Actions

Work Header

Back Together Again

Chapter Text

Diane is barely out of the cab before she dials his cell, awkwardly digging through her purse for her keys with her free hand. She bites back a smile between her teeth, almost giddy at the thought of hearing his voice.

“Hey,” the voice comes after two rings, low and somehow as silky as it is rough, and in response she allows her smile to fully break out across her face.

“You're a meme,” she blurts out, laughing as she turns the key in the lock.

“Well, hello to you, too,” he says with feigned annoyance, but she can almost hear his own smile behind it.

“Hang on a sec,” she says, setting the phone down on the table while she lets her purse fall to the floor and shrugs out of her coat. She locks the door behind her and picks the phone up again. “Sorry. Hi.”

“What was all that?” he asks.

“Just getting in – I guess I couldn't wait to talk to you.”

“Not even until you got in the door – I'm touched,” he chuckles. “What's up?”

“I was watching you at the rally. There was a livestream, you know. You're a meme,” she repeats, grinning anew as the image of his face like a stone and his body completely immobile came to mind again.

So I hear,” he says grimly. “I want to go back to a time when I didn't know what that word meant.”

“I was watching it, and I swear to god, Kurt, I've never loved you more.” She feels her cheeks flush as they did when she was watching him, and again talking about him with Adrian. He really always did make her feel twenty-two. “Is that weird?”

“A little. But I'll take it. And I love you, too,” he says warmly, before adding: “Weirdo.”

She lets out a long, throaty laugh at that as she enters their bedroom, some vague part of her brain disappointed to find the room empty, although of course it is. She ignores the first pang of realization that she'll be in that cold, empty bed alone tonight, keeping her voice bright for him. “What are you doing now? Hope I didn't interrupt the – what, seven-course dinner to follow, two scoops of ice cream for Trump, one for you?”

He laughs. “If there was one, I wasn't invited, no surprise there. No, I'm back at the hotel. Already in bed.”

She checks her watch idly, then removes it. It was late. “Hope you weren't trying to sleep.”

“No, no. I was reading. But I'd rather talk to you.”

“Sweet talker,” she smiles, stepping out of her heels.

“It's the truth,” he says simply, and she knows it is. “How was your day?”

“Ugh – long,” she groans, not sure she wants to get into it now, over the phone. She wants to curl up into his arms when she tells him about Maia, feel his hands combing through her hair soothingly as she tells him she fears she may have lost her for good. “Blum. Trump-appointed judges. The usual nonsense.”

“Hmm,” he grunts sympathetically. “What can I do to distract you?”

Her eyebrows shoot up at that. “What are you wearing?”

He laughs, and she can just picture him shaking his head ruefully. “What are you wearing?”

“I asked you first,” she insists, “and besides, I'll be wearing less by the time you get around to answering.”

She steps out of her skirt, quickly unbuttoning her blouse, eager to have an answer for him that is as satisfying as it is accurate.

“Well, you know, just a white t-shirt and my shorts here.”

She lets out an appreciative whistle. “Socks or no socks?”

“Socks. Can't get the temperature right, it's a little cold in here.”

“Sex-y,” she says, drawing out both syllables.

“All right, your turn,” he prompts her.

“I was about to get into my pajamas, so just my bra, one of the black, lacy ones.”

“When I'm away?” he asks in mock indignation, making a tsk-tsk sound.

“A shame you can't enjoy it. Matching bottoms. Garters and everything.”

He makes a kind of groaning noise, as if wishing he could reach through space and time and touch. “Send me a picture.”

“What?” she asks, taken by surprise.

“Seriously. I wanna see.”

“You know what I look like in this,” she says, but she's already moving her phone away from the call screen and trying to bring up the camera app.

“Didn't you just say you've never loved me more?”

“I did say that, yeah, okay.” She tries to flip the camera to selfie mode and holds her arm out, trying to find the angle. “Hang on.”

Feeling a bit ridiculous but undeterred, she shakes her hair loose and cocks her hip slightly, taking a few photos. She takes a look at the results, frowning. “Oh, they're blurry.”

“I can work with blurry,” he laughs. “Or ah, try the mirror.”

“Oh! Yeah, that'll work.” She half-runs over to the full-length mirror, standing a few feet back to capture herself from head to toe. She considers her appearance, almost satisfied, then steps back into her heels. Yes, that's it.

“Are you still there?” he asks.

“Can't rush art, dear,” she mock-scolds him, posing in front of the mirror. She leans against the back of the couch, one leg up as if she's adjusting the garter. She holds the phone in her other hand, trying to block as little of what he wants to see as possible. She has to stop again to keep from laughing at how absurd the whole thing is, carefully forcing her face back into a serious expression, her eyes almost imploring him, her lips slightly open. She snaps the picture, and immediately bursts into laughter.

“Oh, god,” she says, still giggling as she looks at it. It's not bad, she has to admit. He will certainly enjoy it, at any rate. “Okay. Here it comes.”

She goes into their open text conversation – smiling as she sees his last message, before he got into the car on the way to the rally, simply: Love you. – and attaches the image.

Two seconds later his appraisal comes: “Holy shit. Diane.”

She throws her whole head back in laughter as she unhooks her bra to trade her underthings for comfortable pajamas. He might like this image even more, but he'll have to come home for that. “You like that?”

“Are you kidding? Fuck. If I missed you before...”

“Now send me yours,” she says, still giggling.

“I can't compete with that,” he laughs.

“Well, no. But come on. I miss your handsome face.”

“Okay. Give me a minute.”

She finishes changing, then walks over to their bed, pulling down the covers and getting in. She fluffs her pillows up behind her, looking sideways over at his empty space.

“Okay, sent. Not quite as sexy as yours. Best I can do.”

She smiles expectantly, then bursts into laughter again when it pops up on her screen, bringing it up full size and then zooming in. His handsome face and perhaps the goofy grin she had anticipated, but not the way he had awkwardly grabbed one leg to get his socks into the frame.

“Oh my god, Kurt,” she laughs, closing her eyes and letting her head fall against the headboard.

“Tried to do your pose. It's not the same.”

“I'm never going to let you forget this,” she says, shaking her head as she looks down at it again.

“I'd say we both have some pretty solid blackmail material now.”

“Wanna fool around?” she asks playfully, not sure if she means it, but up for it if he is. She has given him more to work with than he's given her, but she has a long sense memory to draw from.

“What – phone sex?” he asks, and she's surprised she can still surprise him.

“Yeah,” she says, lightly cajoling him now.

