The Next Morning

Sleep took me. And I dreamed. A real dream – no nightmares, just a dream. A dream I’d had thousands of times before. Me a kid, five or so, playing in a room I once used while waiting for Margo. There were blocks. I built towers with them, and then I’d smash them down like Godzilla coming through town after some other creature. Except I was the big bad monster wreaking havoc on the city. I was the monster dressed in full costume.

But it wasn’t the same dream I’d dreamt those times, the man from my dreams never showed up. He wasn’t a child, he wasn’t the teenage boy who sometimes visited and he wasn’t the man that I’d spent months loving. He never came.

When my alarm went off I rolled away from Alex and tapped the screen to shut the alarm off. I didn’t want to wake Alex, but I’d promised. I rolled back on to my side and watched Alex sleep. He was so at peace, his eye lashes splayed across his cheeks, his slightly open mouth I just wanted to kiss. He was perfect. I sighed as I shook him gently.

Alex groaned and I shook again and whispered, “Alex?”

He didn’t open his eyes, “What?” he said groggily.

“I’m going into your living room gonna do some yoga and grab a shower, then I’ll make you breakfast.”

“I don’t have anything for you to make.” He said rolling over to his back and blinked sleepily at me.

“Then I’ll go for a run and get stuff and I’ll cook for you again.”

Alex grabbed my arm and pulled me on top of him. “Stay with me. You can make be breakfast when the sun comes up.”

I pressed a kiss to his forehead. “If I stay in bed I’m going to lose it later.” I said in a quiet voice.

Alex just rolled us to the side and wrapped one arm around me and the other he ran down my cheek and smiled, “Sleep baby.” I felt that little nudge inside. I don’t know if he’d done it on purpose or if it was my imagination but I stopped fighting him and I went back to sleep. I’d fallen asleep to his blue eyes. Just me and him again. Images of the night before played in my head and then there was darkness. And there was no warning as the first lash fell on my back. I yelped and heard the demon cackle behind me. “Mine.” It whispered and the blows fell, each one worse than the last.

Something shook me. No someone, and my eyes popped open just as a razor sharp lash landed against my skin. “Fuck Nox.” His hand came away from my back blood smeared. “I was gone like 2 minutes.”

I got up out of bed slowly and tried not to make his bed any worse than it already was. I had already started the healing process. Alex stared at me. “You okay?”

I nodded. I couldn’t speak. I don’t know what happened. I hadn’t had a nightmare the whole night but in the morning? That only happened when I thought about him. Alex reminded me so much of him. “I’m going to take a shower.” I said as I walked out of his room and to the bathroom down the way. I closed the door behind me and took in the clean scent that was Alex. I hadn’t brought any clothes with me to Alex’s apartment or to the bathroom. It didn’t really matter either way. I could go home in what I had been wearing and change when I got there. Though I wasn’t sure I’d manage that much once I got into the safety of my own place.

My head was pounding as I stepped under the scalding hot water. Alex knocked on the door, “Can I come in?”

“It’s your bathroom.” I sounded distant, so far from reality. Why had I dreamed of the little boy and his blocks. Why hadn’t he come? But then I remembered he hadn’t come in years. He was just a distant memory. The man standing outside the shower was real. He was worth forgetting him, except when I thought about Alex the same fucking thing happened.

Alex stood outside of the glass wall of the shower, “You okay?”

“Fine.”

“You don’t sound fine.”

“I told you I would lose it later. This is me at the beginning of losing it.” I said as I held my face up to the hot water and let it drain down my body as I held my breath.

“I’m sorry I made you sleep again.”

I smirked. “I’m not mad at you Alex.”

“You’re mad at who then?” He asked. “I can see it in the way you move and I can hear your thoughts.”

“I’m mad at myself. Because I let you manipulate me.”

“I…” Alex couldn’t say he didn’t, he’d just apologized for it, he was struck with silence as he watched me through the shower door.

“I’m okay with it Alex. With all of it. The lies and the secrets. I’m okay with it all. But I shouldn’t let you manipulate me when I know what’s best for me.”

I turned and looked at him through the glass. “Spending the night was always going to be rough on me. Waking up in a strange place, with strange smells and patterns. Yoga would have helped me cope with that change, kept me balanced. I didn’t want to get out of bed, I didn’t want to leave you, I should have. I should have been stronger.”

