Title: Time of Doubt

Summary:She doesn't want to. What if she is? She has to look. But what if she isn't?

Rating: T

Notes/Warnings: Post-154, partway through the time-skip. Some potentially sensitive subject matter ahead.

Word Count: 500

Browser history neatly laid open in tabs, folders, bookmarks. The outline is there, the paths available to her. As a journalist, she knows the necessity of research. Perhaps Angela would be perfectly happy with cutting corners (inventing interviews) and misleading through statistics, but she is Carly Nagisa and she always wants to do her very best.

Always wants to be the best person she can.

It's almost eleven forty-five. She should be sleeping. Tomorrow is a busy day. Carly reaches for the mouse, consults one of her tabs. Memorises as much as she can. She finishes the last of her tea – it's cold, now – black with sugar and lemon just the way he always makes it – and lowers the laptop lid. A click, and the standby light starts to flash. She slides her chair back, carries her empty mug to the sink. She'll wash it with the breakfast things in the morning. The lemon slice finds its way to the bin. It takes all her self-control not to peek into the bedroom as she passes it by and steps instead into the bathroom.

She doesn't have to do it now. It can wait until morning.

She said that this morning too, and the morning before that. Procrastination will change nothing.

While brushing her teeth she counts down the minutes. There goes number two. She spits and rinses. Mechanical, she runs the head of the toothbrush under the tap for five seconds, dries it on a corner of her t-shirt (a childhood habit), replaces it in the cup set aside for this purpose. She turns the faucet a little higher and splashes water over her face. Thirty seconds left.

She doesn't want to. What if she is?

The choice is there. Look. Don't look. But if It is, then is it really a choice? She grips the sink's white rim, fearful eyes refusing to turn towards It. Instead she lifts a hand, struggles with the unruly mass of her hair; lowers it again, and tugs at the waistband of her pyjamas, settling it a little higher on her hips. The timer beeps. She jumps at its intrusive sound, and scrambles to silence it. A lance of pain spears her big toe; she stubs it against the medicine cabinet in her haste to get to the portable clock. Usually she uses it to time eggs. That thought seems very funny now.

A minute has elapsed. Warnings run through her head. Carly retreats to the corridor, and this time allows a glance into the bedroom. He is asleep, bare to the waist, head turned to the window. She knows, if she could see his face, he will be frowning, eyes dark with jetlag and the self-imposed stress of always having to be the best, to be number one, the King. A true King, she thinks, and smiles.

She has to look. But what if she isn't?

She lifts her head, borrows a little of his confidence, returns to the bathroom. It is waiting.