It took him a few seconds to register that he’d thought the L word, and he wondered about it, but his brain wasn’t clear enough to figure out anything.
Meanwhile, Hunter had said something, and Mitch had completely missed it. He shook his head. Hunter sighed. “I said, because I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get you out of my mind easily enough to tell you to go fuck yourself. And I’m a little too stubborn to give up on you anyway.”
“I don’ gettit.” Mitch’s words ran together even more now. He needed to sleep. His eyes drifted closed, and he tried to force them open again, but he wasn’t sure if he succeeded, or if he was just seeing outlines through his eyelids. That happened sometimes.
“I know you don’t.” Hunter’s voice was growing more distant. “I’ll explain in the morning. Get some sleep. I’m going to turn off the lights.”
“Wait. No.” This time Mitch did manage to open one eye. “Need li’ on. Mine.”
“You want me to leave the lamp on beside you?” Hunter said. Mitch nodded, and Hunter turned off his own lamp. “Okay. I’m shutting off the other lights though. We don’t need those on, right?”
Mitch nodded again. He just needed a little bit of light to keep the monsters away.
The second Hunter left the bed to switch off the other lights in the room, Mitch’s heart stopped. He was alone. “Stay.”
“I’m not leaving,” Hunter said. “Just shutting off the lights. See?” He killed the light in the bathroom, which left the room illuminated only by the small lamp hanging above Mitch’s nightstand. Then he got back into bed. “I’m right here, Mitch. I’m not leaving you.”
His voice was so gentle it brought tears to Mitch’s eyes. For a moment Mitch was afraid he would break down like a little baby. He couldn’t let that happen. Hunter would consider him weak and whiny, and then he would leave regardless of what he said.
“Hold me.” Mitch wasn’t sure he’d said it out loud. He hoped not. He hadn’t meant to.
But Hunter nodded and moved closer to him. “Solara said you don’t like to be touched.”
“I don’…” Mitch trailed off, trying to wrap his brain around what he was trying to say so he could get the words out. “Know y’ere.” He hoped Hunter would be able to translate the last as know you’re here, because that was as clearly as Mitch could say it.
“You want me to hold you so you know I haven’t left?” He held out one arm. “Come here. Can you sleep if I’m touching you?”
“Dunno.” He wondered how Hunter knew he’d had trouble sleeping in the past with someone else in the same bed. It must have just been part of the magic of Hunter.
“Let’s try,” Hunter said. “Put your head on my chest, and I’ll just keep one arm around you so you can move away if you need to.”
Mitch scooted closer to him. He’d never been able to sleep in the same bed with another person. Sometimes he couldn’t even sleep with someone else in the same room. It was impossible to know what they might do to him.
But Hunter wouldn’t do anything. Mitch couldn’t have said how he knew it, but he had absolutely no doubt. He rested his head on Hunter’s chest, and Hunter’s arm curled around his back. A strong arm. One belonging to the man who would fight all the nightmares. The man who would protect him.
“I’m right here,” Hunter murmured. “You can get up if you need to. I’m not going anywhere.”
The last few words trailed into fog and haze as Mitch gave up fighting the pills. His eyes closed by themselves, and he didn’t know anything more.
He had no nightmares.