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surrendered at the start of the game

Chapter Text

It occurs to Elly that perhaps, just this once, she’s pushed things a bit too far.

The cab is uncomfortably silent as they wend their way to Jill’s flat across town. Every few seconds Elly risks a furtive glance to her left, and each time she finds Jill staring out the window, a sense of casual disregard coming off her in waves. 

It makes Elly’s skin crawl with anxiety.

They’d ended up at the same crime scene, Jill and her team called in when things got a little out of hand with a man Elly was investigating. It was nothing she couldn’t handle, Elly thinks, stretching the sore wrist that’s going to bruise by morning. She’s certainly been in worse situations, prides herself on coming away (mostly) unscathed.

So when Jill stormed up with a face like thunder, gone over all protective, it raised Elly’s hackles. She dismissed Jill’s concerns with her trademark sass, blithely ignoring the tightening around her eyes that always spells trouble.

DC Quinn took her statement, Jill looming over her shoulder like a silent shadow the entire time. 

“And then the suspect grabbed you?” Quinn scribbled notes as he talked, pointedly ignoring his boss’ glare. “Can you show me where?”

Elly pulled up her sleeve, heard a strangled noise from behind as the set of five rapidly purpling marks came into view. Quinn winced in sympathy; whether for the pain or Jill’s reaction, she couldn’t say.

“That must hurt.”

Elly shrugged carelessly. “It could’ve been worse. At least he’s hot,” she added with a wink. A near deafening silence followed.

In retrospect, that may not have been her best choice.

As soon as Quinn finished with her, Jill announced that she would escort the witness home, and frog-marched Elly into the nearest taxi. Gave the man her address before Elly could even open her mouth.

Jill hasn’t said a word since.

Elly’s mind churns, cycles through endless ways to explain, to apologize, but nothing feels like enough. Not when every line of Jill’s body screams that she has no interest in anything Elly has to say.

And really, there is no justification. This is just how they are. Jill sets a line, Elly pushes over it, sees how far she can get away with. It’s been like that since the very beginning, well before they were anything more than professional acquaintances.

It’s the silence that’s driving her spare. Jill Raymond can be stern. Demanding. Distant, even. But she’s rarely silent, as her neighbors can attest from their spirited rows, and the making up that follows.

In the absence, all of Elly’s old fears claw their way to the surface. She worries that this is it, she’s finally pushed too far, that Jill is going to leave. Just like Max. Just like Larry. 

By the time the pull up to the flat, Elly is fully convinced Jill is going to ask her to pack her things and go. She presses a finger to the bruises on her wrist as she follows Jill in, the pain focusing her, keeping her from bursting into tears.

The door slams behind her, and Jill strides away into the bedroom. Elly dithers in the doorway, uncertain what she’s supposed to do now. All she hears from the other room is the rustle of fabric, drawers opening and closing.

Eventually she just gives up, starts shoving things into her bag. Once Jill ends things, she wants to leave as fast as she possibly can.

“Eliza.”

Elly freezes, heart hammering in her chest. Slowly she sets her bag on the floor, turns toward the implacable voice.

Jill has discarded her coat, and the waistcoat underneath, stands in the doorway in her perfectly tailored trousers and crisp white shirt. Her cufflinks are gone, and she’s slowly rolling her sleeves, revealing the lean strength of her forearms, dark eyes burning into Elly from across the room. Not with anger, not really. It’s more like...

“Face down on the bed. Now.”

Oh.

Elly forces herself to walk slowly, calmly, ignoring the sudden throbbing between her thighs. Passes Jill, close enough to feel the heat of her body, the tension, the need .

She hopes the neighbors are out for the night.

Chapter Text

“Enough...please…”

Jill relents with a sigh, wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, and slowly crawls back up the bed, kissing and licking her way along Elly’s trembling body. Pauses to nip a tiny bit too hard at a nipple, just to make her yelp, before settling at Elly’s side.

While she adores everything they do together, Jill secretly thinks this might be her favorite part; when Elly is completely undone, all of her fierce bravado long gone, leaving her limp and panting. Knowing that she’s still on that knife’s edge of sensation, that in this moment the barest touch can make her react, make her beg, is a heady sort of power. But at the end of it all, the fact that she has brought Elly to this place, that Elly trusts her enough to allow it, is utterly intoxicating.

