She jolted awake at the searing pain in her nose. Vision blurred and slightly disoriented, she felt around in the darkness, calming when she bumped the familiar figure next to her. Her frown returned instantly when she heard him moving, mumbling incoherently in his sleep. “Wace?”
Blinking away the tears, she flipped her bed lamp on and propped herself on her elbow. “Baby?” she whispered, touching his shoulder gently when he didn’t awaken.
He shuddered violently and blew a harsh breath from his nostrils.
Jen shifted herself to a seated position, nose still smarting from Wace’s inadvertent smack. She shook his shoulder hard, his name catching on her lips when he went rigid beneath her hand. His eyes fluttered, never fully opening, and she could barely make out the frantic pleading over her pounding pulse.
“Dad…ple-please – I’m sorry. Don’t…please.”
“Baby, wake up,” she ordered, voice strong despite the weakness she felt in her stomach.
He stirred, shifting away from her hand, and kicked his feet a little, dislodging the sheet that had been tucked around his waist. His skin was clammy when she touched his back and she felt her worry build as he remained locked in his nightmare.
Her voice wavered when she called out to him once more and he showed no reaction.
She could see his profile as his face twisted in pain and he jerked several times, prompting Jen to stand and come to his side of the bed. She turned on his lamp and wiped a fresh bout of tears from her eyes as her knees pressed into the thick carpet. Ignoring the pounding in her chest, she tried once more to rouse him.
He’d had dreams before, numerous times, but he’d always responded to her calls or had managed to wake himself. This was different somehow and it scared her. She caught a glimpse of his eyes as they briefly opened and was shaken by the dilated pupils and wild terror she saw there.
“Wace,” she called again, falling back as he shot from the mattress, shouting, “Don’t!,” before he startled himself awake.
He gasped for breath as he searched the dim room, gripping the sheets reflexively as he settled into reality. His eyes locked on hers and she saw a mixture of fear and relief wash over his face as he fumbled out of the bedding.
“It’s okay,” she assured him, wiping her eyes clear yet again as she sat up.
His skin was a shocky sort of pale, accentuating the dark circles beneath his eyes as sweat beaded down the sides of his face. “Jesus – did I hurt you? Are you okay?”
He leaned over, just stopping himself from touching her, but she closed the space, taking his face between her palms. “I’m fine,” she promised, smoothing her hands over his hair, pressing gently against his ears. “I’m so sorry I couldn’t wake you up – I tried.”
He paused briefly, registering her words, and then a mild horror appeared on his face. “What did I say?” he asked as he pulled away from her, his voice heavy with trepidation.
When she shook her head and fumbled around an answer, he demanded urgently, “Jennifer, what did I say?”
“Nothing,” she replied quickly, shocked that he’d used her full name. She held her hands up imploring, trying to explain, willing away the new fear she saw in his expression. “No-nothing. You just, uh…you were talkin’ to your father an-and said ‘I’m sorry’ and…‘no’ an’ that was it. Baby, what is wrong? Talk to me, please.”
Instead of answering, he stood abruptly and left the bedroom, slamming the bathroom door behind him. She pushed herself up and followed, heedless of the barrier between them. When she opened it, she saw him splashing water over his face, scrubbing hard at the flushed skin and creating a small puddle on the tile floor beneath him.
Jen didn’t care about the mess, only that she could see him visibly trembling as he shifted from one foot to the other. “Wace,” she whispered, reaching to touch his straining bicep.
He jumped back as if his flesh had been scalded by her fingertips, and gave her a wary look. Tamping down the hurt at his reaction, she covered the two feet of separation and wrapped her arms tightly around his ribcage.
The front of her nightgown was soaked, but she didn’t notice as her palms flattened against his back, pressing him to her. She rubbed her cheek against the damp hair on his chest, lingering tears mixing with the sweat and the water. His heart was still pounding and hers did the same.
The tension within him had been building for weeks – months if she looked deeper into what she’d been brushing over since his brother had left. She wasn’t surprised by the nightmares, probably should’ve anticipated his reaction afterwards, but she’d been holding onto the hope that he’d at least allow her to give him this, some form of comfort he’d never rejected before. She swallowed hard, letting out a deep breath and closing her eyes as he finally relaxed into her embrace.
She held him silently, knowing words would ruin everything, until after long moments he stepped back, face dry and unreadable. A light pressure against his stomach, and he sat on the closed toilet seat, watching intently as she wet a rag and turned off the faucet. He stared somewhere left of her elbow and she concentrated on wiping his chest, shoulders and throat with the cool cloth. She rewet it and rubbed it over his back, catching the sweat near his waistband before draped it across the nape of his neck.
Exhaustion had returned to his features and she pulled him to his feet and back to the bedroom, relieved that he didn’t protest. Nightgown and boxers drenched, she stripped them both of their wet clothing and climbed into bed on his side, scooting backwards, giving him room to follow.
He did, closing the space between them as he shifted downward and rested his cheek against her bare breast. His hand came up to settle on her hip and she could feel his eyelashes batting against her skin as he blinked.
She welcomed him into her hold and wrapped her body around his, hands gripping his shoulder and the back of his head. Her heart tightened at his shaky intake of breath and she pressed a kiss to his crown.
“Sleep,” she said quietly, vowing to stay awake until he did so. “I’ve got you.”
- Razor's Edge - 22 (NEW)