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Her touch lingers. It’s a detail Wash always notes when they’re alone like this. Connie keeps her distance in the mess hall, walks just far enough away down the ship’s corridors to dissuade his fingers from reaching out in hopes of catching hers, if only for just a second.

But in here, those hands trace meandering trails over his skin, through his hair. Each exhale lands soft and heated as she nuzzles against his cheek. Wash thinks he should be laughing when she kisses the hollows under his eyes, the curve of his cheek, the tip of his nose. Instead, he struggles for air against the weight of warm liquid expanding in his chest, pleasantly leaden, sweet as honey.

Some nights Connie kisses Wash like secondhand is the only way she knows how to breathe, but not tonight. Tonight her lips land everywhere but the angry split marring his lower one. Occasionally her eyes will drag themselves to the door, like she can’t shake the worry someone’s going to force it open.

It’s locked. They checked—they always do.

He pushes the thought aside, lets his own eyes close, and drinks in the warmth of her.

When he opens them again, she looks… sad.

“Connie?”

“You need to take better care of yourself.” She reaches up and thumbs over the scabbing delicately. He barely feels it.

Wash shrugs, tilts a lopsided grin her way, playing at cocky. He ignores the twinge his mouth gives in protest. “Why worry about that when I have you?”

It has the opposite of its intended effect. She frowns, gaze dropping from his like it’s weighted by an anchor.

“Reen,” he tries again, reaching gently for her chin. She lets him take it, but only a moment before she tugs his hand from her face and links their fingers.

“Promise me.” The words are soft, but those brown eyes are fierce now, no less hard than the titanium alloy of her suit. She gives Wash’s hand a squeeze, so subtle he barely catches it. She may not even have noticed.

“I promise,” he says, and it feels like something bigger than him is taking place, but he’s used to that.

He’ll kick himself later for not questioning it, for his wilting resolve in the face of the way all the strength suddenly goes out of her stare. How she looks so soft just before she finally kisses him where he’s wanted all along, after her eyes finally stop sliding toward his cabin door.

There is so much hidden in the depths of those big brown eyes, he doesn’t even know where to begin.

Maybe, he thinks, as she presses him down into the mattress, lays him out just so like her favorite set of sheets, she’ll give him time to explore it all.

But she doesn’t. The next night, she’s gone.

She never sets foot in his room again.