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Sleep is a Conspiracy to Make You Buy More Pyjamas

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“It’s not much,” the human said, “but it'll be safe for the night.”

Krejjh scanned the tiny room, “Is it even legal to live here? I know human health and safety laws aren’t great but—”

“Neuzo,” the human lifted their shoulders, “believe it or not, this is nicer than where I lived in grad school.”

Krejjh spotted a large brown insect in one corner, “Hey, at least you have bugs!”

“Those aren’t food bugs,” that was an awkward construction in Dwarnian, where the word ‘insect’ translated more literally as ‘small-flying-food’. “They’re, uh, vexations.”

“Pests?”

“Pests! They eat cleaning chemicals and stuff, so they’re probably not good to eat. At least, I’ve never seen a Dwarnian eat bugs that weren’t from a closed colony. They might be okay?”

“Ugh, no. I’ve seen the ingredients on some of your human cleaning products,” Krejjh shivered dramatically, “terrifying.”

“Anyway, there’s some food in the fridge,” the human pointed at something that could possibly be a refrigerator, if it was scaled up by three or four times “and you should be able to get on the local network. The riots will probably die down in a few hours, a day or two at most,” the human did something weird with their mouth, stretching it wide and exhaling loudly.

“What was that?”

“What was what?”

Krejjh tried to mimic the human’s gesture, but their mandibles made it hard to get the right shape face shape. The sound came out pretty well, if they did say so themself.

The human moved their eyebrows asymmetrically, straightened them, and did the mouth-stretching thing again, “That?”

Krejjh nodded.

“That’s a yawn. It means I need to get some sleep.” They opened a drawer and began rifling through a stack of clothes.

“Shit, are you hurt?” The human didn’t look like they’d been shot, but humans in dramas sometimes concealed injuries. 

“What? Oh, no, see, humans need to sleep every day, not just when we’re sick or injured.”

Krejjh laughed, then paused. “That was a joke, right?”

“It’s not a joke, I really need to sleep. Look it up on the network.”

“So you’re just gonna, what, lay there unconscious for a hundred years?”

The human laughed, “More like eight hours.”

“Okay, but what do I do if something happens? Do I have to carry you?” the human wasn’t very tall, for a human, but they were still a head taller than Krejjh and rounder than the average human, “Because I don’t think I can carry you.”

“I’m a light sleeper. You can just shake my arm and say ‘Brian’ and I’ll wake up. Don’t worry, okay? Nothing’s going to happen.” They straightened up, holding some clothing item.

Krejjh made a skeptical face, which was probably entirely lost on the human, then looked for a place to sit.

The human grabbed a different clothing item out of another drawer, then headed towards the tiny closet of a bathroom.

“...so are you just going to fall over, or what?”

The human didn’t just fall over. They shut themself in the bathroom for a few minutes, and when they came out they were wearing the different clothes. They squeezed around Krejjh, who had found a patch of floor to sit on, and settled cross-legged on the bed. A minute later, they lay down, tucking their thin blanket around them.

Then they just… didn’t move. 

Do you need to turn out the lights?” Krejjh whispered.

“I actually kinda prefer them on, unless they’re too bright.” 

“Okay.”

Krejjh pulled out their tablet and logged on to the local network.

“You’re sure you’re not going to die?”

“Yes, I’m fine. I promise.”

Krejjh put on an episode of their favorite soap opera, watched for a few minutes.

“Okay but, what do I do if you stop breathing or something?”

“Just. Try to wake me up. Call emergency services if you have to. Good night, Krejjh.”

“Good night, Brian.”

As it turned out, the sound the human started making a few minutes later was called snoring , did not mean that they were dying, and wasn’t even that annoying after Krejjh stopped panicking. 

-

“Hey, Krejjh?”

Krejjh rotated around in their new swiveling chair, “How’s it goin’?” Jeeter was standing in the doorway of the cockpit, Krejjh’s cockpit, blanket wrapped around his shoulders. 

“You were awesome today, you know that? I’ve never seen anyone fly like that.”

“Really? I mean, I think I did okay.” They’d done better than okay, 

“Nah, Krejjh, that was top-notch unparalleled piloting. You heard what Captain Tripathi said, she didn’t think we’d get out alive at all.”

“I mean, it was pretty awesome. And in a ship I’d never flown before, too.”

“Yeah, that’s the spirit!” He smiled, a little.

“That’s not why you’re here, is it?”

“Well it kinda is?” Jeeter shrugged, a gesture that Krejjh now knew to parse as ambivalence, “I mean, I would be dead if it wasn’t for you. We all would.” He paused, “But no, I just, I can’t sleep, and Sana and Arkady are cool, yeah? But they’re strangers.”

“Aww, you wanna hang out with me?” 

“Of course I want to hang out with you, Krejjh. You didn’t think that because we’re part of a crew now...?” 

“Naaah, why would I think that?” Krejjh lied, “I’m incredibly talented, and Dwarnian, and way more attractive than either of them.” 

“You are,” he took a deep breath, “Also, I’m afraid to be alone.”

“Today? Shit, was that your first time?”

“Getting shot at? Not quite. It was the biggest firefight I’ve ever been in, though.”

“Wanna talk about it?”

“Hell no, dude. Every time I think about it my brain gets louder.”

“Wanna hug?”

“Yeah, I think I do,” Jeeter finally left the door, and Krejjh hopped out of their seat to meet him in the center of the room. They pressed the flat of their face to his chest and hummed gently. From this position, they could feel the laugh bubble up in his chest, “Hey, that tickles! No, no don’t stop, it feels good.”

