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seeing the pain, seeing the pleasure

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Sophie hums, eyes heavy and half asleep, as she feels a finger trace down her arm, circle the inside of her wrist, and then drag back up again. The touch tickles in just the right way, hypnotizing Sophie into a calming lull as it draws out flashes from the night before—and much of this morning too. 

(Or just two minutes ago, to be more precise.)

They had woken up around the same time, with the chirping of the birds and the rising of the sun, as daybreak hit their tired eyes. Ryan had pressed up against her from behind, her drowsy lips to the nape of Sophie’s neck as she breathed, “Hey, you,” against her skin.

Soft kisses trailed along her shoulders and down her back, and Sophie remembers goosebumps arising as a chill rippled through her body, from that spot in Ryan’s mouth all the way down to her toes. 

“Hi there,” Sophie whispered back, not bothering to hide her reaction; she let Ryan feel just what she did to her as hands reached around her waist and down between her thighs. 

“This okay?” Ryan asked her, that sweet, sultry voice in her ear, and Sophie smiled, delighted at how okay all of this was.

It was better than okay, and so she showed Ryan exactly that by taking her hand and placing nimble fingers against herself. She heard Ryan sigh just as she touched her, and Sophie breathed out and closed her eyes as Ryan found a smooth rhythm within her. 

The rest happened so slow but so fast at the same time that Sophie’s still wrapping her sated mind around it; her writhing as she searched for release, the heat of Ryan’s body against her from behind, the clenching of her thighs as she tried to hold on to every last wave of pleasure, the comfort of Ryan’s steady breathing in her ear. 

God, not only does she dream of it; she thinks about it every moment she gets, even just two minutes after as they lie together in bed, sheets tangled around their legs, just enjoying the silence of the loft in their post-coital haze. 

The only movements are the rise and fall of their chests; the only sounds are their sighs as they catch their breath in the stillness of the room, still recovering from the buildup and release of each other’s touch.

It’s something she never thought she’d experience; to have Ryan against her now, head on her chest, ear to her heart, as the bliss of the morning falls over her in electric waves. 

Her toes curl in her excitement, her stomach fluttering at the reality of holding Ryan in her arms like this; her scent on Sophie’s neck; her bite in Sophie’s thigh, her hand in Sophie’s hand. 

(She’s certain she’s dreamt of this moment.)

Her nightly visions had since moved into very different territory and evolved from that one about the soup, but Sophie has to admit, while those dreams were satisfying, not a damn thing on Earth compares to the real thing. 

Sophie drags her eyes away from the ceiling—where she’d been contemplating every moment from last night in silence—to take in the woman in her arms. 

(God, she’s beautiful.)

Her vulnerability. Her passion. Her warm, chestnut eyes when she smiles. The crinkle in her nose when she’s annoyed. The shape of her mouth when she says Sophie. God, she’s so beautiful, and Sophie could stare all day, only Ryan must feel Sophie looking at her because she turns and stares back. 

It’s not long before Sophie realizes they’re locked in a staring contest that she ultimately loses when Ryan breaks the silence with a giggle. Sophie blinks, surprised by the laughter as Ryan boasts her victory with a winning smile. 

Sophie rolls her eyes; she tries to hide a smirk but her efforts—or lack thereof—prove futile. “You’re so competitive it’s hilarious.” 

Ryan turns in her arms, resting her head on the same pillow as Sophie. They’re so close Sophie swears she can see the flecks of grey in Ryan’s brown eyes. 

(God, she’s beautiful.)

“What’s that look?” Ryan asks, eyes bouncing back and forth between Sophie’s own, and Sophie can’t help but wonder if Ryan can read her mind. 

(It sure feels that way sometimes.)

“What look?” Sophie plays dumb; flirting with Ryan is more fun that way. 

And Ryan doesn’t disappoint—never does—playing right along with a coy nudge to Sophie’s arm. “This look you’re giving me right now,” she says, pursing her lips as she studies Sophie’s face, and Sophie doesn’t think she’s ever felt so seen before.

It’s how she always feels when Ryan looks at her; like she’s naked, or worse, translucent, and Ryan can see every piece of her, every version of her, and knows just who she is—the real her that can’t hide, that wants to do better, that can be trusted to fight for Ryan no matter what.

