Disclaimer: I own nothing of Hunger Games. R&R please.

A/N: I wanted to write a one-shot and ended up with something that isn't necessarily in chronological order. I probably should warn the reader now that this is definitely adult even if it isn't half as graphic as some adult works that are out there. So keep away if you're uncomfortable, but please read and review if you can!

All that he couldn't do

He couldn't return to the same seas. Not even in the end. Not because he didn't want to.

He had longed to see those jagged landscapes after they'd patched him up and told him to smile because he'd won. But he just couldn't go back. Not only because one could never step into the same stream, let alone the same ocean twice, but because too many things had changed.

Himself, most of all.

He couldn't—could never— harbor the hopes of protecting anyone. Not legitimately, anyway.

It wasn't that he couldn't protect them with his fists and shield them with his body if someone ever tried to hurt them. But the things that sought to hurt them were never so easy to trace or so obviously physical that he could rip it apart the way he wanted to.

For a long time, he couldn't dream of having something all to himself. It wasn't that he didn't want that. It was just that everything that he wanted to protect was used against him.

He could smile, even if it took all of his willpower to sustain that famous grin. The dimple and the merriness that made people claim that they knew him. Even people who eventually became those that he trusted with his life made the same mistake for a while. He made it easy for them to.

For years, he could laugh things off as easily as he could cut through the water and let those droplets roll off his back with little consequence. And really, that was all that mattered to those around him because he never really mattered to them in the first place at all.

And while he found that he couldn't break away from his nightmares on many occasions, he found that he could fight. He would and he did with everything that lived in him. He did, simply because he could.

The problem was identifying the real enemy. He could not do that for quite some time.

But then, many couldn't either.

He never made the mistake of idealizing the seas or shores and the cliffs.

Those had always been deadly in the most unpredictable situations. Nets could be cast adrift and be torn in storms that flashed without warning, bringing back dead fish and the fishermen. Boats, strong and sturdy in the sun, were no better than driftwood in the worst of weather. When those around him sighed about oceans and talked about the beauty of the life in those, he never did imagine those blue, polished mirrors that were rippled with white and gold. He always imagined salt and the glare of the sun or the slashing of the rains and the rocking of the boats.

But for all the place's flaws, he dreamed of it and all its alluring dangers at times. And he found that he still wanted to go back.

Not that he could.

He couldn't stop drawing others to want him. Hell, he couldn't dance without leaving a wake of gasping, hysterical men and women. He couldn't do anything without driving them mad. But then, he was made to. Told to.

All that dirty grinding with hips jutting everywhere. That smile of his flashing out and maybe even muting the shouts and the catcalls. In the lights, the pounding beats dictated the rhythms. The way he'd crush against the bodies of those who'd paid so that they could invade the most of his space. They'd paid for him—he couldn't shove them away.

For him, dancing could not be the most difficult part. And he could not refuse it, with rough hands pulling and reaching in every place; the erstwhile patrons never tiring but demanding more.

He could not stop but had to go on for hours, although away from the glare of the lights and in the back of wherever that he was, he could collapse without knowing it; not unconscious but too numb and far too abused to feel the actual strain. Not before they'd had their way first, of course. Properly.

Crucified with that calm acceptance that he'd learned to project in his raw nakedness, he couldn't move much, or at all. But he could be at his most beautiful, simply because he was at his most defiant. He could be worshiped for hours and for more gold than you could ever imagine; straining and moving against the cross, gleaming and glistening.

And then he would fade in and out, hearing everything and nothing; needles and razors and whips at his thighs and his side. To be strangled until the remaining blood and life bubbled and fought and boiled in every vein and pore. Writhing, against rope and chain, snaking violently, pressing against binds and bodies. Often, those kisses with fists and teeth or other implements against the chest, or forced into his mouth and back.

