I climbed wearily, already fantasizing about my bed and how comfortable it would be in the lavender-scented darkness. When I got to the top of the stairs, I realized it wasn't as dark as it had been on the first floor because the light was still burning from under Derek's door.
What was he doing up? He hadn't gotten a good night's sleep in days and when we finally get to safety he stays up? I went up on my tippy-toes, wondering if he'd hear me. Creeping along as silently as I could, my fingertips brushing the heavy old wallpaper, I looped back around the banister and headed for his room.
I opened the door cautiously and peeked around. Derek was sitting with his legs drawn up, his forearms resting on his knees, in a chair he had pulled next to the window. The cool night air rushed to meet me in the doorway.
"I heard you even before you dropped the book," he said without even looking towards me. A little quirk at the corner of his mouth. "Nice try, though."
The door closed quietly when I pushed it and I ventured further into the room. "Why are you still up?" The cold air wrapped around me and I shivered, the hairs on my arms rising. I crossed my arms over my chest as an afterthought. Thanks to puberty my arm hairs were no longer the only things that reacted to the cold.
He looked over, and I guessed I was forgiven for earlier. "I can't relax enough to sleep. It's like I'm on overdrive."
Without asking, I snagged a sweater from the bed and casually slipped it on as I turned around to clamber up onto the high mattress. Nipple situation solved, I thought triumphantly and settled with my legs crossed.
"Well, you've been protecting us since we left," I reasoned. "But you need to rest up now, while you can."
"Don't you think I'm working on it?" he asked grimly, rubbing his forehead with the heel of his hand. He looked exhausted.
"You won't feel sleepy freezing in that chair. Now, close the window and come lie down."
With a look that I can only describe as outraged, he glared at me from under his lashes. "Chloe…" he said in a warning tone, drawing my name out.
I hopped off the bed, crossed the room and pulled the window closed before turning around to face him. "Get up."
"No," he said while crossing his arms, looking like a sulky child with awesome biceps.
I am usually a patient person, but not when I'm tired. Derek needed to get his rest before he collapsed from exhaustion. We all needed to be in fighting form, and right now he was a danger to himself and us. I grabbed his arm with both hands and yanked. "Get into that bed now."
The ease with which he complied was actually pretty comical, but since I was on the verge of losing my temper, my amusement at the way he hustled in between those covers would have to wait. I stomped along behind him and hauled myself back up on the high bed, plopping next to his hip.
"Ok," I growled at him, some distant part of me howling with laughter at the contrast between my words and my tone, "now relax and sleep." He just stared at me, his eyes unreadable, then he stretched out and pulled the covers up, his eyes tracking me as I reached over and turned off the lamp.
The dark was really soothing and even the lingering chill was pleasant. As I calmed down I started humming a little to myself and I felt his body ease. Finally. His breathing grew slower and more regular and I found myself patterning my own to match his. After a few minutes I started to feel sleepy myself and I stretched out on top of the covers, only intending to stay a few more minutes to make sure he actually stayed in bed and slept.
"Chloe?" His voice was low and sleepy and I started to feel bad for ordering him around.
"Yeah?" I whispered, tucking my hand under my cheek, staring at the mountain he made under the covers.
I bolted upright, straining to see his face in the dark, but I couldn't. I wanted to poke him and make him repeat himself - because I couldn't possibly have heard that right - but he was sound asleep.
It was easier than I thought to wait to make sure he was actually sleeping because my mind was playing his words back again and again. After almost a half hour, I stumbled back down the carpeted hall to collapse in my own bed, forcefully putting my questions out of my head.
As I dragged the quilt up my legs I realized I still had Derek's sweater and even though it'd take torture to make me admit aloud, I cuddled up in it and inhaled deeply as I let the dark wave of sleep slide over me. There was comfort in that.