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Faridah raises a brow, and tries not to stare. “Wow. Sarif always told me about that with the newer models. Never got somewhere cold enough to see it.” It comes out a little odd; her teeth are chattering.

Adam doesn’t say anything, just keeps steaming gently. It’s a lot more obvious now that he’s taken off the trench. The trench… which he drapes around her shoulders, tucks a little.

It’s the kind of little thing she’s still getting used to. He stopped being Jensen sometime after Frank hauled his ass back onto the grid and Faridah was so relieved she physically couldn’t speak. Or after they got pizza and she all but passed out on his couch over in Prague. He still calls her Malik most of the time, though, even while they’re obviously some kinda friends. Now it’s just with a smile and a tone like it’s familiar and comfortable.

She tries not to be embarrassed at the favour – he’s the one that looks like a dumpling left out in the snow, he doesn’t need it – and tugs the coat closer. “Thanks. But that’s not gonna help all that much. Look at it out there.”

He does, white snow reflecting off the shades as he glances out the window. Outside, the storm is howling. This place is all concrete, an old research lab that’s gone to hell since the Incident. And the systems janked out after the storm set in. Even Adam couldn’t haul up the doors, and they can’t do a system reboot from in here. No power. And that means no heating, either. But Pritchard has their coordinates, and that might be the saving throw. ‘Til then, though...

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” she says, trying to sound light and not like her heart’s pounding in her chest. But hey, if it’s not slowing down, that’s something. Tells her she’s still alive.

He looks back to her, raising a sharp eyebrow of his own. Yeah, he knows what she means. “I’ve got thermal venting.” He lifts his arms just slightly to show the steam, like Sarif’s most awkward show model. Exactly like he never wanted to be. “I could...”

She says, “Just tell me we don’t have to get naked.”

He huffs a surprised little laugh, glancing aside. “Not if this works.” His mouth’s still twisting with a little embarrassment. It surprises her, the few times she catches glimpses of it; the tough-guy Detroit cop, and he’s… almost shy. He’s never seemed into the shitty locker-room jokes, even when he came almost fresh from SWAT and with something to prove.

“So we hug it out ‘til help arrives.” Her cheer sounds stretched thin but she tries to keep it. “Let’s do this.” She gestures to him.

“You sure?”

She smiles at him. “Come on, Spyboy.”

He crosses the distance between them, and then polymer arms are wrapping round her. There’s something slow and careful about it, like it’s the first days after the augs when she caught him with chopsticks and he looked like he wanted to head into a trapdoor straight through the floor. It’s a little like being hugged by a sandwich toaster, when you lift the lid: sudden, surprising warmth, all around her. If the sandwich toaster was six-foot-something and had myomer limbs. She feels the heat even through a padded flightsuit and a borrowed coat. His skin’s softer than she thought it’d be, though she can feel the scars just a little. And then there’s… She tries to stifle a noise, and fails.

“You alright?” Adam asks her, sounding worried.

She lets out the sneeze-laugh she’s been holding in. “Beard tickles a little.”

She realises belatedly that she can’t feel smooth lenses, and then remembers the noise she heard. She feels him smile, cheek shifting against her ear. Her heart clenches just slightly at that. He always holds himself back, always keeps his distance from everyone. She’s never touched his skin, not really. It was different when she maybe clasped him on the shoulder, two layers of flightsuit gloves against the leather coat, or punched him fondly on the arm.

He says, “Yeah. Sorry about that.”

“Soft, though. Thought it’d be scratchier. You condition it?”

He says dryly, “Mm-hm. Put in a little oil after. Kinda thought it’d all have frozen, by now.”

“Yeah. Keeping it short helps, but I was starting to figure my hair was a goner.”

Silence falls around them, and all she can hear is the howl of the wind, their soft breathing, the faintest sound of servos in his arms as he shifts position a little – she figures his arms can’t go to sleep, and then she realises it’s probably for her comfort rather than his. That makes a warm ache rise in her chest, spread a little. He has that effect on her. It started somewhere around Hengsha, and it’s never entirely worn off. She tries not to think about it, and fails. She feels his hand settle hesitantly, slowly, on her back.

