A/N: Alright so...as much as I love this story, I looked it over after letting it sit for a really long time and hit a wall. As I've decided to do with my other story (WDIDN), this story will be getting a facelift. Structure, phrasing, detail, the works. I will also be taking my time with this plot especially seeing as it's such a sensitive subject. I want to be able to do it justice. For those who still have any interest in this story, sit tight. I haven't given up on it.

Disclaimer: All characters belong to their rightful owners. I'm only using them for entertainment purposes. I only take responsibility for any new characters I might find muses for.

June 19

Ruthie Canden was known to do a lot of things for shock value, most of which was often directed at her parents to counteract her naturally strict upbringing. Between herself and her remaining six siblings, she proudly nurtured a rebellious streak. Something she would have to thank Mary for at some point. Staying out past curfew, seeing boys her parents made very clear she wasn't allowed to associate with. On a few occasions, she'd even went ahead and skipped school. Despite the lecture she always received, each was eventually forgivable. But this...This wasn't part of the plan

The night was such a whirlwind, she couldn't even remember picking it up, let alone bringing any of it to her mouth. And yet here she was, the world a blur, her head determined to split itself in half. She could feel her cheeks grow warm with embarrassment when she realized the potential damage she'd done in front of hundreds of people. In the next week she'd be the laughingstock among her friends. Of all the stops she'd ever pulled, drinking was where she always drew the line. Tonight, that line seemed to fall away all together. At least, according to the monster headache she was trying to keep quiet. What convinced her to go for it anyway? So many voices, so many bodies all crammed into a dingy garage, it could have been anyone. Once her family got wind of this, she would never be allowed to leave the house again. A punishment that for the first time she wasn't about to argue with. For something that was supposed to make a person feel so good, Ruthie could barely move. This brought lightweight to a whole new level. Unless she'd been given more than the one and only she should be able to remember trying.

Her body ached with ever minor movement she attempted to make. Even shifting slightly sent a scalding pain through her. Through gritted teeth and tears she bit down on until her tongue bled, she somehow found the strength to sit up Tiredly bringing a hand out beside her, she sighed when she realized that someone was nice enough to bring her pathetically drunken self to something soft. The chill of the night air quickly told her that what she sat on was no carpet. It made sense. For someone who wasn't supposed to be having a party (let alone one that involved underage drinking) explaining why a girl was out cold on your bed would be an interesting story for when the parents got home. She would be talked about for an entirely different reason after that. After a few minutes, figuring she had at least enough energy to stand, Ruthie carefully dragged herself up off the ground.

The world around her spun even harder after that, the black around her becoming one while she took hold of her head. What the hell did they give her? Swallowing hard, she dared to look out around her. If only she could see anything. She knew what was out there, one of few perks that came with being born and raised in a city the size of a pushpin. She just couldn't for the life of her provide any shape to it. Catching a "low battery" flash out of the corner of her eye, she let them screw together with confusion. She could've sworn that thing was tucked in her pocket the last time she checked. It almost always was. How it ended up beside her was one of a few mysteries tonight. Shaking her head, she took hold of it, hands trembling while she scrolled through her contacts. She could feel her stomach turning as she bypassed her parents. Her dad would shoot her himself if he saw any of this, and he was a man of God. Definitely not Kevin. He'd get a good laugh out of it before rolling into some kind of fatherly lecture. Lucy was even less of an option. She loved her sister to death but she couldn't keep her mouth shut if it killed her. Her brother was still at school for another month before he would be visiting. Mary couldn't do much from her home in New York. Matt would pride himself in some advice giving she hadn't taken for years. That only left her one option. A name that brought a steady flush to her cheeks. What would Martin have to say about this? One of many personal bodyguards and a father himself. As if the embarrassment wouldn't be enough. Any chance at scrambling together what was left of their friendship was out of the question now. So why is she staring at the number waiting for him to pick up? Because the Martin she knew had an airtight seal on all her secrets.

