You had had enough.
Her full power being restored hadn't saved Rowena from finding herself at the mercy of Arthur Ketch. The former British Man of Letters, now a mercenary, had wanted her to recharge his Resurrection Seal. He had not asked nicely. Even still, Rowena had said no. It didn't matter how much he'd beaten her, first with his fists and feet and then, when he'd grown tired, with various instruments he'd had around. Her answer had remained the same, accompanied by sass and taunts that had only made the situation worse.
Not much was different when Rowena had gotten home. Nothing you did had been good enough. She wasn't satisfied with the way you'd treated her injuries, constantly fidgeting and smacking your hands whenever they'd get anywhere close to her body. Her magic, she'd claimed, would be more useful. Unfortunately for her, she was still too weak to properly use it. So she lashed out at the closest person in vicinity, the honor of whom went to you.
Rowena had found the bed uncomfortable. There wasn't much you could do about that; it had less to do with the bed and more with her injuries. It's hard to get comfortable when your entire body is covered in bruises. The pain pills you'd given her had been bitter, and so had the potion. You were certain you'd gotten the ingredients right. Rowena had a tendency to get herself into trouble and the potion to help speed up the healing process had become one you knew by heart. That hadn't stopped Rowena from accusing you of doing it wrong.
The food you'd prepared for her, a simple meal from a can that just needed to be warmed up, had tasted terrible. With a psychotic mercenary on the loose, looking for his runaway witch, ordering delivery from her favorite restaurant hadn't been safe. For the next few days the two of you would have to lay low. Rowena wouldn't hear it; it was either restaurant food or nothing. She'd opted for nothing.
The next thing she demanded was tea. That, too, had not been up to her standards. You'd put too much honey, she'd claimed. It was too sweet. So you did it again. And again. After the third rejected cup, you had had enough.
"Would you stop acting like a brat?!" you snapped, no longer able to contain your anger. You'd been trying your hardest to take care of her. But, it seemed, the more you tried, the less pleased she was.
Rowena stiffened. The two of you rarely argued, and when you had, you never yelled at her. Not like this. Swallowing the shock, she said, "I hardly think asking for a decent cup of tea constitutes acting like a brat."
"It's not just the tea. It's everything! For the last two days, I've done nothing but take care of you. Not once have you said something nice to me. Not once!
"Maybe I would have if you've done it right."
Your fists clenched. Anger burned in your veins, blood as hot as lava. You had risked your life locating the secluded cabin Ketch had taken Rowena prisoner in and going there armed with nothing but your magic – magic that had been much weaker than hers. Had the mercenary not gone out, you would have most likely ended up gravely injured, as Rowena had, or even worse, dead. You had barely gotten an hour of sleep last night, hovering over Rowena like a mother hen. You'd spent most of the night making healing potions and stacking them up on shelves. You had run to her bedside every time she'd let out even the smallest of moans.
You'd done your best to hold back your tears when you were around her; looking at her black and blue body was far from easy. You cried when you were alone, where she couldn't see or hear you. The last thing you wanted was your make her feel like you were pitying her.
And how had she repaid you? By complaining about every single thing.
"You're being really ungrateful," you accused.
Rowena looked at you, eyes narrow, incredulity sprawled across her face. "What should I be grateful for? Being basically tortured by the person who rescued me? Being poisoned by food well past the expiration date and potions with god-knows-what in them?"
The accusations stung. You wanted to cry. Why was she saying those things? You would have never harmed her on purpose. You had taken care of her before, the same way you had yesterday and today, and she'd never had a complaint. Not one. She had eaten that same food and drank those same potions many times in the past. There had never been any problems.
"I can't believe you just said that," you whispered. Your voice was low, almost breaking. Your lower lip quivered. You bit it, pushing back the tears that threatened to fall.
A look of guilt sprawled over Rowena's bruised face, but she quickly smothered it, featured turning emotionless, distant.
"I never meant to hurt you."
"Well, you did," she said.
