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Sleepless

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Go to sleep, Gideon.”

The corner of Gideon’s lips twitched to a small smirk as she closed her eyes. For all its proximity to Harrowhark Nonagesimus, the little cavelier’s bed was one hell of a lot more comfortable than the floor had been.

Not that this proximity to Harrow was a bad thing. Maybe. At least, for this moment, it wasn’t. God, how weird it was, even to think that.

So Gideon closed her eyes.

For a while, there was silence. Just her own breathing, and the softer, faster breaths of her necromancer. She had never really given much thought to how Harrow actually slept, beyond the occasional, comforting thought of how long it might take to smother her with a pillow. She’d never paused to consider the rhythm of Harrow’s breaths, or why they were so quick, or shallow. But now that she was here, in her room, at the foot of her bed… there was little else Gideon could pay attention to.

And Harrow’s breathing wasn’t a bad sound. Gideon almost wished she’d snore, to give her something to throw at Harrow the next morning, but she didn’t even have that.

The bedsprings squeaked as Harrow fidgeted, flopping more than rolling over. Then a rustle of the blankets. Gideon rolled onto her side, pushing herself up to look at her. Doing so allowed her to match up the sound of her breathing with the way Harrow’s chest rose and fell. She looked nearly naked without her facepaint, almost to a degree that Gideon felt like she shouldn’t be looking. Not that it stopped her. It was funny, how much less angry Harrow looked while sleeping. Still sad, yes, but not quite so hateful.

So sad, actually. Gideon frowned. Yet another thing she’d never stopped to think about, in all of her years of hating Harrow. She’d always seen the loathing and the anger-- what else was new?-- but knowing what she knew now about Harrow and her parents and her fucking existence, she could also see what a good mask it was. Such a good mask that nobody would even suspect what hid behind it.

Gideon lay back down, looking up at the dark ceiling. Anger was easy to deal with. It was the sadness that she didn’t know how to handle.

It took a long time to relax in the wake of that revelation. She had just started to doze off, Harrow’s light little breaths somehow so loud in her ears, when she heard her blankets rustle once more. Harrow grunted, possibly rolling again. Despite herself, Gideon propped herself up to look. Harrow had rolled over, one arm splaying out over the pillow. One skinny leg (how someone could have so few muscles and look so damn bony was just one more thing Gideon didn’t understand) had wrangled itself out from under the blanket, bare where Harrow’s pants had pushed up. The leg curled up, then straightened back out as Harrow twisted around one more time.

She couldn’t be sleeping, which left Gideon with two options: she could leave Harrow to her tossing and turning, giving Gideon more time to introspect on the way she breathed. Or, she could be direct and call her out on it.

Well, Gideon was never very good at introspection.

“Harrow,” she said.

“I’m trying to sleep, Nav.”

“And sucking at it.”

Harrow slipped her leg back under the blanket, then sat up. She gave Gideon a long look, unamused stare.

“I do recall telling you to go to sleep.”

“Well, I can’t do that with all the noise you’re making.”

Noise?” Harrow looked so indignant that Gideon very nearly laughed. “I was not making noise.”

“You were breathing pretty loud.”

Breathing? Excuse me for filling my lungs with air, Griddle.”

“I wouldn’t argue if you decided to stop,” Gideon replied, though there was no real malice to her barb, for once. She even grinned as she said it. Harrow’s stare was stony, clearly not finding it as funny as Gideon did. “That was a joke, Harrow. You were supposed to laugh.”

“I’ve never laughed at your jokes before, and I certainly won’t start now.”

“That’s probably for the best,” Gideon said seriously. “I don’t think I’d know what I’d do if you actually did laugh.”

“Is there something you need?” Harrow asked, annoyed.

“I was just… wondering. Why you weren’t sleeping.” Saying it out loud sounded stupid, and Gideon could feel her face turn hot. Thank God for darkness.

“I was trying, until you so rudely woke me up.”

