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Pillow Talk

Posted on Mon Nov 21st, 2022 @ 8:15pm by Lieutenant JG Irynya & Ensign Noah Balsam

Mission: A Camping We Will Go
Location: Second String Camp, Noah and Irynya's tent
Timeline: Mission Day 3 at 2130

Where the first night in the second string campsite had been full of frivolity and mischief, the second was more subdued. Irynya, Noah, and Timmoz had returned after dark, coming back to a cheery fire and low conversations amongst those present. The sunset, seen from the top of the waterfall, had been everything Irynya had hoped for, lighting the sky and the lake beyond in brilliant pinks, oranges, and yellows before fading to purples and then deep blues as they trekked back to camp.

Typically one of the the most overtly bubbly of the group, Irynya had been uncharacteristically quiet that evening, mind still lost in the catharsis of sitting with her Qash under the waterfall and letting the complicated emotions overwhelm for a few minutes even as the comfort of being cared for calmed and soothed the most jagged parts. She had socialized the appropriate amount of time around the fire, listening in as others spoke and offering her thoughts from time to time, but largely taking a back seat in the discussions.

Finally, a yawn getting the better of her for the third time, she excused herself to the tent she shared with Noah. When Noah later came back to the tent as well she was flopped on her belly over top of her sleeping bag absently watching a holo-novel on a PADD. She glanced up at the movement of the tent flap and met her temporary roommates' entrance with a warm smile. "Tired?" She asked.

The rangy one had a new bug bite that had swollen pink and puffy from scratching on his thigh. He loped into the tent and promptly tapped a PADD. Where was a soft chirp- and the vaguest feeling of an energy change in the tent's space. He dropped down onto his sleeping bag. "Not... not really." He said honestly. "Are you OK?" He finally asked. "You've been crazy quiet since, I-I lost you and Timmoz near the falls." He cocked his head and craned his neck a little, searching for eye contact.

Squirming until she was lying on her side with her top leg bent and the other stretched out she faced Noah and considered his question. "No," she answered honestly, "Not yet. But I will be eventually. Sorry if we worried you. Timmoz was..." She tried to think of a human word for it. Comforting felt wrong, though it was that. And being intimate was also wrong, because humans typically assumed that meant sex and it wasn't that either. "I don't know the right word for it," she admitted finally.

Noah blinked, following along, an easily captured audience. When Irynya couldn't find the word, his brow flexed at his nose. "... Uh..." He scratched his arm while he notched his legs wide part and bent his knees. Being hypermobile, he rested an elbow on his knee. Between them he set down a large engineering schematic PADD.

"Accommodating?" Noah tried. "Uhh...." His eyes skittered to a shadow of a swaying branch through the tent's material. "Where'd you go anyway?" He asked, putting his dark eyes back on the Risian.

"Timmoz woldelaht," she said in soft lilting Risian. Her hazel gaze met and held his. "It's like... being a companion to someone's loss or..." she hesitated while she tried to select the right words, "or like, making that emotional..." She didn't feel like she was explaining well, but her mind was blank of any human equivalent. "We went swimming and found a space to sit behind the waterfall."

"Oh," Noah replied. His eyebrows popped under the curls of his side-swept bangs. He paused. And Noah, thinking, activated his PADD. With a warble of light, a Russian Blue cat hologram appeared between his legs. It was laying down in a curl, twitching the end of its tail and purring. "Well.... was it good?" He asked.

As if her skin remembered Timmoz's arms around her she felt her body relax and she tilted her head to lay on her forearm as she watched Noah.At Cat's appearance, a small smile pulled at her lips. "Hello beautiful" she said softly, extending her free hand toward him to see if he might come to her as she addressed Noah's question. "The waterfall or the woldelaht?" she asked, unsure what additional personal context Noah might bring to her explanation. "I wasn't sure if we should come get you or if you preferred what you were doing."

"Uhh both?" Noah suggested. The large golden eyes of Cat settled on Irynya's hand and followed its program. Cat got up, stretched long legs and arched its back. Then Cat moved sleekly toward her hand. Cat sniffed her fingers. Noah looked on. His kinesics subroutines were better,. and Noah had been integrating the movements of footage and holo-capture from the archives. "I think I went, uh, looking for you maybe five minutes after you left." He said, eyes off of Cat and back to Irynya.

