It was a gruesomely long night - watching for her - waiting for her to appear - wondering if he should just knock on her door - if she would open it to him - wishing on a star. The physical and emotional toll took him into the arms of Morpheus and he slept the sleep of the walking dead - in hellish dreams. She came to him, calling his name, crying, soft sobbing tears wetting his face and neck. I'm waiting for you, my love - arms empty. I'm waiting for you, my love - body aching.
He sat up with a start, something inside him woke him - a sound. There were tears on his face that weren't his own and he knew her soul was crying.
They waited till the witching hour, and the FBI agent used his master key set to open the door to her room. It was dark and cold, the air conditioner set on high, a small bundle huddled in the middle of the bed. Paul quietly approached her, relieved to see her, saddened by her fetal position, a sure sign that she was still frightened, and knowing he had caused her to flee. The back of his hand brushed her brow and he frowned to find it wet and then was alarmed when he realized it was burning.
"Puss," he murmured, pulling her into his arms, his hand caressing her face, his lips at her temple. "Puss, I'm here," he said to her feverish face, the feel of her in his arms jolting his body back to life.
He wanted to take her home and nurse her back to health but he knew he couldn't do that. If she woke up in their bed because he had brought her home, it would have been his decision that changed their relationship - she'd think he had wrested control again. She had to come home on her own.
So he settled into her room for the long haul, dipping her into a cool bath to get her temperature to drop, forcing aspirin down her throat. He held her in his arms, murmured soothing sounds when she was fretful, stroked her face and back and gave her his strength and gentleness.
In one moment of lucidity, she smiled at him. "I needed you and you came to me," she whispered before being drawn back to the fires of hell.
"Come back to me, Puss," he whispered to her sleeping face. "I need all of you."
She cried in her delirium, frightened cries that pierced him with their intensity. Old fears mixed with new ones warred in her mind, her breathing ragged, her heart racing as she tried to break away from him. "Don't make me do this," she moaned, her body writhing in agony. "Don't tie me up. Don't whip me again." And when her breathing eased, she hissed at him. "I'll get away from you if it's the last thing I do. You're mean and cruel. I DON'T DO CORNERS! You won't chain me there again!"
"Why, Paul?" She asked another time. "Why did you beat me? I thought you loved me."
Two days after finding her, he lay in bed with her and held her in a loose embrace, letting her wiggle and squirm, and heartsick, listened to her pain. Some of it had been buried so deep, he was hearing it for the first time. Whenever she calmed, he bathed her, forced more aspirin down her throat, and gentled her with loving hands. Getting her to eat was a challenge - he settled on room service soup. He took a mouthful, then, with one hand on the back of her head and the other gently parting her lips, he covered her mouth with his and transferred the soup from his mouth to hers. She instinctively swallowed. He did this over and over several times a day until she swallowed enough to survive.
Six days after the brutal spanking, her butt was fading red and purple blotches edged in black and blue. With his arms around her, she had purged her fears, both her body and her mind paying a heavy price. When she was lucid and coherent again, she didn't ask how he found her, merely pulled his arms around her and accepted his loving presence.
"I'm not me any more," she whispered, her face buried in his warm chest and the gentleness of him. "I thought I'd wring my heart and see if there were any more tears, but I don't have my heart. I gave it to you to keep."
He smiled sadly at her words, she had expressed his own feelings toward her."And I'm afraid," she said so softly, he strained to hear her words."Afraid of what, my sweet Puss?"
"I'm afraid to look too hard inside myself. I don't know if I still have a soul or if it's left me. I might be an empty shell."
"Will you come back to me?" he asked, fearful of her answer, exposed, forcing himself to ask, to gamble his peace of mind, his love, his life.
"Do you still want me?"
"More than ever," he said softly, cupping her chin, his lips rubbing against hers, his hand gently stroking her neck.
"You still love me even though I ran away?"
"I've never stopped loving you, Puss. I never will."
"Do I have to stand in the corner?" she blurted out.
"Are you going to spank me like that again?"
Silently, he looked at her, trying to find the words that would convey his feelings and he couldn't. "No, my love. I will never spank you like that again. I WILL spank you, but not like that."
"Why did you change your mind?" she asked quietly, relief that he wanted her making her giddy and light headed.
"You are my heart, my soul, my joy in life," he said fervently, cupping her face. "You are my Achilles' heel, my inner self, my other half."
"Your Achilles' heel?" she questioned, unsure of his meaning.
"You are the most vulnerable and the most precious part of my existence, Puss. I'm incomplete without you. You are my everything. Please come back to me."
"When are you leaving to go home?" she asked, not wanting to be alone.
"Tomorrow," he said. "You should be strong enough to be alone by then."
"I'll never be..."
"You will," he insisted. "Please come back to me."