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he who laughs last

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It’s luck that she happens to be there when Rhys finally wakes up.

Ria spots a flicker of movement from the corner of her eye and rushes to his bedside, holding her breath as she watches. His chest rises and falls in a slow, steady rhythm. His long, dark eyelashes twitch against his pallid cheeks. Then they flick open.

He’s hardly had time to blink those big, brown, bloodshot eyes before Ria jerks him up into her arms. She’s squeezing for all she’s worth, laughing and sobbing into his (honestly kinda smelly) shoulder.

“Um,” Rhys says, his voice raspy from disuse.

“You bastard,” Ria gasps back, peppering his cheeks with kisses. “You have got to stop doing this.”

Rhys blinks back at her, forehead wrinkled in confusion. “I’m sorry?”

He’s limp in her arms, his face pinched up in that way it gets when he’s trying to solve a particularly complex puzzle. Or trying to think of a really good burn.

He ought to be happy. Or mad. Ria’s never really sure which one she’s gonna get with him, but she knows it should be one or the other. Not this. Not confusion.

“Rhys?”

He blinks at her. “I’m sorry,” he says again. “Is that–I’m so sorry. I’m having a little trouble remembering…”

Ria jerks away like she’s been burned, nearly launching herself off the edge of the bed. Her hands fall away from her brother’s shoulders, moving to her omnitool to ping Harry without any conscious command. They understand what’s going on, even if the rest of her is struggling to catch up.

Rhys is staring at her with that guilty, confused look–and of course he would feel guilty about this, like it’s his fault–and it’s almost too much to bear. After everything.

“When you say,” she pauses for a breath. “When you say you can’t remember, do you mean–What does that mean?”

He shakes his head. “I’m not sure. Everything is a bit hazy. I hate to ask, but… How do I know you?”

Ria’s heart stops.

“Pathfinder,” SAM starts to say but Ria throws up a hand.

“Just a minute, SAM. I need a minute.”

“But–”

Before SAM can say another word, Rhys snorts. His blank stare twists into a broad grin and he starts to giggle. “You should see your face,” he manages to say between his stupid braying laughs.

In spite of herself, Ria’s shoulders sag in relief. “You ass.”

Rhys only laughs harder.