She reaches out to brush a few strands of sweat-soaked hair off of Elly’s forehead. Despite her exhaustion, Elly instinctively nuzzles into her hand a bit, flicks her tongue out against the pulse point of Jill’s wrist, and she has to bite back a growl.

The whole room smells of sex, and Elly’s moans still ring in her ears. It’s all Jill can do not to grind herself off against the mattress right here and now. 

Elly relaxes further into the bed, her breathing finally starting to even out. Pressing a gentle kiss to the crown of her head, Jill makes to swing her legs out of bed.

“Wait.” She’s stopped by Elly’s hand on her wrist, the nervousness in her expression setting off warning bells in Jill’s mind. “You, ah, you don’t have to go.” Elly swallows, pulse fluttering in her neck. “I don’t want you to go. Stay with me?”

A sense of deja vu washes over Jill, brings with it an icy, nauseating cold that knots her stomach.

This isn’t the first time she’s had this conversation. It seemed inevitable in her past relationships. The shine of it all would wear off, and partners who’d been nothing but understanding in the beginning would get frustrated. They thought it was just a power thing, they’d say. Or thought they would be the one to change Jill, to make her realize she’s been wrong about something she’s known in her bones her whole life.

Worst of all were the ones who decided that Jill’s desire to not be touched in that way was some kind of judgement, that it proved a lack of commitment on her part. 

Without fail, the conversation was the beginning of the end, and now it’s happening all over again. She pushes down the disappointment, the hurt, knows that she’s to blame for getting too close. She should’ve expected this.

It’s just that she thought — hoped — that Elly would be different.

“I told you how it is.” Jill’s voice comes out hard and strange, and she sees Elly recoil a bit in surprise. “If you can’t deal with that, then-”

“What? What are you talking about?” Elly sits up, grip still tight around Jill’s wrist. “I don’t have a problem ‘dealing’ with anything.”

Jill hesitates, afraid to hope she’s gotten it wrong. “I, uh, thought that I wasn’t-. That you were expecting to...” Jill gestures a little vaguely between them, but Elly seems to get the message. Her eyes go wide a moment then soften.

“Jill, no.” She shifts closer, reaching out to brush Jill’s hair back behind her ear. "I wouldn't change a thing about you, not for the world."

The room blurs a little and Jill swallows hard against the lump in her throat. Still her voice is a little rough when she manages to get words out.

“Then what are you asking?” 

Elly’s cheeks flush a deep red, her eyes flicking away to some invisible loose thread on the duvet.

“I don’t want to make you uncomfortable,” she starts, hands twisting in her lap. “And if that answer is no I completely understand. It’s just that you always leave, a- after, and I was thinking it could be nice if-. I mean, I was wondering if you’d consider-”

Jill takes Elly’s chin between her thumb and forefinger, forcing Elly to meet her eyes and stopping her rambling.

“Elly,” she says, calm and stern, and Elly’s eyelids flutter a little. “Tell me what you want.”

“Let me watch you touch yourself. Please?” Jill sucks in a sharp breath, a spark of heat burning away the rest of her uncertainty. “I don’t need to do anything, or say anything. You won’t even know I’m here. I just, I just want to be with you.”

Jill knows how hard it is for Elly to be vulnerable, and the admission takes her breath away. Her fingers tighten a little, and she pulls Elly that much closer. Studies her carefully.

“Are you sure?”

Elly nods sharply, her brown eyes wide, and Jill closes the space between them with a groan. Kisses her, hard, until she feels Elly go pliant.

They rearrange, laying back on the bed. Elly tries to give her distance, but Jill isn’t having it. Pulls Elly in tight and tucks her beneath her chin, breathing deep the floral scent of Elly’s shampoo that always lingers on Jill’s pillows and the collar of her robe.

Keeping her eyes closed, Jill slides a hand down her body, feel Elly holding herself so still she’s barely breathing. 

Her fingers find their way beneath the waistband of her briefs, and she grunts softly at how swollen and sensitive she is.

“God. You’re incredible.” Warm breath gusts across her collarbones, and Jill’s fingers twitch as Elly’s lips find that sensitive spot beneath her jaw. “Don’t stop.”

Surrounded by Elly’s scent, her touch, her voice, Jill hurtles toward the edge, muscles straining already seeing stars. 

When she comes, it’s with Elly’s name on her lips.

