Warnings: cussing, sex, schmoop, angst
Author: Alex Kade and Lily Zen
Notes: I finally got around to piecing this story together. It's quite a process. Alex and I write on a forum, so we can access it anywhere. The downside to that is we have to copy and paste each individual post into Word, edit, and format it. It's quite tedious, so I hope you appreciate it.
Disclaimer: Shadowrun belongs to Shadowrun people. Original characters belong to us.
Teva's first reaction to Mrs. Reyes' letter was a quick flash of disbelief followed by an overwhelming joy. Brandon wasn't dead, they'd just been mistaken, misinformed. Her next feeling was worry. He'd been missing for quite some time. Why? What possible condition was she going to find him in? Why hadn't he contacted her himself? Where was he?
The clinic. She thought, then could have kicked herself for not thinking of it sooner, when Bran had first dropped off the radar. Stupid. Her emotions must have blinded her to all the possibilities, all the rational steps she would have taken under any other circumstances.
It was as she was looking up the number to the specific Doc Wagon clinic Brandon had received his care at that it hit her...if Brandon was still alive, it meant that she'd just cheated on him. With Red. Oh, fucksticks. Her lips parted on a soundless gasp of shock as she finally registered this fact. Her head thumped onto the counter top as she groaned. Teva's eyes began to burn with tears once more, but these were for a completely different reason. The sudden guilt threatened to choke her.
If only that stupid letter had shown up yesterday. "Oh god," she whimpered, "What am I gonna do?" Did she tell him? What would happen if she told him? Nothing good, that was for certain. And if she kept it a secret? The guilt would always be there, but it would be hers to bear. As long as she didn't let it creep over into their interactions, everything would be alright.
"Red!" she gasped, sitting back up and dialing his comm.
"Yes?" he answered, politely interested as always.
"Hi, I, um, need a favor," Teva stuttered, wincing at the hesitance in her voice.
"Another one?" Red chuckled.
"Ha, ha," she snarked. "Not that kind of favor. I just found out Ghost's still alive-"
"Oh," Red stated, and that single syllable seemed to hold a wealth of understanding.
"Yeah," Feral agreed, "Pretty much."
"What do you need?"
"Healing and your guarantee of silence," Teva answered automatically.
"Sure," he agreed. "Stop over. I'll do you now."
Teva winced at the same moment that Red hissed.
"Sorry," he told her, "Didn't mean it like that."
"I know," she replied quietly, but feeling even more horrible than before. "Just...just promise me you won't do something like that in front of somebody else. I can't... Red, I can't lose him a-" Her voice cracked, but she continued speaking, squeezing out the final syllable, hoping it wasn't too audible, "-gain."
For a second there was silence on the line, and she waited, her body tense with anxiety. When Red finally replied, tone laden with sympathy, her breath came out in a relieved whoosh of carbon dioxide. "Teva, of course. I'm not some schoolboy in the locker room. Nobody will ever know what happened last night except you and I."
"Thank you," she choked out.
"No thanks necessary," the other 'runner responded. "I don't have any plans today, so just call when you're on your way."
"Okay," Teva nodded though she knew he couldn't see her.
"Get Madden to come water your plants," he gently suggested.
"Yes," she agreed. Yes, that was completely logical, and no doubt something she'd have overlooked. Her brain seemed to be slowing down with the shock, with the suddenness of it all.
"For what it's worth, I'm glad he's alive," Red told her, and disconnected the call.
To the empty air, she whispered, "Me too."
It took time to get everything in order. She had to find a flight. The mid-day flight was due to take off in twenty minutes, and the next one wasn't until four o' clock but was down to standby only. She'd get a better deal if she took the six o' clock flight, but that meant catching a connection in Houston. She wouldn't arrive until after ten, and that was with crossing time zones.
As she packed, Teva finally put out that call to Madden, asking him to come and make sure her plants were taken care of until further notice. "Yeah," she said, "Feel free to eat whatever. I don't know how long I'll be gone." She rolled her clothes up into tiny little balls of fabric, stuffing as much as she could in the bag. She didn't think she'd need them, but she packed some weapons anyway in the false bottom.
