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Oh, your love is sunlight

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When Kelso had first brought her to the basement, he felt his heart drop.
For a moment, he forgot where he was.
She was the sun, and he had to turn away.
She was ...cute for a cat hybrid. Only a fluffy tail and soft looking ears.
Then she opened her mouth and he felt a headache begin. Her voice grated his ears and her attitude annoyed him.
It didn't matter how much he wanted to see if her ears were as soft as they seemed, he swore he wouldn't like her.
He started to wear his sunglasses more often.

____________

It was little moments that led up to his resolve breaking. The way she would always come in, her tail swinging happily and ears twitching. He's glad he has his sunglasses,
she's radiating.
Then the gang would spit out any insult at her, between them that was easy.
So he didn't know why discomfort slowly seeped in when her tail would slow down just a fraction, but she always held her head up. And so he joined in, her ego was strong enough and she certainly made it known that their opinion of her meant nothing. Pretty bold for a hybrid.

___________

The first time he had seen her mad, it wasn't with the gang.
They happened to walk the street at the same time, going to the hub. The sun was setting and the last rays of sunlight made a halo on her.
It was another hybrid, a deer one being yelled at by an owner, Hyde noticed the bright red collar,
it screamed silenced and ownership. No-one stopped and no one turned, except her.
She burns, and he steps back.
That's when he noticed her own collar, a sleek, thin, purple collar that matched her own dress.
Just as he asked what's wrong - he knew what was wrong but like everyone else he elected to ignore it - she looked straight through him.
"Nothing"
She smiled and walked off.
He felt a little ashamed afterward, his social warrior inside scolded him. While hybrids were now treated like living beings, that doesn't mean that their rights followed them everywhere. A collar was needed at all times. Everyone knew Jackie, who she belonged to.

___________

 

He heard her try to explain to Kelso when she couldn't go to a certain restaurant without her owner.
"Jackie, c'mon I'm starving" Kelso yelled while looking down at his coupon happily. Hyde entranced by the way her tail swung violently.
Her collar was the color of Kelso's shirt.
"Michael, I can't go without my owner" her voice wavered just a bit.
"Owner, huh, sounds kinky!" He laughed while bumping her shoulder.
That wasn't strange to hear from Kelso, it also wasn't strange to hear in general. While it's illegal now, everyone knows and elects to ignore hybrids with blood between their legs. She huffed and called him disgusting, she can't say anything else.
She dwindles.
He wonders if anyone tried to call her for 'companionship' or if her "father" ever called her into his room late at night.

___________

At the Disco that everyone dragged him to go to, she seems to swim in the music. Fez danced with her and knew how to make her glow.
Or did she always glow?
He wonders how she would feel in his arms. He wrinkles his nose at the thought. He ignores it and goes to Donna. He likes Donna.

___________

When Kelso breaks up with her, she goes to him. Swings her arms around him.
He fights off his arms on instinct, he can't wrap his arms around her.
He's scared he might like it, he knows he might not let go.
Her collar was thick and he felt the cold leather on his neck.
He's reminded again that she's the sunrise and he can't look at her without getting a headache.
He needs more sleep.
She's summer and he prefers the fall, like Donna.
That night when it's just him and her in the basement, and he wonders why she doesn't want to go home, she gives off a small whimper and looks down at the cheap bracelet that Kelso had gotten her.
She's muted in the low light of the basement. He doesn't like it.
He can look at her, and he can see that she isn't the perfect cheerleader or the perfect pet.
He remembers when Kelso bought it.
"So everyone knows who she belongs to, we might even bone if I give it to her! " Kelso laughed and so did the gang.
She doesn't know that conversation. She traces the "K" on the bracelet, he wants to tell her.
It was ownership and she was finally free. But she wasn't happy. Why wasn't she happy?

