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Friends and Lovers

By Caro Roberts and Starsong Lightwing

 

What would you say if I told you
I've always wanted to hold you
I don't know what we're afraid of
Nothing would change if we made love
So I'll be your friend
And I'll be your lover
And I know in our hearts we agree
We don't have to be one or the other

Slake looked sharply around the shadows on the museum, unable to shake the feeling that something was going to go wrong. "Hurry," he muttered briefly to his partner.

"I am." Estelle eased the case back and carefully relieved it of its contents, replacing each piece with an exact replica. She lowered the case slowly and relocked it, then stood to survey her handiwork. Slake gave it an appraising glance as well.

"Good work." Estelle beamed, knowing that his praise was not given lightly. He flashed her a rare smile, then looked away quickly. "Let's go." She nodded and they faded into the shadows.

The click of a cocking gun stopped them even before the "FREEZE!"

They didn't have to turn around to know that there were Enforcers behind them. Slake tightened his jaw as he searched for a way out, preferably one that didn't involve them turning around and showing their faces. His eyes lit on a new exhibit, one that was under construction and still surrounded by boxes. Bingo. In a move so crazy it would have made Duke proud, he grabbed Estelle by the arm and jerked her to the side. As the Enforcers started to fire he shoved a stack of boxes over them just as several guns went off, and he was rewarded by a feminine cry of pain. Got one. "Let's go!" The two fugitives vacated the museum and ran for a deserted alley nearby.

"Well, that went well," he commented dryly as he turned to Estelle. He stopped in shock and bit back a curse as he got a good look at her. Her left hand was clamped down on her right shoulder, her right arm dangling uselessly at her side. She forced a feeble smile.

"I'm a-afraid I'll have to disagree with you on that," she managed, her face haggard with pain. He steadied her gently.

"They shot you?"

"Right when the crates fell on them."

He felt guilt descend but pushed it away. He didn't have time for that right now. "Let me see."

She shook her head slowly. "It's just a sc-scratch..."

"Estelle. Let me see it." His tone left no room for argument. When she still resisted, he gently pulled her hand away from her shoulder, and his eyes widened in shock. Her glove was totally covered in sticky red liquid, and more kept bubbling quietly out of the wound, indicating that the bullet had hit a vein or an artery, or possibly both. "Come on, we have to get you back to base."

She was already fading out from blood loss. "That's my sword arm," she grumbled, sounding just a trifle out of it.

"I know, I know," he soothed. "It'll be all right." He caught her just as she collapsed. "You can't leave me," he whispered, "not when I haven't told you..." He stopped abruptly and scooped her up, her limp body offering no resistance.

*****

"Tarrin! We've got an emergency!" Finding his arms a bit full at the moment, Slake kicked the door to the infirmary open. Tarrin looked up, startled, then snapped quickly into Doctor Mode.

"What happened to her?"

Slake laid Estelle gently on one of the beds. "Got shot by the Enforcers." He saw the shadow of pain pass across Tarrin's face and he knew that he was remembering Felicity, but he hadn't had time to say it delicately. "Is she going to be all right?"

Tarrin snapped out of his memories and took a quick glance at the wound, then grabbed an oxygen mask. "Place this over her beak and keep it there."

Slake did as he was told, shooting a questioning glance at the Doc. "What is this?"

"It's chloroform, it'll keep her unconscious longer. Looks like I'm going to have to dig the bullet out." He ignored Slake's wince and quickly cut the fabric of Estelle's uniform away from her shoulder to get a clearer view of the wound. As he picked up his forceps Slake closed his eyes and turned his head away.

It was several minutes later before Tarrin was able to locate and remove the bullet and bandage the wound. "All right, you can take the mask off her now. I need to run and get some supplies, would you stay with her until I get back?" It was phrased as a question, but he obviously meant it as astatement.

"All right."

"Great. Thanks."

Slake watched him leave, then looked back at his sleeping student. After a self-conscious glance around the otherwise empty infirmary, he lifted her up and held her gently, letting her head rest against his shoulder. A few minutes later she moaned and woke up before he could lay her back down. She lifted her head, obviously startled to wake up in his arms.

"Slake?" She shot him a questioning look.

He swallowed hard but didn't put her down just yet. "How's your arm feel?"

She tried to move her shoulder and winced. "It's felt better, truth to tell. And I'm so tired..."