He couldn't forget some things, no matter how hard he tried to. They never let him. He could never settle into the darkness, because they revived him with thin stalks of chemicals and vinegar that stung his nostrils and mouth. Between the lines of consciousness for those hours, they'd have every inch of his skin anointed with spewed wines, saliva and slickness; have his forehead hallowed by his own sweat-darkened hair. The thorn-like fingers of those who'd paid and trooped in their orderly lines, waiting to crown him one by one— waiting for their turn while watching. They came for him while others cheered and hooted; gripped and controlled, pulled and yanked, twisted and grunted, moaned. Howled and screamed; cursed to the high heavens with their eyes rolling back in their heads.

And he on his knees, dutiful, never even bothering to ask why he was in those godforsaken places. He could not; not when he was their puppet until they couldn't afford to pay.

He could never wake for all those times without feeling battered; haunted and broken. Put inside in the gilded vehicle that came to fetch him and bring him to be mended, he could not take more than three days before it came to send him off again.

It was always on the third day of these cycles that he could not look at himself in the mirror, no matter how they'd re-constructed and revived him.

He could sing. Somewhat.

Sometimes, and only when he was alone.

He brought in things patiently. Stealth, he found out, required more patience and calmness than anything else.

He always made sure that nobody followed when he went. And for a while, he was sure that he'd succeeded.

First a carpet that she wove from dried fronds and the spare strands of cloth that she found and wrung dry. It always smelt of salt when they walked on it. He strung up oil lamps and strings of light—if there had been any bats, those never visited again. The curtains, they did not need so much. The weeds that hung over in constantly growing veils did the work well enough—those had hidden the eroded crevice for a long time before he'd discovered it by accident.

Then he brought in blocks of wood that he shaped and hammered at after he'd brought it into that rocky little cavern at the foot of the cliff. Cupboards, a bed, a shelf or two. Those took form after a while, but he wasn't a very good craftsman and the air near the sea warped their shapes more. But she insisted on having those—she loved the odd, uneven rectangle frames and the simple, somewhat rough and almost primitive styles.

She filled the place with other things too. A tiny paraffin that she heated their baths with. Or cooked things over. Each time he went, he found new additions. Perhaps some simple carvings that he'd done for her; those that she'd lovingly saved and displayed proudly on a stone ledge. Beautiful floral arrangements, never mind that the components were weeds, shells and pebbles that she picked up by the shores and held onto obsessively. Or cushions for the boulders they used as tables and chairs. She liked to paint with the pigments that he bought her—cerulean flowers and seagulls and starfish and cobalt waves on a whole wall.

They could never stay there long—the Victors' village was where they were supposed to be permanently. And when they returned back there, they would assume the roles of strangers. Those roles were shields that he insisted on, and no matter how painful it was, he forbade her from coming near him when they were anywhere else but in that cave.

On some days when he found his way to that particular cliff, the sea hissing beyond the rocky walls as his footsteps echoed into the distance, he would find her waiting. She could be asleep, or drawing, or singing, or straightening the place, or perhaps simply waiting for him.

In that secret home, he found that he could forget what lay beyond the cliffs. But he couldn't go back to the tiny house in the intersecting cliffs as often as he wanted to.

He couldn't escape. Just couldn't.

So he tried other things on his own for a while. He thought of the secrets that he wheedled and savored with a poisonous, delicious hatred. He treated those secrets as a door out of the many crowded clubs, drinking holes and bedrooms that he was driven to for hours at a go. Secrets filled with incriminating truths—better than slitting throats all the throats that he could ever get at, really.

But he realized that it still wasn't an escape. Not when he was doing as he was told; teasing and serving and begging for things that he'd never wanted in the first place.

He couldn't really use his hands properly even when he wanted to.

He didn't know how to cradle her simply because he'd never been held like this; he only knew how to strain and to smirk and to fight back his pain when he'd been held down. Couldn't use his unbound hands to stroke at her face as wantonly as he wanted to—didn't know how to because he'd never wanted to do that for anybody in the past.

He knew what she wanted even if she didn't quite know how to tell him. He knew how she tried to hide her disappointment when he disentangled himself from an embrace that he'd really wanted to stay in for so much longer.

