He hasn’t slept in three days.
It’s been a problem that’s plagued him since he was a child. The need to keep busy, to be productive, stemmed from the constant nagging in the back of his head that told him he wasn’t doing enough to be the leader of Heaven.
He wasn’t doing as much as his name demanded from him.
Hesediel… Batsaikahn … usually helped with his insomnia. Throughout the years, he’d discovered all the little tricks to lure Michael away from his work and into his bed.
Propping his elbows on his desk in order to bury his face in his hands, Michael finds it ironic that the very one so capable of sending him off to sleep is now the one keeping him up.
He sighs, his chest heavy. The burden he bore had always been lighter with his most loyal friend around, but now it and the weight of the betrayal threatens to bring him to his knees.
A real flood seems entirely unnecessary when he’s already drowning, he thinks wryly.
A knock on the door shakes him from his thoughts, and he straightens, shedding his fatigue like a second skin until all that’s left is the impeccable glamour of who he was supposed to be.
“Come in,” he says, looking up to see Sariel as she emerges in the doorway. She leaves it cracked, both hands clutching a mug, and inclines her head to him.
“Good evening, Michael,” she says, and there’s something off about her. Her voice is muffled, and when he looks at her closely he can see how swollen her eyes are, hidden by the fringe of her hair.
“Good evening,” he replies, as softly as he’s able because their pain is shared. The only difference is that while he strives to remain cool and collected, Sariel has always been an open book.
He’s reminded that he isn’t the only one who’s been affected by Hese… Batsaikahn’s betrayal. His fingers twitch, and he folds them atop his desk to keep from clenching them into fists.
“What can I do for you?” he asks her. He can see that she’s uncertain, but only by her tell. While her hands are wrapped firmly around the mug, she taps against the glass. She is like him in the fact that she needs to keep them busy.
“Nothing, sir. I was hoping I could do something for you.”
His eyebrows raise in surprise, and she gives him a small smile as she approaches his desk and offers him the mug.
“What is…” he begins, but trails off once the scent reaches him. She sets it in front of him, and takes a few steps back, tucking her hair behind her ear.
“I noticed that you weren’t retiring to your rooms at night,” she offers as an explanation. When he just looks between her and the mug, she feels her face warm. “I know He— he had a routine for getting you to sleep.”
She ducks her head at the admission, locking her fingers in front of her.
“Excuse me if I’m out of line, sir,” she says, and though she’s clearly nervous she continues with a steady voice, “but this is a difficult time for Heaven. We need you to guide us and… well, you need your rest to keep a straight head.”
Michael is silent for another moment, before he unfolds his fingers. He flexes them and reaches for the mug, relaxing as the familiar blend of herbs warms his face.
“...Thank you, Sariel,” he says, and it’s genuine as some of the tension in his shoulders fades. “Though, if I may… How did you know about this? I was under the impression that only…”
There’s no need for him to finish his sentence, the end understood. The relief that comes from not mentioning his name is palpable.
It also leaves a bitter taste in their mouths.
“I’m very observant, sir,” is all he receives in response, her head still low. Then, after a beat, “at least, I thought I was.” He can’t see her expression, but he can hear the remorse that coats her tongue.
“None of us could have known,” he says gently, even as he shares every drop of resentment. They can’t afford to let their emotions get the better of them, however.
Sariel seems to detect this shift, because she raises her head and straightens her shoulders.
“You’re right. All we can do is move forward.” Her conviction is convincing. If he were anyone else, he might have believed her.
He knows Sariel well enough to know she will do what’s best for Heaven, so he lets it drop for now. He nods to her, and then looks to his mug.
“Thank you again,” he says. “I appreciate your concern.”
She recognizes the dismissal, and she inclines her head again.
“Of course. Goodnight, Michael. I do hope you rest well.”
He watches her retreat out of his office, and then looks to the mug in his hands. After a moment of deliberation, he sets it on the corner of his desk, where it remains untouched.
Michael goes a fourth night without sleep.