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Life's Ups and Downs

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Percival was awake again.

Vex narrowed her eyes, but she didn't look in his direction even though she suspected it was too dark for him to notice if she did. Especially since he wasn't wearing his glasses, as far as she knew. She could hear him shifting in his bedroll, his breathing too fast for even a nightmare. There wasn't a doubt in her mind that he wasn't sleeping.

He'd been traveling with them for less than a week, and she was starting to wonder if the man ever slept. Oh, he did a decent job of covering for it, but there was no hiding the dark smudges under his eyes or the way his hands trembled more often than they stayed still. So far, it hadn't seriously affected his ability to fight using the odd weapon that he preferred, the one that he'd been more than a little reluctant to even let them see, but Vex knew enough about sleepless nights to be well aware that wouldn't be the case forever

It was going to get him killed at this rate. And possibly some of them along with him, depending on how things went.

"Damn it," she muttered quietly.

She barely knew the man. He'd been fairly quiet since they'd rescued him from that cell, listening more than talking. They hadn't asked many questions about his past or what had led him to the situation that they'd found him in, and he hadn't offered many answers.

Still, nothing was going to change unless someone made an effort. And it clearly wasn't going to be him, not based on what she'd seen over the past five days.

Vex reluctantly took a deep breath and glanced over her shoulder, towards the edge of camp where he'd set up his bedroll. "If you're not going to sleep, darling, then you might as well join me."

Her voice was carefully pitched, just loud enough to reach Percival without disturbing the rest of their little group of misfits. She saw him go still, the ever-constant shifting that had drawn her attention to him in the first place immediately ceasing. For a long moment, she thought he was going to ignore her and pretend to be asleep after all, and if he did... well, she wasn't going to press him.

Then, very slowly, Percival pushed himself up into a sitting position. He fumbled with something at his side before putting on his glasses and glancing her way.

She just sat there and waited patiently, her gaze focused on him. The campfire was still lit, although the flames had died down quite a bit in the four hours since the others had gone to bed and watches had started. It was enough that he would be able to see her, though, even with his weaker human eyesight.

After a long moment or two, Percival stood up and walked her way. His appearance was more casual than she was used to seeing, his jacket and overshirt both gone. With his feet bare and hair mussed from his attempt to sleep, in nothing but trousers and an undershirt, he looked much younger despite the color of his hair.

For the first time, Vex couldn't help but think that he was probably several years younger than her and Vax. Hells, he was probably younger than all of them.

Silently, Vex patted the empty space beside her on the fallen tree she was sitting on. He hesitated for a second, clearly reluctant to take her up on her obvious invitation, before sitting down.

"How did you know I was awake?" Percival asked quietly.

Vex glanced at him and raised her eyebrows. "I'm on watch," she said lightly. "What kind of guard would I be if I couldn't tell whether or not someone is awake?"

The corner of his mouth twitched a little, as if he was trying to hold back a smile. "Grog didn't seem to notice."

"Yes, well, some of us like to know that we're being attacked before a dire wolf is gnawing on our arm in the middle of camp," Vex shot back, not even trying to hide her own smile.

To her surprise, Percival let out a quiet bark of laughter. He seemed almost as shocked as her at his reaction, a rueful smile appearing on his face. "That doesn't sound like a hypothetical to me."

Vex winked at him. "There's a reason that we usually let Grog take the first watch, when at least a few of us are likely to still be awake for part of it."

Shaking his head, Percival glanced away from her. She could still see the corners of his mouth turned upwards, though, even from the side.

They sat there for several minutes in silence, and Vex was surprised how comfortable it felt. Not nearly as awkward as she'd been expecting, all things considered.

Still. Whether he liked it or not, the man needed to get some sleep. For all of their sakes.

"Nightmares?" Vex asked casually.

Beside her, Percival stiffened. He cleared his throat rather awkwardly and very pointedly didn't look towards her. "Was it that obvious?"

Vex almost reached out to part him on the arm, but she held herself back at the last moment. She didn't think it would go over particularly well just then, not with him looking like he was ready to bolt at any moment. Instead she just gave a quiet laugh.

"Yeah, well, you get used to recognizing them after a while," she said, as gently as she could.

In his defense, Percival tried to laugh as well. It was clearly forced, though, not anything like the one she had startled out of him just a few minutes earlier.

Vex tentatively reached out to touch his arm, still halfway expecting him to bolt. He stiffened at the touch, but he didn't pull away.

"You need to get some sleep," she said softly. "Don't think I didn't notice that you missed more of those goblins than you hit earlier today."

Percival opened his mouth as if he was about to argue. Then he closed it, a defeated look appearing on his face as he turned his gaze toward the slowly dying fire. He reached up to run his fingers through his hair, messing it up even more than it already was. "Believe me, I'm well aware of that fact."

Vex bit her lip for a second, not entirely certain how to reply to that. Still, in for a copper...

She slid down off of the log she was sitting on, resting her back against it instead. Then she patted her lap. "Come on, why don't you try again?"

He stared at her as if she had just announced she was eloping with Scanlan.

"Like I said, I've seen enough nightmares to recognize the signs," Vex said patiently. Or, at least, as patiently as she could. It had never exactly been one of her strong points. "Why not give it a try? It works for my brother."

Percival stared at her for another long moment before letting out a rather louder-than-required sigh. "I suppose it couldn't hurt," he agreed, sliding off of the log as well.

Vex stared at him expectantly.

To her surprise, he flushed a little at her gaze. Then, with more reluctance than she felt was necessarily needed, he laid himself out on the ground and rested his head in her lap.

He lasted almost a minute before he started to sit up again.

Vex reached down and rested her hand on his shoulder. She didn't put any pressure against it. He could still sit up if he wanted.

Percival stilled again.

"Ten minutes," she said. "Give it ten minutes."

Judging by the look on his face, he wanted nothing more than to sit up then and there. But instead he nodded, with more than a little reluctance. "Ten minutes," he agreed. "It's a deal."

Vex couldn't help but grin at his wording. She did like deals, after all. Then she reached down and carded his fingers through his hair, relishing the surprised look on his face a bit more than she probably should have.

The tension on his face faded after another minute or two, as he slowly relaxed. Five minutes later, his breathing had evened out, his face relaxing as he slipped into sleep.

Vax was going to tease her mercilessly when he woke up for his watch, but she couldn't help but think it would be worth it. Their little group was a family, or at least that's what her brother kept claiming lately. They were supposed to watch out for each other.

That's what families did.