Ryan nods to herself, just barely moving her head, but Sophie can feel it against the pillow they’re sharing. She’s about to ask Ryan what she’s confirming, but Ryan beats her to the punch: “You gave me this same look last night, you know, right before…”

Sophie blinks slowly, and behind those closed lids, she thinks about right before; that moment her eyes traveled up Ryan’s body, her throat dry at just the sight of her. 

Her breath hitches when she feels Ryan’s bare leg brush up against hers. On instinct, she shifts her body so that their legs ravel together over the sheets. The connection happens so naturally and without any mention, and this—Sophie knows—is what true intimacy looks like, feels like. And to feel this with Ryan…it’s something she’s wanted for months but had no idea this dream would actually come to fruition.

To be wholly honest, Sophie never thought this would ever be a possibility, never mind a reality; not after the Crows and the arrests and the distrust and…Renee. 

(The difference the right person can make.)

Sophie feels a gentle smile form as she moves a strand of hair out of Ryan’s face. “So you know my looks now, huh?”

Ryan nods again, catching Sophie’s hand before she can take it back. “Mhmm,” she hums, batting her eyelashes as she presses a soft kiss to Sophie’s fingers, “It’s called gathering intel, Agent Moore.”

“Ah right, that’s what it’s called,” Sophie murmurs, trying and failing to play it cool. “And what kind of intel do you have on me, Batwoman?”

Ryan’s lips pause against Sophie's hand; she closes her eyes and leaves a love bite before taking a breath.

The atmosphere changes, from soft and serene to something more intentional as Ryan grows oddly serious. “I know that you’re highly capable of taking care of yourself,” she says, raising her arm to rest her head against her hand. She towers over Sophie now, almost hovering above her, and Sophie holds her breath as she peers up and listens, “And I know that my needless overprotection of you is a result of my own baggage, not any wrongful perception of your admittedly badass skills. I just…I just care about you, Soph, that’s all.”

The rhythm of her heart skips a whole ass beat, and Sophie feels herself getting choked up. This is something they’ve struggled with for a while now and had never outwardly spoken about, but to hear Ryan address this without prompt or pushing or…anything—well, it’s a sign they’re moving in the right direction, and Sophie can’t wait to see where that leads them.

Inching closer, Sophie clears her throat and forces a shaky smile. “Your intel told you all that?” she says, wanting to hear more, “What else do you know?”

Ryan’s eyes drop to her lips, and Sophie’s entire body is instantly charged. She thinks Ryan’s going to mention something from last night, but she surprises Sophie—which shouldn’t even be a surprise anymore—by instead admitting, “I know you get just as worried about me out in the field as I get for you.”

Sophie feels her lips twitch to the side; a nervous tick. “What else?”

“And I know that I shouldn’t’ve been so petty over your—“ And here, Ryan stalls, as if she’s searching for the right word, “…night,” she settles on, “with Renee when it was clearly just a one time thing.”

(Again, not expecting that.)

“But mostly…I know your looks and what they mean,” Ryan continues, sliding back down beside Sophie so that they’re eye to eye again, and Sophie feels her stomach twist as she watches Ryan bite her lip. “And I especially know what this look means.”

Sophie swallows. “What does this look mean?”

Ryan’s eyes scan over Sophie’s face; they rest on her lips before finding her eyes again. They lock, just like before, less staring this time and more of everything else. Looking, feeling, seeing. “I know it means you like me.”

Despite the heaviness of the moment, Sophie lets herself smile, never able to keep a straight-face when her feelings are called out like this. Especially by Ryan and the shit-eating grin that’s always just an expression away.

“Oh yeah?” Sophie challenges—just another one of their things. 

(It’s how they’ve gotten used to communicating, somehow; the ribbing, the challenging, the teasing—it's just how they get one another.)

Ryan’s eyes twinkle, and there, right on cue, the shit-eating grin. “Oh yeah.”

“And what gave you that impression?”

“Hmm, I don’t know,” Ryan pretends to mull it over, resting her head even closer to Sophie’s as she brings them nose-to-nose, “Might’ve gotten a clue when you kissed me.”

Sophie feels Ryan’s nose crinkle against hers when she says, “We did a whole lot more than just kiss last night.”

“Last week, I mean.” Ryan laughs, whacking Sophie on the arm as she rolls over on her back, and Sophie lifts a brow when she realizes Ryan’s trying to hide her shy smile. “You know,” Ryan continues, still grinning at the ceiling, “You really caught me off guard out there.”

(It’s kind of what she meant to do.)

