Something woke Yor up in the middle of the night, though she couldn’t tell what. The bedroom she shared with Loid was as quiet as usual; there was no sound coming from his bed, and even the street outside seemed to sleep. There was no moon to light up the room, either, no headlights to throw shadows on the wall like Plato. Her world was still.
After a few moments, she realized that the stillness was the problem. As her eyes had been adjusting, she hadn’t noticed Loid’s posture, but now that shapes were beginning to form, she could see that he was sitting up in his bed. Not sitting, exactly. He was upright, but his legs were curled up to his chest, and his head was tucked between his knees.
“Loid?” she mumbled, her voice rough from sleep. When he didn’t respond, she called his name again. “Loid?”
“No.” It was hard to tell if that was what he actually said with his voice so soft and delicate. “No, don’t.”
A nightmare, perhaps? But he looked to be awake. Yor pushed the covers away and slowly stood up. “Loid, are you alright?” she asked, approaching his bed. As she got closer, she could see that he was shaking. The movements were so small, so contained, that he almost seemed to vibrate.
She hesitated, unsure if she would be crossing a line, then put a feather-light hand on his shoulder. He melted into her instantly, still wound up in himself but receptive to her comfort.
“You’re okay,” she whispered, allowing herself more contact. It felt strange, but not unwelcome, to hold him. She wasn’t really his wife, but right now, she could be, and she could process her feelings about that later.
“Please,” he gasped out. “Yor—Yor, I—” He shook harder, willing to be vulnerable when he knew she was there, it seemed. She filed that concept away to explore and freak out about tomorrow.
She shifted to sit on the bed beside him, making sure to keep at least one hand on him as she moved. “I’m right here,” she whispered. Despite the panic rocketing through him, the air felt like cracked glass, all too easy to shatter if she was too loud or moved too fiercely. Her body wasn’t built for delicacy, but she would adapt. She always did.
Loid kept speaking, to her or to a memory, she could not tell. “I can’t breathe,” he hissed. “The smoke, I—I can’t—”
“What do you need?”
“I can’t—The air, the-the smoke, I can’t—”
“Okay, okay, I’ll see what I can do.” She awkwardly stood up, unsure if this was even the best way to help. He was living a memory she did not know how to pull him from, so perhaps engaging with it would help ease the pain. She flitted about for a moment before pulling open her closet and grabbing a scarf. Loid had whined pitifully when she moved away, so she hurried to put a hand on his shoulder again, restoring the grounding touch he craved. “Here, to filter out the smoke,” she whispered, uncertain. Neither of them moved, so Yor took the initiative once again.
As gently as she could, she lifted his head from his knees so she could loosely wrap the scarf around the lower half of his face. His eyes were glassy, but a frantic, terrified energy was visible just below the surface. She pulled the length of the scarf around his nose and mouth once, twice, three times before he began to focus on her. Because of their positions, she was forced to meet his eyes, and she felt her face grow hot under his scrutiny.
As his shaking slowed, she let the end of the scarf awkwardly fall to his chest as she turned away, somehow embarrassed. Had she acted so ridiculously that it pulled him from his panic attack? At least it was a positive outcome for one of them.
When she glanced back at him after a few minutes, he still had his legs curled up, but he looked less tightly wound than when she’d woken up. He was pulling lightly at the scarf, examining the soft green stitch work with the curiosity one might have when studying an ancient artifact.
“Loid?” she asked, ready to pull him further into the present if she needed to.
He blinked in surprise, and it took him a moment to respond. “Yes,” he said, a response which Yor found unusual, though she opted to question him about it later.
“Are you alright?” Inwardly, she cursed. It was pretty clear that even if the worst of it had passed, he was far from ‘alright.’
In response, he shifted over a few inches to lean against her arm. She felt the contact along her entire spine, a rolling of electricity and heat that set her heart racing. She did not move away.
“I will be,” he muttered, exhaustion creeping into his voice. “Thank you.”
The words lingered in the air, and Yor almost reached out to hold them. “Happy to help,” she mumbled.
She bit back a squeal of surprise when he nuzzled closer. “It’s hard to put the mask back on,” he said, more to himself than to her. “But you make me want to every day.”
Yor silently relished the vulnerability. It was a rare confirmation that he actually cared about her beyond their cover story, and though it made her bones feel full of helium, she tried to temper her elation. It was late, he was still recovering from a memory, she was misinterpreting. Excuses piled up so that she didn’t have to think about anything important right now.
“I’m not really your wife,” she said, the words slipping from her tongue without consideration, “but I will always be here to help you.”
She felt his fingers lace through hers. “You’re real,” he said. “I need you.”
His weight against her arm shifted and settled, and his breathing deepened. When she looked over at him again, she saw he had fallen asleep. Despite the early hour, Yor didn’t feel tired. She decided to stay where she was and let him rest against her, hoping by morning, her heart will have left her mouth.