|Rafael Atala (freyr) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-03-31 08:52:00
|Entry tags:||freyr, loki|
we should be wary
Who: Nish & Rafe
What: Surfing and Uncomfortable Conversations 101
Where: Doheny Beach, then Pax
When: Tuesday, March 28th, 7 a.m.
Notes: gdoc, complete
The beach was quiet and calm. The waves broke soft against the pale sand of the beach, lazy curls that were perfect for the two longboards Rafael had brought. He helped direct Nish how to properly carry it down to the waterline, keeping its back and fins from scraping in the dirt, lifting it from the sand when he thought he needed to help. When they moved into the water, Rafael took a moment to tug at the long sleeves of his rash guard, pulling the springy black cloth farther down his arms. With cool water lapping at their bare ankles, he stopped short, and pointed out a few skilled longboarders enjoying the early morning surf.
"Watch them, just for a bit," he said. "But don't get too caught up in it. Once you're up you'll feel what you need to do. It's all balance, right? And moving with the wave." He smiled softly. "Don't fight it or try to control it. Just feel it. Okay?"
Nish nodded and did as he said, watching other people show her how it's done, though she kept getting distracted by other things; the wind trying to pull her hair free from her tight ponytail, the blessedly cool water creeping up her thighs, the comfort of the soft fabric of her new navy springsuit mingled with the slight discomfort of feeling almost naked in it. And of course Rafe beside her, distracting her with his completely distracting voice, and warmth, and smile, and existence.
She couldn't stop staring at him. It was like he belonged out here in the waves. All tanned skin and tousled hair. She'd be lucky if she retained any of his instructions because she spent most of the time just looking at him. But for now she was content to watch the people further down the beach, riding one of the gentle waves towards the shore.
“So how do I get onto the board without looking like I don't know what I'm doing?” she asked with a playful grin, looking back at him. She was happy, excited even, and it showed in her eyes. She couldn't help it...doing something with him that was completely out of her comfort zone...it made her happier than she'd been in weeks.
"It's easy," he said, not knowing it for the potential lie it was. He leaned down and fastened the board's leash to his ankle, motioning for her to do the same, and Nish crouched and copied his movements. Then he beckoned her farther out into the surf, just before where the breakers began. There, he moved atop his own board, lying on his stomach. He pointed to the waves beyond. "We'll paddle out first. Go around the breakers. The board's pretty heavy, so you can push through if you need to. Just lift your chin and try not to drink too much salt water." He gave a quiet laugh.
Nish flashed him a wide smile, again copying his movements, lying on top of her board and letting her arms drift in the cool water beneath her as she listened to his instructions.
"We're looking for those calm channels between the waves. See those?" He gestured with one tanned hand, and she nodded. "Then just angle the fins into the wave, stand up when and if you can, and ride it out."
She was with him until the last part, blinking at him and trying to decide if it was her lack of knowledge or maybe still some of her lack of confidence that was holding her back. “Maybe I should watch you do it first,” she suggested, paddling beside him but suddenly a little nervous to plunge right into the waves which looked a lot bigger now that she was lying on the board than they had standing in the surf. She could feel her heart pumping faster with a combination of excitement and nerves, adding yet another thing to her slowly growing list of worries.
He nodded, smiling brightly. "Sounds good. But seriously, Nish… don't overthink this. Okay?"
Without waiting for a response -- already knowing what answer he would get -- he paddled out into a channel like the one he had indicated. Slowly he turned the board until its tail faced the waves. When a crest appeared, it caught the fins easily; he moved first to a crouch, then to stand, so quickly it seemed one fluid motion. The wave was small and short, but he balanced with seeming ease. He leaned toward her, and the board lazily moved in her direction, kneeling once more as the board slowed near her.
"See? That's all there is to it."
She didn’t take her eyes off him for a moment, leaning on her forearms, hungry eyes tracing his lithe form with very different thoughts than simply noting his surfing technique. It had been far too long, and lately resisting acting on her desires had been a struggle. Every time they started to get close she’d pull away, or come up with an excuse, a distraction, all the while dying a little inside because of it.
