Title: The Life You Save
Author: Scribere Est Agere
Pairing: Goren/Eames
Spoilers: After Purgatory
Rating: M
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me.

Summary: May be your own.

xx

A solitude ten thousand fathoms deep
Sustains the bed on which we lie, my dear;
Although I love you, you will have to leap;
Our dream of safety has to disappear.
~WH Auden, Leap Before You Look

xx

She falls asleep on the way home.

It's not a long drive from the hospital to her apartment, but Bobby catches her nodding off before he's even pulled out of the parking lot, her head lolling against the door frame, then the back of the seat before coming to rest, finally, on his arm. The soft weight of her, the solidity and reality of her, comforts him, and he finds himself driving as slowly as he can without pissing off the drivers around him, too much. He doesn't want this, any of this, to end too soon.

He parks and sits and thinks about nothing for a while. He listens to city sounds and passing voices, and Eames's steady breathing. He wonders if she's in pain, but thinks probably not: Whatever they gave her before she left the hospital has pretty much knocked her out. He wonders if she's even dreaming.

When he realizes they've been sitting for close to an hour, he rouses himself, rouses Eames, half supports and half carries her into the building, up the elevator and down the hallway to her apartment.

"Tired," she mumbles at one point, then yawns, to prove her point. Bobby nods, eases off her coat and shoes. She leans against the wall, watches him arrange their shoes on the mat. She finds this amusing, but not at all surprising. When he is done, he looks up and sees her looking at him. Her steady gaze catches him off guard. He feels he should say something, something comforting maybe, but he can't think of anything other than sorry, but he doesn't say that, of course, because it would open up an entire line of discussion he's just not willing to follow right now.

"Bed," he says, and she nods, her eyes closing again, but she doesn't move from her spot.

"Eames?" he says and he realizes she's actually falling asleep standing up. When she starts to slide sideways, he reaches for her, slips his arm around her shoulders, leans down, puts his other arm under her knees and picks her up as easily and naturally as if it's something he does every day of his life. Her head bobs, then rests against him, her fingers curl into the front of his sweater, and something explodes in his chest, a hard and painful something, hot and raw, and before he can examine it too closely, he moves down the hall to her bedroom, places her on the bed and covers her with the faded quilt she favours. She doesn't move. She sleeps. He smoothes her tumbled hair back from her face, wishes fleetingly that he could lie down with her and sleep too, but she hasn't asked this time, and he has no idea if she wants him to, so.

He thinks he should take a shower. He thinks he should eat, and should get something for her to eat, too. He should get her some water, with a bendy straw, if she has any, because it would be easier, and she might find it funny. Or, it might remind her of the hospital and just depress the hell out of her. Either way, he thinks he should call her family first, to let them know she's home, and all right.

He thinks about how good it feels to think about doing something for her for a change.

xx

It's a pattern, or a habit, their relationship, and they fall right back into the routine so easily and naturally, it's almost as if nothing has changed, almost. They are kinder to one another, of course, gentler. Bobby cooks, and he's surprisingly adept at throwing seemingly incongruent items together and making them taste good. He makes sure she takes her painkillers on time, and gets plenty of sleep, tells her to take it easy, and she actually listens to him. They laugh more, they talk, not exactly intimately, but not the halting, stilted angry talk of before. Beginning her third day home, Alex starts driving him to therapy again every morning, and by the time they return to her apartment, it's after lunch. They eat, and sometimes Alex naps while Bobby reads, or takes walks. They watch TV in the evenings — they both like documentaries and the occasional wildlife special — and some nights they play games, card games, mostly, but then Alex digs out a battered box of Monopoly from her closet, gleeful, and they spend hours accumulating property and building hotels and going Directly to Jail, which they both find inappropriately hilarious.

They do not share a bed. They do not kiss, they don't even hug. Before she goes into her bedroom at night, Alex sometimes squeezes his arm in passing, and once she even tousles his hair. They make eye contact, then look away quickly when it lasts a beat too long.

