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mother i climbed

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“I’ve been thinking,” Sylvia said into the dim not-quite darkness of their shared quarters.

“Hm.” Michael made a noise that seemed to imply that this was completely expected behavior.

“I mean, it just makes sense. Since you’re not in my chain of command. Any chain of command for that matter.”

Michael winced. “Sense would require more explanation, Tilly.” Her voice came out harsher than intended.

“Oh, god, I didn’t mean… it’s just we’re both here, and you seem so wound up all the time, and I know you’ve been alone for a while and …”

Michael blinked. “Are you… are you making a pass at me, Cad… Sylvia?”

“What? No! I mean, not exactly. Maybe?” Sylvia threw her arm over her eyes and sighed. “I’m really messing this up, I’m sorry. I was just… it seems… logical…  that you might need some companionship. And I’m here. And wouldn’t mind.”

Michael laughed in spite of herself, a dry, helpless chuckle. “Even though I’m a scary mutineer?”

“I… I don’t know what happened,” Sylvia said. “I can’t pretend to know why you did what you did. But what I’ve seen since… You’re one of the most brilliant and selfless people I’ve ever met, and I’m pretty sure you don’t do anything without a really good reason.”

“I thought you liked people more like our new pilot,” Michael said low and amused.

“Strong, selfless, and driven?” Sylvia said. “He’s alright.”

Michael opened her mouth and then shut it again.

“You can ignore it if you aren’t interested,” Sylvia said. “I know a lot of people don’t want to get too close to the people they work with. And if you were… still your old rank… I wouldn’t even dream of offering. I respect you too much to put you in that position. But you’re not in charge of me, and I’m not in charge of you, and I… Sometimes you look really alone and I just want to let you know… that you aren’t.”

“I’m not really in a position to offer much in a relationship.” The words came out dry and resigned.

“I wasn’t really asking for a relationship,” Sylvia said. “More, friends-with-benefits? I don’t think either of us is really cut out for romance.”

Michael laughed outright at that.

“Was that insulting?” Sylvia asked. “Sometimes I don’t know.”

“Don’t apologize for accuracy,” Michael said. “Not with me.”

Sylvia sighed with relief.

A few minutes went by, the room quiet and dim, each of them still lying in their respective berths.

Sylvia startled hard when she pulled her arm down from her face to find Michael standing next to her bed.

“Sorry,” Michael said without any genuine remorse, her face betraying nothing. “I… don’t know about sex. But your offer is… logical. And appreciated.”

Sylvia looked at her for a long moment, and then scooted as far over in the narrow berth as she could get. She shifted half onto her side, and patted the bed. “Well? Come on in!”

With a slow, awkward half smile, and the instinctive grace of a trained fighter, Michael lay down next to Sylvia.

“Turn around,” Sylvia said in the same tone she might have explained a schematic. “You’ll fit better.”

Michael snorted. “Are you seriously making me be the little spoon?”

“You told me I ought to work toward my strengths.”

Michael shook her head, bemused, and rolled over, stiffening slightly as Sylvia curled around her, then relaxing back into the contact. Sylvia worked an arm under Michael’s head, and wrapped the top arm around Michael’s waist, catching her hand.

Michael let out a long, shuddering breath. “Oh,” she said softly.

“Been a while?” Sylvia asked.

Michael nodded against the arm pillowing her head.

Sylvia sighed. “Same.”

Michael sagged against her, and fell asleep.

Sylvia lay awake a little longer, until the soft, rhythmic sleep-breathing pulled her under, too.