Irynya ran her hand along Cat's back, murmuring soft words of appreciation to the hologram. Bringing her eyes back up to Noah's, she frowned, concerned at how long he was looking for them. "I'm sorry," she said, and she was.

"I told Timmoz it would take less than an hour for you to come looking. I didn't guess that fast though. Not enough to work with on the aqueduct?" She asked, petting cat as she did. The hologram rumbled slightly beneath her fingers in a way that warmed her for no reason she could think of than the pure enjoyment of the sensation.

"I didn't have any of my tools," Noah paralleled. He shrugged. "It sounds like you had a good time anyway." Noah watched Cat who moved and rubbed its holographic body up against Irynya's leg- which was fine, but the hologram's field to approximate solidness was off and it air-brushed Irynya just beyond the parameters of its body.

Noah frowned at that, geek necked toward his PADD and picked it up.

Irynya nodded, watching Noah work and appreciating the normalness of it. "The waterfall was fantastic. We can go back if you want to see it. It was like our own private little cove. And woldelaht was...cathartic is the word, I think."

Noah was engrossed in fixing Cat's haptic parameter field. "It-it's fine," he dismissed. He hadn't meant to be rude, but with all his bites and discomfort, he was more ready to leave than his politeness wanted to voice. "Woldetaht..." he repeated the word incorrectly. "Is that like Hygge?" The UT didn't know what to make of the word either, save that it was "special closeness and intimacy" according to her brainwaves.

Cat froze in a mid-rubbing leap. Noah flung new code at it with a pair of fingers from the PADD.

"I guess so," she answered, stilling instinctively when Cat froze as if her movement might disrupt what Noah was doing. She caught the somewhat short nature of his dismissal and let it roll through her, not lingering in the worry that she was the reason he was down here feeling uncomfortable. She blew the sensation out with a breath and focused, instead, on the term he had used. "It's intimate, but not in like... a romantic sense?" She explained before falling silent and watching Noah again.

It was an easy sort of silence. The kind of existing that was made particularly easy with Noah. She studied him idly, watching a curl of dark hair flop forward as he worked only to be absently brushed away. After a moment, a wild hare of a thought wiggled its way to the forefront. "Noah?" She asked. "Did you ever find out how your friends are doing?"

"My friends?" Noah repeated. He blinked- his eyes felt dry and he realized he'd been staring for awhile. One of his hands was pushing a curly wave of his hair off his eyebrow. In that moment he felt sort of gross- a day past washed, which was normal for camping or survival. But it wasn't something he relished. "Oh." He gleaned, what he thought, was her meaning. He half-shook his head, tittering his arm on his knee. He shrugged. "Yeah. Y-yeah I did. I mean... I won't hear from them until we get the next packet from Pa-pathfinder Station probably. Maybe even later."

His dark gaze fell on Irynya again. He set his PADD aside. "And I sent a, uh, subspace message to my family." He smiled a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "About the Infolifes. But they won't get them for weeks." He cock his head again, which dislodged his curl. "Why?"

A tightening at the corner of her eyes was the only indication that she knew his smile wasn't its usual carefree expression. "Something made me think of your beach on the holodeck earlier today," she admitted with a soft sort of smile. "I had been meaning to ask."

The Enceladan flushed pink a little, and he grimaced. He connected that to Kennedy hating him for a time, regardless of how pleasant and strange it'd been. Noah tapped his knee with his arm. "Waaait.... Was there a-a connection between the beach," he flourished a gesture, "Um, holodeck, or beach. And the waterfall?"

Irynya's eyebrows crept upward and a small knowing quirk twitched at the edge of her lips. "I was considering skinny dipping," she admitted, eyes shining slightly, "and the last time we did that..." She trailed off, tucking her upper lip behind her teeth for a moment. "... was fun," she concluded as her smile spread catlike.

Noah, his eyes glued to her, shook his head slowly as his neck prickled. "Y-you're crazy." Her smile enticed Noah into a Spock-like eyebrow raise. His lips thinner and moved to a smile, exasperated, "Wuh-wuh, what? You've got that look. That look you and Lieutenant Timmoz do."

Genuine surprise replaced whatever look Noah had been referencing. "Timmoz and I have a look?" She asked torn between curiosity and delight.