"Tarrin gave you a sedative, that's probably why."

"Oh." She rested her head against him again without thinking. "Slake?"

"Hmm?"

"In the alley...I seem to remember that you started to say something to me right before I blacked out...what was it?"

He swallowed hard. "Well--" He didn't know whether to be thankful or annoyed when someone tapped on the door before entering.

Cutter raised an eyebrow. "Am I interrupting anything?"

Slake stood abruptly and half laid, half dropped Estelle back down. "No. Nothing. Nothing at all." He left before either of them could say anything, trying to ignore the hurt, bewildered look Estelle had on her face.

Cutter watched him go, then turned to her and smiled. "I thought I told you to come back safely from those heists."

"I did try my best," she returned dryly, "but it appears that circumstances were slightly beyond my control." Normally she would have enjoyed his company but she just couldn't. Not right then. She turned her face toward the wall. "I'm so tired..."

"Well, better rest up then. Go off to dreamland." He smiled suggestively and leaned closer. "Maybe some day we'll visit it together." He ran a hand along her cheek and leaned closer to kiss her.

He was surprised to feel her push him away. "Jay," she sighed tiredly, "no."

He looked at her for a moment, then shrugged and left. "I'll come back to see you later then."

"Good bye." She watched him leave, knowing that she had probably hurt himbut not caring at the moment. She curled up into a ball and groaned, trying to shut off the emotions that were whirling in her mind. Finally the sedative took effect and she slipped into sleep.

*****

Slake burst into his quarters and closed the door quickly behind him. Then he started pacing. Slake never paced. He hadn't paced since he was a Presaber.

That's not true and you know it, you paced for a week before you proposed.

Slake threw himself into his chair and glared hard at the wall. A hand drifted up to stroke the ring around his neck, and it took more force than usual to separate himself from his emotions. Frustration. Guilt. Fear. More fear. I almost lost her, she could have been killed and never known...But I can't tell her...Sienna...

If I love her anyway, what honor is it to Sienna's memory to ignore that? Slake jumped up and started pacing again. But she--Jay--

He stopped, staring at a picture of his wedding day. We thought we had the rest of our lives...forever...There was so much more I wanted to tell her, and I never got the chance. I can't let that happen again. It doesn't matter what she says after that, but I will not lose anyone else I love ever again without telling them exactly how I feel.

He was out the door almost before the thought was complete.

*****

Estelle rested on her bed, strumming idly at her guitar. Always providing that she moved her shoulder as little as possible, she'd been allowed to leave the infirmary, and she'd cleared out immediately. She reached up to touch the bandage and winched. As if I'd want to move it, it hurts sobadly...

There was a soft knock on her door. "Estelle?"

She sighed and closed her eyes, recognizing the voice as Slake's. "Come in."

Slake slipped in quietly and shut the door behind him, trying to hide his nervousness and doing a decent job of it. "How are you doing?"

She looked up, feeling wary after their last encounter. "Fine."

He came over and sat down, taking her hand gently. "I'm so sorry. I was reckless, I'm...not used to putting someone else in danger with me."

Estelle looked down at her hand and pulled it away cautiously. "It was my own fault for not moving fast enough."

He looked away, his resolve wavering slightly. "No, it wasn't your fault."

She closed her eyes. "Well, it certainly wasn't yours, by default that leaves me."

Slake smiled just a little. "No, I believe that leaves the man who pulled the trigger. Now stop contradicting your teacher. It was not your fault."

Estelle half-smiled. "Well, only because it'll look back on my record to keep fighting with you..." She rubbed her shoulder again. Slake gently placed a hand over the bandage, running his fingertips lightly over her arm. He drew a deep breath and his eyes turned inward. Estelle looked up at him in surprise. "Sir?"

Slake snapped out of it and started to pull his hand back quickly, but stoppedand took her hand again. "Estelle..." He was gripping her hand like a lifeline, but not ungently. "I have some things I need to say to you..."

"Y-yes?" She pushed herself up a little and looked at him.

He smiled slightly. "Do me a favor, and don't say anything until I'm finished.I...don't mean to make you uncomfortable by saying any of this, but...I think you understand why I have to say it." He hesitated for a moment, trying to decide how to phrase it. Finally he said simply, "I love you. I know I said I never would love another woman, but I do. And it's you. I know you and Jay are--"

Estelle interrupted incredulously. "Sir, I think maybe you hit your headwhile we were out. Are you sure you're feeling all right?" She stared at him, her eyes wider than most would have thought possible.

