A/N: Written for Caesar's Palace May Oneshot Challenge; merci beaucoup to Ky-lassassin for the beta read.
Everything is measured by the hole it leaves behind
-"Fantasy Man," The Swell Season
If he keeps his eyes closed, everything fits like a jigsaw puzzle.
(Never mind that the pieces are soggy around the edges, and maybe a few are missing.)
That's what he thinks the next morning as he toys with her soft brown hair, strewn across the pillow next to him. When he closes his eyes, he can pretend that the hair between his fingers is silky and straight, that the warm body next to him is delicate and graceful, not muscular and toned. For one blissful moment he can sit there with his eyes closed and pretend that everything is okay.
The girl – no, woman now – sleepily turns to face him, her gray eyes inquisitive. There's a lot hidden in those eyes of his huntress at any given time: misery for those left behind, despair at what can't be unseen, fear of what's to come.
"Hungry?" she asks as she settles her head back on the pillow; he can smell the morning breath from this close distance, but he's so used to it now that it barely even registers.
Her eyes scare the shit out of him, but it's not the pain that bothers him, oh no. It's much worse: it's the tenderness that ripples behind those grey pools, an undercurrent to the river of desolation she can't drain.
He can match the pain in spades, but his river's run dry, and he'll never be able to match the currents of her love.
"No, I'm fine," he responds, turning his face to the wooden ceiling and closing his eyes shut.
(Maybe this time if he squeezes them tight enough…)
It all started off innocently enough. With the Boy with the Bread and the Mad Girl gone in such finality, they were both left to fill in the pieces the only way they had. The Boy with the Sugar Cubes and the Girl on Fire were never meant to be the ending to this twisted fairy tale, yet somehow they're the happily-ever-after, and he can't get out.
The shadow of the present and ghost of the past are nothing alike, but when he squints his eyes, maybe he can make the blurry puzzle pieces come together.
The woman next to him sighs, and although it's nothing more than a puff of air, it says so much more in this moment. He keeps his eyes shut because it's all he has now, and she'll never understand because she's an eyes-wide-open kind of girl, so isn't it ironic that they're sharing this bed?
Knowing that he's lost to her for now, she quietly shoves herself off the bed and begins preparing for her day. He listens to the sounds of her habit – the quiet slide of the pants, the resistance in her hair as she tries to brush out the kinks – and he knows that she deserves better than his sorry self. He's clearly the villain in this story, but damn her for her silent accusations and tender looks and the gift of her regard.
(He thinks he liked it better when they were enemies in the arena than this sorry state of purgatory.)
If he keeps his heart closed, everything fits like a jigsaw puzzle.