounted, and before he even realized he'd found the words, he roared, "I am fully aware of the devastation I leave in my wake, Eden!"  He paused, his throat mildly sore from the sudden outburst.  He turned away from her, unable to swallow back his fury while he studied her irreverent body language.  When he finally reigned in most of the bitterness, he said, "Your hubris is lovely, but why don't you just keep it to yourself?  Besides, I don't know what you want from me, anymore.  I can't change what I am, or what I need."  He dropped his waving arms, fists clenching and unclenching, to his sides.

"I can't change what makes me uncomfortable, either.  If I had a solution, I'd offer it - but I'm just as lost."

He couldn't believe it.  Her highness was uncomfortable.  Oh, well didn't that just explain it all away.  He stood, stunned for a moment, his mind frantically trying to find the next thing to say.  The next step to take.  Strategy, he reminded himself; but the only viable option made him feel wrong, like a dog with its tail between its legs.

Whimpering, pathetic.  He choked the words out anyway.  "What about this makes you uncomfortable?"  The truth was, he wasn't ready to know.  He realized suddenly, as his heart clenched mercilessly, that he'd never been ready to know there was truely, undeniably, a problem.  He'd never been ready to admit that part of her didn't love him, didn't accept him; that part of her wasn't okay with him. 

That part of her feared him.

He shoved his struggle beneath the surface, he'd deal with that later.  Another time.  He had to move now, he had to gather information while the information was within reach.  Stoicism enveloped him, wrapped him in it's quiet, easy tolerance.  The tightness eased in his chest.

Across from him, her eyes on the floor, unaware of the crippling moment of misery that had nearly eaten him alive, she hesitated to respond.  He watched her teeth worry her lower lip, the quick undulations of her pupils as her focus shifted from left to right and back again.  She let out a sigh, then, "You steal life, Pilot.  You are not alive because of the blood in your own veins, you're alive because of the blood in someone else's."

"It's no different than killing an animal for protein; humans just don't like being a few clicks lower on the food chain," he said, reciting a point they had frequently made to friends and loved ones two short years ago.  When they had defended vampires, when she had been unwaveringly firm in her beliefs.  When she considered them equals, not monsters.  "We are talking about nature here, and I don't even have to kill anything to provide myself with nourishment."

She flinched, clearly understanding her own hypocrisy.  "I don't know what else to say."

"What do you want me to do, Eden?  Starve?"  He'd meant to sound angry, to have a sardonic bite to the question that wordlessly told her how heartless she was being.  It came out desperate, weary, ready to succumb to preposterous demands simply to stop the ache inside of him.  Her silence ressurected the caustic edge and after a few long moments of strained, lingering, tension, he finally said, "Fine."

After all, what was one more sacrifice?


The End

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