i found him in a lover
with his educated eyes
and his head between my thighs
i found a savior
— halsey, coming down
She doesn’t really have an excuse for it. It kind of just… keeps happening.
Which was fine, until people started noticing.
Alyssa, predictably, finds out first when she shows up at Taylor’s house with a book she borrowed from her ages ago and Eric wanders out of her bedroom, half-naked and still sleepy. He barely even reacts when he notices her, just mumbles, “Hey,” and goes past her to make himself coffee in the kitchen. Taylor stares after him and wonders if she can manage to nail him in the back of the head with a blunt object without Alyssa noticing.
The odds of that are pathetically low, so she abandons the idea and turns to Alyssa, trying desperately to pretend she’s not still wearing Eric’s shirt – and only Eric’s shirt. “What are you doing here?”
Alyssa folds her arms, shooting her that amused but exasperated look she always uses with Danny and Max and sometimes Cole and occasionally Merrick and – okay, so Taylor probably ends up on the receiving side of that look a bit too often. “Good morning to you, too,” she says pointedly, and Taylor sighs. “I came over to bring you back your book. Didn’t know you’d have company.”
“She doesn’t,” Eric says, as if he’s not standing fifteen feet away from their conversation. “I was just leaving.”
“Without your shirt?” Alyssa asks, raising an eyebrow. Eric is notoriously hard to make blush – Taylor knows, she’s tried – but Alyssa manages it in three words. She’s almost jealous. “Well, sorry for interrupting – ”
“You didn’t,” she says quickly, accepting the book from her. “If you wanna stay for breakfast…”
“I have class,” Alyssa says with an apologetic smile. Taylor sighs, throwing away the idea of threatening Alyssa not to tell anybody over breakfast. “Maybe another time. It was nice seeing you again, Eric.”
He lifts a hand in a wave as Alyssa heads for the door. Taylor narrows her eyes at him, and, miraculously, he seems to get the hint. “By the way, I’ll hunt you down if this gets out.”
Taylor smacks her forehead. That was not the way to do it. Alyssa only smiles, though, and Taylor gets the feeling she’s treating Eric like one of her wayward students.
“My lips are sealed,” she says with a wink, and the door closes with a quiet click behind her, leaving Eric and Taylor alone to contemplate what just happened.
Eric points his spoon at her. “I want my shirt back.”
“Tough luck,” she retorts, and goes back to her bedroom, slamming the door behind her.
The thing about Eric is that – well, he’s hot. And really good in bed. And the fact that he has ranger stamina certainly doesn’t hurt – nor does the fact that he is a ranger, so she doesn’t have to worry about secret identities around him. Actually, she doesn’t have to worry about anything around him.
It’s casual. She likes it casual. He likes it casual. So, it works.
Well, until Wes.
He more or less barges into them in Eric’s bedroom, in the middle of the night, at the worst possible time. Eric jerks himself away from her with a sudden force, and she grasps for the sheets, because the last thing she needs is Wes Collins seeing her naked, it’s bad enough that one Time Force ranger had to –
“Whoa, sorry,” says Wes, backing up and covering his eyes. “Sorry, Taylor! I didn’t see anything, I swear. I didn’t know you were here.”
“Why would you?” she asks sarcastically, shooting Eric a glare. “Don’t you guys have, like, a sock on the door policy?”
Even through the hand over half his face, she can see Wes’s frowning in confusion. “Why would we have that? My girlfriend is in another century, and he doesn’t date.”
“Yeah,” Eric says, rolling his eyes. “And also, we are not in the habit of bursting into each other’s bedrooms in the middle of the night, right, Wes?”
“It’s important,” Wes says sheepishly, opening a gap between two fingers so they can see the smile crinkling his eyes. “It’s Silver Guardian business. Time-sensitive. Sorry to interrupt, but…”
“Do you absolutely need me?” Eric asks with a sigh, and Taylor tries not to notice the way his eyes slide over to hers, like he really wants to stay with her tonight, or the way her stomach jumps at the thought that he might be prioritizing her – which is ridiculous, it’s just sex – over official Silver Guardian business.
Wes shifts uncomfortably. “Um… kind of? You’re – dude, you help the lead the squad. If you really want, I could… say you’re sleeping, or something?”
Eric hesitates, looking at her. His gaze sweeps over her body, and she forgets how to breathe for a minute. Damn it, she’d actually been looking forward to tonight.
