3. Insignificant

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In two minutes, Wynter's breathing slowed and she was asleep.

Indio gently removed the earbud, and his own, and placed the phone on the nightstand.

With her dark eyelashes fanned over soft flushed cheeks and those lips that two teenage punks had kissed, and with damp wavy tendrils of hair framing her face, she looked fourteen years old again. She was just his little sister. He was safe.

He turned away, shifting to the edge of the bed, and stared at the cityscape blanketed under the night sky.

At six and seven years old he would sit up for hours by night in his bedroom in Harry's house in Anaconda. From the top bunk there was a good view of the sky through the window. He would watch the stars in his Buzz Lightyear PJs. Sometimes Jesse would climb up the crooked ladder and they'd sit together, and he'd teach his little brother all the things he'd learned from his Children's Encyclopedia of Space, how to identify the Big Dipper and Orion and Cassiopeia, and by the time Jesse was four he was teaching him how to spell them, too.

Indio's interests had moved on, but he was the reason Jesse loved rocketships and astrophysics. Jesse probably didn't even remember those nights. Or the real reason Indio kept talking, and encouraged Jesse's questions—because it took both their minds off the fact their mother and sister had vanished.

Jesse learned to sleep through the night and stopped climbing that ladder about the same time he forgot about Mom. Indio never stopped watching. He would climb out the window in the summer and lie on the roof. When they moved to Seattle, he did the same and for company he brought along a couple of beers or a cigarette stolen from Harry's stash, or a sketchbook.

The vastness of the heavens made him feel insignificant, like she had, and that was both terrifying and comforting.

Thousands of miles from home, he felt a powerful, primal urge to wake up in that odd house on Tiger Mountain, the home his remaining family had pieced together. He wasn't insignificant to them, was he? Caleb had always imposed himself on Indio's life in both overt and subtle ways, no doubt calling it "acts of love", but it was proof he wasn't insignificant to his older brother. Indio still had a thing or two to teach Jesse, didn't he? And Jesse could show him, unwittingly by example, how to have a moderately normal relationship with Wynter.

He had just lain beside her and talked about love for ten minutes and survived. Maybe he was already cured. Maybe what was left was the start of something approaching normal.

When Wynter woke with a start and a gasp an hour later, he stayed perfectly still, his back to her, and kept staring at the stars. In the window's reflection he watched her sit up. For a while, as she huddled her knees to her chest, he felt the faint vibrations of her shaking transmitting through the mattress.

He should be holding her like Caleb would, but he ignored her distress. He'd never felt like more of a coward.

She got off the bed, pulling her robe around her, retrieved her door key from the credenza, and left him alone.

# # #

Watching Wynter work was even safer than watching her sleep. Indio stayed in the control room, which Neil had emptied of everyone else but the engineer. Neil did a great job making her feel comfortable, especially as she'd been nervous earlier in the morning about the newspaper interview.

Indio had thought sitting down with Tim Calhuun would be a cause of concern for her, but she'd already dismissed his "error", and Indio wasn't going to make a scene beyond acting icily. While Caleb and even Jesse would probably prefer to shield her altogether from lecherous men, the truth was she had to learn how to deal with it if she wanted to work in an industry fueled by fantasy and sex.

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