For the h/c bingo prompt "exhaustion"


"Nolan."

"Immmawake," Nolan mumbled, trying to lift his head, his mouth dry and his throat sore. He'd fallen asleep at the keyboard again and his neck didn't want to cooperate. His right hand flexed as he tested it but his left, crushed against the keys for hours, was numb.

David Clarke watched Nolan with concern in his eyes. "You spent all night here again."

There was no anger in David's tone and no point lying, so Nolan said, "I lost track of time, working on that bug –"

David held up one hand and Nolan fell silent. He'd managed to sit up now, and lean back in his chair. His neck and shoulders were still protesting though and his left hand was taking its revenge for such ill treatment by sending vicious cramps through his palm and the sensation of a million pins and needles through his fingers. Nolan massaged the back of his neck with his good hand, wincing as he did so.

"You're exhausted. Go home and sleep. Take a shower. Eat something." David's gaze fell on the irrefutable evidence of Nolan's poor dietary habits; a dozen unwashed coffee mugs, four empty bottles of soda, and a heap of candy wrappers. "You can't live on caffeine and sugar."

"I can. Not well, admittedly," Nolan began but David gave him the Parental Look of Disappointment and, to his own amazement, Nolan shut up.

David pulled a leather chair over and sat down by Nolan. "I believe in you. I know you can do this. I know you will do this. You don't have to work yourself to death proving it to me. I know you're young and you want everything to happen immediately but believe me, patience is a virtue. I'm not going anywhere, Nolan. Take the time you need to finish the project properly and without killing yourself doing it."

Nolan nodded, chastened. He rubbed his palms on his worn denims. "Yes, Mr Clarke."

David grinned. "Don't get formal on me, Nolan. This isn't a dressing down. It's just friendly advice. I came to see how you were doing – you, not just the work." He eyed the cluttered desk again. "I think we need to employ a cleaner."

His phone rang – saved by the bell, Nolan thought - and David stood. "Excuse me."

While David wandered over to the other side of the office and spoke to whoever the caller was, Nolan inspected all the mugs. Empty. Empty. Not sure what that was but it no longer looked like coffee. Empty. Success, half a mug of caffeinated beverage!

Nolan forced the cold liquid down his throat which he quickly regretted, for it sat uneasily in his empty stomach. He really should eat. David was right. Nolan knew he was lucky to have not just his financial support but David's concern for his welfare, something he wasn't accustomed to. David was a caring, compassionate, man. Their relationship was the opposite of the one Nolan had with his real father.

Days of lack of sleep, fresh air, and real food, made themselves felt in response to his giving in to such emotional musings. Nolan lifted one hand and rubbed at his eyes, aware of a headache starting at his temples.

"Sorry about that," David said as he slipped his phone back into his pocket. He placed a gentle hand on Nolan's shoulder. "Nolan?"

Nolan gave him a weak smile. "I'm okay. Just a headache. I promise I'll go home and get some sleep." He would. Just not yet though. A few more hours and he'd fix the bug once and for all.

"Really?"

Nolan saw the doubt in David's eyes. "I keep my promises."

David nodded. "I know you do." He gestured to the door. "Come on, I'll walk you out."

Busted. Now he'd have to go home. David Clarke was too smart to be fooled, Nolan thought, grabbing his jacket from the floor where he'd left it.


Later, he thought that whoever had framed David must have been incredibly clever.

Much later, he realised that anyone could be fooled by love.

The only thing he could do to repay David Clarke's kindness was to keep his promise to take care of Amanda as best he could, and to show her that her father had been a great man. When she decided to take revenge on those responsible for destroying David Clarke, Nolan was concerned for her safety, but he couldn't help but feel they deserved whatever punishment she dished out.

David Clarke wasn't Nolan's father, but Nolan grieved for him all the same.