___________

It's almost prom and Jackie has no one to go with.
She begs and begs and he feels a headache begin.
It's moments like these that remind him why he dislikes her.
But then she cries.
He was never good with soothing others, with being a shoulder to cry on.
He doesn't want to take her to prom. He's actually a little surprised that they allowed her to go.
It must be her parents, he thinks.
"Jackie do you want to go to prom?!" He finally yells out, anything to stop her from crying.
From touching him.
Later he noticed that she seems to bask in warmth. The basement is always cold.
Later, when she arrives in that dress, she’s stunning.
He's taken aback when she asks if she could meet his mom.
No, he thinks, he can't do that.
He guides her to the yard.
He will never admit to anyone how long he stood in the flower shop trying to pick the right corsage, pockets filled with dirty bills he stole from his mother's visitors.
His knees bruised from getting coins from under his bed, and couch, and the basement.
He will go to his deathbed, never whispering a word of how many times he stepped out and stepped back into the flower shop.
How his stomach growled for a day and a half because that money was supposed to be for lunch.
But looking at her, his heart whispered contentment.
His mind has yet to agree.
Her collar has flowers painted on.
And when they start to dance, he tightens his hold on her when he sees that a few are staring.
At her ears, at her tail, at her collar.
He half listens, making sure that the stares were at her back.
And when Kelso yells at him about asking Jackie out, all he could muster up is that she was crying.
And so he lets her go back to Kelso. He chooses to ignore the bracelet back on her arm when he leads Kelso's date out.

___________

When his mom leaves him, he moves in with the Formans. He notices that sometimes she stands closer to him. Almost like she senses he has a parent shaped hole in his chest, and she's trying to smooth down some of the ragged edges. Like her warmth might turn into liquid form and fill him up.
He wishes she would stand closer.

___________

He laughs when he finds out that Kelso is sleeping with Eric's sister.
At night, he ignores the gnawing guilt.
He hates it.
He doesn't understand why he wants Kelso to get caught.
It'll be hilarious, he reasons when he comes along to Vanstock.
He tries but never too much.
He swears that he doesn't care.
And he doesn't.
He doesn't.
Jackie looks at him smiling while sitting on Kelso.
She shines.
Her collar matches one of her eyes.
He does.
But just because he wants her gone.

___________

At the adult party that Jackie had so wanted to do, he snickers when Kelso almost sets fire to her entire house.
Then he notices how she lives. Was she always alone?
Like him?
He sees a painting of her family.
She's sitting on the ground like a pet sits in front of its owner.
It unsettled him.
She finds him.
"I can't remember my real parents, I was a gift for his wife. She couldn't have a child, and he didn't want one. Turns out he likes me more"
She finishes, never staring at him. He wants to ask in what context does her "father" like her.
He doesn't want to know.
She's the moon now, and she had a side of her so cold, the sun couldn't burn on it.
When he sees her room, he makes fun of her.
He doesn't know how to say what he feels.
His mouth always says the wrong thing.
Her room is filled with pink and toys, he understands why.
She was never a child to anyone.
She was a plaything. A pet.
And she won't throw away anything and she won't grow up.
She knows that growing means the truth of what she was.
Growing up means that she's not like everyone else.
Growing up means realizing that she doesn't have parents, she has owners.
He ignored the hundreds of collars on her wall.

___________

"But if I left, you'd really miss me, right?"
He huffs and goes back to folding. His clothes come from the dryer warm and it reminds him of the girl standing next to him. He continues to ignore her.
He tries, he really tries, he's not someone she should rely on.
He's not a shoulder to cry on.
But he fumbles and she takes it as a reason to talk.
Her collar jingles as she jumps off the freezer.
"But I noticed that you're alone a lot, and I'm alone a lot."
She walks with him.
He wants to run.
She comes into his room and the room is too small for her, too small for him.
"Look, we’re alone right now"
He needs to get out.
She asked him to go to the mall.
He only agrees to go with her because she's paying, he reasons.
He secretly basks in her attention.
The sun was shining on him, and he felt full.
When she tries to kiss him,
she's too bright.
She's trying to fill cement unto the potholes that Michael created.
He's wood.
And it will splinter, burn, and decay.
He ignores the way "doll" rolls off his tongue.
When she kisses his cheek in front of Kelso.
He tries to bite back a smile.
He goes to sleep remembering smooth lips on his cheek, and the chime of her collar ringing in his ear.

