Derrick groaned as he lay there in the alley, his entire being a universe of pain. He clenched his stomach, wondering if his ribs were broken. He didn’t fight the waves of agony, he let them come, he deserved it. Sorrow washed over him and he curled up there, shivering and crying like the pathetic weakling he was. He heard the sound of footsteps and wondered if the men who had attacked him had returned to further punish him. He wouldn’t resist them, between the alcohol and his shame, he wanted to hurt. “Oh my god, are you alright?” The voice was soft, the tone gentle and warm. He barely manged to turn his head, his eyes colliding with those of a woman, those hazel orbs sparkling with concern and shock. “Who did this?” She asked as she reached out to brush his hair from his face.
“Go away.” He said, his voice hoarse.
“You don’t mean that.” She gently pulled him into a sitting position. “Let me help you.”
“No, just leave me.” He couldn’t have another beautiful woman near him, not after what had happened. She would get hurt too. “Just go, I’m fine.” He pushed her hands away and then started slowly to his feet. He stumbled and she grabbed him, pulling his arm over her shoulders. “Are you stupid or something, you need to leave me here.”
“Hush, no more of that. You can’t just lay out here, it’s getting cold and it’s going to rain.”
“I do.” She pulled him out of the alley and in his half drunk, beaten state he couldn’t resist her. “I’m Mae, what’s your name?”
“It doesn’t matter.” His legs gave out and she pulled him back up.
“Hey, no passing out until I get you in my car, okay?”
Her words made him determined to get there so he managed to walk with her aid the rest of the way. He still felt no better than the garbage people tossed in the dump, but this was another kind, incredibly beautiful woman and he was going to follow a simple request, especially since she was so insistent on helping him. He was surprised when she even took the time to strap him in. “Is it comfortable?”
“It’s fine.” Sometimes her belt locked on people pretty tight so she hoped he would have told her if it was hurting him. She was beyond grateful she actually had her car today. She had only brought it because the weather threatened hail today. It hadn’t come, but it turned out she needed her car anyway. Next thing he knew she was unbuckling him. “Where are we?” He asked and she answered, “The hospital.”
“I’m half vampire, I’ll be okay.”
“I don’t care what you are. I’m going to get you sobered up and tend to you.”
“You really shouldn’t help me. I don’t deserve it.”
“Everybody deserves care when they are hurt. I firmly believe that.”
Derrick had never known someone so stubborn. Her eyes were filled with compassion and determination and he had a feeling that if he refused to cooperate, she would drag him. The security guard at the front looked a little concerned when she walked in with him and she gave him a smile that told him everything was fine. “Don’t we have to fill out paperwork first?” He asked.
“I will once I have you in a room.” She said.
“Mae?” One of the emergency doctors said when he came out and saw her with Derrick. “Whoa, what happened?”
“I have no idea, but can you get a room set up for me?”
“Thank you, Reed.”
Derrick was a little surprised at how smoothly that had gone and couldn’t resist asking, “What are you some kind of super hero?”
She laughed. “I’m a nurse, I work here.”
He couldn’t understand why the world would send a nurse his way. He didn’t deserve such care at all and even as drunk as he was all he could think about was repaying her somehow for wasting her time on a man like him, a man who hadn’t been there for someone else. Reed had a room ready quickly so she took him in and helped him lay down. “Please don’t waste supplies on me.” He tried again, but she just left and came back with paperwork.
“So, what’s your full name?”
“Derrick Rankin.” He answered, deciding he may as well just give her the information she wanted. He could tell she was stubborn enough to keep him in here all evening if that’s what it took.
She smiled. “Thank you for not being mysterious. A lot of vampires like to get cute when you ask that.”
“I know my match when I’ve met it. I’ll answer you honestly.”
“Still, I appreciate it. So, since you’re a half vampire, I’m guessing no allergies?” He shook his head. “No medical conditions I should know about?”
“Don’t have it.”
“How about your address and phone number?” He rattled them off for her and she quickly wrote it down. “Okay. Now, how about you tell me what happened.”
“I was attacked.”
He shrugged. “Just some guys, I didn’t catch their names or really see their faces.”
“Should I call the cops?”
