“There’s still time. You should sleep.”
Unresisting, he lies back down, but just stares at the needle on one of the dials as it twitches from side to side. Slowly, as I would with a wounded animal, my hand stretches out and brushes a wave of hair from his forehead. He freezes at my touch, but doesn’t recoil. So I continue to gently smooth back his hair. It’s the first time I have voluntarily touched him since the last arena.
“You’re still trying to protect me. Real or not real,” he whispers.
“Real,” I answer. It seems to require more explanation.
“Because that’s what you and I do. Protect each other.”
After a minute or so, he drifts off to sleep.