She heard the scrape of the key in the lock and looked up from where she was curled up in bed reading a book. When she heard the front door open and shut, she called out, “Wace? Is that you?”
“Yeah, ‘s’me,” he mumbled as he staggered through her bedroom door, and she immediately put down her book and got up from the bed, going to him. “Hey, baby,” she said softly, leaning up to kiss him beside his mouth.
He pulled back, just a little, and she paused, confused by his reaction. “You look exhausted.”
“Yeah,” he agreed absently, walking around her to the bed. He sat down on the edge and kicked off his shoes, lying back on the pillow and tossing his arm across his eyes.
Jen regarded him for a moment, biting her lip, before she finally went back to her side of the bed and climbed in. She picked up her book again, then cast an uncertain glance toward the man sprawled beside her.
“Does the light bother you?” she asked quietly. “Want me to turn it out?”
“Nah,” he muttered. “S’fine.”
Worry creased her forehead and she went back to trying to read her book, but found she couldn’t concentrate. All her thoughts were with Wace, trying to get a read on him. Was he just tired, or was something else wrong, something deeper than just his emotional and physical exhaustion?
She shook her head at herself. Like he needed anything worse than what he was already going through to justify a little moodiness. She just wished there was something she could do for him - she hated seeing him like this and feeling so helpless.
After a few minutes, she let her foot slide across the covers, bumping his gently, but he didn’t respond. She let another moment pass before she reached over and brushed her fingertips over the back of his hand. He grunted a little but gave no other reaction, and she slipped her hand under his, tangling their fingers together. She went back to her book, content with this small measure of contact, until she felt him pull his hand away.
Alarmed, she looked up from her book to see him sitting up, leaning over to put his shoes back on.
“Where ya goin’, baby?” she asked, fighting to keep her voice neutral despite the anxiety she could feel mounting in her gut. The last thing he needed right now was her sounding needy or as if she were nagging him.
“Back to tha hospital,” he answered tiredly, frustration evident in his tone, and she flinched involuntarily at the harshness of his voice.
“You sure?” she ventured, not daring to say anything further. She knew he’d been nowhere except work and the hospital since his father had been admitted, and she figured those chairs couldn’t be very comfortable to sleep in. He couldn’t possibly be getting enough rest.
“Yeah, I’m sure,” he said flatly, and she ducked her head, hiding her expression in case he looked up to see the hurt in her eyes before she could hide it. She needn’t have worried; he was concentrating on tying his shoes like it was the most important thing in the world.
He stood abruptly, striding toward the door, and no matter how much she told herself to just let him go, let him do what he had to do, she couldn’t manage to stop herself from calling out his name and reaching a hand towards him.
He halted, turning with an air of long-suffering, and she fiercely tamped down the resentment and hurt that sprang up within her. With some reluctance, he obeyed her unspoken request and came around to her side of the bed, taking her hand. She tugged him down a little, bringing her mouth up to his and kissing him tenderly.
He pulled back before she was quite finished, and she hoped the rejection didn’t show in her eyes. Determined to just let him go since he obviously wasn’t in the mood for any kind of comfort or affection, she let her hand slip from his and said quietly, “G’night, baby. Try to get some rest, okay?”
He pushed a heavy breath through his nose and barely stopped himself from rolling his eyes. She looked away quickly, stung, and she heard a soft sigh just before she felt his fingertips catch her chin, turning her face toward him again.
“Hey,” he said softly, and she turned her eyes away from him, unable to deal with her emotions at the moment. “Jenny, please,” he insisted, and she finally looked back at him, blinking rapidly and hoping that she didn’t start crying.
“I’m sorry,” he said, and she felt the sincerity in his apology, although she also felt the distance he was still keeping between them.
“It’s okay,” she shrugged. “I know you’re tired. I’m sorry I’m... making so many demands on you.”
“Nah, ‘s’not that.” It was his turn to not meet her eyes for a moment, seeming to focus somewhere just below her left ear. “S’just...”
“I understand,” she said, although she really didn’t. She did, however, realize that something in him couldn’t handle the weight of her affections just then, although it was meant to be a support, not a burden. He just couldn’t see it that way.
A half-smile tugged across his mouth and he leaned in, kissing her cheek. “G’night, Jenny,” he said quietly, and she did her best to put on a brave face, smiling back at him, though her heart wasn’t in it.
“G’night,” she answered, going back to her book as he left the house as abruptly as he’d entered it.
Only after she heard the lock turn on the front door did she look up from the pages she wasn’t reading as if she could see his aura lingering in the room. The tears she’d been fighting finally welled up in her eyes and she swiped them away angrily.
The man she loved was slipping away and there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about it.
- Razor's Edge - 24