Nox fell asleep in my arms. I was too strung out from what had happened. The moments we’d shared. In the depths of his soul, Nox knew me. He didn’t need the memories I had of all the times we’d shared, those feeling seemed to bubble up. His hands roaming over my body missing ticklish spots like an expert. His lips finding just the right spot. I laid awake thinking about how he’d memorized my body from the one time we’d been together.
I could have sworn he mumbled Mushu in his sleep and I pulled him tighter against me feeling that tingle. I had not felt the in years. It was there, he was thinking about him. About me but he didn’t know it. I wanted to go to him, to tell him tonight had been beyond anything I’d have hoped for five years ago. I wanted to tell him how much I cared, about everything, not just the house, or my job. I fell asleep and found myself floating in the ocean alone but he kept calling to me. I waited for the call to stop but it didn’t. Not until a sharp annoying sound pierced the water around me and the warmth against my chest pulled away to turn it off.
And then his warm hand was on my shoulder shaking me and I groaned. “Alex?” he shook again.
“What?” I said. It was too early – way to fucking early.
“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.” I rolled on to my back and looked at him blinking away the sleep.
“Then I’ll go for a run and get stuff and I’ll cook for you again.”
I grabbed his arm and pulled him on top of me. I didn’t want him to leave. If he left he might not come back. “Stay with me. You can make be breakfast when the sun comes up.”
He pressed a kiss to his forehead. “If I stay in bed I’m going to lose it later.” He confessed and I didn’t really care, I didn’t want to get out of bed right now, or soon. I wanted him to stay with me.
I rolled us back to our sides and ran my fingers down the side of his face while pulling him tight against me and whispered, “Sleep baby.” I nudged him to sleep. Kish would probably be pissed but I didn’t care. I didn’t want the moment to end. Nox was sleeping against me and I felt that fucking urge to pee. I stayed in bed as long as I could before I had to get up.
The relief was paramount as I was walking back into the room and saw Nox whimpering in bed, and blood and mangled skin running down his naked back. Fuck! If I hadn’t believed it before I sure as fuck did now. I wasted no time before I was shaking him to wake him. His eyes popped open and he yelped. “Fuck Nox.” I pulled my hand away and whispered, “I was gone like 2 minutes.”
I watched as Nox eased his way out of bed. I didn’t fucking care if he got blood everywhere. I asked, “You okay?”
Nox nodded. His mind was focused on what had happened, on his dream, on thinking of me and the nightmares and I felt like shit. “I’m going to take a shower.” He said as he walked out of my room. I listened for the bathroom door closing and breathed a sigh of relief he hadn’t gone home naked. Though it would have been funny. Not that he’d care really he could hide himself from view.
After the water started and he got settled I knocked on the door to my own bathroom, “Can I come in?”
“It’s your bathroom.” He said like he was far away. His thoughts drifting again to his dream man and back to me. I was real. He’d given up on him. I had done the same, but here he was standing in fucking front of me again. And last night still high in my mind. But I didn’t like being a second thought, even though I was the same person as he was thinking about. How couldn’t he see it was me? Was he that clueless? I’d recognized him right away, even with all the many faces. But I had to fix it. Always having to fix it.
I asked again. “You okay?”
“You don’t sound fine.”
“I told you I would lose it later. This is me at the beginning of losing it.”
“I’m sorry I made you sleep again.” I truly was sorry. I was selfish, and hadn’t thought about him.
He smirked. “I’m not mad at you Alex.”
“You’re mad at who then?” I asked annoyed. “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…” Fuck! He was right, I had, and guilt for that killed my anger. It was my fault he was in this state.
“I’m okay with it Alex.” he reassured me, “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.”
Nox turned and looked at me through the steamed 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?” I asked quietly.
“It’s your shower.”
“Nox.” I wanted an answer. I didn’t want to push more – again.
“Yes, Alex, you can join me. I’m not mad at you. Nothing about this is anything you can do anything about.” Which was precisely why I wanted to be in the shower with him..
I stepped into the shower and wrapped my arms around him from behind and kissed my favorite spot, “Your back is already healed why isn’t this.” I asked.
“Because I’m fighting my body.”
“You want to wear my mark.” I sounded surprised to my own ears.
“Always have, Alex.” he said quietly like he was lost in thought.
“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.” Nox 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.”
I stepped back from him. In shock of his words. His confession. The hurt in his voice. “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.” His voice cracked and I knew he was in tears.