“No, don’t bother, there’s no point. I’m already healing and they’re probably long gone.”
She frowned and he looked away from her. He didn’t want her pity. “How much have you had to drink?” He shrugged and she sat the clipboard down and reached over, gently grabbing his chin and turning his head so he was looking into her eyes. “It’s okay, I won’t judge. You have a reason, especially when you’re drunk, banged up and didn’t want me helping you.” She gave him a warm smile that lit up her face and made his heart stutter. “Just a few more questions okay and then I’ll let Reed look you over while I clean your wounds.”
“They’re pretty much healed.”
“Then I’ll clean up the blood and make sure you make it home.”
“I promise you, you shouldn’t care so much about me.”
“You can say that to me as much as you like, but I’m going to care anyway. Something terrible has obviously happened to you. I’m so sorry for whatever it is, but you’re obviously a good man to let it burden you this much. Whatever happened, you deserve forgiveness, I’m sure of it.” He somehow managed to move his face in such a way that made him look even sadder. She went back to asking him the questions on the sheet, wishing he’d talk to her about whatever was burdening his heart. When she called Reed in she left briefly to get what she needed to clean the blood off of him. His body had almost completely healed itself, but she was looking for anything to keep him there longer.
“Nothing seems broken and it looks like any bruises or abrasions you had healed up nicely, not that I’m surprised.” Reed said as he finished his examination.
“See? I told you I’d be fine.”
“Physically maybe.” Mae said as she finished cleaning his face.
Reed sighed. “Well, you can go home if you feel up to it or you can spend the night here.”
Derrick waved him off. “I’m sure there’s someone else who needs this room.” He hopped down off the table and nearly fell over, but Mae grabbed onto him, steadying him.
“Still drunk.” She said.
“You should take him home, Mae.”
“I can make it on my own.” Derrick protested. He didn’t want to further burden her.
“Hush now, let me help you, Derrick.” Her sincerity and compassion were almost too much for him to bear. Why did he have to meet her? He couldn’t help but think of what might have happened if those men had returned while she was aiding him. What if they had attacked her? What if they had done worse? “Thanks Reed, really. I’ll get him home and then I’m going to crash.”
“No problem, just be careful, give Arges my love.”
“Who is Arges?” Derrick asked as he buckled his seat belt once they were back in her car.
“Any kind or a mix?”
“He’s a newfoundland, poor thing only has one eye. He was like that when I adopted him.”
“You’re a nurse, you helped and you have a rescue for a dog, maybe you are a super hero.”
“I try, the world is so ugly and full of hurting people. I want to help as many as I can. Anyway, you need to tell me how to get to where you live.” He gave her directions then sat there silently. Only speaking when they pulled up and she said, “I’m going to help you in.”
“I’m helping you in Derrick then I promise I’m out of your hair for the evening.”
“Just for the evening?”
Her look turned more meaningful as she said, “You’ve obviously been through something terrible or caused someone else harm that you cared about deeply. I work in a hospital, you kind of get a feel for these things. You obviously push away anybody that attempts to care for you and I’m that stubborn, annoying, pest that’s not going to stop until you open up and realize you’re worth something, regardless of whatever happened.”
He huffed. “Maybe I’ll just lock the doors.”
“You can try, but I just happen to know a few cops and I bet they’d let me in if I told them how scared I was for you.”
“You’d ask cops to break in?”
She slipped out of her seat belt and pushed her door open, getting out and hurrying over to his side when he started to get out on his own. “I can walk.”
“Oh hush, you’re obviously still unsteady.” She helped him to his feet and pulled his arm over her shoulders. “Keys?” He reached into his left pocket and handed them to her.
He hadn’t noticed until now just how strong she was for a human and he wondered if it had to do with being a nurse. He was sure she had had to help lift at least a few heavy people. She got the front door unlocked and he pointed to the stairs. “My room’s up there.”
“Okay, take it slow.”
She laughed. “Thank you.”
She helped him to his room then fetched him a glass of water. She may not live there, but cups and the sink generally were easy to find so she went down with confidence and returned with a glass of water. “I’ll be heading home now unless you want me to get you anything else.”
“You’ve done more than you should already.”
“Get some good rest okay? I’ll be over tomorrow after work.”
