Beside Her

She slept beside him every night, but could not bring herself to curl close, no matter how cold she was. Not for all the warmth in the world. He had too much rage about him, and it frightened her, even as he was so gentle with her, even as he never raised his voice. In a thousand thousand other lifetimes, they had been friends, cohorts, reluctant partners. They had even been lovers, caught on a dime’s edge, where her voice and his fire bled together in a field of so-red roses. But in so many elsewhens, the world had damaged them so much that all they could do was hold one another up and try to piece together the patchwork of their odd lives, held trembling by whisky and smoke and telekinesis, with a wall between them and surrounding them and suffusing them with love and loss, and the cloying, perfect scent of peach shampoo.

She watched him pretend to sleep, most nights, until she fell asleep herself, and she was always angry when she woke, because he had always already left the bed, a man terminally unslept, exhausted, but unwilling to rest beside her.

She always thought it was because he didn’t trust her.

She was wrong.

He didn’t trust himself.

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