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Newt is nearly back in control of himself by the time he gets back to his shed. He wipes his wet face with a few swipes of his sleeve, unbuttons his vest, and pitches it on a nearby chair, then whips his tie from under his collar and tosses it aside. He leans on the counter, fingers gripping the old wood until his knuckles are white, grinding his teeth until his jaw aches.

Stubborn, unrelenting woman…all it would have taken were three little words; why, why, wouldn’t she take that step? Why must she make it so difficult?

And then the doubt starts, just like he knew it would; a niggling little worm of doubt, crawling into the recesses of his brain with its little darts of poison. Was it really all her fault, old son? You could have spoken up. Why didn’t you say something yesterday? Last night? No, instead you had to dump it in her lap, didn’t you?

Well, perhaps...Merlin’s beard, in a minute he would be running back to the field to apologize for his churlish behavior.

No! He shook his head sharply, fringe flapping. He’d made his point, he had to learn to stand by his principles. This time, by thunder, she was going to be the one to come to him…and if she didn’t, well at least he was in the right.

Wasn’t he?

He frowns suddenly. Why is he suddenly sounding like his father? Does he really want to follow in those footsteps?

She’s leaving soon, the doubt-worm whispers. Are you going send her off to the front lines with such harsh words as the last thing she hears from you?

That is all it takes. The conflict within him shifts and remorse blossoms in his chest, battering aside his lofty perseverance to claw painfully at the back of his throat, and he sets his teeth in his bottom lip, biting until he tastes blood. His already-burning eyes sting anew as his overactive imagination helpfully supplies a mental image of dark-uniformed Aurors at his door, bearing word of the battle that had taken her from him, and the last thing he’d told her was that she, she, was the reason both of them were destined to live in a haze of pain and indecision.

He picks the tin feed bucket up from the floor and slams it on the counter, rummaging through the mess to find his cleaver. Where is the cleaver…he needs to chop something, anything; he needs to pound on something until his knuckles bleed. Items tumble and fly as he shoves them aside, and finally he sweeps his arm across the surface with a low growl, sending it all, bucket included, crashing to the floor. Where was the bloody fucking cleaver? Did he take it upstairs to clean it? He grabs at the excuse like a life raft and he’s already moving, running from the shed, from his indecision.

His feet are on the first rungs of the ladder when something grabs his shoulder and yanks him from behind, sending him spinning across the room. He flails and regains his balance, turning in surprise, only to freeze in place at the sight of Tina as he’d never seen her before – clothing crumpled and hair tangled; streaming, reddened eyes staring and mouth open in a shuddering, silent cry of torment; tear-stained, vulnerable, utterly broken, and not even trying to hide any of it. The sight is so unbelievable that he is stunned into silence, simply gaping at her.

“You listen to me now,” she grinds out emphatically in a shaking, watery voice that goes straight to his lacerated heart. "I. Love. You. Are you happy now?"

“U-um –” he manages, but she points at him with a trembling finger, silencing him.

“I love you, Newt. I love you, I love you, I adore you! How – Morrigan, how can you even think I don’t?" She swipes her hand across her face. "I speak best in action too, I’ve shown it just like you – but it’s not enough, is it? It’s just never enough! And I’m sorry, I’m sorry I am such a miserable fucking coward that I couldn’t say it out loud, like you needed to hear it.” She is hugging herself, sobbing without restraint, tears and snot mingling on her swollen face.

Tina,” he whispers in anguish, appalled at this breakdown, agonized at knowing he was the cause, “oh, no, no, love, stop –” but she doesn’t stop, she talks right over him. He starts forward, reaching for her, and her pointing finger becomes a palm-up halting gesture.

“No, don’t! I’ve got to get this out, damn it, I’ve –!” She stumbles over the words and takes a skittering gasp, a sound that punches through his gut. “I’ve – I’ve loved you almost from the first, and I came here because – because I can’t stand the thought of being without you. So here I am, and I love you, I love you so much, I need you, and I’m –” She hides her face in her hands, shaking. “I’m so – I’m terrified.”

Tears well in his eyes as he takes another step toward her, but she is so wrecked she backpedals clumsily, nearly falling into the wall. “I want to talk - to talk to you,” she stammers, “I want to tell you everything, where I’m going and what I’m doing, but I can’t! All I can tell you is that they’re sending me – I’m – I’m so scared. I’m not supposed to be, but I’m sick with it, I’m so frightened I can hardly stand it, I can’t sleep, I’m – and – and I love you, Newt, I needed to tell you, I needed to be with you so I – so I could – no, let me finish, stay there, please stay over there!”

No,” he retorts huskily, "I most certainly will not." In three large steps he quickly crosses the floor and yanks her into his arms, and he’s holding her so tightly against him as she completely comes apart against his chest, his cheek nuzzling the top of her head, his own tears falling unheeded into her hair. His brave, proud girl; he can’t stand to see her brought so low, and he feels such a pang as he realizes the part he had in bringing her there.

“I love you,” she wails into his neck. “I love you, Newt. I love you so much.”

“I know you do, my darling,” he soothes, a hitch in his shaking voice, stroking her head where he knows it aches so. “My brave, beautiful darling.” He swallows the thickness in his throat as he kisses her swollen face, rocking her as she continues to sob. “Shhh...Hush, now. I’m here, my love. I’ve got you.”