He had insisted that she sleep next to the fireplace and that he would sleep on the other side of the room. Or at least he had tried. Then she said “please,” and looked so vulnerable, and he swore her eyes were watering and it looked like she was trying to be brave, and her ‘please’ sounded so…pitiful. He held his ground for a bit, sitting down against the far wall of the room, and watched her sit criss-cross with her back to him, between him and the dying fire, which was just bright enough to silhouette her and otherwise render his night vision near useless. It looked like she might be getting ready to meditate like she was prone to do when alone. He had almost convinced himself that was what was going on when he saw her head dip, then he realized her arms were in the wrong position for meditation. She must be praying. Yeah…that was it. Then her shoulders and then her back slumped. He had seen this only a time or two before…when she felt particularly beaten and hopeless. He did not get it…she had no reason to feel beaten. He watched as she straightened back up with a ‘stiff upper lip’ air about her. ‘That’s my girl,’ he thought to himself. ‘Nothing gets you down.’ And no sooner had the thought passed than her posture completely collapsed again. At that moment…she just seemed so…so damned small.
Hell. He was going to have to say…something.
“Siobhan?” Barely above a whisper, but it carried well. He could tell. “are you okay?” He really did not want to ask that. If she said ‘no,’ he was probably screwed.
She waited a moment and then shook her head ‘yes’ while replying “yeah…I’m fine,” in such a way that both her gesture and her words meant, ‘fuck no I’m not okay, are you blind or something.’ “Go to sleep, Toot-Toot. We have another long day tomorrow.”
He could tell…or at least it felt…like she was just trying to reassure him that she was okay…without actually spending the effort to be convincing. Or…maybe…she was manipulating him to get her way. He knew she could do that. He had seen her do it before. On occasion he was her dupe. He decided if she was going to tell him she was fine, he would act like she was fine, and closed his eyes.
Yep…still just sitting there slumped. Shifting. Arms occasionally crossing her chest and hands folding over each shoulder, looking like another woman’s hands were embracing her in a hug. He wasn’t sure how long it had been, but the fire was still burning…so it had not been that long. She fisted one hand and rubbed her eye. Did he hear her sob. Oh damn. Was she…crying? That was so…unfair! And if you are going to cry, then just do it for fuck’s sake. Do not just sit there and cry while trying to suppress it and act like you are not crying.
Oh, FINE! He unwound himself into a standing position with the grace of a cat. I’ll come over there to comfort you. You will draw me down to sleep with you. I would rather make another deal with Tiamat than sleep with you again.
He though he heard the sibilant voice promising him paradise in five part harmony from the far reaches of his consciousness. It snapped him out of his angry revere at being manipulated…and suddenly…he wanted to be with her. He remembered the exorcism. Siobhan was the only one who not only was not afraid of Tiamat, but she was the only one that did not seem to even respect the god-dragon’s power. And not because she was clueless. Or unable to feel fear. He knew she feared the Hive Queen. But Tiamat…just made her angry. Not afraid. She was absolutely going to exorcise the ‘worm’ from him on her own after the monk failed…and he knew she was absolutely certain she was going to succeed. So now, when he foolishly invited her into the far reaches of his subconscious, he found himself wanting, possibly needing Siobhan’s reassurance that things would be ok.
“Hey!” he said in a friendly, nothing is wrong voice. “It’s kind of chilly over there. Mind if I lay down here with you?” He swirled down on the pallet of blankets and smiled up at her. Her eyes were closed. And they did look like they might be wet.
“I thought you said you didn’t want to sleep with me.”
“Yeah,” he growled, “I did. But I’m here now. So shut up and lay down next to me.”
Not that he wanted to be that person that was angry all the time. But he was much more comfortable with anger than he was with love or concern for somebody else. And at the moment…anger was comforting. At least until he realized that she was about to argue the point and try to send him back to his corner, then, before she said anything, he could see her mentally shrug and unwind from her criss-cross and slide down next to him, with a significantly larger portion of her body weight against him than the night before, and her kilt riding up higher than the night before because she had slid down nearly a foot to get into position to bury into him first.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. Again. Vulnerable.
“What for?” He could feel his fear abate.
“For…wanting this,” she snuggled. She fucking snuggled. “For…needing this.”
She still sounded…weak.
“Wanting what!” He felt himself fail at trying to sound stern.
She snuggled again. Pause. Then, “contact. Just contact. With a friend.” He felt his anger take a blow. “Sometimes…you know…I just feel…so…alone.” Protective love was starting to win the war of emotions. “And I need to be with somebody. Somebody…I can trust. Somebody that I can…just be me with.” She pushed off of him, lifting most of her upper torso up so she could look him in the eye, most of her upper body weight leaning on her hand on his chest. “There are times… when I get so tired of being the Siobhan…and I just want to be…Siobhan. Just me.” She almost collapsed back on top of him.
It was a strange thing to say. She was always Siobhan. He never knew her to be anybody else. Never tried to be anybody else. May try to fill one roll or another, but was always, always Siobhan. A mother fucking force of nature! A hardened steel will that would spit in the eyes of the gods! Indomitable. The spirit of freedom. The Siobhan! A…force…of…nature.
Sometimes, it began to dawn on him, she was just a little boy…lost in the woods…looking for a safe place to be what he was, without having to be something else. Without having to be a survivor. Without having to be strong so others could have hope. To be safe. Warm. Loved. And he had had the power to give that and had taken it away to the other side of the room. Right now. Right here. She was weak. And right here, right now, she needed a friend, in the worst kind of way! And she was letting him be that friend. And in the morning, she would probably go back to being…the Siobhan. This moment…this moment…was possibly singularly unique. He might not ever get a moment in time just like this again. And he almost blew it.
“Okay…” he wiggled a little underneath her trying to get comfortable. “But if we are going to do this thing…I need you to do something for me first.”
“Yes,” she lifted up slightly.
“Pull your damned kilt down or I’m going to be popping wood all night long!” He tried to sound irritated, but failed. But… he was serious.
She laughed. Shifted. Pulled the hem of her kilt back down to her knees. And, while his humor might have broken the spell off absolute vulnerability, when she seemed to melt back into him, he knew…without a doubt, that at this time, she actually needed him. Needed him. Even more than he needed her. And he knew…he knew that he never wanted to not be needed again. It made him…more him. And more important. And borderline divine. And it made him need her more than he had when they laid down together. And they needed…needed each other. And for one night, they both knew a form of perfection.