Diego is Awake

(cw: trauma, dissociation)

Maichiru took forever to fall asleep.

Their conversation had long drifted into nonsense, her murmured replies crumbling into the shifting sands of dreamland, but her body stayed tense, her breathing irregular. Occasional muscle twitches in her shoulders and legs had startled him each time, made him go still, counting her breaths, waiting for her to settle. Slowly, finally, her tension dropped, her breathing slowed, and she lay against him on the couch, her crimson hair askew over her face, the three slashes on her cheek darkening in the deep of night.

He'd lost track of time watching her, imagining her the hunter laying down her weapons, settling in place, one watchful green eye slitted, keeping an eye out for whatever might sneak up on them. She relaxed the way a cat might, tail twitching, ears flicking, not completely at ease. Good enough, he thought, sinking into the couch. Good enough.

The knot of tension deep within him crawled to the surface, clawed up through his chest into his throat, squeezed its way out his eyes, bitter tracks down his cheeks that he didn't know how to fight, great spasms in his chest that he had to quash with everything in him. His hand clamped to his mouth, his whole frame careful of the dear warrior in the crook of his other arm who'd trusted him enough to let down her guard. That feeling burned in his throat, sending fresh streams as he choked the sobs into silence as best he could, trying to keep a surface stillness at least.

Fucking godammit Jesus Christ --, the litany repeated in his head. The soft, settling sounds of the house left so much goddamn room for the sound, the fucking sound of a vertebra crunching, inside his head as though it were his own teeth that were cracking under the pressure of his clenched jaw.

A shuddering breath. Tremors in his arms and chest.

Maichiru stirred, lifted her weight from him slightly, eyes twitching.

No no no, no you don't, I just barely got you back, he thought, holding his breath, pushing his own body back into the couch, pushing everything down, down, down, compressing it into a thin layer somewhere within him.

A couple of tense minutes. He forced his breath to slow, draw in, hold, let out, wait, repeat. She shifted position slightly, and he wondered if she was actually awake now, aware of him. But he couldn't show this to her, couldn't let her see, what would she say? He almost lost her over a goddamn kiss, she'd assumed he'd leave her when he'd just found her, what kind of person does she think he is?

A fucking murderer, that's who.

And he can't let it go, like a rock that he has to carry forever and ever, for the rest of his fucking life.

Had The Mirror seen it? Did that mean Mary knew now? He couldn't hold his secret close and safe. What about Chase? Anubis, surely she'd known. But Max? Fuck, what did Max think of him now?

The thin layer buckled and twisted within him, bending into sharp angles, crackling...

Those fucking death-worshippers, the tlaloque, they must have seen this in him when they picked him for the atlcahualo, it wasn't really the shape of his goddamn hair, what the fuck was that about, they'd known somehow, seen it in him, stolen him from the street where he'd finally felt safe and free after all those families that knew nothing. They saw that death was in him, that it was his destiny, his best purpose...

And he was back there, for just a moment, helpless upon the cold stone of the altar.

Then he was snapping the restraints, his vision gone blue, a roar in his ears, watching their eyes widen in their hoods, hands up, but he's bolting for the wall, through the stone, running and running, the temple crashing around him, he heard their screams of terror and pain but ignored them, just pushing forward until he'd collapsed in the wilderness, his memory already going hazy...

And then, nothing. Everything washed away, tears dried, body calm, his insides all used up and nothing left, squeezed into... nothing. It was almost like his body was floating above the ground while still resting on the couch. He stared at the vaulted ceilings of the parlor and noted, absently, how flat and discolored it looked, its color bleached away, like this was all a dream.

He was dreaming that he was on the couch with a beautiful girl. How could that possibly be true? Surely, he was asleep.

The next morning Maichiru was full of a kind of bow-string energy, snapping around the room, peeking at him from the corner of her eyes, seemingly measuring him with every sideways glance. A thin layer of nerves was plastered over the delicate nothing inside him, a sore wound like an only-recently healed pulled tooth, sore, empty, the sensation of a painful, unfamiliar space.

Better the nothing than the alternative, maybe.

Yet, into that space, a small whisper, one of the lessons those evil old men had drilled into him before... before he left:

Tlaloc was a god of fertility. Tlaloc was a god of life.

Maichiru extended a hand and he grasped it, his fingers sliding over the callouses on her fingers.