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Giving Up

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Ugh, mirrors. What idiot decided people want to look at themselves when they're working out? The last thing I want to see when I am running on a treadmill is myself, all red-faced, blotchy and dripping with sweat. No makeup, messy hair and pit stains like a taxi driver with no air conditioning.

Oh well, I've already done my time on the elliptical and have less than a half hour left on treadmill. My music dulls the pounding of my feet on the runner, and my thoughts wander.

My reflection really isn't awful, and I'll look damn good in my dress. That would really be the only thing going for me. I could hear them now, all those people subtly judging me and my life or lack thereof. Oh, you're twenty-eight? There's no man in your life? What happened with that boy you dated in college? Oh, still working at the department store? Don't you have a degree? What about kids? I know the market's tough, but what'd you get your degree in?

Is it anybody's fucking business?

At least the hotel was great, probably the greatest one I'd ever stayed in my entire life. I had a king bed all to myself and a new bottle of wine would be delivered every night. Not a bad way to spend a vacation, especially in L.A.

I hate L.A. Everyone's perfectly tanned and beautiful and eats salads and tofu and carries their stupid little dogs around in their purses. Gross. Who would want to be a part of that?

My best friend from elementary through high school, that's who. She moved out here to become an actress but instead met a producer on The Voice, and now he's fixed her a proper life, and he even got her a boob job. And she is getting married this weekend.

The treadmill sighs as I run, and I occasionally look at the TV in the little exercise room, telling myself it was important to keep up with the news of the world. It's always nice to have the gym to yourself so no one has to see you. That's why I'm here at four in the morning.

The door opens and I cringe, sad someone interrupted my solace. I watch the two dudes, the first is a big, hulking man with stupid tribal tattoos all down his arms, peeking out of his gray muscle — which he has plenty of — shirt. The second is a smaller, shorter guy but he looks less like a gym douche. They laugh at something and drop their bags on the mat in the corner of the room.

They haven't acknowledged me which is just fine. I keep running, thinking about what I should do with the rest of my time in L.A., aside from wedding festivities. I don't have much money to buy ridiculous trinkets, and I hate large bodies of water so the ocean is probably a no-go.

I look back at the men and realize who they smaller one is. I've seen every episode of Gossip Girl, and I watched The Covenant probably more times than is healthy. I even managed to buy a copy of Captain America. Sebastian Stan was staying here in my hotel and he was straping on boxing gloves. Well, this would certainly be better to watch than the news program muted in the corner of room. They laugh again and Sebastian jumps around a few times before the other guy holds up his arms with those boxing mats attached to them, and then Sebastian starts.

Thank God running isn't an exercise that requires attention because I'm mezmerized. Muscles contract and arms twist and legs fling and he grunts. The other guy is yelling, and the face I'd come to think of as adorable contorts with his blows.

Sebastian kicks and the other guy nods after several minutes. Mr. Stan is just starting to glisten with sweat and he pulls the neck of his tank up to wipe his face.

I gasp. Perfect abs are rippling above that perfect V of his hips.

Shit, they heard it. I avert my eyes to the TV and keep running, hoping they don't catch on.

A few seconds later, Sebastian's jumping rope as if his life depends on it. His movements are quick and sharp, and he jumps around in a circle. The rope beats the floor precisely and I'm caught up again.

His physique is perfect, the muscles of his legs moving swiftly with every beat. He's facing the mirror now, and his eyes lock with mine.

Panic.

I look at the ceiling and the ground and my bright yellow trainers pounding the black runner. When the sound changes from the slapping of the rope to that of punches being thrown and landed, I look back at the mirror to see them in the same boxing drills.

Those grunts are damn sexy.

The treadmill beeps. I only have ten minutes left, but I want to keep watching the way his body moves. I could slow to a jog for a bit when my run was over. That would be all right.

Sebastian and his trainer continued their boxing drill until I had two minutes left, and then they made their way to the bench waiting for the weight to be added to the barbell. His trainer added on weights while Sebastian leaned back and stretch out along the bench.

His arms reach up to the bar, and my eyes bulge. His arms are perfect and toned and would feel exceptionally wonderful.

I'm not even ashamed.

He begins lifting and I watch transfixed as he moves, easily completing many reps.

The timer beeps on my treadmill, and I slow it to a jogging pace. Goodness, his arms are perfect. I wonder how they'd feel around me. Ugh.

It's been so long since I've been held. Hell, it's been so long since I've been touched. I bet he feels amazing and manly and warm, too. He's something to behold. His fingers wrap around the bar and he lifts effortlessly and I wonder how he smells. Probably not even bad but manly.

I need a man.

I mean, I don't need a man, but I need a man with a body. We just need to be able to use each other for a bit and part as strangers, but I need a man to resolve some aching needs in the core of my body.

Good thing I'm at a wedding. Surely I can find someone to rid me of these ridiculous thoughts.

Sebastian sits up and catches my eyes in the mirror. He winks.

He winked?

Yep, the smirk on his face confirms the wink and I think my cheeks are about to explode there's so much blood in them.

They go back to boxing. I guess that's his favorite workout method, and I enjoy the show. I could be shameless this once with a man I'll never see again in a city I'll never return to. And the grunting!

Does he sound that way with a lover?

Going at least fifteen minutes longer than I need to, I tell myself it's only logical and less creepy to leave now. Stopping my music, I slow the treadmill to a walk and give it two minutes.

Sebastian grunts with his blows and I watch in the mirrors, glad they're there now. Well, this has certainly been a fun morning.

I drag a towel across my ruddy face and stop the machine. Water feels refreshing as it relieves only some of the aches in my body. I'll have to take a long shower.

I walk along the walls so as not to disturb their session, and it pays off. Clearly he didn't mind me ogling this once but it was best to let it go unmentioned.

While waiting for the elevator, I think of all that smooth skin over those defined muscles. I wonder what he smells like and how his skin tastes and if he would be as attentive as I imagine.

Who knows?

The doors slide open and I climb on, thankful to find it vacant.

As the doors are sliding shut, an arm slips between them and they spring back wide.

I know that arm.

Sebastian climbs into the elevator and stands next to me, looking at the ground.

"You were watching me in there."

I don't say anything. I can't.

"It's okay," he said, crooking his lips into a half smile. "I was watching you."

"You were?"

"Ah, you speak. And yes, I was. A man can't let an ass like yours go unnoticed."

"Oh, thanks?"

"You're shy now? I was hoping you wouldn't be."

"Oh?"

"What are you doing here?"

"Riding the elevator."

"No, I meant in L.A."

"Friend's wedding. Bachelorette party's tonight."

"And will that be a good time?"

"Well, we are going to karaoke, so probably not."

"That sounds dreadful."

"I'm sure it will be," I laugh. He smiles again and I'm dying. He's too cute and adorable and strong and manly and yes, he smells amazing, sweat and all.

"Well, if you get back early and you are looking for something truly fun, come to room 496."

Is he saying what I think he's saying? That smirk is back and he's leaning in towards me. Yes, he's saying it.

"Okay, I might do that."

"I noticed you have excellent endurance," he says lowly, his face centimeters from my ear. "I'm interested to know if that's an anytime thing or only in the gym. You also seem to have a lot of tension. I can think of a few ways to help with that."

The look he gives me turns the full ache in my core to a full blown flame, and he expects me to get out of this elevator and function like a normal person?

He pushes a button and the doors slide open. Kissing my cheek, he says, "that's 496."

496. Like I could forget it.

"And we're still on the first floor," he says, "you never pushed the button."

He winks again and ducks out of the way.

I think I've just been invited for a night if adult activity with Sebastian Stan.

I won't go.

 

The rest of the day goes by so slowly. It's manicures and pedicures for the bridal party, lunch, an afternoon at the spa and then it's time for the bachelorette party.

All dressed up, the five attendants, her mother, grandmothers and cousins eat salads and tuna at a suave restaurant before walking to the karaoke bar. All the other bridesmaids are engaged, married or in committed relationships, and I spend the first two hours hearing all about their brothers and cousins and coworkers and friends. You'd be so good together, I can see it now. He's been divorced twice, but the third time is a charm. You seem so normal. Why haven't you found a man?

This evening is as painful as I thought it would be. None of us can carry a tune and I'm pretty sure there's not enough alcohol in this place to even get me buzzed. It's the worst.

So to pass the painful hours, I think of Sebastian. I bet he's warm and hard yet soft at the same time. I think he would make sure my needs were met before he took care of his own, at least I think he would.

No, I won't go because the dreams are better than the reality. But I bet reality wouldn't be bad either. I shrug and take another sip of my pathetic margarita.

Finally at 11:30, she's decided she's had enough and the limo takes us back to the hotel.

I see her safely to her hotel room and make sure she can get out of her shoes safely, and she laughs loudly the whole time. I think she's beginning to feel the weight and responsibility of marriage and it's made her loopy.

Closing my hotel door, I look around the huge room. The bottle of wine sits in the chiller, there's probably nothing on TV, and it's not that late.

With all the comments I've already heard and all I will hear tomorrow, maybe one night for myself wouldn't be so bad.

I throw a change of clothes and the bottle of wine in my backpack and trade my heels for sandals. If we both know what this is, there's no need to be proper.

I check the hall before I leave to make sure no one from the wedding will catch me, and I run quickly to stairwell. I'm less likely to get caught sneaking around this way. Two flights of stairs to talk myself out of it but I find my hand pulling open the door to the fourth floor and I'm thinking I should have drunk the wine before coming here.

If I turn back now, I won't go at all.

It's just one night of carefree, tension-relieving fun with a consenting adult. Everyone at weddings is supposed to have sex anyway, right? Don't the groomsmen all place bets on the bridesmaids and make their moves accordingly?

Let me say I have met the groomsmen and no thank you.

Sebastian is definitely more attractive and from what I can tell a much, much better kisser than any of them.

I round the corner and find 496 at the very end of the hall. It must be a fancy room.

You can do this. You want to do this.

I knock lightly on the door, suddenly worried perhaps he's already gone to bed or found someone else.

My brain is conflicted between running or knocking again when I hear the chain slide from the lock and the latch clicks open.

"Ah, you made it," Sebastian grins. I should probably wipe the drool I imagine has run down my chin because he's only wearing a pair of jeans hung so low on his hips... "I was beginning to think you wouldn't come."

"I was hoping you would help with that."

Hot damn, did I just say that?

He laughs and nods his head, looking at me like I've surprised him. I've surprised myself, to be honest.

"Well, come on in, Miss Bachelorette." He swings the door wide and waves his arm in admittance. I smile to myself, proud I've maintained his interest as I leave the empty hall behind me.

I am going to sleep with Sebastian Stan.

Chapter Text

His hotel room is a lot nicer than mine and I can see the green side of L.A. stretching for miles.

"Is that an overnight bag?" he asks, pointing to it hanging from my wrist. "I don’t know that I was planni—"

"Relax. It’s just a change of clothes because I can’t be seen by anybody from the wedding wearing tonight’s outfit. They’ll all tell each other and make suppositions and talk about the slut from Oklahoma."

"You’re sleeping with one man," he says, "does that make you a slut?"

"I’m not one for names and titles, but they’ll say if I’m willing to sleep with you I’ll sleep with anyone. Like it’s any of their business what I do with my body and who I choose to do it with."

"Fair enough," he says. "One more thing, are you clean?"

"I took a shower this afternoon."

"No, I meant do you have any diseases." He laughs and I brush my bangs with fingers.

"Yeah, I’m clean. Are you?"

"Yes," he says. "Now that we’ve gotten all the details out of the way, what can I call you? You can make something up if you’d like."

I could make something up. That could be fun to really be someone else, but if there’s a chance he’ll say my name while things are happening, maybe I’d rather have that as a memory to cling to later when I’m back at my real life. But a fake name could give me courage.

"Bette."

"Bette," he considers, holding out his hand to me. "That’s pretty."

"Thank you," I say. "Sebastian."

He grins. “Did you have anything in particular to do?”

"Just the sex. It’d be nice to skip my workout tomorrow."

"So you want to be thoroughly sexed then?"

"Please."

"You’ve come to the right place." Our fingers entertwine and he kisses my knuckles. My heart’s racing already as he looks at me, his lips all pouty and perfect.

One night to make it worth it.

I rake my bottom lip through my teeth and suddenly feel very exposed. I’ve never done this before and I’m not feeling very confident.

"Is this one of those no kissing things? I mean, like does that make it too personal?"

"Too personal?" Sebastian laughs. "I don’t think you can get any more personal than having sex with someone."

"Right. Yes."

"Listen, if you’re having second thoughts, nothing has to happen. You can leave right now or when you feel you need to. I don’t want you to do something you’ll regret."

"Regret, no."

"Oh, uh, birth control?"

"Yes, I had a cyst burst when I was 17. Very unfun, that was."

"Yikes," he says. "Everything all right now?"

I nod. This isn’t personal.

"Something to drink?"

"Please."

I pull the wine out of my bag and stick it on the table. He grins. “Is that how much you thought it would take to endure this night?”

"It came with the room," I say.

"Well, then," he says, "I have beer but this is a good blend. Let’s not waste it. Sit."

I do, landing softly on the couch.

"You’re too stiff," he says, pulling two wine glasses from the bar. "Relax. Make yourself comfortable. I don’t bite — unless you want me to."

I laugh. I am too strung up. I kick off my sandals and relax into the couch, sinking into its deep and feathery cushions. He passes me a cup of wine before sitting on the other side of the couch, one leg bent beneath him and his arm along the back.

"So, Bette," he says, "tell me about your friend that’s tying the knot."

I sip. He’s right — this is a good blend. “Um, her name is Sarah, we were best friends all through school.”

"That’s nice," he says, taking a big gulp of his wine. Maybe he’s rethinking this or doesn’t think I’m as enticing as I was this morning. I take a bigger drink. I could leave. He raises his eyebrows at me like he wants me to continue.

"She moved out here after college to be an actress, but she’s not as talented as you so she only landed commercials." That dimple on his chin is adorable. I want to lick it. "And nine months ago, she met Bart. He’s charming and funny and rich, and he can provide her with the life she desires. So, they’re getting married."

"Is she as beautiful as you?"

"More so," I laugh, never really considering myself particularly beautiful. I am quite average, and I mean that seriously, not like the unknowing heroine in a romance novel. You take off my glasses and nothing changes except the fact I can’t see. Nothing about me is spectacular. Plain brown hair, nondescript brown eyes. My bottom row of teeth are beyond saving by orthodonction and everything else is standard at best. "She’s like five-foot-eleven and tan and glowing and green eyed and perfect toothed, and he’s fixed her boobs so now they’re even huge and perfect."

"I’ve had tall and blonde and big boobed before, and it’s not everything."

"True as that may be, I’m the ugly duckling of the group."

I look up at the ceiling, embarrassment flooding over me that I’ve told him all of this. He didn’t want to know about me. He just wanted to sleep with me and send me on my way.

"Bette." He slides his hand on mine. "I chose you. I think we can both agree I am an attractive human being. Don’t discount my tastes by writing yourself off. I won’t stand for it."

I nod and sip. Well, now I’m not sure what I’m feeling. A bit of shame, a bit flattered really and quite a bit turned on.

"Tell me about the wedding."

"It’s at a vineyard," I begin. He turns and sets his cup on the table beside the couch. "They’ve brought in a string quartet for the ceremony and hired a band for the reception." He starts walking his fingers slowly from my fingers to my wrist. It’s horribly distracting. "The colors are a deep plum and champagne, and our dresses alternate between the two but none of them are the exact same style because the straps are convertible." His hand is now lightly tracing lines up and down my arm. It feels really nice and sends prickles along my spine and up my neck. "Everything looks gorgeous from the plans I’ve seen, but she hired a professional coordinator." He’s scooted closer and has replaced his fingers with his lips. Heat radiates off him and I want to reach out and touch his chest but I’m afraid it would burn my fingers. He smells even better than he did this morning. "She’s invited 250 people, and I think all but four of them are supposed to be there. She’s got a beautiful service planned and oh!"

He’s kissing my neck. Hot damn, he’s kissing my neck!

"You can stop talking now if you’d like," he says, his hot breath flushing across my skin. "I just needed you distracted."

"Yes."

He moves up to my ear and I do it. I touch his perfectly muscled chest and it feels splendid under my palm. His lips trail from my ear along my jaw, and then his forehead rests against mine.

"Yes?"

"Yes."

He grins as he leans in and kisses me once. It’s gentle and polite and his lips are perfect and warm and just wet enough. I laugh because I want more and I kiss him again. Soon our heads are tilted at the perfect angles and I am full on making out with Sebastian Stan. He takes my glass from me and I suppose he sets it on the table behind me. This conveniently has me on my back while he’s leaning over me, and there’s an awkward moment where he lifts off me so I can straighten my legs. He laughs as he settles back down and kisses my neck. I take the chance to get familiar with his muscled back, running my hands over his skin. I had forgotten how nice it can be just to kiss someone. And it’s especially nice when that someone is as fit as he is.

I curl my fingers in his soft hair and wrap my legs around his hips. I feel him grin as he brushes his nose against my collar bone, covering me with gooseflesh.

"How do we get you out of this dress?"

"Unzips down the front."

Sebastian pops up on his hands and looks down at my body. “What a nice surprise! I would ask if you had planned this but my guess is this is one of three dresses you brought with you for your time in L.A. Is that correct?”

"Yes," I say. "One of two, actually, aside from the bridesmaid’s dress."

"Well I like this one," he grins. "It’s convenient."

"Easy access," I laugh.

"Indeed," he says, sitting back on his heels between my legs. "Can I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"How many times have you gotten off at one time?"

"By myself or with a man?"

His eyes widen and his brows raise. I watch as he taps his fingers against his chin while he stares at the wall. “Both.”

"Just once," I say, "with a man. And I think maybe three times with my best toys."

"Just once? How many men have you been with?"

"Four?" I say it as a question because I’m not sure if that’s a success story or something to be embarrassed by.

"And none of them could get you off more than once?"

"I don’t think they really cared."

"And how long were you with the one you were with the longest?"

"Over a year."

His eyes nearly fall out of his head and he’s laughing so hard I can feel the couch move. “You mean you were with the same dumb fuck for over a year and he couldn’t figure out how to get you off more than once at a time?”

I shook my head. Dumb fuck was the most appropriate description of that asshole anyone had ever given, and Sebastian didn’t even know him.

"Did you ever fake it?"

"Loads."

"Why?"

"I guess so it would be over with."

"No, you should have told them they were all terrible and left them in their shame of not even attempting to understand how a lady’s body works. You all deserved to be treasured and touched and treated like the gems you are."

This is rich coming from a man who invited a lady for a one night stand.

"Sure."

"Well, Bette, I’d like to say you’re in for a treat."

He leans over me and kisses me again. I open my mouth to taste his tongue, and the wine has a better blend on him than it did in the glass. His hands skim across my body, featherlight touches that set my skin on fire. If this is only a hint of things to come, I really am in for a treat.

I’m not even naked yet.

He kisses back down my neck, and I feel his hot breath blazing over my skin at the top of my dress. He kisses it once and looks at me through his long eyelashes. “Let’s see what we have here.”

He captures the zipper between his teeth and slowly slides it open, all the way to the bottom. I think I should feel nervous but I’m not. It is what it is.

"Dumb fucks." He mutters the words, looking down my body. "They didn’t care enough to figure out how this beautiful thing works?"

"Good Lord, were you a male escort who learned all the right things to say?"

"Have men really treated you so badly you don’t know how to take a complement? Don’t answer that! I will do my best to change your mind."

I shrug and roll my eyes.

"Oh, believe me." He says. "I will do my best. These appendix scars?"

"Appendectomy scars, but yes," I nod as he runs his fingers over the three little bumps on my right side. He bends over and kisses each one lightly, his hands on the outsides of my hips. "At least that will never bother you again."

I laugh and toss one arm over my head, excited to see what he’ll do next. It surprises me when his big beautiful lips land on mine and then we’re back to good ol’ fashioned kissing.

I could kiss him for hours, and I think I might get to at this point. I lick the dimple, and it’s perfect and wonderful and he doesn’t even care. He laughs and looks at me.

"I’ve been wanting to do that since I came in."

"I’m glad you got to," he said. "To be honest with you, I’ve never had anybody do that so that was fun."

"Well, at least we know there’s no pressure here."

"You’re right," he said. "I’m going to kiss you now."

"I’d like that."

"I know."

I lose track of time while we kiss. It could be minutes or it could be hours, but I know it is probably the highlight of my entire life. His chest feels so great against my skin and his hands skim over my abdomen so wonderfully. A true gentleman.

I sigh when his large hand finally slides up to my rib cage, his thumb resting right at the edge of my bra. The proximity alone makes my cheeks heat and the growing need that hadn’t really faded from this morning after my long shower starts to spread again.

I’m beginning to think all women deserve the chance to sleep with Sebastian Stan if this is how it feels.

"Strapless, huh?"

His lips are against my collar bone and my fingers are in his hair and he smells like newsprint and leather.

"Goes with the dress."

"I think they both go to the floor," he hums, pulling at the top of the right cup. I gasp because it was much colder in the room than I realized, and my nipple seems much harder than I thought it could be. It doesn’t stay cold for long though because he’s there, kissing and licking and nipping.

I would tell him how nice it feels but my brain has turned to mush and all I can get out is a pathetic and unsexy, “Ughhh.”

He slides my bra down and tends to the other side, and it’s all I can do to not melt into the cushion completely. His hands are so large and calloused, probably from his boxing and weapon fighting, but he knows just how to knead my breasts perfectly. No guy ever spent more than a few minutes with my chest, but he acts like he can kiss them for hours, and he seems rather pleased with himself.

"I meant it when I said floor," he says, pushing himself onto his hands by my neck. "We’re rolling."

A few seconds later, he’s flat on the couch and I’m laying on him, my abdomen against his. We’re kissing again, this time a lot more sloppy and a lot less gentle. He helps me slide the straps of my dress off and tosses it somewhere. My bra is gone too, and I moan when he wraps an arm around my waist and pulls me down against him, his hand scorching my side.

My head feels a billion times better when Sebastian pulls the sparkly purple hair tie from it and my hair brushes my back and shoulders as it falls. I bend my knees so I’m straddling him, my thighs on his. Kissing that beautiful neck of his earns me a groan and I make my way down his sculpted chest.

This is the best night of my life.

I shriek when he grabs both my bum cheeks in his hands and pulls me so I’m straddling right across his dick tenting his jeans. I gasp as he pushes on my ass and I rock into it again, but it doesn’t take me long to figure out a rhythm. He keeps one hand on my rear and the other in my hair.

It’s frantic and passionate and wonderful and he’s so hot.

He grabs my arms and flings me backwards, and he’s on top of me again, kissing my neck. Clutching onto his hair, I gasp as he kisses my breast, sparking nerves along my spine.

"You know you make your own sounds?"

"What?"

"Most women," he says, resting his chin between my breasts, "make sounds like they hear in the movies or porn. Not you."

He circles my nipple with his finger and I gasp again.

"See!" He grins. "Let’s see what other noises you can make."

His hand cascades down my chest, across my abdomen and straight into my panties. Grappling with his arm, I struggle against his fingers, not even sure the last time someone had touched me.

"Did that surprise you?"

I nod, feeling my chest heave as I try to catch my breath. He grins like he’s so satisfied with himself and he kisses me, all tongue and teeth. Nibbling on my ear, he asks, “How turned on are you right now?”

"Very."

"You feel that way to me," he purrs, sliding his fingers along my labia. I wrap my legs around his hips to keep myself anchored as he strokes my clit with the right amount of pressure. I feel it building within me, and I grab his hair. His eyes lock with mine and he raises his eyebrows expectantly.

What the hell is it with this guy triggering responses with his face?

That’s exactly what happens. I think I cry out, clutching onto him as my body clamps up for an instant before turning into jelly. As far as orgasms go, this one is excellent.

I open my eyes and he’s smiling. “Thank you.”

"You’re thanking me?" He says, "Oh, Bette! I’m just getting started."

I can’t imagine what that means but I can imagine I don’t care. I pull his lips to mine and tug on his beautiful hair. His finger starts to circle my clit again, and I buck against his palm. He’s so good at it I ignore the little bit of pain because everything’s so sensitive after the first one. The pain quickly dissipates though and I fall under his spell. I groan as he slides a finger in me, crooking it upward as he slides it in and out.

Am I to get two before he even gets one? What a rare gem of a man!

It doesn’t take long this time, and before I know it, I’m clutching onto his back as my body shakes beneath him. Another fantastic orgasm!

"Do you need anything?" He asks, brushing hair out of my face gently with his thumb.

In this moment, I am completely happy and well sated. I feel like I could climb Everest or run the entirety of the Great Wall. I giggle as I drag my finger from his lip down the dimple of his chin. “Just you.”

He grins. “Who would have known an early morning workout would be so profitable?”

"Indeed."

We kiss for awhile again, and his hand slides to my rear. Hitting his hard cock again, I pull away.

"What about you?"

"What about me?"

I brush my hips against his and his eyes close at the sensation.

"What about you?"

"All in good time, my dear," he says, "I always get mine."

"You just feel really nice."

"As do you," he says, tweaking my boob. "Come on."

He helps me off the couch and I feel like a brazen whore as I don’t even go to cover my bare chest but walk hand-in-hand with him. After a recent viewing of The Wolf of Wall Street, I always thought it was weird how women just walked around naked and exposed, but somehow in the moment I don’t mind.

He loops his arms around me and kisses me again as we stand by the end of the hotel bed. I slide my hands across his back and slip my fingers in the band of his jeans. He moans and I’m happy to find he’s gone commando for our evening. My palms are full of firm ass cheeks, and it’s glorious.

I pull him around as I fall onto the bed, but he stops himself from falling over. Instead he grabs my thighs and pulls me to the edge. Kneeling, he kisses the inside of my ankle while I watch those big eyes of his.

Is he going to do what I think he’s going to do?

He is! He kisses up my leg, places one kiss on my cotton covered mound and slides his fingers in the band of my panties.

Holy hole in a donut, Batman!

Sebastian slips my underwear down my legs slowly, his finger tips brushing every bit of my skin and leaving fire in their wake.

"I didn’t peg you for a Brazillian kind of girl."

"I’m not," I say, "Bart paid for all the spa treatments we could ever want and I dumbly decided when in L.A., do as the L.A.-ans do."

"I don’t hate it," he says, rubbing his hands together. I stare up at the ceiling and just wait. The last time a guy tried this, I faked it because it hurt so bad. I think he was using his teeth too much and it didn’t feel very affectionate. Guys always expect girls to give it but they never want to reciprocate.

He’s kissing around my thighs and hips, the stubble from not shaving just enough to prickle my skin.

I hear him snicker as he runs a hand from my belly button towards my vagina, and I prop myself on my elbows to see him.

"That’s a comforting sound when you’re between my legs."

"Did you know you’ve got two little cafe au lait birthmarks just here?" He pokes a spot on my mons.

"I did know that," I say, "my gynecologist found them my very first visit."

"They’re kind of adorable," he says, massaging the marks.

"How’d you know they’re called cafe au laiiii—" I shriek because he’s just done it! He’s just licked from the bottom to the top and it didn’t hurt at all. The lick sends shivers through my whole body and my legs spring up so my feet are on the edge of the bed.

He says something I don’t understand and I gawk at him. “Are you speaking Romanian to my lady bits?”

He grins as he looks up at me. “Sometimes when I partake in a primal act, my primal tongue comes out.”

"You and your primal tongue and can do or say whatever you want to me. You could call me the most insulting thing to a woman and I would never know."

"Ah, now," he says, licking those big lips of his, "minunat." He kisses my right hip bone. "That means lovely. And frumoase," his lips graze my left hip, "means beautiful. Any word for you would be only the good ones."

I still wonder about the male escort thing.

He tugs on my hips and I refrain from holding myself up any longer, and then he’s at it again. He licks and sucks my clit into his warm mouth.

I don’t know how he’s managing to breathe because I feel like he never pulls away, constantly moving his mouth. It felt like he had a long tongue when we were kissing, but having it inside me now, I knew it was indeed one of the longest tongues a man has ever been blessed with, and it was driving me insane.

Sebastian kept one hand on my thigh to keep me from pushing him away like my body wanted me to, and the other slid up to my breast, grasping it firmly.

Another unsexy cry from me, my abdomen heaving and my toes curling with the force of the magic he’s working on my body, I manage to get one hand in his hair. Tugging on it helps a little, relieving some of the tension, but he enjoys it because he purrs against my skin. I cover his hand on my breast with my other, and he slides his finger between mine.

I no longer have control of my body as my hips have been writhing the last few minutes and now my back is arched so much only my ass and shoulders are touching the bed.

I think the noises coming out of me are certainly unflattering and probably ungodly, but I don’t know what else to do. When he drags his teeth gently across that little nub of nerves, I lose it.

"Sebastian!"

I open my eyes eventually and there are little golden dots that dissolve into black spots as they fall. I guess that was a superb orgasm, but I should probably tell my optometrist about the falling spots. Parts of me are still twitching and I can only laugh.

I roll my head to see Sebastian on his side next to me, watching bemusedly.

"Something funny?"

"It’s just it’s never felt that way," I say, "I’ve never felt this way."

"And when we part," he says, "don’t stay with a man who doesn’t do this this for you."

If I could fall in love with a man in three seconds, I think that would have done it.

I grin as I wrap my arms around his neck. His lips are warm and soft and his tongue is as talented as ever. He rolls on top of me so I spread my legs as he settles.

I spent time as a teenager just making out with a guy for minutes on end, and the boyfriend before dumb fuck had enjoyed kissing. But Sebastian. Sebastian is a beast whose lips and teeth and tongue can’t be tamed. He doesn’t fight me when I unbutton his jeans and slide down the zipper. I push the denim down his butt and thighs, and he manages to get out of them. Instead of just plunging in like I expect him to, he waits, just rocking against my clit.

"How’s your balance?" He asks, pulling his lips away from my neck.

"Fine, I suppose."

"Do you trust me?" He asks, sitting back on his heels. It’s the first time I actively look at his cock and the stomach churns with the possible thrill. He is incredibly gifted in many areas, the pants department being one.

"Yes?"

"On your knees, please."

I’m not one for any type of bondage and doms and subs, but he’s already made it very clear he knows what he’s doing and he did say please. I roll over and scoot to my knees, bracing myself on my palms.

Surely he’s not thinking anal as I’m nowhere ready for that nor have I ever tried it. I’d rather not have my butthole fall out.

I feel the heat off of him before anything else as he crawls between my legs. His hands run over my back all the way to my bum cheeks before he slides them to my hips.

I cry out as he slides slowly inside, so slowly I can feel every millimeter of him. He grabs a handful of my hair and tugs so I am up against his chest, and then he moves with a hand against my waist to keep me steady. He moves slowly at first, kissing me and caressing my abdomen.

He gets a bit faster and frantic and I’m gasping with every thrust, being stretched so fully and hit so perfectly. I reach for his hair and tighten my fingers in it as he kisses my neck, and I’m very aware of the sound his body makes as it slaps mine.

I feel it happening again, like my body will snap any second and I’ll probably pass out this time.

But he lowers his hips and I whine at being denied that resplendent feeling. He’s panting and sweat covers his forehead and chest; I imagine I look about four times as thoroughly fucked as he does. He crawls on his knees to the pillows and lays on his back. I want to kiss him again so I crawl over him, straddle his hips and kiss him.

He goes along with it, sliding his arm to my back and the other hand ends up in my hair. He does the thing again where he grabs my ass in both hands and slides me up to his dick, and this time I let him slip inside. We both moan and I grip his shoulders as I move. His gray eyes close and I kiss his chest. He keeps his hands on my hips until he slides one down to my clit and massages it.

Digging my nails into his chest, my head falls to his shoulder as another orgasm hits. I feel him laughing and I shake my head at him as I straighten.

"It feels amazing when you’re throbbing like that," he says, "we should make that happen again."

"You’re welcome to try, stiff."

He quirks an eyebrow and runs his tongue along his top teeth.

"Do or do not," he says, "there is no try."

I laugh as he flips me over, still buried inside me. He hikes my knees up to my chest and holds my ankles, and I grip onto the pillows as he starts pounding into me.

Endurance, this one.

He knows just how to roll his hips, and my clit and his fingers are already so well acquainted I just take everything in as he starts rubbing it again.

Am I breathing? I don’t know if I am remembering to breathe so I gasp which somehow does it. The human body is an incredible thing. I cry out his name, and I reel through space and time.

"How does a dumb fuck not realize you were faking it?" He asks, kissing my right ankle before setting my foot on the bed. "I can feel every spasm, every clenching pull, even the little rush of wetness. It’s incredible!"

I’m holding my forehead, making sure I’m still on earth, and trying to take deep breaths to slow my chest from heaving.

"I’ve never come so many times in one bout in such a frantic and fulfilling state before. I swear you went to school or something."

"Thank you," he says, lowering himself so his chest is against mine. He brushes his fingers over my face and kisses me. It’s slow and lovely and he laces his fingers with mine. His lips depart for my neck and I wrap my legs around his hips. He moves again and I’m lost.

It’s all too much. The heat, the constant and delightful push and pull, his hips, his skin, his sweat, his breaths, his lips.

I clutch onto his back as my orgasm leaves me breathless and shaking, and then I feel him speed up, his hand squeezing my breast.

I open my eyes and run my fingers through his hair, watching his lovely face. Of course he looks a mess but he still looks the most handsome as I’ve ever seen him. His eyes close, his jaw drops and his nose scrutches, and I feel it all around me when his orgasm takes control. A few more thrusts and he opens his eyes, grinning like the smug bastard he is.

"Thank you," I say. "This has been a most fun evening."

He kisses me once before shifting his hips so he’s out. He rolls over and takes my hand in his. “Thank you for giving me the privilege.”

I let my legs drop and see my thighs shake. “I had every intention of leaving when we were finished but I think you’ll have to call the front desk and have them wheel me back to my room.”

He laughs and kisses my cheek. “You can stay.”

I kiss his palm beneath the joint of his thumb, and then I settle into bed with Sebastian Stan.

When I wake, it takes me a few seconds to remember where I am, and I blink as morning sunlight peeks through the blinds. Sebastian is asleep next to me with his arm across my hips, and I manage to slide out from under it without waking him.

Where is my bag?

My body aches more this morning than it did after I ran a half marathon, but I wouldn’t change that.

"Leaving so soon?"

I look over my shoulder, and he’s gazing at me sleepily with only one eye open.

"I need to take a shower and stuff," I say.

He reaches for my hand and kisses my finger tips. “Take one here. I’ll join you.”

I should say no but my body says yes, and he’s sliding out of the sheets beside me.

Sarah kisses my cheek as I hug her neck. She looks beautiful and I believe she’s perfectly happy in her new marriage.

"I wish you the very best," I say.

"Thank you," she says, "I love you so much, Bette."

I’ve helped her change out of her wedding dress and into her going-away dress, and this is probably the last minute I’ll ever have truly alone with my childhood friend.

"I love you, too. Take care and get lots of potassium."

She giggles as she hugs me again. “I don’t know what happened to you overnight, but you can’t get that smile off your face. It really is beautiful, Bette. I want you to be happy, like I am, whatever that means for you.”

I laugh, knowing I’ll never see Sebastian again but I do know I will seek better for myself. It’s what I deserve at the very least. I follow her back out if the bridal suite and to the hall where Bart is waiting. He thanks me and kisses my cheek, and now it’s time for their grand exit. I go back to the front steps of the house at the vineyard where everyone is waiting, and a few minutes later the happy couple emerges.

We light the way with sparklers and they climb in the back of the limo. People begin to disperse shortly after they leave and I notice a guest not on the list.

"What are you doing here?" I ask, lifting my skirt a bit as I walk. Sebastian grins as I cross the cobblestone driveway.

"I figured I’m in L.A. for the night, you’re in L.A. for the night, we have a mutual appreciation for each other’s bodies, and we should take advantage of that appreciation."

"Fair enough," I say. "Should I be worried you found me? Are you a stalker?"

"Fame does have its advantages, especially with Marvel fanatics who work as concierges."

"All right."

He looks me over from head to toe. “You’re wearing heels.”

"Of course I’m wearing heels," I say, lifting the skirt and kicking out my foot. "Bart got them for all the bridesmaids. Pretty, aren’t they? Cost more than a month’s rent but they are lovely."

I roll my heel so the jeweled ribbons on the gray shoe catch the light.

He growls in the back of his throat and covers his mouth while his eyes watch my foot.

"I have a bit of a heel fetish," he admits.

"Oh?"

"Mmm," he moans. "I like to imagine what you’d look like if those were all you had on."

"Even though you’ve already seen everything there is to see, including the cafe au laits, get me away from these horrid people and you won’t have to imagine it."

He grins as his hands slide to the curve of my waist and he kisses me.

"Bette!" I pull away from him unhappily but turn around, hoping the baseball cap, the distance and light cast only from lamps obscures his face enough not to be recognized.

It’s Sarah’s mom and she’s running towards me.

"Bette! Are you leaving already?"

"I was just about to, Mrs. Wood. Is there something I can do?"

"No, darling," she says, hugging me. "I just wanted to say it’s been a delight seeing you again and I know your parents would be so proud."

"Ah, thank you," I say. "Sarah and the wedding were absolutely beautiful. Bart is a lucky man."

She smiles. “Isn’t he?” It’s then she notices Sebastian. “Who is this lucky man?”

"Sebastian," he says, holding out his hand. "It’s nice to meet you."

"You, too. Take care of our girl, huh? I worry she won’t let anyone."

"Will do," he says. He’s a good actor because she buys it even though we both know he’s lying. I mean, he’ll take care of me tonight but after that I’m on own again.

"You look beautiful," she says before turning away.

"Sarah’s mom," I say to Sebastian. "She won’t recognize you. You’ll stay here while I go get my purse, yes?"

He nods. I run inside, grab my purse, avoid the groomsman who I reckon placed his bet on me, hug the few necks I need to and I’m back outside with Sebastian.

"So your name really is Bette then. I thought you would make something up."

"Thought about it," I say, "but I figure if you’re going to call me anything in the throes of passion, I wanted to hear your beautiful mouth say my name."

"I’ll say your name so many times tonight you won’t ever want to hear it again."

I laugh as I loop my fingers in his. He brings my knuckles to his lips and kisses them lightly.

Maybe the mirrors in gyms aren’t completely pointless after all.

Chapter Text

My agent had given me the script yesterday and I’d read it three times already. I couldn’t put the thing down, and I had an overwhelming sense the lead was written for me. My agent had the same idea, so today we find ourselves sitting in the conference room waiting for the producer and writer to meet us.

The room is made of two regular walls and two made of glass, but the mid-section has been etched to distort the outside world in the glass. It’s an odd aesthetic choice but I guess I like it because people can’t see me sitting in here.
"They’re hoping if you attach your name to it, Shaun Lerveaux will agree to direct."

That guy’s won like five Tony awards, several other theater awards and one Oscar. That guy would be perfect for this play. I would be perfect for this play.

I hear them before I see them. The clack of heels on the tiled floor is unmistakable as the steps ring throughout the building and then I see the shoes supporting the feet carrying the legs. She had nice legs. Really nice legs.

And don’t get me started on the heels. Tall, black with scalloped edges. They are a nice pair of heels, and they fit her just right. She’s probably someone’s assistant, giving the way she’s pacing. Ah, heels.

We knew very little about the writer, one B. Chambers. This was his first optioned play, but it was one of those rare finds. Two sets of men’s legs in pants accompanied the heels, and I knew things would be happening shortly.

"Be charming and thoughtful," Will reminded me. "The part is yours if you’re charming and thoughtful."

The glass door opened and we both stood as she walked in first, legs and skirt and blouse and face.

I knew that face.

———

Living in New York had certainly been a challenge but it had also been rewarding. My apartment was broken into the second day after I moved in, but I didn’t have much for them to take.

And then the miracle of miracles happened. My agent found a producer who was interested in my play. My play!

Saul Rosenblatt is one of the most successful producers in the business, and he wants to make my play happen. He’s talked to agents and found an actor, and then he’s certain the director will follow.

This is really happening.

I arrive early to Saul’s swanky office building, feeling confident but nervous. I don’t know who this actor is but Saul said that he is very interested and would be well-suited in the role. I can’t believe this was all happening.

"Ah, Miss Chambers!" Saul says. "And you’ve bought Mr. Harper with you, wonderful!"

Saul and my agent, Jack Harper, shake hands. Saul kisses my cheek. “They’re in the conference room, and we’ll go in when you’re ready.”

"Um, could I have a minute?" I ask.

"Yes," Jack says, "that would be great. I want to ask Saul about some specs for you if we do get backers."

"Okay," I say. I know enough about business to know when I’m being screwed over, and so far, Jack has been nothing but helpful and honest. That makes this all easier.

I pace in the hallway for a few minutes, thinking of all the ways my life has changed in the past few months.

"You ready, Miss Chambers?"

I nod and he smiles as he opens the door. I walk in ready to meet the actor and I think my jaw hits the floor.

"Will Jones, this is Jack Harper and the lovely Bette Chambers," Saul says. "And this could be our Clark, Sebastian Stan."

I smile as he holds out his hand, warm and perfect.

"Bette Chambers," he smiles. Does he remember? "You’re Bette Chambers."

"To be honest," Will says, "we thought B. Chambers was a man."

"We won’t be making that mistake again," Sebastian says. "Gorgeous heels, if you don’t mind me saying."

I think the other men regard him oddly but the smirk on his face confirms it. He remembers.

"Thank you," I say. "They’re actually quite comfortable."

He cocks that damn eyebrow of his and grins.

"Well, I think they’re definitely sold on each other," Jack says.

"Oh, I’m sold," Sebastian says, and it’s then I realize we’re still holding hands. I laugh as I pull my hand away and tuck a strand of hair behind my ear.

"Let’s talk specifics," Saul says, "we want to know what you think about Clark and what you can bring to him no one else can."

We sit, Sebastian across from me, and his hand falls on the table, almost like it’s reaching for mine. I’m making this up, I know.

He, the agents and producers talk for awhile and I chime in occasionally. I want to cry because Sebastian has really read the character I wrote. He’s had the script a day and knows the ins and outs Clark.

Of course Clark was somewhat constructed around him in looks and personality, and I had envisioned him as I wrote it. I envisioned him all the time. I still do.

Even now I see his beautiful fingers stretched out on the table and I remember how they felt on me and in me, and he laughs with those beautiful lips I haven’t forgotten. Occasionally he slides his fingers through his lofty brown hair and I long to tug it like I once did.

A whole year has passed and I still remember our two nights vividly. And I wouldn’t mind spending a few more with him.

It’s like he knows I’m thinking it because he stares at me. He winks and my heart races. Does he want a few more nights with me, too?

"So, do you want to give us something now or shall we arrange that later?"

"I can do something now," Sebastian says. He rolls back his chair and stands, shrugging off his coat. "Would you like me to be Clark or give you something else?"

"Clark, please," Saul says. Sebastian twirls in a circle once and then he’s there.

"You think that I’m proud? Do you have any idea what it’s like knowing that I will never be good enough for you? That no matter what I do I will never be enough for you. It kills me every day to know I can’t give you the life you deserve."

Holy hell, I am dying. This is even better than I had planned. Sebastian paces around the room scratching his head and I realize he’s not Sebastian anymore. He is Clark.

"I know, Nan," he says, "I know what you have to lose. I know what it means if you pick me, but I know what you gain, too." He steps around the huge conference table, and we all swivel our chairs to follow him. Falling to his knees in front of mine, he reaches for my hand. "I know that I love you, I have loved you and I will love you, until my dying day." His gray eyes are watering and his mouth hangs open like he wants an answer. I can’t remember the next line and I wrote the damn thing. "I have given everything I’ve got and will give everything I get to make you happy. Being without you, I couldn’t bear it. Doesn’t that count for something?"

Stunning.

"It counts for everything," Saul says. "That was amazing. Well done, Mr. Stan!"

Sebastian grins, gives my knuckles a quick peck and stands. I know he’s back to himself now.

"Is there another scene you’d like to see or anything?" Sebastian asks. "I can really do any of it."

"No, thank you," Saul says. "Do you have any questions?"

"If I may, if it’s confirmed, I would love to spend some time with Miss Chambers alone so I can really pick her brain."

"Sure," I say. "I would like that."

"Great," Saul says. "I’ve got Harper and Chambers on board, and I’ll have my assistant draw up the contracts."

"Wonderful," Will says, "we will look over it and get back to you within the next few days."

"I’m really glad," Saul says. "This could be beautiful."

———

Three days pass, and I spend the time doing the tourist-y things I hadn’t yet had the chance or funds to enjoy. Holly, Jack’s wife and a hairdresser at a high-end salon, joins me for some of my outings and convinces me to get a blowout.

"Your hair will look the best it ever has!"

And I can’t refuse her since she knows how much money I made on the option and how much will be coming my way if it succeeds. As she’s throwing some kind of goop that smells like fig in my hair, my phone vibrates in my pocket. I fish it out and sigh.

"Your husband," I say, sliding my thumb across the screen to accept the call.

"What are you doing tonight, Bette?"

"I’d planned on ordering Chinese and binge-watching as many episodes of Friends as my eyes can stand."

"No, you’re not," he says "The contracts came through and Mr. Stan will sign his only after you have dinner with him. He’s very passionate about this character and wants to make sure he can portray him as you’ve intended."

"Okay, where are we going?"

"Not we," Jack says, "just you. Saul said a car will pick you up from your apartment and you will meet Sebastian wherever he’s going."

"All right," I answer. "Thank you."

"Just be yourself and don’t be too hard on him. He’d be perfect."

"I know," I said. "I’ll do my best."

"Please, for both of us."

I drop my phone back in my lap when the call ends and Holly sighs.

"You’re going to dinner?" she asks, massaging my scalp with long fingernails.

"It would seem so," I answer, closing my eyes and feeling the gentle massage of her hands.

"With who?"

"The actor who wants to lead the play."

"Sebastian Stan? Oh, he’s handsome!"

"Yes."

"Just yes? Aren’t you single?"

"I am," I say, "but does that mean I have to expect a proposal from every handsome man I have dinner with?"

"Well, no," she sighs. "But you won’t have eggs forever."

I’m going to need a new hairdresser.

Three hours later, I stand in my apartment — I would say bedroom but it’s a studio so there is no real division of space — and look in the mirror. Holly was right about the hair; it’s almost Kate Middleton worthy. The dress is pretty and the first thing I bought when the check went through. If I lose everything, at least I’ll have this dress. It’s knee-length and black with a beautiful floral print and long sleeves, and I slip back into the black heels I already know Sebastian likes.

I don’t know if this evening will go anywhere or if it’s supposed to, but I want to look my best just in case. I guess that’s why I have on the black lace underthings.

I hope I don’t look like I’m trying too hard.

I decide it’s stupid to think this is anything. He just wants to talk about the play. So, I do the rational thing and grab a glass and the bottle of white wine Jack had given me when the script sold. Forgoing the cup as I don’t want to have to wash it, I drink straight from the bottle. It is so good.

The intercom buzzes and I jump, still not used to the intrusive sound.

"Yes?" I ask after pushing the button.

"The car Mr. Stan sent is ready for you."

"Be right down, thank you!"

I grab my coat and my clutch, making sure my phone and pepper spray are tucked safely inside. New York itself is still daunting.

It’s a town car and the driver smiles as he holds open the door.

"Please enjoy your ride," he says as he shuts the door.

I haven’t figured out yet if it’s polite or rude to talk to the driver, so I keep to myself in my thoughts. It’s not hard to do as I think about Sebastian and the way he’d pulled off my dress the night of Sarah’s wedding. He backed me into the wall after ridding me of my underwear and yet the shoes stayed on. Something really got him going with the heels. I’d only ever had sex standing up once before, and this time blew that one out of the water. He was strong enough to support me with his arms while my legs wrapped around his hips, and I had never come so quickly in my life.

I guess that’s why I’m so excited about tonight, the prospect of feeling full and stretched and generally well fucked. I steel myself because I’m not even sure that’ll happen.

A half hour later, the car pulls up to a swanky apartment complex with no restaurant other than a sandwich shop in sight. The driver opens the door, and I gaze at the tall building as I climb out.

Sebastian is standing on the curb by the door and he grins.

"Miss Chambers," he smiled as he takes my hand. Those beautiful pouty lips brush against my knuckles. "You look lovely this evening."

"Thank you," I say. "You look handsome."

He takes my hand and loops it through my elbow. “You’ll have to forgive me. I’m afraid I’m maintaining my Bucky body and it’s difficult for me to eat out. I thought I might cook for us.”

"Oh, that’s nice."

He smiles at me as an elderly gentleman opens ther door.

"Marvin, this is Bette Chambers," he says, "you might see her often."

Oh?

"Lovely evening, darling," Marvin says, tipping his hat. I smile and nod.

"Nice to meet you," I say. Sebastian ushers me through the lobby and to the elevator.

"Fifth floor," he says as he presses the button. "So you’ll remember, if you come back."

And then we’re in the elevator, and I can feel the tension throughout my entire body. Excitement courses through my veins and I know this is a very bad idea. He smells so good, the same scent of newsprint and leather and maybe a hint of mint today. I want to lick him.

The bell dings and he streches his arm out of the door after it slides open. “After you.”

I walk next to him in the hall, neither of us touching but I think he wants to. I know I do.

"It’s the one here at the end," he says, "easy enough to find." The door is green and he twists the knob, apparently trusting enough to leave it unlocked for a trip downstairs. I know I couldn’t do that at my apartment.

I gasp as soon as I walk in, taking in the sunset as it comes in through huge semi-circle windows that stretch from the floor to the ceiling.

"Sebastian, it’s beautiful," I say, finally pulling my eyes to the rest of the room. It’s huge, but the kitchen, dining and living are all one space. If I had a view like that, I wouldn’t want to block it with a wall either.

The kitchen is beautiful, gray cabinets with marble countertops and stainless steel appliances. Everything is coordinated perfectly. The dining table seats six, black wood with a bench along one side and swanky chairs for the other places. I feel his eyes on me as I take it all in, but he doesn’t say anything. The living room has light gray furniture, but it looks absolutely comfortable and lush, and it’s arranged around the TV and fire place. The thing in the corner catches my attention and I skip towards it.

"Do you play?" I ask, pressing a white key of the piano.

"A bit," he answers. "I was pretty good as a child but grew out of it. I’m trying to dabble again."

"That’s wonderful," I say. "I always wanted to play."

"You can learn," he says. "My mother still teaches. You can be there in half an hour by train."

I laugh. “You’ll have to play for me sometime.”

"I will," he says. I bite my lip as I finish circling the room. "It’s a bit of a steal. Rent controlled and everything."

"Amazing. What are you making for dinner?"

"Grilled chicken and a fresh quinoa salad."

"All right," I say, "sounds tasty."

"You’ve never had quinoa before?"

"To be honest, I’m not even sure what that is. My people eat everything fried."

He laughs. “I’ll show you. Let me take your jacket. You can leave your purse and shoes wherever.”

Kicking off my heels, I drop my purse on the table by the front door and shrug out of my jacket. He hangs it in the closet, giving me the perfect opportunity to marvel at his maginificent bum. He’s wearing black trousers with a gray shirt and black tie, and I wonder if he’s colorblind. Everything is slightly monotonous, or maybe he just really likes it that way.

"So, you wanted to talk," I say.

"Of course," he says, pulling out a bar stool. "Sit, please."

This is weird. It’s so formal yet we’ve seen each other naked and praising a higher power. I climb up onto the stool and watch as he flicks on a dial on the stove. He’s got an electric grill and the chicken is just waiting to be thrown onto it. I watch as he dumps a bunch of seeds — quinoa, I’m assuming — into a pan and adds water. He’s gets after it, mixing and dumping and turning and I can admit he’s better in the kitchen than I am. Most of my meals come from a can or a box.

"Would you like something to drink — wine or water?"

"Either is fine," I answer.

"Wine it is," he takes two glasses from the rack and places them on the counter. "Red?"

"Please," I say. He grabs a bottle from the counter, uses a fancy electric remover to pull out the cork and then pours us both glasses, one of them dangerously full.

"I’m only allowed one cup a week," he says, "and even that’s pushing it. I have to make it count."

"How dreadful," I say. "I couldn’t have written the play without a glass of wine at my side."

He grins, “It’s a wonderful companion, just one I can’t enjoy right now.”

"Well, whatever you’re doing is paying off. You look like you’re about to bust out of your shirt."

"Ah, you noticed?" He grins cheekily as he scoots the glass across the counter.

"It’s very difficult not to," I say. "So handsome."

"You look beautiful, Bette," he says. "You really do."

"Thank you," I said. We make small talk as he cooks dinner, and I watch his hands move over the food. He’s got such masculine hands.

He slides a picturesque plate towards, steam still rolling off the chicken.

"If you don’t like it," he says, "we can order a pizza. Quinoa isn’t for everyone."

"It smells delicious."

I wait as he strolls around the kitchen island and sits next to me with his plate and his very full cup of wine.

"I’m glad you think so," he says. He cuts into a his chicken breast and it takes everything in me not to moan as he holds it up to his lips and bites. He eats several bites quickly while my plate remains untouched. "It’s getting cold."

"Yes," I say, slicing into the chicken. I see the juice run from it and sigh. Baby boy can cook! "Shouldn’t you have someone to cook for you?"

"When we’re actively filming I do," he answers, "but when we’re off, I don’t. I figured I should learn to cook the things I have to eat when it’s not provided."

"Well, it’s tasty."

"Thank you." Sebastian smiles as he eats, and I feel like a teenager with her first crush. "What brings you to New York, aside from the obvious?"

"I wanted to be here for years," I answer. "Some stuff kept me at home but now the time was right. I’d written four plays so I figured it was time I tried my hand."

"Four?"

"I had a lot of time these past few years."

"I thought you were working at a department store."

"That was my job, not my career," I say. "And I’m impressed you remember that."

"I remember everything about that weekend."

I have to look away from his lovely gray eyes and avert my eyes to the quinoa. “I remember everything, too.”

He grins again, dropping his hand on mine. The air in the room gets much too thick much too quickly, and he feels it as he hastily withdraws his hand.

"How’d you get the script?"

"My agent," he says. "It’s brilliant, Bette. Where’d you get the idea?"

"My grandparents."

"Your grandparents? Clark is based off your grandfather?"

I nod. “Yes. Nan was 17, he was 19, and they were in love. She had every opportunity in the world but she gave it up for him, even though her family disapproved. He worked every day for the rest of his life proving he was worthy of her. I just always thought it was beautiful and deserved to be told.”

"You thought right," he said. "It’s so raw with such conviction."

"Thank you," I said. "Isn’t this odd?"

"What?"

"We end up here after a year and you could be starring in a play I wrote. It’s bizarre."

"Is it?" he asks. "Maybe it’s fate, destiny or simply the way we’re supposed to meet again. But for the time being, we can’t ignore we’re supposed to be in each other’s lives."

"Fair enough," I said. "When do you start filming?"

It’s enough to get him off topic and he practically glows as he tells me all about it without revealing anything. He says this third Captain America is his favorite and he really likes where they’ve taken the arc.

I hope he’s shirtless more in it. Purely shallow.

After we clean up the kitchen together, we settle in the living room and he switches on the electric fireplace. We sit, each with a copy of the play I’ve written, and we go over the whole piece. I look at his copy as he’s got notes scribbled in the margins and under lines. He’s really torn the thing apart, and I know it wouldn’t matter I were Ben Chambers or Bart Chambers or Brittney Chambers — he’s entranced by the story and wants to deliver it in the best way possible.

"Sebastian, thank you."

His eyes snap up from the page he’s looking at and he smiles. “For what?”

"What you’ve done is amazing."

He laughs and falls back on the couch. “Oh Bette! I didn’t do anything. This is all you, scumpete. These words are beautiful.”

"Thank you."

"You’re welcome," he says, squeezing my knee. "Would you like some more wine? The rest of the bottle is all yours."

"No, thanks." I know I don’t need anything else clouding my judgment; being this close to him leaves me feeling slightly fuzzy and wonderful.

"Cheesecake then?"

"You have cheesecake? Isn’t that illegal for you?"

"I won’t tell if you won’t," he winks.

"Sure," I say. He stands and helps me from my seat, and I follow him to the kitchen. I sit back on my stool and watch as he takes a huge slice of cheesecake out of the refrigerator.

"Do you mind if we share?"

"Not at all."

"Good," he says, "I’d probably kill it if I tried to slice it."

"And what good is a butchered cheesecake?"

He grins and hands me a fork from the drawer. “Dig in.”

I do and sigh. “Where did you get this?”

"The bistro around the corner. It’s good, yes?"

"It is."

I eat another bite and close my eyes, savoring the flavor as it melts against my tongue.

"You’ve got a beautiful mouth, Bette," he says, and I open my eyes to find his stunning gray eyes staring at me.

"Have you seen your lips?"

He laughs and drops his fork to the plate. “Do you have a boyfriend, Bette? A significant other?”

"No."

"Do you have any diseases?"

"No."

"Have you stopped taking birth control?"

"No."

"Would you like to spend the night?"

"Yes."

He moves instantly, pulling me off my stool and pressing his lips to mine. They’re soft and warm and lovely and delicious.

"I was hoping you would say that."

I am going to sleep with Sebastian Stan again.

Chapter Text

Sebastian Stan is a rare find of a man who is introverted yet gifted, vocal and an incredible performer. He’s especially surprising in the bedroom, and that’s exactly where we are now. We had a long trip down the hall because we couldn’t take more than a few steps without kissing each other. I worked the buttons of his shirt open as we meandered and now it’s hanging off his shoulders.

"For the love of quinoa and all that is good in the world," I mutter, touching his chest. "You’re bigger now than you were a year ago, right?"

He laughs. “Yes. I have to be able to flip cars with my arms and kick out walls with my legs.”
"It’s very good," I say. "Wow."

"Please," he smirks, "continue."

"Well, your ass," I say, waking around him and looking at the perfect thing bubbling his pants. "It’s spectacular."

He’s standing with his feet apart and his hands out his side. It’s very much his action hero stance and it’s very attractive. I slide his shirt off and run my hands across his back.

"This right here," I say, pressing my thumbs against into the two dimples at the base of his spine.

"That feels nice," he says. "Your hands are warm."

"Good circulation," I answer, sliding thumbs into the waistband of his trousers. "Were you planning on this happening when you brought me here?"

"I was hopeful."

"Me too," I say. He turns around, my nails catching his skin just the slightest bit but it doesn’t stop him. His lips are on mine, hot and sloppy and delectable. I sigh, wrapping my hands around his defined hips.

"We should get you out of this dress."

"Oh! Do you have a hanger? I don’t really want it to get wrinkled."

"Of course," he laughs. "Taking a break from the frantic kissing and possible sex to care for the lovely dress."

"Just possible? I was kind of thinking we were going all the way."

I turn my back to him and pull my hair out of the way so he can unzip it. His fingers are cold across my skin and he’s soon kissing the trail of the zipper. I sigh, closing my eyes and his lips travel down my spine.

I slip the sleeves off and the rest of the dress follows, but I catch it before it hits the floor. He hands me the hanger and stares while I maneuver the dress into place.

"You’ve gotten better too," he says. "I don’t remember your ass being this round."

"It takes an obscene amount of squats."

"It’s working."

"Thank you," I say as I hand him the dress.

"And your hair."

"Jack, my agent, his wife gave me a blowout."

"As sexual as that sounds I know it wasn’t," he says, gently running his finger through my hair. He puts the dress right inside the closet door. "It’ll be right here."

"Thanks," I say. I take the break to look around his room. The same huge semi-circle windows line his bedroom, just two of them stretch across the wall. Fortunately his building is taller than the others for blocks so no one could see in unless they had a telescope. "Your apartment is amazing."

"I know," he says. "It has an office and another bedroom too. Two bathrooms."

"Speaking of which, I should probably use one of those."

He gestures towards the door next to his bed. “Help yourself.”

I skip through it. I really do have to pee but I feel nervous. What if it’s not as good as it was last time or what if this ruins everything and the play gets scrapped for interdepartmental relationships? Or not even relationships, just two people who mutually appreciate each other’s bodies and the orgasms they bring?

Ugh.

I find his toilet paper is soft and squishy, the same kind I buy. That’s pleasant. I wash my hands and look at all the junk on his counters. The red Clearasonic wand perches in it’s cradle before I grab it and turn it on, jumping in surprise as the little thing starts to vibrate.

"What are you doing in there?" He asks on the other side of the door. I pull it open and hold the wand out.

"You have one of these? Does it work? How does it work with your stubble?"

"I do have one of those, obviously." He sets it back on the counter. "It works well doing all the things you want it to, and it doesn’t make much difference with stubble. I’m sure if I were to grow it out, that would be a different story."

"Huh." I notice he’s stripped out of his pants and is now just in his boxerbriefs. "Well, that’s cool."

"Are you nervous, Bette?"

"What?"

"Are you nervous?"

"I had to pee."

"You’re sure that’s it?"

"Yes."

"Then why are you so far away?"

Several feet. I guess that is kind of far away.

"The view is certainly much better from here."

He laughs. “Oh, Bette. Bette! What are we going to do?”

"I really thought when you asked me to spend the night we would end up eating popcorn and watching HGTV until we fell asleep and woke up to the beautiful sunrise."

"I can’t eat popcorn."

"I know," I say. "I was kidding."

"I know."

"Did you?" I ask, stepping across the tile. I step so we’re very, very, very close and I can see his long lashes.

"I don’t invite women to spend the night and watch HGTV. I could do that with my mother."

"I’m standing here in my underwear so close to you I can feel the heat coming from your body and you’re thinking about your mother? Wow, Mr. Stan. I’m flummoxed."

"Shut up, Bette." It’s breathy and warm on my skin as he grabs my hips pulling me against him with a sharp slap of skin. I moan as his lips press heavily against mine and then his tongue is between my teeth.

He pulls me across the floor, my feet tangling with his. We laugh as he falls back into the bed with me flopping on top of him. He grins as he kisses me and his hands slide down my back to my hips, caressing every bit of skin they cross. He lets me have a few moments to kiss his cheek and ear and jaw, and I moan into his ear when his hands slide up my abdomen and grab my breasts roughly. It feels too good so I sit up across his hips just long enough to pull the stupid thing off. His lips curl up as he watches me, and I giggle.

"You could make a nun blush," I say.

"It’d be a very interesting situation to be mostly naked under a mostly naked nun."

"Shut up, Sebastian." I kiss him again we’re soon pawing and pressing and moaning. I don’t have to be guided this time to put my crotch right over his and he groans as I rock. His dick grows hard and I feel it stretching against the fabric of his boxer briefs. Feeling rather proud of myself, I scoot down his chest, kissing and licking as I go, and I pull off his boxers. He groans as I wrap my hand around his cock and kiss the tip. Working for a few short minutes, I feel him tug on my hair but I laugh, watching his abs and thighs struggle.

"Bette! If you don’t stop immediately, I’ll come right now and this won’t be fun for either of us!"

I release the tip of his cock with a delightful pop, and he pulls me up against him. I giggle as his dick is trapped between us. He doesn’t like it when I slide my hips against his; he really wants to draw this out.

Flipping me over, he yanks my underwear down my legs and tosses them across the room. I yelp as he slides two fingers inside me and works my clit with his thumb.

"Bette," he says softly. My eyes open as he stops moving his hand. "You’re really beautiful."

"You have to say that because I nearly sucked you off in three minutes. Average for that is seven."

He laughs. “Why do you know that? But I’m serious.”

"Thank you," I say. "Could you continue please?"

"Of course." He slips his fingers out and I frown, only to feel his lips on my thigh. Those lips!

His tongue is warm and gentle and he finds the perfect rhythm to have me squirming in seconds. The fingers join in again, and I am holding onto the pillows and comforter with everything in me. I think a string of obscenities cross my lips and I feel it building. My toes curl across his back and he speeds up, hooking his fingers in just the right way. His hand slides up my abdomen and squeezes my boob. Just like that, I’m a goner. I clamp up as all air leaves, my fingers yanking on his hair.

It is the epitome of good.

I don’t have long to recover as he slides his cock in easily and thrusts heartily. He stretches me so deeply I feel everything. I kiss him sloppily and have a hard time breathing as he pushes, his hand on my waist and the other knotted in the sheets by my head. Our noses touch as he stares down at me, the New York lights illuminating his beautiful face. I feel the sweat on the back of his neck against my fingers, and I gasp as he goes just a bit harder.

Clenching my muscles around him purposefully, he falters. He shakes his head as he drops his hand from my hip to my clit and rubs the little nub with his thumb.

That does it. My head goes back, my eyes clamp shut, my jaw drops open and I dig my nails into his skin. He feels it and follows me, grunting with his last few thrusts.

He kisses my neck as my legs fall to the bed. I sigh as he kisses my shoulders and down my chest and anywhere he reaches. His head rests between my breasts and he squeezes the right one a couple of times just because. I run my fingers through his hair as my body evens out.

"We could do this."

"What?"

He moves his head so that beautiful dimple in his chin rests right between my ribs. “To be perfectly frank, I cannot handle a relationship right now. I could fuck whoever but it makes sense to just keep it to one to eliminate the risks. I think we could do this, unless you want a relationship.”

"I don’t want a relationship," I say, "kids maybe somewhere in the future, but apparently now I can do all that by myself just by picking a face out of the book. This could work."

"I have fun," he says, "are you having fun?"

"Fun is a good word for it," I say. "So this is a casual, no strings attached thing?"

"If you want it."

"Fine," I agree, "but only if we are exclusive bed buddies. You can kiss or date whoever you want, but if it goes further we put this on hold until the proper tests can be done."

"Fair enough. That’s smart."

"Thank you," I say. "Am I supposed to run out whenever we’re finished or can I at least take the walk of shame in the morning?"

"Shame? I didn’t know there was shame in something both parties agree to and are consenting of."

"Either way," I say, combing his hair into a floppy mohawk, "am I supposed to bring a change of clothes and leave immediately?"

"No, Bette," he says. "As long as we’re in agreement, I’ll give you the key to my apartment and the code to the door so you don’t even have to go through Marvin. Do you have a car?"

"This is New York. Why would I have a car?"

"I have a car."

"And a nine movie deal with Marvel. You can afford to have a car in New York."

"True," he says. He runs his finger over my collar bone. "You can come in through the garage is all I was going to say. The elevator will bring you straight up."

"Thank you. Just text me if you’re bringing someone home so I know not to be here."

"Yes, ma’am. Is your apartment off limits?"

"No, I just can’t imagine you’d want to go there when you have this."

"I’d love to see your apartment," he says, drawing that same finger along my jaw. "I can meet you there sometime."

"If you say so."

"I’m glad we can talk this way," he says.

Honestly, I am too. Relationships weren’t working out for me, masturbating only goes so far but this man and his penis are divine. And to have access to it whenever I want with no strings attached is amazing.

He grins as he looks at me, tracing my lip.

"I’m glad we met, Bette."

"Me, too."

He hits a button on a remote and curtains slide across the big windows.

"That’s a neat trick," I say.

"They block out the sun and prying eyes."

"Sounds convenient."

He laughs. “It is.”

We crawl under the sheets and make out for awhile until we fall asleep.

Something rings through the darkness and jerks me awake. Swatting at Sebastian’s arm, he moans.

"I don’t want to go," he grumbles.

"Turn it off," I groan.

"I have to go work out," he says, and the annoying song stops. "Stay if you want."

I sigh my acceptance as I hold the pillow tighter to my body and return to sleep’s open arms.

It’s vivid as Sebastian grins before licking a stripe all the way up my body from my belly button to my neck. I squirm but both my arms are tied to the headboard so I’m really not getting anywhere, and by the way he looks at me I’m not sure I want to.

I feel his hand slide between my legs and slowly massage my clit.

Jerking my eyes open, I see the slightest bit of sunlight creepy beneath the curtain. The clock says six which is two hours later than when his alarm went off, but there is indeed a finger rolling against my clit and it’s definitely not my own.

"You were moaning in your sleep," Sebastian says softly in my ear, his chest against my back as I was sleeping on my front. He must have felt my whole body stiffen at the intrusion. "I didn’t think you’d mind."

It is an odd way to wake up, but the dream was quite wonderful and his hand feels exquisite and I know if he got a stiffy in his sleep I wouldn’t be opposed to helping him take care of it. So, I do what my body and and brain both want and arch my ass into him. He groans now, making me alert enough to wake up. He smells fresh like he’s just gotten out of the shower and water from his hair lands on my shoulder.

"Are you sure, Bette? I’ll stop."

"Please don’t," I manage, circling my hips to find his hand follows. His finger moves and circles and this is such a pleasant way to be woken up. I groan as I move my hips with his fingers, slowly building the pressure. He keeps it soft and languid and the tension is exquisite.

I know I’m incredibly wet and wanting something a little more, so I roll over and see he’s enjoying this as much as I am. I pull him on top of me and lace my arms under his. Wrapping my legs around his hips, I kiss him and let him take the lead. He slides in easily and finds a slow, steady pace. It is marvelous.

He’s exhausted from his workout and I’m still half asleep so this pace is perfection. Our fronts are pressed together and his arm is resting on the sheets by my head. He kisses me again and I sigh, tightening my arms around him. It’s lazy and slow and wonderful.

He knows it’s his magical fingers I need and he slips his hand between us to give me the final nudge. There’s hardly any noise aside from the faint rustle of sheets, and I clutch onto his shoulders as a delicate orgasm rushes through my body. He kisses me with his last few thrusts and stills with the last one, holding my hip tightly.

"Good morning," I whisper, tracing his eyebrow. My legs fall from his hips back to the bed and I stretch beneath him.

"Good morning," he smiles, cradling my face between his hands. "Imagine if you had left when we finished last night."

I laugh and close my eyes. “I’m still sleepy.”

"Me, too." He rolls off of me and tucks his arm under his pillow. "I like watching you sleep."

"I like sleeping," I hum, pulling the sheets back up to my shoulders. I guess his Romanian blood keeps him warm even when it’s chilly. I roll onto my side away from him, tucking the sheets around me.

"Sleep well, scumpete,” he says as he slides next to me, spooning me in the most wonderful way. His arm wraps protectively around my middle and soon I’m blissfully sleeping.

I wake up before he does, probably because I’m cold. He’s rolled away from me, sleeping on his back with the sheets below his hips. I’m tempted to pull them down but think better of it. Quietly I climb from his bed and rifle through his drawers until I find a t-shirt, a pair of pajama pants and socks. A robe hangs on the back of his door so I wrap it around me.

Seriously, it’s cold.

Rummaging around his kitchen, I find the pods to his Keurig brewer and the cups above them. My guess is his entire apartment was furnished by his assistant because it’s all very coordinated, aside from two coffee cups — one has Chris Evans’ face on it and the other Anthony Mackie’s. I take Chris and sit it under the spout and wait. His refrigerator reveals lots of fruits and vegetables, one container of almond milk, some other weird green junk and a few different selections of meat, none of it the beef variety.

Poor baby can’t eat steak.

I grab an apple and wash it. It’s crisp and juicy when I bite into it, probably because it’s some fancy organic brand. I would make him something for breakfast but I don’t know what’s on the schedule or if he ate on the way home from the gym. I guess I’ll just be a bum and eat his food.

I’m halfway through my cup of coffee and some dumb magazine about motorcycles when I hear him shuffling around.

"Good morning," I say as he comes around the corner in a pair of pajama pants and nothing else. He’s rubbing his neck but he grins.

"I see you’ve been through my drawers."

"I’m sorry! It is so cold. I don’t know if it’s because you were born into a colder climate or because you’re part dragon or vampire, but it is cold."

"Or maybe it’s all this muscle."

"That too."

"You know vampires aren’t from Romania, right?"

"Yes, but you do have purple bags under your eyes."

"Ah, I have to drink the blood of a virgin to get rid of those."

"Sorry I can’t help you there."

"I’m not," he says, kissing me quickly and shaking his arm under the folds of the robe. "I never wear this thing."

"You should," I say, "it’s very cosy. Also, I would have made you something but I’m not sure what’s allowed."

"Thank you for the thought," he says. "What are you doing today?"

"I didn’t have plans," I answer.

"Good," he says. "Stay with me."

Chapter Text

Sebastian orders Chinese for lunch, and he watches me eat every bite of my dumplings and fried rice. He’s eating salmon and cucumber he prepared himself.

My phone rings and I pick it up.

"Bette," Jack says, "good news."

"Oh?"

"Sebastian is in!"

"Is he? That’s fantastic!"

Sebastian grins as he knows what the phone call is about.

"The contracts went through this morning. Saul is going to find a casting director today and we’ll get to work on everybody else."

"Awesome," I say, "thanks."

"All right," he says, "Saul’s people will be in contact with a schedule of times for auditions so you can be there and watch. I’m not sure you’ll have much say but you can at least see how it’s done so maybe one day when you’re producing, you can do whatever you want."

"Thanks!"

"Of course, Bette. Congratulations."

I drop my phone back down on the couch and laugh.

"We’re in, thanks to you."

"It’s all you, Bette," he says. "You wrote it."

"But they wouldn’t be moving forward without you, so I guess I owe you my livelihood."

"They would have moved forward," he says, "I’m just lucky enough to be in it."

"Let’s stop flattering each other. How do we act in public?"

"Purely platonic," he says, biting a cucumber slice.

"You just think you’ll be able to keep your hands off me," I grin.

"Is that a challenge?"

"I think so."

"You’re on."

We test that theory as Saul invites us both to dinner the next night; we arrive in separate taxis even though it’s likely we’ll leave in the same one.

Shaun Lerveaux sits at the end of the table in his leather jacket with his sunglasses perched across his nose. Sebastian sits next to me, looking completely at ease and enjoying his glass of water. Randi Patton, casting director responsible for several runs of Kinky Boots, Once and Neil Patrick Harris’s Hedwig, sits at the other end of the table. She’s signed on as the casting director and she’s raved about Sebastian since they met. Apparently her fourteen-year-old son admires The Winter Soldier and can’t wait to meet him. If that’s what it takes to get a Tony award winning casting director on board, I’ll take it. Saul and his wife, Zissel, sit across from us. She’s very much the adoring mother type, even though she’s told us to call her Z. She smiles constantly.

"We’re delighted to have Mr. Stan and Ms. Patton already with us," Saul says. "What could we do to get you with us?"

"Honestly, the script is strong," he says, "but I think there could be changes."

"Oh?" Saul says, sipping his wine.

"Yeah," he says. "I mean, rural Oklahoma? Two white kids? It’s been played out. I think we should set it in India but like use an overkill of the traditional Indian colors. Sebastian obviously isn’t right then with those changes unless he darkens up really well and I think instead of a farmer, Clark — whose name will have to be changed of course — should be a snake charmer."

"You’ve got to be kidding me." The words fly right out of my mouth before I realize it and everyone’s eyes snap to my face. "Sorry, it’s just I didn’t write this to be a sham. None of that is right — you would be killing the story and making it a mockery. That’s not what I wrote. You can change little things but you cannot change the story itself."

Sebastian’s hand grasps my knee and squeezes it beneath the table. “She’s right. Did you even read it? It’s amazing and beautiful — like an updated Romeo and Juliet without all the death. This was the culture of Oklahoma in the 1950s and to take the story anywhere else would be a betrayal not only to the words but the very people. So no, you can’t do that with it.”

"You’re just upset you would get cut," Shaun says, eying Sebastian.

"No," he says, "no. Anyone looking at my history knows I do whatever I can and I have been cut before and will be cut again. It would be an honor and a privilege to play such an interesting and passionate young man, but it’s all right if I don’t. I just don’t want to see the story become diluted and a farce."

"The kids are right," Saul says. "To change this story from what it is would be a travesty and a loss of a great American story. You may not be the fit we are looking for."

