He stumbled to her, crashing down onto his knees beside her. “Esmeralda,” he begged as he picked her up, holding her body close, “Please.”
He felt her jerk, and he pulled away just as her eyes snapped open and she gasped in a breath.
“Oh God!” she screamed, grabbing at the front of her dress, “It hurts!”
“Ikki!” She looked at him desperately, hand becoming red and slick with her blood as she held her chest, “Ikki, please, it hurts!”
His brain couldn’t keep up. He stood with her in his arms, still in a daze that she was alive. He broke out into a run as she buried her face into his shoulder and screamed, hot tears dripping onto his skin. He took her into Guilty’s hut, looking around in confusion at the unfamiliar surroundings. He placed her gently on his cot, before pulling her hand away from her chest as she hiccuped loudly, unable to catch her breath. “There’s too much blood, I can’t tell anything,” he said, “I have to stop the bleeding, wait!” He got to his feet, grabbing the first piece of cloth he found before placing it against the wound, holding it there tightly.
“It hurts, God, it hurts so much,” she whimpered, and he took her bloodied hand in one of his.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized over and over, “I’m so sorry.”
She rest her head against the cot, crying silently. He squeezed her fingers, just happy she was alive.
He gently pulled the cloth away, dabbing at the spot. Esmeralda hissed, and he covered the wound again, before placing her hand over it. “I’m going to get water. I promise, I’ll be right back.” She nodded, and he quickly got up, rushing outside to the well. He pulled up the bucket, carrying the water back into the hut and kneeling down beside her again. He found a rag, and dunked it in the water, the blood on his hands turning it a faint pink. He slowly moved her hands away, taking the cloth and tossing it aside before wiping lightly with the rag. “I…I can’t tell if it’s still bleeding, because of your dress,” he said awkwardly, I’m just going to rip it a bit okay? I’m sorry.”
She shook her head, “It’s fine, please, just…it hurts.”
He nodded, and ripped the hole in her shirt a little larger. The wound on her breast was the size of his fist, but when he pulled the fabric of her dress away, the bleeding seemed to have slowed. He took the rag again, patting the skin, and he could feel the beginning of shaky relief.
“I don’t think it’s very deep,” he told her, and she looked down. She put a hand to her face before he could stop her, smearing blood on her cheek. “I think it missed anything important,” he added, rinsing the rag and wiping more blood away. She sniffed, and he looked around the sparse room. He saw an old shirt and he picked it up, tearing it into strips with his hands and teeth. “Can you sit up?” he asked, and she lifted herself slightly, and he moved to support her. His hand pushed down the shoulders of her ruined dress, and he began to slowly wrap the shredded shirt around her torso in a makeshift bandage, being careful not to apply pressure or pull too tight. She hid her face in his neck, arms loose around his shoulders as he finished the knot.
“Esmeralda,” he said gently, nudging her, but she didn’t move. “Esmeralda? Esmeralda!”
He woke up drenched in a cold sweat. He looked to the spot beside him, the faint light coming in through the window illuminating her face. He reached out, holding his hand near her mouth, and relaxed when he felt her breath against his skin. He dropped his head onto the pillows again, staring at the ceiling in silence.
“Was it a bad dream?” her voice was soft, and he turned as she sat up slightly.
“It wasn’t a dream,” he said, eyes shifting to the collar of her shirt as it moved, and he saw the edges of the scar that marked her chest. He looked away, saying with a note of bitterness, “It was a memory.”
“Oh,” she murmured.
He rolled onto his side, resting his arm under his head. “I keep having nightmares about it. Over and over,” he admitted, and Esmeralda touched his shoulder.
“Maybe you should talk about it?” she suggested, and he looked back at her, “Maybe you feel like…there’s something unfinished.”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he turned away again, brows coming together irritably, “I hate thinking about it, why would I want to talk about it?”
“Because you haven’t slept well since we left the island,” she tried to reason, “I hear you calling my name in your sleep, and you wake up over and over. Ikki, please, just-“
“I thought you were dead!” he said louder than he meant to, whipping around to face her. Esmeralda’s eyes widened and he grit his teeth, flopping down onto the bed again. He covered his eyes with his arm, forcing the words out. “Esmeralda, I thought you were dead.”
“I know,” he heard her whisper, and when he lifted his arm, he saw her rest her hand over the spot he knew the scar lay, “I…thought I was too.”
He took her hand, squeezing it gently. She tried to smile, but it was weak, and he frowned. “I don’t want to remember it anymore.”
He remembered her scream, remembered the blood. Remembered the way she fell limp in his arms as the wound in her chest stained everything around them. He also remembered the hate, the fear, the desperation as he went after Guilty because he felt like there was nothing left to lose. Feelings that burned hot and deep beneath his skin, that felt like fire as he released everything he had. It was a feeling he still felt sometimes, in the pit of his stomach.
He hated it.
“I don’t want to either,” she told him, and she looked down at the blanket, “I don’t want to remember how much it hurt, or how scared I was. It still scares me,” she admitted, and lifted her gaze, “I just want us to find some kind of peace.”
Had he ever felt peace? It was foreign to him, the thought of being able to relax. He didn’t think he had ever experienced peace.
No, he was wrong. He had. He remembered the feeling of relief he felt when he went back to her side after he thought she was gone and she breathed. It didn’t matter that the next moment she woke up from the shock screaming, clutching her chest in pain. It didn’t matter that the wound healed over into a scar, one that she hated and hid from him no matter how many times he told her it was fine. None of it mattered because it meant that she survived, that she was alive and they had continued on. She was alive.
He let out a deep breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. She tilted her head slightly, and he pulled her close, wrapping his arms around her tightly. She relaxed into the embrace, resting her head against his collar, and slipping her arms around him the best she could. He pressed his face into her hair, and breathed deeply.
“We will,” he muttered under his breath, and she sighed.