"Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice: then must you speak
Of one that loved not wisely but too well;
Of one not easily jealous, but being wrought
Perplex'd in the extreme;"
You close your eyes and there she is...a fleeting vision of dark curls and bright smile on the edges of your black lids...light and gossamer and ever so transient. When you swallow hard and feel the punch to your guts, you blink. You glance across the room and strain to hear the quiet murmurs they exchange as their hands shyly flirt across the weapons they are cataloging.
"...I don't know...Charles..." She blushes.
"Shoot, Girl...you know it...you do..." He grins, idiotically happy.
And you turn away, shuffling the papers on the counter as if the flip-flip movement can drown out the churning of your stomach.
They are your friends.
You cannot deny them their right to happiness. You will not.
You know that. You can be gracious and oblivious and impassive...as if you never looked, never wanted, never loved.
You are, after all, every inch a gentleman.
But, sometimes...just sometimes...you wish you were every *other* inch. That you could take and take and take. That you could pull her close and take her dewy innocence inside you and claim it as yours.
You tried once. And your fingers flex, remembering the handle of the ax, the weight of it, heavier than the rage. You remember marking her pale, white, cheek with your raw, red fingerprints. Telling her you weren't weak. Telling her you weren't to be ignored.
Remembering it makes you weep in the cold, lonely depths of your bedroom.
And you wake up, sometimes, screaming, and curse Billy under your breath.
More often than not, you curse yourself. Because that monster's touch only brought out what is ever present inside you. What pulses beneath your flesh even now.
You could drag her out of his embrace. You could hit him and hit him and hit him until she would no longer find beauty in the planes of his face. You could whisper things, like Iago, in your Othello's ear...things that would make him turn away...and the fair Desdemona would forever be yours...at least in your most twisted delusions, you believe that. And you could scream until your throat bled from the force of it. And ask them *why*. Why not me?
But you do not. You ask not.
Because you are, after all, every inch a gentleman.
A proper Englishman...always proper...down to the faded cane marks on your palms and the scent of bergamot that clings to your coat no matter how many times you wash bloodstains from it in your bathroom sink.
And because you all ready know the answers.
You aren't good enough.
You aren't man enough.
You are nothing more and nothing less than what you are and always will be.
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