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Neither Here Nor There

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Rating: R for mostly vague descriptions of faily sex

Pairing: Hunter/Smoker

Warnings: Nothing off-hand I don't think, unless the faily sex mentioned above or sexual identity crises count

Summary: The two of them have been best friends for ages, so becoming more than that shouldn't be too hard, right? Even if Smoker says she's straight, they can work something out, can't they? Because Hunter's in love with her and things have to work out, somehow. They have to. Right?

Notes: Set before they were infected.

---

"So why do you hang out with her, anyway?"

It was late, and they were drunk, and Hunter and Jordan were the only ones awake. The others had fallen asleep after the last movie - Ray and Kyle on the floor and David on the chair - and the television was still on, although the volume was turned way down low. Jordan was buzzed, and Hunter was buzzed, and it was late and they were tired and it was quiet, and under other circumstances she probably wouldn't have taken his question seriously, but somehow this didn't seem like one of those times.

"I dunno, I just... like being with her, you know?" Hunter said, still a little cautious even though she and Jordan had had almost-serious conversations before and he wasn't as quick to mock her about certain things as some of the others, but you never knew and it was hard not to be on-guard around them about stuff like this. Feelings and stuff. None of them were any good at real feelings. Not with each other, anyway. She scratched at her wrist, still itchy after unwrapping the tape around it hours earlier. "Like... it's different than with you guys. Not like- not that I don't like being with you guys, you know?"

Jordan nodded, so she kept going, although she kept her voice down.

"It's like... sometimes I get this feeling around her, it's hard to describe, like... I dunno, sort of like I'm just happy being there. Or like, being around her. When she's telling me stuff, or when she lets me get close to her, there's this feeling like... it's warm and it's weird." She wasn't expressing herself very well, but she wasn't entirely lucid and neither was her audience. "Like everything's okay, you know? Like all there is is just us, and that's all we need. Like there's something special just for us, just between us. That's normal, right? I just like her, I like being with her so much. I feel like... there's a word for it, like... not friends but something else... I can't think of it..."

Jordan nodded again, like he was deep in thought, and Hunter braced herself for the teasing that would no doubt ensue, because who talked about someone like that? Nobody, if they didn't want someone to make fun of them. This was dumb. Why'd she even tell him this stuff?

"Know what it is?" Jordan said, brushing a stray dreadlock from his forehead.

"What?"

"You're in love with her."

Shit, was that was this was?

...Now what was she supposed to do?

---

For a brief period of time, Hunter thought about not doing anything about it. Then she thought fuck that, she had to do something about it. The fact of the matter was that being with Smoker made her happy, and she wanted to be with her all the time, and if that wasn't the official definition of love then fine, whatever, but it was close enough for her.

Problem was, of course, that Smoker had told her she was straight when she'd asked her (not because Hunter was bisexual or anything, of course not, just because she was curious and she thought it'd be funny, and Smoker hadn't suspected anything). Which meant that it was probably unlikely that Smoker loved her back. Or loved her in the same way at least.

But Hunter knew her pretty well, probably better than anyone, and she knew that Smoker liked her, enough to keep her in her life when she didn't want anyone else in there, and that meant something. So maybe that something could become something more. Maybe Smoker had just never tried loving a woman before. It could happen. Hunter was more inclined to believe in that outcome rather than the one where they didn't end up together, because Hunter did not do well with the whole "failure" thing. This was one of those things that would have to work out, one way or another.

She really had no idea where to start though.

At first she decided to see how Smoker felt about the whole touching-woman thing. She'd always been fine about it before, but then again Hunter hadn't really been thinking about things this way before. Maybe that would change something.

Hunter usually sat by her, or next to her, when they watched things, and so she kept doing that and Smoker kept not-caring, as usual. Sometimes she climbed onto her lap just to bug her, and Smoker griped about it but didn't do anything else, as usual. So nothing had really changed there. When it got late and Smoker lay down on her couch and ended up drifting off, Hunter curled up behind her with her arm around her, and Smoker didn't push her away or even complain really, just kind of sighed and kept on sleeping.

So physical contact with a woman didn't bother her, which was a good sign, right? Although, being friends with no personal boundaries was a different thing than being in love with someone and touching them all the time. But Smoker didn't mind being close to her, so that was something. She'd never really minded that, really. As much as she complained about it, she never made enough of a fuss to make it sincere. And when Smoker really didn't like something, you knew it. You knew it right away.

Hunter knew her well enough to know the difference.

So, what now? She had to tell her, but it didn't seem like the sort of thing she could subtly weave into a conversation, and she'd never been a subtle person. There had to be some other way.

---

The first try was one night when they'd both gotten drunk and were watching bad movies on television, one of their favorite past-times. She'd managed to get Smoker laughing hard enough to get tears in her eyes, which was something she almost never managed to pull off, so she was riding the high from that and Smoker was all flushed and happy, and surely this would be the right kind of moment for this sort of thing, right? When all the stars aligned, or something. In a movie this would be the right moment for a big revelation.

So when the hero and heroine kissed in the movie, Hunter laughed and looked at Smoker, and said, "Wouldn't it be crazy if we did something like that?"

And she was a bit giddy and nervous and kept laughing afterwards, and Smoker gave her a look and started laughing herself, and she rubbed at the corners of her eyes.

"Probably a bad idea for everyone involved, yeah." A bit breathless and still laughing, and that wasn't exactly the reaction that Hunter had been hoping for, since it wasn't really a yes or no. Although come to think of it, that hadn't really been a yes or no type of question.

"Yeah, probably," Hunter said, laughing a bit higher than usual, and Smoker had turned back to the movie, and should she keep pursuing this train of thought? "Can you imagine?"

"No thanks," Smoker said, good-natured and smiling and laughing, and that really wasn't what she'd been hoping for.

Well, shit.

---

Her next try came after Smoker had had a hard day at work. After ranting at Hunter for a good length of time until she'd exhausted herself, she'd lain down on her bed and put her hands over her head. Hunter had managed to get her mind off of what had happened, found certain things that were kind of funny if you looked at it the right way, distracted her the way that Smoker needed her to otherwise she'd break her hand punching the wall, and now Smoker was lying on her stomach, mumbling about how she hated everyone and everything in the entire world. Nothing unusual there.

Hunter went and sat on her back, which she tended to do whenever Smoker got in one of these crabby moods. She'd usually try and drag her off to watch TV, or go out and do something, or just get up and stop dwelling on it, or something like that, but this time she thought maybe she could try and do something different.

She set her hands on Smoker's back, spread her fingertips across Smoker's shoulder blades, and experimentally tried rubbing her shoulders. She felt Smoker tense under her, and she made a confused sound.

"I was watching this thing on TV about massages," Hunter said, trying to sound very casual. "They're real good with stress, you know? Making it go away."

"I'm aware of what massages can do," Smoker said, a bit muffled, and she shifted under her, rolling her shoulders. "I don't know what to call what you're doing to me, though."

"It's not that bad, is it?" Hunter kept at it, trying to soften the pressure and she could feel her bones through her skin, she was really way too thin and she'd told her that so many times. Smoker squirmed a little bit under her ministrations, made a quiet grunt under her breath and then tried to roll over to get her off.

"Ugh, stop it, that just hurts. You're too rough."

"Oh, I'm sorry, am I bruising your delicate petals?" Hunter put a hand to her chest, smiling although she felt less than happy. "Want me to get your gold-thread pillow, princess?"

"Just shoo, get off me." Smoker waved a hand at her, annoyed, and Hunter moved off her a bit reluctantly. "You big pest. Honestly, you just make things worse."

"That's what I do," Hunter said, as cheerily as she could manage.

So much for an intimate and spontaneous gesture of affection.

---

She got into a fight a few days later, although she didn't think it was related to how frustrated she was feeling. These things happen, right? That guy just got on her nerves, and she wasn't in the mood for it, and he'd been asking for it, and she didn't regret a thing.

Well, she regretted not moving out of the way fast enough and how she now had a black eye and a cut on her forehead that was bleeding a good amount, but that was the price you pay sometimes. The other guy got off way worse, and that was what was really important.

She slipped into Smoker's apartment, shut and locked the window behind her, and looked around. Mostly dark, except for some faint light from Smoker's bedroom, and she peeked inside and saw Smoker sitting in bed, a book propped up on her knees, reading by the light on her night-stand.

"Hey," Hunter said, a bit loudly and Smoker jumped.

"Christ, don't do that!" Smoker glared at her, angry that she'd been caught off guard. She hated it when Hunter startled her (and conveniently enough, it wasn't a hard thing to do). "Do you know what time it is? God forbid you were a prowler or something."

"Eh, you'd be dead already if that was the case." Hunter touched her lip, which was swelling a little bit, and took a few steps closer to her. "Whatcha reading?"

"What are you doing here is a better-" Smoker got a better look at her, blinked, and she tossed the blanket off her legs and got out of bed. "Again? Are you kidding me?"

"What?" Hunter gave her a winning smile, and Smoker walked past her into the bathroom, waving her hands in exasperation.

"How does this keep happening? What the hell is wrong with you? I know you can be annoying, but honestly, this is ridiculous. It's like you're doing it on purpose."

"He was asking for it."

"They're always asking for it. At least come up with a new line." Smoker sighed and rolled her eyes, and she beckoned to her with one hand. "Come on, over here."

Hunter joined her in the bathroom, and she sat down and let Smoker pull down her hood, brush the hair from her eyes, gently dab at the wound on her head with a wet towel, and frown at her and grumble about how stupid this all was, did she know what time it was, someday she'd get herself killed, someday Smoker wasn't going to be here to clean her up and then what would she do, then she'd be sorry.

Hunter never told her that she was fully capable of cleaning herself up after she'd gotten into a fight (after all, she'd gotten into more than her fair share before they'd met). She came here like this because she knew Smoker would take care of her, and liked taking care of her. It was obvious in her eyes, in how she touched her, how careful she was and how thorough, concern obvious when otherwise it might have been hidden behind her apathetic veneer. Smoker refused to make things like that obvious, refused to admit to liking Hunter at all when asked pointblank, pretended at disinterest, but this gave her a way to show her concern for her without getting teased for it or being too open.

A roundabout way to reach honesty, but they both came to it their own ways. It worked for her, anyway.

"You worried about me?" Hunter asked, smirking, when Smoker pressed a bandage over the cut over her eye.

"Tch, like I'd worry about someone like you. It'd be a waste of my time, just like what I'm doing now," Smoker said, looking away from her which was a clear sign that she was getting closer to how she felt than Smoker usually wanted her to be.

"You shouldn't. It'd take more than this to keep me down," Hunter said, smiling at her and she thumped her chest with a fist (which stung, but she ignored it), and Smoker sighed and stood up.

"I know, I've cleaned you up from worse. You might as well be more cockroach than cat. Do you really have nothing better to do than pick fights with strangers?"

"That guy had it coming, I told you. I was just a little slow this time." A moment, and her grin widened. "You should see the other guy. Totally owned him." Well, not exactly, but Smoker didn't need to know that.

"You could have just left it," Smoker said, like Hunter was an idiot and that option hadn't occurred to her (it hadn't, but still).

"I don't leave things. I do things," Hunter said, and she couldn't help pumping her fist just a little bit because that was so true.

"I know." With a long suffering sigh, and Smoker went back to bed, satisfied apparently with her work. Hunter followed along behind her. "When you get killed out there someday I'm going to laugh."

"Don't worry." Hunter crawled up onto her bed, slipped beneath the covers and Smoker looked at her for a moment but did not turn her away. Hunter shifted closer to her, and Smoker stayed where she was, just like she thought. She usually did, and Hunter curled up against her chest. Smoker set her arms around her in a way that was meant to look accidental, closing her eyes. "I won't leave you alone that easily."

Usually Smoker would complain about how Hunter just couldn't take a hint, but instead this time she just said, "Good."

That was different.

---

She tried again a few more times, in various places at various times. She reached out and held Smoker's hand once while they were walking in the rain, and Smoker didn't let go, although she did ask her why she did it. She told her in an exaggerated and ridiculous voice that it was because she loved her so, and Smoker rolled her eyes and told her to cut it out.

When Smoker flipped through a gardening magazine in a store, Hunter elbowed her and asked her if she was still straight, and Smoker rolled her eyes and told her yes, why wouldn't she be.

When Smoker stumbled on the last stair up to her apartment and hurt her ankle, Hunter picked her up and carried her to her couch, laughed about how she was carrying her over the threshold. Smoker just demanded to be put down as quickly as possible.

She asked her how she felt about bisexuality and homosexuality, and Smoker just shrugged. "Not my problem."

She asked her how she'd feel if a friend of hers told her that they were in love with her, and Smoker shook her head and told her that's that she got for being friends with a bunch of guys. Hunter insisted that she was not talking about herself, but Smoker seemed quite confident that she'd figured out the mystery behind her hypothetical, and thus she ended up giving her a whole new set of material to tease her about, and that backfired spectacularly.

When they were almost, almost asleep once, Hunter behind Smoker with her arm around her chest, she whispered, "I love you," to her. Smoker stirred and asked her if she'd said something, and Hunter said no.

This was a lot harder than she thought it would be for some reason.

---

They got drunk again, and this time Hunter had an idea that she was sure would work. She still had an out if it didn't, but she was sure that this time it would work.

On the other hand, she was really out of it at that point and maybe it seemed like a better idea at the time than it actually was, but she wasn't really in the state of mind to say for sure.

"Okay, on the count of three, say something totally honest, okay?"

Smoker blinked at her, slowly. She was already plastered, which wasn't a surprise since she was the lightest of lightweights, something she strenuously denied. It took a few seconds for the concept to apparently sink in. "Why?"

"Just go with it, okay?" Hunter waved a hand. "Just go with it, on the count of three, okay? Something totally honest."

If she'd been more lucid, Smoker probably would have refused or said the entire thing was ridiculous, or made up some outrageous lie, but as it was she just blinked at her again, slowly, and shrugged.

"Okay, one..." She held up two fingers, then struggled for a bit to only put one down. "Okay, one, two..."

Smoker wavered back and forth for a bit, watching her. She reached up and grabbed at the empty air near her mouth, apparently having forgotten that she'd put out her cigarette a while ago.

"Three." Hunter leaned forward a little, speaking in a mad rush. "I think I'm kind of in love with you."

"I could go for a cigarette," Smoker said, looking down to try and find her pack.

Shit, that wasn't what Smoker was supposed to say. Hunter had only a few seconds before Smoker registered what she'd said, and her addled mind spent it staring at her stupidly. Smoker slowly looked back up from what she was doing and stared at her.

"Wait, what?" she said, just as slowly.

Hunter blinked at her for a few seconds, trying to think of an explanation, and the look on Smoker's face was... she looked confused, incredulous. She wasn't sure what she had been hoping for, but at the moment it wasn't that.

"Just, just kidding," Hunter said, laughing, and Smoker tilted her head at her, apparently not convinced. Hunter clapped a hand on her shoulder, which successfully distracted Smoker from the conversation at hand. "Haha, just kidding."

"Ow, easy." Smoker tried to shake her hand off, and she went back to looking for her cigarettes. "Whatever, weirdo."

Smoker didn't remember the conversation the next day, although Hunter did.

This had to stop.

---

They were watching television together one night, as usual. Hunter was curled up against Smoker's side, as usual, and the two of them made comments about what they were watching, and it was like everything was normal.

Hunter watched her from the corner of her eye. Smoker tapped off some ashes from her cigarette, picked up her can of Diet Coke, took a drink and set it back down, completely oblivious.

Before she could pick her cigarette back up, Hunter turned and set a hand on her cheek, turning Smoker to face her. Before Smoker had time to ask her why she did that, she leaned up and kissed her.

It was quick, more of a symbolic gesture than anything else, her lips pressed against hers for a brief moment and she tasted like smoke (and it was worse than she thought it'd be), and Hunter sat back. Well, that was it. There.

Smoker made a faint "mmf" sound at first, didn't have the reaction time to push her away, and now she just stared at her with an utterly baffled look that she'd never seen before. It was like Hunter had abruptly sprouted another head, and Smoker had no idea how to react to that. She just stared at her dumbly, possibly waiting for some kind of explanation.

"What," she said finally, although it wasn't a question.

"You've got the funniest look on your face," Hunter said, and she wasn't sure why in retrospect but somehow it was the only thing that came to mind. "Your eyes are super huge."

Smoker blinked at her, brow furrowing with further confusion, and she set a hand against the armrest and pushed herself up.

