The first time that Piffin was able to even let her guard down a little was the first night that Dexarya dragged her to stay with her. She had argued it was ‘just for a night’— a concept that confused Piffin at first, because why bother going somewhere for one night if she could be content as she could be on her own, somewhere else that she'd gotten used to? The thought was more than just ridiculous; rather, it was an inconvenience that Dexarya even thought for a moment that it would be a good idea.
But there was something about the look in her eyes, or the lift in her voice when she had asked again that made Piffin think twice. Or maybe it had been the colder fingers curling in around her wrist, but it was easier to avoid thinking about that. Instead, she'd caved, for the first time in what she was positive was well over a decade, and the deal was made: stay at Dexarya’s for just a night, no more, no less.
Just like many things in Piffin's life, however, that hadn't gone according to plan, either. One night had turned to three, and in time, she'd been sleeping in the same bed for a month, and then six.
On this particular night, she was laying in what Dex had described to her years ago to be the ‘guest bedroom’, when she was barged in on rather ungracefully. It was far past dark, and she'd just gotten herself comfortable: back pressed to the wall, backpack wrapped in a cloth in her arms against her chest, and Dirt rested comfortably atop the pillow under Piffin’s head. Just as she'd closed her eyes, however, the door swings open, revealing a particularly bouncy human in the doorway.
“Sorry,” she chirps, holding up a lantern. “...Did I wake you?” she asks, going to snuff out the light, placing it beside the door frame as she shuts it behind her.
“Uhh… No?” Piffin tries, nose wrinkling up. “What are you doing? It is… Late. Please go to sleep?”
Dex laughs at that, grating and loud as she moves over to sit beside Piffin, whose arms just tighten involuntarily around the bundle against her chest. “Ain't the latest I've been awake, Piff, it could be leagues worse.”
“I— Yes, I suppose?” Piffin mumbles, eyes fixed on her visitor as she lowers herself to lay down now, head falling to a rest on the pillow beside her own. The mouse squeaks, but silence falls soon after, leaving the two staring at each other.
“You are making a face,” Piffin whispers after a long moment. “Why are you looking at me like that? Put your eyes back to normal, stop squinting.”
“Gosh, Piff, how—” she snorts. “I'm just trying to look at you. It's dark. I can't see.”
“Ohhh, yes, this is right,” Piffin mumbles back, snorting. “You have the vision of a baby. Terrible eyes. Humans are weak to darkness,” she whispers, almost as if it's to herself.
Dex laughs again, and Piffin feels the bed shift before there are fingers reaching against her arm. She bristles, freezing as the fingers trail towards her wrist, and then push through her own.
The fact that surprises her most is that she doesn't let herself pull away.
Instead, her hand is being dragged from her bag, and her eyes catch on Dexarya again, whose gaze has fallen now, and Piffin recognizes that she's trying to find their hands through the dark. Like she can't believe it.
Admittedly, Piffin can't either. She just blinks before she closes her eyes and breathes in, bathing in the silence that's washed itself over them.
It stays like that for a long moment; the two of them still, and comfortable, with the only sound between them being the sound of their breathing in blissful tandem. Piffin doesn't budge when Dexarya’s fingers curl tighter against her own, she holds her breath when she feels Dex move closer to her own side, but when she feels a weight settle against her chest, she opens her eyes. Dirt scurries across the pillow to get further from Dexarya, but Piffin doesn't speak. Just feels, and focuses, and when there's a voice beside her, she can't help herself when she jumps.
“You know you sleep kinda funny, Piffy?” Dexarya whispers after what has to be close to ten minutes. Piffin had been convinced that she was asleep. It's made clear that her assumption was incorrect.
“...I do not know what you're talking about,” Piffin mumbles softly, and her free hand parts from her backpack on order to move tentatively up into Dexarya’s hair. She can't remember if she's seen her without a braid in, but it's nice, even if it's not soft. She feels her way through knots and curls carefully, eyes caught on her as she does. Dex doesn't do anything that makes her think she should stop.
So she doesn't. She adjusts herself, involuntarily squeezing Dex’s hand as she continues to play with the curls. She probably needs to wash it. Piffin could stand for a wash herself, likely, but there are constant and more pressing issues than how soft ones hair appears.
“Just—” Dex takes in a soft breath, shifting closer to Piffin again, head resting gently against her sternum. Piffin feels her heart jump, and it's almost embarrassing how quickly she feels her face grow hot. “You always put your back right against the wall. ‘n hold your stuff,” she whispers. “Always. You always do.”