After creating a list of instructions which Teva sent to Madden's comm, she locked up, and took the bus to Red's. He let her up, and offered her coffee, then very professionally rested his hands on her neck and healed up the marks his mouth had made on the slender column and underneath her shirt, and the faint fingerprint bruises on her hips. As always, Red's magic entered her with the intimate feeling of furred animal sides rubbing against each other. It made her smile a little, but she was unable to articulate the exact source of her amusement when Red asked.
Finally, he looked her in the eyes, and told her sincerely, "I really am glad he's alright. Love is the best thing on earth, and the most painful thing to lose. I'd never wish that agony on anyone."
She kissed him on the cheek. "I really hope someday you find somebody, Red, 'cause underneath all the layers of cynicism and derision there's a good guy." Patting his opposite cheek lightly, Teva stepped away and picked up her bag again.
He shot her a wan smile. "Thank you for the warm wishes. Now go fetch your boyfriend."
Sighing, Teva dragged her fingers through her hair. "I have no idea what I'm gonna find when I get there."
"Think of it like a grab bag," Red drawled.
Barking out a laugh, Feral flipped him off and walked out the door, waving casually over her shoulder.
Brandon's mind was still swimming with confused thoughts as he picked at his soup, not really hungry but not wanting to argue about his lack of appetite either. Dr. Peters had okayed a very small bowl of plain vanilla frozen yogurt in celebration of his first step-and-a-half towards freedom, but even that wasn't enough to entice him. Yes, he had walked, and it was all good news, but then what? Even once he earned his way home he'd still be mostly bound to the wheelchair and a rolling walker for a while, which he still wouldn't be able to cruise around in without direct supervision. Really, as happy as he was at the notion of having his leg function back, he was just trading one sort of prison for another.
But the second one would be in the comfort of...somebody else's home that wasn't even his. His place had been rented out to someone new, someone the Reyeses didn't like nearly as much as they liked Brandon. The safe house was comfortable, but it wasn't his home, wasn't full of memories both good and bad, or singing with his secrets of joy or sorrow. Never one to be overly sentimental about inanimate objects, it wasn't the belongings he'd left behind to be stolen or destroyed that he missed, it was the apartment itself. It was the place where he and Teva had played house for a while, pretending they were a normal couple instead of two messed up 'runners clinging to each other for comfort.
Mrs. Reyes was sure Teva would come today. He wasn't. He didn't think she would, and if she did, she probably would take one look at his barely functional muscles and sightless eyes, and decide he'd be too much work for her to handle.
...She never said it back.
His throat constricted, and he dropped the spoonful of soup back into its bowl in favor of the yogurt, wanting something cool to help ease the burn that was starting to grow. Nobody scolded him for picking at his dessert before he finished his meal. In fact...
"Hello?" he called out tentatively when he could talk past the lump that threatened to cut off his voice.
"Still here, mijo," Mrs. Reyes said softly from somewhere off to his left. "Do you need something?"
He shook his head. "No, just checking."
There was a pause before Mr. Reyes spoke up as well. "Would you like me to tell you more stories? To fill the silence?"
Brandon's face flushed a little at that, but he nodded. Having something else to focus on right then would be good, something to keep away his growing apprehension over whether Teva would come or not, and what her reaction would be when she got there.
He managed to finish his yogurt and fell asleep listening to the smooth, lulling cadence of voice that only Amerindians seemed to possess, filling his head with tales of brave warriors and days when grassy plains covered most of the country. The tales wove into his dreams, and even in his sleep he found himself wishing he could stay there again, trapped in slumber, his little retreat to a pretend world where he could still see.
When they woke Brandon up for dinner (which was something he was still trying to get used to - lunch, then sleep, then being made to eat again when he felt like he just had only moments before), he found the first question shooting out of his mouth had been to ask if Teva was there. When the answer was a no followed with yet another assurance that she'd be coming, he found himself to be more depressed than he felt he should've been. He told himself that she wasn't coming, wasn't supposed to even let himself hope that she'd be there, but Mrs. Reyes had just been so damn positive about it.