"Did I really, or are you just being a drama queen?"
Her eyes widened. "How can you ask me that?"
"I don't know. How can you accuse me of poisoning you?" you countered. Two could play this game.
"I have been tortured by a bloody madman for hours!" Rowena snapped. "Only to then be subjected to the same treatment by you!"
Not only have you supposedly tortured her, but now you were exactly the same as Ketch. Awesome! What was next? Was she going to compare you to Lucifer?
"Great, Rowena. That's really great," you said sarcastically.
"Just telling it as it is."
"I think you're just being a bitch." If she could be one, so could you.
She scowled at you.
You scowled right back.
"Keep it up and I'll leave you to fend for yourself," you said. Any other time it would have been a bluff, but now, after everything she'd thrown at you, after all those insults and baseless accusations, you were more than willing to act on the threat.
Rowena's lip quivered. "Of course. Why do anything but cause me more pain? Throw me out on the streets and be done with me, why don't you? I'm just a burden."
"Maybe you are!" you exclaimed.
Rowena swallowed, surprised by your outburst. You weren't done, not by a longshot. Anger burned at your insides, all the frustrations that had gathered begging to be let out, begging to be unleashed upon the unsuspecting redhead. She wanted war. She had it.
"Nothing I do is good enough for you! You always find something to complain about! Think this is easy for me? Think I like looking at you all bruised and bloody? I fucking hate it!"
Tears spilled down your cheeks, burning your skin like fire. There was no point in holding them back anymore. Rowena had hurt you; you were more than willing to return the favor. She wasn't the only one who could hold a grudge.
"I haven't had a good night of sleep for almost a year! All this time, I've been taking care of you. I can't remember the last time I put myself first! It's always you, you, you! I never complained. Not once. I put up with your constant crying fits and flashbacks without a single word!"
Rowena's eyes rimmed with redness. A single tear slid down her cheek. "None of that is my fault," she said. Her lips trembled, voice quiet, barely above a whisper.
"Oh, really?" You hated yourself for hurting her, but you couldn't stop. Your rant was far from over. She wanted you to be a monster. Here you were. "I told you not to trust Lucifer and you wouldn't listen. Now look what happened! You did it to yourself! You know, I bet the Ketch thing was also your fault. What did you do? Did you suck up to him, too, only for him to turn the tables? Seems to happen to you a lot."
Tears poured down her face like a waterfall, fast and bitter. She pressed her lips into a line, holding back the sobs that threatened to break free of the containment of her throat. You had crossed the line. Guilt tugged at your heart like a beast digging its sharp talons into it, squeezing until there was nothing left but pain. Deep, excruciating pain tore at you, ripping you into pieces bit by bit. You should have left and given her time to calm down. There was no need to go that far.
"Rowena–" you tried.
She cut you off with a shout of, "Get out!"
"Get the hell out!"
"I don't want to hear anything more! You've made yourself bloody clear! Now get out!"
Rowena turned on her side, wincing and hissing as she did so, her injuries protesting the movement. She brought her hands to her face and, careful not to agitate the cuts and bruises, pressed her palms against it. She was hiding from you. Dread settled in your stomach at the realization. She didn't want you to see her. You'd lost the privilege to see her weak, to see her broken and shattered. You had used her weakness against her, something you'd promised never to do. You'd lost count of how many times you assured her that you weren't like the others, that you would never hurt her and betray her on purpose. That you weren't the Loughlins, the Winchesters, and Lucifer. That you wouldn't throw her out like trash when she was at her weakest, chain her up and exploit her, break her trust when she least expected it. That you would make her life heaven rather than hell.
So much for that.
Heart-wrenching sobs followed you as you closed the door behind you on your way out. More tears rushed down your face. You had hurt the one you love when she needed you the most. You had broken your promises. You had betrayed her trust.
You could only hope she would eventually forgive you. You didn't know how you could live with yourself otherwise.
