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you are so good (for me)

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“Alexander, you’re falling asleep at your desk. Again.”

So engaged in his work, Alexander hadn’t even noticed the approaching footsteps of his girlfriend. But at the sound her voice, soft and yet distinctly insistent, he perks up. His eyelids, which had previously begun to droop, flutter in a frenzy as he straightens in his chair and, in his haste to face her, his elbow knocks into the thermos situated precariously on the edge of his desk. But before it has a chance to spill its contents across the carpet, a delicate hand wraps around the thermos, effectively preventing what would have been nothing less than a monumental catastrophe – and God knows he doesn’t have time to deal with that right now.

A soft thud returns him to the present when Eliza places the thermos back on his desk, a relatively safe distance from the edge this time, and Alexander breathes a grateful sigh.

“Thank you,” he murmurs, taking Eliza’s hand in his own and placing a kiss to her knuckles – a gesture which he hopes will distract her from why she entered his office in his first place.

It doesn’t work, of course. Alexander thinks he should have known better.

“Are you still working on that paper for Lee’s class?” she asks quietly. Her fingers thread through his as she leans over his shoulder to get a look at the screen of his laptop. The soft squeeze she gives his hand makes his guilt grow, and he knows his face must have betrayed the feeling in his gut when Eliza’s eyebrows draw together and her lips press into a thin line.

“Don’t tell me you’ve started another.” His silence prompts her mouth turn down at the corners. “Alexander, you said Lee’s was the last essay you needed to finish.”

The pleading note in her voice makes his resolve waver, and he diverts his gaze to keep it from crumbling altogether.

“It is. I mean, it was,” he says. “But Professor Washington told me earlier that he’s letting me write an editorial for the campus newspaper and it has to be submitted first thing tomorrow and I need to get it done. It’s a rebuttal to the piece Jefferson published last week – that asshole doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. Do you know how many times he misrepresented the new financial aid system the board’s trying to pass? So many damn times. I honestly didn’t think it was possible to cram that much bullshit into two thousand words, but if anyone could do it, it’d sure as hell be Jefferson. That complete moron doesn’t have a clue–”

“Alexander.”

It isn’t until the sound of his name snaps him out of his tirade that he realizes his knuckles have gone white around the arm of his chair. Immediately he loosens his grip and glances up at Eliza.

Her face, soft and round and only dimly illuminated by the light of his laptop screen, holds the barest hints of a smile. She reaches out to take his other hand and gently massages her thumb against his knuckles, easing the tension out of his cramped hands. Her eyebrows lift ever so slightly – a silent question.

Alexander leans back in an equally silent answer, just enough to make room for her to sink down into his lap. The weight of her instantly calms his nerves and soothes the tight feeling in his chest, and he releases a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding in as she settles against him.

“When was the last time you slept?” Eliza asks, though it sounds more like a quiet demand than a question. “And don’t,” she adds when his lips twist into a pout, “bother lying about it. You have a terrible poker face.”

“Only around you,” he insists with a sigh that sounds more dejected than he intended it to.

His confession makes her laugh – a clear sound that brings a smile to his face, one that he can’t seem to wipe away despite his most valiant efforts.

It’s incredible just how well she knows him; what to say to ease his anxiety-riddled thoughts, when to run her fingers through his hair and slow him down when she knows he’s had enough (even if he doesn’t know it himself). He’s a hurricane of all-nighters and writing day and night and non-stop energy that a very rare few could ever dream of calming. But every time she manages this feat without fail. And he loves her for it.

“Don’t dance around the question, Alexander,” Eliza says.

He only has to turn his head a fraction of an inch to meet her gaze, warm and imploring, as she brushes a lock of his dark hair away from his forehead. Her fingers, lithe and light as feathers, trail down his cheek before gently cupping the side of his face, and he leans into the touch.

Alexander knows what he must look like – shadowed circles beneath his weary eyes, just barely hanging on to the thread of consciousness dangled in front of him by his coffee and energy drinks, grasping the caffeine like a lifeline. But sleeping loosely translates to wasting time, and he simply can’t stand for that, not when there’s still so much to be done.

