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Dinah Myles: Origins

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28th of November of 2016 – San Paro’s graveyard

      Dinah had always despised the life that shook the leaves of the trees around the graveyard, for they were the only living beings residing in that dreadful place that had been her only way of talking to her parents for the last decade. And she hated them. Hated them for being alive while her mother and father weren’t.

      But this time she hadn’t come to bring them flowers and tell them about her cases at the office, or how proud they would be of Kyle and Elsa, and Alan as well. Or even to bring the new details of her upcoming wedding with Tony Lance, an event where the both of them should be.

      In fact, this time she hadn’t even come to see them, it was another stone that stood in front of her.

      “Dinah?,” Tony spoke behind her using a soft tone that always managed to warm her up, even in the coldest of days. “Who was he?”

      She did not reply right away, for it was a chapter she thought she had already closed time ago and she did not know how to face once again, or how to share it with her fiancé.

      “He was… someone I cared for,” Dinah answer, carefully choosing each word. She knelt in front of the grave and caressed the stone. “Someone I… He is gone because…”

      Words stuck in her throat and she made an effort to swallow them back. Tony placed a hand on her shoulder and stroke it comfortingly.

      “Don’t keep it in. It will only hurt more.”

      “I loved him,” she managed to say. “But because I made a mistake, he is no longer here.”

      Dinah had tried to contain her tears, but her emotions broke as sharp memories stabbed her heart, making it even hard for her to breath.

      “He made me who I am, Tony,” she cried, then turning to the man she was so in love with. “And I failed him. But I won’t fail you.”

      “Dee…”

      The young woman stood up and threw herself into his lover’s arm, who embraced her tightly.

      “I promise you, I won’t let anything take you away from me.”

      As she spoke, Tony kissed her head and pressed her even tighter. According to the writing on the gravestone, this man would have turned 27 today.

      “Would you like some privacy?,” he politely asked. “If you want, I can wait in the car.”

      “Thank you. I won’t be long.”

      She kissed him on the cheek before he left and turned once more to the unnamed stone.

 

 

 

16th of October of 2009 – San Paro’s Law School cafeteria.

      “…opinions on the CSA continue to show how divided the citizens are regarding Mayor Derren’s decision.”

      “It’s not even legal!,” an exasperated student yelled at the TV, as if the presenter of the news could hear him. “Guys, how is that legal? How do I justify it if it gets asked on the exam?”

      “Shut up, North! Just make it up like Derren did!”

      Dinah tried hard to ignore the laughs of the other students and attempted to stay focused on her test. It was optional and it didn’t count for her marks, but she still wanted to do it to feel prepared for her exams. True, the cafeteria wasn’t the smartest choice to do an exam simulation, but she hated the library and the stench that was usually around it, and that had even made up for a story on the building being haunted.

      With precise but delicate touches, Dinah tapped a formula into the calculator of her phone. But upon comparing her result with the possible answers, none fit. A low growl escaped her lips as her eyes quickly revised the question and her math. She had gotten distracted and ended up misreading, counting a first degree murder as a second degree one, which made her resulting sentence wrong. “Bang, bang, attorney Myles out,” she thought as she closed her laptop defeated. With her mind back to the cafeteria, she scanned the place and checked what other people were doing while the rain fell heavily on the outside. Some loud discussions, lots of unhealthy breakfasts and a few legal words talked here and there. Truth is if it wasn’t for the unnecessary noise, the place would be amazing to spend the free hours between classes on a rainy day, with the smell of hot chocolate and pastries floating all around and the warmth of the radiators. If her trainer didn’t have her on such a strict diet, she would have eaten at least two chocolate cake pieces, but she was committed, so breathing that delicious air was the best she could get. That and the eye candy, of course. She wasn’t really interested in dating, since she was very busy with her degree and her extracurricular activities, but that didn’t mean she didn’t enjoy checking on the guys that came into the building. And, of course, mentally criticizing the girls’ outfits, since there were two types of people at university: those who dressed to kill, and those who killed you when you stared at what they called “fashion”. All in all, it was an entertaining pastime.

      “I’m so wet,” Natalia protested as she sat next to her, making Dinah snort.

      “It never gets old.”

      “It never will,” her friend smiled, though she was soaked indeed.

      “I’m amazed that you decided to come here despite the rain just to eat cake.”

      “Hey, these guys have the best cakes in town, and they are also very cheap.” Natalia wasn’t a law student, but still liked to go to the cafeteria to meet with Dinah, have breakfast and on occasions, steal some stuff from the richer students. “It’s a pity this chocolate goodness doesn’t match with the fashion crime these motherfuckers commit.”

