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i don't know if i could ever go without

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Gideon had almost fallen asleep in her cot when she felt something move next to her. She opened her eyes to find Harrow sitting at the end of the bed with her legs crossed, chewing her bottom lip.

"Go the fuck to sleep, Nonagesimus," she groaned.

Harrow was silent a few seconds longer. Her face bare, and she was wearing just a simple loose black tunic to sleep in. Gideon felt a little embarrassed seeing her like this, almost worse than if she had just walked in on her naked, which was ridiculous, since she had seen her naked just days ago. She had also felt like she was three seconds away from dying at the time, though, so she wasn't really paying any attention and maybe that didn't count.

Still, Harrow unmade and Harrow undressed were two very different states of Harrow vulnerable. Gideon started to worry something dreadful had happened (again) when Harrow took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and said quietly, almost as if she was afraid of the words leaving her mouth, "Will you kiss me again?"

Gideon blinked. She must have hallucinated, or maybe she actually had fallen asleep already and was now dreaming. But Harrow didn't open her eyes, and looked rather like she wanted to crawl into a hole and die.

Gideon propped herself up on her elbows and said, "I'm sorry?"

"Earlier, in the pool..." Harrow paused and took another deep breath. "You kissed me. On the nose. I think I would like you to kiss me again. If you want to."

"On the nose?"

"The nose, or...anywhere else you might like to?"

"Is this a trap?"

"A trap?"

"Everything in the pool was a lie and it was actually a huge breach of conduct and a great offense to the Ninth that I would have even thought about kissing your nose and now you have to punish me by, I don't know, making me think you want to kiss more and then turning your teeth into huge spikes that run through my face as soon as my lips get close to yours?"

Harrow's eyebrows knit together in a mix of confusion and exasperation. "Nav. What the fuck."

"Harrow," Gideon said slowly, "Harrow, we have only just begun to maybe start some kind of possible friendship and you're already making it weird."

"I'm sorry." Harrow threw herself backwards to lay on the bed, let out a long guttural exhale, and pressed the heels of her palms against her eyes. "I'm sorry!" she exclaimed. "I'm lonely and we might die tomorrow and I've never been touched in any way that felt nice and it felt nice in the pool when you were holding me and when you kissed me and I thought maybe we could spend our last possible night alive feeling nice and not lonely."

She'd said the last bit in one long rushed breath and immediately made a motion with her hand over her face like she wanted to force the words back into her mouth and swallow them back down.

Gideon sat the rest of the way up and moved to lay down next to Harrow. "That...makes sense, actually," she said.

"Does it?"

"I mean, you're allowed to want to feel nice. Like, that is a normal thing for people to want."

Harrow rolled onto her side to face Gideon and Gideon followed suit.

"You don't have to," Harrow said.

Gideon smiled. "I honestly can't say I ever imagined I'd spend a night making out with you, so I'm having to take some time to wrap my head around the idea, but you're right. It was nice earlier in the pool. So, pucker up, princess."

Harrow rolled her eyes and managed to say, "Don't be crass," before Gideon kissed her nose again.

Despite the fact that she had been the initial instigator, Harrow seemed surprised. She tensed up, slightly, making a small sudden squeaking sound. It only lasted a couple of seconds, though, and then Harrow was relaxing, pressing into the kiss and bringing her hands up to hold each side of Gideon's face. Gideon kissed her nose again, then her cheeks and her forehead before finally pressing her lips against Harrow's.

Having never kissed anyone before, Gideon didn't have much of a standard to go by, but she had to say that it was, in fact, nice. Harrow's mouth opened slightly as she took in a breath and Gideon took the opportunity to pull her bottom lip between her own. Harrow's thumbs began to run back and forth over Gideon's cheeks, and Gideon brought one hand to rest at Harrow's waist and the other to cup her chin. It felt more than nice, actually — it felt amazing — and something in Gideon's brain flipped like a switch and she realized it had always been leading to this. They had always orbited each other, both so lonely and starved for any form of connection and neither knowing how the fuck they were supposed to survive alone; both so terrified of reaching out to the other and being turned away that they'd bricked each other off rather than take the chance.

