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Subject: Chapter 223 - Part 1 (16 and above)

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Date Posted: Sunday, February 19, 11:29:43pm
In reply to: Katherine Gilbert 's message, "Dreams in the Dark (chapters 221--?)" on Monday, February 13, 07:24:07am

Extra warning: There are a few, mild swear words here. I'll rate it 16 and above, just to be safe.

Dreams in the Dark (223/?)
by Katherine Gilbert

Unaware of the bargains which had been made with their fate, the traumatized couple did their best to move on. But, every time they thought they had some grasp on their future, some way to cope, it seemed to slip through their fingers. There was just no such thing as "easy" anymore.

It wasn't that they weren't trying this time, wasn't--fortunately--that they were at such dangerous cross-purposes again. Still, there was a heaviness which seemed to engulf them the longer they were in what had once been their happy home--the hideous past always rising up to meet them. In every corner of their bedroom, some invisible gunman lurked, glaring at them from out of the past. It made it so very difficult to thrive.

It was very late that same evening they had first returned to the house when they were even able to attempt to talk about such issues, the crying jag Nikita simply couldn't force herself to stop having lasted, off and on, for hours. When she wasn't crying, she was shivering violently--making Michael fear that they had pulled her from the hospital far too soon. Still, she refused to go back, would just pull herself closer to her husband whenever a new round of terrors started; it had both of them worried. But she didn't know anything she could do except force herself through.

They were lying under the covers on their bed, Michael doing his best to keep her warm--both physically and in spirit; they had only removed their shoes, still entirely clothed, otherwise. It was just impossible to be comfortable enough here to relax, each of them uncertain such a blessing would ever come upon them again. All they could do was attempt, the best they could, to settle themselves enough to try to find some sort of peace.

This quest was a difficult one, however, one Michael feared might never be fulfilled. It was a half hour after his wife finally stopped shaking, stopped crying so heavily, that he even found the will to address his concerns--his hand soft on her hair, her head nestled below his own. "Are you certain you want to stay here? It wouldn't be that difficult to move." This might not be entirely true, the process of finding a new home never completely easy, especially with their schedule--unless they wished for the studio's help, which they certainly didn't--but he was more than willing to do his best for her. She needed every bit of care he could give her just now.

She knew this as well, treasured him for showing her such compassion. And it wasn't as though she didn't understand his concerns--had been weeping for hours because of them. Even the changes she had seen in this now-terrible room didn't alter her reaction to it--the mending either her father's men or Helmut had clearly seen to, hiding all hints of its deadly past, doing nothing to lessen the painful memories. Finding her mother dead over a year and a half ago had been trauma enough, but at least the woman had looked more peaceful in death, as though she had finally found the comfort she had never let herself seek. But Hillinger . . .

She couldn't entirely finish the thought, the image of the gunman's wide-eyed, bloody corpse enough to damage her still. Even if the man had been trying to harm her in every way possible, dismissing such an image seemed an insurmountable task; she took a deep breath, trying not to remember too clearly. But she had her reasons for needing to return here, ones she would try to explain; she almost laughed, if pitiably. If only she could stop crying long enough to try.

It was this latter reaction she needed to discuss first, still feeling so disgustingly weak--uncertain where any of her lifelong inner strength had gone. "I'm sorry."

He wasn't entirely certain he understood, had no intentions of returning to their earlier misunderstandings; he needed full comprehension before he could address any of her fears. "For what?"

Lord--he was going to make her explain. "For all this crying. For being so weak." She swallowed back heavily, the tears apparently never far away these days, interrupting quietly before he could reply. "This isn't exactly the woman you married."

Oh, Christ. "'Kita," he sighed, holding her all the closer, hating her self-doubts--and, even more, the fact that he had helped encourage them with his idiotic behavior earlier in the day. He kissed her head, trying to find a place to begin to explain his love. It was difficult at the best of times, the feeling still too new--even over a year after it had begun--too expansive, to be easily captured in words. But when his beloved wife now needed him the most . . .

He tried not to think into all the reasons for her need, into all that had happened--not wanting to drive himself crazy with the past. He could handle his torments once he had salved her own. "I didn't marry you for your inner strength, as much as I adore it. You've already survived more than most people could withstand in a lifetime of a hundred years." He sighed heavily, kissing her head again--hoping he was getting through. "I just want to make you happy."

The words struck her badly, making her cringe, hiding her head further into his neck. She wasn't certain he would even understand, altruistic as he had so often had to be with her. "I don't want to be a burden, Michael." She repressed a sniffle against his warmth. "I don't want you to suffer for me."

Lord, he hated seeing such self-doubts in the beautiful woman he loved; he sighed quietly. When would she ever understand?

Still, he almost laughed at the thought a moment later, realizing that he too could fear the same thing with her. He tried again. "You're never a burden, my love." He kissed her hair softly. "You would only hurt me, if you didn't want me to help."