"I'm going to... go to the kitchen," she said, but either she wasn't focused or was lying because instead she went into her bedroom and shut the door.

That hadn't quite worked out the way that Hunter had been hoping. Maybe she'd really screwed up this time, so she went up and knocked on her door after a few minutes.

"Are you okay in there?" she said. Part of her thought that maybe she should say she was joking again, that she didn't mean it, but frankly she did mean it and she was kind of tired of saying she didn't. Smoker didn't respond, and Hunter went back to the couch and sat down, and she thought about leaving but she didn't want to just leave this all unresolved, and she ended up falling asleep on her couch by accident while waiting for her to come out.

She woke up staring at a blue bathrobe, and rolled over a little to see Smoker standing over her, a cup of coffee in one hand. She was giving her what was almost a skeptical stare.

"Are you okay?" Hunter said.

"What the hell was that about?" Smoker said.

She could have just said that she loved her, out loud, but somehow she couldn't. That wasn't something she just said to someone, especially not someone like Smoker. Smoker wasn't the kind of person that you said that to, not just like that. Definitely not. There had to be some other way around it, some way that wouldn't be a lie but wouldn't just be open like that.

"I wanted to see what it was like," Hunter said.

Smoker stared at her, brow still furrowed and frowning somewhat, like she didn't believe her. Hunter sat up a bit more.

"You taste funny."

That was a bit more familiar between them, and she could see the tension in Smoker's face ease just a little, although she still looked confused and annoyed about being confused.

"Yeah, I could have told you that," she said, sounding somewhat uncertain. "I'm a smoker, if you hadn't noticed."

"It was kind of nice though. You tasting like an ashtray aside." Hunter leaned back on her arms, stared up at her and smiled as confidently as she could, hoping that'd hide how nervous she felt. "What'd you think?"

Smoker apparently did not expect the question to be turned back to her, and she almost physically started.

And for someone who was ostensibly straight, it took her an awfully long time to think of an answer for that question.

Smoker looked down, away from her, that vaguely guilty look she got whenever she didn't want to talk about how she felt, and she turned away.

"Just don't do it again," she mumbled, and went into the kitchen. Hunter stayed where she was, and after a few moments she could hear Smoker banging around as she made breakfast.

Huh. That was not the reaction she'd been expecting. She thought Smoker would have been more upset, would have reiterated that she was straight, asked her what was wrong with her, asked her why she'd do that, told her that no of course she didn't like kissing her and why would she even ask that, she was straight remember?

But no, just a faint admonishment not to do it again, like when Hunter stole her food or changed the channel or kept poking her.

Hmm.

---

Smoker got all weird after that. In a way, Hunter couldn't exactly say she was surprised. She'd changed things, one way or another, by kissing her like that and whether or not it'd be a good thing... well, they'd have to see. But Hunter was sure it'd be a good thing, because their friendship ending over something like that was unthinkable. That would just never happen.

When she came back the next day, she noticed Smoker watching her somewhat warily. When she sat down on the couch, Smoker sat as far from her as possible, and when Hunter inched closer to her, she got up and went to go get something. Hunter followed her, and Smoker kept watching her and kept trying to keep her distance.

Well, this was familiar. It had taken a while for Smoker to get used to Hunter invading her personal space at first, to get comfortable with her. Had they gone back to the beginning? That'd be frustrating... Hunter wasn't exactly in the mood to go through it all again.

Also kissing her that one time made it clear to her how much she wanted to do that, and keep doing that (how bad she tasted aside), and the idea of not being able to touch her now seemed more unpleasant than ever.

She let Smoker keep her distance for a couple days, and then finally she got tired of it.

"Are you going to be weird about this forever?"

"Weird about what?" Smoker said, glancing at her again with that vaguely suspicious look. Like they'd just met, which was not the case. She'd really rattled her, apparently.

"About me getting close to you. You scared?" Hunter leaned towards her, and was rewarded with Smoker scowling at her. That only made her grin widen. "You scaaaaared of me?"

"I'm not scared of you," Smoker said, irritated now and that was more like her. "What do you take me for?"

"You're acting like you're scared of me." Hunter inched closer to her, and now that she'd challenged her on it, Smoker stayed where she was, although she was watching her very carefully. "Afraid I'm gonna rough you up?"

"More like afraid you're going to..." Smoker stumbled on whatever it was she was going to say, and she looked away. "I don't know what's gotten into you lately. You're acting weird."

"I'm acting weird?" Hunter put a hand on her chest. "You're the one who keeps running away from me every time I get close to you-"

"Well you're the one who kissed me for no reason!" Smoker snapped back at her, her voice a bit strained, and she stood up. "I'm going to bed."

She went into her room and shut the door. Conversation over, apparently, and Hunter frowned at her door for a while and sighed.

Well, this was getting complicated. Smoker apparently hadn't appreciated the gesture, but the way she was acting about it seemed to hint that there was something else there, some reason she was unhappy that wasn't just because she was straight. At least, that's how Hunter saw it.

Of course, talking to her about it would be difficult, since neither of them were really very big on the whole talking-about-their-feelings thing, so she'd have to find another way.

When Hunter came back a few days later, a six-pack of hard lemonade in her backpack, she found Smoker rattling around her kitchen after a bad day at work. She was more than eager for something to take the edge off, and in no time at all, they were sitting in front of the TV again, drunk and Smoker was laughing.

"I don't know what you'd do without me." Hunter poked her in the side, and Smoker didn't try to get away from her this time, just tried ineffectually to block her hand. "You'd never laugh at all."

"Unwarr- unwarran'ed self-... self-importance, that's what it is. I do just fine without you, thank you," Smoker said, words slurring together around her cigarette and she was smiling.

"Uh huh. I bet if I hadn't come over tonight, your knuckles'd be all bruised, huh? Buncha walls around here cryin' after you punched their lights out."

"That doesn't even make sense." Smoker was still smiling at her, more openly than she would have if she hadn't been buzzed, and Hunter took her hand. She rubbed at Smoker's knuckles.

"Right here, all red and bleeding, huh?" Smoker tugged lightly at her hand to try and get it away, and Hunter just laughed at her and held it tighter. "You and the walls gotta work your issues out, man."

"They had it coming," Smoker said, laughing a little under her breath, and she let out a long and relaxed sigh. Hunter was still holding her hand, and she ran her fingers over Smoker's knuckles, the thin bones and the veins and muscles she could feel through her cold skin. Her wrists felt so fragile, all of her felt fragile when she wasn't on her guard.

"You need to eat more. You're too thin," Hunter said, pointing at her, and Smoker waved a hand.

"Nag nag nag."

"You do! It's not healthy. Look, I can put my fingers around your wrist." Hunter did so, and Smoker leaned forward a little to get a better look at what she was doing. Their heads were a bit closer now, and after a few seconds Smoker looked up at her and their eyes met. Smoker looked almost sleepy, her eyes nearly closed.

"What was with the kissing thing?" Smoker mumbled, and Hunter blinked at her. She didn't sound angry, just... confused. "Why'd you do that?"

Hunter stared at her. I really like you was on her tongue, and yet somehow she couldn't quite force herself to say it. The look Smoker was giving her, just... it was hard to just say something like that to her. She'd never believe her that way. "I dunno. Why not?"

Smoker snorted a bit at that. "'Cause I told you, I'm straight."

"Did you like it?" Hunter leaned in a bit closer to her, and Smoker didn't move away.

"Doesn't matter." She shook her head. "I'm straight."

"Are you sure?"

Smoker paused, then nodded her head like she'd given the matter great thought. Hunter waited a few moments and leaned forward, closer still to her so she could feel her breathing, smell smoke on her breath, and Smoker stayed where she was and just stared at her through nearly closed eyes.

She waited, gave her a chance to move away, but she didn't. So Hunter pressed her lips against hers, and Smoker made a quiet sound like she'd somehow been surprised that it had happened again, despite Hunter's ample warning, and faltered back a little bit. Hunter apparently had misjudged the strength at which she'd moved forward.

Hunter expected her to push her away at any moment, and instead... she just stayed there. Hunter backed off, looked at her and Smoker had her eyes closed, her face red from alcohol and she was wavering a little from side to side.

She tried again, despite the unpleasant cigarette taste, and Smoker made a quiet sound but still, she didn't move away. Hunter moved forward, pushed her back against the couch and Smoker yielded to her easily, her eyes still closed and making that same soft sound. She couldn't quite identify it... not exactly confused but not unhappy, just... something.

Well, obviously Smoker wasn't as opposed to this as she claimed to be. At least, this was enough proof for Hunter. Smoker still tasted like an ashtray, which put any more in-depth kissing out of the question, so instead, Hunter leaned away from her for a second, to think about what to do next. Her heart was beating a little fast, and Smoker still had her eyes closed, breathing quickly through her mouth when Hunter had moved away.

Hunter brushed some of her hair away from her shoulder, from her neck, and kissed her there, and Smoker made a little quick sound, her knee jerking up like she'd again been suddenly surprised. She groaned for a few seconds, and then she set her hands on Hunter's shoulders.

"Stop, stop it, cut it out," she slurred out, one eye open, and Hunter let her push her away. "Stop it, 's... 's weird."

Hunter tilted her head a little, made a questioning noise, and Smoker opened both her eyes and tried in vain to get back her focus. She kept her hands on Hunter's shoulders, still pushing her even though she'd already moved off of her.

"I tol' you, I'm straight, okay?" Smoker said, still kind of mumbling.

"Not as straight as you think, apparently," Hunter said because she could not resist, grinning a little, and Smoker shoved her with a bit more force. She tried to stand up, but couldn't find her sense of balance, and eventually ended up back where she'd started, grumbling the entire way.

"You ruin everything, you know that? You're such a pain in the ass. Actin' all weird and smoochin' me. I dunno what your deal is." Smoker fumbled for her pack of cigarettes, pulling out one that she promptly dropped. "Makin' things all complicated."

"Doesn't have to be." Hunter picked it up and handed it to her, and Smoker took it and put it in her mouth. It probably said something about her that Smoker was still able to work a lighter even in this kind of state. Hunter leaned back a little, trying to keep her giddiness under control. I kissed you, I kissed you and you liked it- "It could be nice."

"It's not happening." Smoker took a deep drag, and let it out. Hunter noticed, for the first time now, that her hands were trembling. "So jus' knock it off okay."

Hunter waved away some smoke from her face, and she was still smiling. She probably couldn't have stopped if she'd tried. That really just happened! It was hard to keep the glee from her voice. "I dunno. Maybe you should try it."

"Not gonna," Smoker said, a bit sullenly. Just like she did when Hunter told her to eat more.

"You might like it."

"It's not happening. Jus' drop it okay?" Smoker fumbled for the remote and raised the volume on the television. "You pest. I dunno why you're so interested."

"You do taste terrible."

"I told you."

She let it drop from there, since as far as she was concerned she'd made a lot of progress already and maybe it was better not to push it. Smoker did seem a little on-edge, after all, although Hunter couldn't imagine why.

Maybe Smoker had just never really considered being with a woman before, or maybe Hunter was different. Maybe Smoker would only let her do that.

She got a pleasant rush at the thought, that she was so special to Smoker that she'd love her even when she'd only loved men before, and she could ride the high from that for the rest of the night without complaint.

---

She came back a few days later, not sure if Smoker would remember what had happened that night, even if she remembered it very clearly. Smoker was standing over the stove, poking at something with a spatula, and when Hunter tapped at the window, she looked over to her and her eyes widened.

Then she looked away from her for a moment, a hand in her hair, before she came over to open the window for her. That was unusual.

She remembered, Hunter was sure of it.

Hunter climbed in, and Smoker was back at the stove like nothing had happened.

"So what's for dinner?"

"Some wild rice and this tilapia that was on sale," Smoker said, a bit faintly, and Hunter came over to stand next to her. Smoker was studiously not looking at her.

They'd already come this far, and it was better to be bold, so she just decided to get right to it. She might have been trembling a little, might have felt the tiniest tinge of nervousness at the thought of what she might say, but it didn't mean anything and was nothing she couldn't handle.

"So hey, you remember what happened last time I was here?" As nonchalantly as possible.

"We got drunk, yes," Smoker said, and she turned away from her to go to the fridge. She also had a similar air of forced nonchalance in her voice. "We watched some shark movie."

"Yeah, and...?" Hunter leaned against the counter, smiling to try and make her hands stop shaking, and Smoker paused, still looking in the fridge for some thing or another. It took her a little while before she turned around, and she was frowning.

"Look, I was drunk and didn't know what I was doing. Don't read too much into it." Smoker went to her cabinets to keep looking for whatever it was she was looking for. "I told you already, I'm not interested."

"I dunno..." This situation was made for teasing her and she couldn't resist. She really should have but somehow she just couldn't, and it always made her feel better. "Took you an awfully long time to stop me if you weren't interested."

"I'm not, okay?" Smoker said, a bit shortly, and she pulled down some spice from her cupboard. She didn't catch what it was before Smoker had already sprinkled some of it on the fish and put it back, all in a smooth motion. "I was really drunk."

"Maybe you should try it when you're not drunk," Hunter said, like it was a perfectly innocent suggestion, and raised her eyebrows. Smoker turned and stared at her finally, this time with her usual unamused expression.

"That's not happening." Smoker waved a hand at her and turned back to her food. "If you want some of this, go sit down over there. I can't focus when you hover around me."

Which was a lie, since Hunter hovered around her all the time and she'd never cared before. In the meantime though, Hunter did as she asked, sitting down at her kitchen table and watching her. Smoker was moving quickly, short jerky motions, and she could see her hands shaking again when she tried to measure something.

Nervous about something.

She left it, shifted the conversation to Smoker's day at work, let it go for now and slowly Smoker seemed to relax a little, although she still didn't quite seem like herself. The food was good, as usual, and she complimented her on it a bit more earnestly than she usually did. Smoker shrugged it off, as usual, looking off to one side.

When Hunter suggested they watch something together, it took Smoker a few seconds to respond. She had to get some sleep tonight, so maybe later.

Hunter let it go and left. Sometimes Smoker needed time to herself. She remembered what had happened, what they did, and despite her assertions that it wouldn't happen again... there was something different about her.

Hunter could wait.

---

Smoker wasn't exactly distant afterwards, but she did act kind of strangely. She didn't move away from her, but when Hunter touched her she would flinch, or look away from her, or start talking about something totally unrelated. Trying to distract herself or Hunter, she couldn't tell. It was unusual for her... Smoker usually wasn't uneasy about anything. She was unflappably confident, unaffected by everything around her. That was part of what she liked about her. She wasn't self-conscious enough to be awkward about something.

But that's what was happening now... she was acting awkward about something, and that was weird.

It was late one weekend, Smoker lying on her couch on her stomach, her head resting on one arm, and Hunter came back from the kitchen, where she'd been getting herself something to drink.

"Anything happen?"

"Some mook got offed."

"I missed that?"

"It wasn't very interesting. Just a blood spray from off-screen."

Hunter leaned over the back of the couch, looked down at Smoker and watched her for a few seconds. Her chest rose and fell, barely perceptible, her shoulder blades showing through her shirt.

Hunter never asked Smoker if she could join her, she just did it. So she set down her glass and climbed over the top of the couch, sitting on her back. Smoker grunted, letting out a brief huff of air.

"Ugh, you can sit on the floor you know. You weigh a ton."

"You don't make a very good chair." Hunter adjusted herself so she was straddling her to ease up some of the pressure, and Smoker turned over a little so she could look at her more easily. "You're all sharp."

"I'm not a chair, you nitwit, that's why. Get off me." Smoker waved an arm, and Hunter stayed where she was. Eventually Smoker sighed and turned over completely, sitting up so she could look down at Hunter in her lap, who smiled back up at her. "You are so annoying."

Hunter slid her arms around her when she was close, and Smoker's eyes widened for a moment in surprise.

"Not so bad, is it?"

Smoker tilted her head at her, frowning. "You aren't getting any ideas, are you?"

"Are you?"

"No." Smoker rolled her eyes. "I told you before, I'm not interested."

"Drunk-Smoker was. Which is weird." Hunter grinned at her, and Smoker looked away.

"Well, Drunk-Smoker didn't know what she was doing."

"Maybe she did though. You don't really know, right?" Hunter held up a finger. "I mean, you could give it a try."

"I don't want to give it a try." Smoker crossed her arms. "It won't change anything."

"Then what are you afraid of, huh?"

"I'm not afraid."

"Bkawk! Bkawk!"

