3AM, Shiptime

I had to open my arms and let Tom go. He was struggling too hard to take any comfort from them. There was no way to know who was holding him in this nightmare. He never cried out and he claimed he never remembered that he'd even had them. He did. He'd go to sleep in my arms as usual, and sometime in the night he'd start to move. Everyone does, of course, but not this way. His arms and legs would flail out as if he were fighting something or someone. I sleep lightly. No first officer or captain is able to sleep deeply. I'm told it's the same for parents and for the same reasons. So, when someone shares my bed I waken at the least twitch. I consider that part of the price of love and just go back to sleep. Of course, this wasn't a twitch, and I was wide awake. He was too deep in the dream to be woken. I'd tried that. Usually, I could gentle him back to safer dreams, but this time I couldn't even do that. I touched his shoulder. He didn't flinch so I left it there. "Tom?" He grunted. He could hear me. "Tom? Shhh, it's me." He surprised me. "No!" He'd never said anything before. "Daddy, go way!" I could feel my blood freeze. There was no one in the entire universe I hated as much as I hated Admiral Paris. I stroked my lover's arm. Now Tom did flinch. "No. Please, no! Stop!" It had to be my touch. I had to do something. I couldn't stand the thought that my touch was bring this back to him. One day, I vowed, I'd kill that son of a bitch. No, this anger wasn't going to do me any good, and Admiral Paris would be long dead before this ship came into port. I took some deep breaths and centered myself. Think. You have to bring him out of that nightmare. You can't talk to him or touch him, and you certainly can't hold him. He's tossed off the covers again, so you can't wrap him up as you did a few weeks ago, and he's getting cold. Then it came to me. I got out of bed, grateful for the dim light that Tom preferred. A little light never bothered me, and it made my pretty one happier. That was enough for me. I walked around the bed, and found the blanket on the floor. I wrapped it around my own shoulders. Finally, I got to his side of the bed. I waited until he faced me and carefully kissed his lips, touching nothing else. This was the one thing that belonged only to us, and it worked. He calmed immediately and responded to my touch. His eyes opened, gray in the dimness. "What'cha doing there with all the blankets, big guy?" I laughed and climbed over him back to my side of the bed.

copyright 1997 Debra Fran Baker and NightRoads Associates

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