“Woke you up--”

“I don’t know why you’re so interested.” Harrow stretched her arms out, and Gideon definitely didn’t stare as she arched her back. Then she crossed her legs, setting her hands in her lap. “What does my sleeping pattern have anything to do with you?”

“I’m your cav now. Like, officially and shit. We said the words and everything. So that means I should, like… care, or something.”

“Or something?”

Gideon shrugged. “I feel like I’m responsible for you now.”

“If that’s the case, I don’t expect to live out the week.”

“Good thing I find your optimism so charming.” Gideon fully sat up, giving up the pretense of trying to sleep. She considered for a millisecond, then rose. She made her way around the massive necro-bed, sitting on its edge. Harrow stiffened, but didn’t create any skeletal hands to pull her away, so that was a plus. She regarded Gideon warily, her paintless face making it impossible to hide her uncertainty. “So why aren’t you sleeping? Go on, tell daddy all about it.”

Harrow’s momentary look of horror made it all worth it. Then she caught herself, horror morphing into grimace. “You’re repugnant.”

“That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me,” Gideon replied cheerfully. Then, she changed course. “But seriously. It’s been one hell of a day. I half-expected you to drop the minute we got back.”

“I’m surprised I didn’t,” Harrow admitted, but it was less a confession and more of a concession. It was a vulnerability she didn’t want to be seen as a vulnerability. Gideon could play along.

“Any idea why?”

“Why does it matter?” Harrow snapped, and Gideon finally felt her first wave of irritation.

“Because I want to help,” she shot back. Then she sighed, letting her guard fall-- just a little. “If it’s something I can help with… then let me.”

For a moment, Harrow was silent, fixing Gideon with that same, cautious stare. This was unknown, and probably unwelcome, territory for her. Harrowhark Nonagesimus kept herself behind a wall of distance, and Gideon’s attempt at broaching it was akin to starting a war. But the facepaint was gone… what other defenses could Gideon strip away?

“What I told you… earlier,” Harrow said, her voice clinical, detached. “It was something I hadn’t spoken aloud since before…”

Harrow’s voice trailed off, and she looked almost startled with herself for being unable to find the words to continue. Harrow always knew what she wanted to say; she’d been so concise during their talk in the pool. Perhaps she didn’t know how to discuss such personal matters outside the safety of water. It didn’t take Gideon long to reach what she’d been trying to say.

“Since your parents died?” she suggested, and Harrow nodded. Up close, without the garish paint, it was easier to see the natural angles of her jaw and cheekbones. Her black eyes, without the white paint, even seemed a tiny bit less black. Gideon could actually make out the pupils in the dim light.

“Saying it out loud is something I’m simply not used to,” Harrow said matter-of-factly.

“It freaked you out,” Gideon suggested.

“It did not freak me out.”

“It did, and that’s why you can’t sleep,” she guessed.

“I am not freaked out,” Harrow repeated, meeting Gideon’s eyes. “Unsettled? Perhaps. But it’s also something that I will get over on my own, in my own time.”

On her own, in her own time. That pretty much summed up Harrow’s entire existence.

Until now.

It was an echo of what she’d done earlier, back in the pool. Gideon leaned forward, her long arms circling around Harrow’s back, locking her arms in place. Harrow, at least, didn’t completely fight her this time. She only froze, then shuddered, more a response to the shock of touch than a rejection.

Neither one of them had experienced a lick of comfort in their years. Gideon, at least, was beginning to figure out what it meant, and how it felt. When Gideon had been busy having her soul siphoned, Dulcinea had taken her head in her lap. Even though the pain had taken away her enjoyment of the comfort in the moment, the memory of it had given Gideon a lot to think about.

She wondered if she could get away with putting Harrow’s head in her lap, but that was probably a question for another day.

