Tali was tucked in, fast asleep with the others having turned into their own rooms for the night. Michael's newest bed, one of the living room couches rolled out into a bed, was waiting for him. He was halfway down the hall when he stopped, listening for anyone still moving about. Satisfied he wasn't being watched his hand found a door console and tried it. With a silent hiss he heard it open and he stepped through.

Riiana sat on her bed, reading from the light the lamp offered from the stand next to her. She looked up as the door closed and stared a few seconds before beckoning him forward. He climbed in next to her and she scooted to allow him room. By now they had a of sorts routine down.

"What are we reading tonight?" she asked, laying her own book aside.

Almost two years ago he had half-heartedly suggested she teach him her language. As it turned out, he hadn't been joking. It started as a session before bed once a week, being their own little secret and way of really getting to know one another. He had proved a fast learner and she a helpful teacher. He didn't quite have the knack for saying, but he caught on fairly well with reading. To Riiana's pleasant surprise he was almost as much a reading fan as she was. Which then lead to them swapping literature they knew, both human and Eldar, where she found that he wasn't quite as simple as he made himself out to be.

It was subtle at first, but they grew closer. Once a week turned into twice, then three, then four until it was almost a nightly routine. Strict teaching lessons slowly devolved into banter on the day before and casual gossip. Then there were times they simply took turns reading aloud and giving their say on what they thought of it. Overall it was… fun, she had to admit.

Then she noticed the package he was trying to hide behind him.

"I thought we'd try something new." Michael answered, setting the object between them.

She was hesitant at first, not sure what to expect might be inside and running through what could happen. If something might jump out at her, for example. Nothing about him seemed amiss so she carefully reached in and felt something oddly like the same object she had previously been holding. Her eyes lit up as she pulled the book out to inspect it.

"This is-" she began.

"'A Travelers Tale: Volume IX; second edition,'" he confirmed. "I know you had your sights on first edition, but…"

"How did you find this?" she asked, gaping. "Better yet, how did you afford this?"

"Details, details," Michael chuckled. "The real question is: do you like it?"

"Well, yes, but I can't possibly keep it."

"Why not?"

"Because this was far too expensive for either one of us and we need every credit we can get if we want rent and food and…" she held back a growl as he only smiled. "Do you ever think these things through?"

"Sometimes," he admitted. "But if it means seeing you smile it's worth it."

Riiana tried to fight it but she could feel herself redden, both from anger and some other emotions she wasn't quite ready to name. She hated when he said that. She hated it when he never thought of the consequences, or if something was particularly sane, or when he went out of his way to brighten her day, or when he made her laugh…

"Mon-keigh," she sighed, looking down at the novel. "It's a wonderful gift, and I'm very grateful… but I can't accept it. Promise me you'll get your money back."

"But-"

"Promise me. Please."

Michael deflated but nodded; he knew when things were settled. A moment later he was back to normal, attempting to look coy as he drummed his fingers on the cover.

"Ok. I'll take it back tomorrow," he agreed. "But since it's here now…"

She thought about it. For once his logic actually made some sense.

"Well, I suppose it would be a shame to just let it sit there."

An hour later Michael closed the book shut and set it down on the nightstand. Riiana was curled into his side, having nodded off sometime between him beginning and finishing. The shoulder her head was resting on had long since lost feeling and it begged to be moved, but he couldn't bring himself to disturb her just yet. He laid the book aside, turning off the light and contemplating his options. If he just laid his head down for a few minutes...


Riiana awoke with a yawn, stretching until she felt something draped across her waist. It took her a few seconds to realize that it was an arm, and just who in particular that arm belonged to. Had she really been awake she would have woken Michael and told him to head back to the couch before the others awoke and found them. Or they would have both gotten up and start to make breakfast for the others. Except it was still late, and she still had a while before either of them had to get up. So, still half-asleep and enjoying the warmth, she cuddled closer to him and fell back asleep.

A/N: Yep. Just good old fashion platonic bonding going on here...