"Okay," Shaun says, "I’m in."

"What?"

"You’re in?"

"What do you mean?" Saul finishes.

"I’m only interested in working with people are dedicated and committed to their work. I wanted to see if you were really passionate about the project."

"Of course we are," Saul says. "I want to hear what you want. You’re not in until we agree."

The appetizer portion of our meal is spent between Saul, Shaun and Randi tossing ideas around on how to stage the thing and create a set, even though they’ll hire a designer for that. Shaun provides his thoughts on the acting and the points of interest, and I like everything he says. Sebastian must like it as well because his hand has relaxed on my thigh and is now just rubbing my skin beneath my skirt. He’s acting completely oblivious so I do the same.

After our main course meals, we wait for dessert. It’s been decided Shaun Lerveaux is in and will direct my play. I’m excited, and Sebastian is, too. His hand has drifted up my thigh right up to my underwear, and he’s rubbing everything just so.

Two can play at that game.

I slip my hand between his legs and palm his crotch trough his trousers. He jerks upwards but covers it with a cough, waving his hand over his mouth as if he’s saying he’s okay. I grin.

He continues rubbing perfectly, applying a lot of pressure before backing off. I try to do the same but it’s hard to maintain the rhythm without making it obvious what’s happening beneath the tablecloth. I’m tucking my other hand in my hair, tugging on it so none of the awful noises I want to make slip out.

He groans instead and I laugh as everyone looks at him.

"He’s thinking about the gelato," I say. "Did you know he hasn’t had dessert in nine months? Can you imagine? Bless."

Everyone at the table chortles, and I slide my hand in his, deciding that’s enough of our game. He goes with it and runs his free hand through his hair.

We stay at the table for another hour, and they all share their stories of Broadway and the theatrical realm. It’s absolutely fascinating.

Of course they all have cars waiting when we leave, so Sebastian hails me a cab.

"How nice of you," Saul says, looking at him.

"My apartment is actually on the way," he says, "it makes sense."

"I guess it does," I say. "Well, we’ll see you later."

"Of course, Bette." Saul kisses my cheek as Sebastian holds open the door. Saul knows I live much further away from all this and that if you took the right route, Sebastian’s apartment would be on the way. It’s leaving the theater that will likely be the problem.

He grins as he slides in next to me and kisses my cheek.

"They love you, Bette. Theater’s next big thing!"

"Thank you," I say, "I hope it all works out."

He kisses the back of my hand. “It will because you’re brilliant.”

I lean my head against his shoulder, keeping his hand in mine as I stare out the window.

We get out at the back of his building and Sebastian shows me how to work the locks and enter the pass codes. The elevator from the garage is a private one, and he presses me against the wall as soon as the door closes. I moan as he steps between my legs, pushing them apart and pressing himself right up against me. He licks and sucks my neck while his hands clutch at my hips and I grapple with his tie. Too many damn clothes.

The bell chimes and he tugs me out of the elevator. I get to kiss his neck and the top of his chest while he fumbles with his keys, and as soon as the door closes behind us, he’s sliding the straps of my dress down my arms. He follows the fabric with his lips and I sigh at the sight of him on his knees before me, his big lips kissing my thigh.

This is undoubtedly the most scandalous and filthy relationship I’ve ever had, but it’s certainly the best.

Two weeks is all it takes to assemble the cast, directors and designers. Holly joined me at the table read the first day, and she took me to the hallway when I got overwhelmed. I know it was unprofessional, but seeing my characters come to life was indescribable. The chemistry was undeniable.

Aaron Tviet and Samantha Barks are together again, and it is incredible. They make me want to write a musical just for them, and I think I might have to find someone with the know-how to help. Don’t even get me started on Sigourney Weaver and Bryan Cranston! I can’t.

Of course Sigourney has worked with Sebastian before and they settle in like old friends.

"Bette, I’m so glad this is all happening for you!" Holly says, rubbing my arms. "You deserve it."

She says that because a portion of my profits go into her joint bank account.

"It’s just amazing," I say. "They’re saying my words."

"And they look great doing it!" She chirps. "Can you believe all these people?"

I can’t.

I sniffle as I wipe my eyes. “Can we go get coffee?”

"Of course, darling," she says. She rubs my back as we leave the building. "How wonderful! Jack says when this one hits, the number of potential buyers on your others will just skyrocket."

"Really?"

"You’re tremendously good at telling stories, Bette. Really good. And Jack would know because he’s read thousands of plays."

"Thank you."

"And Sebastian!" She pipes. "I love my husband very much but there is something about that man. It’s odd, you know? Like, when I watch Captain America, all I see is Chris Evans. But when you get around Sebastian, it’s just Sebastian."

"Indeed."

"Oh, but Kate is gorgeous, too! They’ll look so cute together."

Kate is gorgeous, it’s true. She’s been an understudy for years in varying theaters but this is her first starring role. She’s everything I’m not — bouncy, bubbly, blonde and petite. She’ll be the Nan to Sebastian’s Clark, and I must admit the contrasts between them will look great on the posters.

She’s tiny, and I have no doubt Sebastian will have no problems lifting her the way Clark is supposed to. Hell, he manages to throw me around and I’ve got several inches and twenty pounds on her. Oh well, she seems to carry herself appropriately for the part and I can’t wait to see what happens.

"It’s so surreal," I say.

"But there’s no one more deserving," she says. "It’s about time some good headed your way."

It’s my fault she talks to me this way. The night after Jack had taken me on as his client, they’d invited me to dinner and I’d shared too much of my life story with the help of a delicious Zinfandel followed by a few Jack and Cokes. I suppose Holly now thinks I’m a sad, broken thing in need of love and a good man like her husband.

As right as she may be, this is New York and good men are few and far between. I’ll settle for a man who knows well how to make me orgasm and who doesn’t mind seeing me without makeup in the morning because it means nothing, and I already have one of those.

We meander with our coffee back to the rehearsal space and Holly hugs my neck at the door. “Darling, I’ve a client in twenty. It’s been great fun. I’ll see you later.”

"Certainly," I say, "thank you for coming."

"Go get ‘em, girl!" She swats me on the behind as I pull open the door. Really now that the play’s been bought and there’s a director and producer, I’m no longer necessary, but they’ve invited me anyway. I take a deep breath before pulling open the door to the rehearsal room, planning on sneaking back into my chair by Saul.

Instead, they all clap and stand from their chairs. Is this normal?

"Our lovely playwright Miss Bette Chambers," Saul says. I give a little courtsey and feel heat rise in my cheeks, even though I’m not usually one to blush.

This is my life now.

Chapter Text

It's odd, waking up to Sebastian's face. What's nice about this though is it isn't messy — the emotional part anyway. We can get messy with the physical stuff.

He snores softly, his breath rushing across my neck. Today is his day of rest, all his other days occupied by leg days and core days and arm days and back days. My regimen consists of whatever "30 Day Challenges" pass through Pinterest, a healthy relationship with my Wii Fit, and copious amounts of sex.

He is quite handsome as he rolls onto his back. I snuggle into his chest, running my fingers over the smooth skin. He keeps it waxed except for the little strip beneath his belly button, but the silky feeling has grown on me. (He'll have the happy trail waxed when it's time to film.) Apparently it's less painful under his "metal" arm if there's no hair to get ripped. He shifts, wrapping his arm around my back and kissing my hair in a dozy state. I sigh and close my eyes.

When I wake up again, the bed is empty but he's pulled the blankets back over my shoulders. I stretch and reach for the T-shirt he's placed at the end of the bed. He already knows it's my favorite of his — black with "Marvel Stunt Team" written across the front. It's so soft, too.

After using the bathroom, I head out to see what he's doing. I stop when I hear voices.

"Bette!" Sebastian says. He jumps up from the couch, crosses the room and kisses me quickly. "Come here."

I look past him to see a blond woman in one of the chairs.

"Shouldn't I put on my clothes?"

"You look adorable," he says, "I want you to meet someone."

"Okay."

She stands when we get closer to her.

"Bette, this is Angela," he says, "she runs my life. You probably should have met weeks ago."

"Hi, Bette," she says, "Seb's told me so much about you. Congratulations on your play."

"Thank you so much," I say.

"Now, there is no need to be embarrassed around Angela," Sebastian says. I'm not embarrassed to be only in his T-shirt as she would have known what we had been doing anyway, but it is a bit chilly so I cross my arms over my chest. "She knows everything about me. She keeps up with my bank account, pays my bills, gets me where I need to be when I need to be there, that sort of thing. She's seen me naked numerous times, and she's taken care of me when I was too drunk to function. That's been years though."

"It has," Angela smiles, patting Sebastian's arm. "Anyway, Seb's like my son and I'm so happy to meet the woman who has made him so happy."

"It's nice to meet you, too," I say. "Were you two talking business? I can grab some food and make myself scarce for a bit."

"No, please get breakfast and stay," Angela says. "We're not going over anything serious."

"Fantastic," I say. Sebastian leans in and kisses my cheek before flopping on the couch with a banana.

I find the box of Coco Puffs in the pantry — the one cereal on my list he doesn't like so he won't be tempted to eat it — and pour some almond milk on them. I keep the fatty, delicious milk at home but here is his apartment, I suppose it's nice to cater to his needs. They're talking about an interview while Sebastian eats toast, and then I sit next to him on the couch with my cereal, grapefruit and coffee. He tugs the blanket from the back of the couch over my legs. We look like two regular domesticated young people.

"How are rehearsals going?" Angela asks.

"Fantastic," he says. "I always watch Bette because she's always crying."

"I'm not always crying!" I mumble, my mouth full of chocolatey deliciousness. "It's just really amazing to see it come to life. You don't think George Lucas cried the first time he watched Star Wars? You know he did!"

Angela laughs. "This is the first one?"

"Yes, ma'am," I say. "I have a few others my agent is working on, and I'm writing another."

"Wonderful," she says.

"Our Bette is a natural," he says, clapping my knee. "Like Tennessee Williams."

"Ooh, I wouldn't go that far," I say. "No, not at all."

"Anyway," Angela says, "Saul's office called this morning and they want you and Kate tomorrow for an interview with Broadway.com."

"That's fancy," Sebastian says. "What's the level?"

"Informal for now," Angela says. "Probably more formal later."

"You're talking about dress code?"

Sebastian nods.

"Could I make one suggestion?"

"You can but I may not listen."

"No more backwards baseball cap unless you're at the gym. Even then I don't understand it but if it helps productivity, that's okay."

"What's wrong with my backwards baseball cap?"

"You're a grown man in his thirties and you weren't raised on the Jersey shore! There's a reason you've been cast as a very important politician's son twice! You may look like a bad boy but not a thug!"

"Hey, I am a bad boy!"

Apparently Angela and I both give him the same look if disproval because he sighs and flops further into the couch.

"She's right," Angela says softly. "I'm not sure that it suits you and it makes your face look round."

"Angie! Where is this coming from?"

She giggles. "I never said anything because you are a grown man and my paycheck, but if Bette is pointing it out, I'm not going to disagree. What has she got to lose if you're upset with her?"

"Only the best sex of her life," Sebastian jokes, proudly puffing out his chest.

"Ehh," I shrug.

Sebastian's jaw drops and Angela giggles.

"Well, I never!" He declares, standing promptly and dramatically. He grabs my breakfast plate and his and strolls a towards the kitchen, his pajama pants precariously low across his hips.

He flings dishes around the kitchen and I frown at Angela but she just smiles.

"He knows you're joking, dear," she says. "He likes to be dramatic. You know how these actors are."

Of course he knew I was joking. He knew about my measly sex life before him and that there hadn't been anyone in between.

"Well, Angela," Sebastian says, "as I have nothing to do today, I would like to say thank you for stopping by. Don't be surprised if a rather sizable charge shows up on my account from a questionable source today. Okay?"

"Okay," she says. She stands knowing that's her cue to leave. She shakes my hand and hugs him, kissing his cheek. "Don't get too wild."

He winks at her as he shuts the door behind her.

"Get dressed."

"Sebby, I was only joking," I say. "You know you're leaps and bounds better than the other guys."

"I know," he says, "get dressed. We're going shopping."

While I thought he meant for clothes or a new baseball cap, I was so wrong. Sebastian dragged me to a store called "Hidden Pleasures." And after five minutes of hiding on the curb, he finally pulled me inside. A loud bell dinged announcing our presence to everyone.

Which brings me to the current moment where I am standing in front of a wall that is corner to corner, floor to ceiling covered in vibrators. I can admit the two I own are little safe objects purchased online for anonimity's sake and worked efficiently for their purpose, but here everything was large and in loud and obnoxious packaging. I don't even know where to start. Am I supposed to start somewhere?

I kind of reach for one but then I see the word "thrusting" on the plastic and decide that's not for me. Ugh. Who thinks of these things?

"Found anything, CLARA?" Sebastian asks pointedly, looking at me over the rim of his sunglasses. He still has them and his baseball cap (bill forwards) on. I guess he doesn't want anyone finding out he went to an adult store with a lady friend which would be why he's given me a fake name.

"Um, no, ERWIN."

"So I've found the one thing that truly embarrasses you, Clara."

"It's just all so big and colorful," I say. "I don't even..."

"That's okay," he says, "I've already found plenty. Is there something in particular you'd like, maybe for yourself when I'm not around?"

With anybody else, this would be excruciating, but with him it's okay. I walk the aisle again, picking up a few to read about the features and specifics. Finally I decide on a purple and white waterproof thing with dual stimulators that doesn't look too daunting. The box is white and nondescript which helps, too.

"Interesting choice," he says, dropping it into the basket hanging from his arm. "Anything else?"

I shake my head. I watch as he passes the basket to the girl behind the counter.  She starts scanning things — several tubes of who knows what, a couple of boxes, satin things I suppose one uses to tie up a lover, an eye mask, handcuffs, a blanket, something I'm guessing is a butt plug and several little cans of edible creams — and my face is on fire. How did he even have time to pick this all up?

He hands her an obscene amount of cash before she places all the items in three very descreet black paper bags. She passes my purse back from beneath the counter — apparently shoptlifting at the sex store is a real problem — and smiles.

"You two are just going to have so much fun," she says. "Congratulations."

I don't know what to say to that so I just grab Sebastian's hand and hasten out of the store. He laughs at me when we make it a block and I want to hit him.

"The things you've already said and done to me in the throes of passion and you can't handle a sex shop! Bette, it's precious!"

"A warning would have been nice!" I say. "Like, what kind of person needs a double penetrator? Why does that even exist? I'm stunned!"

A woman passing with her children leashed to her wrist glares at me and I shrug.

Sebastian just laughs. "You're too much, scumpete."

"You know you are the best sex of my life, right? Like genuinely, totally, one-hundred percent the best."

"Oh, I know," he says, "I just want to make sure I can't be replaced."

When we get back to his place, he orders lunch and we watch an episode of Friends while eating our salads. It's a TV show we both have in common. And I'm worried about the bags. He put them in his closet and told me not to think about them. Like that can be done.

He disappears in his room and returns in sweatpants and jacket, his earbuds around his neck. 

"I'm going for a run," he says, puqtting his plate in the dishwasher. "You can do whatever you like, but if you leave, I'll see you tonight."

That feels awfully formal and uninviting. I watch him go, thinking my joke was too much for his manhood to handle.

I'll go home. My apartment needs to be cleaned anyway as I haven't seen much of it lately.

After I've sorted my mail, paid my bills, vacuumed vigorously and dusted, my phone buzzes across the counter.

"Hey, Seb."

"Bette, what are you doing?"

"Cleaning."

"Sounds thrilling. Hungry?"

"I could eat."

"Come over," he says, "bring clothes for tomorrow. Please."

I wouldn't have but the please got me. I tuck my glasses and night things in a bag along with clean underwear, jeans, a shirt and sweater. This is nothing spectacular.

I opt to ride my bike as I purchased the damn thing and have hardly used it. This way I can also go straight into the garage and chain it up in a secure spot. Sebastian's garage has cameras and even a locker which I have the code for.

I shove my bike in the space, lock it and take the elevator to the fifth floor. The door is unlocked when I reach it but I knock anyway, just in case.

"Come in," Sebastian says, behind the bar. He throws his dishtowel over his shoulder and grins. "I've made dinner. Chicken again, but this time lemon pepper on a bed of rice for you and quinoa for me. Steamed broccoli and squash, and some fresh arugula. Would you like anything else?"

I shake my head. He pours me a glass of red wine and fills his own up to the brim.

"It's my lucky night," he smiles. He's set the table with the chairs closest together; every other meal we've eaten on the couch or at the bar.

He pulls out a chair for me and brings me my plate. "Milady."

"So formal," I say.

"It won't be for long," he smirks. "What did you do with your afternoon?"

"I cleaned and paid bills," I say. "You?"

"I ran and took a shower," he says.  "And I picked up a few things."

"More things?"

"More things. What's your new play about?"

I tell him about the musical I've switched to after being inspired by Tveit and Barks, even though I have no musical knowledge. If I get the words out, someone else can do all the melodies and writing of songs.

After dinner, he disappears while I do the dishes. I finish with the last pan and sigh when he presses his body against my back.

He kisses the side of my face and wraps his hand around my waist. "Come with me."

I set the pan on the rack as he holds my hand. He tugs me down the hall and through his bedroom to the bathroom.

The tub is full of fizzy foam and it smells amazing. The lights are dim and I swoon.

"For you," he says.

"Your bathroom has mood lighting?"

"It does," he says. He guides me towards the bathtub by my shoulders, his hands warm. "Now, enjoy."

He kisses my cheek and leaves. I undress, leaving my clothes in a pile on the floor. As the fizz shifts aside as I step into the huge tub, I notice the water is rose colored and laugh. It smells enchanting, like jasmine and sage and I sink back amongst the foam. Within minutes, I am feeling so relaxed. I stretch my toes against the side of the glass tub and sigh, looking at my fingers beneath the pink water.

It really doesn't take long for the bit of nerves to bubble up inside me — the nerves that wish a naked Sebastian was in here with me. I suppose jasmine is an aphrodisiac, and the cheeky bastard planned this whole thing.

It's as if he reads my mind because he pushes open the door, slides his boxers down his legs and looks at me with an eyebrow raised. I scan him unashamedly from his toes all the way up to the floof of hair on the top of his head. Running my bottom lip through my teeth, I nod and scoot forward. 

He climbs in behind me and stretches his legs out beside mine. The tub is huge and he doesn't even have to bend his knees. Wrapping his arms around me, he pulls me against him, kissing the shell of my ear. For several long and glorious minutes, he does just that — kissing and licking the side of my ear and my neck, keeping me tight in his embrace. I turn my head to kiss him and feel his breath on my face. He's looking at me with such conviction, the heat in my belly grows and I whine. Still, he keeps his lips just far enough away, evading all of my advances.

I am so fucking horny if I don't have any orgasm immediately, I'll explode.

"Seb!"

He grins proudly at me before finally kissing me, his lips and tongue hot on my mouth. I groan as I lean into him, stretching my fingers into his hair and resting my other hand along his on my chest. He's kissing me with the superb skill only he possesses and he squeezes my breast with his other hand. I moan again, unable to keep the noises inside. Of course he doesn't mind — he never minds. I nearly pull his hair from his head the instant his other hand works between my legs and rolls my clit between the pads of his fingers. I bite his bottom lip so he presses his finger into me and I sigh. I rock against his hand and it feels absolutely amazing. We've done many things together but never anything in a bathtub and never in such a state of sheer hormones. He's figured out just where my G-spot is and he knows exactly how to crook his fingers to rub it.

I tug on his hair the instant the orgasm hits, leaving my chest heaving and my breathing rapid. It feels absolutely wonderful, and he holds me until I can function, his fingers still delicately massaging.

"Did you plan all this just to seduce me?"

"Scumpete, I've been seducing you since we went to the sex shop," he answers. I guess that's true. Little else has crossed my mind all day and the payoff so far has been exquisite.

He kisses the side of my head as I lean against him and close my eyes. Really I could stay here until we're both prunes, but Sebastain has other plans. We sit for awhile longer, all the while he kisses every bit of my skin above the water and he plays with my hands.

When we get out, he wraps a towel around his waist before pulling a pale teal colored robe from the back of the door. It's new and made out of that waffly material, clearly not cut for him. He opens it for me and helps me into it, and I rub my face against the collar. It's kind of the color his eyes sometimes get.

"Wash your face," he says gently. "I'll be right back."

All of my night things have been placed on the counter. I take out my contacts, wash my face and slip on my glasses. My hair has maintained its state in the messy bun I put it in this afternoon, even if a few more strands hang down now.

I pull the robe tighter around me, feeling it's warmth as it pulls the moisture away from my skin.

Sebastian shows back up at the door with the eye mask hanging from a finger.

"Do you trust me?"

I nod. He kisses me once before setting my glasses on the counter and slipping the eye mask over my head. I can't see anything but it's okay because he guides me into his bedroom and deftly slides the robe from my skin. When I am naked, he lifts me and places me somewhere on the bed. I wait as I hear him move about. I'm nervous but excited more than anything else. No other man had been this considerate with a bath or this exciting with what's happening now. I feel the bed dip as he climbs onto it, and then there's something against my lips. It's cold and kind of wet so I know it's not him.

"Bite."

Definitely not a penis.

Chocolate covered strawberries. I laugh as I chew, relieved to know that's all it was. He feeds me several and even lets me feed him a plain strawberry, even though I can't actually see him. I feel his lips linger over my fingers as I hold up the fruit.

I need him inside me now.

Reaching out a hand, all I find is arm muscle. "Sebastian, please just do someting."

I wait until I feel him guiding me onto my back, my head landing against the pillows. He kisses me for several good minutes, keeping my arms pinned by my head and not touching me anywhere else. It's not enough.

Finally he moves so he's over me, kissing my neck and jaw. I find his head with my hands and curling my fingers in his hair.

"That reminds me," he says, sitting up. I wait as I hear him shuffle around. He takes my wrist gently in his hands and then I feel the coolness of silk on my skin. Both of my wrists are bound tightly but not uncomfortably spreading my arms far apart, and I am completely exposed. His lips are on me again, drawing goosebumps all along my skin. I test the strength of the bands around my wrists and realize I'll get nowhere, but I long to touch him.

Surrender is the only option.

He draws his lips to my hips and I groan, trying not to writhe too much.

"I would have put headphones on you," Sebastian growls, "but I wanted you to hear the noises you make."

Why is that so hot?

I shriek as he sucks my clitoris between his lips and slides a finger inside me.

"There you go, Bette."

I can feel it building again, coiling in the pit of my stomach. I want to grab onto him or myself or anything but I can't, and that makes the sensation better. I can hear my breaths louder than anything.

I'm on the edge. And then the bastard stops.

"Seb!"

Instead I hear something pop open and I flinch when something cold brushes against my most intimate parts. Sebastian is massaging my skin, and I try to keep my breath under control as I hear the hum of a vibration. He presses the little thing against my clit and I attempt to scrabble away but Sebastian grabs my thigh and holds me.

Some strange noise gurgles out of my mouth as he slides a vibrating thing inside me. It must be the one I picked out because it has another stimulator massaging my clit. Sebastian's warm hand rubs and squeezes my breast, and then I feel his lips on mine. I hungrily kiss him because that's the only that's familiar.

"Sebastian, stop! I have to pee!"

"It's not pee," he says roughly in my ear. "Relax."

He squeezes my nipple and bites my earlobe at the same time, sending my reeling. My back arches, my toes curl and I cry out, going completely rigid. It is the most intense orgasm I've ever had.

"Oh, Bette!"

"What?" I say when I finally catch my breath. I'm moving my head frantically trying to get the damn eye mask off but it's not going anywhere.

"I was right."

Are my thighs wet?

"What?"

"You, scumpete, can squirt."

"I didn't know that was real. I thought that was like made up in porn."

"It's definitely real," he says, pulling the vibrator out of me and I shiver. He unties my right hand and guides it to my thighs. "That's not pee. We're going to have such a fun time with that."

"I have never done that before."

"You didn't know what to hit," he says, "our little friend does and I'm going to figure it out, too."

"I don't think I can stand it."

"I think you can," he hums, sliding his finger back to my clit. I flinch but it doesn't last long as he and his damn fingers are too good. At least now I can hold onto his hair, rocking against his fingers.

"Sebastian."

He must be hard as a rock right now and I have no idea how he's maintained his composure. My other hand is suddenly free and he's between my legs. We both moan as he slides straight into me, but he's still. He yanks the mask off my head and it flies across the room. I squint my eyes because the lights of New York City are bright in the room compared to the darkness of seconds before, but Sebastian's just got this dorky yet smug grin on his face.

"This is so wrong," I mutter, holding his face in my hands.

"If it's so wrong, why does it feel so right?"

I laugh as he pulls my knee by his armpit. He rolls us over in one swift move and I dig my nails into his chest. He lets me slow things down which is nice, and he kisses me like I'm the sweetest thing on the planet. Every time I rock back onto him, I feel it up my spine and it's wonderful. He's in no rush as he gently runs his hand across my back and squeezes my bum cheeks every now and then.

He's given me complete control and that drives me wild.

I speed up, dragging my nails across his chest and kissing his jaw. One of his hands slides to my front and grabs a handful of boob.

"You're so mischievous," I say. "Smug bastard."

He chuckles and I feel it in his chest. "I told you — you deserve to be treated like the treasure you are."

He is so smooth.

I kiss him again before pulling my hair out of the knot on top of my head because I know he likes it when he can wrap it around his fingers. I lick his ear, one of his favorite things and I kiss the tip of his nose.

"You're figuring me out, aren't you?" He says, his hands settling on my hips.

"You're doing the same to me," I say, dragging my finger along the line of his jaw.

He cranes his neck up to kiss me and it's not long before we're both shaking and breathing heavily in a state of post-orgasmic bliss. I keep my head on his shoulder while he runs his hands along my back.

"Thank you," I whisper, tracing the dip of his collar bone with my finger.

"The pleasure is all mine," he says, kissing my hair.

The longer we stay the way we are, the colder I get. I move to crawl under the covers when I notice we're on a blanket.

"What's this?"

"A fancy blanket with an absorbent lining between the layers. One side's satin and the other's this velvety type stuff."

"So it's water proof?"

"Liquid proof more like it," he answers. "So if there are liquids secreted during sex, you don't have to worry about sleeping in the wet spot. It's also handy for lubes and things like that."

"You were planning on me squirting?"

"I was hoping for it."

"Bad boy."

"Told you."

I shake my head but can't help kissing him. 

Chapter Text

I can't wait. Today is the first day of dress rehearsal with an invitation to critics tomorrow night and then the play opens in two weeks.

I go to the stage door and pull it open, running to see everything happening backstage. Samantha and Aaron sit together listening to an iPod, the makeup artists work on the few extras, and Sigourney sits in a corner with a reporter. I make my way down the hall to Sebastian's dressing room to find the door open and laughter coming from inside.

I peek though the crack and find Sebastian and Kate sitting on the couch, his arm around the back behind her shoulders. She laughs at something he says and puts her hand on her knee. It's then I see the reporter in a chair facing them.

Sebastian and Kate have been spending a lot of time together. They've been going to interviews, plays, premiers, dinners and he even took her clubbing one night.

Of course it was all for the play — my play — and it was necessary to promote a sense of chemistry and companionship between the cast. If he and I were together or I had feelings aside from companionship for him, I might be upset.

"Hey, Bette," Angela says, "The Times."

"Cool," I say. "How are you?"

"Doing well," she says.

"Would you like to sit with me during the rehearsal?"

"That would be wonderful," she says.

"I get a spot next to the directors and producers. Very fancy."

"Indeed," she says. "This must be very exciting for you."

"It is," I say. "I'm over the moon."

"Miss Chambers!" Zoe, Saul's assistant, is running towards me. "Mr. Rosenblatt would like to see you."

"Meet me in the rows?"

Angela nods and I follow Zoe through the back wing of the theater. We take the flight of stairs to the offices and then she leads me to Saul's.

"Ah, Bette!" Saul says, "I was just talking to Jack and he's given me your 'Gazebo.' What you have is fantastic! We'll have to change the title I think, but it's brilliant. I couldn't wait to tell you. I mean, we should wait and see how Clark and Nan are received but this gazebo story is lovely."

"Thank you so much," I say.

"Please, sit," he says. Jack smiles as I sit in the chair next to him. "Are you working on anything else?"

"Two, actually," I answer. "A comedy and a musical of sorts. Of course I'll need help with it because I have no musical ability but I thought if I could get the story and words out, I could find a muscian to flesh it out with me."

"A musical!" Saul cheers. "I haven't done a musical in years. Would you be interested in letting me read what you have so far?"

I look to Jack to make sure. I trust Saul, I just don't know how all of this works. He nods and so do I.

"Sure," I say. "I'll email it to you now." Flicking through my phone, I go to my drive and send the file. "It's far from perfect, mind you, just some ideas I'm tossing around."

"I look forward to it."

My phone vibrates in my hand. Sebastian wants me to visit him in his dressing room when we finish, and I get a little hot and bothered just by the text. The rest of the meeting goes by quickly, and I skip back down the stairs to Sebastian's room. He pulls me inside before I can even knock on the door. He locks it and pushes me against it. My bag falls to the ground and I press my lips to that sweet cleft in his chin.

"How was your meeting?" He kisses my neck.

"Fine, how was your interview?" I ask, unbuckling his belt.

"Same old, same old."

"We could get caught."

"I know," he grins. "That's why it's so exciting."

He carries me to the counter and plops me down on it before sliding his hands to my thighs beneath my skirt. He slips my underwear down and I wobble until I'm out of them.  Kissing me frantically, he pushes into me and it's all I can do to keep from crying out.

I tug on his hair as he digs his fingers into my hips. He keeps a steady pace as we kiss, and I bite his shoulder to keep from moaning.

This is so devious and delicious.

"Seb, you in there?" It's Shaun and he knocks on the door.

I freeze, burying my face in Sebastian's chest.

"Uh, yeah. You need something?"

"Just hoping to have a meeting with everyone in ten."

"Yeah, I can do that," he says, trying not to laugh.

"Have you seen Bette?"

"Uh, no," he says, "I think she was with Saul."

"Great," Shaun says, "let her know if you see her."

"Will do," Sebastian says. He grins, taking my face in his hands. "They'll be looking for us."

"You'd better make it quick then."

Sebastian doesn't need much more than that and he claps his hand over my mouth when I can't help the moan that escapes. I watch his face when he reaches his climax and laugh. That pulls him out of his orgasm much quicker than he'd like, and he frowns as he rests his head against mine.

"What?"

"You just look so cute, that's all. And that vein on your neck sticks out and it's just cute."

"Cute! Bette, I don't want to be called cute when I'm buried inside of you."

"Well, in that case," I say, licking the shell of his ear. "You're so fucking hot and I love the way you just pick me up and put me on the counter. I love the feeling of your huge cock inside me and I crave the slap of your skin on mine. I desire your fingers inside me almost constantly and I love being hoarse in the morning from screaming so much the night before."

"Fuck, Bette."

"Exactly. Now give me back my underwear and tidy your hair."

"You're mad, you know."

"It's kept you around long enough, hasn't it?" He pulls my panties from his back pocket and passes them to me before combing his hair with his fingers. I slip the lacy thing back up my legs before hopping from the counter to finish the deed. "I hope this means you'll ravish me tonight."

"I wouldn't have any other plans."

"Good," I say, brushing his bangs into the proper floof. I stand on my toes to kiss him quickly. "Now go pretend you've not just been well sexed in your dressing room before a rehearsal and I'll see you out there."

He chuckles as I pat his bum and he pulls open the door. "You keep me young, Bette." He leans on the frame and kisses me again.

"Go."

It's not that we have to keep our tryst a secret — nobody would care and in fact most of the people in our daily lives would be overjoyed — but since there isn't anything aside from glorious sex that leaves my feet tingling, there isn't anything to tell.

I check myself in the mirror, making sure my dress isn't all bunched up and that my hair isn't completely hopeless. The hall sounds quiet so I grab my purse and pull open the door, only to run right into Jack.

"Bette! What... who... isn't that Sebastian's dressing room?"

"Oh, uh." Think fast. "I needed to make a phone call and he said I could borrow it for a minute."

"Oh, you got a date tonight?"

"Gynecologist appointment."

Jack blushes and nods. "Well, I hope that works out for you."

"Thank you, Jack."

Women's health always throws a man off.

"I'll walk you out," I say, "Shaun wanted to have a meeting with us."

"Great."

Angela is the best. Her purse is full of Kleenex and she gives me several throughout the dress rehearsal. I can't even bring myself to feel embarassed because she's crying by the time it's over.

Saul, Shaun and everyone else in the theater stands when the cast circles up. They clap and Saul kisses my cheek.

"Darling, if this rehearsal is any indication, you have a beautiful and long career ahead of you!"

Sebastian winks at me from the stage as he and Kate run out together and give their bows after everyone else. 

Theater is just the greatest thing. No performance is the same and no audience will view it the same. 

"That's fantastic!" Shaun yells. He sprints up the aisle and climbs up the stage stairs. "A couple of things..."

"Bette, it really is beautiful," Angela says. "Congratulations."

She hugs me and pats my back. "Thank you."

Sebastian skips down the stairs after Shaun finishes and kisses Angela's cheek.

"What did you think?"

"Your best yet," she says. "You'll have the whole house in tears."

"Thank you, ma'am," he says. "I'm taking you two out to eat."

"Wonderful," she says. He squeezes my fingers before running back up to the stage.

"He's never been the way he is with you when he was with anybody else," she says softly.

"It's because there's no expectations," I say. "Surely he told you that."

"He did," she says, "I guess that makes it easier on him. I'm happy for him."

"I'm happy, too."

She tilts her head and grins.

Sebastian keeps his word and ravishes me quite nicely when we get back to his place.

We're three days from opening, and it looks like this is all really happening. The reviews are in — all solid on my part. The production design is quality, the chemistry between actors is papable and Saul's producing and Shaun's directing have received the highest of praises. Sebastian got most of the negative comments, but they were all about his previous work. One review said, "This is the final nail in the Gossip Girl coffin, proving Stan can actually act. When he cries, we all cry. There's an air of confidence and charm to Clark, but suddenly Stan transforms to a vulnerable and insecure being, a message only one with such big eyes and pouty lips can convey."

Sebastian had just laughed but I had told him I adored his big eye balls and pouty lips.

I lounge in the tub in his apartment with a glass of wine and the latest edition of The New Yorker. My apartment doesn't even have a bathtub and I texted him I was here.

I hear the beep of the alarm as he opens his door.

"Bette, you here?"

"Yes!"

It takes a few minutes for him to show up at the bathroom door but he smiles when he comes inside.

"How was Kate?"

"Good," he says, sitting on the toilet with the lid down. "I think she likes me."

"And why shouldn't she?" I ask. "Did you have fun?"

"I suppose," he says, "one can only see Wicked so many times before it gets dull."

I slap his arm, splashing his skin. "Don't you even!"

He laughs. "No, it was fine. There were cameras and whatnot so we smiled."

He pulls something out of his pocket and starts pulling off the wrapper.

"What is it tonight?"

"Buffalo jerky with cranberries."

"Sounds disgusting."

"It's not awful," he says. He starts to nibble on the treat.

"What's it like?"

"What?"

"Eating all the time but only eating shit."

"It's not all shit!" He guffaws. "It's bland sometimes but not all shit. This really isn't all that bad. I do miss chocolate."

He tears off a piece and holds it out to me. I eat it and finish it off with a sip.

"That's tough."

"It is jerky."

"I'd rather just eat an apple. Or cranberries, for that matter."

"I need the protein."

"So you can flip the cars and entice the ladies."

"Indeed." He grins as he finishes his last bite. He toes off his shoes, works his jeans off his legs and I stare as he pulls off his shirt. He does need the protein.

"Can I get in behind?"

"Definitely," I say, scooting forward. He slides his boxers down his legs and steps over the edge of the tub. I lean into his chest after he settles and he takes my glass of wine.

"Oh, that's good."

"It is," I say. "You can have many sips as you like."

"Thank you," he says. We sit for a few minutes before he drags my hand out of the water.

"My mom and stepdad are coming opening night," he says.

"That's lovely. I hope they like it."

"I'm sure they will," he says. "They'll be staying here though."

"That's fantastic," I say. "Good for that guest room to actually get some use. I won't come over if that's why you're telling me."

"It's not that I don't want you to," he says, "in fact I can't think of a better way to celebrate opening night, but it's hard. Bill has Alzheimer's so we're lucky if he remembers me and he won't know where he is when he wakes up in the morning and Mom will be trying to take care of him. And of course she wants grandkids so anytime I have a lady that's the first thing on her mind. She used to want me to get married first but now she's so desperate for a grandbaby she doesn't even care if that happens."

"Gee, Sebastian! Knock up some poor woman already!"

He laughs but it's short lived. "She is going to love Kate. She'll drill me about her and why we aren't actually dating and it'll be exhausting."

"Mothers do want the best for their children, I suppose."

"Yeah, she means well. What about you? Who do you have coming?"

"Ah, I gave my comped tickets to Jack and Holly, so you'll see us on the third row in the center. Sarah and Bart are flying in next week with the baby."

"What? No parents to fly in?"

"Nope," I say, "I can't imagine they'd much like me digging up their bones and dragging them to a play."

"Your parents are dead? Bette, how did I not know this?"

"It never came up." I reply. "It's not something I usually start with. 'Hi, I'm Bette Chambers and I'm alone in the world. How are you?'"

"Well, I understand that, but you could have told me."

"This isn't the kind of thing where we have to tell each other anything."

"True," he says. He sighs and sinks his shoulders into the water, sending a little wave over my skin. "What happened? Do you mind telling me?"

"Mom died when I was three of a pulmonary embolism. Dad died when I was six of lung cancer, so my Nana and Papa — that's your Nan and Clark — took over. My father's parents were very old as he was quite old when I was born and they died in a freak accident when I was ten. Papa died when I was sixteen and Nana's health started to decline. She took excellent care of me, even when I made the worst decision of my life. She kept it up long enough for me to get through college and then I moved back in with her. She died last year. That's why I moved here — I had nothing keeping me there. I'm the only child of two only children so I have no immediate cousins, though I do have a something-odd cousin in Podunk, Oklahama I keep in touch with. She's got six kids though so she really doesn't have time for me. So, I am singularly me."

"My God."

"Don't pity me please," I say, turning to look at him in the water. "I don't need or want pity. I was loved very much while they were alive and they made the very best of the situation we were in. I don't remember much about my parents but I do know they loved me and they loved each other. My mother was very pretty, I think, and my father was funny. And of course you know all about the love of Nan and Clark. It was a beautiful life, and I'm happy I got to have the time that I had with them. Please don't look at me like that."

He's giving me that same look everybody gives me, the look making me feel like I'm a lost lamb with no herd and nowhere to go. The look of pity and sheer sadness for the girl who's alone with no one to hold her or just simply make sure she's okay. I've seen it since I was three years old and I know it better than my mother's smile.

He doesn't say anything but instead runs his thumb over my chin. He leans forward just the slightest bit and kisses me softly. "I think pitying you, Bette Chambers, would be the worst mistake any man could ever make. I'm simply in awe."

I've never had pity sex or awe sex or whatever this is, but I don't fight it when Sebastian turns me around and kisses me for so long we're completely pruny and the water is cold by the time we drain the tub.

Chapter Text

"Hey, I have something for you," Sebastian says, lifting my feet up off the couch and sitting underneath them. He passes me a box. "I presume you're wearing a dress tonight."

"I am," I say. "What's this?"

"Open it."

I slide the ribbon off the box and pop open the lid. I shriek as I pull a shoe from the box, a blue satin and a completely gorgeous heel.

"Sebby, you got me heels!"

"I did, and apparently those are the very heels Mr. Big buys Carrie in the Sex & The City movie."

"They are! Oh, they're beautiful." I hold both of them up, watching the way the broaches on the toes catch the light. "These are amazing. I'll have to thank Angela for picking them out."

"Hey! I picked them out. Angie may have purchased them, but I picked them out."

"You did a marvelous job, Mr. Stan. Thank you." I drop the shoes to my lap so I can hug his neck. He kisses my cheek.

"Well, I got you something too but I wasn't sure when to give it to you."

I reach for my purse and pull out the black box. He looks at me before popping the lid.

"It was my Papa's," I say. "He carried that thing with him all the time and amazingly it still works. Keeps good time, too."

"Bette, I can't accept this." He holds the pocket watch in his hand, cradling the chain in his other.

"Take it," I say. "There's probably little value in it aside from sentiment. You're my Clark so you should have it."

It's an Ingraham Viceroy pocket watch. The face is a little brown but it's still legible and the metal is smooth in places on the back where Papa held it. It's sat in a box in my apartment with Nana and my mother's rings, and I had no plans for it. But to give it to Sebastian seemed like a perfect thing to do.

"Bette, I love it," he says. "I feel all stupid now for getting you something materialistic."

"Ah, don't! I love them. Since you picked them out, I know you love them too. And maybe one day you'll come home and that's all I'll be wearing."

"I'm counting on it."

I grin as I lean forward to kiss him, dropping the shoes into their box and setting them on the floor. He knows what I'm doing because he puts the watch on the coffee table and moves between my legs. He moans when I slide my hands beneath his shirt, resting them against his ab and oblique muscles.

"That is a good sound," I whisper, my eyes closed and his breath hot on my face.

"Since we can't have wonderful, post-performance celebratory sex, can we have pre-performance, jittery nerves sex?"

"I don't see why not."

"Perfect."

After a lovely bout of sex with Sebastian on the couch and a much needed shower, I head back to my apartment to get ready. Holly joins me to fix my hair and get ready herself, and Jack will pick us both up.

Holly pulls my hair into a braided bun with a few wisps here and there. She helps me into my dress and I help her into hers.

"This is so exciting!" She says as she shrugs on her coat.

"I know," I nod. "I keep telling myself to breathe."

"You'll do beautifully, Bette," she says, patting my shoulder. "Those are gorgeous shoes!"

"I know!" I grin. No need to tell her how they came into my possession. "I quite like them. And this dress happens to marvelously show them off. It was a bit expensive, but how many times does your first play appear on stage in New York?"

My dress is a strapless thing with a white top but the bottom is a lovely black high-low thing. The store loaned it to me when I explained what it was for so I don't even have to pay for it as long as I return it in good condition. This barely famous thing has its perks!

"Not often, I can assure you," she says. "I feel like I'm going to prom again or something. It's been a long time since Jack and I have gotten all dressed up and them him pick me up. What a wonderful thing."

"This dress isn't too much, is it? I don't want to stick out."

"It's got pockets, right?"

"Yes."

"Then it's perfect. All dresses should have pockets for every occasion."

"Okay," I say. "Who am I trying to impress anyway?"

Holly laughs. "Bette, New York has thousands upon thousands of men wanting to date you. You just have to let them."

"Meh."

Holly checks herself in the mirror as a knock rings through my apartment. I pull open the door and Jack beams.

"Bette, you look beautiful," he says, leaning in to kiss my cheek. 

"You clean up well," I grin, ushering him inside. "And now for what you came for, your wife!"

Holly steps out from behind the little divider wall in my apartment and grins.

"Jack, you look so handsome!"

He looks at her like it's their wedding day again as she wears a strapless red gown that touches the floor and fits her perfectly.

"Babe, you look so beautiful," he says, hugging her. They hold each other for a long time and I pretend to file about my little kitchen.

"Do I need to leave?" I ask eventually. "I mean, it is my apartment but I don't mind giving you some space. Just please don't do anything in or on the bed."

"Bette, no!" Holly blushes. "Like I said, it's been a long time. Let's go now."

Saul and Z are waiting at the restaurant when we arrive and they kiss my cheek and hug me.

"Darling, congratulations," Saul says. "This is your night."

"We're not out of the woods yet," I say.

"Don't remind me," he grins as he pulls out my chair.

We order appetizers and drinks because they're having an after party where there will supposedly be more food. I probably need about four drinks to make it through the nerves bubbling in my stomach. I wish Sebastian were here just so I could hold his hand.

Saul is over the moon and Z just wants to talk about our dresses and babies. Holly can't have children but doesn't share this with Z, and I'm not ready for children. Z finds this deplorable and decides I need to meet her youngest son Percival when he comes to town in a month to see the play. While I should be annoyed for her trying to set me up like everyone else does, I can't be. In her tone, I know she's actually concerned for me and it's nice to have that kind of attention.

When we leave, we all get in a limo together. It's my fifth time riding in one, the other four being to funerals. There will be cameras and fans, but of course none of them know who we are aside from true Broadway groupies. Saul helps me out and keeps me on one arm and Z on the other.

We pause on the carpet before going inside, and my phone makes my whole purse shake. I pull it out to see it's a text from Sebastian.

You look beautiful.

I look around and see him hanging over the balcony. He waves before running off before someone spots him. He'll take the catwalk through the theater to backstage.

We are ushered to our seats, my heart pounding between my ears because this is it. Holly grabs my hand when the lights go down, and I'd rather almost be at home.

Sebastian looks so good up there. He's in his element and he's nailing every line. I know everyone else is doing just as well, but he's the only one I can focus on. He's wearing a red plaid button-up which compliments his skin tone and his jeans fit just right. The man is sex on legs and it pains me I won't be able to show him that tonight. 

Sebastian and Kate roll around on the stage like two young kids would on a date, all playful and flirty, and she pins his arms above his head before kissing him.

I know I wrote it but I don't know why it never crossed my mind to do that. Being on top of Sebastian with his arms pinned looks like a lot of fun. I'll have to try it. He'd probably even let me tie him up.

I shouldn't be thinking such thoughts in the middle of a play. There's no way I can get any action tonight so I tell myself to keep my hormones in check. But damn, does he look good!

The play ends amidst sobs and Holly pats my hand. The extras run out and give their bows, then Samantha and Aaron together, followed by Brian and Sigourney, and I shouldn't be stunned when it happens but the entire audience stands. Kate and Sebastian run out, he gestures to her as she bows and then she does the same for him. They hold hands as they bow together and then the whole cast bows.

Now I'm crying and Holly pulls me into a hug.

"It really is beautiful," she whispers. We wait while everyone else files out, and Saul finds us.

"Backstage, Bette," he says, holding his hand out to me. I lift my skirt as I follow him through the hallways.

Everyone claps as we make it through the stage door and Saul and I bow.

"Thank you so much," I say, "for making this come to life."

Then there's flowers. I get several bouquets and I'm flattered because I thought only stars got flowers. The cast starts to file out to their dressing rooms but Sebastian sweeps me into his arms and kisses my cheek.

"You did it, Bette!"

I laugh as he puts me back on the ground. "You did it."

"I couldn't have done it without you," he says. "You going to the party?"

I nod.

"I'll see you there," he says, squeezing my hand. "I need to find my mom."

"You were perfect."

He smiles at me before turning the corner.

I'm two drinks in when Sebastian grabs my shoulder.

"Bette," he says, "this is my mother, Margareta, and my stepdad, Bill. Mom, this is Bette Chambers, our playwright."

"So young!" Margareta says. "How wonderful! The play was absolutely beautiful."

"Thank you," I say. "It's a pleasure to have your son in it."

She smiles at me before Saul calls them away. A man slides into the bar seat next to me and grins.

"You must be somebody important to have met the parents."

"Excuse me?"

"Sebastian's mom, he doesn't introduce her to everyone. Therefore you must be important."

"I wrote the play," I say, looking at him.

"Oh, you're B. Chambers! Excellent work. Well, listen B, I need your help."

"I don't even know who you are."

"Right," he says, "I got ahead of myself. I'm Don, Sebastian's trainer."

"Oh, you do good work too."

He laughs. "Thank you. If you're interested, you should come to the gym. I could make you look like Blake Lively."

"I don't want to look like Blake Lively."

"Fair enough," he says, "I forget you're of the intelligent type."

Ugh, Sebastian hangs out with this douche on a regular basis. I notice the ring glisten on his left hand. And he's married?! I wonder what his wife is like.

"I happen to be fine with how I look," I say, "besides, Blake's got like four or five inches on me so I wouldn't look like her if I tried."

"Right, sorry," he says. "Anyway, I need your help."

"With what?" Maybe if I help him he'll leave me alone with my celebratory drinks.

"Well, Seb's sleeping with somebody involved in this play and I need to know who."

"What?"

"That's the only thing it could be! He's been in a much better mood the past month and that's all it can be. He's having sex on a regular basis and I need to with whom."

"That's ridiculous," I say, "and if he hasn't told you, there's probably a reason why."

"Hmm, obviously not you," he says, "Samantha although nice is probably too high strung, Kate is probably too perky. Is there a makeup girl who's a little dark and brooding?"

I roll my eyes. "You're a little abrasive and a bit rude."

"I just want to keep his best interest in mind."

"He's a grown man," I say. "I'm pretty sure he can take care of himself."

"Ah well, if you think of somebody or want to tighten up, give me a call."

He drops his card on the bar by my drink and walks off. I finish the rest of my Jack & Coke in one go.

"Bette! Bette!" Saul rushes toward me. He has a young man behind him and I wish they weren't so close so it's be obvious I was taking another drink from the Manhattan I just ordered.

"Saul."

"Bette, this is Dimitri Podladtchikov, budding Broadway composer."

I smile as I hold out my hand. "Dimitri Podladtchikov, son of Aleksandr Melikov."

"Yes, he is my father," Dimitri says.

"Sorry," I say, "I don't know of that's a sore topic or not. I don't have parents with a legacy to live under."

"You're fine," he nods. "I'm trying to make my own name for myself in the business outside of my father."

"Understandable."

I look at him as he grins. He's beautiful, high defined cheekbones, black hair and black, thick eyebrows. Of course they're not unruly but perfectly shaped. He's taller than I am and muscular but not like Sebastian.

"Dimitri was at the play tonight and was quite taken with your writing. And then it dawned on me! You need help with your musical and he needs a story to compose for!"

"Oh, really? You'd be interested?"

"I really loved your writing," he says. "The emotion was beautiful and everything was timed just perfectly."

"Thank you," I say, "I'm honored. To be honest, I loved your composition."

"You've heard it?"

"I lived in a small town in Oklahoma and there wasn't much to do, certainly not any arts, so I had to keep up with the community online."

"I'm thrilled," he says. "We should talk."

"We should!" He holds out an elbow that I take and Saul claps us both on the back.

"This going to be beautiful!" Saul says. We laugh and Dimitri leads me to a corner.

Three hours later, I'm laying in bed and it's impossible to sleep. I've rolled over and over and nothing is comfortable. I do the only thing that makes sense and text Sebastian.

You awake?

My phone rings in seconds. "Hey. You were awake?"

"I am." His voice is smooth like butter on toast.

"I can't sleep."

"Me either."

"You were really phenomenal tonight."

"Thank you." He pauses. "What are you wearing?"

I laugh. "Your T-shirt."

"Anything else?"

"Nope. You?"

"Nothing at all."

"Oh, that sounds nice."

"It is," he says. "Bette, may I help you?"

"You may."

"Do you have one of your toys?"

"I do." I toss off my shirt and climb out of bed.

"What are you doing?"

"Going to my bathroom."

"Why?"

"I bought one with a suction cup so it sticks to the shower wall."

"Bette, you vixen." He says it so lowly I feel it in my gut.

"I'm putting you on speaker phone."

"I'll do the same."

I can't believe I'm doing this but I've never done it before. I wash the clear dildo in the sink and stick it on the shower wall.

"What are you doing?"

"Making sure everything is clean."

"You good?"

I put my phone on the back of the toilet and step into my shower.

"I can't believe this is happening."

"We don't have to do anything."

"Tell me what you would do."

I hear him inhale on the other end. "I would kiss you first. I would take your bottom lip between mine and suck on it until you moan. Can you feel it, Bette?"

"Yes."

"Your breasts are so soft, Bette. My hands are warm, do you feel them?"

I knead and squeeze my own breasts, pinching my nipples. I moan and close my eyes. It's easier to pretend with my eyes closed — I don't feel quite as stupid.

"Bette, that's beautiful. I'm squeezing your hips. I love your hips! Your skin is so soft. Do you feel my fingers on your thighs?"

"Yes."

"Perfect, Bette. Perfect. Now I run finger across your clit. You're so wet my fingers slide so easily, Bette."

I moan again, imagining my fingers are his.

"That's it, gorgeous. Just feel my fingers on your skin."

I moan a little louder so it echoes off the walls.

"I am so hard right now, I need you. Are you ready?"

"Hell yes."

"Okay, Bette," he says, "I'm going to slide in from behind so I'm buried deep inside you."

I spread my legs, lift the tip of the dildo and slide onto it. I feel so stretched and full, nothing like when Sebastian does it, but it's not bad. I brace my hands against the other side of the shower before I move.

"Let's go slowly," he says, his voice breathy. I slide back and forth, letting the noises come out as they will. It's only me here so I can be as loud as I want.

"Bette, the moans!"

His breathing is heavy and I imagine him laying in his bed, the room dark except for the light coming in through the windows. The sheets will be around his thighs while his hand strokes up and down his cock while the other grips the bedding.

"Bette, rub your clit please. I need to hear you."

He doesn't have to tell me twice and I slide my fingers between my legs. They're immediately slick as I keep my other hand on the wall, bent over to really feel it.

"Sebastian!"

"That's it, Bette. Keep going."

I rub a little harder and a little faster as I keep at it, my toes curling into the cold tile. I feel it in the pit of my stomach and cry out as it hits. It was a good one as I lean forward off the toy and liquid runs down my thighs and splashes at my feet.

"What was that?"

"Squirted again," I moan, resting my forehead against the tile.

"Fuck!" It's a good declaration though and I can hear the change in his breathing. It's several minutes of labored breaths before either of us can say anything.

"Hot damn," I manage, reaching for my phone.

"Hot damn, indeed," he says. "You're not going to be able to orgasm anymore without squirting."

"I think it's already happened. How about you?"

"Thoroughly covered in my own spunk," he says. "I'll be needing a shower now."

"Me, too. But I'm feeling much more relaxed. Thank you."

"And thank you," he says, "that was a wonderful surprise."

"Anytime," I say. "Good night."

"Good night."

I stick my phone on the counter before turning on the water.

After breakfast, I get dressed and take the time to read some reviews. The positive ones far outway the negative so I try to focus on that.

My phone buzzes. Dimitri wants to do lunch and I agree to it. There's several hours before he wants to meet so I settle on the couch with my laptop.

Someone knocks on the door, and I look through the peephole.

"Seb, hey."

"Bette! I didn't feel like last night was enough and I wanted to see you."

"Oh!" I close the door behind him. When I turn around, he's staring at me with his hands on his hips and his mouth open. I smooth my hands over the bodice of my dress and shrug. "They're sending someone to collect it at five. The six hours I wore it yesterday weren't enough for such a beautiful dress so I have to wear it today. The shoes, too."

He smiles at me. "You really do look amazing."

I grin at him. He goes to my little TV stand, pulls a record from my shelf, pops it onto the turntable and starts it. Soft piano starts and he's crossed my apartment in a step.

"A girl looking so beautiful in a fine dress deserves a dance." He holds out his hand which I take. He pulls me close to him, his hand around my waist and the other holds my hand. He's picked a Bing Crosby record, and I know it as soon as the music starts. He leads me around my tiny apartment and smiles when the song ends.

"That was lovely," I say. "Now I need to get it off and hang it back up. Do you mind unzipping?"

He shakes his head as I pull my hair out of the way and lift my arm. He slides the zipper down gently and I hold it to my chest while I grab the hanger.

"I hate to give it up but have no where else to wear it." I slide the dress down my body and step out of it, and Sebastian holds it up while I hang it and stick it inside the garment bag.

"It fits you beautifully," he says, putting it on the back of the door. "But this is a good look, too."

I laugh knowing I look ridiculous in my strapless white bra and the ridiculous pair of purple underwear I'd slipped on, but he really does enjoy what he sees. It's probably the heels.

"I feel like you're overdressed," I say. He grins as he shrugs off his coat and peels off his T-shirt. I run my fingers over his abs and trace an indention between the muscle. "I met Don last night. He seems like a real peach."

"Haha, he can be harsh."

"Somthing like that," I say. "He said there was no way you would be sleeping with me."

"Did I also say he's an asshole? Because he is."

"Just so long as you know," I say. I unbutton his jeans while he kicks off his shoes and then the pants. He wraps his arms around my waist and lifts me up, and I slide my legs around his hips. "Where you going, soldier?"

"To the couch," he says. He takes the two steps it takes to reach it and I untwine myself from him to fall on it.

"Are your mom and Bill gone?"

"They're at my step brother's," he says. "Bill's been having good days so they're staying an extra night to see him and his family."

"Oh."

"We can have hot phone sex again."

"Okay."

It'll work but it's not nearly as good as the real thing.

Speaking of the real thing, Sebastian tosses my bra to the floor and kisses me hastily. There should be a word for the type of kiss that's sloppy and frantic and so, so completely naughty. I would use that word to describe this. 

I hook my feet still in the fabulous heels he got me over the backs of his knees as he drags his lips and teeth and tongue over my jaw and neck. His hair is soft beneath my fingers and I moan as his hand slides to my breast.

Last night really wasn't enough for him.

He sinks to the floor on his knees and pulls my underwear down my legs. Fingers run down my thighs and he kisses my foot just where the shoe ends.

"You are a sight," he says. "These fucking heels."

I don't know what it is with the heels but he really likes a woman in them. I sigh as he leaves a trail of kisses up my leg and close my eyes as he gets to my thigh.

"Oh!" I cry as he licks my clit and sucks it into his mouth. His middle and ring fingers slide inside me and he curls them upwards. Grasping onto the cushions, I try to think about not kicking him with the heels and struggle as my body is overwhelmed. He is a very talented man. In a moment of clarity, I rip the fancy blanket he bought me from the back of the couch and toss it at him, hitting his face. He pulls his mouth away only long enough to haphazardly spread it open and I lift my hips long enough to kind of slide it beneath them. Lips and tongue resume their dance on the little bundle of nerves and his fingers continue their movements.

"Hell, Bette! Do you hear how wet you are?" He mumbles, his mouth still between my legs. I can hear the squelching my body makes as his fingers work over the spongy spot inside me and the pressure is almost too much. At first it's a little, and then it's a lot. It's one of those orgasms where my body jolts up as my eyes roll back and my jaw drops. Everything bursts into brilliant colors for a second before I collapse back into the cushions.

Wet. Everything is wet. My thighs and calves are wet. Sebastian's face, arms and chest are wet. He's laughing and he kisses my hip.

"Fuck me." I mutter, throwing my arm over my eyes and trying to regain a sense of being. "I don't even know where that all came from." I open my eyes and peek out from beneath my arm to see him wiping himself off with the blanket. "I am so sorry, Seb."

Heat rises in my cheeks when I realize just how much I must have gushed and I hide beneath my arm again.

"Sorry? Bette, there's noting to be sorry for! That was incredible, wasn't it? You're so turned on, it can't help but spill out of your body. That's amazing."

"It did feel really good."

"As it should." He kisses my hip again.

"I should take off the shoes now though," I say. "I don't want them to get ruined."

"Fine by me," he says rocking back on his heels. I slip off the shoes and set them on the coffee table behind him. Adjusting the blanket so it's covering the couch, I watch as he stands all muscular and a little sweaty. "You're incredible."

"You are."

"I know," he says, slipping his boxers down his legs before laying on top of me. The blanket is still beneath me and I'm so wet there's no friction as he slides in. He groans as I wrap my legs around his waist. Kissing him, I move my hips with his and pinch his perfect bum. His breath is hot on my ear and it's incredible to be able to lose myself with another human being.

It's always fun to have him on top but I'd rather do it this time. I push against his chest with my knees and he stops moving. Laughing, I roll him over and he draws his legs up onto the couch. I climb over his hips and steady myself with my hands against his chest. He watches me with wide eyes and a smirk as I bend over and kiss his neck.

He lifts his hips so he is rocking against me and I sit back onto him. 

"Bette."

"Sebastian."

I move my hips swiftly with his and take my time kissing his chest. I add a little bit of a rotation to my movement and stretches beneath me, his hands slide to my breasts and squeeze. We move together, a mess of teeth and tongues and nails and nips and hips and moans.    

"Bette!"

My name never sounds better than when he's calling it right before he climaxes. I move my hips for a few seconds after he finishes and he runs his hands over my back. Kissing for minutes, I sigh when the record reaches its end, the static sand filling my tiny apartment. I climb off him to remove the needle and turn off the player. It's odd to think Bing Crosby was the soundtrack to some of the best sex of my life, but Bing has probably been around for many, many sexcapades.

"Shower?"

"Yes, please," he says, stretching as he rolls to his feet. I grab the blanket and toss it into the washing machine as we walk by.

I tuck my hair into a twist and turn to find Sebastian tugging on his shoe.

"You coming tonight?" he asks.

"Maybe, maybe not," I say. "I'm going to lunch with Dimitri Podladtchikov to talk about the musical, and we may carry on through the evening."

"All right," he says. "Call me tonight if you want."

"I will."

He kisses me as he pulls open the door. "Enjoy your lunch, Bette."

"Have a nice time with your parents, Sebastian."

He walks down the hall toward the staircase, his hips swinging in that way only his center of gravity allows them to. I hate for him to leave but I do love to watch him go. 

Chapter Text

Dimitri has an adorable laugh. It's one of those laughs that draws the attention of the whole room and makes you grin at the same time.

We sit in the far corner of the bookstore with our laptops and tea and he shows me a cat video on YouTube.

"Bette, would you like to come over for dinner tonight?"

"Would I? That would be great! Would you believe I don't know how to cook anything for myself unless you can use a Crockpot?"

"No, Trenton is a really good cook," he says. "I'd be like twenty pounds lighter if not for him."

"I look forward to it. I love my play and I love what's happening to it, but I can really only stand to see it so many times, you know."

"Of course," he says. "Besides, this way we can spend hours by the piano tinkering with things."

"Sounds great."

We spend the afternoon at the movies, picking the latest one with Paul Rudd because we both like him. He joins me at my apartment for the few minutes to wait for the courier to pick up my dress, and then we take the subway to his part of town. Their apartment is in a swanky part of town — not as swanky as Sebastian's — but it's certainly better than mine. How did everyone get a better apartment than I did?

It was a warehouse converted into an apartment complex so it's generally just one large space with curtains hung up around the bedroom. They have lots of theater lights though so it looks amazing, and they've really managed to decorate it well.

"Sweetheart, we're home," Dimitri says as he slides open the door. I follow him through and see a very tall, very dark, very beautiful man standing behind the kitchen countertop. He's got long and beautiful dreads, some of which have been dyed deep blue and he wears red rimmed glasses.

"Hello," he says. "I'm Trenton."

"Nice to meet you," I say. "Bette."

"Yes, we saw your play last night. Great stuff."

"Thank you," I say.

"Trenton is a music producer and had a client in the studio early this morning so he was unable to go to the after party."

"Oh, you didn't miss much."

"Dimitri tells me the drinks were delicious."

"That's true," I laugh.

"What are you making?" Dimitri asks.

"Short ribs," Trenton answers. "Arugula and a mashed potato medley."

"That sounds lovely," I say, "you sure you don't mind if I join?"

"We love having people in our home," Trenton grins. "Sit on down, sister."

"How did you two meet?"

"We were across the hall from each other our first year at NYU," Dimitri grins.

"We spent the entire first semester pretending we weren't into each other," Trenton grins as he stirs something in a pot. "Then one day during this awful snow storm, the power goes out. It was the end of the semester so mostly everybody had left already, but not little Dim."

"I'm always conflicted where to go on holidays," Dimitri adds. "Dad's all over the place and mom's husband gives me the creeps."

"The life of a son born to two artistic souls," Trenton says. "So, I'm huddling in my room beneath all my blankets with a book, just waiting for the lights and heat to come back on. And there's a knock on the door."

"It was so cold," Dimitri giggles, "you have no idea."

Trenton smiles at him. They're so adorable it's almost sickening. "I make my way, still bundled in all my blankets, to the door and find this beatiful little pale, blue-eyed boy at my door with a bottle of vodka and a ton of blankets. He grins at me and says, 'It's so cold and to be perfectly frank I'm terrified of the storm. Apparently my Russian lineage doesn't go far when you get out of the country. May I stay with you at least until the power comes back?' And how was I supposed to turn that down? So, we cram into my little twin bed and half a bottle of vodka later, we're both feeling pretty warm but not quite warm enough. You can probably put two and two together from there, and we've been together ever since."

"That's precious," I say.

"What about you? Where's your man?" Dimitri asks. "You don't strike me as a lady who likes ladies."

"Oh, I'm not," I say. "I very much like the man parts. I don't have anyone in particular."

"Oh!" Dimitri grins as he kind across the counter. "But you do have somebody!"

"What?"

"You may not have anyone in particular but you do have somebody. Honey, we learn all the cues at a very young age — it's the easiest way to survive in our world — and you may not have meant it, but you have somebody. You're sleeping with somebody! Congratulations!"

"What?"

"You can try all you want to convince him you're not, but it won't work." Trenton raises his eyebrow at me over his glasses.

Dimitri taps his fingers along his chin.

"He's got to be detached because you wouldn't mess with someone's marriage. He's got to be handsome because you wouldn't casually sleep with someone who wasn't it — simple laws of nature. You had to have met him in the few months you've been here but that could be thousands. You've been crazy busy with the play so it's someone who is probably involved with it because you haven't got time for anyone else. He's got to be someone who doesn't want a real relationship for one reason or another. He wants to keep your activities out of the public eye so he must be somewhat famous. Sebastian!"

"What?"

"Again with the what!" Dimitri cheers. "Merde! You're fucking Sebastian Stan. How do you handle those thighs?"

"I am not handling those thighs!" I hide my face in my palms. "They have the tendency to handle me."

Dimitri cheers as I lift my eyes. He laughs and runs around their bar to me. "Bette Chambers, aren't you full of sexy secrets?" He kisses my cheek. "I want to know everything about this. We won't tell — promise."

"There isn't much to tell," I say. "It is what it is."

"Let's see if you feel that way three glasses in," Dimitri says, pulling wine glasses from the rack. "White or red?"

"Whatever is easiest."

"Wonderful," he says. "We'll get you talking."

"He's very persistent," Trenton adds, waving the wooden spoon at Dimitri.

"But you love me."

"I do," Trenton grins as before kissing his boyfriend.

When dinner is ready, we swap stories of our childhoods and find that none of has had your traditional upbringings. Dimitri was the product of a one night stand, but his parents remained amicable. Born in Russia, he moved to Paris with his mother at the age of five while his father moved to London the year before. His mother got him during the school year while some holidays and the summer were spent with his father. He had the most privileged childhood out of the three of us, but it certainly wasn't great. Trenton on the other hand was born the third son to a woman in Harlem, and his father left shortly after his birth. She worked three jobs to feed them, and when he was seven, his oldest brother was killed in a drive-by shooting. Trenton and his brother took care of each other while their mother worked, and his brother is now playing for the New York Knicks. They're very proud of each other.

They both sit silently as I explain my story, even telling them things Sebastian doesn't know.

"Damn girl," Trenton says. "No wonder you're a writer."

I laugh. "I suppose it has cultivated an understanding of emotion and human action and reaction."

"Well," Dimitri says, standing from the table. "I need a drink."

"You two go work," Trenton says, "I'll clean up."

"Awe babe," Dimitri says. "You're the best."

"I know."

Dimitri gives me his hand, pulls me to the piano in the corner and yanks me onto the bench beside him.

For two hours he plays and sings the things I've written with the melodies he's managed to piece together. Trenton helps on the occasion since they both sing well and Trenton can hit the high notes the women would be singing. I laugh as I listen to them, both Dimitri and I stopping to scribble things in our notebooks. I'm now sprawled out on the couch, my head hanging off of it and my wine glass empty on the floor.

"Sounds really good," Trenton says. "You two mesh well."

"Thanks," I say. "I still need to perfect the ending."

"I'm thinking huge!" Dimitri cheers standing up. "It's got to be better than Defying Gravity and You Can't Stop the Beat together."

He flops over the back of the chair and then stands on it. He leaps and grabs the fire poker from its stand and points it at Trenton. "Follow my lead."

Trenton nods as Dimitri climbs back onto the chair. "Maybe this time, I'll be lucky! Maybe this time, he'll stay!"

I dissolve into a fit of giggles as Dimitri practically sings all of Cabaret which leads into a look at all of Broadway's greatest hits. Trenton delivers an astounding rendition of "And I Am Telling You."

"Bette should come over every night!" Dimitri cheers, flopping next to me at the edge of the couch.

"He loves to have an audience," Trenton laughs.

"I think I need to go home," I say. "Everything is a little sparkly."

"I will call you a cab." Trenton says.

"Thank you, kind sir."

"You're welcome."

Dimitri plays a few of Elton John's hits while we wait for the cab to arrive, and then they walk me downstairs to the door.

"You sure you can get home by yourself?" Trenton asks as I lean on him.

"Yessssss," I say. "Besides, Sebastian and I have a phone sex date."

"What?" Dimitri cheers. "You didn't tell me that!"

"Well, it's true."

"Bette Chambers," Dimitri says, "We are going to revisit this when you're sober."

"Sober-schmober."

"You take care now," Trenton says.

"I will, thanks."

The city lights look so pretty on the drive back to my apartment, and I clumsily make my way up the stairs. Dropping my keys as I reach the landing, I groan.

"Crappppppp."

But the door opens anyway and Sebastian's there.

"Sebby! You're in my home." I feel his arms slip under my shoulder and suddenly I'm flying through the air. Nope, not flying. He's picked me up in those big arms of his and swept me into my apartment.

"You're drunk."

"Slightly tipsy," I manage. "We had champagne and three different wines but they were all delicious."

"So you've been on a date with Dimitri this whole time? Bette, that's adorable."

"Nope. Not a date." I shuffle around the divider wall and collapse on the end of my bed. "I don't think gay men in committed relationships date girls like me."

"Well, I don't think they date girls at all," Sebastian says.

"True. You've been gay a few times but you still kissed girls."

"I think your mental capacity has left you for the evening," he says, working my boot of my right foot.

"No, no," I say. "You did kiss girls. And guys. And it was all very good for you."

"What can I say? I know what I'm doing with my mouth."

I pop up onto my elbows and look at him, still kneeling on the ground. "I don't know you've ever spoken words more true."

He grins like the awfully proud bastard he is. "So Dimitri is gay."

"Yep," I say. "He and Trenton-y have been together for eight years. And on their tenth anniversary, they're getting married. That's sweet, right?"

"Sure," he says.

"What? You worried you were going to lose your fuck buddy to the Russian stud?"

"Not at all," he says. "Can you get your pants off?"

"Yes!" I say. "Can you get yours off?"

"I'm not going to sleep with you, Bette."

"Well, why the hell are you here?"

"I was going to," he says, "but now I'm not entirely sure you're coherent enough to make sure that's what you want."

"It is what I want. Why aren't you at your house? I thought your parents were still here."

"They are," he says, "I just left quietly an hour after they went to bed and I'll be back when I would regularly return from my work out."

"Hmmm," I say. "Sorry I'm drunk."

"So you admit it?"

I hold my thumb and finger apart only a little to say as much, and then I burst into giggles at the sight of The Winter Soldier brooding in my apartment.

"Let's get you into bed."

"Yes, please!"

"Bette, I''m glad you're dainty enough for me to be able to easily maneuver you."

"I'm not dainty," I say. "I could break your nose."

"I'm sure," he says, "but you won't."

"You're right." I nod. "I'm going to the bathroom."

"Can you make it on your own?"

"I made it up four flights of stairs without your help."

"All right."

I have enough sense to pull on a pair of pajama pants and a T-shirt after taking off all of the day's well traveled clothes. I think I kind of manage to brush my teeth and wash my face. There's always time for that later in the morning.

Sebastian is leaning on the wall outside the bathroom when I open the door with his huge arms across his chest.

"See?"

"Not bad except the pants are on backwards and the shirt's inside out."

"The shirt is a style choice and these are sleep pants — there really is no backwards for a girl. It's not like I have something that will come popping out."

"You're pretty quick for a lush."

"You might be a little fuzzy but I can still comprehend every word you're saying in the moment. I may not remember this later but I am very aware what's happening now."

"Wonderful," he says, "maybe you won't even know I was here."

"We'll see."

I fall onto my bed again, rolling over on top of it. He disappears for a few minutes while I stare at the ceiling and reappears with a glass of water and my cell phone. I watch as he plugs in my phone and leaves the cup on my nightstand. He digs around in my drawers and pulls out a pair of socks which he slides onto my feet. I don't sleep in socks but this does feel nice.

"You should really get under the covers, scumpete." He says, pulling them away from the top of the bed.

"Fine," I say, rolling around until I'm quite ensconced in sheets, a blanket and a down comforter. I look at him sleepily as he brushes hair away from my face.

"Good night, Bette," he says, kissing my forehead.

"Good night, scoom-pet-ay," I say, touching his hand. He smells delightful, his scent lingering as he walks away.

The sun is bright. Why is the sun so bright?

I moan as I rollover. What had tasted like springtime and happiness last night felt a bit like darkness and regret this morning. I find my bottle of ibuprofen in the nightstand, pop a couple and roll over again.

This time when I wake up, things are much better. They aren't great, but they are much better. I'll have to remind myself not to get lost in the theatricality of Dimitri's Broadway hits.

I make it to the bathroom where I sigh. My hair is a disaster, apparently I've drooled quite a bit in the night, and my clothes are a complete mess. I'm wearing socks which is weird. How drunk was I?

After a shower and two cups of coffee, I felt much more normal. The socks still bother me. I was wearing long socks when I went to out and short socks when I woke up. I should probably wash my sheets though.

After pulling the pillows from their cases, I work on getting the sheet off the bed. Catching a familiar whiff, I pause.

Sebastian.

I grab my phone and dial.

"Good afternoon, sunshine!" He's awfully cheerful.

"You were here last night! How drunk was I? Did we do anything? I'm so embarassed!"

I can almost hear the smirk in his voice. "I was, very, no and don't be."

"Oh hell. You were because you wanted sex and I was too drunk to do anything about it. Sorry!"

"You don't owe me anything," he says. "We will have plenty of time for sex."

"I'm glad to hear you say it."

"Bette, remember, this is a no strings attached kind if thing. If you want to go out and get tipsy with your new BFF, that's great. That's your right."

"I know," I say. "I was just really looking forward the phone sex."

"Well, come over tonight whenever you want and we'll do the real deal."

"All right-y," I say. "Sorry I pooped on your plans, but thank you for the socks."

"You're welcome."

"And Seb?"

"Yeah."

"Break a leg."

"Thank you."

And I make sure to be promptly at his apartment about the time he gets home from the play.

I attend Sunday's matinee after meeting Dimitri and Saul for lunch. Saul is completely excited for the progress we've made on the musical, and now he thinks he should pay to send us away for awhile to some retreat to work. Thankfully, Dimitri jumps in and says he can't bear to be apart from Trenton that long, and I'm not sure I could be away from Sebastian and his divine... skill.

My phone rings as the door buzzer goes off, and I manage to answer as the door closes.

"Seb!" I say, taking the stairs two at a time. "You were great today."

"Thank you," he says. "Um, I was just wondering if you were coming over tonight. Are you?"

"No, I hadn't planned on it."

"Oh." I love the disappointment in his voice. "Do you want me to come over?"

"You can if you'd like," I say. "We won't be doing anything heavy tonight."

"Did you… did you break our agreement, Bette?"

'No," I say, "it's that time of the month."

"Ohhhhhhhh!"

"Yes," I say. "Some people might be okay with it, but I am not."

"No, no, that's fine."

"Good, because I can't control it," I say. I pull open the front door of the building, take pizza from the boy, give him a twenty, mouth thanks and turn back upstairs. "I didn't figure you'd want to be around me."

