Barry was slumped over a now cold mug of tea at the kitchen table, trying not to think. He almost didn't register Lilith sitting down next to him... but when she tentatively touched his hand with her warm fingers, he looked up.
"Barry. You're shivering. You're still having nightmares, aren't you." How could he not be having nightmares? His brother, his nephew,half of Europa wiped out. His experiences in the hellish place he had gone to rescue his brother's daughter had almost pushed him over the edge.
"Yeah. Sometimes I don't think I'll ever be warm again.. Those damn Geisterdamen... oh, hell..." his voice cracked.
"Agatha insisted on sleeping in the hayloft with the new kittens. Adam thinks she's safe enough up there- he's going to sit up with the cow that's due to calve, so Agatha won't be alone in the barn."
"Um. All right, I guess." Being the youngest, Barry knew damn-all about raising kids except that you loved them and protected them and taught them the best you could. The way his mother had.
"So, Adam and I thought... maybe you'd spend the night with me?"
"WHAT!" He wondered if this was working up to a new sort of nightmare.
"Barry... nothing needs to happen if you don't want it to- but you need to get some quiet sleep, and we all know about the nightmares. We've talked about this a lot, Adam and I. You don't have to be alone. And if you did want something to happen, " Lilith blushed a bit, then rushed on, "well, Adam always says I could wear a man out until nothing would keep him awake. "
"But.. but.. You're married. Adam..." Adam stepped out of the shadows by the fire, and nodded decisively He then took up a pad of paper and wrote firmly, "Yes. I wish this. I suggested it. Lilith wishes it. You are too alone. Lilith cries to hear you in the night, and I cannot watch you both hurt."
"Is this some crazy Heterodyne loyalty bullshit? You don't need to offer me..."
Adam glared, and Lilith broke in angrily, "No, Barry. This is nothing about Master and construct or Heterodyne privlege, or anything like that. You are our friend. We have been friends a long time. That is all. We- I'm offering because it's the only thing we can think of that will help. You can't take any medicine for the nightmares, you can't afford to. And, I thought, if only I could help."
"Will you reject help from a friend?" wrote Adam. He and Barry locked glances, and Barry realized that from Adam & Lilith's perspective, he was not behaving honorably, but actually insulting Lilith, and probably Adam. "No... it's just that... Lilith, that's very generous..."
Adam's hands motioned, "In times past... I saw you look at her, and her at you." Barry wasn't sure exactly what the next bit of hand talk translated as, but from the added wink and smile he could guess it was "even when you both didn't know the other was looking..."
Barry didn't have the strength to fight. "Lilith? Adam? You really wish this? You don't mind?"
"Yes, Barry." Lilith was very serious. Adam nodded again, arms folded across his chest, in his most determined manner.
"Then yes." Lilith clasped his hand, and Adam smiled, tipping him a salute, and slipped out the door.
Lilith stood up. "The fire's burning in the bedroom. There's a clean nightshirt by the bath. I'll just bank the fire and be in soon. Oh, and lock the windows. Agatha gets inventive if she feels she's been left out."
When Lilith slipped in to the bedroom, her hair already in a night-time braid, Barry, slightly damp and clothed in a clean white nightshirt, was sitting on the turned down corner of the bed. His eyes, without their glasses, were somewhat unfocused, but when he looked up at her it was the most present he'd been in weeks. It broke her heart.
"Barry, love, can you give me a hand with my corset-strings? Adam usually does it for me, I'm so lazy about twisting around …"
He stood up mechanically and undid her laces. She could feel his warm breath on her shoulder and feel his fingers tremble slightly. She didn't want to spook him, so she retired to the corner to pull her nightgown over her head and slide her shift off. Then she came over, and sat on the opposite side of the bed. "How about laying down?"
Both of them slid under the sheets, and she wriggled over to put her arms around him, pulling him close to transfer some of her warmth to him. "Barry?"
Suddenly, he let out a deep moan, clutched his arms around her, and began to cry, deep heaving sobs like a tortured body on the rack. She held him while his tears ran down her neck, feeling as if her own heart was breaking. She rocked him against her shoulder as she would have Agatha, making wordless noises of comfort for a grief larger than she hoped Agatha would ever face. Soon her tears mixed with his, mourning for everything they had lost and a future of fear and worry.
No-one can cry forever, though, and eventually he quieted. She stroked his head and thought what her twelve-year-old self would have thought to see her in this compromising position with a Heterodyne. His breathing slowed down so much she wondered if he had cried himself to sleep, until he said, tiredly, "I didn't think … if I started to cry... that I would ever stop."