“I’m sorry for dragging you into this,” she says at last, soft.

He hums, and she feels it against her skin. “Yeah,” he responds easily. “When you said ‘come over for the weekend,’ I thought you meant hit a few bars, maybe get takeout.”

It’s the kind of thing she almost never got to hear on comms, when he was all business or dodging bullets. The hours between, though, the few times they ended up in the canteen, or on a long journey... She didn’t realise how used to it she’d gotten ‘til she left Detroit and started flying journeys and kept expecting the weird little observations, the gravel-rough sarcasm when someone had asked a stupid question. The silences would feel too loud when they didn’t come. Still do, sometimes. They’d known each other maybe a year then; he just used to be her tall dark and weird coworker. The one who’d helped her find Evelyn’s killer; the one who’d exhaustedly, silently snapped a candy bar in half and offered her some at 3 AM; the one who’d remembered every security guy by name and read Confucius and was trying to save the damn world. Weird, the way someone can mold into your life so thoroughly that when they leave it, they rip out a piece of it.

“What can I say?” she replies. “I like the rush.” It comes out shaky and unconvincing, not helped by the fact she’s shivering.

He sighs, chest deflating against hers. “I knew what I signed up for, Malik.”

“You signed up for a place with goddamn heating.”

His head falls onto her shoulder, and she feels a thin tremor run through him. He’s... cracking up, almost silently. He’s always had a kinda weird sense of humour. They both do.

 

 

 

A flash of lightning and then a clang, something landing on the side of the VTOL. She looks out the window, and meets a pair of shades.

She jumps. “Jesus, Jensen!”

She’s pretty sure anyone without augmented arms would’ve missed that jump. Or wouldn’t be able to hold on.

He gives an awkward half-smile – it looks a little weird with all the lethal black augs and the blood on his face and the fact she can hear bullets - and then pants through her infolink, “Sorry.”

She raises the doors, then, and she hears the clangs of him working his way back and through them. She says, “When you said ‘coming in hot’...”

He half-falls into the back and straps himself in, still breathless. She listens to him get his breath back. Doesn’t sound like he’s badly injured, at least.

She gets them the hell out of there, and then: “Jesus, Sarif gave you an Icarus? I didn’t even know you could do that.”

Neither did I,” he says, and sounds as surprised as she is, maybe amused. And then she hears a soft, deep sound, and his voice is rougher than usual when he says, “...I really am sorry. Didn’t mean to freak you out.”

I wasn’t freaked out. I was just… adjusting. To the new weight.” She realises what it is. “Stop laughing, Jensen.”

It’s not the polite thing of water-cooler small talk. It’s a deep, quiet sound, rusty like he hasn’t done it in a while. She hasn’t heard it before. It’s a little dorky, and she realises… she kinda likes it. She looks and he’s leaning on an elbow, hand against his face like that’ll make it subtler. He coughs, and sobers. Hell of a landing.” The confession’s surprising, somehow; he always acts like he just gets on with it, like defying death’s a fact of life. His voice is quiet, and he sounds like he didn’t mean to say it. “Malik?”

Yeah?”

...Thanks. That was some flying.”

Anytime, Jensen.”

 

 

 

He says, “Heating, and usually a few more guys shooting at me. I kinda like the change.” He pauses, thoughtful. She knows that he’s trying to keep her talking and check the cold’s not making her stupid, and she goes with it. “The Collective suits you,” he says, eventually.

“And you. You seem - “ Happier is a relative term for a guy like Jensen. His life seems to hop from one disaster to another. But then, so does hers; she’s done some crazy jobs, especially since she left SI. Nearly died a few times, but so have all of them. And he seems more exhausted than ever. But… She realises she means Less hung-up on Megan, and shuts her mouth. That’s not something she can say. Maybe not ever. But she remembers the way he’d go quiet, or the way he’d say Megan’s name. Remembers the first days when she’d catch him exhausted and staring into space in the back, looking like the world was one step from crushing him, and then he’d meet her eyes in the mirror and tuck it all back away. She doesn’t get those pained silences anymore, not when they’re around each other. “Better. Maybe. Would’ve been a different story if the Act had passed, for both of us.”

