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Time Passes Slowly (Except When it Doesn't)

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Gil regretted his decision to kick the solid metal bulkhead about two seconds after he actually did it. He hissed in pain as his entire leg went numb, physical pain temporarily pushing aside his residual anger and frustration. "Fuck," he muttered under his breath. "That was... fuck."

He slid down to the floor, his back against the smooth metal wall behind him. His leg was starting to throb, the numbness fading away to something much sharper. Gil reached down to poke at his leg, hissing in pain as he touched it.

He'd broken his leg before, and he was pretty sure he hadn't put enough force behind his kick to do that much damage. But damn, it hurt almost as much as he remembered the broken bone hurting.

This day just kept getting shittier and shittier.

Gil closed his eyes for a moment and just breathed. Whatever the hell it was that was going on between him and Kallo had been building for months. It had been inevitable that one of them would snap. If he was honest, he'd expected it to be him.

It had caught him by surprise that Kallo had been the one to break first. He thought he'd done a pretty good job of hiding it, but he'd felt off-kilter during the whole messy argument. Their entire relationship since they'd left the Nexus had been a carefully crafted system of knowing when to push and when to pull back, and it had all crumbled into a mess in seconds.

And it hadn't helped in the least bit that Ryder had been pissed at both of them. The Pathfinder was usually pretty calm and collected, but when they did get upset... well, he suddenly understood why so many people out there were scared to get on Ryder's bad side.

Gil reluctantly opened his eyes and looked down at his leg. He stretched it a bit, not quite able to hold back a hiss of pain. Still, it moved. That was the important part.

It would have been easier if Ryder had taken one side or the other, but of course they'd been smart enough not to do that. They'd snapped at Kallo for being too sentimental, for not realizing that sometimes changes had to be made. Gil had almost smiled, until Ryder had turned that same glare on him and made it clear that unless it was an emergency he could damn well wait until they were landed somewhere before making upgrades.

And Gil? Get some sleep. If I need to make it an order, I will.

That had been the part that had hurt the most, honestly. Gil was well aware that it was an open secret that he spent more time at night working than he did actually sleeping. It stung, though, having it thrown out like that in front of everyone.

Including Kallo, who had shot him a look that made it clear he'd had no idea about any difficulties Gil might have sleeping until Ryder had said that. Gil was absolutely certain that Kallo would do something with that little bit of news. He would, if he was in his shoes.

This just hadn't been his day.

Gil stretched his leg again before carefully trying to push himself to his feet. He grimaced a bit as he put his weight on it, but it held despite the flair of pain that went shooting up it. No lasting damage. Good. The last thing he wanted was to have to go try to explain to Lexi that he'd broken his leg while angrily kicking a wall. He could almost imagine how that conversation would go, and there was no way whatsoever he'd end up on top.

With a tired sigh, he limped over to a nearby console. If he wasn't allowed to make any actual changes, he could at least get some plans together for upgrades to make the next time they were docked.

And try his hardest not to think about the fact that maybe, just maybe, this time he'd been the one in the wrong.

*

"It won't work."

Gil turned toward Kallo and glowered. "Well, I think it will," he snapped. "And we won't know for sure unless we try."

Kallo stared at him for a long moment. "It won't work," he repeated, speaking much more slowly and pointedly enunciating each word.

Gil could practically feel the tension levels rising. "Oh, for—" He cut himself off, rolling his eyes as turned away. "I don't know how I let Ryder talk me into asking you for help," he muttered under his breath. "It shouldn't be a difficult concept. If we don't adapt, we die. Period. I know you want to leave everything on the ship exactly like it is, but all that's going to do is—"

"We already tried," Kallo cut in, something in his voice that Gil couldn't quite read. "My team. We tried." He hesitated for a moment before adding: "That's why I know it won't work."

Gil stopped talking. He turned back toward Kallo and raised his eyebrows.

Kallo looked... well, it was hard to tell with salarians, but Gil thought he looked almost sheepish. "We tried," he said again, "back when we were still in the initial design process. It overloaded the lower conductors." He shifted a little. "There may have been an explosion." There was another shift. "Or three."