___________

When they play monopoly in the basement, he feels at peace, Jackie wasn't annoying, Forman wasn't slobbering all over Donna, and Fez was Fez.
Then Kelso and Laurie come in. Jackie found out about Kelso cheating. And her ears lay flat on her head.
Then he teaches her the art of zen.
When she happily complied with his wishes, he wondered what else could he have asked her?
He felt something hum underneath his skin.
Jackie ignored the tingle running down her spine at his orders.
"Hyde, would you like to go to a movie tonight?"
He's glad he remembers what to say. It sounds too real.
When she shows off her skills,
she beams at him
His fingers ache for something to hold onto.
When Laurie insults her, she keeps her cool. Until Laurie crosses the line. Even he wouldn't have said something like that.
It happened too fast.
Jackie is quick and graceful, she lands a punch on Laurie's eye, and Hyde wishes he could have recorded.
She's the sun again.

___________

When Hyde, Jackie, Laurie, and Donna sit in a circle, it's fun.
The yearbook picture is still on everybody's mind.
Donna laughs and admits to liking showing her butt.
"If you guys wanna take off some clothes, and shake some stuff. Feel free."
He laughs but turns to Jackie
"Not you."
He's glad that high Hyde has a sense of that.
He knows that he was joking, the girls knew he was joking.
But the image of Jackie stripping made him tense.
Her collar was the color of her skin.
That night, he slept with a girl with soft fur.
A fox-hybrid and she mewls and smiles at him when he tastes her.
He doesn't remember the chicks name but he remembers the heat from her skin
He tells himself that the chicks fur and Jackie's fur was different.
Jackie's was glossy.
And if he grunted out a half-formed word, closely related to the syllables of the sun-kissed girl, he blames it on the alcohol.

___________

They're too different.
She's rich, he's poor.
She's a cheerleader, he's a burnout.
She's the sun and he was dust forming into a giant comet racing to crash and burn.
She was unapologetically herself, he hides and he withdraws.
She's too young and naive, and he knows the cruelty of adults and his best friend was pain.
"You think you know me, but you don't," she tells him.
The conversation is too real for him, he does what is natural for him.
He retreats, and he jokes and gets angry.
He hates that she's the only person that could make him this angry.
He's feeling too much, and he's not equipped to handle this.

Then she comes to him with a bag full of weed.
When he speaks up to the police officer, he surprises himself.
Not that he's getting arrested, that he's taking the fall for someone he swore he would never like.
For a person he dislikes, but he's loyal.
To who? He doesn't know.
To the gang? Yes, they're easy.
He's loyal to familiarity, he reasons.
Jackie is someone who carved her way into the group, she was familiar. In the way your school was, you could insult it and dislike and maybe even hate it, but once someone tries to insult it, you take some weird offense to it, begrudgingly.
He knows Jackie would never survive in a place like jail.
Hybrids are killed and raped in jail.
That's another reason, he tells himself.

When he gets out, she sits down next to him at the hub.
He wants to get angry, but she starts to hold his hand.
And he stills for a fraction.
He doesn't know what this is.
He knows pats on the back, he knows fists and blood, and he knows awkward side hugs from Mrs.Forman.
All those were heavy and firm.
She was light and soft.
Her collar matches his eyes.
He tries to fight her off, tell her he doesn't love her and never will.
He spits venom while she lays sugar.
And he bits the inside of his cheek to focus.
Her touch is gentle but intrusive.
He doesn't know anything gentle and doesn't want to know.
At night, when he can't fight off his thoughts, he clutches his hand to his chest, and his skin burns for more.
He might get attached, he hates her for it.
If he gets attached, he won't let go.

___________

And then the barbecue happens.
He knows what she's doing. Getting some guy to date her won’t make him jealous. And even though he knew, he feels the annoying bitterness.
He won't admit it, he'll never admit what it really is.
So he follows them, not too closely, Jackie might call him out.
Close enough to hear her laugh.
This time the bitterness seeps through into his body.
The ugly thing inside him twists his stomach, and he feels it wrap around his throat.
A small part of him, the deepest and darkest part of him, yells out possession.
Mine! It seemed to shout. The part that he hadn’t paid attention to since he was a child.
That hoarded and held tightly onto anything that was his because he knew someone would take it away from him if he didn’t fight for it.
She was not his, and not a possession.
But he's cruel to himself, and he feels the bitterness turn into self-hatred.
She's better off, his heart whispers.
I don't care and I don't want to know, he yells back.
But then, he hears Chip call her a bitch and his ill intentions.
He laughs a little but he's confused at the tremble in his fist.
She's young, he tells Chip.
Maybe he tells himself too.
He looks back at Jackie.
She's smiling and laughing.
And she's dazzling.
He remembers her tears when Micheal broke up with her.
He remembers her ears laying flat on her head when Laurie comes into the room.
He remembers her jumping in his arms.
He remembers her lips on his.
His fist collides with Chip's face.
He tries to tell Jackie not to view him as a knight in shining armor.
But it's too late.
He wants to yell, he's not someone to idolize, he's not a good guy.
When Mrs. Forman calls her his girlfriend, he snaps.
"No! How could I like her? Because I don't like her! Because I can't like her!"
He can't.
She's too much and he's too little.
His mind and heart are in conflict. But punching Chip, going to jail for Jackie, teaching Jackie his main defense mechanism which essentially makes him vulnerable to her - all add up to an equation he doesn't know how to solve.
Doesn't want to solve.
But he knows the only way to get this over with is to take Jackie on a friggin' date.

