Sequel to Protect Her, Love Her, and Hold Her. Claire is a medical intern. She and Quil are deeply in love, but he's still haunted by ghosts that whisper one word... failure. Will he overcome his fears and regrets to take the next step? Will their truest of loves ever bind them into one?
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5. Chapter 6
Rating 5/5 Word Count 1135 Review this Chapter
Sometimes the screams brought her into my room. That was the worst times- not the nightmares themselves, though they were horrific enough… their effects. When her tiptoed feet brought her often tired and sometimes still-uniformed face, glowing in the slivered light of the door--- that was unbearable. She never spoke, only stared in silent guilt at my face.
If only I didn’t have nightmares. I didn’t mind the terror and agony, so much as I minded what it was doing to her.
Claire, I am so sorry.
It was on just such a night that it happened. I was in my room. I managed to awake in something resembling silence, with only a gasp that belied the horror of my night. It was the same nightmare as always. I had failed again. She was being hurt. Yet there was a slight difference- when I stepped forward to help her, she refused. She wouldn’t let me…
She didn’t want me.
I collected myself, just in time to hear the whispers. Claire and Josh were sitting on the couch. I didn’t like that, seeing as how it was two in the morning. I didn’t approve of gentlemen callers after noon. I sighed at that. I didn’t want to hold her back… but I didn’t, couldn’t, endure this.
And then I heard a comforting whisper. “Gee, it’s that late? I hate being on call.”
“I know… wait. Maybe Ellen has polycystic ovaries!”
“That could explain the fever…”
Thank god. They’re only talking about medicine, not undying love. Or worse, actually physically engaging in undying love…
But I barely manage the thought before…. “Claire, will you marry me?”
Claire, Claire, please, no. I’ll die, you’ll kill me, no, no.
“No. I can’t… it wouldn’t be fair. I couldn’t. Quil asked too, and I said no.”
“Well, don’t you love me more?”
There is a silence. “I’m sorry.”
I was glad to hear those long-forbidden words.
“Claire, I feel like I’m being used.”
“I’m sorry, but I am using you, I guess. Using you to find myself. I thought…”
“Oh, I knew. But a fellow can hope.”
He stood. I heard the couch creak as he sat down, and Claire’s little gasp.
I didn’t reveal myself, but I stood… she might want me near. I had to see for myself.
I saw his lips press against hers, and I saw her stiffen. And I saw him change nothing.
Doesn’t he know? Can’t he tell? She’s afraid!
No, Quil. Give him a chance…
He reaches his hands up the bottom of her shirt, inching his way up. I can see his fingers working themselves under the back of her bra like little worms.
“Stop,” she whispered. Good for you.
And he doesn’t! Strike two.
He stopped moving his fingers, but his hands are still in her clothes.
“I said stop.”
“Don’t worry, Claire. Just relax. I promise not to hurt you. Shh…”
The idiot kissed her again, and I see raw panic in her eyes. Time for me to make my entrance.
I stepped in suddenly, and prodded his shoulder. He whirled around.
“Josh. Touch Claire ever again without her express verbal permission and I will kill you. Let go of her this instant or I will kill you. You have fourteen seconds to make your permanent exit or you die, right here, right now. This is not an empty threat.”
I kept my voice perfectly monotone, but I think the kid realized I’m going on seven feet tall.
I pleaded silently. Don’t, Claire. Don’t do this. Don’t give him another chance, please. Maybe he deserves it, but I won’t survive it!
“I said to stop. You didn’t. Don’t… don’t talk to me ever again.”
“All right.” He left. I saw delightful guilt on his face, with a healthy amount of fear.
“Did I do right, Claire?”
“Yes. Oh, Quil. Thank you, thank you. I was so scared and I was trying to be a grown-up and tell him instead of just shutting down, he’s not you, I knew he wouldn’t understand, but he wouldn’t… he… you saved me again.”
“He wouldn’t have hurt you.”
“He did. No, he would’ve stopped, but where? It was too much. I… thank you.”
I looked at her perfection. Her eyes were aglow.
“I guess I owe you an explanation?”
“You don’t owe me anything. The love you have is yours, and you may give it to whom you choose. I would be honored if that person were me.”
“Don’t be silly. I owe you so much… it was so stupid, Quil! All my reasons, and they all seem so silly now!”
“What reasons?” Why, why did you leave me?
“I thought… it’s ridiculous.”
“I won’t laugh.”
“All right. I was so tired at work, and so stressed, and I thought maybe you didn’t want me, could live just fine without me… and I knew that wasn’t true. And I was so scared. I know we weren’t rushing… we’ve been together ten years and living together for twenty and you’ve never mentioned marriage, never tried to do more than kiss me… but I was scared to death you wouldn’t want me. That it would change something and you wouldn’t be there to save me next time… I guess now I know better. Whatever horrible things I do, you’ll always be here for me…”
“I don’t think death could keep me away.”
“You don’t know how much that means, to know you love me even after I hurt you. And then I felt so bad for Josh, and liked him, and was so tired and wanted to try, just try, being normal. I can’t be normal with you… you hold my past. I can’t leave you, though. I love you too much… I was dying, that whole time… I’m so sor…”
She smiled. “I’ve missed that, when he’d apologize for some trivial thing or another. I missed you, Quil.”
“I missed you.”
Her face sobers. “I know. I really hurt you.”
I can’t lie to her. “Yes.”
“And you forgive me?”
“I never blamed you.”
She snickered. Then it dawned on me. “You’ll marry me?”
“Yes. There’s no point in waiting forever- it’s inevitable. We love each other so much. This was meant to happen.”
I sprinted to my room and grabbed the ring. She places it delicately on her finger, where it twinkled like an angel’s tears.
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