Gil opened his mouth. Then he closed it. It was easy to forget sometimes that Kallo had been there for a lot of the original experimentation that had led to Tempest's creation in the first place. Not that he'd helped design the ship. He'd never let anybody forget that. But the early stuff, the part where you threw a bunch of things at the wall and waited to see what stuck... it was easy to forget he'd been there for that process too.

It didn't really seem like his type of thing. But then again, Gil supposed he didn't really know him well enough to know what his type of thing was.

Kallo was eyeing him warily, like he wasn't certain what he was going to say. Which was fair, considering Gil wasn't sure himself.

Then again...

"Explosions, huh?" Gil asked, glancing down at the plans he'd been working on. "Thanks to the lower conductors overloading?"

"That's right," Kallo said carefully. It sounded almost as if he was expecting a trap.

That... made sense, actually. Gil narrowed his eyes at a specific part of the diagram. It hadn't occurred to him, but considering how those three sections there crossed with each other, there was bound to be an issue with power fluctuation.

Honestly, it could potentially do more than cause an explosion or two. It was probably a good thing that Gil hadn't tried to make the change without looking over it first, especially not while they were in space. Not that he was willing to admit to that out loud.

"What if we switched these two systems?" Gil asked, pointing at the diagram. "Here and here. It would reverse the flow, so we'd need to switch out some of the capacitors, but—"

"Oh!" Kallo's eyes went wide as he leaned in, studying the blueprints more closely. "Yes. Yes, that could work. It would give the excess energy somewhere to escape—"

"Hopefully without making anything blow up," Gil cut in, his mouth twisting into a grin.

Kallo looked up at him, a smile on his own face.

Gil felt something unexpected flicker in his chest, just for a second. He didn't think he'd ever actually seen Kallo smile. Or, if he had, it definitely hadn't been aimed at him.

"What do you think?" Gil asked carefully. "Is it worth a shot, trying to make the changes the next time we're docked?"

"Yes, I think so," Kallo said immediately, nodding at him.

Gil let out a breath he hadn't even realized he was holding. "Good," he said. "That's good. Come on, let's figure out what parts we'll need."

*

It said a lot about his state of mind that Gil didn't even notice the kitchen doors open until someone had actually stepped into the room with him.

"Gil?" a familiar voice asked, sounding surprised. "What are you doing in here?"

Gil looked up, blinking a few times to clear his vision enough that he could tell it was Kallo standing there. He wasn't entirely certain how long it had been since the last time he slept, but considering his body was starting to protest he suspected he was probably getting to the point where passing out and sleeping for a few hours whether he liked it or not was coming up fast.

Especially since Kallo was looking at him with an almost worried look on his face. Gil had to be looking pretty damn bad for that to happen.

Oh. Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that he hadn't actually answered Kallo's question yet. That could be it.

"Drinking coffee?" Gil said slowly. It came off sounding a bit more like a question than an answer, but considering just how little sleep he'd gotten the past few days... well, he'd take what he could get.

Kallo's eyes darted down to the mug in his hands. "Invisible coffee?"

Gil blinked. Then he looked down. The mug he was holding was empty and, judging by how cool it was, had probably been that way for quite some time without him realizing.

"Oh," he said. "Huh. I guess that I should make some more."

There was a long moment of silence, like Kallo wasn't certain how to respond to that.

"It's the middle of the night," Kallo finally said, drawing Gil's attention back to him. "Why are you awake?"

Gil shrugged. Then he pushed himself to his feet and walked over to the counter to actually start making himself another cup of coffee. He was starting to get the feeling that he probably needed it even more than he'd realized.

There was a long pause. "That's not an answer," Kallo said, a bit more pointedly than before. There was a hint of something in his voice that really did sound almost like worry, and Gil did his best not to think about that.

In a lot of ways, it had been easier when they'd hated each other.

"You're awake," Gil said a bit distractedly, his attention split between the conversation and actually get some caffeine in his system. "I could ask you the same thing."