“I – no, it’s – ” Eric runs a hand through his hair, messing it up even further than she’d managed. She gets the urge to do it herself but – but no. “It’s fine. Give me a minute?”
Wes nods and backs out of the room quickly, his hand still over his eyes until he shuts the door behind him. Eric sighs and rolls back over onto the bed, almost melodramatically.
“I’m sorry,” he mutters, watching as she finally sits up, reaching for her clothes. “I didn’t – ”
“It’s fine,” she says, sliding on her underwear. “I get it. I would ditch you for Air Force business, too, don’t worry.”
He chuckles, but his gaze is still intense on her back as she gets dressed. He doesn’t look away, doesn’t speak for a minute until – “Tomorrow?”
Taylor freezes in the middle of buckling her jeans, still topless but unable to stop herself from turning to look at him. To his credit, he keeps his eyes on her face. “Tomorrow?” she repeats faintly, because they don’t do dates, or whatever this is. Nothing planning. Nothing routine.
They’re not in a relationship. They’re having sex. It’s different. If they start planning things –
“Never mind,” he says, looking away, because he must have realized the same thing too late. That’s the second time she’s seen him turn red. “I’ll just – I’ll see you around?”
“Yeah,” she says slowly, ignoring the part of her that wants to backtrack, tell him yes, tell him come by my house tomorrow, but she can’t, because it’s not a thing. “Good luck with the Silver Guardian thing.”
He half-smiles. “Thanks,” and he watches her leave. She tries not to think about that too much.
Wes ends up being the one who comes by her house tomorrow with two donuts in bags, one of which he offers to her with a smile. “These are apology donuts,” he tells her, and she sighs, but lets him in anyway.
“You don’t have to apologize,” she says, but he’s gotten her favorite chocolate glazed donut, so she bites in anyway. It’s really good. “We’re not actually – anything.”
“Oh, yeah, I know,” Wes says with a snort. “Eric is terrible with relationships. He’s probably thinking he’d screw it up, and that wouldn’t be good for anyone involved.”
She pauses before her next bite, staring at him quizzically. “What do you mean – he’s probably thinking – ?”
Wes raises his eyebrows at her. “Um, you haven’t noticed? He likes you, Taylor. Like, like likes you.”
“Are you in the fifth grade?” she demands, and he holds up his hands, chuckling. “He does not.”
“Is it so impossible to believe?” he asks, then thinks about it for a moment. “Well, I guess Eric Myers having feelings is pretty out there. Don’t tell him I said that.”
“I don’t tell him anything,” she mutters, biting down on the donut with a vengeance.
This was the wrong thing to say. Wes gets that look on his face like he’s just pulled a trump card. “Really? You don’t tell him anything? Just the other week, he saw one of the cadets with a CD, and the first thing out of his mouth was ‘That’s Taylor’s favorite artist.’”
She gapes at him. “I – you’re lying."
Wes laughs. “I can see why he likes you. You’re just as stubborn as him.”
His words echo in her mind long after he leaves her alone with the donut. I can see why he likes you. But he doesn’t. He’s Eric. And she’s Taylor. He doesn’t like her. Not really – not like that.
Alyssa disagrees, but, well, she’s Alyssa. “And I think you like him, too,” she says over their weekly brunch date, and Taylor stops chewing her eggs for a moment.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Alyssa says, smiling. “You do. I know you do, I’m your best friend. You’ve never been with the same guy for so long – and you guys are practically exclusive at this point.”
Taylor makes a face down at her plate. “You don’t know that,” she tries, but the thought of Eric sleeping around with other people is too abhorrent to pursue any further.
“I’m pretty sure I do,” Alyssa laughs. “But you could always ask him, if you really wanted to know.”
She really wants to know. The thought itches at her in the back of her mind for a week before she gets the nerve to track him down at work in his stupid Silver Guardian car – Wes isn’t there, she’d checked – and climb into the passenger seat without even saying hello.
“Can I help you?” he asks, setting down his binoculars calmly. She closes her eyes and counts to ten. This had gone better in her daydreams. “Taylor?”
Now he seems concerned. She catches and holds his gaze for a moment before blurting out, “Are you sleeping with other girls?”
This had gone way better in her daydreams. Eric blinks at her for a moment, then an amused smirk appears on his lips, and she wants to hit him. Or herself. Or run.
“Where is this coming from?” he asks instead of answering, and her breath escapes her. She hadn’t realized she was holding it in.
