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Burnout

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Hordak had left Entrapta in a state of high excitement last night—hands flapping as she rambled about her progress, eyes sparkling, grinning ear to ear. She was so close to a breakthrough, she had said, shoving her tablet in his face to show him graphs and tables of data. He had nodded, offered some small bit of praise, and gone to bed, assuming that she would do the same soon.

Evidently, that had been a miscalculation.

When he walked into his lab the next morning he found her asleep at one of the workstations, head lying on a mound of blueprints like they were a pillow, hair stretched out and still tangled in a piece of machinery across the room, tiny tea cups scattered around her.

He clicked his tongue softly and turned the machine off. Normally this sort of negligence would leave him furious, or at least irritated, but instead he felt...something else. Fondness, tinged with guilt. It occurred to him that he should have noticed that she was overworking herself and told her to take the night off.

If a subordinate went without sleep he would usually tell them to tough it out and get on with things. It wasn’t his fault if other people made foolish decisions and mismanaged their time, and he certainly wasn’t going to let them hold up the rest of the Horde.

But this case was...different.

He watched her, noted her slightly parted lips, the way that her shoulders gently rose and fell with each breath, the small lines around her eyes that always crinkled when she was awake and full of energy.

Well. Obviously, she wasn’t going to be any use to him if she was exhausted, he told himself. He may as well let her sleep. 

He walked over to her—not tiptoeing, he told himself, just walking quietly, Hordak didn’t tiptoe for anyone—and shoved the teacups to the side, where she wouldn’t accidentally knock one over in her sleep.

Entrapta shivered. Hordak noticed that gooseflesh had risen up on the few bits of her skin exposed to the air. It occurred to him for the first time that the lab must be cold to someone who didn’t wear armor.

He glanced around the room, looking for something to cover her with, maybe a spare tarp or dust sheet, and his eyes landed on something in the corner that he hadn’t noticed before. It appeared to be some sort of...nest? It was made of blankets and other assorted bits of fabric and soft, squishy things. Entrapta must have assembled it piece by piece, so gradually that he hadn’t realized what she was doing, caught up as he was in her other projects. 

Had she been sleeping in here every night? That certainly wasn’t conducive toward good sleeping habits, he thought. He would have to have a strict word with her about the boundaries between work and her personal business when she woke up.

For now, though, the nest had its uses.

Hordak picked up a blanket and draped it over her. Entrapta stirred in her sleep.

“Hordak…” she murmured.

His breath caught in his throat. He leaned forward.

“Can you...pass me a wrench?”

He huffed out a laugh, startling himself, and clapped a hand over his mouth. He didn’t know what he would do if she woke up to find him doing this.

Her eyes stayed shut. He let out a sigh of relief, tucked the blanket tighter around her, and stepped back.

She smiled.

“Thanks, Hordak…”

A warm feeling blossomed in his chest. Close behind it followed panic, then anger. He clenched his fists, unclenched them, clenched them again.

He whirled around and fled from the room.

*

The door closed. Entrapta opened one eye cautiously, and then the other.

A wistful sigh echoed across the lab.

She buried her face in the blanket and went back to sleep.