After she turns her light out, Bobby puts his book away (he's made it to the Ts, Twain, and he's never read Huckleberry Finn, a fact he finds both amusing and embarrassing), punches his pillow, rolls on his side and thinks a lot about that night, that night in the hospital, that night that seems so long ago now.

He thinks about what he said, and what she said in return, and why they both seem to be pretending neither one of them said it. What does it mean? Is it good? Bad? He doesn't know. He thinks they are avoiding talking about it for any number of reasons, but mainly because they just don't do that, the Serious Talking thing, especially about anything Personal.

Plus, he thinks probably she hadn't meant it the way he meant it.

And, most significantly, he thinks probably she doesn't even remember saying it at all.

xx

And of course there are still the dreams. Those also haven't changed, and some nights they're so close and so real, he wonders if he's truly going mad after all, despite what Eames says.

Tonight, he awakes with a start, heart racing, sweat-soaked, on the verge of tears. It takes him several minutes to realize where he is, and where she is, and that they are both all right. Everything is All Right. Dreams. Fucking dreams. When will he stop remembering her—

—lying there, motionless, and the blood, all the blood, her blood on her face and in her hair, on the floor beneath, and her arms and legs all splayed awkward, and he sees Nagy, crouched over her, getting ready to kick again and there is a white light that flashes in his head that is bright like lightning or a nuclear explosion, wiping out everything any rational thought in his mind like don't touch him because if you do you will fucking kill him and then you'll be in big trouble and he grabs Nagy around the neck with a roaring sound that is a scream because the scream also erases anything else that is in his head like he's killed her because I didn't get here fast enough the fucker killed her she's dead she's dead now and I killed her just like he did and with his hands tight around Nagy's neck he slams his head down on the floor over and over and over

Stop. Stop.

He staggers to the kitchen sink, drinks a glass of tepid water from the tap, then another, and a third, before the shakes begin to abate. He looks up at the clock (3:34 a.m.), and rubs a hand over his face, hard. His eyes feel like they're full of sand. His throat hurts, like he's been screaming for hours. Or, holding back screams.

He goes to her.

He hovers in her doorway, uncertain, but desperate to know, to really know, she's all right, not lying smashed and broken and bloody on the floor. She's twitching in her sleep, and he watches for a while, counts her breaths (14), calms himself somewhat, and is just about to turn and leave, when she wakes, sees him, says his name.

She sits up, tangled in sheets, confused and concerned. "What is it? Are you all right?"

He considers lying for a moment, then thinks, what the hell?

"No."

He comes closer, almost reluctantly, and, after a moment, sits heavily on the edge of her bed. "Had a dream."

She nods. He can feel it. "Bad one?"

"Yeah. Real bad."

"Yeah."

She plays with the sheet, twisting it in her hands. "You talk to Brian about them?"

"Sometimes." He takes a breath. "Sometimes…I just don't even want to think about them."

"I know."

—he can hear the sounds of Nagy punching her, the indescribable sounds of his fists and feet on her body—

"You…he was…" God he does not want to hyperventilate.

She slides her hand across the blanket, puts it on top of his and grasps it, anchors it, and him.

"Bobby. It's ok. I'm ok."

"I know. I know you are now…but you…you weren't, all right? You don't get it. No one fucking gets it."

She sighs. "It was…bad, what happened. I mean, not only to me…but to you. People…forget that. That you had to watch…that you couldn't do anything." She pauses. "I don't know what I would have done if it had been me, watching you."

He manages a smile. "You? You would have kicked out the glass, would have wrestled him to the floor and cuffed him before I even got out of my chair." He stops. "You wouldn't have killed him."

"Bobby—"

"Doesn't matter. I'm…I'm just tired. Not sleeping. Maybe I do need to up my meds."

"No. No, you do not. You're fine. The dreams…they can't last forever." Her eyes are bright and wide in the dim light from her window. "Right?"

He squeezes her hand.