Harrow hadn’t been exposed to any comfort, not even the shred that Dulcinea had given Gideon. Had she ever been hugged before that day? Gideon’s grip tightened, her nails digging lightly into Harrow’s back. After a moment’s thought, she dragged one hand down her spine, fingernails scraping the fabric of her shirt. Harrow gave another great shudder and fell-- finally-- limp against her.

“Why… do you keep doing this?” Harrow finally managed to ask into Gideon’s shoulder.

Gideon shrugged, displacing Harrow’s face temporarily. She regretted the shrug, for Harrow pulled her head back like a rearing snake. Gideon prepared for it to smash her face in, but it wasn’t like that at all. Harrow looked stricken, her dark eyes darting from right to left.

She didn’t know what to do, Gideon realized. If she had thought Gideon had shrugged with the intent of pushing her away, Harrow wouldn’t replace it there. She was too proud for that. So she was caught between not wanting to be let go, but also not knowing what to do with her head. Something about that seemed so horrendously sad to Gideon, so she cupped the back of Harrow’s head, her calloused fingers tangling in her short hair. She pulled Harrow’s face back in with a murmured, “Shhh.”

Harrow gave in a lot more quickly that time, pressing her face back into Gideon’s shoulder. She sighed, the sound a lot deeper and more fulfilling than the light little breaths she’d had when attempting to sleep. Gideon buried her face into those black curls, inhaling the familiar scent that was now so intoxicating. There was nothing magical about the way ash smelled, or in the vaguely clean odor of the cold cream that they used to remove their facepaint. But that, mingled with Harrow’s sweat and a hint of salt from their stint in the pool… This was something else entirely.

“I don’t understand,” Harrow mumbled, though she still didn’t move away. “How you can do… this, after everything?”

Of course everything meant every dismal moment of Harrow’s life. Her conception, her treatment of Gideon, the death of her parents, even being in Canaan House at all. She literally meant everything.

And to be totally truthful, Gideon didn’t have an answer. She frowned, trying to reach for her typical hatred of Harrowhark Nonagesimus, hoping to find an answer… but she came up dry. There was a memory of that loathing, sure, but now, all of it seemed underscored by something… odd. Her entire perception of that hatred seemed so askew now. There was a new tint to her memories, rendering her old animosity a little more hazy.

“New planet, new rules, I guess,” she said.

“That’s not an answer.”

“I don’t have one, Harrow.” Gideon pulled her head back slightly, meeting Harrow’s eyes as she looked up. Gideon caught her flush, something that would have ordinarily been hidden by paint, but here and now, her emotions were fully exposed. Gideon tipped forward, pressing her forehead against Harrow’s.

“You have no reason to be… doing this.”

“And here we are.”

“I want to understand.”

Harrow.” Gideon brought her hand back around, thumbing Harrow’s chin and tilting it up. “For once, stop with the fucking questions.”

She didn’t think about it. Her face was already so close to Harrow’s, and Gideon never liked to beat around the bush. She captured Harrow’s lips with her own, a little gruffly, not completely sure what she was doing, but intending to act like she knew she did. It was such a natural step to take, and the extent of that ease caught them both off-guard.

Harrow’s gasp was audible, mouth at once both opening slightly into surprise and adjusting to better match Gideon’s angle. She reached a hand up, tightening around Gideon’s wrist as reality seemed to hit her. She recoiled, or at least, she tried to; Gideon’s lips chased hers, finding them again and slotting into place. This time, Harrow did not pull back. She allowed Gideon’s hands to settle on her jaw, tentatively placing her own on Gideon’s waist.

Warmth rolled through her stomach. She’d never expected to feel such heat from Harrow’s touch. If anything, she had expected her touch to be more like touching the waxy, cold skin of a dead body, or, at the very least, a dead fish. But Harrow was not a dead body, and she was not cold at all. She was hot, and human, and alive.

Inexperience meant that their kisses were messy and uncoordinated. Gideon, at least, picked up the rhythm pretty quickly; this was just like sparring, only with tongues instead of swords. There was that same awareness of how the other person moved, which made it easier to adapt when Harrow did something stupid, like catching teeth.

