The Comfortability Of Fear
by MelWil

She wanted to go back to work. There was a debriefing to attend, reports to write up. There were people she needed to talk to. But Danny had made her promise to go straight home from the hospital. "We can survive for a little while without you, Ruth."

"That's what worries me." But she agreed because it was Danny who had saved her and she would have done anything he asked of her.

The cab dropped her off in front of her house and she walked slowly up the front path. She was still sore and stiff, an inevitable result, she supposed, of being chased through a house, of being thrown to the ground, of being tied up for hours. She needed a bath; a long, hot bath with a good bottle of red wine.

"Ruth."

Ruth smiled as she saw Malcolm sitting on her front doorstep, looking more out of place than she could have ever imagined."Aren't you supposed to be at work, Malcolm?"

"Apparently not. Harry seemed to think I'd done enough once I filed my report. He suggested I might think about sleep."

"Why did you come here, then?" Ruth winced as she fished through her bag, pulling out her keys. "Shouldn't you have gone home if you wanted to get some sleep?"

"Well, you know." He shrugged and stood up. "I just wanted to know if you were alright. After all that."

"Oh Malcolm." She placed a hand on his arm and squeezed it gently. "Thank you." She pushed the door open. "Would you like to come in?"

"No. No, it's fine.' He pulled away a little. "I really should go and leave you on your own right now."

"No." She looked away from him, tucking her hair behind her ears. "I mean, please. Please stay. I've been on my own a little too much lately."

Malcolm smiled. "Alright then." He followed her through her house and into the kitchen.

"Would you like some wine?"Ruth dropped her bag on the counter and carefully shrugged off her coat. "I have a bottle around somewhere."

"Sure." Malcolm watched her as she moved around the kitchen. "How are you Ruth? Honestly?"

"Honestly?" Ruth poured two glasses of wine and passed one to Malcolm. "Well I'm pretty sore, but they said it would pass soon. They said it was to be expected." She looked at her glass, tipping it slightly to the side. "I was so scared, Malcolm."

Her voice cracked and she realised there were tears in her eyes. She set the glass down and leant against the counter, gripping onto the edge as if it were a lifeline and she couldn't possibly let go.

"Ruth." Malcolm put his own glass down and moved across the kitchen. He put an arm around her, slowly, as if he was afraid she'd pull away from him. She leant into his, and she told herself that she could feel safer now at home, in her kitchen, with Malcolm holding her. But she was crying, and she felt like a little piece of her was gone forever, and she wondered if she could ever feel safe again.

"It was so horrible, Malcolm." She pulled away and looked up at him. "One moment he was sweet and thoughtful and really nice. I thought there may have been a future with him one day. And then I worked it out . . . " She looked down at her hands. "He died so quickly, Malcolm. I sat there and I watched him die and it was just so very quick."

"I imagine it was," he said softly. He reached out, as if to touch her cheek, before pulling his hand back again. "But don't even think about blaming yourself for Andrew's death. He killed dozens of people, remember." He looked somewhere beyond her shoulder. "I'm just glad he didn't kill you."

She leant in towards him again and this time he wrapped his arm around her without hesitation. He held her and she cried and he smoothed her hair away from her face, and wiped the tears away from her cheeks with the flat of his thumb.

Then she felt as though she could cry no longer and he bent down and pressed his lips against her forehead. At that moment she knew that he loved her, in his own quiet, calm, caring manner. He loved her, but in all likelihood he would never be able to tell her.

So she wrapped her hands around the back of his neck and pulled him gently towards her. She lifted her head to him and pressed her lips against his. He moved calmly, deliberately, with his fingers rubbing the soft skin at the back of her neck and his lips gentle against hers.

He broke away first, pausing for a moment before looking away from her: looking at the floor, at the nearly full glasses of wine, at some point above her head. She took one of his hands in her own and squeezed it, and he looked back at her, a rueful and apologetic smile on his face.

"I'm glad you're safe, Ruth." He stepped back letting her hand drop. "Thank you for inviting me in."

She smiled and nodded. "Thank you for keeping an eye on me, Malcolm."

He gave her a small wave and he was gone. She looked at the pair of wine glasses. She could still taste Malcolm on her lips, still feel the ghost of his hands on the back of her neck. He was in love with her, but he surely knew that she didn't love him back.

He was as scared as she was, only his fear prevented him from reaching out for someone else. Instead he turned inwards, hiding behind a quirky facade and a sense of reliability and the knowledge that he was damn good at his job.

They were, she realised, as she picked up her glass and drank deeply, the same things she continued to hide behind herself. They were the things, the shields and the expectations that would eventually bend her, that would break her.

She wouldn't be able to make the step beyond them until she could stop being afraid. Until she could quell the nightmares and fears. Until she could start living the life she thought she was going to live.

She had to begin to live again.

 

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