He makes a sort of ruminating grunt, and she knows he's considering whether it's likely to be more work than fun. Over the years he had always given it a shot when she prompted him, but this more verbose form of lovemaking had never been foremost among his many gifts. Still, even when words failed, he would exaggerate his breathing and moans for her, which she never failed to appreciate. But she can tell from the character of his silence he's too tired tonight.

“I'm kidding,” she sighs, resigned, her hand sliding away from the top of her pajama pants, where they had hovered in anticipation. “I just miss you.”

“I miss you too,” he says softly, those words coming much more readily. “Don't really like hotel life anymore.”

“I've domesticated you?” she teases him.

“I guess you have,” he returns, and she can hear the sheepish, flirtatious smile in his voice. “Not sure I ever really liked it. Just didn't have anything better going, before you.”

She looks around at this terribly domestic landscape, so homey with him in it, so cold and empty without him. “God, I love you,” she says, and it comes out in a hoarse whisper, her voice suddenly full of emotion. “That's all I really called to say. It's all I could think when I saw you up there – god I love that man. Is that silly?”

“Not silly at all.” He sighs, as if letting go some pent-up frustration. “You know, I hate this job. That's what I was thinking when I was up there. Should have been thinking about you, would have been a lot happier. Maybe next time I'm in a meeting with some bureaucratic blowhards I can't stand, I'll just tune out and think about that picture you just sent me.”

She lets out a laugh that fades into a sympathetic groan. “I'm sorry – I hate that you're unhappy.”

“Well, no, that's what I'm trying to get at. I guess I was unhappy, when I was there, and when they walked me off the stage. I guess I was when I got into this shitty hotel room. But talking to you...” he drifts off, taking his time to land on just the words he is looking for. “Diane, this is why I'm doing this. You and me. And it's worth it.”

“Oh, Kurt,” she says, moved.

“And that's all to say... I love you, too.”

“I want to kiss you so badly,” she says, closing her eyes as if to conjure the image. “Other things, too. But I wanna start by just kissing you, for an hour straight.”

“Sounds good to me,” he laughs. “Tomorrow.”

“When do you get back? I can try to clear my afternoon –“

He groans, meaning it. “Not till late. They've got me in some all-day meetings with the other chumps they flew in for this. Probably some cigars-and-whiskey lunch that goes on for hours, asinine stories, lining up favors.”

“I'm sorry. Focus on the whiskey.”

“Nah, I'll focus on this picture of you.”

She laughs, shaking her head. “Glad I could help.”

“Oh, you help,” he returns, chuckling too, then turns more serious. “More than you know.”

“Flirt. Hey, hang on.” Grinning to herself, she puts him on speaker and sets the phone down on the mattress. She leans over to switch off the bedside light, then adjusts the pillows behind her, laying down on her side. She pulls the phone back toward her. “Can you still hear me?”

“Yeah. You trying to go to sleep?”

“In a bit,” she says, in no hurry to let him go, even if there isn't much left to say. “I don't like seeing your side empty.”

“At least you're in our bed.”

“True. But I really don't sleep well without you anymore.” She reaches out toward the space where he should be, pulling one of his pillows closer and resting her arm around it. “There's a warmth to you, the weight of you that's gone and I swear my body knows it, I don't know. I guess I am silly. You make me silly.”

He laughs, and she can hear the faint click of his light on the other end, the creak of the mattress as he settles into his own bed, hundreds of miles away. “If this is silly, then we make each other silly.”

“How did we ever live like this before?” she asks softly, exhaustion creeping into her voice. With or without the weight of him there, she knows she won't last much longer.

“Not very well, I think we've learned,” he says wryly, and she knows he is thinking, as she is, of those years spent apart more often than they were together, and how they each grew slowly to hate it, never mentioning to the other how painful their arrangement had become until it swallowed them up.

But they had learned, and they were here now: one night apart would be followed by countless nights in each other's arms.

“Diane?” she hears him prod her, and she wonders if she had drifted off so easily after all, lulled by his warm presence if not his body.

“Sorry, sorry,” she purrs with a happy, sleepy smile, never opening her eyes as she pulls the pillow a little closer.

“Don't be,” he laughs, his voice sounding just a little further away now. “Go to sleep.”

And she hovers just at the edge of consciousness so she cannot be sure if she hears, or says, or simply dreams the next words before she crosses fully into sleep, but they belong to both of them regardless: This is what I've always wanted.

Chapter Text

Hey

Diane fires off the single-word text and immediately begins the next:

I'm leaving work early. Long day. Sure yours was longer.

What time does your plane get in?

She steps into the waiting car, greeting the driver and arranging her bag on the seat beside her. She assumes it will be a while before he sees her message and is free to respond, but when she looks down at her phone again his reply is already there.

A little after 8. Should be home by 9

She grimaces, for his sake as well as her own, just wanting him back where he belongs. And now she has nothing but time to kill.

I could meet you at the airport

She texts back, expecting the kind refusal that soon comes.

It's ok. I'll take a cab. See you soon

She smiles to herself, glancing down at her watch, quickly calculating the hours.

All right. I'll have everything ready for you.

She adds a red heart emoji for good measure, making her feel a bit childish as it does every time, but it's the only one she uses, and only when she means it. And it is only, for that matter, for him.

Everything?

Her smile deepens into a devilish smirk, hoping the implication, whatever he takes it to be, is enough to see him through a couple more hours with Trump's lackeys and a last late-night flight.

Everything.

 

~~~

 

Diane is curled up on their favorite couch, a blanket across her lap, absent-mindedly paging through a book without making much sense of it when she hears his key turn in the lock. As if called to action, she throws the blanket over the back of the couch and tosses the book on the nearest table, not caring to mark her place. She arranges herself artfully before he enters the room, one arm slung across the couch, the other draped languidly across her legs, after ensuring her robe fell open just a touch.

“Hey,” he calls out before he has even entered the room, and then, as his eyes land on her there, he repeats with greater emphasis: “Hey.

“Hey,” she says in a soft imitation of him, a hint of a smug smile tugging at her lips. She rises and crosses the distance between them, quickly and fluidly. He simply stands there and watches her, barely out of the doorway, entranced simply by the way she moves.

“If this is everything--” he begins, eyes drinking her in, but she cuts him off with a long, lingering kiss, her lips just pressed to his, her hands flat against his chest. His arms fall around her waist automatically, finding in her hips the perfect resting place, and clasps his hands lightly over her ass.

“This is not everything,” she purrs, pulling back just an inch and then quickly returning her lips to his, deepening the kiss, but still slow, and then she stops. The night is still young.

“Then I'm a lucky man,” he says.

“You are,” she agrees with definite meaning, reaching behind her to break his grip and take one of his hands in both of hers, turning to pull him into the room. He allows himself to be led – too tired to resist even if he wanted to, though he absolutely does not want to – back to the couch where he found her.

Once there, she loosens and then removes his tie, tossing it to the table. She then sets about unbuttoning his dress shirt, making quick work of it, sliding it off his shoulders and free of his arms. She slings the shirt over her elbow as she sets to work on his belt buckle.

“Hey, hey, hey, where's the foreplay?” he jokes, but making no move to stop her.

“Not yet,” she singsongs. “Just want you to be more comfortable.”

“Shirt, shorts, and socks?”

“Please.” She looks up long enough to roll her eyes at him. “I was thinking more robe and slippers.”

“So it's a sleepover.”

“I sure as hell hope so,” she says, her voice suddenly dropping an octave. She gives him a quick peck on the cheek and, before he can react, crosses the room again to retrieve those items. She is conscious of his eyes on her as she goes, and he makes no secret of his sustained enjoyment as she returns. “Why don't you get comfortable, relax, and leave everything else to me?”

One side of his mouth quirks into a smile as he finishes what she started with his belt. “A man could get used to this.”

 

