“You really don’t need to talk to her,” Beth tried to tell him.
The look he gave her radiated pure menace. He said nothing as he went over to the chest of drawers, pulling open the top drawer. He dragged out a fresh white shirt and fumbled trying to undo the buttons of the one he had on.
She went over quietly, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder. The hard muscles of his back tensed and he froze. She slipped underneath his arm so she was between him and the chest of the drawers. She brushed his trembling hands aside and undid the shirt for him silently, slightly awkwardly with her arm.
She kept her eyes on what she was doing; she couldn’t deny the intimacy of the act. When she’d undone all of the buttons, he stepped back, his eyes dark, his expression guarded.
He undid the sheath on his right forearm and threw it onto the bed. He shrugged out of his shirt, the stitches in his left shoulder hindering his movement a little. The brands all over his torso made another appearance and she couldn’t help but stare at them.
“The seed implanted is as precious as a newborn babe. Hold them dear to your heart, for they shall return your love tenfold,” he said softly as he folded his ruined shirt.
“That sounds like a quote,” she noted quietly.
“It is,” he replied. “From the Holy Scriptures. An angel said it to the first pregnant female. It was a message from the gods.”
“I didn’t know you were religious.”
“I’m not. There’s a difference between believing in the gods and knowing they are there.”
“How do you know?”
“They sent me back to the realm of the living after I tried to kill myself,” he said simply, his back to her.
A sharp intake of breath was the only response she gave, her mouth opening and closing as she floundered about, looking for words.
“Why?” she whispered eventually.
His hand went to the necklace
around his throat and he didn’t reply. She didn’t push it; the tension in his muscles obvious.
After a minute or so, he reached for the fresh shirt.
“Those marks...” Beth started, but didn’t finish; she wasn’t sure what she was asking.
“What about them?” he asked, turning around as he pulled the shirt on.
Then she noticed the long white one that stretched across his stomach.
“Where did you get that scar?” she asked.
“Which one?” he snorted indignantly.
She swallowed, and gestured to the one she meant. He raised an eyebrow at her.
“I have many scars, Beth; you’ll have to be more precise.”
A small smile twisted his lips, making her blush inexplicably. She shuffled closer until she was about a metre away from him. She reached out and ran the tip of her finger along it. It ran from one hipbone to the other; the white of it only a couple of shades different than the pallor of his skin but noticeable all the same.