Well, look at this!
I ask, and Taylor delivers!
Wasn't that kind?
I think it's kind.
Of course, the way she's posted these chapters, I have NO IDEA how the whole story goes.
You know she's posted them out of order, right?
So anyways, here we go again!
The basement was cozy but disorienting. The only light we had was from dim lamps on the end tables set on either side of the bed. There was no clock. Time was unknowable.
Even after Avan assured me he'd be fine to stay awake and keep watch, claiming his adrenaline spike would keep him up for most of the night anyways, I was the restless one. I couldn't stop thinking, worrying about what was to come.So, neither of us slept.
After hours of tossing and turning, I finally had enough. I needed to get up, move around, do something. I made Avan get up and brought him to the bathroom. I remembered he had cleaned my wound, but I had neglected to tend to him. The water bottle was still there. So was the ice pack, partially melted but usable, and the bottle of painkillers. Now he was where I'd been a few hours earlier. He sat on the edge of the tub while I sat on the closed lid of the toilet, a damp washcloth in my hand, eager to take care of him, to put my mind at ease.
"Tell me if I hurt you.".
Avan inhaled through his nose, smiling as he did.
"You're too gentle to hurt me." he soothed.
His smile grew sweeter, as if all of his cuts and bruises didn't affect him. In the bright light of the bathroom, I could see them clearly: the swelling below his eye, the cuts on his cheeks, the bruises to his upper body. As much as I hated watching the fights that left him this way, I loved taking care of him. I loved seeing the look of relief on his face, the knowledge I was dulling his pain, if only for a moment. I loved feeling wanted, needed, treasured.
His eyes followed my hand as I wiped away the blood. Rubbing alcohol was the only form of disinfectant I could find in the cabinet under the sink. I took it out and poured it onto the washcloth.
"This'll probably hurt like Hell."
"Nothing I can't handle." He half smiled.
I sucked in my breath and dabbed at the cuts on his face. He winced and pulled back, sucking in a sharp breath.
I jerked my hand back, anxiety pricking through me.
"I'm sorry!" My heart raced in panic.
He laughed lightly, a smile pending.
"I'm kidding," he grinned. "It's not that bad."
I glowereded at him, my voice pleasant.
"I hate you!"
He puckered his lips, yearning for a kiss. I dabbed carefully at the wound beneath his eye instead. He winced a little, then frowned, sensing my lingering anxiety.
"You're doing great." His next words were more playful, intentional. "Not many fighters are lucky enough to have a nurse as gorgeous as you."
I blushed. I brushed my hair behind my ear with my free hand. Though I didn't need to, the action was the only thing keeping me from giggling like a silly, love-crazed schoolgirl.
I took the ice from the counter and placed it on the dark bruises on his ribcage. He flinched, but not much. After a few seconds he cried out, a sound so loud I jumped out of my skin. Then I laughed. I laughed, because he laughed, the joyous sound flowing easily from his mouth. I shoved him playfully, just hard enough to make his fingers grip the edge of the tub a little tighter.
"You're such an ass!"
"There's the beautiful smile I was looking for."
My cheeks flushed.
And just like that, my cautiousness melted away. He was always doing it, lightening my mood with a joke or two, a playful jab at my expense, like my brother used to do. He didn't flinch when I put the pack back onto his side, just stared at me with the sweetest of smiles. He sighed, relief written all over his face.
I smiled and reached behind me for the painkillers. Bruised ribs were the most painful and the only injury Avan ever openly complained about. When I was around, he was positive, playful, and fun, even when he walked out of a fight with a serious injury. It was his energy that kept me sane after a bloody bout in the cage.
Stupidly, I'd handed them to him, thinking he’d open the lid with no trouble at all. When he tried, twisting the lid with his left hand and holding the bottle in his right, he cursed under his breath and gave his wrist a quick flick. I placed my hand onto the lid of the bottle and opened it.
He popped two pills into his mouth and took a few gulps from the water bottle. After I'd set both bottles onto the counter, he leaned forward and kissed me.
His lips were cold, mouth tempting. He lingered close enough I could feel the warmth of his breath on my lips, close enough I could feel him waiting for me to kiss him back. I did, taking his face in both of my hands, pressing my lips firmly against his, my mouth hungry for more. It felt like forever since we'd kissed like this, full of passion and depth.
It didn't last long.
Avan pulled back and placed a hand to his side. I looked down and realized I'd dropped the pack of ice. He sighed angrily, frustrated by his injuries. I ignored the ice and touched his jaw with the barest brush of my fingertips. Tears wedged themselves into the corners of my eyes. I couldn't even kiss him without hurting him. He lifted his gaze to meet mine and placed his hands on either side of my neck, his green eyes catching and holding me.
"I can do this," he whispered.
I felt the urge to pull back, startled by this random change of topic, but then Avan pressed his lips against my forehead, grounding me, steadying me, preventing my total collapse. I never wanted to lose this sense of safety, this sense of peace that he always seemed to bring whenever he was near. I couldn't live without this, without him. I had to get him out of this death trap. I had to fight for him before these fights took him from me forever.