“...You… Make it sound as though you are in here often while I am resting, Dex. I was under the impression that this is the guest bedroom, not Dexarya’s second domain,” Piffin drawls back, huffing softly as her fingers work almost involuntarily through a knot, smoothing it out as she goes.
“...I check in more than I should, if that's what you mean,” is the response she gets in response, and it's followed by a sheepish laugh that has Piffin's heart hammering into her ribcage. “Just to make sure you didn't ditch before the sun comes up, I guess,” she teases.
Piffin's shoulders rise defensively, though, and she huffs. “Ex cuse me, Dex, I have told you I would not!” In fact, the sheer idea that she would has her stomach twisting in uncomfortable ways that she didn't know it could. “I would not.”
Dex’s chin tips up to look at Piffin through the dark, and their eyes meet for a fleeting second before she snuggles down again, and Piffin feels the blush go right up her ears. “Oh— I know, Piff, ‘m sorry, I'm just messing around,” she mumbles. “But you know— you don't have to just snuggle up to a backpack every night. I could give you something better to hold.”
“Mmmh… close,” Dex whispers, gently scooting closer. “Try me , Piff.”
Piffin's quiet, just watching her before she takes in a shaky breath and pulls away completely. She can see Dex’s expression flicker as she sits up straight, and she drops her hand in order to hold her backpack against her chest again. This doesn't feel right. Something about this isn't setting well. Her chest hurts, and she feels sick, and Dex is all too close for this to be something normal. But instead of speaking, she just stares through the dark at the human beside her, who's struggling to find Piffin's face in the dark.
“No— What are you doing?” Piffin manages after a long moment, effectively sending a chill up her own spine. Her voice sounds jarring to her own ears this late at night. “What are— This is not— You are acting strangely! Are you ill? What is this?”
“...What?” The bed shifts, and Piffin watches Dex raise to sit beside her. “What do you mean? Did I do— that was just a joke, Piffy, you don't really have to…”
Piffin cuts her off. “Why are you so close?” she asks, almost defensive as she goes to cross her legs. “You should not be— I do not understand, you have no reason to be so close, there is no necessity to share this bed. You have your own room! This is your home, if you need me to go elsewhere, I can take myself out, there is no issue of— that . If I am imposing, just say so , Dex, I do not wish to—”
“I'm close because I want to be.”
“I'm close because I want to be, Piffin,” Dexarya repeats, eyebrows knitting together in concern as she tries to find her gaze. “I like you . I like being near you.”
“Well, that is just silly.”
“It's not— Piffin , it's not silly!” There's almost a laugh in her voice, and Piffin raises her shoulders defensively, huffing as she pulls the backpack closer.
“Yes, I believe it is, very much so,” she mumbles, arms crossed against her chest. “It is very much silly. Closeness is dangerous. I do not keep safe. You know this by now, it has been two years—”
“Two years, and you're still here, though! That's something!” Dexarya shifts again, and the bed beneath them shifts as well. “That's something , Piff.”
“I am— Well. This is only… That is because you will not let me go. That is all. You will hold my mouse hostage.”
There's a squeak from the pillow, and then Dexarya laughs. Piffin's gaze goes unbroken, staring at Dex’s face. Her eyes are unfocused, flitting about in the dark as though she's trying to find Piffin's with her own. They catch a few times. Piffin never says. Within a moment, however, she sees Dex’s hands come up, and before she knows what's going on, they're on either of her cheeks.
“Hel lo? ”
“...You're just really not used to having a friend, huh?”
Piffin scoffs, cheeks burning hotter. “You do not have to come for me like that.”
“But you aren't, ” Dex whispers. “You just aren't.” Piffin feels her thumbs drag across her cheeks, and her breath catches, gently jerking back from the touch.
“...I preferred it better when… your hand was in my hand. And not on my face.”
Dexarya’s quick to take the note, both of her hands falling from Piffin’s face, and her touch is soft and careful as she trails them along her shoulders and down her arms again, looking to find her hands instead. “Then we can hold hands,” she whispers softly.
“How daring,” Piffin mumbles sarcastically, though she allows her fingers to slip through Dexarya’s just as they’d been before. Dex’s hands are cold— everything about her skin is cold in comparison to Piffin’s, really, but when it’s just the two of them, sitting so close… It’s more than just a little obvious. Of course, Dex just laughs again, and it has Piffin’s stomach doing funny little flips that she doesn’t quite understand.
