A/N: No warnings other than heavy sentiment ahead.
Lou woke to her thrashing lightly. It was a nightmare, he knew.
And instinctively, he pushed most of the covers off her as he called her name. He understood what it was to wake up in a sweat, to feel claustrophobic for no reason. Some nights he had needed to be on his feet as soon as he was awake as if moving could push the things away. And blankets in the way didn't help.
"Thank you," she said once her head had cleared a bit. She felt cooler now. Less confined. She took a few deep breaths.
"Do you want to tell me?"
"I don't really remember all of it, just that I was back in jail. And I wasn't getting out."
He rested his hand lightly on her chest. "Your heart is racing," he told her sympathetically.
She nodded. And then found herself apologizing.
"Don't," he said. "Really, Mary. I'm up for the bad, as well as the good. I'd rather this happened with me here than when you were alone."
"Do you get nightmares?"
"There was a time when it was bad," he confessed quietly. "War stuff. It's never gone, I guess. But it almost never happens any more."
"I'm sorry," she told him gently.
"Hey, I'm okay. How are you?" he said trying to deflect her concern.
"Hold me," she told him.
"Anytime. Anytime at all," he assured her.
They settled on their sides with him behind her. His arm lay lightly across her chest.
"And if you needed me..." she said. She turned in his arms to face him then. "If you ever needed me, I'd want to be there."
"I know," he whispered.
/ / / / / / /
The next morning, the breakfast dishes were cleared. And she was on her way back from the kitchen.
He pushed out his chair and caught her hand as she tried to pass by.
"Come here," he implored her. He pulled on her gently until he had gotten her to sit astride him.
"Could it be like this? Us?" she asked after a long quiet and a few kisses.
"Yes," he said, quite simply and seriously. He smiled then. "Well, but not every night. Because I'm getting to be an old man, Mary," he quipped.
"This..." she said giving him a shake from his lapels. "I am trying to tell you I like this. Us, together."
"I know," he conceded. "I like it, too. But, ah, hey... I don't want you to take this the wrong way but..."
"I hate your bed.. sofa...thing."
She laughed, having feared any of a thousand other problems.
"Move in with me, Mary," he said suddenly, but very earnestly.
"Rhoda and Phyllis aren't here any more. There's nothing to keep you here. And every reason for you to be with me."
"You're serious," she managed to say.
"I'm serious, Mary. We've been friends for years. We're good together. We're compatible in that way those women's magazines are always mentioning," he told her with a grin he could not hide.
She smacked his arm.
"What will your daughters say? Or your grandkids?" she demanded.
"Oh, they'll just say 'Grandpa got lucky.'" He said this a tad too proudly for Mary.
"Just think about it, Mary," he implored her.
She dropped her head to his shoulder a long while. And when she looked back up to gaze around the apartment, she saw what little there was there to call a real life. And she weighed that against how incredible it felt to have his arms around her.
"We can try it," she said.
"We can do it, Mary. You'll see."