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This story arc has been published as a novel!

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Nereid woke up with her face pressed into a strange pillow, in a strange soft bed, with a strange brushed steel nightstand at her side, and a strange array of objects -- a wrench, an electronic whirlygig thing, medicine bottles, a pile of screws, a comic book, a polished brass and glass analog clock -- on said nightstand. She remained very still as she took in these things. She noticed some discomfort engendered by a certain dampness of the bed under her, as well as by the pain that she now perceived hammering inside her skull. And then, dawning recognition that she was not, in fact, wearing pajamas.

She didn't roll over. She lifted herself with care on her elbows and looked toward the warm individual sharing the bed with her.

Brainchild's face in sleep was almost beautiful. The mocking eyes were closed, the body usually in constant motion evinced serenity. Her dark brows and eyelashes stood out against pale, smooth skin, and the hawk nose and sharp jaw were all clean lines and angles. The softness of her throat and the curve of her shoulder encouraged closer inspection and acquaintance.

Nereid lowered her head back onto the pillow, staring in wonder at her night's companion, until the intensity of her regard woke its object.

Brainchild's dark eyes opened, wide awake and not at all startled. Nereid braced herself, but was entirely unprepared for the shy smile and the warm hand that wandered over to her side and back.

They lay in silence, Brainchild's fingers caressingly exploring the lower arch of Nereid's spine.

"So," Brainchild finally said.

"Hi," Nereid said, unable to muster anything better.

"How're you feeling?" Brainchild said.

Nereid had to think about it, and found it difficult to think around the headache and through the touch on her back. "I think I might have a hangover."

Brainchild smiled and moved her hand up to the back of Nereid's neck. "I recommend water and ibuprofen. Which is exactly what I'm going to have myself." She gave a gentle squeeze, and then slid out of bed.

Nereid stared at her naked back as she walked into the bathroom, then blushed and buried her face in the pillow when Brainchild walked back toward the bed. Brainchild slid under the covers and nudged her.

"The ibuprofen's on your side of the bed," she said.

Nereid nodded, and turned the appropriate direction. There was a lot of rattling of pills in the large plastic bottle as she discovered that her hands were shaking. After a few moments of this, Brainchild pressed up against her back and reached over her for the bottle. This made Nereid go still again, not breathing, until Brainchild's exhalation on her ear and cheek made her shiver.

Brainchild pressed a lingering kiss to the back of her neck and rolled away, bottle in hand. Nereid, a little lightheaded, heard her open the bottle and the pills rattling out, and then heard Brainchild drink and swallow.

Brainchild leaned over her again and pushed two brown tablets into her hand. "Here," she said, then handed her a half-full glass of water.

Nereid popped the tablets into her mouth and washed them down with the rest of the water. She carefully set the glass on the nightstand amidst the other miscellanities.

"You want to shower?" Brainchild said, still pressed against Nereid's back.

"Not... not really," Nereid said, trying to swallow the hitch in her voice.

"You want breakfast?"

Nereid shivered again and reached back tentatively to stroke Brainchild's hip. "I... no. I want... Brainchild?"

She felt Brainchild wince. "Sophie."

"Sophie." Nereid groped for words. "Is... are we... oh, you're going to say I'm being stupid, and I guess I am..."

Brainchild, with much physical coaxing, turned Nereid to face her. Nereid's face was hot and she couldn't meet Brainchild's eyes. Finally, Brainchild settled back on her pillow and reached for Nereid again.

"Let's not think right now," Brainchild said, and pulled Nereid on top of her. "I can't stand myself when I think."

Nereid found not-thinking to be a preferable state of mind right then too, especially given the distraction provided.
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