What scared and stupid children they had been, turning their hatred of their own lives into hatred of the other.

They stayed like that for a while, figuring out how kissing worked, mouths moving together and against each other, taking small breaks to catch their breaths and then finding each other's mouth again, neither wanting to spend too much time even slightly apart from the other. Her thumb brushed downwards along Harrow's throat and Harrow gasped and pressed her whole body against Gideon's so she figured she should probably pursue that. She brought her mouth down to Harrow's neck, pressing small kisses against it before licking at the skin where her jaw met her ear. She felt a small shiver run through Harrow, and then she tilted her head back, baring her throat before Gideon.

Fuck, Harrow was into this. Not that Gideon wasn't. It absolutely was the hottest thing that had ever happened to her, which, okay, wasn't saying much, but she had never expected that Harrow would be so into anything like this, at least, not with her.

She moved the hand on Harrow's hip to press against the small of her back, pushing Harrow against her and rolling them both over so that Gideon hovered above, bracing herself on her forearm, mouthing at Harrow's throat, and pressing their bodies together as Harrow wrapped her arms around her head, fingers threading through her hair.

Harrow drew her legs up, bending them at the knee so that Gideon was positioned between them. And shit. Shit fuck shit this might be the hottest thing that ever could happen to her. She felt warmth beginning to pool in her abdomen as Harrow's fingernails scratched lightly at her scalp.

Ahaha. Well. She wasn't quite sure this was the reaction Harrow had sought to elicit from her. Harrow had only asked Gideon to kiss her, to help her feel nice and less lonely and now she was getting way too turned on from something that probably wasn't supposed to actually be sexual. She pulled away from Harrow's neck to rest her head on her sternum, feeling it rise and fall with rapid breaths uneven against the slow and steady ones Gideon was forcing herself to take.

"Are you okay?" Harrow asked.

"Yeah," Gideon replied, "just need to catch my breath for a second." She suddenly realized her hand had gone slack, had slipped from its place at the small of Harrow's back, and that she was now, in fact, touching Harrowhark Nonagesimus's butt. She froze, her hand terrifyingly close to the hem of the short garment Harrow was wearing, so close to the skin at the top of her thigh. "Uh…you okay?"

"Yeah," Harrow replied. "You can, uh, proceed further. If you want to?"

"Okay," Gideon replied flatly, and then immediately felt like an idiot. "I mean. Sure, yeah, sure."

So. Okay. Maybe it was sexual now.

She slipped her fingers under Harrow's tunic, tracing the crease where her thigh met her ass, following it forward until her fingers were resting at the very top of Harrow's inner thigh. She paused, waiting for Harrow's reaction. Harrow reached under Gideon's chin, lifted her head up, looked her dead in the eye, and simply said, "Yes."

And Gideon decided that if this was going to happen, it was going to happen.

Not breaking eye-contact, she ran her fingers under the waistband of Harrow's underwear and began pulling them down. Eternally unable to ever keep her mouth shut, she said, "Do you know how desperately I have looked forward to the day I would finally get to experience eating pussy?" And then launched herself down between Harrow's thighs to escape the hands now trying to swat at her head as she cried, "Nav, I said don't be crass."

She took a deep breath, and gave one long, experimental lick from cunt to clit. Harrow inhaled with a quick gasp and the following exhale was a stutter of small whimpers. Gideon's magazines had always used dessert metaphors for this, words like honey-pot, nectar, ambrosia, and watermelon sugar. She’d always been a bit skeptical that it would taste very sweet and sure enough, it didn’t. Tart and slightly bitter, the closest comparison she could make was the sour soup the kitchen sometimes served them. Which, great, now if she lived to eat that soup again she would absolutely be thinking about Harrow’s vagina the whole time, and then next time she ate anything else she’d remember that last time she had a meal she had only been able to think of Harrow’s vagina, and then how was she ever supposed to to eat anything around other people ever again? Harrow’s vagina would always be with her now. This was absolutely the biggest mistake Gideon had ever made in her life.