“That’s not a no,” she points out, staring out the front of the car. Nobody’s around; she’s not sure what he’d been watching when she barged in, but it can’t have been terribly exciting.
“That’s not a yes,” he retorts, then sighs, running a hand over his face. “Taylor – ”
“It’s not a big deal,” she says insistently, like she’s trying to prove it to herself as well as him. “We’re not exclusive.”
“We’re not?” he asks, the words slow, like the idea is new to him. Her heart jumps, but she forces it back down her throat. He’s being obtuse, that doesn’t mean he thinks they’re exclusive. They’re not. That would mean – something. Something it can’t mean.
“No,” she says, glancing at him sidelong. “We’re not.”
“Oh,” he says. Then, “So… does that mean you’re sleeping with other guys?”
He’s good, she has to give him that – she catches no trace of emotion in his voice. But when she looks at him, his jaw is clenched, too subtle to be noticed by anyone else. But she knows every line of his jaw, every curve of his mouth. She doesn’t think about what that means.
“No,” she admits, looking down. “I’m not.”
“Mm,” he says noncommittally, and then he reaches over and grabs her hand and pulls her into his lap. “That’s good,” he whispers, and then he kisses her.
She gasps into his mouth – she’d been expecting it, but not this deep, not this hard – and he takes advantage of that to slide his tongue over her lips, inside her mouth, leaving her utterly breathless. He presses a button on the side and the windows of the car go black – convenient, she notes absently, before she forgets to notice anything else besides him.
It’s the best sex she’s ever had. Which is weird, because she never really thought of herself as a car sex girl, and certainly not a front seat of the car type of girl, but when she’s curled up on his lap, naked and exhausted, feeling more content than she has in a long time, it occurs to her that it’s been two weeks since she last slept with him, and, okay, so maybe she was just deprived, but it was still really, really good.
He seems to think so, too, because he doesn’t even leave or make her leave like he normally would. He barely even opens his eyes once it’s over, just strokes his hand down her body, chest to hips, and neither of them move for what feels like an hour. She splays her fingers over his bare chest and counts his scars, for once not even worrying about the outside world.
It’s only when he starts tracing patterns over her hip, his hand edging dangerously low, that she realizes this feels way too good, and shifts upright on his lap. He blinks, startled out of his daze, and looks at her like he’s seeing her for the first time.
Taylor doesn’t blush easy, either, but the way his gaze travels slowly down her body, from her lips and the hickeys on her neck to the expanse of bare skin in front of him, well – his car is getting really hot, and she needs to leave.
“I should get going,” she murmurs, leaning over to the passenger seat to grab her clothes. Moving off his lap entirely seems like a difficult ordeal, and one she’s not entirely sure she can do, especially with his hands still on her hips, trapping her there. He doesn’t even seem to notice. “Um, Eric?”
“What?” he asks, and she taps her fingers over his hand. “Oh.” Quickly, he removes his hands, giving her more freedom to stretch her legs, but she still doesn’t get off his lap. He doesn’t really seem to mind, though he doesn’t exactly help her as she struggles to put on her underwear. His now-free hand absently starts moving up and down her spine, tracing circles and lines and patterns that make her shiver.
God, she wishes she could ask him to stop, but she doesn’t even want him to, not really. She wonders if he knows what he’s doing to her – he must; he’s normally so smug about the reactions he can get out of her, and he never fails to elicit them, but this time, in the haze of his quiet car, the radio playing soft music in the background, the post-sex lethargy – she doesn’t think he even notices what his hands are doing.
She still hasn’t even gotten her bra on properly, damn him. She’s about to just give up and put on her shirt instead, when his fingers come over hers and he clasps it shut easily. She releases a breath through her teeth, wishing that even that simple act didn’t send tingles shooting through her body.
“Are you gonna head home?” he asks, his voice soft in her ear, and she pauses. What’s the point of asking that? Of course she’s going to go home – “My shift’s over by now. You could come to my place.”
“Eric,” she sighs, twisting around to face him. He meets her gaze, doesn’t seem hesitant about it at all. His hands trail down her sides, stopping just above the waistline of her underwear. His thumb swipes at a particularly sensitive spot of skin and she shifts, biting her lip to avoid making an embarrassing noise. He smiles lazily up at her, and her resolve fades.
“Fine,” she says, and leans over to kiss him. He meets her lips eagerly, tilting his head up and opening his mouth – but she pulls away, not wanting to get too caught up again. “Let me get in the passenger seat, at least.”