"Look at me, Estelle," Slake demanded. "Look at my eyes. You know me better than that. Love is not a game, and it is not a joke. You know I believe that." He let her hand go. "I'm sorry if I've made you uncomfortable. But I can't let anyone else go without telling them exactly how much they mean to me."

Estelle grabbed his hand again. "No, it's all right--I mean--he--you--I--" She stopped and breathed deeply, trying to come to terms with a rush of emotion, then managed, "I love you too."

Slake looked stunned for a moment. "Stelle--" Startled by her own confession, she looked away. He reached out and touched her face gently, then turned her back to look at him again. He smoothed her hair back so he could lookinto both her eyes.

Estelle closed her eyes for a moment. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have--if itwas inappropriate--I didn't want to--I didn't mean for it to happen...."

Slake almost laughed at her. "I come in here knowing you're involved with someone else, and you're worried about being inappropriate?"

Estelle looked at him for a moment, then glanced away again. "We aren't really..."

He tried not to show his relief. "Estelle, look at me." She looked up at him, forcing herself to hold his gaze. He tilted her chin up gently. "I love you."

"I love you too," she whispered, smiling. I wish I'd realized that sooner!

He smiled back, a real smile, the kind that reached his eyes. "That's not a bad thing."

"It very definitely is not."

He slid closer and put his arms carefully around her waist. "I'm glad you agree."

If I had known getting shot would produce this, I would have shot myself long before now! Estelle rested her head against him and smiled. He held her as tightly as he could without jarring her injured shoulder and laughed softly. "Duke's going to be saying 'I told you' so for the rest of our lives."

Estelle chuckled dryly. "I never thought the cause would be so enjoyable."

Slake pulled back to look at her face again. "For this, I think I can learn to live with 'I told you so.'" He kissed her gently. For a brief moment, Estelle stayed still, frozen in surprise, but she quickly pushed it away and slid her good arm around him, returning the kiss.

Cutter cleared his throat from where he was standing in the doorway.

Estelle broke off quickly and stared at him, visibly paling. "Jay..." Oh,no, no, please no... Cutter lifted an eyebrow but didn't say anything as she sat up and glanced between him and Slake. I knew I had to tell him, but I didn't want to do it now...Not in this manner...

Slake stood and turned to face him, trying to think of what he should say. Cutter regarded them both silently, his arms folded but no particular expressionon his face.

Estelle stood and got between them. She tried to speak, but the words stuckin her throat. "Jay, I...I..."

"Am I to take it that dinner is off?" he asked calmly, as if he wasn't a tangled mess inside.

Estelle looked at the ground, feeling like trash. "Yes," she whispered, unable to look up.

Cutter's eyes let the hurt show for a single instant before he turned away. "I hope you'll be feeling better soon, then." The door clicked shut behind him.

Estelle stood there numbly, trying to think of what she could have said that would have helped and feeling as if she deserved to die. "I'm sorry," she whispered, not even sure who she was apologizing to.

Slake put a hand on her uninjured shoulder. "It's better to let him worki t out himself for a while. Talking to him now would do more harm than good."

Estelle put her hand on his, then turned around and rested her head against his shoulder. How could I have done this to him? But I don't love him. And I love Slake. It would have been wrong to lead him on...but he's so hurt...

He put his arms around her and offered what comfort he could. "He'll understand, in time."

"How...how could I have done that to him? I knew it would never work...why didn't I tell him that? This is all my fault. I'm so sorry...to him and to you..."

Slake pulled her closer and sighed again. "He will understand, I'm sure. But I think he needs a little time to sort out his own feelings first..."

Estelle sighed as well. "I just wish it hadn't happened this way..." She stopped when she realized what that must have sounded like. "I mean, I wish he hadn't come in just then, not..." She sighed again and gave up. "You know what I mean, I trust."

"I do." Slake smiled and gave her a gentle squeeze.

Estelle half-smiled. "Is that a promise?"

Slake smiled back almost teasingly. "I think you can trust me."

"If I didn't, I wouldn't be here right now."

He winced slightly but tried to take the comment at face value and not showhis guilt. He tightened his arms around her slightly. "How'm I going to explain this to Rain?" he wondered aloud without thinking.

