State of Emergency – Chapter 16

March 10, 2011

“Where have you been?” Ian lay beside her under the warm red-and-gold of their duvet, running a fingertip down the side of her cheek so the loose strands of sweat-stuck hair pulled free of her skin and slithered back off her face.

Dolly stared, baffled, at the blank white walls before her eyes fastened and clung to her lover’s face. “It… I…” She shook her head. Her voice sounded high in her own ears, the whimper of a frightened child. “I don’t know…”

His arms wrapped around her, drawing her close against him. The fluttering of her heart slowed to match the deep, steady thud she could hear as she rested her head against his chest.  “Shhh… It’s OK now. I’m here.” He kissed her brow tenderly, still stroking her hair. There was a slight smile on his lips and his naked eyes were unworried, sending soft waves of relief through her aching muscles.

“There was… I thought… There was something… something bad. Something terrible.” She licked her lips and swallowed, looking up at Ian as if he could explain it for her. She had no memory of how she’d gotten home, no idea what had happened since… A flurry of lurid images slewed through her mind and she screwed her eyes closed, willing them away.

“It’s OK. It’s OK, Doll.” He cupped her chin in his hand, looking into her eyes and letting her see his sincerity. He gave her another smile and pulled the covers up over their heads. “But just in case, we can hide under here.”

Body-warm darkness surrounded her and she pressed her face into his chest, drinking in his scent while he continued.

“Nothing bad can happen to you while you’re with me; you know that, right?”

Something prickled at the inside of her skull. She caught her bottom lip between her teeth guiltily. “But… but what if I went away? Just a little bit, like… to another room or something? What if… what if you couldn’t see me?”

He sounded wry, the rich, dark tones of his voice rippling with amusement. “Well, you’d better not do that, then. Just stay in here with me, where the bad things can’t find you.”

Tears leaked from her eyes for no reason she could name. She wished she could burrow closer, be held tighter, but she was already pressed against him, his chin tucked against the top of her head, her feet twining amidst his ankles, strong arms wrapping her up and protecting her from all the evils in the world.

“I think I lost something… Oh!” She gasped as a thought struck her. “What about Gerry? We can’t leave him out there! He’s only a puppy!”

She started to sit up but he gently pushed her down again. “It’s OK. I’ll get him, you stay here, OK? Stay right here. Don’t get up and I’ll be right back.”

There was a brief flare of brilliant white light as he slipped out of the bed. She heard his voice, muffled by the duvet that covered her head. “Remember – don’t wake up!”

Then there was silence. No more words, no footsteps, nothing. Her face throbbed dully on one side.

Slowly, heart in her mouth, she slid up the bed and peeked out from under the covers. There was nothing but blinding light.

“Come on, wake up.” A hand slapped her solidly across the face for what she was sure wasn’t the first time.

“You’re not Ian.” She spoke accusingly, eyes narrowed against the glare, her waking awareness bringing with it slowly growing waves of pain.

“No shit, Sherlock.” Derek grinned. “Have a nice nap?”


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