The thing is, she enjoys being with Eric. And it’s not even just the sex, though that part is always fun – but it’s that he can challenge her. He never lets her walk over him, always with a counterpoint to any argument she makes, and he’s funny. Maybe not in the typical kind, charming sort of way, like Wes or Cole, more sharp and biting, but still funny. He makes her laugh, even though she wouldn’t admit it if her life was at stake.
“You’ve been spending a lot of time with Eric lately,” Danny notes when he visits her for lunch one day. She can’t even come up with an excuse this time. “Not that it’s a bad thing!” he adds quickly, probably seeing the expression on her face. “I just – noticed.”
Taylor sighs. If he’s noticed, then so has Max. “Yeah,” she says, unsure of what else to say. “It’s – ” She’s going to say nothing, but that doesn’t really feel true anymore, if it ever did. “I don’t know.”
Danny squeezes her hand comfortingly. “If he hurts you, tell us. I’ll make him cry.” He says this so earnestly, as if Danny Delgado has ever made anyone cry in his life, that she can’t help but smile back. “But I think he’s good for you.”
He’s right. She looks down and thinks about Eric – tall, handsome, quick-witted, snarky, always ready to fight the world Eric – and can’t really argue the point.
“Fuck,” he’s in the middle of moaning, pinned down to her bed with her on top of him, when her phone rings. And it’s the urgent situations ring, Cole’s name flashing on the screen. Eric exhales and relaxes beneath her as she sits up on his hips and reaches for the phone with a growl of annoyance already on her lips.
“Taylor, hi,” Cole whispers, and – and he’s whispering. “Sorry to bother you, but – I kind of have a problem over here. Are you busy?”
She glances down at Eric, who she knows can hear the conversation, and he smirks at her. “No,” she says slowly, and then jumps when he slips a hand between her thighs in revenge. Shooting him a glare, she grits out, “What’s your problem?”
“Um, Merrick kind of got in a fight with these scary men and now we’re hiding out in a forest?” Cole says meekly. At least he knows how ridiculous he sounds. “Could you come, uh, do your Air Force thing?”
He means fly down and scare the crap out of them. Normally, she wouldn’t mind, but when Eric’s fingers are dancing in very dangerous places, it’s kind of hard to think.
“Cole, can you – ” His thumb swipes. She chokes on her words for a moment. “Can you, um – ” His other hand snakes up her back. “Can you call Max and Danny instead? I – ” He rubs a slow, sensual circle on the inside of her thigh and her brain practically melts out of her ears. “I’m a little busy.”
“But you just said – ” Cole begins in confusion, but Eric pushes his hand higher up her thigh, and she hangs up before Cole can hear the sound that comes out of her mouth.
“Are you sure you shouldn’t get that?” Eric teases, and she debates the practicality of hitting him upside the head. That might make his hands stop what they’re doing, though, and she doesn’t want that.
“Shut up,” she says instead, and he obliges.
“You know Cole can hear – ” Alyssa begins when she tells her what happened – minus a few details.
“Yes,” Taylor says sharply, “I am aware.”
Alyssa looks at her with a half-sympathetic, half-amused smile. “So, that’s everyone? There’s no way he wouldn’t have told Merrick if they were hanging out together.”
“Great,” Taylor says with fake cheerfulness. “I’m so glad everyone on our team knows the details of my sex life.”
Alyssa laughs and pats her hand. “You’ll be fine. You know everyone’s been rooting for you two since you met, right?”
Taylor briefly recalls the knowing looks, the teasing, everyone laughing when they came back to the picnic with messed up hair and badly-buttoned shirts, and closes her eyes. “Yes, yes, I know. He’s perfect for me, he’s my soulmate, etcetera, etcetera, right?”
“You don’t buy it?” Alyssa asks calmly. Taylor sometimes wishes her best friend weren’t a teacher. “You don’t have to, you know. What matters is that you’re happy.”
“I – ” Taylor stops. That’s the problem. She is happy. She’s really, really happy. And they’re not even dating.
God, she’s in trouble.
She might have accidentally-on-purpose stopped speaking to Eric for a day or two after that lunch. Or a week. Or two weeks. It’s not her proudest moment, but she has no idea how to deal with him, when just the thought of him is confusing enough.
At the two week point, Wes comes to her house and forces her to stop. “You’re driving him crazy,” he insists over her disbelieving stare. “He can’t focus on anything at work, and he keeps staring at his phone like a loser waiting for you to call – and why haven’t you called?”