~~~

 

When she returns, carrying a tray laden with food and drink from the kitchen, she finds he has obliged her by changing out of his work clothes, and he has taken over the spot she had occupied on the couch. But far from striking a sexy pose for her, his head is bent over his phone, a look of frustration creasing his features.

“There are few rules for tonight,” she says, setting the tray down on the table, “but one has to be no work email.”

“Sorry,” he murmurs, still distracted. “It's just this stupid...” He trails off, rather clumsily typing out some message of which she would probably prefer not to know the details.

She indulges him, popping the cap on one beer bottle and then a second, handing one to her preoccupied husband. He takes it, looking up for a moment with a quick smile of gratitude, then continues to attempt to finish his message single-handed, his long thumb slowly sweeping over the screen.

“I got takeout from Lou's,” she says, portioning out their dinner onto two plates, hoping to tempt him back to reality but getting only a grunt of acknowledgment in return.

“I'm sorry,” he says again a moment later, pressing the off button with a small flourish and then, as if deciding that wasn't a grand enough gesture, or not fitting his mood, he raises his hand above his head, cocks his shoulder back, and sends the phone flying, skittering until it hits the baseboard across the room.

“Wow,” she says, her eyes going wide as she hands him one plate. “Everything ok?”

“Thanks,” he says, trying to communicate with a weak smile that he has noticed she picked out all his favorites before answering her question. “Boss wants to talk to me tomorrow.”

She groans sympathetically as she eases back on the couch, her feet beside him on the cushion, balancing her own plate on her knees. “About your... viral moment?”

“About that,” he sighs heavily. “About everything. 90-day performance review, he says, which isn't an actual thing. Just an excuse to call me in and discuss my... general lack of enthusiasm.”

“If you need someone to vouch for you, I could tell them that's just how your face works,” she teases, hoping to bring him back to a good mood.

It does elicit a small laugh from him, the skin around his eyes crinkling adorably. “Worst of it is, I guess it's true. I mean, I knew what I was getting into when I took the job, Diane. But stupid me thought maybe I could make some kind of a difference anyway.”

“That's not stupid,” she says, reaching out to rub her hand along one arm, resting at his shoulder and squeezing. “You don't know how much I admire you for that.”

“Yeah, well. You can't make a difference from the inside. And I could probably just about deal with that, if I didn't have to put on a goddamn happy face about it as well.”

“I can't stand seeing you so unhappy,” she says, feeling every bit of his frustration and futility now.

He makes a sort of dismissive gesture with the hand holding his fork, waiting to swallow before responding. “It was a bad day. I'm sorry I'm going on and on. Don't take it too seriously, please.”

“But yesterday was also a bad day.”

“Yeah.”

“And you're dreading tomorrow, too.”

He sighs. “Diane, I meant what I said. And that was the deal I made when I took this job. This is how we get to be together, all this, this life we've made... It's worth it.” He pauses, holding her gaze for a long moment to be sure she understands. “It's more than worth it.”

“I don't--” she stops mid-sentence, her voice breaking with emotion even she didn't see coming.

“You don't what?” he prompts her gently, nudging her hip with his foot.

She closes her eyes, not sure exactly why this is suddenly so hard to say. “I don't like to think of you sacrificing so much for me.”

“Diane,” he begins, and she hears the dull thud of him setting his plate back on the tray. Her breath hitches as she feels his hands close around her ankles and pull her feet into his lap. “Diane,” he says again, even more softly.

She takes a deep breath and opens her eyes, finding a smile for him but no words to quite explain what has come over her.

He begins to rub her bare feet, making small circles with his thumbs, the pressure beginning to soothe her. “I don't feel like that. It isn't like that.”

“You promise me,” she says fiercely, sort of laughing back the old fears suddenly threatening.

“Diane, I promise. I'm doing exactly what I want to do. Maybe it's time to start looking for another job, but I promise, I'm not...” he drifts off, looking for the words. They both know what she's talking about now, and he will be the one to name it. “I'm not punishing myself. I'm not trying to be a martyr.”

“Okay,” she says, nodding, relief flooding through her. “I didn't think that, really. I just – needed to be sure.”

“I know,” he smiles back at her, his hands making their way up her feet to her ankles and drifting beneath the hem of her robe. “We said we'd check in with each other. You're checking in.”

She nods and takes a long drag of her beer, her mind drifting over conversations on other couches, other nights, at his cabin, at her old apartment, when they had sorted all this out. When she had told him, no matter how rough those conversations might get, her forgiveness was final and unconditional, and it would never work if he felt he must make it up to her forever, putting his own needs below hers. They had to go on as equals. Partners. Finally true, absolute partners.

And she understands he is saying to her that is exactly what he is doing.

She sets the beer back down on the table, and then her plate, no longer hungry for food so much as she is for his arms. She pulls her legs back and then scoots toward him on the couch, wedging herself under his arm and letting her hand rest on his chest. She inhales deeply, taking in his scent, his warmth, the pressure of his arm around her, his palm finding a place on her hip. This is infinitely better than the pillow she had tried to make do with the night before.

“I do want you to like your job, though,” she says softly, playing with the edge of his robe, and then, idly, the chest hairs springing free beneath it.

“Lots of people hate their jobs.” She feels rather than sees him shrug at this. “Don't know if I ever liked my work, exactly. I liked feeling... capable. Knowledgeable. Expert at something.”

“Well, I want you to have that,” she says, leaning forward now and kissing the bared part of his upper chest, her lips lingering there. “You have... so much... to give.”

Laughing, he raises his hand up to play with her hair, turning strands slowly around his fingers. “You curled it again, while I was away?”

She laughs, too, a soft hum against his chest. “I had some time to kill this afternoon.”

