Chapter 3 – Death is the road to awe.

I flutter my eyes open to hear that same rhythmic beeping, only it’s less hazy, and turn towards it to see it’s a heart monitor. That’s what that was the whole time. What a crazy dream… nightmare… foray into insanity… stress induced hallucination…I’m not sure what to call it. I look around the dark, sterile room that smells of chemicals, and based on the grey beginning of dawn streaking through the blinds of the window to my right, it must be very early. My left hand is numb with pins and needles, and I finally realize that there’s a heavy weight on it as well as a tightly clutching grip. I look down to see a dark tangled mass of curls draped over it, and smile through the pang of tears. She is a sight for sore eyes. I’m just so thankful to be here… with her.

I reach over to stroke the haphazard curls and feel my world right itself as I tangle my fingers in them. “NO!” I jump startled as her head snaps up a few inches. She winces as she starts to turn her neck, pulling at the visibly stiff tension there, and the tears quietly leak from my eyes as I again stroke her thick mane. She turns toward me and smiles through her tears, the look of wonder and confused reality on her gorgeous face rivaling my own expression as she asks, “T?”

My grin widens. “Hey babe…” She starts to laugh disbelievingly as her tears come harder and faster, and it seems as if her body can’t make up its mind about which direction to go emotionally. My own body responds to my own emotions as she carefully lifts herself to sit on the edge of the bed. She gazes deeply into my eyes as she leans in for reassurance with an intensely simple but heartfelt kiss that tugs at my soul as it locks with hers like magnets. That’s how it is, our connection… like magnets, inexplicably drawn to each other like a force of nature.

I tangle my fingers in the thick curls at her neck and she sighs into my mouth before her body picks a direction, and she starts to shake with uncontrollable sobs that break our lips apart. I close my eyes against the pain of it and the startling clarity of how much I’ve been missing. I’ve never… I’ve never seen her this undone, and I feel myself come undone with her, but in an entirely different way. I pull her forehead to my lips and hold her head tightly to me as she runs her arms up under my own and curls them tightly around my shoulders, continuing to shake with quietly soul rending sobs.

I hate to feel happy in this moment. But I’m seeing into her…really seeing into her… and it’s everything I imagined it would be, hoped it would be, always knew it would be. She is my tall, gorgeous fortress of comfort perched high on a proudly peaking cliff, and now that I’ve breach the walls, all I find is a warm raging fire, and soft inviting place to rest. It just feels so good to rest there, to have finally made it inside without having to crumble the barriers. I’m home…

We stay this way for long minutes, giving and taking of each other equally before she starts to calm, and I finally break the silence. “Babe…” She sniffs and pulls back just enough to gaze at me with those soulful eyes, minus all the protective shutters; but she staunchly refuses to release her hold on me. I stroke the curls from her face and raise an incredulous eyebrow at her. “…I see you…” I gaze at her in awe. “…I really see you…and I love you for it…more than I ever thought possible.” Her gorgeous face melts into that stoic way of conveying so much with just one look, and the power of it sweeps away the tinges of doubt from my heart. “…I’m sorry it took all of this for me to tell you… to realize it… but I do… I finally do…” Her face is heartbreakingly broken but I wouldn’t have it any other way in this moment. “If you can forgive me, I promise you… I’ll show it… I’ll prove it to you.”

She smiles a smile that reaches her wide, warm almond eyes, causing the tears to fall harder, and we just gaze at each other in open surrender for long moments. Finally, something occurs to her and she furrows her brows. “T… I… I um…” She clears her throat and I know, I know it all, but she needs to get this out, complete this moment, and I won’t rob our future of this culling. “…ahem, I uh… do you find me unfeeling and… cruel?” I close my eyes against the raw pain in the brown orbs just inches from my own, and find the will not to hate myself for it.

I reopen them to find her worried gaze staring at me with blatant intensity, and I hate what I’m going to say because it’s true, so I meet her question with all the love and sincerity I can muster. “I don’t see you that way… now…” I swallow hard around the lump in my throat. “…I guess…I guess I’ve always thought you were impervious to harm, like nothing could faze you, like you could handle anything. And because of that, despite what you’ve been trying to show me, I’ve been… careless, very careless… and even cruel… in my own way.”

I can tell that hurt her. Not just because it’s true, but because she’s been trying so hard to change and I’ve been completely resigned to ignoring it. But she needs to know what I have been trying to tell her since I went into labor. I stroke her gorgeous face and she meets my eyes again. “I regret that more than you can know, Bette. That’s what I was talking about just a minute ago…” I smile through my own tears and raise an incredulous eyebrow at her. She stares at it like she’s just been visited by an angel, and I marvel at her until her eyes again meet my own. “I see you now… clearly… truly…”

She closes her eyes as if she’s absorbing that to her very bones and sighs relieved as she mumbles, “No more through a glass darkly…”

I furrow my brows and chuckle at her. “What?”

She looks back to my eyes with open joy and I smile radiantly. “I see you…” I push her back further. She goes reluctantly and only far enough for me to put my hand over her heart but that’s all the space I need or want. “…all of you…the heart of you” I look back up to her face and can’t help but stroke its smooth texture. “…you appear to most of the world to be so alpha in control, but I know how hard it is for you to cover up the panic that you feel inside.” Her grin turns crooked and I stroke the haphazard curls from her lowered eyes. She meets my gaze and I can see the radiant warmth shining in the wide glassy pools. I touch her heart again. “I see you… all of you… and you blow me away…”

We gaze at each other for long moments before she leans forward and touches her lips to mine in a devotedly sweet kiss that’s soft and delicate, but has the power to crush even her high reaching strength and fortitude in a single surrendering caress. She pulls back and I can actually see the peaceful calm settle on her soul as she is freed of this pain. I won’t fail her at this. I will trust her; I will lose her on this world and watch her thrive as she brings it to its knees, standing at her side, her at mine, equals, complete, and owned, secure in that knowledge, secure in each other. She’s my champion, and instead of holding her hostage, I’ll shelter in her.

