‘Curt?’
‘Hm?’
Stef blew against his face, splitting the hairs that lay across his forehead, and kept blowing until none remained.
‘I’m awake,’ he said, his eyes still closed. He lifted his arms to find her. ‘I’m awake.’
‘That’s usually my line,’ she said.
‘You have to remember,’ he said, ‘I didn’t get much sleep last night.’ He finally opened his eyes to look at her. ‘How are you feeling?’
‘How am I ever feeling?’ she asked. ‘Scared, drained, unworthy. So, you know, normal.’
‘What time is it?’ he asked.
She stared into her HUD. ‘About nine. Wasn’t sure if you wanted to sleep right through, or what.’
He sat up a little, and she pulled her head away from his chest. ‘No, no, thanks newbie, we should probably get up and-’ He knuckled at his eyes as he sat up properly, the sheet pooling in his lap, pulling free of her as she knelt beside him, hands wrapped around her middle to hide her scars. ‘Probably do some work or something. Find out if there’s anything more to the demon story. Or-’ He looked at her body for a moment, but only a moment, likely more a result of his head still heavy with sleep than willingly looking at-
Stop it.
He met her gaze. ‘Do you want the shower first, or are you just going to hit your refresh button?’
The lump in her throat threatened to suffocate her. ‘Do you really think anyone expects us to work right now?’
I have no idea what I’m doing.
He gave her a sheepish smile. ‘Probably not. What do you feel like doing?’
Now or never. Do or die.
And a hundred other cliches.
‘It’s-’ her hands started to shake. ‘It’s not what I- Oh, godsdammit, I have no idea what I’m doing.’ She uncrossed her arms, knelt-walked to close the small space between them, grabbed his hand and pressed it to the closest droid. ‘I trust you. Can- Can you extrapolate what I mean?’
‘Stef-’
She leaned against him, pushing herself against his light touch. ‘I trust you. I’d- I’d- I’d say stick to what’s naked, but- But that’s kind of irrelevant.’
He looked at her, for more than a moment this time. ‘You were wearing undies when you went to sleep.’
‘And I’ve been awake for an hour getting up the courage to wake you up.’
‘Stef-’
‘Padawan.’
‘If I’m extrapolating correctly,’ he said gently. ‘Then what you- You aren’t ready.’ He brought his fingers together, and slipped off the droid, his hand wrapping around her back. ‘Newbie-’
‘Stef, I won’t.’
Her courage slipped a little. ‘Not “can’t”?’
He shook his head. ‘Won’t. Will not. Choose not to.’
‘But-’
‘I’m not going to take advantage of you,’ he said. ‘And that’s what this feels like.’
‘But I- I’m the- Me’s the one who’s naked. And asking- Well, trying to. Dammit, I’m trying, give me credit for that.’
He leaned forward and kissed her. ‘Here’s some credit.’ He kissed her again. ‘And some XP.’ A third kiss. ‘And-’
She sighed, her shoulders slumping forward. ‘I was gonna try this last night. For a value of want, I wanted to last night. Figured it would be- Be special cause it was supposed to be my night. And however bad it was, that that would mitigate it a little.’
He looked to the side. ‘And last night, I might have,’ he said, and paused for a long moment. ‘But after what did happen-’
‘Don’t. Don’t you fucking dare,’ she said, her voice tight. ‘I know what happened. I’m fully fucking cognisant of what happened, but I don’t want to think about it. It didn’t happen, and he’s dead and I’m ok.’ She tripped a half-strength /serious to hold tears back. ‘And it’s some nightmare that happened to someone else. I’m home and I’m here and I’m safe. But- But if it had happened, then everything after- None of that would have been my choice. And it would have been- Been men that weren’t my boy. Been people who didn’t care what I wanted. And it wouldn’t have been gentle, and it wouldn’t have been safe. And- And even if someone had rescued me, that still would have been my first time. And I would have been ruined. And you wouldn’t want to touch me.’
She stared down at his hands, and when she looked up, he was crying.
‘Hey-’
‘Is that-’ he started, wiping his face with the back of his hand. ‘Is that what you think of me? That I’m ruined. Am I so-?’
You’re supposed to stop me from saying stupid things!
‘No, no, no!’ she said, her hands flailing. ‘I didn’t- I’m sorry.’ She slammed her hands down on her thighs, and tried to push the panic from her expression. ‘I’m sorry, I’m stupid, I didn’t think about you. I don’t think about other people. And- I’m sorry,’ she said. ‘I’m sorry, and I don’t think you’re ruined. You’re just fine the way you are.’
‘I- I couldn’t even touch myself afterwards.’ He brushed his fingers over the scars on his arm. ‘Because whenever I did, I could feel what she did to me. I was already thinking about it all the time, but touch made it worse. I could barely wash my hands. Everything was her. Everything was what they did.’ He wrapped his arms around her waist. ‘I don’t laugh a lot, I don’t surround myself with people who do, because every time I hear someone laughing, I think they’re laughing at me.’
‘But- But I laugh-’
He traced her face with his fingers. ‘And how many people do you let touch you? What did you call that? Your exception list? You’re on mine, you’re on all of mine. You’re- You’re all mine,’ he said. ‘I trust you like I’ve never trusted anyone. I’ve told you things that- Only you and Carmichael know what happened to me, and he guessed, he’d seen the same look in the mirror. I want you to know me, I want you to know everything. And I don’t want to worry-’ He looked at her with red eyes. ‘Tell me I’m not ruined. Please,’ he said, his voice straining. ‘Please.’
She moved, swinging her leg over him, and straddled him. It was scary, it was bold, but it was the easiest way, closest way to be face to face with him. She swallowed, and kissed the tear stains on his cheeks. ‘You’re not ruined.’ She leaned forward, kissed his earlobe, then lifted her mouth a little. ‘You’re mine.’
He wrapped his arms around her and sobbed into her naked chest while she awkwardly stroked his hair. He pulled away after a moment, wiped his face, then laid a small, chaste kiss on the scars between her breasts. ‘I’m yours,’ he said. ‘For as long as you want me.’
‘Padawan, I plan on you taking us to the restaurant at the end of the universe, you’re stuck with me.’