“Have you, like... only practiced this on skulls?” Gideon demanded when they broke apart to catch their breath.

Gideon.”

“Because your technique is really--”

Harrow cut her off with another kiss, harder than before, swallowing up Gideon’s words. The force of it caught her off-guard in the best possible way. She returned it with fervor, pushing herself further onto the bed and gripping Harrow’s shirt in her hands as she pulled her closer. Harrow bit down on her lip, and Gideon couldn’t help a small groan. This was a pleasant sort of pain, and one she immediately returned to Harrow by pulling back, burying her face into her neck and biting.

Harrow’s gasp of surprise, quickly smothered, was definitely not a sound of pain. Gideon wanted to hear more.

She kissed down Harrow’s neck, leaving behind a trail of broken capillaries. Harrow’s chest began to heave, though she did not reprise the sound. Her hands dug into Gideon’s hair, nails driving into her scalp. She wrenched Gideon’s head back, forcing her to look up into Harrow’s dark eyes. Gideon stared into them, reading hunger there, the same kind of hunger Gideon herself felt burning in her blood.

They kissed again, and that hunger only grew.

Her hands slipped under Harrow’s shirt, hands meeting the bare skin of her sides. Harrow let out a soft sound, almost like a sigh, into Gideon’s mouth. Taking it as encouragement, Gideon leaned her back, laying Harrow against the pillows. She broke the kiss then, pulling away in order to take in the smaller form underneath her. Harrow blinked as she looked up, unconsciously licking her swollen lips.

Eyes not leaving Harrow’s, Gideon slid her hand higher, watching all the while for any sign that this touch was unwelcome. Harrow didn’t even blink, her own gaze unwavering even as her breathing began to quicken.

Gideon was aware of her own blood pounding in her ears and in her chest, her heart hammering with enough force that, if her shirt had been off, Harrow probably would have been able to see the force of its beating. She swallowed, her fingers circling around the smooth skin of Harrow’s breast, thumbing a nipple.

Harrow bit her lip, finally closing her eyes at the sensation. Carefully, Gideon pushed her shirt up over her chest, wanting to be able to look. The cool air, or maybe the anticipation, had hardened her nipples into stiff peaks, her breasts heaving as she breathed. They were so much smaller than the pictures she was used to looking at; this was nothing like the magazines. This was more raw, more artful-- more beautiful-- than any glossy, edited photo could ever be.

Harrow was better.

She lowered her face, to take one nipple into her mouth, rolling it sloppily with her tongue, sucking at it. How often had she dreamed of being able to do something like this? Of actually having a woman beneath her, responding to her touch? It was almost too much, and it wasn’t enough. She switched to the other breast, and Harrow grunted, arching her back. She wasn’t quite allowing herself to moan, but God, Gideon would fix that. She wanted to hear Harrow moan her name like it was all she had left.

Harrow must have pulled the shirt off herself, for Gideon couldn’t remember working the sleeves. Her hands flew over Harrow’s skin, wanting to feel every inch, every pulse, every follicle pricked up with goosebumps. Harrow’s heartbeat drummed against her fingertips, displaying the wildness that Harrow seemed to be trying to suppress. Gideon crawled up her body, finding her lips again. Harrow opened her mouth, her tongue hot and wet against Gideon’s, her breath coming out in haggard exhales.

A hand beneath her shirt nearly made Gideon jump. Harrow’s hands, skidding over her abs, taking in each muscle and indent.

“Fuck,” Gideon groaned, pausing in order to pull her shirt over her head, too impatient to be teased.

When she looked down at Harrow, she was surprised to see that she was just staring at Gideon, like she’d never seen her before. Her dark eyes roamed over the bare skin, taking inventory of her muscles, her breasts.

“Not too bad, huh?” Gideon asked, allowing herself a smirk and the tiniest flex.