“I like it,” he appraises.

“You're easy to please.” The thought leads her to wonder if he is wearing anything at all under his robe. With a mind of its own, her hand drifts slowly lower down his body.

“In fairness to me, have you seen you?” His fingers tangle deeper in her hair, slowly massaging her scalp.

“Had time to take care of a few other things, too,” she says, her voice low, and the groan this elicits from him delights her, not least because she knows very well he thoroughly enjoys her whatever she has or has not done to her body, each time unwrapping her like a present, eyes wide and gleeful at what he finds. That groan is less about any specific expectation than the general promise he understands she is making.

She shifts in his arms, shimmying against him slightly so that she can reach his neck, placing a slow trail of kisses upward as her hand continues to work its way lower, coming to rest at the belt of his robe now. She presses a long kiss against the corner of his jaw, and then pulls his earlobe between her teeth, biting down slightly, then kissing the spot.

“You take such good care of me,” she whispers in his ear. “Let me take care of you.”

He groans again and she smirks in response: he is so easy.

She sits up again, pulling away enough to look him in the eye, letting him see that her mood has shifted in a definite and irrevocable way.

“I need to warn you,” he says with a sheepish smile, the fingertips of one hand slowly caressing her side from breast to hip. His touch makes her shiver involuntarily, her eyes drifting closed like a happy cat. “I'm a little tired to give you my best tonight.”

“Well, that's fine,” she purrs in return. “I said I was taking care of you.”

He raises his eyebrows, his other hand now parting the opening of her robe slightly, peering inside with interest at her burgundy negligee. “Oh, I like that one.”

“I know you do,” she says, leaning back slightly so he can get a better view.

He lets his hand dip underneath, his palm lightly cupping one breast, then moving lower, opening the robe to his inquisitive eyes still further. “Mind if I just... watch?”

“Mm-mm,” she hums. She presses his shoulders back against the couch firmly with both her hands, indicating that he is by no means to expend enough energy to so much as lift them from their resting position.

He shifts his hips into a more comfortable position, slouching slightly in his seat, clearly accepting the terms she is proposing. His hands continue to move freely over her body, his touch so light and separated by layers of silky fabric her back arches in delicious frustration. “I'll love you lazy,” he whispers hoarsely.

The tone of his voice, the way his eyes darken as he says it, makes her shiver in anticipation. No way in hell her cowboy would ever leave her unsatisfied; but if she wants it, he will make it slow torture.

She scoots backward and then comes to stand, his fingers trailing a line down her legs as she goes until she is just out of reach. He makes a quiet noise of protest as his hands fall uselessly to his thighs. She nudges his knee with her own, her hands resting on the knotted belt of her robe. He looks up at her expectantly, and she nudges him again, this time hooking her leg around to the inside of his. Catching her meaning, he slowly spreads his knees wide, his own robe riding up slightly and exposing more of his legs as he does.

She steps between them, her hands still poised there at the tie of her robe, looking down at him as if posing an innocent question.

“Take it off,” he rasps, needing to see more of her.

“You,” she orders with a slight playful pout, leaning forward to hover over him so she is again within reach.

Obediently, he works to untie the belt, clearly struggling against his own instincts to rip it free eagerly. He holds her there as long as she will let him, two large hands firmly clasping her sides, kissing whatever she will offer him, her neck, the top of her breasts, and he makes a sort of whimpering sound as she pulls away again, standing out of his mouth's reach, obeying her directive to sit back.

She begins to sink down, never breaking eye contact with him for a moment, a challenge neither of them are about to back down from. When she is just about to her knees he can reach out for her again, briefly caressing her neck with the sides of his thumbs, and then he slowly pushes her robe free of her shoulders. She shrugs it loose from her arms, tossing it behind her with no care for where it lands.

“God, you're beautiful,” he breathes, his fingertips just able to trace the neckline of the garment, his eyes drinking in everything he cannot quite reach. “That, too?”

She smiles wickedly. “We said lazy. Not greedy.”

He growls with a frustration she knows is partly for show, partly very real. She doubts very much he would stop her for the world right now, but he likes to see her, to touch her, to taste her while she is driving him wild. It will be slow torture for them both.

She bends down, pressing a kiss to the inside of one knee, then another further up his thigh, right where his robe has naturally come to fall. She rests her head there, turning to look up at him. “I've been thinking about this all day,” she confesses, her hand reaching out to the opposite knee, slowly sliding up that leg.

“Jesus, Diane,” he whispers, brushing a stray lock of hair out of her eyes.

“I had a lot of time to kill,” she goes on, her hand moving higher, up his thigh, over the material of his robe. She lets it come to rest right at the top of his thigh, squeezing his leg between thumb and forefinger. “And I have a good imagination.”

He chuckles at that. “I know you do.”

Grinning, she turns her attention from his eyes to his groin, gratified to see his robe tenting temptingly there. She turns the back of her hand over and lets it graze lightly over the bulging material and then, experimentally, repeats the movement with her palm, slightly more sensitive to the touch. She can feel him growing in response, and she is deciding moment by moment whether it will bring her more pleasure to feel him or to see him.

“You're killing me,” he sighs, evidently less purely curious about the whole endeavor than she is.

She sits up, coming to rest on her heels now, finally pulling loose the belt of his robe, but pausing to smile up at him again. She takes in every line on his face, more pronounced than usual with the tension he is holding. She watches him as she pulls the robe slightly open, one hand slipping underneath to feel his stomach, warm, rising and falling irregularly with his hitched breath. His eyes squint and his lips part slightly as her hand slides downward, slowly but steadily now, until it finds what it is seeking and grips him, harder than he expects. She memorizes every slight contortion and softening of his features as she runs her hand down the length of him once, and then slides back to the base.

And then she looks down, eyes wide with fascination and eagerness no matter how familiar, at what she has been longing to see all day. She places an almost chaste kiss to the tip of him, settling down on her hips into a more comfortable position. And then, almost without warning, she devours him.

He is not yet fully hard when she takes him in her mouth and somewhere in the back of her mind the thought flits across her consciousness that this is really the best part, feeling him grow for her, responding inexorably to her every touch, something beyond his own will, completely at her command. And she loves it, the way he takes up more of her, blooming inside her until it is almost too much, and then she adapts to make room for him. Her body buzzes with warmth and love as he fills her up with everything he has to give.

She begins slowly, or tries to, alternating between licking and stroking the length of him, then lashing his head with her tongue, then sucking as much of him as she can, now softly, now harder. But almost without conscious intention she is working him mercilessly, as if desperate to access something more, something deeper, just outside of her reality. It is as if she is trying to swallow all her love for him whole.