"Yes? Uh. Yes." Noah replied. His eyes jerked away and back. There had been a profound energy change in the room- and not the one that was repelling anything Ensign Davies would've wanted to study. She'd shifted from tired or... quiet... to something else. Why did people have to be so hard to understand? Why couldn't they be like machines?

Irynya's eyes were all mirth now. She had no real illusions about what her face had been transmitting, but she was unreasonably pleased to have been compared to Timmoz. Unlike Timmoz, though, she sighed, prepared to explain herself. "Are you sure you want to know?"

Noah frowned- momentarily. His frump was the visual crunch of trying to figure her out. "I'm not even sure what we're talking about anymore," he attested, eyes dropping. "Do I want to know or... I-I don't know. Tor asked me if I was a Betazoid once. I'm really not. I can't read minds." The prickle Noah felt on his neck was that uncertainty prickle. Her demeanor had changed so much since he walked in and started playing with Cat. There'd been quiet and then she'd pivoted to....

.... The easiest way he explained it was a Timmoz-like thing; that toying with others thing that Timmoz had a strange Orion word for. Where Noah was struggling was with patience. He was miserable: bug-bitten, cold, barebones tech, not in his creature comforts. Not his idea of shoreleave. He had to gut-check himself right then: despite his misery, he'd come down to try and cheer her up.

Noah grimaced. He tried to soften the tension in his shoulders. "I-I..." he shrugged. "Should I know?"

Where before she had taken his question as playful, now the undercurrent of frustration became apparent and sobered her somewhat. Rolling onto her back she tried to come up with the right response. Should didn't make sense to her. It was knowledge she had to offer and his to ask for. But should was subjective.

"You make me feel comfortable. Normal," she said after a moment. "You do it without even realizing you are." One tan hand came up and ran through her hair, threading her fingers into it from her temple until she hit her sleeping bag. "And sometimes I have to remind myself not to," her slight pause was pregnant, "be too forward with you because you make it so easy."

An unsure Noah listened, hunched toward his knees. He scratched the soft and pale underside of his rabbity forearm. "Thanks," he said trying not to sound unconvinced. Not because he didn't believe her. But he wasn't sure how he could make someone feel comfortable when he was scarcely ever comfortable in his own skin. "I'm glad. I-I am." He added, moving to scratch his face. "I like being around you too. I mean... we're friends. So definitely."

To that point she had been staring at the ceiling, but now she rolled her neck until she was looking at him again. "At the waterfall, I was remembering kissing you. And how much I enjoyed it. And... your reaction to it and mine. I don't know if you should or shouldn't know that, but it's what it was. And it's what I was thinking just now when you asked if there was a connection between the two."

Noah nodded. "I..." He had liked it- but then the reality of it and how mad- how distant- Irynya and Kennedy had both become toward him after that had vastly altered his own opinion. He felt more shame. Talking about it now- and linking it to Kennedy leaving- a new spike of concern uncoiled like a smoky serpent of self-doubt: what if they hadn't done that? Would things between Noah and Kennedy, and Kennedy and Irynya have been strong enough for him to stay? Instead of go.

"I think I see," Noah tried. He smiled a little, fleetingly.

She wished she could read Noah's mind just then and, uncertain that he would be glad to know that memory occupied any space in her brain, she looked back up at the tent's ceiling. "I suppose you could say that look is... flirtatious... affectionately meant, but... yeah."

Noah frowned, grimaced, and rubbed his neck. He filled his chest and sighed. He'd seen that look before in Tor but... it all felt so strange. "Sorry. I'm hard to flirt with when I feel gross, Iry." He said honestly. "Or... well I mean, I'm not that great at flirting anyway. I flirt over getting giddy about gelpacks." His eyes rounded jokingly, "I mean I guess I would. I don't flirt much." His nose wrinkled and he folded his arms, his elbows on his knees. "It's not anything I'm g-good at."

"You're you," she said simply. "I'm not sure you need to be good or not good. You just need to be you." Those words were spoken to the ceiling still. "With me, at least, that's all you need to be." She chewed the side of her lip thoughtfully for a moment then before deciding to put the thought aside. He hasn't told her not to think of him that way and she also knew that, though unspoken, that connection had been severed when Kennedy had responded the way he had, leaving her in a limbo of uncertainty for a week that had impacted Noah as well.

Risians didn't do regret often. Regret rarely went well with an ethos that encouraged pleasure and exploration. But she did regret that. She wondered if he would be happier had she never kissed him in the first place. Had he never confided in her on the beach beforehand.

