A/N: For anyone who might have a birthday and enjoy fic. Although this fic ended up not being half as fluffy as it was meant to be. *frowns disapprovingly at fic* Still. Happy Birthday, mate! Hope you like it.
It was the spider that did it, Tess realised later with a shock of guilt. At the time though, she didn't think anything of it. There had been nothing remarkable about the day. Danny had surprised her after work, whirling her away to dinner in her favourite restaurant. They'd talked about their days and she'd teased him again about needing to get a hobby, preferably one that didn't involve other people's property. They'd gone to a late movie and then home, and it was wonderful but normal.
She'd seen the spider when she was stepping out of the bath. It had scuttled over her towel. She screamed; Danny came running.
"Tess! Are you alright?"
Immediately she felt embarrassed. It was only a spider, for heaven's sake. "I'm fine," she said quickly. "Just..." She pointed and Danny turned.
"Oh," he said quietly, and he didn't turn back to look at her.
"I know it's stupid, I just don't like the way they move," she explained.
He half looked back, enough for her to catch the edge of a light smile. "I'll take care of it, Tess," he offered.
Even more embarrassed she realised that was exactly what she'd been hoping he'd say. "Thanks."
Gingerly he bundled the towel together, the spider inside, and took it away.
She was already in bed when he got back minus the towel and the spider, rubbing at the back of his hand unconsciously.
"My hero," she said lightly, reaching out to him. "Sorry, but dealing with things with too many legs is definitely a job for - "
He pulled away.
She blinked and he offered her a tender smile.
"Sorry, Tess. 'm tired."
He did look tired. She could see the strain around his eyes and that would be reasonable except it hadn't been there before. Still he smiled at her like there was nothing wrong and kissed her goodnight, and she fell asleep uneasily.
A soft whimpering sound woke her a couple of hours later, and she opened her eyes to see Danny frantically scratching at his arms, his legs, his chest like he was desperately trying to get something off him.
"Danny!" she cried out, sitting up and reaching out to him, needing to wake him up.
He recoiled and she could feel him trembling beneath her hand, clammy with cold sweat.
"No...get them off...don't...get them off." His voice was hoarse and terrified, and he sounded as far away from himself as she had ever known him, and he reached up to tear at his face.
She tried to grab his wrists and shake him awake at the same time. "Danny, wake up. You're safe. I'm here. It's just a bad dream."
"I'll never tell you," he snarled, and he startled awake, pushing her hands away and sitting up in in one violent motion.
For a long second he just sat there, his breathing harsh and ragged, his shoulders shaking.
She reached out and took his hand and they sat in silence for a moment while she let him regain his composure.
Gradually his breathing slowed and he took her hand to his lips, kissing it lightly.
"Just a bad dream," he said easily.
"Was it?" She moved up the bed, sitting next to him, regarding him seriously. "It seemed like more than that."
He didn't say anything.
She sighed quietly and stroked his cheek. "I know you don't like telling me about...things," she said slowly. There were whole areas of his life Danny glossed over, and she knew he was trying to protect her, but she'd heard enough to know that he hadn't always been...safe. And nowadays every time he even contemplated a job she made him promise he'd be careful, and she really believed he was...but that didn't change the past.
Still he didn't say anything.
She bit her lip. "Do you want...I could call Rusty," she suggested with a reluctance that came from somewhere entirely selfish.
Startled, he looked up at her. "What? No." He sighed and leaned forwards, kissing her forehead. "Oh, Tess. I'm sorry."
She caught his face between her hands and looked up at him intently. "It's not a question of sorry. I just want to do what's best for you."
"It was just a nightmare," he said quietly. "And yeah. It was something that happened a while back."
There was silence again and she looked at him, still tense and unsettled, and with a sudden thought she moved so she was sitting between his legs and she pulled his arms around her. Danny wanted to be the strong one. He could find comfort in offering it.
He sighed softly, burying his fist in her hair, and she could feel him relax against her. She squeezed his hands tightly. "It's over," she said softly.
"Yeah," Danny said again, and she thought maybe it was easier for him now she wasn't looking directly at him. "It was years ago. Someone I'd..." he hesitated. "Annoyed," he settled on at last.
