She holds him as he shakes. stop – stop – doing this. Rattling breaths coming hard, incoherent, as violent waves flow through them. Pressed close together. Needing. I don't want this. MUST. Shuddering, desperate for an end. Any end. Wrapped in strong arms; Held still; Guided. "Shhhhhh love". And it breaks. One, one soft word and it falls. They fall. The pain to be free; the cost; the lives lost to grasp at what is always just beyond her fingertips, always on his horizon. Quietly now they lay. Exhausted both.
He was a strong man she realises now. He taught her more than she could have guessed: the urge to protect, to halt, to endure, to enjoy, all came from him. She wished she'd realised sooner, before. She'd ran once: Needed freedom she couldn't have with them, always hunted, always moving. Alone she was selfish, stealing to survive. When she came home defiant and hurt he'd held her. Held her as she raged, as she screamed, as she hated him, hated them all. He didn't speak, but they stopped moving. Whatever it cost him to stay still he did it for her.
It's too much. It begins again. Silently at first, then juddering. Please leave. She needs to hold him, to anchor him. Never leave. Aware she mustn't crush him with the strength of her love. I need you. Knowing he needs his freedom, needs his secrets. I'm hurting you. Violently now, curled tight, struggling for more contact, wrestling to break loose. Breathing strained and painful. Stilted thoughts tumbling as he settles into a steady rhythm.
In that first year, despite his strength, despite his power she could see his pain and fear. Saw him reaching for her; saw him hide his want, his need for comfort. He worked constantly, feverishly, but then would vanish for days. I'll always hurt you, why won't you leave. She realised early on that she mustn't force it. He was far too broken for that. Instead she made herself available when he needed her, but tried to live her life. Always he was in her thoughts. Even as she sought comfort elsewhere, pretending at a relationship full of anger, despising herself, despising him. She'd wanted to provoke him into action. It was stupid and pathetic and she'd hurt someone who didn't deserve it.
Please stop me. Gently now, his breathing slowed. She loosened her hold; let him lay on her, in her, with her. I hate me. She looked down at him but his face was buried in her chest. It took all her restraint not to kiss the top of his head. She knew she just needed to be there, nothing more. Just holding him as he cried.