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care and keeping

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Melanie has been moved in for four days before she turns in Georgie’s direction in the morning while the kettle is heating and says, “You know you can still kiss me, right?”

It’s only been five days since Melanie’s rather abrupt resignation from the Magnus Institute, nearly two of which have been spent in the hospital and the third in a haze of pain medication and Cabin Pressure. This feels like the first moment of true recuperation they’ve gotten to themselves, alone and present together. Georgie’s forgiveness for Melanie is still tender; getting the call from Jon wasn’t the worst part, but it hurt in ways she can’t properly explain, twisting in her gut like a corkscrew. As did the understanding that all their careful, measured planning had been thrown to the wind, leaving Georgie with nothing to do but react, control the damage, and nurse herself quietly in private moments. Most of her feelings about this are private, for now, saved up for when they can have a calmer discussion, somewhere hopeful down the line when they aren’t both raw from exposure. But it shocks her all over again to wonder if she’s been too careful, accidentally shielded her fierce admiration and deep tenderness for the woman she’s fallen in love with. Of course she’d left it undisguised before, in their fruitless planning phases, reassured Melanie of her unwavering support, and yet…

“What?” says Georgie, blinking rapidly, and then, “Yeah, of course I know that- What?”

“You just… don’t really do it anymore,” Melanie offers by way of explanation, shifting in her kitchen chair, worrying the edge of her borrowed sleep shirt with her fingers. “And we had that whole, talk yesterday about how I should try and focus on things I want out of- Out of quitting.” She waves one hand vaguely at her face, the bandages. “I was just thinking about… About kissing in your car after drinks, and part of the reason- I wanted it to be like that all the time. I do want that.”

Georgie needs a moment to process this, like always, but then she’s taking a very sharp, deep breath to alleviate the swell in her chest, swaying toward Melanie like she’s drawn by a magnet. She drops to a crouch in front of the chair to take both of her hands, because Georgie desperately needs to touch her and Melanie can’t see her reaching out. “I want it too, I- I just didn’t want to hurt you,” she says in a rush, squeezing Melanie’s fingers clumsily.

“I’m not fragile,” Melanie points out, although there is audible relief in her voice. “No- It’s not that I think you’re fragile. Christ, Melanie,” she laughs, her voice thick. “You’re the strongest person I know.” She takes Melanie’s left hand, draws it up and presses the knuckles to her lips, turns it over and kisses her palm. “I just thought you’d want to- I don’t know, adjust, go at your own pace? I didn’t want you to be overwhelmed, and- Well, I’ve only ever been taking your cues,” she admits. There was a part of her, the attraction she felt when Melanie’s laugh carried across a room, that she’d purposefully ignored for years because of the way Melanie flinched from closeness, bristled into sharp edges whenever one of her invisible boundaries was trod on. Then, as she gradually reached out again, Melanie had revealed a soft, radiant and inviting affection towards Georgie, and they slid gently into a relationship like a warm bath.

Melanie strokes her cheekbone with the soft pad of a thumb. “Only ever?” There’s a soft, tentative teasing to her voice that Georgie has missed sorely over the past couple of weeks. “Don’t tell me you’ve hesitated on my account, Georgina.”

Georgie kisses the inside of her wrist. “You haven’t tried for it, is all.”

Melanie laughs, clipped and tight. “Well, the problem is I can’t actually… I don’t know where your face is.” She takes a breath, but before Georgie can fill the silence Melanie presses on, her voice strengthened this time with real humor. “I mean, I didn’t want to go around groping your head, sticking my fingers up your nose on some bloody, fumbling expedition.” She pauses again, purses her lips, then says, “You know, if I’m not careful, I might put an eye out!”

They both laugh, sudden and full and cathartic. “Too soon?” Melanie asks, grinning anyway.

Georgie presses Melanie’s fingers to her smile, feeling light and all of a sudden fey. “You can grope me if you want,” she says. “I hereby give you permission to cop a feel anytime you like.”

Melanie skims her fingers across Georgie’s mouth, trails them down to cup her chin. “Noted,” she says. “Maybe I’d have an easier time if you came a little closer-” but Georgie is already stretching up on her knees to kiss her, pressed in between her warm bare thighs. She keeps one hand over Melanie’s fingers cradling her jaw, and they end up guiding each other into it. Georgie is startled by the heat that spreads through her when Melanie’s tongue glides along her lower lip, coaxing her to deepen the kiss.

The kettle goes off suddenly with a piercing whistle, and Melanie gasps into her mouth. Georgie, whose startle reflex has been dulled for a while, strokes her downy, unshaven thigh. “That’s our tea,” she says, pulling away after one more quick kiss to switch off the burner. The whistle dies down with a comical drooping sound, which makes her nearly swoon with amused fondness when Melanie practically droops in time with it. “What kind do you want, black or green?” she asks, knowing her smile is audible.

“Oh, let it go cold,” Melanie sighs, rising stiffly from her chair and moving over towards where she can doubtless hear Georgie clattering with the mugs. She drifts her hand along the edge of the counter until she finds Georgie’s waist, wrapping her arms around her possessively. “We’ll have it later. I’d rather go back to bed for now.”

“We spent the whole day in bed yesterday,” Georgie points out, and Melanie tosses her head lightly in exasperation. “Yeah, but today I’m conscious.”

“You’re recovering,” Georgie scolds her, chuckling. “Take it easy.”

“As long as I can still take it,” Melanie replies smartly, and Georgie knows that she can’t see her blush, but the satisfied way Melanie’s arms tighten around her suggests that she knows it anyway.