"Good night, Ilse," Moritz murmured. He felt so distant, so apart. Looking at that hopeful, blissful, yet till deprived girl... It ate at him. It just wasn't fair that someone who'd fallen so far could hold on when he was losing his own grip.

"Good night?" Ilse responded. Obviously upset that Moritz had just rejected her invitation to follow her to her house. And yet... there was some odd edge to her words... But it didn't matter to Moritz. Nothing really did anymore.

"Virgil, the equations-remember?" he reminded her. He was getting sick of living this facade. He couldn't handle her searching eyes, looking beyond his refusals to his guarded soul... She wasn't going to stop him. Ilse bit her lip at his refusal.

"Just for an hour." she pressed. That same edge appeared. Through her strong tone, her demand sounded almost like... a plea.

"I can't" Moritz said. He was trying not to betray his morbid desire in his speech, but his words were weak, and just a little tinged with hysteria.

"Well, walk me at least!" Ilse ordered - or begged?

"Honestly," he said hoarsely, fighting the urge to just do as she asked, "I wish I could." Why didn't he let himself? He just... couldn't. He was deaf to the world, to what Ilse asked, and to what she offered.

Ilse looked lost for words. She looked at him, eyes beseeching. A kaleidescope of emotions - anger, frustration, loss, disappointment... Moritz could see it, but it didn't matter. He was steadfast. He wouldn't let anyone keep him from what he was going to do tonight. To end this entire charade that he was living.

He was alert to what was around him, but lost inside, his soul so shrouded in misery that Ilse's pleas couldn't break through. He was crashing so hard. He had failed, he had lost the pride and love of his family, and all hope for getting it back. It gnawed him at his core, and he felt as if he was drowning in his own failures - the ways he had failed his family, the ways he had failed himself. It was enough to make any strong man stumble.

Moritz was not a strong man. He fell hard.

Though he could vaguely sense a deeper truth in Ilse, nothing registered. He ignored the hurt, hopeful figure's words, resolutely blocking out anything that could mean salvation. A chance. Ilse finally opened her mouth, a sort of angry, despaired confession tumbling out.

"You know," she mumbled, and somehow in the dark, the moonlight reflecting off of the river in waving slivers, he could see her eyes well up, reddening around the edges, "by the time you finally wake up... I'll be lying on some trash heap."

The corner of her mouth twitched, and Ilse turned and fled, her bare feet not quite moving fast enough to avoid betraying her desperation. Moritz winced, her pain stinging him, and it was then that Moritz realized his mistake.

"For the love of God," he croaked. Silence around him, pressing his insides in. "All I had to do was say yes!"

Ilse... That blithe, light-hearted girl from his childhood... Damn it, he cursed inwardly. He could have felt that happiness again! He could've felt that infectious hope. Maybe...

Maybe there had been something to live for.

She was gone. His insides were collapsing. The river gushed, the relatively calm water loud in the silence, a meaningless roar.

No...

His last chance was gone. The pistol weighed a thousand tons in his coat pocket.

"Ilse?" Moritz called. No repsonse. Twilight was over. The darkness was closing in, so thick, so dark... Like veil - no, like a heavy, stifling quilt...

"Ilse...?"

It echoed off of the trees, his scared, desperate voice magnified in the quietness. He felt like he was hollow, air whistling uselessly through him. It felt like the river had stopped flowing and splashing as the seconds ticked mutely by...

"Moritz?"

He heard a crunch a ways away in the gloom. The river was splashing again. The dark quilt lifted.

"You'll walk with me?" sniffed the gruff voice of Ilse. Her bare feet approached, the moonlight ricocheting off of the river onto her again. Her flush was fading away, and her eyes were hopeful again.

"Yes," Moritz breathed. He was thick again, not hollow. He shifted his feet.

"Let's... let's get going now," he muttered stiffly.

Ilse grinned. She approached him, and took his hand into hers, warmth enveloping his own hand. Togther they ventured, and Moritz followed closely.