|Subject: Chapter 317 - Part 1 (16 and above)
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Date Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 07:13:24am
In reply to:
's message, "Chapter 307 - Part 1 (16 and above)" on Monday, October 22, 07:10:11am
Extra warning: There are a few mild curse words here. I'll rate it 16 and above, just to be safe.
Dreams in the Dark (317/318)
by Katherine Gilbert
She was lost; everything was lost. She had known it for at least a day now, time too quickly losing his meaning. Ever since she had read that letter, had discovered the reason for her husband's silence, she had known that there was no future for her or her child. She was only beginning to discover the ways in which this was true.
Nikita woke up crying again--or, at least, she suspected that she was awake. Heck, she only suspected that she had been sleeping, little in her life carrying anything like meaning anymore. Even the fact that her child was somehow alive was a miracle she couldn't quite comprehend. The only thing which mattered was that she had lost Michael. Nothing else could possibly have any meaning after that.
She had always known that this would be the case, had never had a doubt. Still, everything since the letter's arrival had proven it far more fully than she ever could have imagined before. She didn't even quite remember the labor or her child's birth--just remembered torturing pain and fear and loss. When there had been complications during the birth, she had accepted the fact without a fight--already understanding that there was nothing like hope left to her. All she could do was exist until she was lucky enough to find some sort of end.
Such a fate hadn't come to her yet, to her immense sadness. She had almost been hoping to die during childbirth--or as the result of it--would have been blessed to have discovered such an easy way out. But it wasn't to be. Although she had lost far more blood than she apparently should have, she was still dreadfully alive; her eyes opened hazily, staring at the blank, white ceiling. But nothing so good as death could ever be as easy as that.
It was this miracle she was praying for now, aching for an end to a life which was suddenly without a purpose, to an existence which would force her through the agony of raising a child who would be his father's small image--torturing her daily with her beloved one's loss. Or, at least, this was what she was thinking when her eyes began to focus more fully--her peripheral vision finally waking up; her head turned. But what she saw in the chair beside her made some abandoned part of her heart start to hope a little more.
She was certain now that her prayer had been answered--that she *had* died; it was the most joyful idea she could imagine. There sat Michael, sleeping fitfully, looking far more haggard than she had ever seen him outside of specially-designed makeup. But that alone was strange, her smile woeful. In heaven, she would have thought that such pains would finally be erased; a real smile broke through for half a second, even as she realized what had to be the truth. "I'm glad I dreamed you, at least," she murmured, her eyes closing again. But that was when everything, thankfully, changed.
It was the sound of her voice which brought him around--Michael not even aware that he had been asleep, astounded that it was possible. His raging terror had already brought him streaking toward the hospital, probably doing his cast--or his leg--damage in how quickly he had tried to reach her. He was still recovering from the mingled fury and terror of Elkins' letter--of the man's attempts to seduce Nikita in her husband's absence. Having Adrian assure him that his wife had never read this far wasn't consolation enough. If he ever saw the man again, there would be very little of him left, after the actor's rage was spent.
This truth remained strong, but it barely mattered, at the moment. When he had discovered that Nikita and their child were indeed alive, that she was still with him, he had begun breathing again somewhat. He had taken up an unshakable vigil beside her--terrified of the consequences of waking her. Still, searing worry--on top of a month of torturous walking and climbing across a hefty part of Europe with an injury he shouldn't have even been moving around on--had quickly taken their toll, exhaustion felling him without his awareness. But even the thought that his Nikita might be awake again was enough to rouse him now.
He was certain, once his eyes were open, that he had seen her move; it wasn't a dream, he was sure. Although it was still a struggle, he levered himself awkwardly up to clump over to the bed beside her--his heart turning over in love, when she finally opened her eyes. But they didn't quite seem to see him, showed that she was probably still as dopy from sedatives after her difficult delivery as he had been after his own surgery; she smiled at him, making him ache to hold her, her voice a little slurred. "I wish I had dreamed you looking less worried," she murmured. But--no matter how much she might need her rest--he found that he couldn't let her collapse into sleep once more.
She couldn't know this, was much too despairing to understand. Still, it was the beginning of the change Nikita needed so desperately, as Michael took her hand--her look a little confused, as the hoarse voice she had long loved spoke to her again. "I'm here, my love. I'm alive."
This should have been enough to fully awaken the woman, but pain, exhaustion, terror, and sorrow--combined with some fairly strong sedatives--were taking their toll. "I wish you were really here," she whispered, assuming he was either a dream or a ghost. "I hope you got to see our child, before you go."
Dear God. He was holding her hand now, but it wasn't enough--little physical feeling apparently left in her, after the painkillers did their work, which was mostly for the best. Still, his eyes seemed a little desperate, as he tried to decide what to do, how to convince her--unable to wait anymore. He was half-terrified that, if he didn't prove that he was really here, she might let grief conquer her, might will herself to die. And then *he* would be the one left behind with absolutely nothing to live for.
The moment of reunion was still a tentative one, Michael's hand now cupping her face--his voice almost harsh, speaking to her out of his fears alone. "You're not leaving me, Nikita." His other hand cupped her cheek, as well, as he leaned down toward her. "I won't live without you again."