But remember this; the experience of using his hands freely without anything controlling them had been so long ago. He had long forgotten how to hold a person that he wanted; the little freedom he had with his hands had often been invested in rope-knotting for hours at an end.

He despaired even as he decided that he didn't know how to pretend that she meant nothing to him. But he couldn't ignore how clenched his hands were, as if expecting those to be restrained at any minute now. The frequency of the brutality and his bound vulnerability had blotted away nearly everything else over the years, and it had become easier not to fight; to be bound and used however anyone had paid—provided they'd paid enough.

Oh, he knew what to do with his hands when they were bound. To have his fingers tightly furled, to have his nails digging into his palms. To have nothing to hold onto anything except his sanity; to brace himself. To empty his mind and to offer the shell of himself—that was all that he knew by the time he decided that he wanted—no, needed—to put his hands against her and claim her for his own.

Know this then: When those chains were taken away suddenly in the moments when they were alone, the absence of the weights made him feel the gravity of his selfishness. The heaviness of it far surpassed all the weights that he'd ever worn.

He found that he was far more used to being chained in all the ways that one could think of, controlled and manipulated almost entirely. He found that his hands were mechanical and that his words were practiced. His smile made her look at him unsurely, and he realized that he'd painted on the usual smirk without knowing it and that she didn't know better than to accept and smile at him with such tenderness that he damned himself.

In that moment, his hands free to love as how he pleased, he fumbled. He could not forget that he would be hurting her by taking her close. You see, she wasn't like the others who had him bound. But it was precisely because he was free to take her and did— that always made him fear that she would be bound like him sooner or later.

Even so, he learned how to hold her in the way that he'd always meant to. He managed that eventually, while holding back all his fears. For someone as strong-willed as him, it was even more difficult to find that courage that bordered on recklessness. It really was. It took a long time.

But he tried his best to. For her.

He couldn't go anywhere without people's eyes on him. Following. Trailing. Some curious, some less. Surveying; admiring, observing, wanting, guessing, mocking, scorning, adoring, calculating, wondering, loving, cursing, caressing, envying, hating, leering, appraising.

He learned to accept it.

He couldn't ignore her, even though he honestly believed that it would be easier than anything else. She wasn't much to think about, although she had caught his eye at first when he'd seen her on the screen. In person, he found that the cameras did not do her justice, although he thought it would be easy to ignore her after that.

There were beautiful people all around him, objectively. In the Capitol, it was mostly artificial. Fake, yes. Bordering on the freakish at other times, yes. Skin too bronzed or too pale, eyes too wide or too dilated, and slimness to the point of being alarming. But there were plenty who hadn't gone into the extremes yet, and those were attractive in their own ways.

Even back there, he'd found plenty of girls to tease and laugh with. Those years ago, when he'd still been interested in that sort of thing, there'd been a girl that he'd kissed. She'd been very pretty, even if she'd been taller at him at that age.

Really, there were all sorts of treasure to be taken all those years later after he'd won. If he ever went back there and had ever wanted to take them, of course. While the fact was that he didn't go back there, he would have found a ready supply of those who'd have paid plenty to be with him. No difference with the Capitol, really.

So when he looked at her after she'd been hauled back from the brink of death, he didn't think that she was particularly stunning. She'd had some time to recover, and she was undoubtedly lovely after all that time, yes.

But that wild look in her eyes reminded him of hunted animal or patrons in their frenzies, and her frequent lapsing into the nonsensical and her clumsiness made him frown. The way she tripped and fell so often and the way she had looked at him unsmilingly back then and even now had made him dismiss her in his mind.

Give a few days, he'd thought, and she would recede into vague recollection and from his mind. He watched her get sent away with disdain; he was so sure that no matter how others tried to break him, he would never be as broken as her.

Maybe that's why though. He couldn't help it in the end.

He couldn't grow up. Couldn't grow old and fade happily and undisturbed into oblivion.