“Mm-hm.” He’s listening, though. She can tell.

“Heard you had a little to do with that. Jesus, how do you get yourself into this stuff?”

That smile, and he’s trying not to fidget. God forbid you ever give the guy a compliment. “No comment.” He turns his head toward her, just a little. “Heard the Collective had a damn good pilot in Pakistan.”

“No comment.” She pauses, and admits, “Always nice to hear it, though.”

He snorts. “Should say it more often. Pretty sure I wouldn’t be alive without how you fly.”

“Yeah, well, I wouldn’t be here without you.” It comes out too earnest, and she wants to pull it back. Instead she makes herself follow it through. “Hengsha was… I still remember how close it was.”

She hears him swallow. “Hm.”

She remembers him appearing next to the cockpit, asking her breathlessly, “You alright?” while she tried not to stare at the blood on his face and the way he was obviously wild-eyed behind the shades.

“That was the first time I saw you in action, after the augs. Really saw.” And she can feel him tensing up, knows that if they weren’t in a freezing room he’d be making an excuse to pull away and hunt through the lockers by now. “You were kind of amazing. And that was after Evelyn... And now we’re here in some damn shack, just because you wanted to do me a favour.”

She feels him shift back, and her heart sinks; she knows she’s said too much. She’s about to apologise, but then he’s looking at her - intent, gold rings shifting in his eyes, and the words die in her throat.He says, “What else was I gonna do?” The words are soft, and there’s something soft in his expression, too.

“You always come through for me.” She tries to laugh off words that taste too true. Because the alternative is dwelling on those nights where she figured that maybe if she’d just put up a fight, not done her job for once and said What the hell are you doing, you’ll die, he might not be at the bottom of the goddamn ocean. When she tried to move on and she always kept coming back to him. “So there was the time you disappeared off the grid for a year. But that wasn’t exactly your fault, huh?”

He puts a hand on her arm, surprising her. His hands are warm, always warmer than she thinks they’ll be. “You still found me.”

“Pritchard did that. He just gave me a GPS marker for the hideout.” She tilts her head, and tries, “Coat looked pretty expensive. Figured I had to give it back.” She gets halfway to a smile, but damn it, she can’t do it. All these times they’ve talked around it, tried to make jokes about it, and she can’t. Not today, not here. “I thought you were – Jesus, Adam.”

She suddenly feels the weight of all those nights, and all the times she was certain that she’d screwed up and she’d let another friend die; that hell, maybe she was a curse. All those times watching him try to get some sleep in between missions, watching him mourn Megan, watching him stay still when someone made a comment about the augs and curl up on the inside. Him offering to help her with this like it was easy – the same way he always tries to help out every time she sees him.

He stares at her. “Faridah...”

She swallows. Looks away. “How’s life in Prague?”

His hand twitches on her back, and she knows he’s thinking of making an issue of it. Instead he moves forward and tucks his head on her shoulder, eases her back into his arms. “Quiet. Quieter than Detroit.”

“You picked up any new Czech?” She’s been trying to teach him, as much as you can by infolink; she’s done enough jobs in Europe that it’s come up. Still isn’t half as good as him sitting on her couch, stumbling through words and scratching his beard and looking like he wants to die a little but he’s glad she’s there. They don’t get to do that enough.

He sighs. “I’ve got ‘Where are the cigarettes?’ and ‘Coat’s not for sale.’ Tokyo?”

“Pretty good. They’re less brutal on augs than a lot of other cities. Keeps things easy.” She remembers last week, and snorts. “One of my friends over there, she tried to set me up with some pilot from Beaumont Shipping. Looked like he’d been surprised too.”

He feels his fingers shift and tap on her back, and he exhales. “How’d it go?”

