They've been here for five days, five days that are quickly turning into six, turning into an eternity. It's too hot for his liking in this part of the world on a good day. On a day like today, it's downright miserable. The air conditioner in their room off the market had died a wheezing death on day three. He'd been slowly sweating to death since then.
Magnus didn't seem to mind. She liked their location; it kept their work close, something she was unusually keen on this time around. Normally he would assume she'd been drawn in and consumed by it all- the puzzle, the hunt- but this time was different. Work, he knew, was a distraction, one she sorely needed, but even that seemed to be failing her. She was exhausted, railing against sleep with everything she had, a battle she was loosing despite the aid of the sticky warm heat.
"Magnus," he sighs, fighting to keep from groaning. His sleep has been fitful, the sheets, damp with his own sweat, had woken him repeatedly. The last thing he wants is added body heat, but there's nothing he hates more than seeing her like this.
She turns from the window, half of her face a shocking neon green from a sign across the narrow alley. "Go back to sleep Will."
"At least sit down would you?" He props himself up on an elbow and regards her. "You're exhausted."
Her frown deepens the creases on her face, accentuating the bruise colored shadows under her eyes. "Later" She tells him, turning back to the window, her hands trembling on the window sill. Regardless of what she's about to tell him, he knows she hasn't slept in the last forty eight hours, and hasn't had more than a few hours of sleep since they had left Old City. That's pushing it even for her.
She stiffens at his sudden sternness.
He doesn't want to push her, but she's been fighting him at every turn this week: food, water, sleep. Frankly, he's surprised she hasn't passed out from dehydration.
"Five minutes," he repeats more gently and he sees her soften for a moment, begin to consider. "Magnus."
"Later, Will." She says stubbornly, but she's swaying where she stands, her hands white knuckled around the window frame.
"Relax for five minutes and I'll leave you alone for the rest of the night."
She's sorely tempted. He doesn't need to watch her fingers release their death grip to know she is. She turns and takes a careful step and then another until she's standing just within his reach. He slides into a sitting position, kicking away the sheet tangled at his ankles and wraps a hand around her wrist, tugging gently. She stumbles suddenly, crossing the remaining space in an awkward tumble, her knees banging against the side of the bed before his free hand can reach her elbow to steady her.
"Five minutes?" She asks quietly, her voice almost soft enough to hide the way it trembles.
He nods, guiding her around to the other side until she snags her foot on the wooden leg of the bed and stops. For a moment he thinks she's tripped herself and then he catches on. She's watching the light filtering in from under the door wide eyed.
"The key's in the lock." He reminds her and he feels, more than sees, her begin to shuffle forward.
She curls up against the edge of the bed, more tense than she had been since the sun had set. He presses one hand into the bed, dipping the mattress beneath the small of her back and reaches to brush her hair behind her ear.
She lets out a breath, long and ragged and he realizes it's the first breath he's heard her take. "You have to breathe." He coaxes, feeling her skin ripple as he runs a finger gently across her cheek.
"Four and thirty." She mutters absently to herself on the next exhale and he tuts softly.
"You have to relax."
She balks, squirming into the few remaining inches on her side of the bed.
"It'll be ok." He whispers, tucking his chin over her shoulder as he draws her back to him in slow increments.
Her fingers work at the arm he drapes around her stomach, but it's only a matter of minutes before her exhaustion wins out and she falls asleep, looking no less conflicted than she had.
He's counting on an hour of sleep, possibly two, but he's hardly drifted off before he wakes again; Magnus moaning, wincing in her sleep. It's been like this since they had arrived, her sleep troubled by something she had yet to reveal to him. Normally, he realizes watching her, she would have woken herself by now, gotten up and settled in the room's only chair with a book or, despite the danger, wandered down to the street.
One of her nails catches on his arm and he winces as he feels a drop of blood well to the surface. He's luckier the next time her fingers scramble over his skin, but a second later her elbow skids against the side of his jaw, nearly making contact.
"Magnus." He prods as loudly as he dares. "Magnus wake up. It's just a dream."
Her struggle lessens and then intensifies. She kicks his shin hard enough to make him bite the inside of his cheek to keep from swearing. He shakes her steadily until he dodges another blow, her arms flying before he manages to catch them both and hold them secure.
She's stilled but whimpers as he lightly brushes a kiss against the side of her neck, finally coaxing her into consciousness.
"Hey there." He whispers as she shudders in his grasp. "You were having a bad dream."