“There’s really no stopping you?”
“Then get home safe.” She smiled, thinking again about how sweet he obviously was. She left his home and drove to hers, worrying about him even as she fed her dog. She knew she was going to think about him all day tomorrow too but she wouldn’t let it distract her from her patients. As a nurse she couldn’t afford to have her mind elsewhere when she was in the hospital.
Derrick lay there staring at the ceiling for what seemed like an eternity that night, his heart aching as he sunk into the mattress and his sorrow. As usual his mind drifted to his loss, to the pain and anguish that plagued his every waking moment. Why hadn’t it been him? Why was he still even alive? Could he even die? “Mae would probably just pull me back.” He mumbled to himself. He was surprised that his thoughts had gone straight to her. It was like her warmth and determination had seeped into his subconscious. “Why?” He whispered to himself. “Why didn’t you just leave me?”
“So, how was the patient last night?” Reed asked the next morning when Mae met him in the elevator.
“Fine, I guess. He’s suffering. Thanks for taking care of him for me.”
“It’s no problem.”
“Arges says hi, by the way.”
Reed chuckled. “What a good boy. Ezekiel wanted me to ask you if you’d like to come and have dinner with us some time this week. You can bring the big ball of fluff, I’ll even get him a bone.”
“Are you two going to make me that roast?”
“Alright, assuming everything goes okay with Derrick, maybe I could bring him too?”
“Oh I see, you save a guy and now you’re in love.”
She punched Reed’s shoulder, causing him to laugh. “Oh hush, I’m just worried about him.”
“Well be careful, he was drunk when you brought him in.”
“I know, but I don’t think he’s the violent type.”
“Still, stay safe.”
“I will.” While her thoughts did venture off to Derrick throughout her day at the hospital she stayed focused when she needed to and went about her day as normal as you could consider a day in the hospital. After work she jogged home like she always did then immediately got in her car to have dinner with Derrick. She wondered how well he looked after himself since most depressed people skipped meals far too frequently. When she arrived and knocked on his door it startled him out of a nap he had been taking. He knew who it was instantly since he hadn’t ordered anything and nobody came to visit him.
“Mae.” There was no indication from his tone if he was happy or not to see her.
“I thought I’d have dinner with you.”
“I said I was going to be a pest didn’t I?”
“That you did, well, I’m not sure what I have to eat.”
“Want to go out or order something then?”
“I guess we could eat somewhere.”
“It’s the name of a place I was suggesting. They have incredibly good and healthy food.”
“Can’t we just get burgers or something?”
“We could, but you look like you need something healthier.” She looked him over. “That’s the shirt you wore yesterday.”
He sighed. “I know.”
“Alright, that’s it, inside.”
“Come on, you’re taking a shower and changing clothes.” She took his hand and pulled him upstairs, leaving him too surprised to say anything until they were standing in his room and she was opening his chest of drawers.
“Hey, wait, I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself.”
“If that were true you would be half dead in alleys.” She pulled out underwear and socks then a clean t-shirt and a pair of jeans. She turned to him and gave him the clothes, giving him a look that said she wouldn’t be argued with. “Now, go bathe or I’ll undress and wash you myself.” She said with a smile. “Besides, a shower will make you feel better.”
He made a face, one of confusion and a hint of frustration, but he did as he was told, wondering what she’d do in his home while he was busy showering. She seemed to not be shy about going where she pleased. She waited until the water was running to try and figure out where he kept his sheets. Healthy, happy people sometimes wouldn’t change their sheets, depressed people were much worse about it and she didn’t want him laying in dead skin cells and other grossness at night. Not more than the average person at least. She found some stuffed into a closet them seemed clean so she changed his sheets and took his blanket down to the washing machine. Both the washer and dryer were empty so she just stuffed it in, threw a laundry fling into the washer and let it run.
She then went and checked his kitchen. He had a stack of dirty plates in the sink so she popped open the dish washer and put them in, found the soap under the sink and poured some in. She checked his fridge and frowned at how empty it was. She wondered what he had been surviving off of. Maybe he had just made whatever until he had run out of ingredients. There was a jug of expired milk that she disposed of and she made a mental note to take him food shopping. She went into the living room and picked up a little bit and noticed that one of the photos had been turned face down. She lifted it up, surprised to see Derrick smiling back at her and standing next to him a beautiful young woman. He looked so happy, a stark contrast to the way he was now and she was sure the woman had something to do with his depression. She let out a little sigh as she propped it up then decided to go and check on him before she cleaned his entire house. She tapped on his bathroom door and called out, “Are you okay in there?”
