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a quiet sort of year

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Dating Tessa has its perks. 

Scott likes to remind himself of them when he’s pelting down the wind-stripped streets of Montreal or Toronto or whatever grey, clouded city they find themselves in that weekend, Tessa’s pre-requisite flat white in hand, rainwater dripping off the tip of his nose and spattering at his feet. Dating Tessa has made him happy — has made them both happy, ludicrously so. Granted, the pre-dawn coffee runs are something he could have lived without, but the process is that much sweeter knowing what awaits him on his return: a very warm, sleepily grateful Tessa, who hasn’t yet mustered up the energy to complain when he slips back under the sheets with her and buries his cold face into the crook of her neck.

Their days of cast-iron boundaries and stout refusals to admit anything beyond saintly love and respect for one another have melted into something so simple. Scott had thought it would be earth-shattering. Falling in love — actually falling in love was like that, wasn’t it? Everything happening with a bang. Fireworks and sweeping orchestral music, grand declarations of undying commitment. He hadn’t fallen in love with Tessa. He just woke up one morning and realised life only made sense with her in it.

He and Tessa still visit the same places, they see the same people. They stop at the same brunch place on the corner of Saint-Michael and Beaudet, the one that he knows Tessa likes because the proprietors always tuck them into a discreet corner away from the windows, and never ask her if she wants her pancakes with maple syrup or without, so she never has to pretend like she’s considering her health as an Olympic athlete.

They share a bed more often than they used to, and they probably get half as much sleep, which they keep telling each other they’re going to have to knock off before their training suffers. But more importantly, Tessa’s smiled more in recent months than Scott can ever remember — properly smiled, the kind that reaches all the way to the corners of her eyes. Scott’s not so naive as to think her improvement in mood is solely because of their new relationship status, and not a successive streak of victories in their comeback season, but he knows what it looks like when Tessa smiles because she wants to, rather than because she thinks she has to. 

They’re happy together. That much is clear.

So when they’re curled up together on the sofa in his brother’s front room, watching the televised preparations for the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Ottawa, there’s not much that can dissuade Scott’s good mood — not even Charlie heckling them from the kitchen with the eloquence of a lifetime spent in hockey changing rooms.

“You two even watching that? Don’t need the display on TV, looks like we’ve got our own fireworks going on in here! Shield your eyes, Danny!”

Scott sticks his middle finger up over the side of the couch, and continues kissing Tessa. From the adjoining room, there’s the sound of a dishcloth being whipped and an affronted yelp.

Tessa giggles, her breath huffing out gently against Scott’s cheek as she turns her head in the direction of the noise. 

“Alma’s on the warpath,” she whispers, and Scott grins. 

His mother, after waiting a third of her life for the two of them to get together, is adamant that nobody will ruin her chances at tiny skating prodigy grandchildren.

“You should see her wield that thing, Tess. Still strikes fear into my heart.”

“So what you’re saying is I should capitalise before she decides to turn on her favourite son too?” Tessa winks, before leaning in to kiss him again. “Noted.” 

In the rapidly-shrinking coherent part of Scott’s brain, he knows that there’s a limit to how long they can expect his family to hide out in the kitchen while he and Tessa monopolise the living room. Even if his brothers don’t particularly care how gross the two of them get, there’s still the matter of his nieces and nephews; they’re running haywire around the house at the moment, but sooner or later they’ll come to drag him and Tessa back into a game of tag they narrowly escaped the first time. Scott’s pretty sure everyone involved would rather the kids didn’t walk in on a detailed visual guide of what second base looks like.

The problem here is the dress.

It's the goddamn dress. He’s convinced Tessa knew exactly what she was doing when she bought it. It wraps like a second skin around her, emerald velvet angled against the pale glow of her skin, riding up across her thighs just high enough to pull his focus when she crosses and uncrosses her legs. It’s made from the kind of fabric that he could leave his handprints on. The kind of fabric that gives under his touch, soft and smooth, so warm that when he spreads his fingers across it, it’s like she’s wearing nothing at all — like if he slipped his hand lower, she would give that little hitching gasp that she always does, and her eyes would go big and dark. 

A thin gold pendant hangs between the valley of her breasts, and she’s close enough that he can count the freckles dusted across her neck and collarbone. The verdant green of her dress sets her skin ablaze, tempting beyond belief.

She’s breathtaking — as he tells her over and over, enjoying the way she laughs, low and throaty, when he says it. And he’s hard as fuck.

To be clear, he doesn’t make a habit of fantasising about Tessa when he’s sitting in the living room of his brother’s family home. Usually they handle things in the privacy of their own apartment (or occasionally, when it gets desperate, the backseat of his car). But it’s New Year’s Eve. Not only that, it’s the first New Year’s Eve they get to spend together without having to duck behind excuses to kiss each other senseless in the back of a taxi cab, or out on a rooftop where everyone's either too drunk or high to recognise them. The first New Year's Eve where they can touch each other without the weight of the world bearing down upon them, and she's in her green dress, with her green eyes, and her red lips bitten and flushed from where she's been kissing him for the last half hour.