She looked up at him and pulled back slightly. "You don't think she'll be happy."

"No, no, it's not that," he quickly reassured her, "it's just--I think she'll be a little confused, is all..."

"Hmm..." She leaned against him again. "I imagine she will be."

"You're practically a mother to her already. I'm sure once she understands, she'll be happy."

Estelle smiled at the thought. "And just how, exactly, are we going to explain it to her?"

Slake hesitated. "Maybe it'd be better if I talked to her by myself first..."

She didn't want to let go of him but started to loosen her grip anyway. "I understand..." What I wouldn't give to hear that conversation... Slake didn't let go of her, still thinking. After a few minutes, she stepped back and sat on the bed again. She didn't feel up to standing that long.

He broke out of his thoughts. "I should go, and let you rest. Don't worry about Rain, I'll take care of it."

"Are you sure?"

He nodded. "We'll both come see you later." He smiled and touched her cheek. "Don't go anywhere, now."

"I wouldn't leave now."

He cupped his hand around her cheek and kissed her gently. "Good. Now get some rest."

She sighed happily. "Yes, sir."

He grinned at her playfully and tapped her beak. "I told you to not to 'sir' me." He stood and started to leave but paused at the door to look back at her. "I love you."

"I love you too." I can't imagine ever getting tired of hearing that. Slake gave her a smile and left.

Less than a minute later, Milantha knocked before rushing into the room. "How are you doing? How bad is it? Why didn't someone tell me sooner???"

Estelle looked strangely NOT upset. "Fine, not very, and I don't know."

Milantha blinked and stopped rather abruptly by the side of the bed. "Youlook awfully cheerful for someone that just got shot."

Estelle tried, and failed, not to grin. "Really? Imagine that."

Milantha looked suspicious. "Exactly how much blood did you lose, Stelle?

Estelle winced slightly and rubbed her shoulder. "I don't remember...enough to be out cold for quite awhile."

Milantha frowned and glared at nothing. "D Level is always the last to hear about anything

Estelle had a very self-satisfied smile on her face. "Well, I wouldn't want to be the first to break that tradition, then..." Milantha gave her a strange look.

"What is with you, Stelle, you look like you just pinched the world's biggest diamond right out from under the Enforcers' noses."

Estelle smiled wider. "I think I got something better than that."

Milantha blinked at her for a moment, then shut the door and hopped ontothe bed. "Tell me!!"

Estelle was both trying to decide how to say it tactfully and enjoying makingMilantha wait, so there was several moments' silence. "Would you like thebad news first or the good news?"

Milantha had been sitting there impatiently, looking more annoyed by thesecond. "Bad news, I guess."

Estelle lost her happy smile and she lowered her gaze. "Cutter and I are...well..."

Milantha looked even more impatient. "What? Getting married? Having a baby? Spit it out!!"

Estelle looked saddened at the first and personally insulted at the second. "The idea!"

Milantha ground her teeth. "Tell me!!"

"We're...through."

Milantha blinked again. "Through? As in--" Estelle nodded slowly and Milantha sat back. "Oh."

Estelle sighed and looked down, then remembered her GOOD news and looked up again, a slight smile tugging at her mouth.

Milantha gave her a sideways look. "And you're HAPPY about this?"

"No...not about that..."

She tried very hard not to throttle her best friend. "Well...?"

Estelle smiled again at her impatient look. "There was good news, remember?"

I'm going to scream any second now. Aaannyyyy second. "Yes I remember now what was it!!!"

"You're going to say 'I told you so.'"

"And that's GOOD news?"

"For this reason, yes."

Milantha closed her eyes and took a couple deep breaths, then opened them again. "TELLMERIGHTNOWBEFOREITHROTTLEITOUTOFYOU!!!"

"I'm in love."

Milantha looked shocked. "And you're actually admitting it??"

"For him, yes."

"No self-denial, no 'I am not!'?""

Estelle shook her head and smiled. "Not this time. Well, yes," she reconsidered, "I suppose it took me long enough to admit it..."

Milantha was completely stunned. "How--and who??"

Estelle reached over to her desk and picked up a note from Slake that had been sitting there for ages. She handed it to Milantha and leaned back, smiling in a rather smug and self-satisfied fashion. Milantha looked at it for a moment, confused. Then understanding dawned and she nearly fell of the bed. Estelle grinned. "Surprised?"