“I’m fine.” Derrick called back as he stood there with his forehead pressed against the shower wall and stared down at the water swirling around the drain. “I’ll be out in a minute.”
“You’ll call me if you need me right?”
“Yeah, just give me a minute. You’re not getting into trouble out there are you?”
“Probably.” She called back and he could hear the laughter in her voice. It was light and warm, something it felt like he hadn’t had in an eternity. It caused his heart to skip a beat and he suddenly felt embarrassment creeping in. He knew his house was a mess and she seemed like the type of person to clean it up.
Thinking of this he decided to stop procrastinating in the shower. He washed himself thoroughly then grabbed a towel to dry off. Once dry he dried the floor then dressed himself so they could get going. He noticed right away his blanket was gone and a new sheet was snugly on his mattress. He found her in his living room. “You didn’t have to clean.”
“I know, but you needed it. Your blanket is in the washer if you were wondering.”
“Thanks I guess, but let’s go.”
“Okay.” They went out to her car where he tried again. “Are you sure we can’t get burgers?”
“You’re eating healthy tonight. Maybe tomorrow because yes I’m coming back.”
He nodded, not wanting to argue with her. He wanted to chase her away, but he couldn’t be cruel to her. He followed her outside and into her car, finding himself staring out the passenger window once he was buckled up and she was pulling out. “So, how was worked today?” He finally asked.
“It was good, thank you for asking. How about your day?”
He shrugged. “Same as always. I just…” he sighed, “I just did nothing.”
He sounded so tired and distant and she wound up reaching over and taking his hand. “It’s okay, Derrick, one step at a time.”
“More like ten with you.”
She laughed. “Okay, ten steps at a time then. Either way, I’m going to help you, starting by getting you healthier. You aren’t eating right or sleeping right and going out and getting drunk and beaten isn’t good for you no matter what species you are.”
She let her thumb brush lightly over his skin and he hated to admit the contact felt good, that it helped ease a little of his suffering. He swallowed, still refusing to look at her. He couldn’t cry in front of her, she would just want to get closer and he was terrified of the implications.
When they had their food it proved to not be as terrible as he was expecting. If she was going to make him eat better he was glad some places could actually make that good. “We’re going shopping after this. I saw the inside of your fridge and you need food at home since I can’t come over for every meal. Plus, always eating out with you would be unrealistic.”
“Such a little snoop.” He was surprised at himself for trying to tease her and almost blushed over it. “I wont have time to snoop if you shower daily before I get there.”
“True, I guess that’s one way to make a man keep hygienic.” True to her word the next stop was the grocery store where she specifically bought certain things for recipes she knew by heart so she could cook for him on other nights.
They took the groceries back to his place and put them away, not wanting any of the cold food to spoil. Once everything was put away, Mae asked, “Want to go to the park or something?”
“Come on, we can go to my place and get Arges.”
He sighed. “I…I don’t know.”
“Come on, please? For me?”
His heart stuttered at the sweet smile she gave him and he felt his face begin to warm. What was wrong with him? She was so hard to say no to. “What would we be doing?”
“Just walking and talking. It’ll be good for you to get out and breathe some fresh air.”
“Alright, of you really want me to.”
“I do. Also, Reed invited Arges and I to dinner this week, want to come?”
He chuckled. “Ten steps at a time like always…sure.” They went out to the car then drove to her place.
Arges was excited to see her and she hugged him. “I missed you buddy!” She stood, finding his leash. “Come on handsome.” Derrick blushed again despite the fact she was obviously talking to her dog. The park wasn’t far so it didn’t take them long to drive over. Mae would have just jogged with Arges, but she wasn’t sure how Derrick would have felt about that and he was already letting her push him quite a bit.
“Are you sure they want me there?” Derrick asked as they walked along a path.
“Yep, I already told them I might invite you.”
