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Metis is so tired after his final examination that it takes an effort just to remember to collect his shoulder bag on his way out. The adrenalin, which is what has kept him going for the past week, has decided to desert him now or, actually, it deserted him about two point five seconds after the horse-faced supervisor looked at his watch and announced in a bored voice, “Time up. Pens down.” Now Metis just lets the motley crowd of fellow students (tired, exulted, dazed, indifferent, on the verge of tears) push him out of the building, and then he manages to step to the left, away from them, and stands with his shoulders and spine pressed close against wall, letting his head rest back against the warm brick and, for once, actually enjoying the sunshine on his face.

There is a small possibility – very small, maybe even minuscule – that Metis actually manages to doze off at that point (standing up, what the fuck?) because the next thing he knows is that he’s being shaken by a hand, palm broad and slightly rough, resting upon his shoulder, and he’s opening his eyes to a flash of sun, and the familiar sight of Josh looking down at him with something that might be amusement, but which could also be concern.

“You okay?” the blond asks, which clears that up, and Metis kind of shrugs – smiles – grimaces – until Josh’s hand tightens on his shoulder, forcing Metis to actually look at him, look at him and see him. Josh repeats the question, “Metis? Are you okay? You look like shit.”

Metis manages a wry shudder, then intuits that that isn’t going to cut it, and adds, with a somewhat reluctant nod, “Yeah.”

Josh had his final exam the day before, but it didn’t hit him like this. He figures that’s to be expected, though, particularly since it had been math, and also because, well, basically, he’s not Metis. Either way, he doesn’t ask how Metis thinks he went with this last paper, not because he doesn’t care, but more because he already knows the answer from past experience (general pessimism). Instead, he reaches out his other hand and brushes Metis’s dark fringe from his eyes, almost without glancing sideways to see who might be watching them (old habits). He lets his knuckles graze the length of the shorter boy’s cheekbone, though. “You need sleep,” Josh says. “I’ll drive you home and you can pass out for a few days, or something.”

“’Kay,” agrees Metis with unusual obedience. He steps away from the wall and slips his hand into Josh’s without even so much as a moment of thought, because that’s how Metis is, and sometimes Josh almost envies him for it, and sometimes there’s the tiniest flicker of resentment, but mostly he just lets himself enjoy it, like now, squeezing Metis’s hand in return.

And then Metis says, “Your place, though.”

Josh stops walking, and glances back down at Metis, this time in open disbelief. “You look like the living dead, Metis. I mean, even for you you’re pale, and—”

But Metis is smiling up at him, one of his rare, full-bodied, you’re-so-cute smiles, doubly striking because of the exhaustion written on the face that surrounds it.

Josh falters.

“Your place,” repeats Metis simply. “Your bed’s better. And, besides, afterwards, when I wake up again, it’ll have the advantage of having you in it."

If the blond happens to hum something embarrassingly cheerful on the way to his car, Metis doesn’t mention it.