Milantha managed to regain her balance. "I--you--he--and--what??"

Estelle was enjoying this immensely. "Yes."

"I need to sit down..." No, wait, I AM sitting. She tried to process through what she'd been told while Estelle waited patiently, smirking the entire time. Milantha put her head in her hands. "Let me get this straight. No, wait, that's not working. When did this happen??"

Estelle checked her watch. "You missed it by about a minute."

Milantha's head reeled. "How?? And for how long?? And why now??"

Estelle patted her back sympathetically. "Do remember to warn me before you pass out, dear."

Milantha was too busy processing to reply to that immediately. "You didn't answer my questions."

"Which ones? You've asked quite a few you know."

"All of them!"

Estelle considered how best to answer them. Finally she gave up on even attempting tact and told Milantha the whole story. Milantha slowly got herself together as everything came out and by the time Estelle was done Milantha was grinning jubilantly. "I better get started finding a song!!"

Estelle groaned halfheartedly. "I KNEW you'd say that! But it's only beenone day...there's no way of telling...I mean, he probably wouldn't...don't get too cocky," she finished lamely, "you're further along than I am."

"I told you so!! I really did! I knew you liked him!! I can't believe you didn't tell me!!"

"I didn't know I did! I thought...sometimes...I felt something...but I always thought I was imagining it! I never thought that he'd--" She broke off and blushed.

Milantha giggled for a moment, then sobered. "How'd Cutter take it?"

Estelle winced. "Not..well...He came in at a rather...inopportune...time..."

Milantha looked at her and groaned, burying her head in one of Estelle'spillows. "That," she said in a muffled voice, "is soooo not good."

Estelle sighed. "I know...I know..."

Milantha lifted her head. "What'd he do?"

"Nothing! He just said that he assumed dinner was off and that he hoped thatI felt better soon! If he had yelled, screamed, accused me, anything, I could have handled it, but he was just...so...quiet..." Estelle felt horrible and buried her head in her hands at the memory of the look on his face.

Milantha shook her head. "It's probably better that he didn't, all this was bad enough but the blow to his image on top of it might have made things even worse."

Estelle groaned. "I know, but...I feel so guilty for not telling him before...for him to come in then was just..."

"Impolite, but that's not really the issue."

She sighed. "If only I'd told him earlier that I didn't love him...I strung him along and this is my fault..." She rolled over and buried her face inher pillow.

Milantha moved over and rubbed her back. "It's not, Stelle, you shouldn't feel guilty for being in love. You would have told him, you just didn't have the chance. And I...neither of us were very encouraging as far as taking no for an answer..."

Estelle's voice was still muffled by the pillow when she finally spoke. "But I knew...well, I was fairly certain at least...that I would never be deeply in love with him! Why didn't I tell him?"

"Would he have listened? At least you gave him a chance and you can honestly say you're sure it would never work. And you know that's what he would have said, 'just give me a chance'."

"But the look in his eyes...I feel like I betrayed him..." Milantha leaned on her, unsure of what to say. Estelle sighed for what felt like the hundredth time that hour and rolled over on her back to stare at the ceiling.

"I know I ought to talk to him, but I'm not sure...that this is the time..."

"It might be a good idea to give him a little time..."

"I plan to wait. I just don't know for how long."

"Don't leave it for too long, though, he'll think you don't care at all..."

"Hmph." Estelle flopped back on the bed. "Why does it have to be so bloody complicated?!"

Milantha looked sympathetic. "Would it mean as much without the struggle?"

"That's true, I suppose. And it is worth it in the end..." She managed aslight smile.

"Just enjoy what you can, and ignore what you can't until you have the chanceto deal with it."

"Well, I want be happy, and I am happy, but every time I start to feel happy I remember...and then I feel guilty for feeling happy."

Milantha smiled faintly. "You can't live like that forever, Stelle."

"I certainly HOPE not. I wouldn't want to!" She paused and smiled thoughtfully. "I never would have thought I'd see the day. I still can't believe it."

Milantha's grin turned wicked. "I told you so. I'm so gonna enjoy this. Revenge is sweet, I gotta say."

"I didn't do this to you this badly!" She paused. "Did I...?"

"Every minute."

Estelle groaned. "And I will never, never hear the end of this, will I?"

Milantha grinned. "Not until I see you standing up there in that cute little bright yellow dress..."

