This is one of those scenes where I will probably come back to it in half a year and find it completely cringe-worthy.
Also, a minor content warning as Tyrric considers suicide, followed by a romance. (I told you: totally cringe-worthy!)Author’s Note
Tyrric considered swallowing coals.
It wasn’t as effective as poison or as fast as swallowing a knife. Yet he was here, and so were the coals in the fireplace, and he could just barely reach them, if he tried.
Yet he couldn’t even try. So useless you can’t even suicide properly, he told himself, and willfully blacked out again.
Someone stroked his hair. Over and over again, all in one spot, like a broken piece of gnomish engineering. He slowly lifted his head. It was Alelsa. Her face was ugly with tears, but she was silent now as they poured across her face. Raw. Defenseless. Empty. He knew what that felt like.
He tried to croak out an explanation to her, for all the things he had put her through, but it only brought her tears streaming faster.
“Don’t,” she said. “I know I’m unlovable.”
Blast it, but that wasn’t what he had meant at all. He took her hand.
“You’re not,” was all he could think to say.
“Oh yeah?” she answered. “My first love….aban-abandoned me. The second one got stuck in a time warp. And now you. Now you.”
It made Tyrric feel positively wretched.
“I thought this time, maybe for sure,” she continued. “After all, why would someone marry me, if they didn’t love me? Dote on me? Even throw all their f-f-family away for m-me…
“I don’t even have the willpower to kill you,” she said, reaching over and gripping his neck. “I should. You deserve it.”
“I deserve it,” Tyrric repeated numbly.
“But then I’d only feel worse!” It started a new rash of sobs. “You continue to manipulate me, as you did the rest of them!”
Tyrric winced. No…no…this was all wrong. He hated to see Alelsa cry. He lifted himself up, taking her hands.
He slid off the glove on her left hand that hid the fel scar that streaked down one side of her arm. A mark of her taint, she had told him early on. He bent and kissed it gently, just as he had then.
“You hate me!” said Alelsa through a flurry of tears. “You hate me…”
“The only one I hate right now is myself,” said Tyrric, and it was the truth. Closing his eyes, he placed both hands on either side of hers.
That admission made the rest easier to say.
“I don’t hate you, Alelsa. I used you. You heard me right. …I wish I could say I didn’t know what I was doing, that it was all the Void’s work, but I fear that would be a lie.”
“Oh, Tyrric,” said Alelsa, and she collapsed against him. “I did, too.”
“I used you, too. I only wanted you for that book. But then one thing led to another, and I fell for you. I wanted you. Your kisses, your touch…” She touched him now, smoothing his unshaven beard and sideburns. “I-I wanted…a life…I could never have… Look at me, damn it! I’m a warlock! Scarred outside and in, not fit for any kind of normality –”
“I’m looking,” said Tyrric quietly, “and I see scars, but I also see you.”
She sniffled and sniveled and pressed her face into his shoulder. “I thought… when I heard you from the hall… we must truly be meant for each other. A punishment to the other, for all our sins.” She chuckled unhappily, but he didn’t see the humor in it.
“Is that so?” said Tyrric, and he pulled her closer, against her resistance. “Maybe that’s so…”
“…but at least this hell….was heaven…for a little while, Tyrric.” She pressed a hand into him like she was making a clay impression of her palm on his chest. Then she sat up, pushing away, blowing her nose and making to leave.
“Don’t go,” said Tyrric softly.
Another nose blow. “Why?”
“I… need you.”
“Need me? Why would you need me?” The outrage was back, as swiftly and suddenly as only Alelsa could.
Tyrric wasn’t sure why he was doing it. He tilted her head back and kissed her cheek, then her lips. An old stir of passion, remembered from their early months together, stirred in his core.
“Because I need you to remind me…of who I am.”
Her kisses came swifter and more hungrily, as she pressed against the arm chair, then into his lap. Yet he was still weak…so weak… She enveloped him with herself, and he hid in the warmth. Bittersweet. Perhaps for a moment they could ignore the implications, lose each other in the other’s shadow …dark and empty and —
And then Alelsa slapped him. Then again, so hard tears sprung to his eyes.
He looked up at her, not understanding. There was anguish in her expression.
“I can still make you hate me,” she warned him. “If you don’t die first, I will corrupt you and make you beg for mercy before the end. I will destroy you, and everything you ever cared for.”
“Someone got to it before you did, I’m afraid,” said Tyrric.
“What?” She raised her hand to slap him again.
He grabbed both her wrists and pulled her down against him again. “I don’t hate you,” he whispered into her hair, into that scent he had come to know so well over the past couple years, “and I never will, Alelsa.”
A slim, soft scream — of defiance, but also of hopelessness.
“If one of us goes down, we both go down together,” murmured Tyrric. “If I have to share that fate with you… I think it is not such a bad one.”
She looked up to him, bleak, and he let her see the reflection of that in his own eyes: the same dark roads walked. She gave in to him then, pressing her hands on his chest, pushing him away but also keeping him from leaving as she wrapped her fingers tight through his collar. He closed his eyes and kissed her: never mind the confused feelings, never mind the revulsion of himself or of her misdeeds.
Neither of them were alone, and that was what mattered most. She took him down, and he gave in to her willingly.