A few hours had passed when you decided to try to make it up to Rowena. You hadn't rested for one moment, thoughts overflown with memories of earlier today. Her accusations. Your anger. Snapping at her. Telling her things you had never wanted to tell anyone, let alone the person you loved more than anything in the world. Her tear-streaked face. Screams for you to get out. Sobs that still echoed in your head as if you were hearing them right now.
You had to fix this. Both for Rowena's sake and yours.
Grabbing a couple of pain pills and a healing potion, you headed for the room. The pills she had taken earlier today had most likely started to fade. She needed a new dosage, lest she would be in pain. Ketch had made sure of that.
A loud thud followed by a yelp prompted you to hurry. Had Ketch found you? The strong warding had made sure that your home couldn't be located through supernatural means. GPS and the like, on the other hand, did the job just fine. There had yet to be a spell that would hide your location from anyone. Even if there was, you doubted Rowena would cast it; as much as she treasured her safety, deliveries from her favorite restaurants and boutique shops had priority. You, too, had a habit of ordering online. Why buy expensive books when you can order them for half a price and have them delivered to your door? You weren't an animal.
You burst in like the room was on fire, a spell lingering at the tips of your lips, ready to be cast upon the intruder. You never went into a fight unprepared. If no hex bags had been at hand, a simple Abi would work just fine, especially if the attacker was human.
You breathed out in relief to find the room bare and untouched, no intruder in sight.
Then your breath hitched – again – as your eyes fell upon the cause of the noise. Rowena knelt on the hardwood floor, holding herself up by her elbows. Her shaky arms barely supported her weight. Your heart ached with sympathy. You were aware that she wasn't able to walk on her own; even with your support, she barely remained on her feet, legs fighting to stay balanced under the pressure on immense pain. One wrong move and she would stumble.
Ketch had beaten her in all the right places. She had, at one point, almost escaped him. He had made sure that there wouldn't be a second time. Her legs were more purple than creamy. Save for her feet, there was barely a spot without a bruise. Her arms were injured, as well, but far less than other parts of her body. Though, it seemed, they were failing her, too.
Rowena was panting, desperately struggling to keep herself up. A few whimpers escaped her, weak, broken, like that of an injured puppy begging for help. As soon as her eyes met yours, she pressed her lips into a tight line, trapping all the noises. She looked at you like a wounded animal, eyes big, doe-like, desperate for help, but too proud to show it.
No, not proud.
"Rowena!" Hurriedly setting the pills and potion on the bedside table, you knelt beside her. "What happened?" Had she attempted to walk? Guilt that had been tearing at you seeped into your voice, mixing with concern. If you'd been here, this wouldn't have happened. She wouldn't have gotten hurt again.
Rowena averted her eyes, a fast movement, almost a twitch. Pressing her palms firmly against the floor, she tried to raise herself up. Her trembling arms gave in and she found herself on her elbows again, a slap of skin and bone against the hard wood of the floor. Rowena yelped, breathing deeply, unevenly, trying to old back cries of pain. Hair spilled down her back and over her shoulders, like a red, silky blanket hiding her face.
Hiding it from you.
Swallowing the guilt, you reached out. Her hand slapped yours, almost instinctively; it was more a gentle pat than a slap, but it got the message across. She didn't want you to touch her.
The rejection hurt, but you couldn't be mad at her. You had hurt her. Her soul was in just as much pain as her body was. All because of you.
"Let me help you," you said, tone a soft plea.
"Stay away from me!" Rowena snapped.
"Please, let me help."
"I don't want anything from you!"
You tried not to let it hurt too much. You failed. Every rejection, every shout tore a hole in your heart. You'd been attacked by a werewolf once; it had scratched your chest to the point of peeling off all layers of skin in its attempts to get to your heart, sharp claws digging in and out of your skin like a shovel digging a hole in the ground. Rowena's words hurt almost as much.
You couldn't blame her. Had the roles been reversed, you would have been pissed at her beyond belief.