      Dinah laughed as Natalia devoured her cake. They had been friends for a long time now, and she had been a great support for her after her parents died. They had a lot in common and that had made them come even closer. They both had a similar taste in clothes, men and combat. In fact, for a couple of years they both were trained on sword fighting by the same master, though eventually Dinah moved to weaponless training, currently being interested in a more of a street fight style.

      “Hmm, Dinah, you have to try this,” Natalia said with her mouth full of cake as she pushed her dish towards her friend.

      “What is this?! Temptation! Betrayal!”

      “C’mon! What that guy is forcing on you isn’t diet, it’s a crime. You’ll end up with a flat ass.”

      “You won’t trick me this time. I shall be stronger than the cake.”

      Natalia grinned and pulled the plate back. “I’m proud of you, you tiny cockroach.”

      “Grasshopper.”

      “You wish! Oh, cutie alert on your 8. Green shirt, throwing you smile grenades, take cover!”

      “What?,” Dinah asked turning her head to her left.

      “Can you not turn like the Exorcist’s bitch? Thank you very much.”

      Dinah ignored her comment and curiously looked around. She found the guy Natalia meant sitting a couple of tables away. He sported a buzz cut and a balbo goatee. His skin was brown, his eyes hazel and his smile shy as soon their eyes met. Dinah instantly turned and hid her face behind her fringe.

      “Oh, he is cute…,” she admitted a bit embarrassed.

      “Better than the usual preppy guy, for sure. Still a nexter. Mint is so 2007.”

      “What are you talking about? Mint is an always, as long as you know how to use it. And I think it fits him.”

      “Duh? Anyways, you should talk to him”

      “Why would I do that?”

      Natalia rose an eyebrow and smirked. “Because he keeps staring and you could use a few friends, weirdo.”

      “This from the same girl who told me not to get absorbed by, and I quote: the disgusting spoiled brats in that oh-we-so-special shitlaw school.”

      “Well, yes. And I’m here to assist you on the matter, and that guy doesn’t seem like a spoiled brat.”

      “Right, so I’ll go to him and say: Hey, my friend thinks you aren’t a total loser who needs to compensate his lack of self-esteem with money. She does think your taste is old fashioned, but still encouraged me to say hi. Bye.”

      “Girl, you need to work on your game. Come, I got your back.”

      Dinah’s protest was covered by the sound of Natalia’s chair as she got up and actually walked towards the young man.

      “Hey! Do you mind if my friend and I sit with you?,” she asked him. “Between us, most people around here look like douchebags, and I wouldn’t want my friend to become one of them.”

      “Sure,” he replied with a shy but fun giggle. “I’m glad you don’t consider me a “douchebag”.”

      “Nah, you are fine. She even complimented your shirt and said you were cute.” Natalia sat on the table and called Dinah with her fingers, who had no choice now but to go along even if she wanted to run away as fast as she could.

      “Thanks… uhm…,” his eyes looked down as he blushed, trying to contain a wide smile, and quickly tried to change the topic. “Are you guys from second year?”

      “Ew, not me, I’m just here for the food. But she is.”

      “Yeah, she is only here to eat cake and embarrass me, apparently,” Dinah complained.

      “Am I not your best friend?” she grinned, but then her face went shocked as a couple of students entered the cafeteria. “Oh, shit… aborting session, I better be anywhere else.”

      Dinah looked in the same direction and recognized two guys who had lost their wallets to Natalia and rolled her eyes so hard it almost hurt. She had left both at lost items, but had kept some cash.

      “Any day I’ll be sending your ass to jail,” she said throwing Natalia her car keys. “Don’t get a cold. But phone with sound on, if you are late to pick me up I’ll chain you and force you to feed me grapes.”

      “I saw it. I saw evil in your eyes, you are becoming one of them… I believed in you. Anyways, poka, my friends.” She clicked her tongue and finger-gunned her way out of the building.

      “She is russian,” Dinah explained at the man’s confused expression. “She likes to make an entrance and an exit, as you well saw. I’m Dinah, by the way. Dinah Myles.”

      “Derek Herman, it is a pleasure to meet you.”

      The warmth of his skin when they shook hands made Dinah smile, like it did everytime she met someone who gave her truly good vibes, for she was a lonely person, but always had a great ability to see through people when meeting them.

      “So, third year, right?,” she asked. “I’m from second year.”

      “Miss Blanchard?”