Two days though; two days had passed when she should've shown up, but she hadn't. He tried to pretend like it didn't bother him because he knew that this was how it was going to be, but in truth it was carving into his chest with the intensity of a dull blade sawing into his heart. This was supposed to be better, easier than her showing up just to tell him it was over, judging him and despising him for his helplessness; but it wasn't. It wasn't at all easy, and he found himself wishing he could hear her voice, even if it was harsh or angry or even pitying.
When visiting hours came to an end he tried to pretend that he wasn't even thinking about it, but of course the Reyeses knew he was; everyone knew he was. Nana gave him a kiss on the cheek while he fumbled around with his tablet in an attempt to look nonplussed by the whole ordeal, and told him again that the mail was probably just slow, or that maybe Teva just wasn't home to get it at a reasonable time to come.
He nodded, and with a little shrug of his shoulder promptly answered with, "Whatever," like he didn't care, and appeared to concentrate on his writing practice. After they'd left, though, he shoved the little journal aside and hugged his arms around his middle, wishing away the growing emptiness that was growing there. He had fallen back to sleep having lost the little bit of joy he'd gained earlier that day from his triumphant walk and gaining back his ability to write.
The bus to the airport took a long time, and the flight even longer. She'd smoothed on an anti-anxiety patch before even getting on the plane, knowing that she was already jazzed up, and not needing to make it any worse. She didn't sleep though. She never slept on the planes. The patches managed her anxiety, but didn't obliterate it. By the time Teva landed in L.A., she was tired, but called up the clinic to verify that Brandon was there.
"He's sleeping though," the nurse said kindly.
"That's okay. Don't wake him. I'll do it myself," she replied.
"Alright, Sarah, I'll let you, but just this once," the woman laughed. "He's been waiting for you for days."
It was then that it occurred to Teva that she knew this woman. "Darlene?" She slipped into the back of a cab and gave the driver the clinic's address.
"Yeah, sweetie. It's a long shift for me today," Darlene chuckled.
"I'll see you in a bit then." As she spoke, Teva realized she hadn't eaten anything since that morning, and she was fucking starving. "You want something to eat?" she offered.
"Swinging through a drive thru?"
"A burger and fries would be nice. I'll cred you back when you get here," the woman answered.
A quick pit stop at a Jack in the Box later, she'd walked into the clinic, given Darlene her food and offered her a vanilla shake. The nurse smiled, shook her head, and said, "Give it to your boyfriend. They've got him on a liquid diet. Just...don't tell the doc I let you give it to him. And um...what do you know about his status?"
"Nothing," Teva replied, fishing french fries out of her little paper bag.
What Darlene told her shocked and saddened her, but at least it prepared her...-ish. Standing in the doorway of his room, a heavy bag in one hand, and a greasy paper sack in the other, she was suddenly struck with how different he looked. It wasn't just the weight loss either or the fact that he was so pale, paler than usual. There was a pall of sadness in the air, and even in his sleep he looked troubled. She didn't want to wake him, but she wasn't sure if it was within her rights to stay with him. There was a lot there between them that hadn't been said or dealt with.
Then he began to stir, and she knew she wasn't leaving as long as he wanted her there.
The smell roused him out of his slumber. It smelled like greasy food, and even with his seeming loss of appetite his stomach still twinged at the thought of eating something grotesquely unhealthy for him. What asshole would bring something like that within his reach when they knew he couldn't have it?
Opening his eyes, he turned his head in the direction where he knew the door to be and scowled. "What?" he snapped, wondering why the hell whoever was standing in his doorway wafting food smells into his room hadn't moved or spoken, and getting a little concerned that maybe none of it was real and his fucked up brain was causing him to hallucinate. Blind, mostly immobile, and crazy. That would just top things off pretty fucking perfectly.
Inwardly he screamed at the person to make a noise, any noise, to confirm he wasn't losing it.
Please don't let me be crazy.
Teva jumped at the suddenness of Bran's voice, snapping like a whip through the room. She took a few silent steps in, though her bag rolling across the floor behind her gave her position away. Clearing her throat, she said simply, "Hey."
She put the paper food bag on the little table in the room, and dug the shake out of the bag. The straw popped in the top with one of those squeaky, screech sounds. "Sorry it took me so long to get here. You want a shake?"
Normalcy, casualness; these seemed like the better options for an opening gambit. He was cranky, and probably wouldn't know what to do with her if she just flung herself on him and started crying. Plus, she was kind of sick of crying. Eating was the better option, and more practical, all things considered.