"Please pick up," she barely whispered. Ruthie wasn't even sure how he was going to find her. If she didn't have a clue where she was, what were the chances that he could get her home? She sighed. Anything was worth a shot at this point.

"'ello," she heard a weary voice grumble from the other end. Ruthie quickly felt the urge to hang up. She had woken him from a much deserved sleep, she could tell. Even as she hovered over the button, she remained silent, taking in the sound of his steady breath asking herself how she was supposed to start something like this. "Hey Martin, I'm kind of drunk, can you come take me home?" Yeah...That would go over well. "Hello?" Less sleep in his words now, somehow lessening the original guilt. "Ruthie?" She would never understand how he somehow always knew when it was her. Maybe it was her own breathing patterns that gave her away. Or the fact that she was only one of two people allowed to call him this late at night. Not that she even knew what time it was anymore.

"I...I did something really stupid," she muttered.

"Huh? Can you run that by me one more time? You're whispering." She blinked. She wasn't whispering. That came out in a perfectly normal...But she repeated herself anyway, this time fighting to cover her ears over how loud she made herself. Unsure of whether or not it was her voice or the cold, she felt tears come together behind her eyes. "Where?"

"I...I don't know," she mumbled lamely. Martin's insides barely missed his toes when he heard the tears in her words. "Outside..." Oh yeah very specific. She'd kick herself for that one later.

"Outside where?" he asked gently.

"There was a party," she admitted. "I...on the grass."

"Ruth, you're going to have to give me numbers," he said softly.

"I said I don't know!" she growled trying hard to keep the fact that she was cold and scared out of her answers. He didn't need to know that. It would just make things more awkward than they already were.

"Alright, relax. Give me landmarks or something," he said over the sound of the ignition. Ruthie wasn't so glad to hear the sound of a car as long as she could remember. Not that she had a lot to be afraid of out here. It was nice and quiet. A little cold but nice. It was way too late for people to be wandering, she knew that much. Her parents would have something to say about it though. The last thing she wanted was a talking to she knew would be coming whether she wanted it or not. Especially after they heard about her little adventure.

"I...The light on 12th. The one with a dent on it...I think. I can't really...see anything. I...It's cold," she whispered. "I..."

Martin's foot pressed down further on the gas then, gripped with fear at the very idea of what he would find. "Are you alone?"

"Yeah..." she squeaked knowing he would have more than a few things to say about that part. It was just her, her forgotten cell phone and the sky. One that wasn't coming into focus no matter how hard she tried. He bit back a sigh then trying hard to suppress a rising anger. Ruthie of all people knew better than to... He shivered then, the night air finally showing him just how late it was. Or maybe it was the shadow he saw off to the corner that he felt himself running toward. What his eyes took in then made him glad they were surrounded with bushes. With his stomach starting to rise, practically springing to his throat, he would probably have to use one of them in a minute.

"Ruthie?" he barely choked. She craned her neck as the figure approached. Faceless, his voice distorted. A combination that should've had her running scared (if only she could) if she didn't know his presence better than her own.

"You're here," she whispered, surprised that he was able to find her in this mess, shocked that he'd come at all.

"Of course I'm here," he murmured, for the first time in his life afraid to touch her. Beside her lay forgotten clothes and a phone she always kept a firm hold on. "We need to get you to a doctor," he said softly. Ruthie felt herself stiffen. No. It wasn't enough that she hated them. She didn't even need one. What were they supposed to say? She was just cold. Cold and hungry.

"No. Just...take me home. Please," she whispered the ice laying itself thick in her bones. "I just wanna go home. I don't...I don't feel so good. I...I just wanna sleep." Nodding slowly, he carefully wrapped his own jacket around her. "Grab your stuff. I'll carry you to the car. Not that she had much of that. Just her coat and her phone.

