this time

Rated PG-13
Genre: Angst/AU
Summary: That inevitable time has come.
Disclaimers: The characters aren't mine. I am just torturing them a bit.


She knew the time had come.

She had been feeling it coming for the last days. The evasive looks, avoidant eyes. The decreasing
touches, her skin hurting from the lack of them. Because his touch is the only she allows her skin to really
feel, even if it is for the briefest moment, even if it is only from memory, even if it is only over the fabric of
her clothes.

He feels the same pain. It hurts him just as much, maybe even more. But he just can't *not* do this. It's in
his nature. This is what he is.

And they can't say he didn't try. They can't say he didn't push back this need, time and time again. But he
knows if he defies it, he'd only be slowly killing himself, and he'd be killing *her* in the process.

That's why he's been avoiding her. Because he knows neither of them would be able to face such strong
feelings brought to a standstill with no forewarning. He figured it would be easier to withdraw from it all
gradually, little by little.

He never thought it would still hurt so much. He didn't know the worst pain is the agony in slow motion.

And she can't understand. He's tried to make her see, but she just can't understand. She sits in their bed,
her vision blurry from so many tears, her head aching from trying to see it his way. She can't fathom how
he can say he loves her with all his heart and not stay by her side.

So she just waits. She waits while he packs his things; his most essential only. She thinks about the
promise he made to come back. Another one to not take too long. The promise that should give her
assurance, because she knows he's a man of his word.

He comes out of the bathroom, where he packed the last of his things, his shaking hand zipping up his bag
and placing it over his shoulder, and he can't face her. He knows she's staring at him with those wide,
teary, pleading eyes, and he can't face *them*. Because he knows he'll give in, and he'd only be deferring
the inevitable.

And she won't speak. Because she has tried everything, said everything in the last hours -- that last word
she spoke, her last plead, the one he didn't have the spirit to reply to, still lingering in the air of the room.
She just looks at him, ring clutched in her hand, and tries hard to make his eyes move her way.

He fights hard to swallow the asphyxiating knot so he can at least tell her, reassure her once more. But he
just breathes in deeply, standing in front of her, doing his best to keep his trembling legs from failing. He
takes a step toward her, and readjusting his bag, he bends forward and kisses her forehead -- the lightest,
gentlest, warmest, most tender touch that finishes breaking her heart.

As he closes the door, she thinks about how it doesn't quite surprise her that her worst nightmare has just
come true.

And as she takes her right hand, still wrapping tightly her most treasured piece of jewelry, to the place in
her chest where she can most feel her heart, she thinks about how well she knows him, and how unlikely it
is that, this time, he'll be able to keep his promise.

~ E N D ~