"Right. Go back to sleep. S-sorry I disturbed you."

"It's okay." She squeezes back.

He wants to stay, desperately. But, she doesn't ask him to stay, and he doesn't ask if he can, so, in the end, he kisses her lightly on the forehead, brushes the warm skin with his lips, and goes back to the couch. He doesn't sleep, not for hours and hours.

xx

In the morning he puts their breakfast dishes in the sink and looks at the calendar. He looks again.

"It's the 12th."

There's a heavy pause. Alex pushes her chair in, comes to the kitchen, leans against the doorframe. She cradles her cup of coffee in her hands.

"What? Oh yeah. Guess it is."

Bobby taps the small white square with his finger.

"You're supposed to go back to work next week."

She swallows the rest of her coffee. She takes longer than usual to do it. Her cheeks are flushed.

"Oh. That. I talked to Ross the other day. It's been…postponed."

Bobby stops tapping. He looks at her.

"What do you mean? For how long?"

She turns the cup around in her hands.

"Uh…six months or so. I took…a leave of absence."

Bobby shoves his hands in his pockets. He clenches them into fists.

"What? Why? I can get myself to my appointments, you know. I'm capable of looking after things—"

"I know all that, okay?"

Alex puts her empty cup into the sink. She runs water, makes it hot, hotter, so hot it hurts her skin. She adds soap. She takes so many deep breaths she loses count. She finally turns off the water, swipes her hands on her jeans, glances at Bobby and says:

"You're not the only one having bad dreams."

xx

Another night, like one of many, but this one is different. He knows, even before he opens his mouth.

"That Snowshoe Hare special is on tonight."

"Oh." Alex looks embarrassed. "Yeah. I'm actually…going out tonight."

He waits. He doesn't want to ask. He just wants her to say it. But, he's not sure he even wants to know.

"Liz is insisting," she says, then shrugs, like the last thing she wants to do is comply.

He exhales. "Ah. Okay. Well. I could tape it for you."

She looks pleased. "Okay."

He listens to the getting-ready-to-go-out noises, the shower and bathroom routine, the clothes hangers moving in her closet, sliding back and forth (he can almost hear her thinking: This? No. Or maybe this?), the scents of baby powder and perfume and…hairspray, maybe.

She's put her hair up, which always catches him by surprise, because he can see her neck. She's wearing a shirt, no, a blouse, red, and a skirt, so he can also see her legs(another surprise), and low heels.

"You…uh. You look nice."

"Thank you." She looks down at herself. "I don't know. I don't do this enough, I guess."

"What, get dressed up?"

"Go out."

He swallows. "Well. Have fun. Say uh….something to Liz for me."

She smiles and nods, fiddles for a minute with her purse and her hair.

"You know," she says in a rush, "I could just—"

"Go. You…should go." He clears his throat. "Really."

She nods again, smiles right at him, and then she's gone.

xx

The show is boring. Or, maybe he's just bored, because she's not watching it with him. Either way, he turns it off halfway through and prowls the apartment. It's very clean, because he just cleaned it, that morning, in fact. He sniffs her sheets (peach), arranges their coats in the closet according to colour, and finally takes his book and settles on the couch. He can hear the clock in the kitchen, its electric buzz counting off the seconds, the minutes, the hours that she's not here. He tries to block it all out, tries to read, but he must doze off, because her key turning in the lock wakes him from a strange dream (water running from all the taps, water overflowing), and he sits, wipes the drool from his cheek with his hand, looks at his watch (11:24). He's still holding his book.

"How was it?" He feels groggy and disoriented, clumsy and stupid.

"Fine. It was…fine." She kicks off her shoes and drops her coat on the floor. She flops on the couch next to him. She's been drinking, he can tell immediately, and more than usual. This doesn't bother him, but he's…curious, he supposes.

"Liz must have really wanted you to loosen up."

She smiles. Her lips are very red, redder than before she left, he notes through his haze.

"Well, it wasn't entirely Liz's idea."

