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So Hard

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He woke with a start, body sluggish and mind still racing in the aftermath of his dream. Bloody nightmares, he muttered to himself, struggling to get his breathing under control.

The unpleasantness lingered, like a bitter taste in the mouth combined with a tightness in his chest. In the end he flung the covers away, threw on his hoodie by way of a dressing gown, and padded out of the room.

Pausing right outside Dave’s room, he took a couple of calming breaths before tapping lightly on the door. He didn’t want to wake his friend up, not if he was getting some much needed sleep at last; he just needed some scrap of normalcy to hold on to, until the last of his dread dissipated, and he could ease his distressed mind back into blissful slumber.

Several moments dragged by before the door opened just a crack, a somewhat grumpy and slightly dishevelled David peeking out. He vaguely wondered if he’d knocked on the wrong door before his drowsy brain caught up with him, blinked repeatedly as he tried to come up with a suitable excuse, to no avail.

“Dave’s still asleep,” David mumbled in a fairly neutral tone, looking him up and down. “What is it, Tom?”

“Nothing, I – I don’t suppose I could just – check, maybe?”

He regretted his words as soon as they were out of his mouth; still, David didn’t lash out at him as he half expected he would, eventually stepped aside to let him in instead.

“Here he is, sleeping like a baby. Lucky bastard.”

Dave was indeed fast asleep, his hand tucked under the pillow; Tom listened to the rhythmic sound of his breathing for a few minutes, slowly made his way back towards the door, careful to make as little noise as possible.

“I need a cigarette,” he heard David mutter as if to himself, as he followed him out of the room and into the corridor. “Care to join me?”

Well, he had to look pretty awful for David to be that nice to him. He nodded with sudden gratitude, his hand trembling only a little as he accepted the cigarette he was being offered; he let David light it for him, their fingers brushing for the fraction of a second before they both leaned away from one another.

At least we’ve got each another, he thought to himself, watching the shadows dance on David’s profile as his cigarette flickered in the near darkness. It’s not much, but it’s still more than those poor bastards outside do.

He closed his eyes, inhaled deeply, and leant back against the comforting solidity of the concrete wall.