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ever since we met (i only shoot up with your perfume)

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You have set your heart on haunting me forever from the start,
It’s never silent.
Ever since we met,
I only shoot up with your perfume.
It's the only thing that makes me feel as good as you do.
- Panic! at the Disco, Ever Since We Met (Nearly Witches)

 


 

He'd only been dead for three days, but it was three days too many.

Clara hadn’t been joking when she told Fleet that she’d been to the coffee house every single day since he’d been gone. It sounds more poetic than it really was, but the sentiment behind it had been true. It had all happened in a rush, the confrontation and then the after. One minute he’d been there with her, in Parliament, and then he was gone. Clara remembers almost nothing, hours having slipped away from her as if they were days. She’d said it jokingly, “Busy, busy”, but the one day that she hadn’t been there she’d been in her new office, writing the article about him while simultaneously crying her eyes out.

She’d had it all planned out, too, for when they finally caught and apprehended Whitlock. Clara can still picture it, the scenario that she’d been living out in her mind before everything came crashing down. He’d walk back into Parliament and Clara would hug him, showing those sexist, wig-wearing MPs just how little she cared about her unmarried status.

And it had always been when, not if. She’d always had complete faith in Fleet to do his job, to catch the bad guy, as it were. It had never even crossed her mind that he might not make it, that something would happen to him when he went after Whitlock. He was Inspector Fleet. He got things done. That’s just the way it was, the entire time that she’s known him.

Needless to say, Clara had been wrecked with grief when Keller had run screaming back into Parliament about a fall, and Whitlock, and something about a wrist. Her mind had entirely gone blank after that. It was like her body had completely shut down, unable to process the information that was being relayed to her. Fleet, dead. Fleet, gone. It was inconceivable. The last thing that Clara really remembers before the funeral is watching Chief Inspector Keller helping her into a cab and sending it back to The Morning Chronicler. Everything, including the experience of writing the entire article, blurs together into one panic-ridden, never-ending day. She can’t even remember the last time she’s been asleep. 

Not that she’d tell Fleet that. Now that he’s back—-in that ridiculous getup, because leave it to him to put on a fake beard and think that she won’t recognize him—they slip into their old roles easily. They’re good at this, the banter, the lighthearted jokes and teasing. It was the other stuff that they never dealt with, the possibility of something more, the way that they both felt like they’ve known each other for years when in reality it’s been weeks at most.

They never speak it out loud, never acknowledge it, but it’s there. It’s just… this unspoken thing. And it remains unspoken as Clara decides to leave with him, just like that. It remains unspoken as she packs her suitcase, takes a cab to the station, and meets Fleet exactly when she said she would.

 


 

(In another universe, where Fleet doesn’t die, the first thing that Clara does when she lands at the inspector’s offices and sees Fleet safe and sound, is slaps him. He should’ve seen it coming, really, with the way that he left her, parachute and all. In hindsight, she probably thought he was jumping to his death even with the parachute on. In the long string of bad decisions he’s made in his life, Clara had no way of knowing that this wasn’t even close to the worst one.

Fleet stands there, slack-jawed, hand clutching his face as she stares up at him, red-faced and bloody fucking furious. He can see it in the way that she holds herself, the way that her chest is heaving, like she ran all the way there without taking a single second to rest.

What surprises him isn’t the slap so much as what she does afterwards. And that’s Clara for you, isn’t it? Always surprising him. After the glaring and the red-facedness, she takes a deep, shuddering breath, and launches herself at him, wrapping him up in the largest, most ostentatious display of a hug that he thinks he’s ever experienced. He’s covered in soot and dirt, all from when he landed, with his parachute, into a bush—not that he would tell her so, but she doesn’t seem to care, just hugs him tighter and squeezes him like she’s trying to force every last drop of air out of his lungs.

And despite the fact that everyone is staring, because he hadn’t even taken a second to explain anything to anyone before Clara had burst through the doors, he hugs her back just as tightly. Miss Waverley, the only other woman in the room, clears her throat, and Clara clings to him just for a second longer before springing back, obviously embarrassed that she’d lost control.

They may be living in an advanced animatronic robot society, but they’re still English, for Christ’s sake. Clara is young, unmarried, and undeniably too pretty to be seen hugging a single man in public like this.

Not that Fleet has any sort of misguided notions about Clara caring about her reputation, because from her job description he knows that she doesn’t. It’s just one thing about her among many that he’s uncharacteristically proud of, despite not knowing her for that long.

The thing about Clara is that she makes you feel like you’ve known her forever within a single day. She’s… she’s clever, and funny, and absurdly intelligent. She’s just Clara, and Fleet never thought he’d come to rely on a person like he’s come to rely on her. He’s been an investigator for so long now, and he’s always been alone.

The way Clara looks at him, though, disheveled and blushing slightly, biting her bottom lip, Fleet thinks that he’d rather have her by his side than anyone else in the world.