She had been too nervous to ask Lucas if it was safe, and of course Google offered her only the worst case scenario. But last night when she was trying on her springsuit for the first time, she’d made a decision. She was ready. Lucas had cleared her to work, to start working up to running again, though at a slower pace than usual. She was on meds that kept her heart rate down, and if there was a problem she had the nitro. But she couldn’t wait anymore. She was going to make love to Rafe today, even if it killed her.
By the time he got back to her she was smiling, but for more than one reason. “You make it look so easy,” she said. Tentatively, she pushed up on the board, carefully bringing one leg up to kneel, then the other, attempting to balance like he did. “What if I flip over out there?” she asked.
"Then you'll be just like all the rest of us," he laughed. "As long as the leash is on you won't lose the board, and these waves are little baby waves. You'll be fine."
He slid back onto his belly and paddled out, giving the breakers a wide berth. He looked back now and then to be sure she was following, each time flashing a freshly encouraging smile. They turned into the channel, and a lazy wave approached. "Ready?" He asked, though the incoming wave offered little alternative. "I'm right here."
Nish had slid back down to lie on her stomach, paddling in the water to follow as Rafe led her farther out. His patience and supportive smiles were giving her a warm glow in her belly, despite the cool water lapping comfortingly at her skin, and it seemed to help boost her confidence a little too. She could do this...lots of other people did it all the time. She just needed practice. Muscle memory. It was like Max had taught her during those two classes where she was watching instead of participating - find your center of gravity and everything will fall into place. Max had shown her how to find it, how to use it to leverage opponents onto their back with the least amount of effort. And she found it came in handy here too, staying on the board, staying balanced. It was a similar skill set.
So she took a deep breath and kept going, carefully maneuvering her board through a channel between two waves, and then turning around when she got out far enough. Another wave was behind them and she pressed her hands to the board, pushing herself up to a crouch just like she’d seen Rafe do and finding it easier than she’d thought to keep her balance. She grinned happily, making a note to thank Max later, and made the split second decision to try and stand, making it just as the wave hit her. But this one was a little stronger than it looked and she felt the board shift a little under her, knocking her balance off so that she was teetering as she came in, riding the wave, but slowly tipping back until she finally fell into the water after less than a minute standing.
She’d fortunately fallen backwards, so she had plenty of time to take a breath before going under, the sudden weightlessness of the water slightly euphoric until she kicked her legs and broke the surface, finding the board bobbing next to her on top of the now calm waters. And she was smiling. “My god, that was fun!” she laughed, the waves gently pushing her closer to him.
"I told you." Rafael laughed, swimming forward a bit to catch her up in his arms. He kissed her temple, then tugged lightly at her soaked ponytail. The boards bobbed next to them, dancing on waves that splashed up against their chests. "You did great. All that's left is practice, so… ready to go again?"
She laced her arms around his neck, pulling him closer to her and kissing him, excitement humming through her at her success. Without thinking too much about it she deepened the kiss, threading her fingers in his hair and allowing herself to enjoy the closeness a little longer than necessary before pulling away. “Absolutely,” she said, still not letting him go, pressing flush against him for another moment to enjoy his warmth seeping into her skin and his hands on her.
Rafael held her close, kissing her softly once more. His fingers threaded through hers as he pulled away. Then he moved back onto the board, leading her out for another round of short -- but largely successful -- rides. Only when they were thoroughly soaked and exhausted, and the beach had begun to grow crowded with tourists, did he at last nod toward the shore and motion her in.
They wrung salt water from their hair and their clothes as they shuffled through the sand and up to the Jeep. The interior was all-weather and plainly put to hard use; after securing the longboards to the roof, Rafael slipped into the seats without any further drying-off. He went so far as to strip off his rash guard and toss it into the backseat, leaving him with only a pair of pale blue board shorts that rode low on his hips.
"I could use breakfast and a shower," he said. "Not necessarily in that order. Any preference?"