So to say he's a little amped up would be like saying the Sun is a little warm. 

The soft noises she makes against his lips, her face tilted up to his so close that he can feel her eyelashes brush against his cheek when she blinks, are only a little maddening. And the way her painted nails dig into his trousers, across the top of his thigh, only makes him shiver a little. And when she plants a hand down and shifts to settle more comfortably against his chest, there's only a little bit of a smirk on her face when she realises his current predicament.

"You good, Scott?" she says, quietly. She’s speaking almost into his ear, an edge to her voice the way that there only ever is when she knows that she's being a flirt — that low, deliberate huskiness. He can feel himself stiffening at the sound of it.

"Oh, yeah," he tells her. "Sure. Peachy."

"Because it feels like you could use some help."

From the kitchen, Scott can hear the muted sound of conversation. He swallows hard, doesn't miss the way Tessa’s eyes flick down to his throat, and back up again to look him in the eyes. She drags her gaze so slowly and purposefully over him that it makes him wonder why there aren't laws about public indecency through eye contact alone. 

“Tess, I really — I don’t think this is the place, y’know…”

Her eyebrows raise. “Not here, obviously. There’s only one reason Danny gave us a bedroom to ourselves instead of making us share with everyone else. We’d be doing him a disservice not to make use of what he’s offering, don’t you think?”

Tessa’s logic is, as ever, faultless. Particularly so when she slips a hand down between their bodies and drags the edge of her fingernail along the tented crotch of his jeans.

He gives a muffled groan, his hips pressing forwards into her open palm. He’s so sensitive already, grateful for the noise of the television masking both the rustle of fabric and precisely how much he can’t keep quiet as Tessa begins palming his cock through his jeans. 

"Nobody will miss us," she says. "We'll only be gone for half an hour." Her lips turn up into a smirk, cherry-red and full, and fuck if Scott couldn't write soliloquies on the bow of her lips alone, the way her mouth moves when she smiles like that. "Less, by the look of it."

He’s not going to last down here. She’ll keep him riled up until either he passes out from lack of blood to the rest of his body or he comes in his boxers, and Scott doesn’t think that any part of him could live through the shame of that. They have a room, as Tessa has so helpfully pointed out, nice and quiet and private, and God, he wants to fuck her.

He wants to push the green velvet up her thighs and lick her apart. He wants to hear her shudder and sigh in the way that she only does for him. He wants to know the satisfaction of her head tipped back, those perfect cherry lips parted and her eyes fluttering closed as he brings her to release — and then, only then, he wants to fuck into her, slow and sweet at her shuddering cunt.

“Upstairs,” he says, his voice tight, and she gives him the sweetest smile yet. 



Danny’s spare room doesn’t have a lock on the door. 

No problem, Scott thinks. It’s New Year’s. Everyone’s busy. People won’t come looking for them — and even if they do, people know to knock before entering a room, particularly the room of a couple who have been officially dating for less than six months after unofficially dating for about two decades prior. 

He and Tessa position themselves along the wall next to the doorway so they’ll be partially hidden by the open door in the event that someone barges in. It’s not an ideal situation, but they make it work. They’re even beginning to get somewhere — Tessa’s dress is rucked halfway up to her waist, her hands working at the buckle of Scott’s belt as he trails his mouth down the exposed line of her clavicle — when there’s the sound of a plaintive, high voice from through the door.

“Uncle Scott? Hell-ooo?”

The effect is instantaneous, like a fire hydrant’s worth of cold water dropped on top of them; because although the voice is small in volume, the wayward tripping and swooping of the vowels is unmistakable. It’s Rosie, Charlie’s six-year old daughter: bright-cheeked and curly-haired, and, like any true Moir, utterly head-over-heels for Tessa.

“Are you in there?” Rosie says, knocking on the door. “Hell-oooooo? Uncle Scott? Did you get lost looking for the bathroom again? I can help you find it, you know. Mommy says I’m really good at finding things!”

In-between the rush of ice cold fear running through Scott’s veins at the prospect of Rosie walking in on some decidedly un-family friendly activities, he realises that Tessa’s laughing. She’s got a hand shoved against her mouth to muffle the noise, but her shaking shoulders are unmistakable.

“What?” Scott hisses, as quietly as he can manage, raising an eyebrow at her, and then when she just shakes her head, grinning: “What?” a little louder. Too loud — there’s a sudden scuffling at the door, and the handle rattles as though a small hand has grabbed it from the other side.

“Hold on — don’t open the door, Rosie!” he calls hastily, hurrying to right himself. His shirt’s a mess, Jesus, untucked and crumpled, and his fly is halfway undone, his brain still addled. He feels drunk. He probably looks drunk. If his brothers could see him now, they’d have a field day. “Wait just a second, okay?”

“Why?” comes the plaintive response, but the door handle stops rattling. “Why can’t I open the door? I want to find Tessa. Do you know where she is?”