The sound of Teva's voice was like a shock to his emotional system, and at first he didn't know what to do with it. His chest heaved up and down a few times as he tried to keep himself under control, wanting nothing more than to jump out of bed and crumble into her arms.
But he wouldn't get to her arms before he crumbled. If he even tried he'd wind up in a little blind heap on the floor next to the bed, showing her exactly how pathetic he'd become. That thought made him pull into himself a little, and as overwhelmingly happy as he was that she'd actually come for him, he was now also startlingly terrified. He didn't want her to see him like this, didn't want to hear the coming rejection in her voice, wanted to tell her to stay away, but knew those words would never come out of his mouth. Now that she was back he would never tell her leave again, not ever.
Instead he unconsciously hugged his arms over his chest and squeezed his eyes shut, feeling incredibly insecure as he wondered what to do with himself for a second, and came to the conclusion that his best course of action would probably be to just answer her simple question. Making a bold move and hoping he wouldn't screw it up, he reached out with one hand to feel for the little rolling table beside the bed where his tablet was resting. The thing had a fold-up leaf that doubled it as his food tray, but he'd never worked it by himself before and wasn't quite sure how to.
Settling for just wheeling the thing from back at his shoulder level down to being in line with his waist, he kept his face turned away from her as he both subtly answered her question and asked for help at the same time. "There's a...um...a tray on this thing...somewhere."
What do you do with a suddenly blind boyfriend? That was Teva's dilemma. She'd never seen him so helpless before, even when they had first met up again, and she'd helped him through detox. Help him, you idiot, her brain prodded her when his hands fumbled for the tray. So she did what she would have done with anybody who didn't know how to operate the tray-she told them.
"There's a trick to it," she admitted, stepping forward and placing her hand over his where it was feeling a little uncertainly for the food tray. "The tray is underneath the top part with a little button next to it." Lacing her fingers with his, Teva directed their hands downward to the second level of the table, the small space in between the two long, flat surfaces passing between their fingers before they found the next laminated top. Quickly, she slid their hands along it to the right until they ran right into the rectangular button. "Push the button in," she directed while her hand, still tangled with his, did so, "And while you hold it down start pushing the top table away from you. The food tray will slide out toward you at the same time. Be careful not to hit yourself with it."
Waiting, she watched as Brandon used his other hand to find the upper table again, and pushed out gently. The table reacted just as she'd said it would, the food tray sliding out. "That's good," Teva murmured, disentangling their fingers though she felt a sense of loss at the contact. "Then just let go of the button, and keep sliding the two pieces out until you hear a click." He was going to hit himself with the tray. "Just a sec, let me adjust the wheels." Teva pulled it back a couple inches, then let Bran do the rest, hooking the fingers of one hand underneath the piece with the food tray, and pushing out on the top piece with the other. "It's not so bad once you get the hang of it," she stated quietly.
"Sorry for bringing food in," she told him as she went to grab the vanilla shake off of the table. "I haven't eaten much today, so I'm starving." With what she hoped was casualness, Teva put the paper cup down on the tray in front of him, and informed Bran, "Your shake's at twelve o' clock." She started digging in her own bag for the monster soyburger in the bottom of the sack.
A tiny little smile quirked Brandon's lips once he got the tray all the way out, appreciative of the fact that Teva had spent the time to direct him through it instead of just treating him like he was too inept to handle the task himself, and then following that with just telling him where the shake was instead of holding it for him. He should've known better. She just wasn't the type to cater to a weakness unless it was clear that a person was literally physically incapable of handling something on their own.
"Thank you," he said as he carefully reached out for the cup, not wanting to tip it over in his attempts. His fingers brushed against the paper lightly, and he adjusted his aim to actually get his hand wrapped around the cup properly. Not wanting to look like an idiot and stab himself in the face with the straw, he used his other hand to guide that into his mouth, and smiled again at the sweet taste.
"They let me have frozen yogurt today," he quietly blurted out, not caring so much right then that his brain-to-mouth filter was still on the fritz. Teva hadn't shied away from him. She'd grabbed his hand and helped him, instead. And she didn't sound mad about the whole suicide, just kidding thing...at least not yet, anyway.