“We ended up buying each other a drink and talking for a couple hours. Mainly about how we were too damn busy to date anyone.” She laughs a little. “How about you?” She suspects she knows how it’s going, from the times they’ve seen each other; Adam’s still keeping to himself, still getting the occasional solitary drink and then heading home to fix something. “Fighting off the Czech ladies?”

It’s his turn to huff a humourless laugh. “Yeah, they just love the crazy American aug who’s never home.”

“Come on. You’re a good guy, Jensen. And kind of funny, once a year.”

He only moves his head a little, but she feels him pretend to glare at her, and that fast-stifled half-smile.

She exhales. “I know you’re playing dumb a lot of the time. Get why you had to, with Sarif, but I’ve seen your notes. And I remember the time you fixed up that pocket sec for me.”

 

 

 

She falls asleep on the couch next to him while he’s still working on it, fingers glinting in the light. Slow, careful, the way he always pretends not to be. She wakes up with the blanket from the back of the couch thrown over her, tucked in at the edges. And she’s spread out a little while she was asleep, but she guesses he’s just kept working... ignoring her feet in his lap. And hey, it’s comfortable and his thighs are aug-toasty and he doesn’t seem bothered by it, so she stays where she is and lets herself wake up a little more. He’s looking at her, that same uncertain scared-softness in his face, eyes a little gold in the dimness. Like he’s wondering something.

She sticks her head out from under the blanket, knowing her hair has probably gone crazy.

He pauses, swallows. “Hey.” He swiftly turns his head and gets back to work.

And later, he does the same for the night, in a worn old shirt that has ridden up a little, black and gold feet on an arm-rest. They’ve seen each other maybe five, six times since Detroit, and at her place he always insists on taking the couch, or the floor, like him spending a little time with her is inconveniencing her. She’s passing to get her stuff to head to bed, and she pauses. His toes flex a little, and there’s a soft whirr of servos as he shifts in his sleep. For a second she sees the old scars on his skin under the shirt, how different his face looks when he isn’t holding himself back or pained or pissed-off.

Sometimes she forgets how damn handsome he is. Before, he was mourning his ex and they had a damn job to do, and a lot of the time he still acts like he’s a blunt instrument, hides behind the shades and the grunting and tries to make himself less human. But times like this, with his hair in his face and the beard getting stubbly and him breathing softly, she suddenly sees who he was before he came to Sarif.

It was a strange enough in-between feeling in the back of a VTOL, but this is… more. Not like just hanging out with her coworker.

She runs a glass of water and wonders at the weird ache in her chest. Because she isn’t used to seeing him like this, she guesses. But suddenly it feels like it would be easy to get used to it... like she’d like to see it more often. She wonders why it feels like it’s almost enough – and that thought’s too much, aches in a way she just can’t afford to think about. She shakes her head and goes to bed.

 

 

 

He snorts, and somehow she knows that he’s looking away. He shrugs, just a little, trying not to jostle her.

It’s easier to say these things when she doesn’t have to look at him. “And you’re kind, when you’re not riling Frank up. Reliable.”

That laugh of denial, but she feels him tense, feels him get serious again. “And you’re not?” he says, desert-dry. He exhales, then, hand shifting on her back. “When I came back to Sarif, everyone treated me like I was a freak or the new show model.” Sometimes, times like these, he can’t hide the bitterness. “You were the only one who asked if I was alright. Nearly bit your head off for it.” He moves, and he must be looking away. “You saw... me. Felt like you liked what you saw.”

They’ve had their share of comfortable silences, but this one… isn’t. It’s surprised, curious. She isn’t sure he meant to say that, from his uncomfortable stiffness. He doesn’t talk about this stuff, not with more than ten adjacent words - unless he’s drunk or it’s been a damn close mission, or he’s so tired he’s practically drunk.

“I didn’t mean, uh...” He clears his throat. “I’m just saying, the queue in Tokyo should be round the block. Get the time constraints, though.”

“Yeah, Interpol must be pretty busy.” She considers leaving it there and getting them back to safer ground. She means to, honestly. Maybe any other time she would’ve; without being too close to him and too far away, without another year of chewing it all over, without him exhausted on her couch, without him freezing with her and telling her he doesn’t understand why people don’t wanna date her. She says, “I remember the first time I saw you.”