Once back in the car, Martin let the heater run at full blast, for which Ruthie was eternally grateful. Uninvited or not, quiet tears seemed to pour endlessly down her face. Was she really that cold? Or was it more that Martin had come for her even though she guessed he'd just gotten to sleep? Whatever it was, no matter how much she hated them (especially in front of him) they came down anyway. If she didn't know any better, this felt like the first time she'd cried so much since she was five years old.

As much as he hated to do it, Martin let himself take a sharp turn toward the hospital hoping that Ruthie was too tired to notice. What he would do once he got her there was still up in the air. He refused to think about what they would do to her, even if he had some kind of basic knowledge.

Ruthie's entire body jarred moments later as she scrambled to bury her face in his chest. Too many lights. They'd left too many lights on. The brightness was hell on her eyes after being surrounded in black. She swallowed hard, realizing her throat was thick as sandpaper. Was her voice finally catching up with her? Did she really have to get that loud to be heard over all the voices tonight?

"I know..." he mumbled, more through his chest than with the words he spoke. The sudden washing over of voices told her she was anywhere but home. Had she the strength, she would have slapped him clear across the face. She said no hospitals. And where was she? The damn emergency room, swimming in a sea of unrecognizable voices. Voices and...hands. Dozens of them. The warmth that radiated off of him was quickly fading while someone placed her on a gurney. Was this really "standard procedure"? She just needed a bath and something to eat. And where the hell was Martin? He promised.

"He...he promised," she barely managed. Not that anyone was going to hear it.

"Hi sweetheart. Your friend will be back in just a minute. Can you tell me your name?" If these lights were supposed to help her become more aware, they were failing miserably. If anything she managed to get more annoyed and irritated than anything else.

Sweetheart? "Ruthie Camden," she muttered. The words came out sounding like someone had just blown her eardrum with fireworks.

"One more time, doll."

"Ru-Ruth...Ruthie Camden." That one made more sense.

"Hi Ruthie. I'm Nurse Mason. We're going to take good care of you, I promise." Good care of me? That's usually what they said when you were hurt not cold and hungry. Martin. Where the hell was Martin? "Would you let him know we're about to begin?" Him who? If the nurse had any sense she would stop talking about her like she wasn't right there to hear it. "Alright sweetie. I know this is going to hurt but I need you to lie really still for me." Still? Still for what? There wasn't anything wrong. Moments later she felt her feet being placed in...Were those stirrups? Ruthie hadn't been riding in what felt like years. "Really still...I promise it'll be over in no time."

She swallowed hard, the world around her beginning to fade. In nothing but black, those same words came through clear as anything she'd ever heard in her life, no more than a whisper in her ear. "Real soon..." She didn't have to see anything to hear the smile that went along with it. The tone alone turned her blood to ice.

"Shh." The stupid nurse again. Didn't she know that she had to get away? Far, far away. The best way to do that was to get somebody's attention. Anybody's attention. Otherwise... "Almost done, Ruthie." Almost done with what? If his voice wasn't so all consuming she would have yelled as much at the woman. Martin she thought. I need Martin. Didn't the lady get that? It wasn't enough that she already hated her annual visits to her family doctor. The hospital was all of that times ten. For what felt like the twentieth time that night, she let the tears come without argument not caring at all who saw them. Maybe if they did, she might be listened to for once. "I know, he'll be here in just a minute." Even if her voice was soft, something about it sounded like chalk on a board. No. She didn't want a minute. She didn't have time for that. She needed him now. She had to get out of this place now. They had done nothing to keep her warm. And who gave them permission to...Where was her clothes? He wouldn't let them...No.

"Don't touch me!" she practically snarled. "Get off of me! Martin...Get me...Get me Martin. Please..."