He let his eyes crack open again, just a little bit, as he continued to let himself ramble on a little self-consciously. He hadn't realized just how much he'd missed having simple, retarded conversation with her, and decided staying clear of the heavier topics would be good for now. Of course, that meant he didn't really have much else to talk about. The clinic had been his whole world for the last almost month and a half.
"This is better than yogurt…and Peters said I could probably have mashed potatoes tomorrow instead of just the soup. Nana puts corn tortilla in it for me, but I'm kind of tired of it - the soup, in general, not the tortillas. I like that part. They gave me a writing tablet today too. It's pretty...cool...I guess." He dropped his head. "I'm sorry, I don't...don't do a whole lot. I walked almost two steps today...that's been about the most exciting thing that's happened since I woke up." That was followed by a sad little laugh. It had been exciting until saying it out loud like that made him realize how pathetic that sounded. He clamped up again and just focused on his drink.
Teva had sat back down at the little side table, and was chewing thoughtfully as she listened to Bran's recounting of his day. Swallowing her food, she told him honestly, "Two steps is a big deal, B. From what I understand, you were comatose for almost a month. That's a long time for the body to remain inactive, and muscle atrophies fast. The staff, well, they can do some exercises in the bed, but it doesn't use the same muscles as you being upright and doing it yourself."
She shoved a few french fries into her mouth, and spoke as she chewed, which wasn't exactly proper but oh well. "Don't sell yourself short."
"By the way," Teva drawled, eyeing Brandon as he sipped the shake up through the straw, "Don't tell Peters I gave you that. Darlene said it would probably be fine, but they've been trying to go easy on your stomach since you woke up. I guess she feels the frozen yogurt was a good step." She smiled even though she knew Brandon couldn't see it, but maybe he could hear it in her voice that she was in a good mood. "She thinks you're ready for real ice cream. Maybe next we'll even get you a flavor other than vanilla."
Reaching back into the bag, Teva dug out the other small shake and straw, and took a long sip. "Okay, that is pretty good, you're right." She took the top off and started dipping her fries in the ice cream.
"Who's nana?" The question was abrupt as the word finally registered in her tired mind.
Brandon choked on his shake, and nearly missed the tray when he set the cup down so he wouldn't drop it while his airway cleared itself. The coughing gave way to a light chuckle as he felt a trace amount of heat rise in his cheeks. Despite that, he turned a little in her direction and flashed her a humored smile.
"Nana and tata. Mr. and Mrs. Reyes sort of unofficially adopted me. They come every day, morning to night. They've been..." He shook his head with a thankful grin. "I don't know what I would've done if they hadn't been here. I couldn't...couldn't remember your number, and if nana hadn't..."
That stupidly familiar lump lodged in his throat again and he had to fight back tears. "She kept telling me you'd come, but I didn't...I thought you'd be mad. My last letter was...and then I was just gone. I was being careful, though, I swear. I didn't know they'd be there. It was just...Lonnie, and the park, and stupid coincidence, and I tried, I really tried, Teva, but there were too many, and one of them had a bat and I...I couldn't..."
Swallowing hard, he shut his eyes again in an attempt to regain control of his emotions. "I didn't think you'd come. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I tried."
"I'm sure you did," Teva said soothingly, but there was something deceptive in her tone, something boiling under the surface. "I don't blame you for your accident. That would be stupid. Blaming the victim is always stupid."
Pausing, she took a large bite off of her burger, using it to stopper up her words before they burst out in a hail of yelling and curse words. Holy shit. She hadn't known how angry she was underneath all the panic and worry and joy and sorrow and love, but fuck, Teva was so goddamn pissed off she could have chewed through steel, broken all of her teeth, had a mouth full of metal slivers, and it still wouldn't have been enough to keep her silent.
After swallowing, she took another drink from her cup, and began to speak once again in a carefully controlled voice. "Don't think because I'm here that I'm not angry. I am. The last communication I had from you was basically a suicide note talking about how you needed to save me from yourself. I spent the last month thinking you were dead. I mourned you." Drilling her nails on the tabletop, she shifted restlessly, crossing her legs, then uncrossing them, and finally crossing them again the other way. "I'm pissed. Now that the shock's starting to fade, and I can see for myself that you're alive... Jesus fucking Christ, I am so goddamn angry, I could cheerfully put my fist through a wall and I probably wouldn't even feel it."
