He had once asked her what type of quiet she was used to.
It was this kind.
There was noise, sure. Rapid fire typing. A sigh. The crinkle of a chip bag. An occasional voice even. But these things seemed to create a bubble around her, shrouded her in a stillness that only served to remind Olivia she was genuinely alone inside herself. Just as everyone was.
Facing his outbursts had been easy. They were a reaction to levels of stress and shock and fear and pain that she could not even begin to comprehend processing. But she was determined to be patient. Wait for him as long as necessary. Olivia owed him her life; it was the least she could do, especially after waking up to him talking over her…
I sometimes dream about you someday accepting the real me. A ridiculous dream, but thank you for letting me dream it.
Silent tears had fallen across the bridge of her nose and onto the pillow as he continued to speak. Unaware.
Letting me protect you… is much more than I deserve. That is enough for Saeyoung.
She had sworn she would not let Seven face this by himself, and the night before had cemented that desire. But then he had hit her where he knew it would do the most damage.
I’m going to forget everyone here. You are all memories that will become meaningless to me. Even you.
Luckily, she had been in bed when that brutal chat had taken place, and the privacy screen Seven had gone out and bought after his first night in the apartment gifted her the ability to cut herself off from him. Because of that, she did not plan to move until that empty sensation in her chest passed, even if he was right.
Everything was temporary.
Feelings were not facts, memories lied, and who she was didn’t matter.
Sniffling, she angrily dashed away the tear trying to escape. Almost instantaneously that bubble around her popped, and she suddenly felt very aware of herself and her surroundings. She heard her heartbeat in her ears. Seven’s shape silhouetted through the screen seemed to loom over her. And she felt with clarity the divide between before and after. Then a split-second later, the whir of the robocat powering on.
“Shit,” Seven muttered, turning his attention elsewhere. “Why is this on again…”
“I turn on when I detect concerning patterns in Olivia’s behavior,” robocat intoned. “She has not answered any of her recent calls. There have been six alone in the past five minutes.”
“She’s safe. Power down,” Seven clipped out.
“I cannot. Based on the most recent chat log Olivia may be in emotional distress.”
Seven knew that just as Olivia knew he had hurt her on purpose. Still, the current course would only make everything worse for both of them. Clearing the backup of emotion from her throat, Olivia called out. “I’m okay,” she said, voice hoarse. “Be quiet, please. I mean—“
“God Seven, you programmed me to watch over her. Why would you harm her? She’s the person you lo—“
“Damnit! I said shut up!”
A sudden crash made Olivia jump with a start. Then reactively she hauled her ass out of bed so fast she nearly gave herself whiplash.
“Why do you always run toward danger?!” Seven demanded, glaring at her.
“It’s programmed into me,” Olivia clapped back, unable to prevent herself from mirroring his tone. Though it was sharper than she would have liked.
“I can’t believe you broke it,” she added in a softer voice. Stooping down, Olivia collected the partially separated halves.
“Just leave it. It’s useless,” Seven muttered, lingering awkwardly on the other side of the island. “I’ll throw it away later.”
Olivia may not be a hacker genius, but she had gotten perfect marks in university, and like Seven, had also graduated early. She had her degree in mechanical engineering and felt the petty need to remind him she was neither lighthearted nor dumb.
“I’m perfectly capable of fixing it.” She set the pieces on the granite countertop between them. “It’ll give me something to do since I can’t leave the apartment.”
Looking askance, Seven shook his head. “That’ll change soon. I’m almost done, then I’ll leave so you can forget about me.”
“That won’t be as easy for me as it will be for you,” she said.
Seven closed his eyes as if pained. A muscle jumped in his jaw, and the fingers tugging at the cord of his headphones became a hand covering his cross. “It’s none of your business how easy it will or won’t be for me. You couldn’t have known, but this is how it was always going to be.”
“Everything that surrounds me,” he continued, looking at her intently, “is an illusion that exists in the temporary life of an agent named 707. It’ll all fade away soon. My house, my cars, the RFA, you, this place… everything. One day it will all disappear like the morning fog. A real life, real things I can have… I don’t think or hope those things exist.”
It hurt more because Olivia wanted to be real, wanted to exist in the same world as Seven. She kept thinking back to all the times he’d been vulnerable or raw around her, and how the entire time, Seven had been planning to forget her. It occurred to her, of course, that his behavior since the incident with his twin was merely his way of trying to regain control of a situation so completely out of his control. But that acknowledgment didn’t make it any less painful.
“Yeah, I get it,” she breathed. “This was all a lie.”
It took less than a second, but Olivia was not surprised when Seven appeared, somewhat unexpectedly, directly in front of her. This happened every time she came too close to the real problem between them. Knowing what was about to occur, Olivia braced a hand on the island and turned her face away from him. It probably just made it more obvious she was trying to hide something, but she hadn’t cried in front of him yet, and she certainly did not want to start now.