"Shh." Never in her life did Ruthie hear anything so gentle. Probably for the first time tonight, she felt herself relax, even as she reached for him frantically. "I'm right here," he murmured. "Real still. They're almost done." Done? Done with what? As much as he knew she hated being here, at the very least he could give her some answers! "Squeeze real tight for me, sweet girl. Keep your eyes right here, okay?" Eyes? What was it he didn't want her to see? As many questions as she might have, Ruthie found herself holding his gaze. Hands...Why were they...? They couldn't...No. She was holding one of them, the other quietly resting on her face. A face that stung like a thousand knives. So whose were they? "Tight as you can," he prompted. Though the words confused her, the reason for them became all too clear when she figured out where they wandered to, the feeling clamping her knees tightly shut. It was then that the tears came harder, faster than she ever imagined possible. A sob ripped through her when all her work to stay closed fell on deaf ears, hands finding their way once more.

"I said no!" she choked loudly.

"I'm sorry, baby. So sorry...As soon as this is over, we'll get you a nice warm bath, okay?" Like she hadn't asked for that hours ago. "Stay with me, Ruthie. Stay with me..." She didn't even know how tight her grip on him was anymore. If she was hurting him, it didn't show on his face. If he knew how much this was hurting her, why wasn't he doing anything to stop it? Martin was supposed to make her feel better, not just watch her go through this. He of all people knew how she felt about this place. He'd shown up. He'd let her take the life out of his hand but why wasn't he saying anything about what he saw? Didn't he know she felt...violated?

"Make it stop...Please just make it stop..." she whimpered, knowing full well how pathetic she sounded. The time to care about that was long gone.

"Has family been notified?" Family. Oh God...Like things weren't already bad enough.

"I've called them personally." If she didn't know any better, that sounded an awful lot like Martin's voice. He would never...They'd sworn to secrecy... "Annie said they'll be on the first flight tomorrow." First flight? First flight from where? And then it hit her. She was home alone for the weekend. Lucy and Kevin, though only a house away were on a much needed family vacation. Her parents had taken the boys to Disney World for a week. A trip they'd been asking for since they could talk. She knew she could have gone with them but she had decided to try staying home alone for once. There was no chance in something like that ever happening again after this. Can we please go home now? "In a minute, Ruth," he whispered.

"You did a very smart thing, Mr. Brewer." If she had the voice for it, Ruthie would easily replace that with the word "stupid" but the woman hadn't bothered to listen to her all night. "We have everything bagged and on file if her family decides to press charges." Charges? What charges? Charges were for people who did something illegal. Or if they'd been...But that couldn't be right. Someone would have to do something first. Or maybe this had something to do with her dad's habit of taking action on anybody who did anything that wasn't in his rule book. Martin seemed to say nothing to that. Not that she cared anymore. All she needed to know was that they were on their way home. The fact that his arms found their way around her again was answer enough. At least they had the decency to put her back in her own clothes.

As much as he wanted to keep her close, Martin reluctantly allowed the nurses to take over. If he didn't already have reason to be here, he would have made damn sure that he was the only one anywhere near her. Even if he had to fight the urge to let tonight's popcorn find a way out of his mouth at the mere sight of her, he knew she had to be here. More than that he knew the tongue lashing he would be getting once she found her words again. She'd asked him to take her home and here he was in the one place she hated more than just about anything.

"I'm sorry..." he whispered when he was sure they'd gotten far enough away. He didn't need to ask what came next. Anyone with good sense knew what came next. Someone would have to touch her, wipe her down for evidence. Louder than that would be her fear once she figured out what they were going to do to her. As much as it killed him, he knew he couldn't be here. They'd asked him to give them room to work. For his own selfish reasons, he couldn't stomach watching them treat her like some forgotten lab animal. He was thankful he had calls to make, if only to distract him from the sound of her voice in the back of his head. Hovering over the painfully familiar number, he waited for the receiving voice on the other end, hoping the sound of it might help him find a way to say the words his tongue wouldn't let him.

"Hello?" So warm, so comforting. Something that was supposed to make any one of them feel safe. Tonight it just made him feel sick. How was he supposed to tell a mother what he'd just seen? "Martin? Is something wrong?" Taking a deep breath, he let it carry through his entire body before he dared to open his mouth praying that the words would come.