Harrow’s lips tightened, and she narrowed her eyes, still extremely focused on Gideon’s biceps. “I changed my mind. Give me my shirt back.”

Gideon snorted, but slid her hand up Harrow’s stomach and between her breasts, her touch soft and slow. As she predicted, Harrow’s features relaxed, and she sighed, her protests lost to her own enjoyment.

She accepted the slower pace, her arms falling back to the mattress. Gideon frowned slightly, grabbing one of Harrow’s wrists.

“I did not take my shirt off for you to lay there like a limp noodle,” she growled. “Touch me.”

Harrow’s eyes glinted, and she wrenched her wrist of Gideon’s grip, and for a moment, Gideon was convinced she was going to fight. Instead, she wrapped an arm around Gideon’s waist, pulling her down on top of her. Gideon groaned a little into her mouth, the closeness feeling so much fucking better than she would have ever, ever thought.

She hooked her thumb in the waistband of Harrow’s pants, breaking the kiss long enough to watch Harrow’s face, making sure it wasn’t too much. Harrow furrowed her brow, an uncharacteristic flash of uncertainty, before giving a sharp nod of her head.

There was so much skin. Gideon ran her palms down Harrow’s thighs, greedy, nearly choking on her own breath. Likewise, Harrow panted, her nails digging into Gideon’s back. She could feel them scratching slowly down, a delicious contrast to everything else she was feeling.

Fuck,” Gideon breathed. She smoothed up and down Harrow’s thigh, unable to get enough of it. She’d never touched someone else’s skin in this way, and it made her blood race through her veins. Harrow crooked a knee, and Gideon lightly stroked her entrance, the newly-revealed skin hot and wet. Such a brief contact, and Harrow’s back was already arching. “Harrow, you’re… you’re fucking dripping.”

A blush darkened Harrow’s cheeks. “Oh…” she said. Gideon didn’t think she’d ever heard Harrow’s voice take such a high pitch.

Harrow bit her lip as Gideon felt her, touching in an exploratory way. Gideon was (extremely) familiar with her own body, but this was something new. It was much more different, discovering the ins and outs of another woman’s body. She could feel the differences, and more than that, the sheer heat. One part of her wanted to take her time, to savor the moment, to learn every last cell of Harrow’s body… but another part of her wanted to cut to the chase and fuck the living hell out of her.

“Yeah?” Gideon grunted, circling her clit with a wet finger. Harrow shivered as she clawed at Gideon’s back. She was gritting her teeth, fighting against her own moans.

“This is--” Harrow began, but cut herself off with a shuddering gasp.

Gideon slipped a finger inside of her, then another. She fucked her slowly, her kisses messy as Harrow bucked against her hand. The cold of the room was forgotten; exertion filled them with desperate heat, and then the warmth of Harrow’s tongue, her cunt--

God,” Harrow hissed. Her entire body quivered, but she still wasn’t moaning. Gideon began to thrust harder.

“Is… how is it?” she asked. Harrow inhaled sharply and squeezed her eyes shut, and Gideon felt a flash of irritation. “No, Harrow, open your fucking eyes.”

Harrow’s eyelids fluttered open, and Gideon rewarded her by curling her fingers and giving her a wild grin.

“Now… tell me. Is this good?”

“I--” Harrow gasped, shaking violently. “It’s-- God, I don’t--”

Gideon withdrew, fingers soaked. Harrow finally let out a soft sound, not quite a whimper. Frustration?

“Yeah…” Gideon murmured, lightly stroking her clit, pleased at the sound. “Just like that, baby. Just like that.”

As Gideon began to figure out her rhythm, Harrow finally (finally) gave into the moans. They were breathless and soft, though as Gideon increased the pressure, so too did Harrow’s volume.

She’d be screaming Gideon’s name in no time, she thought smugly as she worked her fingers.