Estelle shuddered. "You've had longer, Lantha! You'll be up there first!"

Milantha shook her head. "You're older, Stelle, it's a two year minimum for me." She lifted an eyebrow. "Estelle Roguefeather. I like it."

"That was low."

*****

I can't put it off forever. I have to do it, and I have to do it now before I lose my nerve . Estelle tapped nervously on the door frame to Cutter's workroom.

Cutter didn't look up from the project on his bench. "It's open." This was rather obvious, but he said it anyway. Estelle came in and cleared her throat softly. He glanced up finally. "Estelle. Please, sit down. If you can find a clear spot, that is." He reached for a cloth to wipe the grease off his hands. He looked as if he hadn't been sleeping, though his hair and clothes were as neat as ever.

Estelle didn't bother to remind him that she never sat, not that there was an open place left in the room anyway. She leaned against the wall, clasping and unclasping her hands nervously as she tried to think of something to say.

Cutter picked up his tools again. "I trust you've been well?"

Estelle fought the urge to scream "STOP BEATING AROUND THE BUSH AND YELL AT ME!" She didn't know how much longer she could stand this normal attitude. "I...I've been fine," she managed lamely. "And yourself?"

"Working. I finally found away around a problem that's been bugging me for months." He didn't add that he'd been locked in his work room since the 'episode' working on it. He didn't have to, at any rate, it was rather obvious.

She cast about for away to bring the conversation to the point. She knew simply saying "I'm sorry" wouldn't cut it in this situation, but was at a loss for what she could say. So instead she just said, with more interest than she really felt, "Oh? And what's that?" Cutter rattled off a technical explanation matter-of-factly, leaving her dumbfounded. "Oh. I....see."

Normally, he would have explained it in easier terms, but couldn't be bothered just then. "In any case, it's taken care of now, and I should be able to finish it without any more major problems."

"Uh....huh...That's good..." Come on, you idiot girl, talk to him! She pushed herself up off the wall and began to pace.

Cutter glanced up for a moment. "Careful where you step."

Estelle closed the door and turned around to face him. Her patience was exhausted by this incessant subject dodging and she decided to just come right out with it. "I really did care for you, you know. I never thought it would work, but I was willing to give it a try. For your sake. If I had known this would happen I never would have allowed things to go as far as they did. But I did and I'm sorry. There. I've said it. I'm SORRY. I came walking all the way up here to tell you that because I couldn't take the guilt anymore! So for once in your life ignore your blasted pride and yell at me! I deserve it, I know, so stop pretending that everything is all right and blame me!"

Cutter paused, then calmly put down his equipment, wiped off his hands, andfaced her. "I don't yell. And I can't blame you for doing what I asked you to and giving me a chance."

She gave him a measuring look for a moment. "So that's it. So you're just going to pretend nothing happened and go on with your life, ignoring whatever you're pretending not to feel."

He folded his arms. "No. I'm going to go on with my life and deal with my feelings and what happened in my own way."

She seethed. "So even trying to talk to you on this is a waste of your precious time, I see."

Cutter actually looked stung for just an instant before he turned to a set of plans spread out on a table. Even his back couldn't hide it completely, though.

Estelle sighed. I hadn't meant it to come out harshly, I really hadn't. Can't I do anything right? "I'm sorry...I didn't mean it that way..."

He sighed and gave in, letting his shoulders slump. "I know. This...isn't the sort of thing I'm used to discussing."

She rested a hand on his shoulder and chose her words carefully, "I know...I...I'm not exactly adept at it myself...but..." She paused, trying to decide if saying, "I hope we'll still be friends" was too hollow in this circumstance.

He hesitated, then covered her hand with his. "I wish you every happiness, Estelle."

Estelle gave him a genuine smile. "And I you."

Cutter returned it with a touch of his old grin. "One of these days we're going to have to sit down and compare notes. It's always good to know what works and what doesn't." He winked, but then his grin lost some of its playful edge for just a moment. He looked at her, hiding a flash of jealously, and rested a hand lightly on her shoulder. He kissed her cheek gently. "Thank you. For giving me a shot, at least." He covered a yawn. "Now if you'll excuse me, I think I have some urgent business to attend to in my quarters."

Estelle smiled understandingly and patted his hand. "Go, you look like you haven't slept in a week." She let herself out and the door clicked shut behind her.

 

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