He catches a whiff of something fruity, and something that smells suspiciously like Tequila.

"Ah. Rediscovered your passion for margaritas?"

"Those…and something called uh…Icebreakers? Dave ordered them."

"Dave."

"Liz's husband."

"Oh. I thought it was just going to be the two of you." And why the hell wasn't I invited?

"Me, too," she says and kind of laughs. "Turns out I was wrong. Turns out there were four of us."

Bobby tightens his grip on the book. He doesn't like the sound of this.

"Four?"

She holds up her hand, holds up four slightly unsteady fingers.

"A colleague of Dave's. It was all very innocent at first, oh Michael and Dave worked late and are really hungry, so why don't we all just go out to eat, do you mind if they come, blah blah blah. And I'm so fucking naïve it didn't even hit me at first, but then." She stops suddenly, kind of shrugs.

"Then." Even though he knows what's coming, he doesn't want to hear, but he wants to hear, because he knows—

"He kissed me."

Shit.

Bobby drops the book. It lands on the floor with a muffled thud. "H-he…what?"

"You heard me."

ShitShit. He was hoping he hadn't. He was really hoping he'd misunderstood. Maybe he had.

"W-where?"

"By my car."

"No…no. I meant—"

"I know what you meant," she says, smiling a little.

He tries again. "On the cheek?" he says, praying for some small miracle, but she's shaking her head, just slightly, and he feels like dying, right there on the spot.

She leans back on the couch, looser than he's ever seen her, though he hasn't seen her drunk ever, unless you count the third office Christmas party, but he doesn't, because he knew she'd been sick, hadn't eaten much for days, then consumed three glasses of punch that had been liberally doused with vodka, they'd learned later. So, it doesn't count.

Her hair is coming free from the thing she's put it in, the bun or whatever, at the back of her head, and her blouse has fallen open in a way that he can actually see the edge of her bra, which is also red, he notes. He thinks of Michael, with his mouth on hers, and his hands on her back, pulling her close enough to him to feel her breasts against his chest—

He actually feels ill.

"Did you…kiss him back?"

"Well, I didn't hit him, or anything, if that's what you mean." She shifts, pulls her feet up beneath her, lolls her head to look at him. "I mean, it isn't his fault my sister is such a twit. A well-meaning twit, but a twit all the same."

He just stares at her, like he can't quite believe what he's hearing, because frankly, he fucking can't.

You said you loved me, you did, you said it, I heard you—

"So…you drove home drunk." He says it flatly, and he sounds mean, but he feels mean, so he doesn't care, too much.

She shakes her head. "Of course not. Michael drove me."

Oh god. It just keeps getting better and better.

"Was he drunk?"

"Bobby. Please. Give me some credit, okay?"

"He…after he kissed you…he drove you home." Bobby can't quite get his mind around this.

She shrugs. "I was going to take a cab, but he offered and…" She trails off, closes her eyes briefly. "We had…a good time. It's been so long since I've had fun, and we were all laughing, and drinking, and after I got over being furious at Liz, it was…all right. And he was funny and I guess there was a connection there—"

Shutupshutupshutup I don't want to hear this I do not—

"— and when I said I had to leave, he walked me to my car and I thought he was just going to kiss my cheek, but…"

But.

"So, why isn't he up here, now?"

Alex straightens a bit, looks at him, her eyes focusing. "What?"

"Well, I mean…I don't want to get in the way. You…y-you could have just asked me to leave—"

"What the hell are you saying?"

"I'm saying you must have…you must have been giving him signals, you know, if he k-kissed you. He must have thought you wanted him to—"

(And I thought you fucking loved me)

"What? You think I pulled up my shirt and flashed my breasts? Licked my lips suggestively? I don't know what I did. I'm not aware of any come-hither looks in my dating arsenal."

You don't need any.