After everything that happened. Everything that we’d gone through, all the torment. The past five years. Poet’s fucking job. After all of it, all I wanted was to keep him safe, to make it stop. To make this work. He felt good against me, like no one had ever before. Not even Kate, just my little monster. “I don’t think I can keep doing this, Nox.”
“Doing what?” He looked over his shoulder at me and he looked about to lose it even further. I decided I’d lay it all out. I’d lay the whole fucking thing out. It worked so well for him…
“I already ripped your heart out. Just like you ripped mine out.” I confessed.
Nox turned around and stared at me. I saw the thoughts forming. The connections being made even as he asked, “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.” Nox shook his head in disbelief, but he knew it was true. He remembered the dream. “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 took 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.” He interrupted, “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.” Fucking vampires.
Nox shook his head. “I’m sorry.” He turned around and shut the water off and grabbed two towels. He was done. And I felt exposed. I’m sure he did too.
“And then came the day and you didn’t show up. You sent your fucking friend to tell me you weren’t interested.” He started to interrupt and I glared at him holding a finger up to make him wait, I wasn’t done, “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.” His words were so broken.
I couldn’t help but laughing. “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?” I pointed back at my 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?” He asked. I saw his annoyance and I knew he’d be angry.
I shook my head as I told him the truth, “Since the beginning. I only took this job so I could hurt you the way you hurt me.”
I added to give it a little more context “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.”
Nox nodded. “So now what? What are you going to tell your master?” he said as he stalked out of the bathroom towards my room. To find his clothes. He was going to leave me like this. Of all the fucking times not to talk to me!
“Same thing I told you. I can’t do this anymore.” I called after him.
I wanted to let him walk out. The earth shattering pain I was reliving again. But if he walked the fuck out the door we’d never see each other again. We’d never get another chance. And I didn’t reveal the truth so he could walk the fuck out of my life. But I’m an ass too I stepped out of my bathroom just as Nox got to the door and I yelled, “For someone who talks all the fucking time you have nothing to say now?”
“What do you expect me to say?” He ran fingers through his hair and it got caught in a knot I’d probably made last night. “Thanks for ripping my heart out? You want confirmation that you paid me back before I go?” He sniped at me.
“No I want you to give a damn about me for a change. It’s always about you and your feelings and your anxiety and your schedule. How about you show some interest in me! Do you even care why I told you everything or are you too busy thinking poor Nox, fucked over again, everyone uses me and he’s no different.”
He stared at me. “You are no different standing there on your high horse.” But it was just a biting comment. His thoughts had recoiled at the thought he hadn’t been taking care of me. That he’d been selfish. That he was always selfish.
“Do you know how many times I talked you out of doing something stupid? Every fucking October would roll around and I’d look forward to seeing you, and every October you were a mess. Or how many times I had to refrain from being angry at you because I only got a little bit of time with you before the fucking darkness took you away from me. Or the fucking scars I had to hide because whatever the fuck takes you tore into me when I tried to stop it.”
With each new word, Nox was crumbling. I knew it was harsh. And I knew I should have let him walk out the door. But he didn’t. He collapsed to the floor like he had in his apartment. He backed up against the door and his world crumbled around him. He was so much fucking work. I couldn’t even have a fight with him without feeling like shit.
Nox mumbled something I didn’t hear, but his words were clear in my head, “I don’t remember those things.”
I didn’t care. He should. “Wouldn’t matter anyway Nox. You never asked anything. Not even when my fucking birthday was. It’s always about you.”
He stared at me definitely and the words tumbled out. “You’re birthday is on Halloween.”
The fucking things he remembered. The doubt in his mind. He didn’t know where the memory came from but I saw him dressed in a pirates outfit and I remembered having the best fucking birthday because of him ever.”
“So you remember things off the wall things, like my name, or my birthday. Nox. Always at your convenience. How the fuck do I know you even cared. You used me to get that thing off your back.”
“I would never use you.” he cracked out through sobs.
A part of me wanted to comfort him, but he had to get through this him fucking self. I wasn’t going to pick him up and I wasn’t going to let him go run to his fucking vampire prince either. But he was just sitting there crying and breathing and I had enough. I turned and walked into my room.