Scott turns to glance at Tessa. She’s still standing with her back against the wall, though she’s tugged the skirt of her dress down into place again. Her arms are folded across her chest, her dark hair mussed around her shoulders, a gentle pink flush raised on her cheeks and down over her collarbones like the scattered crimson colouring of the peonies that she loves so much. The deep v-neck of her velvet dress ends at her sternum, exposing the slight swell of her breasts; Scott can see her chest rising and falling shallowly, that and the sharpness of her eyes on him the only indication of their previous activities.

“Tessa’s—” his voice crackles a little, and he clears his throat as Tessa smirks, “Tessa’s not feeling too well, honey. Her, uh… her head’s hurting real bad, so she’s going to rest for a bit and I’m going to keep her company. I know you were really looking forward to seeing her, but she’ll be able to come out and play in a little while, okay?”

He doesn’t dare look at Tessa again; she’ll probably mouth something obscene at him and that’ll be the end of it.

“Oh,” Rosie says, her little voice twisting with disappointment. “Well. I guess so. I guess that’s okay.” There’s a short pause, followed by: “Is Tessa okay? I know a really good song to make all sorts of hurts go away. It works for tummy hurts and knee hurts and head hurts too. It could work for Tessa’s hurt, maybe.”

“You know, that’s a great idea, but—”

“I’m okay, Rosie,” Tessa calls, and there’s an immediate, excitable gasp of Tessa’s name from Rosie’s side of the door.

It’s not Rosie’s fault she’s too damn cute for her own good, but Tessa interacting with his brothers’ kids does funny things to Scott’s brain. Danny once sent him through a photo of Tessa holding tiny baby Leo when he was three months old, the kid’s little fist curled around Tessa’s thumb, and it took Scott a solid eight hours to compose a response that wasn’t liable to be used as blackmail for the rest of his life.

“Tessa, is your head really hurting?” Rosie says, softer. “I can help. I can talk quiet, just like this. As small as this, see?” 

Scott watches as Tessa crosses the room to the closed door and places her hand on the door handle, looking across to him for confirmation before she opens it a crack — just enough that she can stand turned to one side in the doorway, her body blocking the gap, and crouch down to Rosie-level.

He hears rather than sees Rosie’s excited little squeak, along with a rush of surprised laughter from Tessa that probably means the kid has thrown herself into Tessa’s arms without a moment’s hesitation. Scott doesn’t blame her. Tessa’s embrace is a very nice place to be.

“Tessa!”

“Hi, darling,” Tessa laughs, her voice warm and rich, as velvet as her dress. “Have you had a good evening? I was wondering where you’d gotten to!”

“Not really,” Rosie pouts. “Mommy made me help Grandma in the kitchen, mashing potatoes, and then — then I had to go with Daddy to play Hide and Seek with Fiona and baby Leo but they wouldn’t play properly, they kept shouting and telling Daddy where I was, and — and I just wanted to find you, Tessa… I only — I just wanted to come and play with you.”

Rosie gives a little hiccuping cough, her voice wobbling dangerously; if they’re not careful, they’ll end up with a sobbing child on their hands in a few moments. Peeking his head cautiously round the open door, Scott watches as Tessa makes a soothing noise, opening her arms for Rosie to nestle in. He should probably intervene at some point, save Tessa from single-handedly fending off the attentions of his eager niece, but there’s something about the scene that makes him hang back.

Through the crack of the open door, Scott can just about make out the curled wisps of Rosie’s hair poking up over Tessa’s shoulder, and then her saucer-wide eyes: green like Tessa’s, a badge of honour that she wears with immense pride. Her eyelids close as she buries her face against Tessa, her little hands clutching at the back of the green dress.

“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” Tessa says, running a hand across Rosie’s back soothingly. Her fingers slip up to wind through a curl of Rosie’s chestnut brown hair, and Scott wonders if Tessa isn’t as attached to this little girl as the kid is to her, however much she might protest that she has no idea what to do with human beings younger than twenty-five. “I’m sorry you haven’t had fun. I would love to come and play, but my head’s hurting too much right now. I need to let it rest for a while, okay? I promise I’ll come downstairs as soon as I’m feeling better. We’ll ignore all the boys and have some time just you and me, I promise. You can show me all of your favourite toys.”

Head still buried in Tessa’s shoulder, Rosie’s reply is muffled but just about audible. “You really can’t come and play now?”

With a gentle sigh, Tessa sets the girl back on her feet. Her small arms poke out like matchsticks, hands still attached to Tessa’s sides. “No, Rosie. I’m sorry. I’ll come back down as soon as I’m able.”

Rosie’s bottom lip wobbles, but she blinks quickly and her little chin sets in steadfast determination. “Can I see Uncle Scott too?”

Scott brushes himself off before poking his head around the door to give his niece a wave. “Hey, Rosiebug. I’ll look after Tessa for you, don’t worry. She’s in safe hands with me.”

Rosie gives him a discerning look, her lip trembling until she chews on it to stop the quivering. Tessa turns her head to look back over her shoulder at him, and together the two of them stare at him, sizing him up: Tessa’s pintsize protector, and Tessa, her look of mock disapproval betrayed only by the slight twitching of her lips at the corners. 

“What do you think, Rosie?” Tessa whispers, leaning in close to the little girl’s ear. “You think he’s suitable? Does he pass the test?”

