Below is the next bit of my novella, Dropping Slow, which I am posting serially during the month of June, as part of the Every Single Day Challenge to raise money for Sharon the Light. If you’re enjoying the story, please feel free to donate via my Crowdrise page ($10 minimum donation) or directly, at this link (no minimum donation). Everyone who donates will receive an ebook copy of Dropping Slow, once it’s all posted (if you donate directly, please leave a comment to let me know!).
Javi sometimes has insomnia, of the sort where he falls asleep without issue, but wakes up and can’t shut off his mind. Tace remembers this when she finds him on their couch at two in the morning, watching animal vids with the sound turned down.
She gets water from the kitchen–she woke up coughing with a dry throat from her allergies–and steps into the living room, sits next to him on the couch. It feels both familiar and not to wriggle her feet under the blanket he’s using, shove his legs aside and over and then back again until she’s comfortable, but if his smile is any indication he doesn’t mind. “Why are you out here?” she asks.
“Didn’t want to wake Lin,” he says, and that’s right, she’d thought she’d heard something from his room earlier as she got ready for bed. She thinks about that, and also about whether maybe they could all sleep together sometime soon because she thinks she’d like to, and Javi hisses, “Good god, your feet are cold.”
“Oh, sorry, didn’t realize I was–” she says and starts to move, but he holds her ankle from over the blanket.
“No, leave them there, let’s warm them up,” he says.
“Brain damage,” she says, lightly but carefully so; she’s not sure how either of them will react to revelations like this. “Body temp regulation is jacked up.”
Javi watches the screen–jerbams fall over when a zookeeper tries to sit them up–and says, “Pfft. Your feet have always been cold.”
“But now the rest of me matches,” she says, and he shoots her an incredulous glance before sitting up, grabbing her by the shoulders, and hauling her across himself and the couch to spoon up in front of him. “Yavi!” she yelps, and he pauses in rearranging them and the blanket to look at her, delighted.
“You remember that?”
When they first met, she would slip and pronounce his name the Harekaans way, with a Y-sound intead of an H. It turned into a nickname; even Lin used it sometimes. “Yeah,” she says, feeling as delighted as he looks, despite her knee yelling at her from under the tangled blanket.
Javi gets the blanket untangled and arranges them both more comfortbaly. “You could have just asked, by the way.” She can feel his grin at the back of her head.
“I have brain damage,” she says after a long while of looking for a joke. “Lost asking. All hints now.” She feels him chuckle behind her, and his arms tighten around her as his body heat sinks into her cool skin and her knee stops aching.
They watch more vids. Javi kisses her neck a little, runs his hands over her stomach as she rubs at his arms, but there’s no intent in it beyond affection. Eventually the screen gives Tace a headache and she rolls over to snug her head under his chin as he continues to watch. She shuts her eyes, not sleepy–her own sleep schedule is a mess between all the naps she takes despite herself and the fact that she’s still not used to planet-side hours–and sees the nebula again in front of her. But Javi is warm and soft and she can smell him, sweaty and more than a little like the sex he and Lin had earlier; anchored in now and not then, she can let herself drop into the nebula a little.
The colors swirl and toward the middle the whole thing undulates, slow and silent; she’s not sure what’s memory and what’s just her own addition; she doesn’t care, here in Javi’s arms she thinks accuracy is secondary. Maybe poetry seeps into her skin from him, maybe you can get a poetic sensibility through osmosis; on base in the med bay she did her best to be accurate and practical and clear, and now she can sink into color and warmth and current.
“Are you asleep?” she hears, and she answers without opening her eyes.
She feels his fingers on her forehead and he says, “Tell me what’s in there, then?”
She keeps her eyes shut as she answers, “There was a nebula, off away from us during that last battle. In front of me.” And accuracy has never mattered much to Javi, except in prose, so she says, “It’s in my head, now. Maybe like an infection. Maybe it fills up the holes? I think it’s where some of the words went. Or the memories. Into the nebula in my head.”
He’s tracing her eyesocket with a finger. “Do you want it out of your head?” he asks, his voice soft and curious.
“No,” she says. She opens her eyes, blinks up at him in the gold brown light of the lamp, the blue cast of the vid screen. “No, I don’t. I wish I could have the memories back, though.”
He frowns, his face clouding, but she doesn’t want angry political essayist Javi, accurate, factual Javi; she wants her Yavi, the poet, so fighting the blanket and her knee to sit up a little, she kisses him, and after a moment he wraps his arms around her and kisses her back. She pushes her hands into his hair; her fingers find his ports, dormant and useless now but not removable, the only thing he kept when he left IWT, and trace around them out of habit.
When she pulls back, he looks dazed. She runs a finger across and around his lips, and his face clears, his eyes sharpen, and he asks, “Are we really going to have sex on the couch, Tace?”
They don’t, but she does talk him into popcorn and an actual film that she didn’t see while she was off-planet, and in the morning Linea wakes both of them up and sends them off to their beds so she can watch the newsfeeds in peace.
Copyright 2017 by Laura E. Price. Feel free to link to this story–signal boosting is welcome!–but please don’t reproduce it without permission.