Kallo made a noise that sounded suspiciously like he was trying to hold back a snort of laughter. "Salarians don't need much sleep."

Gil hummed. "Neither do some humans."

This time, Kallo didn't even try to hold back his snort. It didn't sound particularly amused, though, at least not to Gil's ears.

Damn it, Gil was too tired to deal with this tonight.

"Give me a minute, and I'll be out of your way," Gil said, grabbing his spare mug from the cabinet. If one cup of coffee would be a good idea, then two had to be an even better one.

Behind him, Kallo sighed. Then, before Gil quite knew what was happening, a long slender hand reached out and deftly grabbed both of his mugs.

Gil blinked. Then he blinked again before turning around to face Kallo. "What was that for?"

Kallo just looked at him for a moment, his eyes moving over Gil's face like he was looking for something. Then he shook his head. "Get some sleep, Gil," he said, and there was something in his voice that Gil had absolutely no idea how to interpret. "You look like you need it."

Without saying another word, Kallo turned and walked back out of the kitchen as quietly as he'd come in. Carrying both of Gil's coffee mugs with him, so that if he wanted coffee his only choice would be to use someone else's cup instead. Which could potentially be a death sentence on this ship. Some of the crew took their caffeine drinking seriously, whether it be in the form of coffee, tea, or whatever the dextro liquid Vetra drank most mornings was.

Gil stood there a moment gaping. "What just happened?" he asked the universe at large.

Thankfully, the universe at large didn't answer. Considering just how sleep deprived he was just then, him hearing a reply was probably just within the realms of possibility so he counted that as a small blessing.

*

Gil was acutely aware of Kallo leaning against his legs, a warm weight that was pressing them back against the monstrosity of a sofa that he and Drack had helped Liam drag into Ryder's quarters for movie night. It said a lot about how far they'd come, he thought. It hadn't been that long ago that Kallo would have rather spaced himself than have less than a room's space between him and Gil, and here he was now using Gil as a backrest.

As for Gil's own thoughts on the matter, well... if someone had told him just a few months ago that he'd find it reassuring to have Kallo leaning against him like this, he would have laughed in their face. It just went to show you never knew what the universe was going to throw at you. Adaptation was the key to survival.

Well, adaptation and alcohol. The drinks that Peebee had been serving all night probably had at least a little bit to do with how comfortable both of them were with each other just then.

Still, he had enough sense to keep the bit about adaptation being the key to himself. Which was probably its own form of adapting to survive, if he thought about it.

"Okay, the movie's over," Ryder said, clapping their hands together. "Everyone out of my room unless we're sleeping together."

Gil chuckled at the chorus of laughter and groans that met that pronouncement. Then he blinked in surprise when Drack stretched and headed for the door, stopping long enough to give him a very pointed look. Or maybe it was the sofa he was looking at pointedly.

The sofa. Oh. Smart man.

Sitting up a little straighter, he gave Kallo a surreptitious kick. Kallo glanced over his shoulder with a confused look on his face.

Gil gestured towards the door with his head.

It said a lot how much things had changed between them over the last few months that Kallo didn't question him. He still looked like he had no idea what was going on, but he didn't say anything. He just pushed himself to his feet and followed Drack towards the door, with only a quick glance over his shoulder to make certain Gil was following.

"'Night, Ryder!" Gil called out. "Thanks for the movie!"

Drack had already disappeared into the crew quarters as Gil stepped out of Ryder's quarters, moving surprisingly quickly for a thousand-plus year old krogan the size of a small mountain. Kallo had taken a few steps down the corridor and was turning around, his mouth open like he was about to ask exactly what was going on.

"Hey, who's going to help me move this sofa?" Liam asked, just as the door shut behind Gil's back.

Kallo closed his mouth.

Gil grinned at him. "I don't know about you," he said, "but I didn't want to get roped into dragging that thing across the Tempest again."

There was a short pause before Kallo nodded. "In that case—" He reached out and grabbed Gil's hand, pulling him after him down the corridor. Away from the probably soon-to-be-opening-again door to Ryder's quarters, Gil realized after a second or two, once his brain started working again.

