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You'll Regret It All, Living Behind Your Walls

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She's waiting by the sidewalk the next evening. The fading light of the sun catches on the few rings he's wearing, setting them to sparkle, and she jumps up from the bench where she's been sitting.

"Eridan!"

He turns toward her with the most long-suffering sigh she's heard in a while.

"What?"

Jade looks at him, just confirming that he's the way she remembers. Erring on the side of too thin. She doesn't know if it's from the lack of fabric billowing around him or if this is a new thing. Has he always been like this?

"Come back to my place."

His stare is completely nonplussed, and he doesn't even give her an answer before turning and continuing on his way. It's only a second before she's trotting along after him.

"Wait, not like that! I want to feed you!"

Had he been wearing his cape, it would have hit her in the face from the speed with which he whips around.

"Clarify."

"I want to make you dinner!"

His gaze upon her is cold while he sizes her up, and then his lip curls, presenting her with a flash of fang. "I don't want your charity. I don't want your sympathy. I don't want your company. And I would very much appreciate it if you would leave me alone entirely. Good day, Harley."

She doesn't even manage to point out that it's evening before he's storming away from her. Puffing her cheeks out in frustration, she crosses her arms and plots. Plots for the next time.


~~~~~~~


He hasn't learned from the previous nights. It's that, or he hopes he frightened her off yesterday. Eridan comes walking down the same path, messenger bag swinging at his side, and this time, he freezes to the sound of a pistol cocking.

She has to admire the way he manages to look both unimpressed and afraid at the same time.

"Are you serious? You can't be serious."

"Walk, mister."

He growls, but the visual weight of the gun in her hands is enough to make him walk. He doesn't say a thing the entire time, and she can feel his irritation rolling off him in waves. She doesn't much talk either, other than simple directions of left and right so that they end up at her apartment.

She's on the ground floor, which is nice for Bec and for when she needs to carry back groceries. It's the little things in life that matter.

As soon as the door closes behind them, Bec is bounding forward and jumping up to lick her on the nose, which she doesn't mind at all. He pays little attention to Eridan, other than to growl when a clawed hand reaches for the doorknob. It returns to the troll's pocket. After a none-too-discreet nudge from Bec as the dog presses against the back of his knees, Eridan saves himself from buckling and stalks after Jade through the apartment, glowering.

The place isn't too big, and the compact kitchen is directly to his left, with the living room/dining room spanning out to his right. There is a small wooden table low to the ground, with squashy pillows serving as chairs, and it's to these that Jade points.

"Sit."

He sits, picking the blue pillow over the green one.

She gives him a bucktoothed grin and walks around the bar counter to clatter with something in the kitchen.

"I wasn't entirely sure what you'd like to eat, and I'll eat almost anything, so…seafood?"

Eridan is again nonplussed, and he sits there looking exasperated as Jade presents him with a plate of steamed, salted salmon on a bed of spinach and cherry tomatoes. It's visually appealing, at least, and she hands him a fork - or places it on the table, when he doesn't take it - before retrieving her own plate and taking a seat on the pillow across from him.

She digs in with a happy little noise, and he remains motionless across from her, watching her.

"Why aren't you eating? I promise it's not bad! I've had a lot of practice cooking, since, well…Bec can't really cook for me, can you, boy?" Jade gives the dog a smile, and Bec wags his tail from where he's lying across the short hallway to the door.

As if Eridan's going to try and leave before Harley's done with him. His think pan isn't that rusty, thank you very much.

"Why?"

Jade looks across the table at the short question, and her eyes blink slowly behind her glasses. Eridan wonders if he's going to have to elaborate when she sighs thoughtfully and lays down her fork, essentially giving him her undivided attention.

"I'm worried about you. You used to be so…vibrant, and when I saw you, when I see you, you just look like you're wasting away. Like you're wilting, the way flowers do before they die. You're thinner than I remember, and I don't know if it's because of how much you've grown or because of how you're feeling, but either way, I don't really care. You don't look healthy, Eridan."

He sneers, and she hardens her gaze.

"So eat. And then you can run off again. Just finish the plate. It's not very much."

Eridan stares for another moment, and then he leans forward and begins devouring his food with fervor. Jade doesn't know if he's incredibly hungry or if he just wants to leave that badly, but his plate is empty in under five minutes. Puce-colored eyes look up at her expectantly, and she nearly facepalms, stopping herself at the last minute.

At her resigned nod, he's standing and escaping out the door without another word.