"Mom?" The greeting came through strangled, as if he'd stumbled over it. The term sounded so foreign in his mouth. His own was long since dead. As far as he could remember, the woman had always been Mrs. Camden or Annie to him. If this is the first time she'd heard him say it, she hid the surprise well.

"What's wrong, Martin?" She sounded so calm, so collected. In some way she always was. Someone had to be for all the chaos in that house.

"I found her outside...She's...She's in the hospital. They're...running tests."

"Tests? What kind of tests?" He practically gulped, the grip on his phone one that turned his knuckles white.

"She was on 12th. Her clothes were..." Annie could feel her heart constrict. She didn't need to hear anything more. She didn't want to. Couldn't. But he had more, she had no choice.

"Martin, talk to me," she pleaded gently. As much as he wanted to, the words wouldn't come.

"I...I have to go. She's asking for me." Not that he knew if it was true or not. At this point, she had to be. Not that he could do very much. He barely heard her mention something about catching the next flight out before hanging up the phone. Even with his feet on lead weights, he found his way back to her room, carefully peering through the window. He couldn't make out anything past the swarm of nurses, the thought of her so cold and alone suddenly making him angry.

"She's asking for you." Turning to the approaching voice, the tension surrounding him lessened slightly. "We've dealt with her hands and face." Though he knew better, the woman's words made him glare. "Dealt with" sounded so...impersonal. The nurse didn't seem to notice and instead continued. "She's going to need a focal point for the rest of it. Please mind the evidence. I think it'll help to have something familiar for this next part." Martin said nothing while he followed the woman through the swinging door.

"Don't touch me!" she practically snarled. "Get off of me! Martin...Get me...Get me Martin. Please..."

"Shh." In that moment he wasn't even sure which one of them he was trying to convince. "I'm right here," he murmured. "Real still. They're almost done. Squeeze real tight for me, sweet girl. Keep your eyes right here, okay?" Even if it terrified him to think of what exactly he'd find in them, he sighed when she finally managed to look at him. Moments later, she took a familiar iron grip, tears coming faster than he'd ever seen them before. "I know..." he whispered letting his fingers glide across her skin. Her entire face was marred with cuts and bruises and Martin could swear he'd know that face anywhere. Her usually vibrant eyes were so painfully vacant it took everything in him not to look away. "Tight as you can," he prompted. He had to do his own begging and pleading when a sob ripped through her.

"I said no!" she choked loudly.

"I'm sorry, baby. So sorry...As soon as this is over, we'll get you a nice warm bath, okay?" Like that was going to help her now. "Stay with me, Ruthie. Stay with me..." He didn't think it possible but her hold on him intensified as they continued working, her slight body rising and falling on the table. "Try and stay really still, baby girl. I promise it's almost over," he murmured while another set of hands pressed down lightly on her chest. Within seconds Ruthie was practically howling, the sound of it a bullet right to his head. "You're doing so good, sweetheart..."

"Make it stop...Please just make it stop..." she whimpered. Martin cleared his throat gruffly to steady himself.

"Has family been notified?" He was past the point of decency by now, but somehow scrounged up the smallest of threads to pull together a single sentence.

"I've called them personally." The last thing Annie needed was to hear this shit from a doctor. Not to mention the sooner they got all of this done, the sooner they could just get home. He didn't have time to wait around on another phone call.

"You did a very smart thing, Mr. Brewer." Martin's head almost snapped in the woman's direction. Why the hell was she talking to him as if he were some unsung hero? This kind of thing was pure common sense. "We have everything bagged and on file if her family decides to press charges." He almost laughed. Of course they would be pressing charges. He didn't know of anyone who wouldn't. He barely noticed a pamphlet being handed to him, while the woman rattled off a few numbers "they might need later". What they needed right now was to get out of this place. Get out and go home. Making sure the gown she wore was wrapped tightly around her, Martin allowed her to take a death grip around his neck while he made his way out to the car. Coming around to the passenger side, he had to gently pry her fingers loose as he sat her down. He watched as a violent sob rocked her entire body. One so hard he had to keep her lightly pinned to her seat to settle her while wrapping the seatbelt around her.

