Thereafter

|Thereafter| Reunion

With every step he took, he felt the weight of Ekko more and more clearly. It was the physical weight, granted, but also a mental weight. Her weight had been lifted from him for so long that he almost got used to it, the absence of such a weight. But now, deep into the night, as he walked down the boulevard to her house, as he walked up the three front steps to her door, the weight reappeared from the bottom of his heart where it had sunken all those months ago. By the time he reached her door, he knew where she kept her keys, he knew how her house would be arranged, and he could find his way to the couch and put her down on it in the dark. Everything became too familiar. More familiar than he would like.

Derik took care of everything that needed to be taken care of, and after moving Ekko to the bed, he was ready to leave. As he got up, though, she made a sound. Out of nothing but instinct, he turned back to see what she was doing—it was nothing but a reflex, a reaction to an unexpected sound. That was when he saw it—her glassy eyes looking up at him in disbelief. It was too late. He knew she already recognized him. Just as easily as her weight had resumed its place for him, his resumed its place for her. No words were needed to realize that recognition.

The moment froze.

“…Derik?”

“……Yeah. It’s me, Ekko.” He surrendered to her gaze with a sigh, sitting on the floor and leaning against her bed—but not facing her. “You were drunk, so your friend called me.”

“What friend? Called you how?”

He shrugged. “Speed dial?”

“…Oh.”

“……”

“Derik.” She sat up slowly.

He didn’t even glance at her. “Rest. You need it.”

But she shook her head. “No.”

It was then that Derik looked up from where he was. Their eyes met again. Ekko crawled to the end of her bed and wrapped her arms around him. “I need you.”

“Ekko…you’re drunk. Lie down and rest. We…can talk later.” He withdrew his gaze from her once again, hiding his pained expression. Derik put his hands on her wrists, which were near his neck, and gently tore them away from him.

Yet she persisted. “I’m a bit drunk, but I remember why I drank in the first place.” She wrapped her arms around him again. “I love you even more now.”

← Lion King
Good Times →
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