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“God fucking dammit Matt, are you a cuddler?” she asks, staring down at the young computer genius who’s somehow managed to twist his way around her.

 

Matt, who is fast a-fucking-sleep and all but dead to the world, just snores on her shoulder.

 

She huffs, and lets her head slump back onto her pillow. Figures. Her hands just sort of slump at her sides, and for an awkward couple of minutes, she’s not really sure what to do with them. Previous bedmates of hers had tried for varying degrees of affection in the post-coital scene, though the majority had gone for the tried-and-true ‘roll over and fall asleep’ or ‘run for the fucking hills’ methods of follow-up. Most of the ones who’d attempted cuddling had been pretty easy to discourage.

 

She supposes Matt would be pretty easy to discourage, too. Just lift up his arm, unhook his leg from hers, and shove him over. That’s what she should do. It’s what she’d done to Troy, when he’d tried for the sappy bullshit, snuggling up to her like he had any business doing so.

 

She doesn’t cuddle.

 

Well, okay, there was that one time she and Johnny fell asleep on the same couch after pulling an all-nighter, and then woke up all pretzel’d together like a couple of kids at a slumber party. But that was different. Johnny’d made a crack, she’d punched him and then wandered off to shower, life went on. And yeah, sure, maybe she’d slept pretty good that time, considering that she was camped out on less than half a couch. Maybe the affection inherent in it wasn’t half bad, either, but that was Johnny. They’re on the same wavelength. Practically goddamn platonic soul mates or some shit, really. Greek poets would have gone fucking nuts over them if she had a dick.

 

The point is, she’s never had to worry about Johnny getting the wrong idea because the odds of them actually misunderstanding one another are phenomenally low.

 

Matt, though, Matt might as well be speaking in binary code for how well she understands him most of the time. He’s something like seven years younger than her, spent most of his life indoors, obsesses over the tackiest shit, writes fucking fanfiction. And she doesn’t even care because somehow it manages to be fucking adorable. She’s been beating up people like Matt since she was nine years old. He should be obnoxious, he freaks out all the time, and now they’ve fucked and he’s probably going to develop some kind of attachment and, ah, shit, she really should’ve thought this through a little bit better.

 

He was a virgin, after all. She never fucks fucking virgins. Too much hassle. Plus, she’s never really seen the appeal. First times are usually an awful mess, why the hell would you want to jump into bed with somebody who has no idea what they’re doing?

 

Matt had been a pretty fast learner, though. Plenty of theoretical knowledge to go off of and, thank fuck, he gave up trying to re-enact an erotic fanfiction pretty early into the proceedings. She supposes the fact that she’d told him to cut the crap while she was literally holding his balls in her hand might’ve contributed somewhat.

 

Still doesn’t explain why she’s let it get this far, though.

 

But then, she’s always been a little bit… weird, about Matt. He’s not her type. She’s never gone for the pretty boys or the geeks, never been big on skinny guys, intellectuals, or sarcastic shitheels. Never even gotten particularly hot and bothered about younger men, either. But that’s Matt all over, and in the privacy of her own mind she can admit she finds him…

 

…No, nope, not even in the privacy of her own mind is she gonna admit anything. Guy’s a fucking leech. Probably just after her body heat, god knows the little prick’s too scrawny to generate much of his own.

 

Well, two can play at that game, asshole. She lifts one of her arms, pretends she doesn’t hesitate as she curls it around his back. He doesn’t stir. Doesn’t wake. She shifts the other one, resting it a little more comfortably beneath him, turns her head slightly so her cheek flattens his ruffled hair. Fuck. It smells awful. What the hell is putting in it? Soft, though, not greasy – she’d found that out pulling on it earlier – and after a second she gets used to the smell.

 

She sucks in a breath, lets it out again, feels warm and… warm.

 

Yeah, warm.

 

“Fucking parasite,” she mutters, with maybe just a little affection, and lets her eyes slide shut.

 

~

 

When she opens them again, sometime later, it’s to see Matt looking up at her with something akin to terror in his eyes. He’s entirely still, like a deer caught in headlights. Most of him is still wrapped around her. Some of him isn’t, though, and it appears she’d woken up while he’d been in the midst of extracting himself. Hell, that was probably what had woken her up. She glances over at the clock. Too damn early.

 

She looks back at Matt, who seems to be struggling between conflicting impulses. Probably the one telling him to play it cool, and the one telling him to bolt for his damn life. Or maybe he just has to take a piss. She’s by no means a master of deciphering his expressions, especially in the fucking dark.

 

“Either get out of bed or get back here,” she settles for grumbling, rearranging the pillow that’s slanted underneath her head.

 

Matt blinks, and then – tentatively, in much the way someone might approach a wild dog – he folds himself back down around her.

 

She lets out a sleepy huff, and brushes some of his hair out of the way of her mouth, and might also, incidentally, caress his face. Incidentally. She’s sleepy, goddamn it, she can’t be held responsible for what her hands do.

 

“Are we-”

 

“Shut up,” she says.