"What does that mean?"

"I don't know," I answer. "There's not much you can do about it."

"Oh, okay," he says, "Well, I guess I will see you in five to seven days then."

"It'll be like three," I say, "birth control is an amazing thing."

"I believe it," he says.

"All right, good night."

"Good night to you, too."

I climb back up the stairs with my pizza in tow, pop in a DVD and plop on the couch. Pizza tastes best when you eat it right out of the box.

I'm halfway through the tragedy of Katie and Hubbell when there's a knock at my door and I hear the key slide in the lock. I pause the movie, hoping it's Sebastian coming through because no one else has access except my landlord.

Slowly I stand and wait for the door to open, but there's Sebastian with bags in his arms, a bouquet of flowers flopping out of the top in one of them.

"What are you doing here?"

"I thought about you being alone and crampy and probably crying so I brought you some flowers and chocolate and berries."

"How thoughtful!" I take the flowers — some big orange, yellow and red Gerbera daisies — to the sink. He unpacks the chocolate and berries onto the coffee table while I cut the stems and put the flowers into one of the four vases I now own thanks to opening night.

"I know," he grins. "And I have the entire day off tomorrow — no workout, no interview, no Kate — so I thought you could let me hear everything you've worked on for the musical."

"That's wonderful. Come, sit. I'll put up my pizza so you won't have to smell it."

"Domino's? You're in New York, land of thousands of pizza places, and you order Domino's?"

"It feels like home," I say. "They were actually the only pizza place in town."

"Your poor upbringing."

"Yeah, yeah," I say. "Better to be born in the country than in communism."

"Touché." He laughs as he pulls of that navy jacket of his that looks so much like Bucky's I swoon a little, and he flops onto the couch.

"Can I get you anything? Water or water?"

"Water sounds delicious," he grins.

"Excellent choice," I say. He laughs as he settles in and looks at the TV.

"The Way We Were, Bette," he says, "really?"

"I've got steaks and baked potatoes and sour cream and chives and salad and fresh baked pie! I would've made a pot roast — I make a terrific pot roast, but, uh, I didn't know whether you ever had pot roast, whether you like pot roast. Anyway there wasn't time because it really should be made the day before. You can't go yet, you just gotta stay for supper — that's all there is to it!"

"What kind of pie?"

"Ah, Seb! You know the line. How wonderful!"

"I'm impressed you knew all that," he says, "and they say I'm the actor."

"It really doesn't get better than Barbra and Robert," I say, sitting next to him on the couch and pulling my legs beneath me. "And you've met him! Oh my gosh! I almost forgot. How was that?"

"It was incredible," he grins. "You know I ran into the refrigerator, right?"

"In that scene in his kitchen! You're not anywhere near the refrigerator in that scene! Seb, you dork!"

"Yeah, yeah, laugh it up. He really is an icon and I'm sitting there looking like a goober in my costume with the black all over my face and I don't have a line of dialogue and thank God for that because I probably wouldn't have been able to get it out."

"That's adorable."

"Adorable?"

"Just you getting all flustered and nervous," I say, "It's adorable."

"You're the only woman who can effectively make me feel like such a man and then so opposite of that in a matter of seconds."

"I don't mean to," I say. "It's one of my favorite things about you — how you can be all dark and brooding and masculine and ugh… the epitome of everything that turns me on in the world and then two seconds later you're this hilarious dork with a little laugh and in a word... perfect, you know, in a noncommittal sort of way."

He laughs and slips his fingers between mine. "You can play the movie again."

"Shall I start from the beginning?"

"Nope," he says, "here is fine."

"Good, up next is Yentl."

"Bette," Sebastian's whine only comes from one side of his mouth and his face is scrunched in the most precious way.

"I'm just kidding. I was really planning on Singin' in the Rain, Rear Window, Overboard or Legally Blonde. You can pick."

"What a diverse group of options."

"I know," I say, "and you've got an hour to decide. So think on it and don't make fun of me if I cry towards the end of this one."

"I would never," he says. I plop the carton of blueberries — organic and just washed — on his lap and put the bag of Dove milk chocolates in mine.

"Seb?"

"Hmmm?"

"Thanks."

"You're welcome," he says. I smile as he leans over and kisses my cheek, and there's no objection when I rest my head on his shoulder. 

Chapter Text

The play has been running for a month now, and the amazing thing is we've made it to Halloween. Aaron and Sebastian decided to rent out some club together and have an after party — costumes required.

If we're to play that game, I know most of the girls will be in some form of lingerie disguised as an animal, so I opt for the complete opposite. I have a feeling Sebastian will like this better anyway. I don't live my life for his benefit by any means, but it certainly is fun to wind him up.

I've invited Holly and Jack and Dimitri and Trenton, realizing I'm a single girl with only couple friends. I suppose I am at that stage in my life. Everyone's settling down and I'm just getting more awesome.

That's what I tell myself when I wake up in the morning.

Holly cheers as I step out of their guest bedroom in my outfit. She's managed my hair into beautiful and swooping pin curls, and my dress sways softly when I walk. It's a cream color with black velvet flowers, and the sleeves come just past my elbows. Hanging below my knees, it hides the tops of my stockings and the ridiculous petticoat beneath it. Pearls sit on my earlobes and around my neck. My lips and heels are ridiculously red, but I must admit I feel pretty damn gorgeous.

"Bette, you were born in the wrong time!" Jack says. He's wearing a curly blond wig, thick glasses, a white T-shirt, jeans that are ridiculously high and snow boots.

"All I need is a vacuum cleaner," I laugh. "You look great."

"Thanks," he says. "I just feel like I need some Chapstick."

"Did you go to the nurse's office?" Holly asks, zipping up her fanny pack. Together, they are Napoleon and Deb from Napoleon Dynamite and they look adorable. They figured enough time had gone by the costumes would be clever and funny again.

We pile into the back of a cab after pulling on our coats and arrive at the club. Supposedly there was supposed to be food and drinks so we didn't even have to worry about that. The night was completely free and so was I.

They check our cards, coats and bags at the door, and the three of us stand overwhelmed once we push through the curtain.

"They didn't hold back, did they?"

The whole place has been outfitted like a 1950's club, including dancing girls. The band on the stage is playing a jazz version of "Just Dance," and a waiter passes each of us a shot as we walk in.

"If I had known there was a dress code," Holly said, "we might have done something different."

"You look great," I say. "It just said costumes."

"Bette! Oh my gosh, you look so cute!" Dimitri runs towards me with his arm outstretched dragging Trenton behind him. Dimitri is wearing a little red dress, a wig and sparkling red boots that reach his thighs. "I'm Lola from Kinky Boots! I know it would have made more since for Trenton to be her, but he wanted to be Stevie Wonder so here we are!"

Trenton has indeed seemingly grown out a mustache and swapped his glasses for sunglasses. He lowers them and winks at me.

"You look lovely, Bette," he says.

"Thank you," I say. "I'm channeling my inner Donna Reed. Maybe my inner June Cleaver."

A waiter comes up then and offers food options, but he stares at me.

"Are you Bette Chambers?"

"I am."

"Your party should follow me."

"Okay."

Holly and Dimitri both grab my hands as we're led through the club and up a flight of stairs. The balcony is full of tables lit by candles and the food already waits.

"Your seats," he says.

"Wow." Holly manages. The waiter pulls out my chair and there's still three seats open when we all sit.

"If you need anything else," he says, "just let someone know."

There are tiny cheeseburger sliders at the center with several buckets of fries and onion rings but it's all done very diner-like. Trenton finds a basket of chicken strips and another of corn dogs. Waiters bring glasses of water and take our drink orders. We laugh as the other table upstairs starts to fill up, and Kate waves at me as she takes her place at the other table.

"So are we at the VIP table?" Jack asks.

"It would look that way," Holly says.

"It's because Bette's always sucking off Sebastian's VIP-nis," Dimitri mutters to Trenton. I give him wide eyes because Jack and Holly don't know and they don't need to. He smirks and steals a French fry off my plate.

"Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your hosts," a guy from the stage yells. We all turn to watch what's happening below. "Mr. Aaron Tveit and Mr. Sebastian Stan!"

They appear out of a curtain, Aaron dressed a lot like Ralph from Happy Days and Sebastian is a very convincing Fonzie.

"We are so excited to be here with our friends tonight," Aaron smiles as they stand next to each other.

"Food and drinks are on us, so please enjoy yourselves," Sebastian adds.

"That was rather tame for the two of them," Holly says.

"To be honest I was expecting like a scary theme or a sexy theme or something un-Happy Days."

"So you didn't know the theme of the party?" Dimitri asks, his eyebrow raised.

"Not at all," I say.

"Because you fit right in. Maybe a little classy, but still a fit."

"Hmmm," I say, reaching for a cheeseburger.

The other table cheers as Aaron skips through the door and starts hugging all of his friends. Sebastian follows him with two people behind him and he kisses my cheek before Holly's at the table.

"Friends, this is Chace and his girlfriend Peyton. Chace and Peyton, friends."

Chace Crawford pulls out a chair for the Greek goddess next to him; she must be a model. Sebastian pulls out the chair next to mine and grabs one of my fries. "You look divine, scumpete."

"Thanks," I say. "Aayyyyyyeee?"

He laughs, sticks his thumbs up and says, "Aayyyyyyyeeeeee."

"You didn't have to put us at the VIP table, you know." I whisper.

"Who else was I going to invite? I know you can't stand Don so he's downstairs, everyone else is out of town, I like Dimitri better when I keep an eye on him and Jack and Holly don't deserve to be alone, and I may or may not plan to get a little under the skirt action while we eat."

"Well, when you put it that way," I say. He grins as he grabs his glass of water. The waiter slips a glass filled all the way to the brim of whiskey in front of him and Sebastian grins.

"If I'm going to drink," he says, "I am going to fucking drink!"

Jack and Chace hoot and holler to that as they toast and soon several conversations are happening all around the table. The music continues and everyone is happy. Sebastian and Aaron know how to throw a fun yet classy party.

Somewhere after I'm feeling very full on cheeseburgers and fries, Sebastian's hand slips to my knee.

"You look very beautiful tonight, Bette," he says softly into my ear. "This dress is very pretty."

"If you like the dress, you should see what I have on underneath."

Sebastian growls in the back of his throat as his hand slips up my leg to the top of my stocking.

"You're wearing stockings? Fuck me sideways!"

"I intend to," I say lowly. I stand quickly and hold my hand out. "Dim, let's dance."

"Hell yes!" Dimitri cheers as he pushes back his chair, takes my hand and follows me down the stairs. We get on the dance floor where the band is now playing a very weird swing version of "Thrift Shop."

"I don't know what game you and Sebastian are playing but the tension between you two is incredible."

"Is it noticeable?"

"Only if you're looking," Dimitri smirks. "I don't think any one else at the table knows though."

"They're not supposed to," I say. "The thing between us is nothing so there's nothing to tell except I'm having the greatest sex of my life."

"I hear you, girl!" Dimitri laughs as he points his fingers and shakes his hips. When the song ends, Trenton sweeps Dimitri into his arms and they sway to a swing version "Drunk in Love."

Some guy named Todd gets me for two dances. He's nice but his rhythm suggests he doesn't have any... And I know he couldn't compare to the Romanian rake I know is watching me. I excuse myself knowing he can't follow upstairs saying a need a drink and sit down at the table.

"Bette! I was wondering if I could talk to you." Kate flops into the chair next to mine, her boobs fighting to stay in her top. A traditionalist, she went with a sexy nurse costume.

"Of course," I say.

"You and Sebastian are really close, right?"

"I suppose so, yes."

"It's just... We've been spending a lot of time together and I really like him. He's such a sweetheart and so genuine... Do you think he would like me?"

"Um, I don't see why not," I say. "He does traditionally go for blondes and you're a great girl. I mean, he and I have never talked about it but I do think if he liked you, he would let you know."

"Oh, okay," she says.

No point in giving her false hopes. "You could always ask him to dance, though."

"You think?"

I nod. "Sure. Get out there!"

She grins as she grabs my hand. "Oh thanks, Bette!"

"Anytime." I really don't mean for that to end badly. Kate really is a sweet girl and they do have some kind of chemistry. He's never fucked her up against a wall or a in a bathtub or quite so thoroughly her thighs are shaking and they're both soaked. Ah, I will miss that when this is over.

I enjoy a milkshake with vodka mixed into it. Quite tasty, really. And there's Sebastian.

"Tease me as best you can," he says, holding out his hand. "I can't wait to get you home and see what's on underneath."

"But you can't leave your party early."

"I know," he says, "tease me."

"Challenge accepted."

Dancing has never been one of my fortes. I am quite tone deaf and moving my body exactly the way I want it to is trivial. Of course having slept with Sebastian so many times helps because I know his rhythm and what he likes. The song ends as we step onto the floor and then it's a jazzy version of "No Diggity."

"Where did you find this band?" I ask, sliding my arms around his shoulders.

"YouTube," he says. "Pretty clever, right? They take popular songs and make them sound like old songs."

"It's different."

I kiss his cheek before turning my back to him. The floor is crowded and the room is pretty dark so we won't be that noticeable down here. Dropping the June Cleaver facade for Jessica Rabbit, I sway my hips right into him so my ass is pressed against his crotch. He groans as his hands slide to my waist and follows my lead as we move. Even through the layers of my skirt and petticoat, I can feel the bulge in his jeans. His hand moves from my waist to my breast but I quickly swat it away.

"Careful or someone will think we're up to something."

He groans in my ear and I squeeze his fingers. 

"Besides," I say, twining my fingers through the top knot of his hair. I slide my other hand between us and give his cock a generous squeeze over his jeans. "A lady never acts scandalously in her pearls."

"You are so devious," he says.

"You invited me."

He grins as we move, his hips ever present against my bum. They then switch to "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire" by The Inkspots and Sebastian tugs on my hips so I face him. We assume the same position as the other couples, and I laugh.

"I think you have to ask Kate to dance."

"I do?"

"She likes you," I say. "She asked if I knew if you liked her."

"That's cute."

"It is, isn't it?"

"Bette."

"What? You deserve a chance to be happy. Like, really happy, and if that's with Kate then you should go after it."

"It's not going to happen with Kate."

"Why not?"

"She's too happy," he says.

"Sebastian."

"You know it's true," he says. "I'm a pretty optimistic guy, but I can't be happy all the time. She's exhausting, you know. Everything is beautiful and perfect and wonderful all the time in the world for her, and while it's a lovely thought, it's simply not the truth."

"Gee, Debbie Downer," I say. "Maybe you need some of her sunshine."

He laughs and shakes his head. "Nope. It's like you. You see the good and the bad and can cope with both. Kate is all good all the time and I cannot handle that."

"Fair enough," I say. "You should still ask her to dance."

"I will," he says, "but first!"

The song ends and he springs out of my arms.

"They have been Postmodern Jukebox," he says into the microphone, "and we are so glad they could be here." We clap. "That was their last song, but don't fret, my friends! We have a DJ for you now!"

The crowd cheers as some Jennifer Lopez song fills the room and confetti drops from the ceiling. Soon I'm sandwiched between Dimitri and Trenton and having a fabulous time.

When my feet simply cannot stand it any more, I climb the stairs back to our table and sit. It isn't long before he finds me.

"I've had enough," he says quietly. "You ready to go?"

I nod. He pulls something out of his pocket and presses it into my palm.

"These are the keys to Diana," he says, fondly referring to his BMW. "She's parked down below. Say your goodbye and I'll be there in five minutes."

"All right," I say, "don't be obvious."

"Never," he replies before licking my ear. He's looked incredibly handsome all evening. I admit I watched more than my fair share of Happy Days growing up and Fonzie was always the epitome of handsome. But this wasn't Fonzie, this was Sebastian and he was real and so sexy and made me feel so sexy and we were going to have sex in a matter of minutes.

"Bye friends!" I said, hugging Trenton and Dimitri's backs. Holly and Jack left an hour earlier and Kate was nowhere to be found. Samantha and Aaron kissed my cheeks as I left. The valet said he could bring up the car but I waved him off since I had the keys and I found Diana easily enough. I had only been in her once and she was an exquisite vehicle. It doesn't take long for Sebastian to come down the walkway and then we're on the road for his apartment. We go up the back elevator and he's on me as soon as we make it inside his door.

"You just look so cute in you little dress, Bette," he says, "so classy."

"Thank you," I say, "but we both know I'm not."

I push his shoulders against the door and slide down his body, my hands on his chest. He's getting hard again beneath his jeans and that's just perfect. Sinking to my knees, I pop the button and slide down the fly.

"Bette!"

I don't even bother with his jeans really any more than that and I pull his boxers down just far enough. Hands and teeth and tongue are more than enough for this and he's already so excited. His head falls back to the wood as I suck, licking just the tip. His balls are warm in my palm and he groans when I give them a gentle squeeze. I know I shouldn't be as turned on by this as I am, but his beautiful chest is heaving and there's something delectable about his taste.

I feel him straining not to buck right into my throat, and I moan when his fingers find a curl in my hair.

"Bette, fuck! I'm going to..."

I hum my appreciation as I feel it coming and manage to swallow everything he releases. I haven't always been one to swallow but that was so easy I don't mind. Licking shaft before letting go, I stand as sexily as I know how and kiss his lips. He does come more easily than any man I've been with, and I'm not entirely sure it isn't because of all those extra nerves in his foreskin.

"That was so sexy," he manages when his breaths recover. His hands are on my hips and I grin, the salty taste still into mouth. "May I undress you?"

"You may," I say, "but first."

I bend back down, untie his laces and pull each boot off one at a time. He watches as I push his jeans and boxers down his legs, and he helps me pull his leather jacket and and white T-shirt off. As I kiss his chest, he sighs and relaxes against the door.

"You're so perfect," I say, my fingers on the V of his hips. He grabs my face and kisses me fervidly. Before I know it, he's wrapped his arms around me just enough to carry me. Our lips never part as he manages to get me to his bedroom, my hands in his hair. I swing my shoes off as he walks and he puts my feet on the ground.

I sigh as he walks around me and pulls my hair over my shoulder. I feel his fingers release the hook-and-eye of my dress and slide down the zipper. He kisses my neck as he pushes the garment down my arms and the dress falls. He makes quick work of the petticoats, too.

"Futu-i!"

Slowly I turn, placing my hands on hips with an eyebrow raised.

"Do you like?"

"Do I like?" He scoffs. "It's gorgeous."

It's a black slip corselet made of lace and it fits like a glove. Of course the stockings are pinned to it, and I didn't bother to wear any underwear. He groans as his fingers trace a line in the fabric and I grin.

"It's so pretty." His hands are hot on my skin through the sheer fabric and they slide over my hips. "Not even a tasteful thong?"

"Is there such thing?"

"Mmm, probably not." He walks around me with an eye of appraisal. He pulls me against him, his body hot against mine. I suck his bottom lip between mine and bite it gingerly as his hand covers my breast and squeezes. Kissing Sebastian has become my favorite thing in the world, and I'm happy to run my hands all along his strong back while our lips dance. 

Tugging on my hand, he walks backward to the bed. "You're in for a treat."

I have no idea what that means but if he's saying it, it must be good. He picks up our special blanket, drapes it across his pillow after moving it closer to the center of the bed and lays down.

"Come on, Bette."

"You want me to sit on your face."

"That's exactly what I want you to do."

"I don't know about that."

He props himself up on his elbows and raised his eyebrow. "Bette, you can handle it. I promise. If you don't like it, we can do something else."

I sigh. I do have on all this sexy lingerie for a reason. I climb onto the bed and swing my leg over his head. He shifts so his arms are wrapped around my thighs and my knees are bent. I grab the headboard and take a deep breath.

"How's the view?"

"Amazing," he answers, pulling on my thighs so I feel his breath against my skin. The anticipation is killing me as he never gets quite close enough. I feel his breath and on the occasion his nose but never anything else.

"What happens if I fall onto you? You'll die."

"I will not suffocate beneath your cunt, trust me."

I've never heard him say that word and it's a bit off-putting but I'm too distracted to care.

"I won't drown either," he says, as if he reads my mind. "You ready?"

"Yes."

I am not. I fall forward with the very first lick and hit my head on the wall. "Owe, fuck."

Sebastian has somehow pulled me onto his lap and holds my back. "God, Bette! Are you all right?"

I rub my head with my fingers, squeezing my eyes shut as tightly as they'll go.

"It's like when you hit your head and it's terrible but you can manage, you know?"

"Yeah, I know," he says, his fingers brushing gently against my face. "Scarlett kicked me in the face once."

"Ouch."

"Sure," he says. "How about you? Do I need to take you to the emergency room?"

"No, no," I say, waving my hand. It really isn't terrible and I doubt it'll even bruise. "I'll be okay."

"Okay," he says. I open my eyes to see him smiling at me, his fingers holding a curl that fell out of place. He chuckles.

"What?"

"I asked if you were ready."

"I thought I was!"

"But you're okay?"

I nod. "I suppose with all the sex we've had, one of us was bound to acquire an injury at one point or another."

"You got that cramp in your foot that one time."

"True," I say, "very true. And you strained your leg. Don would be so mad at me if he knew that was my fault."

He laughs. "We are getting old, Bette."

"Well, I'm not dead yet and would like to try again."

"You want to try again?"

I nod. "I'll be better prepared."

"I also have another idea," he says.

"You do?"

He grins as he kisses me, holding my hands. I climb off of him and watch while he grabs his pillow and the blanket and pulls them more towards the middle of the bed. He lays back down and grins at me.

"No wall," he says.

"How smart." He smacks my bum as I lean over him.

"If you need to stop, let me know," he says. "I don't mind."

Before moving any further, my most intimate parts centimeters from his face, he slides his arms between the crooks of my legs and laces his fingers with mine. This feels incredibly intimate. I suppose it should.

I get why he wanted to hold my hands because I squeeze the crap out of his palms as he flattens his tongue against my vulva, licking one long strip. He finds an exquisite pattern of long, slow licks and little, sharp flicks, and I'm grinding against his face before long. He lets go of my hands to hold my shaking thighs so I lean forward on my elbows, panting. Those beautiful lips pull my labia into his warm mouth and I scream, burying my face in the duvet. The rhythm we find together is so exquisite and the spring snaps in my belly with one perfect flick of his tongue.

I manage to roll off of him and collapse on my back. My chest heaves, my legs shake and those damn little falling specks of black and gold float from the ceiling. Eventually Sebastian rolls over, shifts so we're about even and puts his hand on my waist.

"You all right?"

"Definitely." I roll my eyes in his direction, too sated to move anything else.

"That was a fun experience."

"Fun. Heavenly. Rapturous. Splendid. Amazing."

"Bette Chambers, did you just come to Jesus?"

I laugh as I roll onto my side. "You're ridiculous."

"And you're ridiculously fun to have in bed."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome."

I pat his chest as I roll out of bed. I've needed to pee since the party and now that the excitement of sex has abated, the urge is real. I close the door behind me and settle on the toilet to do my business.

Sebastian pushes on the door as I'm mid-pee and strolls in.

"What are you doing?"

"I figure I might as well take this interlude to ready myself for sleep," he says, picking up his floss.

"But I am on the toilet."

"Bette, I've been all up in everything there is to be all up in," he says, "I've licked, sucked, nipped, kissed everything down there and you're worried about being on the toilet?"

"Some things are meant to be private."

"You're not taking a shit, are you?"

"No. Rude."

He laughs. "Sorry. I just don't think it's that big of a deal, but I'll leave for a minute."

"Thank you," I say. He leaves and closes the door behind him and I suppose he waits until the toilet flushes. I wash my hands, take out my contacts and start flossing while he brushes his teeth.

"So civilized," I say, popping the floss between my incisors.

"Indeed," he says, bending over towards the mirror and inspecting his teeth. He pops his clear plastic retainer out of its case and slides it in place.

"Wow. We're to the retainer phase," I say. "That's sexy."

"I've seen you on the toilet," he quips with the slightest lisp, raising his eyebrows at me in the mirror.

"Bastard." I punch his arm which doesn't affect him at all. I wash my face with my hands while he uses his little Clearasonic wand. I wonder what he would do if I borrowed it. "This has been really sexy."

"Mmm, I love watching you floss," he says, "such good oral hygiene."

I'd laugh but he's pulled me against him, his own efficient oral hygiene pressing against my jaw.

"It's really beautiful when you wash your face and your eyeliner and mascara gets all smeared and you look like The Winter Soldier."

"Oh, shut up." I groan as I stand on my toes, wrap my arms around his neck and kiss him. I feel his mouth turn into a smile as his hands slide to my hips.

"Bed?"

"Yes, please," I answer. "With one condition."

"Okay?"

"These stockings have to come off."

"I can do that," he smirks. "I plan to have you all to myself all night."

It's the first morning in a long time I am still awake to see the sunrise. 

Chapter Text

Dimitri and I work well together, maybe too well. We’ve now started two musicals and written an end for a third. Naturally it’s getting colder in New York as the November chill sweeps in and I finally understand the beauty of fall. Oklahoma has nothing quite like New York.

When Dimitri and I get caught up on a word or phrase, we meet Holly for coffee and shopping. They always find the best things. Today they’ve talked me into a pair of heels and a dress, even though I have nowhere to wear them. I suppose there’s always Thanksgiving.

Holly’s afternoon client canceled so she joins Dimitri and I for our afternoon writing session.

"So this is what you guys do?"

"Yes," I say. "Dimitri hits the keys for hours and I pretend to write lyrics."

"It’s very exhausting," Dimitri says, playing something classical on the piano.

"Totally." I’m on my back on the couch.

"And then we both go home and have our men fuck us senseless."

I choke on the pen I’d been chewing and sit up with a jerk.

"What?" Holly asks, her head slowly popping out of the magazine in her hands.

"What? Did I say we and our. I meant I and mine."

"Bette, you’ve got a boyfriend?"

"No, I don’t."

"You’re seeing someone then?"

"Not really, no."

The magazine falls from Holly’s hands and she bites her lip as she studies me. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

"There’s nothing to tell," I say. "We sleep together often but that’s it."

"Bette, that’s dangerous," she says. "I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life or what you can and cannot do, but that’s dangerous."

"It’s really not," I say, "we’re consenting and have agreed to only sleep with each other for the time being. In that sense, it’s quite safe."

"No, that’s not what I meant. Sweetie, have you thought about your heart?"

"What about it?"

Dimitri quietly sits down on the couch next to me and scratches his head. Holly is leaning forward in her chair, her eyebrows raised.

"This is going to end badly," she says. "This friends with benefits—"

"Fuck buddies." Dimitri feels the need to correct.

Holly narrows her eyes at him. “This will end badly. One of you will develop feelings and the other won’t. It’ll only end in heartbreak! Not to mention unwanted pregnancy could be an issue.” 

"I know it’s risky," I say, "but he makes me feel so unbelievably good when we’re together it’d be a shame to let that go when it’s being so freely offered. I feel nothing more but friendship for him and he feels the same for me. It’s consensual, safe, comfortable and damn amazing."

Holly frowns. “I hope you’re right. I just don’t want to see you get hurt.”

"I appreciate that," I say, "but I won’t. There’s nothing to hurt."

"Why did you tell Dim and not me?"

"She didn’t tell me," Dimitri says, finally offering something of value. "I just know these things."

"Do I know him?"

"You’ve met him."

"Sebastian?"

I don’t answer but I can see the huge grin spread across Dimitri’s face.

"You’re sleeping with Sebastian? Shit, Bette! You’re sleeping with Sebastian! Why didn’t you tell me you’re sleeping with Sebastian?"

"Never came up?"

"Bette Chambers! You’re sleeping with Sebastian! I should be chastising you but I can’t! Bette! Oh my gosh! He is so hot and nice! Bette!"

"Holly!"

She laughs and falls back into the chair. “To be fair, it was fun to have meaningless sex. Of course all of my meaningless sex was with Jack so I’m not sure it counts, but it was fun.”

"Isn’t it?"

"What are the details — may I ask?"

"Yes! The details!"

"What details?"

"How’d you meet? How’d you reach this agreement? What’s it like?"

"If you must know," I say, "we actually met over a year ago in Los Angeles."

"What? You’ve known each other for a year! Is that how the play came together?"

"No," I say, "and that’s why we don’t tell anyone about our previous encounter. We just were staying in the same hotel. I was there for a wedding and who knows what he was doing. We had a one night — well, two night — stand and were good to leave it at that. He didn’t know my last name, what I do or anything like that. Fast forward to this year and we met again at Saul’s office. He remembered me, and we had dinner and then we reached our… agreement."

"So romantic," Dimitri says, waving his hand.

"It’s not supposed to be," I say. "It’s supposed to be two people consensually having sex with no strings attached."

"Well, good for you." I know Holly’s upset. She’s of the traditional mindset where casual sex isn’t supposed to happen. She won’t say anything else about it but I know she’s thinking it.

"Please don’t tell Jack," I say, "I know you’re sworn to tell each other everything, but if Jack finds out he’ll tell Saul and Sebastian will be kicked out of the play or worse."

"You think Saul would do that for you?"

"He might consider it. I think he feels very protective of me."

"Someone has got to look out for you, little Bette," Dimitri says, putting his hand over mine. "Not that you can’t take care of yourself, but you do need someone to be there for you. I will say — what I will say — is that I can guess what Sebastian is working with, and I would assume you’re a very lucky girl. I don’t know how all that fits together with you straight couples because I never tried it myself, but I would assume big is big in any case."

Holly gasps before bursting into giggles. “Dimitri!”

"Oh, listen to Little Miss Prudence over there! I just know that those gym shorts he wears so often don’t conceal everything."

"He’ll be pleased to know you’ve been checking him out."

"He was born in Romania, right?"

"Mmhmmm."

"Oh my gosh, did it freak you out the first time you saw it?"

"What?" Holly asks.

"They don’t circumcise over there," Dimitri says, "they don’t in Russia either. Trenton just looked at mine for like ten minutes before anything else happened."

"What?"

"I think you’ve lost her," I say. "To be honest, the first time I saw it, I was a bit tipsy and he’d already gotten me off twice so I wasn’t really interested in the particulars."

"Oh, Bette! Congratulations!"

"How many times did he get you off?" Holly slaps her hand over her mouth like she’s shocked the words slipped out. Dimitri cackles and falls into the cushions.

"That night, five."

"Five?!"

"What? How many have you had?"

"One at most."

"Oh my God!" Dimitri cheers. "You need to get Sebastian to take Jack out for drinks and explain how all of this works. Maybe it’s not that you can’t get pregnant, maybe it’s just that he’s not doing it right!"

"But then Sebastian would know we’ve talked about this and it’s supposed to be on the down low."

"And the infertility is on both of us, amazingly! He has no balls and my ovaries under produce!"

"No balls?"

"He had cancer when he was 21. They took them both."

"That’s amazing," I say. "I’m so glad he’s alive and you found each other."

"I know," Holly says. "Funny how all of that works."

"Can he even get it up wi—"

"Dimitri!" Holly blanches.

"All right, all right," Dimitri says, "but maybe you, sweet Holly, should pull out all the stops and don’t let him finish until you’re quite satisfied."

"Jack would kill me if he knew we were talking about this."

"Please, you know he talks to the guys," I say. "And if you want more, just ask for it."

"Do you?"

"I don’t have to, to be honest. Sebastian just goes and goes until I beg him to stop. He is by far the best I’ve ever been with."

"Well, maybe." Holly sighs. "Dimitri, have you ever considered color?"

I know she’s finished with sex talk so I indulge her. No need to make her feel uncomfortable and I’m just glad to have another woman to share it with now. And maybe this will make things better for her and Jack.

Sebastian returns to his apartment late that night and finds me sitting on his couch watching HGTV. He lifts my feet up, sits underneath them and leans into the back of the couch. He’s been working with a fight choreographer in the mornings as well as his regular gym routine with eight performances a week. I know he’s tired and he closes his eyes.

"Long day?"

"Yes."

"Let’s get you to bed then, huh? I’ll give you a massage and run my fingers through your hair."

"Okay." Like a child he trudges back to his bedroom where I strip him of everything but his boxers. He does all of his night routine in a daze, flops into bed and rolls onto his stomach. I kiss the base of his neck and rub his shoulders for only a few minutes before his breaths even out.

The sun is bright but it feels warm coming through all of his windows. The kitchen smells delightfully like breakfast — the only thing I can really cook — and I watch the egg sizzle as it fries. I’m not even sure the stove in my apartment works but Sebastian’s is just fine. I eat by myself while reading The New Yorker and take my dishes to the sink. I hear the key slide in the lock but I stay with my hands in the water.

"Good morning, scumpete," he says, as he opens the door.

"Morning!" I say. "Did you have a nice workout?"

"Fine," he says. "You sleep all right?"

"Excellent as always."

"Good," he says. "I’m going to go change."

"Hope everything works well," I say, looking over my shoulder at him. I hum to myself as he heads down the hallway.

It works.

"Bette, what song is that?" He asks, swinging around the corner into the kitchen.

"Hmm?" I manage before continuing my tune.

"God, who told you?"

"Turns out Dimitri is quite the Hayden Panitierre fan." I say, turning around and drying my hands on a towel.

He drops his head backwards as he leans against the counter in front of me.

"How was I to know? You know, she was The Cheerleader and they said it would be good for me and it was a music video. I’d never done a music video before."

"Ah, Seb! She can’t even sing! Or couldn’t, who knows how much they had to work with her for Nashville."

"I know," he groans. "It’s one of those things I like to imagine never happened."

"Awe, but you looked adorable in the video."

 ”Thank you,” he says. “I’m so embarassed.”

"We all make mistakes," I giggle. "Nothing to feel embarassed about."

"She raps." He looks completely disappointed as his eyes fall to the floor and the laugh erupting from me is a good one I feel in my whole body.

"Tries to rap. She tries to rap."

He nods his head and throws his arms up in surrender. “She tries to rap.”

"It’s really kind of catchy though," I say, sliding my arms around his neck. "You don’t buy me flowers. You don’t buy me drinks." He sighs but grabs my swiveling hips with his hands. "You don’t drive me anywhere but insane."

"You sound better than she did."

"Not entirely sure that’s hard to do."

"So how many times did you and Dimitri watch it?"

"A good eight," I say. "We couldn’t get over her red underwear. And Holly was there, too."

"But you own red underwear."

"But I don’t wear it out for all the world to see, certainly not in front of my unworthy boyfriend I think I have to cheat on to get his attention. She should have just dumped him."

"And this is why you don’t listen to pop music."

"Exactly," I say. I kiss the tip of his chin. "Weren’t you going to change?"

"Well not now," he says, "you’ve stopped singing but you’re still moving your hips."

"Oh, I am, aren’t I?"

He laughs and pulls my body against his. “You’ve been planning this, haven’t you?”

"I was going to sing to you when you got home last night," I answer, "but you went straight to bed."

"I did," he says, "but I think your plan was successful."

"Was it?"

He pulls my thighs directly onto his so can feel his erection. “This is your wake up call.”

I know he’s trying to be clever and seductive and he’s looking at me with the fire of a thousand suns behind his eyes, but the line is just too damn funny. Instead I laugh, my head falling against his chest.

"Bette, you are the worst!" He says but he’s laughing too.

"Come on," I say, tugging on his shorts. "I’ll help you change."

"Good."

"Maybe you need a wake up call," I sing, “‘cause you’re too comfortable. You think because you’ve bagged me, you don’t have to work at all."

"Just for the record," he says, "I have bought you flowers and drinks and we’re not even dating."

"And you do actually drive me places," I add.

"True," he says. I pull his shirt over his head and take a button up from the closet. "Bette."

"Sebastian."

"What are you doing?"

"I’m helping you change."

"But I thought we were going to do something a little sexy."

"Just a little?"

"Or a lot," he says, shaking his head. "Whatever you want to do."

"Hmmm," I say. "We could do something a little sexy."

I push his shorts down his legs and grin.

I wait on the curb, bundled in my coat with a bottle of wine beneath my arm. My breath makes little clouds as it leaves my body and I can feel my face pinkening in the cold air.

"Get in before you freeze to death!" Jack says, pushing open the car door. I slide in next to him and Holly grins at me.

Saul has invited us all to his and Z’s apartment. It’s on 34th street so we’ll be able to see the parade as it passes by rather than having to be in the thick of it.  They’ve also prepared the entire meal leaving it to their guests to bring drinks or desserts, so I opted for the one that required no cooking.

"Your first Thanksgiving in New York," Jack says, "how do you feel?"

"Like it’s Thanksgiving in New York," I say. "I am excited to see all the Christmas things though."

"You’ll love it," Holly says. "I’m so glass Saul invited us. I hate having to pretend I know how to cook turkey."

"Me too," I say. "I don’t know that I’m big on spending holidays alone."

"And you shouldn’t have to," Jack says.

We make idle chatter as the car takes us to Saul’s house and the doorman ushers us inside. The lobby boy gets us on the elevator and promptly drops us on the 23rd floor.

"Bette!"Dimitri cheers as he runs through the open door. "You look great."

"Thanks, you too."

"Come on," he says as he tugs on my arm. He pulls me towards a man sitting on the couch next to Saul. "Bette, please meet my bastard father, Aleksandr Malikov. And I say bastard because like myself, he is one."

Aleksandr Malikov, renowned dancer and director, stands. He looks just like Dimitri with but graying hair just around his temples. It’s unfair a man in his fifties appears so well composed.

"Miss Chambers, I presume," he says, holding out his hand. "If my son didn’t sleep with other men, I would hope he would be after you."

"Oh, um, thanks."

"I hear you’ve written a wonderful play," he says, grinning at me. "Dimitri has gotten us tickets for Saturday night."

"It’s only so wonderful because of the actors," I say. "They make it what it is."

"She’s being modest!" Dimitri laughs. "The parts could be played by potatoes and people would still cry."

"My son always has been imaginative."

"He says that like he was there to watch me grow up." Dimitri purses his lips and cocks his eyebrow.

"Well," Trenton interrupts, "the parade is coming this way if everyone wants to gather at the windows."

"Yes, yes!" Saul pipes, sweeping the room with his arms to get everyone off the sofas and chairs and towards the pillows and lounges set up by the large windows. "We have mimosas and mojitos for your enjoyment. Please, drink up and get to know everyone!"

Holly and Jack are already seated at a window so I join them, and Dimitri and Co. follow. A cater waiter brings a tray of mimosas and another brings fruits and biscuits, and soon everyone is mingling quite nicely as the huge balloons pass by the windows.

Jack makes a rather clever joke about Big Bird and we all laugh, mimosas making the mood lighter. It’s the first time I wish Sebastian were here so I could lean into his shoulder; he’s gone to be with his mother upstate instead.

"You have a wonderful laugh," Aleksandr says, looking at me with blue eyes that make me feel uncomfortable. I smile at him slightly and look back out the window.

It wasn’t an uncomfortable feeling. It was a giddy one.

When the parade ends, Saul gathers everyone around the piano; apparently it’s not a Broadway Thanksgiving if people don’t crowd together for sing-a-longs. Everyone here except for their son is involved in the community somehow — dancers, singers, agents, stars, producers, directors, stagehands, writers, critics and anyone else who knows anybody on the stage. Audra McDonald and Idina Menzel are here, to drop a few big names.

Everyone gives it their hand at something, aside from Jack, Holly and myself. We’re content to sit on the couch and listen to everyone else. Dimitri and Trenton do a lovely rendition of “I’ll Cover You” from Rent, and I know Dimitri plans on singing it at their wedding so it’s special to them. Aleksandr just smiles as he watches his son sing with the love of his life, and I smile watching Aleksandr. I know he wasn’t around for parts of Dimitri’s life, but he was there and accepting when Dimitri needed him the most. Aaron and Idina sing Wicked’s “As Long As You’re Mine,” and I’m covered with goosebumps as they finish. I will never be unamazed by truly talented individuals.

"You can tell you’re a writer," Aleksandr says, stepping close to me.

"Oh?"

"You’re such an observer," he says, "no doubt you’ve made thousands of notes just in these few hours to catalogue in your brain."

"That may be true," I say. "What about you? Don’t you want to jump up on the piano and give us a good pirouette?"

"I’m afraid my hips have long since taken me out of the dancing game," he says, "although I can still lead a lady on the floor when I need to."

It’s odd hearing such a strong Russian accent coming out of his mouth when Dimitri’s has been diluted to more of an English or even just American. “I’m sure you can.”

"May I sit by you at lunch?"

"You may," I say, "if seating isn’t assigned."

"I’m sure I can figure something out." He winks.

Indeed when the turkeys have been carved up and the cranberry sauce is on the plates, Aleksandr Malikov sits on my right. Holly is on my left and she’s incredibly intrigued by the whole thing.

I don’t blame her.

He is the perfect gentleman, holding everyone’s attention. He makes the entire table laugh but he’s always interested in what I have to say.

As he looks at me with those startling blue eyes and a beautiful white smile, I remind myself he has ten children by six different women and has been married three times. He knows how to charm the pants off a woman and he certainly knows what he’s doing.

Must not let myself be attracted to him.

After lunch the tryptophan and alcohol set in, and everyone goes their separate ways. We ride the elevator down with Dimitri, Trenton and Aleksandr.

"What time are we meeting?" Dimitri asks.

"Midnight at Macy’s," Holly answers.

"I’m picking her up on the way," I say. "And we’ll meet you at the entrance."

"Wonderful," Dimitri says. "See you beautiful ladies later."

He hugs us and Jack both, and Trenton follows.

"Until we meet again, Miss Chambers," Aleksandr says, taking my hand in his and kissing my knuckles. He smirks as he follows his son through the lobby.

"Well, well, well," Jack says, "looks like you’ve got a Russian admirer."

"I felt it in my gut when he was looking at you," Holly says. "He is very renowned but he does have a reputation."

"You don’t have to warn me," I say. "I’m very aware of his many affairs."

"It’s your life and you can date whoever you want," Jack says, like I don’t know that. If he knew who I was sleeping with…

"Thank you, Lady Liberty."

Jack rolls his eyes at me but holds open the door.

The driver drops them off first and I head up to my apartment alone. I crawl beneath my covers and wrap them tightly around me after I change out of my dress and into some sweatpants and a T-shirt. I plan on being dead to the world until 11:15.

"Bette?"

I roll over and peek out from under the covers. I can make out Sebastian’s silhouette in the dim light of my bedroom. I groan.

"What are you doing asleep?"

"Dreaming."

"I figured you’d be out partying or something."

"Dimitri, Trenton, Holly and I are going shopping at midnight. I was trying to recover and replenish."

"Oh," he says. I close my eyes but I hear the familiar sounds of his t-shirt gliding off his body and the unzipping of his pants. He lifts up the sheets, earning a groan from me, and slides in next to me. Kissing the side of my head, he wraps his arm around my waist and presses his chest against my spine. I sigh as I relax, and then I roll over.

"Did you have a nice Thanksgiving?"

"Good," he says, "yours?"

"Fine," I say. I snuggle against him, pressing my cheek against his chest. "You smell nice."

"Thanks."

I tilt my head and kiss his chin, and he slides his hand from my waist to my face. His lips are soft and warm against mine, and I can practically taste the sweet potatoes and marshmallows still clinging to him. I loop my leg over his hips and he wraps his arm tighter around my middle.

"Bette?" He says it softly as his face is still next to mine.

"Hmmm?"

"We should go to sleep if you have to be up soon."

"You sleepy?"

"I could fall asleep eventually."

"Do you have to work out in the morning?"

"No, Don’s out of town."

"Will you be here when I get back?"

"Sure," he says.

"Okay." I kiss him again before nuzzling my nose against his neck.

He hardly stirs three hours later as I climb out of bed, dress, freshen my makeup and leave. And I am delighted to return eight hours later, arms laden with shopping bags and one full of cronuts, to find him leaning against my kitchen counter with the newspaper in one hand and a coffee cup in the other.

"Morning, sunshine," I say.

"Good morning," he says, grinning at me. His eyes widen when he sees the plethora of bags. "Did you buy out the whole store?"

"No, but I did get a Vera dress and my first pair of Jimmy Choos!"

"Oh, Jimmy Choos, wonderful!"

"It is!" I say. "They were samples and just my size and it was magical."

"A Black Friday miracle," he laughs.

"Indeed," I say. "What do you have to do today?"

"A whole lot of nothing," he says. "What do you have to do today?"

"I was thinking we could have a hibernation day."

"A hibernation day? Are you a werebear and never bothered to tell me?"

"Har har," I say, "no, let’s just get some snacks and spend the whole day in bed. I have an entire collection of movies to watch."

"Like what?"

"What are you in the mood for?"

"Something warm."

"Warm like a heartwarming family flick or warm like a nice understated chick flick?"

"I’m feeling confident in my manhood today —"

"As you should be," I say, squeezing his bum.

He laughs as his hand circles my wrist. “So I’ll say chick flick.”

"Fantastic," I say. "How do you like Kate Winslet?"

"Love her."

"Jack Black?"

"Him, too."

"Perfect! I bought you something. Do you want to put it on?"

"Depends on what it is."

"It’s perfect for a hibernation day!" I dig through the bags and find the plastic one I want. I toss it at him and watch as he unfolds the blue and red fleece.

"What is it?"

"It’s an adult onesie!" I giggle. "And in the look of Steve Rogers no less."

Sebastian laughs as he holds the garment up to his body — a fleece pajama suit that zips all the way up complete with a hood and eye mask. Did I mention it looks like Captain America’s uniform?

"With feet, too," he says.

"Yes, but those zip so you don’t have to wear them if you don’t want to, but they do have gripper bumps so you won’t slide."

"It’s perfect, Bette," he says, holding up his arm for me to fit under. "Thank you."

"You’re welcome," I say. "Put it on and eat some cronuts?"

"Of course," he says.

"And then probably I’ll be ready for some afternoon delight."

"My favorite."

"Happy Black Friday," I say, leaning against him and looking up at him.

"Happy Black Friday to you," he says, grinning before kissing me. We slowly make our way around the dividing wall in my apartment and fall onto my bed where we spend the rest of a rather lovely day.

Chapter Text

I situate myself on the blanket. It's a bit nippy but the fire is warm and at the current moment, I suppose nippy is good.

I hadn't intended for this to be the way I would spend the evening, but here I sit. Holly and Jack's anniversary is New Year's Eve so she wanted sexy lingerie to celebrate. Dragging me to the store, she went through piles and piles before settling on a purple slip with lace panels on the side. It's very pretty and completely Holly.

And here I sit in this thing the tag said was a teddy but I hardly think you could call it that. It's red satin with a bra that resembles a bow but one ribbon stretches down my abdomen and right between my legs. Somewhere down there that ribbon transforms into a satin string which is the only thing on my back. It's supposed to be like opening a present which seems fitting with Christmas right around the corner. Sebastian will either find it sexy or funny, and either one will surely result in a happy ending for me.

He's gone out with Chace tonight but will be back soon. I've gotten the blanket ready, the tree is lit and the sexiest Christmas music I could find is streaming through his apartment. My makeup is on point and my lipstick is as red as the satin on my body.

I grin and drape my arm across my abdomen, making the sexiest pose I can think of. The keys slide in the lock and I wait with my eyebrows raised.

"...didn't know that would happen..."

He's on the phone then. He'll hang up soon enough. I lean my head back and trace the satin with my finger.

"Yeah, man! I got my hair all caught—"

I shriek as Sebastian steps around the door with Chace right behind him and both their eyes go wide. I'm scrabbling for the blanket and Chace is frozen and I'm up and running for the bedroom but of course that doesn't work as I hit my toe on the coffee table and fall flat on my face with a loud, "Fuck!"

My shin hurts and my face is steaming red and my toe is throbbing but Sebastian is on his knees in front of me, and I feel the blanket moving along my back.

"Bette, are you all right?" 

I groan as I keep my cheek pressed against the carpet.

"Is it just Chace?"

"Just me," Chace says. "I'll be down the hall."

I open one eye as I hear the guest bathroom door close. Sebastian rubs my mostly bare shoulders as I push myself up onto my elbows.

"It was supposed to be this sexy thing where you'd come home and unwrap your present and we'd fuck on the floor by the tree while Kenny G serenaded us into the morning. And now it's a mess and my toe is throbbing and I've got carpet burn that isn't even the good kind."

He smiles gently at me as he slides his fingers beneath my chin. "I really appreciate the gesture. That is a sexy little thing you've got on."

"Yeah, just 'cause there isn't much to it. I landed on my boobs so they kind of hurt now too."

"I can only imagine," he says. "Chace was just going to have a few beers and hang out, but I'll send him home."

"No, don't do that," I say. "You hang out with him and I'll change and go."

"Don't go," he says softly. "Chace won't care if you don't care."

"Did he know about us?"

Sebastian nods, "Yeah, I told him. Is that okay?"

I nod. "Dimitri and Holly know, and by extension, Trenton. I didn't personally tell any of them."

"That's fine," he says, "how's your leg?"

I move so I'm sitting, my right leg stretched out from my cover of the blanket.

"It's all right," I say, looking at it. My big toe is red and my leg is scraped pink. "I'll just go put on my clothes and leave."

"Stay," he says. "Just put on your robe and hang out. I mean, if you want."

"I don't know that I will ever be able to look Chace in the eye again."

"Nothing he hasn't already seen before,"  Sebastian smiles. "Although this time the packaging is superb."

I grin for the first time since they walked through the door. "Thank you."

He rubs my arms through the blanket. "You sure you're all right?"

I nod. "Mostly just bruised my ego."

"Nothing to worry about," he says. "It would have been very sexy. You can put on some of my pajamas or something if you want." After helping me off the floor, he kisses my forehead.

"Thanks," I say. "I may or may not make a reappearance. Otherwise, I'll be in your bedroom."

He cocks his eyebrow and smirks. "That would be okay too."

I stop the Christmas music with the remote as I pass through the room, holding the blanket tightly around me. I manage to skid into the bedroom as the guest bathroom door opens and I hide before Chace could possibly see anything else. I pull on a pair of Sebastian's sweatpants and a hoodie, making sure everything is nice and covered. How embarrassing.

When I leave the room, they're both standing by the fridge with a beer in hand.

"Hey, Bette," Chace says, smiling kindly. There's no judgment there, but maybe a bit of embarrassment and a giggle.

"Hi Chace," I say. "Sorry you saw everything."

"Sorry to have walked in," he says, "but thank you for letting me stay."

"Chace is proposing soon," Sebastian says. "That's why we are hanging out."

"Oh, congratulations!" I say, opening the cabinet. "What lovely news."

"Thank you," he says. "I'm excited."

"Wonderful," I say. "Well, I am going to get myself a big glass of wine and hide for awhile. You two have fun."

Chace nods and Sebastian kisses my hair as I leave. Two episodes of House Hunters International and one decision I would very much like to see Slovenia, I decide I can face the men.

"Hello, scumpete."

"Hi," I say, sitting on the couch next to him. Several beer bottles sit on the table and the queso has a filmy layer over the top.

"You want to play?" Chace asks, his eyes not leaving the television screen.

"Sure," I say, picking up another Wii remote. "Can I be Link?"

"You can be whoever you like," Chace says as Donkey Kong punches Bowser in the face.

"Dammit!" Sebastian says as his fingers furiously work over the remote. A few more frantic pushes and Donkey Kong falls over. They finish the round with Chace and Donkey's defeat, and I get to clock in as Link.

Sebastian and I had often found ourselves playing Super Smash Brothers but it always ended early because we had the tendency to play Strip Super Smash Brothers. That would not be happening tonight.

For an hour, we beat each other around in the virtual world. I even manage to win twice. When we finish a particularly gruesome round, Sebastian leans back into the couch and drapes his arm across my legs.

"Shit, my eyes hurt." He says, rubbing them with his other hand.

"You remember back on Gossip Girl when we'd sit in a trailer for hours and play this dumb game?"

"How could I forget," Sebastian laughs. "Ed got so mad that one time he threw the controller at the wall and dented it."

Both men chuckle and Chase stretches.

"Well," he says. "I cannot stop thinking about those ribbons, and I can't believe I've kept you two from that for so long, so I'm going to go."

"Ah, I really don't even feel up for it anymore," I say, "so you can stay."

"What?" Sebastian groans. "That's why I lost so many games! I've been caught up on the red bow all night."

"I'll go," Chace grins. "You kids have fun."

We all stand and Chace kisses my cheek. He and Sebastian go to the door, hug and Sebastian slaps Chace on the butt as he leaves.

"Are you really not feeling up to it any more?"

I've already tossed the shirt and sweatpants on the ground.

"Santa will have to put me on the naughty list."

"Our names will be side by side," he says, pulling off his shirt. "I don't know what I'm getting this year as gifts, but this is definitely my favorite."

My stomach flutters as his fingers twirl an end of the ribbon. His cool gaze meets mine, and I know this was supposed to be my seduction but I think he has the upper hand.

"You said fuck in front of the fire?"

I nod. He smirks as he pulls me to him, his arms sliding around me. I groan as he grabs a bare ass cheek, lifting my most intimate parts across his thigh.

"Bette," he breathes quietly, his nose by my ear and his breath warm against my skin. "You're the best chance I've ever taken."

I kiss him then, needing to feel that all-consuming passion of his being completely wrapping around mine.

He doesn't touch me anywhere below my neck, and while it's driving me crazy, it gives me the chance to touch him. He's so perfectly sculpted from all of his workouts, I sigh as I trace the muscles of his abdomen. After pushing his jeans down his legs, he grabs the blanket from where I've placed it on the couch and spreads it beneath the tree again. I watch, running my hands over my bare hips because I need to feel something.

He holds out his hand to me and lays me gently on the floor before stretching his body next to mine. I always knew he was beautiful, but he's simply mezmerizing; the twinkling tree lights and flames illuminate his face in inconsistent patterns. He rests his palm on my cheek before rolling his lips onto mine.

I could get lost in him.

I do get lost in him, but he's just as lost in me as he rolls on top of me. He's hard and his boxers are just the slightest bit damp. I want to feel it.

He kisses my neck while I work his underwear down his legs, and before long I'm moaning as he rocks against me. Our hips find their rhythm and I laugh against his lips when he rolls us over.

"May I open my present now?" He whispers, my earlobe between his teeth. I straighten up over him, and he grins as he sits. I watch his finger tips as they delicately trace the ribbon, and I hold my breath as he tugs slowly on the satin. Sebastian's gaze is intense and fill of adoration, and I'm still amazed my body pleases him he's seen it so many times.

A grin spreads across his face as the bra falls open.

"You like?"

He nods, his bottom lip between his teeth. He pushes the satin away and traces my skin lightly with his fingers. Even though I'm mostly naked and the fire has been burning all night, I suddenly get very hot. It's a good kind of hot.

"Oh, Bette," he says, sliding his arms around my waist. I feel his hands clench around the place where the ribbon meets the string and he rips the fragile fabric. "It wasn't much but it was enough."

Laughing, I kiss him as he rolls us over.

"How does hard and fast sound?" he asks, raking a hand over my chest.

"Sounds lovely."

"Hold on tight."

I groan as he slides into me, hot and hard and heady. He slams his hips into me, the tip of his dick pressing so deeply inside me I gasp. He does it a few more times.

"How does that feel?"

"Harder."

He complies, pushing up on his knees. He grabs my boob with the least bit of tenderness but the pain feels exquisite. I call his name again and again as he moves and the tingling in my abdomen grows.

I clamp up as my orgasm hits, every nerve sparking a fire that burns through my body and leaves me shaking when it passes. I tug on Sebastian's hair when I recover, watching his jaw drop.

"Come on," I whisper. "Please."

He nods and I feel him letting go with his last few thrusts until he stops.

"You should always wear ribbons and bows," he say, his nose against my ear. "I couldn't stop thinking about it the entire evening."

He kisses my shoulder and my neck while I run my hands along his perfect chest.

"That was sort of the point," I say. He chuckles and rolls off of me, landing on his back.

"Did you know I normally don't put out a tree?"

I look up at the twinkling lights above my head, simple white ones slowly blinking.

"Why not? It's Christmas."

"It's just me here," he says, "I don't need a tree to remember it's Christmas."

"It is lovely though," I say, staring at an ornament of a red star a fan had given him.

"That's because you decorated it," he laughs. "It would look like shit if I did it."

"Not true! Trees are very hard to mess up."

He laughs as he takes my hand in his and kissed my knuckle. Closing his fingers around mine, he lets his hand fall to the center of his chest.

I'm halfway asleep, lazily staring up at the lights, when he sighs.

"We should go to bed," he says, sitting up.

"If we must." I reach for the corner of the blanket and tuck it around myself as he stands. He helps me to my feet and wraps his arm around my shoulders.

When we're in bed, my head in the nook where his arm meets his chest, he sighs. I feel his fingers lightly tugging on my hair as he runs his fingers through the strands.

"Chace is getting married," he says, and I suppose it's mostly in disbelief. "I never thought I'd see the day."

"I was married once." I say. "Not entirely sure I believe in the institution."

"Divorce?"

"Annulment," I answer. "Thank God, too, because it was hard enough. I can't imagine how a divorce would have been."

"Did you make it 72 hours at least?"

"Only just," I say. "He beat the shit out of me on our honeymoon."

"What?" I feel Sebastian stiffen next to me.

"We were high school sweethearts and he seemed perfectly normal," I explain. "We were married in my Nana and Clark's backyard, and he took me to Oklahoma City for our honeymoon. Glamorous, right? Well, as soon as we were alone in his pickup, he completely changed. He became mean and cold and called me his property. Naturally the last thing I wanted to do was sleep with him so I convinced him I was on my period and he let it go, but only for the one night. He apparently dug through the trash and found no evidence. So then he got really pissed off and hit me and strangled me with his tie. It was horrifying and terrible and painful and I tried to fight back but he was bigger than I was."

"What happened?"

"As luck would have it," I say, "the man in the hotel room next door was a DEA agent, and he bust down the door. Apparently my screams and the bastard's shouting were very loud. I spent two days in the hospital, it took three days to convict and sentence him, and a week to get the annulment. But now I am certified in self defense and can carry a gun in the state of Oklahoma. I was serious when I said I could take you. I didn't bother to bring it to New York, though. I sold it."

"You sold it?"

"If that motherfucker finds me now, I am going to kill him with my bare hands."

"Can he do that?"

"He shouldn't," I answer. "There is a restraining order and he should be in jail for at least another nine years before he's up for parole."

"Not to sound like I'm advocating for the guy," he said, "but that's like twenty years in prison for domestic violence — which is horrible and awful and wrong — I just didn't think the punishment was that long."

"It's not just for me," I said, "although the nurse in the emergency room told me I was one of the worst cases of domestic assault she'd ever seen. Turns out he'd been assaulting his twelve-year-old sister and one of her friends."

"Shit."

"Yeah," I say, "you think you know a person. The law won't call it rape but that's what it was."

"Shit."

I laugh.

"Did you know you're amazing, Bette? Like, really. All I was dealing with when I was eighteen was a self-perpetuated smoking habit and an overwhelming desire to be liked."

"Everyone said I was stupid to get married so young. I guess they were right."

"I wouldn't say that at all," he says, "you were in love and you took a chance. That's admirable."

"Admirable to get the shit beat out of me."

"Bette, Bette, Bette," he says, rolling over so he's on top. He freezes as he looks at me in the white light of New York. "Does this make you feel uncomfortable?"

I shake my head. In fact, Sebastian is the one person I feel most comfortable with.

"I don't want you to ever think I would hurt you," he says, gently running his fingers over my cheek. "I wouldn't intentionally anyway, sometimes I forget how strong I've gotten."

I catch his palm in my hand and kiss the pad of his thumb. "I know you wouldn't. I wouldn't be with a man I thought would. But you'll forgive me if I don't partake in any kind of breath play kink. I can't."

"I wouldn't even think about it." The earnestness in his voice and eyes lets me know he means it. I nod.

He studies my face and I know he's looking for signs, the traces of abuse.

"How badly were you hurt?"

"It took two years of work to get my mouth back into a regular state. My jaw was broken and he fractured my cheek bone." I guide his finger over the bump in the bone of my eye socket. It's unnoticeable unless you touch it. "And I wore a scarf for two weeks afterwards even though it was June because the bruising on my neck was so bad. Three years of counseling."

"Shit."

"Is that the only word you know how to say?"

He smiles. "No, that's not the only word I know how to say." He's quiet again as he looks at me, holding onto a thought. "I wish I could give you the world, Bette. I think you deserve it."

"You may not be able to give me the world but you do have the ability to  give me a wonderful orgasm, and I can be very content with that."

He grins as he laces our fingers together and slides them up the pillows. He kisses me gently once before leaving a trail along my neck. "I do my best."

I sigh as he nuzzles my cheek.

"I'm glad you're alive and all right, scumpete," he says, "genuinely. I'm sorry that bastard attacked you."

"I'm glad to be alive and all right, too. And I'm glad to be here with you."

"Now, all that aside," he smirks, "about that orgasm…"

Chapter Text

"Miss Chambers, you're looking beautiful today."

I look up from my book and smile. Aleksandr Malikov walks up the aisle between tables and grins at me. He's looking perfectly handsome this morning, like a Russian George Clooney.

"Good morning, Mr. Malikov," I say. "Lovely day out."

"Indeed. I love it when I can see my breath but it's not completely miserable outside."

"Um, I'm supposed be meeting Dimitri here any minute," I say, "I'm sure he won't mind if you'd like to join us. Would you?"

"Sure, just for a cup." He pulls out the chair next to me and sets his bag under the table.

"Oh, you have to try the pie," I said. "It's delicious."

"If Miss Chambers says the pie is amazing, then I will order the pie."

The waitress noticed him immediately and is already at the table. He orders coffee and the chocolate pie, and the waitress grins cheekily at him, bending precariously over the table even though it's perfectly calm in the cafe. Looking at me, she narrows her eyes and frowns like I am unworthy of the gorgeous man I'm sitting next to. If only she knew who I woke up with this morning.

"So how is the musical coming?"

"Great," I say. "We're almost finished, and Saul is looking for backers. He says we'll have a better chance when it's finished and 'May You Always' is through its run."

"It's a great play," he says. "Very brilliantly understated."

"Thank you," I say.

"Do you travel, Bette?"

"Not as often as I'd like," I say.

"I've been invited to direct 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' at the Royal Opera House in London in the spring. You should make a trip of it and come see what I do."

"Oh, I've seen you dance and direct on video," I say, "I had to take a class on directing in school and we watched your 'Don Quixote.' And I've seen your 'Swan Lake.' "

"Always the swans," he says. "They say you've made it as a dancer when you move with the swans."

"You were very good," I say. "The best lines I've ever seen."

He laughs. "The lady knows lines."

"Just because I have no rhythm doesn't mean I don't know the technique."

He laughs and thanks the waitress as she brings him his pie and coffee.

"Are you a permanent resident of New York then? Are you happy here?"

"New York is great," I say. "There's so much life here, you know? Where I grew up, the highlight of the week was a crappy football game on a Friday night with very little to do in between. I could walk out my door at four in the morning and the city would still be buzzing. It's incredible."

"There is a beauty to New York," he says, "I see it in you."

I grin.

"Oh good God!" Dimitri says. "Father, you were supposed to be going to the museum today, not schmoozing with my writing partner."

"She invited me to stay," he says, "and who am I to refuse the invitation of a beautiful lady?"

"That's not you, Dad," Dimitri sighs, sinking into the chair next me. "My siblings and I can all testify to that."

"I love all you kids," Aleksandr says, "even if I don't get to see you all as often as I'd like."

"Sure, sure," Dimitri says, "anyway, Trenton helped me write this little diddy last night, and I am dying to play it for you."

"Well, let's eat our pie and we'll go."

"Are you coming to Dim's for Christmas, Bette?" Aleksandr asks. "I'm making my traditional Ptichye Moloko."

"It's not as good as he thinks it is," Dimitri quips, "but it is good."

I laugh. "I will be there in the evening. I've been invited to lunch with Sebastian Stan's family."

"Oh, he's the lead in your play, yes?"

I nod. "He is. I don't have any family to spend Christmas with so he invited me to join him."

"He's from Romania," Dimitri says, like that matters.

"Romania! That's a beautiful part of the world."

"I haven't been," I say.

Thankfully, Dimitri switches the talk to the Rockettes and is so excited we have tickets for the show. He practically had a heart attack when he found out I had never been, and he bought tickets immediately. Dimitri is great that way.

When we're finished at the cafe, Aleksandr takes my hand and kisses my cheeks. "Until we meet again, Bette."

"See you soon," I say. My stomach flips a little and I bite my lip to keep from laughing. Dimitri widens as his eyes as Aleksandr heads off down the sidewalk. He loops his elbow through mine and pulls me towards the subway.

"Oh Bette," he says, "you better watch out."

"Oh?"

"Please don't fuck my father."

"Goodness, wasn't planning on it."

"I know you're not," he says, "why would you sleep with my father when you've got Sebastian? The truth is my father is charming. He's passionate. He's handsome and I know that because I look just like him. He's not a horrible man and I have learned to love him, but only one woman — his second wife — has ever truly hurt him. He can be amicable with the rest but he doesn't care for them at all. I care about you and don't want to see you hurt by my father."

"Thanks," I say. "I appreciate you looking out for me."

"I mean, Dad would be lucky to have you, but I think you can do better."

"You just don't want me to become your stepmom."

Dimitri cackles. "I hope he's not planning to get married again! There comes a point where you have to realize marriage isn't your thing."

"I won't sleep with your father," I say, "at least not until he takes me to dinner first."

Dimitri scoffs and playfully hits my arm. "We would have a good relationship. That'd be one thing."

"It takes a lot more than a pretty face to interest me."

"What, all you need is a big dick?"

"Dimitri!"

"Well it never hurts," he says. "Are you falling for Sebastian yet?"

"Yet?"

"It'll happen," he says. "Unless he's fallen for you. How long have you been together now? Like, four months? That's a long time not to develop an attachment."

"And now you're a physchiatrist who knows so much about human emotion?"

"If nothing else, it is chemical," he shrugs. "Just looking out for you."

"Yeah, yeah," I say, "I'd never given much thought to your father until you brought him up. Clearly he knows what he's doing."

"Ugh, so gross." Dimitri moans. "Let's talk about something else."

I knew that would shut him up.

Arriving early at the theater Christmas Eve, I am greeted happily by the security guard at the stage door who lets me inside. I hand him a bottle of whiskey from my bag — I am toting enough for all the cast and crew. He grins and slips it in his pocket.

I manage to sneak through the props and things, down the stairs and the through the hall to Sebastian's dressing room. The door is closed and I hear laughter, so I knock before opening it.

"Bette!" Sebastian pipes with the biggest grin I've seen on his face in a long time. He's sitting in his makeup chair while some woman sits on the counter in front of him. His hands are on her knees and she's got a powder brush in her hands, and it's very clear I've interrupted something terribly funny. "Bette, this is Margarita, one of my oldest and dearest friends."

Chase is one of your oldest and dearest friends, but I don't see you with your head between his knees.

Ooh, that was a nasty thought! 

Of course it's Margarita. She's gorgeous and her boobs are doing that perfectly pushed up thing I never can get mine to do and she and Sebastian have the same skin tone and look perfect together. They've been friends for years and she occupies half the picture frames in his apartment. Of course.

"Bette!" She says, holding out her hand. I slide mine into it and am suddenly aware of how clammy my palm has gotten. "Seb's been telling me how wonderful your play is and I'm so excited to see it."

"Thank you," I say, "he's just saying that because it's his paycheck."

"Bette, come on," he flings his arms out. "You know it's amazing."

I shrug.

"Well," he says, "Margarita has been in L.A. filming but she's back for Christmas."

"Great." Even I hear it in my voice. "Great! Um, loved you in The Invisible, don't watch Revenge."

She laughs. "It's not for everyone."

"Well, Madge is alone and I was wondering if you two would like to sit together?"

"Uh, well..." God, Bette! Pull your shit together. "Saul invited me to sit in his box but I'm sure he's got another seat unless that dreaded son of his is in town."

"Z still trying to get you together?"

"Relentlessly," I say. "Well, I am going to go find Saul and see, and I will come back for you."

Margarita smiles and bows her head. Sebastian reaches out his hand to me and I stupidly stick mine in it.

"Thanks," he says.

"Of course."

I do the only logical thing I can think of after leaving my bag full of whiskey in the hall.

"Dimitri, I'm jealous." I say, as soon as the call connects.

"Hey Jealous, I'm Dimitri."

"Dimitri!"

"Sorry, sweetheart," he says. "What's up?

"Sebastian's dick and it's not my doing."

"What?"

"Her Royal Russian Highness Margarita Leveiva is in town and they're all over each other."

"My, my," Dimitri chides, "you are jealous."

"I know and I hate it."

"Well, sweetheart," he says, "the thing is you two have an agreement you both have followed to this point. I think you'll just have to see who he goes home with tonight."

"Shit. I'm the Fucking Baxter."

"What's a Baxter?"

"A Baxter is the person you settle for when the one you want is taken. And I'm not even that. I'm just the Fucking Baxter — I'm the one he's sleeping with while the one he really wants to sleep with is away."

"Bette, please," he says, "you know that's not how Sebastian feels about you."

"Do I?" I sag against the wall and rub my forehead. "Crap. I'm supposed to be finding Saul. Sebastian wants her to sit with me during the show. Sorry to bother you."

"Sweetheart, you're not bothering me," he says, "but we'll talk tomorrow, okay? And you can come here for lunch too if you want."

"Okay, thanks."

Saul is more than thrilled to let Sebastian's dear friend with us, and I put off retrieving her from the dressing room as long as possible. I don't feel that I have it in me to get to know her.

"This is so marvelous," Margarita says as I lead her through the halls. "I haven't been in a theater in so long."

"Yes, I feel very fortunate Saul picked my play as this is his theater."

"It's all very good, I'm sure," she says, "Sebastian has reached the point of his career where he doesn't do anything he doesn't want to."

I give her the best smile I can manage.

I introduce her to everyone in the box and we take our seats. I'm having a hard time watching him. Why am I jealous?

We reach intermission and Sebastian has just carried a tractor tire offstage, his muscles rippling from underneath his shirt.

"He's so handsome," Margarita whispers, leaning towards me.

"He is," I say.

"It's like you wrote the part for him."

"It comes across that way, doesn't it? I think he felt so passionately about Clark he really brought him to life."

"It has to be what you've written as well," she says, "I'd love to read it."

"Sure," I say, "if Sebastian doesn't have an extra copy laying around, I'll get you one."

"Thank you."

The play ends and I'm at least pleased to see Margarita wipes her cheeks. She may be an actress but she has no need to fake these tears.

The cast has decided to go out for drinks, but I'm feeling very unsocial after having to be cordial with Miss Levieva. She's perfectly nice and kind which makes it worse. If she were awful, it'd be much easier to hate her.

I head out onto the street alone after dispersing all of my gift whiskey.

"Bette, you aren't coming?" Sebastian asks, turning me around by my shoulder.

"Oh, I'm not really feeling it," I say, "I'll have to use all my people dollars tomorrow."

"Okay," he says, "I'll try to shake them early. Will you come over in like an hour? I have something for you."

I don't want to, but Dimitri's words circle through my head.

"Will your apartment be empty?"

"You'll be there, I hope," he says with that little nervous grin.

"Okay."

"You can bring your stuff for tomorrow if you want, you know, so you don't have to leave or anything."

"Okay."

He steps closer to me and slips his hand in mine, "Are you all right, Bette?"

I nod. "See you in an hour."

He smiles and kisses my cheek.

I decide making him wait is a better option so I take a long shower and the time to fix my hair so it'll be easier to manage in the morning. I read a couple chapters of my book and two hours pass before I go to the street to catch a cab. It is Christmas now.

I unlock the door and drop my bags to see Sebastian standing in front of the tree with the most ridiculous and tiny set of red boxer briefs covering his ass.

"Well, what are you doing?" I ask, letting my keys fall to the floor. A sexy saxophone version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" filters through the air, and it smells oddly like gingerbread. The fireplace crackles and the tree is lit.

He turns to me with a box wrapped in shiny silver paper in his hands. He holds it at his waist and doesn't move it.

"It's a gift for you," he says, completely serious with no hint of a smile.

"For me?"

He nods. I cross the floor and see the slightest hint of mischief flicker through his eyes before he settles into the cool mask.

I pull off the lid and gasp.

"Why Sebastian Stan! Did you get me a dick in a box?"

He grins and puts his hands on his hips. The box stays put.

"A girl like you needs somethin' real," he says, "wanna get you somethin' from the heart."

I laugh. I laugh so hard for so long I start to cry, but Sebastian is laughing too, both of us bent over and hanging onto the other.

"Well played," I finally manage.

"Thanks," he says, "but I'd like to take the box off now. It's kind of chaffing."

"By all means," I say. "Let's put that dick in a box to use!"

Snow has continued to fall overnight, and Sebastian and I wake up with slow and lazy morning sex.

"I think if the rest of the day is complete shit," Sebastian says as I kiss the dimple in his chin, "I will still count this as a good day. There's something about morning sex, especially on a holiday."

I grin as I move my lips to the line of his jaw. His fingers trace lines along my back and bum, and I could easily go back to sleep.

Rather than say anything and ruin the perfect morning, I rest my head against his chest and slide my arms underneath his back. Snowflakes land against the window and I sigh while he runs his fingers through my disheveled hair.

This really could be perfect if not for the Russian bombshell best friend.

The Russian bombshell best friend arrives precisely one hour later looking like a million bucks in a stunning black dress with gold sequins. I'm standing there in a red swing dress with white polkadots. I hadn't meant to be June Cleaver in my everyday life, yet here I am.

"Good morning, Bette," she says, kissing my cheeks. "I love your dress."

Oh, you don't have to rub it in.

"Thanks," I say, "you look stunning."

Sebastian grins as he walks down the hall. He hugs and kisses her and the slides an arm around each of us. "My two beautiful women. I'm already having the best Christmas."

We take the train because Sebastian swears it won't be busy and he's right. It's nice because we all have bags full of gifts. Sebastian said not to bring alcohol because it's makes Bill's condition worse but swore his mom would have some hidden throughout the kitchen.

What do you get people you don't know for a gift if you can't bring alcohol?

"Seb!" A man calls on the platform. They smile at each other and laugh.

"How are things?" Sebastian asks in their embrace.

"To be honest, I'm thankful for the break," the man says, "Dad doesn't remember Marie or the kids and your mom is trying to keep everyone pleased because the kids are upset. Marie doesn't want to tell anyone but she's pregnant again. No one's heard from Jack today even though he told me he would be here. Christmas!"

"You're having another kid? Congrats!"

"Shit! I wasn't supposed to tell that. Don't say anything."

"Hell, man," Sebastian says, "we should have come sooner. You remember Margarita." Margarita and the man hug and kiss cheeks. I guess that translates into eastern Europe, too. "And this is Bette. Bette, this is my stepbrother Michael."

Michael was seventeen when Sebastian's mother and Bill married, and he moved out a month after the wedding. He and Sebastian didn't really become close until Bill had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's five years ago.

"Hello, Bette," he says, "lovely to meet you."

"You, too," I say. He takes the larger of my bags from me and swings it over his shoulder.

"Right, then," he says, "shall we Christmas?"

"Let's Christmas," Sebastian laughs, swinging and arm around my shoulder.

The house is beautiful. Snow has been shoveled from the front porch and sidewalk so we easily make our way upstairs.

"Hey, hey!" Sebastian says as he pushes open the door.

"Oh, Seb!" Violeta calls from somewhere in the house. She appears seconds later with a boy at her heels. She hugs her son while the boy just stares up at me.

"Ma, you remember Bette," he says, gesturing towards me.

"Of course! Bette, how are you?" She asks, pulling me into a hug.

"Doing well, and yourself?"

"Oh, all right," she says. She looks from me to Margarita and her grin doubles in size. "And Margarita! How wonderful."

