She finds him curled around himself, wiry limbs compact and tight in the computer chair. The harsh blue light of the monitor pulls out the bags under his eyes into sharp relief, but even with the exhaustion that pours from him like a scent, his eyes stubbornly refuse to shut.

"What do you want," and he's so tired that he can't even muster the strength to make that a question.

"I just wanted to see how you were. Sheesh, so jumpy." She leans close and exposes her teeth in a casual grin, but he doesn't even frown at it. At this point even anger has left him—he is without passion, without color, just a big gray smudge of nothing.

She needs to fix that.

"H-hey, what—." He jumps in surprise as she wedges her way into the oversized chair. Somehow she manages to jackknife her own bony body alongside his, until they're a tangle of awkward adolescent limbs cramped into one chair. His shoulders are stiff, but after a few seconds they slump.

She turns and grins into his shoulder. "Even jerks like you need a break once in a while, you know."

He doesn't move. "I don't deserve that much."

She e x h a l e s , so dramatic. "Guh, shut up," and she leans up, tipping her lips to meet his for just a breath. Every cord in his body goes rigid, and with a spidery hand she strokes his back until she feels them go soft.

After a moment she pulls back to settle against him. "You deserve better than you think you do," she grumbles, head against his. That almost makes him laugh. But he doesn't let go.


For once time really does seem to stop. As she lies in his lap he becomes a camera, every blink of his eye holding her image in a CD-4 second. He maps the gentle curve of her cheek, the twitch of her eyelashes like the flutter of fledglings. Absentmindedly he strokes the side of her face, and under the thick blanket of sleep she smiles, shifting into his touch.

He of all people knows she's nowhere near as fragile as she comes off, but for the moments like these he makes believe, stealing these scattered seconds to pretend he's some sort of hero. It's selfish, stupid, but for just a little while he doesn't care. As he holds her he can carve a fairy tale out of this twisted story.

And maybe, just maybe she deserves it a little. Maybe she, the she that squirms in sleep, migrating up his chest, wrapping her arms around him—-maybe she craves a little contact.

(and maybe he does too, but god forbid he'd admit that)

Soon they'll get up, move forward towards who knows what, but right now the moment is his. Theirs. He wraps a hand around her back like the wing of a mother bird, counting the seconds.


"I might have…" Her eyes scan the blue skies. "I may have overreacted."

"Shhh, don't stress," he says. "Only rest now."

"No, I definitely overreacted," she goes on, eyelids drooping under the weight of exhaustion. "I just…I never wanted to make any of you worried, I just needed to make things right."

"I know." He runs his fingers through her hair in long, soothing strokes. "And you did."

She grimaces. "Petting someone, while on the surface a comforting gesture, can also be seen as asserting your dominance over someone."

"Oops!" He looks down with a wide grin. "You caught me."

Rolling her eyes, she blows her bangs out of her face. "May I stand now?"

"Mmmm….nope." He moves his hand to her temple, lavishing it with slow strokes as well. "You still have an hour 's worth of bedrest left. Doctor's orders." He gives her another grin. "Not to mention a few minutes of pal-hugs."

She groans, clasping her forehead with a hand. "No, oh god, not the hugs, anything but the hugs. Unless 'the doctor' has a few gallons of glucagon lying around I won't be able to take another diabetic shock."

"Well…how about a massage?"


"…if you must."

She sits up, shifting to lie against his chest. He's warm, perhaps from the quickening of his heart—or perhaps it's just his nature. Carefully his hands move to her shoulders, and his thumbs work circles against the knots in her muscles.

"You're fortunate that you make a good pillow," she states, eyes slowly shutting. "Or else I'd have no reason to keep you around."

He laughs