She looks at him, sweet, bright green eyes – hot and heavy yet cool and soft, like a field of grass, a great vast forest, jungle, jumble of earth. She's a goddess, a witch; the stars in her cauldron fly through his eyes and into his mind.
He can’t breathe around her, his hands get clammy and his accent gets thicker and his words just don’t work, don’t string together and she’d just shout and insult and he deserves it, he deserves it all.
And he knows it, always has and always will because he is a right bastard – a bastard in love with a beauty.
But coming from her, coming from those pale lips, furrowed brow over green eyes and he can’t stand it, can’t stand her, since the day they’d met it’d become impossible for him to categorize his strange, rotten, painful feelings as anything other than lust. Beautiful lust that he wanted to scream from the rooftops, lust because it can’t be love, can it?
It can’t be love, he tells himself as he makes his way towards another day of verbal abuse, verbal berating at the hands of someone deemed so fair, someone he can only imagine was a cruel succubus put on this earth to make him pay for all his sins, all the people he’d ruined and hope he’d destroyed. Yes, that must be it, and he falls for her charm every time. She has him wrapped around her finger.
Only, she doesn’t want him there.
To her he’s a stranger from a strange land with strange ways and weird wavy words and sweet nothings between cruel quips that make her heart beat faster than a racehorse, she can’t explain it – and she doesn’t want to – it’s nothing and never will be anything. Eridan Ampora is a man with a dream and she wished it were a nightmare, thinks it is a nightmare deep down. He doesn’t want this, he doesn’t need this, her, anyone. He’s lost a thousand bets a and won a thousand hearts and not Fef’s and not Jade’s and he just can’t win, and he knows this, and he believes this, and he lives by this indisputable fact that Eridan Ampora is unhappy, always.
And he’s memorized it, sings it like a hymn, and he can’t, won’t change a thing.
But he still tries because he’s stupid stupid dumb wwhy did you do that you fuckin idiot. And he’ll punch a hole in the wall and the neighbors will yell for him to quiet down ya noisy asshole and he’ll scream profanities right back. But the man behind the wall doesn’t care, the man behind the wall is happy in his one bedroom house with his TV and his beer belly, and the man behind the wall is happy because he isn’t Eridan Ampora, who’s never happy.
Never, ever, happy.
This is, he knows, is a universal constant.
He watches Jade go from table to table, same shift, different section and he’s distracted and his boss will tell him Ampora, get it together! And he’ll nod, words in one ear and out the other because he’s distracted by the way her waist shifts and the hole in her dress give him glances, looks, peaks at the back of her thighs her skin’s like like snow, so soft and so cold and so–
He can’t help himself and makes his way to the back room, where she sits with her phone in her hand, texting, texting boys with better bodies and better rap sheets and better things to say to her besides I’m sorry I’m not good enough for you. But he tries anyway, stumbling over his feet and his words and his eyes rolling around in his head like marbles, sloshing in the tide of tears-yet-to, soon-to-come. But he’d drink it up like boxed wine, and smoke the sadness away in rolled cigarettes and prescription painkillers and passing out on the floor of his apartment for the millionth time.
He tells her about the hole in her dress and how it resembles the one in his wall and she scowls, she wishes he would just leave her alone. Such a dick, such an asshole, bastard – why does he always go after her? (She knows, but she’s lying. She’s a liar and she tells him to fuck off when she’d really rather he’d come closer, rather he’d fess up – fess up! It’s not that hard! She’d rather study the contours of his lips with her own, but he’s weak and breakable and already broken and she knows she can’t do that, knows that’s not how this goes, not how the story plays out. Or so she thinks, or so she wants. But she’s not sure, she’s never sure when it comes to him.)
Her words sting and he savors every moment, the sound of her voice, her eyes, her curves and body and hair and face and life. Her life, he wants it, needs it, envies it – envies her, needs her, wants her, like he wanted Fef, like he wants the world that doesn’t want him.
The things escaping his lips aren’t his and never will be, but they fuel her displeasure, fuel her, and she fuels him. But then his words slip out between those that aren’t, and sometimes she doesn’t notice, sometimes she does, but truth is she always notices, always knows, always hides and lies because she’s a liar and can’t let him keep hiding behind this stupor.
And she thinks she’s doing the right thing, and she knows she is, and maybe she’s right but it hurts them both so much – her more because, deep down, deep, deep down she gets butterflies and smiles when he smiles and he just doesn’t see it. Because he’s blind as a bat and always wrong, always wrong, wrong, wrong. Wrong about Fef, wrong about Jade, wrong about himself.
Wrong about the way his eyes slide up her curves and over her breasts and imagining the gap between her thighs, under her dress. Imagines her hipbones laying out before him as he kisses up her body, how sweet her collar bone would feel beneath his lips –
He calls his delusion lust, when words slip out between verbal lashes, words he can’t explain but could if he’d only listen to himself. Words he’d call love if he could remember the word after so much misdefining of lust.
He falls silent, and she sighs and slumps into her seat before getting up and walking out. Finally, again, like every day between them. It’s the ouroboros of their relationship, an infinite number of nigh-identical encounters.
Goodbye, Eridan she says like a cold wind bustling his clothes, sending chills up his spine.
I’m sorry. He means it, but he doesn’t mean to say it.
She pauses for a moment, almost risking a glance towards the lanky man. His own ragged eyes stuck in the place she had been. Bags under them from not sleeping, and finding no dreams when he does succumb to the sandman’s bitter kiss, like a man soliciting a prostitute to get him off, to give him solace; sleeping made him feel sick.
Without a word she continues on, and with her, the serpent’s tail down its own putrid throat, spawning new-but-the-same unhappiness with every turn. Eridan exhales and unties his apron, hanging it up and heading home, even if he can’t really call it that.
The ouroboros chokes yet again, and he still won’t call it love.