And when Maverick called him that – humoring him, appeasing his silly, pointless little whims as usual – it still wasn't the same.

Instead, the simple, stupid little nickname – 'Bunny', spilling like something almost sour from his surrogate father's lips – only made him ache. A peculiar ache, at that; not like something in his muscles from a long day's work (a long day's work with whom? something was there as well that Barnaby awkwardly couldn't place a finger upon). No, instead it was an ache deep in his chest, making his heart thump faster, harder, until it seemed to beat upon the walls of his flesh as if trying to escape, trying to speak.

Barnaby didn't sleep.

Legs tangled in the sheets of Maverick's spare bed, eyes trained upon the ceiling and hands curled into a pillow that was likewise clutched close to his chest, Barnaby wondered why, why that silly little nickname hurt him so, pained him so – made himwant so much for something he wasn't even sure existed, or if he was just…

Bunny.

Bunny-chan.

You're just like a cute little rabbit, hopping around and with those ears -

Eventually, he dosed off into thoughts of warm smiles and hands that tugged on his curls to watch them bounce back and lips that melded against his own like they were meant to be there all along, face pressed to a pillow that was now wet from salty tears and annoyed huffs of breath as Barnaby simply couldn't figure out why he was crying.

Maybe he had been working too hard, just like Maverick said.