It was well past midnight and neither of them had gone to bed, sitting across from each other at the kitchen table. In his room, Czes was finally sleeping soundly, no longer thrashing from the nightmares. Three hours had passed since Firo and Ennis had put him to bed and now both of them were sill awake.
They also hadn’t looked at each other in three hours.
Firo’s fingers tapped an erratic beat on the polished surface of the table, his gaze focused on the window, where he could just barely make out the twinkle of stars outside. He heard the even rise and fall of Ennis’s breath, and something in his gut tightened, something dark and wrong, something that wasn’t him.
He grimaced at the press of unwanted, tainted memory - merciless ghosts and whispered accusations - and Firo did not look at her.
(Oh, the things he knew about her. How long she could go without food or sleep; how slowly she could kill a person; how she looked when she thought she was going to die; how she was before she earned her emotions. He knew her emptiness, that hollow blankness, and how she said yes, sir because it was all she could say.)
Then he stopped tapping his fingers on the table, stopped moving all together, and tightly shut his eyes. The memories of her were - all at once - the worst and the most pleasant of the ones he inherited. Worst because he didn’t like to think about it, didn’t like to look at her and see a past he had nothing to do with. Best because, theoretically, someday he would be able to help her, because he understood what she had gone through.
Except that thinking was flawed, because he didn’t understand. Didn’t understand Szilard and understanding what happened to Ennis hinged on understanding Szilard, and just because Firo had his memories didn’t mean he understood Szilard. Preferred not to, actually.
He chanced a glance at her and regretted it. Face blank, she stared at her hands, eyes unseeing as she thought about... whatever she was thinking about.
Technically speaking, he could find out. Either by asking or - well, he wouldn’t do that, so that didn’t matter - but he didn’t necessarily want to know what she was thinking. He could already feel the dark tint to her thoughts, the sharp hollow, the loss, and that was only what he gleaned from the surface of her thoughts. He never read her thoughts in their entirety, never. But, he couldn’t tune out her emotions, those came through their link without either of their consent.
Firo hated it. Hated that he couldn’t control his mind, hated that he couldn’t control the fact that it felt like an invasion of privacy to know even that much of her thoughts.
With a sigh, he went back to tapping out a rhythm, like maybe it would beat out the tendrils of her emotions.
His gut twisted again when she echoed his sigh, and he could feel his emotions in her, shifting hers from her own darkness to his frustration with all this. That she followed his lead even in emotion as well as action was enough to - to - he shook his head, hair falling in his face. Because even as he lamented the way he couldn’t help but read some of her emotions, he’d forgotten that she, too, could feel him. His worry and his misery and and and whatever else he happened to be feeling at the time.
It wasn’t a one way street.
Ennis was born knowing that bond, knowing that connection. He knew that - knew that sometimes, she looked at him like she was waiting for something, and when his stomach twisted at that, it had nothing to do with Szilard and everything to do how much he wished that she had gotten something better than that geezer.
He looked out the window again and then it happened.
The air in the room lightened somehow and he didn’t know how or why, except suddenly the darkness hanging over Ennis no longer throbbed through him like some crazed heartbeat, and then she reached out, her fingers brushing his. Firo turned to her and she smiled at him, soft and subtle and Ennis, and his heartbeat was suddenly far too loud and had nothing to do with a sickening twist in his gut.
Her fingers curled around his and he could feel the peace settling over her, reflected in her face, in the way she gently stroked his skin.
And maybe, just maybe, this whole bond thing didn’t have to be all bad.
Maybe they could make it work.
Firo swore he saw her smile widen at that and yeah - he could totally get used to having her around, even if it was hard sometimes to separate the past and the present, his past and someone else’s, his emotions from hers; but, he thought as he squeezed her hand, it would be completely worth it.