The drive home was a quiet one. Truth be told, my head was pounding fiercely and I hurt all over. Using my abilities as I had took a tremendous toll. I could barely concentrate on driving; my knuckles were white on the steering wheel. I could feel her looking at me sideways. Finally, she murmured, “Luna, thank you. For handling Natalya as you did. W-what happened? Did she do anything to you?” She hesitated. “You seem a bit… pale.”
I gritted my teeth and couldn’t stop the dark chuckle that escaped as images flashed through my mind again. As I’d told Alduin, there were some things I wish I could unsee… but like watching his death, the things I’d ripped from Natalya’s mind would remain me with forever. “No, she didn’t do anything to me.” I paused, pulling in a deep breath. “Cali, promise me something. Don’t ever trust her. Don’t take any offers of hers to help. Promise me.” I hoped she didn’t ask me why. I didn’t want to have to tell her. Calysta was so… pure, in a lot of ways. Despite what had happened to her, she still kept an air of innocence around her. I didn’t want to tarnish that.
“Luna, what happened? Did you find out anything that I need to know?” I could hear her swallow hard and she visibly braced herself, holding onto the chicken stick of the car in preparation. “Is it true? What you were suspecting she’s been doing?”
I nodded wearily. “Yes, it’s true. She’s the one responsible for planting doubts in your mind. Don’t trust her, Cali. She wants to separate you and Alduin in the worst way.”
I didn’t need to see the flash of anger in her eyes to know that the news made her furious, but I had to admire the control she displayed in keeping it at bay. “I promise then, but Luna… I hope you’re alright… I’m sorry for leaving you with her.” I felt the brush of her fingers over my elbow. “Thank you.”
“I’ll be fine. I… I went too far,” I really struggled to keep my voice under control. Trying to concentrate on the road and talking was difficult, but I was pleasantly surprised when my voice remained mostly level. “You did what I told you to do, there’s no need to apologize.” I needed her to change the subject, I needed to try and focus. I felt like I hadn’t slept or eaten anything in a week. “What happened with Ashley?”
It seemed to work; Calysta shook her head and I could hear her grinding her teeth. “I need to call my brother. He needs to know that Ashley’s here and that he has another son. Then I need to talk to Alduin. Tell him everything.” There was hesitation there; I didn’t blame her. But I knew Cali would do the right thing, no matter how difficult it would be.
I nodded, having to grip the wheel harder to keep my hands from shaking. My head felt like it was being ripped open. “Good. Good. Cali… you feel up to driving?” I finally asked her, knowing I could very well get us both killed if I didn’t pull over.
I could feel her eyes on me again, even as she nodded. It didn’t take my mother the empath to know that Cali was worried. “Sure.”
I pulled the car over, barely hearing the loud blare of an angry horn from the driver behind us. I was shaking and trying to hide it as I touched my forehead to the steering wheel and let it rest there for a long moment. Only when I felt Cali’s touch on my shoulder did I manage to open my door and stumble out. I slid into the passenger seat while Calysta took the wheel.
She kept shooting me worried glances during the rest of the ride home. I concentrated on just breathing, in and out, trying to get the spikes of agony to subside. Cali pulled the car into the garage and got out, coming to my side, she opened the door, her face full of worry. “Luna, are you alright? Do you need me to get Alduin? Or Roark?”
I waved her off. I didn’t need either of them to see me like this. One was as bad as the other at this point. “No, you go on ahead. I’ll follow shortly. I’ll be fine, I promise. Just overdid it, that’s all. Go on. Go find my brother and kiss him senseless, would ya?”
A stubborn line appeared on her forehead and I mentally kicked myself. “I’m gonna get Roark…” she told me, her voice holding worry and some of that stubborn she obviously learned from my brother. “If you need anything let me know. And don’t worry. Your brother won’t know what hit him.”
That last part brought a smile to my face, but the last thing I wanted was for her to get Roark. I loved him with all my heart. But I needed to get myself straight first. I didn’t want him to see me like this. I shook my head. “Cali, please. I’ll be ok. I just need a little time.” I was appalled to hear my voice crack; it sounded too much like I was begging. “Please, Cali?”
The way she looked at me, with such worry almost had me capitulating, but finally, she nodded. “Ok. Just… if you need anything, please tell me, alright?” After I nodded, she left, still looking back at me until she was out of the garage.
I finally stumbled out of the car and made it as far as the door before I had to stop and lean against the wall.
It really felt like my head was going to explode. Leaning against the cool stone wall alleviated the worst of it for a few moments. But I didn’t move quite yet. I remained there for a little bit longer.
I figured it had been enough time for Calysta to distract my brother. I didn’t even have the energy- or the ability- at that moment to try to pinpoint where my husband or the rest of my family was. So I stole into the house like a thief.
I somehow managed to make it into my room without meeting anyone. I figured Mom and Dad were in their room or out and about. Nan and Pop were probably upstairs in their room. I wasn’t sure where Roark was; probably with our son for which I was grateful. Some of the pain had subsided. I decided that I’d take a page out of my husband and brother’s books and try to work it off.