      “‘Revenge isn’t justice, and justice isn’t revenge. Justice is the ability to solve a problem in fairness’”

      “She keeps the same discourse, I see,” Derek smiled. “What do you think about it?”

      “I think it’s funny she mentions fairness, but doesn’t elaborate on what the term entangles. She is just casting off revenge because she doesn’t consider it moral, but can’t revenge be a part of justice? Isn’t it actually a base for a big part of it’s existence? Granted, she insists justice should be oriented to reinserting a criminal into our society, but that’s idealism. People demand punishments, security and reassurance.” She made a sudden stop, feeling embarrassed at her sudden burst of words. But Derek’s gesture showed he was actually quite interested, and encouraged her to continue by shaking his hand. Dinah’s lips curved in gratefulness and she continued to talk, but more calm now. “I just think there’s a lot of hypocrisy around the concept. People switch meanings depending on what suits best for each situation. For some cases, justice serves as a rehab, but other times it’s pure revenge, contempt for the masses, and some other times it’s just politics and economics.”

      “So, what do you make out of it?”

      She did not answer right away.

      “That justice is ephemeral, it’s emotions, it’s ideals, it’s opinions. The rigid concept is an insult.”

      Derek showed her a small smile, a bit compassionate.

      “This sounds like it comes from your heart.” He said, and Dinah’s visible surprise made him nervously scratch the top of his head. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be intrusive. It’s just that you sounded so passionate I felt like it could be based on a personal experience. Usually, that’s the kind of person who dare question those things most people consider untouchable. I apologize if it came the wrong way.”

      “No, it’s… I guess… But, what do you think?”

      She had asked to take away the focus from her, but Dinah actually made him think and work into building up an argument, just like she had done.

      “I mean, answering out of the books? I don’t think justice truly exists in certain cases, if at all. There are things you do that you can’t take back, so if the damage caused to a person or a group of people can’t be fully repaired, how can there ever be justice?”

      This time, it was Dinah who encouraged him to continue to express his idea.

      “I know it sounds simplistic and incompatible with the “must do” of a country, but philosophically speaking I don’t believe some situations can ever be solved in justice, and they never will. And in a way, that’s a justification for the CSA to be accepted by some people. Vigilantism seems like an answer to what our city can’t or won’t do.“

      “Are you selling me propaganda?”, the girl joked, “because right now you sound more like a marketing student than a law student.”

      Derek laughed and nodded. “Sorry, I got a bit carried away. What’s your opinion on the whole situation?”

      “I mean…,” Dinah began pointing at the TV where people were discussing the CSA. But her heart skipped a beat when she noticed the time it was. “Shit… shit I’m late for class. Lovely chat but I really need to run, I’ll see you around!”

      She jumped out of her chair, grabbed her handbag and her umbrella and stormed out of the cafeteria, not leaving Derek a chance to say goodbye or remind her she had left her laptop behind.

 

      With the way the storm was raging outside, the last thing Dinah felt like doing that afternoon was unpacking, but she couldn’t stand having so many boxes around her new apartment and she was almost done, so she decided to make one last effort. She turned on the coffee maker and opened a box.

      “Vomitive and disgusting,” Natalia’s voice cracked through the speakers of Dinah’s phone. “Like, seriously, doesn’t it make you want to throw up?”

      “Yes, which is why I’d rather talk about literally anything else.” She replied as she placed some books on the shelf above the TV, one of them falling to the floor.

      “Do I need to call an ambulance? Wait, am I in your testament?”

      “Instead of wishing my death why don’t you come up and help me?” she now took some family pictures and placed them on the entrance table. It was her with her siblings Elsa and Kyle in a theme park.

      “Crshh pssshhh I’m losing you, going through a tunnel.”

      “You are not going through a tunnel, you are in the bar downstairs drinking beer because you are a worthless drunk with no style who can’t go get some food without getting distracted.“

      “I’m guarding your door, I’ll have you know. And yes, I’m drinking a beer. By the way, how’s Kyle?”

      Dinah rolled her eyes and moved a box and her phone to her bedroom, where she still had to put the summer clothes into her closet.

      “Underage, thank you for asking.”

      “Oh, cutie alert on your s… wait my thr.. what direction are you looking at? Whatever, cutie on your door in 30 seconds.”

      “Wait, what?”

      “Derek is going up.”

      “...”

      “I might have ran into him before you came out of class, he wanted to return your laptop, so I gave him your address.”

      “You gave him my address instead of taking the laptop and giving it to me your fucking self?!”