 

“No, I really want to know,” he persists, which is pretty fucking ballsy for a guy who, just five seconds ago, was looking at her like she might tear his head off. “Are we snuggling?”

 

“No. I’m just slowly crushing you so you’ll be easier to digest after I swallow you whole,” she says, totally not panicking and blurting out the first thing that comes to mind.

 

He blinks. She feels his eyelashes move against her collarbone. Fucking tickles. Asshole.

 

“As frighteningly plausible as that sounds-”

 

“Shut up.”

 

“-we are clearly snuggling here. You’re being downright cuddly. Are you always like this? Is this a thing for you?”

 

“No. Fuck off,” she says, and any minute now she is going to flip this bastard right out of the bed and dump his ass on the floor.

 

Matt starts shaking, and at first she thinks he’s trembling in extremely gratifying fear. But then the sound reaches her ears, and she realizes that he’s giggling.

 

Fucking Matt Miller is giggling on her.

 

She dumps his ass on the floor.

 

He curses at the impact, and she swings over the side of the bed, grabs his jumpsuit up, and flings it at his head.

 

“Get the fuck out,” she tells him.

 

“Oh, come on,” he protests. “We were having a moment!”

 

“Yeah, and you did a stellar job of ruining it, asshole. Now get out before I throw you out.”

 

There’s a sick feeling in her chest, the kind she only gets when someone actually sees a weak point and jabs it. She remembers the last time Matt did that to her, when he’d been with the Deckers, leaving her bitchy little messages about Johnny’s supposed death. It grates, makes her furious, and Matt takes one look at her face and freezes up again.

 

“Out,” she snaps.

 

He bolts.

 

“Fuck,” she swears, after the door slides shut behind him. Serves her right for being a goddamn pussy. What the hell? She should’ve just gone with her first instinct and shoved him off of her. Maybe mocked him a little bit beforehand. Beaten him to the punch.

 

She rolls over, tries to go back to sleep, but the bed’s gone cold and stinks like sex and that sick feeling is turning into a jangling of nerves under her skin, begging her to get up and go shoot something. After a few minutes, she gives in, shrugs back into her clothes and sets out.

 

At least Zinyak provides her with a great outlet.

 

~

 

She doesn’t avoid Matt for the next few days. Between his connectivity to the simulation and the size of the ship, that’s pretty much impossible. But she sure as hell gives him the cold shoulder, and she doesn’t bring him in for as many missions as she otherwise might have.

 

It’s fine. Re-establishing boundaries and that shit. She can’t have him thinking he’s got one over her, after all.

 

On day three he corners her in one of the corridors.

 

“You’re a damn hypocrite, you know that?” he snaps. “I mean, you can dish it out but you sure can’t take it. A little mockery in the bedroom is all fine and dandy when it’s on your end, but as soon as someone else does it, suddenly it’s unacceptable, is that it?”

 

He’s glaring at her, chin titled up, expression tight with anger.

 

Her lip curls into a silent snarl, and she slams a fist into the wall by his head.

 

“What the fuck did you just say to me?” she demands.

 

His bravado evaporates.

 

“Oh shit,” he says, shrinking away from her.

 

“Did you just tell me can’t fucking take it?” she demands, and it burns, especially because some part of her knows he’s actually kind of hit the nail on the fucking head. Any other lay and she would have been mocking his attempts at affection as surely as he’d mocked hers.

 

It burns because she’d actually wanted to try, and karma or some shit had thrown it back in her fucking face, and she can’t even say that’s not fair play.

 

“Ohgodpleasedon’tkillme,” Matt says, and that kinda burns, too, in its own way.

 

Burns enough that it eats her anger away, and just leaves her feeling sick again.

 

Fuck. No. Come back, anger. You’re way fucking better than this other bullshit.

 

But there’s no satisfaction in getting Matt to cringe away from her.

 

…Okay, well, there’s not a lot of satisfaction in it.

 

…Currently.

 

“Jesus fucking Christ, Matt, I’m not going to kill you,” she blurts, not entirely on purpose, but when he glances towards her with a not-entirely-convinced expression on his face, she heaves a frustrated sigh and then pushes herself back. And her mouth just keeps going, like some kind of filthy traitor.

 

“Fuck,” she says, which is fine, but then… “You don’t fucking get it, do you?” Shit, no, shit, shit, stop, bad idea, divert. “I’m not ‘a cuddler’, okay? I don’t generally make a point of being a pathetic sap,” No, no, wrong direction, come on, use sarcasm, deflect, do something! “Congratulations! You’re a fucking exception. You’re fucking special.” Shit, no, that didn’t work, that was the opposite of deflection, fuck that was just the fucking truth in an angry voice, what the hell. Maybe she’s sick. Maybe this whole thing is the result of some kind of insidious mental illness.

 

God, that would explain so much.

 

She stares at Matt in horror.

 

He stares back at her, stunned.

 

“Fuck,” she says again, and then she turns on her heel and stalks off as quickly as she can without making it look like she’s running away.

 

~

 

The next morning she opens her door to find Matt standing outside of it.

 

She closes it again.

