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It's been decades, probably, since he told her the words that hold no meaning anymore. He stopped caring about marking time; it's all one long day anyway. He stopped talking too, after Violet killed him with her 'go away' and her 'goodbye'.

Sitting silently and invisibly, pressed into the corner of the attic, waiting with his mind in stasis, only coming alive again when Violet moves through his field of view he's more ghost now than any other spectre in the house. When she does the Tate inside him starts talking, but it never makes it past the shell surrounding him. That's all it is really, once you scrape away the layer of lies and Mockingbird personalities he wore to be loved.

Violet came up this morning looking for Beau, but settled for looking through the current owners things to entertain herself when he didn't show himself. She doesn't know Tate's there in the corner, his presence as much a part of the landscape as the boxes that hold tangible memories. Really he's not that different.

He watches as Violet pulls a wedding dress, all cream lace and silk, from a box. He watches as she carries it over to a dusty mirror and presses it up against herself as girls do. He watches as she swishes around gently, the silk grazing the floor like her fingers used to do to his skin. He watched the little hidden smile curl up her lips; she'd never admit to doing something so girly to anyone, but it pleases her. It's a moment of frivolity, just something that makes her happy for a short space in time.

Tate's expression mirrors hers for a second, then falters back into a blank mask. Of all the atrocities he's committed, the one he regrets the most is that he didn't save Violet. The most charitable thought in his head is that if he had gotten to her a minute sooner she could have walked out of here to own special day and pretty dress. The least charitable is that if he hadn't talked to her that day in the bathroom she would have.

Violet puts the dress back with a sigh, fondly running a finger down the delicate buttons sewn into the fabric before closing the box and descending the stairs, looking for another distraction from the boy she can't forget.

In his mind she doesn't go down the stairs though. In his mind she walks over to him, sitting on his lap so he can hold her like a child, face pressed into her neck to tell her he's nothing and no one without her. That even if his words were tainted before he still meant them, they were still the truth, especially that he'll love her for always. Especially that.

With his eyes closed he rocks gently back and forth just like he would if she were there. In his mind she is. In his mind he's got an arm around her waist and a hand tangled in her hair, pressing her forehead to his. In his mind he's whispering words to her that he means just as much as the others he said before in the inch of space between them. In his mind he can feel the humidity of her breath as she tells him she believes him.


 

The boys family moved in when he was fifteen, the same age as Violet when she died. She's been watching him off-and-on since then. She doesn't miss the obvious things that make him like the boy she wants to forget; the one that haunts her even if she hasn't seen him in forever.

There's the shaggy curly hair, the worn out Chuck Taylor's, the flannel. Some things never go out of style; fifty years ago it was stylish, and fifty from now it still will be. His hair's darker though, muddy brown, and green eyes. The other obvious difference is the lack of homicidal tendencies. He's suicidal, just like her.

It's why she watches him, doing her part to make sure this doesn't become his permanent home. He's on the cusp of graduation now. Life on the other side of it doesn't look any less bleak than the last four years though, which is why after lying on his bed listening to music, becoming more despondent by the second, he rolls over and pulls a razor from the nightstand and pushes his sleeves up.

There's already a drop of blood oozing down his forearm when Violet's fingers gently close over his, pulling the blade away from flesh, her voice just as gently telling him not to do it. Not here, not now, not if he really wants to die. It's a rueful thought that maybe Tate telling her to cut vertically and lock the door was his version of her actions.

It takes a little while, and her death and subsequent resurrection, to convince the boy she's really a ghost but he does believe her eventually.

Instead of draining his blood, he bleeds out his sadness, and when his mother opens the door to check on him the next morning in a rare moment of parental concern, she finds him fast asleep. She doesn't see Violet sitting next to him in bed, carding her fingers through his hair soothingly so he could find some temporary peace.


 

It's guilt that makes Violet tell the boy one night that it's dangerous to love in this house. All it is to him is whispered words in the dark as they lay facing each other on his bed, and when she tells him about her and Tate it only serves to make jealousy rise up inside him.

But Violet saying Tate's name pulls him into the room with them. It takes him a second to make sense of what he's seeing, then he feels it.

Jealousy. Anger. Hurt. Envy.

He identifies each momentary flash of emotion, really feels it for a heartbeat, and then it's gone. He watches them from across the room, silent and still, as Violet tells the boy all the stories of love turned to tragedy in the house, starting with the Mongomery's and ending with her dad and Hayden.

Tate knows Violet's warning comes too late when the boy reaches out, his thumb rubbing across her cheek, marveling at how real she feels. He feels it in the shift of the air around them, knows that love has already made the boy crazy, knows that all he sees is Violet.

He goes back to his corner of the attic to close his eyes and find the Violet who still loves him, waiting for her to dry the tears he feels washing through him.


 

This time Tate's face is glazed in tears, real ones. Inside he's hunched in on himself, sobs and pleas tearing past his lips, fingers clawed into his palms hard enough to draw blood. On the outside though, it's quiet tears that slide down his face into his collar as he sits motionless, watching the scene unfolding in front of him.

Violet and her boy had had a fight that started with her telling him he had to get out of the house, and ended with their clothes off.

Tate's eyes tighten in pain as he watches Violet position herself over the boys cock and slink down onto it, but that's the only way his face betrays the voices screaming inside him.

He watches it all. Notices how the boy fingers flex around Violet's fragile hips at the warm embrace of her body around him. Sees Violet's hands guiding his, silently telling him all the things she likes, all the things that make her come with a muffled cry into the boys neck after they've been at it long enough to be slick with sweat and scented the room with sex.


 

Tate's mind is so lost to the life inside it he doesn't hear Violet and her boy in the room below him. His body doesn't move from the corner of the attic to go down and see what's unfolding there. He misses the hours and days and weeks spent between the girl he loves and the new boy who's making her forget the old one for the first time in more years than she'd admit to anyone, especially herself.

Tate doesn't know that the boy is exploring Violet's body the way he always imagined doing, in the way he hoped he'd spend eternity doing before she found out the things that made his words meaningless.

It doesn't matter because Violet's here with him behind his eyes. Behind his eyes she's with him on their beach, the sun glinting off her pale flesh. Behind his eyes she's curled around with, holding him close enough that he can feel her heart beating against his back. Behind his eyes is a life where she forgives him, where she was his and he was hers.

He's just waiting for her here to come reconcile all the different Violet's and Tate's back into the ones they were before.


 

Something flickers behind Tate's eyes when Violet finds him in the attic, still in his corner, still waiting. They shift when she makes her one word request; so many other words wrapped around the simple, questioning 'please'. His nod is barely noticeable, but there's a surge of gratefulness that he can perform this one last act of love for her.

Her 'thank you' comes in the form of a kiss to his cheek, and long after she's gone his fingers are still pressed over the space her lips were, like he could hold the impression of them there.

He wants to tell the sad, desperate girl kneeling in front of him not to worry, he'll make everything better. But words have no meaning, only actions do, so he kills her boy for her, not feeling sad, not feeling anything.

Once it's done he trudges back to his spot in the attic, feeling the years he won't acknowledge pressing in on him, suffocating him. There's a sigh of relief that slips past his lips when he sits down and closes his eyes, going back to the make believe world hidden inside him, fading out of the space with a smile on his lips because here and now he's with the Violet who always comes back, and he doesn't need to wait for the other one any longer. That one isn't coming back.