She nodded against his hair. "I know the feeling. Right after I found Adam, and then, when... it all happened... it seemed like whenever we weren't running, all I did was cry. Adam, sometimes, too. Sooner or later, though, it stops, and eventually you don't feel like crying all the time. Thank whatever god may be."
"Sometimes I think I want to be a construct... the memory loss might be worth it," Barry muttered.
"It's overrated, madboy. Mostly, eventually you do remember, and seldom the good bits. I think that's what sends Sparky constructs over the edge, really."
"I'm sorry- that was tactless of me."
"Nay, I understand. Some days I think I'd like to be taken apart and put back different myself. Then I realize it's not worth the trouble," she smiled, "Think of all the dress fittings for a new body! Anyway, snuggle in, as I say to Agatha when it's cold." She couldn't help staring at the rounded curve where his neck met his shoulder, and wondering how it would feel to gnaw gently on it.
He shifted, bringing her to his chest instead of the other way around, but then said, tentatively... "Did you mean that? What you said... in the kitchen? About..."
"Four bare legs in a bed, Barry? Yes, love, I did." She tried to keep her breath steady at the thought of it. "And so did Adam. You know he's got a heart even bigger than Bill's. He won't be bothered."
"Well, if you're sure..." He faltered, "I think maybe..." Hope- or something baser- bloomed in her chest.
"We could just start, and see what happens..." she offered.
He looked down at her, his eyes worried.
Knowing words were doing damn-all to reassure him, she didn't bother to say anything, just turned her face up to take his lips in a kiss. It deepened a lot faster than she had expected it to, and with more fervor and skill. She grabbed at his torso, feeling the delicious yielding of his meaty flesh- so different from Adam's blacksmith's muscle- and wriggled against him. He responded in kind...
When it was over, that first time, he delicately rolled to the side, and she snuggled up under his arm. Still trying to catch her breath, she pillowed her head on his comfily padded chest, and ran her fingers through his chest fur. "Well, that was.. unexpected."
"Thank you, I think," she could hear the smile in his voice. "I guess you and Adam weren't around to notice... but all those priestesses and second daughters and such I got saddled with, not all of them wanted to sit around mooning over Bill, or telling me about their family traditions. Some of them," his chuckle rumbled through his massive chest, "were quite inventive. And once you've been through the Heterodyne ceremony, there's a limit to how out of shape you can get."
"Mmm. Certainly a lot of things Adam and I never invented. Um... it's been a long time, though, hasn't it?"
"Fortunately, since I'm not as young as I once was, lady Lilith. You can probably coax my snake to rise a few more times tonight, if you like. Demon temptress!" he laughed as she nipped his arm with her teeth.
There was more loving that night- Barry seemed to want to try out everything he could think of, and see if she knew it too. There were cat-naps, cuddled in each other's arms. And there were more tears, too, Barry's hurt and their shared grief too big to leave them in peace entirely. But there was laughter, too, if not the clear unburdened laugh of the old Barry, at least the first laughs they'd shared in so long. It was one of the best nights of her life, up there with her most treasured memories of Adam.
They slept in, of course, the sleep of the exhausted. Even the sounds of Agatha romping outside, apparently building something with large, resonant metal bits from Adam's workshop, didn't rouse them for a while.
When Adam came into the kitchen at nearly noon to find Lilith making tea and Barry sheepishly cutting bread and cheese, he smiled. Looking from his clearly radiant wife to the sleepily relaxed Heterodyne and back again, he widened his grin till it seemed to split his face, and shifted his stance a bit. He picked up the bread and cheese and handed it to Barry, with a hand-gesture Barry remembered from their travelling days: it meant "Take Bill and Klaus and get lost for a while, wouldya? I want some time alone with my girl." Barry grinned back. "I'll just take this and bottle of ale and take Agatha out for a pic-nic lunch in the woods, shall I? Don't forget the sock on the doorknob, though."
The last thing he saw out of the corner of his eye as he sauntered out was Adam, still passionately lip-locked with Lilith, lifting her up in his arms as if she were a feather and heading back to the bedroom. He wondered if he could get a waking Agatha far enough away to not hear anything that would entail embarrassing questions... and then wondered, given last night's ambient noise level and Agatha's nosy nature, if she had already asked Lilith those embarrassing questions while he had been away. He rather hoped he wouldn't find out.