Author's Note: Hello everyone! Sorry that it's been forever since I've updated this story, life has been... hectic lately. So, I'm still not sure how long this is going to be, but I'll try to write whenever I have the time and inspiration. Thanks for reading, and please review!
(Also, this chapter takes place a little over a month after they get out of the hospital, and probably around the time of the last scene in Unwind.)
Disclaimer: No, Mr. Shusterman, before you ask, I'm not claiming that I own any part of Unwind or UnWholly. It's merely a not-for-profit hobby of mine to write cheesy fanfic.
It's either very early or very late when Connor awakens from a dream, the content of which escapes him. The curtainless windows of his bedroom display the vast darkness outside, with the waning moon the only source of light. He kicks off his bedcovers, and struggles to open his eyes as his fingers fumble clumsily around on his nightstand, searching for the button that will illuminate his alarm clock. His effort is rewarded with a glaring blue glow when the device flickers to life, the large numbers pulsing as if mocking him: 3:07, 3:07, 3:07.
Connor groans in the way most familiar to the parents of any teenager, and flops back onto his pillow, squeezing his eyes shut and willing himself to sleep. But unfortunately for him, his chronic insomnia seems to be kicking in again. After a few restless minutes of attempted slumber, he comes to the realization that it's not happening. His efforts for three more hours of easy bliss before the daily grind begins are futile.
With the epiphany of his sleeplessness finally sinking in, Connor knows that he must find something with which to occupy his remaining peace and quiet. Work will do him no good, as he would then just be stressed for a few more hours than normal. He has nothing to read, and all his small television shows at this hour are infomercials. The world may have gone through technological hell and back, but the Home Shopping Network seems to be immortal. All he has now is his last resort: waking up Risa, and hoping that she doesn't kill him for disturbing her.
Connor, obeying his impulse, hurriedly throws on his comfiest set of blue camo fatigues, secures the key to the ammo jet around his neck, lest anything happen to it while he's gone, and grabs a sweatshirt to guard against the cold night air. Connor figures the crazy temperatures are one reason why the Arizona desert isn't a popular vacation spot.
So he maneuvers quickly through the aisles of planes, feeling like the only person alive in the shadows of the disused aircrafts. They're generally regarded as no longer useful, and good for only their parts, just like all the kids that now occupy them. Eventually, he arrives at the wheelchair ramp of AcMac, Risa's new handicapped-accessible plane. Making sure to be quiet enough so that only she could hear him, he raps gently on the window of her bedroom. No answer. Most Graveyard jets aren't locked, for the purpose of maintaining authority and convenience to everyone, so, feeling guilty already, Connor gently opens the door.
Much to his chagrin, he sees as he peers in that Risa's in bed, looking to be asleep. But as he approaches, he notices that she's curled up tightly and shaking. He rushes to her bedside.
But his presence doesn't go unnoticed. When she sees him, she gasps slightly, then realizes who it is. She fights to push herself to a sitting position, and says angrily,
"Connor? What the hell are you doing here?"
Connor is embarrassed. Suddenly, his reason for disturbing her doesn't seem important.
"I... I couldn't sleep," he mutters sheepishly.
"You couldn't sleep."
"Oh, my God," she says, smacking her forehead in disgust. "So, you won't build a ramp so I can visit you in your jet, but you can just come creeping up on me in my jet at three o' clock in the freaking morning because you can't sleep."
Connor chooses to ignore her comment about the ramp.
"Is this a bad time?" he asks, mentally kicking himself as soon as the words are out of his mouth.
Risa won't even justify that with a response. She just lays back down, facing the wall instead of him.
Connor, unswayed, walks over and sits down on the edge of her bed.
"Hey," he murmurs gently. "Is everything okay?"
"To be honest, no," she says, finally turning to face him. To Connor's surprise, there are tears on her face.
"Risa, what's wrong?" he asks her, stroking her hair. She instinctively recoils from his touch, but then relaxes, letting his hands push the errant strands away from her tear-stained cheeks.
