I look down at your broken body, an angel asleep in my arms. There are bruises all over you, old wounds crusted in blood, dark and anxious circles under your eyes. You haven't slept in days.
I only discovered the bruises today, when I touched you and you screamed. Of course you started to laugh when the pain eased up, made a joke of it, said you weren't sure what had come over you. I didn't believe you; I made you strip down so I could see what was wrong. How could I have been so blind? Under the clothes your white skin was black and blue and dirty yellow, stained with the paint of your blood trapped under the surface. I swore I would kill the bastard that did this to you.
I didn't realize the bastard was me.
I thought I was drowning the nightmares, the screams that echo in my dreams. I thought I was protecting you, saving you from the pain I put up with every day. I thought I was keeping you safe when really all I was doing was condemning you to hurt like I do. What the hell have I done? What the hell have I done? I managed to drown out the dying soldiers' pleas for help, but I drowned out yours, too.
I can't stop apologizing, even though I know you need to sleep. You open your eyes and tell me not to bother, you never blamed me. You reach up a shattered hand to wipe away tears that I didn't realize I was crying. You say you love me. You must be stupid. Then you lift your head and brush your lips against mine before settling down and falling back to sleep.
I'm almost angry at those words. How could you love me, knowing what I am, what I've done? How could you not harbor the same revulsion for me that I feel for myself? I wish you wouldn't love me. I wish you would tell me you never wanted to see me again, push me away, slap me in the face, scream that I could burn in hell for all you care. But you don't. No, you bury your head in my lap and shiver when I graze the lump at the base of your neck where I hit you with the bottle last night. You mumble against me that you understand, you aren't angry, you never were, you couldn't blame me if you tried.
I don't know how I could have done this to you.
I love you, and I whisper it into your hair. I love you, I love you, I love you. You smile and mumble a reply in your sleep. I can only wrap you tighter, trying to communicate my devotion to you without hurting the tender, battered skin. I'm never going to hurt you again.
I love you, too, comes your burbled answer. I always have. I always will. There's that feeling again, that anger, that sting that pricks at my heart. I don't want you to love me. I want you to hate me, hate me for all I've done to you, but you aren't that kind of person. You never have been. You never will be. You are the sort of person that falls in love with someone and loves them forever, unconditionally.
I've never been loved unconditionally. It feels a little strange… but you nestle your head closer against my leg and I realize that I don't care; I won't argue with anything that keeps you right here with me, safe in my arms where you belong.