Lazarus finally surfaced from his tired sleep a few hours after sun down. He opened his eyes to the discoloured ceiling above him, his head on a cold pillow. Blinking, he realised his cold pillow was Melissa. He moved his head onto his bloodied pillow and turned on his side to look at her. Her face was relaxed and blank in her sleep and not wanting to wake her up, he stayed still for a while, lying under the covers in a comfortable bubble of warmth.
Eventually, he rolled out from under the covers, trying not to disturb Melissa, and grabbed clean clothes and his towel, heading for the shower. He cleaned the blood from his hair and neck, shaved off the stubble that has crept up on him over the last few days and contemplated getting a hair cut as he brushed through it with his fingers. The blonde hair fell nearly to his shoulders now, and though he had cleaned up most of his lifestyle, he still needed a little more work on his appearance; though he thought that getting clothes that fitted better was an improvement in itself.
He went to the kitchen and rummaged through the drawers and cupboards. He found half a pack of spaghetti that had been in the cupboards for... he looked at the best before date and it didn't even have one. With a grimace, he pulled the elastic band that was holding it closed off and threw the pasta in the bin. Tying back his hair with the elastic band, he moved back to the bedroom. A smile curved his lips upward as he saw Melissa still asleep on the bed. The patch of blood was bigger than he had thought it was, though, and he really needed to clean that before the removal people came during the day.
He took the duvet from the bed and stripped it down, throwing the cover to the floor. The blood had, of course, stained through the duvet, but he didn't mind that so much. That could be covered. Dragging the duvet into the living room, he draped it over the remainder of the sofa and put a cushion up against one of the ravaged arms. Once he thought it was vaguely comfy, he went back to the bedroom and gently slid his arms under Melissa's slumbering body, lifting her off the mattress. He carried her to the sofa and laid her down carefully before folding the duvet over her. He smiled a little and kissed her gently on the forehead before rising to clean the bed.
As he shoved the bed linen in the washing machine, Melissa stirred. Lazarus, trying to get the machine to work, didn't notice until she called for him.
‘Lazarus?' her quiet voice, hoarse with the sleep reached him as he drew back his fist to punch the washing machine in irritation. He dropped his hand and stood.
‘Yeah?' he asked, walking out into the living room.
‘Oh, good. You're okay.' She murmured. A small frown lined his forehead.
‘Why would I not be okay?' he asked, crouching down beside her so that he wasn't towering over her.
‘The hunter.' She mumbled, looking at him. ‘I was scared he'd come here before I woke.'
‘What? Why would the hunter come here before you woke up?' the confusion in his voice mirrored his bemused expression.
‘Do you remember what happened?' she queried. He shook his head.
‘No. What happened?' she sighed.
'The hunter got inside your head. He tried to kill you, from the inside out. So I intervened. He knows where we are, says he wanted to "domesticate" you. Make you pay. I said I'd be waiting, I didn't think I used so much energy.' As she told him what happened, his face fell and his heart beat rocketed. His mind froze and a fragment of what had happened resurfaced like a knife to the throat. He sat heavily and rubbed the top of his head as though the hunter had just let go of his hair again. She placed a hand on his shoulder, swinging herself round so her legs were next to him.
‘Are you okay?' he covered his face with his hands, rubbing at his eyes as the images streamed back to him.
‘I remember,' his voice was low, almost as defeated as he remembered feeling in the dream.
‘I'm sorry I didn't recognise it earlier.' She growled, wrapping her arms securely, comfortingly around him. He took his hands from his face and looked up at her.
‘Recognise what?' he asked thickly, trying to push back the overwhelming sensation of failure that had plagued him while he had slept.
‘What he was doing and I curse myself for it!' She let out another irritated growl. He didn't really understand what she was talking about, but he didn't say anything, simply letting Melissa hold him. It was enough effort to just keep the recalled feeling of helplessness away. He leant on the sofa, resting his head back on it. He winced as the elastic band tugged his hair painfully and pulled it out, letting his damp hair fall about his face. He stared at the perishing band as he wound it around between his fingers.
‘It's not the first time I have seen this type of mind work, so I should have noticed it sooner.' She mumbled, noticing his blank expression. ‘The least I can do is keep you safe.' He stretched the band to near snapping point, watching as it strained against his fingers and then relaxed it, repeating the tautening and slackening over and over. Eventually he looked away from the band, up at Melissa.
‘You exhausted yourself protecting me from a dream. This is getting ridiculous, why can't my mind leave me alone for a few hours a day?' he balled a fist up and thumped his knee with it, his face contorting into frustrated anger. She slid onto the floor beside him and kissed him firmly.
‘Hush,' she whispered as she pulled away. ‘Calm down.' He closed his eyes and pushed the hunter's voice out of his head.
