An excerpt from Buildup: Mindscan

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Frampton did have nightmares that evening. He was thrashing around on the bed by the time Reeve got to him. Reeve shook him awake, and pinned down the fist that came in his direction. Frampton blinked slowly, then relaxed. He did not apologise.

"Want to talk?" Reeve asked, letting go of Frampton's wrist.

"No." Less curtly, "Thank you for waking me."

"Want to talk about something else as a distraction?"

Frampton considered it, then said, "No. I really do need to get some sleep. I'd rather take my chances on nightmares now than worse nightmares if I get even more sleep-deprived."

Reeve looked at the dark smudges under Frampton's eyes. "Not enough food or water. Not enough sleep, either, I'll bet. Did you and Calliope sleep in shifts?"

"Tried to," Frampton said, and sighed. "Needed to. Dormitory prison cells aren't much fun if you're small and the wrong social class." He settled back on his pillow and closed his eyes.

And I bet you weren't going to make it easy for them, Reeve thought, looking at Frampton. No, the man wouldn't have had an easy time of it in prison. He wasn't all that short, but he was short enough and a light enough build that he would have looked like easy meat for bullies. The intelligence and wry humour that Reeve found attractive would have made him a target. His upper-class manners wouldn't have helped. And the arrogance ...

Reeve finally identified what it was about Frampton that bothered him. Paranoid, aggressive -- yes, those were reasonable reactions. But the man had an icy control, and arrogance behind that, even after what he'd been through.

Maybe because of what he'd been through; if he really had beaten the interrogators, he had something to be arrogant about. Or perhaps that arrogance was both what had first led him to the interrogators, and given him the strength to resist them. Frampton had a high opinion of his own talents, an opinion Reeve suspected was justified.

Jantis was right. The man was just too bloody-minded to give bullies what they wanted, be they interrogators or other prisoners.

Reeve found the arrogance annoying, frustrating ... and oddly appealing. Frampton as a package was oddly appealing. Not so odd on the physical side, now that he'd had a chance to clean himself up a bit. He still had the dark hollows of fatigue around his eyes, the thinness of voluntary starvation, but you could see that he'd be good-looking once he'd recovered from the rough treatment of the last few weeks. And now that he'd finally relaxed in sleep, there wasn't the disconcerting effect of that unwavering stare he favoured.

Features that managed to be delicate but quite definitely masculine. Dark eyes and hair with fair skin. Rather too much nose, but a pretty mouth to go with it. He looked rather like a human-sized pixie; he behaved like one, too, a changeling that didn't quite manage to conform to the norms of human behaviour.

A changeling was exactly what he was, one way or another. Perhaps a sleeper agent, planted on them. Perhaps what he said he was -- a dissident scientist, but still one from a different culture, and one who'd been through hell besides. Frampton was going to have trouble adapting to living in the Union.

He twisted slightly on the bed, not yet in nightmare, but still tense. Reeve was tempted to stroke one hand down Frampton's face, comforting him with touch, but thought better of it. His own motives weren't pure, and Frampton's dreaming mind might interpret it as a threat. Instead, he said quietly, "You're safe; you're with Calliope's friends."

It was enough. Frampton settled down, and had no more nightmares that night.

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