They didn't let him.

Sometimes, not everything screwballed onto the other side of the line dividing pain and pleasure. At times, when people were not carried away by the thrills of exhibitionism and the addictive sense of power and control, they were less extreme.

Some would stroke rather than strike at him. Or perhaps they'd ask him to kiss them or they'd want to kiss him back. Make no mistake, they were the ones who were always demanding, but these moments were infinitely less awful than other things that he'd experienced.

Away from the mad lights and head pounding sounds, some left the shows back where those had been aired. Some found that they preferred whipped cream rather than seeing him whipped. Some realized that they found more excitement in serving him rather than having him serve. Some asked to hear stories in bed. Or to hear jokes. Or to have him draw a bath; to play cards or to talk to them. Most found that they simply wanted him to seduce them instead of having him submit to them.

Sometimes, when he was entirely honest with himself, he found that he could enjoy this.

And he could not forgive himself for it.

He couldn't bring himself to tighten the nooses that he made.

He could never. He liked to pretend that he could—played the clown, bantered and laughed.

But of course, he couldn't.

He honestly thought that he was better off staying put to serve a resistance. It had promised a world better than the one that plagued his dreams and reality, and by that time, he could not consider turning back.

Along with all that he couldn't do, he couldn't turn down the chance that he was presented with. He couldn't look away, even though the decision would put him through another familiar hell. He knew what the Arena was like—but he couldn't turn his back on the plan.

But later, when he woke up, begged and was refused, he couldn't understand why he hadn't killed her to grant her a mercy that the Capitol would never dispense.

He liked to tease people. Liked to joke, liked to look as if he was having fun, liked to smile and to make others shake their heads at him in part exasperation, part irritation, and part many other things.

The thing that he could not condone though, was their sympathy.

He was clever enough to learn how to use people against each other. He could play the most loyal of his patrons into giving him secrets that he savoured in his angry dreams.

He could grit his teeth and turn those over in his mind. It worked sometimes; it faded the picture of the splayed thighs that countless of men and women panted and slobbered over even after whipping and forcing him sore. Plenty of them were demanding; rough and savage and destructive. He thought he'd gotten used to it—or would. But the ropes always burnt deeper, their teeth sharper and sharper as they scraped and twisted and shoved higher and higher. The toys they used and what they demanded always gave him more pain in return for their pleasure.

At times, he could not fully stem the tears that would spring into his eyes at times. At times, he could not bite back the screams that would wrench sore and wild from his raw throat. Many times, he could not scream at all.

Worse. He could not stop feeling like it was penitence—that he deserved the abuse and the humiliation of being put up on stages and on floors and sometimes with cameras around and the director shouting for him to move more and pant harder through the haze of the painkillers and other drugs.

In those moments, he could not shake off the feeling that this was his punishment for winning the Games the way that he had. For every body he'd impaled, for every child that he'd wounded and trapped down in nets, this was his payment.

He couldn't contain himself when the latest gadgets from Three were sent over.

Things that even he couldn't imagine, state-of-the-art and cutting-edge to furnish a house that he thought he'd built and kept in secret, so rudimentary and simple that it was almost the cave he'd found in the first place.

She'd always insisted that it was cozy whenever he worried that she would catch a cold from the drafts that traveled in. That she didn't want to live anywhere else. But she'd always been afraid that he would tire of it, that he'd up and leave if he was bored. Not any more, she thought. Crystal-lacquered screens that required no electricity to run, the tiniest portables you could imagine, and a hundred channels that could entertain if one flipped a switch and keyed in some numbers. She didn't understand what most of them could do, but surely, he would. She thought he'd sent for them—that it was indicative that he'd been persuaded to let them stay here permanently.

"Now we can stay here for as long as we want now, can't we?"

Beaming, she took his hands. All put up by the time he'd returned—hammered into walls by people who'd just happened to come along by that particularly rocky, inaccessible part of the shoreline; people who'd seen her looking at the parcels dumped outside with such bewilderment that they'd kindly offered to install everything in.

