You regret them the second they are out of your mouth, but there isn't any stopping them. The words and syllables, broken down into fragments of almost nothing—only morphemes and phonemes at their most fundamental—trickle out of your mouth slowly at first, like a faulty faucet, but soon morph into an impenetrable torrent of meaning and resolve that rushes out against your better judgement. And before you have the good sense to repair the leak, to staunch the flow of things you shouldn't and wouldn't have otherwise said, you have a full-fledged flood on your hands and it is too late to take action, because you've said them. Once they push forth past the usual barrier of your lips and go alone into the world, there is nothing you can do to retrieve them. They have marched most arrogantly out of your mouth one after each other until they are all out there and he almost certainly believes them. The acknowledgement that you have impatiently sought for months has arrived, for brows come together over darkened eyes narrowed in confusion, suspicion, and his lips part as his mouth falls open, almost imperceptibly. It happens quickly, but it's there. You're certain now. He has heard you, at last.

If you'd have blinked, you'd have missed it, and you wish to God that you would have.

But you didn't, so you are struck down by the realisation that this isn't what you wanted at all, and the water rises more and more quickly until it is up around your ears. Even though you have temporarily lost your footing and the lungful of reality you have ingested is salty and burns your throat; the poetry of what it is to drown in a deluge of your own foolishness is not lost on you. You want nothing more in this moment than for him to save you like he has a hundred times before but you know with certainty that it's not in the cards for you. He isn't going to ask you to stay. And this is how it is that you come to be standing so stupidly in front of him, why it is that you do the only thing that you can do in this moment, which is to leave him, to walk out of his loft and away from him without even once looking back.

You go to Ethan, like you always do when he doesn't give you what you want, and are disappointed to find that this time he isn't able to give it to you, either. And when his condescension and his scorn get to be too much for you, like they always do, you leave him and go back to the place you fled only hours before because it's the only home you have. It isn't dark like you expect it to be when you get there and you can't believe that he's home, that he's not out fucking every trick within a fifty mile radius to prove to himself that he doesn't care. He's awake in the bed you've spent the last two years making love in and he watches you strip your clothes from your moonlit body, lifting the covers when you wait at the foot of the bed, not exactly certain what he wants from you. You go to him not because he wants you to but because there isn't anywhere else for you to go.

When he presses his tense body against your back, it's not like it was before. There are rules now, rules on which you'd insisted. He hasn't given you any of the things that you want, but he's never broken a single one, which, although is more than you can say for yourself, isn't enough. Because he doesn't love you in the way that you've loved him almost from the moment you first saw him. If he did—if he truly did—he'd give you what you want. There's no other explanation for it, except the unthinkable, the one that's been poisoning what you have with him for weeks:

He doesn't really love you.

So consumed are you by this infectious, illogical conviction that you are able to pass over the significance of what it means for him to share his life with another human being in any way at all, the ways that he already has changed for you. You don't notice the way his meandering hands finger the pulse along the underside of your arm, stroke the goose bumps roused by the cool night air on your skin. You miss out on the way that his rigid posture slumps into you, the way that a sliver of worry—one among many—melts away because he is able to comfort himself at the very least with the fact that you have come back to him.

If only for one more night.

And it is breaking your heart to lie there in his arms, but not for any of the reasons that it should. It doesn't exactly help you sleep at night, this vain attempt at excusing your behaviour, but it's a start. Because you don't see any of it at all, how very much he loves you. And it's not that you won't, because God only knows how much you want to.

It's that you can't.