"What's up, buddy?" Sebastian asks, picking up the boy.

"I am Groot."

"Really? That's cool." Sebastian laughs. "Groot, this is my friend Bette and my friend Margarita. Bette, Madge, meet Groot. Some of his Terran friends like to call him Kalen, my nephew."

"We let him watch Guardians with us a few weeks ago and he's been all about Groot ever since," Michael says, shrugging off his coat. "He wants to be Rocket for Halloween next year."

"You would make an excellent Rocket."

"He wanted a tree sapling for Christmas," a woman I'm guessing is Marie says. "We gave it to him early and he's been playing music to it ever since."

"I'm waiting for Groot to dance," Kalen says.

"And I'm sure he will," Sebastian grins. He hugs Marie with one arm and introduces us. Michael takes my coat from me and hangs it in the hall closet.

"Bill is in the living room," Violeta says, "if you want to say hi. But I do need some help in the kitchen."

"Oh, I'll help," Margarita says. Of course she fucking cooks.

"Bette, you want to come say hi to Bill? And then We can play with Princess Sophie." I nod and follow him through the hall, and he takes my hand. "I'll give you a tour in a minute."

"Okay."

Bill sits in a leather arm chair with a dog in his lap. He grins when he sees Sebastian.

"Sebastian!" He says. It looks like he remembers somebody. "Oh, your mother will love seeing you. It's been so long!"

"I was here at Thanksgiving," Sebastian says softly.

"Right," Bill shrugs. "Of course you were." He looks from Sebastian to me. "Bette! Bette with the kind face."

"Yes, hi," I say. "How are you?"

"Great! How's that play of yours doing?"

Sebastian looks at me with wide eyes.

"Um, it's doing really well," I answer. "A couple of bad reviews but they say you can't make it without them. Most are positive."

"I sure would love to see it again," he says.

"I'd love to see it with you," I say. "Just let me know when you and Violeta can make it down and I'll get you tickets."

"Great, great!" He smiles. "Did you grow up in Oklahoma then, like your characters?"

Sebastian is absolutely stunned, and so am I. The man can't remember his own grand kids but can remember me. It's bizarre.

"Bette, why don't you sit down and talk to Bill and I'll be right back."

I nod, feeling a bit nervous. The leather of the ottoman is cold on my shins but I'm close enough to Bill to easily converse. Some of my Nana's friends had Alzheimer's and there was never a guess of when the clarity would fade.

Sebastian practically sprints off through the house, and shortly after he, Michael, Marie and Violeta are hovering in the doorway. Margarita slips under Sebastian's arm.

"I did grow up in Oklahoma," I say, "in a little town called Paden."

"Wonderful," he says, "did you know I've been to all fifty states?"

"No, I didn't," I say.

"Of course you wouldn't," he says. "We're only just beginning to talk. Well, Oklahoma — a whole lot of nothing out there."

I laugh. "That's very true, but it's not all bad."

He chuckles so loudly it startles the dog in his lap. 

"Ope, sorry Chuckles," he says. "Bette, have you met Chuckles? She's a cocker spaniel. Beautiful, yes?"

I reach my hand out to the dog who licks my fingers appreciatively.

"Oh, she likes you," he says.

"He knew her name and that she wrote the play," I hear Sebastian whisper. "He guessed she's from Oklahoma. He didn't remember I was here at Thanksgiving but it's been months since he met her."

"She's very pretty," I say, as Chuckles has now moved to the edge of his lap and sniffs mine. She jumps across into my arms and I laugh as her tongue eagerly laps at my chin.

"Oh Bette!" Bill chirps, "she really likes you."

Everyone else standing at the door laughs then too, and Violeta wipes her cheek.

"What are you all doing?" Bill asks, whipping his head in their direction.

"We just heard you laughing," Michael lies. "Thought we'd come check it out."

"Bette with the kind face from Paden, Oklahoma, really likes Chuckles! Have you seen Chuckles take to somebody like that?"

They all shake their heads and it's then that Bill's eyes settle on Margarita. "Who are you?"

There's a collective sigh from the group by the door, and I shrug.

"Bill, you remember my friend, Margarita," Sebastian says, stepping forward with her.

"Oh," he says, "I don't know that we've met before. I wouldn't forget a face like that."

The smile on Margarita's face drops just a little before doubling in size. Clearly Margarita has been around Bill many, many times. 

"Of course," Margarita says. "Sebastian and I have been friends for many years."

"Lovely," he says, "Sebastian is a good boy."

Chuckles barks and jumps out of my lap, the claws scratching my arm with the leap.

I hiss, covering the three scrapes my other hand and already feel blood against my palm.

"Oh, goodness!" Marie says, "let's get that cleaned up."

She ushers me off the ottoman and down the hall.

"I hope you're all right, Bette!" Bill calls after us. Marie pushes open a bathroom door. There are toys still in the bathtub.

"I just need a bandaid," I say.

"Please," she says, "I'm a nurse when I'm not being a full-time mom."

She's determined then so I let her wash my arm in the sink.

"I don't know if you realize this," she says, "but what happened with you back there is a miracle."

"I wasn't expecting that to happen," I say. "It's very bizarre."

"But I think you were supposed to be here today," she says.

"We'll see how long it lasts," I say. "My Nana suffered from dementia in her last days. It wasn't Alzheimer's but it did get to the point where she didn't even remember me."

"I'm sorry," Marie says.

"I'm sorry y'all are dealing with it now," I say. "It's a sad and terrible thing."

"It's just hard because the kids don't understand. Sometimes he knows them and sometimes he doesn't."

I shake my head at a loss for words. She's pressed a dry wash cloth to my arm and holds it there.

"This'll stop the bleeding."

I nod. "I know I'm not supposed to say anything, but congratulations."

She grins and rolls her eyes. "I knew that goob couldn't keep it a secret. I suspect it will be out before the day is through."

"I think it's great," I say.

"It is," she says, "we're ready — I mean, as ready as you can be — and we're excited. Do you have any kids?"

"Nope," I say, "I don't think I can keep a plant alive, much less a person."

"Eh, kids might actually be easier to take care of than a plant. They warn you when they need something!"

We laugh as she pulls off the wash cloth.

"There, that looks better," she says. There are two fairly significant and long scratches on my arm and a smaller, less severe one. They're still bleeding but it's not unmanageable. "Now, the question is, do you want Toy Story or Disney Princesses? I'm thinking this is a two bandaid job."

"Let's go princesses," I say.

"Excellent choice. Sophie will be so jealous."

"Everything all right?" Sebastian asks, his head popping around the door frame.

"You should be jealous," I say. "My fantastic Christmas dress now really accentuates my Cinderella and Jasmin band aids."

"Beautiful," Sebastian says. "I have to set the table. Do you want to help?"

"Sure," I say. I turn to Marie. "Thanks."

"Any time," she says, "you may want to put some Neosporin on it tonight and sleep with it in the open air."

I nod.

"You okay?" Sebastian asks.

"Just a couple of scrapes," I say. "No worries."

"Good," he says. "I'm glad you're here."

"Thanks," I say. "I'm glad to be here."

"That's the guest bathroom," he says, "you were in the living room obviously. The front room you might have noticed is my mom's piano studio. This is the dining room and the kitchen is connected. I can take you upstairs after lunch."

"Okay," I say. I look around the room at the elegant dining set. The table seats ten and the dark wood is beautiful. Sebastian disappears around the corner.

"Plates and napkins," he says," passing the stack to me. "The kids will probably be at the corners and Kalen gets the plastic plate."

 "Aye aye, captain," I say with a salute. 

Sebastian laughs. "Do you mind?"

I shake my head as I start spreading around the plates.

Violeta says something in Romanian from the kitchen and Sebastian answers her, followed by something else said by Margarita. Sebastian laughs and replies. Well this is fucking annoying.

Michael carries a high chair with him and sets it at the end. "Would you mind setting Kalen's plate at the other end?"

"Can do," I say. The three non-Americans are still going on in whatever language it is — could actually be Russian for all I know. "Do they do do this often?"

"All the time," Michael answers. "I finally got used to it. It always makes me feel stupid though."

"I'll say."

He grins before sweeping back through the house. Sebastian has set the silverware and is now taking cups from Margarita full of ice. They're laughing together while I'm schlepping napkins by myself.

Maybe I should bow out gracefully.

"Good, the high chair!" Marie says, her arms full of toddler. I lift the tray off of it for her and she sets the little bundle of a girl into it. "Bette, this is Sophie. Sophie, this is your uncle Sebastian's friend Bette."

"Hello," I say.

Sophie blinks, obviously having been napping seconds before. Her cheeks are rosy and she's dressed as a reindeer.

"Santa?"

"No, not Santa," Marie laughs, fixing the high chair to its proper place. "Santa came this morning."

"Oh. Do you like dogs?"

"I do. Do you?"

Sophie nods eagerly. "Really like elapants."

"Oh, I like elapants too."

"Do you mind watching her for a second while I make her plate?"

Suddenly I'm the watch lady?

"Sure," I say.

"Have you seen Fwozen?"

"I have," I say. "Who's your favorite?"

"SVEN!" She cheers before bursting into giggles.

"Reindeers are better than people," I sing, "Sven, don't you think that's true?"

"People will beat ya, curse ya and cheat ya," Sophie answers, "ebbyone of 'ems bad set you."

I laugh as she wrinkles her nose at me.

"Let it go, let it gooooooo."

Apparently those are the only words she knows to that one but I dance a little with her anyway.

"You know my favorite?"

"Wha?"

"Bees'll buzz," I begin, and she giggles. "Kids'll blow dandelion fuzz and I'll be doing whatever snow does in summer."

I look around the room to see we're still alone, so I quickly slide her out of the high chair and balance her on my hip. Her eyes widen as she coos.

"A drink in mah hand," she sings as I bounce her gently around. She's the cutest little thing I've ever seen with tiny little teeth and the very definition of a button nose. She definitely likes it when I manage to hop around in my heels for the scatting part.

"In summerrrrrrrrrrr!" She belts, leaning back in my arm with her hands in the air. I laugh as I twirl her around to see everyone else has gathered around the end of the table to watch.

"Sorry," I say, "was not aware we had an audience."

They all clap though.

"Mommy, let's watch Fwozen!" Sophie cheers.

"Maybe after we eat," Marie says. I quickly get Sophie situated in her high chair while Sebastian plops a booster seat in the chair at the other end. Kalen climbs into it and then it's a shuffle to figure out where everyone else is sitting. Somehow I end up between Violeta and Margarita, and Sebastian is at the end. The two of them look at each other and I  wonder if they're holding hands or stroking thighs beneath the table.

Bill seems to bore everyone wanting to know all about Oklahoma, but they're all so impressed with his ability to stay on one train thought, they endure it.

An hour later, my stomach aches it's so full and Kaden has all but fallen asleep at the table. We put up all the food and clean the kitchen.

"Pressy time?" Sophie asks, looking at Michael with wide eyes.

"Ah, we'll see what Uncle Sebastian brought, huh?"

"Yes!"

"More presents?" Kalen shoots up from Sebastian's lap. "Please!"

"I guess," Violeta says, "there's some for the three of you under the tree."

I was not expecting any presents.

I sit on the floor with my legs to the side so as not cause an unladylike display, and before I know it, Sophie flops down on my lap.

"Can I open your presents?"

"Sure," I say, "you can help."

She claps as Kalen jumps to the floor and runs to the tree. My meager gifts blend in with the others, but at least I brought some. Margarita's gifts are all the same for all of the adults — scarves and organic bath salts from some fancy place in L.A. Marie goes crazy over. She gives Kalen a frisbee and Sophie a little mermaid that swims in water. I have to give her props — the doll is cute.

Kalen hands the gift from Marie and Michael to Sophie. She rips off the paper and I try to hide my amusement. It's "The Can Opener Gourmet."

"Sebastian said you don't cook," she says, "and not that I'm saying you have to or you should learn, but this is the best cookbook. You just take whatever cans you have in the pantry and make something in like half an hour. I use it all the time."

"Oh great! Thanks," I say. "Maybe tomorrow I'll whip myself up some fettuccine with pumpkin cream sauce."

"That one actually isn't half bad," Michael says. Marie swats his arm.

Kalen opens his gift from Sebastian next — a full Peter Quill costume he had specially made at a shop in Brooklyn, and for Sophie it's an Elsa dress. They're both stunning in detail and Sophie immediately demands Marie to help her put it on.

Everyone opens a few more gifts — all of mine go out except for the two for the  kids. I got Bill fancy crossword puzzle books because he likes them and that helps his brain, Marie and Michael a night out with the babysitter of their choice, and for the lack of being original, I got Sebastian, Violeta and Margarita all specials at the spa. I had originally only intended to get Violeta one knowing she would probably need it, but I also knew how Sebastian was always sore. And I didn't know Margarita well enough to get her anything personal and I didn't want to look cheap, so a spa day it was.

I guess she and Sebastian can use theirs together.

Kalen hands me a package next, "For you."

I peel back the paper as Violeta eagerly watches. I gasp as look at a first edition print of Tennessee Williams' 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.'

"I can't accept this," I say. "Oh my word, it's too much."

"That is a treasure and it deserves to be in the possession of someone who will treasure it," Violeta says, "It's yours."

"Are you sure?"

"The fact that you're questioning it means it belongs to you," she says. "There's another one."

"Another one for me?"

Violeta smiles and points to the box under the tree. I let Kalen tear off the paper, and pop open the box.

"Sebastian says, like himself, you have an old soul," Violeta says, "and these are perfect for an old soul."

It's a set of drop pearl earrings and a necklace, and they're simply beautiful.

"Violeta… I can't…"

"Puilule, have it."

I look at the sincerity on her face and everyone else gathered around. I bite my lip and feel the stinging behind my eyes.

"Excuse me," I say, standing up. I have to leave before the sobs hit and I make my way to the stairs. Making it only a few steps up, I sit before I become a puddle. I try to wipe my cheeks rather than my eyes, with the jewelry and play in my lap.

"Bette, darling," Violeta says, crouching on the stairs next to me. She puts her hand on my shoulder and draws me to look at her. "Are you all right?"

I nod. "I'm sorry."

"You have nothing to apologize for, little one," she says.

"I've felt alone for so long," I say, "and I know I have friends who care about me and Saul and Z care about me, but for the first time I remember what it's like to have family. I spent last Christmas alone eating left over pizza watching ABCFamily, but all of you have been so wonderful, and you let me in. You let me bore you to death at lunch with Oklahoma and you let me hang out with the kids. You bought me gifts — such wonderful gifts! Thank you."

"Bette," she says softly, "you're not alone, but you are welcome here anytime."

She hugs me tightly, even though we're awkwardly sitting on the stairs. Being held like this makes me cry even harder. I've been hugged since coming to New York, but nothing quite like this. She runs her hands soothingly over my hair and back in that way that only mothers seem to know how to do. Finally I settle down enough to breathe like a normal person.

"You're a lovely young woman," she says, smoothing my bangs. "You needn't ever feel alone."

I nod and hug her one more time.

"Bette! Do you wanna open pressies?" Sophie is at the foot of the stairs in her Elsa dress.

I laugh, wiping the line of my eyes with my pinkies. "Yes, let's open presents."

"Yay!" Sophie cheers. Violeta pats my back as we stand.

"Thank you," I say.

"Think nothing of it," she says. I sweep Sophie into my arms when I reach the bottom of the stairs.

I took a chance buying the little plush toys of Olaf and Sven, and Sophie squeals when she opens them. I knew Sebastian was getting Kalen the Peter Quill costume, so I got the mask. It's even retractable into the headpiece, not quite like in the movie but it's close enough.

"This is the greatest!" He yells. After all the presents are open, Violeta takes Bill upstairs for a nap. He's been dozing for awhile and she thought a nap in a bed might help. Somehow I end up watching Kalen and Sophie while Sebastian and Margarita mess around in the kitchen and we let Marie and Michael run away upstairs for their own nap.

Just after "In Summer," Kalen and Sophie fall asleep. Kalen is curled up next to me and Sophie's got her head in my lap.

"Aren't you the picture of motherly grace?" Sebastian whispers, kneeling in front of me.

"Something like that," I answer. "They love your gifts."

"They love yours, too."

"Can you bear to leave them for a few minutes?" He asks.

"I'll watch them," Margarita volunteers, nodding behind Sebastian.

"Sure," I say. I gently lift little Sophie's head but she doesn't even stir. Kalen stretches but stays asleep. I pull their blankets back up over their shoulders.

"Are you okay, Bette?" He says softly, leading me down the hall.

"I'm fine," I answer. "I just needed a mom for a minute and yours was there."

"I'm glad," he says, "she really didn't mean to overwhelm you."

"I know," I say, "I just had a moment."

"Okay," he says, taking my hand. I follow him up the stairs and to the third door on the right. "Are you ready to see the life of a tortured teenage Sebastian?"

I nod, suppressing a giggle. He pushes open the door, and laugh is what I do.

"You would like Blink-182," I say, looking at the posters on the wall. "I never thought I'd die alone. I laughed the loudest, who'd have known?"

"You like Blink?"

"Ehh," I say. "Boyfriend number two swore by them. I can appreciate 'I Miss You,' though — I think anybody who's lost somebody can. And I always wanted to make out with somebody to 'Always.' The drums on that song..."

"Really?"

"Mmmm," I say, sticking my hand on the bedpost. There's a shelf mostly empty I'm sure contained a lot of his books. A little medallion is tied to the headboard and the other wall has a poster of Guns 'N' Roses.

"What's this?" I ask, touching the little medallion.

"It's a Romanian charm," he says, "kind of like a dream catcher. It's supposed to ward off evil spirits."

"That's cool. Do you have one of these on your current bed?" He nods. "Maybe that's why I sleep so well."

He grins.

"Why hasn't your mom done anything to it?" I ask, flopping onto the bed which I assume still has the gray and blue plaid comforter from the days of his youth.

"There are two other bedrooms," he explains, falling down next me, "aside from theirs. So I suppose they don't need mine too. I sleep in here if I stay."

"I like it," I say. "My room growing up had this really awful floral wallpaper so every inch was covered with Prince William and the Hanson brothers."

Sebastian chuckles. "The Hansons? Gross!"

"I still think they're cute," I say.

"Hmmm," he shrugs. "I guess I can see that."

We're quiet for a few minutes before Sebastian turns his head to me.

"But you're having a nice time?"

"The best," I say. "It's been really great."

"I'm glad."

I exhale loudly. "I told your mother last year I spent Christmas alone so this has been perfect."

"Oh, Bette," he says, "I'm sorry. I didn—"

"No, no," I say, "don't be sorry. It's been very therapeutic, really. I'd been keeping a lot of my loneliness in and finally let it out. It's was an embarrassing display in front of your family, but it needed to happen."

"No need to be embarassed," he says, "I'm pretty sure my family loves you."

"Awe, I like them too," I say, "Princess Sophie is the best."

"She's a little diva," he chuckles, "but she's great."

"Margarita is nice, too." I'm surprised lightning doesn't strike me where I lay but it actually is the truth.

"You think so?" I can hear the smile in his voice without looking at him.

"Yeah," I say. "It is annoying how you three speak whatever language that was and all us goobers are just standing there pretending you're not talking about us."

"All good things," he laughs, "all good things."

"I'm sure," I say. "Hey, Seb?"

"Yeah?"

"Merry Christmas."

"You too, Bette," he says, sliding his hand over mine.

Three hours later, after another sing-along with Sophie and a great and motherly hug from Violeta, Sebastian puts me into a cab while he and Margarita get in another. I really don't hate her.

I knock on the door and Trenton greets me with a Santa hat. "Elf hat or Rudolph nose?"

"Um, elf hat," I say.

"Excellent choice," he says, sliding it on my head. "Dim is requiring them of all guests."

"Of course he is," I say.

"SHE'S HERE!" Dimitri cheers, slipping through the crowd. "Darling, you look stunning."

"Thanks," I say.

"I'm so glad," he says, "I've been putting off getting highly intoxicated until I could talk to you about your problem. Come on, let's go talk!"

"Okay," I say, getting a few handshakes and kisses on the cheeks from people in the crowd. Dimitri pulls me into the bathroom and squeals.

"So, how was it?"

"I shouldn't have met his family," I say. "I want them to adopt me right now!"

"I don't want to hear about that," he says, "I want to hear about Margarita."

"She's perfect and lovely and beautiful and they look like they belong together."

"But you stayed with him last night?"

"Yeah."

"So you've got nothing to worry about," he says. "You're fine."

"But they're best friends," I say.

"We're best friends and we don't sleep together."

"They're both straight," I whine.

"True," he says, "but if you're jealous of her, does that mean you have feelings for him?"

"No," I answer. "I'm jealous of what they have."

"Which is?"

"They've known each other for years and have all these inside jokes and he's touched me all over but he touches her with a familiarity. It just drives me fucking nuts."

"I can tell!" Dimitri says. "Let's get you some champagne and really see how you feel."

"I just wasn't expecting to feel that way," I say, "but she's completely nice and charming and it really makes it hard to hate."

"Let me meet the bitch!" he cheers, "I'll beat her up for you."

"That's not necessary."

"Isn't it?"

"No," I say.

"See, you're fine," Dimitri laughs. "Do you honestly think I would beat somebody up? Please." I grin. He takes my hands in his and squeezes them. "Bette, you seem to be saying that she's perfect and wonderful and gorgeous and talented and they have this thing, but you seem to be missing out on the point."

"What's that?"

"You're perfect and wonderful and gorgeous and talented and you, in fact, have a thing with him, too. Not all things look the same, do they?"

I shake my head.

"That's right," he says. "So just let whatever you and Sebastian have be without worrying about his other things."

"Okay," I say.

"Are you ready to partake in the Christmas spirit?"

"Yes." I nod firmly.

"Great!" he says. "I even have Christmas crackers and Dad did make his Ptichye Moloko."

"Wonderful," I say.

"What's with the band aids?"

"Dog scratch."

"Oh, the dog scratches always call for Disney princesses!"

"I know, right?"

And Dimitri is right. I am not Margarita, but I am Bette and that's something special. Judging by the way the illustrious Aleksandr Malikov hangs on my every word, he thinks so too.

This New York lifestyle schedule is throwing me for a loop. When I lived with my Nana, I would be in bed by ten and up around six. Now it's almost three and I'm just making it up the stairs to my apartment. I kept from drinking too much so as to make sure I didn't spend the night on Dimitri's couch.

My apartment is cold from not being much lived in recently, but the sheets are flannel and my electric blanket is warm in minutes. I fall asleep quickly and soundly.

I feel warmer and snuggle into the chest against my back. I feel his lips on my hair and pull his hand across my chest.

"How long have you been here?"

"Few minutes," he says. I nod a little, hardly awake.

"I'll just sleep here every night if it means you'll sneak in and cuddle."

"I figured maybe after your Christmas," he says, "you could just use a cuddle."

"It does feel nice," I say, "thanks."

"Of course," he says, kissing my hair again, I snuggle into him as he clutches his arm tighter around me.

Chapter Text

"That's it then?"

"That's it."

"We're finished?"

"We're finished."

"We're finished!" Dimitri cheers. "Bette, we wrote an entire musical!"

"Yes! Oh, a musical!"

We jump off the piano bench and hug each other.

"What do we do now?"

"I don't know," I say. "Call Saul?"

"Okay," Dimitri says, "let's go see him. Let's get this all together and go see him."

"All right," I say. "We're finished!"

Dimitri squeals, grabs my hands and jumps up and down again. "We wrote a musical! We wrote a musical!"

After another half hour of freaking out, Dimitri and I finally make it downstairs to grab a cab. Dimitri holds open the door for me and I slide across. He flops in next to me and grabs my hand.

"Shit. What if it's not any good?"

"What?"

"What if we've just written a piece of utter shit?"

"Well," Dimitri grins, "We've got two more started. They can't all be shit."

"True," I say before taking a deep breath.

"You've already written one hit play," Dimitri says. "You're fine."

"No one else has picked it up yet," I say, "Not London, not L.A., not a tour."

"Give it time," he says, "it's beautiful."

I sigh and lean my head on his shoulder. He kisses my cheek and leans on me.

"We're going to be all right," I say.

"Of course," Dimitri says.

Sandra, Saul's secretary, smiles when she sees us and gestures us to the chairs.

"He's on the phone but I'll let him know you're here."

"Thanks," I say.

It's only minutes before his office door opens and Saul stands with open arms. "Kids!"

We grin and stand. "We're finished!"

"You're finished? You wrote it? Did you bring it?"

"Of course," Dimitri says, "We have you a copy. And I am prepared to play all the songs you want."

"Wonderful," he says, "let's go to the conference room."

Saul has only wonderful things to say an hour later when Dimitri has played him all of the songs and glanced over the script. He says he'll take the time this evening to read over the entire thing and make notes.

But everything looks good and he takes us out to lunch in celebration.

Rather than go back to my apartment, I head to Sebastian's. He'll be out anyway with a stunt coordinator. I make good use of the bathtub and settle in the bedroom on my stomach in a pair of his shorts and a shirt. There's a short story competition coming up and I've decided to enter a piece… I just have to write it first.

"Hey, scumpete," Sebastian says, dropping his gym bag on the ground. "How was your day?"

"Good. We finished the musical."

"Bette, that's great! Congratulations!" He leans over and kisses me with a proud smile. "What are you doing?"

"Writin'," I answer. "What are you doing?"

"I'm going to take a shower," he says. "You'll still be here?"

"Yes."

"Good," he says, kissing the top of my head. I listen for the sounds of water before I get back to my writing.

"What are you working on?" Sebastian asks minutes later. He crawls on the bed next to me and looks at the computer.

"A short story," I say. "I'm almost finished with the first draft. Don't distract me."

"I won't," he says, sliding his hand up my shirt. He kisses my cheek and stretches out on his side. I vaguely feel his eyes on me as I stare at the screen and his hand is so warm. The shirt has risen up my back and before long he's shifted.

"I said no distractions," I mutter as his lips press against the base of my spine. He continues to kiss along my spine anyway, and it's not that distracting so I let him. I manage four more paragraphs before my shirt is around my shoulders.

"You're so soft, Bette," he says, pressing his lips to the curve of my waist. "And you smell so good."

"Thanks," I say. "I used a coco vanilla bath melt."

"That's not quite it," he says, sliding a hand to bum. "It's just you."

"Oh well, smell away then."

I move a few minutes later when he slides the shirt off my arms. The bed shifts as he kisses my neck and shoulder blades. I manage another paragraph as his lips move around my bare back.

It's when his lips move up to my ear I lose my concentration.

"Seb."

I only have a few paragraphs left.

"Yes?"

"That feels nice."

I feel his lips curl into a smile against my neck.

He kisses every inch of my spine on his way back down. He's moving again as I finish another paragraph. I moan as both his hands grasp an ass cheek firmly and squeeze.

"You're distracting me."

"I'm just getting started."

I follow his lead as he slips his fingers under the waistband of the shorts and starts sliding them down. I'm now on my knees with my ass up in the air, pretending I can still type. Giving in, I close my eyes as his hands massage.

"The softest part of you," he says, biting the left cheek. I hit a few more keys.

He kisses my nose as he closes the screen. "We both know you're not actually doing anything."

I nod absently when he kisses me once, with just enough fire to really make my stomach churn. He leaves to get behind me but before doing anything else, he kisses all along my spine again. I could never tire of his lips on my skin.

His lips get further and further along, and suddenly I realize just how close he is to a place I'm not sure I want him close to, at least not from this angle.

"Sebastian!" I shriek.

But it's too late. He's taken a cheek in both hands and placed one tiny innocent kiss right on that forbidden hole. And it feels good.

"Yes, Bette?" he says, his breath hot on the back of my thighs. I can't even answer. His mouth moves lower, and his stubble brushes against my aching clit. Crying out, I grasp onto the comforter and try not to fall over.

"Any man will never have a better view than this."

He slides two fingers inside me and crooks them just so, and with little effort on his part, I've made a puddle on the linens.

"That's amazing," he says. "Incredible."

I push back onto his fingers. "Keep going."

"Yes, ma'am."

I don't even know what's happening anymore as I move on his fingers. It's like that time we had phone sex but so much better.

"You're sopping."

I moan in agreement.

It's one of those fast and delightful orgasms that sweeps from your toes to your head and you can't breathe and the space behind your eyelids bursts into stars of color.

My labored breathing is what brings me back to life, and Sebastian has an arm around my waist to keep me up. My face presses into the mattress and I turn my head, my eyes still squeezed shut.

"You okay?"

"Yes. Are you ready?"

"What do you think?"

"Come on then," I say, "get to it."

The towel lands on the floor by my head and I brace myself as I feel his hands on my hips. The cry from my lips is completely obsene as he slams into me, hard and fast. The slapping of skin on skin is melodic, and I'm not sure he's ever gone this fast. It feels like heaven. He pulls the tie out of my hair and grabs and handful of it, pulling back my head and making me whimper.

I moan when he suddenly pulls out and I'm left completely on the edge. He grabs my hips roughly and flips me over, kissing me. He's starting to grow his hair out again for Bucky, and I'm really enjoying the way it curls around my fingers.

"You tasted so good I have to have some more," he says, dropping kisses along my belly before moving along my body.

"Are you serious?"

I lift my head to see the smirk on his face before he dives in and I squeal. He just uses the tip of his tongue against my clit, and I have a death grip on his hair. He only hums.

My eyes roll back in my head as he continues, one strong hand on my hip and the other kneading my breast.

"Come on, Bette," he says before flattening his tongue against my skin. It only takes a few more flicks and curls of his tongue before I feel it in my entire body. The sound of rushing liquid feels my ears and my chest heaves.

"So much," he says, crawling over me and grabbing the towel. He wipes off his face and neck, and then I feel the soft fabric wiping down my legs. He smiles when he settles over me, and I slide an ankle behind his knee. I stare at him as he brushes my cheek with the back of his fingers. "I am insanely jealous you have that ability."

I nod, still unable to speak.

"It just rushes out of you," he says, running a hand along my side. Truthfully I'm not sure I can stand any more but I also don't crave any less.

"I'm a writer and I don't even think I can begin to explain how it feels."

He smiles contentedly before kissing me. "You are something else, Miss Chambers."

"Thank you," I say. "I like you a lot."

I run my hands over his perfect abs so he doesn't mistake my meaning.

"Good," he says. "You ready?"

"Of course," I answer as I loop my legs around his hips and squeeze his bicep. I watch his face as he slides into me, his jaw clenched and hair hanging around his face. "You're pretty."

He laughs, throwing his head back. "You're pretty, too."

"I like it when you laugh."

"I like to laugh," he says. "And I like laughing with you."

I grin, pressing my finger into the dimple of his chin. He kisses the tip before the corners of his mouth curl upwards.

I feel my stomach flip as we stare at each other, not unlike it usually does when we're like this, but somehow it's completely different. I don't know if he feels it too or not because he just kisses me again, sliding his tongue into my mouth. He thrusts his hips and the feeling fades into a frantic fucking.

"So... good..."

"Yes!" Sebastian shouts, pressing into me and hitting that spot. "You know what else I like?"

"Hmmm?"

"You on top."

"Really?"

He nods. "It's easier to play with you that way."

"Well, who am I to deny you that?"

I grin as I roll us over and sit on my knees.

"Hell, you're gorgeous in this light." He says, his hands on my hips. "I mean, you're gorgeous in any light, but —"

"Thank you," I say, putting a hand over his mouth. "I'm not one to be insulted by a compliment."

I run my nails lightly over his chest, feeling the smooth skin. He hums appreciatively, stretching his back like a cat.

He follows my lead as I lean into him and we kiss. I groan against his lips as he palms my breasts, rolling my nipples between his fingers. Grinding my hips, I find that rhythm, that rhythm I've ever only found with him, and feel the tightening in my belly. He leans up beneath me, kissing my neck before moving across my chest. I'm grateful for those perfect ab muscles of his working so hard to keep him upright.

"Keep doing that," he mutters, his face buried in my hair. I do, sliding down slowly and then clenching my muscles on the way back up. "Fuck."

I bite his ear as he slides his arms around me, holding me tightly. I can tell it's about to hit him when his grip tightens, and then he jerks to a hault. Feeling him come inside me makes me fell fuzzy and felicitous. He kisses the base of my neck where it meets my shoulder a few times before falling to his back, taking me with him.

"What a good way to spend an afternoon," he says, a smile lighting up his face.

"Yes," I say. "And to think I didn't want you to distract me."

He kisses my cheek. "We need to wash the bed spread."

"Yes."

He chuckles and gives me the strangest look, like he's proud or something.

"What?"

"I just think it's cute you've learned to accept it. Once upon a time, you'd have apologized for soaking the sheets and now you just let it go."

"They're your sheets and it's your fault so I can be accepting of that. If I sleep at my place, I'll have dry sheets and a dry duvet so I'm not upset."

"You're sleeping at your place tonight?"

"Not necessarily."

"Oh, good."

"Why?"

"Kevin Fiege is coming to the show tonight and then we're going for dinner after."

"Well, that sounds like fun."

"It is. It will be." He bites his bottom before running a hand through his hair. "You know how I signed a nine movie deal? It sort of makes sense that that's three as Bucky-slash-The-Winter-Soldier and then what? Logically that's three as Bucky-Cap and then three with Cap Bucky and The Avengers, right?"

"Right."

"Well, that's never actually been confirmed with me."

"So you think tonight he'll tell you."

"I hope."

"I'm sure either way, it'll all be fine. You're a fantastic actor, you've got the body of a superhero and you do have that killer contract. I think you'd be great as Captain America."

"You do?"

"Strong jaw. Dazzling smile. Piercing gaze. Muscular arms. Glorious thighs. What's not to love?"

He smiles. I kiss him once before rolling off of him and picking up the shirt.

"Come on," I say. "We should wash this thing before it gets rancid."

"I don't think anything that could come out of you could ever be rancid."

"You've never been around me after Thai food."

"Bette!" Sebastian chuckles, rolling over in bed. It's adorable, really. My frankness shocks and amuses him.

"Now get up," I say.

Stretching out in Sebastian's bed, I drink my milk and read a book, pulling the freshly laundered comforter up to my neck.

The door opens and the alarm beeps.

"Bette, you here?"

"Yep!"

I hear his footsteps down the hall, and he stops at the door. His face is distraught and he runs a hand through his hair.

"Oh God," I say, dropping my book and springing out of bed. "What's happened? Is everything all right?"

He brushes my hair back and cradles my cheeks. His eyes are glissening with tears and puddles fill his lower lids.

"Everything's fine, Bette," he says softly. "I'm Captain America."

I feel a million things at once watching his face go from the sadness to the chuckling grin.

"You asshole!" I say, hitting his chest. "I was afraid something was really wrong!"

He laughs. "Where is my Oscar?"

"You buttpie! You had me all worried something happened to Bill or one of the kids or one of your friends!"

"Your mind went there in those seconds?"

"Of course it did because I have compassion and care for other people."

"Sorry," he says. "I'm sorry, Bette."

I want to stay mad at him but those eyes are all big and he sticks out his beautiful bottom lip.

"Oh, fine," I say. "How does it feel?"

"Amazing!" He says, picking me up with his arms around my waist and twirling me around. "I'm a superhero!"

"Are you really though? I mean, Captain America can't fly or control lightning or blow shit up with his eyes."

"Bette, you're ruining my fun." He puts my feet on the ground.

"I know," I say, "just giving you a hard time. Congratulations! I am happy for you."

"Thank you," he says.

"When do you start?"

"Well, we lay the foundation in this film and then Chris will leave at the end of the third Avengers."

"Is he going to die? Please tell me Steve's just going to retire. I can't watch that beautiful face die again! I know all that junk happens in the comics but they can't kill Chris Evans!"

"I don't know how that's going to work out yet."

"At least it's you replacing him, huh?"

He grins. "At least it's me."

"Awe, Seb!" I say, wrapping my arms around his neck and pulling him into a hug. "My baby's all grown up and gone from the anti-hero to the Star-Spangled Man with a plan!"

He laughs again. "Thank you!"

"For what?"

"For calling him an anti-hero and not a villain."

"That's what he is, isn't he?"

"Indeed!" He says. "Bette, you are the best!"

"I know." I kiss him quickly before putting him at an arms length and looking him over. "Imagine that — a Romanian playing Captain America."

He hisses through his teeth. "You don't think that will be a problem, will it?"

"Why would that be a problem?"

"You Americans are so territorial."

"Please don't lump me in with a general body," I say. "But no, I don't think it will be problem. I don't think anybody really cares you're from Romania. You've been in America longer than you've been anywhere else."

He closes his eyes and sighs. "You don't understand how hard it was — coming here."

"I don't."

"I was this awkward chubby kid with a bizarre accent that was like a mix of German and Romanian and I didn't stand out but I didn't quite look like everybody else at the same time." He crosses the room and sets on the edge of the bed with his elbows on his knees and his chin between his palms. "Kids are mean, you know." I simply set next to him and wrap my arm around his shoulder. "And it didn't help that Bill was the headmaster. 'Oh, look. There goes saggy Sebastian, the headmaster's son! Futu-ti pizza ma-tii!' "

"They learned Romanian profanity just for you?"

"Yeah, because they're bastards. I don't want to have to deal with all that shit again. I just wanted to be liked so badly but nothing ever seemed to work quite right. My teeth were all messed up and I was kind of like a potato and I didn–"

"Seb. Sebastian," I say, shaking his shoulder, "there's no need to worry, huh? We're all awkward when we're young, and yes, kids are shits. We're not kids anymore. And if anybody doesn't like you being Captain America, fuck 'em. Kevin obviously thinks you're perfect, the Russos like you, Chris goes on and on about you, and Anthony thinks you hung the fuckin' moon. I could tell you everything about your body that is perfect and wonderful, but I don't have to do that. And you look nothing like a potato. If anything, you've become quite the handsome spud." I wiggle my eyebrows at him which finally gets him to grin. "Furthermore, think about where most of those assholes are — on their second marriages just pretending it's working so they'll have some sort of face when they run for Congress in twenty years in houses they can't afford at jobs they hate. You have a freakin' BMW in a beautiful apartment and a job you're really passionate about. Come on, man. You're Captain fucking America! There's no moping for Captain America — he's got too much justice to serve. You're fucking Captain America!"

He smiles slyly at me. "Technically, you're fucking Captain America."

"Well, I haven't yet."

He laughs, rolling into me so his head is resting on my stomach. "You're the best, Bette."

"So you've told me today."

"I am Captain fucking America."

"You're Captain fucking America," I nod. "You know what I think you need to do as Captain America?"

"What?"

I roll awkwardly on the mattress but pull myself up and stand. I hold out my hand to him.

"You have to jump on the bed."

"Aren't we a little old for that?"

"You're Captain fucking America. If you want to jump on the bed — or if your lady friend wants you to jump on the bed — you jump on the bed."

"You're right," he says, taking my hand. He kicks off his shoes and climbs up. I bounce a little, knowing full well the sponge-like quality of his mattress, and he laughs as he stands up. "I'm Captain fucking America and I'm jumping on my bed!"

I laugh but join him in jumping. "He's the Star-Spangled Stan with a plan!" 

Chapter Text

Sebastian, Dimitri and I sit inside the warm bistro, surrounded by our hot tea and coats. January has taken a turn for the coldest and you can't get within five feet of a door without seeing your breath.

Dimitri and I were already there and Sebastian had joined us after a session at Marvel. He bounces his knee against mine as we eat our sandwiches and he eats a salad. His phone rings and he digs it out of his pocket.

"Hey, mom," he says. "Um, tomorrow night? Yeah, I can do that. I'm actually with her. He what?" Sebastian laughs. "I'll let you talk to her."

He passes the phone to me and I hold it to my ear. "Hello, Violeta."

"Good afternoon, Bette," she says, "how are you?"

"I'm doing well," I answer. "How are you?"

"Just fine," she says. "Bill hasn't stopped talking about the play. I was hoping we could come up and see it tomorrow night — would you be interested in seeing it with us?"

"Sure," I say, "of course."

"I know he'll just love that," she says, "I feel like I should warn you though."

"About what?"

"Well, to be perfectly frank," I can hear the sigh in her voice, "he's gotten it in his head that you and Sebastian are together."

"Oh."

"He thinks you're Sebastian's fiancée," she says. "I don't know how it happened. Bill just keeps asking how the wedding plans are going and he wants to go buy a suit — I just wanted to let you know in case he asks you about it. He may have the two of you confused with Michael and Marie years ago."

"Wow, thanks," I say. "I will just go along with it."

"Great," she says, "I think it'll upset him if we tell him the truth. I tried when it first started but he keeps thinking it."

"That's fine," I say, "will you be here for dinner?"

"I think so," she says.

"I'll send you my number," I say, "and we can talk tomorrow."

"Wonderful," she says, "thank you, puilel."

"So, my darling betrothed," Sebastian says as I hand him the phone. "Are you attending the play with my mother tomorrow night?"

"I am," I say.

"Wait, what?" Dimitri asks, sitting forward in his chair. "Betrothed? Parents? What?"

"Sebastian's step dad thinks we're engaged," I say. "He has Alzheimer's so we're not really sure where he got the idea."

"But you're going along with it?"

"He won't remember in a few days," I say. "We're all amazed he remembers me at all."

Dimitri narrows his eyes at me and then looks at Sebastian. "Are you going to loan her a ring then?"

Sebastian opens his mouth to speak but I talk first. "It's the twenty-first century. I don't need a ring."

"Bette, you make my heart hurt!" Dimitri yelps. "You could have a diamond as big as your eye with this one, even if it's only for night and you're passing it up?"

"I've had a diamond before which didn't really work out," I answer. "I'm not sure I need one now."

"She doesn't need a ring," Sebastian says, "too many other people will notice."

"Ugh," Dimitri says, "damn other people!"

"If I do ever come to a point where I want a ring from a man and he wants to give it to me," I say, "I'll make sure you approve of it before it goes anywhere near my finger."

"Bette, that's so sweet! You know, Tren and I haven't set a date yet or anything, but I found these really beautiful onyx rings with diamonds pressed into the rock. They're polished and absolutely gorgeous, and that's what I want. Tren says he'll just get the onyx which will still look pretty, I think."

"I'm sure it will," Sebastian says. He takes my fingers off my knee and squeezes them gently. "Can I come over tonight?"

"Sure," I say with a shrug. I feel Dimitri's eyes shift between us again, and then he sighs loudly.

"I wonder when Saul will let us know," he says, stirring his tea and clanking his spoon against the glass.

"I guess we could go see him," I say, "if he'll let us in."

"He loves you two," Sebastian says. "Go see him."

So, Dimitri and I take a cab to Saul's office and wait.

"Bad news, kids," he says. "It's not selling."

"What?" Dimitri asks.

"The musical's good but it's missing a hook — just a little something. My investors won't buy into it right now."

"Well, shit," Dimitri says.

"Shit indeed," Saul says. "I know you don't want to hear this, but it can be improved upon. You only need one little thing — maybe one more song about that thing — and you'll be set."

"Where are we going to find one thing?" I ask.

"You two are smart," he says, "most plays need several rewrites before they even get anywhere near a producer."

I sigh. He's right.

"Well, thanks," I say. "We'll work on it."

"I know you will," he says. "I trust you two kids, and I know you won't fail me or yourselves."

"Of course," Dimitri says. "Thank you, Saul."

"Don't let this get you down," Saul says, standing up from behind his desk. I nod as he he hugs me tightly.

Well now all I want to do is change into pajama pants and eat ice cream. I would revisit the script in the next few days, but for now I couldn't worry on it. I knew I would tear up the whole thing if I looked at it today.

"What are you going to do now, sweetheart?" Dimitri asks as we stand on the corner.

"Go home and mope," I say, "you?"

"The same," he says. "Call you later?"

"Sure." I nod. We hug before getting in separate cabs.

My apartment is cold from neglect and I sigh as I crank up the heater. I change out of my dress and into my pajamas. Rifling through my mail, I find nothing of interest.

I crawl into bed, pull the blankets around me and start an episode of 30 Rock.

The mattress shifts hours later but I hardly stir. It's when the alarm blares later that I roll over and throw my arm across his chest.

"Sorry," he mumbles, sliding off the alarm but settling again. I roll over so my head is on his chest and he slips his arm around me, pulling me closer to him. I don't even bother to open my eyes.

"Why didn't you wake me up?"

"I tried," he says. "You just wouldn't."

"Sorry, I got into a bottle of moscato."

"Any reason?"

"The musical is shit."

"Surely not," he sighs.

"Saul can't sell it. It's missing a hook."

"You'll think of something."

I take a deep breath as I absorb the heat from his body. He has pushed everything off of him but the sheet and I had been ensconced between my flannel sheets, two blankets and the comforter.

"Fuuuuuccccckkkkk," he groans as his alarm buzzes again. "I just want to sleep."

"Me, too."

"Sorry," he says, switching off the alarm. He pulls me close and kisses the top of my head. "I'll see you later."

I whine as he gets out of bed, taking all the heat with him. I lay there for another two hours before ambling into the shower.

"Bette?" Even over the rush of water I hear the slam of the door and his call.

"Shower!"

A few seconds later he pushes open the bathroom door and I see his shape through the etches in the glass.

"May I join you?"

"Sure," I say. In honesty, the past ten minutes I've just been standing under the hot water trying to wake up. My shower is tiny so the second he steps inside we're pressed together.

"Good morning," he says.

"Good morning," I echo, grinning at him. He smells good, like sweat and his cologne. He kisses me once before slipping his fingers in my hair.

"Have you done anything yet?"

"Nope."

He reaches past me and grabs the shampoo from the little nook in the corner. I find myself cooing when he massages it into my scalp and I think I could fall back asleep as it feels so lovely. He laughs at me as I relax, my hands on his chest to keep from falling over.

His hair is thick beneath my fingers as I massage in the shampoo and he kisses me beneath the spray. I push him against the wall and slide my hand down his body. He groans as I take his half-hard cock in my hand and slowly pump it.

"You're awake now," he says, throwing his head against the tiles.

"So are you," I say, running my thumb over the tip. He huffs and I feel his abs straining with every breath beneath my palm.

"Bette!" He howls as I drop to my knees and kiss the tip. The shower is so small we hardly fit but that kind of makes it better. Squeezing his balls really sets him off and he thrusts into my mouth. He tugs on my hair and yells something in Romanian with his last thrusts, and I swallow everything. While he's recovering, I lather my loufa and run it along his skin.

He smiles at me as he opens his eyes. "You're perfect."

"Thank you," I say.

"Now let's see about you," he says, taking the loufa from me. We trade places, stepping together so we fit. I smell pomegranate as he adds more body wash and gently massages my skin. I shouldn't be surprised when he sinks to his knees and kisses the top of my thigh, but I let out a quiet gasp. He lifts my leg, throwing my knee over his shoulder and inhaling. "You smell so good."

I moan. I tug on his hair as he licks. Light, little flicks against my clit have me on the edge quickly, and then he slides a finger inside me. He grasps my breast with his hand and tweaks my nipple.

"Seb!"

He knows what that means as he grabs my hip and keeps my leg planted while I tremble, my muscles clenching around his fingers. He straightens up after putting my foot on the ground and kisses me. We finish rinsing off shortly after and then I pull on my robe.

"Can I ask you something, Bette?"

"Of course," I nod, running my fingers through my hair with my leave-in conditioner. He wraps his arms around my middle and kisses my cheek.

"The guy you were married to tried to strangle you with a tie but you let me tie you up," he says, "weren't you worried?"

"With you? No." I answer. "I suppose we have my therapist to thank for that. And the acceptance that having sex doesn't deter from the quality of your life, if that makes sense. You know I was raised by my grandparents — they did a wonderful job, mind you — but they were raised in a different time. They only had sex with each other which isn't hard to do when you marry as a teenager, but all I got out of marriage was a broken face and hefty lawyer's fees. I had to accept that sex — or not having sex — doesn't change my value as a person. My first boyfriend after that was the first man I ever slept with — he was kind and funny and clumsy. Never could get me off but it was so nice to be with someone I guess I didn't mind. But he did make me feel like there wasn't really anything wrong with me."

"Of course there's nothing wrong with you."

"It can feel like there's something wrong for a woman who doesn't want to sleep with her husband."

"He was a douche."

"And you can say that because you're outside the situation. It took me a very long time to realize it was actually all on him and not on me."

He doesn't say anything now, just looks at the sink while he rests his head on my shoulder.

"I just don't want you to feel like I've taken things too far."

I lift his hand from my abdomen and kiss his fingers. "And that is exactly why I trust you."

He smiles shyly at me in the mirror. "But if you were uncomfortable with something, you'd tell me, right?"

"Of course," I say. "You could do the same." I turn in his arms to actually look at him. "Why? Do you have something planned?"

"I've been thinking about a few things," he says, "but I don't want it to freak you out or anything."

"Thank you for the consideration." I kiss the tip of his nose. "Now, are you going to go with me to collect your mom and Bill from the train station?"

Violeta smiles at me as the doors open and she stretches out her arms. "Thank you so much for doing this."

"My pleasure," I say, hugging her. "Look who I brought."

Sebastian kisses his mother's cheek as he hugs her. "Hi mom."

"Ah, Bette with the kind face from Paden, Oklahoma," Bill says. "How are you, my darling?"

"Doing well, and you?"

"Great," he says, "did you know I've been to Oklahoma? Wonderful state."

"It is," I say.

"How are the wedding plans going?"

"Very well," I say. "Everything's coming together."

"Wonderful," he says. "You two kids look so good together."

"Thank you, Bill," Sebastian says, squeezing Bill's shoulder. We had decided to keep the facade but keep everything to a minimum so hopefully it wouldn't draw attention.

"I was hoping we could try that new cafe for lunch? Peaches? Pears? It's after some fruit or something?" Violeta smiles as she thinks of the name.

"Papaya," Sebastian answers. "And we would love to take you there."

We.

Lunch is quiet as is the rest of the afternoon. We go back to Sebastian's apartment so Bill can take a nap. The morning's travel and the hustle and bustle of the city has worn him out. I make Violeta and myself some tea while Sebastian heads to a meeting with somebody at Marvel.

"You're very familiar with Sebastian's apartment," she says, leaning on the counter.

No need to tell her this is my tea then. "I spent a lot of time here when he first signed onto the play. And we've hung out a few times to play video games."

"I just noticed," she says, "I don't need an explanation."

She smiles warmly at me as I pull the tea bag from her cup.

"Aside from my agent, his wife, and Saul, I literally knew no one in New York and Sebastian was one of the first people I met. And he was nice to me."

"I am proud of my son," she says, "I know I didn't make his childhood easy."

"I don't think he holds any of that against you," I say. "In fact I'm pretty sure he really admires you for leaving Europe when you did. He probably wouldn't be the next Captain America if not for that. I mean, he'd still be an actor but his situation probably would be very different. And he loves acting."

She laughs. "He does love acting. When he was a child, he'd read a book and immediately throw together some little skit. He'd play both parts of Peter Pan and Hook but make the dog be Wendy. I lost a lot of good blankets to his capes."

"That's precious," I grin. "I was always more reserved."

"Most writers are," she says. "You convey with words what you can't say. It's why I play music."

"Oh, would you?" I ask. "I'd love to hear it."

"Sure," she says. "I love to play."

I run down the hall and close the guest bedroom door since Bill is asleep. His hearing isn't what it used to be anyway.

For the next hour, Violeta plays the piano while I sit next to her on the bench. She plays everything from Billy Joel to Beethoven and The Beatles. Now she's slowly teaching me "Fleur de Lis."

"Goodness," Sebastian says, dropping his bag by the door, "you got her on the piano."

"I got her on the piano!" I cheer. "She's amazing. You're amazing."

"Thank you," she smiles.

"You should meet my friend, Dimitri," I say. "We've been working on some musicals together. He's an excellent pianist too."

"Dimitri?"

"Dimitri Podladtchikov."

"Oh, he's Aleksandr Malikov's son, yes?"

"Yes, do you know Aleksandr?" I ask.

"He's got the hots for Bette," Sebastian says.

"Does not."

"I played for Aleksandr once," she says, "he was very good."

"You mean at dancing, right?" Sebastian frowns at the thought that his mother might have slept with the infamous Aleksandr Malikov.

"Yes, at dancing!" Violeta laughs. "Honestly, Sebastian."

He shrugs. "I don't like him."

"Oh, you've spent time with him?"

"More than I would like."

"He's harmless," I say, "a rake, maybe, but harmless."

"He had such exquisite leaps," Violeta says. "Lines that went on for days."

We both sigh as we think about it. He did have the most wonderful legs and those ballet tights left little to the imagination.

"Ugh, gross," Sebastian says. "I'm going to go to the bathroom and then I'll be ready to go to the theater."

"Excellent," Violeta says. "I'll go wake up Bill."

I clean up the dishes and tidy the kitchen.

"Thank you for hanging out with them," Sebastian says, kissing my cheek. He's sprayed on more cologne and smells delicious.

"I don't mind at all," I say. "I love being around older people since they have so much experience and so many stories. Your mother has seen so much of the world it's incredible."

"You haven't seen much of the world, have you?"

"Never been off the continental U.S."

"Hmmm," he hums before pressing a kiss to my other cheek. "You're missing out."

"I know," I say. "If I can get a second play at least optioned, I plan on taking some sort of trip."

"That's good," he says, "Go to seek a great perhaps."

Sebastian goes to the theater and we meet Saul and Z at the fancy restaurant next door. Z and Violeta get along immediately and Saul is fascinating enough to keep Bill enthused. It is the easiest dinner I've ever been apart of.

The play is fantastic as ever, and I'm relieved to see both Bill and Violeta wipe their cheeks. That means it's still good the second time around. Sebastian will have to go outside and greet fans, so we take our seats on a couch backstage and wait.

"Where's your ring?" Bill asks, looking at my naked hand.

"It's being sized," I lie.

"That's good," he says, "you won't want to lose it."

"I know," I say.

"Well, if it isn't the beautiful Violeta Petran," Aleksandr smiles at her as he approaches us.

"Aleksandr Malikov," she laughs. "You're looking well."

"It's the fake hip," he says. "You look beautiful."

"Thank you," she says, "and actually it's Violeta Fitzgerald. This is my husband, Bill."

Bill just waves his hand unamused.

"And how do you know Miss Chambers?"

"Violeta is Sebastian's mom," I answer.

"Ah, Sebastian," Aleksandr says, "he's a very talented young man."

"Thank you," Violeta says. I listen to them talk for a few minutes about the glory days of touring Europe and Russia. It's funny to me because Violeta's accent gets thicker the longer they talk. Just like riding a bike.

"May I speak to Miss Chambers alone for one minute?"

"Of course," Violeta says. "It was wonderful to see you again."

"You too." They hug and kiss cheeks before Aleksandr pulls me towards the side of the theater.

"I've having a hard time staying away from you," he says, taking both my hands in his.

"What?"

"You're lovely, Bette," he says. "Such an old soul hidden behind such a young face. And Dimitri has repeatedly asked me not to bother you, but I'm afraid I can't help myself. Please come to dinner with me tomorrow night. Please?"

I did promise Dimitri I wouldn't sleep with his father but we never said anything about dinner. And those legs in those ballet tights...

"Yes, okay."

"Oh, Bette!" He says, kissing my cheeks. "You have made an old man happy!"

"You're not that old."

"No, I am not that old," he laughs. "I'll be in touch tomorrow."

"Fantastic," I say. He pulls me into a hug before he leaves.

This is not bad. Sebastian will be gone in eight weeks so our fling will be over. Is it wrong to invest in something that could outlast our fling?

"Heyyyyyy," Sebastian says as he comes in from the door. "What'd you think?"

"Brilliant as always," Bill says.

"Thank you," he says. "Do you all want to go for coffee or something?"

"That would be wonderful," Violeta says.

"Let me go get my things," he says. He heads towards the dressing rooms when I hear it.

She's called his name and I can see the tension rise in his shoulders. He swivels around with a huge smile on his face. It's too big.

Leighton Meester steps out of the shadows where I see she was talking to Aaron with Adam Brody at her side.

Violeta mutters something in Romanian that sounds a lot like whatever it was Sebastian shouted in the shower this morning.

"Leighton, hi," Sebastian says, hugging her. "Adam."

"Hey, man," Adam says. Seth Cohen is still so attractive it's unfair.

"We heard all these good things about the play and a friend got tickets," she says, "I didn't know you were in it until we got here, but I thought I would say hello anyway. You were fantastic."

"Thank you," he says, scratching the back of his neck. "Um, you should meet Bette then. She wrote it."

He holds out his hand absently towards me, and I realize he said my name.

"Hello," I say, stepping next to him. I instinctively want to take his hand but decide not to.

"You wrote it?" Adam asks.

"I did."

"Wow, right on. Clark is amazing."

"Oh, I like Nan!" Leighton says. "She's so complex yet naive at the same time. Beautiful!" She still holds onto my hand from when we shook them.

"Well Blaire Waldorf is classic," I say. Still not sure what you're supposed to bring up in these circles.

"Thank you," Leighton smiles. "She is still very close to my heart."

"And I had the biggest, biggest crush on Seth Cohen," it slips out before I can catch it.

"Oh-ho, thanks!" Adam says.

"Anytime."

"Is that your mom?" Leighton asks, looking past us to Violeta on the couch.

"It is."

"I would love to say hi," Leighton says.

"Of course," Sebastian says. "Bill doesn't remember anybody so if he doesn't recognize you, that's why."

"Hello, Leighton." Violeta says, standing up.

I take my chance now to step back and just let this whole thing play out. Fortunately, I've moved far away from all of my exes but Sebastian doesn't have that luxury. And for two actors who both love the stage, it doesn't seem far fetched they'd run into each other. Instead, I sidle up to the heater and warm my hands.

"It was nice to meet you," Leighton says, giving me a wave as they head towards the door minutes later. "Congratulations."

"Thank you," I say. I follow Sebastian without a word down the hall.

"Fuck fuck fuck fuck."

"That bad, huh?"

"It's just I wasted three years of my life with her and now she shows up and just wants to say hello with her fucking husband and her fucking ring and fuck!"

This is new territory.

I shut the door to his dressing room behind us.

"Seb," I say, putting my hand on his arm as his knuckles turn white he's gripping the back of his chair so hard. "Seb. You didn't waste three years of your life."

"I know," he finally says, letting go of the chair to fluff his hair. "I get insecure sometimes — she knows that. And she comes up here anyway and does all that with her husband and their TV show. What the fuck is that?"

"That is someone who probably didn't realize how it would look to you but thought you did an amazing job and wanted to tell you." I rub his back as he pinches at the bridge of his nose. "You really were on point tonight — made your mom and Bill cry again."

He smiles.

"It'll be okay," I say. "And you've got a great life. There's no use comparing a taco bar to an ice cream shop."

He throws his head back for a second before looking at me. "Am I the taco bar or the ice cream shop?"

"Does it matter? They're both good."

He smiles. "You're right."

"Besides, if things had worked out between the two of you, you wouldn't get to fuck me on a regular basis."

"You are one of my favorite things to do," he says. He grabs my waist with one hand and pulls me harshly to him. Kissing him ignites that feeling in my stomach and I can't wait to put his parents back on the train so we can go back to his place.

"Come on," I say. "If we don't get back out there, your mom will think we're working on that grandchild she wants so badly."

"Eep!" he says, "We can't have her thinking that."

He plucks his coat from the hook and slips it on. I toss his scarf around his neck and pull him close for one more stolen kiss.

"I forgot to tell you earlier," I say, "but I do want to see your rendition of Hook and Peter Pan."

"She told you about that?"

"She did."

"Well, if you must know, my Narnia is much better," he says. "I don't do Tumnus though."

I laugh. "Can I get a special performance?"

"Scumpete," he says, pushing me up against the wall in the darkened hallway. "You always get a special performance." 

Chapter Text

I sigh as Sebastian's lips move across the line of my spine.

"I love your back," he says. "I feel like that's a weird thing to say but you have a lovely back."

"Thank you."

Last night had been fun and frantic and fueled by coffee. We had made excellent use of his huge shower with steam jets and a bench and aromatherapy.

But this morning had been for cuddling and caressing, and now he was laying half over me, kissing my back. It's like he could feel our end was near too.

I roll over beneath him and run my fingers through his hair.

"You have a lovely face," I say. He smiles and kisses the skin by my belly button. I watch as he moves slowly up my body, leaving light little kisses as he goes.

"Sweet Bette," he says, laying a sloppy kiss on my right nipple. He tugs on it with his teeth but it's hardly painful. "Sweet, sweet Bette."

He kisses me, one hand on my hip and the other cradled around my head. I sigh as I wrap my arms around his back and my legs around his thighs. We kiss for a long time, just the way you're supposed to kiss in the morning.

The moan that escapes my lips when he slides into me echoes off the walls, and he smiles at the sound.

"I am going to miss that," he says, taking my hand from where it rests on his shoulder blade and kissing it, his thrusts long and deep. Our fingers entertwine on the pillow by my head, and I enjoy every minute of it. To be fucked slowly is one of life's little treasures. I close my eyes and give in to it all, smelling him all around me.

Then it hits.

"Yes!" I shout, making Sebastian jump in the process. My outburst has him worried. "That's it!"

"That's it?" He asks, his movements slow in force and his hand stops moving against my breast.

"The musical! Joe and Meg are sleeping together!"

"That's the hook?"

"That's the hook!" I scramble for my phone of the nightstand, managing to unplug it with one hand. I dial and wait.

"What's up, pudding cup?" Dimitri asks as soon as the call goes through.

"Joe and Meg are sleeping together."

"Whaaaaaaa?" Dimitri says. "Bette, that's perfect. That fixes everything!"

"I know," I say. "I'll weave it in so it's not overtly obvious and you just have to write one song full of innuendo for them. It's amazing."

I look up to see Sebastian watching me with the most curious expression. I smile at him and twirl the curl on his forehead with my finger.

"Anyway, I need to go," I say. "I'll call you later."

"Perfect," he says. "You're a genius."

"I know!" I giggle as I toss the phone to the side. "Oh Sebastian Stan, I have the best ideas when I'm with you!"

I touch his face with both of my hands.

"Do you think about other things often when I'm inside you?"

"Not at all usually," I answer. "I was just feeling the way you were looking at me and the idea flooded over me."

He grins. "And how was I looking at you?"

"Like this is the best thing in the whole world. You're not wrong, of course."

"It is pretty amazing," he says. "You feel so exceptionally good."

I grin as I tug on his hair and pull his lips to mine. What a perfect way to spend a morning.

"You bitch!"

Dimitri slams the door in my face.

"What?" I ask, knocking on the door again. Dimitri opens it with narrow eyes and he looks perfectly disheveled.

"You're going to dinner with my father."

"And it's just dinner," I say. "There's nothing more to it."

"But it's dinner. And sex always follows dinner."

"Not always," I say, "and I don't think your father expects that of me right away. Do you know how long it's been since I've been to dinner with a man who is interested in me?"

"I'm guessing not long, you know, with the Romanian sex god."

"He has never taken me out to dinner," I say, "just the two of us. Sure we've had dinner together at one of our houses, but never have I gotten to put on a pretty dress and enjoy a meal in public. Please don't be mad at me. Please."

"You're using my father for a fancy dinner?"

"No," I say, "I happen to like your father. I find him to be very charming and interesting. He's smart, he's handsome, he's talented."

"Stop it," Dimitri says. "Fine. But if it happens to be love, please don't make me call you mom."

"I would never," I say, "son."

Dimitri flicks his pencil at me and it bounces off my chest. "No more about my father. Let's fix a musical."

We work for a few hours before he sends me on my way. I think he's forgiven me because he hugs me and tells me to have a good time.

As I'm getting ready, my phone rings. It's Sebastian.

"Hey," I say.

"Hi," he says, "um, Margarita is in town and we're going out after the show with a couple of friends. Would you like to join us?"

"I actually have plans," I say, "believe it or not."

"You do?"

"Dinner," I say, "and then who knows what?"

"Well, have a great time," he says.

"You, too."

"Call me tomorrow?"

"Of course," I say.

"Don't have too much fun."

"You, too."

"All right," he says, "bye."

"Bye."

I've cradled my phone between my cheek and shoulder as I was applying eyeliner so I don't move to hang it up immediately.

"Bette?"

"Yeah?"

"Do have fun. Really."

"Thank you," I say. That's an odd statement to stall a conversation for. "You too."

"Thanks."

Now the call actually disconnects and I shrug as I finish my makeup.

I look myself over in the mirror, pleased with the results. I, like Sebastian, might be getting better with age, although I expect I'll peak much sooner than he will.

Such is life.

The buzz lets me know someone's at the door and hit the speaker. 

"Spokoynoy nochi! I am here to pick you up."

"I'll buzz you in," I say.

My first real date in a very long time.

There's a knock on the door seconds later.

"Miss Chambers," Aleksandr says as he looks me over. "You look exquisite."

"Thank you," I say. "As do you."

He hugs me and kisses my cheek, and then he passes me a bouquet of flowers.

"They're beautiful."

"They reminded me of you," he says. "Roses. Soft and delicate but with a strength and sharpness."

"Please, come in," I say. "Let me put these in water and we'll go."

"Of course."

I make my way to the little sink and fill a vase with water. Aleksandr looks at my shelves, touching the spines of a few things.

"Quite a collection."

"I wish it were bigger," I say.

"If it were any bigger," he says, "you couldn't fit in this apartment."

"True," I say, "very true."

I tuck the roses into the vase, arranging them so they look just right, and then I reach for my coat.

"I'm always amazed you women wear heels all the time," he says. "There's snow on the ground and you're in heels."

"A pair of fabulous shoes is a pair of fabulous shoes no matter the weather."

"Spoken like a true beauty."

I laugh and loop my elbow through his. There's a car waiting for us on the curb and the driver pulls open the door. This is certainly nice.

"Wine?" Aleksandr asks as we settle into the seat. Two glasses and bottle wait for us, and I nod. "Have you been to the ballet yet, Bette?"

"No," I answer, holding my glass while he pours. "The opera, the Rockettes, several things on Broadway, several things off Broadway, but never the ballet."

"May I say you're in for a treat then," he says.

"We're going to the ballet?"

"Oh yes," he says, "and you should be delighted because you're going with me."

He's right. At dinner, we are approached by no less than seven people all wanting to give their regards to Aleksandr Malikov, distinguished dancer and director. Two producers, a writer, the theater reviewer for The New York Times, a dancer and Patti Lupone were among them. The food was definitely some of the best I'd had since coming to New York and Aleksandr is a wonderful conversationalist. He's got such interesting stories about the world and the people in it I could listen to him talk all day.

The ballet is simply one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. The dancers move with such precision yet fluidity at the same time it's breathtaking. I sink back into my delightfully cushioned seat as it ends and I feel Aleksandr's eyes on me.

"So, what did you think?" he asks, several minutes later.

"It was fantastic," I answer. "The way they move…"

"Ah, Bette," he says, "you've a beautiful mind."

I grin at him.

"Shall we go for dessert?" he asks, taking my hand gently.

"That would be lovely."

"Wonderful," he says. "There's a little shop not far from here that sells the best European desserts."

"Perfect," I say.

"I only hear positive things when I'm with you," Aleksandr laughs. "Does it ever get exhausting?"

"What?"

"You've not said one ill thing the entire time I've known you."

"I guess I've just learned to appreciate the little things," I say. "But I do have my negative moments."

"I'm sure they're not bad."

"Not totally," I say, "I tend to lessen them with alcohol."

He chuckles, "I admit that is a good way to ignore one's problems."

"Isn't it?"

We laugh together as we walk down the street. We're both bundled up to keep out the cold, but I like watching the little clouds our breath makes.

I've never been to this part of New York before but the dessert shop is adorable. It's cozy and warm with little pink, yellow and baby blue tables. The glass counters are full of plates displaying the most beautiful pies, pastries and other things I can't even identify. Aleksandr orders us both hot chocolate and then picks out a few things.

We sit in the corner while a shop girl prepares our tray. Aleksandr's cool gaze meets mine and it's definitely not hard to see why he's taken so many women to bed. He's charming, he's kind, he's smart, he's strong, he's handsome and he's a delight to be around. I remind myself of these things as he gives me a cocky half smile, the kind that makes it hard for anyone to resist him. And there's something terribly attractive about the Russian accent.

"So Bette," he says, "tell me how you got to New York."

"On a plane," I answer.

He laughs loudly and I realize how dumb of an answer that was.

"You're funny, Bette."

"Thanks," I answer. What's amazing is he knew I wasn't being snarky, I was mostly distracted by the silver ring on his thumb. "I took a leap and moved out here, met Jack who liked my work and got it to Saul."

"Of course," Aleksandr says, "your work is very good."

"Thank you," I say. "How did you get to New York?"

 He grins cheekily. "I took several planes."

Now it's my turn to laugh.

I don't know if it's the warmth of the cafe, the richness of the hot chocolate, the sugar in the most delicious eclair I've ever tasted, the artfulness of the ballet, the excitement of just being on a date or the allure of Aleksandr, but I am feeling really good. It's below freezing outside and it doesn't even matter.

Aleksandr's ordered a car for us when we're ready to go and we wait inside until it pulls up the curb. I lean my head on his shoulder while we ride, neither of us needing to speak.

The lights of New York are spectacularly beautiful tonight as the fog gives them an extra halo, and I almost don't want to get out of the warm car when we pull up to my building.

"I had a wonderful time," I say, looking at Aleksandr. "Thank you."

"Of course," he says, putting his hand on my knee. "You're a fine woman, Miss Chambers."

He opens the door, scoots out, and lets me follow.

"May I see you again?" he asks.

"I'd like that," I say.

"Krasivaya!" He cheers. He kisses my cheek, attempting nothing more and nothing less. He stands on the bottom step and I wave at him once I'm inside.

Watching him get in the limo, I smile. Dating is actually fun when the other person isn't awful.

I climb the stairs in a haze, noting I'll need to spend some extra time with my Wii Fit in the morning but it was so worth it.

"Huh."

Sebastian is in my bed, long asleep from the sound of his snores. His gym bag is by the couch which I suppose means he decided to come here because my apartment is actually closer to his gym. I slip off my heels and take off the layers of outerwear, hanging it all on the rack.

I'll bother with a shower in the morning. Brushing my teeth and changing into my pajamas seemingly wears me out so I slip into bed next to the sleeping man.

I settle next to him but not too close as to wake him. I roll onto my side, tugging the sheets up to my neck.

"Scumpete?"

"Yeah?"

Sebastian rolls over so I turn my head to look at him. His hand clumsily lands on my hip.

"You have a good time?"

"I did. How was your evening?"

"Fine," he mumbles, "did he buy you those flowers?"

"Yes," I say, "and he took me to the ballet."

"That's good."

I can still hear he's mostly asleep so I'm not sure why he's talking.

"And you had a good time?"

"Still yes."

"I'm glad," he says, patting my hip.

"How were your friends?"

"Friendly."

I smile at that and pull his hand from my hip across my body, snuggling in closer to him.

The door closes which wakes me up, and I flop over to see Sebastian's blurry shape. He's come back from the gym but this time he's showered.

"Good morning," he says.

"Hi," I say sleepily.

"Can I get back in there with you?"

"I don't know," I answer. "Can you?"

"Should have known a playwright would give me a grammar lesson."

I hear his sneakers hit the floor and then the sound of his hoodie and sweatpants joining them. He kisses me, and I hum in appreciation. I settle back in ready for more sleep and I'm almost there.

"Flowers and the ballet," he says.

"And an eclair and hot chocolate."

"Who did you go out with?"

"Aleksandr."

"You went out with him?"

"I did."

"Oh," he says, "okay."

I wake up hours later to a smell that's never visited my apartment as long as I've lived here. Bacon.

After using the restroom, I find Sebastian at my stove with a frying pan in hand. I slide my arms around his hips and press my cheek against his back.

"That's a lovely sight in the morning," I say.

He chuckles. "I'm glad to hear it. Can you eat four pieces? I can't eat any and was hoping to watch you if that's not weird."

"Not weird at all."

"How many eggs?"

"Two?"

"Can do," he says. I slip away from him to start myself a cup of coffee and several minutes later, I'm presented with a delicious plate of food.

"Where'd you learn to cook?" I ask. My mouth is half full of egg and bacon.

"Mom mostly," he says, "Don started giving me tips and the Marvel nutritionist does too."

"Amazing," I manage before shoveling in another bite. He opens a metal box and slices into something pink after squeezing a lemon slice over it. "What is that?"

"Salmon," he answers. "The breakfast of champions."

I must look unconvinced because he laughs.

"For breakfast?"

"For breakfast," he says, popping it into his mouth.

He asks about the musical which Dimitri and I will be taking to Saul later today with the changes, and I ask him about his training. I wash the dishes and am not surprised to feel his arms around my waist.

I turn around when I finish the last one and kiss him softly. He grins against my lips before pulling the bottom one between his teeth. I feel like this is a nice thing, kissing a man in my kitchen in an oversized T-shirt and pajama bottoms covered in printed donuts. It's easy.

His hands slide down from my waist to my bottom, lifting me effortlessly as I wraps my legs around his middle. He sets me on the counter but I quickly hit my head on the cabinet behind me. My hand snaps back to my aching skull and I wince.

"Are you okay?" He asks, pulling away and looking me over.

"Fine," I say, "but we need to move if we're going to continue this. My kitchen was not made for this kind of activity."

"Move we shall," he says, slipping his arms around me as I lock my legs around him. We fall onto my bed and he quickly works my shirt off my body, kissing everywhere available to him. He spends a lot of time on my neck which feels amazing. I pull off his shirt and run my fingers over his warm skin managing to get his sweatpants and boxers mostly off in one go. His hand slips inside my pants so his fingers can play with my clit, making me gasp. I do us both a favor and wiggle out of my pants just enough for him to slide inside, and boy, does it feel exquisite to have him there.

He bites down on my neck, and I gasp as he moves. I was not expecting so much this morning but it feels so good I can't complain. He works my clit between his fingers and soon I feel an orgasm roll through my body. He finished shortly after, and the whole thing is over as quickly as it had begun.

He kisses me once as he lifts off of me and rolls off the bed.

"Did you cook me breakfast just so that would happen?"

He grins cheekily. "I cooked you breakfast because I knew you would be hungry."

"I'm going to take a shower now," I decide.

"Okay," he says, "can I borrow your computer for a bit?"

"Sure," I say. "You know the password."

I grab some clean clothes before heading into the shower which feels absolutely wonderful when I'm under the spray. I've fogged up the mirror when I get out, and I take the time to comb and blow dry my hair.

Now the mirror is clear and I see myself. I see it. My neck is marred by a huge red and brown spot, and I am furious.

"Real fuckin' mature!" I say, storming out of the bathroom. "I go on one date with one man that meant next to nothing and you come in and mark me like I'm your fucking property?!?"

"Bette," Sebastian says, even keeled. "I didn't mean to."

"Like hell you didn't." I say. "One date! One date! Well, you're in luck because it's scarf season, but I will not have any more huge-ass hickeys like this."

"You liked it." He smirks, confirming he had done it on purpose.

"It doesn't matter if I liked it! I am supposed to be a professional — I have a meeting today with the man currently signing both of our pay checks — and you just had to get all territorial and mark me. We're not even together."

"We were when that happened."

"For fuck's sake!" I yank my computer from his lap. "Get out."

"Bette, come on."

"No. No! You cannot do this in what — a fit of jealousy? Huh? Do you not think how weird it is for me to know you're out with Margarita? You two have slept together! And I don't say anything and I certainly don't make a childish claim over your body. You took Kate out all those times, slept with me at night and I said nothing because it wasn't my place. Nothing happened between me and Aleksandr last night! He didn't hold my hand or kiss me because, unlike you, he's a gentleman. Get the fuck out."

