She knew when she found him that everything was on its way to hell and the devil himself had his eye on Wace.
He was slumped on the couch, the dull gleam of bottles winking back at him from the coffee table. Jen estimated there must be at least twelve there, and from the glazed look in his eyes, he’d consumed them all in short order.
“Hey, baby,” she said softly as she dropped her purse to the floor, her keys sliding onto the table with a grating sound as she shut the front door behind her.
He hadn’t so much as responded when she’d thrown open the door and come barging in, her hair flying about, her eyes wide with worry. She’d gone to the hospital first, then called Coppa when he wasn’t there, but the man hadn’t seen him; neither had Trunny, nor had Wace shown up at work. That was unsurprising; he was on leave from both his jobs due to his dad’s hospitalization.
But when ringing the house had gotten her nothing, not even the answering machine, she’d been terrified of what that might mean and had rushed straight over. Now, as she stepped forward cautiously, he still didn’t acknowledge her presence, just tilted back his current bottle, taking a long swig.
“Wace, no,” she pleaded, reaching for the bottle to take it away from him.
“Th’ fuck d’you want?” he snarled, moving the bottle out of her reach but not looking at her. “’dja come ‘ere ta see some pathetic fuck-up pissin’ ‘imself t’hell?”
Jen bit her lip, her hand frozen where she’d extended it, nervousness and pure fear writhing in her stomach. She could feel the beginning of tears somewhere in her throat and mentally flailed for something to say to make it better. His erratic behavior last night, the way he’d been so desperate, so needy - the dark demons that had been tormenting him flavoring his kisses as much as the traces of alcohol on his lips - and then awakening to find him gone this morning... she was frazzled with worry, scrambling for some way to hold the threads together, but they were unraveling faster than she could grasp them.
“Well?” he barked, and she jumped a little, pulled out of her concentration. “Did ya?”
“No,” she answered simply, shaking her head.
She didn’t know what else to say - how to say it to make him believe her. She wanted to tell him he wasn’t what he thought he was, not what his past and his father made him believe he was. She wanted to show him how she saw him, to make him see all the beautiful parts he had inside, all the love she couldn’t help having for him.
“Then what?” he demanded, finally turning his eyes to her, and the rage and fear she saw there seemed to suck the air right out of her lungs.
“I love you,” she said slowly.
There it was - her only explanation for anything when it came to Wace. She just loved him. It was the way it always had been, the only reason she’d needed.
He snorted, turning away from her again, and she felt anger and hurt rise within her. Logically, she knew not to take it personally; knew he was drunk, angry, and hiding behind the walls he was throwing up around his heart, but it was the first time he’d ever brushed her off, especially in relation to this. She’d gotten used to seeing the downcast look in his eyes when he couldn’t quite believe she loved him, but he’d never been anything but accepting of her need to tell him. Until now.
“Damn it, Wace,” she snapped, her offense giving her the brass she hadn’t had before to step forward, into his personal space, and snatch the bottle out of his hand, setting it down on the table with its fellows. “Stop it.”
“You fuckin’ bitch,” he snarled, standing quickly, towering over her so that she was tempted to take a step back. “You’re not my goddamn mother.”
“Might be a good thing for you to remember that,” Jen said quietly, smarting from his insult.
“Why don’t you just leave me alone, huh?” Wace demanded, leaning into her, trying to intimidate her physically. It might have worked if she hadn’t been so far gone over the edge. The stress of the past few weeks - months, really - of trying to hold the relationship together, of trying to mend it on the fly, while Wace slowly fell apart right in front of her was all coming to the surface now, and she wasn’t going to be backing down and taking it anymore.
“If that’s what you want, then fine,” Jen said harshly. “But before I go, there’s some things I gotta tell you, and I want you to listen. You hear me?”
He didn’t respond, but he didn’t step away from her, either. His eyes burned into hers and she leaned toward him, getting right into his face.
“I know you’re dealin’ with a lot of shit. You have been for a while, and I know it’s tearin’ you up inside.”
His eyes flickered away from hers then and she got the feeling he didn’t like admitting that he didn’t have everything under control. But then, that wasn’t news to anyone in the room.
