Title: Observer Effect
Characters: Yukawa Manabu and Utsumi Kaoru.
Summary: Sometimes the change doesn't happen to the observed. Spoilers for episode six. 798 words.
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She's not prone to falling asleep in the lab. Sometimes, however, Yukawa becomes aware that the quiet has gone unnatural, and when he drags his attention away from his computer or student papers, there she is, her head resting on her outstretched arm, mouth open and eyes closed. Utsumi doesn't look like a child when she's asleep, as so many people do. It is rare for her to look at rest and usual for her to have a furrow between her eyebrows, like she's struggling with things in her sleep.
It's impertinent to watch her like this, to consider her with such close regard. She is, however, asleep, and she can't tell him not to stare like she would if she were awake. The thought of how she might react is usually enough to break the way his attention is caught by her face. There is beauty there, in the asymmetrical symmetry of her features, the way her eyebrows soar over the dark curve of her eyelashes, the slight flatness of the tip of her nose, in the way the angles and planes all meet: the triangles, circles, and parallelograms of her features. There's no formula for her face, yet.
The first time he'd seen her asleep was when they'd been trapped in the cargo hold of that ship. It was understandable that she had fallen asleep, of course, as hard as she worked. It was still unexpected, he recalls, to have said something and received no answer. When he'd checked her, then, she'd looked exhausted, faint smudges under her eyes noticeable even in the shadow he cast over her. It would have been cruel and unreasonable to wake her. So, he'd gone back to where he'd been, a vast space between them, and checked the time on his watch. He hadn't laid down. She'd woken on her own, when the clanging of approaching feet and cries above their heads had sounded loud enough to startle him from the restful reverie he'd fallen into, and made her sit up, disoriented. She'd been asleep four hours and twenty-three minutes.
Even though she does possess the ability to be quiet when need be, she is not patient, and she is loud, and she talks too much. When she's asleep, she's none of those things. She may not look like a child, but she looks bereft, like she's lost something of herself in sleep that she only has when she's awake. If he leaves her alone long enough, the anxious look she wears will fade, as she slides deeper into sleep. She sleeps like the dead, then, and not even calling her name will wake her.
It has now become a familiar oddity to find her there across from him, her eyes shut, the slight rise and fall of her form her only movement. Now, watching her sleep starts a tight sensation at the base of his skull, a reaction he can't explain, but he knows what it signals: the urge to shake her awake, and get her out of his lab, out of his space, and away. Despite it, he has never roused her in that manner. He's never been able to, though he has tried, a hand hovering above her shoulder. There's something too personal in even the thought of it, as though it would violate the trust inherent in her action. He falls back on an alternative method. There are, after all, numerous thick books around that make a satisfying and thunderous sound when dropped.
She always apologizes when she wakes up. He always has his back turned to her when she does.
One day, she will be asleep, like usual, and he won't be able to resist, like he has before. One day, he will reach out, like a child with an outstretched finger to something new, something with the potential for harm, but still too peculiar, too fascinating, to leave alone.
One day, he will reach out, and the tips of his fingers will graze her cheek, the warm soft curve of it. It will be done before he can take it back or even consider how foolish he's being. The only change in her breathing will be a short stutter which will fall back into regular deep breaths. He will be quiet as he walks backward, before turning and finding his way back to his seat behind his desk. It will be a long fifteen minutes before he stands, to find that thick book and slam it on his desk.
She will ask if she fell asleep again. He will say she did and chide her for not going home, when she so obviously needs rest. He will pretend he did nothing, but he will not forget. The tremor in his hands won't let him.