|Rafael Atala (freyr) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-02-15 10:58:00
|Entry tags:||freyr, loki|
I brace myself
Who: Rafe & Nish
What: Rafe brings dinner for a forgotten date.
Where: Nish’s apartment
When: February 15th, 7 p.m.
Rafael arrived precisely on time, neatly balancing two large, extremely warm dishes in his hands. A sunny yellow tea towel was wrapped around both, keeping much of the heat inside and not on his bare skin. He was looking forward to the meal almost as much as the low-key date; the night before had involved more wine than food and only a hint of worthwhile conversation. Worse, he had still found himself unable to shake the unpleasant conversation from days before, or the creeping anxiety he felt about the upcoming weekend. A simple night in with Nish, Bear, and Netflix seemed more appealing with every passing minute.
At her door, he shifted the weight of the dishes enough to quietly knock and announce his presence. Belatedly he noticed the keys were still hanging in the lock, the door pulled to but not entirely closed. His brow furrowed. He called out her name as he shouldered into the dark apartment. His gaze swept the room, catching only a glimpse of white fur and no other motion. He raised his voice and called again, and pretended not to hear the note of concern the underlay his tone.
He set the dishes down in the kitchen, leaving them neatly covered. Then he returned to the door, retrieving her keys, closing the door behind him. Then he padded through the house, one hand in his pocket, fingers curling around his cell phone.
Nish was passed out in bed, a migraine having forced her to turn off all of the lights in the apartment. She’d managed to change into her sleep pants and tank top in the morning, calling into work to let Jessica know she was ‘sick’, and then spent a majority of the day alternating between sleeping and throwing up. By dinner time, exhausted and nauseous, there was nothing left to heave up, though it hadn’t stopped her from trying to self medicate with the half bottle of rum she found in the kitchen, now fallen to the floor beside her bed.
Bear had attempted to wake her several times, at first to be fed, then out of concern, and then just to be comforted. By mid-day he’d given up and instead curled up on the bed next to her, until his purring got so loud that she had to kick him off before her head exploded. He ended up wandering the apartment looking for food, curling up on the couch, and then at the front door when he heard noise.
The male human came in, and he had food. Bear meowed loudly at him, looking up at what he was holding and trotting happily beside him as he went into the kitchen, his meows becoming more demanding the farther the human walked away from the food on the counter.
"Desculpe-me, Bear," Rafael said, sidestepping the mewling cat as he moved deeper into the apartment. "Onde está sua Mäe?" Bear meowed at him again, trotting beside him towards the bedroom as if he understood.
At her bedroom door, Rafael knocked again, peering inside to see the skinny lump Nish made beneath her covers. He frowned, and walked over to her side. He sat down on the bed, the mattress sinking softly under his weight. He put his hand on her shoulder and gave it a small, delicate push. "Nish," he said, his voice barely above a whisper.
She surfaced into a world of pain, but at least it was dark. Her ears rang as if she’d just heard something incredibly loud fall silent, and at first she couldn’t be sure what had woken her. Then she felt weight on the bed next to her, and assuming it was Bear, she blindly reached out to pet his fur.
It wasn’t Bear.
She cracked her eyes open, what little light was in the room from the hall causing stabbing pain in the back of her head. But then the blinding light cleared and she saw who it was. “No..” she whispered, and even that was grating, her voice raw from the day’s activities. “Ohh god,” she murmured, tears stinging her eyes, “no…” She didn’t want him to see her like this. She didn’t ever want him to know about this side of her. But now it was too late.
Rafael patted her shoulder, rubbing it almost apologetically, as though he regretted waking her at all. His face only reinforced that impression. He didn't ask if she was okay; even in the near dark he could see the answer written in the shadowed hollows of her face. "Hey… I got your keys. You left them in the door." His head tipped to one side, a deep furrow of worry marring his brow. "What's wrong? What do you need?"
She shifted on the bed, rolling so she lay on her back looking up at him, her head throbbing even though he whispered. She squeezed her eyes shut, tears rolling down one cheek as she fought back another wave of nausea. She’d left her keys in the door...that sounded like her, though a sudden and brief wave of fear clamped over her heart when she pictured what could have happened...there was only one other person on this floor who could have possibly taken advantage of an unlocked door and the prone helpless woman behind it. She covered her face with her hands, rubbing it roughly, smoothing stray hair away from her eyes.
“Everything,” she murmured. “I…” she stopped, looking up at him for the first time since she woke, meeting his eyes and feeling the full force of her guilt smack her in the face. “I’m sorry...I’m so sorry…” she whispered, tears rolling faster down her cheeks.
The crease in his brow only deepened. He leaned down to her, gently brushing away the tracks of her tears. "For what?" he asked. He pressed a kiss to her forehead, which only served to cause more tears to trace down her cheeks. With some effort he eased the concern from his features, focusing instead on the work to be done. "You need some water, I think. And ibuprofen. I'll be right back." He patted her arm and slowly rose from the bed. On his way out he began tidying up the room; the fallen bottle he set far from her reach, and made a note to himself to return it to the kitchen when he could. He was gone and back again before he could hear a single complaint from her. He handed her water and three small pills.
