[20] Aftershock

Nihlus likes his fringe touched. It would be good to remember that. Tactical advantage, if you will. Wrong context, though. Much more difficult than memorising pressure points. Those are common to a species. Hence, easy. Sensitive spots, frustratingly, belong to the individual. Nihlus does not hoard them (yes, please, right there, that’s–), but it is difficult nontheless. Nihlus does not fuss and hide behind bedsheets or clothing, but it still takes a careful hand to coax out the most unusual things from his collection.

So he coaxes. He must resort to coaxing. “Come here.” Saren holds out his hand, bare palm up. Take my hand. Don’t give me yours if you don’t want to.

Nihlus bites. He’s still dripping onto the floor. Didn’t towel himself off properly in the shower. But then again, Saren had left the towel in front of the door, so it’s not Nihlus’ fault that he’s dripping onto the floor. Saren can see each individual droplet as it falls from his naked plates, falls down, down, lands on the floorboards with a sound he can hear if he tries hard enough. But no longer. He takes Saren’s hand (yes, good, now go on) and sits beside him on the bed.

Heartrate is up. Temperature down. Breathing shallow. He needs warmth. The sheets are slightly moist but they will do for now. Thermal suits are too constricting. He sets his lens to keep track of vitals. Probably an overreaction. Better safe than sorry. Look, Nihlus is calm already.

“I’m okay.” He nudges away Saren’s hand and reaches for the glass of water. “I’m fine.”

Now is the right time. Saren waits until Nihlus is leaning back, until he can see Saren’s hand out of the corner of his eye before placing a finger on his fringe. Two. All three. Nihlus stopped trembling a while ago. Mission successful.

He strokes along a blade, keeping his thumb over the white stripe running its length. Nihlus exhales. Good. Post-mission celebration. No. Not again. Not until there are no more demons between them.

“I thought you made things up.”

“Yeah?” A challenging note in a lower harmonic.

“Your family, all the details. You’d be able to come up with those ideas. Imagination is one thing you do not lack.” Saren moves on to another blade. A longer one.

“That so.” Arrogance. No, barely. Tastes more of sadness. “You got more water?”

Saren looks from him to the glass in his hand to the decanter. Empty.

“Shit.” Nihlus tosses the glass into the pillow. “I know what you’re thinking right now. You’re wonderin’ why I ain’t a damn emotionless motherfucker like you, right?”

His accent is showing through. Saren is speechless.

“Well,” Nihlus smiles, a beautiful, terrifying smile. “Not all of us are that lucky.”

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