It was with these words that his mouth enveloped hers in a kiss far too soul-sweeping to be a mere fantasy. She let out a small gasp, as he pulled away for just a second, but he wasn't convinced she understood--the gentle invasion then continuing. It was only when her hands finally caught him, entangling in his hair, that he let her go. But it was the beginning of the life together that both of them had long dreamed of.
Nikita was crying, half in shock, as she touched his face, the stubble on his cheeks pricking her fingers tenderly, her heart thumping at its beauty--even if it were more salt-and-pepper-colored than she remembered before. Her hands reached up to run through his hair, disheveling it even further than his rush to see her, and impromptu nap in the chair, already had; she let out a soft moan, barely knowing that she did. Just the feeling of the softness of the strands against her fingertips--the warm skin of his face and neck beneath her hands--made her gasp, finally realizing the truth. "How?" she whispered--assuming, without question, that he would understand every facet of her fears; he always had. But, fortunately for them both, this aspect of him hadn't changed at all.
He didn't want to stop her from touching him--didn't ever want to live without that again--but his leg was starting to ache, as he leaned over her against the bed. In deference to both their physical states, therefore, he kissed both her hands tenderly, before pulling back, soon guiding the chair closer to be near her, while he held her hand. As much as he wanted to hold her close, they both needed time to heal. He would make certain that the future gave them plenty of opportunities to reacquaint their bodies completely.
She didn't entirely understand his withdrawal, had yet to notice anything except the new bits of white in his hair and stubble. Still, when she looked down, as he settled himself, slightly clumsily, in the chair, she saw the top of the cast--her gaze finding the cane soon thereafter. She nearly gasped, fearing for him--so many terrible fears unresolved. "Mi-chael," she moaned. She just couldn't bear that he had ever been hurt for her.
He moved to soothe her anxiety, stroking along the arm which didn't have the IV in it. "Ssh," he murmured. "My leg's broken, but it's still there." He nodded slightly, sadly. "I'll be better soon."
This assurance wasn't enough, though; she knew him too well, could sense his lie. He saw it in her eyes, had to explain further. He did his best, therefore, to tell her about what had happened, about being shot down, his escape to the farmhouse with Ackerman, and his eventual trek across Europe back to his base. Even though he could have made it sound heroic, he didn't, letting her know quite well--perhaps slightly too harshly for the truth--Ackerman's part in his survival. He even tried to explain all the many reasons why he hadn't contacted her after he had been rescued, why she had been so long left in the dark. Mostly, he answered her unasked questions. But he didn't discuss his leg, his condition--only that he had been permanently released from duty. But that alone she found worrying enough.
It wasn't that she regretted his homecoming, certainly wasn't that she in any way wanted to live without him again. Still, his silence on the subject of his leg, of any possible recuperation there, disturbed her, made her fear for him--as dearly happy as she was to have him back for good. That he was both alive and with her was beautiful, but it terrified her to think that he would be permanently wounded. He was just too proud a man to easily withstand that.
"What will happen now, Michael?" When she saw that he was going to be evasive, her hand reached down, skimming over the top of his cast; she saw him take in his breath sharply and regretted the action, retreating to the safety of his touch again. "How much pain are you in?"
He gave a smile, even if he wished that he hadn't had to answer such a question--all his old fears returning, threatening to ruin his homecoming. Nikita was such a strong woman, was so utterly lovely. She deserved a brave, whole man. Not a ruined wreck, such as he.
He took a deep breath, praying for the best--even as he forced himself not to evade any further. Whatever the outcome, she deserved the truth. She had been through far too much in his absence for him to deny her that.
"It's pretty bad." God, he wished that he could claim otherwise, glancing away for a moment. "It won't kill me, but it's unlikely to heal completely." He took a very deep breath, gazing back to her--bracing himself for the worst. "At best, I'll probably have a limp for the rest of my life."
Jesus! Everything inside her had changed, noting that penitential tone, the mournful gaze. She couldn't believe the man--looking so fearful and apologetic for something as minor as that, acting as though it were *she* who was being harmed by his injury. She decided to force him toward the truth. "You'll walk?"
He nodded, not seeing what she was doing. "Probably with a cane." His look departed again. "Maybe crutches on the bad days." Although he was damn well going to be doing his best to avoid forcing his beautiful wife to endure even that much of his weakness.
She really couldn't believe him, her gaze now hard--almost angry that he knew her so little. "Have you lost any body parts?" He looked confused, shaking his head. "Still plan to make love to me?"
Christ. He was starting to get it, the last question the very sharpened spur it had been intended to be--his own look hardening. "You'll need to put me in traction to keep me away from that."
She just laughed, leading him down to kiss her, both of them maneuvering enough to make it happen--a bit awkwardly, considering their current conditions. Her eyes were gentler, slightly teasing, when she finally let him go. "I'm glad to hear it." And, with that, she put to rest every fear of inadequacy he had been harboring for weeks.
He loved her for this alone--as well as for an uncountable number of other reasons; he had to stretch himself up along the bed to stroke along her face--but he just couldn't keep from touching her, no matter how difficult his injury might make things. "Thank you," he whispered. It was all he could say. As he had from the first, he just loved her far too much to even begin to put it into words.
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