2019-09-25 - Part of the Job Description


Agent Drew returns the next evening, bringing dinner for Kwabena. Their conversation deepens unexpectedly.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Wed Sep 25 23:27:07 2019
Location: RP4 - Holding Room - Triskelion

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Theme Song



A rhythmic sound comes from the holding room where Kwabena is being kept. He's discarded the SHIELD clothing in favor of his nanosuit, currently covering all but his head, and is neck deep in full stomach crunches. Hands tucked behind his head, his body is thrusting upward with violent rhythms, legs joining in the effort. He's been at it for a while now; he's lost count, but one of the many computers monitoring his room and his behaviors will reveal that the count has exceeded a thousand.

It doesn't appear as if he has any intention of stopping, in spite of the sweat that pours down his face. There's an aggressive look in his eyes, and he knows not what time it is.

Jessica is looking over a couple of computers monitoring Kwabena when she arrives. At first, she had thought to give him time to finish before she went inside, but with those kinds of counts…it doesn't appear he has any notion of ever stopping.

Scanning herself into the holding area, she is carrying two large paper shopping bags with handles. The smell of food is overwhelming to the point that she has a handful of SHIELD agents vaguely following her. She prefers to think it's the food, rather than the pheromones that may have ensnared them.

"Kwabena?" she calls out as she enters the holding area. "I brought food, if you're hungry." She is dressed in jeans and black boots, a black leather blazer, and a crimson gradient bodysuit that shows above the jeans, bearing a shining metallic Web and arachnid in the center of her chest. Her hair is down, falling over her shoulder in careless espresso waves.

One, two, three, four more of those violent crunches are given, before the food reaches his nostrils. At that, Kwabena stops, and turns to look at Jessica. Eyes flick from her face to the bags, to the emblazoned pattern on her bodysuit, then back up to her eyes again.

"Unf," he vocalizes, and twists his body around until he's on all fours. "Hello, Jessica," he tells her between deep, heavy breaths. "Come in. What is de food?"

Stretching one leg back, he twists his torso around with a quiet grunt, stretching out the muscles he's been overworking.

"Steak, steamed vegetables, baked potato, and dessert?" She asks, in way of offer. "I brought plenty, figure you're starving for something decent around here." She sets the bags down on the table and pulls out Styrofoam boxes, which she then empties onto a set of stoneware plates she pulls from the other bag. Once the food is plated on two plates, she pulls out capped cups of butter, sour cream, cheese, and bacon bits for the potatoes. "I didn't know what you'd want on your potato, so I had them include everything separately."

She places one plate on the side of the table closest to him, and another in front of a chair beside her. A Styrofoam box is left shut on the corner of the table, but smells suspiciously like heavenly baked cinnamon and sugar.

It takes a great deal of effort not to quit his stretching and start eating straight away. He goes so far as to pause, eyes wider, looking from Jessica to the bag. "Dat is… dat sounds… very good." A brief smile appears on his face, before he turns away and stretches the other side of his body. "I must finish with de stretches," he says. "Dere is good pain, and dere is de pain dat is not good. Is, let me see. Unpleasant, yes? It can be avoided."

"Oh, I totally understand." Jessica is watching Kwabena stretching, her mind wandering just a bit. "How are you feeling today? Is all this…" She gestures to him and where he has been working out. "Is it due to some new stress? Or frustration? She notes the suit and includes it in her gesture, but does not give voice to the thought.

Kwabena waits to answer. Once he finishes with the stretching, he crosses the room to where he left his clothes and a white towel. The towel is thrown around his neck to sop up some sweat, and the clothing is brought over to the table, where it's set in a pile upon an empty seat. He chooses to sit across from Jessica, eyes on the food. There is a moment of indecision, as if he isn't quite sure which to start with first.

"Ten times dey came today," he tells her. "Poking, prodding, scanning." He shakes his head and looks up to her, a darkness over his eyes that begins to fade when they make eye contact.

He doesn't trust anyone. And yet for some reason, he trusts her. He doesn't think about it too hard, but it registers as strange to him. Blissfully unaware is Kwabena that there may be pheromones at play.

He finally chooses a fork and a knife, noting that it is an actual knife, not a plastic one that couldn't cause more than superficial damage, and begins cutting steak.

"Is no new stress, no. A soldier must be in best condition. Must be strong. Cannot rely on smoke and watah and stone alone. Cannot rely on de fire. Must be strong, a fightah."