"Are you serious? Really?"

"You know, you even look like a bird, so it fits even better."

Smoker grabbed Hunter's wrists, and slowly pulled her hands away from her. She set them down in Hunter's lap. "Look, I'm not interested, okay? It's not happening. Just knock it off."

Despite the fact that Hunter knew this would work out, and knew that Smoker was not as straight as she thought, and knew that she was Smoker's special exception even if Smoker herself didn't know it yet, that still stung a lot more than she thought it would for some reason.

---

Things didn't really go anywhere for a while after that. She couldn't find any good times to bring it up, and Smoker was being careful to not let her get too close to her again, and that made it hard to try her luck. Their schedules were conflicting, and they couldn't spend as much time together as they wanted to, which also made things a bit difficult. Hunter couldn't find the time to get over there, and when she did, Smoker was sometimes already asleep or not home.

She had big plans for the first weekend they could spend together in what felt like way too long; she'd found some great movies and a nice restaurant they could go and try, and she was really looking forward to spending time with Smoker again, and instead, that Saturday Smoker told her, unhappily, that she had a coworker's wedding to go to.

So Hunter offered to come with her.

Smoker refused, telling her she didn't even have anything to wear, and no one there knew her, and she wasn't sure she could bring a guest, and that it just wasn't going to happen.

And yet, the two of them showed up at the wedding together, albeit a little late.

The dress that Hunter had borrowed (blue, with a weird flower pattern, where did Smoker even get this?) hung very long on her, although it was a tighter fit in some places since she was a good deal broader than Smoker was. She was pretty sure it wasn't an attractive look, not that she cared about that sort of thing. Smoker had given her a basic rundown of the people that would be there in the car, but Hunter had been too distracted by her dress to pay attention. She'd forgotten how weird it felt to wear one... she tended to wear things that worked better with Parkour, and dresses didn't usually fit into that category. Her legs felt weirdly exposed.

At least she knew Smoker was just as uncomfortable. She'd seen her in dresses before, and she'd never been happy in one. Probably because she'd never found one that fit. So they could both be uncomfortable together, and teasing the other about what they were wearing helped lighten the mood a little. Smoker seemed a bit tense, but then again she didn't seem entirely convinced this was a good idea. Honestly, it probably wasn't, but Hunter wanted to spend time with her too much to let something like this stop her, and Smoker had lent her the dress, brushed her hair, let her in the car and given her advice on what to do while she was there, so apparently Smoker either didn't think this was as bad an idea as she said, or she also wanted to spend some time with Hunter, wedding be damned.

The wedding was boring (as most weddings were, in Hunter's experience), and the fact that Hunter didn't know anyone there and therefore had no reason to care about any of this probably didn't help. She didn't even care enough to ask Smoker who any of these people were, and judging by the expression on her face during the proceedings, Smoker didn't seem particularly invested in them either. At one point, Hunter got bored enough to scribble a note on a small piece of paper and hand it to her, explaining just how bored she was, and Smoker didn't hesitate to write one back to commiserate.

At the reception, they found a table in a corner and decided to just stay there by themselves, watching the others dance around them and lamenting the fact that they could not be anywhere else.

In truth, as bored and uncomfortable as Hunter was, at least she was there with Smoker. That made almost anything tolerable.

That guy from work that Smoker hated, Griffin, was also there, which was one of the few things that night that was interesting. Smoker had told Hunter stories about the things Griffin had said and done to her for a while, and she was intimately familiar with all of them, but she'd never formed a very clear picture in her mind of what Griffin looked like. And, oddly enough, Smoker did not point him out immediately, despite how Hunter had asked her to do just that multiple times so she could promptly kick his ass. When Smoker got up to get another drink, Hunter watched as a man approached her and began talking to her, and judging from her expression, she did not appreciate it. While the man himself might have been good-looking enough, dark hair and tanned skin and chiseled features, Hunter was immediately soured on him by the disapproving look on Smoker's face. Smoker didn't like that guy, it was obvious, and it made Hunter disinclined to like him as well.

Their conversation continued outside of Hunter's earshot, the man waving a hand in her direction at one point, and Smoker said something loudly and turned away from him to walk back to Hunter. He said something as she walked away which made her stop for a moment, her eyes narrowed in a brief flare of rage, before she made her way back to Hunter.

"What was that about?"

Smoker growled somewhat, glaring into her glass. "That was Griffin."

"No," Hunter said, immediately turning back to the crowd to see if she could pick him out. She hadn't been focusing on his appearance, but she could probably pick him out if she had to. She stood up and set her hands on the table. "No way, I've been meaning to punch him in the balls forever. Where'd he go?"

Smoker grabbed a handful of her dress. "Sit down."

"No way, I'm not letting him get away this time. Is that him?"

"Sit down." Smoker pulled her down, and Hunter sat a bit reluctantly. "You're not going to kick his ass here. Everyone knows you're with me and my boss is here. You'll get me fired."

"But..." Hunter stared at her, wide-eyed, and she flailed in the general direction of the crowd. Smoker shook her head, and Hunter made a frustrated whine to try and get across her point, but Smoker didn't let her go. God DAMN it!

She didn't want to get her fired but... UGH. She wanted to punch him so badly.

"What did he say to you?" Hunter said after a few moments, sulking in her chair with her arms crossed.

"Same shit, different day." Smoker waved a hand, her voice somewhere between irritation and nonchalance. "Told me I'd look nicer if I smiled for him more, I told him to go fuck a cactus, he asked if I've gone gay since no one else will have me, so on and so on." She sipped her drink. "If I brought you just to make everyone else uncomfortable." A pause, then she downed the entire thing. "Same shit, different day."

"God I hate that guy SO MUCH." Hunter balled her fists, tempted to just go find him and punch him anyway. "He's such a dick."

Smoker tipped her empty glass over onto the table and leaned back in her chair with a long, discontented sigh. Hunter was peering into the crowd to try and find him, and when she glanced back at Smoker, she saw she was staring at her. She looked away when their eyes met.

"Same shit, different day," Smoker said again, softer this time. Then, "Fuck, I wish I could smoke here."

Hunter listed off a few more threats, elaborate fantasies of what she wanted to do to Griffin, and Smoker agreed with the basic idea but kept reminding her that she couldn't do anything here unless she wanted to get Smoker fired, and that kept Hunter in check. Barely. She felt frustrated and unhappy by it though, by not being able to do anything about it. This must have been what Smoker felt like at work all the time, and then she was tempted to go punch Griffin anyway just so Smoker would have to get another job, which couldn't possibly suck more than her current one.

Time went on, and while she caught glimpses of someone who might have been Griffin (why hadn't she been paying more attention when he was talking to Smoker?), it was hard to pick him out when every guy was wearing the same kind of suit. He didn't come over to them, and didn't harass Smoker when she got up again. Hunter felt cheated out of her well deserved vengeance, which didn't do much to improve her mood.

"What is with that lady?" Hunter said, frowning as she flicked a paper football off the table. She glanced in the woman's direction, who met her eyes long enough to give her a disapproving look, then looked away.

"Which one?"

"That one over there." Hunter cocked her head. "She keeps staring at us."

Smoker looked over there, tilted her head this way and that. "Blonde hair, blue dress, bit heavy?"

"Yeah."

Smoker pulled the straw she was chewing out of her mouth. "You know that woman in HR I told you about? The one that never listens to me?"

"That's Sparkles?" Hunter looked back to the woman, who was studiously pretending to ignore them now. "That's her?"

"That's her." Smoker replaced her straw. "Not surprised she's starin' at us."

Hunter glared in her direction, waiting for her to turn around and notice, and when Sparkles did so, she gave her an almost offended look and turned back to the person she was talking to, leaning forward to tell her something. The two of them now glanced back at Hunter and Smoker occasionally, talking too quietly for her to hear.

"What's her problem?" Hunter said, resolving to flip her off the next time she looked back at them.

"Doesn't like me, doesn't like you, doesn't like you and me." Smoker shrugged, waving a hand idly at each statement. "Probably going to write a passive-aggressive memo about it when I go back in Monday."

"I'm gonna go punch her."

"No you're not." Smoker grabbed her dress again just in case, although Hunter hadn't even gotten up that time. "Same problem. Just ignore her."

It was hard though, with the way she looked at them when she thought they weren't watching. Like she was judging them, and Hunter didn't like being judged by anyone. She told Smoker that she felt like Sparkles was doing that, judging her, and Smoker didn't seem the least bit surprised by that.

Maybe Smoker was right in that coming here might have made things worse for her, guessing by the amount of disapproving glances that were shot their way, but the thought of Smoker coming here alone was worse. She wouldn't let her do something like this alone if she could help it; even if it turned everyone against them, she'd stand with her, and sharing their complaints with each other, agreeing that certain people were assholes and fuck them seriously, that must have made things a little easier. Even though Smoker hadn't been able to smoke for hours, she wasn't as tense as she normally should have been, and Hunter credited that to her presence.

And after all, who else would joke about Louis being a psycho murderer with her? At least he wasn't a douche to them like Griffin and Sparkles, even if it was just because he didn't keep looking at them like they were freaks. He just said a friendly hello and went on his way, and Smoker said it back but didn't seem that interested otherwise. Well, even if Smoker didn't seem to like any of her coworkers, Hunter liked Louis alright enough at least. Some of them seemed alright.

A lot of them were dicks though.

In the end, they spent most of the night by themselves, and that was fine by them.

When the night was winding down and most people were filtering out, they decided to make their own exit. They passed by a table where another one of Smoker's coworkers was sitting, a young brown-haired woman that she hadn't caught the name of. She had her head down, obviously drunk, and when the two of them walked by, she stood up and held a hand out to them.

"Oh hey, you two!" she said, and Smoker shook her hand without much of a change in expression. Not unusual for how she treated her coworkers from what Hunter had seen, and when the woman turned to Hunter, she took her hand with a bit more enthusiasm. The woman seemed friendly, for now, so there was no harm in being polite. For now. "I just want you to- want you both to know something."

"What is it?" Smoker said, obviously disinterested in anything she had to say, and the woman instead turned to Hunter, resting a hand on her shoulder. She smiled at them, open and honest as she wavered back and forth.

"I just think it's really awesome that you two can- can come to something like this, that you're not afraid or anything. You know? I think that's awesome. I think you're both awesome. Not a lot of people would be brave enough to do that."

Hunter tilted her head, quizzical, and Smoker was staring out the window, looking completely bored by the conversation. The woman leaned in closer to Hunter, speaking ostensibly to her although she was still just as loud.

"I think it's great that you two are together. You make a cute couple." And she attempted a wink at Hunter, but only managed to close both her eyes for a moment. "Maybe you can get her to lighten up a little, huh?"

Hunter stared at her, caught off-guard and unable to think of anything to say, and she turned and saw that Smoker was walking away. No time to think about it for now, and Hunter blinked, extracting herself from the woman's grip and nodding her head. "Uh... sure." Quickly and quietly to her, before she hurried off to catch up to Smoker, and the woman waved after them.

"Good luck, you guys!"

Smoker was walking quickly, not looking behind her to see if Hunter was following, and it took her a few seconds before she caught up to her.

"She's really drunk, huh?"

"She's always like that," Smoker said, as though the previous conversation hadn't occurred. "Let's blow this joint."

She let it lie for a little while, the two of them getting into Smoker's car and driving back to her apartment, and then Hunter felt like she had to say something.

"That was kind of sweet though, huh?"

"What was?"

"That lady." Hunter leaned her head against the window, and she heard the women's words in her head again, accompanied by a strange, calm, pleased kind of feeling. She'd never really felt like this before when someone said something like that to her and she wasn't quite sure why. She wanted to share that with Smoker, or at least know that she felt the same way since it really felt nice, but she had no idea how to do that or how to put it into words. "That she thought we were brave. I think she meant it. It's nice to have someone be that supportive of something like that."

Smoker didn't say anything for a while. "Everyone at work thinks I'm gay anyway. Janice has wanted me to 'come out' for years. Not surprised she thought we were together."

"Heh, she thought we were a cute couple." Hunter looked over at Smoker, who kept her eyes firmly on the road. She smiled as she stared without thinking about it, something about looking at her just... "She told me to try and get you to lighten up."

"Me being single makes them uncomfortable," Smoker said eventually, apparently unaware of how Hunter was looking at her, or at least pretending to be. They were finally at her apartment, and she parked and turned off the engine. "I guess they want to believe I have someone."

"You do have someone though," Hunter said in the dark. "You've got me."

It was quiet for a moment, and Smoker opened the car door.

"I know."

They walked up to her apartment in silence. Smoker shut her door behind her and tossed her keys on the table, pulling out her hair tie and ruffling her hair. She sighed, obvious relief at finally being home, and went to her bedroom to change.

Hunter sat down on the couch, pulling off her shoes and adjusting her skirt, going over the day in her mind, what Janice had said and how it'd made her feel. She still couldn't quite put it into words, and eventually she gave up and went into Smoker's bedroom to get her normal clothes. She expected her to be in the bathroom changing, but instead Smoker was sitting on her bed, the back of her dress unzipped, staring at the floor in apparent thought.

Hunter waited a few seconds, then went and sat by her. Smoker glanced at her, then back to the floor, still with the same somber expression. Something was bothering her, Hunter could tell, and she took her hand. Smoker didn't pull away, lacing their fingers together with a long sigh.

"Somethin' wrong?"

It took her too long to answer that, which was almost answer enough in itself. Smoker shook her head, her free hand in her hair. "I don't know."

She wasn't very good at the talking thing, so Hunter freed her hand and slid an arm around her back instead. Smoker didn't move away, almost didn't react to it at all, but after a few moments, she leaned just slightly towards her, closer to her.

"It won't work," Smoker said softly. "I told you, I'm not interested. It won't change anything."

Was that what she was thinking about? Hunter hadn't even brought it up this time, but if she wanted to talk about that... "You've got nothing to lose then, right?" Hunter pulled her closer to her, and Smoker didn't resist.

"You've got nothing to lose, maybe," Smoker mumbled, and she shifted a little so they were more face to face. She looked down at her, her eyes nearly closed, her expression difficult to read. "This doesn't bother you at all, does it?"

"Nope." Hunter leaned her head up, considered kissing her and she noticed how Smoker started breathing more quickly when she came close to her. "Seems perfectly normal to me."

"Lucky you," Smoker said, softly. "It's not that simple."

"You never know." Hunter eventually decided against it, still remembering that ashy taste from before, and instead moved her head closer to her neck again, and Smoker tensed in her arms. "Maybe it is."

She touched her lips to her skin, and Smoker took in a shuddering breath. She waited, to see if Smoker would push her away, and she didn't. She stayed where she was, taking in shallow breaths, and Hunter kissed her neck again and was rewarded with a quiet pleading sound.

She moved away for a second, just to make sure, to give her a chance to maybe change her mind, and looked at Smoker's face. Her eyes were closed, her mouth slightly open and there was an uneven red tinge across her cheeks and nose.

"Are you blushing?" Hunter whispered, and Smoker snapped open her eyes like she'd been startled out of a trance. It took her a second or two to apparently reorient herself to what was going on, and she shook her head, now frowning as well as blushing, like one would cancel out the other. Hunter couldn't help but laugh a little; she'd never seen her blush before. "You are, you totally are. Oh wow."

"I'm not." Smoker was annoyed now, and she pushed Hunter's arms away, turning away from her and crossing her arms. She hunched over, closing herself off from her as much as she possibly could. "Just- never mind, just get your clothes and scram."

"Are you being shy?" Hunter wasn't going to let something as good as this pass without comment, and she stood up. Smoker didn't move, still sitting on her bed with her arms crossed, so Hunter took a few steps so that she could stand in front of her and look at her that way. Smoker was staring directly at the floor, scowling and she refused to look up at her. Hunter leaned down a little to try and look her in the face, and Smoker made an angry sound. "I didn't even think you could do that! Are you possessed?"

"I'm not shy, for Pete's sake. What do you take me for?" Very irritated, and with distinct distaste at the concept. Her tone softened just slightly, something else coming through now, and she kept her eyes fixed on the floor. "This is just weird, that's all."

Hunter couldn't believe that she'd managed to uncover this side of her; she never knew Smoker even had an awkward side like this, even if it was awkward in that distinctly angry Smoker way. She wouldn't have guessed this kind of thing would get to Smoker like this. Nothing got to her, and the fact that this did, in this way, led her to believe that she was on the right track.