He does feel bad for worrying Eliza, though.

“You won’t like the answer,” he says regretfully.

“That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t hear it.”

Alexander heaves a sigh and skillfully avoids her doe-eyed gaze. “It’s only been a few days,” he finally says, trying and failing to keep his voice casual. “Seventy-two hours, at most.”

Eliza’s shoulders deflate in his peripheral vision. “Alexander–”

“No need to worry, really. I’m not even tired.” In a hasty attempt to soothe her worries, he reaches out to twirl a strand of her silky smooth hair around his finger. Eliza seems content for the moment (though he doubts it’ll keep him out of trouble for much longer), and her hum of approval encourages him, makes his lips twitch. As he continues to fiddle with her locks, he catches a whiff of her shampoo.

“Did you take a shower earlier?” he wonders aloud.

“This morning.” Alexander can’t tell whether she sounds confused or amused by his question. “Why do you ask?”

“Your hair smells good,” he hears himself saying. “Like, really good.”

His smile widens at Eliza’s ring of laughter. “Oh, does it?”

“It does,” he confirms, leaning into her side. “Like the sun’s rays splitting the sky on a cloudless day, like a sea of wildflowers swaying in the breeze.” His temple rests lightly against her forehead, and he can feel the gentle rise and fall of her chest against his. “Like a breath of fresh air to a pair of starving lungs.”

“I had no idea my shampoo smelt so poetic.” The warmth of her words ghosts across his cheek, the beginnings of a smile evident in her voice.

Alexander turns his head and his nose bumps against Eliza’s, startling a momentary giggle out of the both of them before he catches her lips in a chaste kiss. He’ll never get used to it, kissing Eliza, and he doubts he’ll ever tire of it either. She’s soft and warm and kisses him slowly, languidly. She holds him like he’s some sort of precious thing – something he knows he’s not, not by a long shot. But he does his best to revel in the feeling nonetheless; he lets her anchor him to reality, clings to her steadfast presence when the chaos that has come to be known as his life tries to overwhelm him. And it goes both ways. Together, somehow, they manage.

Eliza pulls away a moment later, just enough so there’s only a hint of space between them.

“Take a break,” she whispers against the corner of his mouth – a plea and a desperate command all at once. “For my sake, if not yours.”

Without taking his eyes off her, Alexander reaches a hand toward his laptop and carefully closes the lid; the screen goes black, pitching the room into a darkness only broken by the soft light streaming in from the hall. An exhausted sigh slips past his lips, followed by a particularly insistent yawn he couldn’t stifle if he wanted to. He presses a fleeting kiss to Eliza’s cheek, then, “I think I need a nap.”

The puff of laughter against his temple warms his chest. “Come on, let’s get you into bed before you fall asleep at your desk.”

Alexander can’t help the cheeky smile that inches across his face when he wraps his arms around her waist, holding her snug against him, and hums, “I don’t know about you, but I’m fairly comfortable as is.”

The smirk that suddenly dances across Eliza’s lips catches him by surprise when he lifts his gaze and, in the next second, her weight is gone from his chest, leaving an unpleasant absence of warmth behind.

“Suit yourself,” she calls over her shoulder. “But I’m certainly not going to sleep in a chair.”

Alexander watches with wide eyes as she saunters toward the door, the subtle sway of her hips drying his throat in an instant. Eliza pauses at the entrance to the hall, leans against the doorframe. Even in the hall’s cheap lighting she looks beautiful – tired, but beautiful; dark hair spills down her bare collarbone, the strap of her tank top having slipped off her shoulder, and Alexander’s pajama pants, which he finds her wearing to bed more often than he does, hang low on her hips and pool around her feet.

It takes him a moment to note her expectantly raised eyebrow, and another to gather his wits, before he realizes she’s waiting for a reply.

“You know, on second thought,” he says, pushing the seat back with his knees when he stands, “the chair isn’t nearly as comfortable as I thought it was.”