But if she’s being real, she caught herself off guard with that kiss. She didn’t even know she had settled on doing it until it was done, her lips on Ryan’s lips as she cut off her next influx of anxiety, but she did it, and maybe it’s silly to think this, but once they touched, she swears she could almost feel the worry and fear and frustration draining from Ryan’s wound-up body. 

And as she pulled away, her own words heavier than her tongue, her voice drowned out by the static in her head, Sophie felt it too. The lack of movement in the air. The quiet of their breathing. The surge of energy that so often accompany their interactions, now controlled. 

The chaos was gone, and that’s when Sophie knew—this is what peace feels like. 

(But that’s how she interpreted the moment. As for Ryan...)

“Caught off guard?” Biting her lip, Sophie looks to Ryan, wishing her eyes were back on her own. “Like…in a good way?”

Without hesitation, Ryan turns to Sophie and gives her this look that says, Do you even have to ask? But yes, she kind of does; Ryan’s never exactly been the easiest to read, and so Sophie quirks a brow to express as much.

Ryan catches on quick; she might be hard to read, but Sophie is decidedly not. “In a very good, surprising, unexpected way,” Ryan tells her, twisting her lips to the side like she wants to add something, and after a moment, she does, “I thought…I mean, I had gotten the sense we were vibing, but then—then that thing between…between...”

“…between Renee and I happened,” Sophie finishes for her, her voice just below a whisper as she speaks her shame aloud, “And it...that broke your trust in me, didn't it?”

Ryan’s eyes soften. “I was gonna say that thing between Marquis and Jada happened—with me caught in the middle,” she corrects, her smile weak as she looks down at her fumbling hands, “Not gonna lie, though, the Renee thing stung.”

Sophie feels her chest clench.

She knows it’s impossible to go back in time and redo past wrongs, but God, if she could, that’s the moment she’d take back. The last thing she ever wants to do as Ryan’s friend, her confidant—or whatever else they are—is add to the pain she's already feeling, and Sophie hates that’s what her actions did.

“I really fucked up, Ryan. Like horrendously,” Sophie tells her, and she’s never spoke truer words. Her voice feels like gravel as tears rise to push past her eyes, but Sophie takes a deep breath to tamper the storm; this isn’t about her. “Just given everything you’ve been through and the history of our dynamic, I understand that my actions were stupid and gross, and in doing that with her, I betrayed the most important thing we were building together. Trust. I’m sorry, Ryan.”

Ryan doesn’t say anything for a long moment, just looks at Sophie with glassy eyes. “I know,” she finally says, sniffling and clearing her throat when her emotions threaten to overcome her. “I trust that. And I do trust you, Sophie.”

(I do trust you.)

(I trust you.)

Sophie blinks as those words wash over her—each word, each syllable, each sound—and it almost feels like a baptism, a renewal of faith.

She didn't even realize she’d been longing to hear those words until they’re spoken. “You do?”

“Woman,” Ryan rolls her eyes as that beautiful smile stretches across her lips once again, “We would not be in bed together, figuratively or physically, if I didn’t trust you.”

Sophie laughs with a firm nod, because yeah, that’s fair. Sitting up, she recalls something that was said a while back, and there’s no way in hell she’s dropping it. “So, you got the sense we were vibing, huh? When...when was that?”

She means for it to come off as chill and teasing, but the hitch in her voice betrays just how curious she actually is—this is something she’s been dying to know since Ryan told her that their kiss got her in her head even more than she already was. 

(It’s one thing to see the signs that someone’s into you.)

(It’s another thing entirely to hear it straight from the source.)

And Ryan, ever the perceptive detective, picks up on that immediately. “I’ll tell you the exact moment. I remember it perfectly,” she says, seeking out Sophie’s hand under the sheets. Her hand tickles down Sophie’s arm before their fingers find each other and loosely ravel together. “I was about to meet with Jada for the first time, and I was stressing myself out per usual, but you looked at me and said, ‘She’s a fighter…but so are you,’” Ryan recalls, looking off just beside Sophie’s head, as if she’s imagining that exact moment. Sophie looks into Ryan’s eyes, remembering the moment with her. “And it’s just the way you said it, the look in your eyes—“

“The one you know so well?”

“The one I’ve become a little obsessed with,” Ryan says, tucking her face into Sophie’s arm to hide her flush. “After you said that, I just got mad awkward, and I gave you this weird little smile because I had felt something, and then…that energy…that tension, it only grew. From our eyes meeting across the room to your hand in mine, we were growing closer. I could feel it. And I wanted it.”

