One of the things you’ve come to learn about sleeping next to Alita is that the two of you share a special kind of synchronization. When you wake up in the mornings, she does too; though she often snoozes in the moments afterwards. Conversely, when she’s out late for a hunt you never fail to catch her goodnight kisses when she climbs in to bed next to you. You’re not surprised then, when you stir in the middle of the night. There’s movement next to you and as your foggy brain struggles through the web of sleep sitting over it, you feel the movement grow more frantic. In the twilight of the room you feel as much as see her twist and turn in the bed; eyes closed with her face contorted in- rage? Fear? It’s hard to tell. Your stomach drops as you recognise it: a nightmare. You quickly sit up, lightly touching her shoulder as you try to wake her.
“Ali- hey, wake up; it’s ok, I’m here.”
She lashes out and almost hits you, before slumping down as her eyes open. You can see the beads of sweat on her face. She starts to shiver as she asks with a shaky voice:
“What- what happened?”
You’ve seen her strength and fire; you know it well, but right now she looks small. Afraid. Your heart wrenches as you lie back down next to her and envelop her in a hug. She burrows in to your chest and you feel the shivering slowly subside.
“I think you had a nightmare.”
She grabs you a little bit tighter and nods.
“I don’t have dreams often but this one was awful. That’s a nightmare right? A bad dream?”
You gently stroke her back and her breathing becomes a little more regular. Your heart settles back in to place as the moonlight peeks through the gaps in your curtains.
“Yeah that sounds right. I used to have them a lot when I was younger.” Memories of past evenings spent scared rise unbidden in you.
There’s still a slight worry in her voice as she takes your hand.
“What if I go back to sleep and the nightmare is there?”
You smile a little and squeeze her hand in response.
“Here, you can fall asleep like this and I’ll protect you.”
Finally you get a smile out of her, and she closes her eyes as you lovingly stroke her hair. Eventually her breathing slows in to a deep, steady rhythm and you feel the weight lift off your chest. No more nightmares. At least, not tonight.