A/N: Originally, this was meant to be a part of the ST WIP I'm currently knee-deep in, but it just didn't fit with the rest of the story. So I chopped it out and made this one-shot. I'm not sure what to think of this fic, but nonetheless, I hope you enjoy it.

Reviews of all shape, size, and color are loved.


His blade is kissing her throat. His hand is at the back of her neck. His teeth are bared. His eyes are flaming. His voice is no more than a growl.

"You will never replace her."

She tastes his anger like smoke, but it does not scare her; he cannot scare her. He tries – certainly, he tries – not often, only when very upset, but enough that it is definitely not an irregularity.

He can threaten and hold a razor to her skin as many times as he likes. She does not fear that he will follow through with what he says. She does not believe the empty words. She is not afraid of him.

She knows he will never hurt her.

(Physically, at least. Intentionally, at least. He hurts her each day, each hour, each goddamn second more than he can ever know. More than she can ever express).

"I'm not trying to replace her," she shouts. She is angry too. "I would never want to be like that selfish silly nit anyway – "

The blade's kiss deepens.

Too far.

Her neck suddenly prickles, stings, but she cannot feel it, cannot notice it. The sting in her heart is worse.

She knows she should not have spoken against his wife. To speak against her is to curse at church. Worse. But it is too late for regret.

They both stand in a frozen moment, imprisoned by each other, suspended from reality. Then –

"Good-night, Mr. T," she says. "Sleep well."

She leaves him in his shop, winding her way down the stairs and through her home until she reaches her bedroom. She lies on the bed, stomach up, face turned towards the ceiling, arms at her sides.

The sting has subsided. She is numb.

She doesn't bother to change into her nightgown. She doesn't bother to draw the blankets up. She doesn't bother to unpin her hair, shed any anguished tears, or wipe away the blood dripping onto her pillow. She is past bothering, past moving, past aching.

Past feeling.

She doesn't know how much time passes. Hours, maybe. She can't sleep. So she watches the ceiling and lies on her bed and tries to remember what it is to feel.

He shows up in her room like a phantom, entirely silent and with intent, staring eyes that pierce clear to her soul. His gaze falls to her neck, and the phantom rejoins the noisy living with a grunt. He stalks to her bathroom, then returns and perches on the edge of her bed, linens in hand. She can't even summon a glare.

"Sit up," he mutters, and when she doesn't heed he proceeds anyway, swabbing at his laceration on her throat with the white cloth.

"It will stop bleeding soon. By tomorrow, you should be able to cover it easily with foundation."

He finishes cleaning her wound but his fingers linger a moment longer than necessary on her throat.

She knows that look in his eyes. Even in her detached state she feels a prick of anger. How can he look at her with such lust? How can he expect her to express love with her body after he just imprinted hate upon it?

He stretches out into his well-worn indentation on her mattress and she closes her eyes. Her heart has just recalled its sting, and it stings deep, deeper than any razor cut . . . yet she knows she will soon yield to the demands of his carnal desire. She cannot do elsewise. She breathes for him; she is his even if he doesn't want her; she pulls through each day just to see his face once more.

Simply, she loves him.

Simply, she wants him to be happy and will walk to the ends of the earth before admitting that's not possible.

Her blanket settles over her torso, his lips brush against her forehead, and his weight on the mattress lifts. When she opens her eyes, her phantom has left as silently as he came.

It hadn't been lust darkening his eyes. It had been sorrow. Regret.

She is past feeling.

So it surprises her that he, who feels nothing, isn't.

And she knows it's foolish, but as she pulls the blanket up to her chin and closes her eyes, her heart stings a little less.