‘Sorry.' He mumbled, his voice cracking just a little.
‘You have every right to be angry, of course. I just hate to see you like this.' She smiled kissing his cheek softly. ‘We'll get through this. I won't lose you.' He tilted his head so it was resting on her shoulder a little and wrapped his arms around her waist. He took in a long shuddering breath, and released it, fighting back the urge to break down. Don't be such a baby, he scolded himself quietly, so that Melissa wouldn't pick up on it.
‘I should have found control over myself long ago. Why did I let it happen?' he moaned, as the memory of the hunter trying to save his family filled his mind yet again. She let go of him before slapping him furiously. He fell away from her, recoiling at her anger.
‘Stop this! I am sick of you being so negative! Just, stop it!' she shouted.
‘Ow! Shit!' he yelped, the red mark on his cheek from her hand burning. He rubbed his face and though the pain faded after a couple of seconds, the redness didn't, though it was embarrassment that held it there. ‘Sorry, I'm sorry.' He told her, shifting to the side a little away from her.
She growled: ‘No, I'm sorry. But still stop being so negative, it's killing me!' She sighed, rolling her eyes. He got up and went back to the washing machine quietly.
‘Sorry,' he murmured, bending down to see why he hadn't been able to get the machine to work before. She laughed softly beneath her breath.
‘I knew you'd be the death of me.' She said through her gentle laughter. He looked over at her and scowled, before pinging the elastic band at her. She narrowed her eyes at him and easily reached forward, catching the elastic band around her finger.
‘So childish.' She sighed mockingly. He jabbed a button on the machine and jumped as it spluttered at him, whirring into reluctant life. Standing up, he smiled.
‘Don't complain, or I'll look for more.' He said glancing up at the cupboard.
‘Try me,' she challenged with a laugh. With a "pfft" noise, Lazarus looked back in the cupboard for any more decades old pasta and elastic bands. He growled irritably.
‘I would. But I don't seem to have any more elastic bands.' He grumbled, slamming the cupboard shut. She laughed, the thought of the hunter was still in the back of her mind but she smiled.
‘Then I win I believe.' She got up, moving toward him. ‘I'm sorry for hitting you.' She paused awkwardly, gently caressing his smooth cheek. He leaned against the counter, slouching enough to be nearly the same height as Melissa.
‘It's okay. I deserved it,' he smiled awkwardly at her. ‘Or does that come under being too negative?' She sighed.
‘No, come here.' She growled to herself, wrapping her arms around him. He returned the embrace and kissed her briefly on the lips.
‘I am here.' He mumbled.
'Good. Don't leave.' She let a soft, short laugh escape her lips before she kissed him back.
‘I wasn't planning on it.' his warm breath danced across her mouth as he murmured the words so close to her. She closed her eyes, fighting back her tears as she rested her head on his shoulder.
'Thank God.' She mumbled. He heard the slight tremble in her voice that betrayed her, but he didn't ask why, simply strengthening his grip on her, as if to reassure her that he was there.
She breathed softly onto his neck for a while before stopping her breathing altogether, finding that it still took a lot of her energy from her. 'Oh my...' She muttered. 'That last rescue took a lot of energy from me.' Lazarus pulled away from her a little and looked at her with concerned eyes.
‘I'm so sorry,' he whispered.
'Not your fault.' She whispered back. 'I'll just be acting a lot more human for a while.'
‘Well apart from the not breathing thing.' He smiled and kissed her again. She nodded.
‘Yeah, but having no breath isn't all that bad.'
‘Agreed,' he muttered. She laughed.
'Although I would really hate it if you stopped breathing such as I do.' He arched an eyebrow and looked at her questioningly, wordlessly asking "why?" her lips curved up into a small smile. 'Because I like your heartbeat, it may sound stupid but it's soothing to me.' He considered this for a moment.
‘It's not stupid.' He told her, ‘I'll make sure it keeps going then.'
‘You better.' She jested, but wiped the smile from her expression. He grinned.
‘I promise I will do my utmost to protect my heartbeat just for you.' He placed a hand over his heart, hardly noticing it thudding behind his ribs - it was a rhythm he was so used to that he had stopped considering its importance long ago.
'I'll hold you to that.' She smiled, kissing him deeply. 'And I shall protect it too, but I think you already know that.' He tried to return the smile, but it was hard to hide the grimace.
‘You shouldn't have to protect it.' he whispered almost imperceptibly.
'As I said to him, we are much the same thing. If someone attacks you, he attacks me.' She paused awkwardly in thought, 'I want to.' Lazarus didn't know what to say, and despite the feeling that he was too often lost for words, he half smiled, remembering Melissa's words to the hunter as he gazed blankly up at her from the hunter's feet in his mind; remembering how fierce she had looked.