“Diane – fuck -” he growls, both his hands deeply entwined in her hair, and she knows he is resisting every impulse to squeeze or push her, and she isn't making it very easy for him.

She isn't even sure if this is what he wanted, exactly, but this is suddenly what she needs, all of him, more somehow, solid and real and not ever too far out of her reach. She presses his thighs wider, wanting him more open, more vulnerable to her, and he groans at the new sensations this brings, shifting his pelvis upward to offer her everything. Of all the ways they love each other, this is as raw as it is intimate, worshiping him even as he is at her mercy.

“Diane -” he says again, unable to add any more, no matter how ineloquent, but she never gets tired of her name on his lips like this, pleading, grateful, full of love.

She looks up at him finally, her hand replacing her mouth, and her voice is so low with desire it surprises even her. “Tell me how you want to come.”

He looks back at her, almost comically dumbstruck, at this question that impossibly demands every answer, no single one able to negate all others. Finally he lets one palm drop, exhausted but extended toward her in invitation. “C'mere.”

Grinning, she rises, finding herself a bit wobbly on her legs, her body protesting the length of time she spent in that position, further thrown to fully realize how wet and needy she is herself. Yes, yes, he made the right choice – thank god.

His knees still splayed wide, she must stretch her legs still wider to straddle him, hitching up her negligee as she places one knee and then the other on either side of him on the cushion. He helps guide her, his hands lightly on her hips as she finds her balance. Her hands rise to cup both sides of his face, hovering over him and seeing him return the look of unrestrained wonder she knows she is projecting down at him.

“God, I love you,” she breathes, pressing her forehead against his.

“I love you,” he responds, kissing her face wherever he can reach until she, laughing, adjusts to find his lips, pulling his face toward her where it belongs.

Almost at once, his hands at her hips coax her lower, lower, where he needs to feel her just as desperately.

“This is coming off now,” he laughs, easily pulling her negligee free of her hips and over her head, finding no resistance from her. She lowers her arms around his neck now, leaning back just enough to give him a good look. And he drinks her in, making no secret of how much he appreciates every inch of her, his eyes slowly traveling the length of her body until they land on her center, still poised just above his now-straining cock.

“Come on,” she practically coos, cajoling him to look back up at her again. “Love me, lazy.”

With a playful little growl he adjusts his hips to make it easier for her, and she slides herself along his length and easily pulls him inside. They both let out a long sigh of relief at the sudden change in their awareness as they join, then laugh at how utterly predictable they are, so in sync, so ridiculously, giddily high on each other.

She kisses him more deeply, their tongues mingling and exploring as he presses into her, and fills her up. Again there is a feeling of blossoming, of blooming, and he takes up all the space she has to give, a perfect home for him. She is in no rush, at first, to do anything but feel him, holding him there, all love and need both tangible and potential, pushing against him to find more, impossibly more.

He is the one to break the intensity of this deadlock, shifting his hips beneath her in small encouraging circles, nipping kisses at her jaw, every movement languid but purposeful. He runs his hands down the length of her back, fingertips tracking slow waves from shoulderblades to spine to the hollows of her waist and then finally coming to rest at her hips.

She responds to his every touch, beginning to move on him, clasping his body to hers and burying her face in his neck. It won't last long now, she knows, even if he is lazy and she does try to draw it out. She began too intensely and their bodies are aching too desperately for each other to pull back. Is this what one night apart does to them now? How did she ever go so long without the relief of his touch before? Not very well, she hears in his voice. Not very well. She wraps her arms around his neck, her hips moving a bit faster now in frustration that she cannot have him any closer.

“God – I want...” she breathes against his neck, not quite sure what it is or how to say it.

“What do you want?” His voice is gruff but she knows he would give her anything in the world if it were his to give.

She growls a little, biting his shoulder. She wants him inside her, his whole body, his mind, his soul if she believes in it, fuck knows, but she wants, wants all of him inside her. A home where he can never escape, not even for one night. “Pull me against you,” she settles for this in frustration, absurdly protesting the limits of language and physical space when she just. Wants. Him.

But he understands what she is asking, or at least what he is able to give, and moves his hands around to her ass, holding her there for leverage and matching her rhythm, pulling her into him as she moves on his cock. “Like this?” he asks, and it's as loving as it is goading, asking her to tell him what more he can give her.

Her answer comes almost instantly as an explosion of noises and utterances both familiar and always new, moans catching in her throat and then allowed to fill the room, her fists clenching at the air and then the skin of his neck and then his hair and then releasing as she loses and then comes back to her senses, still pulsing around him long after the first wave overtook her.

She knows he is trying to wait until she slows and then stops and then tells him it's over with a kiss, but he can't this time, his own release boiling over sooner than expected, before he can manage it, his hips jerking rapidly into hers, groans half-buried in her shoulder, sparking her waning flame again briefly, until they are both completely consumed.

They stay like that for a long time, holding onto each other tightly, slow careless kisses, their bodies joined until they cannot any longer. Finally she releases him, sitting back further on his legs, her arms draped across his shoulders.

“That was... quite a welcome home,” he laughs, always one for a magnificent understatement.

“Sorry if I wore you out,” she says, smiling slyly.

“No,” he shakes his head, returning the smile in kind. “I'll sleep well tonight.”

“Good. Me too.” She gives him a last, long kiss, then pulls his robe back around his shoulders before sliding off his lap onto the couch beside him. She leans her head against his shoulder, and takes his nearer hand in both of hers. She pulls the blanket around her, just for a moment, just until they can stumble to bed. “Don't leave me again any time soon.”

He squeezes her tighter against him and chuckles, and she can feel the rumbling in his throat against her head. “Where would I go?”

Chapter Text

The shock of the alarm triggers Diane's reflexes more than wakes her, and she fumbles for the snooze button without conscious thought. The second and final piece of information her mind is prepared to take in is the awareness of Kurt's arm, heavy around her waist, grounding her toward the mattress, toward him, toward sleep. She closes her eyes again, letting her head fall heavy against the pillow. Hazy impressions of the dream she'd been jarred awake from float into her conscious mind: he is there, she thinks she remembers, but she can't remember where they are or what was said. There is laughter, and then an ambulance siren. But that must have been the alarm.

She begins to drift off again, focusing her mind on the pleasanter parts of the dream which shift into memories of the night before until she is not sure which is which, nor does it much matter. Unconnected thoughts pass over her of his warm rumbling laugh, hands caressing skin, the sensation of him holding her fast in the dark. And then the ambulance.

The alarm sounds again, but before she can react this time it has already stopped. She is vaguely aware of the heat of his body as he reaches over her to silence the damn thing once and for all. Without opening her eyes, she catches hold of his side as he begins to move back, the contact with bare skin making tangible the thoughts she had just been entertaining. She turns on her other side to face him, pulling him closer.

