When Naomi called him up from Dorset later that month, he simply put in for a long due holiday and booked into a Bed and Breakfast near the vicarage for two weeks.
Things certainly began to look brighter. Marcus drove down on a rainy day, but stayed only for a short visit, muttering under his breath about the damn English weather.
Naomi’s wounds were healing well, and she started talking about returning to work far sooner than Paul had hoped. But he knew that what she really wanted was distraction from the nightmares that were still plaguing her. He could understand that only too well.
As soon as she was physically able, she took up her training again, working harder than ever on her martial arts skills, almost frightening Paul and Marcus with her determination not to be vulnerable.
Paul tried to spend as much time as possible with her, but he knew that she was trying to keep their relationship slow, she was much too serious about it to hurry things, and he decided to give her as much time as it took – he was sure it would be worth it.
In May he was assigned a tedious case in Yorkshire. He had tried everything to get out of that one, not wanting to leave Naomi alone in London, but in the end he figured that solving the case himself would be quicker than any complaint.
His friendship with Marcus was based on trust now, strange as it still seemed to Paul sometimes, and Marcus had decided not to disappear but had started discussing Naomi’s work with her. “Helping,“ he called it. Naomi referred to it affectionately as “interfering”.
Apparently quite a lot had changed in Medieval Studies since Marcus had been a student, and their discussions tended to get quite heated from time to time. To Paul’s surprise though, that was exactly what they both enjoyed about it, so he left them to it after trying to act as mediator once and basically having his butt kicked by both of them.
What Paul didn’t know, was that it was Marcus who heard Naomi awake screaming almost every night.
When he couldn’t bear it any longer, he stepped out of the shade and made his presence known to her. He tried to calm her down. “Naomi, it’s alright. Buyden’s gone. No one can harm you, you’re safe.”
She almost fainted with shock at the discovery of Marcus in her bedroom. “What are you doing here?”
“Just making sure you’re safe. I… also love to watch you sleep.” His tone sounded embarrassed.
That had the opposite effect of calming her down. “You do what? Are you telling me you’ve done this before? How is that supposed to make me feel safe?”
“I’m so sorry to have frightened you, it was the opposite I intended, but clearly I overstepped a mark here.” He turned to the window.
Naomi stopped him. “Wait, will you jump out the window now and turn into a bat? Now I’m all awake, you can tell me what’s going on.” She pulled her legs up and turned to him.
“I just wanted to protect you, that’s why I stayed around your house after you got back from Dorset. Then I heard you were having nightmares, and somehow I got it into my head – I think I remembered something from long ago – that waking up alone is not good after a nightmare… now I’m all in a muddle.” He smiled sheepishly. “You look nice when you sleep. And you hum.”
“I hum,“ she nodded. “Aha. Is there anywhere else you’ve been watching me?”
“Absolutely not. What do you take me for?” He sounded righteously appalled at the idea. “I’m a gentleman.”
Naomi bit down a smile. It was impossible to stay angry with him for any length of time. “Fine”, she said. “But if you ever repeat a word I speak in my sleep to anyone, you will regret being immortal.”
“As if I don’t already do that,“ he murmured too quiet for her to hear. “Do you want me to leave? I cannot do anything about the bat thing though; I’d have to find a way to practise for that one.”
She chuckled. “If you promise not to startle me like that again, it’s ok.” She snuggled down into her covers.
From that night onwards, she left her bedroom window open for him at night and relied on him to quietly say “He can’t hurt you anymore, love” every other night.
Sometimes they just spent hours talking until she fell asleep exhausted, and Marcus kept looking forward to the nights with her. It got easier all the time, and he found himself dreaming of a life close to Naomi.
Then after some weeks, the nightmares ceased, and Naomi went back to her peaceful deep sleep. Marcus didn’t mind, as long as she didn’t send him away.