It said a lot, though, that his brain had stopped for a moment when Kallo grabbed his hand in the first place. He tried not to think too hard about that.

"You do realize this will be the first place Liam looks for me, right?" Gil asked lightly as Kallo pulled him in the direction of engineering. "Not that there's really anywhere to hide on this ship."

Kallo turned towards him, still holding his hand.

Looking back, Gil wasn't entirely certain which one of them kissed the other. Or maybe it was both of them, leaning in at the same time. All he knew was that one moment Kallo was turning to him, a no doubt somewhat smartass comment on the tip of his tongue, and the next they were a bit preoccupied with other things.

Time seemed to stand still, and for a long instant they were the only two people in the universe. Then there was a loud crash somewhere in the distance, followed by the sound of Liam cursing and several people laughing.

Kallo pulled away without a sound, his eyes wide as he let go of Gil's hand. Not for the first time with him, Gil had no idea what the expression on his face meant. But for what might have been the first time, he didn't want to just leave it at that.

Gil reached out to grab Kallo's hand again, but he stopped at the last moment and left his hand hovering an inch or so above it. Boundaries. He didn't want to press. He wasn't sure what he wanted to do, but he knew that much.

He took a few unsteady breaths, not quite trusting his voice. For the first time in a long time he'd actually gotten a decent amount of sleep the last few nights, but the world still had an almost dreamlike state to it.

Kallo's gaze drifted down to focus on Gil's hand, still hovering just above his own. Then, with a not-so-steady breath of his own, he reached out and clasped their hands together.

*

Gil wasn't used to waking up in the middle of the night and finding someone watching him.

Oh, mostly it was because he wasn't used to being with someone who slept even less than him. In the past, if he woke up in the middle of the night he'd usually just slip out of bed and get to work until whoever he was with at the time woke up as well. And then, well, usually they had other things to spend their time doing.

That... probably said a lot about some of his past relationships, actually.

It wasn't that his previous relationships had revolved around nothing but sex. Well, yes, actually it was now that he thought about it. Oh, there'd been other things too, but overall that had been the main focus. Whatever it was that was slowly forming between him and Kallo, it was still fragile. Neither of them wanted to push too hard, not yet, in case they shattered it.

Besides, sex wasn't exactly a priority for most salarians, based on what Kallo had told him. And while he didn't seem repulsed by the idea, they were still working out how that aspect of things was going to work. It surprised Gil a bit that he really didn't mind taking their time. That wouldn't have been the case in the past.

"What are you working on?" Gil asked, yawning a little as pushed himself up into a sitting position.

Kallo was holding a datapad in his hand, but Gil wasn't blind. He could tell that Kallo had been staring at him, not the pad, when he'd woken up.

They were spending a few days on the Nexus while Ryder visited their sibling and played nice with the higher ups, and he'd called in some favors to get a small room to stay in for a couple of nights. If nothing else, it was worth it solely for the comfort of sleeping on a bed that wasn't made of what felt like solid rock.

When Kallo didn't reply, Gil raised his eyebrows. "What?" he asked, yawning again. "You're staring at me."

That seemed to shake Kallo out of whatever spell he was under, and he shook his head. "Sorry," he said. He held up the datapad in his hand. "I was looking over the shield modifications we were talking about last week."

Gil stretched a little. "The ones based on the angaran tech?" he asked. "I thought you said I was being an idiot and trying to get us all killed with those plans."

"You were," Kallo said matter-of-factly. "But I think I have an alternative."

Gil raised his eyebrows at that. He'd given up on that line of thought, considering just how negative Kallo's reaction had been when he'd suggested it. It was a pleasant surprise to hear that maybe it wasn't out of the question after all.

"Well, I'm listening," he said, leaning over a bit so he could see the pad. "What did you come up with?"

Gil suspected that the smile that Kallo shot him could have lit up an entire room. He still wasn't used to seeing it aimed at him, not yet.

But he thought that he could get used to it.