This love he had for her was madness. It was illogical. Nonsensical.
What was there to crave about a child’s body, whose curves had barely developed, and limbs so frail that even a casual hug demanded caution? Evolutionarily, it didn’t make sense. Socially, it didn’t make sense.
Personally, it didn’t make sense, either.
Yet still everything about her convinced him further that loving her was only inevitable. The blink of her beautiful eyes that bore no guile. The smile on her face could give colors back to any gloomy sky, and her rare laughter was the sweetest music that ever drummed his ears. Her tiny stature that simply belonged in his arms.
Hesitant fingers that brushed the length of his jaw.
She was nervous. The tentative kiss was too light, too much of a tease that it only whet his appetite for more, and he grew impatient.
He had to resist. Push her away. Make her leave.
“Y-you need to go,” he said breathlessly, sinking further into the armchair to distance himself from her. It wasn’t by much, but he didn’t trust his hands to move.
She was still too close, the displeasure clear in the way her lips pursed; pink, soft, and was on his just moments before. “No.”
“Ib,” he growled, didn’t mean to. If Ib was startled, she didn’t show it. “Please get off. This isn’t something to be stubborn ab—”
His words were cut off as her lips met his again, surer this time with a hint of defiance. Garry nearly jumped out of his skin as he felt something wet brushed up against his lips. His eyes were wide, and as his jaw slacked, she wormed her tiny little tongue into his mouth. Clumsy, but, by god, each stroke was debilitatingly delicious.
Garry could barely hold himself back, squirming under her, felt the reigns slipping from his worn, bloodied hands as her body stayed so readily on him, enticing him further. It hurt so much. He wanted her so badly. But he couldn’t allow himself to make the same mistake again.
He grabbed her by the shoulders and yanked her from himself. That split second he saw Ib wince from his grip. Her surprised, fearful eyes looking back at him. He didn’t have the mind to address any of that.
“You…” he started but failed to form any coherent thought. His heart continued to bruise itself against his ribcage. His hands were clammy, and his breaths shallow. She was beautiful, his Ib. His innocent Ib. Her kiss. She shouldn’t have. Oh god, he’d been the one to corrupt her. She was so beautiful still. His innocent Ib. He couldn’t.
His lips came crashing against hers, their teeth hitting each other and all.
She was giving him permission, offering herself to him. How could he refuse?
It was messy, primal, as he forced her mouth open, found her tongue and delved deeper still.
Warm. So delectably hot. Her steamy breath tickled his cheek. Her sweet nectar slaking his thirst, and he wanted more. A lot more.
So once again, he’d succumbed.
There was something wrong with him. Of course, there had always been something wrong with him. This was madness. But why should he care when just her mere presence in his arms made everything feel so damn right?
A part of him warned him to be gentle. The part that was terrified he was going to scare her again. Scar her. The part that was quickly drowning in the savage tides of his passion for her.
His hands began to roam. Down her wee back and up her belly. Her hands weakly followed his, holding onto them but powerless to influence their courses. She was becoming taut underneath his touch, heart thrumming under his palm. Whatever squeak she produced, he greedily swallowed. Sliding under the fabric of her dress, he felt the smoothness of her thigh and rounded to her hip, pulling her closer, keeping her there.
Ib whimpered as he parted for breath, and their feverish sighs mingled. Her face was flushed. He could feel her start to tremble, and there was the hint of tears dewing at the corners of her eyes that he chose to ignore. He buried his face into her neck, kissing her tender flesh and relishing the sunny scent from her soft locks.
You’re scaring her again.
Well, isn’t that just perfect. His other side hissed back.
If she started screaming and running away from him now, he was sure he wouldn’t chase her. Would never meet her again, either. He was much too tired, too wounded. And it would be for the best.
Whom was he kidding trying to fix this fraudulent friendship and act as if nothing had happened?
She strained against the hand he had behind her neck, sending broken, sultry breaths brushing his jaw, further igniting his desire as he heard her cry his name in the quietest snivel. The pain from where her fingers dug into his chest was his final and quickly crumbling anchor to sanity.
Yes, like that.
He ran his thumb over her lips and kissed her once more.
Just a bit more.
It was a great struggle that he managed to wrench himself from her seductive mouth, trailing kisses to her ear. “Ib,” he muttered, earning a startled sob from her, and even as his stomach turned at the sound, he continued to crave.
Stop me, please.
He kissed her ear, crushed her to himself and shuddered at perverse pleasure from having her against his crotch. She was stiff from fear, but would not fight him. He was going to hurt her again.
And he didn’t want that.
That time she’d run from him.
God, he didn’t want to feel like that again. Didn’t want her to have to be that frightened again.
He loved her so much. Wanted her so much. And she was giving herself to him, said it was okay.
“Say no, Ib.” He rested his head onto her trembling shoulder, holding onto her, unwilling to let go even as he said, “Just say no and I’ll stop.”
As he felt Ib shake her head, his heart tightened with both sickness and glee. He was disgusted, so tired of fighting, frustrated, exhausted, so confused, so happy and so damn scared of what was about to come.
And what was about to come, even?
“I…” It was his turn to flinch at the sound of her voice, choked with the tears she wiped into the crook of his neck, as she snuggled even closer to him—if that was possible still. “I don’t want you to leave me. So…”
“Do them with me.”
His eyes went wide.
“The things you do with Scarlet—I’m fine, so…” Her breath hitched with a sob, and she wrapped her arms around his neck. “Do whatever you like. Just don’t leave me.”
It broke his heart that even now he was hurting her. The only way he knew how not to hurt her was still hurting her. What was he supposed to do? Their relationship – what was left of it, anyway – was so broken beyond repair. They were never meant to be. That gallery sure had played one cruel, twisted game bringing them together.
