A/N: Once again, it's been a while. Sorry 'bout that. Been busy moving into college and dealing with relationship issues. But whatever. Enjoy.
I trembled on the edge of consciousness, my brain still convinced that I was asleep. Weak sunlight glimmered through the heavy curtains, and through the dreamy fog I understood that it was probably around noon. The radioactive green numbers on the digital clock on the bedside table confirmed my belief.
JB snored softly beside me, a warm sprawl of content male warmth. There was no valid reason for me to be up so early. I hadn't been dreaming, a rarity in and of itself, and the intense fuck session should have put me out. But something had jarred me awake; I just couldn't place what it was.
My brain finally clearing, I squirmed carefully away from JB and extricated myself from the warm confines of the comforter and top sheet. Through some feat of drowsy gymnastics, I managed to crawl off the bed without waking up the sleeping bakeneko. I threw on JB's t-shirt and the panties I'd worn last night, both crumpled on the plush carpet. That accomplished, I ninja'd my way out of the room.
The hallway was drafty, the wooden floor was cold. We had mulled over getting carpet, but we'd been far too busy to actually do anything about it. The thought distracted me, momentarily, from my main objective of discovering what the hell was wrong. In the deep, primal corner of my subconscious I could feel the wrongness squirming and gnawing like a parasite.
I padded into the kitchen and poured myself a glass of water, bolted it. The action had been automatic, irresistible. I did it again, but drank more slowly. I was painfully thirsty, almost dehydrated. I had felt fine a moment ago, and now I couldn't seem to get enough water. A wave of vague disorientation roiled over me and I fumbled with the glass, nearly dropping it.
After the feeling passed, I realized it wasn't actually mine. The connection between Evan and I was usually partly closed, leaving some privacy in our minds. Now, though, there was no barrier. The raw, chaotic torrents of thought rushed and crashed at each other, vying for dominance. This had never happened before, and I'd never really expected it.
Evan should have been asleep. Staying up during the day made vampires sick, physically and mentally. My hands shook as I set the glass down in the sink and made my way to the circular stairwell that led from the sunny living room down to Evan's lair. Astrid had fallen asleep in the overstuffed leather recliner, one hand curled protectively over her swollen belly. Evidently my bumbling around hadn't woken her.
I tried my best to be silent as I slipped my way down into the dark recesses of the lake house's lower level. There was a door at the foot of the stairs, leading to a short, windowless hallway with two doors. One led to Evan's room, the other to a guest room.
The closer I got to Evan, the stronger I felt the turbulent riptide of his emotions. Earlier I had craved for the mental contact, now I was ready to beg to be alone inside my own head. When I opened the door, the sound grated on Evan's nerves and reverberated through me. My head began to pound. He sat in a little corner by the bathroom, curled up as tightly as possible. "Sh-shut t-the door," the vampire mumbled thickly, drunkenly. I could smell the murderous tang of the rye whiskey he kept hidden in a little freezer hidden in the bottom of his closet.
I couldn't really see in the total darkness, but even the slightest light, natural or otherwise, would hurt him now. I could taste his fear on the back of my tongue, feel it sending my pulse into overdrive. I shut the door, trying to be as quiet as I could. "Evan?" I whispered, following the strong scent of alcohol to the vampire. "You need to be asleep."
His fear ramped up another notch, increasing the pounding in my skull. "No," he whimpered, sounding both pitiful and plastered. "Don' wanna watch them die." The more he spoke, the stronger the Irish lilt in his voice became. It would have been adorable under other circumstances.
"Watch who die, baby?" I murmured, trying my best to sound soothing. Judging from the rush of agony centering behind my eyes, I didn't succeed.
My only answer was a shuddering whimper and the clink of glass on glass. I followed the noise, banging my shin on something, probably the bed. I had to bite back the tide of curses, unwilling to cause Evan anymore pain.
I finally found him, huddled in his little corner. He flinched when I brushed against him and made an incoherent noise. "I need to turn the bathroom light on," I whispered, almost silently. I needed to be able to see him. Evan shuddered but didn't say anything. Half hating myself, I turned the light on, dialing back the dimmer to the lowest possible setting. It still hurt him.
Bloodshot sage eyes stared up at me, squinting in the light. As I watched, a little stream of blood oozed out of his nose and down his mouth. He didn't bother wiping it away. The crimson was stark against his skin, which was far too pale. I could see the tracing of his veins and large blooming bruises forming at random over his arms like a stop motion film.
Wordlessly, I slipped into the bathroom and ran some water over a wash cloth. When I returned, I wiped the blood away. When he went to take another slug of whiskey, I snagged the glass and the bottle. "You're making yourself sick," I said quietly, capping the bottle and setting it on the nearest surface she couldn't reach from his corner. I downed the remnants in the glass myself.
"Need it," he whined, sounding more like a child than a five hundred year old vampire.
"You need to get into bed and sleep," I chided. I could only assume he'd had a nightmare.
His fear washed over me again, almost suffocating in its intensity. "Everyone'll die," he half-sobbed, tucking himself even further into the corner.
"Nobody will die, baby. I promise. You need to sleep, you're hurting yourself." And me, but knowing that would just make him feel worse. He was drunk and out of his damn mind.
Evan sniffled and blinked owlishly up at me. "You promise?" The complete naivety in his voice broke my heart. He was usually the one taking care of me, not the other way around.
"Of course I promise. Now, please, get into bed. Okay?"
Slowly, Evan uncurled himself and held out his hand to me, a silent display of his helplessness. I helped him to his feet and to the bed, where he crawled stiffly under the bunched up sheets. Then he proceeded to stare at me until I realized he was waiting for me to join him. I spared a thought for JB, but flipped off the bathroom light and crawled in beside him.
Instantly he was snuggled against me, curling so that his head was nestled on my belly. "So warm," he mumbled sleepily. "Don't leave me."
The way he said it made me tear up a little. "Don't worry, Evan. I won't leave you. Just go to sleep, okay?"
"M'kay." He stilled against me, falling back into unconsciousness quickly.
I dozed on and off, unable to get comfortable with a sleeping vampire using me as a pillow. Some hours later, Evan stirred once again. His movements dragged me out of the foggy half sleep I'd fallen into.
We both lay in the silence, unsure of what to say. Finally, I worked up the nerve to speak. "Wanna talk about it?"
"Not really." His voice was hoarse. After a long pause, he sighed. "I dreamed about Keir. The night he died. But then you were there, too. And it was Hale killing him, then you. Both of you kept saying how you hated me and that I was reason you were dying. If hadn't come into your lives, neither of you would have to die." Evan shivered.
"It was just a dream, Evan. I love you, okay?"
"I couldn't stand you hating me," he whispered.
"I just said I loved you, silly," I said, trying to lighten the painfully serious mood.
"I know. I just like hearing you say it." He smiled and I couldn't help but smile with him. "Blake's coming over tonight," he reminded me. In light of the previous night's issues, I'd forgotten Blake and the whole Arin fiasco.
"So we can't lay in bed and cuddle all night?" I asked, messing with an inky lock of his hair.
"Damn it," I muttered and tugged a little harder on his hair. He laughed and proceeded to tickle me until I released him and giggled in defeat.