Hunter set her knee on the bed to one side of Smoker, catching her attention from the not-Hunter she was determinedly staring at, and Smoker looked at her, frowning with her arms crossed and she was definitely blushing. It wasn't an even blush, or an attractive one, but there it was, and she was not happy about it.

"Well?" Hunter stayed where she was, perched above her, and Smoker stared at her, still unhappy. They stayed that way for a little while, neither making a move, and then finally Smoker looked away from her as she tended to do, her arms still crossed. Hunter set her hands on her shoulders, lifting her other leg onto the bed so she was sitting in Smoker's lap, and Smoker stayed where she was.

"Still weird," Smoker said, pointedly not looking at her.

"Just weird?"

"Just weird."

Hunter slid her arms around her, leaned into her somewhat and felt Smoker falter back for a moment before adjusting her weight to keep her up. She waited again, for the silent go-ahead as was becoming customary with her, and Smoker didn't push her away, and didn't tell her to get off. This close to her, she could feel her heart beating fast, and when Hunter moved her hands along her skin, it quickened just a little. A few more seconds, waiting for Smoker to refuse her and push her off if she wanted, and then Hunter went for her neck again, since that had gotten her some success before.

"Mmph." Quietly, and Smoker leaned her head back a little like she was giving her more access, and her arms awkwardly settled on Hunter's back as if to keep her balance. That wasn't a no by any means, but was that a yes? Maybe it was with her, but sometimes it was hard to tell. Should she keep doing what she was doing? Smoker wasn't pushing her off, but wasn't really doing anything back either...

She'd asked her to try it... maybe Smoker was trying it. And if it was Hunter's job to convince her that it wasn't as weird as she thought, then maybe it was a bit unreasonable to expect Smoker to reciprocate just yet.

Hunter worked her way downwards slowly, unable to resist kissing her harder as she did so, feeling her move back a little whenever she pressed her weight against her. Hunter was so much heavier than she was, and even small motions like these made it obvious. She was getting lower, and Smoker still hadn't pushed her off, or really said anything either way. Smoker was breathing rapidly, her skin very warm and her heart beating hard through her chest, and once or twice she made soft sounds in her throat that Hunter was pretty sure weren't intentional (they sounded pretty positive though), but she still hadn't really said anything either way.

Hunter leaned forward, pushing her a little and Smoker pushed back, trying to stay upright, but eventually she gave in. She fell back on her bed, Hunter on top of her, her hands tight in the back of Hunter's dress. She let out a huff of air when she hit the bedspread, looking up at Hunter with a touch of confusion now.

"Hey..." she said, a minor protest, and Hunter tugged at the shoulders of her dress. "What?"

"Come on." Hunter pulled at her sleeves a bit more, and she pushed herself up on one arm to give her more room. She tilted her head at her. "Got to take this off before we go any further."

"What?" Smoker stared at her, her eyes wide, and she propped herself up on her elbows. "Just what do you have in mind?"

Hunter blinked, and she couldn't help the incredulous look that came on her face. "C'mon, what do you think?" Smoker just looked at her, and Hunter tugged at her dress again as if trying to remind her. "Clothes kind of get in the way, you know?"

Smoker stared at her, eyes widening in a moment of dawning realization, and she shook her head. "No, no, I'm not... no, no way."

"Oh come on, we already got this far." But Smoker was sitting up, and Hunter leaned back to let her up reluctantly. "You're not chickening out now, are you?"

"I'm not going to- you're not going to-" Smoker apparently couldn't even articulate what it was she was picturing, and she was still flushed red. "I told you, I'm not into that, I'm not- I'm straight, I told you."

"Oh right." Hunter rolled her eyes. "That's why we were making out a second ago. You're still blushing."

"I'm not doing it, okay? I told you, I'm not- get off me." Smoker pushed at her shoulder, and Hunter sighed and did as she asked. "I'm not... we're not doing that."

"You don't think I'm good at it?"

Smoker looked sharply away from her at the question, crossing her arms. "It doesn't matter, I'm not... we're not doing that."

"You liked it." Hunter leaned back, and she was smiling a little but mostly she was just disappointed. It wasn't like making out with her didn't do anything on her end, after all. What did she do wrong? "You know you did. I know you did."

Smoker didn't say anything, still refusing to look at her.

There was silence for a period, and just when Hunter was thinking about getting up and leaving, Smoker said something.

"Why do you even want to, anyway?" She almost didn't hear her.

"What?"

"Why do you want to?" Smoker kept her back to her, holding onto her arms. "With me, I mean. Why me?"

Hunter waited for a few seconds, then crawled across the bed behind her. She touched her shoulder.

"I think you'd like it." And Smoker huffed at that. Hunter waited for a little while, and then she turned and curled her knees up to her chest, the two of them sitting back to back. "And what that lady said... I don't think it'd be that bad. Us being together. We're already together all the time, aren't we? It wouldn't even be that different."

"Maybe not for you," Smoker said, and she let out a shaky breath. "It's not that easy."

"Does it really make you that uncomfortable?"

"It's... weird. I told you."

"I guess it might be if you've never done it before, huh?" Hunter leaned her head forward on her knees. "You trust me though, right?"

"As far as I can throw you."

Hunter smiled a little.

"Better than usual."

"I just don't get it..." Smoker shook her head. "Why me? Why not someone else?"

"Who else will blush as badly as you do?"

"I wasn't blushing."

"You look terrible when you do that, by the way. It's all blotchy."

"I wasn't blushing." Silence for a little while, and Smoker sighed. "Look, just... this is complicated. I'm not... I'm still straight, I just... I don't know. Just back off for a while so I can figure this out, okay?"

"Alright," Hunter said, although she didn't really want to. "If you're going to be a big baby about it."

"Shut up."

She got dressed and went home, frustrated and discontent in spite of herself. She'd gotten so close, and then Smoker pushed her away for no good reason. Smoker kept doing that, and it was always when she least expected it, and she just couldn't understand why. Everything had been going great and then... What had she done wrong? Smoker obviously enjoyed it, and obviously wanted her to continue, and Hunter was more than willing to do it and do whatever she wanted and she'd be super careful and attentive and everything and it'd be great, she knew it, so why? Why why why did Smoker stop her? There was no reason! If they'd come this far, what was holding her back? Hunter just didn't get her. Smoker could be the most frustrating person in the world.

But if she wanted her to stop, then she'd stop. And if she wanted her to wait, then she'd have to wait. Smoker was considering it - that was more than something, and definitely more than where they'd started. It might have been slow, but it was still progress, and in the end, it was up to Smoker how far they went and how quickly. Hunter didn't ever want to hurt her, after all. If she wanted her to take it slow, then she'd do it.

As best she could, anyway.

---

When she saw her again a few days later, she was cleaning. Smoker had her hair tied back with a hand towel, her sleeves rolled up and shirt unbuttoned at the top, and really it wasn't a bad look for her at all although Hunter would never tell her that. Hunter offered to help her out (even though it was a pretty hot day), since she didn't really have anything better to do and she thought Smoker would appreciate the offer. Guessing by how quickly she tossed her a sponge when she asked, she was right.

They left the window open to try and cool the apartment down, chatting and joking about this and that, singing along with the CD that Smoker had put on (really, more like Hunter mocking Smoker for her terrible singing than anything else, and Smoker singing louder to spite her) and after an hour or so of work they'd finished the bathroom and living room and were taking a well deserved break. Hunter was sprawled across the couch, and Smoker came in from the kitchen with a can of Diet Coke in hand.

"C'mon, move." She waved Hunter's legs away, and sat down herself. She pressed the can against her throat, a trickle of sweat running down her forehead along the line of her jaw, and she sighed. Thankfully she didn't notice Hunter staring. "At least that's over with."

"You oughta pay me for all that work." Hunter let out a long sigh. Even for someone that exercised as much as she did, she still felt a bit worn out. She'd spent too much time crouching and leaning over for her liking, and it was still way too hot.

"Well, you can have a soda if you want, but other than that there's not much I can offer you." Smoker laughed a little, a sarcastic tinge in her voice. "Apart from fun and companionship."

"Who could ask for anything more?" Hunter grabbed the remote, turned on the TV, and stretched her arms above her head. She heard Smoker laugh at that, and their attention was drawn to whatever show was on.

The heat was getting to them, and soon enough Hunter found herself dozing off. Every now and then when she woke up, she'd look across the couch to see Smoker, fast asleep, her mouth slightly open. More than once she'd accidentally kicked Hunter while she was sleeping, but her legs were so long that that seemed almost unavoidable.

A small price to pay, really.

When night came and the heat relented, Smoker finally woke up and went to close the window, waking Hunter at the same time. She felt lazy and tired, and the slowness of Smoker's movements seemed to indicate the same.

Smoker sat down on the couch again, pulling the towel from her hair and scratching her head, and Hunter sat up and leaned her arms on her knees.

"You give it any thought?"

"What?"

"You know..." Hunter smiled at her, still a bit sleepy, and Smoker raised an eyebrow at her. "The whole sex thing."

"That." Smoker leaned back into the couch with a long sigh. She was slurring her words more than usual, a side-effect of her waking up so recently. "I don't know. It's weird, you know? I mean, sex with you, of all people. Even if you weren't a dame."

Even as used to Smoker's odd turns of phrase as she was, Hunter couldn't help but blink a little at that. "What, you think I'm bad at it?" Hunter moved closer to her, resting a hand on her chest in mock affront. "I'll have you know I'm very talented."

"You expect me to believe anyone would put up with you long enough to have sex with you?" Smoker smirked at her, and she put her hands behind her head. "I don't think so."

"I'm in very high demand, for your information." Hunter was right next to her now. "Everyone else was very satisfied."

"I'm not everyone else." Smoker closed her eyes. "I don't buy it."

"So you're saying you're willing to try it, then?"

Smoker opened an eye to look at her.

"You know... to prove your theory."

"What, that sex with you would just be weird and awkward?" She closed her eyes again. "I don't need any proof for that."

"But sex is a possibility then?"

Smoker took a deep breath.

"I don't know." She shook her head, a lapse in her previous cool demeanor, and she again looked somewhat awkward. "I just..."

Hunter reached out and touched her face, and Smoker turned to look at her. She looked deeply unsure, conflicted, which wasn't something she was used to seeing. Smoker was usually so sure about everything.

She leaned forward and kissed her, and Smoker closed her eyes. She could only hold it for a few seconds before she pulled away.

"You really taste awful." Hunter shook her head. "You need to brush your teeth."

"I wasn't planning on kissing you," Smoker said, giving her an unamused look. "I haven't even had a smoke in the last couple hours."

"I can still taste it." Hunter stuck out her tongue. "Bleh."

"Then don't kiss me then." Smoker shrugged and looked away, feigning disinterest. "I didn't ask you to do it in the first place."

Teasing her seemed to relax her somewhat, or at least have her pretending at confidence. That was better than that weird unjustified awkwardness. She still didn't know why Smoker looked like that when it came to this stuff. There was nothing to be worried about! Hunter leaned back and smiled, hoping her confidence would put her at ease. "So how do you want to do this?"

"Do what, exactly?"

"You want to be sitting up, or lying down, or what?" Hunter waved a hand. "I just want to know where I should be."

"I don't give a shit." Smoker shrugged. "I don't even know why we're talking about this."

"'Cause I think this time it's gonna happen." Hunter decided on lying down, and she grabbed Smoker's shoulders to turn her to face her. Smoker stared at her, almost suspicious, but eventually followed her directions, one leg up on the couch and the other on the floor.

"You're awfully confident." Smoker rested an arm across her knee. "I told you, I'm not interested."

"You also tell me you're going to kill me all the time," Hunter pointed out, and she threaded her hands between Smoker's body and the couch, leaning forward on them until Smoker was leaning back a little.

"Not the same thing." Hunter kept moving forward until Smoker was nearly on her back, the armrest behind her shoulders keeping her propped up, and Hunter was hovering over her.

"It kind of is though with you." Hunter settled down on top of her, weight pushing her down and Smoker was watching her carefully. "You're weird that way."

"You don't know me as well as you think."

"Well, it's got me this far, huh?" Hunter smiled at her, and Smoker sighed and rolled her eyes. Like this wasn't anything that unusual, and that kept her going. "Here we are."

Smoker shook her head, looking distinctly unimpressed. "I don't know what you're trying to accomplish. This just feels weird to me."

"Well, I'm not doing anything yet." Hunter moved her head closer to her, slowly enough so that she was sure that Smoker was very aware of her doing it, and moved her mouth near her ear. "Of course it feels weird." She was whispering, and she felt Smoker shiver just a little bit, her train of thought interrupted.

"So annoying..." Smoker said, faintly, when Hunter's lips began tracing a path down her throat. Her skin tasted kind of salty from their work earlier that day, and she could feel her heartbeat picking up considerably. "Um..."

"Uh huh." A bit satisfied that she was able to distract her so easily, that Smoker liked this just like Hunter had thought all along and she couldn't help herself. She paused for a moment, enough so that she heard Smoker take a deep breath, anticipating something maybe, and she nipped her lightly for doubting her abilities like that. Smoker jumped, almost letting out a startled yelp.

"Hey, hey! None of that," Smoker said, resting her hand on Hunter's back.

"What, this?" Another little bite, and Smoker hissed and started again.

"Yes, that." Smoker smacked Hunter's shoulder, a warning even as she felt her body kind of curl up underneath her, the warmth radiating from her face. Hunter made a careful note of that. "Cut that out."

"Picky picky. So, you going to take it off this time?" Hunter paused at the collar of her shirt. "Cause it would make things easier."

Smoker didn't say anything, apparently considering it.

"Cause I could just take it off you myself..." Hunter leaned back, pulling apart the buttons, and Smoker sat up a little.

"Hey, I didn't..." It was a weak protest, and that was all there was. Hunter looked up, saw Smoker was frowning, went back to unbuttoning her shirt and got an annoyed huff in response. But she was letting her do it, which was what was important in the long run. "Honestly..."

"You get so weird about this stuff," Hunter said, as she slid Smoker's shirt off her shoulders. "It's like you want me to do everything."

"You're the one who wants to do everything," Smoker said, and she sounded a little breathless. "God only knows why."

"'Cause it drives you crazy." Hunter grinned at her, and began working at unclasping her bra. "And you're blushing again."

"You are the worst at this." Smoker leaned her head back, her hand over her eyes. "I swear, I don't think I've ever met someone who's this bad at keeping up any kind of mood."

"You're pretty good at killing it yourself." Hunter touched her now exposed skin lightly, and Smoker bit her lip. "You are so tsundere it hurts."

She leaned down, and Smoker let out a faint gasp when her mouth touched her, her back arching. It took her a few minutes to try and get her thoughts together, to calm her frantic breathing. "What... what does that even mean?"

She'd never seen Smoker like this before... well, she'd kind of gotten sounds out of her a few nights ago, but none of them were like this. She was shaking, muscles taut and body tense, and the noises she was making... she'd never heard her make sounds like that before. She didn't even know she could sound like that, so... needy. The thought of Smoker needing anyone, needing her to keep touching her, needing her, was making it difficult for Hunter to focus.

She fumbled with one hand between them, trying to find the button for Smoker's jeans, and she felt Smoker grab at her shoulders. There was something frantic in the way she moved, in the faint edge in her voice.

"What are you doing?"

"What do you think?" Hunter said, looking up at her and breathing a little hard herself. Smoker was staring at her, her eyes wide and there was that kind of nervous look again, unsure and almost anxious. Not exactly as excited as Hunter was, and she really couldn't think of why, particularly in her current state of mind. Hunter couldn't quite get to the button from her current position, and she sat up a little so she could get a better look between them. Smoker sat up with her.

"I don't..." Smoker frowned, still looking somewhat nervous. Seeing that expression on her face made Hunter feel a little uneasy; it was a distinctly un-Smokerlike emotion and it wasn't one that Smoker should be feeling now because it wasn't like Hunter was going to hurt her or anything. "I don't think..."

"I do." There, she found what she was looking for, and when she slid her hand beneath the fabric, Smoker made a strangled kind of sound and tried to curl in on herself.

"Wait, wait, just... just wait a second," she said, her voice shaking and with a serious edge to it that immediately caught her attention, and Hunter stopped. She walked this narrow edge with her because she had to, because it was the only way that Smoker apparently could handle doing this, but the last thing Hunter wanted to do was hurt her. That unspoken understanding between them, that Hunter would always stop if Smoker really wanted her to, was what had let her come this far to begin with. She could never ever betray her trust, no matter how much she might have wanted to keep going. She'd never forgive herself.