“Not really,” Rosie says, sounding unimpressed. ‘Uncle Scott’ is, after all, the one who monopolises Tessa’s time above all others. Blood might be thicker than water, but the charms of Tessa Virtue sends family loyalty scattering to the winds.

Tessa nods sagely, her eyes glimmering with amusement. “Mm, I think you’re very sensible. Uncle Scott is a shady character. But I’ll let you in on a little secret, Rosie. He’s not so bad once you get to know him. In fact,” and here she lowers her voice, whispering so quietly that Scott can barely make out the words, “if you stick around long enough he can actually be quite charming.”

Really?” Rosie says, her nose wrinkling up as she stares at him, and Scott feels his ego take a few hits. 

“Yes, really,” Tessa grins. “Trust me. 

Rosie stares at him for a few more seconds, taking stock of her competition. One day, Scott thinks vaguely, she’s going to lock him in a downstairs bathroom and run off with Tessa into the sunset. It wouldn’t surprise him; he’s always known that one day he would lose Tessa to someone with a vastly superior sense of style.

“Okay,” Rosie says finally. “But if you need me to sing my song, I’ll do it. I’m going to sit downstairs with Grandma so you won’t lose me.” She reaches out a hand to smooth across Tessa’s hair, her little palm pressing against the dark, sleek waves. “If your head hurts too bad then come get me, okay? And you’ll come back down when you feel better, right when you feel better, and we can play.”

“Perfect,” Tessa says, leaning forwards to drop a kiss to the top of the girl’s head before getting to her feet. “I’ll see you in a little while, Rosie. Keep your Grandma entertained for me.”

Rosie wraps her arms tightly around Tessa’s legs with a firm nod, before she trots off downstairs, her mission completed. Scott can hear the chorus of greetings that welcome her back into the living room, presumably well-occupied now that he and Tessa have vacated the premises. 

“Well,” Scott says, with an impish grin as a somewhat beleaguered Tessa turns back inside to meet his gaze. “She’s a Moir, alright.”



Brief interlude for interruption by a small child later, they both agree that Danny’s spare room is not an appropriate location for their romantic endeavours. Past the very real threat of Rosie barging in on them now she knows where Tessa is located, there are two other children in the house, neither of whom have an understanding of the importance of closed doors.

So, no. No to the guest bedroom. 

Tessa refuses to have sex in their en-suite bathroom, despite the handiness of a locked door. They both agree that escaping out into the summerhouse would be hitting an all-time low. After a small amount of searching, hampered by the desire to not broadcast their search for an appropriate place to have sex to the entire household, they find something that will just about suffice. Privately, Scott’s not convinced it’s any better than the guest bedroom. But Tessa seems to be satisfied with it, and if his career has taught him anything, it’s that disagreeing with Tessa is always the bad option.

So they stand chest to chest in cramped darkness, light filtering through the slatted doors just to their right, the faint sound of the television drifting up from two floors below. A wooden shelf presses against Scott’s back, laden with piles of fluffy towels and lavender-scented bedsheets. There’s barely room for the two of them to stand opposite one another. Tessa’s hairband, tied around the inside of the doorknob, is all that holds the closet doors together; otherwise they’re liable to swing open at the slightest provocation. 

It’s an overwhelmingly terrible idea, even to Scott — and if it’s a bad idea to him, it’s definitely a bad idea to Tessa, but she hasn’t yet put a halt to the affair. She just stands there in the dark, looking at him looking at her. And the strangest thing of all is that the longer the moment stretches out between them, the more it becomes oddly plausible, until he’s not just staring at her wondering how long he’ll have to stand here until they pull the plug. He’s staring at her, noticing everything. Her gaze on him, quiet and measured. Her hands clasping the edge of the shelf behind her, hips pushed back slightly to lean against it. The golden glint of her necklace catching the light as her chest rises and falls. 

It does strange things, the light through the slatted doors of the closet. It doesn’t pass in normal ways. There’s a harshness to it, an angularity that seems to change whatever it falls upon. In the stark light, Tessa’s body is not soft; there are no curves or shallows, no yielding, smooth muscle. Scott sees the pointed jut of her clavicle, rising like the spine of a mountain range; the line of her jaw, sharp enough to bruise. Her eyes, brilliant and emerald in the shaft of light that cuts across them.

He wants to reach out and touch her. He wants to feel the strange sharpness of her, against his palms and under his lips. 

“This is stupid, I know…” Tessa begins to say, but the words die in her throat as he takes a step towards her.

A floorboard creaks underneath Scott’s feet. He doesn’t care. She’s here: new, angular, the surety of her shifting and twisted under the half-light, and he needs her. 

Her lips meet his with a bruising intensity. There’s a soft sound; a sigh of her breath released into his mouth, and although he slips his palm across the side of her neck, guiding her chin up to his, she doesn’t need it. Her mouth opens for him, chin tilting upwards, eyes fluttering closed.

