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He’s in pain and scared and he just wants it to end.

He can feel the heat of the fire but his surroundings are pitch black. He hears a gunshot but he can’t do anything to change its path. They’re both gone and he couldn’t do anything about it.

He can’t see and it’s the smoke, the smoke and the grief consuming his heart in that very moment that will kill him beforethe fire even reaches his body.

“Nine, Nine…”

“Twe- hel-” he gasps as the nightmare is chased away by an urgent soft voice.

“It’s me, it’s me, shh, it’s just me, you’re okay.”

“Li-Li…” he can’t draw enough breath to form her name.

“Shh, it’s okay, you’re alright,” he feels Lisa’s hands running through his hair, stroking his face, wiping either sweat or tears from his cheeks. He doesn’t know and he doesn’t care. Unconsciously, he leans into her touch, closing his eyes again, clenching his jaw as he tries to swallow the pain in his head.

It had been a while, months maybe, since he had a nightmare like this and his body seems to resent it.

“A nightmare,” he pants.

“I know, it sounded bad, I thought…” she trails off and he can hear the worry in her voice despite her obvious attempt to remain calm for his sake.

“I don’t even remember much…there-there was smoke and it was very dark…” despite himself, he shivers.

“I’ll turn on the light, grab another blanket and…”

“No, wait” he grabs her wrist as he pushes into a sitting position “Don’t go, don’t leave.”

“Okay, but…”

“I will be fine. I just need a moment.” he groans, squeezing his eyes shut, afraid that the pressure throbbing at the sides of his head will release in an explosion of pain so strong he might not be able to take it.

“What is wrong? Is it a migraine? Nine–”

“No,” He cuts her off as he presses the heel of his free hand against his forehead “Just a headache, it’s not that bad.”

He is lying and he doesn’t know why he bothers or cares what she thinks at this moment.

Thankfully, she doesn’t say anything else, but he feels her shift to reach for one of the blankets that he had kicked to the end of the bed. Despite how cumbersome he’s making it for her to move, he doesn’t let go of her wrist, and she doesn’t ask him to.

After a few seconds she’s awkwardly wrapping the blanket around both of them.

“Hold on to me,” her voice is surprisingly clear despite the ringing in his ears, and he feels her tug his wrist gently “Nine, hold on to me.”

“I’m fine, I don’t need–”

She tugs again before he reluctantly wraps his arms loosely around her.

Surprisingly, the contact helps, he is ice cold and her warmth spreads slowly but surely through his chest and arms, leaving a tingling sensation in its wake.

“Try to take a deep breath and hold it. One, two, three…”

He shakes his head, because it is still hard to even draw breath, much less hold it in, but Lisa repeats herself patiently, and he feels her follow her own instructions. Her chest expands against his and she exhales in a soft whisper of air that tickles his ear.

It’s distracting.

It’s mortifying.

And it helps.

His breath shudders and he can’t quite hold it in at first but he keeps at it until he’s breathing with her.

“That’s good.” Lisa rubs his back “Again. Deep breath… and hold, one, two, three…”

They repeat this again and again until the pounding in his head subsides and their heartbeats are steady and in sync.

His head rests on her shoulder and she’s now humming some song he doesn’t recognize. The abscence of words is comfortable and welcome, and yet, for some reason, her name slips through his lips after a few minutes, breaking the spell.



“Lisa,” he repeats pulling her a little tighter against him, and he doesn’t know what is taking over him. His nightmares always throw him off balance, but what he is doing right now, letting her support him, timing his breathing to hers, and embracing her so tightly he can feel her heart skip a beat against his chest…

It can’t be right.

And yet… he can’t help it, because the sudden need to hold somebdy and be held is primal and overwhelming, and it shames him to admit how much he had been craving it.

Lisa presses her cheek against his hair and hushes him before he can open his mouth, because she understands, of course she does.

He does his best to ignore the heavy weight of guilt settling in the pit of his stomach and closes his eyes.

“It is okay, right?” she asks after a while, her voice full of doubt “Are we being selfish?”

He doesn’t answer, there’s no point. He is not letting go, and by the way she is leaning into him, neither is she.