“Don't fall back asleep now that you've turned that off,” she warns him sleepily, reserving that right for herself.

“Nah. I'm up,” he promises. “I'll be your snooze button.”

She closes her eyes again, shifting her limbs until she is comfortable. This is the kind of service she misses when he is gone.

“How'd you sleep?” she mumbles, not yet committed to being awake, but able to manage this much.

“Better, in my own bed,” he says. He kisses her forehead, letting his lips come to rest there. “Once we finally got in it.”

Flashes of memory pass through her: she pushing him down, he pulling her into him, the look in his eyes when he gives himself over to her completely. Heavy with meaning, she says only, “Yes.”

When she opens her eyes again, she is vaguely aware that time has passed, unconcerned to know how long. She trusts he would wake her if necessary, and she is in no rush to go anywhere. If she slept again, there were no dreams, no imaginings this time, just the calm, blank contentment they create together.

“Now look who's lazy,” he teases her, his head resting invitingly on an inclined forearm. He has been waiting for her, watching her, and the awareness of this quiet intimacy thrills her as if it were the first time waking up together. He lets his other hand roam across her arm, tracing a slow, meandering path down to her elbow and back up again.

Her eyelids droop heavily at his touch, but she blinks them open again, resigned to being awake now for good. “When's your meeting?”

He groans, looking vaguely in the direction of the phone that could be broken for all he knows – or cares. “Not till ten.”

She raises her eyebrows meaningfully. “We have a lot of time to kill until then.”

He nods slowly, confirming the fact as well as the implication. “It's a video call, anyway.”

“Oh, really? Then I have you all to myself until 9:59.”

“Let's say 9:58. I do need time to button my shirt.”

“All right. 9:58.” She yawns and stretches, ending the movement with her arm across his side, pulling herself closer until her head comes to rest now on his pillow.

He laughs. “Thought you had something else in mind.”

“Oh, Mr McVeigh,” she gasps in mock horror. “You're relentless.”

“Yeah, usually that's you.”

She snuggles a little closer still, humming in response. She certainly hasn't ruled out the possibility, but she wouldn't mind hovering on the edges of sleep a little longer, absorbing in minute detail the heat of his body, his breath on her skin; if they just stayed here long enough, she could perhaps decode some message in the lines he is tracing now on her back. She would happily stay here as long as it takes to find out.

But the questions she had the night before pop back into mind, and make her suddenly more alert. She pulls back just a little, studying his face. “So you'll get through your meeting. And then what?”

He downplays it with a joke, either not understanding or purposefully avoiding what she is asking. “Then... they'll probably give me some new loyalty test, make me sign an oath, who knows.”

“No,” she laughs, but presses him. “No, I mean... what do you want to happen next? Last night you talked about looking for a new job.”

“Yeah, I don't know. I don't know how many times I can start over,” he grimaces, and then just as quickly his expression shifts into a sideways smirk. His fingers' wanderings come to an end, interlacing with hers now. He squeezes her hand. “I like the last redo. Wouldn't want to take the chance.”

She smiles genuinely in response, returning the pressure. But she's not about to leave it at that. “Well, I'm not going anywhere, that much I can promise you. So what do you want?”

He looks off at some invisible point now, taking her question seriously. She knows he has not, not for a long time, thought about what he alone wants. All the conversations they have had, all the choices they have made in the months following their reconciliation have been so singularly about what is best for them, she wonders now if she has been somehow neglectful of him.

“Honestly? Are we talking the dream scenario here?” He trails off, sighing. “You're not going to like it if I tell you.”

She raises her eyebrows at this, always interested to find she can be surprised by him. He has thought about it, but he has kept it to himself. “Oh, now you have to tell me.”

“Remind me why I agreed to this whole 'tell each other everything' thing,” he grumbles, but it's all for show now. A nervous little laugh escapes him. “What I want, honestly, is to keep doing this, or whatever else keeps me afloat, until you're ready.”

“Until I'm ready?”

There's a playful glint in his eye now, but he's hiding it from her, not quite wanting to meet her gaze. Finally he says it. “To retire.”

“Oh!” she gasps involuntarily, not expecting that of all things. Then a moment later, as the thought sinks in, she repeats: “Oh.”

“No pressure,” he shrugs quickly, and she knows he means it. “Just... ready when you are.”

“Oh, Kurt,” she says again, still wrapping her mind around the thought. She covers his hand in both of hers now, anxious to show him there is nothing to worry about in her surprise. “Well, we should start talking about it.”

“There's no rush. I didn't think it needed to come up any time soon, but – you asked.”

“I did ask. You know I almost retired a few years ago.”

“I know.”

There is just a hint of grief in his simple confirmation, a heartache that has healed, but can't be made less real. That was a vision of her future that did not include him. And, unable to remove him from her life once and for all, she could only imagine running away.

But everything had changed since then. She squeezes his hand again. Everything.

“I haven't thought about it in a while, but we should have a plan,” she goes on, focusing them back on the here and now, and this new idea of a future they could have. “I don't know if I'm back where I'd need to be – where we'd need to be – to have the retirement we want, financially, but...”

“You're having fun at this firm,” he says, as if trying to dismiss the whole notion as silly. “I see how much fun you're having. I wouldn't want to—”

She cuts him off, freeing one hand to silence him, her fingers over his mouth. “You wouldn't be. I have an awful lot of fun with you, too, you know.”

He smiles, kissing her offered fingertips. “Okay.”

“I do love my work. But there are a lot of things to consider. So I think... we should consider them. We should keep talking.” She inclines her head forward, kissing him sweetly. “About our future.”

“I think that sounds good.”

She grins, charmed as ever by his gift for understatement. The sparkle in his eyes, the smile tugging at the corner of his lips, belies just how good he finds it.

The idea feels more real, more right with each passing moment and she knows, whether it's a year, or two, or five away that this is where they will be, and she is eager now to start down that path.
She could transition to emeritus status at the firm, make more time for the pro bono work she finds meaningful. It could mean more time at his cabin in the country, and a chance to travel to all the places they had each mentioned over the years, but could never seriously consider. What had he said to her, once? Put their lives first.

Never in a million years could she grow tired of making a new beginning with this man.

“So we should sit down with our accountants,” she says, confirming her intentions, pleased to realize she feels this way.

He makes a face in response. “Yeah every time we talk to them, they tell us to get divorced.”

She bursts into laughter at this, suddenly giddy, falling against him and muffling the sound against his shoulder. This is good. Oh, she thinks, this is going to be so good.