I saw the drying blood on my sheets and swore. I’d have to deal with that later. I grabbed a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. I needed a shower, but I didn’t care right now. I pulled on a pair of boxers and a plain t-shirt then the other clothes from the closet. I went to walk out but the sight of his blood… I couldn’t just leave it there. I stripped the bed of the linens and crumpled them up and tossed them into the garbage bin. It was too small and it just landed in a pile on top then flopped over spilling the few papers it had collected.
I walked out of my bedroom and to the linen closet by the bathroom and saw Nox still sitting there against the door his head resting against it. Tears flowing and his lips moving. His inner thoughts were some sort of mantra. 3 things I could touch… I ignored them and grabbed clean sheets and walked back into my room to make the bed.
I was straightening the last corner of the comforter on my bed when I felt his presence behind me. His breathing was even as he spoke quietly. “I’m sorry. I have no excuses to offer that can explain why I treated you in a way that made you feel I didn’t care. I know I don’t remember all those things you do. And I don’t ask questions. I don’t want to pry, but it’s no excuse for my behavior.”
“Fuck, Nox.” I turned on him and glared. He still looked pale and broken but he was standing there. I could see how hard it was for him. “You are always such a pity party.”
“I’m sorry.” His gaze dropped to the floor.
I was tired of this fucking submissive shit. I stomped over to him and shoved his chest. “Stand up for your fucking self.” Nox stumbled back.
He didn’t say anything, which was slightly better than saying sorry again. I shoved him again. “Why do you let people push you around?” He took another step back. I could see the temper rising. His anger blinding the rest of his thoughts.
I shoved him again. “Why do you let me push you around?” But before the words had completely left my lips I was on the ground, long lean fingers were wrapped around my throat and I couldn’t breathe. Nox was staring down at me with his knee in my chest. I hadn’t even seen him move before I was gasping for air.
He didn’t smile he fell backwards onto his ass and then backwards still on to the floor gasping for breath like I’d been choking him instead of the other way around. Then I realized he wasn’t gasping for breath he was crying – again. “You really are a piece of work, Nox.”
Nox sat up, tears streaming down from red puffy eyes and I goaded him to get that anger back, “I thought dating a guy would have so much less fucking crying. I guess I was wrong.”
“Fuck you, Alex.” He snapped as he stood up drying his tears. “I’m sorry I didn’t remember you all those years, but getting fucking beaten every fucking night since I was six year old seems to have stuck in my head instead of all those good memories. I’m so fucking sorry that you get pissed at me for being submissive. Here let me stand up for myself.” He started for the door again.
I scrambled for the door first. “No, you don’t get to leave like this!”
“How would you like me to leave Alex?” He yelled at me. We were both yelling like a pair of idiots and I tried to calm down.
“Always, honestly, but I know that’s kinda hard for you.” His sarcasm level was at 11, a massive improvement over the tears and anger, but I bit back my own sarcastic response and gave him my honest answer.
It stung but it was the truth. “I don’t want you to leave at all.” He stared at me. “I want you to ask me why I don’t think I can do it anymore, or what it is. I want you pretend you care, Nox.”
His thoughts churned. He wanted to snap at me he didn’t need to pretend because he fucking loved me, but that wasn’t what he said. He went from tears to anger to this fucked up resignation in the space of a couple of minutes, fuck he was exhausting. “What can’t you do anymore?” he whispered with his eyes closed. He was waiting for the final blow just like I was waiting for him to walk away.
“I can’t keep lying to you. I can’t pretend that I don’t care about you. I can’t keep lying to myself about wanting more. If it means it’s over Nox, that’s fine. But you have to know why before I’ll let you leave.” He was losing it again. The anger gone, replaced with broken parts – with anxiety, depression but mostly self doubt.
“What about your revenge?”
“I don’t know Nox. I might go back to hating you again tomorrow. But last night reminded me how fucking much I wanted this to work. And it wasn’t the sex.” He smirked, “Though, that was amazing.” Nox grinned at me, I was making progress. “We have issues. Both of us. We hurt each other. I’m hoping that now that we both know we can mend some of those hurts. But we can’t do that if you walk out the door.”
My stomach rumbled. Nox dropped his gaze to the floor and asked, “What if we both walked out together and we went to get something to eat?”
I sighed with relief at the change of subject. “Yeah, pretty boy. I think we can do that.” I felt a little better, he looked a little better. But this was by no means fixed. But at least we agreed to try. At least that’s what I got out of it. Fuck. I didn’t even know how to process what happened.