“What gave it away?” I gasp, from the floor, where I’d landed as I tumbled out of bed.
“Oh, you know. The flailing. Groaning. The fact you’re down there. I can read the signs.”
Rafe’s face pops over the edge of the bed, his hair stuck up like dandelion fluff where he’s been sleeping on it. It’s dark but he’s so blonde that he basically shines, even in the middle of the night. Like an angel or something.
“So are you getting back up here or what?”
“Your empathy is remarkable,” I grumble, wincing as I sit up. I’m getting too old to be falling from heights, even minor ones. And I think I hit my head. It’s vaguely throbbing anyway as Rafe reaches his hand down and pulls me up.
“You okay?” he asks, voice soft all of a sudden, running the back of his hand over my chest. I slip back under the covers, take his hand. He’s a bastard, but he’s mine.
“Yeah. I just wish I knew what had kicked all this off. It’s getting ridiculous now.”
“Well, you need to do something.” Rafe lays down, but he doesn’t let go of my hand.
“Because I will divorce you if you keep waking me up in the middle of the night.”
“Dramatic,” I say. “I could just go and sleep in the spare room.”
“We don’t have a spare room. And anyway, that’s boring. Much more exciting to have an over the top break up. I’ll never get over you. You’ll wither without me. And then we can have an amazing reunion in ten years when you’re not crazy anymore and we can remarry on a beach somewhere.”
“You’ve thought this through.”
He laughs, kisses the back of my hand. I know he’s trying to distract me from the shadows, the sharp edge of the nightmare that I can still see out of the corner of my eye.
“The hospital?” Rafe asks.
“Yeah.” The fingers of my spare hand push into the holes in the crocheted blanket, twist the wool. “And then the car. Over and over. Slow motion. Like I could stop it if I wanted to.”
It’s a familiar post-mortem by now. Ironically.
“You know that it wasn’t your fault, don’t you?”
That’s familiar too.
“I know. Tell my brain that. Maybe it will listen to you.”
Rafe chuckles, lets go of my hand. He presses his fingers gently to the back of my head, where there is a definitely an ache starting to make itself known, and rubs gently. My shoulders relax but the pain doesn’t really fade away.
I glance at the clock out of habit. The hands never turned, Rafe says, but I can’t help it. Can’t help the feeling that I should be somewhere. It’s been getting stronger, especially after one of the nightmares. A tug in my stomach, a weight on my chest.
I shouldn’t be here.
“Do you want me to occupy you?” Rafe asks, his fingers still in my hair. “I can think of a few things.”
“I bet,” I grin, despite myself. “You’re insatiable.”
“Rude, when I’m offering so selflessly to stay conscious for you.”
I swing my legs from the bed and get out, rub my feet on the carpet. It’s grounding. Or it’s meant to be anyway. I go to the window, pull back the curtains. Outside, the trees are lit by a bright sunlight that floods into the room, but it’s silent. No forest sounds, no birds or wind in the leaves.
As soon as I pull the curtains closed, it’s night once more.
Time is a bit funny here.
Rafe’s voice is quieter this time, and I turn to see he’s lying on his side. I peer through the dim light. The blanket has pooled around his waist, and I can see the familiar outline of his torso. Without thinking, I reach over and switch on the lamp.
The scars run across Rafe’s chest, red and livid, winding around him, up and up to the place where it slashes across his throat.
“Why are you making yourself look, huh?” he asks, running a hand absently over the scar on his stomach. “You don’t have to.”
“I’m sorry.” A lump forces itself up my throat, like I’m going to throw up, except I haven’t eaten a thing for months. “God, I’m so sorry.”
Rafe switches off the lamp, gets onto his knees.
“Come here. Adam, please.”
Hot tears are on my face as I’m tugged down onto the bed, and I reach up to brush them away. What bloody right do I have to be crying?
“You don’t need to apologise,” Rafe murmurs, kissing my face. “For anything.”
I want to push him away, because he shouldn’t be doing this. He should hate me. I hate me.
“Crying isn’t very sexy, you know,” he says. “It has its place, of course, if you want to make me feel protective. But in general, hard to get it up when you’re doing that.”
I sob out a wet laugh, and Rafe grins.
“I don’t want you to blame yourself. For any of it. Especially when we aren’t together for me to be devilishly charming and make you forget about it for a while.”
“I don’t want to go,” I say, clinging onto his arms, pulling him down until his weight is on top of me, pressing me into the mattress. This is the only thing I need, right here. Rafe. My beautiful, beautiful bastard.
“You have to. I think we both know that. It’s been coming for a while. The nightmares.”
I sniff miserably.
“Just promise me one thing,” he says.
I nod. If I speak again, I’ll cry. I know it.
“I don’t want you to be a monk, if you don’t want to be. If you feel like having a mid life crisis and getting on Grindr, I won’t haunt you. I might take a peek, if the guy is hot, but I promise I won’t mind. As long as you promise that eventually you’ll come back here.”
Nope, I can’t hold it in. Crying again. I’m going to dehydrate, shrivel up. I’d rather do that than ever leave him here alone.
“Hey, hey – what did I say?”
He isn’t really telling me off though, not this time. His voice is gentle, and although he’s still happily crushing me into the bed, I feel strangely weightless.
“Rafe, I can’t feel my body”
“That’s because I’m cutting off your blood supply,” he chuckles.
“No – it isn’t like that. It’s like it isn’t here. Like I’m not here.”
He stops laughing, shifts his weight, and I cling to him as tightly as I can with fingers that don’t seem to have muscles in them.
“I think – I think it’s happening.”
The lights come on, suddenly, and his face is right there. He’s a hypocritical bastard, because his eyes are wet too.
“I can feel it,” he murmurs. “I think you have to go.”
“No,” I try to look at my hands, but they’re fading away. I’m fading away.
“It’s goodbye,” Rafe whispers. “But only for now. I’ll be here. I promise. Wherever here is.”
“No, not yet. I’m not ready.”
“You never will be. Shut up whining and kiss me.”
As I close my eyes, his lips on mine, my ears tune in to a strange beeping around me.
And then I open them to find that Rafe has gone.
I’m in the hospital bed, the one from my nightmare. The nightmare where I’d been driving an unfamiliar road in the dark. Where we went spinning off it, where I was conscious just long enough to look over at Rafe and see the blood on his face. Conscious just long enough to reach over and take his hand.
“Adam! Mum, he’s awake, he’s awake!”
My little sister is hanging over me, touching my cheeks, and then Mum is there. Thank God, Mum is there.
“Hello, love,” she says, stroking my hair. “We’re here.”
I nod, best I can covered in wires. My head throbs.
I don’t ask where Rafe is.
I don’t need to.
I already know.
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