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heart on a sleeve

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Nile was awaken by the soft song of music playing nearby rather by an atrocious nightmare, for what seemed like the first time in forever. She slept well usually but too often nightmares of Quynh would crawl back up to her, Quynh’s rage and helplessness. But this morning, it was a much more peaceful wake up call and she was grateful for it. The faint sound of music was coming from an adjacent room, though, which one, she couldn’t tell, she didn’t know the safehouse, safehome had joke Joe when they had arrived a couple of days prior, by heart yet. She couldn’t decipher what the song was, something soft and comforting, it reminded Nile of a home, not necessarily her home, back in Chicago, but something that still felt like home nonetheless.

She took some time stretching her entire body in the bed she was sleeping in, enjoying some moment of peace in her newly too eventful life. She didn’t have any nightmares, she was safe, she could take an extra few minutes to herself to savor some peace.

Eventually she tiptoed her way to the music, it was coming from the large room that was used as a kitchen as well as a living room. Nile couldn’t say whether the music was coming from a radio or a phone but it didn’t really matter. She was welcomed by the sight of Joe curled behind Nicky’s back, his arms around Nicky’s waist his chin resting on the other man’s shoulder. Nicky was cutting some fruit on the kitchen counter, while Joe was softly humming along to the song still playing, very slowly swaying his hips along to the rhythm.

“Morning guys” she greeted them softly, making both men turn their heads toward her, flashing her a smile.

“Sabah al-khair” Joe greeted back, turning back his head just long enough to press a quick quick on Nicky’s neck before detangling himself from the other man.

“Coffee?” he offered Nile, already heading for the moka pot while Nile sat herself at the table.

“Thanks Joe” she smiled at him, while Joe set her mug in front of her, lowering his head to kiss the crown of her head.

She smiled even further without even meaning to and Joe took a seat opposite her, his own mug nursed in his hand. Eventually Nicky joined them at the table, with a plate of fresh fruits.

The three of them sat and ate in companionable silence, only broken every now and then by Joe still humming along to the songs in the background.

It was something that at struck Nile at first, how soft Joe is, deep at heart. How he always wore his heart on his sleeve, how unapologetic he was about his emotions and would so often put them freely on display. She found something oddly brave in it. As a marine, she had been taught to not let her emotions crowd her head, and to be witnessing this man, caring so boldly, loving deeply, not only about Nicky, but about Andy as well, and even Booker even if he’d rather chew his own foot before admitting it for the time being. He cared about all of them, and he cares about Booker. No one reacts this violently about being betrayed unless you deeply care. Betrayal can remain meaningless if you don’t care. Joe reacts though, fiercely so even. How could anyone be so furious and heartbroken if they did not care. Joe was angry at Booker because Joe loved Booker. Nile smiled to herself at this thought, even in his anger, the man still wore his heart on his sleeve.

But that’s just how Joe was, that’s just who Joe is. His care of others showed in various and numerous ways, the way he was holding Nicky against him barely a few minutes ago, the way he had made coffee for Nile, the way his had kissed her head without a second thought. The way he had put a blanket over Andy’s body the night before when she had ultimately fallen asleep on the couch. Joe could do grand gesture and love declarations from time to time, but his had quieter ways to say I love you all the time. His love for others could be grand and loud or quiet and subtle, but it was everlastingly present. It was warm and Nile already felt blessed by its warmth and the comfort it brought her, especially in these hard times for her, her life had changed all so quickly and brutally, she felt blessed by this man and his love, she couldn’t even bring herself to image how Andy and Nicky, and Booker, had been on the receiving end of this overwhelming love for centuries.

Nicky took Joe’s cup of coffee to drink some of it, winking at the other man above the mug, making Joe chuckle.

“Couldn’t bother to get your own ?” he asked, teasingly, picking in return a piece of grapefruit that was in Nicky’s plate

“What’s yours is mine, remember?” joked Nicky, keeping the mug for himself.

Andy came back into the house at this moment, nodded at Nile to say hello and went straight for the pot of coffee.

“Hey boss, would you mind getting me one?” asked Joe

Andy chuckled softly “Why Nicky stole yours again?” already getting two mugs out of the cupboard

“This man and I share everything, the only thing he stole from me is my heart” he said, half-joking half-serious.

Andy sighed behind Nile, while the younger woman snorted and Nicky threw a big smile at his love.

“Keep being a sap like that Yusuf and you ain’t getting no coffee from me”

“Never” he exclaimed still laughing “I am a man in love”

Andy sat at the table, right by Nile’s side, giving Joe his steaming mug

“Really?” she said in fake surprise “who would have thought ?”
Nicky chuckled in his, Joe’s, mug, while brushing his hand above the other man’s, sliding one finger underneath it and gently rubbing circles on the back of his love’s hand.

Nile, thought to herself, picking at her piece of fruit, that despite her erratic new-found life how relentless it seemed at times, she could more than easily get used to all of this. To these people who were still slowly becoming her new family, to that unbashful love and support they all had for one another, so deeply rooted that Nile wondered if somehow it had blended with their DNA, a core aspect of who they were.

Sure the future prospects were still frightening, even with Copley backing their tracks, but the future seemed less threatening with these people by her side.