Kissing Tessa is like nothing he’s ever known. She’s so ready, so eager, so perfectly made and moulded — like every part of her was made for every part of him. She doesn’t need to be told. When his tongue slips into her mouth, she’s there waiting for him. His thigh presses forwards to ease between hers, and there’s already a space for him to slot perfectly into. There are goosepimples raised against her skin when he skims his thumb along the bow of her neck, and she moans quietly when he splays his palm across her throat.

The quickness of her response to him is heady, makes him bold. Although there may not be enough room in the closet for sex — they are still trying to preserve their bodies for the next four months of competition, and somehow Scott can’t imagine they’d gain any favours from their coach for pulling a muscle trying to have sex in a laundry closet — that doesn’t rule out other options.

His hands slip lower, across the swell of her ass, squeezing, and she sucks in a sharp intake of breath. The smooth fabric of her dress clings to every curve, and Scott was right, it feels as though she’s all but naked under his palms. Every tremor that passes through her passes through him; every shiver rippling under her skin finds a way to prickle at him too. His hands roam: one slips round between her thighs, skimming up the inside of her dress, while the other massages the firm muscle of her ass.

The warmth radiates from her, pooling heat at the apex of her thighs. He brushes the tip of his thumb over her, relishing in the way she trembles. He’s ready to give her what she needs, ready to press into her as soon as he’s removed her underwear — but as his fingers slip under the edge of the silk, she pulls away.

He almost asks her what’s wrong, before he remembers that they’re supposed to be silent in the interests of not being walked in on by his nearest and dearest, and settles for raising an eyebrow instead.

“What?” he mouths.

Tessa steps directly into his space. He can smell the faint sweetness wafting from her skin, the heady mix of her arousal and her strawberry shampoo, as she leans in close and drags her hand down the front of his torso, pausing to tease open the buttons of his shirt with a practiced ease. 

It’s the combination of her touch and the sudden air on his skin that makes him shiver, his cock twitching in his trousers, but she smirks all the same.

“You first,” she whispers, barely a breath against his neck, and suddenly her fingers are slipping beneath his waistband, stroking over his boxers, gripping the solid length of him, and oh, fuck.

He had the presence of mind to take his time earlier in the bedroom, enjoying the slow buildup and the luxury of kissing her wherever he liked. Half an hour later, with the indignity of being cockblocked by a six-year old, Scott has no such qualms. With a choked groan, he rocks his hips forwards against Tessa’s hand, pressing his cock eagerly into her palm.

“Tess—” he groans, not caring how much he feels like a teenage kid again, his erection rock hard and straining, thrusting his hips forwards for her to tease. “Goddamn, please—” 

Tessa gives a breathy, hushed laugh, her teeth digging into her bottom lip.

“So hard already?” she says, with a teasing lilt to her voice. She presses the heel of her palm firmly against him, so hard that Scott almost sees starbursts flickering at the edges of his vision. “At this rate you might not even last long enough for me to suck you off.”

Scott concentrates on breathing deep, and definitely does not think about the image of Tessa on her knees in front of him, her lips wrapped around his cock. Her hand down his pants is difficult enough to focus through.

“You would too if you’d been subjected to that dress all evening,” he says, his voice strained.

Tessa’s eyebrows raise to a perfect arch. “Oh?” she says, punctuating her point with a quick squeeze of his cock. “What is it about my dress that you like so much?”

Her hand begins to move slowly along him: a languid, tortuous pace.

“Is it the colour? I know you like green on me. There was that one time in Toronto, with the green suit… but my clothes usually end up on the floor anyway, so on, off, green, blue… what difference does the colour make, really…”

She smiles, closing her fist around the head of his cock and pumping her hand up and down in short, small strokes, the tendons in her muscular forearms tensing. Scott fights to keep his eyes from screwing up closed, his mouth from parting to let out a guttural, tight groan. He’s going to die. They’ve been in this closet for all of five minutes and he can already feel pre-come trickling out across his head, slick against Tessa’s palm.

“Maybe it’s the fabric,” she muses, studying him with a disaffected look. “Maybe that’s it. Do you like the way it feels, Scott? All warm and soft
and—” she jerks her hand down to the very root of him, grinning when he immediately gasps and pushes his hips forwards into her, “—responsive.”

“Tess,” he stutters out. The pressure at his cock is almost unbearable, his balls heavy and aching, he needs to — needs to—

There’s a wicked gleam in her eyes.

“Or maybe you like the way it makes me look,” Tessa says, moving her hand to the underside of his cock. Her open palm presses flat against him, fingers stretching down to massage the tight skin at his balls. “Readily available. Like you could slip your hand up my thigh at any point. Slide your fingers into my wet cunt, feel me clench around you.”

Genuinely, this is how he dies. In a closet, in his brother’s house, Tessa’s hand stroking his cock, her lips so close to his ear that he can feel every intake of breath as she narrates a stream of filth pulled straight out of his fantasies, getting him off just the way she knows he likes.

