The price of loving her

Scenario: Elspeth wakes from a nightmare in the Healing Centre and is comforted by her faithful, constant and ever over-looked friend, Dameon.

Characters: Dameon, Elspeth

Author's Note: This is semi-based on a scene from The Keeping Place where Dameon comes in to wake Elspeth up after she faints from hearing about Rushton, only in my story, Rushton has not been found yet and Elspeth has just had a nightmare and is not in her normal mind-state...

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"Wake Elspeth…"

He leans over her, bathed in warmth, sunlight caressing his back like a long-time lover, a strange ache in his chest. He senses the flicker of emotion that shadows her thoughts, her radiant aura flowing through him, unconsciously greeting him in ways only he can see in his darkness, ways he cannot even begin to describe…

in colours that aren't colours,

in feelings that linger and wrap themselves around his mind. He smiles, knowing it would embarrass her if he told her this as well as the many other things he's kept from her over the years…

Like the way he senses her when she's close,

the tremble of air in her in-breath,

the spaces between her footsteps,

the rhythm of her voice,

the scent of her hair…

He senses her waking, her hands reaching out to touch the bars of sunlight that fall on her face, fingers meeting his skin and hair. He smiles as her fingers ghost over his lips. She slowly opens her eyes, vision swimming into focus and looks strangely up at him.

"Dameon…" she sighs. "I had such strange dreams…"

And he listens patiently as she confides her worries, her dreams, her fears… her love for Rushton… and revels in a small sense of triumph that this is something that he has that Rushton will never have.

He feels her thoughts flickering like fragmented glass, reflecting cracked emotions a thousand times over. He takes her hand, and presses her fingers gently.

"You are not a dream are you?" she babbles. "You won't disappear? Everyone disappears in the end. Matthew and Dragon, Cameo and Domick…I always thought I would be the one to leave but instead it's I who am left…"

He stiffens as her emotions bubble warily on the surface, regretting having woken her as he senses she needs more rest, her mind like thin glass threatening to shatter into hysteria.

"It's all right," he whispers, squeezing her hand. "I am here and I will not leave you ever again…"

And it is as if his words break open some great chasm within her, some buried darkness. She breaks and gives into the malevolent shadows that linger at the fringes of her mind, and sobs so deep, so profound shake her whole body.

He feels it,

and suffers,

as the strong, untouchable woman he loves succumbs to her grief. She reaches out blindly, desperately for him and he meets her half-way, touching her face, smoothing away her tears. She pulls him into a closer embrace and he stumbles a little, supporting himself on the bed-frame so as not to crush her.

Rushton…

And it hurts to think she doesn't know it's him, but it doesn't matter in that moment,

It doesn't matter that she thinks he's Rushton…

He can't think of anything but the need to comfort her. And then she's pulling him towards her, guiding his face to hers, so that he has no choice but to lean further over her,

foreheads touching,

soft breath intermingling.

Head spinning with euphoria at her closeness,

her defencelessness,

her scent as she threads her hands through his hair and kisses him again and again as if trying to draw his very soul from his body.

He's shaking, his hands gripping the bed-head so as not to hurt her. But he knows in this terrible moment of grief that this is what she needs, and although it costs him dearly, he lets her…

He brings his hands up to cup her face, stroke her hair, her lips, fingers smoothing over her neck and collarbone. He can taste the tears, salty, warm, on her face and sends wave after wave of reassurance, comfort and stability through his barrier to her. But when she tries to pull him into a more intimate embrace, he breaks away gently yet firmly, eyes bright with un-shed tears.

"No more Elspeth…" he trembles, his heart pounding impossibly loud in his ears. He senses a change come over her as her face pales a dirty white under the blinding sun. She looks like a woman possessed.

"Where are you going…? Please don't leave me…"

He stops, stricken for a moment and then slowly,

heart aching,

gathers her in his arms, hating himself for his weakness. He holds her, his lips at her forehead, wondering if it is possible to die from unrequited love, and if not, then maybe he will be the first. Several sun-lit years pass as he sits there and holds her, as the world spins and blurs out of focus around them, her face a pale blur in the whirlpool of light. The sounds of everyday life mellow to an indistinct hum as all he can feel is her softness, her warmth, her breath that rises like a cloud from between parted lips … And finally the turmoil of her emotions begins to subside.

"Dameon…?" She blinks, looking up at him confused, as if pulling out of a reverie, her eyes dark and feverish and her cheek sticking to the rough linen of his shirt.

"I was in a dark place… I thought I saw…Rushton…"

"Hush my very dear." He runs his fingers gently over her eyebrows, brushing the hair from her face.

"You're crying…" she murmurs softy, distractedly and reaches up to touch his cheek. He nods, his throat tight, not trusting himself to speak.

"Where am I?"

"You are safe in the Healer's Hall."

"Safe…" she mummers, her eyes drifting close.

And he eases her from his arms so that her head touches the pillow, her skin, warm beneath his fingertips and wonders if it is possible that just a moment ago, he was drowning under the intoxication of her scent, the taste of her warm mouth, the incredible feeling of her skin under his fingers.

"I miss him…" she whispers on her breath. Dameon stands there, a burning ache in his throat and the warm metallic taste of blood in his mouth, where he has bitten his lip until it's bled.

"I know dearest, but you need to rest now, I'm sorry I woke you…" He smoothes the covers over her, and touches her forehead gently.

He knows that as long as he's with her in this room, he will be strong for her. He also knows that once he's out of sight he will rush out into the courtyard, wade through the cool, green shadows, press his face against the rough bark of some nearby tree and bleed his heart out against the comforting, tear-stained wood.

"Sleep…" He feels his way to the door, keeping a smile on his face although it breaks him to do so.

Strong. You must be strong.

But inside he's breaking,

into splinters, fractures,

for Elspeth…

Elspeth and her pain, Elspeth and her grief…

for the million and one things he can't fix no matter how hard he tries.

For the pain and confusion of feeling her emotions as his own…

for the fact that he'll never have her,

for the terrible sensation of being cut open at the heart.

He knows he will stay by her even if it kills him… for that is the price he must pay for loving her.