Roe’s just returned to the Crystarium from a scouting mission in Amh Araeng, and even though she stopped by her apartment to wash up and change out of her sweaty, grit-covered gear, she swears there’s still sand in her boots. She stumbles a little as she scales the stairs of the Pendants to Thyme’s apartment—shit, maybe she’s more exhausted than she realized. But she and Thyme are supposed to spend time together today now that she’s back in Lakeland, and damn if Roe is going to miss a chance to visit her girl.
Even if she knows she really should be going back to her room to put herself to bed. She’s not certain when the last time she slept through the night was, and the twins may have called her out for dozing off during a meeting earlier.
She stops in front of Thyme’s front door and knocks. As she waits, she idly stares down the Pendants steps at the people going about their daily business below. But her eyes feel like they won’t stay focused. Her brain feels fuzzy, but her muscles are tight with tension. It’s highly annoying.
When Thyme answers the door it’s with a book in one hand and a mildly concerned look on her face. “Roe?”
“Hey.” Roe does her best to look cool and suave while totally not leaning against the doorway to keep herself from falling over.
“I wasn’t expecting you for a few more hours.” Thyme pauses, noting the dark circles under Roe’s eyes. “You look dead on your feet, darling.”
Roe grunts. Thyme may be right, but she didn’t need to say it. “Is it that bad?”
Thyme pauses, her eyes roving up and down Roe’s body. It feels something like she’s being scanned.
Ouch. Harsh, but fair.
Thyme’s brow furrows. “Why didn’t you just stay home? You know I wouldn’t have minded if we rescheduled.”
“Yeah.” Roe sheepishly scratches the back of her neck. “I just… really wanted to see you.”
Thyme looks momentarily stunned. Then she puts her hand to her mouth to stifle an exasperated giggle. “You’re hopeless.”
Roe grins. “I know.”
“Well, I’m not going to just leave you in the hallway.” Thyme steps aside to let Roe into her apartment, smiling fondly. “Get in here.”
The living room of Thyme’s apartment is small, but cozy—it’s practically overflowing with books, and the whole place smells like fresh parchment paper and the dried flowers and herbs she stores in bundles hanging along the walls, tied in simple twine. Groaning shelves of Thyme’s homemade tinctures and potions line the room. At its center is a small coffee table covered in academic literature, discarded tea cups, and scrap pieces of paper that Thyme has covered in her signature precise, looping script. A small window looks out over the Crystarium courtyard and the early afternoon light spreads dappled bits of sunshine all over the thick, fluffy carpet. Thyme always leaves the curtains wide open now that the night has returned to Lakeland.
Next to the coffee table is a large, overstuffed sofa, covered in throw pillows and light blankets, that Roe is very fond of. She makes a beeline for it, crashing down into it in a sprawl of exhausted limbs, and leans back with a groan. It feels wonderful to sit down. Thyme gracefully takes a seat at her side, sliding across the sofa to press herself against Roe’s hip. They sit for a minute in contented silence, but Roe’s brain and body are still buzzing with a tension that she very much wishes would leave her be.
“You look so tired, sweetheart.” Thyme takes Roe’s hand and gives it a comforting squeeze.
“Ugh, yeah.” Roe sighs. “I tried to rest a little before I came over. I didn’t think I’d be much use to you like this.” Roe gestures vaguely at her entire… situation. “I just couldn’t turn my brain off, y’know?”
Thyme hums sympathetically. Perceptive as she is, she can of course tell this isn’t just a simple case of physical exhaustion. “Do you want to talk about it?” she asks.
Roe hesitates. Weirdly, she actually does. It’s not an impulse she’s used to—but even though they haven’t known each other that long, something about Thyme’s presence makes her feel like it’s okay for her to say anything that’s on her mind.
“It’s… kind of a downer.” Her eyes feel stuck to the floor. “Are you sure you want to listen to me complain?”
“Of course.” Thyme nudges Roe with her shoulder. “Anytime. You know that.”
