It’s time for another Promptly Penned post. We’re all given the same prompt and see where it takes us. The prompt itself is in CAPS in the post.
Closing my eyes, I braced my hands on the edge of the sink and dropped my head down. Everything hurt, I had blood everywhere – could still feel some dripping down my face – and it was taking everything in me not to puke my guts out. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Tonight had not gone as planned.
Plan? What plan? You had no plan!
Christ, I was hearing James’ damned voice in my head, now. I supposed it was appropriate since he hadn’t said a damned word since we’d gotten home. The silence was deafening, and apparently, my brain was going to make up for that.
Yelping, I straightened, and immediately stumbled backwards. Would have ended up on my ass or cracking my head off the tub if James hadn’t stepped forward and steadied me.
“Sorry,” he murmured.
“Not your fault. Didn’t hear you come in.”
Narrowing my eyes at the dry drawl, I met his gaze in the mirror. “You need something?”
He stared for a good long minute or two then, reaching around me, he pulled open one of the cabinet drawers and withdrew the first aid kit. He motioned with his free hand. “Sit.”
Still watching him warily, I sat on the closed toilet as he opened the kit and began setting out supplies. He then grabbed a couple washclothes from the other drawer and wet them. As he was doing this, he caught my eye in the mirror.
“ALL THAT BLOOD LOOKS GOOD ON YOU, babe. IT REALLY BRINGS OUT YOUR EYES.”
“Smart ass,” I murmured.
He was trying to downplay everything, make me laugh – I knew that. But I wasn’t listening to his words, now. Because the slight catch of his voice, the stiffness in his posture, the tightness around his eyes were all telling another story.
He was freaked out.
A look I rarely saw on the man.
When he turned toward me and lifted the washcloth, I caught his wrist. “I’m okay. I promise, I’m okay.”
He jerked out of my grasp and took a step back. Pressing his lips together, he closed his eyes. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed audibly before taking several slow, deep breaths.
Then, those clear blue eyes were on me, bright and almost wild. “Well, I’m not.”
“Wha–” I cleared my throat as fear jumpstarted my heart and froze my skin with an instant prickling sweat. “What’s wrong?”
“If you’re going to keep ignoring everyone’s advice and feedback and keep doing shit on your own, I can’t…” He gestured between us. “I can’t do this.”
My mouth went dry. “Don’t…don’t say that.”
“I’ll still be here,” he said stiffly. “I said I’d help, and I will. I will always help protect you. But I can’t–” He broke off, mouth snapping shut.
Blood rushed in my ears, and I actually started to shake. If freaked out was a rare look for James, this – damp eyes, muscle twitching in his cheek from clenching his jaw, hands fisted at this sides and his posture no longer stiff, but…defeated – this was even rarer…and infinitely more unnerving.
“When I caught up to you,” he continued, voice quiet and rough, “you were on the ground, covered in blood and not moving. I thought you were dead… All because you’re too damned impulsive and believe invincible – and fuck if your friends will tell you otherwise because they’re under the same fucking misconception.”
“James, I’m sorry.”
“I know, but sorry isn’t going to save your life the next time. I know how important what you’re doing is to you. I get it, but you’re more important. Don’t you understand that?” He stepped forward and cupped my face, his hands cold and trembling. “You are more important. Losing you is going to destroy me.”
“You’re saying it like it’s a given, but it’s not,” I said quickly, desperately. “And, if you’re really staying, no matter what, I don’t see how not being with me would make it easier if something were to happen to me. It’s not like our relationship, or rather lack of, is suddenly going to wipe away the feelings you have.”
“It’s a given if you keep doing what you’re doing,” he countered then sighed, thumb skimming along my lower lip. “Nothing is going to wipe away my feelings for you, but I can distance myself, try to protect myself for the inevitable.”
I shook my head. “So, are you breaking up with me?”
“Are you going to admit you’re important, and start acting like it?”
“That sounds like emotional blackmail.” I stood, crowding into his space and settling my hands on his hips, and his fingers twitched against my face. Panic was still kicking my ass, but relief was quickly pushing it out. If we were done, he’d outright say it.
“Babe,” the corner of his mouth quirked up, even though his voice was still raspy with emotion, “I’m a thief, a criminal, and you’re surprised over a wee bit of emotional blackmail?”
I pressed even closer and rested my forehead on his shoulder. His arms came around me fully, and my chest ached as I heard him sniff. “Not really blackmail, just honesty…but still brutal.”
His embrace tightened momentarily before he let go. “We need to get you cleaned up.”