So she waited, like Smoker said, staying in place. She had no idea what she was waiting for, though. Smoker stared at her, her eyes wide and she almost looked a little frantic. "I'm..."

Hunter tilted her head. "What?"

"I don't... I mean..." Smoker was shaking, hard, and still trying to close herself off, and she pressed a hand over her eyes. "I don't even... did you wash your hands?"

"What?" It was Hunter's turn to start in surprise now, and she gave Smoker a baffled stare.

"Your hands, did you-" Smoker hissed. "I don't want you in- Jesus!" Smoker fell back suddenly against the arm rest, nearly knocking Hunter off of her and jerking her hand free in the process. Smoker leaned her head back, her hands pressed over her eyes. "Jesus Christ! I can't believe I'm even thinking about this!"

More than a little awkward and kind of a mood killer, and Hunter sat back a little bit. How was she supposed to react to that? "Thinking about what, exactly?" she ventured, after a few moments.

"You! You and your fingers all... gah!" Smoker kept her hands over her eyes and her head back, like she was speaking to the ceiling. "I don't even know where you've been, I can't believe I'm sitting here thinking about you fucking me, Jesus!"

"I've been here with you all day cleaning, you freak." Hunter crossed her arms, now a little bit peeved. "And you said I was a mood killer."

There was a brief period of silence, and Smoker let out a long and shaky breath.

"I don't know if I can do this," she said, eventually.

"Certainly aren't acting like it, yeah," Hunter said, and after a moment she leaned forward a little, her hands back on either side of her. "Look, I wasn't even going to put 'em in you, I was just going to... I dunno, touch you." That was almost painful to say and even worse to hear, and this had suddenly gotten all sorts of unpleasantly awkward. Hunter rarely suffered from moments of self-conscious embarrassment but this was definitely one of them.

"I don't know if I can do this," Smoker said again, although not as strenuously as she had before. With how awkward she felt now, Hunter had to admit that she herself was having second thoughts, even though she'd been fantasizing about having sex with her for like weeks. Somehow it never seemed to go like this when she pictured it. How could this suddenly be so difficult? Someone really had it out for Hunter or something.

"Uh... well, maybe we should just take it kind of slow, okay?" Hunter didn't want to stop necessarily (not if Smoker didn't), despite how uncomfortable this had gotten all of a sudden, but that didn't make recreating the shattered mood any easier. Smoker moved her hands from her eyes finally, although slowly, and she sat up to look at her. She wasn't frowning, but she didn't look pleased either. Again, it was something closer to anxiety, which didn't make sense to Hunter at all and still made her feel weird because Smoker didn't look like that. Why was she looking like that?

"I don't know... maybe we should just call it off," Smoker said, and she was fidgeting with her hands, something she usually did when she wanted a cigarette. "Maybe we really just shouldn't be doing this, it's too weird."

"It's just weird 'cause you haven't done it before," Hunter said, trying to sound very confident, and she rested her hand on Smoker's stomach. She was going to get the mood back if it killed her, and she was going to see this through to the end, if Smoker would let her.

Smoker flinched, a little, when Hunter touched her, but otherwise stayed where she was. Hunter waited a few seconds, gave her the chance to say something and then traced her fingers down slowly, watching Smoker's face the whole time. While she did tense and get that worried look again, she didn't stop her like she had before. So that was a good sign, maybe. This time she made sure to keep her hand between Smoker's jeans and her panties, in hopes that maybe this wouldn't freak her out as much, and Smoker was tensing all over, like she thought Hunter was going to do something terrible down there.

"Okay, um..." Well, her hand was there, and Smoker was staring at her very intently, and Hunter suddenly felt like she was under a lot of pressure to do this right (exactly right), and she didn't really know how to do that. She'd never done this with her before, after all. She felt around a little, experimentally, and Smoker made a quiet, strained sound, but didn't really give her any hints. She was pretty sure her hand was in the right place, so she tried moving it a little, and Smoker made that quiet sound again. "Here?"

Smoker's head was hanging, her eyes shut, shivering, and she didn't say anything for a few moments. When she did, it was almost inaudible. "Lower."

"Oh, uh..." Hunter took a breath, shifted a little, and tried again. "Here?"

"Too low." Mumbling, like she couldn't believe she was even saying it. "Up a little." Hunter tried to adjust, feeling more and more on the spot by the moment, and it was kind of stressing her out more than sex really should have stressed someone out, which was making it a bit hard to enjoy. This wasn't supposed to be this difficult! She'd always thought this would come naturally and be really amazing and awesome like she'd imagined it but no, now she felt like Smoker was judging her and she was failing at this really important thing that she'd worked so hard to be able to do, and Smoker was thinking she was terrible at this and maybe she wouldn't get another chance to show her she wasn't, and she didn't fail at things and this was not making her very happy. Hunter looked up at her hopefully.

"Here?"

Smoker's face was red, and it was hard for her to make any kind of eye contact, and she hesitantly reached out and touched Hunter's wrist. "I can't believe I'm doing this."

Hunter stilled, and Smoker moved her hand a little to where Hunter could have sworn she started from.

She moved a little, and Smoker shuddered.

"Here?"

Smoker took in a shaky breath. "It'll work."

Well, that wasn't very encouraging (Was that good enough for her? What did that say about her faith in Hunter?), and despite the fact that now she'd found the right place, Hunter still didn't feel nearly as confident as she thought she should during this type of thing. She felt nervous and on-edge, self-conscious and that was an unfamiliar feeling to her and she didn't like it, and she really didn't like it when she was supposed to be showing Smoker how awesome sex with her would be, but she was going to see this through. Hunter didn't give up that easily. She wasn't going to let a few awkward missteps get in the way of something that she'd wanted for this long. Maybe now that she'd gotten past this part it'd get easier from here.

Smoker slowly rested her arms on Hunter's shoulders, taking hold of her shirt tightly. She shut her eyes, taking in deep breaths, like she was preparing herself for some kind of terrible pain. Hunter moved her hand a little, and Smoker made a strained, faltering sound. More, and it was almost like a whimper.

"Like that?" Hunter asked, and Smoker tightened her grip on her, opening her mouth like she was going to say something but in the end she didn't, just nodded with another soft sound.

Smoker was sitting up, her legs around her, and Hunter was kneeling and leaning forward a little, and the way her hand was twisted was a little painful at this angle, but she didn't dare try to adjust herself now. She kept her hand moving, gently but steadily, and the sounds that Smoker made got more and more frequent, plaintive gasps with each intake of breath, whines when she tried to stop herself. Hunter was getting somewhere, she was sure of it, what with Smoker shivering and holding onto her tightly and making those addictive wanting sounds, begging her to keep going.

Knowing that she was having this kind of effect on her was enough to restore a bit of her faltering confidence, and Hunter swallowed and took a breath herself. "You like that, huh? Like me touching you like this?" Saying something like that to her gave her a little thrill, having Smoker in a position like this where she was begging her to keep-

"Shut up," Smoker said, sharply and that nearly startled Hunter out of the rhythm she'd established. "Don't do that."

"Do what?" Hunter said, taken aback and too surprised to think about being defensive about it.

"Talk to me like that," Smoker said, opening her eyes just a little to look at her from under her tangled bangs. "Don't do that."

"I... I uh..." Hunter was at a complete loss as to what to say in response, particularly with the severe look Smoker was giving her, and her recovering confidence quickly deflated. "Uh, sorry, I was just... um, I dunno, I thought..."

Smoker just stared at her, not smiling, and whatever defense Hunter was thinking of for her behavior ended up trailing off. She looked down, a bit chagrined, now feeling completely out of sorts. She didn't think Smoker would dislike that so much... she just thought it'd make things more exciting or something. She didn't think it was such a bad thing.

She hesitantly went back to what she was doing, since that seemed to work out before, and Smoker shut her eyes and soon enough, she was making those soft little wanting sounds again, quiet wordless pleas to keep moving. Well, even if Smoker didn't want to say it out loud in words, she made it clear enough in her own way that she wanted her to keep going, so that was something right? That made Hunter feel a little better, anyway. Even if she made a few mistakes along the way, she could at least do this right.

Smoker leaned her forehead against Hunter's shoulder, breathing hard, and Hunter shifted and held onto her with her free arm, and she noticed that her mouth was right near her shoulder... so cautiously, afraid of messing up again, Hunter very gently kissed the side of her neck.

Smoker let out a wavering moan, something that didn't quite make it into words, and Hunter tried it again and Smoker pressed her head hard into Hunter's shoulder with a gasp. There, now she was definitely doing something right again, and that was encouraging. She could do this after all, this wasn't so hard. Hunter kept her hand moving, held onto Smoker with her other arm and kissed her neck and felt her shaking beneath her hand, her heart pounding through her skin.

Smoker's fingers dug into her back, and she heard her mumble something that sounded kind of like "faster." So she hesitantly did as she asked, in spite of how tired her hand was getting at this point, and Smoker made a quiet keening sound that she felt all the way through her body, shivering pleasantly down deep. Definitely doing something right now, she could do this after all, she could and Hunter bit her neck, lightly. Smoker's body tightened and shuddered, her legs drawn up against Hunter's back and she let out what almost sounded like a soft sob. She stayed like that for a second, a ball of tense nerves and heat, before it eventually drained away and she slumped down.

That... was not quite the intense reaction from her that Hunter had been hoping for, and that sob was definitely not the happy cry she'd been expecting. Any sense of accomplishment from bringing her to this point was replaced with doubt and... not regret, but something close to it. This... wasn't how this was supposed to feel. What happened?

Smoker let go of her shirt, grabbed Hunter's wrist and pulled her hand out of her clothing.

"That's enough," she said, her voice hoarse. "That's enough."

Hunter let her hand fall to her side, held onto Smoker with the other, and waited. She wasn't really sure what to do now, and again she felt unsure and self-conscious. She'd been so busy focusing on Smoker that she hadn't really done much for herself, and at this point she really wanted to, but...

Smoker pulled herself off of Hunter, and she was trembling uncontrollably. She tried to refasten her bra, but the clasps were beyond her shaking fingers, so instead, Smoker fastened one or two buttons on her shirt, to at least keep it closed.

It was awkward to say something, but worse to say nothing, and eventually Hunter had to speak up.

"So...?" Hunter said.

"So what?" Smoker said, quietly.

"What'd you think?"

Smoker kept her attention focused on her struggle to button her shirt, kept her eyes down. "I don't know."

"What do you mean you don't know?" Hunter said, her voice cracking, a bolt of nervousness shooting through her, and Smoker pulled her leg out from around Hunter and stood up from the couch. She stumbled for a second before finding her balance.

"I don't know, Hunter."

"Know what?" More desperately than she would have liked.

Smoker buried a hand in her hair. "Maybe we shouldn't have done this."

"But..." Hunter fumbled for something to say. It felt like the ground had given way underneath her. This wasn't supposed to happen. This wasn't how this was supposed to happen. That wasn't what she was supposed to say. "But, but you... you liked it, I saw you, you... I know you did."

"Christ," Smoker said, and she turned and walked into her bedroom, and she shut the door.

Hunter watched her go, and part of her wanted to go and follow her in there, and another part of her was just so exhausted from dealing with her that she didn't even want to think about it, and another part of her still wanted attention because she could remember the noises she made, the look on her face, how it felt to have her hold onto her like that, and even if it wasn't what she thought it would be, even if it was awkward and not really as awesome as she'd thought and difficult and she wasn't entirely happy, it still had happened, and that was something, wasn't it? That was what she wanted.

She'd never felt this conflicted about anything before. Not even when she'd first realized she was in love with her, and somehow that seemed a lot easier than what they had now. Maybe she shouldn't have done something about it after all, maybe she should have just kept it to herself and not done anything about it and maybe she wouldn't feel like this.

God, since when was this so complicated?

---

Hunter couldn't bring herself to go to Smoker's place for a few days after that. She thought about what happened and sometimes it made her happy, and other times she just felt really stupid, and other times she felt mad at Smoker for making it so hard. This wasn't something that should have been hard. It should have been easy for them - they cared about each other, so why wasn't this easy to do?

After a few days spent nursing her wounded ego, eventually she made her way back to Smoker's apartment, not really sure what she was going to say or do once she got there. Would Smoker want to talk about what happened? Hopefully not... Hunter really didn't want to talk about it in detail.

She tapped at her window, and Smoker came over from the living room and let her in. She looked a little worn, like she'd been working at something.

"Hi," Hunter said, not sure of what else she should say. "'Sup?"

"I think we should talk."

Hunter felt a chill come over her at those words.

"About what?"

"You know about what," Smoker said, her tone carefully neutral.

"Last time, huh?"

"Yeah." Smoker looked at her for a little bit, and then she turned and went to go sit on the couch. Hunter hesitated for a few moments before following her, sitting on the opposite end of it than her.

Smoker picked up her pack of cigarettes, pulled one out and lit it before speaking. "Things have gotten weird since this whole..." She gestured with one hand, tracing smoke patterns in the air. "I think we should just call the whole thing off."

"What thing?"

"The whole sex thing." Smoker took a drag and let it out, slowly. "All the kissing and that... I think we should just drop it."

Hunter twisted her hands together. "Why?"

"It's making things weird." Smoker hadn't looked at her at all while they were talking. "I don't like how it's making me feel, or how it's making me act, or any of it. I don't like it."

Hunter picked at the tape around her wrists, and she wanted to say something but her throat felt tight.

"I think it's making things weird between us. And I don't like that either." Smoker took another drag, and then she finally turned and looked at Hunter, and she just looked utterly exhausted. Her shoulders were slumped, and she leaned over her knees. "We're friends, right? Being with you is... easy. Like, I don't have to worry about anything, 'cause you're you, and I know you get me. You're one of the only people I can say that about, and I don't want that to get all mucked up with this sex malarkey." Smoker sighed. "I think we should just back off it, go back to just being friends."

The funny thing was, Hunter had actually been punched in the stomach before, several times in fact, but it didn't feel as bad as this.

"You think it ruins things?" Hunter said, quietly.

"It makes things complicated," Smoker said, and she took a drag of her cigarette. "I don't want weird sex drama getting between us or anything."

"It wouldn't," Hunter mumbled.

"And I told you before... I'm straight." Smoker looked away from her. "I can't do something like this."

"Uh huh."

She blew a cloud of smoke at the ceiling. "So that's my two cents on it." She paused, then looked at Hunter. "What about you? Want to go back to how things were?"

She wanted to say no, but all she could think about was how it felt when she'd finally gotten what she'd wanted. Conflicted and complicated and unhappy and that wasn't what she'd wanted, or thought it'd be like, and maybe Smoker was right, maybe this was something that they couldn't do right. Maybe trying to do it would just make things worse until they broke apart completely.

Hunter looked at her, Smoker staring at her and waiting for her answer, cigarette hanging from her lips, and she felt that warm throb that came with the knowledge that she loved her, and behind it she felt that ache from how having sex with her hadn't been anything like she'd thought it'd be when they'd finally done it, and she still loved her but she wasn't sure what to do about it now. Maybe there wasn't anything she could do.

Hunter looked down at her hands again, picked at the duct tape there.

"Sure, I guess," she said softly.

"Great." Smoker clapped her hands on her knees, and she stood up. "With that out of the way, maybe things can go back to normal." She turned and walked to the kitchen. "You want anything to drink?"

"You got any beer?"

---

For the next two weeks, things did not go exactly back to normal.

Where once Hunter would have touched Smoker without giving it a second thought, now whenever she grazed her while walking past, the two would look at each other and move apart. Where she used to climb onto Smoker's lap and curl up against her while they watched movies, she now sat beside her, her hands in the pouch of her sweater, and Smoker leaning away from her.

They used to sleep together on the couch, and now one of them slept on the floor. When Smoker was asleep in her bed, Hunter kept to the opposite side, as far from her as possible, if she slept over at all.

With increasing physical distance, some other gulf seemed to open up between them. Some delicate, dangerous thing they had to constantly step around, avoid talking about, and it made conversation that should have been casual a minefield of potential dangers.

And somehow neither of them seemed to be in the right place at the right time for them to get drunk together again.

Hunter was a tactile person to begin with. Losing physical contact with Smoker was one of the hardest things she ever had to do. This was different than when Smoker had been avoiding her before... that had the air of something that could be fixed. This didn't, and Hunter felt like she was starving. She wanted to touch her, wanted to get close to her, wanted to hold her just platonically, like before, just be close to her and know she wanted her there but she couldn't. Just like that, somehow it was something they didn't do anymore, something that Smoker avoided and Hunter felt awkward about, and they were supposed to just be friends again. This was supposed to keep them together, but it felt like it was just tearing them further apart.

