“I missed you.” It was too simple a sentence to explain everything but it was all I could think of to say. David turned to face me from near the bed, his shirt still only half buttoned since I had interrupted him. “I missed you and when Jack came back without you I…“ My voice cracked, and I couldn’t even be bothered to be ashamed of it. David was standing in front of me and whole and alive and that’s all that mattered. “David.”
“River.” It was all he said, and it was all he needed to say. It was the way he always said my name, with care and understanding, one part laugh, one part scolding, one part resigned sigh, one part celebration. No one ever said my name the way David did, and it took me far too long to realize he said it with love. I covered my mouth with my hand as I started to cry and slid down the wall behind me until I was sitting on the floor. “River?” This time there was an edge of panic as he rushed towards me.
I took my hand off my mouth and held it out towards him. “It’s okay. I’m okay. It’s just—You’re alive, David. They told me it was unlikely, I didn’t want to hope, but you are alive.”
“I’m alive,” David repeated as if he didn’t say it, it wasn’t true. He sat down gingerly next to me. I reached out and pressed my palm against his skin under his unbuttoned shirt so I could feel his heartbeat against my skin. I tried to ignore the fact that both the tips of my fingers and the heel of my hand came into contact with Annie’s gauzy bandages. He was going to be scarred when this was all said and done, but I could feel the gentle thump-thump of his heart.
He pressed his hand against mine, trapping it between his chest and fingers tightly. “For what it’s worth, I missed you too. I knew I couldn’t die. You made me promise to never leave without saying goodbye, remember? I hadn’t said goodbye.”
I laughed and I felt his heart beat a little faster. “David I was seven. Are you ever going to let that go?”
“You were livid that I’d left that birthday party without saying goodbye. I’ve never seen a seven-year-old capable of such rage—and it wasn’t even your birthday party. I can only imagine the rage you could have mustered if I’d died on you. You’d find a way to resurrect me just to give me a proper telling off and kill me again. I figured if I just stayed alive I’d save both of us the hassle and it would make it so you don’t have to sell your soul to evil for resurrection purposes.”
“I appreciate that—you know how much I hate hassle,” I replied as off-handily as I could manage with the remnants of tears still on my cheeks.
“I do know, which is why I’m so glad we didn’t go out and join a behind the scenes war against the religion both our parents are a part of which is likely to lead to death and or imprisonment.” David smiled, pulling my hand from his chest and setting it on his knee so he could finish buttoning his shirt, before scooping it back up to hold it between his own. “That would just be far too much hassle for either of us.”
“David, do shut up.”
“Oh, River.” My name again. Beautiful. “That didn’t work when we were seven either. What makes you think it would work now?”