As her diatribe went on, her words came faster, harder, cutting through the air with the shining urgency and precision of one of her throwing blades. Her fingers cranked into claws against her thighs. There was still some semblance of control in her tone though. Her words may have been spat out with increasing rapidity, but her volume never went up, she never made that final shift from icy, controlled anger to hot, blood-curdling rage. She was very careful not to let herself take that final step.
Teva sighed, dragging her fingers through her hair. "But I don't even know who I'm pissed at. Myself for not checking with the fucking clinic right off the bat? You for being a douchebag and writing me that horrible letter? Gabe? I'm definitely angry at him, no doubt about that; that fucker should be glad he's locked up. A stupid set of circumstances that happened to come together in just the right way at just the right time? Fate? Chaos? I don't even know." Slumping down on the tabletop, she took a couple of deep breaths, telling herself to keep control. Her eyes burned, and wetness began to roll silently down her cheeks onto the table. She didn't heave for breath or sniffle; Teva was resigned to her tears, and let them come, sitting there very silent and very still. Finally, when she felt the burning begin to fade, she swallowed hard and whispered, "Of course I'd come, you fucking asshole."
Each of her words stung Brandon hard, but he didn't argue against any them. He sat there and let them sting, knowing damn well he deserved the ones meant for him directly, and just hoping to soak up some of her anger at everything else so maybe it would stop beating her down so badly.
"I'm sorry," he said again, just as soft as her last curse, because it was the only thing he could do. It wasn't like he could just waltz on over there and give her a hug. Hell, he wasn't even exactly sure where 'there' was.
Instead, he pushed himself up a little higher in the bed and tried to give her a look that displayed just how sorry he was, and how he wished he could take it back, and how much he truly missed her. His hand came up for a second, but he curled his fist and set it back down, not wanting to reach in the wrong direction.
"Can you...I can't see you. Can I just, can I touch you, please? I need to...I need..."
He let his voice choke off, quickly becoming overwhelmed with just how much he needed that touch, more than just a hand helping him with a tray, but to really feel her; to touch her face, her arms, to kiss her hands, to hold her against his chest, everything to confirm that she wasn't just an angry voice across the room. He needed her, and prayed to god that she needed it too, because it would utterly crush him if she let her anger keep her away.
Teva's first thought was a rushed, embittered 'I don't wanna be touched.' On the heels of that was a wordless desire in direct contradiction to it. Her ankle bounced in the air. She knew it was the anger holding her back, and also the ingrained need to control that anger, to protect him from it.
But he needed her, was asking very nicely. Brandon had nothing to say in response to any of her words but 'I'm sorry' and 'can I touch you?' It sapped some of the strength from her rage away, and she found herself nodding weakly. Upon remember that he wouldn't be able to note the gesture, she whispered the word "yes" as she forced herself up out of the chair.
With economic motion, Teva placed Bran's cup on the top tray, and collapsed the pieces back together. After she'd rolled it back up toward his head, she reached for his hand. His grip was surprisingly tight. The strength in it made her bite her lip as fresh sorrow sprung up in her eyes.
L.A. was too hot this time of year now for jackets. Hers was stuffed in her bag, leaving her in a soft cotton tank top similar to the one she'd worn at Red's, a little loosely cut, though this one was a dark indigo color. As with the other one, she'd skipped the wearing of a bra. Her breasts were small enough that she could get away with it, and the shirt loose enough that no one would really notice. Keeping in mind the oppressive heat, her denim shorts were cut a little on the small side.
Though her minimalist attire had been helpful to her on the way there, trapped on a plane with a bunch of other people whose bodies were radiating heat, and in the airports with their inefficient cooling technology in terrible need of an update, in the climate controlled clinic it made her skin pebble with gooseflesh, or maybe it was just the touch of his hand. Either way, a little shiver ran down her spine, and she wanted to crawl up in the bed, wrapping her limbs around Brandon for both comfort and warmth. Teva didn't; she waited for Brandon to tell her what he wanted from her. They were touching now. So what was next?
