In The Darkness

In the darkness, I could not sleep.

What a difference twenty-four hours could make. The cloak of darkness was no longer a protective cover. It had become infested with the slimy, relentless gremlins of fear.

I rolled over to face the broad back of the bed's other occupant. The promise of comforting warmth emanated from his body.

I scooted closer and wrapped my free arm around him. On nights when my anxiety was about imaginary events, the warmth of this man was enough to make it go away.

But the event that caused tonight's anxiety was not imaginary. And this time, my man's warmth was little comfort.

The body in front of me turned around to face me. His open eyes sparkled in the moonlight.

"You can't sleep, either?" asked Derian.

"I haven't even come close."

"Maybe some herbal tea will help." His big body rose from the bed. "I'll go make it."

I rose with him. "I'll go with you. I...just don't want to be alone right now."

Derian gave me a nod of understanding, and we got out of bed together.

* * *

The bright lights of the kitchen, reflecting against white cabinets, seemed to offer protection against evil as Derian and I sat on stools near the butcher-block island, each of us sipping chamomile tea from mugs. I wore a terry robe over my nightgown, since I still felt chilly, but Derian remained shirtless with flannel pants.

We had barely exchanged words since leaving bed, except to assist with the tea-making. But we looked into each other's eyes, patiently waiting for speech, but refusing to push.

"Derian..." The word escaped my mouth.

Derian put down his mug.

"I...I can't stop thinking of this. I feel like I've been victimized, even though I haven't lost everything...unlike other people."

"The bastards have victimized all of us, baby. But they haven't defeated us. Soon, they will have gotten what's coming to them."

A new season, so soon to start. How quickly I had forgotten. Derian being away from home. Derian getting into planes, playing in packed arenas...

Oh, God.

How was I going to cope with this?

Derian stayed quiet, looking into his tea mug.

When I was afraid, I knew exactly where to go. But when Derian was afraid...who was there to comfort him?

Suddenly, I felt grossly ashamed.

I never even thought of this should be me. Derian should be able to come to me when he's frightened.

"Derian...are you afraid?"

He shook his head.

"Hell, yes, darling."

I scooted closer to him and lay my small hand over his large one.

"What of?"

"I'm not afraid of war, or getting on planes, or being out there in front of thousands of people. The most horrible thing I can think of is..."

His voice cracked like a porcelain cup dropped to the floor.

"...being in a situation where I can't protect you." Tears glittered in the corners of his eyes.

"Oh, Derian, love..."

I wrapped my arms around him, moved by his words, moved by the urge to protect him from fear. He enclosed me in his bare arms, letting the tears fall on my hair like cleansing raindrops.

"I know you look up to me as your hero," he sobbed. "But if I can't...I can't..."

"Derian." I looked straight up at him, into the turquoise eyes that had expressed so much to me, from joy to laughter to lust...and fear. "You don't have to worry about not being my hero. You always will be...just because of who you are. Your character. Your heart and soul."

I kissed his nose, and he giggled. So did I. The first laughter I had heard since it happened.

"You're a kick, you know, darling?" He hugged me even harder. "I love you."

"And I love you."

Love...the gift that no one could ever destroy.