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A Moment Out Of Time

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She wakes up once during the night.

The room is dimly lit, the warm glow giving her comfort, and Juliana blinks slowly, shifting a little bit to bury herself further into the blanket and jacket but goes still as she sees movement from the corners of her eyes.

Joe is no longer sitting on the small stool but standing in front of the sink, hands braced on either side of it, and staring at the mirror hanging on the wall. There's a strange expression on his face, an odd mix of hard lines around his mouth and something close to pain hovering behind his eyes, like he's struggling, fighting an inner battle, and not for the first time Juliana wonders who Joe Blake really is.

He bows his head, and something between a sigh and a curse escapes him before he pushes away from the sink, reaches for the back of his shirt and drags it over his head. His shoulders are broad and as he turns, the dim light makes a shadow of the dip of his spine, the angle of his hip bone, and her mouth goes dry. Her breathing echos loudly in her ears and Juliana squeezes her eyes shut, trying to block out the sight of him.

It's a mistake.

She may no longer see him but now her other senses are heightened, tuned and sharp, and she hears the quiet rustling as he pulls on a new shirt, becomes acutely aware of the softness of his jacket under her cheek and his scent clinging to it, surrounding her. Beneath her head, her fingers curl into claws, nails digging into her palm, and Juliana lets the prickles of pain wash over.

Maybe she's made a sound, she doesn't know, but the rustling stops all of the sudden and she forces herself to relax as she senses Joe stepping towards the bed. He's silent but she can tell the exact moment he comes to a halt right in front of her and kneels down.

He's watching her, she can feel it, and she can't help but wonder what he's seeing when he looks at her, but as soon as that thought enters her mind she stuffs it back down, appalled at herself. She shouldn't entertain such thoughts, not now, not after everything that has happened tonight, and definitely not about Joe Blake, a man she barely knows.

This isn't like her but in the last few days her life has been turned upside down and tonight her last remaining walls have been burned to the ground, and with every passing moment it becomes harder to ignore the tension winding around and between Joe and her, this new awareness of him that sets her heart racing and quickens her breathing despite her best efforts.

The bed dips slightly as he leans forward and Juliana tenses imperceptibly but keeps her eyes closed as she feels him pulling the blanket back over her shoulder. His hand lingers for a moment before its weight is gone, and she continues to slowly breathe in and breathe out, breathe in and—

The gentle touch of his fingers, smoothing a strand of her hair away from her face before coming to rest lightly against her cheek, comes as a shock and her eyes fly open before she can stop herself. Her breath catches in her throat as she meets his eyes, dark and intense as he watches her, and something in his expression, a look she can't quite place, sends a shiver down her spine.

Joe doesn't take his eyes off her and she can't look away, barely dares to breathe, and the moment stretches out until it becomes almost too much, but then he starts to pull back his hand and Juliana draws in a careful breath — only to have it stolen again in the next second when his fingertips brush the corner of her mouth.

She starts and her lips part, the tip of her tongue reflexively darting out, and his eyes darken even further as they follow the motion and she feels an answering heat flaring somewhere deep inside her. Joe lets his hand drop to the mattress, clenched into a fist, and for one insane moment that's tempting and terrifying in equal measure, Juliana thinks he's going to kiss her — and she's not sure she will stop him if he actually does.

He doesn't though, just shakes his head and pushes himself away from the bed, effectively breaking the spell he has over her, that she has over him, and if it wasn't for the slight tension in his jaw, she would think she has only imagined what just happened.

With one last look at her, he returns to his bag and pulls out a pack of cigarettes. “Go back to sleep, Juliana,” he tells her, his voice quiet, and she knows better than to argue with him — they've been walking more than just one fine line tonight.

Despite the tightness of her throat, she takes a deep breath in and lets it out slowly, does it again and again, until the pressure in her chest eases a little, and the last thing Juliana sees before she's closing her eyes, is Joe walking past the bed to the window, the smoke of the cigarette trailing after him.

In the morning, when she jerks awake to the realization of having lost Frank's sketch, Joe is still in the same position, still smoking and still staring out of the window.

Neither of them acknowledges what happened during the night.

And they never will.