“Is it?” she asks softly, and Piffin’s heart skips a beat as she nods. She sounds tired, and there’s some part of her brain where Piffin feels like she’s supposed to be held accountable for keeping her up, but Dexarya was the one who even showed up in the room in the first place.
“It is,” Piffin whispers back, eyebrows furrowing as she watches her, giving her hands the faintest squeeze. “You are… daring. Daring to assume so quickly.” She clicks her tongue, eyes flickering around Dexarya’s face. Her eyes are barely open. “...You really like to be close to me?”
“Of course I do, Piffin.” There’s a yawn, and she continues. “...I like when you’re around. Makes me feel safe.”
“I could kill you right now, probably.”
“Mmh, yeah, but unless you have a third arm, you’re kind of preoccupied. Where’s your knife?”
“...Dirt could be holding it. He could stab you. I could make Dirt stab you right now.”
“He’s a mouse, Piff, he doesn’t have opposable thumbs.”
“...He’s a smart mouse,” Piffin whispers, huffing.
“And you’re a smart girl,” Dex mumbles back, smiling softly to herself. Piffin notices it, and she goes to squeeze her hands again. It’s returned. “You don’t really want to stab me.”
“...Nooo, perhaps I do not, but I could. And—”
“I know you could.”
“You know I could. Perhaps this is all that matters.”
“I dunno. I think a few things matter,” Dex murmurs calmly. “...Can I lean on you?”
“...Can you tell me why?”
“You're warm,” she mumbles softly, and Piffin watches her lips twitch into a sheepish smile before she looks down. “I didn't just come in here to watch you sleep.”
“You could have fooled me,” Piffin mumbles, hesitantly going to let go of one of her hands in order to remove her backpack from her lap, placing it instead atop her pillow. “Fine. You may… Lean. For warmth. And… convenience.”
“Convenience,” Dex echoes, moving closer to her. She leans in, head coming to a rest against Piffin's shoulder, and her free hand comes up to wrap her arm around Piffin in a loose hug. “...You moved your bag?”
“Yes. God, there is not room for a girl and a backpack in my lap, Dexarya, I am pressed for space here,” Piffin mumbles, her own arm coming up and around Dex, fingers splaying across her back. She is cold. The nightgown can't be that thick of a material, either. She feels Dex sigh under the touch, and there's a moment of hesitation before she moves her hand gently. “I did not agree to a hug, you know.”
“Maybe, but you hugged me back,” Dex whispers into Piffin’s shoulder, yawning again. “That counts for something, Piff.”
“It counts for I do not intend on having you freeze to death. Do not be foolish.”
“Right, right. Sorry, Piffy.”
Piffin huffs, though she finds herself letting Dex scoot closer. “It is… Alright. I will let it slide.” The room falls quiet again. Still. She breathes in, and Dexarya follows the breath slowly. “...You are tired, yes?”
“I do like to sleep,” Dex whispers, and by the way her words string together, it's easy to tell that she's on her way out.
“...We can— Would you like to lay down? Perhaps? As you were before? It would be okay to do so, I believe, as long as you are… Okay with it.”
What Piffin gets in response isn't words. There's no nod of her head, either, or a hum, but instead she feels Dexarya lean up and press the littlest kiss to her cheek. It's enough to make her eyes get wide, and her breath catches involuntarily in her throat. It's a lot to handle, and yet somehow not enough, and when there's a voice beside her, she's barely taking it in.
“Sounds good,” Dex whispers against Piffin's cheek, and Piffin feels a chill down her spine when Dex pulls back enough to curl in against her. “Let's— lay.”
Piffin nods slowly, feeling absolutely speechless as she lowers herself back down, and her gaze is stuck on the ceiling as Dex scoots in closer. They're so close, and it's so hard not to focus on the fact that Piffin can feel Dex’s heartbeat against her own.
Once they're comfortable, it's anything but difficult for Piffin to catch onto the fact that Dexarya’s breathing is evening out, especially given the fact that her face is tucked right against Piffin's neck now. She doesn't budge. As she slowly moves her hand into Dex’s hair again, slowly untangling knots with her fingers, she swears she feels Dex smile against her neck.
This human girl is going to be the death of her.