"Did it help? She asked after a moment. "Writing to them all I mean. Did it help?"

"Some," Noah attested. "But I'm also happy with the friends I have on our ship now, too. I mean, I'm slow at-at making friends. Because," he tapped his head with a smile of self-deprecation. "I'm so in my head. And my creations. Like this one." Noah stretched over and pet Cat's head and back. The texture of the fur was still off, he noted. "I finally told them, a-about Cendo Prae."

The skin at the bridge of Irynya's nose, normally smooth, creased with confusion. "Cendo Prae?" She asked, her tone making it clear she was unsure of what he meant.

Noah paused, mouth slightly open. His coffee eyes narrowed. His nose wrinkled. "You know I'm a quarter Catullan, right?" He asked cautiously. But he couldn't remember if it had ever come up. "Cendo Prae's is-is the native name of Catulla II?" His eyes searched his friend while Cat moved to mark his hand repeatedly, encouraging him to keep petting.

"I know what Cendo Prae is," Irynya quipped with a chuckle. "What did you need to tell your family about it, though?" Twisting her lips to the side she squirmed again, back up onto her side so she could see him better. "You didn't tell me you were part Catullan." With a questioning quirk of her head, her hazel eyes searched his face as if she might somehow unlock a puzzle doing so.

"Oh," Noah said. He frowned with a blotchy flush on his cheeks and chest. "OK, let me try, uh, a-again. I..." He was surprised at how difficult it was to talk about, even months after. He sighed. His shoulders slumped again and Noah decided to let gravity win. He flopped down, his head contacting pillow. He kept his knees bent, bony juts long into the air. "Hmm...." he made a stressed sound. "Maybe I shouldn't have brought it up but... because the Federation had this...."

There it was. The ball of frustration he kept in check. It was the social injustice ball. He felt his teeth gritting. "Because some scared, old technophobes think every Infolife is a bad Infolife.... b-because of Mars... worlds like mine. And-and the Bynars. And Catulla. And a few more." He jolted his eyes to Irynya and back to the ceiling. "They've... I-I guess we'll say suspended some cooperations with the Federation until they reverse the Synthetics Ban." He shook his head, "So I can't go to Cendo Prae to study."

If Irynya was surprised by the extremity of Noah's response it didn't show. Not that he would have seen it anyway. She thought, for a moment, that he looked like he might like to glare a hole in the ceiling of the tent. But even if Irynya didn't follow every part of what he'd said, she knew enough of it to pull the pieces together. And she knew what hurt looked like--one of the things that humans and Risians did share.

So when she spoke her voice was not the flirtatious one she had taken earlier. Nor was it soothing -- Noah wasn't a child to be hushed. Instead it was level and clear, gentle still, but open, offering whatever it was that Noah needed in that moment in a singular tone of voice. "I'm sorry Noah," she began. "I didn't know you'd applied somewhere after the Academy." It made sense in her head. If anyone would go on to study more it would be him. He was brilliant in ways that she could barely touch. She merely took it as a part of who he was.

Noah nodded his head in the affirmative. It was still hard to talk about and he felt himself wishing he hadn't brought it up.

"I know we're not really supposed to speak against Federation policy," she said. "Not that we can't... just... you know what I mean." She studied his face as she spoke -- the way his eyes flashed and his cheeks clenched as he grit his teeth. The way the lines of his jaw and his cheekbones somehow sharpened further with tension. "But the Synthetics Ban is wrong. I'm sorry that its wrongness has extended to you."

"You don't have to be sorry. It's not your fault," Noah said. He sighed up in the air. There was silence. And then a cracking slap. Noah stared at his hand. "Ew. I-I got it." He sat up and found a wipe to remove the bug remains off his palm. "Just... have to keep fighting it. I guess." He added with a fatigued shrug. "But we-we can talk about something else. If I get worked up now, I won't sleep."

For a moment Irynya considered asking him to talk about it further. The idea of something that got Noah worked up enough that he wouldn't be able to sleep intrigued her and was a side of him she wouldn't mind knowing more about. But also this was a vacation and spending an evening mired in that frustration when he was already physically uncomfortable probably wasn't the best direction to push him in. He hadn't said it, but she knew enough to know that he was there in large part because of her. So instead she changed the subject.

