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the game is not played alone

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"Doctor?" Vera mumbled, her voice barely audible. She was shielding her eyes from the light, wincing at random sounds. 

“Yeah?” they answered, making sure to keep their voice soft.

"C'n you hold me f'r a bit?" 

“Yeah, of course,” they whispered, moving closer to her. “Migraine?” She nodded slightly. 

"Meds aren't working fast enough." 

“I’m here,” they said reassuringly, moving to turn the lights out. “What can I get you?”

"Just… hold me, please. I need to lay down, but I don't wanna feel alone." 

“Yeah, yeah.” They unbuttoned their jacket and curled up on the bed, loosely wrapping their arms around her and letting her adjust to comfort. She curled up against them, resting her head on their chest and curling a hand against their shirt. They let out a gentle soft noise. 

"Can you tell me a story?" she whispered. 

“I- sure. What kind of story?” She shrugged slightly. After thinking for a moment, they asked, “How about a dumb old story from when I was in the Academy?” She nodded, curling up a bit closer to them. 

“Okay, so, once upon a time, I had a teacher. Big asshole. Hated him. And my partners and I, we’d arrived late for-” they paused awkwardly. “ Reasons. And the teacher, he threatened to expel me for missing so many of his classes.”

"How come you missed so many?" 

“Partially cause I hated him. Partially because there were so many early-early-morning classes. Partially because I despised him.”

"Mostly because you wanted to sleep, though?" 

“...yeah. Anyways-” She let out a quiet laugh. They grinned. “Anyways, so he threatens me with expulsion. And all three of us are getting up in arms, reminding him that he has to talk with my father about that before actually doing it, et cetera.”

"All three of you?"

They nodded. “Me and my partners didn’t take any bullshit. We were- pretty punk, I’d say. Dumbass punk, goth punk, and genius punk.”

"With you as the certified dumbass." 

They pouted at her slightly. “Maybe I was the goth one! Or genius! You don’t know!”

"This is you we're talking about," she pointed out. 

“Oi!”

"Am I wrong?" 

“I- listen!”

"I'm listening." 

“I can be smart! And goth!”

"In what universe?" 

They spluttered. “This one!”

"I doubt that." 

“Why are you Doctorphobic?”

"Your eyes are brown because you're so full of shit." 

“Keep it up and your eyes are gonna go blue from being blue-balled for so long.”

"I don't even have balls," she pointed out. 

“You get my point!”

"Do I?" 

“Please tell me you get my point.”

"Which is?" 

“Shut the fuck up or Else.”

"Don't make threats you can't keep." 

“Maybe I could keep it.” 

"No, you can't. But anyway, your story." 

They gave her a slightly offended look. “Anyways, we- we legitimately fought the teacher on this. My wife- she actually pulled up the contract we signed years ago and pointed out where he was wrong. And he kept arguing and arguing and eventually- I just told him to go suck a stamen.”

"No, you told him to get fucked and then ran away before he could catch you," she corrected without thinking. 

They stared at her. She didn't even seem to realise she'd said anything, her eyes starting to close. “ Vera -” Her only response was an incoherent grumble. They shook her slightly. “Vera, how the fuck did you know that?”

"'M not-" she mumbled. 

“Not what ?”

"Vera." 

“Then who the hell are you?”

"You know." She pressed her face against their chest, almost completely asleep by now.

“...Koschei??” She made a choked noise. 

" What ?" 

“Well, contrary to popular opinion, I don’t know jack shit!”

"You are the biggest fucking idiot-" 

“Shut up!” they whined, pressing their face into her shoulder. “I had a 50/50 chance!”

"How can you possibly fuck up a 50% chance?" 

“It’s not that great of odds!” She sighed heavily and closed her eyes again; coming out of the Arch had, unfortunately, made her headache worse. They let out a gentle noise, closing their eyes as well. “I’m so glad you’re home, Ushas,” they whispered.

"I missed you, Thete," she murmured, curling up a bit closer to them. 

“I- I’ve missed you too.”

Just before dozing off, she whispered, "Can't wait to tell Koschei this one." 

“You’re sworn to secrecy on that one,” they squeaked. She just laughed.