It’s barely late enough to start being tired - at least by the routine you’ve built by this point. Everyone else has gone to bed and you can hear their soft breathing drifting from the other bunk beds. They all sound so peaceful. But you? No. You can hear your heart in your throat, can feel it rattling around in your chest like a percussive blast with each beat and you can’t get the shaking to stop. Gods , you just want to sleep.
But the thought of sleep unsettles you so. Why is that? Why still, why does it continue? You know you still have nightmares, can feel the nights that you’ll have them in your bones - it’s like an ache that cracks at your spine. Leaves you vulnerable.
Yang knows about those nights. Yang stays with you.
But there’s no explanation for your racing heart tonight. And somehow, that scares you even more than the impending nightmares. The world is just pressing against your chest and squeezing blood out of your arteries unrelentingly, thundering a flood of adrenaline through your system.
You want to go to her. You want to climb up into her bunk, curl into her back. Breathe her in. She always smells like warmth and sunshine, as if joy infused every cell of her skin. But you can’t darken her now. Not when you don’t have an excuse.
The man you killed, who you once loved… reduced to an excuse. What kind of monster are you? It’s only fair that you’re alone now with your panic and your fear and your shattered ribcage. Maybe your heart will pick up the pieces in the morning, but for now… the darkness should consume you. It’s what you deserve.
You’re not sure how many minutes or hours you’ve been lying awake, can’t even keep track with the beats of your heart like you sometimes can. A learned skill from long missions with the White Fang. Counting heartbeats, steady and calm, was a way you used to keep a loose sense of time. But even now that’s ruined. Your heartbeat is erratic, and you can barely listen to the breathing of your teammates over its pounding.
It’s when you can’t hear Yang’s gentle snores through the anxiety rising in your blood that finally galvanizes you into action. No matter what, you’ve always been able to hear her. How she shuffles in bed, tossing and turning for several minutes as sleep slowly seeps into her skin, the quiet exhales as exhaustion drags her body down deeper, the eventual snores that signal that she’s finally reached a heavy slumber.
And you can’t tell whether or not you can’t hear her snores is because your pulse is too loud in your ears, or if it’s because she’s somehow sensed your distress and was slowly waking up to be with you.
Either way, guilt lugs into your lungs and draws you to your feet. If she’s woken up because of you, there’s no way she’ll go back to sleep unless she knows that you’re safe. Even though you can’t tell her why you’re not .
It’s not Adam. I just feel like I’m dying. I feel like I’m dying and you’re the only one who can stop the noise in my head.
Standing makes your guilt worse, because you can see her now. You can see her resting and she’s so peaceful, and you hate yourself for even being selfish enough to dare think about waking her. You almost sink down onto your knees, almost tell yourself that you just simply won't be getting any sleep tonight.
“Blake,” she whispers, and your heart stutters a different rhythm. Her voice almost resets the anxious pounding. Almost. The hands around your heart loosen though. Not enough, but just so. You breathe again.
“I….,” you start, shaking. It’s cold in Atlas, cold in these rooms. The pajamas feel too thin, but they’re thicker than what you’ve ever wore at home. Or back at Beacon.
“Come here,” Yang calls gently, her voice like a lifeline of oxygen, and god you’re greedy for it. You seek out her eyes in the darkness and find them filled with love. You want to kiss her, send your heart racing in an entirely different manner, but-
It’s hardly the time for it.
“Dearest,” Yang calls again, and it’s not new. But it’s new enough to still feel raw, to still feel the thrill of the secret that’s only voiced on dark nights like this.
Except there’s never been any nights like this. Adam isn’t haunting you now, not tonight, but you still feel like your world is falling apart. You aren’t sure what to do to put it back together. And you’re not sure what Yang can do either. So you don’t approach the ladder as you would when called upon so gently like that. Because none of this feels normal.
“Okay,” Yang says, and she’s sitting up, swinging her legs over the side of the bed. Forgoes the ladder in favour of a soft landing next to you. “I got you,” she murmurs, wrapping her blanket around your shoulders and it’s warm and smells like her.
“I can’t stop,” you say, and you’re trembling in her embrace. You wish you weren’t trembling, wish you could blame it on the cold. But Yang’s here now. Yang and her warmth that always banishes demons.
“C’mon,” Yang says. Guides you back into your bunk. How was it so cold? You’d been laying there for hours, trying to calm yourself. Unless it wasn’t hours. Why was your heart lying to you? Where was the danger?
“You haven’t slept at all, have you?” Yang murmurs, tucking herself against your back. Not good enough. You twist in her embrace, face her. Wind your arms around her torso, press your forehead against the dip of her collarbone. Closer, closer, closer. Your lips find her skin, just barely, a line neither of you have ever crossed. But it settles something within you. You can feel Yang’s breath hitch with every inch of yourself.
“Is this okay?” you ask, hoping, begging, that it is.
“Does it help?” she breathes back, and even with your sensitive hearing, you can’t determine her tone. You want to pull back, to see her expression, read her face better than any book you’ve ever memorized. But your heartbeat has finally started to slow, your ribs are losing their knife-like serrations.
“It does,” is all you can say, trying not to betray your ache. That it helps, but it also gnaws like a beast, demanding more, igniting a hunger. You want to ask her if she feels it too, if it draws her eyes to you like your eyes are drawn to hers.
But now is not the time.
“It’s not Adam this time, is it?”
Maybe you’re her favourite book. The way she knows you, it’s like she’s leafed back and forth through every page, like she’s earmarked her favourite chapters, like she’s underlined beautiful passages. Committed it all to memory. Committed you to memory.
“No.” It’s all you can say. Why is it all you can say. Reach into my heart instead. Hold it instead. Make the fear let go of me.
“It’s gonna be okay, dearest,” she says to you, and presses a kiss to your forehead. It burns, and a sob wells its way up your throat at the touch, bursting out before you can stop it. “It’s all gonna be okay. I’ve got you. I’ll always have you.”
The dam breaks, and you shatter in her arms in the most beautiful way. You know only one thing in that moment - that she will be the one who helps put you back together again.