Someone he'd stolen from, she guessed, but those weren't the details that mattered. She leaned her head back against his shoulder and he kissed her hair. "What did he do?" she asked, and her voice only trembled a very little.
"She had me beaten up and then she dragged me into this crate and poured spiders all over me." His voice was mechanical. Far away. "There were hundreds of them. Crawling all over me. My hands were tied...I couldn't get them off." He was rubbing at his arms again, trying to scour off the memory, and she caught his hands quickly, kissing his fingers. "I know it sounds...funny," he began.
"It doesn't," she said at once. "It doesn't sound funny at all." She hated to think that had happened to him, just as she hated to think that he had ever been beaten up. She wanted him safe. She wanted him to always be safe. But failing that, she just wanted to look after him.
She twisted around, wrapping her arms around his neck, kissing him deeply, offering comfort and trying to convey the desperate, unstoppable love in her heart.
He kissed her back and held her like he never wanted to let her go.
"I'll get rid of my own spiders from now on," she promised gently.
He grinned lightly. "I used to get Rusty to do it," he admitted.
She raised an eyebrow. "We're not calling him all the way here every time there's a spider," she said firmly, even though she had no doubt that Rusty would come in a heartbeat.
"He saved me that time," Danny said, his eyes far away.
"Come on," she said, standing up. "There's a bottle of wine downstairs. Let's go and watch TV for a few hours."
"Tess..." He caught her hand, looking at her intently, like there were a thousand things he wanted to say to her. "I love you," he said at last.
She stepped into his arms as he stood up, and let him kiss her. "I love you too," she whispered in his ear and she pulled the comforter off the bed and headed downstairs.
A few hours drinking wine on the sofa, wrapped in the comforter with something mindless on TV, her snuggled against him...she'd find a way to chase his nightmares away.
It had just been a playful moment, Isabel thought guiltily. If she'd even dreamed it would bother him, she'd never have even thought about it.
They'd been fooling around on the bed. She'd been on top of him, kissing everywhere she could, when she'd spotted the dark silk scarf she'd left lying on the bedside table, and quick as thought she'd grabbed it and tied it over his eyes. It was...impulsive, nothing more. She'd even grabbed his wrists as he immediately reached up to remove it, holding him down for a second until she realised that he wasn't just startled.
Immediately she let him go and he tore the blindfold away, sitting up quickly. He was breathing a little hard, but she wasn't sure if that was fear or the remnants of arousal.
She knelt up on the edge of the bed, watching him. "Sorry," she said softly.
He ran his hand over his face. "Nah, I'm sorry," he said lightly. "Overreacted."
Perhaps. But she doubted he'd acted like that for no reason and she didn't think it was because he didn't trust her. She laid her hand on his knee. "Is there anything you want to talk about?" she asked hesitantly.
"Nah," he said again definitively. He smiled at her, moving closer. "Now, where were we..."
Afterwards she watched him sleep for an hour or so, wondering if he was alright, wondering if he'd even tell her if he wasn't. She'd accepted that he was the way he was – controlled, contained, self-sufficient – but sometimes he seemed so far away it hurt.
Eventually she fell asleep, but she was woken a few hours later by the sound of soft agonised sobbing. She was awake in an instant, turning the light on and sitting up to see.
Robert was lying on top of the covers naked and shivering, curled up tightly, like he was trying to make himself a smaller target. His back was to her and she could see the pain and fear radiating off him.
A nightmare, she guessed. She should have tried to insist they talked. Gently she reached out and laid her hand on his shoulder, shaking him lightly. "Robert, wake up," she said urgently. "You're dreaming."
He gasped and huddled up a little tighter.
Alarmed, she moved closer to him, drawing him into her arms and pressing her hand against his face. "Hey," she started to say, but he moaned and leaned in towards her hand with an uncharacteristic urgency.
Not sure what to do, but fully prepared to offer comfort if that was what he needed, she carefully started to stroke her hand down his cheek, her other hand rubbing slowly at his shoulder.
"Hey," she said again. "You're safe. Wake up now. Please."
There was something unnerving in the desperate way he responded to the touch and affection. It wasn't him.
"Wake up," she repeated, her voice sharper.
It worked a little too well.