~~~~~~~


The day after is almost the same, save for the way he takes the path around the opposite side of the building in an attempt to avoid her. He freezes when she comes running at him, and he looks for a moment like he's going to sprint in the opposite direction, but then she's less than a foot away and glaring up at him.

His shoulders slump in defeat.

She gives him a light shove, pushing him to walk in front of her, and he complies, shuffling along without another word.

Apartment, doorway, table, just like yesterday, only the menu consists of a pasta salad with some kind of light sauce that Eridan isn't sure of. When Jade sets down his plate and kneels opposite him, he asks only,

"Why do you care?"

"Because you're my friend."

He doesn't reply to this beyond an exasperated glare, and then he's silent while he finishes. When he's done, Jade expects him to leave in a hurry, but this time he rises almost slowly, picking up his plate and fork and laying them on top of the kitchen's bar counter before turning and striding away without looking back.


~~~~~~~


He doesn't even try to avoid her on the third day, and he walks along beside her as they make their way back to her place.

He brings his dishes to the kitchen again when he leaves.


~~~~~~~


The next day is a Saturday, and she wonders…

She sits on the bench and waits for half an hour, but he doesn't come.

She doesn't bother waiting on Sunday.


~~~~~~~


She finds him again on Monday, running up to him in eagerness, but it doesn't look like he's in much of a sprinting mood, anyway.

"I waited for you on Saturday. I hope you fed yourself over the weekend."

He gives her a noncommittal grunt and doesn't raise his eyes from the ground, but he does fall into step beside her.

As they sit at the table he asks her, "Why do you think we're friends?"

She tilts her head and stabs at her stuffed pasta shell, the tomato sauce squishing across the plate.

"Aren't we?"

"I can't fathom why you'd think such a thing. I've been tryin' to understand it for days."

She'd forgotten the smooth lilt of his voice, and she's glad to hear it again, even if it's not exactly pleased.

"We've been through a lot together, and I do care about how you're doing. I know you've pushed everyone away, but I'm here now, completely unplanned. I think that's fate. So now you're stuck with me!"

He sneers at her and scrapes his plate clean.

He doesn't take it to the kitchen before he leaves.


~~~~~~~


On Tuesday, he doesn't show up at all, and Jade walks home alone.


~~~~~~~


That Wednesday is the first day that he speaks before they reach her apartment.

"What if I don't wanna be stuck with you?"

Jade sighs. "Then you don't have to be. Just let me get you looking healthy, and you can be on your merry glubbing way."

She's pretty sure his mouth twitches up a little.

"Deal."

They don't talk at dinner, but after he takes up his plate, he stops just before the doorway, fiddling with the strap of his bookbag.

"You cook well."

And then he's gone again, but Jade is left smiling.


~~~~~~~


"Why did you cut everyone out?"

She catches him before he's finished his meal, and he pauses with the burger halfway to his mouth.

"Because I'm not interested in relationships."

That hadn't really been the answer she was expecting. "What? Why?"

"Nuh-uh. One question per day." He takes a huge bite of his food and licks ketchup from the corner of his mouth.

Jade leans her elbows on the table top. "You know, if you ever wanted to do your homework here, you're welcome to. If you want to stay a little longer instead of rushing off."

She knows what she's doing. She's trying to get him to either admit that he won't stay because he doesn't like her, or she's giving him a way to patch this up, if he decides that he doesn't mind her all that much.

"I'll think about it," is his mumbled response, and maybe they're getting somewhere after all.


~~~~~~~