She was offering him yet another way out. He didn't lack the capacity to be cruel and he knew that if he resolved to do what she suggested and tell her he didn't want her, words wouldn't fail him. Cut deep
... He could certainly do that; Atticus had come to know her well enough over the past few years to know where her insecurities lay and if he had the inclination, he could pick out each and every one of them and throw them back in her face. Just as she could do with all of his. Well, almost all of them.
But he couldn't bring himself to do it. It might make things easier, day-to-day perhaps. But once again he simply could not stand there with her in front of him and tell her she repulsed him. Not only because the idea was laughable for its untruthfulness but because he was a coward and wouldn't face the expression of hurt that she would force into a smile as she thanked him for being honest and pretended it was all for the best. No, not pretended, it would
be for the best. Eventually.
So why couldn't he say it?
"I can't- I'm not going to tell you that," he said, glancing down at his hands as he subconsciously rubbed his fingertips over the inked-on swallow that soared across the back of his hand. "Look, Laine, I told you I used to be an acrobat... But I never told you why I left the circus I used to work at. I could have done all this
-" He indicated the tattoos visible on his exposed forearms with derision. "-there, after all..."
His pulse was thudding in his ears and he felt vaguely sick but he continued, with the same impulsion he used every night he had a knife plunged into him."Seven years ago..."
"I- I fell from the trapeze the next day and did this
," he said, pressing his clenched fist into his leg. He'd told her enough and now that the words had been set free, never to be taken back, he felt like a little of the tension had been removed from his shoulders. "Once I'd recovered, I left. And found this show a year or so later."
"Don't feel sorry for me," he said fiercely, suddenly pushing himself back off the desk as the idea that she might occurred to him. That would be the most sickening thing of all. "I'm telling you this so you'll know why this isn't a good idea. You and Cooper sleep with each other; everyone in the damn show knows. That's fine, but the two of you- I can't deal with that if at the same time, we..." He rolled his eyes at his own inarticulacy and looked back at her. The sight of her eyes, a clear cloudless blue in the lamplight, suspended between expressions as she waited for him to finish, almost made him mentally take back what he was saying. But he'd been down that road before and for all its soul-intoxicating violent pleasure, it was a dead end.