Deciding to risk it, you stood up and walked behind Rowena.
"What are you doing?" she asked, eyes following you cautiously.
You wrapped your arms around her torso, clasping your hands one over the other on her chest, under her breasts. She could be mad all she wanted. What mattered the most was helping her. If that meant pissing her off even more, so be it. You could live with her anger. You could live with her hating you. You could live with anything other than her being in pain, especially when you could do something to lessen it.
"Let go of me!" Rowena hissed. You feared that she would try to wiggle out of your hold, but, to your surprise, she remained still. She needed help and she knew it. She just wouldn't admit it.
"Sorry, sweetheart." You meant it. But not for helping her. "I have to do this."
"I'm sorry, but I can't."
Carefully, you raised her to her feet. Rowena's knees wobbled, too weak to support her weight. She was barely a hundred pounds; she should have been able to walk. Damn you, Ketch! The sight of her shaking, legs, torso, and face purple and red with bruises and lacerations that, in some places, looked like a tigers stripes tore at you. It was almost unnatural. Rowena's skin wasn't supposed to be that color. Nobody's skin was!
You helped her to the bed, sitting her down with utmost care. Rowena let out a sign of relief. Her hands felt the soft surface, fingers digging into the sheets as if to make sure that they were real. You reached for her hand. She pulled instantly pulled it away, like a reflex, an instinct, and laid it on her lap. Fixing your mess was going to be difficult. Rowena had been known to hold a grudge for centuries.
That hadn't discouraged you in the slightest. You just had to try harder.
"Can we talk? Please?" you asked.
"I have nothing to say to you," she replied coldly.
"I have a few things to say to you."
"You've said enough."
She wasn't wrong.
"Can you give me a chance to try to fix it?"
Rowena looked at you for a split second, then turned her head again.
You were met with silence.
You decided to give it a shot. You had nothing to lose. Rowena hated you. She couldn't hate you more than she already had.
"I didn't mean what I said," you said. "I swear. I just… The things you were saying to me hurt, and I wanted to hurt you back. I didn't mean that go that far."
Rowena lowered her head. She still wouldn't look at you.
You continued, "What happened to you wasn't your fault. It was shitty of me to say that it was. I don't blame you for anything. I swear. I don't mind taking care of you. Yeah, it's difficult sometimes, but it's not a problem. To be honest, I kinda like it. Because you trust me. You have no idea how much that means to me."
Being woken up by screams and punches sucked. But that didn't make you love Rowena any less. If anything, it made you love her more. She trusted you with her weakness, let you hold her and comfort her, let you be the one to pull her from the darkness of terrifying memories back into the light of your love. You could handle sleepless nights. Rowena was the one who had to live with the trauma. The least you could do was help her get through it.
Finally, Rowena looked at you. Her eyes glistened with unshed tears. You let your lips curl into a small smile. You reached for her hand again, and this time she let you hold it. Both of your hands clasped around hers, fingers twining with her own ones. Her skin was warm, like sunshine in human form.
"I'm sorry. I was angry and I crossed the line. I know it's not an excuse, but it's the truth. I never meant to hurt you like that. I promise I won't do it again. Give me another chance."
A tear slid down your cheek. Rowena raised her free hand and brushed her forefinger against it, wiping the tear away. She cupped your cheek. You leaned into her palm, heart fluttering at the feeling of her warmth on your face. She was gentle, caring, almost – dare you say – motherly. Her thumb stroked your skin, rubbing soft circles.
"Please," you said, more tears falling.
"Shh," she whispered tenderly. "It's alright, darling."
"Do you hate me?" you whimpered.
She shook her head.
"I'd hate me."
You swallowed. Anther whimper fell from your mouth. "I'm really sorry."
"I know you are."
"I love you."
One more tear slipped your eye, sliding down to Rowena's thumb. She ran the finger over it, smudging it away.
"You do?" you asked, unable to hide your disbelief. Rowena didn't forgive, not that easily.