"I don't get her," Hunter had vented to Jordan one night when she'd asked if she could speak to him alone. "I don't get her, she likes it, I know she does, I know she does but she keeps pushing me away."

After giving it some thought, Jordan said, "Maybe she doesn't want to like it."

Which might have been part of an explanation, but it wasn't a solution.

Further and further apart. Hunter hung out with Jordan and her other friends, spent more time with them but it wasn't the same. She got into a fight and stayed home to take care of her injuries herself, and she felt so lonely afterwards that she almost cried.

She missed her. She missed her so much. How could falling in love with her have driven her so far away?

She was starving for her touch, for contact with her, craving it and wanting it more than anything. She wanted to be strong, to just be friends like Smoker said, but she didn't want to just be friends. She wanted what they used to have, something that was more than friendship and now they didn't have that, and she didn't know if there was a name for it but she wanted it back.

She hadn't curled up with her for a week, hadn't held her as she slept or sat on her back or laid her head on her chest. Smoker was so far away, and they chatted like things were normal but they weren't, they just weren't. Did Smoker feel it? Did she miss it too? Hunter had no idea... she'd always just crawled on top of her before and Smoker had complained, but she didn't know if she'd ever wanted it or not for real. Smoker put up with it, but that could have meant anything. Maybe Smoker didn't miss it, didn't miss being touched, maybe she was happier now that things were like this and that thought cut her deep.

It was late, and they were watching one of their favorite movies together. They'd watched it so many times that they had their own comments and jokes to say to the screen at certain times, and Hunter usually would watch it with her while she was sitting in Smoker's lap, but this time they sat beside one another. Smoker had her arm on the back of the couch, not touching her, and Hunter had her hands in her pouch, and this didn't feel right to her. This was the part where she would usually put her hands over Smoker's eyes, but she couldn't do that from where she was now.

She felt something tugging at her hair, and she looked up and saw Smoker's hand. She turned and looked at her, and Smoker raised an eyebrow.

"You coming over here or what?"

Hunter blinked at her for a second. "What, you mean in your lap?"

"Yeah," Smoker said, and she closed her eyes and shrugged like she didn't care about what they were talking about. "You haven't done it in so long, I've almost forgotten what it feels like."

Hunter didn't need a second invitation, and she clambered onto Smoker in moments. Immediately it all came back to her, how Smoker felt beneath her, how they fit together, how her skin warmed underneath hers and how it felt when Smoker put her arms around her...

No wait, that part was new. Hunter had closed her eyes when she'd laid her head against her chest, and she opened them now. She was right - Smoker had her arms around her, was holding her. She quickly shifted so they were face to face, straddling her and Hunter wrapped her arms around her tightly in return, squeezed Smoker as close to her as she could manage, and she grunted in response.

"Easy, easy," Smoker said, and she took a deep breath.

Hunter wanted to say how much she missed this, how much she missed her, but somehow the words just wouldn't come to her. She leaned back a little, so she could look at Smoker, and she was overcome with this need to touch her, to feel her, to kiss her again and again. She'd missed her so much and she loved her so much it hurt and she still didn't know what to do with that really, but she wanted to do something about it right now. She wanted her so badly, and she was so close to her after being apart for so long and being so lonely, and before she knew what she was doing, she moved forward and kissed her with a fierce desperation that she'd never felt before.

Before she could even think about the fact that she'd done it, that she probably shouldn't have done it because they were supposed to just be friends, she felt Smoker's hands on her face, and Smoker pulling her closer. She barely had time to register the fact that Smoker didn't taste as strongly as cigarettes, that she must have brushed her teeth, before she felt her tongue in her mouth and Smoker was kissing her. Smoker was kissing her, and she was doing it with the same amount of fervent desperation as Hunter had just a moment before.

Hunter was so taken aback by this that at first she didn't know how to react, almost going limp for a second with her eyes shut and Smoker's cold hands on her warming skin, and then she found enough sense to realize that she should probably be kissing her back. Smoker broke away from her for a brief moment, took in a breath that might have been a word, but Hunter cut her off, kissing her again and found that Smoker matched her, held onto her just as tightly. Hunter couldn't think straight, not when something like this was happening, not with these brief patches of ragged breathing, interrupted when their lips would meet again, hard and desperate. She was gasping for breath, her heart racing and pounding in her ears, so thirsty for contact between them that she just couldn't stop, even when Smoker turned her head slightly and she missed and kissed her cheek instead, and she remembered what Smoker had liked before, and she made her way down to her neck.

Smoker was breathing quickly, exhalations becoming wanting cries as Hunter moved lower, and she yanked down Hunter's hood, and then she actually returned the gesture. Hunter stopped for a second, unprepared for her to reciprocate and to be doing it with such determination, and her neck was cold now that it was exposed to the air and she could feel Smoker's lips there, on her skin and she shivered, made a soft pleading sound herself. This was happening, this was actually, this was really happening and it didn't seem real-

They'd set a frantic pace when they'd begun and neither of them seemed inclined to slow now. Hunter bit her, accidentally, too excited to be more careful, and Smoker took in a sharp breath, and then bit her right back, and Hunter almost yelped and felt a wave of goosebumps come over her. So that's what it felt like - no wonder Smoker seemed to like it so much.

"Come on-" Smoker said, in those brief moments when her mouth wasn't occupied, and she was encouraging her, asking her to, just saying it out right and Hunter couldn't think when she was talking like that, when she was kissing her like this. Smoker wanted her, wanted to do this, wanted to do this with her and the thought was maddening- "Come on, come on-"

"Un-" Hunter bit her neck again, almost an instinct when she was driven to this sort of emotional extreme, and she was rewarded with a loud gasp. She pulled away to try and get a look at her face, and Smoker was flushed, as usual whenever she was doing something like this. She didn't have much time to look at her, appreciate her expression before Smoker moved forward and kissed her again, her mouth open. Hunter rose to meet her, held her shoulders and dug her fingers in and she could feel her collarbones beneath her palms, Smoker's hands on her back pulling her closer. Smoker made a muffled sound between them, and she wasn't sure if she was actually trying to say something or if it was another inarticulate noise.

Hunter pulled at Smoker's shirt blindly, yanked at it and Smoker broke their contact, pulled away from her enough to yank her shirt off over her head and throw it to one side without any hesitation. Hunter was back on her in seconds, pulling her bra to one side and kissing her way down her skin, and she felt Smoker tugging at her sweater with a faint "unh" sound.

She wanted it off in return? Well, Hunter wasn't going to complain about that, and she pulled away from her enough to pull it over her head, then without giving it much thought, she took her shirt off right after. Her ears felt a bit hot but it didn't matter, her clothes were off and Smoker's shirt was off, and they were both back to groping and fumbling in a matter of seconds. Hunter went back to what she was doing before, kissing her way down her chest and Smoker's breathing quickened, and she felt her trying to unhook her bra from behind.

She didn't spare a real thought for it, just another obstacle to be taken care of, and Hunter shed her bra and pressed herself up close to Smoker, chest to chest, biting at her throat and Smoker scratched at her back, ran her hands along her sides, her shoulders, up into her hair, the two of them pressed tightly together so there was no space between them, and she could feel Smoker's necklace pressing almost painfully against her chest.

Smoker leaned forward for a moment, clutching at her and Hunter shoved her back against the couch authoritatively, and Smoker did not resist. She leaned back, let her do it, let her settle on top of her and Hunter leaned a little to one side, rolled her hips against Smoker's, and she could just feel it from this angle, from what she was doing, and in her current state that would be enough.

Smoker threw her head back with a cry, louder than she'd ever heard her before, and she heard words through strained sounds. "More, more c'mon-" Hunter grabbed one of Smoker's hands, pushed it between them, and Smoker didn't need the encouragement. She found a place between them, where Hunter moved her hips and it rubbed against them both, and Hunter leaned her head back, her hands now buried in Smoker's hair.

"Unh-" Hunter took in a sharp gasp, her eyes shut, completely lost in what they were doing. She felt Smoker's head near hers, her breath on her skin, so close to her and she was trying to speak over her wordless pleas.

"Fuck yes, yes-" And as she spoke, Hunter found herself moving more quickly against her, against them both, more desperately with every cry she got from her. She wanted this, they wanted this, she wanted her, asking her and "Fuck, Hunter, ah-"

Hunter pressed up close to her, mouth open and her heart pounding and the fact Smoker was saying these things, was doing these things, was obviously just as consumed by it as she was, wanted it as badly as she did, wanted her as badly as she wanted her in return, all of it almost seemed unreal, like this couldn't be happening to her like this, she'd wanted something like this but she never thought she'd do it but it was happening, and how that felt, the overwhelming blinding intensity of it-

"Fuck-" Breathless, her throat tight, her voice high and wanting. "Fuck me-"

She hardly needed the encouragement, but Hunter felt a deep shudder go through her nonetheless. If that's what she wanted, then that's what she would get. She moved faster, harder, tightened her grip on Smoker's hair, kissed her neck when she could but mostly she had to focus on breathing and moving, it was so hard to get enough air all of a sudden, it was so hard to think and breathe and Smoker held her so tightly with one hand against her, making those sounds and begging for more, for her-

There was nothing for a brief moment, everything lost in a wash of heat, a shudder that went through her whole body, accompanied with a shaky cry.

Hunter pressed her head against her shoulder, overwhelmed with a huge flood of emotions that she couldn't identify in her current state, and she felt laughter bubbling out of her and she wasn't sure why. All that tension and worry and stress and doubt gone and she was laughing and she couldn't stop, and she nuzzled her neck, kept moving and soon felt Smoker shudder under her, letting out a gasping cry. Hunter held her close through it, felt the tremors through her skin and the heat, and for once everything was absolutely perfect.

They stilled slowly, Smoker's legs falling back to the ground, tense muscles easing and breathing calming. Hunter couldn't find the strength or motivation to move, and she stayed where she was, tightly pressed against her chest. She could hear Smoker's heart beating so fast, feel it against her cheek, an aura of warmth around them that felt absolutely wonderful. She raised her head to look at Smoker, to see what she was doing. She had her head leaned back against the back of the couch, staring at the ceiling, still breathing hard through her mouth.

"That's what it should be like," Hunter said, eventually, sort of to herself, and she couldn't stop giggling for some reason. "That was awesome."

Smoker pulled her hand free and rested an arm over her eyes, still panting a little. When she spoke, she didn't sound nearly as happy.

"Shit." A bit weak and broken. Hunter blinked, moved a little closer to Smoker.

"What?"

"I don't know what the hell just happened," Smoker said, and she didn't sound as belligerent as she might have normally. Her voice was weak and thin. "I thought... shit."

"Well, we had sex if that helps." Hunter rested her head against Smoker's chest. "In case you missed that part."

"I know that," Smoker snapped, and she was shaking. "I don't know why."

Hunter paused in thought for a second at that. "I dunno... it just happened."

"This isn't supposed to just happen! Not to me! God, I'm supposed to be straight and we just fucked like bunnies- Christ. Christ, what does that make me?"

"Not as straight as you thought, anyway." Hunter would have shrugged, but her current position made that difficult. She was still kind of giggling, which probably wasn't helping. "That's not such a bad thing, huh?"

"Not such-" And Smoker made a frustrated sound under her breath. "Ugh, I don't know why you don't get this- It's kind of a big deal to me, okay?"

"Why?" Smoker was right, Hunter really didn't get why it was such a big deal to her, and she had to admit that she was starting to get annoyed by Smoker constantly balking at something that shouldn't have been a problem. It was starting to get old.

Another frustrated sound, and Smoker tightened her hands into fists. "It's complicated. This shouldn't- I shouldn't be feeling- doing things like this. That's not who I am, this's never happened to me before, just-" She took in a breath. "UGH."

"Well obviously it IS who you are, 'cause you just did it." Hunter poked her in the chest, and Smoker let out an irritated grunt. "Kind of hard to disregard that evidence, huh?"

"Goddamn it." Through clenched teeth. "Goddamn it, why did I do that?" It wasn't entirely clear if she was talking to herself or Hunter.

"'Cause it was awesome, for one thing." Hunter poked her again. Smoker's darkening mood was ruining what should have been some nice afterglow, and she wasn't about to let that happen. She had to redirect her, get her to lighten up a little. "You know it was."

"It's not... ugh, this shouldn't have happened, this isn't..."

"Look, maybe it's not an all-or-nothing thing, you know? So maybe you're bi, big deal. You can still like guys-"

"Ugh!" Frustrated and loud, and that cut Hunter's thought off. "Why can't you- I'm not gay and I'm not bi, I'm straight and I shouldn't be-"

"But you are." Hunter poked her again, trying to redirect her. "Whatever you are, or whatever you want to call it, but you're... this. And you can't change it, so you might as well just as accept it already." A moment. "And you liked it a second ago. I saw that, so I know you did. Can't deny that, can you?"

Smoker took in a long breath through her teeth, and let it out in a strained sigh. She still had her arm over her eyes. "Ugh, I can't... mother of mercy."

There, getting her to shift from normal cursing to weird cursing was usually a good sign, since it meant she was focused enough to be thinking like that, and Hunter nuzzled her head up closer to her.

"See, that's what I thought. Not so weird and awkward now, huh?"

"You have no idea."

She touched Smoker's side, ran her fingers lightly across the ribs she could feel through her skin, and she felt Smoker shiver a little, her legs drawing up just a little bit on instinct.

"Well, I didn't just do it on my own, you know." And she smirked a little to herself. "Not this time, anyway."

"Stop reminding me," Smoker said, oddly fervent and she shook her head. "I can't believe this happened."

"Well, it's too late now." Hunter kept touching her, running her fingers along her skin and watching how she reacted. When she moved them up a little, near her breasts, Smoker's breathing quickened and her back arched just slightly. Just like she thought. "Now what are you going to do?"

"Have a nervous breakdown at this rate." Smoker let out a shuddering breath, and her voice was a bit thin. "Christ on a cracker."

Hunter smiled a bit at that, although she was still a little annoyed that Smoker was freaking out about this again. "You really need to just get over it. It's not a big deal."

"Not a big deal-" Smoker lifted her head and moved her arm finally, and she gave Hunter an incredulous stare. "You just fucked the hell out of me!"

Hunter poked her in the chest, meeting her eyes and speaking very deliberately. "We just fucked the hell out of each other. Not the same thing."

Smoker's face fell, like someone had died and that was not even close to the reaction to that that Hunter had been expecting, and again she put her hands over her face.

"Lord almighty, what is wrong with me." Muffled by her hands, and Hunter flicked her nose.

"There's nothing wrong with you, god. Way to be, you jerk." Smoker moved her hands to glare at her, and Hunter leaned away from her enough to cross her arms. "You're exactly the same."

"I just fucked a woman," Smoker hissed at her.

"And you're still a big stupid shut-in who smokes too much and wears too much flannel." Hunter raised a finger. "I don't see the difference. And besides, you liked it."

"That's the problem," she hissed at her again, and went back to covering her face. "Ugh, how could I have let this happen."

Hunter blinked a little at "let this happen", made a note to give the matter more thought later, and noticed that Smoker was trembling underneath her again. The pleasant mood she'd been in after their intense sexual tryst was dissipating, and she really didn't want to lose that. Bickering with Smoker really wouldn't help her here... she reminded herself yet again that she was supposed to be trying to calm her down, not argue with her, and she decided to change her tack a little. She uncrossed her arms, leaned forward and embraced her again, and Smoker moved her arms out of the way so Hunter could rest her head beneath her chin. She nuzzled against her again, felt Smoker's hands hesitantly rest on her shoulders.

"Look, maybe I'm just your exception." She squeezed her a little, breathed across her skin and got a tiny shiver in response. "You know, that one person you can't resist. That can happen to people. Doesn't mean you can't be mostly straight, right?"

A moment, and Smoker laughed, although it was weak. "You'd like to think people can't resist you is more like it."

"Well yeah, but aside from that." If Smoker was laughing a little, maybe she wasn't freaking out as much, and Hunter kept holding her. She still felt so fragile beneath her hands, particularly when she was shaking like this. "You can be almost straight, how about that?"

"What is wrong with you? You can't..." Smoker said, although her tone was much closer to "that was my soda, what is wrong with you" than anything else. She let out a heavy sigh. "Ugh, this is all your fault."

