They go to hers. Her room-mate is out and Claudia draws the curtains almost closed.
Her face is a dark blur but perhaps it's better like this. He's read that senses are always more heightened in the dark, but she just smells of skin, really, and he can't hear her breathing over the sound of the traffic outside.
"Is this OK?" Claudia asks as she moves into his arms.
She's warm and the smell of soap is fading on her skin where he nuzzles her neck.
"I washed behind my ears," she says, amusement tingeing her voice, and he laughs.
"Next time we shower together," Ben says, squeezing her a little and smiling at the 'oof' sounds she makes.
He swallows whatever retort she was planning when he kisses her, inhales as deeply as he can, wanting to hold on to the feel of her.
"Hey." Claudia laughs. "Slow down."
It's easy for her to say, he reflects. He says, "Not tonight, Claud. Please?" He lets the longing slip into his voice, turns it into a kind of pleading because there's no point hiding how far up shit-creek she has him.
"Hard and fast then?" She's fingering the ties to her dressing gown.
Ben says, "Not what I had in mind." His mouth is dry.
Claudia bends like a bow under his hands, and Ben is always struck by the thought that this is a tune they play; she's an instrument that shivers and sings under his hands, then turns around and pulls him into the counterpoint chorus.
He watches her face in the near-darkness of the room: pale spots of light where her teeth are, faint moonlight catching the strong ridge of her jaw twisted away from him. Claudia's eyes are closed and her mouth is open but Ben can read her anyway. How much she wants this in the fine tremor of muscles when he traces his fingers down her stomach. How much she likes this in the slickness at the juncture of her thighs. She tells him too, with quiet moans that get loud and lush as his lips wrap around a nipple.
He loves tasting sweat on her, loves the smell and feel of Claudia all hot and bothered.
"This was a good idea," he says. "A great idea even." He shifts his weight upwards to lean over her and aims for her mouth, catches her cheek instead.
"Should I be worried?" Claudia says, laughing. He can tell by the tone in her voice and the visible outline of teeth. Ben has a sudden urge to lick them. "Is your aim going to get any better?"
Ben likes making her laugh when he's fingering her, loves feeling the quick squeeze of her muscles as her joy translates to something visceral.
He spreads her legs wide and holds them there, thumbs digging into the soft flesh of her inner thighs.
"Look at you," he said softly. "You're the most beautiful thing in two galaxies."
He looks up and Claudia's looking back at him. "I've been thinking about this all day," Ben says.
It's not exactly what he wants to say, but the conversation begins and ends with 'I want you. So much.' Claudia's rule, because she might be complicit in his adultery but she's funny about accepting his love. Love comes with commitments, and they can't make any to each other beyond dark rooms and friendship.
"Me too," she says softly.
Foreplay is... well, their whole damn lives are foreplay, aren't they? Foreplay is rehearsing lines that he wants to really mean, sitting by her at lunch, and saying goodnight before he heads home too late for bath-time with the kids. Foreplay is over-rated, Ben decides, and he runs fingers through her pubic hair. It's been waxed and trimmed into submission, but there's enough left for him to play with, to feel like she's a proper grown-up woman.
"Can't miss you, baby," he says, moving on to her pussy and tracing his thumb down the edge of her labia. "Smell like a..."
He doesn't finish the sentence because he's already moved by then, his shoulders tucking under her thighs and his feet dangling off the bed and his breath blowing warm across her stomach.
She cards careless fingers through his hair and the light manages to hit her outstretched arm just so, outlining the tendons and the flex of muscle in her forearm. Ben loves Claudia's body the way he loves Fran's, as extensions of themselves.
Claudia traces the shell of his ear as Ben dips his head lower. She smells like memories of fucking and happiness, laughter, sweat, strong and hot, a little addictive, and delicious.
"Good boy," she murmurs when the tip of his tongue touches her clit for the first time. She pets his hair and flexes under his hands, not thrusting her hips yet but a lazy indication of early pleasure.
She says, "Just like that," and her voice cracks on the 'that.'
Claudia is a study in shade and dark. He can see the tight lines of her throat on the left side where the light hits the pillow, but it's just glimpses upwards through the V of her soft breasts.
He loves that she pulls her head to the side when she's overwhelmed.
He licks till she's pulling and pushing at his head alternately, until she's sloppy with spit and her body's wetness, and then he pulls away.
She half sits up on her elbows, eyes glittering. "What, Browder?"
"Catch my breath," he says half-meaning it and her eyes narrow.
"I am this close," she says threateningly, "to coming, and if you stop in the next ten seconds, I'll-- I'll---"
He can't quite see how close 'this close' is. He knows she's got an arm raised but her hand's in darkness. He assumes that her thumb and forefinger are millimetres apart.
Ben grins and traces a circle around her clit.
He writes B-E-N on her clit with his tongue and then sucks hard. His reward is a moan, a hand in his hair pushing him inexorably deeper into her, and her grinding against his face.
"God, I love this," she moans from somewhere above him. Her feet push against the sheets and her toes curl tightly. "God, oh God. Fuck."
"Love you," he thinks but his mouth is occupied.