So I changed into some workout clothes and once again, tried to steal out of the house without anyone the wiser. I should have known better, though. As I got to the kitchen, I froze. Roark stood there, just watching me.
“Baby,” he murmured. That was all he had to do to have me squeezing my eyes shut to block the tears that threatened to spill over.
“Roark,” I whispered brokenly.
He gently brought a hand to my cheek. “You’re so tired, baby. And in pain.”
I let out a choked sob, even as I took a stumbling step forward. “It hurts, Roark. It hurts.” He steadied me, his hands warm. I felt so cold.
“Shhh,” he whispered. “I know. It’s ok, baby. You’re home now. You’re home.”
He enfolded me in his arms. I was shaking badly. “C’mon, we’ll go to our room and you can tell me about it. You’ll feel better.” I nodded numbly. As I went to take a step, I could feel my eyes roll up into the back of my head and I fell back. I wasn’t unconscious, not really. I could actually hear the vicious curse my husband let out as he caught me in his arms.
“Luna? Luna?” I could hear the strain and worry in his voice.
My eyes fluttered open and I shook my head. “I’m ok, sorry. Sorry. Just let me go. I can walk.” With great reluctance, Roark did as I asked, though he didn’t budge an inch. His hands hovered close in case he needed to catch me again.
“Luna, you need to go to the hospital. You’re freezing,” he whispered.
“No!” I swallowed, shaking my head. “Please, Roark. I-I don’t want to go. J-just let me stay here, with you, alright?” He searched my eyes for a long moment; I could feel the caress of his mind against my own.
Finally, he nodded. “Alright. But you’re going to lay down, Luna.” I might have bristled at that commanding tone if I had had the energy. But when all I did was bob my head in acquiescence, he must have known I wasn’t as fine as I pretended to be. So he led me to our room, his arm securely around my waist.
He helped me lay down on the bed, then slid in next to me, not bothering with the covers. His back pressed close to mine, he held me against him. He didn’t say anything, didn’t ask questions. He’d wait for me to talk when I was ready.
I lay there for a long moment, just listening to us both breathing. I let out a shuddering breath and began to talk, not even bothering to open my eyes.
In a voice I barely recognized as my own, I told him what happened in town. About my meeting with Natalya and what I had done. He just held me, and let me get it out. I didn’t realize it for a while, but tears had been falling silently down my cheeks since I had begun the story. I could feel it as he pressed his lips to my hair in a quiet gesture of comfort.
Once I had gotten the story out, I turned around in his arms, burying my head against his shoulder as the sobs wracked my body.
He held me like that for a long time until the sobs finally died down.
But as I stopped crying, nausea slammed into me and I had to jolt away from him, my heart beating a staccato rhythm against my rib cage even as I fought the bile that was threatening to rise into my throat.
Roark had gotten up and come to my side of the bed. I tried batting at his hands as he grabbed for me, but it was a half-hearted attempt at best. He still grabbed me in his arms and just picked me up as if I were a feather. He set me on his lap as he sat on the corner of the bed and he crushed his mouth to mine.
I may have tried to deny it, but this was what I needed. I needed him. I could forget as I sank into the kiss. I could forget what I had done, the pain, the blood, all of it as I drowned in my husband, felt his strong arms around me, supporting me, as he always did. Roark was my rock; I could always count on him to know, to care, and to not take my crap when I was being impossible.
The kiss ended and I just sat there on his lap for a long time, my ear pressed to his chest so I could listen to the steady beat of his heart. He pressed gentle kisses to my forehead and to my cheek. After a while, he said, “Why don’t you change into some P.J.’s and then crawl into bed?”
I swallowed and nodded. “W-will you sleep with me?” I asked him, my voice sounding pathetic to my own ears. But I didn’t think I could sleep without him. I was afraid what would chase me in my dreams. Is it bad that, even now, I’m afraid to appear weak to Roark? I know it won’t matter to him. He loves me. I know that… and yet, I can’t help it.
“Do you even have to ask that?” he scolded gently. I gave him a watery smile, then stood up. I should have been mortified when he helped peel off my shirt, and helped dress me as if I were a child. But I wasn’t. I was grateful to him. Once I was dressed in a simple t-shirt and sweats, he carried me to the bed, lay me down, then climbed in once again. He held my hand in his, his other arm wrapped around behind my shoulders.
“Sleep now, baby,” he murmured soothingly. Even as I closed my eyes, his beautiful voice began to sing. He didn’t do it often; he wasn’t a fan of his own voice, but I loved it. With the sound of his voice singing softly in my ear, tears slid down my cheeks.
There used to be a graying tower alone on the sea.
You became the light on the dark side of me.
Love remained a drug that’s the high and not the pill.
But did you know,
That when it snows,
My eyes become large and
The light that you shine can be seen.
I compare you to a kiss from a rose on the gray.
The more I get of you,
The stranger it feels, yeah.
And now that your rose is in bloom.
A light hits the gloom on the gray…
He sang the entire song to me. As his voice faded at the end of the song, I let myself go, finally allowing sleep to take me. Just as the darkness closed over me, I heard him whisper, “I love you, my Moonlight. Don’t be afraid, your Knight is here.” Yes, he was my Knight, my Dark Knight. I was safe with him, always.