Bobby feels a white-hot churning in his gut. He has absolutely no idea what to do or say, which hardly ever happens, so when it does, it makes him incredibly uncomfortable. And fucking angry. He wants to punch something, but he doesn't think she'd appreciate him punching one of her walls. He can feel her eyes on him, dark and steady, but he can't look at her. His face feels very hot, his hands cold. He goes to stand up and do what, exactly, he's not sure, but Eames stops him anyway, not with a touch, but with her voice, which sounds on the verge of tears.

"You wanna know what I was doing? Honestly? I was thinking of you, and wondering how you were doing, and if you'd eaten, and taken your meds, or if you were watching that show, and if, maybe, you were thinking about me for a change, and I probably had a stupid moony expression on my face and poor Michael mistook that for misplaced desire for him, and the reason he's not up here, Bobby, is because I don't want him up here—"

He kisses her. Just like that, right in the middle of her sentence. And it's not a wimpy, little kiss either: He kisses her like he fucking means it, because he does. And she kisses him back, after a surprised beat, she kisses him, her hands sliding up along the sides of his face into his hair, gripping it so hard it hurts.

Then she pulls away, catches her breath. Bobby sits back, scrubs a hand over his face.

"S-sorry," he says.

"For what, exactly?"

"Dunno. Did…did you want me to…do that?"

"It's not that," she says, her fingers touching her lips. "I would…I would just like it if you kissed me because you want to, not to…make your mark, or…erase Michael's saliva from my mouth."

"Eames. I…wanted to, believe me. I…still want to."

The silence is very, very loud between them.

"I just thought…things would be different between us, after…" She stops.

"After what?'

"After…you said you loved me."

"Different how?"

She shrugs. "I don't know." She keeps touching her lips. Bobby keeps watching her do that.

"You said it, too."

"Well, you said it first."

"But, you yelled it at me, like you were angry or something. And, okay, you love me as what, a friend? Or a chauffeur, maybe?"

"Yeah? Well you were high as a kite when you said it. You probably don't even—"

"Remember?" She's laughing. Why the hell is she laughing?

"Yeah." He sounds defensive. He knows this. He even crosses his arms like an asshole. "Do you? Remember?"

Then she turns dark, shiny eyes on him and he forgets everything he was going to say.

"I remember how the room smelled like antiseptic and rubbing alcohol, but underneath that I could smell you, and you smelled like soap and coffee, but like fear, too. You were scared for me, and for us, because you didn't know what was going to happen. I remember how it was dark, but not so dark I couldn't see your face, and you looked scared, too, in your eyes and around your mouth. I remember the noises in the hallway, the nurses going by, but not coming in, like we were in our own little world, or an island, or on a boat, maybe, just the two of us, and how safe I felt. I remember feeling like was floating, higher and higher, and fighting so hard to stay still, to stay with you, to stay tethered to you, because I had something important to tell you, something you needed to hear. I remember you kept gripping your chair like you were going to get up and run far away as fast as you could. I remember you were wearing your blue shirt, the soft one with the little checks, my favourite one, and I remember thinking maybe you wore it because you knew it was my favourite and it might make me feel better. I remember the blanket on my bed was scratching my arms, but I was too tired and sore to move, and I wanted to ask you do it for me, but I was too mad at you to ask. I remember when you weren't gripping the chair you were rubbing the back of your neck and chewing the inside of your cheek so hard I thought you'd bleed. I remember wanting, more than anything in the world, for you to lie down beside me, and to put your arms around me, and I remember the look on your face when I asked you to, like you were going to cry, or maybe laugh. I remember your shirt smelled like mydetergent, like peaches. I remember it started to rain, just before I fell asleep, just before I told you I loved you, and I remember how your heart started pounding when I said it, like you were surprised or scared or happy, or maybe all those things at the same time, and how I wanted us to stay like that forever, because I couldn't remember ever feeling that happy. That's what I remember."

Her voice breaks on the last word. Bobby is suddenly having a hard time thinking. Or, breathing.

"Oh, Alex—"

"I should drink more often, right?"

He shakes his head. He doesn't know what to say. Again.