“You really seem to have everything covered.”
“Of course, I want to give you a chance to heal.”
He huffed out an unemotional laugh. “How do you know I need healing? Maybe I’m just some loser.”
“I don’t believe that. I can see it in your eyes, how sad and scared you are.”
“Maybe I deserve it.”
Mae reached over and took his hand, surprising him. “Please don’t say things like that, no one deserves to feel pain.” He started to pull away, but she tightened her hold a little.
“Just let me, you need it, okay?” She smiled warmly up at him and for the first time in what seemed like forever, he felt butterflies.
“Okay, maybe just for awhile.” In truth he didn’t want to let go, he knew he needed her, even if it terrified him. It was hard to pull away from her. He began to wonder what she would think of his failure, of what he had done in retaliation, of how far he had fallen.
He knew she was eventually going to pry into that and he would tell her when that time came. There was no sense hiding it, she needed to know who she was around and maybe when she knew, she’d have the sense to move on and leave him behind. It would hurt, he was already growing attached, but he still felt like he deserved to be punished for eternity for failing his wife. She kept his hand the entire walk, not having to worry much about Arges since he was such a good dog. When Mae dropped him off she didn’t drive away until he was inside which almost made him chuckle. He was half vampire and this woman was merely a human but she was making sure he got safely in the house before she left.
Derrick moved his blanket into the dryer then went ahead and took a shower once he was inside so he wouldn’t get in trouble tomorrow. She had done far too much for him today and he wouldn’t have that again. Mae on the other hand kept thinking about that picture and wished she would have asked at the park. She guessed she was trying to give him a little more time before she tried tugging that out of him. She didn’t want him to pull away from her any harder than he already was.
Derrick ‘s night was restless, he tossed and turned as his thoughts jumbled together. He hadn’t had a drink since meeting Mae so it was hard for him to get to sleep. His negative, depressed thoughts were countered by those of Mae, of her smile, of the warmth she offered, of her stubborness that allowed her to work her way through the wall he had erected around his heart. He knew he should run away, should lock her out, but a part of him wanted more. He let out a sigh of frustration and grabbed his pillow and placed it over his head. He needed to sleep so she wouldn’t be worried. He didn’t realize he had fallen asleep until he woke the next morning to sunlight seeping through his window.
He got up, feeling a little groggy, but at least willing to face the day. He pulled on a pair of sweats and headed into the kitchen, knowing that even if he didn’t want to, he should eat. He put on a pot of coffee then pulled out the bacon and eggs she had bought for him. Mae was helping in pediatrics today, drawing blood and changing seats or taking some of the children for x-rays or CAT scans. There were a few infants being treated for addiction that she took the time to comfort. This was one of the more heartbreaking parts of her job, but she wouldn’t change it for the world.
She wondered how Derrick was this morning, if he had gone of drinking when he was away from her or if he was still asleep. She sent a text to Reed asking him if he could get Derrick’s number for her out of his file so she could check on him. He agreed, teasing her a little by asking when they were getting married and when they would like to come over for dinner. She smiled as she thought of the park and holding his hand, knowing that if Reed had seen that, she would have never heard the end of it. She also suggested they have dinner Saturday since it would give her more time to work with Derrick.
Reed let her know they were good for that day and they quit messaging so she could check on Derrick. She’d try to text him first since she was still working. “Hey, This is Mae Stuart, the annoying nurse. I just wanted to make sure you were alright. Call me if you need to. If I can’t answer I’ll call back when I can. I’m hoping you’re giving up drinking and I know sometimes when urges come it helps to have someone to talk to so you’re not only thinking about your addiction.” She slid her phone in her pocket then went back to her duties around the hospital. There seemed to always be something to do and she didn’t want to stand idly by too long, especially if she needed to accept a call from him today.
Derrick was just watching television, his mind blank and not really consuming what his eye saw. His phone going off pulled him back out of his head. He was surprised to get a text at all but then saw it was from Mae. He liked finally knowing her last name, “Stuart”. He couldn’t help but think of the adorable little mouse Stuart Little. As much as he knew she deserved better thinking she was cute wasn’t something he had any control over. He decided to go ahead and let her know he was fine. “I’m just watching TV.” He resisted the urge to tell her she didn’t have to check in, knowing it might only annoy her and he found himself deeply caring if she was upset.
