Author: Annwyd PM
After the fighting is over, Rinali waits the darkness out at Allen's side. But maybe she needs to learn the value of surrender. [AllenRinali] [Fluffier than it sounds]Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Words: 1,736 - Reviews: 23 - Favs: 44 - Follows: 4 - Published: 10-07-06 - Status: Complete - id: 3187962
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
His cheeks were flushed from the dark fever raging inside him, but the rest of his face was pale. His eyes were closed, as they had been since the end of the last battle, and only in brief instances--which she would lean close to see--would his eyes flutter beneath them.
His mouth was curved up into a smile, serene and relieved at the same time.
She thought that smile might be imprinted on her brain now, so that in the fleeting moments when she closed her eyes and dozed for a scattering of minutes (or once, when she really let herself go, two hours), she still saw it, so gentle and sincere it made her chest ache. And then she woke up again, because she wanted to see it in reality, wanted to make sure he was still there. Wanted to be there for him, in case he woke up.
He had to wake up soon.
Rinali dipped the cloth in the cold water again and laid it back over Allen's brow. She stood. "Brother," she called.
He was there, of course, right around corner. He'd gotten here just yesterday. She didn't know how he'd managed to arrive so fast, and she wasn't sure she wanted to know. What mattered was that he was there for her, and he'd done everything to help her stay here, watching over Allen, as he watched over her.
"Right here, Rinali," he said, poking his head into the doorframe.
She noticed, for the first time, that his hair was disheveled, the curls limp, and shadows had begun to form beneath his eyes. She was sure that hers were much worse, of course. "More coffee, please."
"Right here again!" He whipped out a small, steaming mug from behind his back as he made his way to her side. "I've had it ready for you for a while."
Rinali took the mug gratefully and began to lift it to her mouth. Then she stopped. "Wait," she said.
He blinked. "It's the best coffee I could get you," he said, in the tone of voice that implied he'd be insulted if anyone dared question his coffee-procuring abilities.
Rinali was sure he would, but she was beyond caring about (what was left of) her brother's somewhat eccentric dignity at the moment. "It's not just coffee," she said. She wasn't sure what had told her this. Maybe it was some glint in Komui's eyes, maybe some shimmer in the liquid itself.Whatever it was, she shoved the mug back at him; droplets sloshed over the side. "Take your drugged coffee away! I told you when you first got here: I'll sleep when Allen wakes."
"Rinali," Komui said, and suddenly there was worry on his face. "This isn't healthy. You need to rest. I heard about all you did in the battle--"
"Then you heard about what Allen did, too," she snapped back. "We'd all be dead if it weren't for him, but now maybe--" Her voice was trembling, but she made herself go on. "Now maybe he'll be dead instead. We're saved, but he woke something up inside himself and I'm afraid it's eating him alive--" She choked on her own words."It's what he wanted," her brother said quietly.
"That doesn't mean it's right!" The words stung when they came out. "People like him shouldn't just throw themselves away! Especially since there aren't people like him, there's just him, the only one in the world!"There was silence for a moment. Then Komui nodded assent. "But you can't make him wake up by staying awake. Get some rest."
She turned away, lifting her chin. "Maybe if I stay up long enough he'll start feeling guilty about keeping me up and he'll wake so that I can go to sleep."
Another pause, and then: "Who taught you to be so stubborn?" Through her fatigue and his weariness, she could hear the smile in Komui's voice.
Rinali blinked back tears and waited until he left the room.
Then it became a waiting game.
She must have dozed off in her chair next to the bedhalf a dozen times, but every time, after a few minutes the memory of Allen's smiling face would jerk her out of that half-sleep, and she would find herself staring at the bed again. He lay there, the blankets halfway draped across his bare shoulders, his hair spread out on the pillow, and he did not move.
Rinali refused to give up, and she refused to sleep. She would sit here and watch Allen's still form until the end of time if she had to.
She wasn't sure how many hours later it was when Ravi entered the room, but it had grown dark outside. She could see his shadow only in the candlelight.
"Hey," he said.
"If you've come to bring me coffee," she said, "and just coffee, then you may stay."He straddled the seat of the chair on the opposite side of the bed. "Sorry. No coffee."
She started to glare at him, but then she stopped. She thought of him fighting at their side all the way across two continents and in the battles that followed. "It's all right," she said. "There's room here for two."
"Three," Ravi said, and he nodded at Allen.
"Of course. Three," and she stifled a yawn. She'd thought her exhaustion was beyond yawns at this point, but she'd been wrong.
Ravi watched her for a long moment. She tried to keep her attention on him, but before long she felt her gaze drawn back to Allen.
"Why are you doing this?" Ravi finally asked.
"I want to be there for him while he's asleep," she said, "and when he wakes up."
Ravi shook his head. "You don't have to do this."
Rinali opened her mouth to explain, and for a moment, no words came out. "Yes," she said eventually. "I do. From the time we first left on a mission together--before that, from the time he returned from his first mission, maybe earlier--we were always there for each other. We just didn't know it at first. But in the darkness at the back of our heads--" Her throat felt tight. She could barely get the words out. "In the end, each of us knew the other was there. I'm not going to let him down now. I can be strong for him as he's been strong for me."
Ravi cocked his head thoughtfully. "There is another way," he said.
"No," she said, and she folded her hands on her lap. She looked back down at Allen.
It was a mistake to look away from Ravi. Before her fogged brain could register his movement, he was behind her. He lifted her chair and rather unceremoniously began to shake it. She couldn't hold on; she slid right off.
"What are you doing?" she demanded."Tucking you in," he said, and he pulled her up off the floor (even as she struggled) and pushed her onto the bed next to Allen.
"--no," she said, when his plan finally got through to her. "You can't do this!" She tried to get up, but he'd already pulled the blankets up over her--
--and Allen was so warm, such a comfort at her side--
"I need to stay awake," she protested.
"No," Ravi said. "All you need to do is stay at his side. Right?"
She opened her mouth to speak, but the words wouldn't come out, and before she could move, Ravi had blown out the candles and the room was dark and all she knew was Allen's warmth at her side, the softness of the bed beneath her.
She thought of Allen's smile.
Rinali's eyes began to close of their own volition. All she did was surrender.
When she opened her eyes again, the room was light with morning.
Her first thought was, I failed Allen.
Her second thought was, My shoulder is wet.She twisted around to look at her damp shoulder, and then she blinked.
Allen had moved--finally, finally moved--during the night. His head was resting on her shoulder.He stirred again. Before she could even breathe, he lifted his head and opened his eyes.
"Good morning," she said without thinking.
He stared at her.
Then he yelped, grabbed the covers, pulled them up over his bare chest, and scrambled to the edge of the bed. "Rinali!"
"You drooled on me during the night," she said, indicating her shoulder.
"I'm sorry," he said, and he scrambled a little further back. "I'm really sorry--"
There was an extended pause as he wobbled on the edge of the bed, and then he fell off with a thump.
Rinali leaned over, and she held out a hand to him. "It's okay," she said. "Come on."
He looked at her hand, and then he looked up at her face. After a long moment, he took her hand and let her pull him back up onto the bed.
"Are you sure?" She couldn't say how, but he was asking about more than just her wet shoulder.
"I'm sure," she said. "It's really okay."
She pulled him into a hug, and this time they both smiled.