Fresh from the ocean, salt in her hair and sand in her toes, Nish was beaming with happiness. She slid into the passenger seat next to him, belting herself in and smiling over at him. “Shower,” she answered, “scrub the salt off before we eat?” She grinned, settling into her seat as he pulled the Jeep onto the road. Her eyes drifted, unabashedly tracing over his muscles, all the way down to his shorts that were riding a little low on his hips and giving her very indecent thoughts. She bit her lip, one hand moving to his thigh, sliding over it and creeping slowly closer to his groin, but stopping just shy of touching him, teasing.
Rafael cut her a sidelong look, a playful smile on his face. Clearly she was feeling better; the realization pleased him, though in his private moments he had to admit he had enjoyed the time they had spent relatively chaste, occupying their time with cooking and talking and soft, undemanding touches. But that thought passed as quickly as it had come, and he shifted in his seat, positioning himself closer to her wandering hand.
"That sounds good to me," he said. He laughed quietly. "We should decide now about breakfast after… I have a feeling we'll both be too hungry to cook. Maybe Alice's place?"
She caught his smile and it only encouraged her, letting her fingers dance along his stomach, tracing every defined muscle, dipping just under the waistband of his shorts and out again. Light, teasing touches that gradually started dipping lower, but still just barely avoiding her actual goal. “That sounds nice,” she said casually, as if she wasn’t doing her very best to run them off the road. “I was there yesterday,” she commented, one finger very lightly grazing the side of his length, though her eyes were on his face, smiling innocently. “I bought a giant cake from her, because I wanted cake. I hope you like salted caramel, because I’ll be feeding it to you for a while.”
"Then it's a good thing I do," he laughed. He caught her roving hand in his and gently squeezed her fingers. The pad of his thumb skimmed over her damp skin. "You're going to get us pulled over," he said, only half teasing. Nish grinned wickedly at him, not attempting to pull her fingers away, instead lacing them with his.
He kept her hand in his until they reached Pax Letale. Then, after pulling into a free parking space, he reached in the back seat, fumbling about until his fingers alighted on a crumpled tee shirt. He pulled it on over his head and slipped out of the truck, pushing the door closed with his hip. Once they had the boards under their arms and the Jeep locked behind them, they moved inside, still dripping salt water from fins to the floor.
Stephan frowned at the little puddles they left in their wake, but only as long as it took for them to return the boards to Rafael's first-floor apartment. He appeared mollified when they returned, towel in hand, and Rafael cleaned up the mess they had made. He waved to the concierge as he tossed the towel over one shoulder, and with no further ado they slipped onto the elevator and up to Nish's apartment.
Nish was a good girl for the rest of the trip, helping him bring the boards back to his apartment and smirking a little at Stephan’s expression as he watched them both like a hawk. The ride up in the elevator included several skipped heartbeats that made her only slightly apprehensive, though she explained it away to herself as normal excitement and anticipation.
She led him by the hand down the hall to her apartment, and then down the hall to the bathroom, turning on the shower to a pleasantly warm temperature, wordlessly helping him out of his clothes and then pressing herself against him and pulling his lips to hers, her still damp suit the only thing left between them.
He fitted himself close against her, basking in the familiar, pleasant sensation of her wetsuit on his bare flesh. His arms slid around her, pulling her close, up onto her toes as his tongue slid over, then beneath, hers. Without so much as a glance he found the zipper of her suit, tugging it down, exposing her skin to the warm water that rained down on them. He sucked at the swell of her lower lip, his hands curved around her shoulders as he pushed fitted sleeves down.
She sighed and melted against him, her tongue sliding languidly against his, taking her time relearning everything about him. For the last two weeks she had been different, her kisses had been soft and tentative, as if unsure of herself and of how far she could go. More comfort and less passion. But she’d missed him, even though he’d been with her the whole time. And now it felt to her as if they were just getting back together after a long separation. As if she’d been away, and had just now come back into his life. She’d been depressed, and still was, but she was starting to claw her way out of the mire to see the sun again.