"I want to create another holodeck program," she said taking a hard turn away from synthetic life, but not so far that they weren't still in the realm of things that got Noah excited. "Either that or do some work on the ja'risia program. It's... like... half of a half an idea in my head right now and I don't know where to start."

Noah, giving Irynya a glance of interest, pulled off his shirt, balled it up and set it aside. "What kinds of holo-programs?" He asked while he fidgeted at his hair, first raking fingers through it and then giving up. He flopped back down on his sleeping bag, lifted his butt and started to undo his pants. He slid the,m down to his knees, dropped back to prone and then pulled each pantleg off beyond his long feet.

It was difficult not to watch Noah undress. Their tent wasn't enormous and their sleeping bags were side by side and she'd already been watching to see how he would react to her change of topic when he started to pull his shirt off. She sighed heavily. Maybe if she hadn't already been thinking about their kiss on the holodeck that day she wouldn't have even blinked. As it was she fixed her eyes on the ceiling of the tent and tried not to think about how nice it would be to be held again. Her thoughts weren't fair to Noah and so she kept them to herself even if it meant laying a little more stiffly on her back and staring at the ceiling.

"I guess Risian ones. The program I did for you really didn't require a lot of detail. Most of the cultural elements came from me. I don't know. It's not a whole idea yet. I just... miss home a bit right now... and the touristy versions the holodeck has just... They're not Risa. Not really."

"Oh," Noah was busily pulling his pantlegs over his feet. He stopped long enough to scratch a small bug bite above his pale mauve nipple, and notice that Irynya was probably giving him some attempt at privacy as he prepped for bed. He looked down at his underwear- a pair of boxerbriefs with a spread of comic panels of the daring exploits of a mythical Starfleet captain that looked suspiciously like Admiral Picard.

"So... you-you mean holo-programs for..." he wanted to choose his words right as he finished offing his pants and, like his shirt, he balled it up and set it aside. "Something more Risa than the beach?" He reached over and touched her shoulder. "I-I know about feeling homesick. I've been thinking about Enceladus a lot."

She turned her head to him, feeling his fingers on her shoulder and not really thinking she covered his hand with her own. "Something more home than the beach," she said. "There's the version of Risa we present and then the version we live. Both happen at the beach, but a Risian resort program definitely doesn't feel the same."

Her thoughts were a ball of mismatched bits as she spoke. It would be so easy to roll over towards him and bury her face in his shoulder. And it would be so easy to stay there, as long as he would let her. It would be easy to strip out of what she wore so they were both down to their underwear. Despite knowing better her eyes traveled from his face downward and then slowly back up. She knew her glance was heated, but she couldn't quite stop the ball that had started rolling in her head. She and Kennedy had never... Not even close. The thought of Kennedy feeling comfortable enough to just undress in front of her the way Noah had just done was almost laughable. And also... It didn't matter. Not anymore.

She ducked her head against their hands and forced herself to ask the most innocuous of the things running through her mind. "What has you thinking about Enceladus?"

"Sorry, I'm hurrying," he said with a flush and grimace. "Umm..." He pulled his thermal blanket up to his waist only for Cat to complicate matters: the Russian Blue approximation swayed, lazy and oblivious as any cat, and began to mark Irynya's leg and knee. The hologram moved and rubbed its body along one of Irynya's breasts in a long and protracted mark, pause and repeated tail swish.

"I guess I just have," Noah admitted. "M-maybe because of the aliens. They were so far from home. I think...." He paused, slightly stooped in his rabbity and skinny build, fair and lightly freckled of shoulder. "I think it just stuck in there. A little. Wha-wjat about you?" He asked. "Cat, those are her breasts..." He tittered at the cat with a snap of his fingers, but the hologram only blinked at him like it was bored of the engineer.

Holding very still Irynya carefully released her hold on Noah's hand. There was just enough room between them for Cat to curl up into a ball, though rather than do so the hologram decided another mark against Irynya's breasts was warranted. This time the blue-grey head tilted, pressing into her in a way that pulled her t-shirt tight for just a moment, making it painfully clear that she was braless.

That, like so many other things, was normal. Unless necessary she didn't wear a bra to bed. But with Noah almost leaning over her, shirtless and gentle, and safe... and watching Cat.

With her free hand she softly stroked Cat who happily obliged the stroking with a headbutt into her palm. She wasn't looking at Cat, though, after the first brush of her hand. She was looking at Noah, holding eye contact and suddenly frozen with indecision.