The second Teva put her hand in his, Brandon held on for dear life. It was real, she was real, not just a cruel dream come to taunt him only to be ripped away by somebody telling him it was morning. Pulling her hand up against his face, he rested her fingers against his forehead for a second before bringing it down to press a long kiss on her knuckles. His other hand moved up to touch her arm, sliding his fingers up her bare flesh to her shoulder. He had to sit up higher, and pull her down a little further (a maneuver that caused him to wince a little as his sore muscles from Eric's last "don't be a whiner, we're working the shit out of your torso" PT session protested the action) before he could reach her face. There was moisture on her cheeks, which was the breaking point in him keeping control over his own, and in light touches he ghosted his fingers across her eyes, her nose, her lips.
"Oh, god, I missed you," he whispered, his voice quavering, and cried out more apologies. "I'm so sorry, Teva. I'm so, so sorry. I love you. I'd never hurt you on purpose, and I'm sorry I put you through that. I'm sorry. Please forgive me, I'm so sorry."
He leaned in and wrapped his arms around her waist, crying into the front of her shirt, determined to hang onto her forever if he could, not just for his sake but for hers as well. His tears weren't for him, not for his blindness or his weakness, but for her. They were for what he imagined she must have felt, how he felt after Nate had left him, for him being responsible for tearing that hole in her chest. It filled him with a deep sense of sorrow and guilt, and it wasn't something he could ever take back, but it was something that maybe he could make better. He was alive, and he was holding her, and his warm tears pressing against her chilled skin were a promise that he would never leave her again. Not as long as he could help it.
Her arms wrapped around his back tightly. It was an automatic reaction, something she couldn't have even controlled the second he pulled her close and closed his grasp around her waist. Brandon's delicate caresses and sincere, frantic apologies had brought on another weepy wave. She fought against them, not wanting to reveal just how much he'd affected her. Besides, one crying person was enough. Her breath came out shaky, and she wound her fingers through his hair, making those quiet shushing noises that seemed to be ingrained in all people. "It's okay," Teva told him, her voice a soft, melodic lull, "It's okay. We're alright."
The moment seemed to be suspended in molasses, just her and him, clinging to each other like they were the only rafts in the ocean some poor shipwrecked victims had. Eventually though, Brandon's tears began to slow and he grew quieter, steadying his breath.
"Just...let's never do this again, okay? 'Cause as much as I like a little drama in my life, this is too much. Bran, you've used up my yearly drama quota," she joked and chuckled dryly.
Brandon let himself laugh a little at that and turned his head so his voice wasn't muffled, but he didn't let up on his grip at all. "Wasn't planning on making any more blind dates with a baseball bat anyway. Turns out she takes that shit a little too literally for my taste."
It was dark humor, probably inappropriate, but that's all he had at the moment. He could feel himself starting to shake a little with the strain of holding himself at the awkward angle he was maintaining, but he didn't want to let her go, not yet. His fingers clenched tighter into the material of her tank as if the thin fabric could really hold him whenever his body told him it had had enough, but it gave him the drive to stay up for one precious minute longer before she must've realized what was going on.
As she began to settle him back against the pillows he continued to cling to her, pulling her down with him. "No, not yet," he begged, knowing he was acting incredibly childish, but not wanting to be without that contact. As long as he was touching her, holding her, she couldn't go anywhere. He didn't need to see her as long as he just held on.
"Okay," she sighed her agreement, scooting up onto the mattress, thankful that the bottom rails weren't up. Apparently they weren't concerned about Bran rolling out of bed anytime soon. Teva could see why. Just that little bit of effort spent holding himself upright had made him shake.
Settling next to him, she rubbed her cheek against his hair affectionately. "I missed you," Teva confessed in a low whisper, and kissed his temple. She brushed his nose with hers. Pausing with her lips over his, she breathed out quietly, savoring this moment of unexpected sweetness and the anticipation before she finally let her lips glide over Brandon's in a gentle caress, so soft it might have merely been the breeze.