She let him go just long enough to pull her arms from the clinging sleeves of her wetsuit, letting the fabric drape low around her waist as the warm water from the shower soaked it anew. She pulled him back against her until the too-cool tiles of the shower pressed against her back, causing a slight yelp of shock and a soft giggle at her own reaction. All the while she never stopped kissing him - his mouth, his jaw, his neck, one hand drifting down to caress his side, his hip, and finally wrapping gently around his cock, slowly stroking him while her tongue played with his.
He sighed into her mouth, his hips rocking forward to push him into her hand. It was a comfort of a sort, a return to old, familiar things. He told himself he was grateful for that. Their day had been perfect, spent among the sand and sun he loved so well, showing her something he cared deeply for. That she had been receptive, and seemed to enjoy what he had shared with her, improved his mood and chased away all the shadows of those thoughts. He bent down to shove her wetsuit aside, letting it pool at their feet.
His hand slid around her thigh, lifting her leg against him. He pressed close, though still he seemed to let her lead, responding to her touches and offering what he thought she wanted. He hesitated, then, his body held so close against hers.
Her heart was pounding hard and fast, whether from anticipation or something else, she wasn’t sure. And at this point she didn’t care, though the fear returned to tingle her skin with her next intake of breath to prove her wrong. She was feeling slightly lightheaded, but it wasn’t anything she couldn’t deal with, and could easily be explained away by her quick shallow breaths.
But she hesitated when he did, a thought occurring to her that maybe he had noticed something off. She kissed him again, pulling him closer. “I’m okay,” she murmured against his lips, encouraging him forward, the thought of a condom or stopping long enough to search for one not even entering into her mind. Her kisses moved across his jaw, nipping and sucking at his neck, her fingers digging into his arms as she used him to hold herself up, pressing herself flush against him. His skin tasted like salt and sunlight, comforting and thrilling at the same time.
Still he seemed uncertain as he kissed her again, and after a moment, he gently set her back down. "Let me just…" He pressed a kiss to her lower lip, reassuring her as he drew away. "One second…" He slipped out of the shower, dripping onto the floor, taking pains not to slip. He moved to the medicine cabinet, opening it up, his eyes flicking down to the condoms always stashed within it. Then his hand paused, still wrapped loosely around the cabinet's door.
"Nish?" He left the box where it lay. He turned toward the closed shower curtain. "What's this? These meds?"
Inside the shower, Nish felt as if she'd been splashed with ice water. She froze, not answering immediately, not knowing what to say. In her mind she went over what was in there...the antidepressants he knew about. The beta blockers and nitro...he didn't.
She looked down at her feet, at the discarded and soaked wetsuit on the bottom of the tub, chewing on her lip and taking far too long to answer him, wishing they were still at the beach and he hadn't been so dead set on using a condom.
She peeked around the curtain, all of her previous happiness having bled from her face, her arms crossed protectively over her chest. “Just...something the doctor gave me,” she evaded. She turned off the shower, stepped out onto the mat and grabbed her towel, wrapping it around herself. Not meeting his eyes. “I only didn't tell you...because I didn't want you to worry.” She pressed a hand to the wall next to her, steadying herself as her head spun, and then moving instead to sit on the edge of the tub.
Rafael leaned forward, clearly ready to catch her if she fell. Once she was settled and in no apparent, immediate danger, he found his board shorts and slipped them back on. His shirt was next, clinging to his still wet skin. He sat down on the closed lid of the toilet, his brow furrowed as he watched her.
"Please, Nish. Tell me what's going on. And be honest with me this time."
She leant forward, hands wrapped around her shins and head resting on her knees, and slowly the stars started to dissipate from her eyes as blood started rushing back to her head. “There was damage,” she finally admitted, glad that she couldn't see his face from this position. She took deep breaths, her head starting to clear a little more with each one. “The coke...I took too much at once. He said it damaged my heart.” She couldn't say the words to him though, of what that actually meant. What really happened. For some reason, ‘heart damage’ somehow sounded less terrifying than ‘I had a heart attack, and now I'm at higher risk of having another without warning.’ She didn't want him to have to deal with that, or be constantly worrying that she may drop dead when he fucked her. She was doing enough of that for the both of them.