"Shh...Just give me one minute, Ruthie. One minute," he murmured gliding a light kiss along her forehead. Even if it was only going to hold for a grand total of fifteen seconds, he could feel her visibly relax, though her eyes saw right past him. He barely had time to slide in behind the wheel and start the car before she took hold of him again. "Let's get you home," he whispered.

Fearing loss of her protection she gripped him with new found strength allowing tears to find their way back behind her eyes. As if she hadn't already done enough of that tonight. He couldn't leave her now. She couldn't be alone. "Easy," he mumbled when he finally came to a stop in front of the house. "I have to come around and let you out." Ruthie didn't protest and instead followed his every move with her eyes. "...a nice warm bath to get you all cleaned up."

Clean she thought. The one feeling she would never have the joy of experiencing again. As it was right now she felt so dirty. All the water in the world couldn't rid her of the filth she felt layering her entire body. No, a shower wouldn't do a damn thing for her.

She startled when she met the chill of porcelain as he filled the tub with what she hoped was warm water. As if it were a reflex, the minute the tub was filled he gathered Ruthie to him protectively. At the slight change in temperature Ruthie felt herself jump.

"Shh, I know it's a little warm." Anything would be following the way he found her hours before. He suddenly felt as though he were speaking to a young child, thankful that at least she was taking to the sound of something. He only got the smallest of nods. Martin then began by ladling water in his palm and rinsing her soft face gingerly. He had to wonder if she remembered any of it, quietly hoping that at least for the moment, she didn't. Fear of being left alone was one thing. To be reminded was something else completely. Not that he knew anything about it. What he did know was he'd never seen Ruthie so torn in his life. For her sake, and his own, he tried hard to ignore how exposed she was. There was no way around it for the moment but if she had any idea, she'd be asking to do this all herself while he waited on the other side of the door. Whoever had done this was good as dead as soon as he so much as knew their name.

Martin was quickly brought out of his train of thought when he felt Ruthie shifting uncomfortably, a sob tearing through her. He brought his hand up to gently move a piece of matted hair behind her ear. "You're safe now," he assured her. The reassurance did little to lessen her fear. If anything it made it more prominent. Her fierce grip on him tightened, her prints a bracelet around his wrist. "I know. I've got you."

Now that she sat in the bathroom better light allowed him a clear picture of what had been done to her. He felt a lump rise in his throat as he softly traced a deep scrape that went all along her inner thighs. He felt his hand become a fist as he looked up to see a very visible print on her left arm. Who would do this? He gently brushed the back of his hand along the cat-like crape on her right check as he took in one of larger size on her right shoulder. Martin could see the deep chocolate eyes he loved so much shining with tears. With the pad of his thumb he brushed away a single tear being careful of the scrapes and bruises that lay scattered on her mocha colored skin.

"I know angel face. I know it hurts. Just a few more minutes." The soft massaging motion she felt as he rubbed shampoo into her scalp allowed her to close her eyes briefly as he washed away the layers of dirt Ruthie felt covered her entire body. The soap wasn't going to do anything about it but she quietly thanked him for trying. The way he went over every part of her exposed body, it was like he knew just how much every bit of it hurt. She allowed him to ease her forward as warm water trailed down her back, now stiff as a board as it fell over scrapes she swore weren't there before. The quiet hiss she let pass through her teeth was barely contained. While his fingers glided across them, she quietly whimpered, hating herself even more for letting him see them. Even worse was how he treated them. He went along with a tenderness she hardly deserved. As much as she knew to throw it off of her, protect him from being tainted like this, she sank into it, quietly begged for its protection.