Once he finishes cutting up the steak, he forks a piece and looks up to Jessica, frowning. "Is a pain I can control. Is a… has always been a place I can go to, where I am me. Not what dey want me to be, but what I want to be." Only then does he slip the meat between his teeth. He's not an animal, after all.

"I understand," Jessica repeats, this time with a solemn nod. "You have to have someplace where ou can be you. Just you. Not what everyone else wants you to be." She looks down at her plate, and adding a little cup of butter and cheese to her potato, she mixes the steamed vegetables into the potato as well. "Well, I am your advocate, here. Anything I can do to help you, I will. Just tell me if you need anything, and if it is within my power, it'll be done." She takes a bite of veggietato, and moves to cut her steak into bites. "I hope medium rare is all right. I wasn't sure how to have them cook yours." She takes a bite of the steak, then, and closes her eyes in bliss for just a moment.

"Is there anything you need here? Personal items?"

While he does prefer his steak rare, the flavor is delicious. It catches Kwabena off guard, and he closes his eyes for a moment to enjoy it. Enjoying a good meal isn't something that was always withheld from him, but this time it seems different somehow. He doesn't understand how, or why, but three more bites are taken before he's coming back to the moment and considering Jessica's words.

"Is good, very good," he tells her. His expression seems lighter, not as pinched, as guarded. Food, good food, is always a way to break down walls. "I mean, I prefer it bloodier, but, is still good." His eyes become brighter at the attempt of humor, and for a moment, he's hoping she'll ha e something funny to say.

There was doubt though, at anyone ruby able to give him what he wants. He takes another bite, shaking his head. "Dey already know what I want, and you already know what I really want. What I could use right now is pack of cigarettes and huge bottle of whiskey." He looks hopeful for a moment at that, before reaching over to collect the sour cream and cheese.

Jessica smirks, and shakes her head. "I tried to get them to just show the fire to the cow and toss it in the bag, but they refused. Something about food safety standards."

But she does stand up and reach into the second bag. "I have here a pack of cigarettes," she says, laying a pack of Marlboro reds on the table. "And a nearly huge bottle of…" She pulls out a hotel convenience fridge sized bottle and sets it down. "Whiskey." Then she pulls out two more of those bottles and sets them with the first. "Best I could do without getting fired."

The joke draws honest laughter from Kwabena, his eyes brightening in a way that seems truly human. "Dey do not realize I can cook it myself!" he retorts, laughing at expense of himself. It's true; he's the best one for a pop up, backyard barbecue.

If you like your ribs burnt to a crisp.

He finishes dressing the potato, but when that revelation is made, his body sits upright. He looks at the smokes, and the bottles, then looks at Jessica with wide eyes. His hands reach for both, but they hesitate at the cigarettes. For a moment, he is nothing but greed; a man deprived of his vices so long that he doesn't even care what the repercussions might be. However, he then looks toward her with an almost childlike expression, before the darkness sets back in. Gloved hands curl away from the cigarettes, and he sighs. "I can't. You would get in trouble." The whiskey however? He pops one cap off, and slides one of the others across the table toward her. "Dis we can do."

"This, we can do," Jessica replies, opening the cap on her bottle of whiskey. "And later…there is a place we can go, if you want those," she adds, nodding toward the cigarettes. "For now, enjoy your dinner, hmm?" She smiles, happy to see his spirits lifted.

With a grin, Kwabena reaches the little hotel bottle across the table and makes to clink the plastic 'glass' against hers. "Talanga," he tells her. It's one of the few things he remembers of his childhood.

A good, hearty drink is taken, following which he leans back into his seat and seems more relaxed. It's not the best way to deal with his trauma, but it's something. "Dis is really good," he tells her, before taking up the spoon to deal with that uneaten baked potato. "Is, what is it, tasty. Thank you, Jessica."

"Talanga," Jessica echoes with a grin, before taking a mouthful. "We're gonna get you through this. Out of here. It just takes time. And I am not about to let them get you back," she vows. "But in time, we'll make sure it's safe. We'll make sure it's done right. I can promise you that."

A vulnerable expression lingers on Kwabena's face. For some reason, he believes her, even though he believes that he shouldn't.