His head tilts, just a little.

“I was heading down to the coffee machine in the lobby – you know, where they put the actual good stuff, for the visitors.”

“Mm-hm.” It’s soft, amused but wary. He’s obviously wondering where the hell she’s going with this. That makes two of them. “Colombian.”

“I’d been flying all night and half the morning. I needed some damn sleep, but I figured I might survive another hour to get home on good coffee. Had to take the train. And… you know when Renee used to work at reception?”

“Maybe.”

“Yeah, you probably wouldn’t. You must have only met her a few times. Before you worked for SI. And I’m walking past, and there’s this cute guy talking to her. And he smiles at me, that polite smile you do when you accidentally made eye contact and you don’t want it to be awkward. And it’s nice, you know? He looks nice. And I’ve gotten to the coffee machine when I hear Megan come down, and… I don’t even know why, she must’ve gotten out early.”

“Anniversary plans,” he says, softly, like he’s realising it as he speaks. “We were going out for dinner.” She can feel him looking at her. “...That was me?”

“And I don’t know, I think she said your name and I was like, oh, this is the mystery guy. The cop who made her a coffee table and put a bow on it.”

“She told you about that?” He mutters, “Was easier than figuring out flatpack.”

“Uh-huh. She always told me it was a good coffee table.” She swallows, and tries to find her courage. “And she says his name, and he just… lights up. Subtle, he smiles like a cop, but you could see it. She walks over to him and he hugs her, kisses her, the whole nine yards. Looked crazy about her. And I forgot about it, but a couple years later Sarif introduces our new security chief, and he looks familiar. And I realise, ‘Oh, that’s the guy on Megan’s desk pictures.’”

“And you figured I got the job cause of Megan,” he replies, with a bitter half-laugh. “Yeah.”

“No. I just remember thinking that the man I saw had looked so… happy, and you looked like you’d had it beaten out of you. I wondered where that guy had gone. Wasn’t my business, we didn’t even know each other. But I realised pretty quickly… you were still in there. Even after the augs. And I liked both the guys I’d met.”

“I don’t… Malik...”

She means to explain. What comes out instead, soft and raw, is, “I did.”

“Hm?”

“I did. Like what I saw.”

She feels his surprise, feels him tense up against her. “Huh.”

She remembers thinking one day that she got it, whatever had led Megan into their… thing. Why Megan still looked at the guy like her heart was being ripped out of her chest.

She doesn’t know when; could’ve been one of all those little acts of kindness. Could’ve been the first time he smiled at her, really smiled at her, not the tight smirks of completing a mission and getting out alive: kind of toothy, sharp white against the beard. Could’ve been the first time after the augs he took off the shades, like he wasn’t just waiting for the next fight or infiltration, and she got to see the eye crinkles that went with it. Could’ve been the time she landed and found him on the street, talking to one of the women from Hung Hua, telling her that he got it, that augs should always be a choice, that he hadn’t got the choice either, that it was gonna be alright, all gonna be alright. And Faridah pretended not to hear it.

 

 

 

How the hell… I heard what Sarif said. Sandoval was gonna shoot himself.”

It’s 3 AM and for once they’re the only people in the cafeteria, not even Frank or R&D heading down for all-nighter snacks. They’ve got a flight in fifteen minutes, and she has to ask.

He ducks his head. “Before SWAT, got sent to a lot of domestic stuff.” He scratches his beard and leans his arms on the polished table, smiling wanly in that way that isn’t really a smile at all. “Knew half the people in that neighbourhood anyway, but… they said I was pretty good at talking people down from the ledge.” He gestures at his face, his other arm, and the smile turns false. “Guess that was before I got these."

You still are, she thought, and she didn’t just mean that. She meant a little of everything. You still are.

 

 

 

“Faridah,” he says softly, carefully, and she feels it down her spine. She’s never heard it like that. When she doesn’t respond, he says, “You’re right, Interpol is pretty busy. But it was more… I wasn’t looking for anyone in Prague.”