“Can I join you?” He asked quietly.

“It’s your shower.”

“Nox.”

“Yes, Alex, you can join me. I’m not mad at you. Nothing about this is anything you can do anything about.” I said.

He stepped into the shower and wrapped his arms around me from behind, pressed his face into my neck and kissed the spot he’d been paying special attention to, “Your back is already healed why isn’t this.” He asked.

“Because I’m fighting my body.”

“You want to wear my mark.”

“Always have, Alex.” i said.

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know. Just a gut feeling. Something inside saying you’d be happy to see the mark still on me when we woke up.” I sighed, “Just like I know deep down inside you are keeping something from me, something that will rip my heart out when I know it.”

Alex stepped away from me even as I continued. “I can see it every time I look at you. The lies and secrets. The aliases, the client who thinks she’s your friend, the case itself where you are helping someone find something you don’t want. I don’t know what it is, but I feel it, Alex. Just as you feel safe, and like home. I know that when I find out it’s going to hurt.” I was glad we were in the shower, so the tears would be washed away in the water.

Alex was still behind me. I didn’t turn around to look at him when he started speaking, his voice low and careful. “I don’t think I can keep doing this, Nox.”

“Doing what?” I asked glancing over my shoulder to see him standing there staring at my back. I swallowed hard.

“I already ripped your heart out. Just like you ripped mine out.”

I turned around and stared at him. “What?”

“Five years ago, almost, in a few days anyway, you asked me to show you the real me. You wanted to touch the real me, promised darkness and the real us. No games, just us.” I stood staring at Alex. I remembered that dream – that’s all it was though – a dream. It had been on my birthday I’d fallen asleep in my bed reading a book.

I shook my head. Alex kept going regardless of my denial. “It was a perfect. Just like last night. You never remember me. And I was okay with that. Until I found a book, one my dad wrote me before I was ever born. It made me think you were the one. So I tried everything again to get you to remember me. And then your mom died, and you were a mess. I’d seen you so many times before that high or drunk and completely broken, but this time, this time was different. I told you about my box of things and I made you wake up. If you woke up before the black whisked you away you remembered me. I didn’t know why I hadn’t seen it before, the nights you remembered me. You found it and we spent months falling in love, planning to meet. And then the weeks before you were gone. I couldn’t find you.”

“It was the vampire magic.” I said. “I didn’t know it at the time. But Ant and Ryan’s taught ability to keep dreamwalkers from their sleep protects those around them, and I had been staying with Cari and her power encompasses the entire house. And it’s a large house.”

I shook my head. “I’m sorry.” I turned back around and turned the water off and grabbed two towels and handed one to Alex.

He took it and wrapped it around his waist and I did the same after drying off. Alex watched me for a few more minutes. “And then came the day and you didn’t show up. You sent your fucking friend to tell me you weren’t interested.” I started to interrupt but Alex held up his finger and glared at me, “I knew it was a lie, i heard the truth of it but I figured I’d just see you in the dream and we’d meet up later.”

“You never came back to the dream after that.” I said.

Alex laughed, “I could never find you. You’d been calling me every night since this power manifested. Last night you called to me again. But I didn’t come.”

“I know. I didn’t have a nightmare last night.”

“What do you call what happened just then?” He pointed back to his room.

“You left me. And I… I don’t know. But that was because I fell asleep thinking about you. It’s what happens when I think about him. About you. How long have you known?” I asked.

Alex shook his head, “Since the beginning. I only took this job so I could hurt you the way you hurt me.”

And there it was. I could almost hear the slurping sound as he ripped my heart out. Alex added, “Funny thing is that I already ripped your heart out. And I’d been too blind to see it. Ignoring things because I was trying to stay away from you, I didn’t want you to lure me in.”

I nodded. “So now what? What are you going to tell your master?” I said as I stalked out of the room to find my clothes.

“Same thing I told you. I can’t do this anymore.” He called after me.

I nearly gagged on my own tears as I stepped into his room. The smell of him and lingering sex slammed into me like a wall. I pulled on my clothes hastily and left Alex in the bathroom. I didn’t even say goodbye. Funny thing was, I still wasn’t mad at him. I was furious with myself.

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