"Dey want to hack it," he says, lifting a hand and waggling fingers that are currently encased in the nanosuit; as he does, it peels back in layers to reveal his hand, before covering it again. "I know dey are trying to help, but is still, I am still lab rat." He rolls his shoulders. "If dey fail, and Prevoshkhodstvo makes contact…" He closes his eyes, shakes his head, and when his eyes open again, the fire of malice has returned. "I cannot fight it. I have tried. Eventually, it feels like skin is peeling off. Again, and again, and again… with fire. Until I listen. And if I try to stop it… nothing works. If I jump from building, if I put a gun to my head… nothing. I do not think that I can die, Jessica."

Jessica reaches out and touches that gloved hand after the layers of nanosuit are already back in place. "You don't need to die, Kwabena. You need to live. And we will do everything within our power to keep anyone from making contact. I can promise you that more powerful organizations than they have tried to hack SHIELD. Tried, and failed. Don't let yourself think that way. We're GOING to keep you safe, Kwabena."

Kwabena freezes when she touches his hand. In his mind, he's yanked it back and hissed at her. He truly believes that is what happened; he believes that he's staring at her with fire in his eyes.

Don't fucking touch me, you bitch! Don't you EVER touch me!

Those are the thoughts. But in reality, those words weren't spoken. He didn't pull his hand away, he just froze there. It's not as if he's unfamiliar with human touch. He's had encounters with women, even men, but they were always under the guise of an operation. Seduce someone for information. Sleep with someone so you can go through their laptop and insert a virus. In as far back as he can remember, no one has ever just touched him to show compassion, or friendliness.

Instead, he's frozen there, looking the woman dead in the eye, not sure how to feel or what to do, or even what to think. "But I can't die," he tells her, arguing much in the same way as a five year old does, completely missing the point altogether.

One does not need to be a telepath to know when her touch is unwanted. Despised. Loathed and feared. And Jessica withdraws her hand swiftly when he freezes. She looks down at her dinner and picks at vegetables with one tine of her fork. "You won't need to," she replies. "There are fresh cinnamon rolls for dessert, if I'm not here when you're done with dinner."

For a moment or two, Kwabena is truly confused. There is still an echo of that voice, that rage, but there is something else. Something that is missing. His eyes dance a bit, looking to her vegetables and the way she picks at them, to his own unfinished meal, to the bag that presumably holds desert. Then to his hand, then to hers, then to some invisible spot on the table.

"I think," he starts, voice distant at first, before it finds focus. "I do not want to eat my dessert alone." A pause, and he looks down at his hand again. The nanosuit peels away, up to his wrist.

Jessica looks up to Kwabena and she smiles faintly. "I shouldn't have made contact without asking. I /am/ sorry for that. Sometimes I speak or act before I think. I'll stay until you're ready for me to go, Kwabena. But I certainly do NOT want you to be uncomfortable."

"I've spent my life being uncomfortable," Kwabena reminds her bluntly. "But I do not think each way of discomfort is bad." He looks at the food again, then down to his hand and across to Jessica's. "I would like for you to try again. Now I am ready for it."

As ready as he'll ever be. He holds his hand out, feeling nervous but confident all the same.

Jessica looks between her hand and his, and slowly reaches out her hand to Kwabena. She takes his in her own, and curls in her fingertips gently against his skin. Then she looks up to him tentatively. "Is it all right?" she asks.

Kwabena isn't quite sure what to expect. Touch is not unfamiliar, after all, but this is radically different. It isn't pain, nor is it enshrouded in subterfuge. The only time he's been touched in a manner that wasn't of ill intent was… before it all happened. That memory is unlocked, but this isn't like the touch of a parent, or the friendly touch of another youthful playmate. He doesn't understand what it is, but it brings him comfort.

He doesn't respond at first, but after a few long seconds, he moves his fingers against the woman's palm, feeling the warmth, the energy that is exchanged. He closes his eyes, and his body shudders for a moment, before it visibly relaxes. Before long, he finds that he's holding on tightly; not so tight as to cause discomfort, but tightly enough as if it is a tether to some reality he does not recognize.

"Yes," he answers at last, his voice a little hoarse. "Is all right."

human contact is so simple, and yet there is little that is more powerful, in many ways. Jessica's smile grows brighter. If she is a tether that reminds him of his humanity, then so be it. Jessica feels strongly that she is here because she's meant to be here. Maybe now she's finding out why. "It's nice," she says softly.