I push him as hard as I can which actually causes him to take a few steps back.

"We may have been sleeping together but I am certainly not your whore. Get out or I'll call the cops."

I can tell he wants to say something else but he doesn't; instead he just picks up his bag and leaves. I sink to the floor as the door shuts, feeling my anger and sadness bubble into tears. Once again, I'm alone. 

Chapter Text

The front door bell buzzes and the I hear Dimitri over the intercom.

"Sweetheart, it's me," he says, "let me up."

I sniffle again as I stand and push the button. I unlock the door and hold it open, hearing him take several stairs at once.

"Oh babe," he says, pulling me into a hug. "What happened?"

"Sebastian," I say. "He got all territorial and we got into a fight."

"Territorial?" he asks. I pull down my scarf to show him my heavily hickeyed neck. "He did that?"

I nod.

"Normally I'd say good for you but I take it this is not good."

"I don't think I'm overreacting," I say. "He did this specifically after he found out I went out with your father."

"A jealousy hickey?!? In a way, Bette, this is good!"

"How is this good?"

"It means he feels enough of something for you to be jealous?"

"He feels enough or he's just an asshole?"

Dimitri shrugs. "Maybe both. I don't think you're overreacting either, sweetness. He shouldn't have acted out that way, that's true, especially since you agreed dating other people wasn't out of the question." He slips his arm around my shoulder. "Have you had tea?"

I shake my head. "I haven't had anything since he left."

"I'll make you tea," he says, skipping around to the kitchen. "Do you think you could forgive him?"

"What?"

"What you two have — had — was generally a good thing," he says. "From the sounds of it, the sex was amazing and your friendship amicable and it's not always easy to find those things. Especially in one person."

"If he sincerely apologizes," I consider. "He is extremely good at the sex."

Dimitri laughs. "That's what I'm talking about."

He passes me a cup of tea and flops onto the couch next to me.

"So the date with my father was good enough to make Sebastian jealous?"

"I had a lovely time," I say. "I don't know that Sebastian and I even talked about it that much. He woke up, made me breakfast, fucked me into the mattress and then I kicked him out."

"You got food and an orgasm and you kicked him out?"

I laugh. "Dim, you're supposed to be on my side!"

"I am, sweetheart," he says. "He just needed a little reassurance he's the only man you're sleeping with and he chose to take that in a physical way. I mean, breakfast and sex sounds like a dream of a morning. And you must see that while my father isn't a man of large stature or brawn, he's perfectly intimidating. He's successful, world renown and my siblings and I are living proof he has a way with women. It could be easy to get jealous of that."

I sigh before sipping my tea. "Fine. If he comes to me with a humble attitude and heart begging for forgiveness, I'll consider it."

Dimitri smiles and grabs my hand. "You're going to be fine."

We finish the tea and Dimitir applies another coat of concealer beneath my eyes.

"You're gorgeous, doll," he says. "Saul won't even notice you've been crying."

I smile at him and we bundle up to head outside. We have our computers, notebooks and Dimitri has a pile of sheet music and my heart is between my ears. I don't want the musical to be complete shit.

Saul greets us at the door of his office. "Come, come," he says, ushering us into a town car. "I'm famished and you two are the perfect lunch companions."

"Oh, thanks," Dimitri says, following in after me.

"So, what's the big change?" Saul asks.

"Well," Dimitri says, "Joe and Meg are sleeping together."

"Dim's written this really great tongue-in-cheek song," I add. "It's great."

"They're sleeping together?" Saul asks. We nod. "That seems like a great idea. Where did it come from?"

I blanch, remembering Sebastian's arms around me and his face above me and his dick inside me.

"It just came to her," Dimitri says quickly. "You know our girl."

I laugh it off but suddenly have the strongest ache betwixt my thighs. Piss, I hope Sesbastian apologizes.

"Wonderful," Saul says. "Let's talk no more business until we get back to the office. Do either of you have exciting plans for Valentine's Day?"

Ugh. Valentine's.

"Trenton got us tickets to Hedwig," Dimitri says, "and then who knows what?"

"And you, Bette?"

"None currently."

"Oh Saul!" Dimitri chirps. "Did you know our Bette went on a date with Mr. Aleksandr Malikov last night?"

"You did?" Saul's shocked. "Well, I do worry about you, Bette, and the age difference is odd, but he is a good man."

"He is," I agree. I want to be out of this car and done with this conversation. I want Sebastian's body.

Fortunately I get my wish and lunch is tasty and surprisingly fast. We head back to Saul's office where he reads over the changes I've made and listens to Dimitri's song.

"It's perfect! That's the hook! You found it!"

"It works?" I ask.

"Adds a little sex, a little mystery, a little flirtation and fun!" Saul says. "It's great."

I feel a huge weight lift off my shoulders but I wish Sebastian's was on me.

"Thank you!"

"Thank you," Saul says. "Give me a few days to get it around and we'll see what others think of it."

"Wonderful," Dimitri says. "Saul, you have no idea how much this means to us."

"I know, kids," he says, "but you two did it."

"Thank you," I say, hugging him. There's a few hours until the play starts and I wonder if I could make it to Sebastian's. I stop on the sidewalk in my tracks. I don't want to make it to Sebastian's. I want Sebastian to come to me.

A gust of wind reminds me how cold it is outside so I hasten my way back to my apartment.

Sebastian sits on the bottom step with flowers in his hand. His cheeks are pink so he's been there awhile since pink's not particularly his coloring. He stands when he sees me and opens his mouth but can't quite speak.

"How long have you been here?"

"Awhile. Going up didn't feel right." He hands me the flowers.

"Ah," I say, "well, you can at least come inside now."

He follows me up the steps as I enter the code and then we climb the stairs silently.

Reaching the landing of my floor, he stops. "Bette, I'm sorry! I guess I was feeling a little insecure — it's just been me and you for so long, and you went off with another man and had a great time. Not only that, but you've got a really beautiful neck."

I turn around and he sinks to his knees. "What are you doing?"

"Groveling," he answers. "I shouldn't have done it."

"You're right," I say, "but I'll forgive you on two conditions."

"Okay?"

"First, you have no right to question who I am dating and you must try to reel in your jealously, unless we are changing the definition of what we are."

"No, we don't have to do that."

Something cold passes through me quickly at his words, but he's right. He looks so pathetic on his knees with his blue-gray eyes all pouty and that perfect bottom lip poking out, I feel warm all over. I step closer to him and his hands wrap around my waist. He presses his cheek to my abdomen and breathes in deeply. I slip my hands in his hair and hold him close.

"What's your second condition?"

"You never do that again, at least where it can be seen."

He looks up at me and grins. He nuzzles his cheek against my abdomen again and then nips at the top of my thigh through my jeans.

"That won't be a problem," he says.

"We should get inside," I say, tugging his hair so he looks up again.

"I want to get inside," he purrs, "you."

"You, Sebastian Stan, will literally be the death of me."

He stands then and kisses me. "What a way to go."

I unlock the door and pull him behind me, and he pushes me against it.

"I will make it up to you," he says, "and you can date whoever you want."

"Sounds like a plan," I say. His kiss is consuming and his previous transgression is forgotten. A cold hand slips under my coat and shirt and makes me gasp as it brushes my hip. Grasping me tightly in his arms, he carries me to my bed and drops me at the end. My legs dangle off which is fine because he's there, pulling off my boots. My tall socks follow, and I sigh when he undoes the button and zip of my jeans. Wiggling my hips, he pulls them off too. And then my panties are gone.

My breath hitches in my throat when his lips move over my thigh, sucking my skin into his mouth. He stays there in the one spot, licking and nibbling and biting. I'm overwhelmed with the thought of simply wanting him to move over.

But when he moves where I want him, it is so good. He tosses my legs over his shoulders and presses onwards with his tongue.

It's too hot. I struggle with the toggles of my coat, finally getting enough of them undone to fight with the zipper.

"You all right, Bette?"

I miss his mouth!

"I'm hot."

"Indeed you are," he says.

"Seb."

He grunts as he straightens and helps me pull off my coat, sweater and scarf.

"I felt like I was dying."

"You good now?"

"Well, I would be."

"If?"

"You're not finished."

He cocks his head to the side, raises an eyebrow and smirks. "Yes, Miss Chambers."

I grin as he kneels between my legs and gets back to work. I think he's really trying to atone for this morning because he's being more diligent than usual, and I didn't even know that was possible. He laughs against my labia before moving his mouth lower kissing the other hole. I shriek.

"You like it?"

I moan. I lose myself in the feeling and try not to think about the schematics as he drags his tongue between my cheeks. He does this for several minutes to the point where I'm not longer sure if all the moisture is coming from me or him.

And then I shriek as he presses in the tip of a finger, stretching the tight little hole. He licks my clitoris with the tip of his tongue a few times, the finger stationary. I feel my chest heaving and my breath is noisy and then the finger starts moving slowly, gently.

When he slides another finger into my vagina, I'm a lost cause. His tongue and teeth and lips all work with his fingers, and I scream his name as my orgasm rushes through me. It is all too much, and I know it takes me a long time to recover. He still kneels on the ground, looking at me quizzically as I sit up.

"Where did you learn to do that?"

"Took a guess," he answers. "What do you think?"

"I think I'd feel better having a shower first before you try that again."

"You taste amazing," he says.

"Do I?" I ask, tilting his chin up and kissing him. I tug his bottom lip between my teeth and he leans in even as I pull away.

"We need to get the clothes in the wash if you're planning on getting to the theater in time."

I can see little dark splotches on his hoodie where I've made a mess. Thankfully he was doing the casual thing wearing a black Rutgers pullover and jeans.

He laughs as I tug it over his head and pat his thighs as he stands. His jeans need to be washed too.

Jumping off the bed, I wobble and bend forward laughing.

"What's so funny?"

"My thighs are shaking! Literally, you can see them!"

Sebastian bends over and laughs, too. He knocks my legs out from under me but catches me behind my back as I fall. "You need a lift then."

Being cradled against his chest feels familiar and comfortable, and he smells wonderfully. He's so warm, and I particularly enjoy being carried like I weigh nothing.

"This is nice."

"Isn't it?" He grins. He sits me down on my washer/dryer combo and pulls open the door. I laugh as he whips his hoodie out of my hands and tosses it inside, followed by his shirt. He works his boots off with his toes, throws his socks inside and then swiftly rids himself of his jeans and boxers. He reaches for the hem of my shirt and I raise my arms so he can pull it off. Reaching behind me, I grab the detergent pod and fling it in, and he presses the start button.

"Now we're naked and have two hours until those are finished," he says, sliding his hands to my knees. "What should we do?"

"I have hot cocoa and The Game of Life that needs to be played."

"We're naked and you want to play Life?"

I laugh as I grab his hips and pull him to me. "You really think I could play Life when you're standing there naked and half-alert? Please! You're taking me to bed but we're not going to sleep unless it's a sated nap."

"Yes ma'am," he says. I wrap my legs around him and he carries me through my tiny apartment.

The beeping of the washing machine wakes me up two hours later, and I groan. I need at least two more hours of sleep but Sebastian needs to go. I roll over to get out from under the covers but he grabs my waist and pulls me back down.

"Don't get up," he moans.

"Your clothes."

"Will be fine," he says, rubbing my hip. "Stay awhile."

My resolve fades as I feel him flex and his fingers dig into my flesh. I lay down again and roll into his chest.

"That's better," he mutters, running his hand across my bare back. He kisses my forehead, and I close my eyes, committing this to memory. Soon he'll be galavanting across the country with his metal arm and I'll still be in New York.

The washing machine beeps again and he sighs. "Fine. How long were we asleep?"

"Half an hour," I say.

"Just half an hour? Hell, Maybe we should have taken it easier on the sex."

"Are you serious?" I ask, jerking my head back.

He laughs and finally opens his eyes. "Of course not. I love every minute of the sex. But I wouldn't mind fighting more if that's the result."

I think about my multiple orgasms and shrug. "I suppose I wouldn't either."

I look at him and frown.

"What?"

"You promise you won't get mad?"

His brows knit together and he leans forward. "Yes. What's wrong?"

"You're going to be mad at me."

"I won't," he says. "I promise."

"Your neck."

"What about it?" he asks, his hands going to his neck feeling for anything there.

"Well, we match now," I say, touching the hickey on my neck.

"You gave me a hickey?" he asks, sitting up and his mouth agape. I nod. He looks at himself in the mirror attached to my closet door and laughs. "Oh my Bette! You gave me a hickey. That's great."

"You're not mad?"

"I told you I wouldn't be," he says. "Bette, it's cute really."

"Cute?"

"Well sure," he says, "I can see how you wouldn't want to have one with society and all but on me it's like, 'Yeah, this lady likes me enough she sucked my neck so much it left a mark.' And that's great."

"And you'll wear it like the smug bastard you are."

"And I'll wear it like the smug bastard I am," he grins.

"You just look like a suave man and I look like a whore."

"Nobody would think you're a whore," he says. "But I am sorry for it."

"Thank you," I say, "I'm sorry if I seemed overly angry this morning, but I do think it was unfair of you to do that."

"It was," he says, "I won't do it again where it can be seen."

I think about the mark I'm sure covers my thigh and laugh. "All right."

"I should get ready," he says. "You stay here though if you want, where it's warm."

"It'll be much colder when you get up," I say. "You're always so warm."

He kisses me again before sliding from under the covers. "I'll make you a cup of hot cocoa to keep you company."

"Thanks," I say, settling back into the covers and pulling them up to my shoulders. "That's so sweet."

"You're welcome," he says as I hear the door of the washing machine open. A few minutes later, he brings me a mug of hot chocolate and kisses my cheek. "Have a nice evening."

"Thanks," I say. "You, too."

"I will," he says. "Call you later?"

"Sure," I say. I kiss him again before he leaves, locking the door behind him.

While I want children, I am so unequipped to handle them. I've dragged Holly to the baby store, and we walk aimlessly through the aisles.

"What do you need?" she asks, running her hands over a silk blanket.

"I don't know," I say, "they're three and five. Do I need to like put locks on the cabinets or anything like that?"

"Bette," she says, "I'm sure they'll appreciate your effort, but I don't think you need to do that if it's just for a night."

"They can't get hurt on my watch though," I say. "If that happens, I'll die."

"You're keeping them for a night," she says, "nothing bad will happen."

I sigh. I suppose spending money on a bunch of childproofing items would be stupid.

"Do you have food? That's what you need to be worried about."

"Snacks!" I say, "you're so right. Will you go to the grocery store with me?"

Holly smiles. "Of course."

When we get to the store, Holly drops a bag of apples in my basket. "Never hurts to have fruit on hand."

"So true," I say. "Why did I agree to this?"

"Because you're a nice person."

My phone rings in my pocket, and I answer it. "Hey, pretty boy."

"Hi, scumpete," he says. "What are you up to?"

"I'm at the grocery store with Holly."

"Oh? What's she cooking?"

"Holly's not buying anything," I say. "It's for me."

"What? You don't cook."

"I am tomorrow night," I say. "I'm watching Sophia and Kalen so Marie and Michael can go on a date."

"What?"

"Well, you remember how I basically gave them a date for their Christmas present? They're going out tomorrow for Valentine's day, and their regular sitter is going on an over-night date with her boyfriend, your mom and Bill are on vacation and she remembered how well the kids liked me, so she called and asked if I would mind watching them for a few hours. They wanted to go to dinner and then she said they were planning on going to your play. I figured you could get them tickets, I'd watch the kids for free because I don't mind, so that basically leaves them all the money to eat dinner. So I told them they should get a nice hotel room for the night and really enjoy the whole thing. And now here I am, trying to decide how childproof my apartment should be and what kind of treats to get and stuff."

"They're staying in your apartment?"

"Yeah, where else would we go?"

"Come to mine," he says, "just have them show up to my apartment. It's bigger, and if there's a mess, I'll just call the cleaning service."

"Are you sure?'

"Yeah," he says, "they know the place and it's closer to wherever their parents will be. I'd love to see them anyway."

"You want kids in your bachelor pad?" I ask.

"These kids," he says, "sure."

"Wonderful. Can you get them tickets?"

"Yes, I think so," he says. "And that's your Valentine'uns Day plan?"

"Yep," I answer.

"No hot dates with Russian dancers?"

"He's in London until Monday," I say. "He's talking to them about directing some fancy production."

"Excellent."

"Well, I will be alone on Valentine's day so you don't have to worry."

"Ah, you won't be alone, Bette," he says, "you'll have the kids. And me."

That sentence sounds better than it should.

"Great," I laugh, "my fuck buddy and his niecews."

Holly slaps my arm because there's a little boy staring up at me. Shit, I'm going to have to watch that.

"Sorry," I mutter. "I'll call Marie and let her know."

"Cool, thanks. I think this will be fun."

"Me too."

I answer the door when I hear the knock and am greeted by four small arms wrapping around my legs.

"Thank you so much for this," Marie says. "We haven't had a night out in so long."

"Of course," I say. "I'm happy to spend time with these two."

"Hey Bette," Michael says. "Thanks."

"You're welcome."

"Hey kids," I say, cradling the two little heads by my legs.

"Hi Miss Bette," Sophie says. "Can we watch Fwozen?"

"Of course we can," I say. "Go sit on the couch. There's coloring books."

Her eyes widen and she and Kalen both run to the couch.

"Thank you," Michael says, setting a Tinkerbell backpack on the ground.

"Their pajamas and night things are in their bags," Marie says. "Of course you have our numbers and I'll text you the number to the hotel. They don't have any allergies to anything that we know of. If anything happens, just call 911 or get them to the hospital. We trust you."

"Thanks," I say. "They'll be in good hands."

Marie and Michael move to the couch and hug the kids goodbye.

"Bye mommy and daddy!" They both shout. "Have a good time."

"You too," Marie says, kissing Sophie's head. "Seriously, call if you need anything."

I nod. "We'll be fine."

I watch them head towards the elevator and sigh. What have I gotten myself into?

Surprisingly six and a half hours later, we're all still alive and fine, but unfortunately they're both still awake.

"Uncle Seb!" Kalen yells as the door opens.

"Hey little monster!" he says, scooping the boy into his arms. "I thought you'd be asleep by now."

"We're watching The Little Mermaid," Kalen says.

"Did you know they hadn't seen it?" I ask, popping off the couch.

"You hadn't seen The Little Mermaid?"

"You're a crab!" Sophia giggles.

"Am I?" Sebastian exclaims, picking her up, too. "Have you behaved?"

"Yes!" Sophie answers.

"Have they?" Sebastian asks, looking at me.

"They've been perfect," I say. "We colored, built some stuff with Play-Doh, made little pizzas and finished a whole vegetable tray so I don't feel so bad about the pizza."

"And we made chocolate chip cookies!" Kalen giggles. "They are good."

"How were Michael and Marie?"

"In love," Sebastian answers. "I think this was a really nice for thing for them to have." He sets the kids back down on the ground. "Let Uncle Seb go take a shower and put on pajamas and then we can do something."

"Yes!" Sophie says. "You can be the crab!"

"Great," he says, kissing the tip of her nose. "Bette, can I talk to you for a second?"

"Of course," I say. "We'll be right back."

We go to the end of the hall and he putters about his room while I keep an eye on the kids.

"How has it been?"

"Good, actually," I say, "they're so well-mannered. It's amazing. I hope you don't mind the blanket fort though."

"Not at all," he says. "It looks like fun."

"I'm glad you think so," I say. "Um, I have stuff to make cinnamon rolls in the morning and I bought apple juice for the kids. Do you have to go work out?"

"Not until later," he answers. "I'm glad you could do this here."

"Thanks," I say, "it's been an experience. I'll go back with the kids."

He nods.

The kids fall asleep during The Incredibles, and Sebastian does too. Sophie's asleep on his chest as he stretches along the couch and Kalen is asleep in the blanket fort. I pull a blanket from the side and cuddle up in the love seat.

No one moves much during the night and I snap pictures of Seb and Sophie and Kalen all asleep. Kalen has his bum in the air, and Seb and Sophie are just about the cutest thing. I put the cinnamon rolls in the oven and run to the bathroom to try and make myself presentable.

I hear Sebastian stir as my cup of coffee finishes brewing. He gently shifts so Sophia is on the couch. He stretches when he stands and smiles sleepily at me.

"Smells good," he says, crossing into the kitchen. He grabs a cup from the cabinet and pushes the buttons on the coffee maker. He kisses my cheek before spinning out of the kitchen. "I'm going to go brush my teeth. Be right back."

"Miss Bette?" Kalen stands by the edge of the couch and rubs his eyes.

"What is it, sweetheart?"

"Can I have some juice?"

"Of course," I say. I bought some plastic cups at the store and get him one. "You want to watch some cartoons?"

"Yes!" 

"Go sit on the couch and I'll get your breakfast."

"Thanks," he says. Sebastian rounds the corner.

"Hey, will you find Phineas and Ferb or something for them to watch?"

"Sure," he says. "What's Phineas and Ferb?"

"You'll love it," I say. "Just start it and I'll get breakfast put together."

"Thanks, scumpete," he says, scooping his mug up.

I prep the plates and ice the cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven. Sebastian starts the TV show and comes back to the kitchen after Sophia has woken up.

"Do you need any help?" he asks.

"You can take them their food," I say. "I'll get ours."

"Perfect," he says. "Imagine this — two kids and cartoons in the morning."

I have to admit the thought sounds really nice. It is really nice.

He wiggles his eyebrows at me as he loads his arms up with two paper plates and two little cups. I add a little bit more icing to our cinnamon rolls and sit next to him on the couch.

Two hours later we get the blanket fort cleaned up and the kids changed into their new clothes. Check-out at Marie and Michael's hotel was noon so I told them to stay as long as they wanted, and Sebastian has gone to the gym and come back before there's a knock on the door.

"Hey!" I say, opening the door.

"Mommy!" Sophie says, running past me.

"Hi, sweetie," she says. "Everything okay?"

"Perfect," I say, "We had a great time."

"Did you know Uncle Seb is a crab?" Kalen asks.

"What?" Michael asks. "A crab?"

"We watched The Little Mermaid last night," Sebastian says. "And now I am a Jamaican singing crab."

Michael squints his eyes at Sebastian and grins sheepishly. "What's that on your neck, little brother?"

"You know," Sebastian smirks. "The kids haven't seen it, of course."

"That's fine," Michael shrugs. "Have fun."

"Always do."

I'm thankful my pullover has a cowl neck and my hair covers the rest of it. That wouldn't look suspicious at all.

Marie hugs me after we gather all the kids things. "Thank you so much."

"Anytime," I say. "It really was fun."

The kids hug me again before they leave, and I make a note in my head to offer to watch their kids more often, especially when the baby arrives. 

Sebastian walks them down to the lobby and I fall onto the couch. There's a reason I'm not a mom yet. Kneeling next to me when he comes in, Sebastian puts his hand on mine.

"Are you tired, scumpete?" he asks.

I nod. "I had a lovely time though."

"Come on," he says, "let's go take a nap."

"Will you carry me?"

"Of course," he says.

"Thank you."

"Domestic life suits you," he says, lifting me easily.

"I think it kind of does too," I say, "of course this wasn't a full-time gig, but I don't hate it."

He smiles dreamily and kisses me. "You're such a lovely person, scumpete."

I nuzzle his neck and quickly fall asleep in his arms. 

Chapter Text

Aleksandr picks me up for our third official date and has informed me to dress actively.

"I was worried you thought I only did sophisticated things," he says, "tonight we're doing something different."

"May I ask what?"

"You'll see," he says, holding out his hand. I slide mine into it and he grins. "How was your Valentine's?"

"Not very Valentine's-ish. How was yours?"

"Much the same," he says. "Do you like diners?"

"Of course," I say. "I'm from rural Oklahoma."

He smiles. "One day you must take me to this Oklahoma."

"I will," I laugh, "but I'm afraid you'll be disappointed."

"Never," he says, "as long as I'm with you."

Aleksandr certainly has a way, but I think he actually means it. I smile and lean my head against his shoulder. We pull up to a large building and Aleksandr grins.

"Did you know that I am excellent at laser tag?"

"I did not," I answer.

"Well, you will find out." He opens the door and helps me out. "The Fun Dome."

Indeed that is what the blinking sign says. Aleksandr pays for our tickets and we put our coats and outer things into a locker.

"So, Bette," he says, smiling mirthfully. "What do you feel like doing? Bowling? Laser tag? Trampolines? Foam pit?"

"Any and everything," I say. "I have never played laser tag."

"Wonderful," he says, "I know we're a bit old, but that means we should know how to win."

"I will figure it out," I say, "just try to keep up, old man."

Aleksandr laughs as we follow the signs towards laser tag. What I wasn't expecting was for the dome to be three stories of obstacles and barriers, but Aleksandr was very good. I imagine he brought his younger kids here sometimes and had learned how to navigate the arena.

"You're going to lose all of your hits if you don't protect your back," he says, pressing his back to me with his gun readied and pointed. "I find crouching always works."

"Crouching?"

"Yes," he explains. His face glows blue with the lights but he smiles. "These little bastards can move more quickly, but they get trigger happy. Crouching protects your front target and makes it harder to hit the back one. Of course if we stay together, we're better protected. Will you stay with me?"

"Yes," I say.

"Good," he says, grabbing my hand. He pulls me through the maze of foam covered pillars and to the stairs at the back. "We take their base."

He leads me up the stairs, taking out three teenagers as we go. They'll have to make it to their base to recharge.

"You take that side," he says, "stay low and use your rapid fire when you see someone coming. Shoot the base when someone is not. You'll wrack up a load of points."

His plan works like a charm, and before I know it, I am up in the thousands. The music ends and the lights flash, followed by the instructions to leave the arena. Aleksandr's vest flashes and declares him the highest scoring player.

"See, I'm an excellent laser tagger," he says proudly. "But you're not bad yourself."

We settle then for some greasy burgers and salty fries with a couple of beers. People are staring at us, but Aleksandr doesn't even notice. Either they know who he is or our age difference is blatantly obvious. I don't mind. 

"Do you come here often?" I ask, dipping a fry in some ketchup.

"My son Seppy," he says, "this his favorite place. He's fifteen now. I've been bringing him here since he's nine."

"And he didn't want to join us tonight?"

"School night," Aleksandr laughs, "it's best I leave him to his studies.

"That's noble of you," I say.

"If you and I continue to see each other," he says, "I'd like you to meet all of my children. Five of them live here in New York, you know."

"Five of them? How many women is that?"

"Just two," he says, "Dimitri's mother is still in London."

"Oh," I say.

"Do you think poorly of me, Bette?" he asks.

"No," I answer, "it's not like the women weren't willing."

He smiles and puts his hand on mine. "Thank you. I love all of my children. Really, I do. And I loved their mothers at some point — I still do, some of them. Life is simply tricky. We fall in and out of love, passion is amazing when it's there but sometimes it fades."

"Of course," I say.

"I guess the purpose of it all is to find the one you don't mind living the struggle with." He stares at his food for a moment before looking at me. "But enough about that. How do you feel now that your play is almost over?"

"Amazing but sad," I say, "It's fantastic really, and I'm so glad the run was good. The cast and director have all been phenomenal, but I'm worried how long it will be before I do something else successful."

"You'll be fine, Bette," he says, "you're a smart and beautiful woman with the whole world ahead of you."

I grin. Aleksandr is really good with quiet moments.

We bowl a game before visiting the trampolines. I manage a flip and mostly just jump, but Aleksander starts showing off. For a man of his age with a fake hip, he's still very flexible. He flips and rolls and jumps and spins, and before long he's got a crowd.

"You love to be the center of attention," I say as he finally climbs down after bowing to his audience.

"What can I say?" He grins, "performing is in my blood."

Then we settle for the foam pit. It's not at all what I was expecting, but rather a very large pool filled with pieces of foam like you'd find in a couch cushion. They're all of different shapes and sizes and the edges are lined with a bunch of varying platforms to jump from. Thankfully it's late enough now all the kids have gone home, and Aleksandr pulls me right to edge. The pit is about ten feet below.

"Together?"

"Together," I say, slipping my hand in his.

He chuckles before jumping and I go with him. Laughing, I struggle to get my bearings as a sea of red and blue foam stretches before me. Aleksandr smiles, his glasses askew on his face. After crawling out of the pit a few times to jump in again, we finally manage to sit in a corner.

"How is this for a regular date?" he asks.

"This has been fun," I say, "I enjoyed all of it, even these nasty foam blocks I'm sure are covered in pee and stuff."

"You think a child has pissed in here?"

"Probably," I say. "You have kids. They make messes."

"They do," he laughs. "I'm lucky Dimitri is a musical soul. He kept his messes to pen and paper. My youngest daughter Arabella — she's thirteen now — colored all over my walls with permanent marker. I left it up until I sold the place though. I quite liked the little monsters with purple eyes and blue ears."

"That actually sounds quite cute." I say.

"Bette," he says, "We work really well together, and I find myself wanting to be around you. You're a very special woman."

"Thank you," I say. "I enjoy being around you, too."

We're sitting close together, surrounded by foam and I can see the flecks of green in his blue eyes. He leans closer, searching my face, and I nod.

Aleksandr Malikov, renowned dancer and director, is kissing me. It's wonderful and soft and sends butterflies right to my stomach. And then it's over. One perfect, delightful little kiss. He's grinning when he pulls away.

"I should get you home," he says.

It is a perfect date, and he is a perfect gentleman.

The next night, I go to Sebastian's apartment and expect to order something for dinner. He sits on the couch in his favorite coat and wiggles his eyebrows at me.

"You want to go out tonight?"

"Huh?"

"You want to go out tonight?"

"With who?" I ask.

"Just us," he says, "I've been dying for Italian and Don's at a convention for the week so one cheat day won't kill me."

"Sure," I say, "let's go out."

This time next week, the play will be over. He'll be gone a week after that, so I suppose I should enjoy this while it lasts.

We ride the elevator to the garage and walk towards Diana, but instead he pops open the trunk.

"Really?" I ask as he hands me a bulky helmet.

"Please?" He begs, standing next to his motorcycle. "You've never let me take you out on her before and I'd like to give you a ride at least once."

"Won't it be cold?"

"Eh, with the helmet, you won't even feel it."

Why am I so easily swayed?

I shrug and pull the helmet over my head. Sebastian grins as he skips to his baby, Veronica. I know nothing about her except she's custom, all black and silver with little flecks of crimson here and there.

"You'll just sit behind me," he says, "your feet go there, and you just hold onto me, okay?"

I nod. I've never been on one of these things before but I don't feel like dying today. I tell myself it'll be okay.

"It'll tilt really far when I turn," he says, "but if you just relax and lean with me, we'll be okay."

I nod again as he swings his leg over and I do the same. I rest my feet in the little nooks and hold on tightly to him, keeping my head as close to his body as I can manage.

Veronica roars to life and I squeeze my eyes shut.

And we're off.

It's really not that bad after the first few turns, and this is an amazing way to see the city. Sebastian easily navigates traffic and before I even notice, we're slowing down. He pulls up next to a couple of motorcycles on the curb, and I wait for him to switch it off and kick down the stand.

"You're alive!" He cheers as I loosen fingers from around his waist.

"You did it," I laugh. He tucks his helmet under his arm once he stands and helps me off the back.

"We can take these in," he says, unfastening my chin strap. He kisses me quickly after I pull off the helmet. "It's the best little hole in the wall Italian joint," he says. "You're going to love it."

"All right," I say. In truth I'm just happy he's taking me out in public with no other people. We've never done this before.

We walk in comfortable silence to the restaurant and Sebastian holds open the door. 

"Ai, Sebastian!" A teenage girl says. She smiles as they hug and kiss cheeks.

"Carmela, this is Bette," he says, "Bette, Carmela. I've been coming to here since Carmela was a little girl missing her front teeth."

Carmela giggles, "And I seem to recall you were more round back then. Your usual table?"

"Please," he says, taking my hand and following her to the corner. This booth is lit only by Christmas lights hanging from the ceiling and a single small candle in the center.

"Tony will be right out," she says.

"Thanks."

"Well this is romantic," I say.

"It's also descreet," he says, "best place to pig out away from prying eyes."

"I don't know that I've ever seen you pig out in the entire time I've known you. Not even at Christmas."

"Oh, I'm about to," he says. "Please don't think less of me."

"Never," I say. "Eat up. What would you recommend?"

"Everything," he says. "But if you're wanting the best, the lasagna never fails."

"All right," I say, "lasag-nee it is."

Sebastian giggles. "Do you mind if I have a beer?"

"Why would I mind if you have a beer?"

"I don't know," he says, "I'm going to get a beer."

"Do it."

"Sebastian's here and he brought a girl!" Carmela says on the other side of the kitchen door.

"A girl!" A chorus of voices sounds from the kitchen.

"You've never brought a girl here?"

"No," he says, "besides, you're a woman."

I roll my eyes but grin.

"Sebastian!" A man the epitome of Italian says. "Welcome, my boy."

Sebastian stands and hugs him. "This is my Bette."

"Bette!" The big Italian says, opening his  arms up for me. "It's so wonderful to meet you. A beautiful name for a beautiful lady!"

"Thank you," I say when he finally releases me.

"This is Tony," Sebastian says, "this restaurant has been in his family for seventy years."

"That's incredible," I say, "congratulations."

"Thank you, bella," he says. "What do you two kids want? It's yours."

"I want whatever is on tap and Bette likes white wines so whatever you've got that's best."

"Wonderful," Tony says. "You want the usual to start?"

"Please." Sebastian's eyes widen and he grins. Tony nods and Sebastian sinks back into our private little booth. "I can't believe I didn't bring you here sooner."

"I know," I say, "it smells amazing."

"Have you heard anything about the musical yet?"

"Saul said the changes were very good and that he's heard a few offers."

"That's wonderful," Sebastian says, "you deserve it."

"Thank you," I say. "I hope we hear back from someone."

"I'm sure you will," he says.

"Are you excited?"

"For what?"

"Bucky!"

"Always," he says. "You should come out and visit some time. You would love Chris and Anthony and the other guys."

"Oh, and you're excited to see Scarlett too then," I tease.

"I'm always excited to see Scarlett," he says. "And the baby."

I know him well enough now to know whatever feelings he had for Scarlett have faded, and I suppose it's a thing of respect.

"For you," Tony says, coming around the corner. He carries a tray full of food and my stomach flips just looking at it. "Salads with the homemade blue cheese dressing, breadsticks with marinara or Alfredo sauce, and Sebastian's favorite, my mother's bruschetta."

"Try it," Sebastian says, "any of it."

He watches me with wide eyes as I pick up a slice of bruschetta. I bite into it and moan.

"See?" He says, grabbing his own slice and shoveling it in his mouth. "It's amazing."

We're silent for a few minutes as we eat the appetizers. Tony comes back a few minutes later and grins.

"Is good, yes?"

I nod, my mouth full of Alfredo and breadstick.

"What would you like to eat?"

"I want the manicota and the spaghetti and meatballs," Sebastian says, "and I think she wants the lasagna."

I nod, muttering a thanks. I can't stop eating.

"We can't tell Don we came here," he says, "he'd kill me. Everything is processed but so delicious."

"So delicious," I agree. We fall into our usual conversation, and I giggle when Sebastian's foot rubs against mine. Of course we're wearing boots so it doesn't do much, but I enjoy it all the same. I think I was in junior high the last time I played footsie.

As we finish our incredible appetizers, Tony slides in next to Sebastian.

"So Seb," he says, "what did you have to do to convince her to come with you? He didn't kidnap you, I hope."

"No, I'm here on my own free will," I laugh. "Went to his apartment and everything."

"Ah, Seb! A woman who wants you on her own free will!"

Sebastian laughs. "You're making me sound like a creep, Tony! What about you? Where's the lady?"

"Mrs. Pasini is at dance lessons with little Juliet," he says, "but I miss her very much."

"They've been married for twenty-four years," Sebastian says.

"Wow," I say, "congratulations."

"Thank you," Tony says, "it isn't always easy and it isn't always fun, but the good always, always outweighs the bad. And my Ottavia always makes things better. Bad days are good days and good days are great days. Once you find that with someone, you've got to hold onto it." His eyes shift from Sebastian to me and he smiles. "Oh, kids."

Another waiter carries a tray to our table, and Tony sighs. "I digress. I'll let you two eat in peace. Dessert? It's on the house."

"Tiramisu or cannoli?" Sebastian asks.

I shrug. "Either."

"We'll have both," he says.

"Perfect," Tony says. "I'll bring it out after your food has had time to marinate in your bellies."

"Thanks," I say. He pats Sebastian's arm as he leaves the booth. Our food is placed in front of us and I salivate just smelling it. The first bite is simply incredible and I moan.

"And here I was thinking I was the only thing that could make you make that sound," Sebastian snickers. "It's good, right?"

"Amazing," I say. "And I am officially mad at you for not bringing me here sooner."

"I'll make it up to you with dessert."

And he does. I give him a bite of the tiramisu but finish the rest of it and he eats the two cannoli. He says Don will kill him if he finds out, but neither of us plan to tell him.

Sebastian picks up the tab and even squeezes my hand as we make the short trip from the door to Veronica. When we're seated on the bike, he turns around gives me one nice short kiss before switching on the motor. It's gotten considerably colder so I snuggle in against his back as he drives, trying to make my body as small as possible so he'll catch the chill. He thrives in the cold after all.

I wonder if this is what it's like to be in a relationship with Sebastian.

"What do you want to do now?" he asks as we hold hands on the elevator, gloves stuffed in our pockets.

"Honestly, I feel too full to do anything recreational for the time being."

"Good," he says, "me too. I need to let this food baby settle in."

"Can we just watch a movie?"

"That sounds nice." He says. "My stomach will thank us."

"Mine too. I feel so full."

After changing into pajamas, we settle on the couch with a bottle of water each. Sebastian props his feet up on the table and I sit sideways with my legs curled beside me. He wraps his arm around my shoulders and I cozy up to his side. If someone were to walk in, we might be mistaken for an actual couple.

I picked out "What's Your Number?" because it makes me laugh and I don't want to be sad right now. Plus, I know Sebastian will like it because of Chris and Anthony. He laughs at Chris' first appearance, and he genuinely laughs at the movie. I find myself looking at him a lot, watching the way the light from the TV bounces off his face.

He really loses it when Anthony shows up as the clean-cut political boy in need of a "beard."

But I lose it when Ally gives her speech at Daisy's wedding. I keep it composed but tears run down my cheeks.

I sniffle, and Sebastian kisses the side of my head. He doesn't say anything and I suppose he doesn't have to. Thankfully there's a well-timed pratfall by Anna Faris and we both laugh.

Sebastian takes me to bed and we leave our pajamas on the floor. For the first time, it feels really different. It's slow and sweet full of genuine kisses and tender caresses, and his lips brush away the tears that roll across my skin. For the first time, it feels like we're making love.

But that's ridiculous because that's not what we do.

In the morning, he runs his fingers gingerly over my arm. "Can I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"How come you cried last night during the movie?"

"I don't know," I say. "I guess it made me sad that it's all bullshit."

Mostly true.

"What?"

"The perfect wedding with the white dress and a harpist and at the same time we find that person — that one person that accepts all of our shit and thinks the things we think are the worst about ourselves are the best things. That person will light up our freaky little sculptures and Natasha Bedingfield plays when we kiss. We're raised to believe that it's possible and it's just bullshit."

"Bette, you don't mean that."

"How many happy couples do you know?"

"I actually know a bunch," he says, "and I think if you look at your friends, you do too."

Well, that was true.

"Okay," I say, rolling over and facing him. "But it can't happen for everyone."

He sighs as he brushes my hair out of my face and looks me over, like he's searching for an answer in my eyes. Instead of saying anything, he kisses me softly, rolling his body into mine.

"You're much too young to think that way."

It happens again, the love making feeling. But that's ridiculous.

Chapter Text

"Congratulations, Bette," Holly says. "This is a big night for you."

She places the last pin in my hair and flips a curl over her finger.

"Thank you," I say. "I can't believe it. My little play had a full run on Broadway."

"And tonight you get to celebrate," she says. "How momentous."

"There's even talk of Tony's," I say.

"Oh, B! That's wonderful."

"Thank you for always getting me put together," I say.

"It's an honor and a privilege," Holly smiles. She removes the cape and then I go to their guest bedroom to change. Saul has rented the back room at some fancy restaurant and the entire cast and crew has been invited. Since I don't have any family to bring, I invited Aleksandr, Holly and Jack. Saul took the liberty of inviting Dimitri and Trenton himself, so the most important people in my life will be there.

I pull on my dress and Holly helps me with the zipper. She's already fixed her hair and pulled on her dress, so I help her with her zipper as well.

"I don't mean to sound silly or anything," Holly says, "but Jack picking you as a client was one of the best things to happen to me. I got a new best friend and I get to do all of these fabulous things."

"Thank you," I say, "I like being your best friend too."

"So." She shifts my hair around my back to get it into the perfect position.

"So?"

"Have you and Sebastian talked?"

"We talk all the time."

"Bette." Her eyes meet mine in the mirror with that look. I hope one of their adoption applications goes through because she has the perfect disapproving look.

I exhale loudly. "No, we haven't talked. We don't need to talk."

"So you're just going to let him take off?"

"What am I supposed to do?"

"Tell him."

"Tell him what?"

"You're a strong woman, Bette Chambers, but you're not that strong."

I sigh.

Dinner is lovely and wonderful. You can tell everyone is just a little sad but happy at the same time for the beautiful thing we've created. Sebastian invited Anthony Mackie and Chase and his fiancée, the model. We all sit together with Dimitri and Trenton at our table, and undoubtedly we have the best group around. I do find myself staring at Bryan Cranston's table because he's invited Aaron Paul.

The real struggle is that I am sitting between Sebastian and the colorful Aleksandr. Sebastian keeps his hand in my lap, even though my skirt is much too full for him to try anything. Aleksandr on the other hand tosses his arm around my shoulder. It is thrilling to be doted upon in such a manner, if that isn't vain to say.

We all pile into our separate limos — I get to ride with Saul and the cast as we'll be dropped off at the back and everyone else will go to the front. After the actors change and put on makeup, we gather in one of the wings. Sigourney hugs me tightly and congratulates me. She makes me promise to keep her informed of any of my other works so that she can attend. Bryan kisses my cheek with his hug, and I laugh as Aaron Tveit swings me around with his hug.

"You've written a wonderful thing," he says. Samantha, Kate and I all hug each other, and then Saul takes my hand and escorts me to my seat.

It really is wonderful, and I don't say that simply because I wrote it. It is wonderful because Shaun Lerveaux knows what he's doing and the cast is excellent. It is wonderful because the crew is perfect and runs like a well-oiled machine. It is perfect because the audience surrenders entirely to this experience, and I hear the quiet sobs echo throughout the theater.

My play closes to a round of applause and a standing ovation, and I've never felt more accompanied yet humbled by anything in my life.

Rather than run off the stage before the lights come up, the cast stays in place.

"This was our final show," Sebastian says, "and we as a cast and crew would like to celebrate it. We invite you to celebrate with us. Find your loved ones and hold them close. We're going to dance."

The audience claps and I laugh. This is such a perfect ending.

"But for this," he continues, "I'd like to invite the woman without which none of this would be possible, our lovely playwright, Miss Bette Chambers."

I gasp, but Sebastian looks right at me with an outstretched hand.

"Go on," Holly says, pulling me towards the aisle. There's more clapping and one of the stage guys helps me up the stairs to Sebastian. His hand is warm and he grins.

"Thank you, Bette," he says, leading me closer to the center. Curse the costuming department for putting him in the most well-tailored jeans, baby blue button up with the sleeves rolled to his elbows and suspenders. It's a terribly good look for him.

The piano starts up and Sebastian laughs.

"If you don't have someone," he says into his microphone, "ask a stranger or dance alone. We're all friends here."

I fit into that place against his body with my cheek on his shoulder. His arm slips around my waist and I slide mine around his back. We move slowly, and I close my eyes to simply follow his lead.

Stars shining bright above you, night breezes seem to whisper, 'I love you.' Birds singin' in a sycamore tree. Dream a little dream of me.

I smile against his chest as his head rests on mine while we sway, and I know this will be one of the best moments of my life.

When the song ends, Sebastian kisses my cheek and hugs me so tightly I have trouble breathing. He holds his arms out as if he's presenting me, and I give a little courtsey. Kate takes my hand as Sebastian takes the other, and I realize they've all formed a line. We bow together again and the stage darkens.

Backstage, it's a party. Aaron pops the cork out of a bottle of champagne and we all toast. I am successful.

The after party is fantastic. It's at New York's hottest club and I am thrilled to meet everyone, including Aaron Paul. He looks at me when Bryan tells him I wrote the play and says, "Congratulations, bitch!" It makes my whole night.

Aleksandr leaves shortly after an hour because he has a conference call in the morning with the people in London. I walk him to the door where he kisses me sweetly before stepping out into the cold night.

Holly and Jack appear then, all giggles and holding onto each other.

"We're a bit drunk!" Holly cheers. "You don't need us to stay, do you?"

"Not at all," I say, but I do walk them to the curb to make sure they don't die on the way out.

"Aren't you cold?" Sebastian asks, wrapping his arms around me from behind me. I relax into him and smile as he kisses my cheek. "You're play was wonderful, Bette."

"Thank you," I say, "only because of you."

He nibbles my ear between his teeth, drawing a giggle from me.

"What do you say we have one more drink and then go back to my place?"

"I say that sounds like a nice idea."

He bites the side of my neck and tightens his arms around me.

"Come on," he says, "it's cold."

We stay for two more drinks before sneaking out into a taxi. Like horny teenagers we make out in the backseat, and it's a struggle to get inside his building. I can't stand it any longer as I push him onto the bed, both of us completely dressed. His hands dig through the layers of my skirt as I unfasten his belt, loosen the button of his pants and unzip the fly. I groan as he rips through my pantyhose; they were rather cute but I suppose I can buy another pair. After pushing down his boxers just enough so his dick flops out, we're moving. I'm leaning over him just enough and I know it won't take long for me to get there. And I want to be selfish for just a few minutes.

"You are a sight," he says, grasping my hips firmly. Laughing, I bend over to kiss him as I keep grinding my hips back and forth, hitting that perfect spot. He hardly even moves but lets me have this one, and I am so happy for it. There's a genuine thrill in riding a man when he expects nothing of it. My hands clutch at his shirt as my orgasm hits. It's not big or earth shattering but it is good, and I giggle as I lean against him.

Sebastian kisses the top of my head and wraps his arms around me. "You are so beautiful when you come."

"Thank you," I say, "now help me out of this dress."

I manage to sit up and crawl off of him, turning my back to him. He unzips it but slides his hand inside, cupping my bum cheek.

"Seb, I've got to get out of this dress."

"You will," he says. "I just like feeling the warmth of the fabric."

I roll over and kiss his jaw. "You're drunk."

He laughs, his head falling back to the bed. "Only a little."

"You either need to get to your starkers or tuck yourself back in." I say, patting his belly as I climb out of bed. I slip my dress off and hang it in the closet. Ripping the shreds of my hose off, I throw them in the trash.

"Are you going to lay there or what?" I ask.

Sebastian jumps of the bed and grabs my hips. "Or what."

I laugh as he unhooks my bra. We are in for a wild night.

I wake up alone but hear a melody from the piano. Picking up his dress shirt from the floor, I slide it around my shoulders and button it up a few. Sebastian sits on the bench in a pair of boxers, his hands moving deftly over the keys. I sit next to him and watch as his fingers bend precisely. He doesn't tickle the ivory often so I enjoy it. He smiles at me but keeps playing.

"Fly Me to the Moon." What a lovely tune.

Resting my head on his shoulder, I watch as he presses the keys and grins when he finishes. "I've been thinking."

"Oh?"

"We have a week left together."

"Yes."

"We have nothing to do today."

"That's true, too."

"Well, what if we have a marathon?"

"Like what? Will you finally sit down and watch Parks and Rec with me?"

"No," he says, reaching over to pop open one of the buttons of my shirt. "Like a fuckathon."

"Oh Sebastian Stan," I say, "you sure know how to proposition a lady."

"Like, there has to be a way we've never done it you want to try," he says, "and there are some things I'd like to try on you."

"Like what?"

"Things," he says. There's something about the way the morning sun catches the lines of his face and the glint in his eyes.

"Can I go first?"

"Of course."

"The piano thing is really hot," I say. "Watching your fingers move across it reminds me of your fingers moving across me."

He grins and I can tell he's thinking about it too.

"But this bench is also something to consider," I say, drawing a finger across the leather.

"Is it?"

I nod before I kiss him, slipping my hand to his. Our lips and tongues move together harmoniously, and suddenly a fuckathon doesn't sound that crazy. I stand and start unbuttoning the shirt.

"Drop trou and lay on your back," I say, "knees bent."

He complies and I sigh before straddling him.

"This is a kink?" He asks, trailing the back of his fingers along my torso. His other hand grips my ass.

"I think it's the perfect height," I say. "Now I can really move."

"You can always really move, kid."

I bend over and bite his lower lip, pulling it between my teeth. He groans as I slide along his dick, keeping it between my labia.

"Shit, you really can move," he says. I laugh as I grind my hips against his, both of our breath speeding up.

"Told you," I say, reaching behind me and positioning his hard cock so I can slide right onto him. It's amazing to watch his back arch as mine so often does and I put my hands on his chest. I think I know why he likes being in control because it's absolutely thrilling to watch him fall apart. And when I know he's close, I slow down. He groans but I know he likes it.

"Piano bench sex should have been attempted sooner," he says.

"You're right," I say, "but shut up."

I nip at his neck and he does. My legs are burning from holding myself up but it feels divine and he cups my breasts with his warm hands. I swivel my hips in figure eights and his squeezes my breasts. His head's thrown back and his chest heaves.

I bounce on the balls of my feet which lets him hit that spot, and I moan when the pad of his thumb slides over my clit.

My orgasm hits before his does and it's one that runs through my entire body. My back arches against his hands, my toes curl against the hardwood, and my head snaps up towards the ceiling. I feel him then, too, fingers digging into my skin as he pulses inside me. I giggle when my wits finally return and bend over to kiss his collarbone. 

"Good morning," he mutters moments later.

"It certainly is," I say between kisses on his chest.

"Do you want to continue or shall we eat?"

As if on cue, my stomach gurgles. Sebastian laughs and sits up with me still around his hips. He kisses my abdomen. "What do you want?"

"Aside from you?"

He bites his bottom lip before cracking a smile. "You can have me all day."

"I intend to." I say, tracing the groove of muscle in his hips. "But I suppose I want an omelet."

"An omelet I can make," he says, his finger brushing my cheek. We're still for a few moments, just looking at each other. His hair comes to his chin now, he's losing his tan but he's still just as handsome, and he's got that twinkle in his eyes. I think he's looking at me the same way because he eventually and softly says, "What am I going to do without you?"

Time to be serious or be funny.

"I guess you'll have to put that metal arm to good use."

Sebastian chuckles and shakes his head. "It's actually not as versatile as one might think."

"But I bet it's smooth and cold," I say, running my finger along his chest.

"Bette, do you want breakfast or what?"

"Or what."

After another round on the couch, breakfast followed by another bout on the counter, an entirely too long shower and lunch, we settle down for a nap.

"This is nice," he says, his finger just barely skimming my back. "You fit so nicely."

"You're so warm," I say, snuggling closer to him and snaking my leg between his. "Comfortable."

"Soft."

"Hard."

"Pliable."

"Cozy."

"Beautiful."

"Handsome."

"Gifted."

"Sleepy."

"Yeah, me too," he says, pulling the sheets up my shoulder. "Good nap, little Bette."

"Good nap, little Sebastian."

I wake up before he does this time, and I decide to order dinner. Two salads with grilled chicken and a fruit tart for myself. I pull on my robe and sit on the edge of the bed. He is rather beautiful, sleeping on his stomach with his leg sticking out, the sheet now around his waist. I take a picture to commemorate one of our last days together — our fuckathon.

Which reminds me we could get a quick one in before the food arrives.

Dinner comes after we both do and then it's dancing. Sebastian turns on his favorite Sinatra album and we're dancing in his living room like an old couple who have spent their entire lives together. His heart beats steadily behind his ribs, and my cheek rests confortably there. This could all be so easy with him.

"Are you ready to try something?"

"Sure," I say. "Just don't go all Hannibal on me and hang me from the rafters."

"Do you think I could?" He asks. "All you have to say is stop."

"I know." He takes my hand and leads me to the bedroom. He takes off my shirt and pushes down the pair of flannel pants I had stolen out of his drawer. I don't know what to feel as he looks at me like it's the first time, but I put my hands on his hips. Nothing he hasn't seen before.

"You'll do as I tell you?"

I nod. He kisses me once before reaching behind me and picking up the eye mask from the dresser. He slips it over my eyes.

"Lay down. I need to get stuff ready."

I do and wait anxiously while he mills about. I try to think of the sexiest pose I can manage but realize it probably looks stupid, so instead I just lay on my back with my arms across my chest. Of course it's cold so my nipples are already hard. I don't know if that's a good thing or not.

The bed shifts eventually, and I hold my breath until his lips are on mine. Making out with him is fun, but I'm disappointed to know he's still wearing his sweatpants. I slide my hand down the back anyway and grab a perfect ass cheek. But he doesn't want that so he grabs my hands, throws them above my head and seconds later I hear a click. I tug at my hands but they don't move.

"You handcuffed me?"

"I did," he says. "Remember, all you have to do is say stop."

I sigh but push myself further up the bed so there's less strain on my arms. He kisses my jaw and lips and neck, and I soon forget I can't move my arms and can't see. His hand massages my breast, tugging and pressing on it. I shriek when his teeth tug on my nipple but it's cold. He's got ice in his mouth. When he moves to the other boob, I jerk. His breath is cold on my skin and I squirm when the cold liquid fills my belly button.

"You seemed so interested in The Winter Soldier's cold metal arm," he says sharply in my ear. "How do you feel about the cold now?"

All I muster is a moan.

I hear the ice tinkle against the glass and gasp when I feel the cold against my clit. He works with a precision and moves his mouth and fingers perfectly, and I clamp my thighs around his head when I come.

"How was that?"

"Perfectly adequate."

"Perfectly adequate?" I can hear the smirk in his voice. "We're just getting started, Bette."

I hear him shift again and then a faint hum. "Seb!"

He's pressed a vibrator against my clit and its touch sends a shock throughout my body.

"That's right, Bette," he says, "feel it."

And feel it I do. His hand roams around my chest, squeezing and pinching while the other works the vibrator down below. I cry out as another orgasm hits. The fuckathon is the best thing world.

"So beautiful," he says, kissing me once. He pushes my knees up to my chest and there's a louder hum. This ones a rabbit vibrator and I squeal as he holds it in place. He moves it gently and increases the speed, and I call his name as that orgasm rushes through me, turning my gut to jelly. I see stars behind my eyelids even though everything is black. My thighs are soaked again but Sebastian leaves the vibrator in place, turning it up a speed.

It is a good thing the walls are sound proof as he continues because the worst noises escape my lips. His finger tip gingerly circles my butt hole and he presses the tip inside, moving it carefully. He continues this, working his finger inside more and more. The orgasm is so strong it almost hurts, and I actually hear the liquid streaming out of me. 

"Oh, Bette! Oh, beautiful Bette!"

I whimper when he pulls out the vibrator and feel muscles still clenching.

"Kiss me. Please."

He does, and I wish I could wrap my arms around him. My whole body feels like it's been ripped apart and smashed back together, and I realize I'm crying from it all. It must be all the hormones. But he slips his arms beneath me and holds me so tightly I feel better. I manage to get my legs looped around him and keep him there, and it isn't long before I feel him rocking against me.

"Please, Seb."

"Do you trust me?"

I nod, hoping he's looking at me. He kisses me again before moving, and I hear the lid pop off of something. The finger is back at my most private hole, working it slickly open.

"Relax, Bette," he says, one hand on my shins to keep my legs against my chest. Everything so far has been unreal so I have no idea what he's going to do next. I feel it then, something cold and hard. "Relax."

It hurts but it's not terrible, and the stretching isn't entirely unpleasant but it is uncomfortable.

"Ahh!" I cry when the whole thing is inside me. I know it can't be that big but it feels huge. My butt is plugged.

"Beautiful," Seb says. "I am truly impressed with how giving of yourself you are to me."

The whole situation hasn't been terrible for me either. I'm not sure what he's getting out of it but I feel as though I'm the clear winner here.

"Are you okay?"

"For the most part." I answer, finding my voice. He kisses my ankle before setting it back on the bed. I try to shift finding a way to hold myself so the plug remains somewhat comfortable. He drops the other leg after kissing it. Moaning as he returns his attention to my breasts, I find that place of peace where our bodies work together.

He moves off of me and pout at the loss of his weight. I hope he doesn't have anything else planned because I'm not sure I can stand it. When I feel him over me again, I smile because his pants are gone. He knows I'm ready when I slip my legs around him, and he slides effortlessly inside me.

Everything feels too centered on that point, and I try not to pass out as he thrusts one, twice, three times.

Sebastian stills and I moan, needing him to keep moving. Instead, I feel my hands released from their cuffs and seconds later the mask is gone from my eyes. I guess I look like a lost puppy found by her owners because his gaze softens and he quickly wipes the tears from my cheeks. I hold his head between my palms, thumbs skimming his cheekbones, and look at his resplendent face. Tears might be filling the ridges of his eyes, but it could just be the light. I kiss him now, trying put everything I feel into it. All of my admiration and adoration for him. All of my trust and hope. The way I feel safe with him.

We come together this time in a mingling of breaths and sweat and moans. I don't know what it is, but I feel like a different person. Somehow, he's gotten a piece of me and I'm not sure I'll ever get it back.

I'm not sure I want it back.

We kiss for a long time afterwards, and once all the toys have been removed and washed and we've rinsed off ourselves, I rest my head on his chest.

He combs his fingers through my hair and kisses the top of my head. We haven't spoken much which is uncharacteristic for us, but I am okay with it. I don't want this to be polluted.

I have to consider myself. I am honestly sure I've never been in love, and I'm pretty sure I'm not sure what it means to love somebody in that way. Why did I trust Sebastian so much? Was it chemistry or something more the way we worked together? Was it coincidence or something greater the way we met and then were reunited? Why did I enjoy being with him more than anybody else? Were all of these thoughts real or is my brain foggy from all the orgasms?

"Bette?"

"Hmmm?" I hum, sad to be taken away from my thoughts.

"I've really enjoyed our time together."

"Yeah, me too." 

Chapter Text

The boxes fit easily on the couch and I sigh. It's odd to see how much your life amounts to when it's all boxed up in cardboard and plastic.

My lease is up on my apartment and Holly offered me a room with her until I found another place to live. I guess I should have been looking at other places months ago, but I had gotten so caught up in the musical I had forgotten.

My phone rings and I grab it from the counter. "Hello?"

"Bette, darling," Aleksandr says, "do you have the time for lunch with an old man?"

"I do," I answer, "is there an old man you want me to dine with?"

"You flatter me," he says, "I'll bring a car around in fifteen minutes."

"Great," I say, "I'll see you then."

Like clockwork, the sleek town car pulls up to the curb and I spring out of my building. He climbs out of the car and kisses my cheek before helping me inside.

We pull up to the cafe minutes later, and Aleksandr helps me out. The hostess guides us to a table in the corner with huge windows overlooking the street. The view is breathtaking and Aleksandr thanks her profusely.

After our drinks are delivered, Aleksandr leans forward. "I've got good news."

"Great! What is it?"

"I've gotten the job in London," he says proudly. "I leave Sunday."

"Aleksandr, that's wonderful. Congratulations!" I put my hand over his and give it a pat. He smiles warmly at me before looking at the table cloth.

Really, it's great for him. He's leaving Sunday and Sebastian's leaving Monday so both of the men in my life romantically — or sexually — will be gone. It's not so great for me.

"Thank you, sweet Bette," he says. "I am happy to do it."

"I am happy for you," I say.

"There's something else I've been wanting to ask you since the play," he says, looking over the rim of his glasses at me.

"Yes?"

"What are you doing with me?"

"What do you mean?"

"Bette, my darling," he says, "I'm old enough to be your father. I've been in and out of love many times and I am pretty good at spotting it in others. Do you think I would just let anybody date my Dimitri — or any of my children for that matter? No, of course not. I know love when I see it and I know their significant others love them. I also know you're in love and it's not with me."

I don't say anything. I can't.

"Bette," he says, "I am not angry." I hate that he's being so calm about this and I feel like crying. "I just don't know why you're wasting time with me."

"I'm not wasting time."

"You may one day come to love me," he says. "Hell, you may already. But you are not in love with me and I'm not sure that's a possibility for you."

"I don't eve—"

"Kotyonok," he says. "You don't have to tell me. I saw the way you looked at Sebastian Sunday night — it's obvious how you feel about him."

"You can't be serious."

"And judging from the way he was looking at you," Aleksandr says, "he loves you, too."

"He doesn't."

"But you do?"

"Maybe."

"Oh, Bette," he says. I can't look at him. "You should know I am not upset with you."

"Thank you," I say. "I wasn't using you."

"I know," he says, "You were trying out your options. Lord knows I've done it. He's leaving, I'm an attractive, highly successful older man. I get it."

I laugh and he smiles. "You're really great, you know."

"I know," he says with a smirk and cocky shrug of his shoulder. "And that's precisely why I want you to come to London with me."

"What?"

"Come to London with me," he says, "just for a month or two or as long as you like. I know you've never been out of the continental U.S. and you really need to visit the world. You can stay with me until you find a place — no expectations of course. If the musical does get off the ground, it'll take awhile for anything to happen. The young Sebastian will be gone so you won't have to worry about that. And perhaps a nice trip will be just enough to heal your heart. Maybe with enough time, your heart could turn to me."

"Aleksandr, that's the sweetest thing anyone has ever asked me," I say. I know he's completely earnest and London could be a nice change. I could really get some writing done there and the arts community is thriving. "Can I think on it?"

"Of course," he says, "I leave Sunday if you want to join me."

"Wonderful," I say. "You know there's someone I have to talk to first."

Aleksandr raises his eyebrow.

"Dimitri!" I giggle. "He'll be furious with me."

"Oh, my son," Aleksandr laughs. "He is certainly fiery."

Our lunch is lovely and I feel a slight amount of relief. Now I just have to decide whether or not to stay in New York.

I love the city. I love the constant hum of noise, the ever-changing sea of people, the multitude of light and life and the fact that any food worth craving is available 24 hours a day. I love my friends and those that I work with. While I don't love my tiny apartment, I'm already planning to find a better one. My year in New York has already given me so much.

That evening, I head to Trenton and Dimitri's for dinner. I've picked up a bottle of Dimitri's favorite wine for the occasion and just hope he doesn't throw it at my head.

"Good evening, babe!" He cheers as he pulls open the door. He kisses my cheek and Trenton gives me a hug.

"Hello," I say. "I brought the booze."

"You know I love you, Bette," Dimitri says. "So smart and considerate."

"Thank you," I say. I can't hold it in any longer as I sit on my usual bar stool. "I had lunch with Aleksandr."

"Oh yes," Dimitri says, "going back to London, he is. I'm sure my mother is thrilled."

"Well," I begin, "he asked me to go with him."

"Bette Chambers, you slept with my father!" Dimitri shouts, his face completely scandalized.

"I didn't!" I say, holding my arms up in surrender. "It's not even like that!"

"Then what's it like?"

"He knows I might have feelings for someone else."

"What?!"

Trenton grins as Dimitri pulls a twenty dollar bill out of his pocket and hands it to him.

"You two made bets?" I ask.

"Sweet Liza Minelli!" Dimitri says. "We have to call Holly."

"Why?"

"Because I owe her," Dimitri says. "It's Sebastian, isn't it?"

"Even if it is, it doesn't matter."

"Doesn't matter?" Trenton asks, turning away from the stove again. "What do you mean?"

"He doesn't feel the same way," I say, "so it doesn't matter."

"Call Holly," Trenton says. "She might be able to talk some sense into this one."

Half an hour later, Holly arrives at their apartment and she looks expectantly at me. "So?"

"Aleksandr asked me to go to London with him."

"That's good," she says, "that hardly seems scandalous though."

"It is!" Dimitri says. "Tell her what else."

"It's not a romantic thing," I say, "because he knows I might have feelings for somebody else."

"Bette Chambers is in love with Sebastian Stan!" Holly exclaims. "I knew this would happen!"

But am I in love with him? Love is a pretty heavy thing.

"Why does everybody say that?"

"It's all there," Trenton says. "The way you two are together is lovely. I think you're lighter around him and he's brighter. You're good for each other."

"Plus you have amazing sex," Dimitri adds, "from the sound and looks of it."

"Does that all mean something though?"

"She was born under a fucking rock!" Dimitri shouts, throwing his arms into the air. "We all knew it was a matter of time."

"Bette," Holly says, putting her hand on mine. "We all love you. We care about you and want you to be happy. And as much as you're in denial about it, it is okay to love him."

"But it doesn't matter," I say. "He's made no indication he wants me to stick around. For all I know, he's got a similar arrangement with a production assistant."

"Not to knock production assistants," Dimitri says, "but you are so much more than a production assistant."

"How long have you known?"

"We've all known for awhile," Holly says. "You don't hide it easily."

"What am I supposed to do?"

"That's up to you," Trenton says. "But you should at least tell him before you or he leaves."

"I'm not near tipsy enough to make these kind of decisions."

"We've got you covered," Dimitri says. "Drink up."

I spend four wonderful days with Sebastian. We have dinner, watch movies, play video games, simply enjoy each other's company and of course we have a lot of sex. And it's amazing.

I think he knows these are the last times his undeniably disease free companion is available to him, so he makes the most of it. I can't complain for the most part. I don't mind the aching muscles or sore back at all, but the tender bum hole is a problem. It feels too good in the act to really process the pending results. He's never been in my bum hole, mind you, but the toys do a good bit of stretching.

The decision is upon me and I still don't know what to do. It really has nothing to so with Sebastian since he's leaving anyway, but it has to do everything with New York.

I stare out the window at the city lights, watching the movement of it all. "Seb?"

"Yeah?" He rolls over and loops his arm around my waist, pressing his chest against my back.

"You love New York."

"I do."

"Why?"

"Life happens in New York."

"And you don't think it happens in other places?"

"It does," he says, "but it's better in New York. Your worst day in New York would still be better than someone's best day in another city. New York is magical — why do you think it's the centerpiece of so many movies? Nobody would care about Little Orphan Annie if she lived in Cut and Shoot, Texas."

"That sounds like you made Annie a whole different genre."

He laughs. "Gives Annie Get Your Gun a new meaning."

"Oh Seb," I sigh as I curl up, pulling him closer. "You're crazy."

"You like it."

"I do," I agree, "I really do."

He yawns loudly so I close my eyes and wait for sleep.

I have my bags all packed and my belongings are in storage and at Holly's apartment. I can go either way at the moment.

New York or London?

London would certainly be a new adventure. As I've had so few in my life, a new adventure could be a great thing.

Sebastian smiles at me as he tosses the vegetables he's browning in the skillet. Tonight I'm being treated to fajitas and my stomach gurgles at the smell.

"Do you want to come visit me in Atlanta?"

"Do you want me to?"

"If you want," he says.

"Maybe," I say. "Depends on when."

"Why?"

"Aleksandr has invited me to go to London with him."

"Oh, he did?"

"Yes, you know he landed that thing with the Royal Ballet."

"So you would be going to London with him?"

"That's the plan."

"You're that serious?"

"It's not like that," I say.

"Did you sleep with him?"

"No."

"So what? This is like a daddy issue thing?"

"What?"

"He's old enough to be your father, Bette, and you're going to go traipsing across the ocean with him?"

"Wherever I go traipsing with Aleksandr is none of your concern, is it? You're leaving!"

"But I didn't know you would be galavanting about the globe."

"Please! It's hardly galavanting. He's been given an extraordinary opportunity because he's an extraordinary man, and he was kind enough to ask me if I wanted to see England, which yes, I would love to see!"

"And you're going to live with him?"

"He has offered, yes."

Why is there so much judgment in his voice?

"What the fuck, Bette?"

"What the fuck, Sebastian?" I repeat him. "Why do you care?"

Say it.

He scratches the back of his neck. "I just don't know that you should be going away with him."

"Everyone else thinks it's great. I will get to go to London and meet all these people and see all these things."

"I just don't think it's a good idea. You're young and impressionable. What happens when he's the only person you know there? He'll take advantage."

"That's bullshit and you know it. He has never been anything but kind to me."

"For now. It's just not a good idea."

"Why — because he asked me first and you won't?"

Maybe I've been reading this all wrong. Maybe there's nothing to read.

"I don't know, Bette," he shrugs. "I don't know."

"Well you and your 'I don't know' have a great time in Atlanta. I'm going to London. I hope you have a nice life."

I grab my bag and head for the door. Luckily I've been cleaning my things out of his apartment since I knew he was leaving so there's nothing for me to gather.

He says nothing as the door closes behind me and as much as I want to hold the elevator in case he chases after me, I don't because he doesn't.

Holly sighs when she opens the front door for me. "What happened, sweetheart?"

"Absolutely nothing," I say, "he doesn't feel anything for me. I've called Aleksandr."

"And?"

"I'm going to London in the morning."

"Oh Bette," she says, pulling me to the couch. "I'm so sorry. At least London will be fun."

"I hope it's rainy because that will match my mood."

Holly laughs. "You would be able to make a joke right now."

"It's not a joke," I say dryly. She smiles at me and hugs me.

"It'll be okay," she says. "You could meet Prince Harry for all we know. Now, can I get you some tea or wine?"

"I better stay away from the wine," I say. "Tea, please."

"Tea it is," she says, leading me through to the kitchen. I sit as she starts the kettle. "Are you ready to go to London?"

"I have a bag packed with all the essentials," I say. "I figure I can buy anything else I need when I get there."

"All right," she says, "Are you sure you want to go tomorrow? You don't want to stay with us a few days and think about it?"

"At this point," I say, "I need to go. At least for awhile. Aleksandr said a month or two."

"Okay," she says, "I hope you have the best time."

"Thank you," I say. "Thank you for everything."

"I'm going to miss you."

"I won't be away long," I say.

We're quiet for a few minutes as we sit at the table. "Awe, friend!"

"I'm going to miss you," I whine.

"But you're going to do great things," Holly says, "and you're going to have the best time."

The kettle whistles and I rub my face with my hands while she gets the cups.

"So he's not called or texted you or anything?" Holly asks as she sets our tea on the table.

"No," I say, "nothing."

"Bastard."

"Yeah, well," I say, "it's my fault. I knew what we were and fell for him anyway. I mean, he's a hot young movie star whose career is just taking off. Why would he want to settle with one person, let alone me?"

"No, no," Holly says, "you do not let this define you. I've never heard you define yourself by a man so you're not going to start now."

"Ugh, you're right," I say. "I'm off to London to meet Prince Harry."

"Right you are!" 

Aleksandr picks me up from Holly's apartment, and he kisses my cheek as we stand on the curb.

"Are you all right, kotyonok?"

I nod. "Thank you."

"Of course," he says, "I'm still hopeful."

I laugh as I hug him, and then I hug Holly and Jack both. Dimitri and Trenton are coming next week to visit Dimitri's mother, so my goodbye to them isn't as necessary. I've heard nothing from Sebastian so I let go of expecting to.

"It'll be all right," Aleksandr says as he follows me into the car. "I am glad you're coming with me."

"I'm glad to go," I say, "I'm so excited to see the Royal Ballet."

He squeezes my hand and kisses the side of my head.

"London is a beautiful city, Bette," he says, "I know you'll love it."

The car moves now as we head to the airport and I actually feel excited. I know I won't feel lonely as I've gotten over the feeling long ago, and with Dimitri visiting and Aleksandr to make sure I am all right, I will have the best time. I am determined to have the best time.

We're in the car for an hour before we even get close to the airport, but Aleksandr has been on the phone with a producer while I've been flicking through travel magazines Holly gave me as a surprise.

My phone buzzes in my pocket and I see it's Angela calling.

"Hey Ange."

"Bette," she says, her voice tense. "There's been an accident." 

Chapter Text

He's pale, the oxygen machine bubbles and the heart monitor beats steadily. It's been a day and nothing. He's alive and should recover, so that's all that matters. I sit in the chair next to his bed, wondering how I even got here.

Of course I know how I got here.

Aside from the taxis that had taken me to and from, I was here because I love him. More than that, I am in love with him. And to have the man I love unconscious in a hospital bed has been more than I can handle. Yesterday morning after the accident, Violeta held me while I cried. She didn't say anything — I suppose she didn't have to, but she knew. I felt better about it when she started to cry, too, and we held each other awkwardly in the corner of the waiting room.

I remember walking into the waiting room for emergencies where she and Angela sat. She saw me, stood with a look of shock on her face and pulled me into a hug. "I knew it was you," she said.

But now she's gone to take Bill for a walk, and I'm not sure who it benefits more. She needed to get out for a few minutes as she hasn't left Sebastian's side since they brought him out of surgery except to use the restroom.

"You can wake up now," I say. "I need to talk to you."

Not untrue.

But nothing happens. The machines continue to whir and his breaths remain steady. I sigh as I pull my legs up to my chest, cross my arms over my knees and rest my head. Hospitals are the worst.

I try to think of Sebastian's smile the day we met. He'd been so confident and cheeky that I would want to sleep with him — it worked, of course.

I laugh quietly, my head buried in my lap. I sigh as I lift my chin, ready to watch him sleep some more. I gasp softly when his eyes are watching me.

"Hey," I say quietly, not wanting to jilt him.

"Bette." It's incredibly scratchy and quiet, and he looks pained just to move his mouth.

"Shhh," I say as I sit on the edge of the chair and reach for his hand. "I'm here. You've been intibated and haven't any liquid down your throat yet. Don't talk."

He eyes me as I stand up and lean on the railing.

"Do you know where you are?"

He shakes his head slowly.

"You're in the hospital," I say. "You were hit by a truck."

He nods at that. I reach for the cup on the tray and spoon some ice for him. It's mostly watered down now but the nurse was hopeful he'd wake sometime today.

I grin as I drop a couple of ice chips in his mouth and he keeps his eyes on me. I wish I knew what he was thinking.

"When we were waiting after they first brought you in — your mom, Angie and me — I knew when you woke up, I was going to tease you. I was going to say, 'You know you could have just asked me to stay. You didn't have to go get hit by a truck.' But then I heard this charming little boy exclaiming how the Winter Soldier had pushed his sister out of the way and saved her life. He was telling his father how Bucky Barnes was helping his mother change a tire when a truck slid on the road and Bucky pushed his sister out of the way, leaving Bucky to get hit."

I gently brush the bangs back from his face. "You're a real hero. She's fine — she broke her arm when she landed but she's fine. She'll want to see when you're ready — maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but she and her brother are so excited to meet you. They colored this for you." I hold up the coloring pages they've tied together with string. I shake my head at myself as I reach for his fingers, and he moves them just the slightest bit to hold onto mine. "So I realized you weren't just trying to get me to stay and being dramatic about it. You were just being you — thoughtful and kind and strong." I feel the tears prickling at my eyes and the knot rising in my throat. "I can't lose you, too. I can't lose you, Sebastian."

He squeezes my fingers and tears roll from the corner of his eyes to the pillow. I hastily wipe the others from his cheeks so he's not laying in a puddle. I sob then too, unable to control it anymore, and he holds his other arm up to brush his fingers against my face.

"'s okay." His eyes are sincere and he nods slowly.

"Let me call the nurse and text your mom." He nods.

After notifying the nurse's station, I let his mom know he's awake. I can't stop holding his hand but I do manage to get more ice in his mouth. He shifts uncomfortably and grunts.

"Two broken ribs and a fractured one," I say, "and you're short a spleen."

