a random bit of angsty romantic fiction

I was looking something up and came across this bit of, like…angst with…like, a faintly smutty edge, that I posted on Patreon a while back, and I thought I’d post it here now. :)

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Thin, expressive lips, always teasing with a smirk that hid the promise of a heartbreaking smile. She knew the other one better, though. The one made of real laughter, changing hazel eyes to green. The one that came with the way he would play with his clothes, a black coat with a red lining. Sitting, he would flip its skirt open, creating a crimson slash that led the eye directly where he wanted it to go. A flash of leg, like an ingenue, before folding the skirt again and opening the collar, drawing attention upward to the hollow of his throat; to the sparkling, glittering grin above it that said he knew exactly what he was doing.

That was the smile she knew, the smile she felt against her own lips. “Actors,” she said when he did that, and his laugh held a confessional note. But then he offered his hand, a gesture almost too small to be seen, filled with the agonizing fear of rejection. It happened that way with them every time, as if they’d promised themselves it wouldn’t happen again and in promising, somehow made each time the first. Their first kisses remained that paralyzing sway of seeking, not daring to imagine the gift was a given: smiles touching, breath mingling, parting again. Gazes searching, touch fluttering, heartbeats wild with hope and need. Laughter and delicate hands burgeoning into hunger and certainty, but the kisses, his lips, her mouth, always questioning, testing, tasting, to see if this thing was real. It never was, and always was.

There were worlds between them. Not unbridgeable, maybe, but broad enough for possible to seem improbable. Days, even weeks together were still filled with stolen moments, the dance of coming together and parting again. Pulled two separate ways, him by his life, her, by hers, both of them imagining that no one else knew. Sometimes she knew that was a lie; sometimes she saw others notice the caught moments, the ones where all that mattered was the fluidity of his body, the intensity in the meeting of their eyes, the lifetime that passed in a glance. Every minute together went too quickly, and every day apart made those minutes seem all the less real, until they happened again, another first time. A dozen first times, before the exquisite feel of his lips on her throat undid her, and she whispered words that were too real by far for what they were.

He went still above her, not the frozen hope of a man trying to hold on a moment longer, but an emptiness, as if everything he was had fled and left a shadow in its place. His fingers, curled against her cheek, were suddenly cold, and all she could see was the blackness of his hair, his face hidden beneath its waves. He said, “Ah,” and in that one word conveyed all the remoteness of the uncaring depths between the stars. “So that’s where we are now.”

We. Or maybe you; with the rushing in her head, with the heat of knowing the words should never have been spoken, with the sickness of knowing they couldn’t be unsaid churning in her belly, she wasn’t really certain which word he’d used. It didn’t matter. Answers fought to escape: it doesn’t matter, we don’t have to be, I don’t know, it’s easy to be in love when you feel this good, I didn’t mean to say it. She couldn’t say any of them, only stuttered a few syllables that meant nothing. After a moment he began moving again, stiffly, all the grace and passion gone. His lips wouldn’t meet hers again, nor his gaze, and she pushed his shoulders away. “Stop. No. I don’t want it like this.”

He moved back, drawing a sheet over himself. Caped in it, a pale shoulder exposed in frames of red, color of passion cooled by the ice in his eyes. “So, what, you’re just servicing me?”

Fury flushed her cheeks. “I’m not the one who went all mechanical here. Look, I didn’t mean to say it, I didn’t know I was going to, I don’t even know if it’s true. It could be.” The last confession was barely her own voice, so soft and full of pain. It hurt everywhere, in the shallowness of her breath and in the palms of her hands. Closing her eyes helped; at least she couldn’t see the rigidness of his jaw that way, or the pinched set of his mouth. Couldn’t see the scars in his eyes, the ones that told the story of a boy who had not thought himself loved, growing up, and who trusted no one who used that word with him now.

She did not want to be the fix for those scars, even if she could be. “It is true,” she said, her voice still light and not her own, and with her eyes still closed so she couldn’t see whether the words cut him or not. “I wish I hadn’t said it, but it’s true. I am…” Her lip curled, teeth bared before she spoke through them. “I am so happy, when I’m with you.”

His brother—his opposite in all ways, big and blonde and considered not too bright—opened the door and walked in, blasé as a college roommate letting himself into a dorm. Their apartment wasn’t much more than that anyway; a bed in the living room where the couch should be, another bed in the single bedroom. He stopped in the doorway, looked between them, and said nothing, only walked past them into his own room. She turned her head, watching him in a kind of numb bafflement, knowing he wasn’t as dull-witted as his reputation had it; he was one of those who had seen their caught moments, and had both the wit and kindness to say nothing.

A Cracker Jacks box flew out of the bedroom and hit her lover in the head. He flinched hard and his brother came out again. Walked out the door, leaving his opinion hanging in the air: “You’re an idiot.”

She rose, dressing mechanically. He picked up the box of treats, never taking his eyes from it. She was on her way out the door, shoes in hand, she would put them on in the hall, she only wanted to be out of that room, out of that life, forever, and the door was closing behind her when he said, “Wait.”

Low word. Broken in its syllable. Scarred, in the way she could not fix. And because she was a fool, she stopped. Waited, her heart breaking with every beat, her breath slicing cold shallow cuts in her chest.

“He liked someone, when we were little. So much he was terrified to talk to her. She gave him a box of Cracker Jacks one day, and a kiss.” He lifted his eyes, gaze green green on her profile. She would not look at him; stopping had been too much already. He got to his feet, came to the door with his black hair long and loose and the crimson sheet falling to his hips, marbled expanse of pale skin framed by those shades. She saw it in her mind’s eye, vivid enough to undo her; if she turned to look at him she would be lost. She always was. That was the danger of him, and she had exposed herself too much because of it.

“I’m sorry,” he said, close enough behind her that his breath warmed her shoulder. “I’m sorry. I’m not…good at this. But he’s right, I’m an idiot, and I’m…sorry. I’ll try to be better.”

There were promises in the last words, implications that this might not always be new, not always a test, after all, and because she was an idiot, too, she turned. He offered her the Cracker Jacks box and in doing so almost lost his sheet, the armor he wore draped about his hips. He seized the one, dropped the other, and she caught it. His gaze jerked to hers, hope searing through his eyes, and she saw the impulse there, the intention to shutter that emotion and lock her out. It was exquisite agony that he fought it, left the question unasked but brilliant in his angular face, and it cut through her like a blade.

They stood so close to one another. So near, with all the terrible distance of the world between them, and on their lips, a kiss. A question. An exchange of breath, asking, testing, fighting to see if this was real.

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