He is still hungry, and there is a desire to get that bottle of whiskey in his mouth again, but those things are dull now. "Is nice," Kwabena agrees. For a moment, he's even slightly surprised that he remembers what the word means.

There comes a moment when he remembers that they are being monitored. His eyes turn to the corner, where there is undoubtedly a camera, hidden and out of view. To hell with it; he doesn't let go.

Jessica follows Kwabena's gaze for a moment, toward the camera. "It's all right. There's nothing wrong with this. It will take some time to get used to that, I'm sure." She gives the camera a little wave, knowing it's probably Steve the monitor monitor who's watching, if anyone is. There's little chance that Jess is in any danger, so it is likely unmanned, while Steve sneaks off to eat a twinkie and smoke.

Jessica gives his hand a gentle squeeze, and nods to his plate. "I'm not going anywhere if you'd like to finish."

Kwabena nods his head, and then finally releases her hand. The nanosuit almost immediately reforms over it, and he remains quiet until the meal has been completely finished.

Wiping his mouth with a napkin, he takes another drink from the bottle of whiskey, before settling his attention upon Jessica again. "Yestahday, you told me; did not remembah what it was like before you were awake." He seems curious about this, head turned slightly. "What did you mean?"

Jessica shrugs slightly. "Well…Before the moment that I realized what I was sdoing, and that I had no control over it. It was like I was only sleepwalking up to that point. Like I was doing everything mindlessly. And then one day I seemed to emerge from the fog and I realized that it didn't have to be that way."

Brow furrowed, Kwabena understands the words, but he doesn't seem to understand the meaning. No familiar point of reference. He rises from the table, bottle in hand, and pads quietly over toward the faux window, looking at the dusk skyline of the city beyond. "I must be in de fog then," he finally admits. "I have felt as if all of dis is some dream. I will wake up, and be on to next mission."

Jessica watches Kwabena as he rises and walks to the screen. She rises, too, following him. Trailing behind, caught in the wake of his dreamlike state.

"You're waking up," she says softly. "That touch was proof. And the fact that you know now that you want to be free."

"I have no idea what I will become when I do," Kwabena admits. His face scrunches up with an expression of deep confusion. "Being free of it, is an unfamiliar thing. Is wrong, and I know is wrong, but… I miss it. Is all I feel I have evah known." He shakes his head and pinches his nose. "De silence is deafening."

Jessica sighs lightly and watches Kwabena for a long moment. "Change like that is never easy. It is going to take some time with the silence. To realize that you're a part of it, and you can fill it up. And it is going to take finding new ways to fill it. Choose something to focus on, a day at a time. I made some bad choices, trying to do that. But they were still better in the end than succumbing to the silence and going back. It's all that got me through."

The sunlight is making its final descent in the west, casting a harsh light against whatever camera is capturing the image and projecting it within. The large video screen captures this week, filling the room with a brief brightness that casts Kwabena as a silhouette of gunmetal grey and the darkness of the skin on his head. He listens, quietly, his head turned just enough to the left to create a profile of his angular face.

It is possible that he's choosing something to focus on right now.

A single silver eye is visible, catching Jessica's image behind him in its peripheral. "What bad choices?" he asks of her, caring not that the question might be too personal.

There's a laugh. At once both light-hearted and rueful. "In the company I kept. Men, in particular. I trusted some that I shouldn't have. I let some close. They hurt me. But I learned from it. That's what's important."

He'd expected something much worse. It doesn't seem that bad, but then again, Kwabena has never been hurt in that way. The expression morphs from introspective and concerned to lightly humored. "Yes, dere ah worse choices to have made," he agrees, before turning back away to watch as the sun finally dips below those buildings, casting the room in a light that is now more artificial than it was before. They've at least made him comfortable in here, so the dim lighting further reflects the nightfall that has taken the world outside.

Now with his back fully turned to her again, he crosses arms over his chest and keeps looking at the world that is still out of his reach. "I have made some few bad choices," he admits. "But dese were things that were allowed. I do not know what it is to make a bad choice and it is all your own."

Eyes drift toward the slightly reflective surface of the now darkened plasma screen, where he can see Jessica's reflection.

There are definitely worse decisions I could have made," Jessica concedes. "But there's something fulfilling, even in the ability to own a bad choice, and to know that it was yours alone." She shrugs. "A human with no powers or strengths might have been in worse situations than I, though. At least I could always protect myself if it came down to that."