She pulls a hand free from his grasp and rubs it over her eyes with a frustrated sigh. "Have I satisfied your requirement?" It's not hostile like part of him is expecting, but it’s worn and rough, the ends of the words catching on the ragged breaths she's taking.
"Technically." He sighs, pressing his face into her hair, knowing despite the fact that he doesn't want to, he's going to have to let her go. He can take another day of her ill temper. It's not that he's worried about; he's worried about her. She can't keep going on like this.
"Promise me you'll be here in the morning so we can talk about this." He requests even as he releases her so she can pull away. "I know you don't want to but, god Magnus, I'm tired and I know you are too. Let me help."
"In the morning, Will." She promises. "I'm going to go get some air. I'll be back in a moment."
He's asleep by the time she gets back, but true to her word she's still there, perched against the window sill when he wakes the next morning.
"I have breakfast." She holds up a grease-spotted bag before tossing it lightly onto the bed beside him. He peels back the brown paper and smiles. They're probably the closest thing she could find to a traditional breakfast, the these small, fried croquette-like pastries.
She looks less tired now than she had the day before, she's even smiling, obviously pleased with his response. He knows though, that it has more to do with the food she's been snacking on since dawn than any rest she may have gotten.
He bites into the first pastry and sighs, holding out a hand to catch the golden breadcrumbs that flake from the outer shell to scatter across the bed. "It's not a bacon, egg, and cheese but these are amazing. Why didn't we find these earlier?"
"Right place, right time I suppose. It's a small stall run by an old woman and her grandchildren. She's open early and then she's gone."
Gone. There’s the slightest bit of emphasis on the word. It’s not enough to press her about but it is the first clue he’s gotten about what might be bothering her.
He starts in on another pastry, glancing up at her briefly with a grin, reassured when she smiles at his delight. It’s not hard to please him when it comes to creature comforts like this, and yet he finds she’s hardly ever privy to these moments.
“Enjoying yourself?” She asks as he finishes, pulling the last remnants of his breakfast from his fingers with his tongue.
He nods and swings his feet down to the floor, patting the bed beside him. It’s still early enough, cool enough that he knows she knows the invitation’s genuine, not another ploy to get her to open up. Not that that isn’t a part of it too, but last night had unsettled him and despite how tired and irritable he knows he is, he still needs to know she’s ok.
Her weight settles unevenly onto the bed, more of it toward the edge, as if she’s waiting to spring to her feet, away from him or toward something else, he’s not sure. She smiles at him tiredly, though, trying to reassure him and he lets himself fall into it for just a moment, reaching out to brush a hand lightly over her hair.
They sit like this for a while, him running his fingertips over her hair, over the contours of the blouse she’s wearing, avoiding the shock of her bare skin except to tuck the hair he had loosened back behind her ear. She sits, head bowed, watching her hands, watching the floor, once she raises her gaze to the window.
“You’re awfully patient,” she finally sighs, hands twisted so that her thumbs lie pressed together in her lap.
“Sleep helps.” He replies, not as a jab but as an explanation.
“It’s been a week. You haven’t asked me a single question since the night I got back.”
He stills his hand on her arm. “Does that bother you?”
She’s quiet for a moment, not dodging his question, but not answering it either. She hasn’t tensed up and he takes that as a good sign. He knows if she’s half as sick of this as he is, she’ll answer it eventually.
“I thought you’d be curious.”
“I am.” The affirmation’s firm, but he’s not about to start berating her with questions. She’d told him all the important bits, the things he needs to know to do his job, enough to let him know that she’s glad to be back, that she’s ok at least for the most part. She’s never lied to him, but he’s always had her secrets and he’s ok with letting her hold on to a couple more, at least for the time being. “I am curious, but right now we have bigger issues to deal with than deciding what your new favorite yoga pose is and I’m not talking about Hollow Earth.”
She nods. They both know she’s not wigging out of this one, not without starting a fight that neither of them have the patience for. He’s treading carefully, but he’s willing to push her if he has to.
“I spent a lot of time away from all this.”
“Yeah,” he agrees softly and for a second a sad smile flickers across her face.
“I spent so long imagining what it would be like when I finally got back here.”
“Not living up to your expectations?”
“Not exactly.” She turns to look at him cautiously, gauging his reaction. “That’s not to say-”
“I know.” He slides his hand down to cover hers. This isn’t about them. He’d known that since that first night when she’d fallen asleep with her head on his shoulder. “Nothing’s exactly how we remember it.”