Chapter Text

“Raymond.” 

Jill tucks the phone against her ear as she shuffles through the papers on her desk, looking for the file Quinn said he left there. It takes a moment before she realizes there’s been no answer.

“Hello?” She pulls the phone away with a frown, sees that the call is still connected. “This is DI Raymond.”

She’s just about to hang up when she hears a crackle of static, a shuddering breath.

“...Jill?”

Her stomach drops; the voice is faint, but she’d recognize it anywhere.

“Elly?” She tries to keep her voice calm. “What’s wrong?”

“Was following that bloke, the one I was telling you about. Don’t know how he got behind me.” Every word is labored, like just moving air is a struggle. “He-, he had a knife...”

Jill has to swallow hard against the surge of bile that washes her throat. She snaps her fingers to get Quinn’s attention as she grabs her coat, signals for him to get the car.

“Where are you?” Jill’s already halfway out the door, pushing roughly past anyone who dares get in her way. “Tell me where you are.”

“Down by the wharf. The old warehouses.” Elly’s pained gasp drills into Jill’s brain, makes her move even faster, fueled by blind terror. “Jill, I...I’m scared.”

“I’m coming, Elly. You have to hang on for me, okay?”

Elly’s response is garbled by a cough, wet and sickening, and Jill’s hand tightens on her mobile until the case creaks.

She keeps the phone pressed to her ear as Quinn navigates them through traffic, stares intently out the windscreen, as if she can make them get there faster by sheer force of will. She shushes Elly when she tries to talk, tells her to conserve her strength. Instead she silently counts the seconds between the labored, rattling breaths that come over the line, each additional millisecond ratcheting her fear higher and higher.

The wharf finally comes into sight, and Quinn barely stops outside the looming warehouses before Jill is out the door.

“Elly, I’m here. I need you to tell me where you are.”

Silence. 

Jill pushes back the voice in her mind that screams she’s too late as she and Quinn split up, checking the buildings as fast as they can manage. One empty building after another her panic grows, squeezing her chest like a fist until it’s hard to breathe. The same words run through her head in rhythm with her steps, a perverse mantra.

I can’t lose her. I can’t. I can’t. I-

“Guv! Over here!”

Jill breaks into a dead run in the direction of Quinn’s voice, almost overshooting the half open door.

It takes a moment for her eyes to adjust to the murky dim of the interior, and she blink furiously. When her vision finally clears, she sees a familiar figure in a black leather coat, slumped against the wall. And blood. Too much blood.

She drops to her knees at Elly’s side, heedless of any evidence or possible danger. Behind her, she can hear Quinn calling for an ambulance.

“Elly?” She brushes the mussed strands of hair from Elly’s face with trembling fingers, tries not to think about how very pale she is. “Elly, I’m here.”

There’s no response, but Jill can see she’s still breathing, the icy grip of fear easing just slightly. Carefully, she eases open the edges of Elly’s heavy coat, lifts the sticky, blood soaked fabric of her jumper, looking for a wound.

“Just can’t wait to get me undressed, can you?” 

A pained sort of chuckle bursts from Jill’s lips, the relief of hearing Elly’s voice leaving her lightheaded.

“You know me,” she quips back, giving what she hopes is a reassuring smile. Elly’s eyes are open, but they look glassy and distant with pain.

Jill turns back to what she’s doing, raises the fabric high enough to see the puncture in Elly’s side; just beneath the ribs and still welling dark blood. She swallows hard, tasting copper on her tongue.

“Must be serious,” Elly says, words slurring a bit.

“Nah, it’s barely a scratch.” Jill pulls off her waistcoat, folding it into a makeshift pad. “This is going to hurt a bit.”

At Elly’s nod, Jill puts the fabric on the wound and presses down hard to staunch the flow of blood. The sound of pain that tears from Elly’s throat cuts Jill deeper than any knife wound, and she fights to maintain pressure as Elly writhes, gasping.

“Just breathe, Elly. Breath with me.” 

She forces herself to take slow, deep breaths, until Elly’s chest stops spasming, her breathing finally slowing to match, though Jill can hear the sickening rattle on each inhale. 

“Oh, don’t cry.” Elly’s hand bats weakly at Jill’s arm. “I hate it when you cry.”

“I’m not crying,” she says, dashing away the moisture she hadn’t realized was there on her sleeve.