Taylor blinks at him. “We’re not dating,” she says slowly, and Wes rolls his eyes dramatically.
“Sure, you’re not,” he says, throwing up his hands. “You’re just, you know, the only girl he’s seen in months. A couple of us went out to a bar the other night and three separate girls – I counted – tried to go home with him, and he refused all of them. Why would he do that if he doesn’t have a girlfriend?”
“He doesn’t,” she insists. “And he knows he doesn’t. We’re just – ”
“If you say it’s just sex one more time, I swear to god, Taylor, I will hurt you.”
She goes quiet. Wes might not be able to handle her under normal circumstances, but he can be scary when he wants to be. Satisfied with her silence, he continues, pointing an accusing finger at her.
“He might know that you two weirdos don’t want to label yourselves, but that doesn’t mean he likes it. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to be your boyfriend and do dumb things like bring you flowers and go on dates. I know he’s not the most romantic guy, but he likes you. I’ve never seen him like anyone this way before.”
Her mouth opens, but no words come out. Wes looks at her for a minute, then sighs and crosses the kitchen so they’re standing face to face, and he says quietly –
“Take it from someone who lost his chance. Don’t let him get away because you’re too scared to say I love you before it’s too late.”
She comes by his office at work the next day, still unsure of what she wants to say, but knowing she has to say it, no matter what it is. He’s brooding, as far as she can tell, not even working on his laptop, just staring at the screen with his legs propped up on the table and his eyes unseeing.
Until she comes in. He practically jumps out of his seat.
“Hi,” she says, feeling nervous just getting one word out. Gathering her courage and her breath, she adds, “I – I wanted to come apologize – in person.”
He doesn’t say anything, just stands there, staring at her as she closes the door and walks closer until she’s standing on the other side of his desk.
“I’m sorry,” she begins, the words slow to come out, “for avoiding you. I – I should have talked to you. And I understand if you don’t want to talk to me now but – ”
“Taylor,” he interrupts, and then he comes around the edge of his desk and takes her face in his hands and kisses her like the world is ending. She kisses him back without even thinking twice about it, melting into his arms as he backs her up against his desk, not even letting his hands wander. Just kissing her, hot and deep and desperate, like he’s drowning and she’s a lifeline.
Finally, she pulls back, because she’s pretty sure this is one conversation they can’t evade by having sex, no matter how much she would like to, and he leans his forehead against hers, breathing hard. It’s kind of strange to see him so undone – she’s seen him naked, and vulnerable, and pinned down at her mercy, but never quite this messy, never quite this wrecked.
“Are you – you’re not mad?” she manages to ask, curling her hands around his wrists as he slides his thumb over her jawline, almost reverently. It makes her want to melt.
“Mad?” he asks, like he’s confused at the notion. “At you? Taylor…” He says her name half as a sigh, half as a laugh. “I’m not mad. I know you. I would have done the same.”
“The same?” she repeats, brow furrowing in confusion. He lifts an eyebrow, and it clicks into place. “Alyssa talked to you.”
“Yeah, she can be pretty intimidating when she wants to be,” Eric mutters, and she has to laugh. She knows all too well how intimidating Alyssa can be. “She told me to stop being an idiot. I was gonna come visit you after work, but, well.”
He smiles at her, lopsided and genuine, and she smiles back before she can help herself. The tension she’s been carrying around all day seems to just deflate, leaving her in his arms with just her heart to hold.
“Wes talked to me,” she admits, and he snorts. “He kind of said the same thing.”
“Go figure,” he mutters, and presses his lips to hers for a kiss so short, she thinks it might have just been instinct, like he couldn’t help himself. “We have some pretty decent friends, you know that?”
“Yeah,” she agrees, her mind too busy swimming with his kiss to think much of Wes or Alyssa right now. “They’re all right.”
He chuckles. “So… I guess the whole no strings attached thing isn’t really working out.”
“Guess not,” she murmurs as he slides one hand down from her face to her waist, pulling her flush against him. Absently, she traces a hand down his chest, watching him shiver at her touch. “Maybe we should… try something else.”
“Maybe we should,” he says, his voice low and soft as he noses her head up to look at him. “Taylor – ”
“Yes,” she says, and it’s an answer, not a question. Eric smiles and dips his head to kiss her again. It doesn’t really feel like anything’s changed, but at the same time, it kind of feels like everything has.