The soup metaphor, that was, not the eating Harrow out. That was going great.

She kept going, alternating long strokes of her tongue with concentrated pressure on Harrow's clit, and Harrow was pressing her hips up and grasping Gideon's hair with one hand, the other fisted in the sheets. Gideon brought a hand up to run over Harrow's belly under her tunic, feeling her abdomen tense as Gideon continued to please her. She ran her hand down over Harrow's sharp hips then up to feel over her ribs before reaching one of her breasts and lightly skimming a finger over the nipple. This, timed perfectly with Gideon deciding to see what would happen if she tried sucking at her clit, caused a long, staggered fuuuuuuuuck to escape from Harrow's mouth and Gideon felt some sort of phenomenal victory wash over her. She smiled against Harrow's cunt, bring her focus entirely to her clit and nipple until both of Harrow's hands were pulling at her hair and she could tell Harrow was doing everything in her power not to cry out until — oh, shit — until the cry came out anyway and Harrow's back was arching and she was repeating Gideon over and over like one of the prayers she counted on her strands of knuckle bones.

Gideon sat up and watched as Harrow came down from her orgasm, eyelids fluttering and mouth slack, chest rising and falling as her breathing came back to a slow and steady rhythm.

When Harrow's eyes opened, Gideon couldn't help but smile at her. Harrow smiled back and Gideon laid herself back down at her side. They both lay there for a minute or two, staring at the ceiling in silence. Then Gideon felt Harrow's fingers brush against her hand and entwine themselves with hers.

After a minute or two Gideon ventured to ask, "So, was it, uh, nice?"

"Yes," Harrow answered, and brought Gideon's hand to her mouth and pressed a kiss against the back. "It was."

There were a few more moments of silence before Harrow spoke again, asking quietly, "Would you like a turn?"

Gideon's brain shorted out for a second. She realized that she had been fully expecting to wait until Harrow fell asleep and then get herself off in her cot. It was one thing for her to have fucked Harrow, but somehow the idea of Harrow fucking her hadn't entered her mind.

Gideon had been more or less perpetually horny since the day pubescent hormones had made themselves at home in her body. She'd been reading her dirty magazines and erotic comic books and fantasizing about all the women she'd get with once she joined the Cohort for years. She wouldn't say she'd fuck anyone that asked her to, and obviously Harrow was more than just anyone at this point, but still.

Her whole life she had viewed Harrow as able to contain nothing more than contempt, a tiny vessel with an astounding capacity for spite and malice and nothing else. She had assumed that Harrow was only capable of stealing everything good and wonderful away from those around her and then swallowing them down to become the fuel that fed her burning hatred of everything good and wonderful. She knew now that she had been wrong, but the idea of Harrow having room for anything good, having the ability to give rather than just take, was still very new. Her brain took a few moments to process this information and then turned itself back on.

"Gideon?"

"Yes? Yes. Only if you really want, to, though?"

"I wouldn't have let you go so far if I wasn't well-prepared to return the favor."

"Oh, well, thank you."

Harrow sighed, the hand not holding Gideon's coming to cover her eyes in what Gideon now recognized as the "Harrow is going to talk about her feelings" move.

"I don't know what this is, Gideon. And honestly, I do not have the time or energy to spend on really thinking about it right now, but if we get out of here alive, I think I very much want to pursue figuring this out with you."

Gideon took in a deep breath and puffed her cheeks out as she slowly exhaled. "That feels like a very big 'if'."

"It does."

"And we both have a lifetime of baggage to unpack. You'll have to talk about your feelings. A lot."

