The constant booming of the campus firework show had ended, though there were still occasional distant crackles and the occasional percussive explosion. No doubt some of those hooligans from the Engineering department setting off fireworks of their own. But at least Alexander seemed calmer now.
“I’m going to go get ready for bed,” Rosemary said, loosening the tight hold she had wrapped Alexander in. He sat back onto the bathroom floor—on her bath mat—and gave her a sheepish look. “Could I run over to your apartment and get you some pajamas...?”
“I, ah, sleep in underwear,” he said, blushing.
“I’ll give you one of my t-shirts, then.”
She went straight to her bedroom, pulling a pair of shorts and two of the oversized shirts she used as nightshirts out of a drawer, along with one of the old, broken-down bras she wore at night to keep her chest from strangling her in her sleep. Normally she wouldn’t wear so much clothing to bed in the summer... but with Alexander staying the night, even for something so platonic as just being held, she needed just a little bit of armor.
He looked up at her with bleary eyes when she returned to the bathroom and offered him the shirt she wasn’t wearing. “Here. Get yourself changed, and give me a yell if you need me. I’ll be in the bedroom.”
“Thank you,” he responded in a voice that was barely there, looking as if he were about to cry again.
“Do you need help...?”
He blushed again. He blushed so easily. “No, I... I will be fine.”
Rosemary nodded and left him there before returning to the bedroom and taking care of her own routine, removing her wig and swiping roughly at her face with a wipe to remove what little makeup she hadn’t sweated off over the course of the evening. A few minutes after she finished, she finally heard the sound of the water turning off. She poked her head out the door of her bedroom just in time to see Alexander emerge from the bathroom, completely swamped in a shirt that would have only been somewhat large on her.
There was the distant crack of a firework, and he flinched and started trembling. Rosemary took him by the arm and lead him into her bedroom, maneuvering him gently down onto her bed, where he lay, shivering.
“May I?” She reached carefully for his glasses, and he gained enough control over his body to give her a small nod. And then, his glasses safely on her bedside table, she turned out the light and clambered into the bed at Alexander’s side, sliding one arm carefully beneath his neck and wrapping the other around his shoulders in order to hold him.
She felt strangely nervous, laying there in the dark of her bedroom with this man at her side. Not nervous that he would try anything improper—not that she would reject any such overtures if they came—but because she knew that he wouldn’t.
For the first time in her life, she had another person in her bed in a context that had nothing to do with sex, and she was terrified.
Alexander’s shivering had slowed somewhat, though he still twitched at every distant crack and bang.
“Rosemary?” Alexander’s breath was soft against her neck.
“Why did you decide to trust me?”
She didn’t know how to answer that question. She didn’t understand it herself. It was simply that he had shown up and had told his ridiculous story and had... and had known her.
And maybe, just a little, it had been the look in his eyes when he had seen her. Surprise, desperation, longing... and trust, complete and absolute. Not the way she was used to being looked at. But instead of trying to put all of that into words, she shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Surely there must have been something that kept you from reporting me to Carter.”
She let out a little sigh, and tried to put words to her thoughts, as nonsensical as her reasons were. “You knew me. And you trusted me in spite of that. I guess I... I just wanted to be worthy of that trust somehow.” She snugged her arms a little tighter around him, and he adjusted his body against hers, tucking his head against her shoulder and slowly relaxing in spite of the tremors that still wracked his body every time there was a distant boom.
“You were always worthy of that trust,” he murmured sleepily, his voice muffled by her shoulder and the fabric of her shirt.
“You know I’m not.”
“You have not yet betrayed me to Carter,” he said, lifting his head a bit so that they were nose-to-nose.
“How do you know I haven’t? That we’re not just biding our time until I can get all the information out of you that you have to give?” She knew she was arguing for the sake of arguing now... and Alexander seemed to know too. He let out a disbelieving snort and shook his head, the tip of his nose brushing hers.
“You are ridiculous woman,” he said, his Russian accent very strong.
“Really, though. Why did you decide to trust me of all people?”
There was a silence, and then a warm sigh of breath against her cheek. “I think you have always wanted to be valued,” he said softly, “So I simply hoped that being indispensable to me would be enough.” He tucked his head back down against her shoulder at that, and a few minutes later began snoring roughly, his body obviously having reached a point of exhaustion now that the adrenaline had worn off.
That night, sleep eluded Rosemary entirely.