“You know, you never did answer my question.”
Beatrice sighs, the sound traveling through his chest to burrow in his heart. “Which one?” she whispers, fingers squeezing small imprints into the skin on his hands. “You do ask so many of them.”
“Oh,” Benedick says, snorting into her hair, smiling when she giggles in delight. “Do not mock me so, wife!”
“But you are so mockable, husband,” Beatrice teases, hand squeezing his three times in quick succession before pulling away to brush a stray lock of hair away from his face. “And you take it so well, besides.”
“That is besides the point, my dear,” Benedick murmurs, closing his eyes with a sigh when Beatrice’s fingers delve deeper into his hair, nails scratching against his scalp in the way that makes him melt. Just one of the many things he’s learned in the three months since they married.
They lie together, soft breaths dragging them down into soft blankets. Dawn creeps over them, with pink seeping into their cheeks and orange settling into their smiles and red coming to nest in their bones. Benedick pulls Beatrice closer, lips shifting from her hair to press against her forehead in a kiss that makes her smile.
“Well, go on then,” she says, fingers tugging ever so lightly at Benedick’s locks. “What question would you have me answer?”
Benedick smiles and noses at her hairline, eyes falling shut as he breathes her in. “When did you first fall in love with me?”
“Me? In love with you?” Beatrice says, clicking her tongue. “So presumptuous, my dear.”
“Lady, you are in my arms at this very moment!” Benedick exclaims, unable to resist giving her a vengeful smooch on the cheek that makes her laugh. “It is futile to hide your feelings! Unless you mean to say you would be in the arms of an unlovèd man!”
“Nay, my dear,” Beatrice says, still giggling. “But I do so love to tease you!”
“Well then,” Benedick says, dramatically stretching out the pause between his words, “I suppose you should not answer my question, cruel of heart that you are!”
“Nay, nay,” Beatrice laughs, “I’ll answer.”
“At this point, my lady,” Benedick huffs, “I would rather you not.”
Beatrice smiles, a sight so mischievous and sweet that Benedick aches to wipe it off her face. “And yet, I will.”
Benedick huffs again. “If you must answer, then answer true. And do not tease me!”
“Alright, alright,” Beatrice says, sighing. “I am… to be honest Signore, I am not entirely when I first fell in love with you. By the time I had realized my own feelings, I was already there.”
Benedick frowns. “How can that be?” he asks, wondering at the familar-yet-unknown machinations of his wife’s mind.
“Well,” Beatrice says, fingers fidgeting in his hair. “I suppose I fell in love in small jerks. Like a door, scraping against tough tile in heavy friction, occasionally inching ahead, ‘til a big push comes about and frees it from the friction, letting it swing freely and madly.”
She looks up at Benedick’s face, searching his eyes. “Forgive me, husband,” she says quietly, forefinger tracing over his cheekbone. “I fear I am not making sense.”
“It is not your most apt metaphor, ‘tis true,” Benedick teases, taking her hand to press a kiss to her palm. “But I know you, and I know you well. I understand.”
Beatrice smiles. “Good,” she sighs, eyes closing as she leans down to place her head on Benedick’s chest. “Good.”
The dawn is brighter now, the new sun doing its best to transmute into the golden light of day. They’ll have to get up soon, Benedick thinks, mulling over the duties to be done and the people to be seen and the orders to be carried out.
Then he looks down at Beatrice, face and hair soft with morning, and sighs.
Surely a few more minutes couldn’t hurt, he reasons, eyes closing of their own accord as he follows his wife back into sweet slumber.