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Thursday Night, Far from Sleep

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Sam stumbles out of bed. He's still exhausted, but he knows he won't get back to sleep. It's about twenty to four in the morning. His foggy brain registers that there's a light on downstairs; he thinks sourly that Hermione and Dean probably forgot to turn it off during their rush to bed. (He has to admit to himself that he actually has no idea who came up last; he's just bitter about being the only of-age person in the house who isn't getting laid.)

He makes his way down the stairs, feeling as though he's all feet—and he's suddenly a lot more awake when he sees Ginevra on the couch, drawing her wand into what looks a lot like battle position. Then she sees who's there, and puts it back onto the coffee table.

"I'm sorry," he says. A yawn tries to come out; he stifles it. "I didn't realize anyone else was up."

"Couldn't sleep."

She's curled up on the couch with…Middlemarch? She's still wearing her T-shirt and several-sizes-too-big cargo pants. And earrings, tiny bits of dark red stone. It's the jewelry, as much as anything else, that tells him she hasn't been to bed yet.

Belatedly, Sam realizes that he's half-naked at almost four in the morning with a sixteen-year-old girl. He turns on the stairs to go back up and get a shirt.

"You can stay down here," Ginevra says. "It's alright. You won't bother me."

"I was just going to put a shirt on."

Ginevra gives him an almost-perfect facsimile of what Sam privately refers to as Dean's bitch-please look. "I have six older brothers. Do you really think it's anything I haven't seen before?"

"God. Six? One's enough for me."

"One of Dean is plural of most other people, I think." Ginevra's not quite smiling. She's closed her book and marked her place.

Sam goes into the kitchen. "Are you really reading Middlemarch?"

"Hermione said it was good."

He fills Faith's electric kettle and starts it. "What do you think?"

"It is, actually. Less boring than I expected. Are you making tea?"

"Assam, darjeeling or lapsang soochong?"

"Assam. My God, I feel almost civilized."

"Not all Americans are barbarians."

"Just most of you." She gets up and pads over to the doorway of the kitchen. She maintains her typical ten-foot distance, but he's obliquely pleased that she's willing to be alone in the same room (more or less) with him. He does notice, however, that she's taken her wand with her. She's armed (in her way) even more often than he and Dean are, and that, in itself, says a lot.

"I seem to recall being told that Wizard Chess would debarbarize me," Sam says.

"We should play again. You might actually win." She considers. "Maybe not. But you might lose less badly."

"There's a ringing endorsement," Sam says, amused.

"Well, if you're afraid to lose..." She raises her eyebrows, crossing her arms, and for a moment it's like looking at a five-foot-tall, red-haired, English, female version of Dean. Which is disturbing on a number of levels.

"Let me finish making the tea. Then you can stomp me again."

Her smile is lovely, and heartbreakingly young against her ancient amber eyes. He's still not completely sure what happened to her, but he would like to kill whoever did it.

She lays out the chessboard on the table in the living room as they wait for the water to boil. He does take the opportunity to go upstairs for a shirt—she may have seen it all before, but she's sixteen and obviously the survivor of something during the war, and she hasn't seen it on him.

He brings the tea out in a few minutes, then goes back into the kitchen. He takes two bowls from the cupboard and finds Faith's stash of Fairway gelato in the freezer. He'll deal with the squawking and buy her some more tomorrow. He dishes out two bowls, half raspberry and half lemon, and goes back into the living room and hands one to Ginevra.

"Much as I liked Middlemarch," he says, "it's not the kind of thing I'd stay up until the small hours of the morning reading."

She looks warily across the table at him.

He pours them both tea. "Want to tell me why it's four a.m. and you still haven't been to bed?"

"No," she says. "Want to tell me why it's four a.m. and you can't sleep?"


He hands her the sugar, and she takes it. "So we understand each other," she says. "Now, chess. Your strategy is good, but you really must learn to direct the pieces verbally."