For some reason, the feeling of Thyme’s hands gently cradling hers, tracing the scrapes and scars on her knuckles with her thumb, makes her thoughts easier to assemble. But when she opens her mouth, willing the words to tumble out, they get stuck—like a bunch of oddly-shaped candies caught in the opening of an overturned jar.
“I just feel like… I can’t relax when they’re all counting on me,” she starts. “Like, the thought that something could happen at any moment—that I could slack off for just a second and ruin everything, or…” She swallows. Her throat feels like it’s shriveling shut.
Thyme waits patiently. Roe takes a breath and tries again.
“For some reason, I was given this… power, this ‘blessing’, that no one else has. And I’ve been happy to use it, you know? Really happy. I love having people depend on me. I love charging headfirst into danger and fighting the odds. I get to save the world.” She smiles, and it’s genuine. “It’s incredible—everything I’ve ever wanted.”
Then she sighs. “But I have to carry that weight for everyone, all the time. And I’m needed everywhere, constantly. I’m always being pulled in a thousand different directions.” She stares down at her lap. “They always tell me to take care of myself, that I should rest… but how can I do that when I know that if I’m not around, people will die?”
She can feel her eyes beginning to prickle with tears which is deeply embarrassing, somehow even worse than spilling her guts all over Thyme’s sofa. She blinks them away as best she can.
“It’s not really their fault—the world hasn’t exactly given me a chance to rest, either.” She laughs and it comes out a little more bitter than she intended. “It just… it’s been years now. It’s constant,” she mumbles. “And it gets to be too much sometimes.” Even while sitting down, Roe feels her body drooping with exhaustion.
“You are far too hard on yourself.” Thyme’s voice is steely—Roe’s not sure she’s ever heard her sounding this serious. She puts a hand to Roe’s cheek and leaves it there, making Roe look her in the eyes. “It’s alright to be tired. Or sad. Or frustrated. And it’s alright to need to talk about it.” Then she smiles. “You’re doing an incredibly hard job, my love, and you have to give yourself a break sometimes.”
Somewhere deep down in her gut, Roe knew that—but hearing Thyme say it actually makes it resonate through her chest like it’s true, like she has permission. Thyme wraps her in a tight hug and Roe leans bodily into her, pressing her face into the curve of Thyme’s shoulder. She sniffles quietly, in the manner of someone who is definitely not crying in front of her new girlfriend. “Thanks,” she mumbles.
Thyme presses a kiss to her temple. “And you have to get some sleep sometime, too.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Thyme lets her go and Roe groans, smushing her face into her hands and rubbing her eyes so hard sparks appear behind her lids. “I feel like I haven’t stopped moving in months.”
“Here.” Thyme plucks a small throw pillow from the sofa and places it in her lap. She pats it invitingly. “I imagine they won’t have need of you for a few more hours. Rest your head for a few minutes.”
Roe hesitates. Her eyes flick down to Thyme’s lap. “Are you sure?”
“Of course.” Thyme smiles. “We can go out another time. You need the rest, I want to finish this chapter in my book, and we both want to spend time together. It’s a win-win scenario.”
Roe has to admit, this isn’t quite how she imagined she would first be getting her head between Thyme’s legs. But it’s certainly a tempting proposal.
“Okay. But I think I’d rather not use a pillow. If it’s alright with you.” She flashes Thyme a mischievous grin. If Thyme’s offering, she may as well make the most of it.
Thyme snorts. “You must be feeling better already if you’re mouthing off.” The pillow flies through the air and whumps into Roe’s face.
Thyme laughs merrily and pats her thighs. “Come on, then.”
“Okay, okay.” Dutifully Roe shifts to lay on her back and gingerly places her head squarely in the valley of Thyme’s lap. It’s a bit lumpy, but it’s leagues above using a plain old pillow. She sighs as her body settles deep into the plush cushions beneath her like a stone sinking into a lake. If she never has to move again, it will be too soon.