"Spleen?"

"It ruptured when you were hit," I explain. "You lost a considerable amount of blood."

He frowns but looks at the ceiling. "Alive."

"Indeed," I say. "You're going to have a pretty freakin' sweet scar that will make the Winter Soldier look even more badass."

He laughs but he shouldn't have because that makes him cringe.

"Sebby!" Violeta cries, running in the room. She leans over the other side of his bed, brushes his hair from his face and kisses his forehead. "You're awake. How do you feel? Are you all right? What can I do?"

"Mom."

She sighs and shakes her head. "Of course. I'm just so excited you're awake."

He puts his other hand on hers and smiles. The nurse knocks on the door even though it's open.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Stan," she says. "I'm your nurse until nine, Dee. Let's check things over and we'll see about getting you some food, if not at least something to drink."

He nods eagerly.

"Talking is hard, yes?"

He nods again.

"That'll go away in time," she says. "You've been getting fluids through an IV, and you had a blood transfusion yesterday. Are you in pain?"

He nods.

"We've been giving you scheduled morphine," she says, "but now that you're awake, we can let you control it."

Violeta and I both take a few steps back as she checks the machines and his IV line. She swiftly pulls the sheet down while pulling his gown up, leaving his chest exposed. Violeta grabs my hand while Dee removes the white bandage from his chest.

The line is red and raised, but they were able to close it with fancy dissolvable stitches rather than staples. Generally the left side is a spread of plum where it's incredibly bruised. Sebastian raises his head to look and sighs.

"You still look handsome," Violeta says, like he doesn't know.

"That's healing nicely," Dee says, brushing her fingers along the outside. "It's not infected yet but should be fine. We'll leave the dressing off for a bit so it can air out. They'll give you a sponge bath tonight and then we'll redress it. Once the doctor comes, I'll order you some food."

"Please."

"More ice then," she grins, "for the Winter Soldier."

He grins, and I can't tell if he's amused or annoyed, or if he's really even coherent enough to get the joke. She presses a button on the bed so he's in a sitting position.

"We'll get you some underwear, too."

He frowns at that, and I'm not sure who they're getting it for. I know he'd rather just be naked, and the three women in his life have already seen everything.

"Does it matter what kind?" I ask.

"Whatever he's comfortable in," Dee says. "We'll need to remove the catheter and make sure he can walk to the restroom."

That really gets a groan out of him but I giggle. He narrows his eyes at me and then smiles.

"I'll get some," I say. "Don't worry about that."

In truth, I've probably worn every pair he owns at one point or another. I know which ones are the most comfortable.

Dee nods as she mills about his bed. "That'll work. I'll go call the doctor then. If you need something, just ask."

"Thank you," Violeta says. Once Dee leaves, she sweeps to his side. "Puiule, I know you were doing a good thing, but I'd appreciate it if you didn't get hit by a truck again. I can't handle it."

 

Sebastian smiles and puts his hand over hers, and I slide my fingers in his again. The doctor comes by within the hour, pushes around on his abdomen and chest a lot, listens to the same area with a stethoscope and then smiles.

 

"You're going to be fine," he says. "You'll have to make a few changes, but you'll be fine."

 

Sebastian raises his eyebrows and looks less than enthused. The doctor goes over a few more things but he does confirm he can get Sebastian some food. I join Violeta in the hall when the nurses come back to take care of the catheter and get him to the restroom.

"Would you mind going to his apartment and picking up some things?" She asks. "I know he needs a few items."

"Sure," I say. "Is there anything I can get you?"

"No, Bette," she says, "thank you."

I don't want to go, really. I want to make sure he's all right and fine and has everything he needs, but I suppose we have no claim over each other. We have no commitment, nothing that ties us together except sex. I have been the stupid one who let my feelings get in the way.

When I reach his apartment building, Martin grabs my arm. "How is he, Miss Chambers?"

"He's awake," I say, "set to make a full recovery."

"Oh, that's wonderful!" He says. "You take care of yourself now too, all right?"

"Thank you," I nod.

"And check with Barb at the desk," he says. "She's got some things for him."

Indeed she does. There's been no lack of love for Sebastian and his act of bravery, and we have to make several trips on the elevator to pick up all the bears and flowers and various other things fans have sent. Bill and Violeta will probably stay here when he's released from the hospital, and I text Angela to order his cleaning service.

I grab some of Sebastian's favorite things — his iPad, his plastic knife he likes to fidget with, his MacBook and external hard drive with all his TV shows on it — and I raid his bathroom for his toiletries. My next mission is his drawers where I pick out his best boxers, a pair of sweatpants, a few T-shirts, socks even though he'll get the non-slick ones from the hospital, his sneakers and his favorite zip hoodie. I hope I have everything.

I make it back just as visiting hours are ending but Dee lets me enter anyway. The door's open a crack which is good because I don't have to knock.

He's asleep again and I decide that's probably better. I put the bags down on the little table and Violeta waves me out into the hallway after her.

"They were able to get him some broth," she says. "I'm sure he's starving after eating the way he does but they want to take it slowly, you know." I nod. "Anyway, they're going to try to keep him out for the night."

"That's great."

"Yeah. Yeah," she says. I can tell something is bothering her but she won't admit it. "I suppose this is enough for now. Thank you. See you in the morning?"

I nod. I want to go back in and kiss his forehead, but the way she's standing with her arms across her chest make me think otherwise.

Did I do something wrong?

I can hardly sleep in the unfamiliar bed at Jack and Holly's and I toss and turn all night, anxiously waiting for it to be a decent hour to get up. I dress hastily and practically inhale a cronut on the way, even if I said I was going to be better about what I eat.

Arriving at the hospital, I remind myself to breathe. I was invited by Angela. She told me of the accident. She thinks I should be here. I know she's not his mother, but she wanted me here.

Should I be here?

The door is open a crack and I knock lightly before barging in. He's awake and leaning up with the bed behind him. He's talking but stops when I walk in.

Shit, I shouldn't be here.

"Ah Bette!" Angela cheers, standing up from the cot. "How lovely to see you."

She hugs me.

"Good morning all."

"Violeta," Angela says, holding out her hand, "how about we go get some breakfast?"

"Sure," Violeta says, eying me as she grabs her purse and stands.

"Have fun," Sebastian says as they leave.

"How do you feel today?"

"Meh."

I sit in the chair where I spent most of the previous day and look at him.

"Why are you here, Bette?"

"What?"

"Why are you here?"

"You got hit by a truck."

"Why aren't you in London?"

"You got hit by a truck."

"Bette." He narrows his eyes at me. "Why did you not go to London?"

I lean forward, resting my elbows on my knees and rubbing my face with my hands. "London would have been easy but not right."

"What?"

"I broke our agreement."

"With who?"

"You." I force myself out of my hands to look at him. "I realized some time ago that I was falling in love with you — that I love you, that I am in love with you — and I know that's not what we are or what we do so I was going to get out completely. Aleksandr knew that you had my heart but he was hopeful. If not, I'd just be another knot in a long string of girlfriends. But I was in the car on the way to the airport when Angie called. I had to choose."

I'm trying to keep my nerves in check as I am freaking out. I've never had these feelings for anyone and I've certainly never had to explain it. I don't want to cry but I can see my hands shaking and the knot in my throat is so huge I fear I might choke on it.

"I chose you. I choose you. I will always choose you."

He holds up his hand and wiggles his fingers. I stand slowly, watching him as his face is completely stoic. God, he's going to tell me I made a mistake and to get the fuck out. The last thing he needs to recover from what he's been through is a clingy ex-lover who feels guilty he's even in this position. Of course that's not how I feel, but that's what he's feeling.

"Oh Bette," he says softly when my shaking fingers are firmly in his. "I love you more than I've ever loved anybody my whole life."

I repeat the words in my head several times before they finally sink in. "What?"

"I love you, Bette," he says. "I do. I have. I choose you."

A gasp escapes my lips and a tear rolls down my cheek. "Really?"

He nods earnestly. "I was running up to my mother's to tell her I was going to England after you."

"What? Sebastian!" I want to pounce on him and kiss his cheeks and his lips and his eyelids and his nose and his jaw and his neck but instead I just settle for his forehead. "I can't believe it."

"I know this wasn't supposed to happen," he says, "but I just didn't want to lose you."

"You're stuck with me now," I laugh, running my finger over the stubble on his chin. He takes a deep breath and leans into my palm. "I love you."

"I love you, too," he says, smiling at me. My gut turns to jelly and my body warms all over. I lean over the railing and kiss him gently, just once. It's a lot less than I want to do, but I also don't want to get his heart rate up. He smiles at me as he settles against the pillow. I slide the rail down and sit next to him on the edge of the bed. He throws his arm across my lap and stretches contentedly.

Grinning, I trace the lines of his face gently. I don't know what is supposed to happen next, but I know he'll be by my side at the very least.

"Do I even want to know what's happening with the movie?"

"Um, they haven't decided yet," I say. "You're out for six weeks—"

"Six weeks?"

I nod. "At the very least. They removed a part of you. I think the doctor would actually prefer you stay down longer but knows you won't."

"Shit."

"Mmm," I agree. "Angela's been keeping them updated. Obviously contractually you have to be in it. I suppose you can call Kevin when you feel up to it."

"Ugh," he groans, "I got hit by a fucking truck."

"You did," I say, "everyone says you're lucky to be alive. The police officer said it was fortunate you hadn't taken off your helmet."

"Veronica! Was Veronica hurt?"

"She's fine," I say. "The cops gently loaded her on the back of a truck and Michael picked her up this morning. She's in the garage."

"Oh, Veronica!" he says. "Lucky to still be wearing my helmet."

"Your leather, too. I'm afraid your jacket is a little worse for wear, and you'll need a new helmet but at least they're broken and not you. I'd hate to think what would have happened otherwise."

He looks at me softly and pulls my fingers into his. "I'm glad you came back. I feel better with you here."

I kiss his knuckles, feeling the tears coming on again. "I'm not leaving."

"And you won't lose me."

We sit peacefully for a few minutes after that, just looking at each other. I want to kiss him so badly I feel it in every fiber of my being but refrain. It will simply have to wait.

"I'm sorry about everything I said," he says, "before you left. You never said anything was going on between you and Aleksandr and I had no right to say the things I did. I'm sorry I didn't just tell you how I felt sooner but I was scared. I was leaving and you were staying — or going — and how were we going to make it work? It's been a long time since I saw long-term with anybody and to know I could lose you set me off. I am truly sorry."

"I forgive you. Of course I forgive you. I'm sorry I presented it in such a way. I'm sorry I told you about it and I'm sorry I didn't tell you I am in love with you sooner. I was — er, I am — scared. I've never loved anybody the way I do you."

He smiles, squeezing my fingers. "Aren't we a couple of assholes?"

"At least we can be assholes together."

"God, I want to kiss you."

"You feel that too?"

"How could I not?" He says, pressing the button on the bed that makes it move forward. He's sitting upright within seconds and leaning forward just a little bit. I move the rest of the way and the kiss is perfect. Our hands stay together as our lips and tongues move in sync.

I only pull back when the heart monitor starts to beep faster, and I giggle.

"We can't have the nurses knowing you're excitable."

"One look at you and they would understand."

"Seb." I kiss him once again gently.

"Does this mean you two are together?" I jerk away to see Violeta standing at the door with her eyebrow raised. Angela beams behind her.

"Something like that," Sebastian answers, his eyes on me. "I don't suppose it would surprise you to know we've been seeing each other since September."

"Congratulations," Angela says. "It's about time you take it out in the open."

"I'm glad," Violeta says. "A mother is always excited about these things when her child is happy."

"Really?" I ask.

She smiles and nods. "Of course. If he loves you, I love you. It helps that you're such a wonderful young woman. I could see it."

"Apparently everyone could," I say, resting my forehead against his.

He sighs. "D'you think I can go for a walk?"

"I don't think anyone would have a problem with that," Violeta says. "The sooner you get to walking and using the bathroom, the sooner they'll let you go."

Angela hits the nurse button on his bed and I stand, pushing the tray away from the bed. Dee appears all smiles minutes later. "Good morning everyone."

"Morning," Violeta says.

"Is it all right if I go for a walk?"

"Of course," Dee says, "let's get you unhooked and then up."

She mills around his bed getting cords in place and then lowers the rail on his bed.

"All right," she says, "you know the drill. Swing your legs around and then we'll stand you up."

I pull back the blankets while Dee slips the socks with the grippers on the bottom up his feet.

"You want to get that side?" she asks. I nod and slip his arm around my shoulders.

Sebastian breathes deeply a few times. "It hurts to breathe."

"It will," Dee says. "That's the ribs so it's important you take it easy."

He rolls his eyes but lets us both help him to his feet.

"All right," she says, "how do you feel?"

"Okay," he says.

"Good." She grabs his IV pole and waves us along. "We'll go down the hall and then see how we feel from there."

"Wonderful," he says. I know he wants to get out of here as soon as possible but I hope he doesn't overexert himself. He'll be in the hospital at least two more days regardless of how he feels.

"How do you feel?" I ask when we reach the end of the hall.

"Winded."

"All right," Dee says. "Let's get you back in bed. I'll check your incision and then we'll get you some lunch."

"I'm starving," he says.

I laugh. "That does not surprise me at all."

He takes a deep breath and his eyes get wide. "Can I get takeout for dinner?"

"Sure," Dee says. "What are you thinking?"

"Bette, would you please go to Tony's?"

"Of course," I say.

"You're an angel." He drops his arm from around me and pulls me into a hug. "Seriously."

"I know."

"You too," he says, switching from me to Dee. She laughs but hugs him back.

"Your painkillers might be kicking in," she says, "but thank you."

He smiles. "Lunch?"

"Yes," Dee says, leading us slowly back to his room.

"How was that?" Violeta asks.

"Exhausting," Sebastian answers. "But now I get to eat and take a nap so I'm happy."

"Let's look at that first," Dee says. He sits back in bed and pulls off the gown. She pulls off the bandage carefully and sighs. The incision is a little red and there's some drainage on gauze. "I'll leave that off until the doctor can come look."

"Okay," he says, "anything to be concerned about?"

"No," she says, "that's pretty normal for this type of surgery. Do you need anything right now?"

He shakes his head. "Thanks."

"You're welcome," she says, "your food should be here soon. Call if you need anything."

We nod as she leaves.

Sebastian falls asleep after lunch and Angela offers to stay with him so Violeta and I can go get food ourselves. Making our way through the line in the cafeteria, we sit in a booth in the corner.

"He was worried about you," she says suddenly.

"What?"

"When he woke up after the surgery," she says, "you were the first thing on his mind. He kept saying he let you go, and he started crying. I haven't seen my son cry when he wasn't acting in years. He immediately calmed down when I told him you were here — he smiled and fell asleep."

"He did?"

"Yes," she said, "I'm pretty sure he tried to get out of the bed at one point like he was going to jump on a jet after you."

I laugh then, an unusual reaction. Violeta then smiles and squeezes my shoulder.

"You feel the depth of it, don't you?"

I nod. "Yes, I do."

She chortles and kisses the side of my head. "Oh, sweet Bette!"

Sebastian sleeps until I wake him up that evening with his favorites from Tony's, and the good man sent food enough for the rest of us. Michael and Marie bring the kids by with Bill; he's been staying with them since the accident. Bill asks about the wedding since he still thinks we're engaged and Sebastian simply says soon. I smile and sit sideways on the bed next to Sebastian, and he keeps his arm around my waist or on my leg the whole time. This is what it feels like to have a family.

Visiting hours end and I'm getting ready to go back to Holly's apartment for the night. I don't want to leave him, of course, but Violeta's been with him the past two nights and she did birth him.

Violeta and Sebastian start speaking in Romanian while I put on my layers. They look from each other to me and then Seb grabs my hand.

"Do you want to stay tonight?"

"You want me to stay tonight?"

He nods, a smile on his face.

"You don't mind?" I ask Violeta.

She shakes her head and grins. "I pass the torch off to you, you know, if you want it."

I hug her tightly and she kisses my cheek again. I take off my jacket and sweater while Violeta piles hers on. She kisses Sebastian's forehead, rubs his cheeks with her thumbs and says something to him in Romanian. His smile makes me feel warm and fuzzy and he smiles at her as she leaves.

"This has been an eventful day," he says as he settles back in bed after a trip to the toilet. I plug his IV machine back into the wall while he slips his heart monitor back on his finger. He pats the mattress next to him and I sit. "And I am tired."

"Go to sleep," I say, brushing his long bangs out of his face. "I'll be here."

He leans forward and kisses me once. "I love you, Bette Marie Chambers."

"I love you, Sebastian Stan."

I kiss my boyfriend for several long and uninterrupted moments. 

Chapter Text

Sebastian wakes up early the next morning, and he is insanely tired of being in the hospital. I don't blame him at all. The nurse, Dan, and I get him into his sweatpants and a robe, and they let me wheel him outside.

"I wish I had a smoke right now," he says. "How I wish I did."

I put my hand on his shoulder and squeeze it gently. "Maybe tomorrow you'll get to go home."

"Probably not," he says, "but it would be nice."

"Soon," I say. "I will make you chicken noodle every day and give you full control of the remote until you're well again."

He snorts but kisses the side of my finger.

He texts Violeta when we get up to his room to ensure her he's still alive and his prognosis has not declined, and he convinces her it's no problem for her to sleep in and spend the morning with Bill. It's nice an hour later when Angela shows up and sends me home. I won't admit it to Sebastian of course, but my back aches from sleeping on the pull-out bed of the chair and my eyes are aching from the crying and continued contact wear. Holly and Jack must both be at work by the time I make to the apartment, so I enjoy a hot shower and bowl of oatmeal by myself. It's the first time I've actually looked in a mirror since the accident, and I look rough by my standards. My hair could use a good styling and I've picked most of the polish off my nails. My cheeks are a bit splotchy and puffy, and yet this is the face Sebastian loves. He's seen all of this mess and kissed it and told it he loved it. He loves me.

I smile at the mirror and quickly finish getting ready so I can go back to him.

I stop at the store and pick Seb up a couple of books and a carton of blueberries. He'll like those. Angela texts she's leaving because he's got company.

And I'm greeted with hugs and kisses when I enter his room. Saul and Z are there, beaming at me.

"Bette!" Saul says, standing from the little couch and kissing my cheeks. "You look beautiful."

"Thank you," I say. I hug Z as well.

"Sebastian was just telling us you two are a couple now," she says. "About time."

"I thought you wanted me to date Percival," I say.

"Oh, I did," she says, "a mother can dream, right? Percival is great but he is a little odd, and I hoped you might be the right one to help him along. No matter! You two are perfect together."

"Not perfect people," Saul adds, "but perfect for each other. How long are you out for?"

"Six weeks," Sebastian says, "at the very least."

"You must come visit us in the Hamptons," Z says. "Come for a weekend, come for a few days, just come!"

"Oh, we would love to have you up there," Saul adds. "You would just love it. It might be a little cold still, but bring a sweater and be happy."

"Would you please?" Z asks.

"Um, sure," Sebastian says. "I think a little getaway in a few weeks would do me well."

"Wonderful!" Saul says. "We'll be there all of April, I think."

"Perfect," I say.

"How are you feeling?”

“Like I got hit by a truck,” Sebastian answers. “I’ll be all right though.”

“Of course you will,” he says, “you’re strong.”

Sebastian smiles and Z affectionately brushes hair out of his face. “Is there anything I can get for you?”

“No thank you,” he says. “I’m pretty well taken care of.”

“That’s wonderful,” Z says. “Well, we might be by before you get released. We don’t want to be a bother, but I will definitely bring dinner by when you’re released. How is that?”

“That sounds great,” he says. “Thank you.”

“Sure,” Z says. She pulls me into a hug. “I love you two kids. Let me know if you need anything.”

“Thanks,” I say. Saul hugs me too.

“We wanted to stop in but don’t want to be in the way. Take care.”

They leave after gingerly hugging Sebastian and I sit in the chair next to his bed. He slides his hand into my hair and cradles my cheek.

“How are you today, scumpete?”

“I am all right,” I answer, leaning into his hand. “How are you today?”

“Bored,” he says. “Do you want to go for a walk?”

“Sure,” I say. “Let me get you unplugged.”

I unplug all of his cords as he slips off his heart monitor and flips back the sheets. I help him out of bed and he sighs as he straightens.

“Feels good to stand up.” He mutters, his left hand going to his ribs. He breathes heavily a few times before nodding. We make our way down the hall slowly, his hand holding onto his IV stand, my elbow through his other. He shouldn't fall over but one can never know how these things will work out.

"Are you enjoying being here, Bette?"

"Are you enjoying being here, Sebastian?"

"Point taken," he says. "I don't want you to feel like you have to be here."

"I don't," I say, "I feel like I want to be where you are, and if you have to be in the hospital, then I will be too. That's what happens when you love somebody, I guess. I will say if I get on your nerves or you want me gone, you just have to say so."

"I would never want you gone," he says, pausing and looking at me. "I'm happy you're here."

"I'm happy to be here," I say. "I mean, I wish we weren't here at all of course but I'm happy you'll be okay and that little Sophia is okay too."

"Speaking of," Sebastian says, his eyes on the other end of the hall where the elevators are. The hospital placed a "no visitors" clause on his room until today to keep his privacy secure and help his recovery. They won't give out his information at the front desk so visitors have to know where they are going before arriving. Angela has kept in contact with Mrs. Nesbit, the woman Sebastian was helping at the time of the accident.

She, her son, Jackson, and her daughter, Sophia, step off the elevator, and Jackson recognizes Sebastian all the way down the hall. My boyfriend's smile curls all the way up his face like it does when he's truly happy, and Mrs. Nesbit runs to keep up with the children.

"Mr. Stan!" Sophia cheers, tossing her arms around Sebastian's thighs. “I am so glad you’re all right!”

“I’m happy you are too,” he says, slipping his hands around his shoulders. “Hi, Mrs. Nesbit. How are you?”

She nods and gives him a hug awkwardly reaching around her children. “Thank you so much for what you did.”

“Anyone would have done the same,” he says. “This is my girlfriend, Bette.”

I don’t think I’ll ever get used to him saying it. “We actually met in the emergency room. Well, the waiting room.”

“Of course,” Mrs. Nesbit says. “Nice to see you again. How are you holding up?”

“Fine actually,” I say, “now that everything is on the mend.”

She smiles warmly as I pull Sebastian’s IV pole closer to us.

"Let’s go back to my room, shall we?”

Sophia nods happily and takes Sebastian’s hand. Jackson grabs his other and suddenly The Winter Soldier is escorting two children through the hospital and I feel warm all over. That’s been happening a lot lately, and it all has to do with him.

“I’ve kept your book,” Sebastian says, sitting on the corner of his bed. The kids easily jump up next to him and laugh. “How is your arm?”

“It’s good!” Sophia says, unzipping her coat. Mrs. Nesbit helps her out of it and Sophie giggles as she holds up her arm. “Dad helped me paint it!”

“That’s incredible!” Sebastian gently takes her arm and studies the artwork. Her cast stops just before the bend of her elbow but encases her palm and wrist. She chose black as her color but her dad has painted the entire thing silver except for a few lines and red star.

“I wanted to be just like The Winter Soldier,” she says. “All the boys at school are jealous.”

“She actually asked the doctor if they could take the cast all the way up to her shoulder,” Mrs. Nesbit laughs, “just for purely aesthetic reasons.”

“I love it,” he says.

“Would you sign it please?”

“Would I sign it? Of course I’ll sign it.”

Jackson twirls Sebastian’s plastic knife while Sebastian and Sophia pick the perfect spot on her cast.

“Is he going to be okay, really?” Mrs. Nesbit asks me quietly.

“Yes,” I say, “The doctor says everything looks fine for now. He’ll have to take antibiotics as a precaution when he’s out and about but he can afford it and won’t mind. And I know he wouldn’t have changed a thing if the whole situation were to happen again.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” she says. “We were so far out of town and I didn’t know what to do. I was so worried he wouldn’t make it.”

“He’s a fighter,” I reassure her. “One pickup truck isn’t enough to keep him down.”

She smiles. "He's so nice, you know, not at all what I was expecting."

"He hasn't gotten his head around the idea that his stardom could get him certain things," I say. "But Sophia will be all right?"

"Are you kidding? She thinks this will be the highlight of her life. All the boys at school are jealous and I guess the girls are too."

"That's fantastic," I say. "He'll be delighted to hear it. He's asked about her, you know."

"Yes, Angela's been great with the whole thing. We've had several reporters call wanting to know the story, and Sophia's been all too happy to tell them."

“That’s precious,” I say. “I’m glad she’s not terribly sad about her broken arm.”

“They’ve still got her on pain medications and it’s not been long enough for it to start itching.”

“That’s good to hear,” I say. “It was nice of you to bring them by.”

“I’m happy he agreed to see them.”

They stay for another twenty minutes and then leave when Sebastian tires. He promises to see them again, and I know he means it. He sleeps for a couple of hours before Chace and some of his other friends arrive, and after introductions, I head to the lobby for a bit of a breather.

“Hey, bitch!” Dimitri cheers. Trenton hangs on one of his arms and several bags hang off the other. “We brought goods!”

“It’s so good to see you,” I say, hugging him. “I’m so happy you’re here.”

“Of course,” Dimitri says.

“You’re looking well,” Trenton says, kissing my cheek.

“Some of his friends just got here,” I say. “How do you feel about coffee?”

“Coffee sounds fantastic,” Dimitri says. “Is the hospital coffee any good?”

“It’s fair,” I say. “It’ll do in a pinch.”

“I love coffee in a pinch,” Trenton says, and they pull me between them to the cafeteria. They’re overjoyed to hear of the advancement in mine and Sebastian’s relationship, and Dimitri can’t stop smiling; he says he knew it would happen all along.

Eventually we wander upstairs and Chace decides it’s time to leave.

“Hey handsome!” Dimitri says when the room is finally empty except for us. “We brought you some things.”

“I love things,” Sebastian says. “How are you two?”

“We’re doing well,” Trenton says, “how are you?”

“I’ve been better,” Sebastian answers. “Thank you for coming.”

“Of course,” Dimitri says, sitting on the corner of the bed. Trenton takes the chair and I sit closer to Sebastian. “Do you want to see your things?”

“Sure,” Sebastian says. “Open ‘em up!”

Dimitri grins proudly as he pulls out a sturdy pair of slippers. "For your walks." A pair of Captain America pajama pants follows. "For your legs." Sebastian's shaving kit is the next thing out of the bag. "For your face." Dimitri's smile widens as he pulls out a bottle of whiskey. "For when you're off pain killers." Trenton brandishes a bouquet of flowers I hadn't even noticed. "For your lady."

"You guys! It's too much!" I say as I take the flowers. Sebastian's room is now full of different bouquets but this is the only one for me. I hug them both and Sebastian grins.

"Thank you so much," he says. "I love it all and could use a shave."

"You definitely can," Dimitri says. "You're not the Winter Soldier yet, but you've the scruff of a man fifty years frozen."

"Sorry I forgot it the other day," I say.

"No worries," Sebastian says. "I feel manly."

"You are," I say, my hand on his knee.

"Oh, do we need to go?" Dimitri asks. "I bet hospital bed sex is some of the best around."

"No," I say, "he's not even medically cleared to have sex."

"You have to be medically cleared? That's crazy."

"I know," Sebastian says. "I finally tell Bette I love her and can't even show her how much."

I want to say something to that but there's a knock on the door and Margarita bursts in.

"Sebastian!" She exclaims as she runs over to his side and kisses his cheek. "I'm so glad you're all right! How are you?"

"I'm all right," he says. "How are you?"

"Good! I came as soon as I could get away. I'm so sorry!"

"Don't be," he says. "You remember Bette, and these are our friends, Dimitri and Trenton."

It's then she realizes we're all in the room. "Of course, Bette!" She hugs my neck. "How are you?"

"Great," I say. "It's good to see you."

"You too," she says. "Seb tells me the two of you are finally and officially together. Congratulations."

I laugh. "Thank you."

She grabs both my hands and gently squeezes them. "I'm serious, Bette. You two were written in the stars and it was painfully dreadful to watch you both ignore it."

"I tried to tell her!" Dimitri pipes. "Thank you!"

Margarita laughs and shakes his hand. "You're the composer, right? That's such a gift."

And just like that Sebastian's friend is meshing with my friends and I smile. He laces his fingers with mine and leans against the mattress.

That evening after visiting hours, Sebastian runs his fingers through his hair and sighs. "I need to shave."

"You feel all scruffy?"

"I would leave it if we were starting filming but since that is not the case, I need to shave."

"May I?"

"May you what?"

"Shave your face."

"You want to shave my face?"

"I've sat on it," I say, "why shouldn't I shave it?”

He laughs. “Well, who am I to deny that?”

I kiss him before sliding off the bed. I fill up one of those little vomit buckets with warm water and a styrofoam cup with some as well. He smiles at me as I toss a towel into his lap. He’s crossed his legs and sits up straight, watching me. After draping a warm towel around his face, I kick off my shoes and climb onto the mattress in front of him.

“Don’t cut me,” he says.

“I shave my legs at least twice a week,” I say. “You have nothing to worry about.”

I unzip his shaving kit Dimitri brought and pull out one of his razors. Even though he has an electric razor, I know he prefers a straight razor. I work his shaving cream into a lather in the silver mug and then smear it around his face.

“How’d you learn how to do this?”

“I worked at a barber shop in high school,” I answer. “I still have a few things that could surprise you.”

“I don’t think you’ll ever stop surprising me,” he says, “that sitting on my face comment surprised me.”

“I figured it might,” I say with a wink.

“I love you,” he says.

“Good,” I say, “I’ll kiss you when I’m finished. You’ve got cream on your lips.”

He sits calmly as I begin to work the razor over the contours of his face. He’s got such lovely skin and sharp features, it’s fun to shave him. I pause once to swish the razor around in the water.

“You’re cute when you concentrate,” he says.

“Thank you,” I say. “I’m concentrating so I don’t slice your beautiful face.”

“Thank you for that,” he says. I feel his eyes studying me as I finish his cheeks. He moves his lips perfectly so I can shave above and below them. Tilting his chin up with a finger, I run the razor over his neck. I wipe him off with the damp towel.

“Time to rinse,” I say. He goes to the bathroom and throws cold water on his face. I pat his aftershave on it and he studies himself in mirror.

“How did I do?”

“Perfect,” he says. “I’m never shaving my face again. I think you’ll always have to do it for me.”

“Gladly,” I say.

“May I kiss you now?”

“You may,” I say. He grins as he backs me up against the sink and presses his lips to mine.

 

Sebastian spent another night in the hospital after that one and the following day was spent with more visits from friends. I met his father, a kind man who obviously was responsible for so many of Sebastian's features.

Production of Captain America 3 has been delayed until May. They had considered using James Young, Sebastian's primary stunt double, but they decided it would take too long to have Sebastian do every thing again. The actors all agreed and Marvel had to allow it. Sebastian was overwhelmed by the support from fans who said he shouldn't be punished when he was just being nice and the producers agreed. When he’s medically cleared, he’ll hit the gym with Don and work with James everyday in the hopes they can whip him back into shape in a couple of weeks. So, I have him all to myself for several weeks.

“Do you mind if I take a shower here?” I ask, rifling my fingers through his long hair.

“Of course you can,” he says, “why would I mind?”

“I don’t know,” I say, “I just wanted to check.”

He grabs my hand and kisses it. “Where’s your stuff, Bette?”

“Holly’s,” I say, “it’s where I go when I’m not here.”

“All those nights when my mom was here you went to Holly’s?”

“Sure,” I say, “she and Jack are happy to let me stay there. I don’t have an apartment anymore, you know.”

“Move in with me.”

“Are you serious?”

“We were practically living together anyway. We’re together. I love you. My bed is your bed. Please move in with me.”

His face is sincere and he bites his bottom lip waiting for my response.

“Okay,” I say. “I don’t want to annoy you.”

“You won’t,” he says, “not enough for me to want you to leave. So you’ll move in?”

I nod. “I will.”

He grins as he gets off the couch. "My Bette!"

I kiss him as I hug him gently, not wanting to hurt his chest. "I love you."

"I know," he says. "Do we need to redecorate?"

"Maybe a few things here and there," I say. "What do I owe for rent?"

"I'm not charging you for rent."

"But if this is my home too, I should pay half of it or something."

"Can we work out the details later?"

I nod. "Thank you for asking me. I'm excited."

"I'm excited too," he says. "I've been thinking about it for awhile."

"You have?"

He nods. "I didn't know if it'd be weird for you if I wasn't here."

"Well not if it’s my place too."

"It is your place. Now go use your shower."

"Would you be interested in using our bathtub instead?"

He smirks. "I could be interested in that."

He hasn’t been cleared for sex or showers yet, but there’s no reason we can’t enjoy a bath together.

 

“You have to come,” Dimitri begs. “Please! Go put on a cute dress and let’s go.”

“But Seb.”

“Seb will be fine,” Sebastian says, answering for himself in third person. “Seb can stay at home by himself for an evening while his girlfriend goes out and enjoys a night for herself for the first time in three weeks.”

“You sure?” I ask.

“There’s an open bar,” Dimitri says. “And it’s for a good cause.”

“Go,” Sebastian says. “Have fun.”

“Okay,” I say, “I’ll go.”

“Good,” Sebastian says. “I’ll text if I have any problems.”

His chest is looking fine and he’s gotten used to the regimen of antibiotics and vitamins he’ll have to take as needed with the absence of his spleen.

I skip down to our bedroom and fish through the closet. Dimitri has followed me and he flops down on the foot of our bed. “How’s life living with Sebastian?”

“Good,” I say, “We’ve been watching Parks and Rec cuddled up on the couch. It’s been great.”

“Sounds perfectly domestic,” Dimitri says. “Thank you for coming to this thing with me. I got tickets awhile ago but Trenton had to fly out to Chicago for a meeting with Kanye or something.”

“With Kanye or something?” I say, slipping out of my pajama pants. “Like that’s something everybody does on a daily basis.”

“You know Trenton’s found a new way to get the sound reversed,” Dimitri says, “so it plays backwards in the track. So Kanye wanted to hear a demonstration. Trenton doesn’t really like Kanye, but you don’t turn down Mr. Kardashian for a meeting, you know?”

I laugh. “No, you don’t turn down Mr. Kardashian. How does it look?”

“Perfect,” Dimitri says as I give him a twirl. My dress is a black knit top with a gold, pleated skirt that hangs just below my knees. I’ve stepped into some black heels. It feels nice to not just be in pajamas for a change. “You look like a million bucks. Makeup?”

“Five minutes,” I say.

When Dimitri and I make it back to the living room, Sebastian’s smile grows. “Bette, you look beautiful.”

“Thank you,” I say. “Are you sure you’re all right?”

“I’ll be fine,” he says. “I’ve got that casserole Holly brought over and a whole documentary about NASA to watch.”

“Well that sounds delightful,” I say. “Have a stellar evening.”

He laughs but pulls me in by the waist. “You have a fantastic time. Please don’t worry about me.”

“If you’re watching a documentary about space,” I say, “I won’t. I know you’ll be asleep in half an hour.”

He grins. I know he won’t because he finds space extremely interesting, but he did fall asleep ten minutes into The Host. I didn’t blame him for that one though. I wish I had been tired when we watched it.

Dimitri slips my coat around my shoulders. “I’ll take good care of your lady.”

“I know you will,” Sebastian says.

The thing Dimitri takes me to is a fundraiser for a nonprofit in New York called To Be Determined. They give homeless shelter and provide counseling and other services to get them back on their feet. It’s a fantastic thing and Dimitri and I immediately write checks.

“Miss Chambers?” A voice calls out over the classy music. I turn around to see a lovely young lady standing behind me and Dimitri.

“Bette,” I say, holding out my hand. She introduces herself as May and says she loved the play. It’s absolutely delightful to talk to another person — not that I don’t love Dimitri and Sebastian, but I haven’t seen many people aside from them the past two weeks. May handles finances at To Be Determined and she is an absolute delight. Dimitri likes her too and we exchange numbers so we can meet her later. She’s new to New York and doesn’t know anybody aside from her coworkers. It’ll be nice to have her company with us.

I have a great time at the event and Dimitri and I make good use of the open bar, but not enough so we can’t remember who we are. It was nice to be out but as we get in the back of the cab, I can’t wait to be home. I miss Sebastian.

He’s sitting in bed when I come into the bedroom with his chest exposed, the stitches a black line on his chest.

“How was it?”

“Great,” I say. “It’s a really cool thing they’re doing. And one of the girls working there is an absolute doll. She has the hots for you too, but I didn’t tell her we’re together.”

“Thank you for that,” he says.

“You know what though?”

“What?”

I unzip my dress and pull it over my head, hanging it in the closet. I kicked my shoes off by the front door.

“I missed you.”

“You missed me?”

“Of course,” I say, climbing into bed. He’s put his book back on the nightstand and watches me avidly. I straddle his thighs and kiss him, my palms against his cheeks. “I miss you.”

“Tomorrow is three weeks,” he says.

“It is?”

He grins. “Three weeks since the accident and I’m cleared for sex.”

“You are.”

“I am,” he says, “and what will be different about tomorrow from today?”

“A few hours.”

“Exactly.”

“I’ll be careful,” I say.

“I know,” he says, slipping his hands around my back and unclasping my bra. “I miss you, too.”

I kiss him, relaxing a little. My lips lightly brush his freshly shaven jaw, his beautiful neck and his perfect shoulders. I kiss along the incision on his chest, not finding it ugly at all. I hope he feels the same about it. I feel him sag against the headboard, hopefully comfortable enough to enjoy it. There are still patches of yellow across his chest where it hasn't healed completely, but he's still absolutely incandescent.

“Let me know if I hurt you."

"I will," he says, “just do what you normally do.”

I nod, kissing him again. He takes a deep breath as he sinks against the headboard. I go slowly, pressing kisses along his skin. I can’t help but bite his hip, and he moans. I look up at him but his eyes are closed so it wasn’t a painful moan.

“Keep going,” he mutters, “I’ve missed your lips.”

“They’ve missed your skin.” I shuffle around the sheets and slide his pajama bottoms down his legs. “You’re still perfect.”

He chuckles as I yank the pants off his feet and take my time kissing back up his legs. We’ve been affectionate since the accident but we never took it too far. I didn’t want to work Sebastian or myself into a place of sheer desire and not be able to follow through. This is pure delight.

“Bette,” he says gently, “please now. I’ve missed you.”

I pull off my underwear and crawl back up the bed. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” he says, “now make love with me.”

“That’s what we’re calling it now?”

“You’ve been thinking it for a long time,” he says. “I like it with you.”

“Fair enough,” I say. I take a deep breath, steadying myself with my hands on his shoulders since his chest is still sore. I move slowly and carefully as he keeps his hands lightly on my hips.

“Three weeks is too long to go without being inside you,” he says, his head resting on my shoulder.

“You’re filming for six months.”

“You’ve never been to Atlanta,” he says. “Come visit. Please.”

“Okay,” I say, “at least every three weeks.”

“And I’ll be here to watch you win your Tony,” he says.

“I won’t win a Tony.”

“Not with that attitude,” he says.

“What about your Tony?”

“Maybe,” he says, “maybe not.”

“We won’t even know about that for a few months,” I say. “Let’s focus on the matter at hand.”

“I like the matter at hand.”

“Me too,” I say, picking up the pace. I keep my hands in his hair and he moves very little to keep himself from further injuring himself. He kisses me softly and slides his hands to my bum. I think it’s been so long since either of us have had sex it doesn’t take long orgasm. He keeps his head on my shoulder for several minutes, his breath rushing across my skin.

“I can’t wait until we don’t have to hold back,” he says, “I just want to roll you over and do you until you can’t feel your legs.”

“I look froward to that,” I say, brushing his hair with my fingers. “I didn’t hate this though.”

“I didn’t either,” he says, “at all.”

Kissing him, I slide off of his lap and go to the bathroom. I pull on my pajamas while I brush my teeth, and he’s already settled back into bed with his pajamas on.

“Are we boring?” I ask, hitting my pillow a few times.

“Scumpete, we once fucked on the kitchen counter while a pie was baking in the oven and my mother and stepdad were just down the hall. I think we’re anything but boring. We might be in a slump but we’re not boring.”

“It’s midnight and we’re ready for bed,” I say, “but if we’re not boring, we’re not boring.”

“If we’re cuddled up in bed after I’ve had a major surgery and I’m leaving in a few weeks, is that so bad?”

“This is not so bad at all,” I say, twisting his hair around my finger. “When do you think you’ll be feeling in top shape?”

“You still horny?”

“You smell really good.”

“Soon,” he says. “Very soon."

Chapter Text

“That’ll do it,” I say, starting the timer on the over. Sebastian’s mother and Bill are in town because the school where Bill served as Headmaster is hosting a dinner in his honor tomorrow. They’re staying with Sebastian naturally, and I’ve been "invited" to dinner. They don’t need to know I’ve spent the past week in their son’s apartment.

“How long does it bake?”

“An hour,” I say. “How long will it take you to cook everything?”

“Thirty minutes,” he answers.

“Oh,” I say, draping my arms around his shoulders. “What do you want to do until then?”

“Everything’s already ready,” he says. “It’s all washed and the pans are out.”

“Sounds like we have some time,” I say, bracing my hands on the edge of the counter and lifting myself so I’m sitting on it. I pull on his belt loop and bring him to me. He obliges as he kisses me, his hands on the marble beside my hips. I lock my feet behind his thighs and slide my hands beneath his shirt.

“My parents are asleep just down the hall,” he purrs once I’ve slipped both my hands down his jeans and squeezed both ass cheeks.

“I’ll be quiet,” I whisper in his ear. “I promise.”

He pushes my skirt up my thighs and grabs handfuls of flesh. “That’s a promise I want you to break.”

“Make me.”

He narrows his eyes before grabbing me and kissing the spot of my throat he knows can make me squirm. I can play that game too as I palm him through his jeans.

"Bette." He growls through clenched teeth. I shrug innocently as I make quick work of his belt, jeans and boxers. "Not yet."

I whine, moving so I'm closer to him and the edge of the counter. He unbuttons the top few buttons of my cardigan and pulls down my camisole. His lips press against the tops of my breasts as he tugs down the cups of my bra.

"Too many damn layers," he mutters, breath hot on my chest. "Not enough time to take them all off."

I sigh, looking down at him as he sucks my nipple into a hard peak. His hands are hot as they move across my back like he can’t pull me close enough. He bites the underside of my breast when I wrap my hand around his cock and begin pumping it. Moaning, he kisses me with his entire being, his tongue warn against mine.

I shimmy so he can pull my underwear down my legs and I wiggle my eyebrows at him.

"I haven't made a peep," I say. "Are you giving it all you've got?"

He smirks as he slips his hand beneath my skirt and his other to the back of my neck. He presses his forehead to mine as he massages my labia with his fingers. After a few seconds, he circles my clit with his thumb. My thighs clamp around his wrist and he laughs.

"I'm going to make you moan so loud my mother will be embarassed for us."

He keeps rubbing me until he knows I'm right on the edge, and that's when he thrusts himself inside hard and fast. Clinging to him, I breathe in the heady scent of me and him and our bodies pressed together. The way he pounds into me causes my sensitive nipples to rub against his sweater with every thrust, and the sensation is phenomenal. I have enough of my wits about me to push the fabric at his neck aside and bite his shoulder.

I'm not sure how hard I bite but it is enough to stifle my cry as my orgasm floods through my body, sending me whirling through time and space with only his warmth as an anchor.

"So good," he moans as I manage to move again, my pelvic muscles still clenching on their own accord. "So fucking good."

I lick the column of his neck and squeeze one his delightfully firm ass cheeks; he presses his lips to the sensitive skin behind my ear as he pulses inside me. We stay together there on the kitchen counter for a few minutes, our bodies shuddering a bit with wonderful aftershocks.

"That was amazing," I say. "Fucking like we're going to get caught is a lot of fun."

"We could have been caught," he says, "but it was fun."

I brush my finger over the tender spot on his shoulder where you can definitely see perfect indentions of two rows of teeth. It's turning purple and he shivers when I touch it.

"I can be quiet," I say, tracing the indention of my two front teeth.

"And you marked me for the whole world to see," he laughs, kissing me. "Let's put ourselves back together."

He tucks my breasts back into my bra, patting each one like they won't stay put unless he does so. I put them back into my camisole and fix my cardigan while he situates himself back in his pants.

“Panties please.”

“Nope,” he says. “I’m keeping them so you can think about what you’ve done.”

“What I’ve done?!”

“My mother is asleep just down the hall. I doubt the door is even closed. And you and your feminine wiles work me into a fit."

"Fine," I say, "keep them."

He smirks as he tucks them into his pocket. "Later."

When Violeta and Bill appear in the kitchen, the pie is cooling on the rack and Sebastian has the chicken just about grilled. The table is set and the glasses are full.

"It smells wonderful," Violeta says, kissing his cheek.

Bill eyes us both and then chuckles. "You two been bumping uglies?"

"What?" I ask.

"You know," Bill says, "the old lust and thrust? Smashing pissers? Sliming the banana? Attacking the pink fortress? Making the beast with two backs?"

"Who knew there were so many euphemisms for having sex?" Sebastian laughs, scooping the chicken onto plates. "And yes, I plopped her up on the counter and had my wicked way with her, my friend Bette."

Violeta laughs and shakes her head. “You shouldn’t egg him on, puiule.”

“Nothing happened,” Sebastian says loudly to Bill. “Not with you two down the hall.”

Bill quirks his eyebrow but nods. He’s not as vacant as the doctor’s thought.

“Bette, your pie looks amazing,” Violeta says, eying the golden and flakey crust.

“Thank you,” I say, “I owe it all to Sara Lee.”

“She did an excellent job opening the box and sticking it in the oven,” Sebastian teases. I squeeze his ass again when they’re not paying attention.

“Well, it’s the start to a fantastic night,” Violeta says.

“Oh, it will be,” Sebastian says, his eyes on mine. We’ve already agreed he’ll go to my apartment in the morning after going to the gym. I have a feeling we’ll be making all the noise in the world. 

Chapter Text

The waves lap gently at the shore as Sebastian and I walk along the beach. The breeze is cool, the sun is high and the day is perfect. What was supposed to be a weekend at the Hamptons with Saul and Z has turned into a week and a half, and it's been perfect. Life is quieter here and it's easier for Sebastian to relax. In the city, it was hard for him to go out because the streets were always so busy. The beach is still empty except for the few residents and Z and Saul's two Labradors have enjoyed our company.

"I feel much better," he says. "What would you think about buying a house here?"

"That could be fun," I say. “We’ll be those people with a summer home in the Hamptons.”

“I would give you a home in the Hamptons, even if it means we’re those people."

"Only if we do the white kitchen. It fits here."

"You can have a white kitchen," he says, his arm bouncing against mine. "We'll get a couple of dogs, then we'll have the kids come along in a few years and they can play on the beach."

"Seb, that sounds amazing." I lean my head on his shoulder. "You've been thinking about that?"

"Sure," he says, "I don't plan on living the rest of my life without you, so I've been thinking about our future together."

"Me too," I say. "At least two kids so they don't get lonely as we both were. I'll go through that book Marie gave me and learn to cook, and we'll make it work."

He laughs. "You don't have to learn to cook. We're in New York — everything is open all the time."

"That one's negotiable," I say. "Two kids?"

"At least!" He says. "We're not going anywhere and we can provide for them. I do think at least two is good. It was tough being an only child."

"Two kids, two dogs, two houses, two hearts," I say. "We're a couple of assholes."

He laughs as he turns, grabs my cheeks and kisses my forehead. “You’re ridiculous, Bette, but I love you.”

“Thank you,” I say. “Grilled cheese for lunch?”

“Can we make fruit kabobs with it?”

“Of course,” I say, “I love grilled cheese with fruit kabobs.”

We spend the afternoon curled up on the couch watching Parks and Rec and then Saul grills fish for a dinner. Z talks us into the longest game of Monopoly ever played, and I eventually sell all my property to Sebastian just so the game will end. It is incredibly comfortable under the shelter of the screened-in gazebo. Sebastian and I built a nice fire in it while Saul supplied the alcoholic beverages.

"Well," Saul says, "I pass you my Monopoly money and my congratulations. Are you ready for bed, my wife?"

"I think so, sweet," Z says. "You two coming inside or you want to stay out here?"

"Oh, we might stay out here for awhile," Sebastian says. "It's a lovely night."

"Have fun," Saul says, kissing the top of my head. "It's really been a joy having the two of you here."

"It's been a joy for us to stay," I say. "Thank you so much."

Sebastian lays on the chaise lounge we were sharing, and I snuggle into him, pulling a blanket over us. He runs his fingers gently through my hair.

“It smells good,” I say.

“It’s rain over the ocean,” he says. “Let me take you to Greece and you can smell rain over the sea.”

“I would like that,” I say. “I would go anywhere with you.”

He kisses my head and runs his hand over my abdomen.

“We’re going to be all right, aren’t we Bette?”

“I think so,” I say. “I feel like we could make it.”

“I should have told you sooner,” he says, “that I love you. I should have told you months ago.”

“I could have told you too,” I say. “We could have avoided a lot of problems if I had told you sooner.”

“Well, we’re together now, “ he says, rolling me onto my back. “And nothing is going to change that.”

“I just want to make sure this isn’t just because you were injured and I’m able to take care of you,” I admit, “and then you’ll go to Atlanta and meet some hot little thing and you’ll leave me.”

“Bette,” he smiles softly, the light of flames flickering across his lovely face. “You are my hot little thing. There is no one else for me but you, and I love you.”

My stomach flips with butterflies and I giggle. “You’re sure?”

“I promise,” he says. He kisses my jaw and the tip of my nose. “You’re my penguin, Bette. My one and only.”

“Yeah?”

“Oh, yes.” He kisses my bottom lip, tugging it between his teeth. I shift underneath him, and he sinks onto me. The breeze had been cool, but now I am warm. I trace his lips with the tip of my tongue while wrapping my arms and legs around him. He laughs.

“It’s beginning to rain,” I say, sometime later when raindrops cascade off the tin roof. “We should go inside.”

“It’ll pass,” he says, “let’s stay here until then.”

“Okay,” I say, squeezing my thighs around his hips. I’ve found it’s delightfully nice to make out with him with nothing more in mind, and he doesn’t seem to hate it either.

I blink, the morning sun in my eyes. Sebastian is curled around me but propped up on an elbow, his fingers lightly brushing my cheek.

“Good morning,” he says, kissing me softly. “You’re especially beautiful when you sleep.”

“Thanks,” I say, “this light suits you. Did we fall asleep out here?”

“You did,” he says, “but it’s so beautiful and the rain was melodic and I didn’t didn’t want to disturb you.”

“Thank you for that,” I say. “I slept pretty well.”

“I did too,” he says, leaning in and kissing me again. Something presses against the back of my thigh and I laugh. 

“Somebody’s been having good dreams.”

He laughs. “No. I mean, yes, I have been having good dreams, but that’s not what that is.”

“What is it?”

“You know how you weren’t sure I was serious?”

“Yes?”

“I’ve actually been thinking about that since I woke up,” he says. “I love you, and I will love you. I want no one else to spend my life with and I would follow you to the ends of the earth if I have to. I know you don’t believe in the institute of marriage but I hope you believe in me. It may not always be easy but it will always be good. What I’m asking, Bette, is will you marry me?”

“What?” I ask, flipping over so I’m facing him.

He slides off the chaise lounge and gets on his knee. Sebastian removes the little box from his pocket and pops open the lid. “Bette, let me be in your life and love you and kiss you and make love to you and hold you and celebrate your victories and support you in your woes. Do the same for me. Will you marry me, Bette Marie?”

“Sebastian!” I shriek, rolling off the chaise and awkwardly landing in his lap. “Yes. Of course!”

We hold each other on the floor of the gazebo until the sun has completely risen. I just want to kiss him and hold him and touch his beautiful face, but his stomach rumbles instead.

“Kids!” Saul cheers as Sebastian holds open the screen door for into their kitchen. “Did you have a good night out under the stars?”

“The best,” I say. “We’re engaged!”

“What?” Z shouts, jumping out of her chair and grabbing my left hand. The huge sapphire is ensconced by diamonds and sits perfectly on my finger. He knew precisely the right size and it’s a beautiful ring. “Congratulations!”

For the second time today, I’m crying as I’m hugged and held with the news of my engagement.

“Well,” Saul says when Sebastian and I are well congratulated and fed. “Um, we need to go into town for a bit. You kids can have the house for the morning. We’ll be back after lunch.”

“Great,” I say, “have fun.”

“You too,” Z says as she winks. Sebastian stares at me as they go, his hand in mine.

“Did they just leave us the house so we could have sex?” I ask.

“I think so,” he says, backing me up against the table. “How sweet of them.”

“We should be sweet back and at least keep it to the bedroom,” I say.

“My considerate fiancée always thinks of the best things,” Sebastian says, kissing my nose.

“I like it when you call me that,” I say, letting him guide me to the room we’d been staying in. I keep my arms around his neck so I’m trusting him to lead me as I’m walking backwards on my toes.

“I like calling you that,” he grins. “And soon you’ll be my wife.”

“I like the sound of that, too,” I say. My calves back into the bed and we fall onto the comforter. “I really do. I can accept not all marriages are the same and this one will be different. I don’t even know you if you can call my first wedding a marriage. That’s not what marriages are supposed to be.”

“I will never hurt you like that,” he says, cradling my face. “You know that, right?”

I nod, tracing his cheek with my thumb. “I know.”

The corners of his lips turn into a smile and he presses his lips to mine. Taking our time with clothes between kisses, the thrill of being his rushes through me.

I didn't think I would ever fall in love or that I would care enough to let someone in, but here I am with this beautiful man who loves me and cares for me.

"You're so beautiful, Bette," he says, his hands on my rib cage and his face just above mine. "I am so thrilled you're mine."

"I'm thrilled to be yours."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah," I say, nodding my head. Kissing him, I rock my hips into his. He grins against my lips and we dissolve into each other. The hours tick by with just us and that bed, simply glowing.

We shower and change with time for lunch before Saul and Z return, and they eye us suspiciously before breaking into smiles.

"We have to leave today," Sebastian says, "I have to tell my mother."

"She'll be devastated she wasn't the first to know," I say. We're standing in the living room, holding hands.

"Oh, just invite them here!" Saul says. "Surely they could use a night away. We'd love to have them."

"Yes," Z agrees. "I need to show your mother my latest bakeware anyway. Maybe she can help me think of something creative to cook."

"You really mean that?" Sebastian asks.

"Well sure!" Saul cheers. "Call them up and see if they're interested! I'll send the car and everything."

"Please do," Z says, "we just love having company. Bette, would you mind running with me to the store to get some more food if they are coming?"

"Not at all," I say. Sebastian pulls his phone out of his pocket and we wait.

"Hey mom," he says. "Everything is fine. Listen, would you and Bill want to come up to the Hamptons for tonight?"

"Invite them for a few days!" Saul says. "The invitation isn't limited."

"Oh, Saul says you can come for a few days," Sebastian continues. "Yes, he said he can even send a car so you can be here this evening. Well no, but Bette and I have some news." He grins at her response. "No, we'll tell you when you get here. Okay, great. Love you too, bye."

"They would be happy to come," Sebastian says. "Thank you so much for doing this."

"It's no trouble at all," Saul says. "Z darling, get some more wine at the store please."

"Of course," she smiles. "Let me check the pantry and we'll be on our way."

Sebastian kisses my cheek before Z and I get in the car.

"Bette," Z says, reaching for a sack of noodles while I push the basket. "I am happy for you, really, I am. I know you and Sebastian haven't known each other long but sometimes you don't have to. Sometimes — very few times — you just know. I know you don’t have family and I know Violetta and your friends will be able to help, but if you need anything — anything — please just ask.”

“Thank you,” I say, “so much.”

“I mean it,” she says, “Saul and I love you like one of our own and if you need anything, we would be honored to help."

"That means the world," I say, hugging her. She hugs like a mother would, the same way Violeta hugs me. "Thank you so much."

"Of course, gorgeous girl," she says, taking my chin in her hand. "We love you."

"I love you, too," I say.

"And you know," she says, "if you need any help picking out cake, I definitely wouldn't mind doing that."

"I would definitely like having you help pick out cake,” I say. “Who knows when we’ll get married with Sebastian’s schedule and all.”

“There’s no rush,” she says, “even these days a baby is no reason to run along and get married.”

“There’s no baby,” I say.

“I know,” she says, “I’m just saying there’s no need anymore. You could get married tomorrow or in ten years and you and Sebastian would still be together. That’s what love is.”

“I feel it with him all the time,” I say. “We can fight or be cratchedy with each other, but I can still feel his love.”

“That’s wonderful, darling,” she says. “We all knew, long before you two admitted it.”

“You knew?”

“It tends to radiate out of you,” she says. “And they way you two were  — well, it does me good to see you together.”

“Me, too,” I laugh. She squeezes my hand as we walk to the check out counter.

Sebastian, Saul, Z and I stand on the front porch as the town car pulls up. The sky is the perfect shade of violet-blue and Sebastian looks magnificently beautiful as he opens the back door of the car.

“Sebby!” Violeta cheers as she jumps from her seat and throws her arms around his neck. “Bette!”

“Hello, Violeta,” I say, hugging her.

“What’s this news?” she says, “I can’t wait any more. The car ride up here was the longest ride of my life!”

Bill climbs out of the car and looks around absently.

“Well,” Sebastian says, taking my left hand and holding it up. “We’re engaged.”

“Engaged!” Violeta shrieks. “That’s wonderful! Oh! My Sebastian! My Bette!”

She’s hugging and kissing us both while crying, and Bill just cocks his head at Sebastian.

“Why all the hubbub?” he asks. “You two have been sleeping together for months and you’ve been engaged for several.”

“You’re right,” Sebastian laughs. “We’re just excited.”

“Well congratulations again,” Bill says. “What’s for dinner?”

“Ah, come inside, Bill!” Saul says. “Steaks and potatoes! All the very best.”

Sebastian helps the driver pull the luggage from the car while Violeta drags me inside with Z on her other arm.

Dinner is delicious and Z and Saul have outdone themselves. Of course Sebastian helped man the grill as this is one of his last meals he can eat freely before going back on his diet. We’re out on the porch facing the beach and it’s perfect.

“Have you two thought when?” Z asks.

“October, maybe,” I say. “That’s when Seb will be back from filming.”

"When do you leave?" Saul asks.

"Just under three weeks now," Sebastian says. "That Wednesday."

"Well," Violeta says, "do you want to wait?"

"Wait for what?" Sebastian asks.

"A wedding," Bill asks. "Why not in two weeks?"

Sebastian jerks his head towards me and I shrug. Two weeks isn't actually bad at all.

"Sure," Saul says, "anyone who's had a wedding knows it's not the important part but the marriage is."

“It’s not like I have anyone to round up,” I say. “What I consider family is all here in New York.”

“Where are we going to find a place in New York in two weeks?” Sebastian asks.

“Do it here,” Z says. “You can have it right there on the beach. We can bring in chairs and get that little restaurant up the road to cater. It could be lovely.”

“We don’t need anything big,” I say, “as far as I know.”

Sebastian shakes his head. “Wow. Are we getting married in two weeks?”

"Yes?" I say, looking at him. He's practically glowing, his skin gorgeously tanned from our time on the beach and he looks rested and happy. He grins and nods. "Yes. Yes, we are getting married in two weeks!"

Violeta and Z both shriek and Saul and Bill cheer. I'm kissing Sebastian, my fiancé and soon-to-be husband.

"A wedding!" Violeta says. "I'm so excited for a wedding!”

Saul and Z’s Hampton home is our refuge for the rest of the weekend before we head back to our apartment, and I sigh dramatically as I flop on our bed.

“What?” Sebastian asks, falling next to me on his side.

I roll my head his direction. “We’re getting married.”

“Yep,” he says, pulling my fingers through his. “You having second thoughts?”

“Nope,” I say, “are you?”

“None,” he says. “It’s happening fast, I know, but it’s okay.”

“Okay?”

“Why not?” he says. “We’ll be called stupid and naive and a whole bunch of other things, but who cares? I’m ecstatic to be your husband and I hope you’re ecstatic to be my wife and hopefully we’ll live until we’re old and gray and you’ll have to push around my wheelchair.”

“Psht, I’m not going to do that.”

“You’re not going to push around my wheelchair? Well maybe I don’t want to marry you after all.”

“No! I just meant you’ll have a fancy electric scooter,” I say, “and I can sit in your lap.”

“That sounds nice,” he says.

“I think so,” I say. He lets go of my hand and rubs my belly over my shirt. I slip my hand around the back of his neck and kiss him. “We should get ready.”

“But we just got home.” he whines, “back to our bed.”

“I know,” I say. “But everyone will be here in a few hours.”

“Just give me an hour,” he says.

“Half.”

“Deal,” he says, unbuttoning my jeans.

It is a really good half hour.

We decided the best and easiest way to invite everyone to our wedding was to tell them all at once. Sebastian’s been busy making salmon, chicken, and all sorts of garnishes and sides while I’ve been tidying and prepping drinks.

I scurry away from Sebastian as there's a knock on the door.

"What's up, bitch?" Dimitri yells as we walks inside. "The Hamptons did you real good."

He kisses my cheek and Trenton does the same.

"Come in, come in," I say. "Red or white?"

"White please," Dimitri says, following me to the bar. He hugs Sebastian and squeezes his bicep. "Being down did not effect you much. Congratulations."

Sebastian laughs and throws a string bean at Dimitri.

"How's the synthesizer?" I ask Trenton.

"Really great," he says. "The patent is almost finished and then we'll get everything copywrited and it'll be on the market."

"Kim K has the biggest closet," Dimitri says. "Like, you only think you've seen it on TV."

"Did I lose my best friend to a Kardashian? I can't compete with that ass."

"You don't need to," Sebastian says. "Your ass is perfect."

"Thanks, love," I say, kissing his cheek.

Fifteen minutes later, everyone has arrived and has a drink. The food is all ready and now is just the time.

"Well," Sebastian begins, taking my hand. "We invited you all here to enjoy our food but also because we have an announcement."

"You're pregnant!" Dimitri cheers. "I knew it!"

"No, not for several years," I say, "but we are engaged."

The sapphire glimmers on my finger and there's a collective sound of surprise.

"And," Sebastian say, "we're getting married next weekend. You're all invited."

"So you are pregnant!" Aaron yells, a smile on his face.

"No," Sebastian laughs. "But we are very excited."

"Let's see the ring!" Holly says.

"It's beautiful," I say as Holly takes my hand.

"Damn right it is," Dimitri says with a cheeky grin.

"You didn't even see it," I say.

"I did," Dimitri says, "three weeks ago when he bought it."

"What?"

Sebastian nods as he smiles, his other hand on the back of his neck.

"He picked it out but I approved," Dimitri says as I hug him tightly. Of course Sebastian got his approval first.

No one says anything to our faces about the time, but I suppose everyone here knows we were sleeping together long before we were a couple. This is New York, too, so nothing is out of the question.

I kiss Sebastian's chest as he breathes deeply. He smiles lazily at me in the dim light of our room, and I trace his lips with my finger.

"That's a fun way to end a dinner party," he says, running his hands along my bare back.

"That's a fun way to end any party."

He laughs and brushes my hair behind my ear. "I can't believe I get to marry you."

"Me either," I say, kissing the cleft of his chin.

"You can't believe you get to marry me?"

"I can't believe someone as lame as you gets to marry someone as cool, beautiful and sophisticated as me."

He slaps my bum enough to make me jolt. "I've heard some very unbeautiful and unsophisticated things come out of that pretty little mouth."

"Would you like to hear a few more?" I ask, grinding my hips against his.

"How am I ever going to live with such an insatiable wife?" He rolls us over and rises to his knees with my legs on either side of his hips.

"I think you'll find a way," I say, kissing him.

"Yeah?" He asks, grinning from ear to ear as he looks at me.

"Yeah.” And he does.

Chapter Text

You're getting married," Dimitri says, flopping on the bed. "How does it feel?"

"Good," I say, "it'll be nice to belong to somebody. You know, like when I end up in the hospital, they'll know who to call."

"You may be marrying Sebastian," Holly says, her hand on my knee, "but you definitely belong to other people."

I smile at her as I lean against her shoulder. This time tomorrow, I'll be a married lady. Instead of a bachelorette party, we decided to keep it simple with a slumber party and chick flicks. Sebastian is staying with Saul and Z tonight so the apartment is mine. I would rather like to sleep at his side but Z wouldn't hear of it. This was one tradition she was keen on keeping.

"I'm happy," I say, "happier than I ever thought I could be."

"I'm so happy for you, Bette," May says. She's the sweetest person and I know this is hard for her since she and her ex-boyfriend haven't been apart very long. “You're going to be a gorgeous bride."

"I hope so," I say. "I forwent a white dress. Let's hope I'm not branded as a whore."

"Who gives a shit if you are?" Sarah asks. This is her first night away from her baby in a long time and she definitely enjoyed the wine more than the rest of us. "It's your wedding, your dress, your man. Do whatever you want."

"Thank you for that," I say. My phone vibrates and I grin.

"What's he say?" Holly asks.

"Just that he loves me and is excited for tomorrow."

“Cute,” Sarah says, “you should be careful. Marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And babies! Babies are the worst.”

“You’re drunk,” I say, “you don’t mean that.”

“I do!" she says, “I mean, he shits everywhere. EVERYWHERE. And Bart just says to get the nanny to get it, but I don’t trust that woman near my baby or my husband.”

“So find a nice gay man,” Dimitri says, “at least then your baby would be impeccably dressed."

"Do you know how hard it is to find a gay nanny in L.A.? It's hard!"

"Sweetheart," he says, "give me until Tuesday and I'll find you true winner."

"Are you nervous?" May asks.

"Not really," I say. "I'll be barefoot at the very least so there's less worry about falling in the sand. That's my greatest fear."

"Eh, you won't fall," Dimitri says, "your beauty will keep you upright."

"I hope so," I say. "That would be terribly embarrassing otherwise."

We stay up for a couple more hours while Holly does everyone's toes and fingernails, and then they all settle in for sleep.

I can't.

It's four in the morning and I've been staring at the ceiling for hours. Dimitri snores lightly on one side of me and Holly breathes deeply on the other. May opted for the air mattress on the floor and Sarah claimed the guest bedroom for herself.

I slip out of bed, the two of them not even moving. I quietly unplug my phone and head out to the hall. Sitting on the floor by one of the big windows, I stare at the city below.

Now would probably be a great time to have my Nan or my mother. Even my dad or grandpa would do, but it’s just me. I pull my knees up to my chest and wonder whether or not I should call Sebastian — to make sure this isn’t crazy and that he’s still all in.

“Can’t sleep?” Holly asks, sitting on the floor next to me. I shake my head. “I couldn’t either. I was so nervous and excited. My mother and I ran laps around the house just to try and get some sense of calmness. You’re going to be fine.”

“Am I just marrying him because I’m alone?”

“Sweetie,” Holly says gently, her arm wrapping around my shoulder. “You’ve had a few boyfriends in your life and you didn’t marry any of them. If you needed to not feel alone, you could have married any of them.”

“It’s not too fast, is it?”

“You and Sebastian are the only two people who can be the judge of that. Some couples are together days and know and other couples are together for years and still can’t decide. Love is easy and hard and so is marriage. You have to make the choice and you have work for it, but it can be so good.”

“I do love him,” I say, “and I do want to spend the rest of my life with him.”

“Well, that’s enough for now,” she says, “and you haven’t made it permanent yet so if you do wish to back out, you can. No one will think any less of you if you do run.”

“I’m not going to run.”

“I know,” she says, “I’m just saying if you wanted to, no one will judge you. I bet when you see him tomorrow at the end of the aisle and he smiles, any little doubt you have will fade away. You’re not alone now and you won’t be then, but you can get out now if you want."

I lean my head on her shoulder. "I don't want out. I just feel jittery and I don't want to repeat my first marriage and I don't want to end up like Sarah."

"You won't end up like Sarah," Holly laughs. "You two might be friends but you're nothing alike. The first time around for you was just a wedding, not a marriage. If Sebastian hurts you, he'll be dead by morning. Jack and I will take care of you there, probably Dimitri and Trenton too." I smile at her. "It's unnecessary though. You and Sebastian will be fine. You connect on a level unique to you and that will always be there."

"I just don't want him to break my heart. I'm so afraid."

Holly takes a deep breath. "He'll hurt you — emotionally — but you'll hurt him too. The trick is working through it and forgiveness. That's marriage."

"How'd you get to be so wise?"

"I married a man who biologically can't get it up," she laughs, "we have a lot of time to talk."

"Oh, Holly. Thank you."

"Of course," she says. "Now, do you want to stay here, do you want to get a movie, do you want a cronut, do we need to go for a run or what? I think you need to be up by noon at the earliest so you've got lots of time to sleep."

"Can we do the cronuts, really?"

"Of course." She says, standing up. She pulls me to my feet and into a hug. "You're going to be fine, Bette Chambers. You've lived through so much, a beautiful wedding is just one more thing."

Holly is right. One look at Sebastian standing at the other end of the aisle and I know. He smiles at me and it's all I see. Saul kisses my cheek with a hug and slips my hands into Sebastian's.

I can hardly concentrate. The sun is setting but he burns brighter than it ever could. My hands tingle from his touch and my stomach flips and flops with the waves of the ocean. His gaze is permanent and ethereal, and his stance is proud and calm. He is mine, and I am his.

"Bette, scumpete,” he says, grinning. “Today I make these vows to you. I promise never to judge when you tell me a TV show is good — I trust your taste. I will only eat sushi when you are out of the house so you don’t have to smell it. I will hold your hands while we’re watching scary movies, and I will only buy the expensive tissues. I won’t get upset if you borrow my Clearasonic or razor. I promise to let you know when a friend is coming over so we don’t have another red ribbon surprise. I will kiss you when you need, and sometimes when you don’t, and I will always let you be the little spoon.”

“Sebastian,” I say, taking a deep breath. “I promise never to wear flannel to bed, and I will no longer sing Hayden Panettiere songs. I will always wash the coffee pot after I use it. Since you’re the actor, I will try not to be overdramatic. I will buy you one of those little bath melts you like when I shop for myself. I will not try to use the electric wine bottle opener when you’re away. I gladly accept the position of little spoon, and I will love you until the end of my days."

Sebastian smiles, squeezing my fingers. The officiant, some judge from the office, says a few more words, and Sebastian slides the silver band around my finger. I do the same to his, and then we’re allowed to kiss. My husband presses his lips to mine gently and takes my hand.

We face our little crowd of friends and family and raise our hands. They cheer and clap and I can’t stop smiling, and that’s when I really hear it.

“Everyday there’s a thousand things that somehow pass us by. Gotta cut through the noise so you can know what love sounds like.”

I turn around and see Natasha Bedingfield standing on the beach with a guitarist and man playing a djembe. She smiles widely at me and I tug on Sebastian’s hand.

“Did you get me Natasha Bedingfield?”

“I got you Natasha Bedingfield!” he grins.

“I can’t believe you remembered,” I say, wiping a tear from my cheek.

“You didn’t cry the entire time and now you cry for Natasha.”

“I’m crying because of you!” I say, throwing my arms around his neck and kissing him. He laughs into it and leans back with me, our bodies pressed together. 

“I love you.” It was quiet and soft and only meant for me. I smile as I lean into him, and we dance.

“We got all the memories, so much more we can’t see," I sing while jumping around and Sebastian does too, his hand in mine. "Better than our first kiss, snow falling at Christmas!"

“Congratulations!” Saul says, kissing my cheek. I hug Z with one arm and we’re surrounded by our friends and family while dancing to Natasha Bedingfield on the beach. It’s perfect, wonderful, and exactly what Sebastian and I wanted.

Thankfully Dimitri ushers everyone towards the tables where dinner will be served while Sebastian and I give our thanks to Natasha. I wish no one were around so I could push him into the sand and ruin my dress, but that will decidedly have to wait.

We eat delicious sea bass in honor of Sebastian and there’s plenty of wine and champagne to go around. My husband and I hold hands during our entire meal, and we steal little kisses between bites.

“Everything has changed,” Sebastian says, leading me on the floor for our first dance. “I’m so glad you’re my wife.”

The silver ring on his left forth finger catches the light above our head, and it looks extremely beautiful there. “I’m glad to be your wife. I’m excited for our future.”

“Me too,” he says. “I’m so glad you can come to Atlanta.”

“So am I,” I say. “I can’t imagine starting our marriage apart.”

“I know,” he says. “I hope you don’t get bored.”

“I won’t,” I say. “I’m going to try my hand at cooking.”

Sebastian chuckles. “That will be something to see.”

I kiss him before resting my cheek against his chest. We finish our dance and Sebastian dances with his mother while I give my father-daughter to Saul since I asked him to walk me down the aisle. I dance with Dimitri, Chace and Anthony Mackie. And then there's Aleksandr. 

The crowd parts for him as Sebastian's keeps his hand around my waist.

"Beautiful, sweet Bette," he says, holding out his hand. "Married is good look on you."

"Thank you," I say, hugging him. "Thank you for coming."

I mean it, and he hugs me happily. He says something to Sebastian in Russian and Sebastian laughs with a reply. They hug then, Aleksandr clapping him on the back.

"May I have this dance?" Aleksandr asks. I look to Sebastian knowing it's not really his place but I don't want to upset him at our wedding. He smiles and nods and I give Aleksandr my hand.

"Really, Bette," he says after a few moments, "I am genuinely happy for you. He cares for you, too."

"I know," I say, "and thanks."

He chuckles. "And you two really do look better in marriage than I ever did."

I smile. "Some people aren't the marrying type."

"I see that now," he says. "If only someone had told me that years ago when I didn't have all these alimony payments. I'm joking, Bette, but if I may give you one piece of advice."

"Of course."

"Put each other first," he says. "Don't let anything come before him and he you, and you'll be fine."

"We will," I say, "thank you."

Sebastian and I opted to forgo the throwing of the bouquet and the garter, so after cake and toast, we were more than ready to go. Sebastian had planned our little three day honeymoon and hadn't bothered to tell me where we were going, so we stayed in our wedding attire. My blue dress is comfortable and beautiful, so I don't mind.

Our guests line along the beach with sparklers and we pass beneath them with a few hugs.

"Don't ride him too hard," Dimitri whispers, "he's got to work on Wednesday."

I laugh as the driver holds open the door of the Rolls-Royce Z was insistent we have for our exit, and Sebastian crawls in after me. He takes my hand and I kiss his cheek.

"I love you," he says.

"Isn't it wonderful to love someone so wonderful?" I say, squeezing his fingers.

"Isn't it wonderful to be loved by someone so wonderful?" My husband laughs as he pulls me into his lap.

"Where are we going?" I ask as the driver turns the opposite direction of the one I thought we would go.

"To our honeymoon of course," he says. "We don't have enough time to take a plane anywhere and enjoy ourselves, so we're staying local."

"We are?"

He nods. "Everyone will think we've gone away but really we're staying right here in the Hamptons."

"Really?"

"Yes, scumpete," he says. "Now quit worrying about the location and kiss me."

I do, and the question of our destination fades until the car stops outside of the loveliest home with lots of windows and a beautiful yard.

"We have it until Tuesday," Sebastian says, helping me out of the car. "What do you think?"

"It's amazing," I say. "All this space for just you and me?"

"Yep," he says, "unless you want to invite people over."

“Hell no,” I say. “I’m getting you out of those clothes as soon as we go inside and I don’t intend for you to put any on until we leave Tuesday.”

“I am genuinely okay with that idea,” Sebastian laughs, kissing my knuckles. “Let me show you around.”

