DISCLAIMER: The Sleep Hollow characters are the property of Sketch Films, K/O Paper Products, and 20th Century Fox Television. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2016 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
You're up. Again. Pacing the house like you did your cave. Moving chess pieces at random and contemplating what possible combination of booze and the various painkillers you've collected over the course of on-the-job injuries might make you go to sleep.
Crane's voice is soft, and you can hear the worry in it. You've tried to laugh off the not sleeping, but he's watching you now and you can feel it whenever you wake him.
You can feel it. Feel him. The change when slumber moves to consciousness. When his fuzzy "What time is it?" state changes to "Is she awake still?"
You've been able to feel him go to sleep and wake ever since you pulled him back by will alone from being untethered by that bitch Pandora.
"Language," you mutter to yourself, the way you used to in the cave, imagining every caregiver you've ever had saying that to you. Crane wasn't the only person you conjured to keep you company; he was just your favorite and the most reliable.
And the most welcome.
"Abbie?" His voice holds a note of worry. That slight little hitch you think sounds so perceptible because of his accent. There is a note of dismay in it, too. Like you're disappointing him.
But no. He'd never. He's on your side.
"I'm fine," you say, and even to you your voice sounds more than a little crazy.
"I'm not sure that's true." He is moving slowly behind you, and you don't turn, but you chart the sound of his footsteps.
Hearing other people is the biggest luxury of being back. Seeing them—well, you won't tell him this, but there were times you saw him and Jenny and all the other people who kept you company during your "time away" as everyone is calling it to avoid saying what it really was.
Death, only without the dying.
Nothing. Everything. Too much.
The floorboard creaks, and you smile. That sound. Lovely in its simplicity: Crane steps and the board reacts.
In the wasteland, you only heard the wind blowing sand, and it was a gentle sound that you had to strain to hear. It became white noise, leaving you longing for stronger sounds: the ping of a microwave, the whirr of your phone vibrating, Crane's soft breathing as he worked beside you in the archives.
Crane. He is right behind you. You can hear him lift his arm, can almost feel the resolve in him to this time get to the bottom of this.
"Don't," you say before he can touch you.
His movement stops. You imagine his confusion.
"I'm sorry," he says and you can hear it in his voice, a hopelessness. He's no doubt wondering why he can't fix you? You've wondered that yourself.
"I'm broken, Crane." The words sit before you realize you've said them out loud. "I mean—"
"Don't. Don't try to make it better." He moves closer but doesn't touch you, and you can swear you feel the electricity between you, whatever makes you both witnesses, whatever allowed you to call his soul home when he should have been lost. "I want to help you. I can't if you won't admit anything is wrong."
"Learned that from daytime television?" You manage to say it in your old voice, the one of long ago when kidding was easy and being alone for a year was something you'd never contemplated.
"Yes." He sounds sheepish, as he always does. But then he touches you and murmurs, "And from you, Lieutenant."
The way he says your title. It's better than when old boyfriends called you "sweetheart" or "honey." He caresses it, turns it into something more than just a word.
He slides his hands down your arms and pulls you back so you are resting against him. "Tell me how to help."
"Danny loves me." You don't know why you have blurted that out. You think Crane will pull away.
But he doesn't. He murmurs, "And you? Do you love him?"
"I think I thought I did." Until Crane came back. Until you were lost and he was your Wilson. Until you heard his voice again. Until you touched his hand. Until now, with him pressed against your back. Until his lips touch your neck, and you wonder if he even realizes he is doing that. "But I don't think I can."
He stops. "You don't think you can love? Or you don't think you can love him?"
It is a crucial difference, and he is wise to ask. You think of the symbol you drew on the table with your blood. There is something inside you, and it may be dangerous or it may just be batshit crazy-town coming to claim you even though you got away.
But despite that, despite everything, you know one thing. You can love because you love Crane. "The last one," you whisper so he doesn't have to hear if he doesn't want to, if this truth is inconvenient or unwelcome right now. He's barely said goodbye to Zoe. He might have loved her but for you.
You might have loved Danny but for him.
His breath is ragged and warm where it hits your neck. He says nothing, just somehow pulls you closer, and you stand that way until you take his hands and pull his arms around you so he is holding you in a way less like a fellow witness and more like a lover.
Until you relax, for the first time since you got back. And when you finally let go, you start to tremble.
He turns you, seems to be studying you, and you imagine how you look with your eyes finally drooping. You feel as though you can sleep a hundred years, just like Sleeping Beauty, and he will be your prince only he won't have to slice through thorns to get to you because you know he won't leave you.
"I'm sleepy," you say.
"That's a very good thing." He kisses you on the forehead, and it feels good, but it's not what you want, so you pull him back to you and kiss him on the lips the way you imagined when things were at their worst in the cave. Loving him was what kept you sane. It's a truth you were not sure you'd ever share with anyone, but now you think you'll tell him someday, because he is not pulling away but deepening the kiss.
When you finally draw away from each other, he gives you the smile that is your favorite, the one that says he's surprised, but in a good way. That he's moved. That he's happy. "I missed you so, Abbie. I would have looked forever."
"I know." And you do. It was one of your core truths during that stark year.
For a moment, you just let yourself look at him, really look, and you know the smile on your face is one part crazy to two parts sheer relief. But it's also full of love and you can see it on his face, too.
You would make love to him right now, right here, if you weren't so damned tired. You yawn for the first time since you got back, and it's the most amazing feeling, this sinking, this impending blackness after a year of daylight wakefulness.
"To bed," he says, urging you to your room.
You think he means to tuck you in and leave, so you don't let go of his hand and ask, "Stay with me?"
"Of course." He sounds relieved that you've asked, and he settles under the covers with you, murmuring, "Is this all right?" as if you would ever tell him that it's not.
Your bed feels warm and soft again, like you remember it being before the wasteland offered only sharp angles and grit. He's pressed against you, and you can tell that he wants you and you know he's aware that you can tell, because he murmurs, "I'm sorry," until you shush him. Until you tell him you like it. Until you hear the smile in his voice as he says, "Then I shall not apologize for it again." And it's a promise that means so much more than just what the words convey.
And that is the most wondrous thing. Because when you were at your most desperate, when you felt that he was the only thing that could keep you tethered to anything remotely normal, you touched yourself and pretended it was him, conjured up his voice and his eyes and his hair and knew it was a mirage, but it was the only one that would do.
And seeing him again, in the flesh, there were moments where you were embarrassed, that if he knew... But it's okay. Now, it's okay and you know eventually you'll be doing it again, only for real, with him, in this bed or his or maybe on the table with the chessboard swept away.
"I love you, Crane." You feel sleep dragging you away from him. "Don't leave me."
"I won't. Not ever." He kisses your neck again, and there is a difference in how he is doing it. A certainty. "I love you, too, Abbie."
You smile and let his voice and the way his lips feel on your skin be the last thing you know before you surrender—finally—to sleep.