August 1st, 2016
It was dark as an inkwell when I woke to the sound of labored breathing. Something struggled nearby, shaking my bed. As I came to, I realized it was Lask beside me. He was asleep on his side with his bare back to me, twitching and tensing in his sleep. A low, plaintive sound escaped him as he curled himself, hauling on the covers. I turned to face him, realizing he was in the grip of a nightmare, and reached out to touch him.
I had only brushed my fingers along his shoulder blade when he cried out suddenly and flailed. His foot connected with my leg, and I was surprised at the legitimate pain I felt flare in my shin. I pushed myself closer to him, tightening the space so he could do less damage. I wrapped my arm around him, and whispered,
“Shhhhh, Tempy. You’re dreaming.”
He whimpered and stirred. I ran my fingers through his hair, brushing it back from his face, speaking softly to him as he emerged from the grip of the nightmare.
“You’re safe,” I told him. “You’re right here in my bed. Nothing can hurt you here.”
I felt him reach up and grip my arm. He said nothing for a moment. I nuzzled his shoulder and kissed the side of his neck, whispering, “Just a dream. You’re safe.”
I felt him exhale a swelling sigh, and something in him seemed to deflate. He nestled back into my arms, curling up to make himself smaller. I stroked his hair, lightly scritching his scalp and nape in his favorite way.
“I’m sorry I woke you,” he murmured. “Did I hurt you?”
“You kicked me a good one, but that’s ok.” I nuzzled him again, tightening my arms around him.
“It’s ok, love.” I assured him, holding him to me in the darkness. “Are you alright? Would you like to talk about–”
I was taken aback at the sudden force and growl of the word. He must have felt my surprise because he squeezed my arm and apologized, “I’m sorry, dearest. Still a bit shaken is all. All soldiers have nightmares…”
It wasn’t the first time he’d said it. When he’d first said it some years prior, I’d assumed he meant the wars he’d fought in Etheria, but since learning of his home on the island, I found I knew little about where Lask had actually been, or what had happened to him there. I breathed in the crisp smell of his hair, wondering what I could do for him.
“I’m sorry I kicked you,” he said again.
“I tried to be careful waking you.” It wasn’t the first nightmare I’d woken him from, nor the first time he’d come up swinging from one.
“You’d do well to avoid touching my shoulders when you find me that way,” he advised. “If I’m dreaming like that, any touch back there will send me scrambling into defense.”
“Ok,” I noted. “I’ll remember that. I’m sorry I startled you.” I stroked his smooth skin, fighting the urge to inquire what was so special about his shoulders. I tightened my arm around him, trailing my fingers along his collarbone, trying to send soothing waves through my fingertips.
“I know you want more explanation,” he whispered in the dark. “I am sorry I cannot give it tonight…”
“It’s ok.” I hugged him to me. “I want to know about you, but I see there are some things you carry that are too heavy to speak of. If you ever want to, though, I’ll listen.”
He kissed my hand and held it against him. “Perhaps when some more time has passed, and we’ve both grown a little more.”
“For what it’s worth,” I told him, “If you get into trouble, I’ll come for you. I’m not scared of Demons. They will not touch me, and I’ll happily make them stop touching you if they do.”
He chuckled. “Always the brave one, my Sunflower.”
“They can hurt you,” I said, “But they can only hurt me if I let them. So, I just won’t let them. I’ll dream my way to you, or write, or whatever I have to do. But I’ll find you, and I’ll get you out of wherever you are.”
“Thank you,” he murmured.
“Go back to sleep,” I whispered, curling myself around his tall shape as best I could. “I’ll stay awake and keep watch if you’d like.”
Another chuckle rumbled out of him. “That won’t be necessary. The things that haunt me, they are old wounds, and old battles. Go back to sleep, Sunflower. With any luck, we’ll both pass the rest of the night in peace.”