Harrow writhed beneath her, and Gideon had never seen anything so fucking hot. No model from Curvaceous Captains of the Cohort could have compared to seeing Harrow beneath her, grasping at the sheets, moaning so desperately, her careful composure ruined. Gideon groaned at the sight of her limbs twitching, her chest rising and falling.

Then, Harrow’s eyes widened, looking almost panicked for a few short seconds. “I don’t-- This is--”

And then she cried out, her whole body shuddering violently. She spasmed against Gideon’s fingers, who immediately pulled them away. Harrow threw her arms back around her, practically clinging to her as she rode it out.

Now this was the incredible loss of control Gideon had been yearning to see, and it was worth every second. Hell, it had even been worth all her years of suffering on the Ninth.

This was worth it.

It felt like it was over too soon. Gideon sank onto the bed beside her, absently shimmying out of her pants; the air around them was too hot, all of a sudden, and the pants were uncomfortable. Harrow sprawled on the bed, still breathing heavily, staring up at the ceiling.

“Are you… all right?” Gideon asked, somewhat awkwardly. Had it been too much? While Harrow had seemed to enjoy it, her panicky expression during the buildup had been strange.

“Are you actually concerned for my well-being?” Harrow replied after a breathless moment.

“It’s… oh, shut up.” Gideon could feel the heat rising in her cheeks, and it wasn’t just from sex. “You just looked a little… I don’t know.”

“Oh.” Harrow grimaced, turning her head to face her. She looked almost sheepish, such a foreign expression on Harrow’s pointy face. “I… hadn’t felt anything quite like that before.”

“That good, huh?” Gideon asked with a sly grin. Harrow rolled her eyes.

“Before you ego grows so large that it suffocates you, I will say that I have had very little to compare it with.”

Gideon frowned. “What’s that mean? Like you’ve never had an orgasm before?”

Harrow’s eyebrows furrowed, and she shrugged. “It’s not for lack of trying,” she said defensively. “I just… couldn’t get it, and I didn’t want to waste time trying to figure it out. There were always more important things to attend to, so--”

Shit,” Gideon remarked. “No wonder you’re always so uptight.”

Harrow grabbed a pillow and smacked her with it.

“Seriously, Harrow!” Gideon protested. “That was your first orgasm? Really?!”

“Griddle--”

“I’m not trying to be mean this time!” Gideon made a sweeping gesture with one arm, and she caught (somewhat smugly) the way Harrow’s eyes flicked toward the rippling muscles. “I’m just surprised, is all. You have to do something good for yourself now and then.”

“It’s not something I needed,” Harrow corrected. “I am the Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House. That… while it did feel good, it’s also an unnecessary luxury. I’ve been perfectly fine without it.”

Luxury,” Gideon repeated, eyebrows lifting. Perhaps it ran deeper than that; just like neither of them had known comfort, Harrow also had years of guilt and repression. It was possible that that was the true reason she’d never gotten herself off; something as blissful as an orgasm was something Harrow had decided she didn’t deserve. She sighed, curling herself around Harrow, snaking an arm around her waist. “You’re allowed to enjoy this, you know.”

“I know that,” Harrow said grumpily, accepting the contact. “All I’m saying is that it isn’t something I need.”

“And I bet I can change your mind about that. Now that you’ve finally figured out what it’s all about.” She gave Harrow her best disarming smile, but it might have looked semi-maniacal. “I bet you wouldn’t say no to another go.”

Harrow’s silence was at much of an agreement as Gideon was going to get. She leaned over, one hand settling on Harrow’s waist as she kissed her again, reigniting the passion with surprising speed. She supposed it was easier for Harrow when she didn’t have to talk, to admit with words how much she liked it. She was spreading her legs, almost before Gideon moved to part her thighs. She was still so wet, and the sheets beneath her were damp. Gideon brushed against her, Harrow letting out the softest of moans.

She loved it. Of course she did.

“Scoot up,” Gideon said, jutting her chin. “I’m gonna eat you out.”