"Where are the boxes?" He'd asked. She'd faltered, because she'd seen the green of his eyes turn into jet with only a thin rim of the original colour. She'd felt his hands grow cold in hers.

He'd searched. He'd near-ripped apart one or two of the empty boxes. But he'd found it very quickly. Written compliments from the President in a note that she'd neglected to see in one of the boxes.

She didn't know any better because she had no guile and never saw it in anybody—couldn't have with how naïve she was, really. He couldn't blame her, really. But when he came back that day, he knew that the home that he'd wanted for both of them was gone.

He didn't mean to frighten her, but he just couldn't help it.

He spent the rest of the day smashing all in his reach and more— tearing and punching and hammering. He even fetched the very tool he'd been given those years ago, the silver glinting bright even against the liquid screens. For hours, he did this, until he was breathless from rage and pain and had become sane enough to realize that she'd flattened and hardened herself into a corner, crying and bewildered.

He sat by her and pulled her into his arms, still panting with the exertion and still slightly-crazed. He didn't apologise. Couldn't explain what had really happened. He just could not.

By the time he was hours away from boarding the hovercraft, it was too late to insist that she meant nothing to him—that he didn't care if she was taken away or that he would have to leave.

By that time, it only mattered that he did his best to hide his fears from her and promise that like her, he didn't have to go back at all. That even if he had to go, there would be no flood. That even if there was one, he'd swim through it. That he'd save the partner that she couldn't. That it hadn't been his name on that slip. That he really, really didn't have to go—that she had been dreaming when she'd watched him climb to the stage just minutes before her own name had been called out. That it had been in her mind, and that she was now awake from her nightmare.

He'd meant to comfort her. He'd wiped away the tears, kissed her, hoping that she would calm down and fall asleep. But as they huddled together, covered in the woven blankets that supplemented the thinness of the bed's mattress in their rock shelter, he found that he couldn't control what he'd meant to do.

And when she begged him to tell her that he would stay, he found that he couldn't—wouldn't— falter and run anymore. He couldn't leave her when she nodded and clung to him and listened to every word that he uttered. Couldn't go without letting her take his face in her hands and kiss his lips. Couldn't go without deciding that he would take her for the first, if the last time, and hope that by the time she woke, she would not blame him.

So he promised her that they'd be fine. He told her that he would not leave. Told her that he was going to take her, and that he would stay with her and that she'd wake up to find him right beside her in the morning.

As he shifted and moved the blanket and cloth aside, he wished that he could peel her from her cocoon with all the violence of a passion that nobody else could interfere with. And with it, he wished that he could shell the ghosts of their minds and ravage without hesitation. The inconsideration and abuse that he'd seen in the past, it seemed, was easier to take when faced with the present.

Still, he found that he couldn't stop the shakiness of his breath in his pleasure; could not flinch away from her in the way he'd wanted to do with so many others. Between both of them, he had to lead, but he was afraid too; perhaps more than her. When he planted burning, frenzied kisses in his whispered worship, she seemed to understand what he needed.

He guided and taught her to trace her gentle lips and tentative tongue and teeth all over him, the familiar dew framed against the faint sweetness of her mouth and mingling with the salt of his sweat. She seemed afraid of herself in the way that he was; in the throes of her climax, she raked her nails against the sheets and her own palms; more afraid than him to hurt something even when he near-begged her to.

In his mind, he couldn't please her enough even when she mattered so much. She was all softness and hesitant longing; seeking and testing and making him arch. And he couldn't do anything but beg because he was desperate in his helplessness—a kind of helplessness that he'd never quite known before.

At points, he couldn't help but wish that she'd tied him up tight—controlled him so that he would not plunge and force and tear so deeply against her. He wished that she'd been like the patrons that had not cared for his rules and his dignity. He wished that she'd been the one demanding instead of the one to obey him when she'd done everything he'd asked and more.