He tips the driver and we wait for the car to disappear around the drive before taking the stone steps to the door. Sebastian slips a key into the light blue door and disarms the alarm, leaving me on the doorstep. I take off my shoes as he slips his off and we leave them right inside.

“Okay, scumpete,” he says, slipping his arm under my knees and back. “Across the threshold we go.”

I laugh and wrap my arms around his neck. “You’re the best."

The lights have been turned on giving the whole place a beautiful glow, and it really is amazing. The formal living room, dining room and kitchen all flow together.

“There’s a guest wing back there,” he says, “and that door goes to the backyard which we can play in tomorrow. There’s a pool.”

“A pool? That’s lovely.”

“It really is,” he says. “There’s a basement with another bedroom and bathroom, but we are going upstairs.”

“You’re not going to carry me up there are you?”

“Why they hell not?” he says, walking through the house and turning onto the staircase. I kiss his cheek and watch his jaw clench in a way that’s very sexy. He takes the stairs easily and swiftly, and we’re on the landing.

“Two bedrooms and an office,” he says, “but we want this one.”

He rounds the corner around the railing and carries me to two french doors. I push the knob and we’re in the master bedroom, a truly lovely place.

“Seb, it’s beautiful,” I say, marveling at the beige walls with light blue accents, the perfect retreat in the Hamptons.

“I know,” he says.

“I love you,” I say. “Thank you for this.”

“Of course,” he says. He puts my feet on the ground and I kiss him. His lips massage mine as his hands wrap around my body, and I cling to him. We are together alone in our own little world, and it doesn’t take me long to get his tie loosened and his shirt unbuttoned. He walks backwards to the bed and flops on his back, pulling me with him. I bend my knees and work on his pants, all the while with his lips on my neck.

Sebastian works his hands beneath my skirt and growls when he finds I’m lacking any kind of underwear. “Did you go all day like that?”

“Nope,” I answer, “just when I knew we were getting ready to leave. I wanted wedding dress sex but didn’t want any obstacles.”

“Fuck me.”

“That’s the plan,” I purr, biting his earlobe. With a quick movement, he slips inside me and we both groan. The skirt of my dress is spread over both of us, and I feel the cold metal of his belt buckle stabbing my ass every time I move. His fingers dig into my skin as he sucks at my neck and I wrap my hands around his head.

“I wish you were out of this fucking dress,” he growls, his fingers scrabbling at the fabric at my shoulders. “It’s gorgeous and you’re gorgeous in it but I wish you weren’t wearing it at this exact moment.”

“Well, come and then I’ll take it off.”

“You want me to have an orgasm first and then you’ll take it off?”

I nod, my hand cupping his chin.

“Hell, let’s do that then.” But instead of pressing on or pulling me down harder, he wraps his hands around my waist and flips me onto the mattress. I watch on my elbows as he shrugs his shirt off the rest of the way and pushes his pants and boxers down. “You may want to wear your dress for this but I need to feel the air.”

“Like an animal.”

“Exactly,” he smirks, crawling over me and kissing me harshly. I gasp as he digs through the fabric of my skirt and pushes it around my waist. He presses his lips to my hip and utters a string of Romanian before licking a single glorious stripe where I want him most. Winding my fingers in his long hair, I groan as he works his lips and teeth in perfect time with his lovely fingers.

“Seb!” My orgasm curls my toes and clenches my gut, and my legs turn to jelly. My husband kisses me fervently and I lock my ankles around his hips. "I love you."

"I love you, too," he says as he slides inside me again, and I rock my hips with his. We're looking at each other, and tears well up in my eyes with his gaze. He's beautiful, kind, strong, giving, quirky and he loves me. He sees it and kisses me gently, slowing the roll of his hips. I'm holding him tenderly as I come undone again, and he follows shortly after with my name on his lips.

I cradle his head between my palms and kiss every bit of his face, memorizing the lines and curves as they are today.

"You're so beautiful," he says, dragging his finger down so it pulls my bottom lip. "I am so excited I get to make love with you for the rest of my life and wake up with you in the morning."

"Me, too."

Some time later, we're wrapped around each other in the huge bed in the pristine room with the quietness of the Hamptons around us. We spent some time downstairs on the deck together before meandering back upstairs for some heavy petting and a few orgasms.

I listen to Sebastian's heart beat beneath my ear and I absently swirl my finger along the V of his hips. He's combing my hair with his fingers and his other arm rests on my back.

"It's a really beautiful house," I say. "Thank you for bringing me."

"You really like it?"

"I do," I say. "It's peaceful."

"It is," he says. "It can be ours if you want it."

"What?" I ask, pushing up so I can see his face.

"Currently," he says, "it belongs to a doctor. She and her husband are moving to Turks and Caicos and don't plan on returning. It's not on the market yet but she is willing to talk if you want it."

"Really?"

He nods, brushing my hair over my shoulder. "Yep. Just say yes and we'll be those people with a home in the Hamptons. I want to bring our dogs and our kids out here and have a place of retreat when we need it. And I want you to be happy."

"Seb," I say, hugging his middle with the one arm I have around him. "I've been incomperably happy since you and I got together. I couldn't believe my fortune the day you told me you loved me, and I am over the moon you now call me wife. We could live in a cardboard box outside that smelly Thai place on Sixth and I would still be happy. You're my person, and you're probably going to get tired of me saying it, but I love you."

"Sweet scumpete," he says. "I will never get tired of hearing it."

He pulls my lips to his gingerly, and it doesn't take long for things to get heated again.

"Wait," he says, pulling away from me. "Does this mean you want the house?"

"Of course I want the house," I say. "It's where we started our lives as husband and wife, and that's beautiful."

"It is," he says. "Come here, pretty lady."

Married life suits me, I think. 

Chapter Text

“It’ll be fine,” Sebastian says. “Are you nervous?”

“Yes and no,” I answer. “Theater people are different from Hollywood people, you know.”

“I do know,” he says, “but it’ll be great. Everyone will love you because I love you.”

“Okay,” I say, rubbing his arm more for myself than anything else. We’ve come to Atlanta for preproduction on Cap 3 for a few weeks and then they’ll shoot the movie in a matter of months. My life has changed in so many ways over the past few months, it’s odd to be sitting next to Sebastian in the back of the Terrain Marvel sent for us.

“I’m just excited to talk to Grillo, man,” Don says, popping up in the back. “That guy’s a legend.”

Don’s come along for a month to work with Sebastian in the gym and kitchen since he’s been coordinating with Sebastian’s doctors to make sure he doesn’t hit it too hard after his surgery. I wish he wasn’t here but there isn’t much I can do about it. At least they paid for him to have his own hotel room down the street from our town home.

“He is indeed,” Sebastian says and I watch as the car turns into a beautiful gated community. “You’ll like him.”

We drive through winding roads past gorgeous homes before arriving at one in the back of the complex. The Russo brothers decided to throw a party for everyone to celebrate Sebastian’s recovery and to kick off production. The driver opens the door and Seb helps me out, followed by shifting the seat so Don can climb out.

“Thanks,” I say to the driver as Sebastian takes my hand. I follow him to the front door — Anthony Russo is there and he hoots.

“Sebastian Stan!” he says, throwing open his arms. “My favorite Winter Soldier. Glad to see you’re alive and this must be your wife.”

“This is Bette,” Sebastian says as Anthony pulls me into a hug.

“So wonderful to meet you,” he says, “sorry we couldn’t make it to the wedding.”

“Oh thanks,” I say. “It was a little informal thing so it’s no big deal.”

“Well you both look very happy so go on through to the backyard and we’ll get this party started.”

“Thanks,” I say, and Sebastian kisses my cheek as we walk through the entryway. He pulls open the sliding glass door at the back of the house and we’re greeted by an eruption of cheers.

“SEBASTIAN!” “IS THAT HER?” “SEB, SHE’S PRETTY!” “CONGRATULATIONS.” “YOU LOOK SO GOOD.” “GLAD YOU’RE ALIVE.”

“Hey Bette,” Mackie says, hugging me. He was the only one able to make it to the wedding and I'm grateful he's here now. His personality is so infectious it's hard to not feel at ease around him. "Your less than one week of marriage suits you."

"Eh, haven't had enough time to get into any fights yet," I joke, and Sebastian playfully pinches my hip.

"Come on," he says, "let's get you some drinks."

We make our way around the pool, greeting everyone as we go along. James Young practically falls into the water when he sees Sebastian, and he picks up my husband and swings him around.

"I'm so glad you're okay," he says, putting Sebastian back on the ground. "Hi Bette."

He came to see Sebastian in the hospital so we met then, and I really liked him. He was warm and genuinely cared for Sebastian.

"Hi James," I say, "you're looking well."

"Thank you," he says, "I've been working hard."

"I wouldn't doubt it," I say, my eyes shifting from him to the man who looks strangely like Chris Evans.

"Oh, this is Sam," James says, "I bet you can't guess who he doubles for."

"I wouldn't have ever known," I laugh, shaking Sam's hand. "Hi, I'm Bette."

"Sam," he says, "nice to meet you."

"Same," I say.

"They said you were both Tony nominees," Sam says, "is that true?"

"It is," Mackie chimes, popping up over Sebastian's shoulder. "My girl Bette and her boy both been nominated!"

"We have," I laugh, "I probably won't win but it's nice to be considered."

"Psht," Sebastian says, "I know you and Dimitri sat through Dazzled five times, but I only had to watch it once to know it's not nearly as good as yours."

"And the devilishly handsome lead wouldn't have anything to do with that opinion, would it?" I laugh, slipping my arm around Sebastian's waist.

"Nothing at all," he says, kissing me briefly, that smirk still on his lips.

"Stan!" Frank Grillo calls, stepping through the door. He runs around the pool and hugs Sebastian. "You must be his wife! Seb, you lucky bastard! She's gorgeous!"

And he picks me up too. I can't say it's entirely unpleasant because he smells like cigars and whiskey.

"Thank you," I say. "It's lovely to meet you."

"And you as well," he says. "Come meet my family."

Grillo's kids are in the pool with some others, but his wife is sitting in a row of lawn chairs with Scarlett Johannsen and Susan Downey. If I had held together when I met Hugh Jackman at a party Saul had taken me to, I had to keep it together now. Of course Scarlett and Susan both held sleeping babies but they were both so kind and welcoming. I wasn't worried about Susan of course, but Scarlett always seemed a little tough in interviews. Seeing all the men she had to put up with on a regular basis, I understood it better. Mackie and Grillo were already trying to drown each other in the pool.

"Have you met Robert yet?" Susan asks, reaching out for my hand.

I freak out for a moment before reminding myself these are my husband's people which makes me one of them by extension. I think a lot of times Sebastian doesn't feel like one of them either.

"Oh no," I say, "but I'm sure we'll get around to it."

"You must," Susan says. "He loves to meet everybody and he'll love this because I don't think he's met Sebastian yet either."

"What?" Sebastian asks absently. He'd been kneeling by the pool talking to one of Grillo's sons.

"Susan was just saying we needed to meet Robert," I say, squeezing his hand as he stands up.

"Oh, that would be great," Sebastian says. "Bette is a big fan."

"So am I," Susan laughs, leaning forward in her chair. "Robert!"

And then Robert Downey Jr. is racing around the edge of the pool, a coconut drink in his hand.

"Yes, my sweet?" He asks innocently, looking at his wife.

"I wanted you to meet Bette and Sebastian," she says. "Of course you know Sebastian is in the movie with you, and his wife had a play on Broadway in the fall. They're both nominated for Tonys."

Robert has taken my hand during the exchange and his smiles grows as she talks. His eyes are like deep cups of coffee and he's absolutely mezmerizing. "No shit! Congratulations! And congratulations on the marriage."

He hugs me and I barely utter a thank you, incapable of words. Robert narrows his eyes at Sebastian.

"If it isn't our little villain who killed my parents."

I watch as my Sebastian chokes up for a minute unsure of what to say to that and how he should play it, but then a familiar voice says, "I'd say he's more of an anti-hero than a villain."

Captain America himself is behind me with a beer in his hand. "Hi, I'm Chris."

"I know." Not the appropriate response. "I mean, hello, I'm Bette."

"She's met Andrew Lloyd Webber, Audra McDonald and Neil Patrick Harris but get her around you two and she loses her mind." Sebastian laughs.

"I'm sorry," I say, "but you have to know the only movie my grandmother cared to watch in her last days was Only You, and Fantastic Four was the first super hero movie I ever saw outside of that Batman movie with George Clooney."

"Yeah, and even he doesn't like to admit that one exists," Robert jokes. "Well, welcome Bette. We're happy you and Sebastian could join us."

"Thank you so much," I say. "I'm a bit verklempt by all of this."

"I'm sorry I couldn't make it to the wedding," Chris says, stepping over when Robert has run off to fetch something for Susan.

"It's not a big deal," I say. "We know it was a last minute thing."

"I was in the mountains, you know," Chris says, "away from reception."

"It's fine, man," Sebastian says.

"I don't feel good about it," Chris says. He looks at me. "You know you married one of the sweetest guys alive, right?"

"I know," I say, "I definitely know that."

"I'm happy for you and I got you a little gift," he says.

"We all got you a gift," Joe Russo says, popping up by Chris' bicep. "Hi, I'm Joe."

"Bette," I say, shaking his hand. "Y'all really didn't have to get us anything."

"James said you two were planning a trip in October after the movie wraps," Chris says.

"And we knew you were going to Europe," Joe adds, "and that you don't have much of a plan."

"No, we don't," I say. "Sebastian says it'll be fun to roam."

"Rome indeed!" Robert says, draping a blanket over Susan and the baby. "Tell 'em!"

"We all got together and got you three days in Rome and four in Greece." James says happily.

"What?" Sebastian asks, scratching his chin with his free hand.

"It's not really much," Chris says with a shrug, "but it'll be a nice little addition to your trip."

"That's too much, really."

"Nope, nope," Robert says. "We talked about getting the J.O.P. down here and marrying you two off again so we could all watch, but my Susan told me that was too much. So you're going to Greece."

"That's wonderful!" I say, finally giving in. It's very odd having people who want to give me things freely still, and I'm trying my best not to cry. I hug Robert first because he's closest, and then my arms are practically sore by the time I'm finished with everyone.

"I like her a lot," Mackie says, throwing his arm around my shoulders. "You lucked out, Seb."

"Don't I know it?" Sebastian says.

"Can we see the scar now?" Joe asks. "I mean, for production, you know. We'll have to think of a way to say how Bucky got it but the writers have a few ideas."

"I figured it would just be painted out," Sebastian says, scratching his side.

"You were hit by a truck when you pushed a little girl out of the way," Anthony says. "Like we're going to cut that badass scar from the movie."

Sebastian laughs and pulls his T-shirt over his head. There's a gasp from those around us but Joe is the first to ask.

"Can I touch it?"

Sebastian nods before several of the guys circle around him and examine the scar.

"Shit, brother." "Does it still hurt?" "How long has it been?"

It's the same series of questions he's been asked since he recovered.

"Oh my God," Anthony says, "it's still bruised."

He's talking about the dark spot on the edge of Sebastian's left pectoral and I feel my cheeks redden.

"That was me," I whisper. "Sorry."

Mackie doubles over laughing, scaring Joe a little in the process. "You've been married five days! Of course it was you. No worries, you're among friends."

Sebastian shrugs but I know he's proud of himself. Mackie kisses the side of my head and rubs my arm. "Literally, I haven't seen him so happy and confident since I met him."

"Thank you," I say, "and thank you for taking me in."

"Of course!" Mackie says. "Any wife of my friend is a friend of mine. And this way I can stay with the two of you when I come to New York rather than getting a hotel."

"Sure," I say. "We'd be happy to have you. Did you know we're getting a house in the Hamptons?"

"Yes!" Mackie says. "I'm definitely coming to stay with you."

I laugh and hug his side.

We leave several hours later a little drunk and a lot happy, and I don't even care that Don talks about the benefits of chia seeds the entire way to his hotel. Sebastian strips out of his clothes as he walks down the hallway, leaving them where they fall. He tosses his boxers back at me and winks over his shoulder. I pull my own shirt of my head and hit his back with it, causing him to whirl around in faux surprise.

"You're wearing the red bra?"

"It's got underwear to match," I say, unbuttoning my denim shorts. Sebastian skips over the floor and licks his lips, sliding his hand between the layers of fabric.

“Mmm,” he purrs, “that feels nice.”

“It does,” I agree, grabbing his arm for support as he presses his finger against my clit. He pushes my shorts down my legs and grins wickedly.

“Come wife,” he says, taking my hand. “Let us commemorate our first night in a new home with a rough night of lovemaking.”

“That sounds beautiful,” I say, kissing his shoulder blade as he leads me down the hall.

Sebastian and I spend a week happily in Atlanta. It only takes two days of his schedule for him to be worn out when he comes home, a product of the physicality of the work and his recovery from his operation. We usually end up on the couch in front of the TV with his head in my lap and I run my fingers through his hair. Tonight is no different.

“I like it when you do that,” he says softly.

“It feels good on my fingers,” I say. “Are you going to keep it when you’re finished?”

“Probably not,” he says. “I’ve had it longer on the front end this time so I won’t feel as lovingly towards it when we’re finished.”

“You have a mean beard,” I say.

“Apparently master assassins with metal arms on the run always have beards and scraggly hair.”

“It’s a good look,” I say. “Will we see clean shaven and short haired Bucky return?”

“Yes,” he says, “I think so. But don’t tell anyone.”

I laugh, running my finger over the soft shell of his ear. “Who would I tell?”

“Haven’t the slightest,” he says. “Have you heard anything from anyone?”

“From who?”

“Saul or Dimitri, you know, about your musical?”

“Not yet,” I answer. “But I’m sure they’ll let me know when they get something.”

He rolls around so his face is upwards. He stretches his arm and slides his hand into my hair, brushing his nails against my scalp.

“I hope you hear something soon. I know how much that meant to you.”

“Me too,” I say, “and thanks.”

I kiss his forehead and he coos contentedly. “I love you, Bette.”

“I love you, Sebastian.”

It’s like Sebastian was calling to a higher power because my phone rings the very next morning.

“Hi, darling,” Saul says. “How is Georgia?”

“Hot,” I answer, “but good. Sebastian’s really enjoying being back with everybody.”

Sebastian rolls over and smiles sleepily at me. They’re doing a table read this afternoon so he doesn’t have to be anywhere until then. I smile at him, running my finger over his scar.

“Wonderful darling.” Saul says. “I’ve got good news.”

“Yeah?”

“We’ve got another backer!”

“You do? Saul, that’s wonderful.”

“Yes, how soon can you get back to New York?”

“New York?”

“Yes, pet,” he says. “We need you here with Dimitri for all the casting and reading.”

“You’re starting production already? Can’t we push it back?”

“Listen, Bette,” he says, “I know you just got married and you wanted to be there with Sebastian but you either have to come back here or we have to get a ghostwriter, and who knows what that person will do.”

“Oh, man.”

Sebastian’s face has gone from a peacefully sleepy smile to a concerned one, and I run my fingers through my hair.

“We need you here Monday,” Saul says, “or I’ll get you a ghostwriter.”

“Can I get back to you?”

“Of course,” he says. “Tell Seb hi.”

“I will,” I say. “Thanks.”

“Well?” Sebastian props himself on an elbow and runs his hand along my back with the other.

“Saul sold the musical.”

“Bette, that’s great!” Sebastian says, sitting up and kissing my shoulder.

“It is,” I say, “but I have to go back to New York.”

“What?”

“It’s either that or they hire a ghostwriter.”

“Well, you have to go,” Sebastian says. “This is your baby. You can’t let some stranger do it."

"But we'll be apart."

"We'll make it work," he says. "I mean, I'll be in New York in a week anyway for the Tonys, and you can come here whenever you get the chance. It's just until October."

I drop my head to his shoulder and sigh. "But it just really sucks."

"It does," he says, cupping my cheek. He tilts my chin up, and those blue eyes appraise me. "We'll be okay. I can't wait to see all your pictures and hear you tell me how wonderfully everything is going. This is a good time for it to happen if it had to happen at all. Go."

"Seb," my voice cracks.

"Or don't go," Sebastian quickly shifts so he's curled around me. "I want you to be happy. You came with me to Atlanta because there wasn't a lot of reason for you to stay in New York at the time, but now there is. So go, and we'll make it work. We'll both be so busy the time will fly by."

"But that's when the problems will start."

"No, scumpete," he says. "We'll just have to be vigilant, okay? I made a vow to you and I don't plan on breaking it."

He wipes the tears from my cheeks with his thumbs and searches my eyes. I nod slowly, knowing that I should be able to visit just about every weekend. I can't believe they got a buyer now.

"Thank you," I say.

"There's no reason to thank me. I love you, you don't have to thank me for loving you."

I laugh, nodding at him. "We're going to be fine."

"Of course," Sebastian says. "This is true love — you think this happens every day?"

"My dear Wesley!" I say, hugging him tightly. We'd been watching The Princess Bride last night before bed, and Sebastian laughed the whole time. "Farm boy," I say, stretching out on the bed and taking him with me, "show me how much you'll miss me."

"As you wish."

It's odd being in the apartment without Sebastian; it feels cold and empty even though May has come and gone.

Things with the musical are going fairly well considering Saul's coproducer is working on the Broadway version of Frozen as well. Misty Mooreland is a Harvard and Julliard graduate, and she knows her stuff. She cares for Dimitri more than me which is okay because they're all about the music. As we've begun working through the words, there are a few changes I've had to make but it's nothing I couldn't have done from Atlanta.

I miss holding Sebastian's hand and running my fingers through his hair. I miss his laugh and his smile, and the few minutes we talk to each other a day are always the best. To keep my mind off my loneliness, I've made it my mission to redo the Hampton house so it will be perfect when he comes home. I've picked out paint and furniture, and I'm brining anyone who will go into helping me get it all set up.

It's worse because today is my thirtieth birthday. I wake up alone and groan. Sebastian will be here tomorrow for the Tonys but I wish his plane were landing tonight.

I don't have time to worry with it though because Z and Violeta are taking me to lunch, and Dimitri and Holly are throwing me a party tonight.

"This musical is a good thing," I say to myself in the mirror. "This is necessary. You are excited about it. You are enjoying the process."

When I was actually at the studio working with everyone, it was nice. I enjoyed being involved and seeing my words come to life with Dimitri's music. It was when I was alone that things were unpleasant. I don’t know when it happened, but I felt an ache when I wasn’t with Sebastian, like a tension had settled over my entire body and made me anxious. I suppose it was better Sebastian and I had worked things out because if I had gone to London with Aleksandr, I would have been a terrible companion to him. I would have been miserable and moping, coping with a broken heart. My heart wasn't broken now, it was just sad. With all the loss in my life, I didn’t know I could miss a person so much.

After showering, fixing my hair and doing my makeup, I feel much better about myself. It’s amazing what looking good can do for one’s confidence. There’s a knock on the door and I tighten my robe before skipping to answer it.

Flowers. Of course Sebastian sent me flowers. He had some delivered the day after I came back and he’s sent more for my birthday. They’re beautiful and fragrant, all colors of pinks, yellows, oranges and purples. They’re gorgeous, but they won’t keep me warm at night.

“Get over it,” I sigh loudly. Sebastian was right — I only followed him to Atlanta because I had no obligation keeping me here, but now I did. We would be together soon enough.

Lunch is nice. It’s the small bistro Sebastian and I took Violeta and Bill to once upon a time, and they purchase for me a delicious fruit tart. They carry on the way a mother would, and it’s nice to be with them, both fretting over me. Today I don’t mind the attention. They’re both excited about our purchase of the Hampton house and can’t wait to come see it.

I am speechless when they both pull out gifts for me, like all they’ve done the past couple of months hasn’t been enough.

“It’s just something small,” Z says, sliding the package across the table. “But every homeowner needs one."

I pull open the package to find an engraved cork screw with our names in an elegant script.

"It's beautiful," I say. "Thanks."

"Of course that's not all," Z says, waving her hand. The waiter suddenly appears with a crate. "It's four of the best wines found in the Hamptons to get you started."

"That's amazing!"

The waiter places the crate in the empty chair and smiles happily as he leaves.

"And I got you a little something as well," Violeta says, pulling out the small velvet box. "I know you probably already have your jewelry for tomorrow, but there will be other events you can wear it to."

I pop open the lid and gasp. It's a necklace of magnificent diamonds, half of them are round and half are baguette. It's beautiful and glistens in the light.

"It's way too much," I say. "I can't accept this."

"It was Sebastian's grandmother's," she says. "It was crafted in Romania sometime in the early 1900s. Please take it."

"I'll wear it tomorrow for sure," I say. "It's so beautiful."

I hug her neck as I hold the necklace. It is by far too much so Sebastian and I will have to buy her a trip sometime. We finish with dessert and head to the curb to take separate taxis.

Violeta hugs me and kisses my cheek. “I miss him, too. I miss him every time he takes off, you know. It’s different for you, but I know what it’s like to miss him.”

“Tomorrow,” I say. "Thank you for everything."

"Of course, puiule. I love you."

"I love you, too," I say. Z kisses my cheek and hugs me, and I take my fabulous necklace and wine crate with me.

Dimiti is waiting for me when I arrive at the apartment and he cheers. "Good afternoon, bitch! How is the second love of my life?"

"All right," I say. "I miss my husband. How are you?"

"Better than you, darling," he says. "I've come to make you feel happier with chocolate and mimosas!"

"Thanks, love," I say.

Holly arrives sometime later and fixes my hair in a nice updo, everything twisted, curled and braided perfectly. It's practice for tomorrow and it looks perfect. The food arrives and the people follow. My apartment is full of my favorite people all wishing me the best and buzzing about the Tony Awards.

Everyone is here but the person I want the most.

I'm being petty. I am being so ridiculously petty.

My phone rings and I smile when I answer it. "Hey, handsome."

"Scumpete," he says, "Happy Birthday!"

"Thank you!" I say. "How are you?"

"Great, I've got some people who want to say something to you."

I wait and then I hear a chorus of voices singing "Happy Birthday."

"That's everyone," he says when they finish. "They were so excited to sing to you."

"That's great," I say, "thanks, guys."

I hear a few garbled words after that and a bunch of laughs.

"I love you," Sebastian says. "Did you get the flowers?"

"I did," I say, "and they're beautiful. Your mom gave me a diamond necklace to wear tomorrow. It's amazing."

"Awe, that is nice of her," he says. "I can't wait to see you."

"You, too."

"Anyway, I should let you get back to your party," he says. "Happy Birthday, beautiful Bette."

"Thanks," I say. "I love you."

"Love you too," he says. "See you soon."

"Looking forward to it."

There's a knock on the door and Dimiti's practically falling over himself as he opens it.

"Sooner than you thought, yes?" Sebastian says, popping through the door.

"Seb!" I say, running to him and wrapping my arms around his neck. It feels so good to have my arms around him and to have his around me. He kisses my cheek and runs his hands over my back.

"Happy Birthday," he whispers.

"It is now," I say, kissing him.

"I brought some friends!"

"Hey, Bette!" Mackie says, coming through the door. "Happy Birthday!"

"Thanks, Anthony."

Chris is right behind him and he gives his well wishes and a hug. Now it feels like a party.

It is by far the best birthday I've ever had, and I'm not sure why everyone gets so uptight about thirty, but maybe it's because their friends aren't as good as mine. Everyone leaves well after midnight, and then it's just Seb and me in our apartment. He sinks down in an armchair, and I climb up in his lap.

"I have missed you so much," I say, "like I think I've been a baby about it."

"I missed you too," he said. "I miss coming home to your sweet face every evening and feeling your kiss my chest while we lie awake in bed. I miss your smell the most though. I haven't washed your pillowcase yet."

"You haven't?" He shakes his head. "I'll be down there next weekend. Please wash it before then."

"I will," he says, "I will do that if you'll be there to stink it up again."

"Hey!" I say, slapping his shoulder lightly. He grins and I can't help but kiss him. "We should go to bed. We have a big day tomorrow."

"We do," he says, "but I'll be the luckiest man there because I'll have the most beautiful date."

"Yeah, you will."

I kiss Sebastian as he carries me to the bedroom.

Chapter Text

My Sebastian looks damn good in his suit, and I wish we were on the tail end of our night rather than just the beginning. Getting out of bed this morning was even harder than the morning after our wedding, but he looks really happy.

“You ready, Bette?” Holly asks. I nod, standing off the stool. Sebastian smiles at me as I lean on him for support as Holly slides my dress up my body. She zips it into place and Sebastian bites his bottom lip.

“That is some dress,” he says.

“I know,” I say. “I don’t care if I win or not because I can murder someone in this dress and get away with it."

“I think you could,” he laughs. “Lady in red."

Holly giggles. “Well, my work here is done. You two look wonderful, and have a fantastic night. I can feel it — you’re both going to win."

Sebastian squeezes my hand and I smile. “Let me walk you out."

Holly hugs me again before she leaves, and then it’s just us.

“Really, scumpete,” he says, “you look incredible."

“Thank you,” I say. “I could eat you. Literally. That is a smart suit."

“I feel good,” he says, “and I’ll be the luckiest man there because I have you on my arm."

"Our first public outing," I say. "We've gone from strangers to lovers to spouses and the world doesn't even know it."

"They'll know it tonight," Sebastian says, kissing my head. "You ready to wow them all?"

"Yes," I nod. "As ready as I'll ever be."

Marvin smiles warmly at us as we leave the building, and the driver opens the door us.

"Our own limo to our first Tony awards," Sebastian says. "And we're both nominated. Who would have thought?"

"I certainly wouldn't have thought. All of this has happened and it hasn't even been a year. I could never have guessed I could be this happy or feel this proud of myself or of you."

Sebastian smiles and kisses my cheek. "You never gave up, sweet Bette, and that is how you got here."

I kiss him happily and snuggle into his side. Thank God the Tony Awards are in June so the weather is perfect and I won’t even feel a chill on my shoulders. The car pulls up to the theater minutes later and I’m more nervous than ever in my life. Opening night was more exciting than anything, marrying Sebastian felt right and natural, but being here is something completely different. He jumps from the car, buttons his suit coat and offers me a hand.

“Come on, wife,” he says, helping me as I stand. “Let’s go let them all be blown away by your effervescence."

I swat at his bum as someone adjusts the short train of my skirt, and then we’re off. People are cheering and Sebastian waves with his open hand, and we meet the photographers first.

They shout at us for several minutes, and I just smile and sing to myself. I feel Sebastian’s eyes on me and laugh.

“What?"

“You,” he says. “You’re radiant."

“And you’re superbly handsome,” I say, leaning my chin against his shoulder. He kisses me briefly in front of everyone, and then we split for individual pictures. Of course he’s the bigger name but I have the fabulous dress, and then we head to interviews.

Staying together for this one, Sebastian keeps his arm around my waist. We don’t have to separate since the Tony Awards are not of interest to a large audience like some of the other awards, and Angela said everyone would be more interested in us as a couple anyway. We’re asked about Sebastian’s accident and recovery, the wedding — everyone is shocked when they find out we didn’t have a real honeymoon — and finally the play. Sebastian oozes over my work and how excited he is for the musical, and I get to tell everyone how happy I am my husband is resuming his role as Bucky Barnes. For my first red carpet experience, it is a good one.

We run into Saul and some of the cast on our way in, and there are hugs all the way around. I’m buzzing with excitement, and we take our seats. James Corden bursts onto the stage with a flash of lights and sequins, and the awards are underway. My category is last, and it’s easy not to think about it with all the musical numbers. Sigourny and Bryan both win their categories, and I’m already elated about that when we make it to Sebastian’s category. I can’t focus I’m so excited and nervous for him, and he runs his thumb over my knuckle.

Audra McDonald floats onto the stage like a dream, and she holds the envelope. Going through the nominees, my heart races even faster. They highlight each performance and I’m on the edge of my seat.

“And the Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play goes to,” Audra breathes, “Sebastian Stan for 'May You Always.’ "

I squeal as I throw my arms around his neck, and he kisses me quickly. Tears are already filling my eyes, and he runs swiftly up the stairs. He and Audra exchange a hug and kisses on the cheek, and he takes his Tony.

“I was not expecting this,” Sebastian says, looking at the award. “So much has happened in the past year of my life and it’s unimaginable to think this award is just a part of that. To even be nominated along my fellow nominees is just incredible, and the pleasure is all mine. I have to thank my agent for bringing me the part, Saul Rosenblatt for giving me the change and Shaun Lerveaux for his direction. My cast mates — I love you all — who made this process so much fun and helped me get my performance to the place it needed to be. I have to thank my family and of course my Bette. Um, Bette Chambers wrote ‘May You Always’ and brought the characters such life and made it so easy to create these people in this world. Of course along the way I fell in love with her and now she’s my world and my wife. Scumpete, this one’s for you!"

Z reached over during his speech and held my hand, and now I smile at her as Sebastian is escorted off the stage.

“Congratulations, dear,” she says, kissing my cheek. “You can go see him backstage now, if you’d like."

They announce we’ve cut to commercials and two girls in their best dresses are already there to fill our seats. I thank them as I find the side door where a production assistant rushes forward to meet me.

“Congratulations on your husband’s win,” she says. “You have fifteen minute tops before they’ll want you both back in your seats for your category."

“Thank you,” I say.

“Great dress,” she says. “My favorite that I’ve seen."

“Thanks,” I say. “I knew it was the one when I saw it."

More production assistants open a door for us and I follow her around, passing Hugh Jackman and Neil Patrick Harris on the way. Sebastian is surrounded by a group of people, but his smile lights up when he sees me.

“Bette!” he says, pushing through the people to get to me. I kiss him and hug him tightly.

“Congratulations,” I say. “I’m so happy for you."

“Thanks, scumpete,” he says. “I love you."

“I love you, too."

“I have to do some interviews and a photo op,” he says. “It won’t take long though. Do you want to stay?"

I nod and he squeezes my hand as we’re directed to the winner’s area. It only takes them a few minutes to get everything finished, and then Sebastian and I are back in our seats. He now holds his Tony award with his name engraved on the shiny plate, and he grins.

“You’re going to win,” he says. “We’ll have two Tonys for the mantle."

“I don’t think I’ll win,” I say. “It would be too good for both of us to win, and you really deserve it."

“Bette,” he whispers. “You deserve it more than I do."

“I’m happy you have yours,” I say, “and that’s enough."

He kisses the side of my face while we wait. At least if I win, Saul will go with me so I won’t have this terrible fear of impending doom by being alone. Sebastian continues to rub my fingers with his thumb, and when we get to the announcement, he kisses my knuckles. I tell myself to breathe and wait.

It’s a blur. There are loud cheers all around us and Z shifts in her seat.

“You won, scumpete! You won!” Sebastian’s blue eyes pull me out of my daze.

“What? I won?"

He nods and helps me to my feet, kissing me quickly. Pulling me out into the aisle, he kisses me again and Z follows him onto the red carpet with Saul on her other side. There are more hugs and then Saul loops my elbow through his.

"You did it, sweetheart," he says, kissing my cheek. I squeeze his arm as we take the stage and we're both handed our awards. It's a beautiful thing and I cover my hand with my mouth, trying not to cry. Sebastian is still standing, clapping for me.

"It was an honor and a privilege to bring this world to life," Saul says. "Every now and then you read something so beautiful, so poignant, it changes you, and this play was that for me. I'm so proud of what it is and what it became, and this is for this very smart and very talented young lady right here."

He kisses my cheek again, and I try to focus on what I need to say.

"My grandparents had one of the most beautiful love stories I've ever heard, and their story became 'May You Always.’ I have to thank them for being in my life and raising me, and I know they would be proud if they were alive. I have to thank my manager Jack, Saul and Z, Shaun, the cast and crew, all of my friends who were so supportive through this whole thing. Of course I don’t think this play would have made it this far off the ground if not for my darling Sebastian who has been so encouraging and wonderful throughout this whole thing. I love you so much and I’m so thrilled for our lives and our future and I can’t believe I’m holding this Tony right now. Thanks to everyone who made this happen and to all the fans. Thank you all so much."

I take Saul’s hand again as we walk backstage and are congratulated. We pause for photos together and apart, and I run to Sebastian when he makes it backstage. He holds me tightly and kisses my cheek.

“I knew you would win,” he whispers. “Congratulations."

“I’m still in shock,” I say. “You won, too!"

“I know,” he says, “and I couldn’t have done it without you."

I kiss him again, and for a few minutes Sebastian is the only person I see even though we’re in a crowded room.

“Kids!” Saul says, clapping his hand on Sebastian’s shoulder. “Let’s go celebrate! If anyone should be out celebrating, it’s the two of you."

"Of course," Sebastian says. He waves them on and kisses my jaw. "We go for two hours — three hours tops — and then we go home, okay?"

"I'd be happy with a half hour," I whisper, sliding my hand discretely in his back pocket. He hums happily as I lean into his shoulder.

True to his word, we leave after two and a half hours, both of our Tony's tucked between us.

"What do we have to do to this dress?" He asks as the door closes behind us.

"Kindly unzip it and hang it up," I say. "Would you do the honors?"

"Would I?" Sebastian laughs. "I would love that."

He takes my Tony and places it on the mantle with his. Kissing my neck, he unzips the dress slowly. I inhale deeply as his fingers gently glide down my arms with the straps, and I step out of it.

"It really is a beautiful dress," I say, taking it from him and heading towards the bedroom.

"Forget the dress," Sebastian says, following me. He sheds his coat and works on his cuff links. "You're more beautiful than that dress."

"Thank you," I say, zipping up the garment bag. 

"Bette," Sebastian says, wrapping his arms around my middle from behind, "I'm serious. You were stunning in that dress and you look even more stunning here now in this little corset and those stockings. I can't believe I get a Tony and my incredibly sexy wife all in one night."

I slide my fingers up into his hair and rest my other hand on his against my hip. He nips at my neck, and I hum.

"I missed you so much," I say, tilting his chin up to kiss him.

"I missed you too," he says. "Last night wasn't enough."

I shake my head as I turn, wrapping my arms around his hips. He's smiling so happily I feel shivers run through my body. I loosened his bow tie in the car so it falls to the ground now, and I kiss every fresh bit of skin as I undo his buttons. It doesn't take long to get him naked, and he pulls me on top of him as we fall to the bed.

"You and your heels," he says. "You're exceptionally gorgeous in heels."

I run my bottom lip between my teeth and bend my knee, popping my foot up. "They are pretty spectacular."

"You're pretty spectacular," he says, squeezing my ass with both hands. "I don't know how I slept at all without you in my bed. You feel so good."

"You do too," I say before licking his neck from his collar bone to his chin. "Would you please fuck me?"

"I'll do more than that," he says, popping open the first silver clasp between my breasts. "I'm going to worship you."

I kiss him while his fingers pop open the second clasp. "Just don't let the service run too long — like an adult you promised Captain America and Falcon breakfast in the morning."

"Ah, fuck," Sebastian says, letting his hands fall to the mattress in a moment of exasperation. "I'll cancel."

"The car is already supposed to pick the three of you up from here," I say, dropping my knees so I'm straddling him. "We'll do it so thoroughly in such a short amount of time, horny high school students will be jealous."

Sebastian nods, rolling us over like I knew he would. I kick off my heels so as not to bring injury to either of us or the bedding, and he quickly frees my torso from the corset. I moan when his lips close over my nipple, immediately perking the little thing into a pink peak. I meet his gaze as he works on the other one, his hands joining in his efforts. We did this all last night of course, but every time feels different and right now I'm lost in him. With deft fingers, he unhooks the clasp of garters and pulls down the little scrap of fabric the store called panties. I wrap my fingers around his hard shaft while he circles my clit with his thumb. He smiles while I bite his bottom lip, and then he tosses my ankle over his hip.

I laugh as he looks at me, and he stops. “What?"

“I was thinking of Aragorn."

“What?"

“Ride hard."

All of Sebastian’s efforts end right there because he falls over with laughter. “Bette, my beautiful Bette! What am I going to do without you?"

I laugh until my abs hurt and Sebastian finally quiets down. I roll onto him and kiss his nose. “We’d better make tonight count then."

An hour later, we both crawl under the covers completely blissful and exhausted.

Sharing a shower in the morning, we enjoy each other’s company alone for the last time for a few days. We prep breakfast in our robes and manage to sneak in another quick round. There’s a knock on the door as Sebastian pulls on his T-shirt and I pull on a pair of leggings.

“That’ll be Big Butt and Little Ass,” he says, kissing the side of my head.

“What do they call you?” I ask, pulling my wet hair into a messy bun.

“Weiner,” he says. “The Wiener Soldier."

“You should petition for Beautiful Bum."

“I’ll tell them all my wife thinks that,” he says as he winks. I pull on my shirt and follow him to the front door. “Good morning."

“Oh, Seb!” Anthony says, pulling him into a hug. “It’s been so long. So much has changed."

Sebastian laughs and claps his friend on the back. “I know, get inside so you can tell me all about it."

“Bette,” Anthony says, smiling so widely as he pulls me into a hug. “Congratulations on your win last night."

“Thank you,” I say. “Come in. There’s coffee."

Chris hugs me and kisses my cheek. “Congrats."

“Thanks,” I say. I pull out the coffee cups with their faces on it and give them accordingly.

“You still have these?” Chris laughs, looking at Sebastian.

“Yours is my favorite,” I answer.

“I still have mine of Seb and Grillo,” Anthony says.

“I keep mine in my L.A. house,” Chris says. “I just didn’t know anybody else would keep theirs."

"Who did you end up with?" I ask.

"Scarlett and Robert Redford."

"I would make those my permanent mugs and never drink out of anything else," I say.

"Scarlett? Really?" Anthony asks, sitting on one of the bar stools.

"Of course. Everybody loves her, and I happen to know she's Sebastian's one cheat name, but that's okay because they'll never sleep together. Grace Kelly is also on his list but, you know, she's no longer with us."

“What makes you think Scarlett and Seb won’t ever sleep together?” Anthony asks.

“You won’t, will you?” I ask, even though I already know the answer. Seb grins and shakes his head. “See, affairs are for people who don’t have orgasms and I can guarantee you Scarlett has that figured out as well as we do, and we have that really figured out."

“We do,” Sebastian says. “Really figured out."

“We’re making your friends blush,” I say. “We should stop."

Anthony chuckles and Chris is just giving us that signature side smirk of his. I pat Sebastian’s bottom as he pulls out the tortillas.

“Breakfast burritos good for everyone?” Sebastian asks.

“Yes,” they both say.

“We’ve got all the good stuff,” I say. “Bacon, sausage, potatoes, cheese, black beans, eggs, avocados, onions, peppers, salsa — what can we get you?"

“I think everything,” Chris answers.

“That sounds great to me.” Anthony adds.

“Flour, whole wheat or spinach?"

They both go for whole wheat while Sebastian picks spinach and I take flour. The three men laugh and tell stories from the set, and I love seeing them together. I know Sebastian is always worried people don't like him but it's easy to see Anthony adores him and Chris truly considers them friends.

“Who would have thought the first out of us to be married would be Seb?” Anthony asks, eating a slice of avocado. “You’re so cool and collected."

“I would believe it,” Chris says. “You’ve got this beautiful home."

“Awe, thanks,” I say. “Seb had a good decorator."

“Bette is fixing up our house in the Hamptons though,” Sebastian adds. “We’ll have to have a party for you all sometime and you can stay over."

“My first experience at the Hamptons was your wedding,” Anthony says, swinging around in his stool. “It was so fancy."

“Once again, I’m sorry I missed it,” Chris says.

“It’s fine,” I say. “It was short notice, anyway."

“Really short notice,” Sebastian says.

“Are you pregnant?” Chris asks. “God, you’ll have a cute kids! Sorry — is it wrong to ask? I get really excited about babies."

I laugh and squeeze Sebastian’s hand. “No, it wasn’t because of a baby. There just wasn’t a reason to wait. I’m not pregnant yet."

“We’re probably going to wait a few years,” Sebastian says. “That’s the goal, anyway."

“Well you’ll still have cute kids,” Chris says. “They’ll have pretty brown hair and the ability to tan well. I don’t have that."

“Find someone of Romanian descent,” I say, kissing Sebastian’s cheek. “That worked for me."

Chris laughs. “I’ll have to keep that in mind."

We finish our burritos and I put the dishes in the sink; I’ll wash them when the men are gone.

Anthony checks his phone and sighs. “Car’s downstairs. We should go."

“Goodbye, Anthony,” I say, hugging him.

“See ya later, Bette,” he says, kissing my cheek.

“Thank you for having us over,” Chris says. “The burrito was delicious."

“Any time,” I say, “and if you ever need to get away, you can always visit our home."

He smiles as we hug. “We’ll be downstairs."

The door closes behind him, leaving me and Sebastian.

“Goodbye, scumpete,” Sebastian says, hugging me tightly. I try to remember the way he feels and smells — I know I’ll see him again in a few days but it really isn’t fun being apart. “I love you."

“I love you, too,” I say, kissing him. He exhales deeply when he finally pulls away. “Walk me down?"

I nod and slip my hand in his. He picks up his bag and I open the door. We lean on each other in the elevator, and he kisses the top of my head.

The black Escalade sits on the curb and Anthony leans half his body out the window. “Come on, Sebastian! We gotta catch a plane!"

Sebastian smiles and passes his bag to Anthony. “One minute."

“Fifty-nine! Fifty-eight!"

Sebastian laughs as he wraps his arms around my hips so his hands are just above my bum and I slide mine into his hair.

“You want to embarrass my friends?"

I nod as I press my lips to his. He tastes a little like hot sauce this morning but I don’t mind the spice. We’re holding each other so tightly no light could pass between our bodies and his hands cup my bum cheeks. His hair is soft beneath my fingers and he hums with I nibble on his bottom lip. Anthony hoots and Chris laughs from inside the car.

“Five! Four!"

Sebastian gives me one more appreciative squeeze before breaking our kiss as Anthony shouts, “Zero!”

“We’ll have to pick up where we left off,” he says.

“Yes,” I say. “I look forward to it."

“Good,” he says. “Love you, Bette."

“Love you, handsome."

He doesn’t want to drop my hand and I don’t want him to. He waves at me as he climbs into the car and I blow a kiss to him as the Escalade carries him away.

This will be my life for a few months, but in a way it makes our time together that much sweeter.

Chapter Text

It has been entirely too long since I've seen Sebastian. He came to New York two weeks after the Tony Awards to meet our new and precious nephew, Chandler, but we've been apart since. We've made it to the hottest July in years and production of the musical is in full swing. Dimitri and I sit through hours of dance and song rehearsal every day followed by time with the costume, set and production designers. Sebastian has stayed mostly in Atlanta, spending a few days in Puerto Rico and Berlin with the film, but it's been impossible for either of us to get away for a decent amount of time in weeks.

I've seen his smile through FaceTime, but it is no longer good enough. This damn plane can't carry me there as fast as I would like it to. I fidget the whole way to Sebastian's house and I just drop my bag inside the door before running back to the car. I've been texting Ursula, Sebastian's assistant, the whole time so she’s at the front gate of the studio when I arrive.

“He’s filming at the moment,” Ursula says, “they’ll be taking lunch in about half an hour though if they stick to schedule."

“Great,” I say, following her around the trailers.

“He’s been so excited you’re coming,” she says. “He made sure his trailer was all clean and everything."

“Sweet Seb,” I say, fondly twisting my rings around my finger. They’re filming in Steve’s apartment which is nice because Sebastian will be wearing his arm but not his whole getup, and I love to see him in regular clothes but with the arm. It's very... hot.

And hot it is. Steve and Bucky are eating a bowl of cereal, silently and awkwardly, both keeping their eyes down. There shouldn't be anything attractive about it really, aside from the fact Sebastian and Chris are both very good looking, but I find myself becoming very warm. A bit of milk dribbles down Sebastian's chin and I want to run onto the set and lick it off for him, but he wipes it with the back of his hand instead. His short sleeved gray and black shirt hangs loosely over his huge shoulders and it moves with the breeze of a fan.

Chris says something and after a few long seconds, Sebastian answers, his beautiful lips the perfect amount of pouty and kissable. God, has he always looked this good?

I keep my hand on my neck, needing the coolness to keep me calm.

They run through the little bit of dialogue, and I need to find the costume director and thank her for finding the jeans he's wearing. His ass is perfectly squeezed in the denim and my fingers ache to touch it.

Chris laughs and then Sebastian laughs and Joe calls, "Cut!" They do the scene again and I smile as they act. Sebastian winks at me after several seconds of silence have passed.

"Your wife looks very beautiful today," Chris says.

"I know," Sebastian answers, shoving another spoonful of cereal between his lips. “She's always lovely."

"Cut!" Joe calls. "Let's take five to reset the scene. Stan, come say hi to your wife."

Sebastian leaps from his chair and I giggle when he wraps his arms around me and buries his nose against my neck.

“God, you smell good,” he says, kissing the pulse point. I curl my fingers in his hair which hangs a bit longer than he normally keeps it but not as long as it was in "The Winter Soldier."

“You smell even better,” I say. “I missed you so much."

“Damn, it feels good to hold you,” he says softly, his arms tightly around my waist. “Three weeks is too long."

“I know,” I say, “at least this will be the last time it’ll be that long.” I kiss him happily, holding his chin. “I wish you could slip your hand beneath my dress and feel how turned on I got watching you up there."

“Sweet Bette,” Sebastian mutters, tilting his head back to see me. “Did you really just say that?"

“Yes,” I say, “you have no idea how good it feels to be in yours arms again."

“I might have an idea,” he says, “I’m just trying to think of Russian verbs to stall that from being apparent."

“Well, don’t chase it away because I have very big plans for you.” I rub my hips against his, just enough so he feels it but no one else would be likely to notice. “That’s a rocket in your pocket, right?"

“I’m just happy to see you,” he laughs. “Will you stay the afternoon?"

“Of course,” I say. “I love to watch you work."

“You make me do better,” he says. “Love you."

“You, too."

The next five hours are too many as far as I’m concerned, and I can’t even contain myself when I blatantly turn down dinner with all of this cast mates. Sebastian just laughs as I tug him to his driver. The men still on set catcall us and I don’t really even hear it.

Thankfully the car ride is only fifteen minutes and we stick to the boring stuff in conversation. I can’t help it when I draw circles on the inside of his thigh knowing perfectly well what that does to him.

I scurry along the sidewalk while he thanks the driver, and I quickly disarm the alarm and drop my purse.

“Get in here now!"

Sebastian practically skips through the door and I have him pressed against it as soon as it closes.

“I really need a shower, Bette,” he says.

“Can it wait? I can almost guarantee you you’ll want another when I’m finished with you."

“Big plans?"

“This biggest,” I say, palming him through his jeans.

“Maybe we should always spend three weeks apart if this is the greeting."

“Please don’t even joke,” I say. “I couldn't bear it."

Sebastian nods, looking at me earnestly. He kisses me fiercely and lets me pin his hands above his head.

“I think you’re bigger now than when you left,” I say. “I like it."

“I am,” he says. “I’ve finally been able to get back into my old workouts."

“I’ll have to thank Don."

“He'll like that."

I pop the buttons of his plaid shirt apart and kiss the skin sticking above the V of his T-shirt. He tastes like my Sebastian but with the salt of sweat and the humidity of Atlanta. I wrap my arms around his neck and pull him towards the bedroom, never letting my lips leave his skin. He just tastes too damn good.

"I like you like this," he says as I yank the shirt down his arms. He's worked his sneakers off, and I stand on the toes of his socks while he pulls his feet out of them. His jeans are the next thing to go, and then his white undershirt.

"Holy hell. I'm definitely writing Don a letter," I say, running my fingers over his skin. He chuckles as I push his boxers down and prod him back on the bed. "I would like for you to do nothing but enjoy. Please do this for me."

"Yes ma'am," Sebastian says, throwing his arm beneath his head. I slip off my shoes and climb on the mattress next to him, sitting on my knees. He really is beautiful, like a sculpture that should be on display in a museum somewhere. I start at his hair, gently running my fingers through it. He purrs happily, closing his eyes and taking deep breaths. I trace his eyebrows and his jaw, his nose and cheekbones, his lips. He gently kisses my finger tips when I let them linger there.

His chest has changed since I last saw him. The ripples are much more defined and the scar between his rib cage looks even better. I run my fingers along his arm and down his legs, gingerly massaging little circles around his skin. I am so turned on by the sight of him compliantly and happily letting me touch him and his beautifully tanned skin, and I can see he's really enjoying it too. I don't want this to end quickly in a lustful round; I want to make the most of it. Shifting so I can bend over him, I nibble lightly on the shell of his ear.

I kiss his face, and he turns into my lips when they graze his. We kiss for several long and lovely minutes, and I remember my mission of learning his buffer body when his hand slides into my hair. His neck smells the best and I kiss it thoroughly before moving along to his clavicles. I wish I had champagne to pour in the dip of his neck and lick clean, but I already taste the stars within his skin. He gently caresses the back of my head, not putting any pressure on it or guiding me — I think he just needed to make sure I was there.

Sebastian sighs loudly when I close my lips around his nipple and I look up to see his eyes are closed and his mouth is open. It's rather intoxicating. I kiss them both until I get tempted by the scar, not wanting him to think I like it less than the rest of him. His breaths become shallow when I run my tongue along it and even more shallow when I kiss each line of his abs. He's got such wonderful abs.

I press several long kisses down his abdomen to his belly button, and I spend a fair amount of time kissing it. He hums when I move to that magnificent V-cut that's always tempting me, peeking over his jeans. I bite it hard and he springs upwards, as does his erection.

"Bette!"

I hum happily as I do the same to the other side, messaging his thighs with my hands as I do. He inhales sharply through his teeth when I gently wrap one hand around his testicles and the other around his shaft, feeling how wonderfully hard yet soft he is.

"Bette, it's not going to take long!"

"I know," I say, having every intention of drawing it out as long as I possibly can. I enjoy being clay beneath his hands but there's something magical about him being the clay beneath mine. I press one simple and light kiss to the tip of his cock before carefully running my hand up and down it. He groans when I bite his hip again, and I spend my time there with my hand slowly pumping him. A bit of fluid dribbles onto my hand, and I lick it off, earning a sharp intake of breath from my husband. He looks positively debauched and I glow knowing it's because of me. Putting my mouth over the head of his cock, I know just where to lick and flick and suck to easily bring him to climax, and I hum as I swallow everything — there was a lot.

Sebastian's chest still heaves when I stretch out on the bed beside him, resting my hand on his hip. I prop myself up on an elbow, watching him settle down.

"Thank you," I say when his eyes finally focus on my face.

"Are you kidding me?" He asks, his eyebrows furrowed. "That was incredible. Thank you."

"I missed you so much," I say, "I couldn't contain myself."

"May I return the favor?"

"Please do," I say, kissing him. He rolls us so I'm on my back and he's beside me, and he pushes my dress all the way from my legs over my head. He kisses me softly and sweetly as his hands settle on my waist and I wrap my arms around his shoulders as he covers my neck and collar bone with the lightest flutters of his lips. He pulls the cup of my bra down just enough so my nipple greets him, already pink and hard. That doesn't stop him from lavishing it with kisses and doing the same to the other. I slide my hands beneath my back and undo the clasp, and he mirthfully tosses my bra across the room.

"No need for that now," he says, closing his lips over my nipple again. It's my turn to grasp onto his hair as he moves lower, parting my thighs with his hands. I moan as he nibbles at them both, taking his sweet time making sure this pair of panties is ruined. I'm not even offended when he rips the fabric and tosses them in the same direction as my bra.

"You weren't kidding," he croons. "You're drenched."

I hum in agreement as he kisses the inside of my thigh again. One might not think the inner thigh is as sensitive as it is, but his lips on my skin sends little bolts of electricity through my body. 

He starts with just one finger slowly circling my clit, and it feels extraordinary. Any other guy would probably dive straight in, but not my Sebastian. He knows what to do as far as I'm concerned. Pulling my knees over his shoulders, he grins up at me.

"Put your head back," he says. "Relax."

I realize I had been craning my neck to watch him and it will ache later if I don't follow his instructions. I lean back and close my eyes, trusting him completely.

 

I moan when he slides one finger in me gently, and his lips wrap softly around my clit. He curves his finger upwards, rubbing my g-spot vigorously while he tongues my labia.

Of course all the technical terms fly out the window as he continues, and my body twitches every now and then with his efforts. I twine his hair around my fingers as he works, his other arm pressing my hips down because they're moving irradically at their own accord.

My short breaths are the only thing I hear echoing through the room and I feel the tightening throughout my body. It hits and everything is Sebastian — shooting stars and tidal waves and warm chocolate cookies, and he’s working his way back up my body with those beautiful full lips and happy kisses.

“I missed you, too,” he says, his lips between my breasts. “And I missed how much of a mess you make."

“What?"

“We’ll have to wash the bedspread,” he says, sliding his arms beneath mine and holding my head between his hands.

“I should do that.” I say, sliding my fingers along his back.

“I’m not finished with you yet,” he says. “Not by a long shot."

“Yeah?"

He grins before nibbling at my ear. “I want to have to mop up the floor, too."

“I don’t know if I have it in me."

“You never think you do,” he says, “but you always manage to make it work somehow."

“You do most of that for me,” I say, squeezing his ass and slipping my ankles behind his knees. He kisses me happily for several long seconds, keeping his hands in my hair but sliding his front against mine so everything is stimulated. His chest massages mine and his hard cock fits perfectly between my labia so it rubs just right with every small rock.

“I love you,” I say, kissing his nose.

“I love you, too,” he says, “so very much."

I tilt my hips at the precise moment and he slides inside gently and perfectly. “You feel so good."

“Mmm,” he purrs, “fast or slow?"

“I don’t even care,” I say. “We’ll have time for a few different things."

He rolls us over and pulls at my knees so they’re beside his ribs. “I’m going to go fast."

“Give ‘er all you got, Captain!"

It's more than I ever could have thought. I'm vaguely aware of the sounds escaping my lips as my nose brushes against the pillow case beneath his head, and I'm straining just to keep my legs from collapsing as he thrusts upwards quickly and harshly. I clench up, clutching onto his shoulders as I orgasm.

I barely aware I'm on my back, clinging to his shoulders as he keeps moving quickly and precisely. He's around me like a comfortable cage and my breath hitches as another orgasm sweeps through my body.

I only open my eyes when I realize it's my laughter I'm hearing echo off the ceiling. Sebastian smiles at me and kisses my jaw.

"I missed that too," he says. "Your sex laugh."

"I do not have a sex laugh!"

"You do," he says. "I've only worked it out of you twice before but it is a wonderful sound. I think I like it better than you getting everything all wet — that's incredibly sexy, mind you, and it makes me feel like I'm really good at the sex — but the laugh is just so you. It's like your body can't contain what it's feeling so you have to let it bubble out of you in the form of giggles. I love that."

I take a deep breath, feeling my chest against his. I run my hands over his torso, pleased with the hardness of it. "I love you in any shape or form, but all this extra muscle is nice. Feels strong."

"It is strong," he says, flexing his arms around me like a champion. "I like it too. It's nice to know I can still impress with this scar and no spleen."

"I love your scar,” I say, running my finger along the raised skin. "Don't ever think differently."

"What now?"

His stomach growls in answer to his own question, and he laughs.

"Have you found a good pizza place? I really want melted cheese and too much sauce and delicious crust."

"To be honest," he says, tracing my cheek, "I've been ordering Domino's because it reminds me of you."

"Domino's is like home."

"You're my home," he says. I'm warm all over as he looks at me and holds me, and I feel the same. He is home.

All that remains of the pizza is a few scraps of crust and Sebastian stretches his legs across my lap. The dryer thunks loudly down the hall as the bedspread is actually too bulky for it, but it was our only option.

"Mom is coming down with me next time I visit," I say. "Michael's already said he'll take care of Bill."

"That will be nice," he says, playing with the corner of my robe. "I love Mom."

"I know you do," I say. "It's been really great having her help. I know I'm supposed to hate my in-laws but I really love your family."

"They're your family now too," he says, moving his hand to the rings on my finger. "You know the other day I called Mom and all she wanted to talk about was you. I didn't mind of course, but she was talking about you inviting her to that lunch and it meant so much to her for you to do that."

"It was a women in the arts lunch," I say. "You know your mom is a concert pianist, right?"

He chuckles and rolls his head on the back of the couch. "I do know that."

"I enjoyed being with her there though," I say. "It was nice having that."

"She's so proud of you," Sebastian says. "I am too."

I roll my head towards his and kiss him. "Thank you. I am very proud of you."

"Would you like to show me how proud you are in the tub? I need your back against my chest and your head on my shoulder in warm water."

"That actually sounds perfect," I say. "We're both actually pretty disgusting, I think."

"I would agree with that," he says. He runs his fingers through my hair and grits his teeth. "You've got sex hair, scumpete. We should take care of that too."

"Dammit, where the hell is Bette?" Joe Russo asks. "Sebastian can't keep a straight face for more than a minute."

"Sorry! Sorry!" Sebastian's smile stretches across his beautiful features. "I'm just really happy she's here."

I giggle as I hide behind Mackie at the side of the set. They've started nine takes on the same scene because either Sebastian or Chris keeps breaking; Scarlett started it once.

"You're never gonna be allowed on set after this, boo," Mackie says. " 'Causin' all sorts of problems because you and your man got all worked up last night."

"And this morning," I chirp.

Mackie gets that sly smile. "Oh, Seb! That dog!"

"I'm sorry," I call over everyone hustling around the stage. "I'll hide. Get it together, dear!"

I duck behind Mackie and watch from the shelter of his elbow. Everyone manages to get through the scene twice after that and Joe decides they can move on.

“Girl, you got him wrapped around your little finger,” Mackie laughs. “I mean, I always knew he was like, one of the best guys, but you’ve made him like the happiest little bug on the banana tree."

"Thank you," I say. "I'm very happy too."

"You know he wanted you a long time before he ever said anything," Mackie says softly, his arms crossed in front of his chest. "I don't know what took him so long to tell you."

"Fear," I answer, "on both our parts, but I think it turned out the way it was supposed to."

"Of course it did," Mackie says, pulling me under his arm. "You two are so cute! I can't wait to be Uncle Anthony to some little Sebabies and then Chris is going to have kids and there will be so many kids around — I can't take it, Bette! Come get a donut with me."

“A man after my own heart,” I say, leaning into his side.

“How many tickets are available for opening night of the musical?” Robert asks, dipping a chip into the guacamole.

“Probably a lot,” I answer, “I haven’t checked."

"Hey Kevin! What do you think about all of us taking the plane up to New York to the opening night of Bette's musical. She's won a Tony, you know!"

"So have I," Susan jokes beside him.

"When is it?" Kevin asks.

"August 21st," Sebastian answers. "I took the days."

"That's in the production notes?" Kevin asks, picking at his burger.

"Yes," Sebastian answers. "I'm not taking another break until then. I've already been singing the one song I got to hear for weeks in my trailer. It's catchy."

"That's three weeks before we wrap," Joe says. "We could go, stay the night, take the following Saturday and wrap up on a strong note."

"I would love to see it," Susan says. "Your play was beautiful."

"You saw it? Thank you so much."

"It was one of my first outings after Avri was born," she says. "I cried the whole time."

Sebastian smiles proudly at me.

"I'm sorry you cried, but I'm so happy you enjoyed it."

Susan laughs, "It was actually the best night of sleep I got in those first months.  I was so exhausted by the time I made it home, I fed the baby, checked on Exton and let Robert worry about them the rest of the night."

"And I loved every minute of it," he says before kissing the tip of her nose.

Kevin, Joe and Anthony are all whispering in hushed tones. Kevin finally waves over Matt, his assistant. "See how many want to fly up to New York for Bette's musical on August 21st and book tickets. Include everyone for travel, but they have to buy their own tickets and hotel."

Matt nods and disappears.

"Ooh, that's a lot of pressure," I hum.

"It'll be great," Robert says. "Think how it will look for all of us to show up."

"I'm glad you have such faith in me."

"I do," Robert says. "I like your husband too. I didn't know who he was until I got on this film, but you married a good man. Hell of an actor, too."

I can see Sebastian's cheeks pinken the slightest bit. Sometimes he still doesn't believe he should be among these people.

Leaning my head on his shoulder, I'm overwhelmed with warmth and the thought that I can't wait for this dinner to be over so we can be alone in bed.

Twenty-four members of The Civil War cast and crew decided to board Robert's plane and fly to New York; the rest opted to enjoy the night in Atlanta. I wish I could have met them at the airport, but I sadly was stuck at the theater all morning doing interviews and checking the rhythm of words. Holly and Jack are at the apartment now — Jack's been lounging around on the couch for two hours in his suit while Holly and I flitter around the bathroom.

"Hey Seb!" Jack calls loudly, and I trip over the curling iron cord in my sprint out of the bathroom.

My knee stings but I don't even care. "Seb!"

"Hey, scumpete," he says, scooping me up in his arms. He kisses me firmly before putting me down. "You're bleeding."

"Shit," I say. "I ran from the bedroom in a clutter to come see you."

"Well, let's go back and I'll take care of it for you."

"Holly honey," Jack says, "maybe we should take a stroll around the block."

"Nonsense," Sebastian says. "That's not a euphemism, I'm literally going to bandage her knee and then put on my suit."

"Oh okay," Jack says. "If you're sure."

Sebastian laughs as he takes my hand and leads me down the hall. He cleans and wraps my bloody knee while Holly finishes my hair, and then we're running around trying to find the proper clothes.

“I’m so nervous all your friends are coming,” I say, slipping my earring through the hole.

“Don’t be, scumpete,” Sebastian says. “I have no doubts that it’s perfect. I know Saul wouldn’t back something that wasn’t amazing, and you wouldn’t write something that wasn’t beautiful. You look incredible, by the way."

“Thanks, handsome,” I say, “you do too."

He kisses my cheek and squeezes my hip. “Come on, I want to show you off to all my friends."

I'm on pins and needles the entire show. Dimitri and I sit next to each other, clutching onto each other’s hands. Of course Sebastian’s arm is around my shoulder, and he lights up when it gets to the song he knows.

We have an agreement to not discuss each other’s work — good or bad — and Sebastian keeps to his word. He’s practically glowing and the first out of his seat when it comes to the end, but I know he liked it. The cast runs onto the stage to take their final bows and the place is erupting with applause and cheers.

“They liked it!” Saul cheers, turning around in his chair. “I think they liked it!” Dimitri and I are crying and hugging and Saul joins us. He sighs, “I love you kids!"

“We love you,” I say. “Thank you for believing in us."

“Of course,” he says. “It’s been an honor."

“It was fantastic,” Z says. “Such a ride!"

"Thank you,” I say. Sebastian pulls me away from him and kisses me firmly.

“I’m not going to say anything,” he says, “but I love you and am very proud of you."

“Bette!” Holly cheers, pushing around Dimitri. “It was inspired. I had so much fun."

“Thanks, friend.” I say. There are more cheers around us and several more hugs, and then Sebastian and I are led backstage.

“We had a fantastic evening,” Misty says, “and I’m so proud of everyone.”

We’re crammed in the left wing with the cast and crew, and all I see are smiles. So far it’s a hit.

“This is one show,” Saul says. “We’ve got 119 more ahead of us, but if we continue with this level of excitement, we’ll be just fine. I love you all. Now get out there and celebrate!"

I’m thrilled to walk out of the theater to gated carpet where Chris, Robert, Frank and Anthony are singing praise for the musical to reporters, and I’m sure this will help with press. It’s handy to have such established guests to promote your work.

We go to a club for dinner and dancing, and we end up staying out much later than we should have.

The headache accompanying the sun is enough to make me roll over and bury my face in Sebastian’s side, and I only wake when he nudges me and drops ibuprofen into my hands.

“Is your hangover as bad as mine?” he asks softly.

“You’re up and moving,” I groan. “I bet yours is better."

“We are too old for that kind of drinking,” he says. “Remind me to never do that again."

“Yes,” I say, taking the pills with a gulp of water. “Too old."

He sits down on the edge of the bed and looks at me.

“Get back in here,” I say. “We’ve got a few hours of the morning left. We can be productive in the afternoon."

He laughs as he swings his legs back under the covers and rolls onto his side. “I hate working with you not there."

“Me too,” I say. “I only have to stay one more week though, and then I’ll be in Hot-lanta with you."

“You’ll have to wear fewer clothes."

“Wouldn’t you like that?"

“I would,” he says, “tiny shorts, little sundresses, and then at home you’d wear nothing but a T-shirt."

“I’m only wearing a T-shirt right now,” I say.

“And it’s too much,” he says, playing with the hem of it.

“Aren’t you hung over?"

“Hell yeah."

“Then let’s just go back to sleep and you can rid me of said T-shirt in another couple of hours."

“Okay,” he agrees, wrapping his arms around my chest. “A few more hours."

We settle back into our bed, currently just made in sheets because it is insanely hot in New York this year. He finishes adjusting his spot so he’s comfortable, and I kiss the skin by my face.

“Seb?"

Scumpete?"

“I’m really glad I married you,” I say. “I’ve known a lot of loss in my life, and it’s not exactly the stuff most people want to hear about, but I know since you came into my life, it just feels better — fuller. And I just wanted you to know that."

Sebastian kisses the top of my head. “Bette, I love you."

And we leave it at that.

Chapter Text

Dr. James closes the door behind her. "You're not due for your yearly exam yet, but Anna tells me you were perhaps wanting to switch birth controls."

"Yes," I say, having already peed in a cup and my blood drawn. "My husband and I recently took a trip abroad but I forgot my pills on the kitchen counter. We used condoms then but I think with his schedule and travel, I'd like to maybe get something more permanent. Not permanent — you know, we want to have kids in a couple of years, but something I don't have to worry about every day."

"They're running a test now," she says, flipping through the chart. "You went abroad — where did you go?"

"He was born in Romania so we visited it, we went through Bulgaria and Greece to Italy and France, spent a few days in Madrid and then spent a couple of weeks in England, Ireland and Scotland."

"You just traveled all over, didn't you?" She asks brightly, tucking her pen behind her ear. "Ireland is beautiful, isn't it? I went there on my honeymoon."

"That's kind of why we were traveling, too," I say. "We didn't get to really have a honeymoon until now with his work schedule so we took off six weeks and traveled."

"How marvelous."

"I had never been outside the United States before so he wanted to make the trip count."

There's a knock on the door and Anna the nurse comes inside, closing it behind her. She passes Dr. James a piece of paper and smiles.

"Well, Miss Chambers — or is it Mrs. Stan?"

"Either is fine," I answer. "It's Stan legally, but my pen name is still Chambers."

"Well, Bette," Dr. James continues, "it looks like you made your trip really count."

I take the pill I'm prescribed and sigh. What am I going to do?

I text Holly and she agrees to meet me for lunch. I feel anxious and giddy so I go to the closest bookstore and start rifling for something.

I spend two hours in the children's section, the completely opposite place I need to be.

Thank God it's lunch hour.

The hostess shows me to our table and I immediately order water and the pastries they serve everyone.

"Hey, pretty lady!" Holly greets me as she sits down in her chair. "How are you?"

"Okay, how are you?"

"Great! We got this new blow dryer and you need to come see it in action! It gives you the shiniest, softest, most luscious hair in a matter of seconds." She pauses as she looks at me, a half-hearted grin on my face. "Oh my gosh, Bette. What is it? What's wrong?"

"I don't know if I should really talk to you about it because I know it's sensitive but I have to tell somebody."

"What is it?"

"I'm pregnant."

"Oh, Bette! That's wonderful. Congratulations, sweetie." She reaches her hand across the table and puts it on mine. "Why do I feel you're not excited?"

"Sebastian isn't ready," I answer. "I don't want this to run him off."

"Sweetheart, it's his child," she says, "your child, together. He won't run off."

"But we were going to wait," I say. "Every time he gets near a baby, he cringes!"

"But those aren't his babies," she says. "What happened?"

"I forgot my birth control when we took off," I say, "so we bought condoms. I guess one broke or leaked or something. I got my period for two days while we were gone — that's short, but I thought maybe my body was just readjusting — but apparently it was implantation bleeding. I went today to see about switching to shots, but lo and behold, there's a baby."

"What are you going to do?"

"I don't know."

She sighs. Holly would never have this problem. She and Jack would be over the moon if a baby was on the way but I find myself unsure of how to even tell my husband.

"You're going to keep it, right?"

"Of course," I say. "It's my baby, I want it — might be sooner than I expected — but I want it. I've wanted kids and I want Sebastian's kids and I'll raise it alone if I have to."

"Oh sweetheart, you won't ever be alone." She squeezes my hand. "And I suppose I should tell you something too."

“Okay?"

"You know Jack and I have been applying for an adoption," she says, "and we've been accepted. We get a baby in eight months."

"Holly, that's amazing!" We both start crying, and the waitress rushes to our table.

"Is everything all right?"

"We're both going to be moms soon," Holly says.

"Right on," the waitress says, smiling coyly. "Congratulations. I love it when two women tackle parenthood together."

"Oh, we're not together!" Holly pipes. "I mean, that would be something if we were — she is my best friend — but we're both married to men we love."

Holly's flustered now as her face reddens and she's waving her hands wildly.

"Oh," the waitress says. "Congratulations anyway."

"Thank you," Holly says as I blow my nose.

"You know what we should do?"

"What?"

"Let's go to the baby store."

Holly squeals and claps her hands. "Yes, I love that idea!"

It's like going to the doctor's office was the only confirmation my body needed. A week has passed since I found out and I've been nauseated every day. Fortunately Sebastian is gone most of the time preparing a monologue for a Christmas special Saul is putting together to raise money for the children's home so he hasn't noticed my frequent trips to the bathroom. I knew I felt tired towards the end of our trip, but I just assumed it was the travel and activity; now I realize it's just pregnancy fatigue.

I don't know how to tell him. I know it would make things easier on me not to carry the anxiety of telling him, but I'm still nervous. He seems so happy when it's just the two of us, and the sex is still beyond good. Every time I pass the guest bedroom, I imagine what it will look like when it's the nursery.

"Good evening, scumpete," Sebastian says, unlocking the door. "It smells wonderful."

"Lemon pepper chicken," I say. "I'm learning to cook."

"You are indeed," he says. "I love coming home to my beautiful wife. It's cute you're in the kitchen too."

"I thought I should at least try my hand at cooking," I say. "Holly gave me some really wonderful cookbooks. It's amazing because you scan the picture with your phone and it brings up a video of the lady teaching you how to do it. How cool is that?"

"I'm impressed," he says, kissing my cheek. "I'm going to go change."

"Sounds great. I'll have it plated when you come back."

"Such prompt service," he laughs as he streaks down the hall.

I'm going to tell him tonight.

He cleans up after supper, and I sit at the counter and watch him. He's strong and kind, considerate and humble. He's great with his niece and nephews, even the baby, and he'll be a great father.

"Seb?"

"Huh?" He asks, looking down at me. He's watching "It's a Wonderful Life," and I've been daydreaming and watching him, my hands on my belly. We're on the couch and my head is on his lap.

"What do you think our children will look like?"

"I hope they look like you."

"Really?"

"Yes," he says. "Your beautiful face."

“I hope they look like you with your dreamy blue eyes,” I say.

“Well, we’ll just have to see when they get here, won’t we? And that won’t be for a few years now."

“How many years?"

“I don’t know — a couple? Isn’t that what you wanted?"

“That’s what I wanted,” I admit. "What if it were sooner?"

"We'd get it through it together. I mean, good thing you went to the doctor and everything was fine, right?"

I nod, biting my lip. Technically, everything is fine.

"I'd like to get through my first run as Cap if that's all right with you. Two years?"

I should tell him. A wave of nausea rushes through me and I dart off the couch. Maybe baby knows it's not the right time.

"Bette, are you okay?" Sebastian calls, rushing behind me.