"Well, yeah." Hunter smiled.

"You ruin everything."

"Uh huh." Still smiling, and Smoker sighed and shook her head. Hunter lifted her head to look up at her. "Man, I've never seen you like that before. You were all over me."

Smoker grimaced somewhat before looking off to one side, and she was still blushing. "I'm not like that, that's the problem. I dunno what happened, one second you were sitting on me and the next, I just had to..." She put a hand over her mouth. "God."

Even though it was obvious that they'd both enjoyed and enthusiastically contributed to what they'd just done, there was still something immensely satisfying about hearing Smoker say out loud that she'd wanted to do something like that. That she wanted her. Hunter really liked how that felt.

"You know, I noticed something..." Hunter kept smiling at her, and Smoker moved her hand from her mouth to her hair, making a faint questioning sound. "You didn't taste as bad as usual."

Smoker shook her head, annoyed and that unamused expression on her face was comfortingly familiar. "You are so bad at this, it's amazing."

"No, I mean... you brushed your teeth, before it happened." Hunter met her eyes, and tilted her head a little. "Like you knew it was going to happen."

Smoker looked away from her. "Maybe you just got lucky," she mumbled, but it was less than convincing, and by her increasingly annoyed expression she knew it. "Tch." She shut her eyes, grimacing again. "This is insane. This is insane- I can't even believe this is happening to me. And with you, of all people. Ugh." She pressed a hand to her forehead. "I must be losing my mind."

"If that's what happens, then you should lose it more often." Hunter grinned at her, reaching out to pull her hand away from her face. She didn't want her to dwell on it, but they teased each other about everything so much that it was hard not to just automatically rely on that. "'Cause damn, girl, that was intense." And she was rewarded with Smoker's blush darkening a little. She grabbed her wrist, waited a few seconds to see how she'd react, and while Smoker steadfastly refused to look at her, she didn't tug her hand free. Hunter pulled her hand away from her face, kept smiling at her and she caught Smoker sneaking a glance at her every now and then.

"Don't look so damn smug," Smoker muttered, her eyes flicking back and forth between Hunter and some invisible thing on the wall that apparently required her intense interest.

"I can't help it." Hunter leaned a little closer to her, her grin widening, and Smoker huffed in irritation. "Not after all that crazy sex with you." And Smoker cursed softly. Hunter let go of her, and she pulled her hand back to rest on Smoker's chest, not quite accidentally close to one of her breasts, and she felt Smoker tense just slightly. She really shouldn't be teasing her this way but it was so hard to resist. "That was waaay better than the first time."

Smoker raised an eyebrow, finally looking back at her, although it was sidelong. "Hmph. That's not much of an accomplishment."

A jab back, and one that she hadn't quite been expecting. "Hey, I did my part," Hunter said, maybe a tiny bit offended in spite of herself. "And I did a really good job, too, thank you. You're the one who kept freaking out."

"I'm still freaking out." She turned to look at her more directly now. "I've been freaking out since this whole thing started. You don't even know." And she was shaking a little, and she hadn't really stopped this entire time. Smoker opened her mouth to say something, apparently thought better of it, lowered her head and put her hand back over her eyes again. She let out a long sigh, seemingly defeated. "I assume not doing this again isn't an option for you?"

"Not if you can't keep your hands to yourself."

"I didn't-" Smoker got a bit flustered at that (and Hunter couldn't help but feel a tinge of triumph. Got you good!), and she would have crossed her arms if Hunter hadn't been blocking the way. "Goddamn it." Distinctly sulky.

"But hey..." Hunter smiled up at her, and Smoker frowned back. "Maybe it's just something that happens between us and there's nothing we can do."

Smoker stared at her, an eyebrow raised, still frowning, and Hunter just kept smiling back at her. Eventually Smoker acceded again, leaning back and shaking her head.

"You are the worst kind of nuisance, you know that?" she said, after a while. "I wouldn't even be thinking about this if it wasn't for you."

"I'm just that special."

"Apparently." With a long-suffering sigh, something Hunter heard a lot. "Goddamn it."

Hunter tightened her grip on her, nuzzled her chest a bit, couldn't resist laughing a little and Smoker ruffled her hair.

"Goddamn it." And there was a definite fond undertone to her voice there.

---

Hunter had assumed that things would get easier from that point on. Surely Smoker's sudden intensity and reciprocation meant she'd accepted the fact she wanted to have sex with Hunter (probably all the time no less!) and she'd stop being weird about it.

But no. Things were never that easy with her, and really Hunter probably should have known that. She'd known her for long enough to know that about her, that she didn't make anything easy.

When Hunter got close to her, Smoker pushed her away. When she sat beside her, she leaned away from her. When she leaned up to kiss her, Smoker tried to duck away from her. That went on for a couple days afterwards, and Hunter couldn't believe she was doing this again. Again! Hadn't they gotten past this phase already? Jesus!

She told Jordan about it (well, not everything because she knew her friends, and she knew telling them about her sexual escapades was a bad idea, so she kind of skirted around it), pacing back and forth and punching the air and just so frustrated she could explode. Why was she doing this, again?

"She still doesn't want to like it," Jordan said, after giving the matter some thought. "You said she was really into you that one time, right?"

"Yeah?"

"Maybe that scared her."

The idea of Smoker being scared of anything was laughable, and even if that was what was going on, that didn't give her a solution either. Jordan seemed to be really good at doing that.

Hunter kept trying, determined not to let that gap open up between them again, and Smoker kept pushing her away, kept trying to keep distance between them, at first with awkward grunts and then as time went on, more familiar griping.

"You're like a barnacle," she said when she shoved her off for the second time. "Can't you sit by yourself for two seconds?"

Gradually, over the course of several days, Smoker stopped trying as actively to get away from her, apparently giving the matter up for loss. While she let Hunter stay beside her, or sit on top of her, she didn't attempt to initiate anything more, and when Hunter tried, Smoker refused and threatened to get up and leave, so Hunter would stop.

As usual, things seemed to come out between them more easily when they were drunk, and Hunter rested her head on Smoker's shoulder.

"Why're you bein' so distant?" she mumbled.

"I tol' you..." Smoker said, and she took a drink. "It freaks me out, okay?"

"I won't hurt you, you know that."

"I'm not used to it. I don't want to be like this."

That kind of hurt, and Hunter frowned. "You're not being anything, you're the same person. You're Smoker all the time."

She closed her eyes. "It's weird. It doesn't feel right."

"It does too." Hunter leaned away and punched her in the arm. "You know it does, I saw you. You're you no matter what so stop being such a wuss."

"I'm not a wuss." Smoker rubbed her arm, wincing a little. "It's just weird."

Hunter leaned forward, grabbed the front of her shirt and kissed her, hard, and Smoker made a muffled surprised sound, and Hunter held her tightly so she couldn't move away, not that she was trying to.

"It's not weird," Hunter said, like kissing her proved it or something. "You just need to get over it."

"It is weird," Smoker mumbled back, her eyes closed. "You don't get it."

Hunter kissed her again, but couldn't manage it for very long since she'd been smoking only an hour earlier and she could still taste it. So she moved clumsily down to her neck again, was rewarded with Smoker leaning her head back with a quiet groan, and she pushed her back against the couch.

"You like it," Hunter said by her ear, and felt her shiver a little underneath her. "Get over it."

"No," Smoker said, sounding more like she wanted to be contrary than anything else, and she didn't try to move away, her head still leaned back so Hunter could get at her throat. "I can't."

"You can." Hunter bit her, and she had to admit it was mostly because she was frustrated, and Smoker hissed sharply through her teeth. "You already did."

Smoker shook her head, but didn't move away. She set her hands on Hunter's shoulders, breathing quickly, and Hunter leaned back for a second to look at her face, to make sure. She looked somewhat pale, her mouth open and their eyes met for a few seconds before Smoker leaned forward, her head hanging.

"Get off me..." Very softly, and Hunter frowned.

"Nuh uh."

"No, seriously, get off me..." Smoker pressed a hand over her mouth. "I feel sick."

Hunter blinked for a moment, not sure whether or not she should believe her, and when she ducked her head down to look beneath her bangs at her face again, she could see that Smoker did look somewhat queasy.

"How many did you have?" she asked, then couldn't resist a smile, despite how frustrated she felt. "Like two?"

"Get off..." Smoker pushed her a little, and Hunter moved off of her to one side, watching her carefully. Smoker lowered herself down slowly onto her side and curled up into a ball, her arms tight around herself. "Fuck you."

Definitely wasn't lying, and her frustration was soon replaced with concern. Hunter shook her head and sighed, and she got up and stumbled her way to the bathroom to get a wastebasket, just in case. Thankfully Smoker didn't end up getting sick after all, although she ended up falling asleep on the floor instead. Hunter watched her drool on the carpet for a little while, brushed some hair out of her face and got her a blanket and a pillow, then fell asleep on the couch herself.

In the morning Smoker didn't remember exactly what happened (and fervently denied that she'd felt nauseous, because she was not a lightweight), but her aversion to physical contact seemed to have lessened a little, which was something. Hunter helped her to bed, turned out her lights, brought her something to drink and some aspirin for her hangover, and left her alone for the rest of the day. She always wanted to be alone after she'd gotten too drunk the night before.

Hunter didn't understand why Smoker was having so many problems with this. She liked it, she knew that. She'd seen it and felt it. She watched her enjoy it, she was there when Smoker was kissing her like she was dying, had pulled off her clothes and gasped out encouragement. She was there, she remembered it. It happened, even if neither of them had talked about it since it had. There was something between them, a spark of sexual attraction that couldn't be denied, but Smoker was trying to anyway. She was fighting against it with all her strength, and Hunter couldn't understand why.

"She thought she was straight," Jordan said, when she asked him about it. "It's gotta be hard for her."

"Why?" Hunter said, this close to punching a wall.

"It's just hard for some people."

Figures that Hunter would have to fall in love with one of those kinds of people.

Hunter kept trying. She wasn't going to let this go. She knew they had something, could have something. Their breakthrough before should have made this easier, but it didn't. For some reason, it didn't.

She kept trying. Smoker gradually let her come closer and closer, slowly letting down her defenses inch by tiny inch, struggling with it all the way.

She kissed her one night, and Smoker didn't push her away. She kept doing it, and Smoker put her arms around her, and Hunter thought this is it, finally she's gotten over it, finally.

Then in the heat of things she forgot to be careful, and when she had Smoker whimpering beneath her, she said something like, "Yeah, you like this, like being under me," and just like that, it was broken. Smoker's eyes snapped open, and she shoved her off with surprising strength. Hunter stared at her from the floor, wide-eyed and confused, and Smoker stood up, buttoning her shirt and furious.

"I told you not to do that," she snarled at her, and then she went into her room and slammed the door.

Goddamn it. She forgot and she couldn't believe it, Smoker had even told her that before and how could she have forgotten, stupid stupid stupid. It took a few days before Smoker would even entertain the idea again, and more before she let Hunter try anything.

She would have hoped that night of wild abandon between the two of them would have meant that some barriers would have come down, that they'd come to some kind of understanding, but no. As it turned out, that lapse in Smoker's self-control was the exception to the rule, and as Hunter found out over the course of several weeks, there were a number of very strict rules that Smoker had in place about this sort of thing. Break one, and Smoker would refuse to continue, no matter how far they'd gone.

Talking down to her was the first one that she discovered, and one that was almost inviolate. The temptation to do so was extremely strong, especially since she could be as dominating as she wanted in her behavior, to a certain extent, and Smoker didn't argue. She could top the hell out of Smoker and Smoker would seem to love it, but the minute she said something about it, if she brought it up, Smoker would get angry at her and leave.

Once or twice, and only once or twice, she'd chanced it and gotten somewhere. She had to be extremely careful about it, and it was a big risk to take, but one time when she'd almost had Smoker to the edge, had her begging her with wordless gasps to keep going, she asked her if she wanted more. And as maddened as she was by being so close but so far, Smoker had breathlessly said yes, yes she did want more and she wanted it now.

But that was all. Pushing her further than that, saying anything to her that reminded her of what she was doing, that she was willingly submitting to her, anything like that turned her off immediately and ended their encounter, no matter how far it had gotten.

Rule number one.

Related to that, Hunter discovered that restraining her in any way was also a bad idea. Since Smoker seemed to like Hunter being authoritative, pushing her down and kissing her fiercely and biting her and all that (never anything to hurt her though, Hunter really couldn't bring herself to do something like that, biting aside), she thought maybe she'd like it if she held her hands down. It turned out that no, no she did not. When she tried, Smoker tugged at her grip for a few seconds, somewhat confused, then tried to twist her hands free and when Hunter didn't let her go, she panicked and began screaming at her to stop it and get off her right now. Hunter immediately backed off (so quickly that she actually fell off the bed), and Smoker glowered at her and told her not to do that, and the mood at that point was so irreparably damaged that they just gave up that time and decided to do something else.

It seemed that while Smoker was willing to relinquish control to Hunter in some ways, in other ways she didn't want it questioned at all. Finding out which was which was a somewhat painful series of trial and error, and since Smoker wouldn't tell her what she liked, only what she disliked, it was a tricky business. Once Hunter decided to try pulling her clothes off halfway so she couldn't move her arms, and while Smoker didn't panic and start screaming at her as before, she clearly did not appreciate it as Hunter had hoped, and her mood only worsened until Hunter finished getting them off her.

Being dominated was definitely something that Smoker did not appreciate outside the right channels, which was a shame because part of what made this so hot for Hunter was the idea that Smoker wanted things this way. But it was something that only happened on Smoker's terms, when Smoker wanted it, how Smoker wanted it, and Hunter had to obey her.

She didn't want to hurt her after all, even if it was very easy to upset her. She wouldn't have thought someone who was so stable and solid outside the bedroom would be so unpredictable and emotional inside, but that was Smoker for you.

She did like making it difficult for people to get close to her.

Smoker did not reciprocate easily, although she would do so if guided in the right mood for it. Hunter was, rightfully so she thought, rather frustrated by this, but even having sex at all with her was a roll of the dice every time. She really would have hoped that sex would be a bit more even-sided, but Smoker still didn't seem convinced that they should even be having sex half the time, acting more like Hunter was just convincing her to try it for the fiftieth time to see if she'd like it than anything else.

And she almost always liked it, if Hunter was on her game, and if nothing else, the noises Smoker would make, the look on her face, that weak neediness that she'd never see on her anywhere else, that was hot as hell. That made it worthwhile because Hunter could always focus on that, always make sure they were doing something that affected both of them, even if she was doing all the work, and how needy and desperate Smoker looked sometimes was enough to keep her going.

While Hunter was (mostly) happy to just accept things the way they'd fallen, as she'd always been rather aggressive (something that had put off more than a few of her exes, as she was about as far from the "submissive Asian girl" they'd been looking for as one could get), she couldn't help but wonder if this was what Smoker really wanted. She'd never really given her a chance to take the lead... Smoker enjoyed following sure, but maybe she'd like leading better if she had the chance, and if she did like it, Hunter was willing to try the other side once or twice. It wouldn't hurt to check, right?

So she decided to experiment one night when Smoker was more in the mood than usual. They'd been reading on her bed, and Hunter leaned over and kissed her neck, and Smoker gave her a look, asked her what she was doing, and when Hunter kept at it, Smoker set her book to one side and shifted down a little without complaint, her eyes closed and her hands near her head. It was really tempting to climb on top of her as she usually did, and it was obvious that was what Smoker expected (wanted?) to happen, and honestly she couldn't quite resist completely. She settled on top of her, and Smoker leaned her head back and made soft sounds in her throat when Hunter was kissing her neck, touching her, and for a moment Hunter forgot her plan entirely when Smoker was this into it.

But eventually she did recall what she'd been intending to try, and when Smoker curled her arms around her shoulders, cursing under her breath as she pulled her closer, Hunter took the opportunity to roll them over. Smoker weighed practically nothing, and she was a good deal stronger than her, so it wasn't very hard to do at all, even though Smoker hadn't expected it in the least.

Once their positions were reversed, Smoker took a few seconds to steady herself, apparently thrown a little off balance by the sudden movement, and Hunter smiled up at her. Smoker blinked back, looking somewhat baffled.

"What?" she said, her voice hoarse, and she coughed into her fist, possibly trying to cover up how she'd been startled. Her eyes narrowed a little. "What are you doing?" A bit wary.