"You…" The words caught in his throat. He put his head in his hands, tanned fingers pushing back through his hair. There they remained, pinning back loose tangles of waterlogged, salt-studded curls. "You had a heart attack? That's why…" Again words failed him. He cleared his throat. Wave after wave of conflicting emotion battered him, leaving him more adrift than he had felt in quite a long time. It explained everything: the sudden delicacy of her actions, the unusual reservation in her words and behavior. It explained the physical distance between them, and left him uncertain if he even wanted to close that now.
"Nish, why didn't you tell me? And don't say--" At last he looked up to her, his hurt reflected in his eyes. He shook his head, raising his hands in a gesture of surrender. "No. Nevermind. I… you don't owe me an explanation, or anything else. I… I'm sorry."
She sat up, looked at him and frowned at the expression on his face. The exact one she’d been trying to avoid by not telling him. She slid down the tub, closer to where he sat, her hand lacing with his in his lap, holding it tightly. “No, I do,” she said, quietly. “You deserve to know...I just...I was scared. And I didn’t want you to have to deal with it too. I didn’t want you to look at me the way you are right now. Like I’m…broken.” It was certainly how she felt most days. She felt like broken toy, one step from being tossed away and replaced. It was the reason Lucas had prescribed antidepressants to her without a second thought, and why she took them even though they made her feel flat and they made it harder for her to hear Loki. At least she only felt hurt, not crippled. “I’m sorry. I should have told you.” She looked up, finally tried to catch his eyes.
His hand felt loose in hers, as though it might slip free at any moment. His teeth worried at the inside of his lip as he struggled to find the right words. There were none, he knew, so he forged ahead as best he could. "You should have," he agreed. "You're not broken, Nish. But I have to deal with this, too, whether you want me to or not. We're supposed to be in this together, right? And if we're not, then why… why am I even here?"
She nodded as he spoke, meekly accepting the chastisement as her due. He was right, and in retrospect she should have trusted that he could handle it. She was making all the same mistakes she always did in relationships, but she never seemed to learn how to let go. To trust the other person completely. She blamed James for that, but really she couldn't lay that on anyone but herself.
His question hit her like a slap, tears burning her eyes. He didn't know? She hadn't said it, because she'd thought it obvious. She thought it didn't need to be said. But she'd been wrong about a lot of things lately, most of all about them.
She swallowed, took a breath, closed her eyes, and said it. “Because I love you,” she whispered, her heart in her throat.
The words slipped free before he could catch them. Immediately deep color flooded his face, creeping down past the collar of his thin shirt. His tongue felt dry and coarse as sand. "I… that's not what I meant." But it had been, and his face nakedly showed it, as it always showed everything that passed through his thoughts. "It's…" His hand tightened on hers: too little, too late. "I care about you, Nish. I do. But this is… it's too quick. You don't… we don't know anything about each other. Not really. How can you say that?"
Nish sat there for a moment, listening to him speak, and then in silence. And then she grit her teeth, her hand sliding easily from his as she stood, leaving him alone in the bathroom.
She padded to her bedroom, closing the door behind her, yanking open her dresser and pulling on the first clothes she found, soft cotton pants and shirt, all the while berating herself for opening her mouth, cheeks burning with shame. ’Stupid, Nish,’ she told herself, ’stupid, stupid…’ She didn’t realise she was crying until the tears dropped from her chin, and she roughly wiped them away with her sleeve in embarrassment. Stupid fucking pills making her weak.
He padded into the room close behind her, stopping to lean inside the doorframe. Silence fell heavy between them. There was so much he needed to say. It clattered around in his head, sharp and loud as broken glass, and he could find no way to piece it all together. He spoke her name, but his voice was so quiet even he wasn't sure he had said anything aloud. His fingers curled around the doorjamb.
