The bed yielded so readily underneath her it was almost startling. But then, all at once the tension of the past couple weeks—from the climbing out of the canyon, to the walking and the walking and the more walking, to the fight with that (what’d the tariaksuq call it again?) uummatagiuppiniq thing—melted from her achy muscles. For a while, Sofia was content to simply lie there, staring up at the riveted metal ceiling above her, marking the dust-tracks and welding stains through the dark with her eyes. Her thoughts marched across her brain, purposeful at first, pretending to be urgent, but then slowing to a meandering pace. Pretty soon she should be able to try to grab a nap.
Gentle, padding steps tapped through the hall, then stopped a pace or two shy from her curtain.
It was Moe’s voice, quiet, gentle, and so… so subdued.
Sofia turned over and drew the curtain back. Moe was holding her arm across her stomach. Her chin was tilted into her shoulder, eyes looking up briefly.
Like this she looked so… small. Vulnerable. Almost like she was nine again. Not at all like she was just a few moments ago, spreading her wings and dancing with abandon among their new friends.
“What’s wrong?” Sofia asked.
There was a pause. Feelings flickered over Moe’s face. Then she shrugged. “Well. Nothing now, I guess.” Her expression twisted some, then eased. “I just… want to be with my Sofie.”
Sofia shifted a little, opening the way for Moe, who ducked under the bunk and slipped under the covers, pressing close to her. Her hair smelled like sweet woodsmoke.
After a couple moments of silence, Moe’s shoulders shook.
“Aw shit,” she said, her voice broken. “Gods, I’m so tired of crying. Can’t I just—fucking—stay happy for a change?”
Sofia wrapped her arms around Moe, drawing her close. Moe’s answering hug was tight, bundled so small and yet feeling so fragile, like some kind of egg. Sofia couldn’t help the rock that stuck in her throat. “I’m here, Moe.”
Moe tucked her chin, pressing her forehead against Sofia’s chest and cried harder for a while, fingers clenching. Sofia gently rested her chin on Moe, letting her sob.
After a while, her embrace eased. “Gods, Sofie.” She sniffled and drew a hand away to wipe her nose. “It was—it was too much. I wanted to die. It hurt how bad…” She sobbed, briefly, then took a shaky breath. “I wanted to die. It still fucking hurts, even though… even though…” Moe’s breath came short again, but after a few of them she found her voice once more. “I love you, Sofie. So, so, so much.”
The ache in Sofia grew, as if Moe’s pain was seeping into her alongside her tears. That was okay. Sofia could totally take on some of it. Moe had too much.
She gave Moe a squeeze. “I love you too, Moe.”
“Please don’t die again.”
“I’ll do my best.”
They stayed like that for a while, breathing evening, heartbeats slowing.
Sofia stayed awake, her chin resting on Moe’s head, staring at the curtain across from her. Eventually, Moe disentangled herself and shifted away a little.
“You don’t… have to stay awake on my behalf anymore, Sofie,” she said, her voice low. “Don’t let me keep you any longer from naptime.”
“This is way more important.” Sofia shrugged, and then added, “I’m not really tired anyhow.”
A wan smile crooked at the corner of Moe’s lips. “Awww. Thanks.” She scooted back onto her side. “Yeah… don’t you only need to sleep but once a year?”
Sofia tilted her head a bit in concession. “Just wanna keep Abuela, Dad, and Alvaro updated.”
“Oh, right!” Moe moved her elbow onto the pillow, propping her head up with a hand. “The whole dream thing.” She paused. “Wait, Alvaro’s in on it too?”
Sofia pushed a corner of her mouth. “Abuela and I made arrangements with Morpheus.”
Moe lifted her chin and narrowed her eyes. “Ooooooh. Very discreet. And it’s a dream, so the possibilities are endless, and the consequences nil.” She clicked her tongue. “Clever, clever.”
Heat rose unbidden to Sofia’s cheeks.
Moe gave her hair a brief, vigorous muss. “Sofia, you never so much as batted an eyelash at Jeff shuffling around the kitchen with morning wood or at Paige’s noisy orgasms. I’ve talked to you so much about my sexcapades with Damien et alli, and you don’t seem to mind. Shit, you tell raunchy jokes with as much aplomb as the rest of us. But the moment I so much as hint anything sexual between you and Alvaro, you’re blushing like you’ve hardly even heard the word ‘boner.’”
Well… she was right… but still, the blush grew.
“See? Look at you! It’s dark and I can still see it. You’re practically glowing pink.” Moe tilted her head. “All teasing aside, though…” She paused. “Sorry—I think I’m going to be… less than delicate.” She pinned Sofia with a sincere look. “Do you feel ashamed? Of your body, or of being aroused, or your inexperience?” She paused, drawing back some. “I mean, you don’t have to answer if you’re uncomfortable. I’m just… worried, I guess.”
“No, I…” Though she could feel the blush practically throbbing, Sofia wanted to give Moe an answer, to set her worries at ease. And the questions weren’t off-putting, anyway. “I’m not sure. I’m… not ashamed of my body. I haven’t even thought about my scars for… months, and that wasn’t with any sense of shame. And being aroused isn’t even an issue. Well—except sometimes, when it’s being especially distracting but not… embarrassing, really. And… um… why would being inexperienced be shameful at all?”