Thyme drapes her arm across Roe’s chest to better hold her book aloft and the weight of it is comforting against her body. Her other hand drifts to her lap to nestle against the top of Roe’s head and gently scratch at her scalp, petting her as one would idly stroke a housecat. The feeling sends tingles down her spine and sparks through her stomach and she catches herself idly wondering if she could get away with staying here in Thyme’s lap with her stroking her hair forever. It’s possible that lack of sleep is making her giddy and stupid.
“Comfortable?” Thyme’s voice is soft, almost a whisper, and Roe suddenly realizes her eyes had drifted shut without her knowledge or consent. Gods, she’s tired.
“Yes,” she tries to respond, but she’s rudely interrupted by a huge, jaw-cracking yawn.
Thyme giggles. “Good.”
Roe forces her eyes back open with considerable effort. She doesn’t want to doze off yet, not when she’s finally gotten ahold of a moment of peace, but as the minutes pass it’s getting harder and harder to keep her eyes open, especially as Thyme’s got her fingers in her hair. The tension is slowly, finally draining from her muscles, her body feeling like it’s sinking deeper and deeper and—
Oh. Thyme’s singing.
She’s started humming something as she reads, soft and sweet. It sounds like a lullaby but without lyrics, just a simple melody so slow and formless she might even be making it up as she goes along. Her voice is quiet and lilting, drifting lazily from note to note, unhurried; it fills Roe’s brain like a soothing scent tumbling along on an early morning breeze. She glances away from the page she’s on to meet Roe’s eyes with a small, twinkling smile. This is a song just for you, her eyes seem to say. Sleep. You’re safe with me.
Her heart swells, and she gives in. No one’s ever sung her to sleep before. How could she refuse?
Her eyes fall shut at last, and she listens.
When she next wakes, the light streaming in through the apartment window has shifted and turned to gold, and it’s shining in her eyes. Her body is stiff, but in that satisfying way that tells her she slept soundly, deep and dreamless and unmoving; she must have been asleep in Thyme’s lap for several hours. She realizes she’s cocooned in something warm and soft—Thyme must have draped a blanket over her after she fell asleep.
Blearily, she rubs her eyes. Thyme. Why isn’t she saying anything? She looks up.
Thyme is deeply asleep, slumped forward in her seat. The book she was reading lays open and abandoned on the floor, clearly having fallen from her slackened fingers some time ago. Her hair hangs down in loose waves about her face, sent swaying a bit with every slow, deep breath she takes, and her glasses have slid far down her nose. Her lips are slightly parted and her lids and lashes flutter slightly as though she dreams. Even asleep, her hand is still entangled in Roe’s hair.
Roe smiles. It seems Thyme was tired, too.
She gingerly sits up, careful not to move too fast and disturb her—fortunately Thyme merely sways a little, shifting to rest against the back of the sofa, and sleeps on. She gently draws her hand close to Thyme’s face to rescue her glasses from their precarious position, and as she removes them Thyme makes a tiny, drowsy noise and wrinkles her nose. Something about it makes Roe’s heart clench in her chest.
She glances at the clock on the apartment wall. It’s incredibly hard to convince herself to leave. All she wants to do, more than anything, is to sink back into that sofa and nuzzle her face into Thyme’s chest, to wrap her arms around her and soak up her scent and the sound of her gentle breathing and drift away with her again. To forget about everything except for her, for just a few more hours.
But the Scions are expecting her by now, she’s sure. So it’s time to go.
She scrawls a note on a slip of scratch paper to leave on the coffee table next to Thyme’s book and glasses: “thank you. we’ll actually do something next time, I promise. -R.” Then, though she knows she runs the risk of waking her, she spreads the blanket across Thyme’s lap and presses a kiss to her forehead. Thyme sighs in her sleep, and it’s almost as good as if she had been awake to kiss her back.
When she quietly slips across the room and out the door of Thyme’s apartment—back to the chaos of the First, back to the Scions, back to her interminable duty—it is with newfound, blooming strength. She feels rested for the first time in weeks.