"Ben."

His name. Her lips.

How could he explain what she meant to him, then?

How could he put to words, with what little he had left, all the things he had no time to say?

How could he begin to tell her?

That all his life had been dark and shifting and uncertain, had been touched by loss and grief and fear and filled with voices that were not his own? Expectation had riddled his heart and filled the cavities so staunchly with jealousy and rage and hatred that he thought that maybe that's what love was, anyway. He was in a constant state of unraveling, a splitting of his being, that was unbearable to sustain and impossible to surrender. He had been shame. He had been anger. He had been loss. But more than anything, he had been chaos - in thought, in body, in soul - until he ceased to be anything at all.

How could he tell her?

That when he saw her face, his soul had moved? It became a beating, alive sort of thing. From the moment he saw her, the fear became quiet, and all of a sudden he was aware that this was the only thing that made sense. Like a piece of his being had been returned, like he had been half-undone all these years, and only now knew what it was to be whole. Like a window had been opened in himself, and in the sunlight he was not so horrible after all. He felt like he had been seen, understood in a way that he did not understand himself, in a way that was neither demanding nor selfish. But more than this, and perhaps sweetest of all - he felt like he had seen her, understood her in this way that made no more sense to her than it did to him. And that, the sudden, overpowering, ineffable needing of her was made honest and pure by the knowledge that he was needed back.

How could he tell her?

That for a long time, too long - he'd wanted to keep her? Hold her, know her, break her. She perplexed him, had peered into his being and saw something in him that made his actions inexcusable. She had changed him, abruptly and forever, by acquainting him with himself. It was like if his life were a puzzle and he were the final piece - she had given him a depth that made it impossible to sit comfortably with the rest of the picture. He stuck out at weird angles in ways he didn't used to before, forced to come to terms with what he could be. He could not bear the fact that he had disappointed her, or more than that - that he had disappointed the version of himself that she had revealed. So he tried to make her small, to fit her into his life as a novelty, a conquest - a light, at most, that gave off a hypnotic but manageable glow. But that was never what it meant. She could not force him into her life as much as he could not force her into his. Their collision had blurred the line between what was his and what was hers, and he realized, much too late, he thought, that it was never a matter of controlling or convincing, but of rebounding off of each other to grow into themselves.

How could he tell her?

That hers was the only existence that made him feel like he had one himself? Since the first moment her gaze fell on his face, she was always with him. No matter how far apart, he could feel her always, could sense her on his skin, could breathe her in his lungs. He felt her and he felt himself, individually and as the ghosts of themselves, always with the other. Knowing her was like being connected to some great current of electricity. In this current, the violent voices in his blood were finally quieted, the tearing of his mind in two directions began to heal, and the wild spin of the world around him righted itself. He felt that they were two sides of a saber, perfectly balanced and meaningful together. He felt that in being with her, he was both realizing himself and fulfilling his purpose in a continuous, breathtaking loop. He felt that she shared in all his ugliness, that he shared in all her light. When he was with her, he was nothing short of a manifestation of all the stars in the galaxy, understanding all its pain and all its pleasure, all its fears and all its kindnesses at once through her steady gaze.

How could he tell her?

That now, hearing her voice form the shape of his name, he knew this was where he was supposed to be all along?

That looking into her eyes, he could see himself reflected, alive and warm and all that he'd wanted to be?

That holding her in his arms, he felt her heartbeat pulse in time with his?

How could he tell her that she was the most important thing? That he had done it not in the hopes of making up for the horrible things he had done, but because there was no other option?

It was not love, he was sure of it. It was something, if possible, deeper and more grounded and closer to their very nature. It was a union of souls, maybe, or a shared pattern in the fiber of their beings.

He didn't know how to tell her all of this. He didn't have time, and he certainly didn't have the words.

So he did something else instead, something he hadn't done in a long time, something that was out of happiness and relief and an attempt to say all the things he couldn't.

He smiled.

And he looked at her.

And he knew that she would understand.