___________

Jackie doesn't talk.
She secretly feels relieved.
She doesn't have to talk, she knows Hyde isn't a talker, and being on a date with him means she doesn't have to talk.
Doesn't have to fill the silence.
Hyde doesn't know how to feel about that.
And then Jackie says something incredibly stupid like,
“...so you're probably sitting there thinking "I'm on this date with this girl who really, really likes me... and you're wondering "How can I open up to her when everyone I have ever loved has abandoned me. Am I even worthy of love?". Well... you are, Steven. You are.”

And it hits too close to home.
She was right.
He doesn't know her at all.
And so his body and mouth do what is normal.
They spit and laugh, and she wants to leave.
He brings her back, not because he wants her, he tells himself.
It's night, and it's dangerous for girls like her.
And he doesn't want to talk, he asks her what music she wants.
He complies even when the song is too sweet and she stands in front of him expectantly.
And he dances.
She's faint and mellow.
She's the sundown and he can finally see her.
She feels nice and he won't admit how much he likes the feel of her against him.
She's too small and delicate.
He's rough and broken.
She might cut herself on him.
When she shivers, he gives her his jacket, and when she asks how the date was going, he responds the only way he could.
"It's no worse than bowling"
She furrowed her eyebrows.
"I don't hate bowling"
He hates everything, and he can't form the proper words he wants to say.
He doesn't have enough words, he never has.

The kiss.
It was an inferno.
He understands why Forman called her the devil.
She tasted of cherry cola and sad hopefulness.
He hates it.
(He doesn't.)
She says she doesn't feel anything.
He might feel everything.
The lies come out before he could process it, he's glad he's on autopilot.
He doesn't know how to turn it off.

What he doesn't know is how scared Jackie was at that moment.
Hyde is not a hero or a knight in shining armor that will woo her.
He's real.
He might disappoint her, he will need patience and persistence.
And she doesn't know how to deal with someone who's real.
Someone who has the potential to break through the facade that she worked so hard to paint and color.

She's too young and he grew up too fast.
They would combust and destroy everything in their wake.
___________

Funland was supposed to be fine, they all enjoyed themselves. So when a mascot groped her, he felt his feet and fist move before he could process it. She glanced at him, her eyes seemed to go through six emotions all at once.
Later, when Donna and Fez leave because their parents called, and Kelso forgets to come back from the store, and Red yells at Foreman to go, he and Jackie sit in silence. He's baked and she's watching a TV show he doesn't know and doesn't care enough to know.
"Why didn't you tell Kelso?" He asks, his words are slightly slurred.
She looked at him, and she seemed to understand his question, and the rest he wanted to ask but too high to voice. Why didn't you react? Does it happen often? How are you not mad? She offers an answer that makes him go cold.
"I'm owned, I'll always be owned"
And he understands, as much as he can with weed filling his lungs and alcohol swimming in his veins.

___________

When they kiss for the first time that summer, he feels uncontrollable.
He swears he would never do it again.
Then she comes back with shorts too small and her hair up.
She's gorgeous.
She sits next to him and he feels restless.
She's buzzing in anticipation. She wants him to make the first move.
In the end, just like the day before, they both lean in.
She's hot under his touch and he relishes in it even though the basement is humid.
They keep their charade up.
Never going far.
It builds up.
It starts when the angle they're kissing at is too uncomfortable to kiss with.
She ends up with her leg on his.
And he wants to feel her against him but he tightens his hold on her making sure that they don't cross another line.
When she comes in with a dress and sits down trying to play the charade.