His eyes flew open and he stared at her, wild and unseeing. She cried out involuntarily at everything she saw in his eyes, and a split second later he threw himself out of bed, backing away until he bumped against the wall, and he stayed hunched on the floor, looking around blindly, as though trying to make sense of his surroundings.
Slowly, being careful not to make any sudden movements, she followed, stopping a few feet from him.
"Robert?" she called tentatively.
He didn't say anything, but he looked up at her and that was something.
She swallowed hard. "Do you know where you are?" she asked carefully. She was a cop. She knew post traumatic symptoms when she saw them. Just she had never expected to see them in him.
He nodded with an effort. "Bedroom. Home."
"Yes," she agreed, kneeling down and reaching out towards him. "Do you - "
"Don't touch me," he snapped, jumping back violently.
She froze before carefully shuffling back. "Alright, she said agreeably, keeping her hands where he could see them, her heart breaking. "Robert, I wasn't going to hurt you. I'd never."
"I know that," he said, his voice hoarse. "Just please, Isabel, don't touch me. Please."
"I won't," she promised softly, a little reassured to hear him say her name. At least he knew who she was.
With a sudden thought she stood up and crossed to his bedside table, being careful to keep her distance from him like he wanted. Rummaging in the drawer, she found the Hershey bar that she'd known would be there.
"Here," she said, sitting down opposite him with her back against the bed, pushing the chocolate on the foil wrapper out into the middle of the floor between them. "Just nibble it," she warned as he reached out to take a piece. If she couldn't hold him, hopefully the chocolate would work as an anchor to the real world, at least a little.
It seemed to have some effect, maybe just because it gave him something to focus on.
At any rate there was a little more colour in his cheeks when he looked up at her and smiled. "You think I've been attacked by Ringwraiths?"
"Dementors," she corrected him immediately. She had a sneaking fondness for the Harry Potter books.
He shrugged. "Looked like Ringwraiths."
The lightness brought them a step closer to normal, but he was still keeping his distance, still closed over "So you want to tell me what's happening?" she asked softly.
Robert's eyes dropped to the floor. "Just a very bad dream."
She bit her lip. "It seemed like more than that."
"Yeah," he said quietly. "Yeah."
"I'm not asking you to tell me," she said slowly. "But you know I'm here if..." She stopped, uncertain. She wasn't good at this. She loved him more than she'd ever loved anyone in her life, but she didn't still didn't know what to say to make everything better. "I'm here for you," she said at last.
"I know that," he said softly. He closed his eyes for a long moment, then he shuffled over beside her, dropping his head lightly onto her shoulder. "Thank you."
Carefully, afraid she was going to upset him again, she took his hand and he squeezed her fingers like they were a lifeline. Like she was a lifeline.
"I try not to let the bad stuff touch me," he whispered, sounding almost guilty.
"That's not always possible," she reminded him gently, and she understood. She had her own nightmares after all. The 'bad stuff' followed her, just as it did him. "It was the blindfold?" she asked quietly.
He looked at her for another long moment and nodded slowly. "Yeah." He drew away from her, clearly embarrassed, and unable to stand it, she rolled round and kneeling up in front of him in one easy motion.
"I don't like fire," she blurted out, staring straight at him intently. "And sometimes, when I dream, I can taste the smoke for days afterwards."
"Isabel..." He reached up and touched her face.
She grabbed his hand and kissed it fiercely. "You're not alone."
"That time I thought I was," he said hoarsely. "He kept me blindfolded. They didn't talk. And he kept hurting me and then comforting me and I couldn't tell...I thought I was losing my mind."
He closed his eyes, shuddering, and it was obvious he wasn't going to say any more. Not tonight and maybe not ever. But that didn't matter as she leaned forwards, embracing him, and he pressed his head against her chest like he was listening to her heartbeat.
"You're not alone," she told him again. "I'm here and I'm not going anywhere."
"Good," he said fiercely, leaning up and kissing her deeply.
They made love right there on the floor, like they were chasing the nightmares away.
A/N: For anyone who might be wondering, Danny's nightmare was based on 'One Bad Day' and Rusty's was from 'Everything We Do'. For anyone who'd already figured that out...this A/N is entirely pointless. :)