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Then I'll Stay

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He was in the middle of battle. The sounds of warfare raged outside the tent, gunfire and tanks rolling and artillery shells exploding. Someone rushed up to him. “We’re out of supplies doctor! We need to move the tent and evacuate everyone out of here!!”

But the wounded, how will they make it out? Even now the tent was packed, soldiers lying half conscious and moaning on the cots. He glanced around, panic rising in him with a wave of bile as he realised he wouldn’t be able to save them all.

The scene shifted. He was at his old clinic, sitting on a bed with faded sheets. A boy looked up at him with wide, hopeful eyes. “You’ll save me, right? You’ll make sure I live, won’t you, Doc?” His throat went dry. I… I… His face faded, replaced by her face. She gazed at him expectantly. You’ll save me… right, Arthur? He tried to get the words out, but his voice was stuck. When he couldn’t respond her face crumpled, disappointment and betrayal shining for an instant before she melted away into the darkness.

Arthur bolted upright in bed, breathing heavy. Something whined sharply in his ears, drowning out everything else. His mouth opened and closed, pulse erratic as he tried to gulp air into his lungs. The room blurred around him.

“Arthur? Arthur!” Almost immediately she was awake too, sitting next to him. He barely registered the warm hands that cupped his face.

“Arthur, listen to me. Listen to my voice. You’re not there anymore, you’re here with me now.” He trembled, nails digging into the skin of his palms. “Focus on my voice. Breathe in, breath out, Arthur. In, out, in, out.”

He shut his eyes, finding the voice and focusing on it and letting his breathing match her words. The ringing faded to a dull whine. She shifted, wrapping her arms around him, his head falling forward on her chest.

“I’m here, Arthur. Breathe in, hold it, breathe out. I’m safe. I’m okay. We’re both together.” Her heartbeat thumped steadily under her skin, right next to his ears. He nuzzled closer to it, burying his face into her skin. She unwound one arm, taking his hands and putting them around her. He felt more than heard her faint humming. Her fingers gently carded through his mussed hair as he focused on the sound of his breathing.

“Do you need water? Rouge?” He shook his head. “I—” His voice choked off; she hushed him, rubbing soothing circles on his back. “Take your time. I’m right here.”

He turned his face towards her neck, breathing in the faint flowery perfume that still clung to her skin. A gift from their anniversary months ago. He tightened his grip on her, tried again. “I— stay. Want you.”

She hummed. “Then I’ll stay, as long as you need me to. I'll stay with you Arthur.”