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Walter turned over, feeling the cool air on his bare back as the sheets slipped down to his hips. His muscular arms bunched the pillow up under his head and he rested his cheek on the cool pillowslip. The warmth of the sun streaming through the window, coupled with the sweet scent of honeysuckle, gently coaxed him into wakefulness. Soft sounds reached his ears, too faint to be clearly heard. Walter got up, wrapping his robe around him, and padded barefoot into the short hallway between the kitchen and bedroom of the small cabin. He stopped at the kitchen door.
Alex stood, his back to Walter, washing dishes. The task was obviously awkward with his one hand, but he managed, the damp dishcloth slung over his shoulder. He was singing softly. Walter edged closer. He had never heard Alex sing before. Alex rinsed the plates and stacked them in the wooden rack beside the sink, his husky voice rising over the running water in a haunting melody. "Jesus...don't want me for a sunbeam...sunbeams are not made like me..." Walter's chest tightened. Even over the sound of the water, the catch in Alex's voice was unmistakable. "Don't expect me to cry...for all the reasons you had to die...don't ever ask your love of me..."
Walter watched as Alex stopped and stood motionless, his face turned toward the window over the sink, the sunlight illuminating him, turning the ends of his hair golden, crowning him with fire, a weary angel. Walter closed his eyes and stepped closer, knowing by the slight shift in Alex's stance that Alex knew he was there. His assassin's instincts were still razor sharp. Walter wrapped his arms around his lover, pulling him close against his chest. He kissed Alex's cheek, pressed his face into the soft hollow where neck and shoulder met.
"What's that all about?" Walter asked softly. Felt the slight shrug that meant Alex didn't want to talk about it. They stood like that for a long moment, Alex standing stiffly within the circle of Walter's arms, uneasy now in the safe harbor he had so often sought. Gently, Walter turned Alex to face him. He cupped the younger man's face between his big hands and kissed him softly.
"Tell me," he said simply. Alex looked down, embarrassed. "It's just a silly old song. My roommate at the Academy used to play it a lot. Doesn't mean anything."
"I think it does," Walter said quietly. "You can tell me, Alex." Alex looked away, his green eyes full of unspoken pain. Walter winced, hurting for Alex, frustrated at not being able to understand, to ease the suffering he saw in that beautiful, haunted face. He reached for Alex and felt tears stinging his own eyes as Alex flinched and pulled away.
"Alex?" Walter's voice trembled with emotion. "Please. Let me in." Alex turned away, flinging the dishcloth onto the kitchen counter. He started for the door, which stood open, the sweet Spring air wafting in. Suddenly he stopped. Walter could see the taut muscles under the thin cotton T-shirt Alex wore, could see the way his one hand opened and closed, seeking, wanting. He watched the struggle within Alex, helpless to stop it, knowing that to interfere now would be to lose him forever. Alex took another hesitant step toward the open door. He stopped again, then made a desperate choking sound as he turned and hurled himself into Walter's arms.
"You killed me, you killed me..." he cried, his fist bunching Walter's robe. "I dreamed it. Last night. You shot me. You put a bullet between my eyes. Because of what I am, because of what I've done."
Walter held his own horror at bay and rocked him, rubbed circles over the trembling back, stroked the soft dark hair. Felt the tears soaking through his robe.
"Alex," he murmured, holding the younger man tightly. "It was just a dream. Just a nightmare, that's all. You know I wouldn't hurt you."
Alex clung to Walter tightly. His stomach roiled with the nausea he had felt ever since waking up at dawn, panting with fear, the sweat drying on his bare skin. The scream dying on his lips as his one hand flew to his forehead, seeking the ruin he had seen in his dream. He had sat beside his sleeping lover, staring at his one hand, floating eerily in the semi-darkness. His white hand. White, not red. Not streaked with blood and brains, like in the nightmare. When Walter had looked at him with such hatred and shot him as he crawled on the cold cement floor. It had been so real. He was still shaking hours later.
Even now, held tightly in Walter's arms, his cheek cradled against that broad chest, that strong heartbeat against his ear, he couldn't stop shaking. Couldn't stop seeing the warm brown eyes gone cold with fury, the finger tightening on the trigger. Seeing the bullet streak toward him. Vengeance. Hate. Murder. Alex stumbled numbly, unresisting, his eyes focused on nothing as Walter pulled him into the bedroom and quickly stripped him of his clothes. Walter slipped out of his robe and gently guided Alex into bed, covering them both with the light quilt. He held Alex close, rubbing him all over, warming the chilled and still shaking body with his hands. He settled Alex in the crook of his arm, Alex's dark head resting on his shoulder.
"Tell me," he whispered again. "It's all right. We'll get through it." Silence. Finally, Alex spoke in a halting monotone, his voice muffled against Walter's chest.
"Cold...crawling...I was crawling. Blood everywhere and it hurt, it hurt so bad...and you killed me. You hated and you killed me."
"It was just a dream, Alex," Walter said again, trying to keep his own voice from shaking. Alex often had nightmares, but this one was different. He hated the look of fear and misery in Alex's eyes. Hated that he had caused his lover one moment of pain, even in a dream. "I love you, Alex," he whispered roughly. "I love you. I would die before I would ever hurt you again. Those days are gone. Gone, Alex. We've buried it. All of it. The balcony, the nanocytes, everything. It's in the past and it's going to stay there."
Alex's voice was soft, barely audible. His hand tightened on Walter's arm. "Tell me again." A tiny click as he swallowed. A soft rasping sound as he licked dry lips. "Please, Walter."
Walter clutched Alex to him, their two heartbeats mingling, their naked skin seeking, wanting the warmth. Walter's hand cupped the back of Alex's head and his kiss was a benediction. His lips sought Alex's ear, lingered there, whispered softly. One word. Walter's voice shaped it into a gift beyond price.
Notes and Disclaimers