Sometimes Noah needed to think too- at least that was his opening thinking why Irynya hadn't answered him. But as Cat's insistence on attention seemed to fully distract the Risian- except that she was staring at him- Noah was almost ready to let it go. He noted the way Cat moved against her. He was almost proud at how cat-like it was. But as the artist, he could see the flaws.

Noah leaned back on his hands now that he was free, which tightened his already flat and triangular shaped pecs against him. He really was quite skinny- He had a full rib cage but one could count his ribs. And his stomach was the lean, mostly undefined type. But there was barely any scrap of fat on him as well. But he was pale, quite pale. And there was something low-gravity and uncanny about how his elbows hyperextended as he leaned back.

"Are you uh, still thinking?" He finally asked.

She was supposed to say something. To answer him. And instead all she could think about was the curve of his figure and the freckles across his shoulder. Cat, perhaps sensing through its programming that it did not have her full attention, chirped at her and then stalked to their feet and curled up on the bottom of her sleeping bag leaving nothing between them.

She chewed her bottom lip, worrying at it before making a decision. "No," she said softly, shifting to a sitting position and then in one smooth rocking motion moved onto her knees, bringing herself up next to him. "Noah..." Her voice was low and quiet and she watched him as she spoke. "You honestly don't know how distracting you are right now, do you?"

Noah blinked. Irynya had moved away from cat. And she was very close. Close wasn't that strange for Risians. But the words she said were a slow sludge through his brain. A Xahean cadet said the exact same thing to him once. And it'd only led to... strangeness. "I don't mean to be," He tried to assure. He looked at Irynya with an awkward smile. He looked nervous, coltish, but not so unnerved that he was ready to bolt.

"I know you don't," she said and it was almost a whisper. Her voice, even at a whisper, still held that low intensity to it and for the briefest of moments she held still, eyes searching his face. But she'd started down this path now, and he hadn't moved away. And he was smiling and that, that alone, is what pulled the last remaining hesitation from her. Slowly, and gently, she reached up and pushed the loose strand of curl that kept coming free from behind his ear back from his face, tucking it behind his ear. Her hand lingered just a moment and then she traced a line down his jaw until her fingers tipped beneath his chin before, carefully, she closed the last foot between them and kissed him.

Noah pulled away before their lips could make full contact. "No, that-that's not.... not me," Noah said. He didn't immediately move away. "I'm..." He chewed the inside of his cheek. "Not like this.... and-and not now. Kennedy was my friend too and he loved you." Noah breathed out. "I've... I've lost friends this way before and I don't want to do that again." He admitted. Noah folded his arms across his chest. He felt gross. He was miserable. Noah's mind was screaming that it wasn't right to kiss a friend's ex-girlfriend right after they'd ended things. It felt wrong.

He didn't know what, exactly, Irynya wanted. He wasn't sure if he was committing a Risian faux pas. All he knew was his Human sensibilities- his Human morals- went back through time: a friend doesn't kiss a friend's ex, especially when she's a friend. Noah got up, flushed. "Sorry. I've had this happen. I can't." At that moment, his memory could taste the uncertainty- the sheer weirdness- of kissing a Xahean boy and a Human girl. His body trembled at the memory of what they'd done and he could feel the guilt of it.

"Be right back," Noah said. He retreated quickly- quite literally in his underwear and the thermal blanket he was using as a strange cape.

As soon as he moved away she retreated, mortification and embarrassment flooding her moments later than it should have. God, she'd almost done that. She'd have done it if Noah hadn't stopped her. He wasn't Risian and she'd no right... none... Her heart wrenched at the look on his face and she knew that there was no way her turmoil wasn't stamped across her own. She opened her mouth to say something, but he was still talking and she'd needed to focus to listen. To hear him. She clamped her jaw shut, tugging her top lip between her front teeth and pinching hard until it hurt and she had to stop or she'd draw blood.

"Noah," she said as he stood, but if he heard her he didn't acknowledge and before she could get the rest of it out... the words he deserved from her even if they couldn't undo her idiocy... he was out of the tent.

"I'm sorry," she whispered to the air. "I'm so so sorry." And then she rocked back from where she was crouched, the soft fabric of her shorts resting on her heels, and put her head in her hands. For the second time that day she cried.


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