“Ah’m sorry,” he said.  “Ah’m on edge.  Ah’m spooked.  Ah can’t calm down.  Ah shouldn’ta said what ah done.”
“And you can’t stop thinking?  I feel like that, all the time, and I have for a while.”

“They had Aisha.  So much ta what ah’ve done, ah done ‘cause ah wanted ta s’port her.  Make up fer the fact that ah wadn’ there when she done needed it, before.  Only we’re puttin’ her in mawr danger, and she don’t respect me ‘nough ta let me keep her outta danger.”

I turned around.

“And long as ah’m bein’ hawnest and upfront,” he said, “ah was thinkin’ about you when ah had mah trigger event.”

I swallowed.

“Ah ain’t fixin’ to lah and say ah’ve suddenly reelahzed ah’m in love with you.  Ah don’t really know what ah feel, so ah can only comment on what ah think.  Ah can say ah respect you on a lot ta levels, even if’n ah can’t figger you out.”

“Sure as hell didn’t sound like you respected me thirty seconds ago.”

“Ah worry about you.  You throw yerself into these situations lahk you don’t care if’n you dah, lahk you got nothin’ ta stick ‘round fer ‘cept fer those people ye insist on protectin’.  Dinah, the people from yer territory.  People you barely know, if at all.  And then you actually make it out okay, so you do it again, only mawr so.  Riskier stuff.”

I folded my arms.  This was uncomfortably close to what he’d been saying before.

“Ah start thinkin’ ‘bout how ah’m s’posed ta protect you, get you ta stop, get you ta focus on a goal that’s actually attainable, ‘cause you’re so capable that you could be amazing if’n you stopped actin’ all suicidal-lahk.  Then ah get pissed at mahself and ah get pissed at you, ‘cause ah can’t figger you out, and you move forward so fast ah can’t keep up.  Ah let mah guard drop fer one evenin’ ta focus on other things, and then ah fahnd out you done gotten in a faht with Mannequin.”

“It’s not your job to look after me.  If you want to get on my case because I’m putting you and the others at risk, that’s fine.  It’s your right to yell at me for that.  But don’t make me feel bad because you can’t be the macho stallion, protecting me.”

“That’s not-” he stopped.  “No.  Ah’m tryin’ ta say ah think about you mawr than ah should.”

I looked away.  I might have asked whether he thought about me more than he should because he cared, or because I was a fuck up.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear the answer, either way.

“Stay?  When ah asked you ta keep me company, ah was bein’ genuine.  Rather not be alone with mah thoughts.”

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