Harrow made a sound indicating that the idea of talking about her feelings was akin to the idea of someone reaching right down her throat, grabbing hold of her very soul, and then pulling it out. "Yes. I know."

"Your corpse girlfriend won't mind?"

"My corpse girlfriend" Harrow answered, saying the words in a tone Gideon realized meant she probably shouldn't refer to the inhabitant of the Locked Tomb as such, "is a whole other conversation for a whole other day."

"Filed under that lifetime of baggage, then."

"Yeah."

"Okay," Gideon said. "Okay. Have at me, O Mistress of Melancholy and Marrow. Just don't, aaaaah, don't put any bones inside of me or anything."

"Nav—!"

"I know! Don't be crass!"

"Nav, why—?"

"I'm sorry I don't want bones!"

There was a long pause. That was it, Gideon thought. She knew Harrow was incapable of doing anything without incorporating her creepy skeleton magic, but she had to draw a line somewhere. Like it or not, she was incredibly anti-bones when it came to sex.

Harrow sat up, looked down at Gideon, and in very sombre tones asked, "Nav, why else would they call it boning?"

Gideon stared, dumbfounded, as a slow, triumphant smile spread across Harrow’s face. She could have killed her. A fucking sex pun from the mouth of the Reverend Daughter had to be at the top of the list of mortal sins and she was sure Crux and Aiglamene and the horrible great-aunts and all the faithful followers of the Ninth would forgive her in a split second if she just took Harrow out right then and there.

Harrow began to laugh, small at first, and then with a full-bodied glee, throwing her head back and honest-to-God cackling. It was one of the most surreal moments of Gideon’s life and she couldn't help but smile and laugh, too, even as she reached behind her for a pillow to throw at Harrow, delighting in the squawking noise she made when it hit her square in the face.

"Fuck you, Nonagesimus," she said, still laughing.

"Gideon, why would I put bones inside of you?"

"You've spent your whole life doing weird shit with bones! I don't know what your boundaries are for what is and is not appropriate to do with bones! Just! Don't fuck me with bones! Please!"

Harrow moved to straddle Gideon's hips and Gideon tentatively placed her hands on Harrow's waist. Harrow leaned down to take Gideon's face in her hands again and said, "Gideon Nav, I promise right here and right now that I will never, ever fuck you with bones."

"Thank you."

"Unless you ask me to."

"Aaaaauugh, nope, you ruined it again."

And then Harrow leaned down to kiss her. They were small kisses, sweet and lovely until Gideon remembered her face was covered with the slightly-bitter-tanginess of Harrow, and then the kisses were still sweet and lovely, but it was also hot as hell that Harrow was kissing her with the taste of her own cunt still on Gideon's mouth. A new wave of warmth rolled through her body, pooling between her legs. She brought her hands back under Harrow’s tunic to touch skin, holding her hips, thumbs tracing back and forth over the juts of her hip bones.

She could absolutely get used to this, she thought. Harrow hovering over her, kissing her slowly and deliberately, running her hands up her sides under her shirt. Harrow pulled back just long enough to tug Gideon’s shirt over her head then returned to kissing her as she slipped her bandeau down, leaving it bunched up around Gideon's waist. Harrow's hands moved to Gideon's breasts, thumbs pressing lightly against each of her nipples. Gideon felt her breath hitch in the back of her throat, a long, slow whine escaping from her lips and into Harrow's mouth. Harrow smiled and Gideon could feel her smile, could feel her lips pulling up at the corners even as those same lips were pressed against her own. She smiled, too, which made Harrow smile more, and then kissing wasn't really possible as they both were smiling too damned hard.

"This is disgusting," Harrow said with a small laugh and Gideon rolled her eyes as she huffed out a laugh, too.