“Ambulance is on it’s way, Guv!”

“Hear that, Elly?” Jill shifts a little, so she can take one of Elly’s hands while still keeping pressure on the wound. Her fingers are like ice, boneless in Jill’s grip. “They’re on their way. You just need to save your strength, and keep breathing with me. You’re gonna be fine.”

Elly just hums, eyes fluttering a bit. She tries to speak, but is overcome by another of those wet, wracking coughs. Jill holds her steady, pretends not to notice the bright blood that flecks Elly’s lips.

“Jill,” she manages, when the spasms subside. “If, if things aren’t ok, I...I want you to know-”

“Stop,” Jill barks, voice thick and gruff. “Don’t you dare, Eliza. You’re going to get through this.” 

Elly nods faintly, eyes slipping shut, and this time they don’t open.

“You’re going to get through this. You have to,” Jill whispers, a desperate prayer to any god who might be listening, the sound of sirens in the distance.

Chapter Text

Jill doesn’t even bother turning the lights on as she enters her flat. It’s the middle of the night, and even that amount of effort seems like too great a barrier between her and her bed. By muscle memory alone she drops her keys on the console, kicks off her loafers, avoids the sharp corner of the coffee table as she makes her way toward the bedroom.

She’s hardly been in her flat for almost two weeks now, caught up in an urgent case that had her practically living at the station, only stopping back to have a brisk, hot shower and pick up the occasional clean shirt. But now the perpetrator is behind bars, awaiting what’s sure to be an open and shut trial, she’s more than earned a good night’s sleep in her own bed.

Her only regret is that she’ll be sleeping alone.

Jill considered going to Elly’s when she got into the cab, the thought of curling up around her warm body immensely appealing. They’ve only been in touch by text and a few sporadic phone calls, and Jill can’t help but miss her. A glance at the time changed her mind, and she resolved instead to call her first thing tomorrow.

Her eyes have only just adjusted to the dark when she steps through the doorway, and she has her waistcoat off and shirt half unbuttoned before she notices the suspiciously person-shaped lump in her bed.

A grin quirks her mouth, heart thudding a little faster. 

Elly is sound asleep, breathing deep and even, and Jill slows her movements to avoid making any noise. She can see now that Elly’s nicked one of her vests, and is currently curled around Jill’s pillow, face pressed into the soft fabric. 

Stripping down to her vest and boxers, Jill carefully lifts the duvet, slips underneath the sheets warmed by Elly’s body, and settles down behind her.

She wraps an arm around Elly’s waist, burying her nose in the tangle of dark hair at her crown. Just the scent of her perfume and shampoo is enough to relax Jill, and she snuggles a little deeper into the bedding.

Elly snuffles a bit, murmurs in her sleep. Instinctively she seeks out the warmth of another body, and Jill groans as that curvaceous arse grinds back against her pelvis.

Suddenly, she finds she’s not the least bit tired.

Scooting that much closer, Jill lets her hand wander, sweeping gentle circles against Elly’s stomach, the underside of her her breasts. She nuzzles the sensitive spot behind Elly’s ear, breathing her in, just barely flicking her tongue against the lobe. Elly mutters again, hips jerking, and Jill’s smile widens.

Her fingers venture lower, the hem of her confiscated vest giving way to the soft cotton of Elly’s knickers. She keeps her touch soft, teasing, just the barest pressure at the apex of Elly’s thighs. Even sound asleep, Jill can feel Elly responding to the touch, her breath coming faster, and the hint of dampness through the thin fabric.

Catching Elly’s earlobe between her teeth, Jill bites down softly, fingers pressing firm against her clit.

Elly jerks awake with a gasp, struggling a bit, and Jill has to hold her in place.

“Hey, hey, it’s just me,” she soothes, feels Elly relax in her arms. 

“What time is it?” Her voice is husky from sleep, and her words trail off in a moan as Jill resumes her earlier ministrations.

“It’s late,” Jill says, peppering soft kisses along the column of her neck. “But how can I resist a beautiful woman in my bed?” 

“When’s the last time you slept?” Despite her protests, Elly’s hips roll up into Jill’s hand, unconsciously chasing the sensation.

“I’ll sleep in a bit. But first,” she says, nipping against Elly’s fluttering pulse point, “I want to watch you fall apart.”