      “Tunnel, interferences! Over and out!”

      Dinah jumped to get her phone, but her friend had already hanged up, so she had to curse her in silence. Before she had finished her damnations, the bell rang, giving her no time to even check her hair. She left the box by the closet and closed the bedroom door after her, then went to open the main door. On the other side she found a soaked Derek with the most uncomfortable smile she had ever seen.

      “Hi! Don’t freak out!,” he began. “You left your laptop at the cafeteria and your friend told me to bring it to you. I thought you might need it to study so instead of waiting until monday to look for you in campus I thought I’d bring it as soon as possible. I’m sorry if I thought wrong.”

      Dinah couldn’t help but smile at how sweet that was and decided not to tell him about Natalia’s weird shit that, ultimately, left this guy wet and awkward on her door on a rainy friday.

      “Oh God, thank you so much! I freaked out when I got to class. I considered it gone and forgotten.”

      “Nah, I kept it protected from all evils,” he giggled, giving it to her. “I hope it didn’t get wet, I thought this place was closer to the campus.”

      “You walked here?!” She almost shouted suddenly feeling terrible. It was a thirty minute walk and it hadn’t stopped raining all day. Once more she cursed Natalia for forcing situations this much, but then went back to Derek. “Come inside, I’ll light the fireplace.”

      “No, please, I don’t wish to-”

      But he couldn’t help being dragged inside by the girl, who was actually stronger than she seemed.

      “You came all the way here just to bring me my laptop. It’s the least I can do for you. Excuse the mess, by the way. Leaving home seemed a lot easier in the movies.”

      Derek sat in the lounge chair Dinah had put next to the fire and leaned into the heat.

      “Thank you, you are very kind,” he smiled. “And I get you, I moved recently too.”

      “I hope you had actual help and not a friend supporting you through your phone. Would you like some coffee? I was making some, it will warm you up.”

      “That would be lovely, thank you.”

      As she poured coffee on two cups she examined Derek. He was very polite and educated, and there was a very good vibe that came from him, but at the same time, Dinah had the feeling there was a lot more about him than met the eye, and she was starting to be curious about it.

      “God, your clothes are all soaked,” she noticed when she brought him the cup, and upon thinking she came up with an idea. “Are you doing something later?”

      “No, nothing special.”

      “See, I have some of my brother’s clothes. You can wear them and I’ll dry yours.”

      “Really, don’t worry, I feel like I’m already bothering you enough.”

      “Did you just say that after walking here under a storm to bring me my laptop? Seriously, it’s no trouble. Besides, Natalia and I were planning on ordering some pizza and watching a movie. Why don’t you stay? Let me do that for you.Yes? Great.”

      The only reply Derek could give to that was an honest laugh and an agreeing nod.

      “Nice! Matter of fact, we won’t be ordering pizza.” She grabbed her phone and gave him a devious smile. He took a sip of his coffee and looked at her with curiosity as she dialed a number. “Natalia? Are you drunk already? I’ve been thinking that making a delivery guy come over with this weather is just cruel. Making anyone go anywhere with this storm is cruel anyways, so since you are already on the street, why don’t you go get our pizzas yourself? And bring them large, since Derek is here. And bring two bottles of coke, three beers and two bottles of water, I haven’t had time to get drinks. Chop chop, bye, love ya.”

      Without giving her friend a chance to reply or protest, she hanged up.

      “Revenge is justice,” she winked at him, causing him to laugh and go with a high five.

      “So, her name is Natalia. She seems to be quite dodgy.”

      “You have no idea, but she has a great heart. She has been my rock ever since my parents died.”

      “Oh, I’m very sorry...”

      “Don’t be, their murderers should be,” she said with a bitter smile.

      “I can’t imagine it being the same, but… I understand in a way. I lost my father a couple of years ago. One day he was my dad and the next day he was just... gone.”

      Unconsciously, Dinah reached for his hand to comfort him, and then realized his eyes were full of contained emotions. Something she was familiar with.

      “It feels like they are just temporarily gone, right?”, she asked with a sad smile. “Like one day they will return and everything will be back to normal.”

      He replied with a sigh and looked down, trying to keep himself together.

      “I’m sorry.” Derek said, placing his free hand over hers in gratefulness.

      “It’s okay. Most people just act pitiful around you… very little people really try to understand what it is. Seeing your feelings reflected in someone else’s eyes is sad, of course, but also beautiful and special.”

      “You are definitely beautiful and special,” he smiled, slowly recovering. “Was that why you decided to study law?”