"Nish," he tried again. He cleared his throat, but it still sounded rough to his ears, raw with a tangle of unnameable emotions. "I'm sorry. Please… please just talk to me."
She stopped moving, her hands wrapped around the drawer of her dresser, stabilizing herself though it had nothing to do with her earlier lightheadedness that had now passed. She was taking deep breaths, her heart beating out its own unique rhythm as she sorted through everything that had happened.
“I had fun today,” she said quietly, glancing up at him. “For the first time in...weeks. I was really happy.” It felt like it had been hours, days, since they were at the beach, instead of only about a half an hour. “It’s so…hard...to stay positive...when everything I used to love is now forbidden to me.” She turned towards him, crossing her arms over her chest, the bed a physical barrier between them. “I can’t drink, I can’t use, I can’t run, I can’t, apparently, even have sex without scaring the shit out of you. What do I have left?” She sighed in frustration, turning away.
“You make me happy...but if I don’t do the same for you…” she shook her head and sat on her bed, her back to him him, her hands clasped tight between her knees as if she was struggling to hold onto something that was slipping away from her. “You’re all I have left, and that scares me.”
Again he was shaking his head. He started forward into the room, only to change his mind at the last minute. He remained instead by the door, as though ready to run at the first sign of its necessity. "I'm not," he said. "It's… I don't like that you think that. Any of it." His hand rested at his nape, rubbing there, though the tension he felt did not even begin to dissipate. "I had fun today, too. And I'm not scared of having sex with you. I'm upset you didn't tell me what was going on. I'm… I'm upset that you think if you can't do coke and fuck you've got nothing left. I've seen what that kind of thinking does, Nish, and I'm not falling into it, and I don't want you to, either."
She let out a humourless smile, though her back was still turned to him. She rubbed her forehead with one hand. “It’s who I am, Rafe, who I’ve always been,” she murmured, almost too soft for him to hear. She was an addict. She’d been a functional alcoholic since before she was old enough to drink. And for her, the endorphin rush of sex was just as addictive as both of those substances combined. This was nothing new for her.
His arm fell back to his side. Just as quickly he reached across his chest, his right hand clasping his left arm as though he were hugging himself. "Are you still going to therapy?" Were you ever really going? he thought, but did not ask.
She didn’t move, her head still cradled in her hand. “It doesn’t help,” she said flatly. “I go...every day I go to group and I sit there, and listen to everyone talk about their problems while the nurses coddle them and tell them what good people they are and how everything isn’t as bad as they think it is and I hate it.” The bitterness and anger rising in her voice as she talked revealed far more about what she really thought of those people than her words did. A group of weak people, who were slowly making her weak by association. She turned around, shifting so she was sitting crosslegged on the bed.
“I can’t talk to those people...how do I know what I say won’t find its way out of that room? How do I know I won’t end up in the same mess that got me here in the first place? I can’t talk...sharing my thoughts is what put me in the hospital in the first place. And don’t bother telling me it’s a ‘safe place’ because my diary was a fucking safe place too. I almost lost my best friends because of that fucking safe place.”
Tears were bouncing down her cheeks again, betraying the hurt she felt beneath that toxic anger, her chest tightening up painfully with emotions. Her breaths were starting to come quicker, shallower, the longer she talked, finally letting out what she’d kept bottled up since she woke up in the hospital. It was unfair, all of it. She couldn’t keep a diary anymore for fear of someone else stealing it. She couldn’t talk to anyone because she was terrified of them repeating what she said, twisting her words and telling lies about her. She could talk to Simone, but so far she’d been keeping things from getting too deep, talking about what she was really feeling, afraid that if she opened the floodgates she could never close them again.
Rafael had begun to shrink from her. He had not realized it, had not felt himself doing so, but he was doing so all the same, as though making himself a smaller target. His teeth had begun to worry at his tongue. Dimly, slowly, he realized the source of that pain and stopped himself. He reached for something, anything to say that might be of use.