“You’ve been thinking about fucking me all night, haven’t you?” she says, and all he can do is grit his teeth and nod mutely, continue rocking his hips against her hand. The sounds between them are barely disguisable now: the rustle of fabric as her knuckles push up against the confines of his boxers, and the slow, wet slick of her palm along his aching cock. “It’s not hard to tell. I bet you imagined us right there on the sofa, slipping your cock inside me with everyone there in the kitchen. How no one would know as I rode you against the cushions, as quiet as anything. Just your cock in me, so thick and perfect, and your fingers digging into my hips. Your come filling me up, slipping down my thighs. Nobody would know. Just you and me.”

“Jesus Christ, Tessa,” he chokes.

Keeping one hand on his cock, she places her other hand over his, guides it to her navel. Scott hadn’t known what to do with his hands, so preoccupied with trying not to come in his pants, but he lets her guide his palm up between the valley of her breasts, under the neckline of her emerald dress to close around a breast, full and flush. Her nipples are hard; he can feel the slight swell against his palm, and when he squeezes gently, she gives a throaty moan.

“Mm, that’s good,” she breathes, smiling at him. “You’re still functioning.”

Both of her hands move down to wrap around him now: one at the base of his cock, the other slicking along his hardened length. It’s a Herculean effort to focus, not least because the sound of Tessa’s quiet moans whenever he cups his palm around her breasts go straight to his cock.

He wants to be good to her, he really does — if she’d let him, he would bury his mouth between her legs and not let up until she was aching and tender, thoroughly fucked out. But he can’t concentrate on anything, not with the unbearable pressure of her slender hand around him. 

“Tess—” he gasps, momentarily forgetting to moderate his volume, and he sees her eyes flash with warning. “Tess, please, I can’t — I’m close—”

“I know,” she says — firm, but an undercurrent of sympathy. She leans forward to kiss him, closed fist still stroking lazily along his cock between them, her palm wet with his arousal. When she draws back, her cheeks are tinged pink — the only proof thus far that she’s not quite as in control of the situation as she seems. “I know, you’re almost there,” she soothes. “Just hold on a little longer for me. Hold on.”

And then she lets go of his cock.

Scott’s too busy reeling over the loss of sensation to look down and notice that, somewhere in-between lazily jerking him off, Tessa has procured a towel from the shelf behind her and folded it neatly on the floor. 

She’s kneeling on it now, already unbuckling his belt and pushing his trousers over his hips, going through the motions with such a businesslike efficiency that it almost makes him stop her — only he's so hard, he's so fucking hard for her, and as she closes her fist around his cock once more and lowers her mouth to him, it's all he can do to tip his head back and close his eyes, remember for everything he's worth that they’re being quiet, he needs to be quiet.

Her pace is slow at first, like she’s testing, working out the limits of his patience. She teases the tip of her tongue along the length of him, licking a narrow stripe up from the base of his cock to the very tip, and watches carefully as he shudders, his hard cock trembling in her grip. It’s almost more than he can bear to look down at her while she does it. The look in her eyes is too much, too intense: eyelids half-lowered in a way that reminds Scott of a hunter observing its prey, a tiger lying in wait, the barest glint of amusement shining through when she gets the desired response from her teasing. 

When she pulls away again, she sits back on her heels and waits. The wetness of his cock, her saliva and his pre-come mixed, makes him even more sensitive against the warm, oversaturated air. His head feels fuzzy; he’s not sure he’s thinking any more. He has no room in his brain but to recognise there’s an aching absence that means she’s not touching him — and she should be touching him. Why isn’t she touching him?

“Tess,” he whines, rocking his hips forward uselessly — she only pulls her head back, smiling thinly as she watches him desperately seek her out.

“Wait,” she tells him. “Almost.”

He could sob. The pressure at his cock is unrelenting, so much that he feels like he might explode in the next thirty seconds, whether or not she touches him. He wants to reach down and finish things off himself, but he knows Tessa wouldn’t be pleased with him, and he wants so badly to please her. His legs tremble, thighs aching with the effort, his cock bobbing stiffly between his legs. He can see it there, pink and proud, shiny with her saliva where she licked her way along him. If she would just put her mouth on him again, if she would only — he’s sure that would be enough.

He’s never done it before, but he would beg. If she wanted, if that would make her touch him again. He would beg her as sweetly as she liked, promise to make her come ten times over.

“Tess—” he starts, his voice cracking, and he’s going to do it, really he is, but before he can say anything else, she lowers her head to him and wraps her lips around his cock.

He gasps, his hips bucking forwards into her mouth, forgetting to be gentle — he can feel her gag slightly around him, but she doesn’t pull away. Her hand slips up to hold steady at the base of his cock, her other hand sweeping the dark tangle of her hair away from her face, giving her better access to move along him. It’s far too much and not enough, all at once. Her mouth on him is warm, too warm, burning sweetly across his skin. He can hear the wetness of it, tight and precise — worries, for a moment, that it’s loud enough for somebody to hear, if not his quiet, barely-controlled grunts as Tessa swallows his cock.

He looks down between them, watches her as she sucks him off. He forces his eyes open, however much he wants to screw them up tight and lose himself in the wash of sensation, because this is what he wants to remember: this, the way she looks as she kneels in front of him and takes his cock in her mouth.