Elly’s response is cut off by a curse as Jill slips a hand beneath the elastic of her knickers, and into coarse, damp curls. Jill moans into her neck, dips her fingers lower, drawing wetness up to circle her clit.

“God, you’re so ready for me, aren’t you?” she whispers hotly in Elly’s ear, feels her shiver. “Did you miss me, Eliza?”

Yes .” Elly moans the word into the pillow, hips matching the rhythm of Jill’s fingers. 

The light of the streetlamp through the window is enough for Jill to see the flush that’s creeping up Elly’s chest, the shadows her eyelashes cast on her cheekbones. She picks up the pace a little, fingers moving in tight circles.

“Is that why you’re in my bed?” Her voice is dark and silky, and she presses hard for a moment, then moves away when Elly cants her hips for more. “You just couldn’t wait for me to fuck you, could you?”

Elly whimpers, hand fisting in the sheets, her breath coming in harsh pants, but she doesn’t respond. Jill teases lightly at her entrance, hand arched to avoid giving Elly the friction she so desperately wants.

“Tell me, Eliza.” There’s no question in Jill’s voice now, only command. Her hand stills and Elly groans. “Tell me, or I stop.” 

Elly cranes her head back a bit, her eyes huge and black in the darkness.

“Fuck me,” she pleads breathlessly, and Jill feels it like lightning down her spine. “ Please .”

Jill growls and kisses her fiercely, swallowing Elly’s cry as she sinks in two fingers, fast and deep.

Worming her free arm beneath Elly, she wraps it tight around her chest, one hand grasping her breast as the other fucks her relentlessly. Jill adds a third finger, and Elly shouts a curse, her blunt nails digging into the skin of Jill’s wrist, desperate for purchase. 

She rolls Elly forward a bit, angles them so the heel of her hand presses hard against her clit, fingers never hesitating in their rhythm as Elly grinds down against her. Jill can tell how close Elly is already from the high pitched grunts she makes with each thrust, the sound of her wetness filling the room. Her fingers find a peaked nipple and tug through the thin cotton, as she whispers encouragement in Elly’s ear; tell her how gorgeous she is, how perfect.

Another thrust, two, and Elly goes rigid in Jill’s arms, a long, low groan tearing from her throat. Jill can feel her clenching around  her fingers, doesn’t stop until Elly falls limp, breathing hard. 

Gently, she eases her fingers free, wipes them against the sheet as she presses kisses along Elly’s spine. Jill bundles her up in her arms, legs tucked up behind Elly’s, a hand splayed across her stomach, feeling the hitch of her breath, each shuddering aftershock.

“Glad you’re home.” Elly’s words are a little slurred, and Jill knows she’s already halfway back to sleep.

Settling herself that much closer, she presses a kiss against Elly’s hair, eyes slipping shut.

“Glad to be home.”

Chapter Text

Jill’s hands are dirty.

Well, that’s not true. She washed them as soon as she got to the hospital, scrubbed under hot water until her skin was pink. But they feel dirty, covered in the lingering specter of sticky wetness. 

Elbows propped on her knees, she wrings her hands between them, rubbing her thumb back and forth against a chapped knuckle, tries to dispel the phantom sensation. Remind herself that it’s not real, that there’s nothing there but pale, calloused skin. 

Her hands may be clean, but her shirtsleeves are soaked in blood. Elly’s blood. 

It’s been hours since they took Elly into surgery. How many, Jill couldn’t say, the time going past in a blur. She’s been posted in an uncomfortable chair in a nondescript hallway like a sentinel. Staring at the stain, stark against the white of her shirt, watching it turn from red to worn, rusty brown.

Her jaw aches from clenching against the feeling that’s squeezing at her chest; she still can’t decide if she wants to throw up or scream.

“Guv?”

Jill blinks, looks up to find Quinn standing over her, worry on his face, and a steaming cup of tea in hand. She takes it with a small, grateful smile, sips at the too hot liquid and barely feels the burn.

“Any word?” he asks. Jill just shakes her head, doesn’t trust her voice to not betray her.

Quinn hovers awkwardly, shifting from foot to foot. He’s the only one in the CID who knows about her and Elly, the only one who knows that she’s here in the hospital in a capacity far beyond official. His mouth opens, snaps shut again just as quickly.

“I brought your spare shirt,” he says, holding out a plastic covered hanger. She knows what he’s really saying is she’ll be all right and I’m here for you . But they’ve never been that kind of friends.