"Then forget group," he said. "Find someone to talk to on your own. One on one. This isn't… you aren't doing well, Nish. I think… I still think you need to talk to someone. I'll help you, of course, however I can, but this… I don't know how to help you through all this."
She frowned, the tightness in her chest starting to become pain. “I go to group for you. Because you want me to.” She lifted a hand, pushing it to her chest.
’Calm down,’ she heard. Loki sounded tinny, as if he was speaking from the end of a tunnel. ’Nish...breathe. Stop making yourself angry or it'll get worse.’
She pressed her eyes closed, trying to take deep breaths, but the pain wasn't going away. “I'm seeing a psychiatrist, once a week,” she said, trying hard to sound normal. “I see...I see her again tomorrow. She controls my meds, I'll talk to...” she stopped, curling into herself when she couldn't fight it anymore. “Rafe...get, in the cabinet…”
He pushed off from the doorframe, quickly returning to the bathroom. In his rush he grabbed both new bottles, leaving the cabinet standing open as he went back to her side. He twisted both open and held them out to her, worry darkening his tanned face.
In the time it took for him to bring them to her she had rolled onto her back, her hand pressing hard against the rapid beating under it. She heard him come back, the rustling of the blankets sounding far away as she reached for the open bottle that had a spray bottle inside it. Remembering what Lucas had told her, she popped the protective cap off of it and sprayed it once under her tongue, waiting through several seconds of pure terror until it finally started to work. The fist clenching her heart started to ease up, the cotton slowly dissipated from her ears, and her breathing leveling out. She dropped the bottle onto the bed and reached for his hand instead.
“I'm sorry,” she whispered, and she found she could hear again. “I should have told you, I'm sorry.” It seemed stupid now, trying to keep this from him, when she never knew when this would happen. So far she'd been lucky, but she'd been told to carry the nitro with her all the time, just in case. Now she knew why.
Rafael nodded, but it was clear something in him had irrevocably changed. There was tension in the slope of his shoulders, reservation on his face and in the studied, careful motions of his hands. He met her eyes, but his expression was, while not blank, precisely, as close as it had ever been.
"Are you all right now? Is that… did that help?"
She nodded, closing her eyes to block out his expression that did nothing but make her worry. She’d scared him, but she didn’t blame him. She’d scared herself. A tear slipped down her cheek, burying itself in her still damp hair. It had taken so little to bring her down. She really was weak now. “Thank you,” she said quietly, the nitro-induced headache she’d been warned about already starting to make sounds too loud. “My doctor told me it could happen, but that was the first time.” She laced her fingers with his, trying to comfort him as much as herself. He’d also told her that stress aggravated her condition, but she refused to even entertain the idea that their fight had caused it. She’d been feeling a little off all morning, it had nothing to do with them.
Rafael squeezed her hand only gently. He leaned down and wiped the tracks of her tears from her face. Then he straightened up, gingerly withdrawing from her. "You should rest," he said, so quiet his voice was nearly a whisper. "I'll be right downstairs. Just… you can text me if you need anything. I'll have some food sent up for dinner, okay?"
She leant into his hand when he touched her but it was gone too quickly. She frowned and opened her eyes, but the light in the room was now too bright and she closed them again, one hand lifting to shield them. “Okay, thank you. Can...could you get me some aspirin? And close the curtains, please,” she asked quietly. She started shifting on her bed, still unmade from this morning, blindly reaching out to pull her duvet over her and wrapping it around herself like a cocoon. All she wanted now was to sleep, but she wanted him to stay with her. From his movements and tone of voice though, she knew that wasn’t happening. Something had broken between them, and she was sure that it was her fault.
Quietly he hummed his answer. He closed the blinds before he left, his footfalls nearly silent in the apartment as he fetched aspirin and a glass of water. He set both down on the nightstand, his lower lip pressed between his teeth as he quietly stepped away. He slid his hands into the pockets of his board shorts, clenching them into loose fists she could not see.
"Get some sleep," he said. "I'll… I'll check on you soon, okay?"
Then he turned, moving out into the apartment beyond, the door closed and neatly locked behind him.