— I'll break you a hundred different ways —
He tried to stay in Tephra.
He tried to stay close to her, but there was always something imaginary that pulled him away. Something intangible and yet somehow powerful enough that it wedged a wall between her and him, and it seemed impenetrable, even though he knew he only needed to walk through the door in the middle of it.
If only it could be that simple.
After the land was scorched to the ground, and in the smoke and aftermath of the war, he had been able to overlook the relentless wanderlust to stay with her, and to make sure she was safe. But the more comfortable he grew with being next to her — even in the night, when he was empty and bare — the more an unrest began to build inside of him.
When he finally leaves, when he finally disappears once more into the evergreen and the mountains, he isn’t sure if she will understand that it’s not her fault. The guilt of that keeps him away longer than he had thought possible.
Weeks drag by, and where usually the solitude and quiet would fill him, he finds that he still feels hollow. When the smell of her was still clinging to his skin, a simple shift in the wind was enough to make his chest coil tight, but eventually, all traces of her wore off. Except in the night, when he only saw her face, when he sometimes thought he imagined the warmth of her next to him — a foolish thing to dream, since his bones have never been able to feel anything. Just as when they had first met she haunted every piece of him, until suddenly the solitude and the quiet is more maddening than what he can handle. It is not by chance that he finally returns to Tephra to find her.
And he does, near the corner where they had first met, and a part of him is surprised, while the other part of him had known all along this is where she would be. Even though his face is impassive and hard, there is something different that smolders in his dark eyes; something alive but guarded, something trying to break loose while he fights to rein it back. “Wonder,” he draws himself alongside of her, unabashed even though he doesn’t touch her. He considers it, and maybe she can see it in the way his muscles flinch once he is next to her, but thinks that after his absence, she wouldn’t want it.
There is a heavy pause as he stares at her, at the glowing ivory of bone across her forehead and armoring her brilliantly red body, and the pale green of her eyes as depthless and endless as the sea. And for a moment too long all he can do is look at her, as he stands there just as he had the first time, wondering what it would be like to just reach out and touch her. “I’m sorry,” another hesitation, another struggle to formulate his thoughts into words as doubt begins to spiderweb across his mind, “I’m sorry that I left.”
— and I'll make you remember my face —