He couldn't bear to look at the tenderness in her eyes when he brushed away her tears. Even if his contact had hurt inevitably and only slightly, as she'd insisted. She'd kissed him, telling him that the flare of pain was fading, but he'd felt his own tears spilling down his cheeks. Those ran, even when she brushed those away in her dismay. He'd tried to smile, for she'd been anxious for that moment, thinking that she'd hurt him somehow. He assured her that she hadn't , but couldn't find the words to explain.

For so long, he couldn't hurt those that he'd wanted to, but there and then, he'd hurt the only person he hadn't wanted to.

And for the time that they spent after that, she made it so easy for him to forget his fears and the awfulness of his demons. She learned quickly and matched him with an instinct and generosity that surprised him, and when they finally wove themselves in each others' arms and succumbed to exhaustion, he was almost able to fool himself.

But the fact of the matter was that he couldn't stay.

Because it just wasn't in his nature, he couldn't leave it at that.

Couldn't help but imagine the worst, couldn't stop himself from running when he heard her.

The arrow took the target down fast enough, but not fast enough for him to wonder why he hadn't stayed and fought where he wanted to be; why he just couldn't have ever met her at all.

Whenever he was in the Capitol, he avoided looking at the things that he most wanted.

Simple, savoury soups, grilled fish and lean, slightly tough meats. Or sometimes, for a treat, pot-simmered, tangy, pickled vegetables to be eaten with the sauces and crusty, seaweed bread that mopped the plates clean.

He always went for the sickeningly sweet things—the cakes, the cream, the sugar cubes, the chocolate-dipped berries, the sweetened fruits, the honey-glazed meats that dripped golden and translucent with fat, and treacle porridge and every decadent thing that he could lay his hands on.

All because he couldn't tolerate having anything that reminded him of what he missed so much.

For far too long, he couldn't tell her what she really meant to him. Couldn't grab and whirl her into his arms and dance her along in a slow waltz despite the way he always had to dance and with others that he despised.

Couldn't run back to her at every opportunity, couldn't boast about the girl he knew, couldn't even say her name openly while reading aloud a little of what he'd always wanted to say to her. Couldn't even disagree with the people who told him that they were touched; the people who would never really understand even half of the tiny fraction that he'd wanted to tell her.

He couldn't tell the truth, couldn't take her and run. Couldn't break away from the places that they sent him to; couldn't slit the throats of those who he pandered to.

"Want to fuck you now," He'd said to so many others, gritting and hissing through the steam and haze of sex and lust. Part of the standard repertoire, really. "Need to have you take me and use me."

With her, he'd wanted to.

He couldn't love her recklessly even when she was right beside him; couldn't quite bring himself to murmur all the terrible, delicious things that he wanted to do and eventually did to her. He couldn't plunder and please her without feeling the paralyzing fear that she would be used against him or he against her.

He couldn't hold her without the nagging feeling that he would have to leave; couldn't use his worn, callused hands against the freshness of her youth and fragile inexperience without finding the guilt building in him. As she lay with him, he couldn't caress her without a care in the world, couldn't tweak and tongue and touch and tease her without feeling that he was only destroying them both by drawing her to him.

But he could not learn to stop wanting her. He never did.

Maybe, it was because she was one of the few things he'd ever seen that was pure and steadfast. There were moments when she was frightened of shadows; when she hid even from him and looked at him like she didn't know who he was. But even in that darkness, he could see how hard she fought. And outside that, she loved so many things so easily, so deeply and so honestly that his scorn became fascination and then desire to belong with all that she loved.

If it was cruelty at first, it grew into curiosity. When he teased and taunted her for her clumsiness, he found that he was more tormented than tickled. And over time, he saw the over-protectiveness in himself; the way that he was guarding over something that he envied and hated at times until it grew into obsession.

For a long time, he could not pass her without thinking that it wouldn't take much to punch through that already thin veneer of sanity. Just a whisper or two into that shell-whorl of an ear; just a reminder of the Games and the decapitation that she couldn't stop.