She wraps her arms around herself. She looks even smaller than usual.

"So…what are you thinking?" she says at last.

"I'm thinking…I'm pretty sure I need you too much."

She waits. He doesn't continue.

"What does that even mean, Bobby? Too much? Too much…for what?"

He shakes his head. "I just…I can't do this, any of it…without you."

Now he's afraid to look at her. Is she horrified? Scared? Angry? Amused? He lifts his eyes. She's crying, or about to, anyway. He really needs to work on not making her cry all the fucking time.

"You don't need me any more than I need you."

But he's already shaking his head before she's even done talking.

"What? This isn't some fucking contest, Bobby."

They sit in silence.

"Bobby…I need you, too, whether you want to believe it or not."

"You…need me."

"Yes. How can you not know that?"

"Looking after someone and needing them are two different things."

"I know that."

The look everywhere but at each other.

"So…what now?"

She smiles a little. "We could kiss again."

God. If only. If only he knew for sure, if only there was some guarantee

She sighs. She knows what he's thinking, of course. "You're afraid I'll regret it."

"Yes."

"I won't."

"How do you know?"

She takes his hand.

"Because I know you."

xx

There is kissing again, but it's different this time, not frantic, she thinks, not desperate, but not tentative, either. These are kisses that are leading to something more, something inevitable. He holds her almost carefully, afraid, she supposes, of hurting her.

"I'm…okay, now," she says. "I won't break."

"I'm…okay, too, now," he says, and she knows he's blushing without even looking. "You know."

"I know," she says. "I was the one who suggested the medication be cut in half, remember?" She kisses him. "You know…for just such an occasion."

His laughter catches her off guard, because he looks so handsome when he laughs, and it's been so long since she's heard it. She kisses him again, harder, kisses his mouth, then his neck, and his throat, and he makes noises there that make her twitch, make her suddenly, deliciously wet.

His hands are everywhere, but they're moving slowly, languidly almost, as if he doesn't want to rush it, or miss anything. He removes her blouse, her bra, his own shirt, and it's slow, steady friction between them, and she has to bite her lip to keep from screaming. No one has ever touched her like this before, not Joe, not the few who came before, and the one after, and she knows it's simply because no one has ever loved her the way Bobby does. No one. This knowledge knocks her almost senseless; her breath hitches in her throat and she must make some sound or movement that's out of synch, because Bobby stops and pulls back, concerned.

"What? What is it?"

She puts her arms around him, around his chest already slightly damp with sweat, and shoves her face into the space between his shoulder and neck.

"You love me," she says. It's not a question, and she doesn't question it

"Yeah. I do. I love you, Eames."

"Yeah. And I love you."

His breath ruffles her hair. "It's good, right?"

"Really good."

So they continue. She loses track of time, and realizes at some point that he's smelling her, her neck, her collarbones, her arms, her hair, her ears, but she's not surprised, she's even a little flattered, and more than a little aroused.

Her body is humming, her blood boiling just under her skin. She wants to keep her eyes open so she won't miss anything, but when Bobby touches her there and kisses her there, she gasps and arches and trembles and her eyes snap shut and she makes sounds she's never made before, has never heard before.

She can feel the momentum building, slowly at first, so slowly she thinks maybe it's just not going to happen, which is fine, but then, of course, because it's him, it goes galloping ahead, wildly, beyond her control, and she couldn't stop it if she tried.

It's skin against skin, a sensation she thought she might never experience again, and with Bobby it's even more than that; she can picture neurons firing, and bits and pieces of him sifting into her, and he keeps kissing her, and his hands keep caressing her, even as he comes, his head dipping low, and he hears her name, her own name, whispered raggedly in her ear, over and over, as he shudders over her and in her.

Her entire body goes taut and tight, and it almost frightens her, how powerful it is, how much bigger than her, but his weight on top of her comforts her, keeps her in check, keeps her tethered, tethered to him, she realizes.

