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“I don’t let just anyone see me like this, you know.”


“Mm,” Chris grunted, only half-listening. He moved his small light from Mark’s right eye to his left.


“Means you’re special,” Mark continued. His right leg bounced nervously; Chris put a hand on his bare thigh to steady it and keep it from driving him mad.




“You’re the only one I trust to do this.”


“Of course.”


“Pretty damn undignified, sitting here in my underwear. You’re lucky I allowed it this time.”


Chris snapped off the light and looked at him. “Mark, you’ve left your cabin naked at last three mornings already this journey. Everyone on this ship has seen you without clothes on.”


Mark blinked slowly at him, his drugged brain processing this.


“Yeah, but I let you do this,” he said finally, triumphantly.


“I needed to check for broken bones and stitch those cuts. That was a nasty fall you took,” Chris said, rolling his eyes. “It’s my damn job, Watney.”


He stepped back from the exam table and picked the robe up off the back of a chair. He draped it over Mark’s shoulders. The room was cold and Mark, clad only in a t-shirt and boxer shorts, was starting to shiver.


“Up,” he commanded, and Mark obeyed. He got to his feet and swayed, but remained upright. He was going to be all kinds of interesting colors in the morning, but nothing had been broken and he hadn’t suffered a concussion. He was just in a hell of a lot of pain, which the analgesics were making quick work of. All he needed to do was sleep the worst of it off.


Chris helped him get his arms into the robe, and then Mark cinched the belt tight. Chris surveyed him, taking in the swelling right eye, busted lip, and bruises that were starting to darken along his flesh.


“You’re the most accident-prone man I know,” he said in exasperation. “God only knows how you made it through training. And heaven help us once we actually get to Mars. You’re going to be the death of me someday, Mark Watney.”


Mark gave him a sudden jaunty smile, the same one Chris had been on the receiving end of the first day all of them had met as a crew. The same damn smile he fell in love with. Instantaneous, that was, like falling asleep.


Or tripping over your two damn feet. One moment spent upright, the next flat on your back. Yeah, falling in love with Mark Watney was kind of like that. Terrifying, but thrilling at the same time. Happened so fast Chris couldn’t even remember how he got there. And now he could hardly remember what his life was like before.


“Come tuck me in?” Mark asked. He gave a suggestive waggle of his eyebrows. Or tried to, at least, and Chris struggled not to laugh at him.


“I should just leave your ass on Mars, that’s what I should do,” Chris said. He slipped his fingers into the belt on Mark’s robe and pulled him close. “Then maybe I’ll get some sleep around here.”


“You’d miss me,” Mark said. He rested his heavy head on Chris’s shoulder; looped his arms loosely around Chris’s waist.


“Hell, no, I wouldn’t,” Chris teased with a laugh as he accepted the embrace. Mark quickly became a dead weight against him.


“You’d miss my ass,” Mark murmured.


“That I would miss,” Chris agreed after a moment spent in mock contemplation. He kissed the tousled hair. “Come on, back to your cabin.”

The only response he got was a snore, and he sighed.