She flips her hair and her dewy skin calls to him.
He's tired and lifts her to his lap.
She yelps and giggles.
He glows.
Then she's too much.
She's giving off too much warmth and she gives out half mewls and purrs.
He’s getting blue balls and he wants to stop because then they might do something that they won't be able to come back from.
But she tightens her hold on him and ruts against him.
He moans when he feels her heat.
He tentatively moves his hands down slowly to her thighs and he feels her goosebumps.
But then they hear footsteps and they jump back.
She doesn't come back for two days.
She will never admit to anyone that she came home that night desperately rutting against a pillow.
He climbs her window on the third night under the excuse of wanting to raid her father's alcohol cabinet.
But he sees her standing in her nightgown, moonlight kissing her skin and for the first time, he goes to her without fighting.
They don't undress fully, but they find a good medium and they grind against each other.
He feels her core and he moans without fear.
She yells his name and he cums.
He cleans her up and he stays until sunrise.
They continue the same routine for the next week until she climbs on top of him.
He secretly wishes that Kelso would never come back.
He grips his hands on her waist, it's tiny and he could easily break her.
She slows her movements, enjoying the way his face scrunches up and sighs up to the heavens with her name falling out of his lips.
She's sure that the iron grip he has on her will leave bruises and the thought makes her stomach coil and she's desperately trying to get closer to him.
He grabs her ass and he rolls her hips against his.
He’s a masochist because the rhythm they have is cruel and slow.
But he’s feeling her heat and hearing her moaning out his name.
His name.
He has to make it last.
She strips him of his underwear and before he could say that she didn't have to do that.
She has him in her mouth.
He throws his head back and a moan escapes him.
She's inexperienced but the warmth from her mouth makes him choke.
"I've never done this with anyone"
She tells him and he feels his ego inflate.
This is something that Kelso never had privy to.
It makes his head spin and he ignores the electric feeling of that knowledge settling down.
She tentatively licks and he notices that her tongue isn't normal.
She has small barbs, like a cat he realized.
The sensation brings a tingle down his spine.
She can't fit him in her mouth but she relishes in the fullness of him.
And her blood hums at the thought of him inside her.
When she starts to bob her head back and forth on his member, slowly trying to get as much as him as possible inside her mouth, tears spring from her eyes.
He wipes the tears away from her and he asks her if she wants to stop in a voice that she has never heard from him.
She shakes her head and goes again, she relaxes her throat and breathes through her nose.
"You're doing so well, baby"
The praises keep coming as she continues to suck.
He grabs her head to feel the motion, she loves it when his finger tightens and when his hands leave her hair she almost whimpers.
She holds onto his thighs as he moves his hips, he slowly begins to form a rhythm until his grip on her hair seems to tighten and he's breathing heavily.
He sings praises in between moans and breathless whispers reach her ears, and somehow she's on her knees on the floor.
He knows this is her first time, and he knows better than to be rough with her.
"Jackie"
He breathes out, slowing down his movements, as much as it pains him.
" I'm- I'm-you can stop if you want" he breathes out, and it feels like an out of body experience because even though he slowed down his pace in hopes of her stopping she still has him in her mouth.
And she gives him a look and starts sucking harder, moving her head faster.
His breath gets caught at her movements, and he's trying not to touch her because he doesn't want to hurt her, so he keeps his hands behind him.
But she leads his hands towards her hair and gives in.
She seemed to notice because her eyes seem to dare him to push this farther.
His hips buck and he's gently leading her head.
She starts to use her hands to keep his shaft propped in her mouth while her lips suck on the head.
“F-fuck” Hyde stutters and his fingers tighten on her hair.
Jackie, determined, slides her mouth back and forth. Hyde’s hips move in reply.
His finger slips from her hair to the base of her neck, he tightens the grip and pushes her head to match his thrusts.
Jackie can hear her name falling from his lips while the praises stroke her and fill her up.
She suddenly feels two hands grasp the back of her neck and hair, Hyde’s moans grow hot and heavier, with shuddering breath he begins to roughly push her head to match his pace.
She moans and the vibration makes Hyde’s hips stutter.
Just as his stomach seemed to tighten, her movements started to slow.
"N-no Please"
Hyde groaned sharply.
"God please faster"
He gasped.
Her jaw was tired, but Hyde's raw moans made her tremble in the best way possible.
So she starts bobbing her head as fast as she could, using her hands to pump him.
Hyde could feel it.
The tension building and threatening to get out.
"J-Jackie I'm gonna-"
He gasped out trying to step back, but she tightened her hold.
His movements became erratic and his mouth hung open.
His thrust met her speed.
He felt himself suck a huge gulp of hair when a groan escaped him.
His member pulsed and she could feel him get bigger.
And then something hot and thick splashed onto her tongue filling her mouth.
She pulled away when she couldn't hold anymore.
He managed to look down at her to see her hands clasped over her mouth and before he could say anything she gulped it down.
He felt his heart race at the scene, and something primal in him seemed to be pleased because she chose to have him in her mouth as her first.
(As much as he hated the thought because virginity was a social construct made to shame people, mainly women, especially hybrids from having sex.)
The thought of having known that Micheal or any other man never shared this experience with her made him extremely, stupidly happy.
And he secretly and foolishly wished that no one else can have any part of her.
She trembled as she stood up, he brought her close and started to kiss and bite at her naked chest, as she caught her breath.
When he felt her relax, he brought her onto the bed and reached down.
She was already wet so he easily slipped a finger in her.
She purrs at the feeling.
No one has gone down on her and she feels like hiding but as she tries to close her legs, Hyde bites her inner thigh and holds her thighs open.
When he goes in a second time, she moans.
He starts kissing her chest and neck and she's ok dying like this.
His lips go to her nipples, and her chest follows him as he lets go and goes to the other.
The saliva making it easier for him to roll her nipple in between his fingers and she starts to rut against his leg, he could feel her slick and he feels himself harden.
He kisses and bites and makes sure that there are marks on her as he goes down.
He spread her folds and began to tentatively lick.
She sighed and relaxed at his touch.
He began to explore, using her moans as a map.
Jackie couldn’t go through more, she needed him.
“Hyde” she gasps out.
"Can I?" He asks.
Her heart warms at the question.
She nods.
"I need you to say it, Jackie"
She blushed.
"Yes, please Steven, I need you."
He feels his heart flutter for a moment.
When he enters her, it's heaven.
He knows neither of them are virgins but he secretly enjoys watching her choke for a second on his size.
She feels so full and she wants to stay like this forever.
He fills her up and it's almost a primal feeling that she's sensing.
He starts moving and she brings him closer.
She leans her forehead to his and it feels intimate.
More intimate than anything.
She blushed at eye contact but as he's moving, he wants her to look, no, needs her to look at him.