When Derrick realized Mae’s work day was drawing to an end, he made himself get up and check that he looked presentable. He brushed out his hair, realizing he needed a haircut and even shaved. He felt nervousness creeping in, his heart thumping quickly in his chest as he waited. When he saw her pull up, his heart stuttered and he had to force himself not to meet her at the door. He could see she had Arges and the dog happily followed her to the front porch. When she knocked, he took a deep, steadying breath before going and answering. “Hey, you’re up.” She said with that beautiful, warm smile.
“Yeah, I have been since this morning.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Come in.” He moved out of the way and she let laughed softly as she moved past him and Arges immediately went to investigate. “How was your day?”
“Good, hard. I had to work pediatrics today.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, the kids are always so enthusiastic even when they’re sick. How was your day?” He shrugged and she moved closer and reached up, brushing his hair away from his face. “Did you eat today?”
“Yeah, I knew you’d fuss.” She laughed again and it had his heart tripping over itself. “So what are we doing tonight?”
“I was thinking maybe pizza and a movie?”
She took his hand, causing goosebumps to cover his skin. “You can say no, it won’t hurt my feelings.”
“No, you’re already here and I…I want you to stay…for dinner and a movie I mean.”
Her smile was once again gentle, even the way she looked at him. She had such a kind, nurturing nature. “Great, where do you like to order pizza from?”
“What do you normally get?”
“Extra cheese, pepperoni and sausage.”
“That’s perfect for me too.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I normally like mushrooms too but I can live without mushrooms.”
“We can put mushrooms on it.” She giggled and his heart stuttered again
“Okay, I’ll order one.”
“You’ve spent too much money on me already, let me.” Derrick insisted so she let him order while she browsed different streaming services on her phone.
When he was done she asked, “So how do you watch movies?”
“Netflix, Hulu, the normal stuff.”
“Want to rewatch Police Academy?”
“Are you trying to tell me you haven’t seen it?”
“Pretty sure that’s a movie sin.”
“Sorry, do you think the god of movies will smite me?”
She cracked a smile. “I think he’ll give you a pass, but just this once.”
“I’ll try to be better about watching movies then.
Derrick switched on the TV, choosing the Netflix icon and then finding Police Academy. They went ahead and got it started and he was surprised when she sat right next to him rather than at the other end of the couch. “Arges, come boy.” She called and the dog came running and settled at her feet. His heart was beating a million miles an hour with her this close and for the first time since their meeting, he noticed just how sweet her scent really was. It was shocking the way his senses seemed to focus on her and he felt heat moving up his neck with embarrassment and shame. Did he even have the right to desire her? To want to selfishly keep her close to him?
He didn’t know those answers so he was glad she wasn’t giving him much of a choice so the guilt wouldn’t overwhelm him. He ended up enjoying the movie, along with the entire evening, but the next night when she came over Mae decided it was time to bring up the picture, to get to the bottom of his pain. “So Derrick, when I was waiting for you to shower the other day I saw that picture on your mantel…who is that?” His heart sank a little in his chest when just moments ago she had him smiling. She hated to see the pain in his face but this was something they needed to discuss.
“She…was my wife.”
He looked away but kept talking. He had told himself he would tell her the truth if it came up and he’d stick to that. “She died a few years ago…some man broke into our home to rob us. He hadn’t known she was still inside, her plans had gotten canceled that day so she ended up home and he killed her…”
“Oh Derrick…I…I’m so sorry.”
He sighed. “And while the topics brought up you should know the other reason why I hate myself.” She hugged him and he let her, feeling he should enjoy it before she was afraid of him. “I tracked him down and I tortured him to punish him for taking her life. I…I had so much hate in my heart. All I could think about was hurting him for taking her away. When I was done dragging him through hell I drained him….I drank his blood until he died…..”
Mae held him a little tighter and he pushed his face in her hair, too scared to look at her. She must be horrified, she must hate him. “I’m so sorry, so…so sorry.” She said softly. “I can’t even begin to imagine what you must have gone through.” She pulled back, taking his face in her hands and gently wiping away the tears he hadn’t even known were there.
