The First Cracks

from Shattered Web

Galain's breath exploded from him the moment Y'Roden and Rhagi left the room. The tension that had held him rigid momentarily drained away and he sagged, gingerly sitting on the bed and clasping his wife's hands.

"He handled that a little too well," he said quietly.

Ghet watched Ro leave, her eyes full of feelings even she couldn't catalogue. "He has things he has to do," she said quietly, finally returning her gaze to her husband as he took her hands. "Keeping busy helps. It will all come out though, just not where anyone can see." She gave a half-smile, fighting to delay the inevitable. "I can make him yell if you'd rather. It's a talent I have, making him completely crazy."

She pulled her hands back, fighting hard to find the defenses she normally wore with perfect ease. So broken, but she only had to hold on a few minutes more. "You should go then."

Galain had given his wife his own faint smile, shaking his head as she spoke. He'd rather not be around when Y'Roden did explode. The smile disappeared though when Ghetsuhm removed her hands.

"I should go, but I shouldn't," he said quietly. He needed to find a way to rescue Tay and he needed to stay right here and hold Ghet's hands. For a moment he wished he could simply tear himself in two. For another moment he wished he could just collapse right here and not have to worry about anything, not juggle the love he had for both wives, not maintain the delicate balancing-act his dual marriage required.

He shifted and looked away.

"Will you be here?" he asked.

Temper flickered in her eyes and then died. "I don't know. I don't really see why. I might head out to the cottage. Ro can keep Rhagi safe, but not me. And Thorn would, I'm sure, be happy to see the back of me at the first possible opportunity." She shrugged. "There's nothing here for me, is there? And if you do get Tay back, it'll be easier for all of us if I'm not here." An odd look came over her face, mixed emotions warring for what remained of her fragile psyche. "I want to make things easier for all of us. I'm so tired, Galain. I can't go on like this."

She'd given up her dreams a long time ago, when she'd agreed to go back to Galain after he'd regained An'Thaya. She wished they would stop haunting her, that the little voice that told her she deserved better would just go away completely. "You need to be able to concentrate on Tay. Not that that seems to be a problem. You don't need to be torn in half all the time." She reached out and took his hands again, and worked the ring she'd given him off his finger. "For now."

Galain's breath caught and his face contorted with soul-felt pain. He stared at their combined hands and then gave Ghetsuhm a silent, agonized look. The brokenness within his wife was something he couldn't ignore and the smile that crossed his face suddenly was twisted with self-loathing and frustration.

"Right. For now," he said, the words bitten out. Ring or no ring he was married to her and the absence of the metal circle would do nothing to keep his attentions wholly focused in one place. Unless she shut him out, he would feel her, know how she was doing, where she was.

He moved away, hands clenched.

"If you're not here, I will find you," he said. It's never going to be easier. I love you. I choose to love you every day.

Needless to say his finger felt bereft without the ring and his stomach muscle twinged. Love warred with love and the elf had the sudden desire to just run. Instead he gave Ghetsuhm a miserable half-smile.

"I will try to find a way to bring her back," he said. "And then... I want my damn ring back."

Well, Ghet fully intended to shut him out the moment he left. She couldn't bear his pain, or her own, or Tay's... she was too weak. I love you, too. It has to get easier. It has to.

She leaned in and touched his face, her eyes full of tears. "Do what you need to do. And then... when things settle down, we can work out if you're having it back."

The smile slid off Galain's face and he just nodded then, reaching out to catch her tears.

"Cormamin niuve tenna' ta elea lle au'," he said. He stood up suddenly and headed toward the door. His heart would indeed weep until he saw her again.

A night and a day on Whispin could really drag, especially if you were awake for all of it. Ghet had sat a lot, laid down some, meandered, but... 

She was stuck, unable to go forward, because she didn't know where she wanted to go. She'd never wanted another lahaya so much in her life. Actually, she'd never wanted another lahaya at all, but now, now she needed someone to make the walls for her, to give her a safe place and help her find the way out of her feelings, the maze of pain and grief she was trapped in. 

There was no-one else. She'd tried so hard to find her own way out. She'd told herself she was over-reacting, that Galain loved her, that things would come right and she'd look back on this and wonder why she'd been so stupid. It didn't change the way she felt inside. 

She kept Galain's ring, and her own, in a pouch around her neck, tucked between her breasts. She couldn't wear them, and she couldn't put them away, either. She didn't want to lose him. She wasn't sure she could bear keeping him. 