“I know you said you… love me, but my life… I can’t have things like that,” Seven said after a minute. “You don’t know how it feels to live that kind of life.”
She nodded, and ready to get this over with, lifted her head. Her eyes were lowered, looking at the hollow of his collarbone, and it took a moment more, but she managed to raise her eyes to his. Whatever he saw in her face made him angry. It always did. So with a sharp resolve in his beautiful amber gaze, he snapped, “Don’t you see?! The person you fell in love with is the 707 in the chat room — not me!”
Olivia visibly recoiled away from the sudden bellow, but she saw something in his expression break before the tears she had been fighting to hold back sprung from her eyes.
Finally, Seven got the reaction he wanted from her, but he found no satisfaction in it.
All he had done was break someone still trying to piece themselves back together. Someone whose only crime was caring about him. All at once Seven pictured a world where Olivia was the one who left him with only her fingerprints to remind him she existed, and something inside him seemed to fracture.
He turned to walk away, leave her like he had left Saeran. He was weak and pathetic and knew he couldn’t handle being the one cast aside. But he wasn’t able to take more than one step because suddenly Olivia wrapped herself around him from behind, and his whole body stiffened.
“Then let me get to know the person in front of me!” Olivia demanded, pressing herself against his back.
The warmth of her was jarring, ripping him from a fog of vague existence into perfect, real-time clarity. He was real, she was real; they could be real if he only allowed it. Tension melded seamlessly into a shame that blazed through him. This time the sudden upwelling of tears was less like a wave and more like a punch to the throat.
“Olivia…” Seven managed, even as his voice cracked. “Why are you doing this? I told you. My life… It’s dangerous and filled with lies. I couldn’t protect my one and only brother, so I have to abandon you if I want to save you. Why can’t you understand that?”
“I hear what you’re saying, but still I care about the Seven that’s right here,” she said calmly, seriously. Her fingers curled slightly into his shirt in the space over his heart.
He placed his hand over hers to pry her off him, but when warmth shot along his spine at the feel of her skin against his, Seven let his eyes close and his hand tighten over hers. It felt natural; it settled the pain in his chest, turning the thundering of his heart into something much less nauseating.
“Olivia, don’t do this please,” he whispered. “I— I cherish you. I want to make you happy, but I can’t.”
She tucked against him tighter. Seven could feel the deep breath that passed through her, a solid reminder that someone was there — that she was there.
“You can, and you do,” Olivia murmured.
He laughed sourly as his resolve started to crumble because God, Seven wanted her and she was giving him more patience than he deserved. “You’re impossible Olivia. What are you going to do if something happens to you because of me?”
“I know you wouldn’t let that happen. I trust that. I trust you.”
“I don’t know that you should anymore,” he murmured. Seven took a huge breath and forced it out in a slow exhale, then gently pulled Olivia’s delicate hands from him so he could turn and face her.
Even though she wore that calm mask he had grown accustomed to, her body tensed into something more alert as his eyes scanned her face. Olivia had lost weight over the past week; it didn’t suit her. Her bottom lip was chapped and cracked. Just looking at it, swollen and pink where her tooth kept biting into it, was painful. Seven brushed the hair from her face with loving fingers, and he marveled as the slight curve to her shoulders from some invisible weight she carried, vanished.
“Nothing good will happen by being close to me… it’ll be too late to regret it later,” he told her, willing her to understand.
“There’s no way I’d regret being with the person that I love,” she said, a faint smile appearing on her lips.
A flare of heat started to make its way down his throat, into his chest where his heart began to race again. “You shouldn’t be able to say that so easily.”
Her face was angled toward him, expression earnest. “I am just being honest with you Seven.”
“Oh. Alright,” Seven murmured, touching the corner of her mouth with the pad of his thumb in a way that was both intentional and yet so necessary he could do nothing else at that moment.
“Ugh. What am I doing,” he said, moving his hands to cup Olivia’s cheeks like she was something precious. “I told myself I would never get close to anyone, but you... I can’t believe that you’re getting to me. God… what am I supposed to do now.”
With a thoughtful frown on her face, Olivia eased away from him. An odd warmth lingered on his hands, an echo of her skin. They twitched toward her, so he stuffed them into the pockets of his jeans.
“Maybe take some time and think about this,” she said. Then there followed a moment of hesitation before Olivia stepped close again and placed her hand flat on his chest. “About accepting me?”
”Alright, time,” Seven agreed.
“I’ll wait,” she said, drifting away from him slightly.
“Thank you,” Seven murmured, watching her like he was spellbound. The way she was still looking at him… Her eyes were a flawless blue sky, full of promise, and so penetrating it made him realize this could be the beginning of something. What, he didn’t know, but Saeyoung was done pretending he didn’t want to find out.