Jessica is watching the silhouette of Kwabena, even as he is watching her reflection. "You're going to make bad decisions sometimes. Because you can, if for no other reason."

Easily the worst part of it all: they weren't able to fully rid him of his conscience. Perhaps they didn't want to; the best brainwashers will leave their victims with a thread of hope to hold on to.

Kwabena takes another drink from his bottle of whiskey, draining it if it's remains. He then turns around, walks over to the table and sets it down. He stands there for a moment, head turned down, eyes lost with indecision.

Without warning, the man transforms. The air makes a sound as if being displaced, and a black cloud of smoke with thicker, curling and very much alive black tendrils hovers in the air where Kwabena once stood. The cloud then moves directly toward Jessica, and though it holds no ill intent, it is still a frightening sight to see.

Startling, yes. But Jessica has no fear of the man who resides within the smoke tendrils before her. She lifts a hand as if to experience, somehow, this form of his existence. But such a move would be more deeply personal than touching his hand, before. She thinks better of it, and lowers her hand, so as not to make him feel threatened or violated. "It's beautiful, you know…this form that you can take."

The cloud moves forward until it has surrounded Jessica; the biomatter has way of sticking together, and though it can be separated from itself, it doesn't want to be; no more than a finger wants to be separated from its hand. It fills the space between blazer and bodysuit, curls between fingers, even pierces the space between locks of espresso hair. It does not, however, allow itself to be breathed in, even though there is a smell of charring, or burning.

As it swirls around her, the tendrils vibrate ever so slightly, creating a whispering sound in the cloud that would be audible to her. "I know." A whisper, with depth but no bass, a definite sound and not a figment of the imagination.

The cloud then moves past her, tendrils clinging to a shoulder, or a finger, even the woman's chin, before its gone. At a reasonable distance now behind Jessica, the cloud solidifies into Kwabena again. His eyes are closed, hands hanging loosely at his side, and he's inhaling, as if he could smell… everything.

There is emptiness in the soul, and then there is the opposite of that emptiness. A completion that is uncertain in its composition, yet nothing can ever undermine the certainty of its presence. For the moment that she is immersed in the cloud, Jessica first watches the matter in awe. Lifting her hand, watching the way the tendrils move against her skin. Allowing it to flow between her fingers. Allowing it to immerse her, and drowning in the sensation. Closing her eyes. Giving herself to the experience. And when it is over, she opens her eyes again, to face Kwabena.

She tries to speak, but words refuse to be given voice. And so she simply watches him. Intently.

Science is a funny thing; though he is blind when he is smoke, he can see so much more. He can feel and hear things that no one else can. He could feel her heartbeat, the blood pumping through her veins, the breathing. He could feel that unfamiliar yet pleasing aroma, part of it, absorbing it. The heat of the finger that is different from the heat of the arm; the smell of product on strands of hair.

He's well aware of what he has done, that she had little choice but to allow him to do what he did. How does one bat away at living smoke?

Opening his eyes, he lifts his head just high enough to meet Jessica's intent observation. There is shame, there is passion, there is hesitation, there is confidence. All of these things boiling under the surface, like a volcano ready to blow with the rising and falling of each heavy breath.

"I can still smell you," he tells her, as if the scent is now part of his nostrils. He doesn't look away, he doesn't move; he's trying to decide whether or not he just made his first, fully owned bad decision.

For a brief moment, he smoothed over and made new what was cracked - broken. Like new fallen snow, he filled the spaces where echo doubt and emptiness, and absorbed the sound, and made whole.

And even when he was gone, she could still sense him. Feel him around her. Breathe deeply, unafraid that she might crack, and flake, and be spirited away.

"I can still feel you."

For a moment, Kwabena breaks eye contact, by looking at the floor. It only lasts a moment, for he finds that by looking away, he feels that rage, the confusion, the discord. He looks back up quickly, and finds something safe. Unfamiliar, but safe.

Taking a single step forward, he closes the distance, but not fully. His heavily accented voice is quiet when he speaks. "Something says, dis is not part of job description." He smiles for a moment, but then the smile is gone. It isn't replaced by a frown; it is an expression that could best be described as want. His hand draws forward, looking for hers again, only this time the nanotech doesn't flow away. He cannot be afraid of it, as much as he can't be afraid of his own skin and bones.