Shit. Here’s where he says something polite, something about how they can stay friends, something about Megan. This is him letting her down gently. Because the other option is that that gentle, rough tone is...

She stares at his tacvest, because she’s pretty sure this can’t actually be happening. Something like a year. A damn year. He’d have done something by now. He’d have… She tries to find something casual to say, something that won’t be… dangerous. “I know, things with Megan were still pretty...”

“I don’t mean her.” And he sounds like he actually means it, like it’s easy. “I… started thinking, in Prague. After we met again. Started to realise a few things.” He breathes, and maybe it shakes a little, and she thinks that in all the time she’s known him… she doesn’t think she’s ever seen Adam actually scared before. Maybe once, when he was heading to Omega Ranch and he wasn’t sure that he wouldn’t just find a body, that he’d get there too late. Never like this. Never soft-voiced, hand too-still against her back like he’s ready to take it away, like he figures she’ll tell him to get the hell away from her. “I thought maybe… you might be realising them too.”

 

 

 

She stares at him - relieved, pained. “Jesus, it’s good to see you again.”

He stares back, wide-eyed, through long, wild hair and a too-long beard. The worst thing is, he still looks pretty good, because he’s Adam. Or maybe because she’s that much of an idiot. He puts aside the stun-gun he was checking. “Malik?” And just for a second, he forgets to put the privsec mask on, and it’s all stunned relief. “Did Pritchard - ”

Yeah, Frank had to tell me. I thought you were dead, Jensen.

I...”He shuts his eyes. “Shit. I’m sorry. We couldn’t get comms in Alaska, but after – I should’ve said something.”

She’s got pretty good at keeping her eyes dry over the years, so she’ll be taken seriously in a flightsuit, but she damn near breaks. “Yeah, you should’ve.” She breathes, and tries not to be angry. There really weren’t comms in Alaska; Frank said it was a miracle he could get through. She tries to clear her head. Here. I kept it, because I thought maybe… I don’t know what I thought.” And she thrusts the coat at him. It’ll be weird, not having it folded somewhere in the back of the VTOL like an unlucky charm. “Just in case.”

He unfolds himself and climbs to his feet, slowly. Tilts his head, in a little disbelief. “I figured you’d have forgotten.”

She realises, then. Jesus Christ, Adam. Her anger cracks and shatters. She raises the trench a little. “This, or you?”

He opens his mouth. Blinks, and looks away.

She crosses the space and hugs him, then. He draws in the smallest, startled breath. Then his arms are around her, too, his hand settling on her back, and his head falls onto her shoulder. “Thanks,” he says, in a breath, and holds her tight. Somehow, it feels like a life she thought was gone.

 

 

 

“Adam...” she manages.

“Unless I’m wrong.” He swallows. “Pritchard’ll be here soon. Could kill the time playing I Spy.”

Adam. You’ve got the craziest timing. But you’re not wrong.” She hears his drawn-in breath before he tries to hide it, feels his sudden stillness. Suddenly she needs, more than anything, to look at him. “You’re…” She snorts. “You’re really not wrong.”

He breathes out, heavily. He says, “First time I saw you fixing up the bird.”

“Huh?”

“Sometime after you came to my place in Prague. Guess there must have been SI engineers before, or I was dodging bullets. I’d never seen... And you were smiling. Like you were home. And I thought... she’s something special. Wish I could tell her that. And I realised that I wasn’t just… thinking it without thinking. Realised I was wondering. You were half-out of the flightsuit and you were covered in grease, and your hair was crazy, and you were…” He inhales and says, in a breath, “...you were beautiful.” She feels him shift and turn his head, eyelashes brushing her cheek. Feels the warmth of his breath.

She takes his arm, feeling the warmth of the augs and the faintest hum of Sarif tech, feeling his surprise. Jesus, he’s warm. Her hand slips downward until her fingers are on his, augs against gloves. She laces their fingers together, and he exhales, with that surprise again. This time she moves back, too, just enough to look at him.