But that’s in another universe.)

 


 

She shows up exactly when she says she will, suitcase and all, a black coat and cap on in her attempt at subterfuge. To be fair, Fleet isn’t quite setting the greatest example for disguises in the world. He’d always thought it best to be natural, discreet, that covert operations required blending in. Overly disgusting yourself in either direction—either too out there or too plain—would get you noticed. But it was different now. He was different, even though he wasn’t sure if he looked it. He hadn’t exactly had the time to look in a mirror since meeting up with Clara at back at the coffee shop slash pottery studio.

“I’m going with you,” Clara tells him when he creeps up next to her, his own cap pulled low over his eyes, “in case that wasn’t clear.” 

“Mmm,” Fleet murmurs in agreement, a man of few words to the bone. He’s never really been a talker. Keller always spoke for what seemed like hours on end and Fleet mostly just stood there, nodding along and making appropriate sounds when necessary. But really, he doesn’t have anything to say, and Clara’s standing there, suitcase clutched in her hands, looking as cute as he’s ever seen her. Fleet didn’t know when he said it that “all the people I care about” now included Clara, and yet here she is, and here he is, having... feelings. He doesn’t want to think about it; hides his smile in the collar of his coat. 

“Are you going to tell me where we’re going?” she asks, probably knowing the answer, but Fleet just snorts anyway. 

“Absolutely not.” 

She nods. “Figured as much. Hope it’s not anywhere too hot or too cold, though. This journalist’s salary only pays so much.”

Fleet takes a second, looks her up and down. He’s never thought about her outfits before, because she was always just Clara. She looked like herself. But he takes the time, now, to run his eyes over her grey dress, the soft buttons running up the length of her torso underneath that black coat. “I think you’ll be fine.” 

He swears she blushes slightly under his gaze, but her hands are steady on her bag even when the train pulls up, rattly and all. 

 


 

There’s been a mixup, because of fucking bloody course there has. Fleet can never go one day without something blowing up entirely in his face, and now it’s just par for the course that Clara ends up entangled in his messes now, too. 

They think they’re married. After the disaster that was their confrontation in Parliament and the Home Secretary’s attack on Clara’s virtue, this seems like some sort of cosmic joke. 

“Ah, yes, Mr. and Mrs. Whicksham, I presume?” the ticket-master greets them. “We have your private carriage ready, if you’d just follow me right this way.” Fleet practically chokes on his own spit. Whicksham, he wants to laugh—it’s some sort of sham, all right. But maybe... not un-useful? It would be a lot easier for their travels, overall, if everyone else just assumed that Clara was his wife. Less questions about why an unmarried woman was traveling with an unmarried man, about why Clara wasn’t sitting at home knitting… or what have you.

Before Clara can chime in about the mix up, because he can see her lips parting open to do just that, he hurriedly agrees with the ticket-master. “Yes, thank you,” he bursts out, “my wife and I have never been on holiday before, we’re right excited.”

“Mmm, I’m sure,” the ticket-master agrees, and Fleet just continues to nod along, ignoring the confused and half-angry glare that Clara shoots his way. Of course it occurs to him that he could have said that Clara was his sister, which would explain the same name if they were both still unmarried. And yet, Fleet supposes, the marriage is already… there. It was handed over to him so easily, and why should he refuse the opportunity?

“Archie,” Clara hisses, as they’re walking down the hallway towards their private room, and it his him like a brick to his stomach. He realizes why she’s done so, even though she’s never called him by his first name before, let alone this version of a nickname—she can’t full well call him Fleet, like she always does, because there’s the chance that the ticket-master will overhear them. And yet it hits him anyway, the weight of her saying his first name, and settles deep and pleasantly in his stomach. So much so that he almost misses what comes afterwards. “What are you doing?” Clara continues, and Fleet shoots her a look that says, Later. I promise.

She bristles slightly at the response, knowing what he means without him having to say it, but backs down anyway. Instead, almost as punishment, it seems, she steps closer to him and wraps her arm around his just in time for the ticket-master to turn around and see it, a husband and wife in their assigned roles.

The ticket-master pays no mind to their new closeness, even if Fleet can think of nothing else. They both have coats on, and it’s merely the intertwining of Clara’s arm through his, a gesture that he’s experienced many a time before—walking a woman home; with his mother, even—and yet it’s brand new, for them. The burn of it, her slim fingers pressed against his arm, the brush of her side against his. It’s dangerous, Fleet knows, and for the first time he questions the meaning of having her come with him on this trip, having her by his side voluntarily this time, instead of by necessity like before.

The ticket-master merely gives them a forced polite smile, unlocking their cabin and handing them the key, before walking away. Clara untangles herself from Fleet the second that he’s out of sight, but it takes Fleet a moment to gain his footing.