Brandon's lips pulled into grin that was both grateful and genuinely amused at the same time. She tasted like burger, and all he could think was that he wanted more. Adjusting the hold he still hadn't released her from, one of his hands traveled up to the back of her head so he could pull her close for a real kiss. He pressed into her hard, deep, almost desperate, letting himself forget for a minute that he was in a brightly lit room at the clinic. For once his blindness worked in his favor, and he was able to imagine them being back in his bed at the apartment, the room nearly pitch black in the late hours of the night, neither of them needing to see because they knew every inch of each other's bodies by touch alone.
A woman's voice broke through his moment with a laugh. "Whoa, okay, clearly I'm intruding on...something..." It was Mattie.
Brandon froze, not certain what the nurse was going to do, and followed the sounds of her footsteps as she got closer. "You both stay right where you are, I'm just going to unhook you here..."
Teva smiled at Mattie as she came in the room, and unhooked Brandon's heart monitor. The woman winked at her knowingly, and it almost made Teva start to blush.
He had gotten so used to being constantly attached to the monitors that he hardly even noticed the wires anymore. Now that he thought about it, he was probably about to get himself and Teva all tangled up in the lines.
"Okay, there you go," Mattie continued. "Now when your heart rate starts climbing there won't be any more concerned nurses rushing in to your rescue. Clearly you don't need rescuing. I'm going to go, and I'll shut the door behind me. Make sure you get rid of that milkshake cup before Dr. Peters comes to check on you in the morning, and you better save some of your strength for PT tomorrow. Eric's not going to let you have another free day, you know. Have a good night."
"Thanks, Mattie," Brandon muttered, a little mortified by the whole ordeal. As soon as he heard the door click shut though he started to laugh. One of his hands covered his eyes in embarrassment as he continued, still holding Teva close with the other one. "Ohhh, my god. That was...where were we?"
"Where were we?" she repeated, and laughed. "You know, for a former player, you certainly embarrass easily." Teva lightly traced her fingertips over one hot, blushing cheek. "As for where we were," the pads of her fingers glided lower, tracing his bottom lip, "I think it was right about here." Her voice had dropped into a low, intimate whisper, matching the romantic gesture.
Having someone walk in on you in bed is not the same as publicly flirting! Brandon was going to say, but decided to let it go in favor of catering to her last gesture. This time it was her who leaned in to kiss him, following right behind the touch of her finger on his lip. He happily sank into her kiss, and gave back in return, perfectly happy with knowing that they probably weren't going to get much further than that in the physical department for a while. It was good enough just having her there, in his arms, his lips pressing into hers for as long as his strength would allow.
Fuck Eric's PT. If he woke up too tired to do anything productive in the morning it would be well worth the troll's scolding. He had some catching up to do.
They kissed until her lips had that plump, sensitive feeling to them that said she'd probably look a little bee-stung the next day. When Brandon's responses started lagging, her stomach let out a petulant growl reminding her of her unfinished meal.
Teva pulled away laughing. "That's my cue. I need to finish eating before my stomach starts gnawing on my other internal organs."
Brandon smiled sleepily, and let his head drift back onto the pillow. "Okay," he murmured with a little laugh in his tone as well.
"Maybe I could get one of the girls to find me a cot too, and I could spend the night?" she suggested hopefully. It was kind of late, after all, and she wasn't looking forward to trying to find a hotel at this hour. She was already tired, and couldn't fathom traveling any more.
"Sounds great," Bran agreed, and lifted her hand to his lips to brush a tiny kiss on her knuckles once more.
"Alright," she stated, gently disentangling herself from the wires, and sliding off the bed. As soon as Teva was done eating, she was going to step back out by the desk and see about that cot.
Too tired to put up any more resistance as Teva's hand finally broke contact with his, there was still a tiny flare of panic and loss as she moved out of Brandon's reach. He settled on playing the 'I'm not blind, just closing my eyes' game again, listening intently to every sound she made. Despite his best efforts, he found himself falling into a light doze while she ate. It wouldn't be too much longer before he wouldn't be able to fight sleep anymore, and the thought that he might wake up to all this having been just a wonderfully realistic dream still niggled at the edge of his thoughts.
"Tell them to push the cot right next to the bed, okay?" he murmured, but couldn't even keep himself conscious long enough to hear her reply. He just had to hope that if he reached out for her in the morning that she'd be there.