"I wouldn't expect you to understand."
"Risa, seriously, what is it?" he demands.
"The wheelchair. It's my stupid spine," she spits, new tears flowing from her eyes.
"What about it? I mean, I thought you were doing okay," he says, concerned.
"And that's just it," she sighs. "I mean, physically, I'm doing fine. My arms have gotten stronger, I've gotten used to wheeling myself wherever I need to go. My spine hasn't managed to screw itself up any worse than it already has. It's just that I always forget. I'll wake up in the morning and end up falling out of bed because my legs can't support me. And just about an hour ago, I woke up, and I was thirsty. But my water cooler's on the other side of the room, and all because this plane's tilted at an angle, my wheelchair rolled away during the night again. And all I could think of is that I'm so useless, because I can't even get myself a glass of water."
"Risa, you're not-" Connor protests, but he is quickly cut off.
"Yes, I am," Risa sobs. "And that's not all. I'm just a burden around here, a burden to the Graveyard and a burden to you. Don't pretend it's not true, because I know that I'm not doing any good."
"But that's not true!" he exclaims. "Risa, you're far more useful around here than anyone I can think of. Just because you can't run messages or disassemble engine parts, that doesn't make you a burden. You play piano for the new kids, and think how much they love that! The other night, when you were practicing, you must have had an audience of thirty, at least, most of which didn't seem like the type to like Chopin. And, for God's sake, you're head medic! You've taken care of so many people, and how long have we been back? Like, six weeks!"
"But what about you?" Risa asks flatly. "I can't imagine 'being stuck with a paralyzed girlfriend' ranked high on your list of possible futures. It's not me that I'm worried about, it's you. Are you going to be able to stay on top of everything around here even when I'm there distracting you? I mean, if you don't have time or whatever, I really do understand."
"First of all, you are most welcome to distract me any time you wish," Connor says, smiling impishly. "And secondly," he adds, the seriousness returning to his voice. "Risa, I will always have time for you. There are always more hours in the day. And of course I'll be able to keep on top of things. The Graveyard's doing better than it ever has! True, this job is crap, but it's nothing I can't handle. Besides, I have you," he whispers, pressing his lips softly to her forehead. "You keep me sane. I've become a much better person in the last few months, and I have you to thank for it. I need you, Risa, to keep me going and make sure I don't screw anything up. Without you, I would've gotten my ass hauled to the Juvies the first day we met. And even when I thought there was no good left in the world, you were the exception. I know it's not much in the way of reassurance, but I want you to know that after all we've been through, I honestly could not live without you. No matter what happens, I need you. I want us to always have each other, wheelchair or no wheelchair. Now, would you like some water?"
"Yeah," Risa chokes out, simultaneously sobbing and laughing. Connor stands up, and walks to the water cooler inconveniently placed at the other end of the room. He fills up one of the small paper cups and returns to Risa's bedside. She takes the cool refreshment, and rapidly gulps it down. "Thank you," she says, placing the empty cup on her nightstand. "For everything."
"Not a problem," Connor tells her, heading out the door.
"Connor!" she calls, prompting him to stop in his tracks. "Will you stay with me? Please?"
Knowing full well that this nothing but a matter of comfort, he looks at the bare accommodations of the room, unsure of where she wants him. She lightly pats the small space next to her in the bed, and motions for him to come closer. He sits down, and kicks off his boots, as well as pulling off the sweatshirt, which now seems far too warm for indoor use. Connor lays down, resting his head next to Risa's on the pillow, their faces only inches apart.
"Good night," she says, bridging the gap and kissing him. He can taste the remnants of salty tears on her lips.
"Good night." She rolls over, scooting so that they're pressed together, her back to his chest. Connor nuzzles his face into the tender place where her jaw meets her neck, and wraps his own arm around her, still using the utmost caution with Roland's. Within minutes, they are both asleep, breathing in unison, and all is quiet in the Graveyard.