Aedan wasn’t sure when exactly he’d fallen asleep and Hannah had awoken, but it was sometime in the middle of the next night – Hannah had been out cold for nearly thirty six hours – when he awoke to the sound of soft whimpers coming from his living room. He frowned, walking towards it until he could make out the huddled form of Hannah, curled up on the couch and shaking.
“No,” she pleaded, moving without waking up. “Please, I’m sorry, I won’t do it again, I promise, don’t – Nico, please – white, it’s white, I know!”
"Hannah, wake up, it’s just a bad dream,” he said, nudging her to try to wake her up.
“White, white, white, whitewhitewhitewhiteRED!” she awoke with a scream, lurching away from Aedan before she even had time to see him properly.
"Hannah, it's me. You're ok."
Hannah blinked at him, taking deep, slow breaths. “How’d I get on the couch?” she asked quietly.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Are you okay?”
She whimpered, curling into his arms as he pulled her into his lap. "What happened?" She said softly.
"You were having a nightmare, and you just woke up. I was getting worried about you," Aedan said as he kissed her cheek.
She flinched away from him, and he paused as a sharp pain tore through his chest.
"Hannah, it's me," he said. "Don't you remember?"
She jumped away, scrambling to the other side of the coffee table, staring at him with wide, haunted eyes. "Don't touch me," she whispered. "I remember."
"What's wrong?" He asked.
She shook her head once, whimpering again. "I... I'm okay."
"You sure?" He asked.
"Come here," he whispered as he opened his arms.
She slid back into his embrace carefully, tensing as he touched her. "What'd they do to you, Angel?" He asked sadly, murmuring into her hair. "I wish I could get my hands on them."
She breathed shakily into his chest. "I don't remember," she murmured. "I don't remember anything."
"I'm here, I'm always here for you. I care about you more than anything in the world."
She looked up at him. "So did Aleski," she said softly. "Why didn't I remember that?"
Aedan sighed. "I don't... I don't know much, but I heard that talking about things like this... it helps. Do you want to try telling me what happened?"
“I don’t think I can,” she said softly.
“Just tell me what you saw,” he encouraged. “Let me take this from you, Rosie. I don’t want to see you in pain.”
She curled into his arms. “I was little,” she said softly. “I must have been nine, maybe ten. Aleski and I were… we were so hungry,’ she said softly. “It was winter, we were just so hungry.”
“What did you do?” he asked, keeping his anger down.
“I snuck into the pantry. There was a bowl of cherries,” she whimpered, curling up tighter. Aedan gently stroked her hair. “They were the brightest red you’ve ever seen, I should have known I wouldn’t get away with it, not in winter…”
“Shh,” he murmured. “Come on, Rosie, you’re doing great. I’m so proud of you for doing this. Let me help you.”
“He… They caught me,” she said, then broke off with a strangled sound, burying her head in Aedan’s neck.
"And what happened?" he asked, not sure if he wanted to hear the answer.
"He grabbed me by the arm and dragged me outside. I don't know what I was wearing, but it wasn't much and I was cold. He took me to this big pine tree and told me to face it, to put my hands on the bark and that if I moved, he would-" she broke off, biting her lip and shaking violently, shaking her head. "I can't," she said, slumping. "I'm sorry, I can't do it."
"It's okay, Rosie," Aedan promised. "Just keep going. Skip that part. I'm so proud of you."
"I didn't move, I was good, I did what he told me to do. He pulled my shirt off, and asked me what color the snow was. I told him it was white, it was the right answer, and he asked me again, and again, and again..." she let out a shuddering breath, curling in on herself as a ghost of the pain struck her. "He beat me with a bullwhip until my answer was Red."
Aedan sighed heavily and held her closer, rocking her gently as her breathing slowed and she listened to the rhythmic thudding of his heart in his chest.
“You should go back to bed,” she said. “I won’t be long.”
“I know a lie when I hear one,” Aedan answered. “I’m not tired. Let’s get some lights on, okay?”
She sat up and Aedan turned the lights on, and turned back to Hannah only to stare in shock.
“Jesus, Hannah, what did you do to your face?”
Hannah frowned, reaching up to her face, wincing when her hand met the deep scratch in her cheek that was slowly oozing blood. “Ow,” she muttered. “What the fuck?”
“Did you do that in your sleep?”
“I guess,” she said, blinking blearily as Aedan sat next to her.
“Shit, this is deep,” he muttered. “Stay here, I think I’ve got some alcohol to clean it out.”
She winced as he soaked the edge of a rag with the pungent liquid and pressed it to her cut, but he held it there.
“Yeah, I know, it stings like a bitch,” he said. “But this hurts less than an infection, I guess.”
He finished cleaning out her cut and smoothed an exceptionally long bandage over it. “There,” he said, sitting back to admire his work. “Better, Rosie?”
“Hannah,” she said softly.
“That’s my name,” she said. “My name is Hannah Marie Solomon.” She looked up at him, fear making her green eyes gleam. “You can’t tell anyone,” she said. “I just… needed you to know that too. They wouldn’t let me have a name, back in Kiev, but Roach taught it to me. My name is Hannah Marie Solomon.”
Aedan smiled, holding out a hand. “Well, Hannah Marie Solomon, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said.