I make it to the toilet just in time and feel Sebastian's hands on my back. He pulls my bangs away from my face and waits until I stop vomiting.

"There's a bug going around," I say, sinking towards the tub. "I must have caught it."

"Can you get up?"

I nod. "Just give me a minute."

"I'll go make you some tea," he says, "and then we'll get you into bed."

"Decaf, please," I say. "There's some Earl Grey in the cabinet."

He kisses the top of my head and leaves the bathroom. At least he would take care of me if he knew.

Every morning, it gets worse. I need to tell him, I want to tell him, but I just can't. I know he wanted to wait, and I did too, and I know he's not ready. We haven't gotten to be just us for very long, and it has been enjoyable.

It doesn't help that he diverts an answer every time somebody asks him. I think I notice it more now that I am in fact carrying our child.

Sebastian has the morning off and spends a large portion of it at the gym which is fine. It gives me the chance to spend a painful amount of time bowing to the porcelain throne and then slowly eating mixed fruit to replenish everything I lost. Sebastian kisses my cheek when he comes in and sits on the stool next to me.

"Is everything all right, scumpete?"

"Everything is fine." I'm pregnant.

"You seem a little distant lately," he says. "Are you sure?"

"Everything is fine." I'm pregnant.

"I'm just worried — we haven't had sex in days."

"That's what you're worried about?"

"We only ever go this long without it when we're apart, and we're sharing a bed. And I've been trying."

"I've been sick." And I'm pregnant.

"You've been fine the past two nights."

"I just haven't been feeling great." Because I'm carrying our child.

"Bette, what's wrong? I'll take you to the doctor."

"I don't need a doctor."

"Bette, scumpete," he says, grabbing my hands. "I don't like feeling like we're growing apart. Do we need to get out of town? I could book us an afternoon at the spa. What can I do? Please tell me what I can do. I miss you laughing with me and touching me and kissing me. I know you were sick but you're feeling better now. We can do whatever you want. You can be on top or bottom or backwards or forwards or I'll let you tie me up or we can —"

"I'm pregnant."

The words hang stale in the air and his face goes from shock to rage to fear and back to shock in the spance of a second.

"What?"

"I'm pregnant."

"How did this happen?" He asks, rubbing the side of his forehead.

"Do I need to explain how our organs work to you?"

"Shit, Bette. No. I mean, how is this possible? You were on the pill and we used condoms. We can't be expecting a baby."

"We are," I say, feeling all my anxiety bubble into something darker. "A condom must have broken and it turned out to be implantation bleeding on our trip. I'm pregnant."

"But we can't be yet. God, did you do this on purpose?"

And that's it. "Why the hell would I do this on purpose? Do you not remember my panic when I realized I left my pills on the counter? We almost missed our flight! But I listened to you when you said you'd buy condoms. Your damn Romanian airport condoms broke! Not to mention making sure the thing was in place with your stupid foreskin."

"You're blaming this on my penis?!"

"If you're putting this on me, yes, your penis is taking some of the blame! My uterus didn't magically bind a happy sperm into an egg from God. I'm scared shitless, not to mention tired and incapable of keeping down an actual meal!" I can't look at him any more. The air is stifling in here and I need to get out. I head towards the bedroom and hear his heavy footfalls behind me. "I am so anxious. I didn't want this right now either — I wanted to travel with you and stay up all night with you and just be us. But now there's a baby in here — in me! And I can't get rid of it! What if this is our only chance to have a baby, Sebastian? It's sooner than we had planned but that's life." I've grabbed a bag and started mindlessly shoving things in it. "I'm terrified and excited and I would appreciate a little support and understanding rather than accusations." I'm grabbing my things from the bathroom and shoving them in the bag. I step haphazardly into my running shoes. "And don't you dare ask who the father is! You're the only man I've been with since we met. The only one! A year apart and I didn't sleep with anybody else! It is you. I love you. This is your child. It is my child, and I will raise it alone if I have to." I've made it back to the front door with my bag in tow and I'm shrugging on my coat.

"Where are you going?" It's short and pointed.

"Away. I feel like I'm suffocating. I knew this would be hard but I didn't know you  would accuse me of doing this on purpose. Don't follow me. Don't call me. I have an appointment in three days for the first ultrasound and will probably hear the heartbeat. You can come if you want."

I yank the door open and slam it behind me, relieved he doesn't follow because I'm sobbing loudly. Telling your husband you're pregnant is supposed to exciting and beautiful, not stressful and upsetting. I take the stairs quickly and breathe in the cold December air when Martin pulls the door open.

"Bette, are you all right?" He asks kindly, reaching out for me.

I raise my hand in the air. "I just need a taxi."

One pulls up almost immediately and I don't look back to see if Sebastian is coming.

"Where to?"

"Just drive."

A lot of indecision, more tears, two hours and a cab fare so high I have to put it on the credit card, we stop outside the house. My phone hasn't rung once and maybe that's better.

"Are you all right, miss?" The cabbie asks as he opens the door. "You finally stopped crying but then you laid down and I didn't know."

"I'm fine, thank you." I shiver, probably not from the cold so much as the emotional fatigue. He walks me up the steps and I knock instead of ringing the doorbell. I can hear the sounds of a piano but see a shape move in the glass.

"Bette, doamne!" Violeta says as she opens the door. "What are you doing here! What happened? Do you need money for the cab?"

"She paid me," the driver says. "I just wanted to make sure she was all right before I left. It's not every day a lady in tears gets in your cab and pays you to drive around."

"She's safe here," Violeta says, pulling me inside. "Thank you."

He nods as he heads back to the cab.

"Bette, please talk to me."

I think the exhaustion is catching up to me and I sag against the wall.

"I'm pregnant," I say. "I thought Sebastian and I would tell you together and it would be this beautiful, happy thing, but I told him and we got into this huge fight. I didn't know where to go so I came here."

"You're pregnant?"

I nod, and she pulls me into a hug.

"Oh, Bette," she says softly, rubbing my back. "I know you may not want to hear it now, but that is wonderful news and I'm so happy for you."

"Thanks," I say weakly.

"Come sit down," she says, leading me towards the kitchen. She places a cold bottle of water on front of me. "Let me check on Rachel in there and then I'll make you some tea."

I chuckle. "That's what he did the other day when I was sick."

She brushes my hair with her fingers and kisses my head. "It's going to be all right, puiule."

Violeta returns a few moments later and fills the kettle with water.

"Let me take your coat," she says, and I pull it off and hand it to her. She disappears again, brings a blanket and drapes it over my shoulders. I stare at nothing while she moves around, and then she's putting a cup of tea in front of me. Sitting next to me, she puts her hand over my cold one.

"Can you tell me what happened? Take your time."

I blab everything to her over another couple of cups. I tell her about the forgotten pills, the airport condoms and the doctor's visit. She nods while I complain about all the horrible symptoms and how I miss eating food.

"That should pass," she says, "in a few weeks actually. Would you like a sandwich?"

"That would be nice," I say. "Thank you."

She looks at her watch. "Rachel's mom will be here soon. I'm going to round up her things and get her out the door, then we'll eat."

"Take your time."

We eat a pleasant lunch which surprisingly makes me feel much better. We talk about what's already happened and what will happen.

"I'm not going to defend my son in this," she says softly as I pick at the crust, "but you must understand why he's afraid. Some men — just like some women — are wired for children. To not have children is not an option for them, but most of us have to warm up to the idea. Sometimes it's difficult to accept the task even after the baby is born — that's why his father wasn't around. It's not fair to you to have to deal with his fears, I know, but I also know he'll come around with time. He loves you more than anything in the world, and he'll love this precious baby too."

"I know," I say. "He's taken such good care of me before he found out, I have no doubt he'll take good care of the baby. I just wish he didn't act like this was all my fault. I'm tired, hungry and cranky."

"I want to say that gets better," Violeta laughs, "but I'm not sure that it does. I think perhaps you get used to it instead. Every woman is different though. Most men do blame the women for a pregnancy though."

"I know," I say. "It's bad enough we have to carry and birth the damn thing and they get to prance around completely at the same weight and act like it's all our responsibly."

"Oh child," Violeta says, taking my hand in hers, "if Sebastian ever acts like the sole responsibility is on you, you just let me know and I'll put him in his place."

I laugh for the first time all day. "Thank you for the offer. I'll remember that."

"What would you like to do now?"

"Can I take a nap?"

"Of course," she says. "I can't imagine the day you're having and you need all the sleep you can get, now and well until after you deliver."

She offers me the guest bedroom upstairs, but I settle for Sebastian's room. It's nice to be reminded of how much of a dork he is, even if I'm unhappy with him. I change into my pajamas and curl up on the far side of the bed, managing a couple hours of sleep.

The front door slams, waking me.

"Is she here?" Sebastian asks loudly, his voice echoing up the stairs. Violeta must have answered him because he says, "Thank God! I went everywhere. I went to Dimitri's and Holly's and Saul's and the Hamptons house! She left her phone at home. I called everyone!"

"You didn't call me, puiule."

"Well hell, mother! I didn't expect her to show up here."

"I don't think she did either."

"How is she? Is she okay? Where is she? I fucked up, ma. I really fucked up."

"She's fine," Violeta answers. "She's napping. She's upset and a little bitter towards you, with good reason."

"I can't be a father, ma. I have no grounds to be a father. I always thought I wanted a kid but now that one's on its way — what if I fuck up like Dad did?"

"You're not going to," she says. "You're all settled in with a career and a home and you're married! I didn't want marriage from your father but I should have known things were headed downhill when he never offered. You are not your father, and Bette is not me. She loves you, you know? She loves your baby, too."

"My baby." His words barely make it up the stairs. "It is my baby."

"Of course it's your baby," Violeta says. "Now go up there an apologize to your wife. She's scared too, maybe even more than you are. Her organs are going to be the ones stretched and squished and possibly ripped so you need to make sure she's okay."

"Okay," he says, "thanks, Ma."

I hear his footsteps on the stairs but I keep my back to the door. When he comes in, he doesn't say anything but instead climbs onto the other side and stretches out beside me. We remain in silence and I lay with my eyes closed, waiting.

After several minutes of heavy silence, I can't help it. "Are you just going to lay there?"

"How long have you been awake?"

"Long enough."

"Bette, I know you're angry and you have every right to be, but please don't be icy with me right now." I clench my jaw, feeling the rage rush through me but deciding it's better to not act upon it at the moment. "I've been an ass — uh, I am an ass. I shouldn't have accused you of doing it on purpose and of course I wouldn't have ever even dreamed the baby could be somebody else's. I'm sorry for that, and I'm sorry I made you feel uncomfortable in your own home — our home. I kind of always thought in a few years we would get everything ready and then have a baby. Like, you would win a couple more Tonys and I'd be Cap for an installment and then a baby would just be the next wonderful thing. I know I can't make excuses or anything, but you know the relationship I have with my dad now didn't happen until I was older. I was not important to him at the time, and I have always worried that I will be the same. He isn't a good example to follow."

I finally roll over and look at him. He's been crying because his cheeks and eyes are all puffy and red, and he puts his hand on my cheek.

"You're not your father," I say, "and I've seen how you are with Kalen and Sophie — even Chandler. You're going to be fine. It wasn't exactly the news I was hoping to receive, but I'm happy. I don't have a mother to help me through this either, not that your mom isn't wonderful. It's like getting married without your dad giving you away — you want your mom to help you with your child, but mine isn't here. You're all I have." He rubs my cheek gently with his thumb. "I'm sorry I ran out on you like that. I just couldn't breathe."

"It's okay," he says. "I forgive you. Am I forgiven?"

I nod, and he smiles.

"I'll spend the next nine months and the nines of nine months after that making it up to you, I'm sure."

"Seven."

"What?" He asks, dipping his thumb to the corner of my lips.

"It's seven months," I say. "The baby will be here in June."

"June? We're having a June bug, like you?"

"If all goes well."

"June." Sebastian repeats. I wrap my fingers around his and guide his hand to my belly.

"That's our baby," I say softly. "I've been talking to her for awhile."

"Her?"

"Or him. I don't know what it is yet. Could decide to be neither or both or be born one thing and feel it needs to be another."

"What if she likes girls?"

"What if she likes boys?"

Sebastian laughs, his hand gently pressing on my abdomen. "What if he likes boys? As someone who's played a fair share of gay men, I'll have to teach him the importance of lube."

"You should probably teach him that anyway," I say. "Having a dry penis near your dry butthole is not fun."

"That was one time!" Sebastian chuckles. He's been looking at our hands, but now his eyes are back on my face. "Are you okay?"

I nod. "As well as one can be. I'm nervous, I guess. The thought of squeezing something the size of a watermelon out a tunnel that's the size of a quarter on its best day isn't exactly thrilling."

"I don't envy you there," he says, "but I offer you my hand now for you to crush in your grip."

"Thank you."

"This is happening."

"Yes, it is," I say. "We're going to be parents."

"You're having a baby."

"I'm having a baby."

Sebastian's chuckle is somewhere between tears and he kisses me soundly. "You're too gracious with me."

"Only because I love you."

"I love you more," he says, slipping his arm over waist. "How long do you think we have before Mom comes to check on us?"

"Not long enough for you to do whatever it is you think you want to do."

He laughs as he rolls onto me, pushing me on back. "Sex is okay, right?"

"Unless there's a complication, I think it's fine, even encouraged, until the water breaks. Then it could cause an infection."

"Well, we don't want that," he says, taking my head between his hands. It's awkward because I'm in pajamas beneath the covers and he's on top of the comforter still in his leathers. "I do, however, want you."

"Enjoy it now before I swell up and you want nothing to do with me."

"I will always want something to do with you."

"You say that now." I run my fingers through his hair.

"I told you for the next seven months, I am your slave."

"Oh, slave? You didn't mention that term earlier."

"It would be an honor and a privilege."

I move my leg from beneath the covers and wrap it around his thighs. He hums when I scratch his scalp with my nails and squeeze his ass with the other hand. "I like the thought of you having to do my bidding."

"Command me." He looks hopeful as he runs his hand from the inside of my knee down my thigh and to my bum.

"Very well," I say. "Go make me a cup of tea and tell your mother we're staying for dinner but will leave shortly afterwards. She's already asked so we're not imposing."

"Really, Bette? You want me to go talk to my mother?" He presses sloppy kisses with open lips to my neck and it does feel rather good.

"Really. That is what I want."

"Yes ma'am," Sebastian sighs, pushing off of me.

"I'll be downstairs in a minute."

"Yes ma'am."

I watch him go as I roll over. "See baby, everything is going to be all right."

Violeta really shows her excitement now that Sebastian and I have talked through everything. She's got big plans for the house with a nursery and playroom which Michael and Marie's kids can also use, and she's been looking at safety ratings on car seats all afternoon. Bill, who was visiting a university with a friend's family all day, seems excited yet a little disinterested.

“So what can I do to help?” Sebastian asks later when we’re back in the apartment.

“I don’t know that I’ve gotten any cravings yet,” I say, “but I will appreciate it if you’re helpful and willing to get me exactly what I want whenever I want it. I'll have appointments and everything which you’re welcome to go to, and I think I’ll ask your mom to join me at any that you can’t attend. Shit."

“What?” Sebastian pops up from the floor. “What’s wrong?"

“I think we need a bigger place."

“What?"

“I love this apartment. I love the location, I love the views, and I love the design, but we need a bigger apartment if we’re going to have baby and still let guests come over."

“You’re right,” he says. “It’d be stupid to move out to the Hamptons house on a longtime thing."

“I hate apartment shopping,” I whine.

“Me too,” he says. “When should we start looking?"

“As soon as possible?"

“What else will we need?"

“Baby things."

“Strollers, car seats, cribs, bassinets, blankets, bottles, stuffed animals, rocker seats, Bumpos, Boppies, and I’m sure we’ll come up with more stuff."

“Little baby hats and little baby shoes, gloves, scarves,” Sebastian continues.

“That reminds me,” I say. “I bought something."

He follows me to the bedroom where I pull out the tiny box I had hidden in my drawers. I pass it to him and watch as he slides off the lid.

“Bette!” Sebastian cheers. “This is adorable."

“I know,” I say, watching as he gently removes the little baby bodysuit. It’s black but the left sleeve is silver with a little red star near the shoulder. “I got it for six to nine months because that should be about the right size when it starts to get cold. It’s got little tiny black pants and I bought a tiny red bow in case she is a girl."

“It’s so little,” he says softly, gripping it between his fingers. “So little.” It catches me off guard when he drops the box and wraps his arms tightly around me. I can tell from his breaths he’s crying and he kisses my neck just once in comfort. “We’re going to be parents. You’re having a baby.” He pulls apart just so he can look at my face, and I see the tears on his cheeks. “God, I love you. I was an ass earlier and I’m so sorry but there is no one I would rather have children with."

Kissing him feels like home. It’s just him and me and our baby, and I sigh when he wraps his arms tightly around me.

“You’ll do whatever I want you to, right?” I ask, my breath warm on his cheek. I feel him nod in response. “Will you make love to me like you’re excited about this baby?"

“It took some time to settle, Bette,” he says, “but I am so excited for this baby, and I’ll prove it to you right now."

He lifts me up, sets me gently on the bed and pulls off my socks. He kisses the arch of my foot and examines it.

“I hope our babies have your feet,” he says. “They’re so beautiful."

“You know they’ll be tiny, right?"

“Little tiny baby Bette feet,” he says softly, kissing my other foot. I sigh with my hands resting where they always seem to be now, right on my belly. He pulls my sweatpants off. “How are you? Are you cold? Do you need to get under the covers?"

“I’m okay right now, thank you."

“Just checking,” he says. “If you get too cold, just let me know."

We’ve been leaving the blackout blinds closed in the bedroom to attract what little sunlight there is and to keep out of some of the cold from the huge windows, and right now it actually isn’t terribly cold.

“May I ask you to take off your shirt? Just your shirt.” I sit up and pull off my hoodie and T-shirt, laying back on the bed so now I’m just in my underwear. He sits between my thighs but looks at my body in wonder. “You mean to tell me there’s another human being in there? It doesn’t look like there would be another human being in there."

“There is,” I say, “you can call Dr. James if you’d like. I think my breasts are starting to feel it, too."

“Well, you’ll hear no complaints from me about that one,” he says, giving me his goofiest grin. He flattens himself on top of me with his head on my abdomen.  I slide my fingers into his hair.

“I don’t really hear anything,” he says.

“I don’t know that you will,” I say. “You can talk to the baby if you want. Nothing is quite developed yet as far as I know so it probably doesn’t matter, but you can talk to it anyway."

He looks up at me, and I give him an encouraging smile. “Hi baby. This is your dad. I hope you’re nice and comfortable in there.” I laugh but nod for him to continue. “Your mother is beautiful and she’s going to take very good care of you, and I’m going to do my best to support her. Oh baby, it’s a beautiful world you’re coming into and we're going to make the most of it for you. I can't wait to take you to the ballet and Legoland. We'll walk through Central Park and get ice cream, and one day when you're old enough to appreciate it, I'll take you to Romania. Your grandma is going to spoil you rotten if I haven't already bought you everything you want." He chuckles as he rubs my hips with his thumbs. "We'll spend summers in the Hamptons and get you into some fancy private school so you can have the best education and do whatever you want with your life, and we promise to love you even when you bring your first idiot home with you. It's hard to believe you're in there, but I am... I am overjoyed you are. I love you."

It's like he's forgotten I'm in the room because he's just staring at my abdomen, his thumbs still rubbing lightly. He presses a kiss just below my navel before looking up at me.

"Come here," I say, waving my fingers. He shrugs off his coat before crawling up the mattress and resting his elbows beside my head. "I love you, Sebastian Stan, and I'm not worried about your ability to be a father."

He kisses me for several moments, keeping it very loving and warm, but it isn't long before he slides his hand to the back of my thigh and hooks my leg over his. I moan as his kisses leave my lips and move to my neck, igniting chills throughout my body. Managing off my bra while he lavishes my ribs with his tongue, I sink back onto the bed. He has a very talented tongue. It's painful yet exquisite at the same time when he clamps his lips over my nipple and tugs with his teeth. I gasp with the way it feels now, and he stops immediately.

"Did I hurt you? Are you okay?"

"I'm better than fine. Do it again!" I know I have to enjoy it while it's not miserable because there will come a time when I won't want him anywhere near my breasts. He does it to the other one and I whine appreciatively as he kisses along my rib cage, keeping his hand on my breast. I gasp in surprise when he slides an arm beneath me and moves my very hot center against his jeans, effectively letting me grind against his leg. This too feels good and I whimper when he drops my hips. I needn't worry though as he pulls my panties down my legs and hums. I had gotten everything waxed when I realized frequent trips to the doctor's office would be a thing and he hadn't seen it yet. I'm glad I did it just to see the delight in his face. He's never minded what hair I did keep, but he springs to life with enthusiasm.

"Lift your hips," he says as he holds up the fancy sex blanket. "We're going to get that perfect pink thing pretty messy."

I watch as he pulls off his clothes and stretches. He scratches his abdomen and sits on the edge of the bed by my legs. Leaning over, he kisses my hip and says, "I guess it's a good thing your ears haven't developed yet because I don't think you should hear what's about to happen."

I move my lips with his while I loop my legs around his and he slides his cock between my labia.

"You know I don't hate your foreskin, right?"

He laughs. "I know. If I can recall correctly, you're actually rather fond of it."

"I am," I nod as his lips move down my neck. Kissing his way down my body, he  gently massages every bit of skin and muscle. He whispers to the baby when he reaches my tummy and I smile, and then he presses his lips where I want them most.

"Relax," he says. "Don't worry about anything."

"Are you talking to me or the baby?"

"You," he says. "You seem a little tense."

"I may not have all the control over my muscles I once had," I confess. "I'm worried I'll fart in your face."

"Scumpete," he says gently, "I've had my tongue in your asshole and you're worried about farting in my face?"

"And there goes the romance."

He chuckles, massaging my mons with his fingers. "Don't worry about it. Good sex is messy sex and if my pregnant wife farts in my face because she's enjoying herself, then that's okay."

"Well, here's my apologies in advance if it happens."

"Apologies accepted," he says. "Now unless you have any requests, I would like to continue my work."

"Mmm," I hum, "carry on."

He nods before pressing his lips to my clitoris. He moves those magnificent fingers in and out slowly, twisting them just how I like it. I put a hand against the headboard to keep myself in place while he turns me into mush.

“I think this is a pregnancy thing,” he says, “but you taste different. It’s good though, maybe better."

“It still feels good."

He’s slightly stubbly and I’ll probably regret this in the morning, but it feels so fantastic in the moment I’m already gasping for breath. I grasp onto his hair with my other hand as he flicks his tongue with precision.

"Whenever you're ready, sweet Bette," he coaxes me softly with his fingers. It's been easily winding up inside me and he adds an extra twist of his fingers, and I come with a sharp hiss. I feel the wetness on my thighs and I know from the way my head is spinning, I made quite the mess. Sebastian keeps moving through the whole thing, and he licks up the side of my labia.

"Are you going to keep going?"

"Until you beg me to stop."

I ruffle his hair with my fingers and slide my other hand in his. I move my legs up to his shoulders and he appreciated the move, humming fondly. Just like that, I have two more huge orgasms, and we both end up soaking wet.

"Do you think pregnancy will change that?"

"God, I hope not," I say. "It feels amazing."

He brushes my hair out of my face and kisses me, his hand on my abdomen.

"What now, my queen?"

"Sleep."

His face drops immediately and he fluffs his hair with his hands. "Okay."

"I'm just messing with you!" I giggle, hitting his arm. "I'm so horny right now I think you'll tire out before I will."

"Really?"

"I think so," I say. "I want you to ride me so hard I'm a limp jellyfish when we're finished."

"Limp jellyfish?"

"Limp jellyfish."

"I can do that," he says. He nibbles on my ear while sliding his other hand back to my clit and circling it lightly.

His tongue slips between my teeth, and he slides his hand from my clit to my ass and squeezes. He knows how much I love to have my ass squeezed.

Sebastian pauses, "One limp jellyfish coming right up."

He hooks his arm beneath my knees and slides his long and hard cock inside at an angle.

"Ah, fuck!" I shout, bracing myself on my elbows as he rocks in and out quickly, a man of sheer force and strength. When he tires of that, he shifts my ankles to my head and holds them there.

It's odd to think I can feel so loved while we're doing this, but it's all I feel — aside from another earth shattering impending orgasm. Sebastian's jaw is clenched and the vein on his neck protrudes and he looks irresistible. He slides his hands between my thighs as presses the little button of nerves again.

"Seb!" I cry as another orgasm hits. He drops my legs and pushes our bodies close together, kissing me harshly as he thrusts deeply. He cradles my cheek with his hands and I open my eyes. He reaches his climax at the same time I do, both of us wide-eyed with open mouths. Sebastian takes his last few thrusts slowly wipes a tear from the corner of my eye. He kisses me gently and I smile, feeling quite sated and rather boneless.

"Limp jellyfish?"

"Limp jellyfish."

Eventually we make it out of bed and to the shower, and then I kindly ask him to make me French toast.

We settle beneath the sheets after I'm fed and Sebastian slips his arm around my shoulders.

"Scumpete?"

"Yes?"

"Earlier you said this might be our only chance to have a baby. Why?"

"I don't really know," I answer. "My mother was dead by the time she was my age. What if something happens to one of us?"

"You can't think that way," he says. "You've already done so much by yourself, and there's no reason to think something will happen. You and I will both be around to watch this baby have babies and those babies have babies. We're not going anywhere."

I kiss his knuckles. "I like your optimism."

"We're going to be just fine, Bette. You'll see. You and me and our little baby."

I nuzzle my face in his side. "I hope he has your chin."

"Your nose," he says. "A baby with your nose would be the most adorable little thing."

"It's going to be adorable anyway because it's the two of us."

Sebastian laughs and kisses the top of my head. "You ready to go to sleep, my limp jellyfish? You must be tired."

"I am rather sleepy," I say with a yawn. "I love you."

"I love you too," he says. "Good night."

I really am exhausted from yelling, the crying, the traveling, the general principal of supporting life withing my body and of course the sex, and it's no surprise I doze right off in the arms of the man I love.

Chapter Text

"Why are you standing with your head in the freezer?"

"Ooh, it's just too hot," I answer Sebastian, feeling the chill on my face.

"Are you sick? It's November."

"No, I'm not sick," I say. "This package just came in the mail and I opened it — sorry — and it's hot. I had to strip down to nothing but this T-shirt it's so hot."

"What is it?" he asks as he comes around the counter and stands next to me.

I pull the December issue of GQ Romania out of the freezer and wave it in his face.

"It is so hot! Sebastian Stan, who knew you were hiding them washboard abs under all that?"

"You did, I hope," he says, "you know, when you licked Cool Whip off them last night."

"Hmm," I consider, "I do remember that. That was fun."

"I'm glad you think so," he says. "I haven't seen it yet. How is it?"

"Aside from the fact I can only make out, like, two words, the pictures are great. You look every bit of handsome as I know you are. Like, this first one on the cover — that gaze! Ugh, as they say in fan fiction, I feel a rush of blood straight to my groin! And this one where you’re contemplating whether you’ll eat the salmon or chicken for dinner while sitting in the corner of the ring — hot damn! Look at that profile! And here is this one with the vest. Good God, do I want to cuddle up next to you and slide my arms between that shirt and vest and feel the warmth of your sculpted back? Fuck.” I flip the page while he laughs. “Your hair! Your hair looks so perfect I want to run my fingers through it.” I take a break to do just that. “With the pensive stare and the wrapped hands. It makes me wish I had been there to wrap them. And your arm muscle. Yum. And the white button up! I like this one a lot. You look sophisticated yet sexy. I want to step into that picture and pop each button open with my teeth.” Flipping the page, I bite my lip just looking at the photo. “The white shirt with the gingham vest. There’s that chin dimple and the cold Romanian stare. Good thing I wasn’t wearing undies because they’d be absolutely filthy.” I flip the page to my two favorite pictures. “I’m skipping that one for a second, but this one with the bag and cardigan with the lip biting. Hell, Seb! Sexy Dad alert!"

“Sexy Dad?"

“Yes, they do exist, and that’s what you look like in this picture. Like, the shit out of trashy romance novels. The young teacher guides a small girl through her multiplication tables while the girl’s devastatingly handsome divorced father watches from the back of the class in his knit sweater and khakis, and their eyes meet. She knows it’s wrong but she can’t mistake the way he bites his lip as he looks at her and her heart flutters and she feels warm all over and that is the movie Jennifer Lawrence would star in with Jeffrey Dean Morgan."

“Jeffrey Dean Morgan is your definition of that?"

“Mmm,” I hum. “He’s totally a hot dad. But back to you! Now this one, this one is my fucking favorite. Like, aside from the obvious, you’re there half naked and whatnot, but why didn’t you bring the pants home with you? Can you buy those? Can you ask the magazine for them? I would let you do whatever you wanted to me or me to you if you were wearing those pants."

“You’re that turned on by pants?"

“The right pair of pants can do many things,” I say. “But those pants sit so well and the pattern works for you in that lighting and there’s those washboard abs and the beautiful little happy trail. I don’t particularly like that the coat is made from fur or shearling or whatever, so I’m pretending it’s all faux fur. But damn. You look good with your coat partially on and your chest rippling out of it, like a mountain man stranded in the snow who’s just learned a ram has gotten his horn stuck in a bush and you’re the only one who can save it but nope! There’s no time for a shirt, just have to grab your big-ass fur coat. I mean, I could excuse the fur if you were in a cold climate and you and your people had used every part of the animal while making a fabulous coat but this is Dolce & Gabbana so we know that’s not the case. Either way, damn sexy. Have I talked about your happy trail yet?” I run my bottom lip between my teeth. “I want to touch it, and I bet every person who looks at this magazine will want to, too."

"You like the pictures?"

"Like them? Seb, you look like a sex beast come out of his cave on the rampage to devour as many innocent young virgins who cross your path. They're really great. You've got that smoldering thing down. I've never wanted to nibble your chin more."

"You want to nibble my chin?"

"I always want to nibble your chin. That dimple does things to me." I rub it with my thumb. "And to be honest, I've always had a thing for boxers since I watched Rocky at a young age. You look quite convincing if not for your dress shirts."

"I like boxing," he says. "Yo Bette!" We both laugh but he shakes his head. "It doesn't really work with your name. Sorry."

I shrug. "Will you read it to me? I want to know if you sounded thoughtful or like a big dork, or maybe you sounded like a thoughtful dork."

"I'll read it to you in a while."

"In a while? Why not now?"

"Because you're standing in a T-shirt with the freezer opened and you’ve given me many ideas of your fantasies we’ve never acted out. Also, I feel like you've been mocking me slightly while flattering me immensely at the same time." He reaches into the ice box, removes a piece and pops it into his mouth. "Maybe I can cool you down a bit." He kisses my neck with open lips, and I shiver when the chill hits my skin.

Giggling, I lean back against the counter and wrap my arms around him. "I can't help it. You're so hot."

"You see all those muscles?" He asks, letting go of me, grabbing a mug and tossing several ice cubes in it.

"I do indeed."

"Because of them, I can do this," he says, wrapping an arm around my hips and tossing me over his shoulder. I squeal and he bites the bottom of my buttocks.

“Să mergem, Mr. Romania!"

Chapter Text

For the next two days, Sebastian keeps looking at me like he can't believe I'm carrying our child. He's always ogling my abdomen and touching it lightly when he gets the chance.

He bounces his knee in the back of the cab the whole way to Dr. James's office. I grab his fingers and squeeze them, and he exhales loudly. Kissing my cheek, he smiles at me.

We're shown to a room and I sit on the table while Sebastian combs his hair with his fingers. He wore his sunglasses and beanie until we were well inside the building; he's starting to be recognized more easily than ever before.

"Hello!" Anna says, sticking her head in the door. "I'm not your nurse today but I heard you were in, Bette, so I wanted to say hi."

She hugs me.

"Seb, this is Anna," I say. "She was there when I got the the news. This is my husband, Sebastian."

"So nice to meet you," she says. "I am a big fan of your work. "

"Thank you," he says. "Thanks for taking care of my wife."

"Of course," she says. "Bette has always been one of my favorite patients and I'm glad we'll be seeing more of you around. Congratulations."

"Thank you," Sebastian says. "It was a bit of a surprise."

"It usually is," Anna laughs. "Sheila is the sonogram tech today and she'll be with you in a minute."

"Great, thank you so much."

"Of course," she says. "You can go ahead and pull your pants down to your hairline and then Sheila will get your shirt in place when she comes in."

I nod and she smiles as she leaves.

"Like a well-oiled machine."

"This is what they do," I say. "Anna won't tell anyone either. None of them will."

"I'm not really worried about that," Sebastian says. He's still fidgety and nervous, and it's really kind of cute.

A few minutes later, there's a knock on the door and the woman smiles when she comes inside. "Hello, Miss Chambers, I'm Sheila. I'll be the one figuring out what's going on in there."

"Great," I say.

"You can sit back in the chair and we'll lean it back. Pull your shirt up to your ribs and brace for the chill."

Within seconds, I'm reclined and Shiela's squirting cold goop on my stomach.

Sebastian lets out a small, "Ahhh!" as soon as she slides the wand across my belly and the fast thumping fills the room. I squeeze his hand as the little form takes shape.

"That's our baby. Holy shit, that's our baby!"

"Did you think I was lying?" I ask, shifting my gaze from the screen to Sebastian. His eyes are wide and he's got his other hand clasped over his mouth.

"I believed you," he says, "it's just different seeing it. Our baby is actually in there."

"And that big circle is its head," Sheila says, "and there's only one in there — no twins or anything."

"Whew," Sebastian says, "not that we wouldn't be happy with more, it's just this one was a surprise and having another would be a lot all at once."

"Understandable," she says, "we had a woman deliver quintuplets yesterday."

"Wow, I felt a pain in my vagina when you said that."

"You'll be fine with one," she says. "Your body will take care of it as it should."

"I hope so," I say. "But everything looks good?"

"I'm not supposed to say, but I see no problems."

"Thank you," I say. Sebastian is just staring at the screen.

"Your bump should show up soon," she says.

"Really?"

"Yes," she says, "and it's all just a part of childbearing. Shea butter will help with the stretch marks when that happens." She sanitizes the tip of the wand before putting it back with the machine. I sigh as she wipes off my abdomen.

"Thank you," I say. "We'll have to get some of that."

"Now, I'll leave you alone with your baby for a moment while I go get the print out, and the doctor will be in to get you some information." Sheila smiles as she closes the door behind her, leaving us alone with the screen projecting our baby.

Sebastian brings my knuckles up to his lips and kisses them sweetly. "That's our baby, Bette."

I lean my cheek against his hand as we stare at the screen. This is the perfect moment.

Dr. James confirms everything looks as it should and our baby is in good health. We schedule our next appointment and she gives us pamphlets on available testing and procedures — things we’ll have to make decisions about in the upcoming months.

Violeta runs out of the house, waving her arms excitedly as the limo pulls up outside.

“How are my beautiful daughter and grandchild?” she asks, throwing her arms around me. “You look so good, Bette. How are you feeling? How was the doctor? Is everything all right?"

“Mom!” Sebastian interrupts her, a tender smile on his face.

“We’re all good,” I say, pulling the printed sonogram out of my purse. She shrieks when she sees it and hugs me again.

“It’s amazing something so small and wonderful is in you,” she says. “And we’re going to love this baby so much! Ahhh! Come in! I’ve made soup."

“Fantastic,” I say. “We came straight over to share with you the good news."

“I’m happy to hear it. Michael and Marie are here, too,” she says. “They’ll be thrilled."

And they are thrilled. Everyone we tell over the next few weeks is thrilled, and I feel more relaxed as time goes. Of course as we move into the new year, my morning sickness subsides, I regain an appetite for food and my appetite for Sebastian is insatiable. He looks so damn good all the time, and it's like my body sparks if I'm in the same room. He doesn't mind it, of course.

 

As time trickles on, we decide we don't want to know the sex of the baby. Our little one was a surprise in conception so its gender should be one, too.

"Bette, is everything okay?" Sebastian asks, reaching for my hand. We've just finished lunch on set of his newest movie, a Wall Street thriller with Robert De Niro and Cate Blanchett. Seb's role is fairly small compared to the others, but he was only interested in small roles with the baby on the way and Civil War. "You've got that distant look in your eyes."

I smile at him as I take his hand and rest it on my belly, just off to the left. "Do you feel that?"

"Oh my God! That's the baby? I can finally feel my baby?"

I nod, keeping his hand in mine. I've been able to feel the little toot in there for awhile but the kicks haven't been strong enough for anyone else. Sebastian's eyes flit from my belly to my face, and tears pool in the bottoms but don’t run down his cheeks.

“Bette, I love you so much,” he says, squeezing my hand. Going through all of this with him has been an experience unlike anything else. It's brought us closer which I wouldn't have thought possible, but there's something to knowing we'll be responsible for this little life and loving it. I am so full of love for him and my baby I feel as though I could easily explode.

Of course Sebastian and I have had so much sex lately we both sleep very soundly at night.

I grin as I lean forward to kiss him, and the baby kicks quite forcefully when our lips meet.

"Oh! She liked that!" Sebastian's jaw hangs open as he looks at me.

"I think it's because she knows how I feel about you."

"So we think it's a she?"

"I just have a feeling," I say. "Watch me be completely wrong. Why did you say she?"

"I think it's because I know you think it's a girl."

"How do you know that?"

"You look really serene and happy when you're looking at dresses and bows. I mean, you fawn over the little suits and ties with Holly but I see you eying the princess dresses and little purple shoes."

"I didn't know you were paying that much attention."

"Of course I am," he says, resting his forehead against mine. "You're my wife, my favorite place to rest my head and best place to waste my time."

I kiss him again before he loops our fingers together.

"And if we should have a son who grows up to be a drag queen, she'll be very happy to have you as a mother."

"Seb," I moan. When he says things like that, I wish he didn't have to be on set for the rest of the afternoon so we could mess up the house instead.

Our house is a mess as it is. We've been packing everything, hoping for a quick move when we find a place because the Civil War press tour is a month of globetrotting and hotels, and I probably won't feel like moving things around when we return from it. The apartments we've seen haven't been quite right; I suppose we've been spoiled with the one we have. Sadly I climb onto the elevator of our perfect building and push the button for our floor. The door slides mostly shut before a hand reaches inside, causing it to spring back open.

"Ah, Mrs. Stan," Gerald, the old man who lives on the top floor with his wife and two dogs, says. He's friendly enough with a white handlebar mustache and walking cane, the handle of which is the face of a wolf.

"How are you, Mr. Barrow?"

"Fine, fine," he says, pressing the button just for his apartment and pushing his thumb against the scanner for penthouse privileges. "You and your husband are moving out, yes?"

"Oh, soon," I say. "Our apartment isn't big enough for us and the baby so we've been looking for another."

"That's the breaks," he says. "How is the baby?"

"Fine," I say. "They say we're both healthy so we're doing all right."

"Great," he says. "Max and I never had kids. We tried but couldn't and then chose our careers over other options. It's been a great life though. Say, why don't you and Sebastian come up for dinner?"

"Tonight?"

"Sure," he says. "We would love the have the company."

"All right," I say. "That sounds great. He should be finished filming around six."

"Come over anytime you like," he says. "We'll be there."

The door slides open and he stretches his arm in front of it for me.

"Thank you again," I say.

"Of course," he says, nodding happily.

I text Sebastian our new plans before stretching out for a nap. That has been my favorite thing about pregnancy aside from the sex and shopping and the new life that will be joining us shortly — napping, and nobody judges me for it. If I'm tired of listening to Seb and Chace talk about motorcycles at one in the afternoon, I go take a nap. If Violeta in all her good intentions of readying things for the baby is stressing me out, I take a nap. If something boring is on TV, I take a nap. If I've been up an hour and can't make myself do anything of real use aside from eat, I take a nap. It really is a marvelous thing.

Sebastian kisses my forehead and runs his hand across my cheek. "Hey, scumpete."

"Hi," I say, rolling over onto my back. I do miss sleeping on my stomach. "How was your afternoon?"

"Good," he says. "I just have a week left."

"You do!" I say. "I like this movie though."

"Me too," he says. "So we're going upstairs for dinner?"

"Yes," I say. "Let me change and we can go."

Clemmie in all her wisdom sent me several pairs of cute cotton pants that all have wonderfully stretchy waistbands with supportive elastic. I’ve taken to wearing them outside the house whenever I leave as jeans are almost too uncomfortable, even though my bump isn’t really large yet. This pair is purple with pink and yellow tulips, and I pull on a yellow blouse to match.

“You look gorgeous, dear,” Sebastian says, kissing my cheek. “And you don’t even have to put on your boots or a coat because we’re just going upstairs."

“i know,” I say, “how great!"

Sebastian helps me into my slippers, these great gray things with detachable soles so you can wear them outside the house. I grab a sweater and his hand as he pulls the door shut behind us.

“I wonder why they’re inviting us up now,” he says. “I mean, I’ve always liked Mr. and Mrs. Barrow, but we’ve never really associated much."

“I guess they’re just excited or something,” I say. The elevator door slides open, he presses the button, and we wait for the intercom. Mr. Barrow buzzes us along and I squeeze Sebastian’s hand as the elevator lurches upwards.

I inhale deeply as the door slides open. Their apartment is breathtaking. The same semi-circle windows line the walls and the whole space is open.

“Hi young ones,” Max says, sweeping across the hardwood floor. “Look at you two beautiful people! And with a baby on the way! Oh, congratulations."

She kisses my cheek as she wraps her arms around me. “Thank you so much, and thanks for having us."

“Of course, of course,” she says. “May I?"

I nod, not sure if she’ll be able to feel anything.

“Children are beautiful,” she says. “Not for everyone, but definitely fine for you two. Oop! There’s the little one. How are you?"

“Seb just felt the baby for the first time today, too,” I say.

“Marvelous,” she says. “That’s such a special thing, little lives, and especially when the baby will be cherished and taken care of with you to as not all babies are. Anyway, would you like to see the apartment? I’ll give you the tour."

"It's beautiful," I say.

"Thank you," she says. We're looking at an entire wall of half-circle windows, and this is a fantastic living space. The kitchen is huge with clean white cabinets and a magnificent eat-in island. The dining table seats twelve and leads right into the living room. There's an office, bedroom and two bathrooms on this floor, and they take us upstairs to see the bedrooms. Their apartment is the only one with roof access, and they've decorated it for the maximum enjoyment. It's too cold now, but I bet it's wonderful in the summer.

"We've made chicken," Max says when settle down in the kitchen. "Do you like chicken?"

"It's about the only meat she eats anymore," Sebastian says. "Everything else makes her sick."

"Well, we're glad we picked the right thing then," Gerald says. "What will you have to drink?"

It's a pity we never really got to know Gerald and Max sooner. They fell in love at university, married three days after his graduation, joined the Navy together — he as an engineer and her as a nurse — and then they traveled the world. They've written several travel guides and tell the best stories.

"You know those tiny houses?" Max asks as we sit in the living room in front of the fire.

"I do! I've been watching that show about them. What a great way to live life!"

"We know," Gerald says. "We bought one."

"That's great!" Sebastian says. "Are you staying in one place or are you going to travel?"

"We are traveling," Max says. "The road calls and we must answer."

"What do you think of the apartment?" Gerald asks.

"It's amazing," Sebastian says. "You've done an incredible job with it."

"We're glad you think so," Max says. "You want it?"

"What?" Sebastian and I ask at the same time.

"We're leaving, it's too big for us anyway, and it needs new people to care for it," Gerald says. "We were going to list it this weekend, but if you want it, we'll give it to you cheap."

"You would do that?" I ask, rubbing my bump.

"Sure," Max says. "We don't need it. You like it. Take it. Just promise us you'll let us visit your little one when we're in New York."

"Of course!" Sebastian says. "You can come visit anytime! Are you sure about this?"

They both nod happily. "This place has treated us well and it's time for another family to fill it with memories."

I can't help the tears that run down my cheeks. Sebastian kisses my forehead and rubs my back.

"Are you happy?" Max asks, dropping her hand to my knee.

"More than I can even say," I manage.

 

Sebastian smiles at me as he massages my hip. "Today was a good day."

"Today was a very good day," I say. "I can't even express how grateful and happy I am."

"Me too," he says. "This last year has been the craziest year of my life, but I wouldn't change it at all."

"Seb, can I ask you something and you not get offended?"

"Of course."

"Are you really excited about the baby or are you just acting? I'm only asking because I know you weren't exactly eager when I told you, and I want you to be as happy as I am."

"Bette, I am so happy," he says. "I'm so excited and I'm so overjoyed this is happening. I know I freaked out at first, but this is everything I could ever want with you."

I nod. "I just don't want you to feel tricked or trapped or something like that."

"I don't, Bette," he says. "I would tell you if I were even the slightest bit worried about being trapped. I do worry about things, you know — we’ve talked about that."

It’s true, we have. He’s worried about being absent like his father, even if he is physically in the same room. I’m worried about the ever-imminent death and somehow failing our child accidentally. Sebastian frets with the possibilities and locations of where his work will take him, and I worry about getting along while he’s away. I feel though, as long as we communicate as well as we do now, we’ll be able to make it through anything.

“I am happy, Bette,” he says. “I need you to know that, sweet one, but I really am excited. You’re beautiful and lovely, and I can’t wait to hold our precious baby in my arms and kiss your forehead at the same time. I know you will be a wonderful mother and I only hope I can be the father our child deserves."

“You will be,” I say, rifling his hair with my fingers. “Now come up here so I can kiss you."

Chapter Text

"Seb. Seb. Seb!" I poke his arm and he finally opens his eyes.

"What? What is it? Is everything all right? Is it time? Are you okay? How's the baby?"

"No, no. Calm down," I say, now running my hand along his shoulder as he's jerked up in bed with wide eyes. "I just thought you should know that my water broke, but everything is fine."

"What do you mean, 'everything is fine?' The baby is on its way right now and you're calm?"

"The baby, I think, is nice and warm and happy exactly where it is," I say. "You know women can be in labor for hours. I've texted Anna and she's made us an appointment in the afternoon if the baby hasn't come out of its own by then. It could be tomorrow before anything happens."

"Are you having contractions?"

"Yeah, but they're not really any different than the ones I've been having," I say. "I think I'll know when we need to go to the hospital."

"Are you sure you're all right?"

I nod, my hands circling the rather large bump where our baby currently resides. "Yes, I feel fine. Actually, I would like for you to lay back down and just hold me until morning comes, maybe we'll both be able to sleep a little bit more, and then I'd still like to go to lunch with Holly and Marie, and you can still meet the Marvel guys."

"I can't meet the Marvel guys when you're in labor!"

"Seb, please do," I say, pulling his hand from the sheet and placing it on my belly. "See, happy as a clam in there. Anna said to just relax as best we could until we simply couldn't anymore."

"This is happening, isn't it?"

"Yes," I say, cradling his face between my hands. His eyes are the purest blue, even in the dimness of our bedroom. "Maybe this time tomorrow you'll be a father."

He smiles at me as he kisses my obvious belly button.

 

Sebastian manages to doze for a couple of hours while I lay wide awake in his arms. I can feel little contractions every now and then, but they're not nearly close enough to be concerned about anything.

We go about our morning as we usually do, Sebastian goes to the gym while I eat a light breakfast and ready myself for the day. The bag for the hospital has been packed for weeks, and it sits by the elevator in our new apartment. It was a quick adjustment but one we were happy to make, and we were finally able to set up a nursery. I stand in the doorway, looking at the room I'll be spending a lot of time in.

We went with a black and white color scheme, Sebastian giving into my desire to cover the entire wall behind the crib with silver glitter. I found a beautiful emerald green rocking chair for the corner, and Sebastian and Michael put all the pristine furniture together. Uncle Dimitri gave us a stuffed elephant for the crib and Marie knitted several blankets. I sigh as I rub my belly.

"Soon, little baby," I say. "Very soon."

There's a buzz and I know that means Holly is downstairs. I grab the hospital bag, opting for it instead of my purse and step into my flip flops. It's the hottest June in years, and I can practically feel the sweat rolling down my back as I step off the elevator.

Lunch is great. My contractions are picking up and coming closer together, but I don't think I need to be worried yet. Jack and Holly are flying to Detroit next week to pick up their son, Gabriel. Their social worker has the nicest things to report about his personality and maintains his health is improving. He's all smiles in every picture the agency sends, and Holly is over the moon with excitement.

Kalen and Sophie are with Marie's parents for the day, and Violeta is caring for baby Chandler. It's her first child-free day since his birth, and she jumped at the chance to come to lunch.

My phone buzzes when the waiter brings our ticket, and I quickly slide my card in the holder.

"Oh my gosh!l" I say, reading the message. "They got the Murphy blankets back in! Do you both want to go to Little Britches? I've been eying this blanket for weeks — we have one, but not in the print I want — and they just got the one I want back in stock."

"Ooh, yes," Marie says. "Kalen ripped the eyeball off Chandler's bear so I have to buy a new one."

"Great," I say, signing the receipt. Standing up, I feel the baby. It must be excited. The store is a block away so we opt to walk, and I focus on breathing with every step. This is a fairly strong contraction.

It's almost easy enough to forget my body is being wracked by whatever is happening inside when we're surrounded by rattles, bottles, cribs and diapers, and I smile when I see the Murphy blanket on the shelf.

"We just got those back in stock," the sales girl says. "When are you due?"

"Any minute now, I reckon," I say, grabbing onto the edge of the shelf. My knuckles turn white as I grit my teeth.

"Bette, are you all right?" Holly asks, running to my side.

"Could you call 911 please? I think my baby has decided to grace us with its presence."

"Bette!" Holly chirps, digging in her purse.

"Are you having a contraction right now?" Marie asks, pressing the back of her hand against my forehead and then moving it to my cheek. I nod, exhaling loudly. Now would be a great time to get to the hospital. "Your water hasn't broken, right?"

I shake my head, gripping the shelf again. "This... morning... have appointment in... hour."

"Your water broke this morning and you still went out with us? You could have waited it out at home!"

There's something trickling down my leg and I grab her arm. "Could you check, please? I know that's a weird thing to ask but I think something is happening."

Marie's eyes widen as she drops to floor and sticks her head beneath my skirt.

"Bette, honey," she says gently. "I don't want to freak you out, but we're not going to make it to the hospital. Your baby is coming right now."

"Right now?" Holly shrieks, echoing my sentiments.

"Right now?" The sales girl shouts, her eyes wide behind her glasses. Marie grabs a blanket off the shelf and rips into the packaging.

"Is there a place more private?" Marie asks. "An office or something?"

"We have lamaze classes in the back," the manager says, and I now realized I've garnered an audience.

"Okay, Bette," Marie says. "Hold it together for just a few more minutes and we'll get your baby out."

"I can't have my baby here!" I yell. "This is the kind of shit that ends up on the news! What if something — oof! — is wrong? We need to get to the hospital."

Marie gingerly leads me along as I cling to Holly and the shelf. "There's no time. I've done this three times myself and I've delivered a handful. We'll get through this, okay? Just try to remain as calm as possible because you're going to need all that energy."

The manager opens the door to the classroom and part of me is relieved to see the floor is padded, but the rest of me is too distracted to do more than make a little mental note.

Holly is talking quickly to the 911 correspondent but she doesn't know how to answer the questions. Marie takes the phone from her as she guides me to the ground.

"Sit behind her and help her hold her legs up," Marie says. "And call Sebastian immediately."

I realize the urgency of Marie's statements is me and I gasp, tears rolling down my cheeks.

"You're going to be fine," Marie says soothingly. "You were almost through labor and didn't even know it. Most women are wailing in pain for hours. You got this. Now breathe."

I wish Sebastian were here to at least hold my hand or remind me to breathe, but Marie is doing a pretty good job of that. She's still on the phone with 911 as she gets her work station set up, several blankets and lots of hand sanitizer, and the manager looks on, willing to help with whatever need be.

"The paramedics are on the way," Marie says after I make it through another contraction. "Hang tight for a second."

Holly presses a phone up to my ear.

"Scumpete! Is it happening? Shit! How are you? Are you all right? I'm on my way to you. I'm so sorry I'm not there right at this moment!"

"It's okay," I say. "Nice to hear you."

His breathing is heavy and he sounds odd, passing by things. It's a nice distraction.

"Are you running?"

"Don't worry about me," he pants. "How are you?"

"Okay, all things considered," I say, feeling another contraction painfully contort my body. "Hold on!"

I squeeze Holly's hand hard and make a terrifying sound until it passes, and I can hear Sebastian running faster.

"All right," Marie says, holding the bottom of my dress over me like it's a screen. "I know you want Seb here but you're going to have to push on the next one."

"Go ahead," Sebastian says on the phone. "I'll be there as fast as I can."

I nod to no one and breathe until it hits.

The line with Sebastian dies but I can't worry about it now. There's a commotion outside the door which opens and then Sebastian comes streaming through.

"I'm here!" He's covered in sweat and looks so alarmed, I laugh. This would be exactly how my baby decides to enter the world — with great pain on my part without the aid of drugs, on the floor in the back room of a baby store with only Marie to guide us through the process. Sebastian drops down next to me, takes my hand and my knee and kisses my head.

"Push!"

I can't even scream because the pain is so awful, but I give it my best effort.

"You're doing really well, Bette. I just need to you push one more time."

Sebastian looks around my leg and his jaw drops.

"Oh my God, that's a baby!"

Marie smiles at him and then nods. "Push!"

I do, and then everything happens at once.

"It's a girl!"

Marie places my little baby onto my chest and my arms wrap around her, still covered in gunk. She's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, and I'm hardly aware of the two paramedics who suddenly arrive.

"Perfect timing," Marie says. "We need clamps and your shears."

I hold my daughter as everyone moves around me and Sebastian looks at me before cutting her umbilical cord.

"Try to get her to feed, Bette," Marie says. "We need to get the placenta out and that could help."

I know she won't feed because that would be too perfect, but Sebastian helps me slip the straps of my dress and bra down. I can't be worried about my breast being seen by a bunch of strangers as everything else is already out in the open, but I gasp when she latches on.

"Ah! Seb! She's breastfeeding!" I cry, cradling her head in my palm. Sebastian's crying too as he brushes my hair away from my face with his fingers and kisses my forehead.

"She's so beautiful, Bette," he murmurs, resting his chin on my other shoulder. "You've done so well."

"Got the less pleasant part ahead of us," Marie says. "How do you feel, Bette?"

"Elated and exhausted," I answer.

"No, how do you feel in your body? Are you having cramps?"

Now that I take my eyes off my baby, I suppose there are cramps. "Yes."

"Okay, you're going to have to push again in a minute. We don't want you to be hemmoraging."

It settles over me then I'm not through this whole process yet. I just want to be happy and healthy with my baby and husband.

"Okay, sweetheart, pass the baby to Sebastian because you have to push again."

"I don't want to push," I moan, kissing my baby's head. Sebastian gingerly wraps his arms around our daughter and takes her from me, holding her close enough for me to see.

"You just get through this and we'll be finished, okay?"

I'm glad Holly is there to hold me, but I'm pretty sure after seeing and hearing everything, she's actually really pleased she won't ever have to go through this.

"Push!"

I do, and it hurts more than pushing out the baby, but eventually the damn thing is out and I reach for my daughter again. Marie and the paramedics talk quietly together.

"Is everything all right?" Sebastian asks, cradling me against his chest with my daughter in my arms.

"Yes," the paramedic says. "We would just like to get mother and daughter to the hospital now to rest and recover."

"I'm fine with whatever," I manage, high off endorphins and hitting that place after exhaustion. Our daughter is the most perfect and precious thing I've ever seen with dark hair and bright blue eyes. She has all ten fingers and all ten toes with round chubby cheeks and a tiny pretty nose.

I love everything about her, and I know Sebastian feels the same as he keeps me close and rubs her little arm with his finger.

It's strange to be in the hospital with my baby in arms, but I look just like all the other mothers we pass as I'm wheeled down the hall if not slightly more disheveled and dirty than the others. Sebastian rode in the ambulance with us and held my hand as they started and IV in my arm.

I hardly pay attention to Dr. James and Anna as they examine me, making sure I don't need to have surgery to repair any damage caused by the birth, and other nurses clean up our little bundle. She looks even better now and smells like heaven.

Sebastian sings to her, swaying her gently while the nurse helps ready me for the shower. Apparently I'm no longer allowed to pee or clean myself alone.

It makes more sense when I come to naked on the floor of the bathroom with a handful of nurses standing around, one holding me upright and another waving smelling salt in front of my nose.

"You lost a lot of blood," the nurse says. "New mothers pass out all the time. No worries."

I nod and see Sebastian at the door with the baby.

"We wouldn't let him in," the nurse says. "He tried though, don't fret."

I laugh as I blink a few times.

"How are you feeling? Any ringing in your ears?"

I shake my head.

"Good, we'll get you showered and back in bed for a bit," the nurse says. They all leave except for her and another nurse who seems more interested in Sebastian than in my well being, but I make it through my shower and use the toilet without falling over.

"You feel okay?" Sebastian asks when we're alone. He passes me our child and gingerly climbs onto the hospital bed next to me.

"I'm tired," I answer, "and I don't know that I'll ever feel like having sex again, but she is so worth it."

He kisses my cheek and caresses her head. "Bette, I know you were in it and in pain, but you have no idea how amazing the whole thing was. I've never seen anything so incredible in my life and you just made it through it."

"I don't know," I say. "I just knew I had to do it and then I saw her and you and knew everything was okay. I was planning on taking every drug they would offer and I was perfectly fine not being able to feel my lower extremities until the day after, but nope! She just couldn't allow that. I know it sounds crazy, but I like to think my mom and Nana had something to do with it. That makes me sound crazy, right? What do I know? I'm loopy and suffering from loss of blood and exhaustion."

"I don't think that sounds crazy at all," he says, "but I do think you have a remarkably high pain tolerance. Marie couldn't believe you were that far along and still standing."

"I couldn't either," I say, watching my daughter's fingers curl around mine. "It just happened so fast."

"It did," he says. "So fast. What were you doing at Little Britches anyway?"

"I've been wanting this blanket for months," I say, "and they just got it back in stock today. They don't sell them online and Britches is the only place in New York that carries them."

"Must be some blanket."

"It is! Murphy blankets are hypoallergonic and are made from organic materials. They're incredibly soft and plush, and they are just the cutest things. The one I wanted has little sheep on it on a grey print, and the other side is a nice kelly green. I just had to have it before the baby came, but maybe that was pregnancy brain."

Sebastian snorts. "Murphy."

"I like that," I say, tracing her nose with the tip of my finger. "She looks like a Murphy."

"Little Murph," he says, kissing my cheek.

"Murphy Marie," I say. "I think that's only right since one or both of us would be dead without her."

"She'll be so touched," he says. "It's beautiful, our little Murphy Marie."

I rest my head in the space between his neck and shoulder, and he sings Stevie Wonders's "Isn't She Lovely." Some producer should really snatch him up and capitalize on his voice for a role as it is quite lovely. Murph thinks so, too, as her little eyes close as she stills in my arms. She really is perfect.

Over the course of the evening, our room is filled with flowers and balloons, stuffed animals and well wishers.

"Oh, she's beautiful just like her mother," Violeta says, holding her close. "She has her father's hair though."

Sebastian chuckles and rubs my back.

"And what shall I call you?" she asks, swaying gently.

"Murphy Marie," I answer. "We both like it."

"That's very American," Violeta says. "It fits though. Precious Murphy Marie."

I sigh as I fall back against the mattress while she sings a Romanian lullaby. Sebastian takes my hand and sits by my legs.

"Thanks for everything today," I say.

"For what?" he asks. "I have done nothing today."

"You've taken care of sweet Murph."

"You've done more than that," he says. "You brought a living being into this world."

I laugh. "Yeah, I guess I did."

He brushes my bangs with his fingers. "Anyway, I'll go check on your dinner and be right back."

"Thanks, love."

He kisses me before climbing off the bed and leaving.

"How are you?" Violeta asks. "I know you're sore."

"I am quite sore," I answer. "I feel like an eighteen wheeler drove right out of me."

She laughs, "That is how it feels. Seb was two pounds heavier than sweet Murph so you're lucky there."

"I can't imagine," I say.

"May I sit?"

"Of course."

"Bette, I know I've told you this a thousand times, but I am so thankful you and Sebastian found each other. Every mother wishes her child to be happy and to have a fruitful life, and while I know he would have been successful at any rate, I know he's happiest with you. Now you have this beautiful little baby to cherish together and oh! I just love you so much!"

She hugs me awkwardly with one arm while the baby sleeps in her other.

"I love you too," I say. "Thank you for being here and for helping us with everything."

Like her son, she brushes my bangs with her fingers. I lean into her palm and she smiles.

"I've brought your dinner," Sebastian says, "and someone else decided to tag along."

"Hello!" Dimitri chirps, carrying three bags in his arms with Trenton following with a teddy bear. Sebastian sits my tray on the table and wheels it forward. "Looking good!"

"Thanks," I say. "I took a much needed shower this afternoon."

"Yeah, after she passed out first."

"Oh my God! Are you okay? What's wrong?"

"Nothing is wrong," I say. "It's just very painful to give birth which is a joy most of you will never understand. My baby's birth was completely normal."

Trenton scoffs. "Normal? Your baby's birth has already made the news."

"What?"

Trenton pulls out his phone and shows me the web site. It's a simple brief about a baby being born in the back room of Little Britches. Thankfully our names aren't mentioned but it does say mother and daughter are recovering at the hospital.

"I guess she'll follow in your footsteps and take the spotlight," I say to Sebastian.

"Says the Tony Award winning playwright."

"Fair enough," I say.

"We brought designers!" Dimitri says. "Had stuff on hold for either a boy or a girl, but we brought the frills!"

"Dim, we don't need designer stuff! She's a baby. It’s just going to get messy."

“Please, B! Trenton and I haven’t decided if we’re going to pursue babies yet so yours are the only ones I get to buy for currently. Please just let me do this this once! And for any subsequent Sebetbies that follow."

“Sebetbies?” Sebastian says, pulling the lid off my plate. “Sounds like a disease.” He looks at me and raises his eyebrows. “Prime rib for you, o life giver."

I giggle and look at the meat in front of me. It was this or lasagna and Sebastian already promised Tony would bring over the finest Italian when we checked out of the hospital, so I went with the steak instead. It smells good and looks pretty decent, and I hope I can stomach it.

“Well, do you mind if Seb opens them so I can eat?"

“No!” Dimitri says. “Whoever wants to open them can. There’s no rush. And I haven’t even seen my niece yet. How is she?" He walks around the bed and looks over Violeta's shoulder with Trenton following. "Bette! Sebastian! She is the cutest thing! You have no idea. You know, like, sometimes you see a baby that's not cute and you have to lie and carry on about the baby but you two don't have to worry about that because she's beautiful."

"Our little inimioara," Violeta says. "Have you ever seen such pretty little fingers?"

"Look at her little nails!" Trenton coos.  "Hello, Murph."

I moan as I eat the first bite of steak, having gone without it for so long. Closing my eyes, I chew and savor every bite.

"It's good, huh?" Sebastian asks. He wipes my cheek with my thumb.

"It's not, really," I say. "I don't know that any hospital food is great food, but I just..."

"It's okay," he says. "Enjoy it if you want it. It's been a long day."

I nod and wipe under my eye. Apparently finally eating red meat after being sickened just by the thought makes me cry.

"How about I open the gifts for you both?" Dimitri says. "You look so confortable and Bette's over there crying because the hospital food is shitty."

"The honor is all yours," Sebastian says, gesturing to the bags at the foot of the bed. I opted to sit cross-legged as everything is more comfortable if my thighs aren't touching.

Trenton and Dimitri gift us with a Stella McCartney dress and a set of overalls, an adorable Gucci dress and a set from Armani Junior. Of course they're impeccable and Dimitri looks so proud of his selection.

Everyone clears out when visiting hours are over, and while I'm glad for their love and support, I'm happy to see them go. I am so tired.

I feed our little Murph again, and I know I should ask the nurse to wheel her down to the nursery so Sebastian and I might actually get some sleep, but I just can't. She does bring some ibuprofen and an ice pack which are both wonderful things.

My beautiful baby fusses a couple of hours later and calms after I feed her. Sebastian sleeps soundly on the pull-out bed but Murphy isn't ready to sleep yet, and I'm awake. I pull on my robe and unplug my IV pole.

The hall is quiet and cold, and Murphy's wide eyes shift around as I walk slowly down the tile.

"Mrs. Stan, is everything all right?" The nurse asks, running around the station.

"Yes,” I answer. "She woke up and I thought we would take a walk."

"Okay," he says. "Don't work yourself too hard and let us know if we can do anything."

"Thank you," I say. "We might just go to the end of the hall."

"Enjoy."

A baby cries behind a door but Murph just looks at me. There's a good chance her eyes will darken to brown, but right now the vibrant blue sparkles. I see so much of Sebastian in her and yet so much of myself.

We pass the other babies being cared for in the nursery and a nurse waves at us from behind the glass. Murph falls asleep when I'm three rooms down and I see Sebastian hanging out of the door. He smiles at me when I grin at him, and he holds open the door for us.

"I wondered where you went," he says. "I panicked for a minute."

"She wasn't sleepy so we went for a walk," I say. "I didn't want to wake you."

"You could have woken me up," he says, looking over my shoulder at Murphy. "Is it crazy that I love her so much already?"

"No," I say. "I can't get over the fact that she's here and beautiful and I'm holding her."

He wraps his arms around my waist gently, knowing I might be sore. I lean against him as Murphy stretches her arm and settles again. Sebastian kisses my cheek and sighs.

"She really is precious," he says. "This is and forever will be one of my favorite moments in life. I'm holding both of my beautiful girls."

"Even now you know just what to say."

"It's the truth," he says. "I know I told you earlier but the whole birth was amazing. I don't know how you're even standing right now."

"Honestly I don't either," I say. "I think it's actually because I'm sagging against you."

He laughs and it vibrates through my body. Smiling, I turn my head and catch his lips. "You're the best one night stand I ever had."

"I'm the only one night stand you ever had."

"True," I say. "But look at this amazing little creature we created."

"Our genes have combined magnificently."

He is right, and this is and will forever be one of my favorite moments.

Chapter Text

My daughter blinks at me, her big eyes appearing to see everything. “Who’s a pretty girl?"

I run my fingers through her fine dark hair and rub her little round cheek. We brought her home a week ago and she’s still perfectly lovely. I hear the elevator ding and I smile.

“Hey, scumpete,” Sebastian says, strolling into the bedroom minutes later. “Did you have a nice bit of quiet?"

“I did actually,” I answer. “She didn’t cry at all. She just slept and ate and now we’re here.” Sebastian smiles as he sits on the edge of the bed and drops his hand to my knee. “Where are the little ones?"

“Down the hall with Binky,” he says. He leans over and smiles. “Speaking of."

“Mommy!” Murphy yells, skipping into the room with her brother, Darcy, and the dog behind her. She pulls herself onto the bed, and Sebastian lifts our son onto his lap.

“Hey bug,” I say, brushing her bangs away from her face. “How was class?"

“I made a rocket ship!” she chirps.

“It’s on the bar downstairs,” Sebastian says. “It’s pink and purple."

“As all rocket ships should be,” I say. Darcy crawls up my side and sits next to me. “And how was the park?"

“Fun!” he says. “I jumped highhhhh."

“How wonderful,” I say. “You’re growing big and strong."

“All the vegi-cables we eat!” Murphy says. She leans her head on my arm and touches the baby's nose. "I love her."

"She can't tell you yet but she loves you," I say. Sebastian smiles which warms me all over, and he leans in for a kiss.

"Eww," Murphy says. "Emily says that's how cooties spread."

"There are no such thing as cooties," Sebastian says.

"When can she play?" Darcy asks, popping onto his knees. "Wanna play."

"Soon," I say. "Once upon a time, you were as small as she is."

"I was?"

I nod. "You've been a darling big sister and a wonderful big brother."

Murphy and Darcy grin happily before dissolving into giggles.

"I love my bug and bear," Sebastian says, kissing each of their foreheads. "Now what do you say to some snacks?"

"Yes please!" Murphy shouts, her little hands together and eyes wide.

"All right," Sebastian says. "I'll leave you here to watch Mommy and Logan, and I'll be right back."

"Yum." Darcy says, his eyes still on his little sister. "Why she smell?"

"She smells?" I ask, knowing I changed her diaper a few minutes before they came home.

"Good," Darcy adds. "Happy."

"She's a baby," I say. "All babies smell good."

"Me?"

"Especially you," I say, pressing my forehead to his. He chuckles and licks the tip of my nose.

Darcy and Murphy lean over my arms and look at their baby sister, smiling. We had worried there would be some jealousy or animosity towards Logan, but that was ridiculous. They were both doting and loving of her from the second Violeta brought them to meet her at the hospital, and I sigh contentedly with my children. Sebastian and I had every intention of stopping after Darcy, even going so far as to scheduling Sebastian a vasectomy. I couldn't let him go through with it as we sat in the waiting room and I held his hand. We didn't need a permanent solution, so instead I decided to get the implant in my arm but that was quickly deterred when Dr. Williams confirmed little Logan was already in there, just biding her time. Fitting, I thought.

"I've got apples and bananas," Sebastian says, returning with a plate. I cross my legs so he can sit just beyond my knees. Murphy and Darcy both giggle as they reach for fruit and Sebastian holds up a slice of apple for me.

“You want to trade?” he asks as I eat the apple. I shrug and lean against the pillows.

“She’s sleeping really well but you can take her if you want."

“I’ll leave her then,” he says. “I just didn’t want you to feel like you’re having to take care of her all the time."

“You got Murph to class and took Darcy to the park,” I say. “I am very glad you did that."

“I’m happy to do that,” he says. “You’re perfect."

“Thanks, love,” I say. “Banana, please."

He smiles as he drops a slice into my mouth.

"Cooties," Murphy whispers.

"Yeah well,” Sebastian says, "you wouldn't be here if Mommy and Daddy didn't share cooties."

Darcy laughs as he flops onto his side next to me, his brown curls a mess. “Cooties!"

“You have cooties,” I say, brushing his bangs with my fingers. “Are your cooties tired? Do you need a nap?"

“Nap!” Darcy cheers springing back up. “Will you take me?"

“Of course,” I say. “Come on, Murph. Nap time. I’ll let you sleep on the couch if you want."

“Yes!” she cheers. Sebastian’s already waiting with open arms and I gingerly pass Logan to him. My older two children pop off the bed and follow me to the playroom.

After dinner, bedtime stories and getting two little monkeys tucked into bed, I fling myself rather ungracefully onto our bed.

“How are you, scumpete?"

“Tired but happy,” I answer, turning my head to look at him. “How are you?"

“The same,” he says, sliding his fingers into my hair. “You’re so beautiful."

“You say that just because I’m the mother of your children."

“I say that because I love you,” he says, “and it’s the truth."

I sigh and sit up. “We’re finished, right? I love them all but I don’t know if I can take it."

“I’m happy to have as few or as many as you like,” he says as I fall into the sheets again. “I am completely thrilled with the three we have.” He crawls down the bed and pulls my feet into his lap. Wrapping his hand around the right one, he presses his thumb into my instep; I moan involuntarily.

"Oh my," I say, closing my eyes and feeling the tension in my back begin to sink into the mattress. "If there's one thing you've mastered over the years, it's the foot massage."

"Please," Sebastian says, pushing against the ball of my foot. "This is not the only way I can make you moan. I don't think it's your favorite either."

I chuckle. "It's pretty close."

"Sweet scumpete," he says after a few minutes. "Mrs. Nesbit said Murph is doing very well with the other students and there have been no more problems with me being a mass murderer."

"That's good," I laugh. "I can't believe she told everyone her dad kills people for a living."

 "Your eyes got so wide," he chuckles. "I figured the shock would have sent you into labor then and there."

"It nearly did," I say. "It wasn't really embarrassment but more like panic. Can't have a bunch of four-year-olds thinking their classmate's dad is a trained assassin."

"But I am!" Sebastian laughs. "I'm really good at using that rubber knife."

"I know," I say. Logan cries in her bassinet and both our heads whip in the direction.

"I'll get her," Sebastian says, springing off the bed. He quickly picks her up as I shift towards the pillows. "Diaper's dry so she's probably hungry."

"It's about time," I say, opening my shirt as he rocks her. He smiles at her, swaying gently from side to side. I know I said I didn't want any more children but I would have a thousand of his babies if it meant I could see more of that smile — it's reserved just for them.

"You need anything?" Sebastian asks once she's against my chest.

"Will you turn off the light on your way? Other than that, we're both pretty content in the moment."

He smiles at me and kisses my forehead. "I'm going to take a quick shower then."

"I'll be here," I say, admiring the view as he swiftly pulls off his shirt. When he returns, little Logan is curled into a ball on my chest. I love holding them just so when they're still small enough not to fight it.

"There's a sight," Sebastian says, crawling into bed with me. He lays on his stomach and stretches his hand to the gentle curve of her head. 

"She's sweet, isn't she?" I say, slipping my finger between hers. Rain putters against the window and lightning crashes a few seconds later.

"How long before we have a full house?" Sebastian asks.

"Give it another flash," I answer, closing my eyes and waiting.

Like clockwork, our bedroom door swings open and three little bodies run through it.

"Mommy, it's scary," Murphy says, her voice a soft whisper. We've noticed she gets quieter when she's scared or nervous, and Darcy is the complete opposite.

"Can we sleep in here?" He asks loudly, running towards the mattress.

"Of course you can," Sebastian says. "Get up here."

Murphy climbs up the middle while Sebastian lifts Darcy onto the bed. They settle in between us and we situate the sheets around them. Binky jumps up by Sebastian's feet and curls into a ball, protecting us all.

"It's safer here," Murphy coos, "between Mommy and Daddy."

"Bed squishy," Darcy adds.

"Go to sleep," Sebastian says. "We'll go to the zoo with bunică tomorrow if you'll be good little monsters."

"Rawr!" Darcy yells, a little giggle following. Sebastian laughs and presumably tickles our son.

"The baby," Murphy chides. "You don't want to wake her."

"No, we don't," I say softly.

"Sorry," Sebastian and Darcy both say.

"Good night, Mommy," Murphy says, rolling against my side. "Night, Daddy."

"Good night, bug," I say. "Sweet dreams, bear."

Darcy giggles again before saying his good nights and Sebastian follows. I tuck Logan in her bassinet again and roll onto my side. Darcy and Murphy have both returned to sleep even though lightning crackles outside.

"What a life," Sebastian whispers. "I never want to forget these nights — you and me and three little people we've beautifully made, plus the dog. I always thought my proudest achievement in life would be something work related, like winning a Tony or an Oscar, but it's actually this."

"You're saying that because you've never won an Oscar," I joke, knowing I can't actually see his face in the darkness but I can feel his light all the same.

"I'm serious though," he says. "You, here, our kids. It's a dream."

"I would say fatherhood has made you sentimental, but I know you always have been. It's one of my favorite things."

I feel the warmth of his palm on my cheek and I tilt into his touch.

"My favorite thing is sleep," Murphy mutters.

Sebastian snorts and brushes his thumb over my cheek. "Sorry, bug. We'll sleep now."

She hums her acceptance and I laugh, Sebastian's thumb sliding to my lips.

"I'd kiss you goodnight but there are children between us." Kissing the pad of his thumb will have to do.

"Good night," he says, sliding his hand into my hair. I kiss the top of Murphy's head and close my eyes. I, who had once imagined I would end up alone,  now share a bed with two funny and smart children, my caring dog, and my gorgeous and kind husband while our newborn slumbers peacefully in her bed. My heart is so full of love, I can't stand it, but I have to because that's life. That's life, this is my life, and it is really good.