“I’m a monster, Mae and a failure.” He choked out.
“Shh, no you’re not. You couldn’t have known what would happen.”
“I killed a man, I…”
She pressed her lips gently into his, making his crying worse and his arms pull her as close as he could. He knew he should push her away, but he needed her. “Hush now okay? It’s alright, no one blames you, I don’t blame you. I have no idea what I would do if the one I loved was killed. I might lose it too.”
“I hate I couldn’t protect her.”
“You can’t be at someones side every second. If you were there, you would have protected her, but you weren’t at the house and it’s nobodies fault besides the man that killed her. He deserved what you did to him. I really do feel that way Derrick, a life for a life. You tortured him, but she must have been so scared. You put him through what he put her through and there’s no shame in that. You’ve never drained anybody else right?”
“See, you’re not a monster person or a failure. I think you’re so amazing I feel like I’m falling in love with you Derrick.”
“But…” She gave him another kiss and he hated he was being so emotional. It was so overwhelming talking about what had happened and having her here comforting him, loving him despite the darkness he knew lurked in his soul. “I don’t even know how to be a person anymore.”
“Then we’ll spend every day helping you rediscover what it’s like to live. It’s going to take time and patience, but we’ll get there. Ten steps at a time.”
He let out a little laugh as he wiped the tears from his face. It felt good to get everything out, to have that cathartic release of emotion. “Can you stay here with me tonight?”
“I have Arges at home, but if you want you can come home with me. We have dinner with Reed and Ezekiel tomorrow so it would be easier if we were in the same place.”
“Alright.” Derrick grabbed a bag from under the sink and threw a couple shirts, pajama pants and another pair of jeans inside then they both went over to Mae’s. Feeding him, making sure he had his fill of water then giving him a long walk and treats for being so patient with her visits to Derrick’s. Once her dog was fully taken care of they went to her bedroom.
“If you think you can behave, you can share my bed. I like to go slow, as in you’re really going to upset me if you try to get in my pants.”
“I wouldn’t try anything.” The thought of holding her excited him, he wouldn’t dare ruin the chance to cuddle with her all night.
“Good.” She smiled, happy he seemed okay with that and was glad herself to have someone to sleep with. They both changed, her in the bathroom and him in the living room then joined each other in her bed. He was nervous to pull her close so was relieved when it was Mae who closed the distance between them and laid her head on his chest. “Can you sleep like this or will my head feel too heavy?”
“I’ll sleep better than I have in years like this, please stay as you are Mae.” Shyly he added a question, “May I kiss your head?”
“Mhm, I said no sex, kisses are fine.” He reverently moved to kiss her, taking in her scent as he did it.
“I…I love you Mae.”
She smiled. “I love you too.” She knew it had to be hard for him to say, but she was proud of him for taking that step. She snuggled closer then closed her eyes, allowing herself to drift off.
It took Derrick a little longer to fall asleep. He feared waking up and this being all some cruel, alcohol induced dream. He held her a little tighter, needing the reassurance as he drifted off. The next morning, Mae woke to Derrick spooning her. They had both turned in their sleep, but he had kept her locked to him, his nose pressed into the back of her neck, his warm breath causing goosebumps to crawl over her skin. She tried to move and he let out a little groan as he buried his nose in her hair. She couldn’t help but let out a little giggle and he finally opened his eyes to the sound of her laughter.
He still didn’t let go. “Let me brush my teeth and start breakfast.”
“How can you be ready to move so early?”
“I’ve been getting up early my entire life.”
He couldn’t resist asking even though he felt undeserving. “Just a little while longer.”
“My breath might stink.”
“Your scent is far too wonderful for that to matter.” He sounded so sleepy, but so sincere at the same time. He had her blushing as he tightened his hold a little.
“Alright, a little while longer.” She answered softly. He was once again showing her he wasn’t a monster at all. Just a man in tremendous pain, a man who had done something terrible but just. They laid there for quite some time before she was much more insistent on getting their day started.
Once she came out of the bathroom he asked, “Can I shower?”
“Of course, do you need me to help you figure out things?”
“I’m sure I wont have any trouble, towels under the sink?”
“Yeah.” He got up and hugged her, needing her close again to prove once more he was here.