He’s getting those particular frown lines between his eyebrows, when he’s worried as hell. The shield-ports just draw attention to them. He looks at her, eyes wide and green, face even paler than usual. Some part of him’s already resigned to rejection, like always – and that’s too much for her to stand around and take. He must see something in her face, some part of the wait, don’t go she’s feeling. He stares at her like he feels it, like he’s just starting to realise… His gaze traces over her eyes, her mouth. And then it lingers there.

Her heart clenches. She knows she’s gravitating toward him, can’t stop herself. He leans in, slowly, eyes constantly snapping back to hers like he isn’t sure of his welcome. His free hand comes up under her chin, gently raising her head -

- and then he’s kissing her. It’s soft and brief and dry, the barest breath against hers. She feels the slightest brush of beard, and she thinks his hand’s trembling, just a little; she didn’t know the augs could do that. It’s the furthest thing from the gruff shadow who came back to SI and pretended he didn’t have time for people. She tightens her hand against his and kisses back. She feels more than hears his surprised, delighted little noise. She kisses him with at least a year of confused, crazy longing, and he opens up and breathes with her, hand shifting, spreading against her cheek to bring her closer.

He pulls back first, breathless. He blinks at her and looks a little like someone just EMP’d him, or like he’s wondering if that just happened, too. She knows the feeling. He looks at her like he’s drinking her in.

She breaks first. She pulls him back and kisses him, and he responds in kind, hand clenching against his borrowed coat – like it’s the last chance they’ll get, like she’s not gonna see him for months while he goes off to try and get himself killed. I figured you’d have forgotten. Like hell that’s gonna happen again. She can take the extra flights, he can meet in the middle, they'll work something out.

“Faridah,” he pants against her mouth, “when did…?”

She hangs onto him, while she can. “I don’t know. Guess I was a little too busy flying you out of the fire to think about it. And I figured… there was Megan, and you were still in Europe. Figured it was never gonna happen, but I had a friend, and that was enough, right?”

“You too, huh?” And he almost looks like he’s gonna crack up at that, but it’s too sad. He looks down, consideringly, and says, “There wasn’t exactly much time to – Shit.

Frank’s voice crackles to life in their infolinks. “Where are you two? This says you’re in some kind of remote… cabin.”

They sigh.

“Laboratory,” Faridah says, at the same time Adam does. They glance at each other, briefly. He’s still a little flushed. She says, “This is where the labs are. You think the weather’s clearing out enough for an exit?”

Frank hums. “I think you can try. The systems were failing from the… unexpected conditions, but I’ve got the weather doors open.

“Thanks, Pritchard,” she says dryly.

There’s a pause over the comms. An assessing kind of pause. “...I don’t want to know, do I?”

Adam grits his teeth. “Francis...”

“Right, then that’s a no.” Frank cuts off the call with his usual fanfare.

Faridah can’t help herself, then: she laughs, head against Adam’s shoulder. She looks up, and he’s watching her, eyes so soft she has to stop a second and look back. She suddenly wonders how the hell he kept tucking this away, how she never noticed. Maybe it was the shades.

She says, “I think I’m gonna be all right for the walk back.” She steps back, and braces herself to freeze. “Here goes.” She starts walking, and he falls into step with her, a comfortable shadow a little way behind. It’s only when they reach the doors that she pauses. “Shit, I forgot.” She lifts her hands to the coat…

He puts a hand on her shoulder. “I’ll be all right.” He looks down to the augs, where there’s still the faintest steam, then back to her, significantly. “Looks kinda cute with the thermalsuit.” He gives her a half-smile and a tilt of his head.

She shakes her head back, appalled, and grins.

He grins back, like he doesn’t even mean to: wide and kinda dorky, eyes crinkling. She’d almost forgotten what it looks like; in fact, she’s pretty sure she’s never seen this one. She’s... really glad she has now.

Yeah. They’ll work something out.

They head out into the storm, and he leans into her just a little, and not even the cold can dull the warmth in her chest.