I gaze into those complacent eyes and cautiously implore her to get it all out. She’s letting me in, trusting me implicitly with her thoughts. I won’t lose that. Now that I’ve had it, I can’t… I won’t go back. She considers me for a moment and I worry that she’s going to shut the rest away. I touch her face and gaze at her firmly. No more running away. I’m here, she’s here; we can get through this… through anything. She relents to my utter awe and amazement, but she has to choke the words out; that’s how ragged her emotions are. “Why did you go to Alice for help with the donor?”

I want to flee, but even if I could, I wouldn’t. I want her more. I brace myself. “Part of me thought… that you’d lose interest in me and my time to have even a taste of what I wanted with you would slip through my fingers again. I wanted it while I could have it, and I didn’t think you would… I thought you wouldn’t be… that you wouldn’t want it because it would tie you to me… physically. And that’s exactly what I wanted… part of it anyway.” She closes her eyes. “I thought that if we had a baby, then the two of us together would be enough for you.” The tears escape my own eyes. “I realize that I did things all wrong because I was… just desperate, Bette. And I’m so sorry…”

She closes her eyes. “I thought you just wanted a child and it didn’t matter who it was with. I felt so… secondary… pushed aside… left out.” She meets my eyes with stoic compassion. “Why didn’t you just tell me?”

I release a sigh and I hate to say it, but she needs to address this, we need to address this. “The same reason you didn’t tell me that you wanted to be the birth mother…”

Her eyes go clouded with intense pain and her lip quivers as tears stream down her face. I can tell she’s trying not to say what she needs to but that’s just it, she needs to. Her hold on it breaks as she turns her head away, and as the shaky words stutter from her mouth, I almost wish she hadn’t. “How could you have not asked me… how did not even occur to you… to ask me… if I might… want to… conceive and give birth to our child?” She turns her anguished face to mine. “How could you have not asked me?”

I close my eyes against the intense agony of this failure. I failed her, but more than that, I couldn’t even see her. I stroke her face and it’s my voice that’s shaky with tears. “I’m sorry… I… I was so selfish… I never even considered you… in any of this…”

She swallows hard and furrows her brows. “How… did you know?”

I chuckle at her and she looks at me like I’ve grown a third eye. “If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me. I’m not even sure if I believe it…” I stroke her face and my voice turns serious. “Bette, we can’t do this anymore.” This seems to worry her. “I mean, we have to be open with each other… about everything. We just have to…” I take her face in my hands and kiss her lightly. “Your needs matter. You don’t always have to be strong for me, and if I hurt you I need to know. I need your help so I can realize what I’m saying, because I promise you, I don’t want to hurt you, and I see who really are now. I just need help tearing all of the previous stuff down. It’s not fair for you to keep paying for it when you’ve proven yourself consistently for almost two years.” Her eyes are bright and inviting and I wish I could literally crawl into her soul to sleep. “Living in fear and running away when things get hard isn’t working for me. Is it for you?” She shakes her head and I smile adoringly at her. “Then let’s just…not.” We laugh. “I don’t want to hurt you anymore… and I’m tired of running… just so tired.”

She takes each of the hands at her face and kisses the palms in tandem. “Then we won’t.

I smile radiantly at her. “Bette…” She looks to my serious face and I do everything I can to make sure she hears me. “I’d love nothing more… absolutely nothing… than for you to conceive for our family.” Tears well in her eyes and she looks away. I touch her chin and pull her eyes back to mine. “I’d love nothing more.” She swallows and I smile. “In fact, I hope all our babies are just like you…” I stroke the smooth, mocha skin of her face and gaze at her in open awe. “…in every way. Do you hear me?” She cries openly and I pull her head to my chest, holding her tightly and burying my nose in her curls near her ear. “Just one at a time, okay?” I feel her chuckle through the sobs and squeeze her tightly. “Can you forgive me? I need to hear you say it, to know you believe it.”

She cries harder and I close my eyes, hoping beyond all hope that she can. But if she can’t, I know it’s within her to do so eventually. I’ll just have to work to show her I mean it, just like she did. She is, without a doubt, the strongest woman I’ll ever know, and she is my hero. She leans up, placing a warm kiss to the breast above my heart, and nuzzles her face there before meeting my eyes. She strokes my face and her eyes are still open and un-shuttered. Even after all we’ve just shared; she still hasn’t shut me out. She trusts me, and I realize she doesn’t need to say it when I can see it so thoroughly, but she does anyway. “I forgive you, T, just like you forgave me.”

I pull her to me and kiss her passionately, and this time we’re rougher, hungrier, and it lasts long wonderful moments. I sigh out a disappointed whimper when she pulls back as if she’s just realized something. “We need to get a doctor to look at you.”

She stands abruptly and I pull her to a stop. I smile at her worried love for me, but I don’t want to let her out of my sight, not just yet. I look over to my left to see the remote for my bed and press the button titled nurse. She smiles at me as she retakes her seat and clasps my hand between her own. We simply gaze at each other while we wait. The heaviness of the moment lifts and we both take a deep breath of free air, free and cleansing air, that fills our lungs and gives us life, a new life together.

Continued in Chapter 4 – Stay With Me

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