Krejjh let go, eventually. Jeeter slid down to sit on the floor. They talked, and then Krejjh talked while Jeeter listened, and then Krejjh sat, staring at the stars, listening to the sound of Jeeter’s slow breathing.

About an hour in, they realized that they’d never shared a cockpit with another person before. 

About six hours in, they realized they’d been off shift the whole time, and there was no particular reason to stay in the cockpit in the first place. Except the stars. It was hard to get tired of the stars.

-

“Yeah! Communal eating, achieved!” Krejjh said in Dwarnian as they helped Brian put the dishes away. Trying to speak Earth-English for an entire meal was exhausting

“Uh, Krejjh, about that.”

“Yes, Crewman Jeeter?” It had been months since they’d joined the Rumor, but it was still thrilling to call Brian by his official title.

“I wanted to ask you to dinner.”

“You did, and it was delicious! I’m sure Captain Tripathi and First Mate Patel liked it too.” Krejjh clicked their mandibles in appreciation

“Yeah, that’s the thing. I wanted to ask just you to dinner.” Brian emphasized the pronoun, a very specifically singular second person.

“This is another weird human thing, right? Like not sharing toothbrushes?”

“What?”

“Yeah, Arkady explained it to me yesterday. Apparently some human cultures have each person use their own individual toothbrush.” 

Brian looked horrified, “Okay, I have an actual serious thing to discuss but first, Dwarnians don’t have teeth .”

“Yeah but toothbrushes are really great for getting bits of food out of tricky little spots. They’re one of the best things humans have ever come up with. We import like millions every year.”  

“And, uh, I’m probably going to regret asking this, but whose toothbrush have you been using?”

“Yours, mostly. I like your teethpaste.”

Tooth paste.”

“Are you sure? I think it should be teethpaste.”

“It’s definitely toothpaste. You’re trying to distract me, aren’t you?”

Were they? “Maaaaybe, is it working?”

“A little?”

Might as well keep distracting, in case the actual serious thing was something Krejjh wouldn’t like. They down the dish they were holding and pointed over Crewman Jeeter’s shoulder, “Behind you, is that a bear?” 

“Krejjh, bears are extinct,” he laughed, then paused, “And I don’t know exactly how to say this, but would you like to have dinner with me, romantically ?”

Wait, what? Before any more thoughts could go through Krejjh’s head they blurted, “What’s romantic about dinner?”

Crewman Jeeter’s shoulders visibly sagged.

They were thinking out loud now, “Oh, it is a weird human thing. A perfectly normal totally mystifying human thing” But Brian hadn’t responded to any of their flirting, or given them any courting-gifts, or purred while they cuddled and oh. ”Oh .” they said, “That’s what this is? You’re trying to ask me on a date ?”

“Yeah, uh, if that’s something you want?”

“Uh, Crewman Jeeter, I’ve only been trying to flirt with you for two months. Hell yes I want to go on a date with you. Can we do it now?”

It takes Brian a long second to un-drop his jaw, “Let’s do the dishes first? And then we’re definitely going to have to talk about what constitutes the definition of a date.”

And if it’s not the first time Crewman Jeeter has fallen asleep with his head on Krejjh’s shoulder midway through a movie, it’s definitely the cutest.

-

“Okay, autopilot’s set up, ship’s not going to crash for at least twelve hours, my work here is done.” Krejjh dusted their hands on their legs, then winced. “Aaand, I still have a hole in me. Great.”

Brian looked up from his tablet, “Already? That was fast.”

“I’m just that good! Also we’re flying through a whole lotta nowhere for a while.” 

“Thanks to your amazing piloting earlier, bud.” Brian stood up, walked over, and kissed Krejjh on top of their head.

“And I couldn’t have done that if you hadn’t talked to the nanoswarm. We are just the best, aren’t we?”

“Experimental evidence suggests we are.”

Krejjh twitched their mandibles, “Don’t you talk science at me, Crewman Jeeter, it’s not decent.”

“Oh, I’ll give you not decent… as soon as I figure out where our bunk is.”

“You left us last choice of bunk? How could you?” Krejjh leaned forward in their seat, “Now, carry me away. Mission objective: find Krejjh a bed.”

“Yes, sir!” Brian scooped Krejjh up in his arms. They squirmed a bit, then relaxed, “Is that good?”

Krejjh nodded. As they left the cockpit, Brian carefully turned so that Krejjh’s head couldn’t bonk against the doorway. 

It took three attempts to find an unoccupied cabin. The room was small—smaller even than Brian’s room back on Ryedell, where he and Krejjh had spent that first night together.

“Is there anything I can get you?” he asked, “Ice? Jerky? Painkillers?”

“Nah, I’m fine. I just—” Dwarnians don’t have a good analogue of a human yawn. Krejjh’s gesture involved tucking their chin to their chest and spreading their mandibles, “—think I need some sleep.”

“For real? I should go get Violet.”

“I’m fine, bud. You heard her, I’m stable. My body needs to heal. I’m gonna wake up and be right as rain.”

“That’s a good idiom,” he smiled and it only looked a little bit forced.

“I know! I’ve been studying,” Krejjh booped him on the nose. 

“Is it okay if I stay with you?”

“Crewman Jeeter, you’re not going anywhere.

The love of Krejjh’s life laid down in the bed next to them, his chest pressing against their back, chin tucked over the top of their head.

Krejjh felt themself beginning to drift off, “Humans get to do this all the time, don’t you?”

“It’s pretty great, isn’t it?”

"Yeah, it totally is. Theh-shlow-lay, Brian. Good night.”

Krejjh fell asleep, warm and safe and confident that everything would be okay when they woke up.