It was hard, I realised. To forgive or forget any awful thing that happened to you, especially when every memory was still so fresh in your mind.
The cool of metal against my skin and the warmth of blood flowing over my fingers kept me awake at night, making me sharp and irritated, bluntly answering every question from the doctors with only a nod that they had permission to check my bandages.
Jenny had come and gone only the once, the tears that she'd tried hard to cover evident through her puffy cheeks. She hadn't needed to say anything, really. Her reason for coming in the first place had been obvious even before she'd come inside.
"I'm sorry." She'd said to me, her hands wound tight together as she'd looked out of the window and not at me, "I just can't."
"It's okay." I'd told her. Because it was, I'd understood completely and I couldn't put her through this again.
People like me just - didn't do relationships, I guessed.
It was the third day in hospital when Strachan came to see me. I must have dozed off when he'd first come inside, listening to the repetitive beep of the machines around me and ignoring the pain that spiked with every shift of my abdomen, but as though I'd sensed his eyes on me I woke to the sound of his shoes squeaking on the floor.
"Hello, David." He sounded hoarse, like he'd been crying. Or shouting. I wasn't so sure and I found that I didn't really want to know.
"Get out." I muttered, rolling over and wincing when everything ached at the movement, "Please." I added when he made no move to go.
"David - "
"I'm asking politely, Michael. Don't make me change that."
That seemed to be the ice-breaker, "Christ, David, I thought she was dead!"
I shut my eyes, recalling the rush of pain that I'd experienced when that knife had slid right through my skin. I didn't even have to think hard either, I could still smell Grace's perfume as though she would always be near me somehow.
"So did I." I murmured, hollowly. I froze when a hand clasped mine, breathing slowly again as I relaxed. "Michael - " I felt the heat from Strachan radiate over my shock-chilled body, warming me despite everything else it did.
"Don't." The hand squeezed mine and I almost pulled it away, but that was crueler than I had the strength to be right now, "I wouldn't hate you for not bothering. I know what she did, what she's done and - "
I turned my head to face him, "Michael, you protected her."
He looked shamed, ducking his head down, "It was my fault that she was how she was."
"I know that!" His shout echoed and contrary to what I thought I'd do, I didn't even wince but glared at him instead, "I know. But you don't - it's my fault, David. I take responsibility for it all, I have to. Even for you."
He couldn't still think like this.
I slid my hand out of his, turning around fully and placing it over his chest, preparing to push him away before changing my mind halfway, "Look. I don't care if you can't accept this right now but you need to hear it. Your sister is still out there. Brody's dead and Frasier won't do much good, so the only other people who truly know what she's capable of are you and I." And Ellen. But I couldn't involve her in this, "You have to go forward. You have to tell someone about her."
"David - "
I spoke over him, urgently, "You have to find out about where she might go, where she might hide. Any friends that you have or had. You have to tell people Michael, before anyone else dies - "
"David, she's my sister!"
I softened, smothering my own anger and my own justification and lowering my hand from his chest, "I know. But she's also a murderer. A serial murderer. Her body count alone labels her as dangerous, and people need to know. They're not safe." I tilted my head to meet his eyes, "If you really do blame yourself for her actions, then you'll have a lot more guilt if the next time she tries to stab someone, she actually does succeed in killing them."
His eyes flashed with pain and he glanced down at my bandages again, swallowing. There was a pause while he processed this and I let him, immensely relieved that he didn't see an argument in it. But then suddenly, he choked back a sob and I gripped his hand with my non-injured one again, trying and failing to comfort him.
I remembered cleaning the blood from his face after Brody had lost his temper with him, I remembered trying to heal a stab wound similar to mine while he lay there and joked.
I remembered his smile when I'd tried to calm him down.
What did I say about keeping quiet?
After the explosion, all of us had assumed that he was dead. Brody had been put forward for the deaths of Janice and Duncan whilst Grace had been accused for Maggie. But the both of them had been officially dead anyway, so there wasn't really anything more to be done.
The mood had been tense when we'd left Runa, to say the least. I didn't even speak a word to anyone on the journey back and it was really only when Grace appeared at my door to attempt to kill me that I'd learnt that she and her brother were still alive.
"I'm so sorry." Michael whispered, breaking the silence, his other hand skimming over my bandage now. I lowered my eyes, gripping his hand tighter.
"Grace's actions aren't yours, Michael. Please at least try to understand that."
He smiled slightly, nothing like his usual brilliant grins, but something at least, "You always were accident prone, I guess." He quipped then, softly.
"At least you didn't have to carry me to the hospital." I answered back, smiling as well at that particular memory. The mood sobered when I then delved further into other memories. I sighed, "I thought you were dead."
He sighed as well, leaning closer, "I'm sorry."
"I thought I didn't manage to save you. I tried. I wanted to, but Brody - " He hushed me and I realised then, with a start, that my voice was shaky and rough. Like I was so close to crying myself.
"God, David, really? After all I've done?" He met my gaze and I frowned, a little stung at his tone until he continued, "I don't deserve your kindness. I've ruined your life. I was told - the doctors said that you hadn't had any visitors, since a woman a few days ago." Jenny. I almost turned away. "I caused you that. I broke your relationship and I'm so sorry David. I am."
Maybe I should hate him but I knew, deep down, that he wasn't to blame. His sister and her actions were to blame. But with how fragile he seemed now, it didn't seem right to remind him of that, "It's alright. Jenny and I had our differences anyway." I sighed, "She didn't like me taking the job in Runa."
"You should have listened to her."
I smiled, "Yes. I should have." He looked away so I continued explaining, "But when I got back, she knew that I'd changed and it hurt her. And with me almost dying too, I suppose I gave her no choice but to leave."
I couldn't do that to someone and expect them to stay. It wasn't fair to either of us.
Michael frowned, "Changed? Changed how?"
The look on my face must have easily given away what I'd meant, because his face cleared and he glanced away for a second, before looking back slowly; a trace of a smile on his face. "I'm sorry." He murmured again, and I shut my eyes with a short laugh.
"Why did you come here?"
"I came to see you." He answered immediately, as though there was nothing more to be said on the subject anyway.
"To absolve your guilt?" I muttered. My face burned with regret at having said that but I didn't look away. Michael's smile didn't fade, anyway.
"To see you." He repeated firmly, and we stared at each other for what felt like a long, long while, as though time had actually stopped for an entire moment.
I could feel my heart beating significantly faster too, because this was so frighteningly unexpected. But at the same time it wasn't. Somehow, I'd known all along. I just hadn't realised it yet.
"Is - that okay?" Michael asked after a while, and I smiled up at him, leaning closer.
"It's okay." I assured him, and he closed the distance between us with a kiss. Soft, chaste, and as comforting as I'd needed.
Maybe not everything was ruined.
His hands cupped my face and my heart ached at the tenderness that he was treating me with.
A hand stroked my hair back from my forehead and I shut my eyes and let him hold me.
His scent was as musky and as homely as I remembered and it easily overpowered the memory of Grace's perfume, letting me relax for the first time in a while.
We didn't separate until it became time for my lunch to be brought in and even then, Michael kept a hold of my bandaged hand and stole one of my apples with a childlike smile of mischief.
I took it back when he was distracted by a kiss and let the tension in my shoulders finally start to ease.