There’s an illicit nature to it, something almost obscene in the shadowed silence of the closet, their bodies illuminated in sharp stripes of light. Darkness softens the rest, but he sees her lips, full and red, sliding over the head of his cock; his hand, fingers fisted against the back of her head, into her hair, tendons raised and taut; her green dress shifting under the light like a second skin. All he can feel is where his body meets hers; nothing else exists. There’s only the two of them, and he is brought alive by her.

Her lips slip along him in quick, staccato bursts, and Scott knows he doesn’t have to tell her how close he is. The pressure is unbearable — he can’t look down any more, can’t watch as his cock disappears into her mouth, but he feels it: the wet, tight seal of her mouth sheathed around him, her cheeks hollowing to suck; her thumb pressing firmly at the base of his cock, rubbing at the sensitive spot that causes his knees to buckle and his hips to stutter.

“Tess—” he gasps, his fist tightening in her hair, and her lips slacken in a slight moan around him before she redoubles her efforts. “Tess, fuck, please—”

The softness of their shared space is nothing now; the light strips it all away. He doesn’t know anything, feels like he’s untethered and groundless, like he’s floating above himself. All that brings him back to his body is her.

She’s beautiful and fierce and insistent, her mouth and her hand and her tongue, and Scott feels it: the shuddering, final release coming upon him, everything in him tensing, his hips jerking forwards, cock bumping roughly against the roof of her mouth. His brain ceases to function. He’s not sure what he says, what kind of inhuman noise he makes that will inevitably give them away but his last saving grace is to dig his teeth into his bottom lip so hard that he can taste the iron tang of blood.

He comes messily into her mouth. It takes long enough; Tessa’s held him on the edge for so long that he comes harder than he can ever remember, but she doesn’t pull away, or reach for one of the ever-so-handy towels behind her. She holds him there against her tongue, stroking her fist along the length of him until the last drops have eased out, and he’s limp and spent in her mouth. Then, she finally pulls her mouth away from his cock, and swallows.

Scott is not yet sure he’s returned to his body. Maybe he lost himself somewhere in the rafters. Maybe he’ll be stuck in-between pristine white towels and lavender-scented bedsheets, dreaming for the rest of his life of Tessa’s sharp green eyes and her lips wrapped around his cock.

“Jesus Christ,” he croaks, faintly. 

From her position on the floor, Tessa gives him a self-satisfied grin. She wipes a thumb at the edge of her lips; there’s a thin string of saliva beading between her bottom lip and the head of his cock, glinting in the low light, along with other fluids that Scott couldn’t name and hopes aren’t all over the nice clean towels that his brother has just washed fresh for their stay. 

“You look like hell,” Tessa says, making no secret of exactly where her gaze lingers as she looks him up and down.

“Yeah, well,” he says. Words are a struggle. Everything feels like a struggle right now, even breathing. He’s slightly mollified at least to see that she’s breathing heavily too, her cheeks flushed as pink as her lips. 

Her lips, which he probably shouldn’t be staring at so hard right now — definitely should not be staring at, when he catches a glimpse of her red tongue darting out to wet her lips, and his cock has the sheer audacity to twitch.

“Don’t worry, you didn’t get any on the towels. I made sure,” Tessa says.

Scott feels feverish. “Like hell you did.”

She simply smirks at him, sitting back on her heels, looking every inch as smug as she rightly deserves to be, having made him come so hard that the outside world momentarily ceased to exist. But it still irks him.

“God, I’m gonna get you back so bad,” he mumbles.

Tessa folds her arms across her chest, cocking an eyebrow. “You can’t even move.”

To be precise, Scott hasn’t yet tried to move, but he fears any attempt would result in disaster. 

“Incorrect,” he says. “I can’t move yet. But give me ten minutes and maybe a quick glass of water and I swear, I’m gonna make you come so hard—”

“Scott? Tessa, sweetheart? Are you up there?”

They both freeze, smiles fixed in place.

“Scott?” 

The voice is louder the second time. Footsteps creak along the hallway, a heavy tread as familiar as the voice, stopping briefly to knock on the door of he and Tessa’s bedroom. His mother.

“Scott, honey, the kids are asking after you before they go off to bed. Come down and say goodnight, it’ll only be quick.”

Shit. Shit, shit, shit.

He glances across to Tessa, whose eyes are as wide and terrified as his. Alma’s going to look in their room, and she’s going to find it empty. She’s going to find their bathroom door open, and their bed undisturbed, and then where will she look? Surely she wouldn’t come their way, along a corridor with nothing but a laundry closet and a pull-down stepladder to the attic. She’d try somewhere else first, look downstairs or assume they’ve gone outside for a minute’s peace. But what if ?

Just like Scott knew she would, Alma tries the bedroom and finds it empty. The footsteps start up again, heading their way.

Towards the stairs, surely. Not here, not along their corridor. Alma will head downstairs and look for them there. She will. Nobody bothers with this corridor. But as the footsteps continue, with no sign of abatement or a downstairs path, he's forced to consider other alternatives. 

Scott is not a religious man — he gave it up as a teenager in pursuit of girls and something much stronger than Communion wine — but he finds himself praying for the first time in years.

