Honey, The Baby's Crying
Term papers littered the office, finding hiding places that had never before been observed in the Ancient Studies office. Nigel lifted his head from the desk, unable to ignore the loud crack of his neck where he had been hunched over the papers for so long. Coming back from a four day, utterly exhausting trip to Russia, the last thing that he wanted to do was face the backlog of term papers which were due the following afternoon. Half of them still required grading, and though they'd trudged back into the office at five o'clock, passing Karen as she was about to lock up the office for the night, they'd decided that there really was no other choice but to pull an all-nighter to get them finished. They decided to skip the lecture the next morning to finish them up and then have the papers marked and ready for the afternoons lecture. It hadn't even seemed like a good idea at the time, but they had no choice.
He was regretting Russia. He was regretting Russia badly. It had been a wasted trip, with the relic they were sent to authenticate being a spectacular fake – so convincing in fact, it had been identified in minutes by Sydney and Nigel, but not by their rival hunters who had proceeded to track them down and make their lives hell for the three days that followed it. After three nights of taking it in turn to catch a few hours sleep at a time, followed by a frustrating wait at the airport and then a plane trip full of a noisy bachelor party and screaming babies, all Nigel wanted to do was climb into his own bed and take a week long nap. But instead, they were staying at the office and falling onto their not-so-comfortable desks. Karen had passed them on the way out, leaving the office unlocked and promising to call in take out for them to be delivered to the university, and they had set to work.
Miraculously, he made it to morning without falling asleep at his desk. Apparently he'd had so much sleep (and so much coffee) that he'd gone through the point of being tired and was simply existing without being able to move very quickly. Overtired and stressed to the extreme, he just wanted to get through the afternoon lecture and go to sleep. He was considering getting a few hours in before the lecture, but wondered whether or not he'd be able to wake up again after resting his head.
He stood from the desk to make some coffee, and once he had another cup full in his hands, he went over to Sydney's office, intent on delivering her some. Last time, roughly around five o'clock, she'd heard him moving across the room and had called out to request some, but when he made another cup at six-thirty she'd been silent. He assumed she was engrossed in her work, but as he stood in the open doorway to her office, he discovered the real reason for her silence.
Sydney's was sprawled delicately over the top of her desk. It appeared as if she had fallen asleep resting on her hand and then simply collapsed down from there – still fast asleep. One arm was outstretched beneath her head as a makeshift pillow and the other was laid gently before her face. He first gazed upon her with jealously, and a little resentment that he'd been up all night grading term papers and she'd clearly been asleep for at least a few hours, but his expression changed when he noticed that in her sleep her face had a wash of relaxation covering it. Rarely did she look this vulnerable, and he always enjoyed it when she did. He was, after all, one of the only people in the world who had ever been allowed to witness her more sensitive side, something she reserved only for those closest and most trusted. Her face was aglow from the sunrise coming in through the open blinds, spreading the morning warmth across her cheeks. Her dark hair was spread around her, tousled and tangled from the ferocity in which she ran her fingers through it when she was exhausted.
The word escaped his lips without meaning to, and he looked around to see if anyone had heard. Of course, Sydney was fast asleep and no one else was there that early. He allowed a smile to cross his lips when he entered the office, and instead of placing a coffee on her desk as he intended, he picked up the jacket she'd discarded the night before and draped it across her shoulders. It wasn't a cold morning, but he knew that she always felt the cold more when she was tired, and clearly she was exhausted – she never fell asleep in the middle of something, as monotonous as term papers could sometimes be. He worried for a moment that she would wake up, but instead she nestled into the new weight and let out the smallest of sighs. Once he was sure that she wasn't going to wake up he returned to the doorway and leaned against it with his coffee, allowing himself a rare moment to watch her.
He wasn't sure how long he remained there, but soon enough, it was eight-thirty in the morning, and Karen was coming back into the office.
"Morning," she smiled at Nigel, seeing him wandering back to his desk after yet another – he dreaded to estimate the count – trip to the coffee maker.
"Morning again?" he asked, sighing heavily.
Karen winced at his expression. "How long has it been since you've slept?" she asked.
"I honestly don't recall," he mumbled, collapsing back down into his chair. "Sydney's sleeping though."
"Oh," she said, instantly lowering her voice and peering into the office. "...I don't think I've ever seen her asleep before. She looks so...un-Sydney."
"Hmm," Nigel agreed, looking past her into the office again. "Papers are all done from the look of things, thought I'd let her sleep a while longer."
And so they did. For another hour they begun to go about their day as normal, with Sydney's office closed so she could sleep away for a few more hours. Nigel decided to try and catch a quick nap on his desk but couldn't find himself to be relaxed. Every time he got uncomfortable against the top of the desk he ended up starting right through the window in Sydney's office and seeing her peaceful face and feeling envious that she was sleeping so easily and he could barely keep his eyes closed after struggling to keep them open for so long. But after an hour, they knew that she needed to be woken, yet neither of them wanted to do it.
"Just do it!" Karen hissed at him. "Just go in there, put the coffee down and run back out here."
He rolled his eyes at her. "Karen, she's not a zoo animal."
"Then what do you suggest? We just shake her to wake her up?"
"Not advisable," he shook his head. "I've shared too many hotel rooms with her to account for that not working unless you want a knife at your throat."
Karen shot him a sideways look. "You've shared hotel rooms?"
"When the occasion called for it," he said nonchalantly.
She smirked at him. "Many occasions calling?"
"Karen, please," he moaned.
"Ok, then, how do we wake her?" she asked.
Nigel was silent for a moment, and then an image, so old and so far in his memory that he was surprised to remember it, crossed his mind. "My father had a rather unique way of waking my mother up," he told her.