In the end, in the final moments, it's like a rocking, she thinks, a gentle, rhythmic rocking that reminds her of something else, something long ago, something comforting, like a small boat on an open stretch of water, only this time she's not alone. This time Bobby is with her, really with her, and she's not imagining any of it.

xx

"I didn't."

He's drowsing, one arm across her hip, her hair tickling his nose, and her voice startles him.

"Didn't what?"

There's such a long pause he wonders if she's fallen asleep, or was sleeping in the first place, and talking in a dream.

"Kiss him back. Michael. I stood there in complete shock for a couple seconds, because I hadn't seen it coming. And then I pulled away and…"

Her hand tightens on his shoulder, then relaxes, her fingers moving to his neck, the side of his face, his cheek. He swallows.

"And what?"

"He knew."

"He knew what?"

"That I was already taken."

xx

Her phone beeps, then his, and he knows before she checks the message who it's from.

"It's Linda. Said for us to meet her in the morning."

Bobby nods.

"She must have…news. About the appeal."

"Yeah. Probably."

She shifts beside him, lifts her head and rests it on his chest, her hair spreading across his skin.

"Eames…would it…make a difference? Between us, I mean. If…I can't go back."

She can feel his heart beating under her ear.

"Only that I won't go back without you."

They're quiet for a bit.

"I guess we need to talk about it."

"I guess."

"What about jobs?" she says.

"Well, I think you have a real future as a dancer."

"I'm serious." But, she's smiling, he knows.

"I am, too." He touches her hair. His fingers tangle in the strands. He marvels that he's touching her hair. "I'm not…worried."

He should be worried, he knows. He should be terrified. If he can't work as a detective, if he can't work with Eames

It's unknown, all of it, and he should be scared shitless.

He's been scared for so long, about so many things. The fear has eaten at him, relentlessly, for as long as he can remember, about one thing or another: His mother's sickness, his brother's addictions, Donny, Nicole, Declan, Eames. But, this not knowing about work doesn't scare him, not in the least, because he's lying here, and she's lying beside him, and she's all right, and he is, too, and it's all all right, whatever happens, and suddenly he's not scared anymore.

He smiles.

"Everything will be okay."

"How do you know?"

"Because I know you."

She kisses his shoulder. There's a wet spot there. He thinks she might be crying a bit, but he can't tell for sure.

"I never did thank you, you know," she says.

"For what?"

"Saving my life." She lies back, watches him. He can see she's very serious about this. "You saved my life, you know."

"Yeah," he smiles, shyly. "I did." But he knows the truth, the other part of the equation that she seems to have forgotten, or not be aware of at all—

—she suddenly, impulsively reaches up on tiptoes and throws her arms around his shoulders. She closes her eyes, pushes her face into the scratchy and vaguely musty smelling fabric of his dress coat. "I'm so sorry."—

—"Are you really here?" he asks, suspicion battling with trepidation and fear and anger.
"Yes. Yes. It's me," she says, nodding almost furiously. "I'm here I'm not—"
"—not dead."
"No."
And at last she comes very close and she puts her arms around him in a desperate, clumsy hug, and half falls onto him, into his lap, and she buries her face in his neck and digs her good fingers into his back and he can smell her and touch her and ohgod it is her—

—Don't leave me, okay? Don't you dare…leave me. Don't…fucking leave me—

— She makes a sound that is a little like a sob and kisses him again, hard and sloppy at the same time, and he curls his hand around the back of her neck, pulls her close, her head under his chin—

—I remember you were wearing your blue shirt, the soft one with the little checks, my favourite one, and I remember thinking maybe you wore it because you knew it was my favourite and it might make me feel better—

—Just…promise me…promise me you'll stay—

—I love you—

And he stops smiling, looks away, looks back at her, really at her, so she can understand the weight, the importance of what he's about to say, because if he says nothing else but thisto her for the rest of their lives, it will be enough.

"But, you saved mine, too."

xx

fin

Title shamelessly (stolen) borrowed from Flannery O'Connor's short story of the same name.