She hadn't had a good cry. She'd had several bad cries, a few silent bitter tears. She was angry at Galain, angry at herself, angry at Fate for doing this to her. She was just lying on her bed, trying to pull good memories out of a mass of misery. 

Galain himself had just exited from a portal, exhausted. He and Adarin had taken separate routes, each intent on their own children, Adarin assuring his nephew that he would check on Jaiden and her children as well.

He sagged against the doorway for a moment and then quietly stepped inside, conscious of her presence, her very scent. He found her on her bed and he paused to watch her, his heart hammering. Then he slipped forward and knelt beside the bed, reaching out to caress her hair. 

"Vessė?" he asked quietly. 

Ghet startled. She hadn't heard him come in. She hadn't felt him come in either, which was worse, but then it was her own doing. She still held their bond choked down hard. She rolled and sat up, the grief and weariness on his face tearing at her. "Galain? What are you doing here? What happened?" 

"Too much," he said. "A lot." He sank back and just brushed his fingers over her hand now. "Are you all right?" he cast his gaze up at her, not quite able to get it together to speak yet. 

The sheer banality of the question connected with a roiling core of frustration in her. Grief came out as anger. "Of course I'm not bloody alright! When was the last time anything was 'alright'? You've done your duty. I'll tell you what, I'll say I'm fine, and then you can piss off and go do whatever it is you actually want to do, because you've made it pretty damn clear that's not 'be with me'." 

Galain recoiled and sat back, staring at Ghetsuhm. He opened his mouth to speak and couldn't find the will to force any words out. Instead he looked away and went very still, his jaw clenching as he tried to gather his thoughts together. 

"What I want to do is stay right here," he finally said. "I'm tired, I miss you." He finally looked up, misery filling his eyes as he gazed at her. "It was a stupid question," he mumbled. "We're not all right. Not at all." 

Ghet's anger was all pain. Her pain, and the pain she knew she was causing him. She should wait, but then, the time would never be right. She'd been waiting for things to calm down enough for her to talk to him since they'd come back from Tenobrous, and it hadn't happened. Even here, shut away from the rest of the world, she felt like they were still caught in this storm that wouldn't let up. "You want to stay here. An'Thaya sent you away again, then?" 

She bit back her next words. Hurting him more wasn't going to help. Unless it did. Unless he needed to be hurt before he got it. "You made me a promise," she said quietly, her voice pained but level. "You promised me you would never take me for granted. You promised me you would never forget about me. And then you left me alone to die. Where do you think we should go from here? You've had so much from me, do you really need my self-respect as well?" 

Galain got to his feet and crossed his arms over his chest, flinching when Ghetsuhm threw her words at him. Yes... Tay had sent him away again. He ground his teeth and listened as Ghet spoke again. 

"I don't know where to go," he answered truthfully. "I feel split in two. I want you to have all of me, I want her to have all of me and it's just not possible. One moment I'm focused on Tay, the next on you and I think... I see... it's not enough." He covered his face with his hands, then ground his palms against his eyes. 

"I do not take you for granted. I have never forgotten you. But I don't know what to do, Ghet. I screwed up when I left you alone. Gods I screwed up." His hands dropped away and he stood a moment, his shoulders sagging. "I want you. I need you. Ghet, I know I'd die without you." 

His heart felt like it was in his mouth as he spoke, frustrated at how trite the words sounded to his ears. 

Ghet stood, and put her hands on his arms, while she searched for the words. "Galain, let me tell you something. You go with your gut instinct. It's just what you do. And in my case, your gut instinct means you go. But I guess somehow I always just believed that, if I was ever seriously hurt or in trouble, that you'd be there. That was a delusion, and I need to get past it.  

"Galain, please don't lie to me. You wouldn't die without me, and you know it, because you'd still have Thaya. You're not prepared to run the risk of losing her, because you know you  might. Jaiden, Mysti, Adarin... Honey, you're in a terrible position, I know. I do understand, and my heart aches for what you're going through. I feel awful for An'Thaya, though to be honest, mostly simply because of what it does to you, even though I hold her dear. When she's not punching me, anyway. But you know in your heart that you'll never lose me, so if it does come down to a choice..." She shrugged. "You know whom you can afford to walk away from." 