"It's isn't a part of the job description," Jessica agrees. "But what job ever is?" She reaches out to take his hand as it is offered. "And some things don't need to be a part of the job." She pauses, as the gap is closed further, and she stands directly before Kwabena. She gives his hand a gentle squeeze. "It's /going/ to be all right, no matter what happens."

The words register, but Kwabena isn't truly listening. He's observed beauty before, but never untethered. What he does hear encourages him not to yank away and withdraw again. What he doesn't hear is that it will be all right. He doesn't hear it, because he doesn't care.

His free hand rises and seeks to place itself between her hair and her face, while the other answers her gentle squeeze by giving it a slight tug closer to his body. He looks at her with a silent question, and bears at least the decency to try and read her before moving any closer.

In another room, across the base, money is being placed on the desk. Five dollars at a time, bills pile up. "All right," Steve the monitor monitor, shouts to the group that's gathered. "Place your bets. Five to one, she cuts and runs!" A few others lean in, amidst a chorus of those getting in on the bet, either for or against. And they all lean in muttering encouragement for their leanings, either for or against.

Here in this room, however, there is silence. Jessica watches Kwabena's face, fully aware of his intention. She closes her eyes for just a moment, breathes deeply, and opens her green eyes again before leaning in closer to him as his hand is gentled against her face. So close she can feel his breath. Sharing this space with one who knows what she has known. Has felt what she has felt. And succumbing to this want, that he wants, as well.

Across the base, half a dozen men groan in disbelief that they are about to lose five dollars.

Kwabena's gloved hand guides her face the rest of the way. He's holding his breath when he kisses her, not knowing what to expect. He's always thinking of that next step, the next point in the mission, and the thought does try to creep in; gain another ally, an advocate in case the hackers fail. One step closer toward taking the heads off all of-


The touch of their lips rips the thought away, and he realizes then that he's holding his breath. It cuts loose through his nose, hot against her face, and he doesn't let go. His hand drifts through her hair to the back of her neck, the other driving up to her elbow, and he kisses her again, this time with passion rather than simple motion.

When he does, the fingers against her head curl, and he can feel the electricity all the way down into his toes.

"Given to flights of fancy" has been written in Jessica's file, more than once. And to her, all it has ever meant is that she gives in to desires that feel right. The ones that offer rewards worth more than the personal risk. Allowing herself to be immersed in this moment is one of those. Despite instincts that tell her so often to flee from emotional involvement, this is something that offers her more than the risk. More than the possibility of a wounded heart.

Jessica returns the kiss, pressing in closer against him. Her hand slides up to cradle the back of his neck, and to knead it gently. Her own breath is shallow and quick, matching the racing of her heart. She kisses him with abandon. Allowing herself to feel everything the experience has to offer: comfort, desire, heat, and fulfillment. She deepens the kiss, clinging close and breathing his scent.

Definitely worth it.

What could have been a fleeting moment for Kwabena becomes so much more, for when he can feel her yielding to him, he yields to her. Tension that was in his body bleeds away; she can feel it leaving his neck, and in the way he no longer stands stiffly. She'll feel it in the way his heartbeat quickens like her own; no longer a steady, slow pace reflective of a man in peak physical condition.

The hand touching her elbow moves to rest beneath the blazer at her back, slipping across the crimson bodysuit to cradle her there, closer and closer until he can feel their legs touching. He opens his mouth, giving in fully to the experience, and when he does, a quiet sound purrs in the back of his throat. The room is simply no longer there; the purgatory prison of temporary safety is now an open room that offers his first taste of true freedom.

Across the base, the men are watching. They're no longer bummed about losing a bet; one of them eventually clears his throat and turns away, back to other monitors and a game of cards that had been forgotten. One by one the other men do the same.

Pressed against Kwabena's body, and fully aware of the effects of the kiss on both of them, Jessica finally, reluctantly, breaks the kiss. But she doesnt pull away, as her eyes seek his. She brushes her lips lightly against his as her fingertips trail lightly down his chest and sides. "Better?"

"Better," Kwabena agrees, moments after he opens his eyes. Fingers uncurl when she breaks away, but they don't leave, aside from dropping down to rest between shoulder blades.

He chooses not to move, not just yet. If she'd become a tether before… now she'll find herself a lifeline.

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