“Thanks,” she says, voice like gravel, draping the shirt over the chair beside her. “You should get back to the station. Let them know that I-,” she coughs, the words sticking in her throat. “Tell them…”

“I’ll take care of it, Guv.” The understanding in Quinn’s voice is almost too much. Jill focuses her blurry eyes on the tips of her loafers. “We’re gonna find him. You have my word.” 

A hand squeezes briefly against her shoulder, and she hears footsteps receding into the distance.

Eventually she manages to get herself into the ladies, her legs stiff and heavy. She strips off her shirt in a stall, pulls on the crisp blue one from the bag. Stuffs the ruined fabric into the trash on her way to the sinks.

Jill catches her reflection in the mirror as she washes her hands, sees the tightness around her mouth, the darkness beneath her eyes. She looks old, tired. 

Terrified.

The view shifts in her mind’s eye, a sense of familiarity washing over her. She remembers a morning a few days prior, brushing her teeth in the bathroom of her flat. Elly appeared behind her, fresh from bed; dark hair a mess and sleep-filled eyes, wearing a baggy t-shirt that only just fell to her thighs. She reached past Jill to grab her own toothbrush, pressing warmly against her back for a moment. Their eyes met in the mirror, both smiling around mouthfuls of minty foam.

It’s the kind of domesticity Jill never thought she wanted, certainly never looked for, but now like so many things with Elly feels only right.

Out of nowhere anger boils up inside her; rage at the unfairness of it all mixing with the blind fear of losing Elly. All consuming, bursting out of her with a snarl.

A shock of impact shoots up her arm where her fist connects with the metal towel dispenser, the pain clearing her head a bit. She flexes her hand, glances between her distorted reflection in the dented metal and the smear of blood across her knuckles.  

Doesn’t look back as she returns to her post.

 

- - -

 

A faint groan pulls Jill from a fitful doze. For a moment she’s disoriented, hardly knows where she is. A second soft noise snaps her mind into focus, and she straightens in the chair.

One of the nurses took pity on her in the late hours. Somehow convinced the attending that, given the nature of Elly’s injuries, it was only sensible to have a police presence in the room as a precaution. The significant look she gave Jill as she asked if she’d be willing to stay spoke to her perceptiveness. 

Elly’s eyes flutter open and sheer relief that washes over Jill leaves her a little dizzy. She sees Elly’s brow furrow, confused, her eyes huge and dark against the waxy pallor of her skin.

“Hey, you’re all right,” Jill soothes, taking Elly’s hand where it lies limp against the stiff hospital blanket. “You’re at the hospital.”

Her mouth opens as if to speak, but all she manages is a dry cough. Jill grabs the cup of water from the bedside table, holds the straw to Elly’s parched lips as she takes a small sip.

“Did you catch him?” Elly rasps, and Jill can’t help but smile. Of course that’s what she’d worry about.

“Not yet, but we will. Quinn’s on it.” She lifts Elly’s hand, settles it more firmly in her own. “I’ve been slightly preoccupied worrying about you.”

Elly hums softly, squeezing back around Jill’s fingers.

“When’s the last time you slept?” she asks. “You look terrible.”

Jill barks out a laugh at that. “You’re one to talk.”

“At least I have an excuse.” Elly chuckles, the sound fading into a pained groan as her stomach muscles clench, and Jill has to push back the memory of Elly moaning in pain in a pool of her own blood. She presses her lips to Elly’s knuckles, takes a slow shaky breath.

“You scared me, Eliza,” Jill whispers against her skin, voice thick. Elly’s grip tightens, and Jill feels the brush of fingers against her hair.

“I’m sorry.”

There’s so much Jill wants to say, but Elly is already starting to fade, eyelids drooping. In that moment, Jill vows to not let another day go by without making sure that Elly knows exactly how she means to her.

For now, she reaches up to smooth Elly’s lank hair back from her forehead, thumb brushing against her cheek.

“Get some sleep.” Elly murmurs a bit, pressing her cheek into Jill’s hand.

Jill starts to pull away, to let Elly rest, but her hand clenches, holding Jill in place.

"Stay close,” Elly asks, the words a little indistinct, slurred with exhaustion. “Please?"

Jill just scoots her chair closer, slotting their fingers together.

“I’m not going anywhere.”