"Aye," she said with a nod. She smiled, but her lips quickly morphed back into a line as the movement pulled at the split. A kick and punch – or several – tends to do that.
"You're not mad?"
"I was," she said. "But you've come to apologize, and I can tell that you're honest. That accounts for a lot, dear. And also…" She drew in a breath. "I haven't been very kind to you, either."
That was an understatement.
At the very least, she was owning up to it. It was rare for Rowena to admit when she was wrong.
"I… apologize." It was difficult for her to will the word to leave her mouth. In almost four years of knowing Rowena, she had only apologized four times – three of those were for manipulation purposes, and one was sarcasm from when you were teasing her. This was the first time she had said it and meant it. "I have no complaints about your treatment of me. You've never been anything short of lovely. I suppose I was just angry. At myself. I've unlocked my magic, yet that bloody Neanderthal managed to hurt me. I'm supposed to be the most powerful witch in the world, and I got kidnapped and tortured by a wee human."
"That wasn't your fault." You squeezed her hand to emphasize your words." Shit happens; it'll keep happening. That doesn't mean you're weak."
"I'm supposed to be invincible."
"No one's invincible, Rowena."
Her eyes sparkled with tears. "Then how am I supposed to protect myself from Lucifer?" Her voice trembled as she said the archangel's name.
Sharp pain tugged at your heart, like an arrow piercing straight through it. Lucifer. That had been the main reason she was so desperate to get her full magic back. She thought the fear and nightmares would stop, but they had remained. Power meant nothing when your soul was as wounded as hers had been. She could have had power equaling that of a deity, or lost it all and reverted back to a weakly human; it didn't matter. The trauma would follow her through all stages of life. Being blinded, beaten, and burned alive would always be a part of her, always be in her past.
"Ketch is a cunning son of a bitch. He snuck up on you. We'll be more careful from now on," you said. "And when Lucifer comes calling, you'll kick his ass." You flashed her an encouraging smile. "Don't worry. I know you got this. You're badass."
Rowena returned the smile. "I'm badass," she repeated.
"Bet your ass you are."
Her smile faded. "Thank you, darling."
"Being here despite how I treated you."
"I could say the same to you," you said. "Why don't we put it behind us? Act like it never happened?"
"Alright," Rowena agreed with a nod.
You beamed, happy that it had finally been settled.
"Why were you on the floor?" you asked.
"I wanted to get painkillers." She lowered her head in shame. "It's a short walk. I thought I could make it."
"I brought you some." You motioned to the pills and potion on the bedside table. One of your hands released hers, rising up to her cheek. Your fingers brushed against an uninjured spot, skin against skin, warmth against warmth, letting her know that it was okay. There was no shame in being injured. "Does it hurt a lot?"
"Hurts like hell," Rowena replied honestly.
"Just a moment." You tried to stand up to get the medicine, but Rowena's hand on your arm stopped you.
"Wait! Could-could I get something to eat first? The pills always make me drowsy."
"Of course! But we only have cans. I mean, I could try to make you something, but I doubt it'd be edible." Not only would it not be edible, but it would possibly be deadly. If she were to eat your homemade food, Rowena would have valid reasons to accuse you of poisoning her.
"Canned food is fine."
"Aye. It's not that bad," she admitted with a small chuckle. "I'll survive. Hopefully."
Had she not been injured, you would have playfully slapped her shoulder. Instead, you gave a small laugh. "I'll go warm it up. Wanna lie down while you wait?"
Rowena shook her head. "I'm good."
You nodded. "Hey, Rowena?"
"Can I hug you?"
"Of course you can!"
Spreading your arms open, you let her nuzzle into you. Given the full extent of her injuries, pulling her to you would only cause her pain. Once she had settled, comfortable, you gently put your arms around her. She was like a glass doll, fragile, cracked around the edges. One wrong move and you could break her. Even still, she trusted you; trusted her to handle her with utmost care, to love her, to protect her.
You swore to never do anything – again – to lose that trust.