He did take too long in the shower, wanting to get back to Mae. He blushed when she giggled at how overenthusiastic he was upon coming into the kitchen. “That was fast.” She said. “I barely even had time to start breakfast.”
“I just wanted to be with you.” He ran his fingers through his still damp hair, causing it to spike up in places. “I hope I’m not becoming too clingy.”
“Not at all, it’s actually pretty cute.” She wanted to do everything she could to build up his confidence and lessen his anxiety. Starting a new relationship was probably the biggest step he had taken and she didn’t mind his need to be close to her. “Come here.” She said and he moved closer to her. She took his arms and pulled them around her, making his heart flutter. “There, now I can cook and you can smother me in affection.”
“I’m not in the way?”
“Not at all.”
He smiled, happiness flowing through him as he enjoyed the closeness. He couldn’t get enough of her scent or how good it felt to finally feel like less of a monster. She understood his choices, another being actually understood when he thought he would receive nothing but condemnation for his choices after his wife passed. He was also blessed with a new relationship with an astounding woman way out of his league. She was perfect, he could see that plainly and he was determined to try and become worthy of her and this chance she was giving him. He held her all through making breakfast then gratefully ate with her when it was done.
Mae spent the rest of the day taking him out to different places, wanting him to get out more and breathe in the fresh air. Whatever he needed to live again, she would find a way to provide it. Whether it be a hike through the woods or a therapist, she was willing to give it all. “How are you feeling today?” She asked as they strolled hand in hand through the park.
“Better, happier.” He answered, giving her a warm smile. “I never thought I’d feel that way again. I was drowning before I met you Mae, really and truly drowning. I can never thank you enough for saving me.”
“You saved you, you chose to take those steps.”
“But that’s not true. If not for your stubborness, I think I would have finally given up.”
She stopped and pulled him into a hug when he looked ashamed and he pushed his nose into her hair, just letting her scent take him away. “It’s okay, Derrick, I’m glad I met you when I did.”
“Never leave me, Mae.”
“I won’t, I promise.”
When it came time to head over to Reed’s home she knew they were in for a ton of teasing since Reed had called the relationship before it blossomed, but it would be good natured and she told Derrick just to laugh since he would just be playing. Arges was excited when she let him in the back seat of her car, but when it began to move he laid down like the well behaved dog he was.
“Wow.” Derrick was surprised.
“Yeah, he never gives me much trouble. I can take him anywhere.”
When they got to Reed’s Derrick was a little surprised when he introduced Ezekiel as his husband. It got a laugh out of Mae that had a blush creeping up his neck. “Did you think he had a thing for me?” She asked as they made themselves at home.
“Well yeah, I mean I was drunk and you two seemed so friendly. I thought Ezekiel was just a friend or something.” Derrick answered, rubbing the back of his neck.
“Don’t worry, it’s not the first time. Mae and I have been good friends for awhile, we even go shopping together sometimes.” Reed said with a smile.
“Still, I apologize for assuming and also for making you take care of me. I won’t be drinking anymore, even if it can’t damage my liver or anything else, I don’t want to worry Mae.”
“A little’s fine, Derrick, just no getting drunk. What if something even worse happened to you.” Mae said.
“Man, I still can’t believe you actually fell for him. I must be some sort of magical matchmaker. Maybe I should test that out next time I’m watching TV.”
“Reed, be good.” Ezekiel said with a chuckle. “You’re going to embarrass him to death.
Dinner with them was over all light spirited and happy. Even though this was the first time he was meeting them Derrick felt like they were already good friends and he was actually looking forward to more dinners over here. They stayed late, to the point Mae was almost nodding off so Reed said, “Make sure you drive Derrick, she’s too tired.”
“I will.” He took her keys and soon they were on the way back to her place to rest for the night.
Mae smiled when he even wanted to carry her inside. “So sweet.” She kissed his cheek and he kissed her lips.
“I want to take care of you too Mae.” As he held her that night he actually felt blissful. He’d never forget his wife, but he had a new start with an amazing woman, a new place, new friends and a better outlook in general. He hoped that if his wife knew what he was still up to in this world she would be happy for him and she herself was happy where ever she had ended up.
~ The End