It's the sixth night in a row he's called her, voice shaking, asking her to come. With Christmas fast approaching the nights are becoming harder and harder, and she's got used to throwing a jacket over flannels to go over to his townhouse yet again. As always she's out the door before she's even hung up, and this time when he opens the door he just mutely opens his arms to her and she walks into them without a second of hesitation.

This time, when she falls asleep on the couch with his head cradled against her chest, he wakes in the middle of the night and carries her, like a sleeping child, to the guest room.

She wakes up a couple hours after that to screams from across the hall, and before she can register what she's hearing, she's flown out from under the covers and into the master bedroom. She doesn't have time to ponder any potential awkwardness because her entire focus is on the man thrashing in the bed, soaked in sweat and crying out in the throes of his darkest nightmares.

She throws herself onto the bed beside him, taking one hand tightly in hers as she tries to reach him. "It's all right. Come back to me, yeah? It's Barbara. Come on, now. I'm here. I'm here. Come back to me. I'm right here."

This time he can't even cry, just holds onto her and shakes.

More often than not after that he finds himself falling asleep with her sitting beside him, making sure he is truly out before she slips back across the hall to the guest room. When he wakes from the nightmares she's always there before he's even woken up, and more than once he wakes in the morning to find her curled against a pillow propped against his headboard, fast asleep with her old fleece blanket wrapped around her.

For Barbara, although she aches to the bone for him, it's a pure pleasure to finally be able to do something after six months of being repeatedly shoved away. And although her hopes have nothing to do with why she's all but moved in with him, although she knows it's far too soon for the thought to even cross his mind, for the first time in seven years she dares to hope there's a chance that maybe someday, all her dreams will come true.

For Lynley, she's the only thing standing between him and a howling maelstrom of agony. And so he clings to her as much as he can, and lets the soothing cadence of her voice, the soft touch of her hand, and the steady beat of her heart tether him to sanity, and to reality.