Disclaimer: Grey's Anatomy is the property of ABC Television, Shondra Rhimes and Co. No copyright infringement is intended.

Falling

"No, I don't want this."…"Just go away…""I can't do this right now…."

He's falling to his knees. Gasping and crying as his hands continue to claw at hers.

Cristina hangs on as they sink to the floor. Her left knee lands first and she winces at the sharp pains that shoot up her thigh. Owen's fingers drag on her wrists, alternately pulling and clutching at the soft flesh as he struggles for air.

"Your breathing will come easier," Cristina whispers, wondering if he can hear her, hoping the tone if not the words will penetrate. "It's okay…"

"Just…go…"

The words are no more than ragged puffs of air. His chest heaves and he curls into a tight ball, pulling away from her.

Cristina tightens her grip. Her shoulders ache with the effort to embrace his broad back. Still on his knees, Owen wrenches to one side. The crack of her vertebrae is sharp above the rasp of his breathing. She bites her lip to stifle a cry of pain and manages to hold on. His lips are pulled back and she can feel the smooth wetness of his gritted teeth along the backs of her fingers. Sweat and tears run in rivulets down his ruddy cheeks.

"I don't…"

"I know," she murmurs, leaning as close as she can to his ear. "I know. Just breathe…It's okay…Just breathe…"

For the first time in her life Cristina wishes she were larger, heavier, a great matronly figure that could enfold someone. Bring them close to her bosom and overwhelm them with the warmth of her flesh. Owen shivers like a child in her embrace. She would pull him inside her if she could and give him the comfort of her beating heart.

She wonders if this has happened before. Wonders how he has kept it together for all of these months without anyone seeing the cracks. And she hates herself for the doubts rising unbidden from her sub-conscious. "I saw someone I knew…" Who? Not the soldier saved now dead of a bullet. Not the blood and bones of the fallen bleaching beneath the sun of a distant land. Rather a living, breathing being that shredded his fragile control without a word. Cristina swallows hard at the memory of Owen's face in the hallway. So tender, secretive and sexy, promises of later smoking those brilliant blue eyes to a dusky gray. His skin is cold and slippery in her grasp, in vivid contrast to moments that now seem incredibly long ago. She squeezes his shoulders and presses her stomach to his back. The seconds crawl by and Cristina prays to any being who might be listening that no one will walk in and see him like this.

Owen's breathing begins to ease and his body unclenches. Bit by bit he relaxes against her as the sobs die away to shuddering exhalations. His hands clasp hers but the touch is gentler. The desperate need to flee—or to cling—subsiding as a semblance of control returns. When he attempts to roll away she lets him. Not moving from the floor until he is up and leaning one armed against the the shelving unit abutting the wall.

The muscles of Cristina's back twinge in protest as she stands up. She ignores them and waits for him to speak or dismiss her with a gesture. She is suddenly sure that he has not slept, in spite of the on-call room being dark and quiet when she entered it hours earlier. When was the last time darkness had been a comfort for him and not a haven for nightmares?

"It's okay…I'm okay, you can leave now." His voice is faint, hoarse with the tears still staining his cheeks.

Cristina nods.

"I'll find you later."

"Okay." She starts to back out of the room and jumps when she hits the door. A startled exclamation from the other side indicates that someone had been trying to enter. Cristina turns and catches the handle of the door. She glimpses Lexie's face and shakes her head as she slips out into the hallway.

~*~*~

The diary is heavy in her hands but Cristina is reluctant to lay it down. The impossibly romantic tale is spiced with the observations of a clinically brilliant woman Cristina cannot help but admire. It's a good read and a good distraction. Sleep beckons as she turns the page. She rubs irritably at her eyes and reads on.

She is not surprised when Owen knocks and then cautiously opens the door. "You're still awake?" he sounds surprised. "It's been what…twenty four hours?"

Cristina lays the book on her chest and regards him through half-lidded eyes. A dozen questions come to mind. His tired smile quiets them instantly. She pats the bed beside her, not thinking but merely acting on impulse. He stiffens, clearly apprehensive. She repeats the gesture and shifts to one side in order to make room. His eyebrows rise in silent query.

"I think it's been a lot longer than twenty four hours for you," she quietly observes.

His blue eyes widen slightly and he leans back against the door. Shoulders slump as hands come together. The rasp of flesh on flesh is loud in the silence. He looks at the floor, the ceiling, and the shadows on the walls. Finally back to her patient face as his hands fall to his sides. "It has."

Cristina nods.

He is careful as he crawls up from the end of the bed. There is a moment's hesitation before he settles across her upper thighs and lays his head in her lap. She welcomes the weight and keeps very still as his arms come up to loosely encircle her waist. "Do you want me to turn the light off?" she asks as his breathing begins to deepen.

"Light?" he mumbles.

"Forget it."

Cristina brushes a hand over the tangled red hair and smiles.

~THE~END~