The tips of their toes are touching. His soft, warm socks against her overly fluffy ones. It’s the most they’ve touched in a week. And still, Paige craves more.
After a while, he sighs. Paige looks up at him expectantly, carefully.
“For what?” Her voice is barely a whisper, but she knows Devon can hear it.
“Everything, I guess.” He breaks the gaze, resigned. “I... I shouldn’t have – I mean, you’re not selfish.”
She is searching for his eyes again, trying to find some way to connect other than the warmth from their toes. He must feel her watching him, because he looks up once more.
“I don’t think you called me selfish, exactly.” It’s meant as a quip, but it sounds too sad. Devon looks pained. Paige wants to take that look off of his face, somehow.
“I might as well have. I said that you only look out for yourself, and that just... Isn’t true.”
“I forgive you-“
“That doesn’t make it right.” He is determined, firm.
“You weren’t the only wrong person, here. It takes more than one person to have a fight, right? I should’ve talked to you more. I should never have... With your uncle...” She trails off. Devon knows.
“I know why you did it,” he insists, “and I should have been more understanding. If I was in your position... If I thought my chances of leaving here alive were slim, then I got an offer, I probably would have-“
“No. You wouldn’t have.” At the fierceness of her words, he bows his head down again. Concentrates on their feet – how their toes are just touching, a harsh contrast to the lack of touch at present.
“I’m going to be better.” Paige decides.
“Hmm? Better at what?”
“At... Talking to people. Telling... Telling people how I really feel.” At the word people, her eyes flit up to his.
“Start now, then.” They’ve been speaking quietly the entire time, but Paige barely hears his words.
“Ok.” She sighs, tightens her hold around her knees. He is patient with her. He waits for her to be ready. He simply is.
“I stayed in a home until I was 7, and then went to one of the MAEWIN schools. And the school was... Competitive, to say the least. And I knew about my mom, so it was kind of difficult. I had to look out for myself, what with grades and everything. I know that doesn’t excuse what I done.
“In high school, I wasn’t the best student. I just... Didn’t see a future for myself, I guess. I kind of gave up on other people, you know, having any kind of functional relationship with them. College came after, and I passed the exams reasonably well. I even had my own apartment for a year or so, before the Hunt.”
Her voice sounds pained and she knows it, but Paige has to make Devon understand. She can’t read the look on his face, but hopes that he’s taking it in.
“Even though I was doing alright in the arena, I still thought I had no chance of getting out.”
“And then my Uncle...”
“Yeah. But I never could’ve done it. Ever.” She pauses, stares up at the ceiling. “I was scared. But I chickened out.” She repeats herself, firmly. “I could never have done it. Not to you.”
She feels his toes curl against hers and meets his eyes. He’s staring at her strangely, as though searching for something. Finally, he speaks up: “Tell me more about how you feel.”
“Tell me more. I-I never really knew where we were. I couldn’t tell if we were friends or something other... But, I want to know the truth.”
“I thought you were ridiculous when we first met. But when we had that talk on the roof, I... Felt something. You actually listened to me, and you had interesting things to say in response. I didn’t feel scared anymore.
In training, I really wanted to talk to you again. But then, when I finally had the chance, you, uh, noticed that other girl. I felt really jealous. Like, the most jealous I had felt in a while.”
“And?” He prompts, eyes wide. Paige loosens her grip around her knees.
“And I realised that I liked you. A lot. And as I got to know you better, I liked you even more. But, with your Uncle... But even when we had that fight, about you wanting to be a Doctor, I still couldn’t kill you. Not even when I knew there would be no consequences, and I would get out.
I was secretly really glad that Avery shut us out on the roof together. I hated you not talking to me. And yeah, I knew that was in the wrong, but I love talking to you, and not being able to do that crushed me. I thought, after our talk, that you’d forgiven me, but I guess I should’ve known that... What I done, or was planning to do to you couldn’t be forgiven so easily. I know that now.
I think that the worst part of seeing you with Lynnette was the fact that she was so open with her feelings. There was never any hesitation, on her part, to show how much she liked you. I wanted that. I got angry, ‘cause I couldn’t help but think that it should’ve been me and you. That was selfish, and immature, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry about everything.”
“What about now?” His hand inches towards hers. Their fingers brush, feather light, before Devon holds her hand. Paige can’t quite breathe, her thoughts are going wild – is this it, what is he doing, why isn’t he responding????
“Now?” She is scared, but he squeezes her hand gently. Now, she is bold.
“I’m pretty sure that I love you.” The words are rushed, and even she is surprised at them, but she makes no move to take them back. “I love you... More than anything else in the world, probably. I could get offered a thousand job offers and ways to get out and I wouldn’t take them, not if you weren’t getting out with me. You’re... You’re one of the best people I know.”
He says nothing for a minute, but then the words come out, strong and sure. “I love you, too.”
And smile starts spreading across her face and he mirrors it, moving and adjusting himself until he’s properly facing her on the bed, all barriers lost.
“I love you,” she says again, firmly.
“And I love you.”
Paige isn’t sure who initiated it but suddenly they are kissing and she can see why Lynnette done it so much because kissing Devon really is wonderful. He wraps his arms round her waist, pulling her closer to him, and she can feel the smile on his lips. Her eyes are squeezed shut, and at least for a moment, she is in bliss.
Devon breaks away from her, and Paige finds herself chasing his lips. Usually she would be embarrassed by this fact, but at the moment she couldn’t care less. She gives him a shy smile, and he takes her other hand in his.
They still have a lot to talk over, and they still remain in MAEWIN, and, tomorrow, they will still have to enter into the arena and fight people to stay alive. Right now, however, everything is good.