"Just thought I'd change things up a bit." Hunter lay back, deliberately imitating how Smoker had been lying not too long ago, with her hands near her head. Nothing wrong with a little hint, right? Even though it felt weird to lie this way, to be expectant for once. "Come on."

"What do you mean, come on?" Smoker stared down at her, still wary and she tilted her head a little, resting her hands on her knees. And Hunter thought she was being obvious!

"Do something, duh." Hunter jostled her with one knee. "Come on."

Smoker gave her the familiar "what the hell are you doing" look, which seemed kind of out of place for the current situation, and then she looked down, and there was that odd hesitance again. Hunter was starting to get used to seeing that when it came to this kind of thing, but that didn't make it any less weird. It wasn't an emotion that fit her at all, and she still didn't think she should feel that way about this. How many times had they done this, after all?

Smoker looked Hunter over, one of the very few times that she had ever seen her do that (and she didn't deny doing it afterwards either), which made Hunter's skin prickle a little pleasantly, so that was a good sign. Then Smoker turned her head and looked around the room, like she expected someone to burst in shouting "AHA!" at any moment.

"I don't know..." she mumbled, and Hunter almost didn't hear her. Again, there was that look of vague anxiety, unfamiliarity and hesitance in the face of the unknown, and really, that didn't look right for her at all. If there was one thing Hunter didn't like about having sex with her, it was how Smoker looked so anxious at times. She wasn't going to hurt her or anything! There was no good reason for her to look like that (and Jordan's words kept coming to her, about how she didn't want to like it, but that still didn't give her a solution). But the easiest way to ease her fears was to get her thinking about something else, and usually the actual sex was pretty good at that. Hunter beckoned to her with one hand, trying her best to sound encouraging.

"Come on, you can think of something, right? Can't be that hard. We do this all the time."

Smoker looked away from her, a little disappointed and awkward, and she was still mumbling. "Not like this."

"Well that's the point of changing things, you doof. Come on." She kept waving her hand, trying to encourage her, and Smoker had that look on her face where Hunter just knew she was considering leaving, and she had to do something, keep her focused. If she'd known anything about how to be seductive she might have considered doing that, although the likelihood of that working seemed pretty low; she had no idea how to be sexy or flirtatious, and Smoker was about as receptive as a brick wall to that kind of thing anyway. But she had to do something, and she didn't want to grab her and start making out with her (alright, yes she did, but that wasn't the point) - she wanted Smoker to take charge for once. Man, waiting for someone else to act instead of just doing it yourself sucked. She didn't know why Smoker liked it so much. "I'm right here."

Smoker made a frustrated sound under her breath, ran a hand through her hair, frowned at her like she'd asked her a particularly difficult question, and let out a huff of air, blowing some of her bangs from her face. A few tense moments where Hunter really wasn't sure if she was going to leave or not, where she considered grabbing her sleeve just in case she did, and hopefully she didn't look too desperate. Either way, thankfully enough after a few more moments of hesitation, Smoker slowly started to lean down towards her.

"That's it," Hunter said, hoping her encouragement would help her along, and Smoker stopped when she spoke, and Hunter likewise froze (ugh, it was so easy to make mistakes doing this! Why was this so hard with her?). An awkward few seconds of silence that Hunter couldn't stand for long. "Come on." Again trying her best to sound encouraging (and not desperate), and apparently it worked or Smoker hadn't quite changed her mind, since she started moving down towards her again.

Until Smoker's necklace hit her chin. She'd forgotten about Smoker's height this way (usually Hunter would compensate for that herself when she was on top of her), and apparently Smoker had as well. At this rate, she'd probably just kiss her forehead. Smoker looked behind her at her long legs, humphing under her breath in mild irritation.

"Mmm, hold on..." To herself, and Smoker shifted a little bit lower on her, and a few awkward and silent seconds went by as she tried to adjust. Hunter was getting a little tired of waiting, honestly, but rushing her would just piss her off, and she had to be patient. Once they both lined up correctly, Smoker sat up, staring at her as if she was again reconsidering the whole thing. When she decided to lean down again as before, her movements were hesitant and slow, like she was still deciding what she was going to do.

There was an interesting element of anticipation to this Hunter hadn't been expecting, particularly with Smoker's jerky movements. She had no idea what Smoker was planning, what she'd do next, and waiting for her to do something was different than waiting to see how she'd react. So this definitely had its own appeal at times, although it still felt pretty weird to her.

"Wait, wait." Hunter held up a hand when Smoker got a little too close, and she stopped. "Not on the mouth, you taste terrible."

Smoker opened her eyes, blinked for a few seconds, then frowned in irritation. "Your breath isn't all wine and roses either, you know."

"I don't smoke a pack a day," Hunter said, and she would have crossed her arms if Smoker hadn't been hovering over her like that. "Not on the mouth."

"Fine, whatever. Maybe I won't kiss you at all." A bit sourly, and she'd miscalculated as Smoker was sitting up, and she was only a few seconds from getting up and leaving.

"Oh don't be like that. Come on, there are lots of other places, just don't kiss me there. No big deal, okay?" Hunter grabbed her sleeve before she could get away from her, and Smoker looked back at her, visibly considering whether or not she should stay or go. She didn't tug her sleeve free though, which was a good sign. She hadn't given up just yet.

"You're such a pain in the ass," Smoker said eventually, almost sulkily, and Hunter wasn't sure if she wanted or would accept an apology (or if she herself even wanted to give one, it wasn't her fault Smoker tasted terrible, they both knew that) so she just gave her what she hoped was a not-too-pleading look. Apparently that was enough to somewhat intrigue her (after all, it wasn't like that was a common expression for Hunter) judging by how she raised an eyebrow at her, and she hesitated. Hunter kept her grip on her sleeve, and Smoker stared at her and thought it over and over and over for what felt like an eternity, brief glimpses of that awkwardness crossing her face amidst her irritation at Hunter's comment, until finally she set her hands down back on either side of her and began to lean down again.

Her slowness was killing her at this rate; Hunter wanted her to just do her already, but Smoker was dead-set on taking her time. She got close enough to her so that she could feel her breath on her skin, smell the smoke that always clung to her, and that was tantalizing in a way that was really testing her patience, but she stuck to her plan and didn't try to push her forward. Smoker moved agonizingly slowly to the side of her head, perhaps going for her neck. Hunter was more than willing to move out of the way so she could get to her easily, just eager for them to get on with it already.

She could feel Smoker breathing on her, quickly, which was an interesting feeling and definitely not an unpleasant one really, and that was really getting her eager for Smoker to start doing something already, but either Smoker was oblivious or was tormenting her this way on purpose. Hunter waited and waited and it felt like an eternity (fuck patience, seriously), and finally Smoker's lips touched her very lightly, and Hunter let out a satisfied "mmm", more to encourage her to do more than anything else. Finally. Anticipation was fun but really Hunter was finding that she wasn't sure if she had this much self-control.

She kissed her once, lightly, and then again, a little lower, for a few seconds, and then she stopped, just breathing on her again.

"I don't..." Smoker whispered. "This... this isn't working for me." Which was something she said when she genuinely wanted Hunter to stop what she was doing, although this time her voice was shaking a bit more than usual.

"What do you mean?" Hunter said.

"It's not... I don't like it," Smoker said, and she felt her sitting up. "This... it's too muc- it's too weird."

Hunter tilted her head a little, quizzically, and Smoker sat on top of her, her arms crossed, staring at the floor to one side. Her face was red, and she looked very unhappy.

"Too much" she'd almost said, and Hunter had heard that. Still fighting it, or wrestling with it, or couldn't bring herself to go that far on her own. Still, she couldn't help but wonder...

"So what do you want?"

Smoker glanced at her, then returned her gaze to the floor, tightening her grip on her arms. She didn't say anything.

Hunter sat up, looking up at her and trying to meet her eyes, and Smoker refused to look at her. She reached out, rubbed her arm a little, and still Smoker kept her arms crossed, closed off from her. If the situation had been different, she would have teased her about the whole thing, but she knew that would only make her angry (well, angrier) right now, and she didn't want to do that. When it came to sex, she needed a more delicate touch, particularly when Smoker was one wrong step from stomping out of the room and slamming the door. She'd done it before, after all.

But she had an idea, albeit one that might have been a bit risky but not enough to make her think of another. Hunter reached out, like she was going to embrace her, and then again quickly rolled them to one side. Smoker let out a surprised gasp, not prepared for her to do something like that (again), and Hunter straddled her, looking down at her with a confident grin.

"How's this?"

Smoker took in a few quick breaths, still trying to shake off her surprise. "Get off me." And she didn't move away from her, in spite of her frown. Careful little signs that Hunter was getting better at reading, and she kept grinning.

"You sure?" Hunter leaned down a little, slowly, giving her the chance to push her off if she wanted to, and Smoker tilted her head a little away from her, enough so she could look at the ceiling instead of her face. She raised her hands, set them on Hunter's shoulders... and just held onto her. Enough of a non-response to keep going for now, and Hunter slid one hand along her side, feeling for the hem of her shirt, her fingers running along her ribs and the bones of her hip, and she felt her take in a breath, her eyes closing.

Hunter watched her for a few seconds, just to make sure, and Smoker didn't move or say anything... she waited, her hands twisted in the shoulders of her shirt, breathing through her mouth with her eyes closed. Having been on the other side, Hunter had to admire her restraint... she really didn't have the patience for waiting, but maybe Smoker got something out of it that she just didn't. Either way, Hunter definitely knew what to do from this position, and she leaned down, touched her lips to her throat and smiled slightly at how Smoker shivered just a little. After a moment of hesitation, Smoker leaned her head back as she had before with a quiet sound, and Hunter didn't need the invitation.

Maybe when Smoker was more comfortable with herself, with her whole sexuality crisis thing, maybe then she'd be confident enough to take charge and they could try it again, but in the meantime, Hunter was more than willing to lead for her, and Smoker seemed just as willing to let her do so.

But she felt better for having checked, anyway. While it wasn't a rule, it was something she could keep in mind.

Smoker never talked about what they did when they weren't doing it, and somehow it seemed weird to bring it up, so Hunter didn't talk about it either. Which meant discussions about what they should try only came up when they were already halfway into what they were doing, which wasn't the best time for rational discussion.

Hunter asked her once if she wanted to try something else, other than just their hands, like a toy or something, and Smoker nixed that idea immediately.

One time in the midst of things, Hunter whispered to her that she was going to try more than just touching her with her fingers, and Smoker made a whining sound that wasn't exactly a no. But when Hunter tried it, just one finger and very slowly, Smoker jerked and told her no, she didn't want to, to stop and Hunter did as she asked.

She didn't know why it upset her, but asking her would have gotten her as far as not asking her, as she knew Smoker would probably never tell her. Yet another sexual idiosyncrasy, and Smoker sure had a lot of them with her.

Another time, she'd kissed her way down her chest, then down her stomach, and when she moved lower Smoker grabbed her head. She didn't think that was that unusual, since a lot of people tended to grab her head when she went down on them, but Smoker was yanking at her hair, like she was trying to pull her up.

"Don't." Smoker had that weird, nervous look on her face again. Almost like she was scared (which was ridiculous). "Don't, don't do that."

"Why not?" Hunter blinked at her, justifiably confused and Smoker tightened her grip on her hair.

"Just... just don't, okay?"

Smoker wasn't going to explain it, another random taboo that didn't make any sense, and who on earth didn't want someone to go down on them? Hunter was perfectly willing to do it too! She wanted to!

But Smoker apparently didn't want her to, and Hunter complied.

She whittled it down, and there were really only a few things that Smoker felt comfortable enough with her (or herself) to do. And she had to do them the right way, at the right time, or Smoker would push her away and leave.

But once she knew the rules, knew what to avoid, it made it easier for her to find the right time, the right way to have sex with her, to initiate it, to finish it, and the more she did it, the easier and better it got. She knew what things to avoid, what not to say, and that left her more time to focus on what Smoker did want, what she could do and say to her.

And with increasing frequency, her missteps became less common as Hunter grew accustomed to adjusting to Smoker's peculiar rules - as she gained familiarity with her limits, and how far she could push them.

She could tease her, like they usually did, as long as she didn't mention the fact that she was domming her. And Smoker would tease her back, usually, until she got her too distracted to think, which was satisfying on its own merits. And it felt normal, like this was something that they just did, and when it was over, they'd bask in the satisfied glow and Smoker would gripe about the fact it happened, but it was the same meaningless griping she did whenever Hunter was pestering her about something inconsequential.

The place they did it didn't seem to matter to her too much either. The couch was common, the bed on occasion, and when Hunter felt particularly adventurous, she'd push her against a wall and see how far she could go. A few times, Smoker had cautioned her not to get too loud or the neighbors would hear, or get away from the window in case someone saw, but as long as she didn't violate any of the other rules, Smoker let her have her way with her, clinging to her weakly and shuddering as her legs gave out beneath her. Thankfully she'd never weighed very much.

She'd surprised her in the shower once, which had been fun until one of them slipped and dragged the other one down with them. Hunter banged herself up pretty bad in such an enclosed space, and she was sure Smoker would have been more irritated than she was if Hunter hadn't begun laughing so hard when it happened. Smoker had been reluctant to think it was very funny, especially since she'd hit her arm pretty hard on the wall, but eventually she smiled a little at her.

Great idea, she'd chided her, and Hunter shrugged.

It was on rare occasions that she'd catch Smoker in those spaces between when she brushed her teeth and when she'd smoked a cigarette, and it was then that she could kiss her and not want to gag soon after. It didn't happen very often, given Smoker had a raging addiction that really worried her, not that she could do anything about it, but it did sometimes, and she definitely cherished those moments. She so rarely got a chance to do that with her, and in a way it felt more intimate than when they were actually having sex. Most of the time their kisses were clumsy, sort of faltering... neither of them particularly graceful or skilled in that area, but if she could kiss her like that, find those moments, she knew that Smoker would want to have sex with her afterwards. She wouldn't be as intense or as desperate as she was that one time, but there would be an element of mutual interest there that wasn't always there otherwise, and that was important.

She wasn't sure what it was that had inspired Smoker's lapse of self-control, that episode of insane sexual abandon that had led them to this point, but it did not seem to repeat. Smoker stayed reserved, kept to herself, seemingly only indulging Hunter when the mood took her, almost always needing to be convinced to participate.

But there were some exceptions, a few. When Smoker had a bad day at work, when Valentine's Day rolled around, when she had some function or another she had to go to where she had to dress up nice, put on make-up, try to look pretty and fail, she'd come home and see Hunter there, and she'd sit beside her. She'd lean forward on her knees, looking utterly exhausted and spent and sometimes, depending on what had happened to her that day, she'd almost look a little lonely.

She'd look at her, her eyebrows raised, unable to ask her verbally for contact that she desperately wanted, but Hunter knew her well enough, could read her well enough that she didn't have to say anything. At those times, when Smoker needed her, she was there. When she kissed her, Smoker would kiss her back, softly, and when Hunter touched her, she would rise up to her hand and hold onto her in return, quietly calling her name.

It wasn't something she was convincing her to do then, something that Smoker was only doing because she was bored or something. When it was like that, she could feel it. That spark between them that Smoker tried so hard to deny, that connection that she was apparently so afraid of. Smoker wanted her, needed her at those times, wanted to do this with her just as much as she did in return. And Hunter would take her time, whispering to her, teasing her to coax her into responding in kind, nuzzling her every now and then and Smoker would hold onto her, breathing hard, saying her name over and over again instead of cursing like she usually did.

It was never as intense, as desperate as it had been that one time, but the feeling behind it was the same.

One night, when Hunter was curled up in Smoker's arms, listening to her breathing, focusing on the feel of her skin against her cheek, how her body felt against hers, she realized that she'd never actually really told Smoker that she loved her. They'd had sex, sure, but she'd never actually said to her that she loved her.

She'd just assumed that that'd become clear when they actually had sex.

Smoker shifted, snorted a bit in her sleep, coughed and curled her arms in tighter to herself, drawing Hunter closer in the process. Hunter squeezed her lightly in return with a soft sigh.

Surely Smoker knew by now. How could she not? With how Hunter acted, and what they did together... it had to be obvious, right? She had to know, so maybe she didn't have to just tell her outright like that.

And Smoker... it must have been the same thing. The way Smoker acted around her, how she said her name sometimes, how she held her now... she didn't have to say it either. Hunter could tell. Smoker didn't need to tell her anymore than Hunter needed to tell her in return.

The feeling was mutual. With all this, it had to be. Right?

Right.

That was the end of that.