 

There are some odd beeping sounds, and then a few seconds later, it opens from the outside.

 

“Did you know Kinzie has three cameras in your room?” Matt says. He looks a little bit wild around the eyes, like maybe he didn’t sleep so much and delved a little too deeply into the ship’s supply of uppers, and he’s not wearing any make-up.

 

“What? Kinzie!” she snaps, unintentionally falling into her habit from the simulation of expecting an immediate response. Of course, the ship affords slightly more privacy.

 

Though less than she’d previously, naively, assumed.

 

Matt clears his throat.

 

“I’ve turned them off,” he says. “And I think I can figure out where she put them, based on the angles from the recordings. If you’ll let me, I can get rid of them, although she’ll probably just replace them eventually.”

 

She steps aside to let him in.

 

“So, what, Kinzie has porn of us now?” she asks.

 

“Had,” Matt says. “I should have the only copy, as of today. It’s not even very good porn. I mean, obviously there’s sentimental value, but the angles are pretty terrible and the picture quality is only middling.” He fishes one of the cameras out from under her bunk, another from the light fixture in the ceiling, and the third from over the door.

 

“Oh, great, I’m in more shitty illicit pornography,” she mutters, and then Matt dumps the cameras onto her floor and kisses her.

 

She stares at him, unresponsive, and after a second he pulls back uncertainly.

 

“What the fuck. How the hell did that turn you on?” she demands. “Do you have a thing for shitty pornos? Are you angling to make a better one? Because if you are the answer is fuck no.”

 

“I’m not good at this!” Matt blurts.

 

She blinks at him, because whatever she was expecting him to say, it wasn’t that.

 

“Oh god I hate saying those words,” he mutters. But then he seems to find his resolve, and he sucks in a breath, and looks right at her.

 

“If I was Nyte Blayde, I would swoop in and kiss you, and you would melt into my arms, and then I would probably say something about how my life was too dangerous for me to fall in love again, but given our respective circumstances I think we can safely skip that part because while it would be profound within the concept of the show it doesn’t really translate into our situation, through no fault of the source material, and then I would say that you were too much for me to resist despite my better judgement, and we would have a tasteful yet highly erotic love scene that the censors would probably edit all of the artistry out of, but I’m not actually Nyte Blayde, so all I can do is stand here rambling about television’s finest artistic endeavour while you stare blankly at me and I try to work the conversation around to the point where I tell you that you’re special to me, too, and in hindsight I may have made a mockery of a delicate situation, but if I did it was only because the notion that you might actually be taking a prospective relationship with me seriously, as more than just a one night stand, seemed so far beyond the realms of plausibility that I never considered it.”

 

She blinks at him.

 

He stares back at her expectantly.

 

After a few seconds tick by, he clears his throat.

 

“I like you,” he summarizes, tentatively. “Sorry I was an ass?”

 

Another second ticks by.

 

She shrugs.

 

“Okay, I’ll take it,” she tells him, and then yanks him in for another kiss.

 

At first it’s his turn to be stiff and surprised. But she doesn’t pull back, and after a second he gets with the program and then some, and maybe it still seems a little bit like he’s trying to emulate a television scene, but fuck if she doesn’t find it endearing.

 

Ugh. This idiot is going to ruin her.

 

After a few minutes he pulls back, a little short of breath.

 

“So just to be clear, is a high-quality re-enactment of our first night still off the table?” he asks.

 

“Yup,” she says, pushing him towards the bed.

 

“But is it permanently off the table, or just off the table for the time being?”

 

She kisses him to try and get him to shut up again.

 

It works for a little while.

 

“Because I don’t see why you’d be adverse to it, if you’re already in the low-quality version. And it’s not like I’d share it with anyone else. I mean, it just seems like it might be a point of pride, ensuring better quality of something that already exists.”

 

“Oh my god, stop talking,” she tells him.

 

“Right. But I just wanted to make sure-”

 

Nyte Blayde,” she says in a fit of desperation, and his eyes go wide and round and just a little bit awed. “Shut the fuck up.”

 

Thank every fucking god out there, he does.

 

~

 

Afterward, she gets up to leave – it’s the fucking morning cycle, after all, and they’ve got shit to do – but he latches onto her like a goddamn koala bear.

 

“Cute,” she says. “Now let me up.”

 

“Hmm… no, I don’t think so,” he replies, burying his face against her neck, one hand idly stroking her hip. “I think I like playing the parasite.”

 

“What?” she asks.

 

“That’s what you said the first time,” he tells her. “When I held on to you. You called me a parasite, remember?”

 

“I thought you were fucking unconscious!” she grouses.

 

“I was,” he says. “I watched it on the tape.”

 

He goes quiet for a moment, and then he looks up at her, his stupid pointy chin digging into her shoulder. His hair’s a tousled mess, and he’s radiating contentment like some kind of self-satisfaction power plant.

 

“Oh shut the fuck up,” she says, even though he hasn’t said anything, and pushes his stupid hair out of the way.

 

And maybe she caresses him, a little bit, but that’s no reason for him to look so goddamn pleased with himself.

 

Asshole.