He just needs
He needs
He needs her.

__________________________________________________________

There are fights, there are arguments. There's slammed doors and broken glass at times.

But they always come back to each other.

They sink and fall into each other and Hyde hates it when she's gone.

After her father got arrested and her mother left her, a new understanding with each other was formed.

She still laughed and smiled and loved, god, how much she loved.

He could still tell that the empty and hollow feeling gets to her just like it does to him.

In those times, she comes to him and kisses him like he had a power inside him that would make it all go away.

When he feels the biting cold of bitterness and the angry coil in his stomach, she always seems to find him. Knows when a distraction is needed, when to just sit quietly near him, or when to snap him out of his self-loathing.

She touches him tenderly and he lets himself be taken care of.

At times, her love seems to seep out of every pore in her body, at others, she has a longing that drapes over her shoulders that he has to step back.

So he tries, because words never come easily to him, they slip and escape like soap before he can properly know what he wants to say. They always stumble and grate against his lips.

And so when she comes to him, and he knows he's at his most vulnerable, he lets himself go.

Lets his thoughts wander out and find her. And she whimpers and cries at his words and for once, he feels worthy of her love.

And during one of those times, when he feels love so uncontrollable that he doesn't know what to do with his body, he asks her to marry him.

She says no to him, and he freezes for a moment, feels his stomach drop, until she laughs and asks about a ring.

He rolls his eyes at her because that's so Jackie.

And he’s so unconditionally and irrevocably in love with her because he thinks that her eyes must be the stars he so desperately wants to touch. Her lips must be the anchor that he holds onto because that's the only time he feels real. And she must love him back because she calls out his name like it's her version of absolution and it makes it so easy to believe that these broken parts of themselves can be made into mosaics that hang in museums that’ll outlast their last breath.