She forced herself to sit up a little, accepting the offered pills and water like a child, leaning heavily against him once she’d swallowed both. She needed the support, but everything she took from him just deepened the pit of guilt inside her, adding one more thing she’d need to atone for.
"I brought food," he said, "when you think you can keep some down. Nothing greasy or spicy or anything, so it should be okay." She made a sound, halfway between a laugh and a sob. He’d made food. She’d forgotten. “Our date,” she whispered, her head pillowed against his shoulder, keeping her upright. “I’m so sorry,” she said again, the words quickly becoming a mantra. Hot tears soaked into his shirt beneath her.
His pained expression returned, but he hid it fairly well. He held her close, rubbing lightly at her shoulder. "Hey, it's okay. Don't apologize. Just tell me what I can do." He kissed her hair, still touching her gently, trying to coax her into something akin to calm. He smiled softly. "We've all been hungover, Nish. We've all forgotten things. It's okay. Really." She shook her head, the movement causing even more pain to pound against her skull.
“No, no it’s not,” she insisted, instead of calming down, becoming more agitated. She pulled away from his touch as if he’d burned her, because she didn’t deserve his comfort. She pushed herself away just enough that they weren’t touching, crossing her legs to keep herself balanced, face buried in her hands. “You don’t understand,” she whispered, barely audible through her fingers. “You don’t know what I did.”
One corner of Rafael's mouth twitched, and for an instant he almost smiled. But she was too upset for that; whatever had happened, it was to her quite serious, and deserved to be treated as such. He chewed his lip, pondering all the ways he might broach whatever subject had her so upset. He left his hand stretched out atop the comforter, close enough for her to reach, should she decide to do so.
"I don't," he said, "but you could tell me. If you wanted."
She dug her fingers into her eyes, causing stars to explode behind them as the pain focused her. Crying was making the headache worse, but she had to do this. She didn’t want to. But she knew she had to. He’d said honesty...that was the deal. They couldn’t be together if it wasn’t honest...but if she was honest, she was sure they couldn’t be together at all. “I went out last night,” she confessed, her voice quiet, but shaking with emotion. “I didn’t mean to…” she began, but then stopped herself. No excuses. There were none. “I got drunk, and…” she couldn’t say it. The longer she hesitated, the worse it got. Because she knew...this was the end. This would be when he’d walk away. “There was this guy…”
His jaw went tight. His gaze fell, but only for a moment, as he turned over every word in his mind. He moved closer to her, his fingertips brushing her leg in an unspoken question. Even in the barely-lit room he tried to meet her eyes, inching closer to her atop the bed, leaning slightly in toward her. After a moment he found his voice again, and it was as open and sincere as ever.
"Did he hurt you?"
She shivered, swallowing thickly, forcing herself to keep going. He deserved answers, but she didn’t want to give them, because he’d think the wrong things. Already she could feel the bruises ringing her wrists, peppering her sides, her hips, the bites on her neck. It was dark, she hoped dark enough. But with effort, she lifted her eyes. If he wanted honesty, he’d get it. “I wanted him to.” She felt that pit open up again, her stomach dropping into it, her body floating in freefall. Now he knew.
This, then, was what had her moving away from him, avoiding his touch as though he wounded her anew. Rafael chewed his tongue, wondering just how much to share, just how much truth he wanted to expose. In other circumstances their similarities and their reciprocal hiding might have been amusing. Instead, he only felt at a loss.
He took her hand in his, and tightly squeezed. "Then tell me," he said, "why are you so upset?"
At first, she wasn’t sure she’d heard him properly. Sure that those words were just her brain giving her what she wanted. But then he took her hand, and she let him, her own limp and passive in his. She lifted her eyes, but didn’t meet his, just slightly unfocused between them. Tears started again, threatening to spill over her, squeezing her throat as painfully as Abel did last night.
“Because he wasn’t you,” she finally managed, her heart pounding in her chest. It was too much for her, too raw, but she felt that she no longer had anything to lose. Because how could he possibly forgive her? She just did exactly what James had done to her, and she’d sent him away. The thought caused new pain to stab at her. Now she wasn’t just a whore, she was a hypocrite.
None of these vicious thoughts occurred to Rafael; he would scarcely have understood had she given voice to them. He moved closer, and with his hand on hers tried to move her closer, too. This time, she let him, sliding next to him so she could lay her head on his shoulder. "I'm sorry I wasn't there," he said. "I know what… what I do can be difficult, and I know it means I'm often not here when you, or others, need me to be.” She shook her head against him, silently protesting this, but he wasn't finished.
"But you should have what you want," he said. "Especially if I'm not giving you that. And you know we aren't… exclusive, or whatever people call it. I don't expect something of you that I can't provide, Nish. I hope you know that."
She took a deep breath, letting it out with a shaky sigh. “I know what I said...what we agreed,” she said softly, her eyes looking away, unfocused into the darkness, so she could say what she needed to without seeing him. “But I learned something last night...”
