Friday, October 14, 2011


Sleep came easily to Carbon. After Alex had taken enough of his clothes off, she taught him the words to work the lights, nestled down next to him and was wheezing softly minutes later. He found himself envious of her ability to do that, tired but still working over the day in his mind.

Worse, even though it was the right place for him to be sleeping by Tslao standards, Alex couldn’t help but feel like he was intruding. Carbon and Neya had a decade long relationship and he ended up feeling like he was taking Neya’s place. He wasn’t, of course, he knew that. But the relationship he was supposed to have with Neya now and the idea that Neya belonged to them was... well, that was just alien.

At least the bed was large enough to accommodate them all without crowding. He turned the lights down to ten percent and relaxed back into a pile of pillows. No time like the present to get some work done. He called up the document editor in his Amp and started to work through his first report for ONI. Mostly he just wanted to get things in order, he would do all of the fit and finish at a terminal later.

The first report was just going to be light weight stuff. A better look at how society was arranged, formalities, methods of dress and what they meant... things that would make the primer more useful in a day-to-day capacity. It was all interesting to him and made for a pleasant distraction.

Neya shifted in her sleep and rolled over to face him again, draping an arm over his abdomen. Alex told himself it was normal, no big deal, part of being in this relationship with Carbon. He still felt awkward, shifting his hip away from her and carefully removing her arm. She’d understand. Worst case, he could show her how he was feeling.

Alex went back to work, interrupted a few moments later when she grabbed the waistband of his boxers with both hands. Carbon had teased him gently and repeatedly assured him he would be fine naked like they were, but Alex had felt most comfortable wearing something in bed.

He pulled the blanket back and looked her over. Her ears were relaxed and one was splayed out from the side of her head comically, chest rising and falling slowly. She looked like she was still asleep. An exploratory tug revealed that she had a death grip on the elastic material, not so easy to just move her this time. He set the blanket down and shrugged. It didn’t really matter, people do weird things in their sleep all the time, why should she be different?

He called up the file again and she started to twitch. It wasn’t bad at first but got progressively worse in short order. He sighed as her body jerked and she punched him in the side, a whimper emanating from under the blanket.

“Carbon.” He whispered and gave her a poke in the shoulder.

She rolled away from him, disappearing under the comforter.

“Carbon.” Alex said it a little more forcefully this time and pulled the blanket back.

“Yes?” She mumbled, eyes squinting in the dim light.

“I think something’s wrong with Neya.”

That got her attention. She sat up and watched the lump under the blanket shift and whine quietly before climbing over Alex and sliding in between them. Carbon cupped a hand to Neya’s cheek and whispered into her ear. She jerked awake, eyes searching and wide with fear.  

They softened as she she recognized where she was, flooding with relief that didn’t quite wash away the terror they had held. Her body relaxed and she whispered back, soft words too quiet for Alex to hear.

Carbon smiled and leaned down to kiss her, hand stroking her forehead. She waited for Neya to return to sleep before rolling over and situating herself against Alex again. She stretched and set her arm across his chest, rubbing his leg with hers. “She has sleep terrors. You should have just woken her up.”

“I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on... I figured you’re the expert.”

She closed her eyes and smiled again. “Yes, I am.”

“So modest, too.”

“It is nice to have your virtues recognized.” She laid in silence for a moment, the smile fading. There was a certain worry in her voice when she spoke again. “If you do see her having a terror again... please wake her up as soon as possible.”

“Yeah, of course. Like I said, I wasn’t sure what she was doing... I’m still not sure how to act in all situations.”

Carbon nodded and stretched out to kiss his cheek. “She suffers from the disaster worse than most. I have tried to make these stop, I know she has been seeking every avenue of treatment...”

That sounded bad. “What happened?”

“Her home city and the college for zeshen were both in the caldera. Almost all she had ever known wiped away in seconds and she watched it happen”

“How could she have seen it?”

“She was in orbit at the time. Her grief was... indescribable.”

“That’s horrible.”

“Many lost something but few lost as much as her. Even less had a clear view of the destruction.” She pulled the blanket up over them. “At the end, I was all she had left.”

“That’s something.” He filed his report away and shut his Amp off for the night, sliding his arm around her shoulders. “You are pretty incredible.”

She snorted and shook her head. “She is still so hurt...”

“Of course she is. That’s some serious shit she has to work through. You can’t just clap your hands and make it go away.”

Carbon grumbled but otherwise stayed silent.

“Have you worked through all of your hurt from the disaster?” He knew the answer before he even asked the question.

She seemed particularly recalcitrant to part with the word. “No.”

“Everyone takes their own time to process grief. You two might be similar, but you’re both still different. ”

A short sigh and a squeeze. “You always make me feel better about bad things. I hope you can do that for her as well.”

“Yeah, well...” He spoke a few sibilant words and the lights went all the way out. “I hope I can too.”


  1. Aww, he gets to be a big brother to her.
    Also, he's a lot more patient about not being able to partake in honeymoon activities than I would be.

  2. He's got a lot on his mind. And, you know... aliens.