      “Yeah, in a way,” her cheeks had slightly blushed. “At first I just wanted a way to look for answers, but then I realized I also wanted to help other people, avoid anyone else going through all this shit.”

      “Making someone feel better and safer.”

      A wide smile formed in Dinah’s lips as she caught the hints.

      “So that’s why you agree with the CSA… you are with the Prentiss Tigers, aren’t you?”

      Derek tried to hide his initial surprise, but couldn’t avoid grinning.

      “Alright, you’ve rooted me out. There is no fooling you, is it?”

      “Hey, they train us to be perceptive.”

      “Very fair… And yes, I’m a “Tiger”... Does it bother you?”

      She shook her head. “Nah, in fact, if all Tigers are like you I might consider joining.”

      “I’m afraid most are the spoilt brats the news says they are,” he admitted, sounding slightly disappointed. “Odds put them on the right side of the coin, so at least they are trying to do good.”

      “It’s hard to avoid the “they just want to fire a gun” argument...”

      “They… we deserve that reputation, but when you get to know them you realize a lot of them honestly want to change things. Maybe, if you’d like, you could come to one of our parties. At worst, Natalia will have a whole lot of “douchebags” to call out.”

      “That doesn’t sound too bad, actually. Anyways, I’ll get you some clothes and show you where you can shower before you catch a cold.”

      They both got up and Dinah pointed him to the door at the end of the corridor, but before he went in, she stopped him.

      “Derek, if you ever need someone to talk to… well, you know where I live,” she laughed.

      “Right…,” he scratched his neck a bit embarrassed. “Deion Park, first block, third floor, letter B. Just next to Fidelo’s. It’s only fair that you know my address too.”

      “Yeah, I mean, phone numbers are so 2008.”

      “For the record, this is the first time I get a girl’s address before her phone number.”

      They both shared a laugh and then Derek went into the bathroom, Dinah entering the guest’s room where she kept some clothes Kyle, Elsa and even Natalia had been leaving the times they’d come over.

 

      The bell rang 12 times in a row.

      “Are you trying to burn my bell?”, Dinah barked as she opened the door.

      “You can ring my bell, ring my bell!,” Natalia sang as she awkwardly danced with three pizzas on one hand and a bag full of drinks on the other, noisily chewing gum. “It’s seventy five dollars, old lady.”

      “Shut up,” her friend replied, taking the pizzas from her.

      “Yo! This old bitch won’t pay the pizzas!”

      “For fuck’s sake!,” Dinah pulled her inside trying hard not to laugh and closing behind them. “You will get me kicked before a month.”

      Natalia ignored her and continued her awkward wagging.

      “So, where’s the hottie?”

      “In the shower,” Dinah placed the pizzas over the isle and put the drinks into the fridge. “He got quite soaked because of you, just so you know.”

      “Wait. Wait! Are you telling me he is naked in your shower? That’s hot.”

      “You are… What kind of mental processing are you doing right now?”

      Natalia grabbed her hands and gave her the most proud look Dinah had ever received.

      “Dinah. You have a naked man in your house. FINALLY.”

      “Nat. You are nuts. And FYI, you are naked under your clothes.”

      “I'm scandalized.”

      “Dinah? Where should I put this?,” they heard the man say.

      “Do you think he’s in a towel?”

      Dinah buffed with a smile and went to check on Derek. Natalia casually leaned against the wall and payed attention to their conversation. It would have been a boring explanation of how Dinah organized her bathroom stuff if it wasn’t for her frecuent giggling and high pitched laughs. She was certain he was in a towel, and when the blonde appeared on the living room again, Natalia dedicated her a devious smirk.

      “What?”

      “What was that voice?”, Nat asked, and proceeded to make a horse-like sound, which caused Dinah to fluster and smack her in the arm. “Ouch, you do like this guy.”

      “What?! I don’t… dislike him,” she slowly said, looking to a side. “I mean, I just met him.”

      Her friend opened her eyes wide and nodded with a grin that screamed “sure”, but Dinah ignored her and returned to the pizzas on the counter. A bit later, Derek returned to the living room wearing Kyle’s clothes, which were a bit tighter than what he was previously wearing. Upon seeing him, Natalia bit her fist and nodded at Dinah, who answered with a satisfied smile, eating then a piece of pepperoni.

      “Hey, Natalia, right? Sorry for crushing your movie night.”

      “No problem at all, you are most welcome to our little club, she pays anyways. We were here talking about horses,” she said, discreetly looking at his muscles and then proceeding to repeat the horse sound.