Karen raised her eyebrows. "Sure you want to share this?"
"Oh, nothing like that!" he insisted when he realised his wording. "What I meant was, it was interesting. My mother always used to fall asleep in the living room when she was reading and he would lean over to her, whisper something to her and she would bolt upright, wide awake with her arms in front of her. Then she'd pretend to hit him while he went off to bed laughing."
"What did he say?" she asked. "We could try it on Sydney."
Nigel looked at her warily. "She's likely to kill me if I do."
"Is it that bad?"
"Between a husband and wife, not at all...but I have parts of my anatomy that haven't fulfilled their biological purpose yet and I'd hate for Sydney to remove them and keep them in a jar."
Karen rolled her eyes at him. "Oh come on, she may as well have them in a jar already."
He turned to her. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means you're too scared to say it to her."
"You don't even know what it is!"
"Just do it!"
And back at their original argument, Nigel had no other choice. Sucking up what little bravery he had at the time, he went over to Sydney's side. He'd already put a lot of thought into what he was about to do and had his exit already planned. Then, he held his breath and leaned down but Karen hissed out to stop him. "What?" he snapped back in a loud whisper.
"It's not right!" she said. "If it was something between your parents it had to be something vaguely romantic and intimate, right? You have to say it right."
He gave her a pointed look. "Karen, I am not my father and Sydney is not my mother. This was supposed to be fun!"
"And it will be!" she insisted. "As long as you do it right!"
Nigel sighed, his eyes rolling yet again as he leant back over Sydney. Karen was right, to pull this off he had to get it just right, he had to make her leap up which meant he had to be convincing. Taking a deep breath, he edged his fingers towards her hair, sweeping it over her shoulder to reveal her ear, she shifted slightly in her sleep, smiling gently. Perfect, he thought to herself. Leaning close, he let his lips unintentionally brush her ear for a moment, sending a jolt through him as he whispered those words that had amused his father to no end:
"Honey, the baby's crying."
Instantly, half-asleep and unaware of the prank, Sydney bolted up from the desk and started to look around her. Karen burst out laughing and Nigel bolted from the door. Realising what had just happened from the frightened yet highly amused look on her assistants face, she narrowed her eyes tiredly. "That's nasty, Nige."
"I'm sorry, Syd, but it was..."
"So funny," Karen blurted, before running away to her desk hiding her laughter.
Now somewhat alone, Nigel grinned. "It was rather amusing."
But Sydney still frowned, still sleepy and confused. "Why would a man do something like that to a woman?" she asked herself aloud.
"My father used to do it to my mother," he explained.
"I imagine she used to beat him afterwards," Sydney mumbled.
He laughed. "A little, yes."
She glared at him again. "I will be getting you back for this," she promised.
"I know," he nodded. "But it was worth it."
And later, after their afternoon class, she did get him back. She'd wondered how she was going to get her revenge but Karen had suggested it in the end, and it hadn't taken long for him to fall asleep on his desk after they'd made it back into the office. She was just about to get ready to go home for the day when she spotted her assistant collapsed over his desk very un-gracefully. Karen pointed it out that now would be the perfect time and Sydney wandered over to him.
She leaned over him, and ran her hand through his hair, enjoying the gentle smile that tugged at the corner of his lips. She left her fingers curled into his hair and put her lips purposefully against his ear. "Sweetheart?" she asked him, feeling the shudder that ran through him. He made a moan of acknowledgement, and Karen began sniggering behind her hand. "Wake up, honey, the baby's crying."
She was expecting him to bolt up, she wanted him to react the same way she had done, but he didn't. Instead, he snuggled into the desk surface and shook his head against it. "I got him last time. Before six-o'clock he's your son."
If Karen had laughed any louder, she'd have sent off the fire alarm.
That evening, under the cover of darkness in the bedroom, Sydney found herself lying on her side in the bed. She was not alone. Though she was facing the window away from him, it didn't take long for Nigel to shift over into her side of the bed and he certainly gave her no warning as he slipped an arm around her waist. She didn't question him or move away.
"That was a bad trick, Nigel," she told him.
"I know," he smiled to himself, leaning over her and turning off the lamp, plunging them into the black of night.
"One day that won't be so funny," she warned him.
"One day?" he questioned.
"One day it really will be your turn to get up."
His arm disappeared from around her and she felt coolness against her bare back from where he had moved away. She rolled over to lie on her back and found him leaning over her, propped up on one elbow. Even in the dark, she could make out the concerned, puzzled frown on his face. "Syd, you sound an awful lot like you know exactly when 'one day' is," he told her cautiously.
She reached out a hand to place on his neck, threading the tips of her fingers into the fine hair at the bottom of his scalp. "Perhaps I do," she whispered, looking deeply into his eyes.
The look spoke volumes, and he transformed slowly from looking confused to looking pleased. He smiled, and leant over her to place his lips upon hers. When he pulled back and he was hovering over her, he whispered his words of love to her and she returned them. Their tricks upon each other had been cruel, but Nigel had never known the future truth behind them when he started this game. Much more cruelly to Karen – she hadn't even been told that they had been seeing each other, let alone that the night before the left for Russia, Sydney had accepted his proposal.
There was very little words that came to his mind right now, so he just kissed her, and kissed her, and kissed her until they ended up entwined tightly with one another. Satiated and sleepier than ever, their lips touched one final time before they curled up into one another and fell into the much needed sleep.
"I meant what I said," Nigel murmured into the quiet bedroom.
"That you love me and I'm utterly amazing?" she questioned tiredly.
"No, not that you aren't, but I meant what I said about six-o'clock. I'll do late nights, but God, Syd, please don't make me get up before six-o'clock!"