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Half a Hug

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It was not the first time Jon flinched back from her touch. Before the Choke, it was all he could do to not flee each time she entered a room, fidgeting fingers shielding the bruises that were slow to fade and knife marks that wouldn’t fade at all. But the first time Jon flinched from his Daisy, his friend Daisy, a look of such sharp regret passed her face that apologies spilled from his mouth before he could calm his racing heart.  

He’d just told a particularly stupid joke--one that made him smug with pride when Daisy barked a noise that was both groan and laugh--and she reached out to ruffle his hair. Her hand shot out too quickly. Jon’s pulse raced rabbit-quick in his throat, a siren song, and the urge to tear at it with teeth and claws twisted her gut in shame.  

It took some time to get Jon to stop apologizing, and even longer to calm him. I know you weren’t going to hurt me, I trust you, he said again and again. Her own apologies and offers to keep her hands to herself only seemed to spark more fear in his eyes. And then a different kind of fear shone through, hollow and echoing. “Please don’t stop touching me,” he said, barely loud enough to hear.

Daisy paused and looked at him, really looked at him, trying to see through the eyes of a friend rather than a Hunter or penitent. Curled in on himself like a brittle plant left forgotten on a windowsill, clinging to life long after everyone forgot to water it. His own scarred hands gripping scarred arms, as if he could infuse warmth into his bones. The gaze staring back at her so, so hungry, starving , but for neither food nor secrets.

Slowly, slowly, Daisy held out a hand.

When she paused it halfway between them, confusion flitted across Jon’s face. She turned her palm up and waited. 

Jon drew a deep breath as he reached forward and took her hand in both of his. With a furtive glance to her face, always fearful of a misstep, he guided it to his own shoulder. Daisy let it rest there a moment before squeezing gently; tension eased out of him as she brushed her thumb across the bony points and hollows. And then suddenly he grinned, playful, before comically curling along her arm into a clumsy half-embrace. She made sure to move slowly as she wrapped her other arm around him. 

The next time Daisy laughed at (yet another) terrible joke, she lifted her hand, slowly, pausing halfway. Jon rolled his eyes with a belabored sigh and guided her fingers to his hair. He squawked in feigned protest as Daisy ruffled it ruthlessly, and she grinned sharp and fierce and adoring.