The footsteps are coming this way. His mother is approaching. He and Tessa can’t move; they can’t even whisper to one another for fear of being heard. He’s currently stood in a laundry closet, with his pants around his ankles and his cock very much out, Tessa knelt in front of him. There are incriminating positions, and then there are jailable offences. 

As Alma’s footsteps get louder, Scott thinks of all the things he’ll miss about New Year with his family. Rosie, bless her — a pain in the ass sometimes, but a heart of gold if he ever saw one. His aunt's mashed potatoes, made with just the right amount of butter and cream. He’ll even miss the New Year’s Day pre-dawn forced march his mother insists on every year, regardless of how hungover her sons might be from the evening prior. On the bright side, at least spending the New Year with the Virtues will save him from his brothers’ endless heckling. 

The footsteps slow as they approach the closet, but it’s alright now. Scott has made peace with his fate. He’ll be consigned to the deepest pits of hell, and his brothers will never, ever let him live this down — he’d be surprised if they didn’t find some way to plant it in the epitaph on his tombstone. He’s only sorry that Tessa will be dragged down with him. His family loves Tessa. She doesn’t deserve this. His mother still remembers Tessa from when she was seven years old. His mother doesn’t deserve this.

The footsteps stop.

Time stretches out in the moments that Alma stands outside the doors to their closet, indeterminable in length. It could be thirty seconds or thirty minutes that he and Tessa stand there, looking at each other, muscles frozen stiff and screaming in protest but determined not to move an inch. He won’t move. He won’t.

And then Tessa sneezes.

There’s a pause from outside the closet door, a slow creak as Alma turns in their direction. Scott finds himself mentally counting down from twenty, steeling himself for the inevitable moment of dreadful discovery. Like Adam and Eve’s first bite of the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, this event will be irreversible and irreconcilable. His mother will know, and she will never not know again. He hears another creak as the figure outside moves, and fumbles for a towel to protect his dignity as he braces himself for what will surely be the light of discovery flooding in upon them, the closet doors thrown open—

But, astonishingly, the footsteps turn and echo back down the corridor. Past their bedroom. Downstairs. Out of earshot. 

In the dazed minutes that pass after Alma leaves them in the laundry closet, Tessa slowly gets to her feet and leans heavily back against the shelf behind her. She looks shell-shocked, and more than a little startled when Scott creases in relieved, slightly hysterical laughter. 

“Scott!” she hisses, clamping a hand across his mouth.

“What?” he mumbles, around her fingers.

He’s doing a terrible job of hiding his laughter, shoulders shaking and odd little noises escaping him every so often, but it can’t be any worse than what’s already been overheard from this closet. 

When the first one fails, Tessa shoves a second hand over his mouth. “Stop making noise!”

He can’t help it. It was a ridiculous situation to start with, and the full gamut of the emotional spectrum he’s run since entering this closet has utterly exhausted him — never mind the fact that Tessa now appears to be trying to smother him and get rid of all evidence. 

“Scott, come on!” she says, as no-nonsense as she can manage while remaining at a whisper. “Stop.”

After a minute or two, he manages to bring himself under control sufficiently for Tessa to remove her hands from his mouth. There’s a healthy dollop of saliva on her hands, which she makes a disgusted face at and wipes off on the towel she was kneeling on; Scott watches with amusement, finding Tessa’s situation-specific squeamishness endlessly fascinating. 

She turns to find him looking at her, and raises an eyebrow belligerently. “What?”

“Come on then. Since we’ve been given permission, and all.” Scott waggles his eyebrows at Tessa, who looks utterly scandalised — he thinks it’s a little rich considering what came out of her mouth approximately ten minutes prior. “Want me to make you come on the stroke of midnight? Start the year as I mean to go on, and everything.”

Tessa folds her arms across her chest. “No. Absolutely not. Put your pants back on.”

“Well, if you’re sure. But I’m just saying, if I don’t eat you out now, it’s gonna be at least Saturday before we’re back in our own place and we have privacy again. If you think you can wait that long, then, by all means…”



They both get their way in the end. 

At the precise stroke of midnight, they’re downstairs and back celebrating with Scott’s family — Alma only throwing them a slightly sharp-eyed look when she sees them enter the living room. The first second of the New Year is spent with Tessa’s arms thrown around his neck, her smile against his lips as he dips her in a far-too-dramatic flourish and claims her kiss as his own. 

But a short while before that, back in the closet, he’s kneeling with one of Tessa’s legs hitched over his shoulder, her dress pushed up to her waist and her thighs spread for him — and oh, she was sharp-eyed and sharp-edged before, but here she melts against him.

He gets the best of both worlds. Tessa, chest heaving, gold pendant glinting between her exposed breasts, teeth burrowed into her bottom lip and the back of her hand raised to her mouth — the Tessa that only he sees. And then the Tessa that everyone else gets to see, shared with the world but none so truthfully as with him: the Tessa that could conquer mountains on the strength of her sweet-edged smile.

Somehow, he gets them both, and he thinks that he must be the luckiest fool in the whole world.