Oh. This made her look up at last, if tentatively, so very worried that he was sacrificing himself for her; she so very badly didn't want that. She had seen couples of that sort--the type where one seemed to live only to support the other, the weaker one draining all time and life from the supporter. After awhile, such uneven relationships would inevitably spiral down, feeding weakness with weakness, until the one who needed protecting was incapable of standing on their own, and the one who protected had no strength left to give. No matter how much love might be figured into the equation, it was the unevenness of care and concern in the pairing which always spelled its end. No one could live forever being the only one to either give or receive.

This was what she very much feared at the moment, her terror at becoming some frail, yet demanding, wife--some hideous stereotype from the silver screen--threatening to devour her soul. After all, the movies were right about that--no man wanting to be only the one who served. Such a path would always lead to losing him for good.

It was this theory which plagued her, even if she knew what the movies didn't, that such problems worked the other way as well. Even if women were supposed to sacrifice all for their husbands--including every ounce of individuality and soul--such a bargain was always a demonic one. Both members of a couple had to give as well as receive--or there would be no one left to do the giving.

Her gaze told all of this to her partner, even if her words couldn't, but he just smiled at her, hand so tender on her cheek. He was at least relieved at the remaining strength in the look, wanted his wife to make a full recovery for her own sake, as well as for their relationship. And, even if she didn't, he would stand by her. The only pity would be in losing the woman he had loved.

He didn't let this fear show in his eyes, knew she didn't need that, just now. After all, he understood what she had clearly missed. Nikita *was* strong; whatever her temporary wounds, she would recover--to one extent or another. She was not a woman who would be happy simply being served.

It was partly this truth he felt, as he answered her unspoken fears, but there was another side to these emotions, too. Always in their relationship, especially in these last few days, he had felt a little unnecessary, knew that--whatever her protests to the contrary--Nikita would survive without him. It was only *he* who was so needy, who couldn't imagine a sunrise without her. As much as he wished that none of her trauma had ever happened, he did appreciate the fact that his wife might marginally need him at last.

This was a selfish thought, really, one he was none too proud of--and he certainly wanted her to recover for her own sake, as well. He tried to explain. "I married you because I don't want a life without you, 'Kita. I married the woman I love, in all her passion and tenderness." His head shook. "I don't want you to hold anything back, even if it's your tears."

Damn it--they had listened to him, her eyes growing threateningly red again. Her lips were pressed tight, trying to will the bloody things away. It was only with an effort that she got out her fears. "You love me even if I'm a weakling?"

Oh, 'Kita. His head shook, hand so tender on her cheek. He could only hope that she would understand. "If needing someone is a weakness, then I'm the weakest man on earth." His thumb stroked away an errant tear, forehead lowering to hers, voice a whisper. "Because I don't ever want to take a breath without you near."

This was definitely what she needed to hear, even if it brought on a new flood of tears; he clearly understood, holding her close again, stroking over her hair, as she let out all the torment and fear she had been through against him. His voice was a tender warmth over a soul in pain a moment later. "Cry if you need to, my love. You've never let yourself before." His arms wrapped around her more tightly, even as the tears flowed more freely; his soft lips kissed her hair, soothing her. "I'll never leave you again."

This last statement, given the plots against them, the ones they had no idea of, might not prove to be entirely realistic--but its emotional truth ran deep. No matter what might happen to either of them, there would never be a moment they wouldn't live in each other's souls.

Nikita clearly understood this, her crying growing softer once again, and her loving husband held her all the tighter, letting her know he was there. He could see how difficult even such a display of pain was for her--knew she had rarely ever allowed it of herself. And such a need for strength probably went back to her childhood, to the days when tears would have signaled weakness to all those who might want to hurt her; the very thought saddened and angered him, as much as he understood the need for such stoicism. When everyone judged you by, when your very safety could depend on, your strength, such expressions of sadness and hurt became the ultimate danger. You had to face the world with unshakable fortitude--or not at all.

He had long understood such behavior for himself, for many men in general, but it was rare to meet such a woman. Most gave into the stereotypes--and, in this case, the privileges--of their sex, allowing such emotions to flow. Still, such a bonus could be a danger, as well--men hating women for their weakness, for their ability to express the emotions the entire male gender was denied; he almost laughed. It was probably a sort of jealousy, the only emotion men were truly allowed being rage. It made for painful lives--and an utter inability to understand the other half of the human race.

He shook his head at the foolish concepts all of them were raised with, kissing her hair once more, giving her his strength. In truth, he had been trying to dismiss such concepts with his beloved, part of him not wishing to live within such limitations anymore. In public, of course, he would always be the perfect image which was expected of him, but their private lives were another matter. Nikita knew his weaknesses like no one else--for better and worse; he kissed her softly once again. He had no intention of changing that fact for anyone.

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Chapter 223 - Part 2 (16 and above) (end of chapter 223)KatherineG.Sunday, February 19, 11:31:34pm

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