Cowardice

Love kills.

In his case, it's taking entirely too much time.

When he first saw her, he was the clown. The one with the overly flexible face and the overwide mouth that seemed forever stretched into a grin.

He thought girls were icky. She thought boys were dumb and told him so, and then told him again every day in case he tried to forget.

In those days she liked Orochimaru more than him.

They only became friends when their life turned into a bloody blur of rivalry and death that shaped him into a naked blade, polished and sharp, and her into a lioness with boundless energy and an unquenchable thirst for life. Ever changeable, he became a lion then, all sinuous muscle and curving lines of power under perfect control. Even his hair was lion-like, a long white mane that whipped around him in his pretty dance of death.

But she never allowed the beautiful deadly thing to replace the childish prankster of her memories, choosing instead to snip away at her heart little by little with gentler loves and the sharper aches of losses that weren't quite enough to destroy her.

And now that it's nearly too late he is the clown again, an old fool who wears his age and his sadness on the inside, an ugly lining to a cloak of boisterous laughter and lecherousness. It's only when he writes that it slips off his shoulders, leaving him bare and as sharp as he always was. He can only bear to be a man again for little stretches of time, but then he portrays the happiness he never had in an abstract tangle of limbs and desires and unfullfilled aches.

The women are all her, too pretty, too violent and too blind. The men are less than he was but more than he is now, and they always get what he never did.

A chance.