Still, you would never think to use a paperclip to tighten your frames. Simple yet ingenious. You can’t suppress the unwelcome acknowledgment of his resourcefulness even as apprehension coils inside you.

You feel the adjusted grip of the handles at your ears and temples as they burn hot at his nearness, from being in too close proximity with the scorching blue fire that are his eyes. They’re secure on your face, sitting on it like a paradox; a piece of armor, a barrier meant to clarify your adversary’s hand against you–quite literally–but not actually help you in any meaningful way. Like being “gifted” the power to foresee someone’s death but being utterly unable to prevent it.

The moment the thought forms, you squeeze your eyes shut, seeking solace in darkness despite having just had your second pair tuned up. But relief remains elusive as memories flood unbidden, accompanied by their attendant emotions that crash over you like waves on an angry sea.

Stop it, you chastise yourself, impulsively trying to swallow around the silicone boulder lodged in your mouth and failing. You suck in a ragged breath instead, your lungs heaving like a ship’s sails in a storm before your eyes are forced open again by the sensation of movement gliding feather-light against your temple.

Involuntary dread shoots down your spine at the initial touch. Your heart pounds out a terrified rhythm, convinced he’s sliding your glasses away again, this time to permanently deprive you of clear sight in this moment where you need it most. You wouldn’t put that kind of tool-ery past him. But your knee-jerk assumption skids to a halt when you realize what’s making contact with the side of your head.

The paperclip.

Cool metal clashes with the heat of your skin but does nothing to temper the flames raging beneath. As a matter of fact, it stokes them higher, your nerves igniting like kindling as Frost trails the simple piece of stationery down the right side of your face. Slowly. Deliberately.

“Surface tension,” he announces, his voice taking on the depth of an ocean. You frantically search your memory, dredging up long-forgotten high school physics lessons and somehow manage to recall the term amid the chaos ricocheting in your brain. Surface tension. The phenomenon that allows small insects to literally walk on water. As you feel every inch of your stomach sink like stone.

“One of the many unique properties of water,” he continues, still gliding the paperclip over the hypersensitive landscape of your face. “Think of it like an invisible ‘skin’.”

His tone remains calm, almost conversational, at odds with the dread creeping through your veins, at the icy fire fanning across your own, very visible skin.

“If you look closely at the top of the water, you’ll notice it forms a kind of stretchy layer. Inside the water, the molecules are attracted to each other. They pull on each other, creating a tight, interconnected network. In essence, they like to stick together.”

He pauses, and a new wave of foreboding washes over you at his next sentence.

“Like a family.”

You blink rapidly against the sudden sting in your eyes, your heart fracturing at the way that word sounds coming from his lips.

Family.

Not now. Don’t think about that now.

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