“I’m really not okay,” she whispered into her shaking palms, grey eyes beginning to water even as she clenched her jaw tight.

She didn’t know what letting go would feel like, but she knew she wouldn’t make it out alive if she fell apart now. The words seemed foreign to even admit, but somehow she knew she couldn’t deny them anymore.

Still in the dim light of fading candles and the flash of lightning outside, he sat frowning at her. Carefully, as if she might shatter with the slightest implication of his touch he reached out; holding his breath for a reaction he wasn’t sure he could predict.

His arms were warm against her shoulders and gentle, even as she tensed with the contact. No, this wasn’t right. She was a fortress. She was a terrible, formidable storm that would rip him apart. She was dangerous. Don’t come so close!

He didn’t flinch. Easing her carefully into his strong embrace while the thunder crashed and rolled about them. Her body shuttered, rippling with the raging heavens, but when her cheek pressed against his neck and his hand lay at the back of her head, stroking her hair slowly, that cord in her chest finally snapped. She turned her face into his skin and let out an ugly sound of rage and pain as it ripped through her core. All these years pretending nothing touched her. Acting like she was so strong, so heartless and cold. All this time pushing away the sting and squaring her shoulders like they weren’t broken under the weight of every betrayal and abandonment and cold whisper from the darkness.

Now it shredded through her with a vengeance and she thrashed against the darkness and sobbed and choked, stuttering on air that hurt to breathe in suddenly. All the while he held her close, unhindered and warm, rocking her slowly.

“Don’t fight it,” he said on an exhale and kissed the top of her head. “You’ve fought for too long. Just let go.”

She shook violently on the torrents of anguish. Tears and tears and tears endless to the memories stabbing her mind. Her guts ached; blunt hits off the clubbing loneliness cracked her ribcage in three places and she sucked in a quick breath. How had she let it get this bad? She never meant to go so far into that pool of lies. It was only the little things. The unwelcome touch, the loss of this friend or that, the judging looks and angry whispers, the backs leaving her behind. It wasn’t supposed to hurt at all. Now her lungs were collapsing and she was hiccuping on sobs and he was holding her too tight for the pieces to break off and God, why did it hurt so much?

The storm raged on outside, flashing light through the room; illuminating her broken bones and bruises and defining his calm, peaceful eyes. She wasn’t ready for this. She wasn’t going to make it. She was going to die.

But he wouldn’t let her go and all the shattered parts were melting and she couldn’t cry anymore. She simply lay there shaking, breathing heavily with her eyes squeezed shut and her nails digging into his arm like she would fall off the face of the earth if she let go.

 His gentle hand brushed her cheek, thumb tracing the bone. “Open your eyes. Look at what you’ve done,” came his soothing voice again.

A spike of fear. Of guilt. What had she done? Easing one eye open slowly, then both shooting open wide.

A mass of silver tipped feathers catching in the light of a flash of lightning blanketed over the two, shifting as her shoulder lifted. Cold air hissed on her skin when the mass moved and she shot straight up; the wing curling about her body in warmth. Confusion. Hot tears again, not in pain but in awe. Who would have thought an angel could fall so far from grace and still grow back the strength to wield such a powerful gift as her soft, swift wings?