He could not see why she had the choice to keep her innocence when she wasn't really much different from him. He could not help but want to remind her of what she'd done to live like him, that she wasn't all that above him. He wanted to show her she was sullied like him; dirty even in the shelter of her insanity. Watching her treat everyone with such trust, he wanted to make her less goddamn precious.

But one day, when he sat beside her, watching her sob in her sleep as she curled on the floor, he decided that he simply could not tarnish something that was beyond his reach in the first place.

Beloved, all who saw them could not question it.

I could describe that shade of her eyes whenever he was near. For as long as he could, he held her hand. Indistinguishable; inseparable; indivisible, as I thought of them.

Indescribable, really.

Everyone could not ignore what they shared. Some who wished them happiness, some who shook their heads and before that, many who looked at each other, smiled and reached for their abacuses. It was so clear that he could not refuse anything if she was at stake. Or perhaps, even the other way around.

He tried, for a long time, to hide it for his and her sake. He could not.

I could tell you about the times when they were at peace. I could tell you about the way that he could make the fear and darkness in her eyes vanish. He could make her faultlessly calm with a few words. Only he could do that.

He didn't really realize that, though. He got it the other way around. The expression that he wore in those moments—it always hinted at his thoughts. He thought that calming her down, even if he had to use pretty little lies at times, was the only thing that he could do for her. He didn't see that it was something that only he could do for her. He was wrong of course, but he just couldn't see then.

But the way that he could smile when she looked at him— I can't begin to find the words. Perhaps your godfather can. Or perhaps, he could mix and paint you a colour that's the softest, brightest tone; the surest shades of the loveliest, most luscious things that you could ever imagine. If he could, you would understand his smile immediately.

Or I could tell you of the way that she could be so firm and strong -so strong. Simply because he'd insisted that she'd be fine; that he'd be fine— that we could all survive the most impossible of things.

You know, on some days, I think of the way that he could make everything and everyone get on with living sometimes. On those days, I wonder if it's because he had so much practice with himself.

What's that?



You're asking why. You would ask that, wouldn't you, the minute that you could? Are you sure that I'm the best person to supply the reasons; that I won't oversimplify things that I too, couldn't understand for a long time?


Oh, but there is no why in the way that we meet with coincidences and call them correlation before convincing ourselves that correlation is causation.

I too, couldn't go without attributing an action to every reaction for a long time. All those years after so many left me, I couldn't make sense of the world without driving myself up the wall with questioning what one's motivations were for every single thing that they could or couldn't do. Why they could but didn't, or why they couldn't but went ahead anyway.

There isn't a why that I can supply you with for his or for her sake; not in words. No. But fetch that for me. Yes. Good. And come here now, and look—

You see this? His eyes and nose. Nearly everything else, really, save that mouth. His lips were always slightly twisted—it was nearly impossible to tell if it was a smirk, frown, grimace, or even a hint of pain at times. But hers and yours are very different. If there was ever a reason why, maybe you're looking at it.




It's not good enough for you? Well, he wasn't easy to understand in the first place. I can assure you of that.


Make you understand why he couldn't stay safe, when he needed her so much and she likewise? How?



I could agree with you and say that he couldn't see how hurt she'd be if the worst happened. That it didn't occur to him, which was why he even went ahead.

I could say that he never valued anything above her. If you insist, I'll put this away and oblige you.

Or I could tell you that he couldn't have known that you had already existed; that if he had known, he couldn't—wouldn't—have done what he did.

And if you really want me to, I could tell you that he simply couldn't understand the nature of the gamble that he staked everything on.


But I won't. Because between us, I promised to tell you the truth.

As far as I've gathered and as far as you trust me to tell, he did all that he could do. It's neither my place nor yours to judge if he cared too much or cared too little. None of us will know.

But know this now, as clearly as she already knew for a long time.

For all that he couldn't do, he couldn't do without first thinking of her.