It spoke volumes that Harrow didn’t argue. She actually obeyed, almost eagerly pushing herself up against the headboard. Gideon slid down her body, dragging her hands along Harrow’s hips and thighs.

She settled on her stomach, breathing softly against her skin, momentarily lost in the intoxicating scent. Harrow’s thighs were slick, and Gideon kissed one with excess gentleness. Harrow whined, rolling her hips, but Gideon pressed her palm to her thigh to keep her in place.

“What was that about not needing it?” Gideon teased, kissing her thigh again. “You don’t need this, right?”

“Fuck you,” Harrow grunted, angling her hips toward her mouth.

“Then maybe you should ask nicely,” Gideon told her, almost preening. Control. This was what she’d wanted all her life, and here it was, hovering right in front of her face. Harrowhark Nonagesimus, rendered helpless, completely at Gideon’s mercy.

Gideon,”

“Say it, bitch.” To drive her point home, she nipped at her thigh. Harrow gasped, her cunt absolutely glistening in the dim light. “Use your manners.”

Please.” Her voice was small, hardly more than a sharp inhale. “Please, Gideon.”

Gideon looked up, grinning. Harrow stared down at her, eyes wide enough for Gideon to see their whites. Her desperation was gorgeous.

“Please,” she whispered again, and Gideon let out a low chuckle.

“Good girl,” she said mockingly, lowering her head. She pressed her tongue against her slit, and the jerk Harrow gave was automatic and violent.

Gideon only knew the theory behind eating a woman out, but her inexperience was probably good for Harrow, she figured. It only drew out the torture. She moved slowly, cataloging each reaction to each place she moved her tongue. She swirled it around her clit, gratified by the shake of Harrow’s leg as it hooked around her shoulder. When she flattened her tongue, she was surprised when Harrow started to grind against it.

“Yeah,” Gideon groaned between breaths. She couldn’t get enough of her taste. “Yeah.”

“Please,” Harrow murmured, like she’d forgotten every other word she knew. Harrow, who had never been polite to Gideon for a single fucking day in her life, apparently had nothing else to say. “Please.”

It may not have been Gideon’s name, but it was a good start.

She slid two fingers into her, pumping slowly as she sucked Harrow’s clit. At the shuddering response, Gideon sucked harder, until Harrow’s moans were nearly constant. She curled her fingers, just a little, and that must have been just enough, for Harrow gasped again as she convulsed. She pulsed around Gideon’s fingers, who waited until the clenching subsided before pulling them out.

Gideon looked back up, running her tongue over her lower lip to see the effect she’d had. Harrow had thrown one skinny arm over her eyes as she apparently tried to recover. Gideon pushed herself up, trapping Harrow’s body underneath her to kiss her again. Tiredness was starting to catch up with Harrow, she could see now. Harrow returned the kiss as if in a daze, her tongue probing into Gideon’s mouth, to taste herself there. She’d have no problem falling asleep now, Gideon thought with satisfaction.

“Can I try?” Harrow asked after a moment, pulling away from the kiss to look Gideon in the eyes. Gideon slid a hand to her waist, thumbing her hipbone as she considered. She’d fully intended on taking care of herself after she’d fucked Harrow into unconsciousness. There was no way Harrow would be able to succeed; she’d never had an orgasm until then, so the thought of her getting Gideon off seemed ludicrous. Still…

Gideon glanced down at Harrow’s fingers. They were long, delicate. She throbbed at the idea of being touched by them. She was certainly wet enough to take them.

“All right,” she said, against her better judgement. She lay back on the mattress, closing her eyes at the sensation of those long fingers trailing along her biceps, her chest, her abs. She felt the shifting of weight, and when she opened her eyes, Harrow was leaning over her. She littered Gideon’s jaw with sloppy wet kisses, letting her fingers crawl all over her body. Gideon circled an arm around her back, pulling her closer, bringing their bodies flush. Heat emanated off of Harrow’s skin, and Gideon’s breathing quickened. And then--

“Holy fucking shit, Harrow!” Gideon nearly jumped at the fingers rubbing roughly against her. “That’s my clit, not a holy fucking prayer knuckle!”