"Let's get you into bed. How does that sound?" he crooned. She wasn't even sure she acknowledged it but she felt herself raising her arms above her head. Martin smiled sadly as he removed her, taking a towel and rapping it snuggled around her. Holding her close while being careful of her injuries he sat her gently on the bed. As he released her and turned toward her drawers to get her fresh clothes a strangled cry escaped her. Martin whipped around concerned. "Hold on just a minute. We have to get you dressed," he told her softly. He frowned when she gripped his hand as if it might disappear if she didn't. "I'm not going anywhere Ruthie," he whispered. "Which ones?" he asked holding up two options. She only shook her head vigorously. "Why not? These are your favourites," he said remembering how often he had come in to the house to see her wearing them. Ruthie pointed a trembling finger at the bathroom across the hall that could be seen through the open door. "We just came from the bathroom Ruth," he reminded her. Regardless of being told her dainty finger stayed where it was. "Did you need something in there?" he asked. Ruthie only nodded still shaking. "What do you need?" She then made an act of pointing at him and then at the clothes that were spread out. "You want to wear my sweater?" Ruthie nodded. Anything that had to do with Martin would keep her safe, she knew that much. Everything of hers felt too small, too public. "I have to go get it though. Do you think you can wait for me?" he asked taking a loose strand of curls and putting them securely behind her ear. She dropped her head silently and released his hand slowly. "I'll be back in just a second," he promised placing a soft kiss on her forehead.

As he got further away Martin could hear her crying out for him, a sound that just for these few seconds he tried desperately to ignore. The painful sound divided his heart even further. Never had he seen strong, independent, fun-loving Ruthie so vulnerable. He felt his own eyes harboring unshed tears as he allowed one to travel down his face. As it did he quickly swiped it away. He wouldn't cry. He couldn't let himself. If he did Martin knew he would be left with one of two options. Anger, which was guaranteed to give her a reason to shut him out, or crying; already done for both of them. Quickly grabbing what he needed he jogged back to the bedroom.

"Arms up," he said gently putting her head through. Once the sweater was on her arms stayed up, dark brown eyes begging to be held. Carefully, taking Ruthie in his arms he made the short trip to the head of the bed. "Now why don't we try and get some shut eye?" Sleep she thought in absolute terror. No she couldn't sleep. Not with the images painted so clearly in her head. She would have to die before she let herself go through that again. She whimpered quietly taking a forceful grip on his large hand. Ruthie could only shake her head violently as new tears pricked the corners of her eyes. "Come on Ruthie. Close those big, beautiful eyes for me. I promise I won't let anything happen to you." If that much was true, we wouldn't be doing this right now he thought. She simply sat straight up in bed, eyes trained on the wall, expertly avoiding the mirror and her own reflection.

He felt her tug at his hand, her almond shaped eyes pleading with him. Her deep sense of insecurity scared him. She had always been so sure of herself. "I'm not going anywhere Ruth," he whispered.

"Hold me..." It was a miracle she wasn't scared to death of him given the current circumstances. Surprise lasted all of a second before he quietly took to her request. Two words in three hours. Something told him they would be coming like this for the next little while. He crawled into the empty space after turning out the main light and quietly taking her in his arms again. As much as he wondered why he was allowed to be this close to her, a bigger part of him was supremely grateful. At least here he could attempt to make up for his failures. He knew that if sleep was going to come at all, they would be here a while. For now, the fact that she was curled up against him, asking to use his body as a human shield was more than he ever expected.

As far as Ruthie knew, sleep would have to be a thing of the past while she quietly hoped that he might understand. The fact that he had come for her at all was more than she could ever ask for. His patience was more than she ever deserved. The minute her mother heard any of this, she would be grounded until pigs could fly. Any hope of leaving this house went clear out the window. For tonight, she didn't want to so much as leave this bed. She needed something safe. She needed him. For only a moment guilt took over when she realized just how much she was asking of him. Still, Ruthie gripped his collar with all she had and cried.

A/N: About five times as long as the first one. More detail should make for happy muses! Feel free to leave your thoughts.