She looked up at him, and there was a certain hopeless pride in her face. "I don't choose, Galain. I can't choose. I don't choose to love you, because I can't choose not to. It's not within my power. You can walk all over me, and I'll still love you. I wish you loved me as much as I love you. Hell, I wish you loved me as much as you do Thaya, but I'm not going to stop giving you everything I have because of it. I just... sometimes it hurts. It hurts now, it hurts so much. I want to walk away from you, I want to at least be able to consider it. I want to be strong and in control and more or less heartless like I used to be when I was married to Chase. And I'm not." 

Galain was bowing his head, letting all of Ghet’s words flow over him. He shook and felt sick to his stomach. He went with that stomach and it made him feel more sick. It was what he did? Just go and hell be-damned? But he’d truly operated that way and he had never, expected there would be a fork in the river. He thought he’d head straight toward his love or just keep on cruising. 

He’d cruised a lot. 

“I love you,” he said. Then he paused and looked away before he stared hard at her. “Ghetsuhm. You can’t choose, but I must.” He paused and shuddered. He ached for Tay. 

“Ghet. I will not leave you again,” he said and suddenly he went to his knee and looked upward. “Ghet. Vessė. YOU are in control and you are strong. But I want to be your strength. I want to be there when your control hits its limit.” 

He couldn’t answer the rest. He was recoiling from the idea of walking over her. Gods, the very idea of Chase brought a horribly visceral reaction.  He drew away slightly as he thougth of Mysti, Jaiden and Adarin. He hated them. Very deeply inside he resented and hated them. She might claim him as first, but he felt last. He was tired of it all and confused. Frustrated. 

“Where the hell are we?” he asked suddenly, drawing back closer and feeling absurdly melodramatic. He drew back slightly, then slipped back toward her. 

Resigned and exhausted, Ghet slid to the floor and leaned against the bed. 

"Where are we? I'm here. In a few days I'll go back to Nenlante and my son and a bunch of people who hate me. I don't know where you are. I don't know where you'll be from one day to the next, and neither do you." She shrugged. "You're tired. I'm tired. I'm thinking, if, when I first got with Y'Roden, if someone had said to me, 'You sleep with this guy, you'll spend the rest of your life with demons trying to kill you,' well, I still would have done it, but at least I would have known what I was getting myself into." 

She sighed. "I don't often need hand-holding, and most of the times I've needed it you've been right there. But... I'm sorry, my love. I wish I could just get out of this. I wish I could just, through sheer will... trust you again. And I don't." 

Galain crouched down on the floor before Ghetsuhm and watched her intently as her words settled over his soul and left him feeling cold and aching inside. 

"Ghet," he started to speak and stopped a moment, then plunged on. "Ghetsuhm, I love you. I want you and need you. I have to have you. 

"I'm not going to leave you again. Not like I've done. And... I don't expect you to trust me. Not for a while. I do charge around, reacting to one thing, then reacting to another. I need... I need your hand in mine to keep me from doing that again." 

He leaned forward and cupped Ghet's chin between his fingers. 

"You keep me anchored," he said. "You may think I'm lying or just dealing with this particular moment, but I mean it. I will not place you last again." 

His fingers slipped from her chin to caress the side of her face. 

"You're not last. You're my wife," was all he could say for the moment. 

His tenderness broke her down, and Ghet cried, turning her face to kiss his hand. Words. Yet she'd always been a sucker for his words. Her tears ran across both their skins, the iron control that held their bond closed faltering, breaking, pain and love flowing both ways.

"I am your wife," she acknowledged, her voice ragged, but it was also a challenge. "Be proud of that. You ever apologise for loving me I'll personally kick your arse up through your spleen. Give me passion, give me pride, and gods, we'll heal the wounds between us, we just have to." 

If ever a dam break was welcomed, it was the one that had blocked their souls from each other. Galain gloried in the golden joy of their rejoined bond, shuddering and leaning forward. 

"I am proud that you're my wife," he said. "I will never apologize for loving you or choosing you." Never. He took fierce pride in this woman and he felt something clicking deep within him. 

"We have to do this more often. I mean... not precisely like this," he spoke aloud again, giving Ghetsuhm a lopsided smile. He couldn't understand why she looked blurry to him until he wiped at his eyes and dashed away the tears that had been lurking there. 

Ghet laughed; wry, more than half a sob. She didn't know how long it would last, but she wasn't such a fool as to choose pain when she could have happiness. She saw his pride, and leaned in to kiss him. "Not like this, no. The price has been too high. But still... I'm glad." She curled under his arm, against his chest, the best place for her. "I guess I could let you stay then," she said lightly, her words teasing round him. "I could probably find something for you to do. I think the gutters are blocked..."