When she lifts her head again, she finds he is looking at her with an intensity that leaves her dazed. She knows he is thinking exactly what she is thinking: they have weathered so much, emerging better than before. Whatever comes next can only be better still.

And he says exactly what she is thinking right out loud: “I love you.”

Her own words, repeated with equal reverence, are swallowed in his kiss, too impatient to feel it to wait until he can hear it. He kisses her with a fierceness she was not quite prepared for, but which she responds to readily, both as always craving touch as soon as all words have been spoken.

His hand drifts over her again, pausing at the small of her back where he knows she is ticklish when her body begins to ache for him, and predictably her hips jerk forward. He laughs into their kiss, loving how he can anticipate her as much as the ways she surprises him. His laughter is infectious and she can't help returning it, marveling at how easily love flows through them, feeling it, saying it, showing it, all in one unbroken line. There is never a moment she could point to, a definite before and after, only a flow from one state to another until suddenly she cannot ignore that something has shifted in a definite and irrevocable way.

His hand continues lower, squeezing her ass affectionately as he grazes over it. He gathers the silky material of her negligee between his fingers, bunching it up until the hem of the garment is within reach.

“What are you doing?” she asks, unnecessarily.

“Kinda wish you hadn't bothered putting this back on.” His voice, now slightly rough, is full of a new desire his last words had not conveyed. She shivers. No before, no after, but at some point a definite change.

“Hmmmm. Why?” she teases him.

He kisses her temple rather than answer, the fingertips of one hand dipping beneath the fabric to graze slowly along the back of her thigh. Her knee rises almost involuntarily, pressing against him. God, at his slightest touch her body is ready to respond. Perhaps she is entirely predictable after all.

“I got a good night's sleep,” he murmurs vaguely, inclining her knee still further as his hand moves in a firm stroke from her thigh to the inside of her knee and slowly back up the long length of her, fingertips stilling slightly higher than they had been before.

“That's – good,” her voice hitches slightly, little interested in disrupting what he has in mind.

“Yep. Got my energy back.” He lets his hand slowly snake around toward the front of her thigh, his knuckles arching dangerously close to her center, but just missing.

“Oh – I'm glad,” she says, trying and failing to disguise the rise and fall of her expectations. She hooks her knee around his leg, drawing herself even closer.

“Thought I might...” he trails off, letting his lips linger over her forehead and then the bridge of her nose as his hand retraces its path back again in a maddeningly slow caress. “...go for a quick run.”

She laughs in frustration, baring her teeth against his neck playfully.

“No? Hmm.” He inclines his head downward to find her lips, pressing his against them softly. “Guess I'll have to find another way to work it off.”

She pulls him into a proper kiss, both arms wrapped around his neck, one hand holding his head in place. Her tongue slides along his, a reminder, a suggestion.

But he pulls back, a long low groan escaping his mouth as he does, as if to say this is just as hard for him as it is for her. “Do you still want to know what I want?” he asks, an edge to his voice that makes her suddenly aware that she is throbbing for him.

“Yes,” she says hoarsely, half-surprised she could manage that much, given the way he is looking at her, and his fingers poised about an inch away from where she want them.

“I want to see you,” he says simply, and the stark understanding of exactly what he means causes her body to lurch toward him helplessly again.

“Yeah,” she agrees, struggling to keep her eyes open in the intensity of the moment, just needing his hands on her now.

He complies, his hands moving the fabric aside over her hip and quickly returning, touching her at last. She can't help but let out a little gasp as she feels his fingers, shockingly gentle at first, tracing the outline of her lips and then softly parting them.

“Jesus, Diane,” he curses, presumably at finding her hot and wet and wanting him already or, more accurately, still, since last night.

She laughs at that, oh, god knows they're both predictable. Every time, that astonishment. Every time.

But she stops laughing as he begins to explore her in earnest, his fingers spreading her wetness to her clit. She shudders, she might even have gasped, she isn't sure, so surprised to feel him rubbing circles into her, so hard, so soon, but just as quickly the sensation recedes again. She understands he is only preparing her, and the thought makes her breath hitch again.

He shifts so the angle is easier on his wrist, positioning her where he needs her as well, and all the while she is conscious that his gaze never leaves her face. She is pressing into him now, whatever she can make contact with, desperate perhaps but she doesn't care. She feels his finger there – just there – and she pushes herself against him until finally she feels the relief of him moving inside her.

“Look at me,” he whispers, and she wants to so badly, but every time she raises her head and tries to find him her eyes wince shut again, her head hitting the pillow with a low moan. His hand works her expertly, knowing her every response, taking her exactly where he wants her and keeping her there exactly as long as he wants her.

“God, you're beautiful,” he breathes, and she can only imagine what she looks like, her face screwed up in pleasure and delicious pain, and yet she knows he means it.

“Look at me,” he says again, and it's a challenge he can't possibly expect her to fulfill, not when he has her there right on the edge, her hips rising from the mattress involuntarily now to meet his every movement. She presses her thighs together against his hand in a crude attempt to show him what she really needs, more pressure, god, please, there.

His movements slow and then still instead, leaning down to kiss her softly when she whimpers in protest. He brushes the hair that has fallen around her face from her forehead while his other hand just barely pulses inside her.

“Diane,” he whispers, kissing a slow path along her jawline, and then pulls back, denying her that, too. “Look at me.”

She is almost numb from aching for her release, but she begins to regain control over her responses in this stillness. She unclenches her fists, relaxes her grip on him, and slowly opens her eyes, taking a moment to find her focus again.

His face is full of reverence, amazed and endlessly curious about her, searching her eyes for something neither could begin to fathom much less define. And he is always looking at her this way, when she catches him in a quiet moment, this unabashed wonder in his eyes betraying his otherwise stoic demeanor. But this is so pure, so intense now that she almost has to look away – and then she cannot look away.

Concentration lines his features as he begins again, his thumb finding her clit at last, his careful study of her reactions informing his touch and taking her deeper and deeper into her bottomless well of desire for him. She clings to him again, hands grasping wherever she can find purchase, fighting to keep this connection as long as she can. But his fingers are moving furiously now, and if she doesn't hear him say let go, she feels it. She knows he is still watching her with that unfathomable love as her eyes close again, and her face contorts, and she feels every muscle in her body clench. She wants to kiss him senseless, feel his body overwhelm her, but her gift to him is allowing him to simply watch her unravel.

“Oh, god,” she groans, blindly feeling around for the pillow she sent flying in her thrashing. Finding it, she turns on her side, her body half pressed against his, half against the mattress, riding out the last irregular pulses of her orgasm on his fingers.