Harrow began to move downwards, mouthing at Gideon's neck, trying out the same space where her jaw met her ear that Gideon had found on her, and oh, fuck, that was good. Harrow's hands working at Gideon's breasts and her mouth moving against her skin was thrilling, the sensation radiating out from every point Harrow touched until her scalp and her face and her chest were alight with pure pleasure. Harrow was at her collarbone now, pausing to press her tongue into the dip and then continuing down, moving her hands to Gideon's waist, sliding her loose pants and underwear off over her hips, pressing a kiss to each of her nipples and then sitting up between Gideon's legs. Gideon whined at the sudden lack of contact but then Harrow's hands were moving her legs to bend at the knee, pressing them outward so they were now encircling Harrow's waist. Harrow ran her hands lightly up and down Gideon's inner thighs a few times, watching her face the whole time, and when she finally brought a hand between Gideon's legs, Gideon couldn't help the way her hips pressed up to meet the touch and the long, keening cry that left her mouth.

Harrow smirked, she actually fucking smirked, as her thumb circled Gideon's clit. She knew a litany of swear words were pouring from her mouth but she wasn't sure which ones because the only thing her brain could focus on was the fire pooling low in her belly. Harrow's thumb never left its spot, continuing to make small circles as Harrow slowly pressed two fingers inside of her and curled them upwards, pressing into a spot that made Gideon's back arch as she cried out, "Oh, God, oh fuck," until simply making words was too much for her to handle and she turned into an incoherent blithering mess.

If someone had asked Gideon just an hour earlier how she thought she would lose her virginity, "getting fingerbanged by Harrowhark Nonagesimus" would not have entered anywhere on the list, or on any possible list of ways she might get laid at any point in her life, and yet, here she was, getting fingerbanged by Harrowhark Nonagesimus.

Harrow's fingers — were there more than two now? When did that happen? — had found their rhythm, moving inside Gideon in time with the circles her thumb was drawing. She moved to get a better angle, bracing her other hand on the bed by Gideon's waist and resting her forehead against Gideon's stomach. The pressure in her abdomen was building and she was finding it harder and harder to catch her breath. Harrow slipped in another finger — okay, so there were definitely more than two now — and sped up just ever so slightly and that was it, that was all Gideon could take. Her whole body had caught fire and she was melting into Harrow as her orgasm rolled through her. Harrow’s hand stilled and Gideon found that she was whimpering, stop, God, please even as she never ever wanted Harrow to stop and never ever wanted this to end.

Harrow sat back up, resting on her heels, and when Gideon was able to open her eyes again, she saw that she was still Goddamned smirking. She slowly removed her fingers — and that was a whole other kind of sensation, now, wasn’t it, hello, aftershocks — and looked at it for a moment before reaching for Gideon’s pajama pants to wipe it off on, which, gross, but okay, what else was she supposed to do.

Harrow laid herself back down next to Gideon, tucking herself under Gideon’s arm, head resting on her shoulder and hand lazily drawing patterns over her belly. Gideon kissed the top of Harrow's head and Harrow tilted her face up to look at her. "Thank you," she said quietly.

Gideon smiled and cupped Harrow's face in her hand, lightly running her thumb back and forth over her cheekbone. "Not the worst thing you've ever asked me to do."

Harrow hummed a small, contented sound and Gideon leaned in to kiss her again.

They stayed that way for several minutes, kissing slow and lazy, basking in each other until Harrow yawned and Gideon said, "We should probably get in the sonic."

"Probably," Harrow responded, but made no sign of moving.

A few more minutes passed and Gideon realized Harrow's hand had stilled on her belly and she had fallen asleep, soft, even puffs of her breath floating over Gideon’s chest. Gideon grasped around the bed for the blankets, doing her best with her one free arm to shake them out and cover them both. She found a pillow, too, and fixed it under her head before closing her eyes and relaxing into Harrow.

There was no way of knowing what the next day would hold, if either of them would make it out of this literally God-forsaken castle alive. But she found peace in the rise and the fall of Harrow’s chest with her own, and finally, finally, went the fuck to sleep.