Sophie knows just what Ryan means; it’s sometimes hard to decipher when her feelings started, when their bond began strengthening, shifting, changing, evolving.

It was something she felt in stages, until finally, it was there and it was tangible and solid and hard as hell to ignore—the beating against her chest when Ryan smiled at her, the electric shock zipping through her body when Ryan would reach out for her touch, the stress behind her eyes as she pushed away tears when Ryan explained to her mother all the ways Sophie’s been there for her. 

All the times she thought about kissing Ryan but didn't.

Suddenly, those shared instances feel so much less one-sided than they did in the moment.

(Perhaps Ryan’s not so hard to read, after all.)

(Perhaps Sophie just wasn’t looking hard enough.)

“It's why I invited you with me to my mother’s,” Ryan tells her, tightening her grip on Sophie’s hand. “Not as backup, but as someone I trusted and cared for. So yeah, I definitely felt the vibes…” Ryan hesitates, her eyes falling to the sheets, and Sophie cranes her neck, trying to catch them, to see where they’re going, what they’re thinking. After a pause, Ryan frowns and says, “But then I did what I do best. I retreated from them. I retreated from you.”

With a sigh, Sophie nods against her pillow, reaching out to wipe away the single tear running down Ryan’s cheek.

She’s not going to lie and say that didn’t hurt. She knows her response to Ryan’s aloofness was horrible—sleeping with Renee was possibly the worst decision she could’ve made—but that doesn’t negate the fact that Sophie had felt left in the dust after that dinner party. They’d shared a traumatic experience together; she had saved Ryan, and Ryan had saved her, and that next morning in the Batcave, Sophie thought they’d had a breakthrough. 

She can still feel the heavy blanket on her shoulders, Ryan’s arms stretching around her as she peered down at Sophie with those honest eyes, that comforting smile, and a promise to call her later. 

(A call she never received.)

“I mean, that’s kind of been your MO with me,” Sophie mumbles, eyes lowered as she plays with a snag in the sheets, “And while I totally get why, I guess I just wonder if—“

No,” Ryan says, her voice both stern and heartfelt, “I won’t. You’ll be hard-pressed getting rid of me after last night.”

Sophie just stares at Ryan, a smirk twitching at the corners of her lips. “You don’t even know what I was about to say, Ryan.”

“You right, my bad. Please continue.”

“Will you retreat from me again,” Sophie asks, already knowing what Ryan’s going to say, “After last night?”

“I won’t,” Ryan repeats, and Sophie can just tell by the look on her face that she’s trying her damnedest not to laugh. “Especially not after that thing you did with your tongue.. You know the thing.”

“Ryan,” Sophie groans, even though all she wants to do is sigh in bliss, “You're really such a smart ass.”

Ryan opens her mouth but wavers, almost like she started to say one thing and then changed her mind last minute. After a moment of hesitation, she moves closer to Sophie again, and Sophie meets her halfway as she’s drawn to the heat of Ryan’s body. “Considering where your hands like to go,” Ryan starts slowly, her words careful and direct, “I have a feeling you think this ass is a lot more than just smart.”

Sophie smirks; she still has no idea how Ryan manages to be so witty, goofy, and sexy all at the same time. Even back when they’d butt heads, it was an alluring mixture, Ryan’s personality so damn intoxicating that Sophie would find herself in The Hold Up just to see Ryan roll her eyes at her as she called her Crowphie

(Yeah.)

(She got it bad.)

“It’s multifaceted,” Sophie tells her, slowly trailing her hands around Ryan’s sides and down toward their topic of conversation. “That’s what I appreciate about it. And you.”

“Oh yeah?”

Oh yeah.”

“Show me,” Ryan whispers, flashing that gorgeous, white smile as those brown eyes fall to Sophie’s lips again; this time, she doesn’t look away, instead moving ever close until all Sophie can see and all Sophie can feel is Ryan Ryan Ryan.

She tips her chin forward, and Sophie closes the distance, sighing through her nose when their lips meet in a searing kiss. Somehow, this one feels different; like she’s been searching for home and has finally found it. By the look on Ryan’s face when she pulls back, she's feeling much of the same thing.

Against Sophie’s lips, she repeats, “Show me, Soph. I want to feel just how much you appreciate me.”

(Ryan doesn’t have to tell her a third time.)