If he’d never been saved…
If he’d never met her…
“Please, Garry.” The hurt in her voice clawed at him, and like an instinct, he tried to soothe her, rubbing the small back at his palm.
“Ib, I’m not leaving you.”
She shook her head. “You will,” she said with so much conviction, and it sickened him that she was right.
“Listen here.” He tried pulling her from him and was met with resistance before she finally complied. The sight of her tear-streaked face only made the guilt all the more nauseating in the pit of his stomach. He cupped her face and dried away what droplets that still glazed her beautiful, beautiful red eyes.
“I love you, Ib.” Though she would never know how much. She’d come to despise it even. “I will never leave you.” He smiled the best smile he could, heard his own voice beginning to crack. Another lie to add to an ever-growing list. Drop in the bucket, really.
Ib leant her face into Garry’s warm hand as she stared back at him. His smile was so dear, so precious, and somehow very wrong. Once again, it didn’t feel like one of his normal smiles. His voice had slipped back to that unfamiliar timbre, and she had felt something shudder inside her chest, almost like a resonance with his words.
She loved him, too; though distrust at his sincerity allowed no confession on her part.
She didn’t want to lose him.
Ib let go of the handful of his shirt, the fabric now wrinkled from her sweaty palm, and held up her pinky. “Promise?”
“Of course, it’s a promise.” He locked his pinky with hers quickly. Too quickly.
Yet still, through the blur of renewed tears, a smile came to her lips. “Thank you, Garry.” She leant forward and kissed him on the mouth, feeling him becoming rigid underneath her.
Now, it puzzled her greatly that he would have such a reaction. Ib had thought he wanted these things, and that he would be happy if she kissed him. Would smile at her, and would stay hers forever.
As she pulled back, her heart was pounding heavily in her chest. Her entire being was trembling, weak from exertion and weary from fright. She was scared. But it was Garry, so it was okay. These things adults did were disgusting. But because it was Garry, they weren’t all that bad.
“Let’s…um…honey,” Garry stuttered, holding up a hand. “Y-you don’t have to—”
She claimed another kiss. He was holding his breath now as she ventured with her tongue once more, pushing between his lips, mimicking how he’d done it.
Not bad at all. It was sweet, even. Unlike the sour-tinged lemon candy once upon a gallery, unlike the rich chocolate macaron after a certain reunion. There was no real way to describe the flavor that rolled across her senses, but if she had to give it a name, it would be his. Garry’s taste.
“You won’t leave me, right?” she muttered close to his lips, searching his smouldering blue eyes for reassurance.
He put his forehead to hers. “I won’t, Ib.”
Garry was such a bad liar.
But because she loved him, she was more than willing to be deceived.
Ib snuggled up against him, heard her own noisy heart beating out of rhythm with his, and felt his large hand rub gentle circles into her back. Closing her eyes, she immersed herself in the comfort of his scent.
Ib had returned home two hours ago, but the taste of her lips still lingered on his with nagging intensity. The events that had transpired earlier that evening had been stuck on replay in his head, some moments in greater details than others, but they all ultimately left him in both wonderment and fear.
But as lost and confused as he was, there was still one thing that must be done.
So, as Garry lay on his bed listening to the first drone of dial tone in his phone, he had never felt less eager for the other side to pick up.
“Garry, hey…” Scarlet answered on the second ring, much to Garry’s chagrin, and the way her voice sounded—the girl was crying. He silently cursed the part of him that still cared for her. It wasn’t so much that he didn’t want to care for her, just that that kind of sentiments was making this so much harder.
He emitted a long sigh before he began, “Look, Scarl…”
“Hey, Gar, I know we just argued and all but,” she sniffed, her voice quiet, “can I come over? Is Ib gone?”
He wiped his face and shook his head. “No, no, Scarl, I…” he hesitated.
“Later is fine, too.”
“No, look. Let’s stop this.”
There was silence on the other side, and not even the sound of breathing could be heard.
“Scarl, you there?”
“Wha-What do you mean?”
“I mean we should stop this thing between us. We are never going to work.”
“Don’t. Don’t. You can’t do this.” Her tone turned desperate, and Garry was abundantly glad he wasn’t there to witness whatever state she was in. This didn’t need to get any more complicated. “If this is about the little girl, I can explain. I’ll tell you so—”
“Do you love him?” His interruption brought her to silence again. He listened to her uneven breathing, taking in a breath of his own before continuing. “I love Ib, Scarlet, and we can’t keep doing this.” He stared at the ceiling, feeling the weight in his chest intensify. It wasn’t like Scarlet didn’t know, but admitting this little fact out loud for another person to hear was an entirely new step. “It’s not doing either of us any favor, and I’m tired of telling myself otherwise. Aren’t you?”
“No!—No,” she brought her voice back down to a hiss, as though to keep someone else from overhearing. “We are not doing this over the phone.”
“Look, we’ve been doing this for two years. Don’t you think it’s about time we stop deluding ourselves that things are going be any different? I’m not going to stop loving Ib…and you still call his name in your sleep, you know.”
There was a clack on the other side – a door being closed. A sob. And another.
“I hate him, Garry,” she cried, “I hate that I love him so much.”
Garry closed his eyes, heart becoming frantic. She was so much like him that it was like hearing himself talk. And he sounded miserable. “Work it out with him, or move on, hon. I’m not the answer to your problem, and…” he paused, wiping his face again, “Just…Thanks for everything. I’m sorry I can’t be a better friend.”
She didn’t reply for a while, and he was about to hang up when she said, “You’re a jerk, Garbear.” Her voice was chiding, but soft.
“But I love you, anyway—Goodbye, then.” And the line went dead before he could respond.
“Back at you, hon,” he mumbled into the phone, listless.