“That’s something I learned a long time ago. Although I have to say I hadn’t expected this.”
“Indonesia?” He jokes and she huffs a laugh, turning back to look out the window.
He’s pretty sure that’s code for feelings, but he’ll let her tell him that. This is the first conversation they’ve had since they’d arrived here that hasn’t involved them squabbling and he’s not about to ruin that by jumping the gun. “Some things are the same though. Some of the good things.” He prompts when she doesn’t reply.
“Your smile for one.” She turns back to him, shifting to set her back to the window, angling herself toward him when he grins. “Breakfast omelets, the Sunday Post crossword- abysmal, the jets in my shower.”
“You know the New York Times prints crosswords. You should try them some time.”
“I prefer breakfast in bed with good company rather than an uninventive puzzle.”
“Who said anything about breakfast in bed?” He’s teasing, expecting her to call his bluff, but he’s still surprised when she picks up his hand and draws it to her lips and suck on one of his fingers before releasing it with a pop. She smiles at him coyly and he sighs.
“Magnus.” She’s expecting an admonishment, a refusal, but instead he asks, “what is it that’s bothering you?”
It’s direct, blunt, but he knows trying to refuse her is only going to frustrate her. He’s not opposed, he’d gladly return her smile with a wink if he thought it meant she’d end up getting some sleep, but they’re not done here. Her overture had all but proved that.
He watches the surprise filter through, catches the faint look of disappointment she can’t quite hide when she drops his hand.
“I’ve missed you.” She reaches out and he draws her hand to his face, closes his eyes for a second, letting her have that connection.
“I know.” He murmurs pressing a kiss to her palm. “You’re back now though and I’m not going anywhere.”
She nods, not agreeing, her look’s too contemplative for that, but she doesn’t disagree as he winds his fingers between hers and sets their hands on his knee.
“You said some things were different, since you got back.” He suspects a week isn’t enough time for her to process all this, to realize what she’s missed, what’s missing, but something has changed and it’s bothering her.
“Little things.” She fidgets, tapping her fingers on the back of his hand. “My shampoo smells different, and the post-its are in the wrong drawer in my desk. There’s no scuff along the side of the table in the residential wing from when Ashley-”
“Lots of little things.” He echoes and her grip on his hand tightens.
“What if I changed something?” The confession is quiet, not fearful but concerned. “What if I’m the only one who remembers?”
“What if the things you remember aren’t real?” He infers, wincing when she shivers.
“Do you remember that trip to Scotland with Griffin that you told me about over dinner on that balcony in Paris. You’d gone looking for a couple of fae. It was a bloody stupid thing to do, remember telling me that? You laughed your way through the entire story. I kept waiting for you to snort wine up your nose.” He pauses for a second, hoping to coax a smile out of her. “There’s no one else here that was there, no one else to tell that story, but that doesn’t make it any less real, does it?”
She sighs, gaze fixed on their hands, and he presses on more gently. “Whatever happened, whatever changed, whatever stayed the same, it’s the same as it’s always been. You still have your ridiculous stories to tell and I’m still here to listen. I’m sure there’s a lot of things I could learn from those monk pals of yours. And if you want to forget it all that’s ok too, but I’m here to listen when you need me, the good and the bad, okay?”
He reaches over, squeezing her shoulder gently. “I know there’s probably too much going on in that head of yours right now to figure out what’s happening, even without all my psychobabble. When you figure it out, when you know what want to say or if something’s bothering you, I want you to come talk to me, alright, Magnus? You’re not alone in this anymore. I’ll be right here.”
“Always.” She whispers and he nods despite the fact she’s not smiling. She looks relieved though, and that counts for a lot. With Magnus it was always about give and take, whatever bitterness or irony she finds in what he’s just said will have to wait until another day. He suspects he’s won this battle, at least for now, and he knows better than to let that slip by unnoticed.
“You want to try and get some sleep now?”
“Maybe,” she glances up at him. “Maybe we could lie here for a minute.”
“Yeah, sure.” He knows he’s grinning like an idiot, but it’s taken them a week to get this far and he’s not stupid enough to think that doesn’t count for something. He has a million more questions he wants to ask, but for now he’s content to wrap his arms around her and hold her close while she drifts off to sleep. It’s not a victory to write home about but it’s good enough for him.