There is a majesty at my doorstep
There is a little boy in her arms
Ashley woke to find Henry snoring softly next to her in bed, her sheets tangled around his torso, her blankets wrapped around hers - Ashley was a notorious blanket hog, and Henry was no better. It was an odd truce they'd come to weeks ago, but one that seemed, for them, to work. It was as everything in their lives together: push and pull, and comfort in between.
She rolled onto her side and tucked her arm under her pillow, trying not to wake him. She knew he would still be tired after last night. Ashley watched him as he slept, and she allowed a soft smile to flutter across her lips. It was rare she'd allow for such vulnerability, but in Henry's presence, she was willing to expose herself. Of course, he was still sleeping.
She was amazed at how different he looked when the frenzy of his waking mood wasn't there to clutter his expressions. The lines on his face were smoothed, so that even the few gray whiskers couldn't deny his youthfulness. She brushed back his bangs and lightly kissed his forehead and he sighed contentedly. This was the Henry she loved. It wasn't really any different than the Henry she saw every day seated at the computers, the one spewing all the technobabble, fingers deftly dancing across the keyboard, and eyes bouncing back and forth between monitors. It was the same man, only ... hidden. It just seemed as though she were the only one who seemed to really see him, like he was her little secret.
She smiled, and pulled the sheets up around his shoulders and smoothed a hand over his chest. It was a secret worth protecting.
I can't stay very far
I can't stay much longer
Not long before Henry started to change he began having nightmares, ones that had found him bolt upright in his bed, a silent scream in his throat and his hands clawing the air. He wasn't quite comfortable with Will just yet to be talking about personal things like that, trained psychiatrist or no. He didn't want to go the big guy either. Admitting to having nightmares to the big guy felt ... silly. And he wasn't sure he wanted to discuss them with Helen either. He knew there was something going on, something else big she was dealing with; he didn't want to burden her with his problems.
Unsure of what to do, or where to go, Henry paced the length of his room for at least twenty laps before coming to his decision. He couldn't stay there any longer. He felt like he was going to crawl out of his skin, or go mad, or scream, or something. The memory of the nightmares raced through his head, and he ground his teeth to keep from howling in anguish. The images were almost physically painful.
He took a deep ragged breath to calm his racing heartbeat and pulled on a pair of sweat pants over his boxers and a t-shirt over his bare chest before he peeked out his bedroom door into the dark hallway. Once he was certain there was no one wandering the halls at this late hour, he went to the only other person in the Sanctuary he trusted with absolutely everything.
The closer he got to her doorway, the less sure he became. Maybe this was a mistake. But he found he couldn't turn back. He knocked. Nothing. After a few more knocks, he heard a shuffling, and she opened her door to find an abashed Henry standing at her doorstep. Her hair was tangled, her eyes were slightly puffy and she was yawning impressively. "What the hell, Henry?" her tone and expression more befuddled than angry.
"This was a mistake." He immediately turned to head back to his own room, but before he could make it two steps, he felt her tiny fight-calloused hand on his arm and turned him back to face her.
"Forget it. I'm up, you're here. Come in. Talk." She motioned grandly as she stumbled clumsily back into her bed, and flopped onto the bed face down, not even bothering to cover herself with the blankets.
Henry sighed. "Look. I don't even know if I want to. Or if I can, okay? I - I just didn't want to be alone right now."
Ashley nodded and lifted her head slightly to speak, "Fine. I'm cool with that. Honestly, I don't know if I'm awake enough to listen. You can crash on the couch for tonight," she said motioning towards a small sofa in the corner of her room. Her head promptly dropped back down onto the pillow.
Henry sighed with relief. "Thanks, Ash." He collapsed onto the small sofa, and despite his earlier anxieties, found himself soundly asleep in the safety of Ashley's room. He found respite there, a haven from what sought him out in his dreams. As a result, he found himself in her room more often than not after that.
It was a few nights later that Ashley experienced firsthand one of Henry's nightmares. That night, Henry was allowed to sleep in her bed. Unable to do much else, she did all she was able to; she held him and kept the monster at bay. She soothed him and gave him comfort until he finally fell back asleep. It was hours later before she was finally able to sleep herself.
Henry lay in the dark, his eyes adjusting to low light. By the window, the moonlight allowed him to see her guitar leaning against her couch; in the corner shadows his pupils expanded to see her armoire, doors ajar, clothing spilling out onto the floor; next to it, her computer in hibernating mode - damn. He hated it when she did that. He carefully lifted her arm off his waist and eased himself out of the bed to turn off her computer. Unable to stay away for too long, he climbed back into bed and pulled the sheets over his legs.
What the hell are you doing here, Henry? he asked himself. At first, he had come because he had been frightened, but now ... now made his way here out of habit, out of comfort. He needed someone to shield him from the monster in the night. And that monster was him, as it turned out.
It wasn't something he was proud of, putting so much on her small shoulders, but he didn't know anyone who was stronger than Ashley. She carried them all, whether they knew it (or admitted it) or not. But he knew it. And he loved her for it.
He reached out to grasp her hand and ran his thumb across her knuckles in the blue light the moon cast across the room. "Thanks, Ash."
He couldn't quite make out the expression on her face, but he was sure she was awake and she was smiling. "Any time, Henry," she whispered back.