He laughs lightly, mostly basking in her pleasure and a little pleased with himself, which she certainly cannot begrudge him. He kisses her shoulder and then her neck as she shifts fully onto her stomach, his hands moving soothingly over her until she fully comes down.

“If retirement looks like a lot of mornings like this, then yes,” she says, stretching happily. “My answer is yes.”

“I don't think that's something we can ask our accountants to factor in,” he says wryly.

“That's why we never listen to them,” she laughs. She reaches out, searching for his hand, which he is quick to offer. She brings it to her lips and kisses his knuckles. “God, you're good to me.”

“Selfish, really.” He sits up and shifts behind her, moving his knees to either side of her hips, his actions seeming to contradict him as he begins to massage her shoulders. His thumbs press deeply into her neck where he knows it gets tight with every second or third circle of his palms. “Nothing turns me on like seeing you come.”

Something inside of her twitches anew at his words, blunt, base, and, she knows, true. “You must be dying back there, then, because that was – wow.”

“I'll manage,” he says, his hands moving further down her back, over the material of her negligee. She suddenly wishes she hadn't bothered to put it back on, too, aching again for his direct touch. “You just let me know when you're ready for round two.”

It's an imperfect metaphor, but it occurs to her now he is always waiting for her, for a sign that she is ready. Always poised to respond the moment she gives it, and sure of what that next step should be. She arches her back up into his touch now, wondering vaguely if she has ever told him that she knows this, she depends on this, she is grateful for this. Every time she has insisted on making her own way, there she finds him, at the end of it, patient and true. And she cannot imagine any path without him now, at her side, all the way.

“Let me feel you,” she demands, looking back at him over her shoulder. He shifts, bending over her to kiss her neck again, and then slowly lowers his hips, holding his body just above her. He presses his cock against her, almost imperceptibly pulsing where he comes to rest at her ass, hinting at what is to come. She groans at the contact. “I want you now, Kurt.”

The rasp in her voice, the sound of his name on her lips, is all the encouragement he needs, grinding himself against her and then sitting back on his heels. He pulls her up with him in a fluid movement, and she finds a perch on his legs, her back curving into his chest, hyperaware of how his hard length is straining for her touch. She obliges, moving against him as best she can while he holds her, his hands palming her breasts, both steadying and unsteadying her.

He kisses her neck, his breath already rough and ragged, his mind several steps ahead of his body. “You drive me crazy,” he mutters, although she knows, she could hardly miss it. Her husband never wastes his words on the obvious, and she loves that this is the one exception.

Diane slinks free of his embrace, eliciting a disappointed groan that quickly modulates into an appreciative hum as he enjoys the sight of her dropping to all fours in front of him, her entire body an offering. She casts a look backward, both a challenge and an invitation in her eyes, reaching behind to pull the skirt of her negligee up around her waist for his view.

He cannot hold back long enough either to appraise or to tease, following her as if on a tether. He positions himself behind her, one hand on his cock and the other parting her folds, guiding himself inside her with an almost comical sigh of relief. Only now can he seem to allow himself to breathe, allow himself to fully appreciate the sight of her, gloriously arrayed and open entirely to him, the feeling of her under his hands, the feeling of her surrounding him. And then he begins to move.

He is trying to pace himself and struggling, she knows, his irregular cadence an internal war, frustration palpable in his breathing. But she loves this, these moments when she can focus entirely on him, every movement, every touch, intuit what he wants before he knows it, and sense when he is past knowing, only reacting. The way he continues to give to her, conscious or not, melts her heart: his hands caressing over her every time he forgets himself and grips or pushes too hard, but it's never too hard, she loves everything he has to give her.

She knows he is thinking only of making her come again now and she is both willing him to be more selfish and loving him for not. She isn't sure if she can, doesn't particularly care if she does, and that is the real war they are fighting, each trying desperately to put the other first.

He folds forward now, his body perfectly molded around hers, pushing into her harder even as he drops his head to place sweet kisses anywhere he can reach. It's this dissonance that will undo her, she realizes, and at the same moment she is conscious that her own need is building again, a stirring that becomes potential and then a certainty. As if, her head dropping in exhaustion at the mere thought, he would ever stop before he took her there.

Both lust and love swell in her as she understands this, her body not quite sure how to respond. Her hips surge back on him, coaxing him to give her more, give her everything, while her lips search for his uselessly, desperate to kiss him, sloppily connecting only with the corner of his mouth here, his jaw there. Groaning in frustration, she settles for entwining her fingers with his where his palm is braced firmly against the mattress, focusing all his energy into satisfying her shifting and frenzied needs.

He kisses her soothingly, kisses her everywhere he can reach, his pace unrelenting now. His lips linger at her ear, his teeth nipping gently. “Please,” he whispers, and it's all he can manage, but she hears the rest: please, now, I can't hold out much longer.

“I need you to – touch me,” she gasps, and he does immediately, putting all his weight on one arm as he reaches between them to massage her clit with the other.

Her arms buckle as her second orgasm washes over her, yelling out at the intensity of it and the sudden reality of gravity, momentarily afraid she will lose precious contact with him as she falls. But he follows her, careful not to put all his weight on her as he surrounds her, his hips soon bucking uncontrollably into hers, following her exactly where she leads.

He shifts more of his weight off her and onto the mattress, pulling her tightly against his chest as they recover their breathing. He holds himself inside her until he no longer can, and they are both conscious of every last pulse and twitch, shallower and slowing, and of the simple pleasure of their connection. When it has all receded, he slowly withdraws from her, tenderly pulling her negligee back down around her hips.

She turns in his arms to face him, finally, finally finding the relief of his kiss she has been craving, perhaps more than anything, since they started. They lose track of time, tangled in each other and carelessly drifting from deep and needy kisses to slow and sensual kisses, following their bodies' demands.

When it is over, they catch each other staring, assessing all they have shared, and then, simultaneously, they both burst into heady laughter. At what, she could not quite say; was there a word for this? How good it is, how lucky they are, just to be alive.

“I know,” he says, shaking his head, as if in confirmation. He rolls over, his eyes drifting closed and a look of blissful stupor coming over him, seemingly content that everything has been said and done.

She watches him thoughtfully, curling up against his side, perhaps never quite able to let go in that same way. Her thoughts drift irresistibly to the future again, even as there is nothing more she could want in this present moment. It is a future that feels limitless, open, free for them to define. Every morning could be like this. When they're ready. They have their whole lives ahead to plan.

There must be a word for this. There must be something more she has to tell him, that she has not yet found the words to express.

This is happiness. It is as simple, and profound, as that. He gives her that, he saves her life with that, every day.

She leans forward and kisses his cheek, finding at last the only words that can express that to him, in a language they have created for themselves.

You're my hero.