Harrow pulled her hand back like she’d been slapped, her face burning red. “Sorry,” she mumbled.

Gideon sighed, taking the offending hand in her own. “Here,” she said, a little more patient now that the shock had worn off. She brought it to her lips, giving it a light kiss, a peace offering. “Like this.”

She guided Harrow’s hand down, curling underneath it in order to touch herself. She took it slowly, gently, to ensure that Harrow was learning as much from the experience as Gideon enjoyed it. She wasn’t shy in her moans as she coated their fingers in her wetness, hopefully normalizing the concept of vocalizing during sex. With any luck, it would encourage Harrow in her own sounds.

At least Harrow seemed to get the hang of things pretty quickly. Her knowledge of human anatomy would have helped with that, and she’d always been a quick learner. She worked her fingers in and out, leaving Gideon to toy with her clit. Then, she nudged Gideon’s hand aside, to touch experimentally with wet fingers.

“Harder,” Gideon panted, muscles beginning to shake. “Faster.”

Harrow obliged, glancing back and forth between her fingers and Gideon’s eyes, as if taking mental notes for future reference.

Gideon had never considered a future where Harrow was involved, but a lot of things were changing that night.

When she began to crest, Gideon let out a choking breath, seizing Harrow by the back of her neck and pulling her close, to kiss her. Their tongues met, and Gideon moaned into her mouth, grinding against both of their hands. She pushed Harrow’s hand away from her cunt, twining her fingers with hers. They slipped against each other, holding tightly as Gideon’s whole body loosened.

She pulled Harrow down beside her, letting go of her hand to wrap an arm around her. Harrow didn’t fight it-- she was long past fighting-- sinking into the frame of her body and resting her head on Gideon’s chest. They allowed the silence to fall around them, only broken by the sounds of their breathing and what felt like Gideon’s heart pounding against her skull.

“How was that?” Gideon asked, voice thick with sleepiness and satisfaction.

It took Harrow so long to respond that Gideon was beginning to wonder if she’d fallen asleep. She’d never fallen asleep with someone before, but it was something she’d wondered about often. How it would feel, for two warm bodies to press against each other, limbs entangled, feeling the twitches of someone else’s muscles beside her own. She buried her face in Harrow’s short hair, planting a gentle kiss at the junction of her frontal and parietal, strangely content.

“It was…” Harrow said, then paused. “Nice.”

“That’s all?”

“If I say any more, you’ll be even more insufferable than you already are.” Harrow adjusted herself slightly, nuzzling her face into the crook of Gideon’s neck. She fit so perfectly there, Gideon thought with an odd sense of fondness. She traced her fingertips up and down Gideon’s side, scraping lightly with her nails. In turn, Gideon stroked Harrow’s back with her thumb, a slow, soft tempo, encouraging calm and sleep.

Laying there in bed with Harrow was like laying in a bubble, separate from the rest of Canaan House and its threat of death. It was almost easy to just close her eyes, to forget about the looming dangers, and their pasts, and their futures.

Here, all that mattered was the present, and themselves. Here, they could be selfish, for just one night.

“I suppose I can settle for that, for now” Gideon murmured, smiling a little. She dislodged herself slightly, in order to yank the blankets over them. She pulled it up to Harrow’s neck, where a track of bruises stood out on her skin. She supposed that the next morning’s face paint would go a little further down her neck than it usually did.

“Good,” Harrow mumbled, already drifting into sleep. The motion of her fingers against Gideon’s side began to slow.

“Yeah.”

“Good night, Gideon,” Harrow added, her murmur almost an afterthought.

As she nodded off, her breathing slowed and lengthened. She was sleeping more easily now, here in Gideon’s arms.

And it was nice.