“I know you got problems I know nothin’ about, an’ I know you think I wouldn’t love you if I ever knew what they were. I know you ain’t had an easy time --”
“You don’t know the half of it,” he growled.
“I know that too,” she continued without hesitation. “You think you’re so hard, so bad-ass, untouchable under all that swearing and drinking you do.” She noticed when he flinched at her harsh, almost mocking tone, but couldn’t bring herself to stop. “But I got news for you, Wace Allan. I know how bad you’re fucked up, and it doesn’t make a difference to me.”
“Maybe it should,” he ground out, turning away from her and picking up the half-empty bottle that she’d taken away from him. “Maybe it’d make a difference if you really knew all the shit you pretend to know, all that fuckin’ shit you think you got figured out. You don’t know me at all, so stop tellin’ me everythin’s all fuckin’ dandy an’ just go the fuck away.”
He tilted the bottle up to his lips and she lost it. Rage swelled up within her and before she could think, she reached up and knocked it out of his hand. The bottle went clattering across the floor into the wall, slinging beer as it went, and there was a single moment where everything seemed to stand still. Before she could process her own actions, much less anything else, there was pain blossoming out from beneath her eye and she cried out, stumbling backwards.
She brought one hand up to cover her throbbing cheekbone, her eyes flying to Wace with tears of hurt and surprise brimming up in them. He was flexing his hand, rubbing the knuckles a little, and that was when it really dawned on her what had happened: he’d hit her.
Wace had hit her.
She choked a little as she tried to hold back a gasping sob, unwilling to let him see her break, and her fingers trembled where they rested against her swelling skin.
She saw regret and horror flash across his face, but it was gone in an instant, disappearing behind a cold, dull mask as he flopped back down onto the couch, grabbed another bottle from the floor and twisted the cap off, guzzling down another swallow as he stared off into empty space.
Without a word, Jen ran to the door, grabbing her keys and purse, and fled the house, leaving the door open behind her. Her soul splintered as two words rang through her head with certain finality: It’s over.
“’Ey, mate,” Coppa called out as Wace pushed through the door into the living room. “Jen was lookin’ for ya earlier.”
“She found me,” Wace answered shortly and Trunny looked nervously toward Coppa, who ignored him in favor of asking Wace a pointed question.
“You on th’ piss?”
Wace nodded, then said abruptly, “She’s gone.”
“Who?” Trunny asked, earning a sharp look from Coppa.
“Jen,” Wace said bitterly. “She’s left me.”
“Aw, mate, I’m sure she’s --”
“She’s fuckin’ gone, okay?” Wace shouted, making Trunny flinch.
“What ‘appened?” Coppa asked quietly.
He’d been the one to answer the phone when she’d rung early that morning. He’d heard the worry and desperation in her tone, the tears she’d been choking back as she’d said, “If -- if ‘e turns up, will ya ring me? Just ta -- just ta let me know ‘e’s okay.”
“We, uh... we ‘ad a fight,” Wace said, almost to himself as he helped himself to a beer, staring blankly into the bottle for a moment. “I -- I yelled at ‘er an’ I... she left.”
Trunny shook his head, letting out a short laugh of disbelief. “Jus’ give ‘er some time ta cool down, mate -- she’ll be back.”
“No,” Wace said with a mirthless chuckle. “No she fuckin’ won’t. I made fuckin’ sure o’ that.”
“What th’fuck did you do?” Trunny demanded.
“Shut up,” Coppa hissed urgently, but Wace didn’t acknowledge his friend’s intervention.
“I fucked it up good, Trun. It’s what I’m fuckin’ best at.”
With that, he took his bottle of beer and retreated from the room, leaving Coppa and Trunny looking at each other.
“Well, fuck,” Trunny finally said in awe. “Didn’t fuckin’ see that one comin’. Y’think she’s really left ‘im? For good, I mean?”
“Keep your fuckin’ voice down,” Coppa growled, leaving the room as well, mainly so Trunny wouldn’t have anyone to continue the conversation with.
“Well? Do ya?” Trunny yelled down the hall after him.
All he got for his troubles was the sound of a slamming door, and he sat down, leaning back against the couch.
“Well, fuck,” he muttered again to no one but the empty room.
- Razor's Edge - 27