 

      “So… boxing,” Natalia repeated, emphasizing the word. “It certainly explains your… sculptedness”

      “Let me guess, you train at the Prentiss Boxing Club.” Dinah mentioned before grabbing another piece of delicious pizza.

      “Mostly, yes. But I’ve also learned different techniques in the past.”

      “Dinah’s currently doing street fighting. She has this stupid diet restriction which she is totally not skipping right now.”

      The blonde girl answered with her middle finger and once she had swallowed she explained herself.

      “Hey, I’m keeping things under control, which is why I sacrificed the cake this morning. Unlike you, you thieving sea cow.”

      Derek couldn’t help to laugh and ended up choking on cheese, coughing various times causing the girls to giggle.

      “Shit, are you two really friends?”

      “I know, right? This is the shit I have to put up with every day,” Natalia complained. “If I wasn’t so busy being disgusted at her I’d get depressed.”

      “At least I can pronounce penguin… and I have taste. Let’s see what you brought this time, I hope it’s not a bad porn movie again.”

      She left the plate on the table and grabbed the dvd case, which showed the faces of two men and a woman surrounded by explosions, jumping cars and baddies on fire.

      “Final Fire Five,” Dinah read. “We haven’t even watched the first one!”

      “You are welcome, they are utter trash. Besides, in this one Sarimi and Alec hook up, so you get to see Vladimir Vasiliev’s ass.”

      “Who’s Vladimir Vasiliev?”

      “Duh? Guy from Death from my Gun?”, she looked at Dinah first, who rose an eyebrow, and then to Derek, who shook his head. “Really, now? What do you guys watch these days?. Either way, you are going to like it. And last time’s wasn’t a bad porn movie, it was an artistic view of love.”

      Dinah blinked twice, completely unamused, and then stood up.

      “Anyways, if you guys are done I’m going to tidy up a bit.”

      “Let me help you.” Derek grabbed the empty bottles and glasses and went behind her. Meanwhile, Natalia took the chance to lay down, claiming the longest part of the couch. Dinah bent the empty pizza boxes and put them into a plastic bag, where Derek threw the beer bottles, then took the box that had been untouched. “Should I put this in the fridge?”

      “Yes, please,” Dinah replied as she washed the dishes and glasses. “Oh, and take whatever you want to drink during the movie.”

      The young man grabbed a soda bottle and went back to the girl.

      “Is there anything you need help with.”

      “Nope, everything ready for Final Fire Five,” she smiled as she dried her hands, and then they both returned to the couch.

      “Finders, keepers,” Natalia answered to the killing stare her friend was giving her. “Quick, get the movie going, I need some explosions!”

      “Pray that I don’t disc-throw this DVD to your neck.”

      Dinah knelt in front of the TV and turned on the DVD player, that opened the tray like a hungry robot. She put the disc in and grabbed the remotes, then sat next to Derek, whose smile was much less shy than that morning. She smiled back and hit play.

      Dinah opened her eyes slowly. Last time she closed them she was in the middle of a terrible movie that despite being loud with explosions it managed to get her sleepy. The screen was now blue, though, and the room was fully silent except for the constant knocking of the rain drops on the windows. As she got a tiny bit more awaken she started to be conscious of her surroundings: Natalia was still on the big side of the couch, deeply asleep with an arm hanging out and a twisted hand on the floor, and she was cuddled with Derek, which made her blush and freeze. The last thing she remembered was that they were sharing a big blanket, but apparently she had fallen asleep on his shoulder and then on his chest, probably trapping him in the most awkward situation ever. She had never wanted to disappear so badly. Though to be fair, he didn’t seem very uncomfortable now, since he was sleeping peacefully with a hand holding Dinah’s shoulder. She probably should wake them both up and take Derek to his home, but the rain outside and the obvious cold, aside from the very late hour didn’t seem very nice compared to the warmth of being cuddled to someone under a thick blanket, all while the smell of burned wood mixed with the herbal scent of Derek’s cologne. It was too good to miss, so she decided to rest her head on his chest again and pretend she had never woken up in the middle of the night. But when she did and felt his heartbeat and his calm breathing she realized how long it had been since she had had such an intimate moment with someone, just being that close to another person, it felt like years, and it probably was. Ever since her parents died she had shut out everyone, she had build a shell around her that she thought she had put down some time ago, but she still felt lonely, was lonely. And at that moment, she missed simply a kiss, or a caress. She missed the love she had denied herself for so long, and now, she ached for it.