Moe shrugged a shoulder, then said, “A couple of my partners were ashamed of it.” She quirked a wry corner of her mouth. “One guy didn’t tell me because he was so embarrassed and tried to pretend that he knew what he was doing. That ménage à trois was nothing but a disaster.” She shook her head a little.
Oh, right, Sofia remembered that story. It was hilarious. “Isaiah Tooley, right?”
Moe rolled her eyes. “Yep, that’s him.” She sighed. “I’m glad you’re not suffering the same problem, anyway.” Then she paused, growing serious again. “So it’s Alvaro, then.”
“It’s the thought of Alvaro being sexual that embarrasses you.”
The heat returned to her with a vengance, because she’d made the mistake of probing with her imagination.
“Yeah, I—I guess… I mean, he’s just—it doesn’t—not that I—”
Moe gave her arm a squeeze. “It’s okay, Sofie. I’m not making fun of you. Just tell me it’s not because you’re turned off by him.”
No. Definitely not. Sofia shook her head, because stupid words weren’t working right now. What was it about blushing that turned the brain off? Shouldn’t more blood in that region be conducive to thinking?
“And he’s not… shit, I dunno, guilting you or anything? Making you feel like sex is wrong? By word or deed?” She paused, then added, “Not that I could even imagine Alvaro doing that to anyone, much less you, but it’s worth asking.”
“No, no, nothing like that,” Sofia quickly assured.
Moe nodded. “Okay.” Then she relaxed some. “I’m done interrogating you now, I promise.”
A long silence passed. Little by little, Sofia’s blood cooled, and a question began to nag louder and louder.
“Is it… is it bad?” Sofia asked. “That I’m blushy about all this?”
Moe looked at her, expression flat. “It’s fucking adorable.” A smile overcame her, spurred by sudden energy, and she sat up. “You’ve got him on this little pedestal, see…” Her smile became a grin as she spread her hands as if clearing a canvas. “It’s totally got his name carved in it fancy lettering.” She gestured, to indicate the imaginary sigils on the imaginary pillar. “‘Alvaro Javier Zapotitla,’ except the o’s are flowers and the i’s have hearts for dots.”
Sofia buried her face in her hands, trying to rub out her bashful smile. “Mooooooe!”
“What? It’s so true!” Moe leaned a little closer. “Sofie’s got a crush on Al-va-ro!”
Sofia took a hand away from her face. “Well. I mean. He is my boyfriend.”
“I know. That’s what makes it cuter.” Moe wrapped her head in a tight hug. “Guuuuhh. I’m gonna die of diabetes. And it’ll be all your fault.”
“We’re kind of immune, Moe,” Sofia pointed out into Moe’s chest.
Well. No arguing with that one.
“But, putting aside the diabetes…” Moe released her and spread a hand. “Maybe Alvaro deserves that pedestal. But don’t forget that he’s the person standing there at the top. Y’know, despite the fact that he farts fuckin’ rainbows.”
Despite herself, Sofia laughed. Still, she had to cover her face with her hand, as if to hold back the heat.
After the giggling died down, it was quiet for a moment.
Gods, she missed Alvaro. It’d only been, what, maybe three weeks? Too long, anyway.
And then another question nagged. “Why is it so… important to you that we have a sex life? I mean, you’ve been… really pushing for it. Like with the whole… strip tease thing.”
Wow, that was still embarrassing? For serious? Okay. Okay. Baby steps.
Moe took a moment to sober. “That started as a joke, turned into a prank, and then kind of… snowballed. But…” She paused, considering her answer some more. “I guess I didn’t exactly consider that you could go without sex for as long as you have and be perfectly happy. Because I couldn’t even fucking imagine not—” Moe grimaced and drew a hand sharply as if cutting off that thought. “There I go, doing that whole projection thing again. Because, y’know, my experiences are universal, right?” She blew out a breath and looked directly at Sofia. “I’m really sorry about that, and for not giving you enough credit to get what you wanted or needed out of your relationship with Alvaro. And I’m sorry I made the two of you uncomfortable.”
Sofia gave her another hug. “Apology accepted.”
“What’s important to me is that you’re the happiest you could possibly be. Because… because I love you and I honestly believe you deserve not a single hair less.” She pressed her lips, giving Sofia an exaggerated look of solemnity. “For serious—if Alvaro loses a hair, I will give him the browbeating of his life.” Moe eased and once more propped her head up with a fist. “But you shouldn’t feel like you have to compromise. Especially since Alvaro very much wants to meet your needs, whatever they are.”
Sofia hesitated. “You don’t think he feels… pressured or anything?”
Moe started to respond, stopped, and pursed her lips. “I think you should discuss that with him.”
Yeah, okay. That was a good point. But this time would maybe be too soon—she ought to think about it some more. Then again, there was no saying if she’d get another chance. Or if she’d even be able to get a hold of him this time. Alvaro was just as too-busy-for-a-nap as she was.
And then Moe took a soft breath. “This is nice. Talking as if we’re going to all make it back alive.” She scooted closer. “You keep doing that—making me forget that it’s possible we won’t. Even though just the other day you were dead for all I knew.” She gave Sofia a light push with her fingers. “Turn over. I’m not done with my Sofiesmosis.”
Awww, Moe. Sofia grinned and obliged. “And you say I’m adorable.”
“Yeah, well, I’m osmosising you, so naturally some of that’s gonna bleed over.”
Moe slid in behind her, draping an arm over her shoulder and resting her cheek against Sofia’s back. And then silence settled between them, comfortable and warm.