“You’re late.” Her voice is surprisingly sharp.
He’s standing in the doorway brushing his teeth, watching as her silhouette rises from the mattress. The blankets hang around her shoulders, strands of hair sticking up in the light spilling from the bathroom. His hand freezes, leaving his toothbrush to dangle from his mouth.
“I know, I’m sorry. I got really sidetracked and—” He can see the frown pressing against her lips.
He’d promised to be done working by midnight and truthfully, he’d had every intention to keep that promise. He set a dingy little alarm clock in front of him and glanced over at it from time to time, his fingers still hovering over the keys, but that didn’t seem to help.
Now, it’s well past three in the morning, and the shadow of her face is dripping with disappointment.
“I’m sorry,” he repeats. His feet are cold against the tile as he fidgets, watching her fall back onto the pillow.
It’s not that she isn’t understanding—she always is. It’s that dark circles are running rampant under his eyes and he can’t remember the last time he saw the sun. It’s that she’s been begging for him to eat anything other than chips for the last week, and there’s still a half-empty bag on his desk. It’s that he can hear the patter of her feet around the empty bunker and though she claims to be more than content with the life they have, she must be bitterly lonely.
He knows she’s worried about him more than anything else, so as he rinses his toothbrush under the sink and stuffs it into the holder, guilt settles into his stomach.
He’s silent as he slips into bed next to her—an unusual thing. He likes to ask about her day, to hear her voice, to know about the little things she wants to talk about before he falls asleep. But tonight she’s facing away from him—leaving nothing more than a mound of blankets and the light sputter of her breaths.
His gaze follows her back. It’s the only sliver of her frame still visible from outside the comforter, her spine contorting each time she breathes. He waits to see her chest settle—to see the heaviness of sleep fall upon the blanket. It never comes. She’s wide awake.
For a moment, he hesitates to move. His shoulders are wound tightly around his back and the words seem to fall just before his lips, so when he attempts to reach forward, a hand hangs in the air between them. Long fingers stretch towards the exposed skin of her back, twitching at the idleness of his hesitation.
“Saeyoung?” It’s like she can tell he’s there. There’s no heat lingering from his body or noise shuffling between the sheets; he supposes she just knows him well enough to know that he can’t leave her like this. That he hates when she’s upset with him.
The sound of her voice is enough to propel his hand forward, fingertips making contact with her skin. He can feel the muscles deep in her back ripple under his touch, leaving her body to shiver in the dark.
His mouth opens to say something, but he hesitates, instead allowing his hand to further trail her back. At first, it’s a gentle movement—fingers crossing vertebrae of her spine—but his wrist falls, tracing the line of her torso. As he passes her hips, her body jerks, a huff pouring from her throat.
The shadow of a smile, a devilish little thing, claws at Saeyoung’s cheeks as he does it again. Her movements are smaller this time—her body more prepared for the sudden jolt—but this does nothing to stop the sound that falls from her lips. It’s not quite a full laugh, not even a giggle, really, but it’s enough to keep him going.
“Babe.” Her voice is stern but there’s a gentleness that hangs with the term of endearment. She swats softly at him, but he’s quick to catch her wrist, placing it back in front of her.
His hands spread out along her sides and suddenly he’s tickling her. He can see her so clearly trying to resist, but laughter is spreading in the air and the comforter is falling off her shoulders. She turns, half facing him, and suddenly he pounces.
He props himself up on his elbows, trapping her underneath him, loose curls hanging from the sides of his face. She twists haphazardly, catching her breath.
“I’m really sorry.” It’s the third time he’s said it and the first time he can see her reaction, but he knows where it’s going. Her face falls and she sighs, tucking her arms around her chest.
He loves her, oh how he loves her. She was just so terribly angry with him a moment ago, and with good reason, but all he can think about is how he loves her. And when her breath is warm against his face, pricked with laughter and annoyance, he loves her. And when he kisses the top of her hips to watch the way she squirms, he loves her.
His lips dot the space between her waist and her ribs, leaving more stifled laughter to fall from her mouth. Her hands rest on his shoulders, fingers squeezing with every new fit of breaths, the only semblance of resistance that her body produces.
“Saeyoung, please I’m—” Her chest heaves in gentle laugher, her legs kicking under him. “I’m literally gonna throw up.”
He pauses, eyes glancing up to meet hers, a smile spread wide across his face. The anger is washed from her tone now. She says his name with the soothing lilt she always does, and though he knows she’s still upset—he also knows it’s more concern than anger.
“Forgive me.” He kisses her shoulder, her neck, her jaw. His lips are lazy and his kisses messy, but he can still feel her skin blooming beneath each one. “I was stupid and I should’ve listened to you, but I lost track of time again, and I—I’m sorry I disappointed you.”
“You never disappointed me.” She takes his face in her hands, brushing loose strands of red hair with her thumbs. “I was worried, I am worried. I know you’re capable of keeping yourself afloat, but I’m upset with you because I want you to be more than afloat.” The pad of her thumb swipes just above his temple and he shivers. “I want you to be happy, Saeyoung. Happy and safe and in bed at a semi-normal human time.”
He chuckles in reply, but there’s something so genuine about it—something he’d never give anyone else.
He wants to kiss her again— god he wants to—but there’s this softness to her expression with her eyes blown wide that he can’t risk tainting. Her cheeks are flushed from laughter, light breaths spilling from her lips, but he hovers there, a gentle gaze falling over her features through the dark.
They linger for a moment, the space between them heavy and the room growing warm, until her lips brush his cheek. Butterfly kisses scratch at his browbone, her mouth warm against his skin, and suddenly Saeyoung begins to melt.
Oh, how he can see the way she cares. When she begs him to set alarms for midnight and worries so endlessly about him all the time, he can see how she cares. When she kisses him like her lips could tear him apart and her arms wrap around his neck, robbing him of all balance on his elbows, he can see how she cares.
And when they finally crash into each other, neither daring to move from their place, a pile of limbs forming in the middle of their mattress, he can see it—and it’s never been clearer to him.