Zelos did not awaken gradually that night, but abruptly, as if the curtains had been ripped open. Through the static blanketing his sleep-ridden senses, he identified the trigger: Malba’s body was shuddering violently against his own, and the sprite’s breaths were coming hard and fast.
“Malba? Mals?” he hoarsely called, hoping to get the man’s attention. Acting on instinct, he reached up and rested a hand against the older man’s cheek. Zelos breathed a sigh of relief. Surprisingly, he did not appear feverish. Still, his shakes were worrisome, and Zelos was determined to wake the half-demon up as quickly as he could. “Mals, open your eyes, huh?” _________________________________
Malba wasn’t sure how long he had been caught in the flames. Wandering in place, never taking a single step through that suffocating smoke. He choked on ash as the flames flickered high, higher, bright, brighter, and with each blindingly bright—or was it dark, black even—flicker he saw just a glimpse, a hazy mirage of wide, terrified eyes staring back at him.
“No—wait—wait!” Really, he tried, he tried to scream, shout, but the words died on his lips, soundless.
It was hot, too hot, blindingly bright, dark—but there they were. Those wide, scared eyes, and voices—not his own, never his own, he was motionless, helpless, useless, wasn’t he? He was…
“Mals, open your eyes, huh?”
Malba abruptly jerked awake, choking on his own breath, eyes wide and wet. “… fuck. Fuck, hah.” A dream. Right. Just another dream. _________________________________
Zelos found himself starting in response to Malba’s harsh wake up. Immediately, he pressed back in closer, his fingers brushing along Malba’s dampened cheek. “Shh… you’re okay, Mals,” he attempted to soothe.
He was sure now what Malba was experiencing. His physical reactions had given everything away. Zelos’s frantic expression was slowly receding, instead being replaced by an entirely sympathetic one. He knew the struggle of nightmares all too well. _________________________________
“Hah. Fuck,” Malba quietly repeated through short, shaking breaths, struggling to blink away those flames still lingering at the edges of his vision, sending a few stray tears trickling from the corners of his eyes. He swallowed hard, and gave a clearing of his throat, before forcing a wan, trembling half-smile to his lips. “H-hey. Hey, uh… sorry. Guess I was dreaming, huh?” he hoarsely stated the fucking obvious, utterly unable to keep from tipping right into the boy’s soothing touch. Zelos… of course he’d pulled him from the flames again. Of course Zelos was there, an ever soothing presence, right by his side. The least he could do was force a faint smile for the boy, right? _________________________________
His fingertips grew cool as Malba’s tears spread. Carefully, he wiped them away with the curve of his hand, cupping the sprite’s cheek gently as he did. As always, the sight of Malba crying gnawed at his insides. Worse than that, however, was the forced smile upon his lips. That was more like a suckerpunch--sharp, sudden, leaving him to feel utterly defenseless and confused. Should he attack it directly? It wasn’t as if Zelos was in any place to object to a fake smile.
“I’m guessin’ it was not the best dream ever, huh, hunny?” he attempted instead. “Want to talk about it?”