”Nish,” she heard, loud enough that she could swear he was sitting next to her, loud enough that she flinched. ”Don't.” She had to clench her jaw to regain control, causing a spike of fear that she may, in fact, be losing her mind.
“I don't want to be alone anymore,” she forced out before she lost her nerve. “And I don't want anyone else.” She felt far more vulnerable, far more exposed and shamed, sitting here wrapped safe and comfortable in his arms than she had on the bathroom floor last night. And she was fully aware that he could reach over, and with the absolute least amount of effort, crush her heart without a second thought.
It was a strange thing, Rafael found, to get what you thought you wanted, but only when you were least prepared for it. His jaw worked, but no words came. So he held her, his arms drawing tighter still around her. He turned his head toward her, kissing the top of her head once more. When he spoke, it was with marked hesitation, uncertainty written beneath every word.
"So what…" He kissed her again, letting physical intimacy speak when he could not otherwise. His voice was almost a whisper, now. "What now?" he asked. "What do you want me to do?"
She had closed her eyes, waiting for the sky to fall, only it didn't. Instead he was pulling her close, kissing her, whispering soft questions that she didn't have the answers to. A wry laugh escaped her lips, completely incongruous with what she was feeling. “I honestly didn't think that far ahead,” she whispered back. Her head was still pounding, but it was slightly less now as what she could only describe as relief washed over her, leaving her limbs feeling weak so that she leant more heavily against him. “I don't know what I'm doing.” In the spirit of honesty, she thought he had the right to know.
"I don't, either," he said, his laugh as quiet as hers had been. "I… I care about you, Nish, and I want you to be happy. But I can't quit, not yet. So if that's what you want, I…" He sighed. "I do enjoy what I do, for the most part, and I don't want you to be hurt by that. You deserve more than this."
Like everyone before you. But this truth, at least, he kept from slipping free of him.
She shook her head against his shoulder, and this time it didn't hurt quite so much. “I'm not asking you to,” she said, pressing a soft kiss to his neck, not pausing to revel in the warm glow his words had caused inside her. “I'm not...trying to change you; that's part of who you are.”
’But…’ she heard, as if the speaker was sitting behind her. She squeezed her eyes shut.
“I'm not going to lie to you, I was upset. I was jealous.” She swallowed hard, a nervous flutter warning her that she may be destroying the thing she wanted most. But he nodded, and listened, his fingers tracing faint patterns on her skin.
’It's only a matter of time,’ the voice whispered, ’don't say I didn't warn you.’ She looked up at him, meeting his eyes.
“But I knew what I was getting into. I don't want more,” she said, echoing his words, “I just want you.”
His hand curled below her chin, tipping her head up to meet his next kiss, and she sighed happily against his lips. "You have me," he said. "Jealousy makes sense, I guess. I wish you weren't... it's just business. Really. But I understand. And if there's something I can do to make it easier on you, tell me."
She kissed him again, closing her eyes, resting her cheek against his. “I know,” she murmured. “And I will,” she promised. She sighed softly and burrowed a little more into his arms, enjoying the closeness and comfort. After a few moments she opened her eyes, a hint of a smile tugging at her lips. “I think I'm hungry,” she said, sounding surprised. “You brought food?”
Rafael returned her smile; his relief was evident in the softening of his shoulders, in the way he pulled her closer still to him. "I did," he said, kissing the tip of her nose. "Chilean sea bass in roasted red pepper sauce. Broccoli puree on the side. I swear it's better than it sounds." He chuckled, his bright gaze darting around the room in search of a patch of white fur. "Bear certainly seemed interested."
She hummed in approval. “You are a god,” she murmured, but then froze. “Oh my god, Bear!” she whined. “He needs his dinner!” she gently detangled herself from him, using him as leverage to stand and carefully walking to the door. Bear was immediately at her side, purring and walking slightly ahead, encouraging her towards the kitchen.
Rafael grabbed the discarded bottle on his way out, taking it with them as they made their way to the kitchen. "It may need reheating," he said. He set the bottle aside, pushing it far back atop the counter, then turned the oven on to warm. "So give me just a minute and I'll take care of it." Already he was reaching for plates, silverware, and napkins, busying himself with the familiar comfort of preparation.
The light in the kitchen, the clinking of plates and silverware, the regular sounds of puttering around hurt her head, but the pills had helped. Instead of a blinding migraine, it had downgraded to a bad headache, and she could function enough to measure out Bear’s dry food, crouching down to give him an apologetic hug and several kisses on his head. She stayed down there for a few minutes, watching her cat eat with relish, taking that moment to think about things, smiling to herself. Last night looked like a dark pit of despair from here. She’d been positive that she’d destroyed the only good thing she had in her life. But instead of rejecting her, echoing her thoughts of self-loathing and despair, he’d accepted her for who she was, and it was jarring in its gentleness.
She reached out, stroking Bear’s soft fur, and for the first time actually seeking out that voice.
’You were wrong,’ she said. It wasn’t accusatory, the way she’d originally intended, just a fact. And another surprise, it answered in kind.
She stood, padding softly back into the kitchen, kissing Rafe and helping him get dinner ready.