 


 

Clara settles in nicely, for what it’s worth. Their cabin isn’t extravagant by any means, but much more than anything Fleet was hoping for—or could afford. A life of luxury wasn’t what he was expecting when he agreed to work for Bell. Fleet had expected it to be rough, had expected to have to find cheaper passage all on his own, but this is good. Convenient, that he doesn’t have to worry about semantics anymore.

There’s two large couches in the compartment, easily pulled out into beds should they need them, and he settles down on one as Clara bustles around, putting all their stuff in order. She’s quiet as she does it, sort of fidgety, but Fleet doesn’t want to say anything. She’s probably regretting leaving with him already—her new, cushy job; the newspaper; the sense of security she would have had, staying in Even Greater London.

She doesn’t meet his eye when she sits down, he notes, but then just shakes her head and looks at him straight on. Clara lets out a soft sigh and finally blurts out, “So, then, are you going to tell me how you afforded all of this? And about the fake names?”

“I can’t tell you who I’m working for,” Fleet starts, and she just nods in response. “But they’re the one that set all this up. It’s nice, isn’t it?” he asks, and she nods again.

“Not too shabby,” Clara grins cheekily, and Fleet just lets out a soft snort through his mouth.

“I suppose you’ve seen better, then?”

“I am a lady,” she teases, as if the title means nothing to her, and Fleet rolls his eyes.

“Did you at least bring something to do with you? I reckon we’re going to be on this train for a while.”

“Oh, besides you, you mean?” Clara teases right back, and her face instantly flushes. “Not that—I mean—Sorry,” she finally mumbles. “Stupid joke.”

Fleet’s too busy gaping in response, his breathing strained. He’s saved from having to respond by the ding of the announcement bell, a grumbly voice over the speaker system on the train. “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re experiencing a bit of turbulence at the moment, so please stay seated until we update you further. If you must leave your seats for any reason, please do so with extreme caution. Thank you.”

When Fleet looks back at Clara she’s averted her gaze, searching through her bag for whatever it is that she’s brought along with her. Fleet does the same, searching for a book, a notebook, anything that will keep him occupied besides thoughts of Clara, naked, underneath him and begging for him to move.

Fucking hell.

 


 

Clara gets up for whatever reason, Fleet isn’t really paying attention—aware but letting her have some sort of privacy, however small it could be in this shared space—and the train shudders, stutters, and promptly deposits her into his lap. For what it’s worth, she doesn’t look too outwardly embarrassed. Anyone from the outside looking in would see what they would assume to be a typical husband and wife couple flirting, a wife with her arms around her husband’s neck. But Fleet is too aware of his hands gently pressed against Clara’s sides, and the soft pink flush that creeps up her neck and moves across her cheekbones.

The train is still stuttering along, nowhere near stable enough for Clara to get off of him (or so he tells himself), and they’re stuck there, trying to look anywhere but into each other’s eyes. It’s inevitable, though, isn’t it? Eyes find eyes. Something his old partner used to tell him, the man who trained him to be an inspector. Eyes find eyes, so don’t go looking for someone if you don’t want to be found.

But the pull of it is too much to resist—the tug of Clara’s mouth into an exasperated smile as she looks down at him, catching his gaze. Fleet’s reluctant one in return. He’s not prone to smiling, but he does for her. At her.

It’s an awkward position, the way that Clara has fallen—she’s sitting on him as if she’s riding sidesaddle, and if he were a braver person Archibald Fleet would lift her up by the hips, easy as that, and help her shift her skirts up so that she could straddle him. Instead, one of his thumbs, as if against his own volition, merely strokes up and down her right side. It’s enough to issue a gasp out of her, and Fleet isn’t sure if that’s what he wanted, but he’s sure that he doesn’t want it to stop.

“Archie,” she breathes, and there it is again, that stupid nickname. No one’s ever called him that before, save his mum, but it’s been years since then. It’s like Clara had just reached down into his heart and plucked it right out of there, and he doesn’t know what to do with that. He’s breathing heavily, and they haven’t even done anything. It’s too much—too much feeling, too much Clara.  He’s dizzy with it.

“Clara,” he murmurs right back, and somehow her hands are in his hair, her fingers are tracing his cheekbones, her thumbs find the outlines of his lips. She leans in, eyes flickering between his lips and eyes, trying to decide if she’s making the right move. Finding no objections, she closes the distance between them and brushes her lips against his.

It’s hesitant but steady, Clara at her softest, her most vulnerable, and Fleet has her right there in his arms, all to himself. She lets out a shaky little sigh against his mouth and his chest tightens. Something explodes inside of him, then, some sort of barrier or wall or whatever it is that he’s had holding him back all this time, all of the minutes and months and years that he’s known her—because it feels like years, god, it really does, years of wanting that he hadn’t even known he was in possession of.

And he kisses her back, just as carefully, just as softly, but more practiced and more sure. If there is one thing that Fleet is sure of now, it is Clara, and this, only this. And they’re such patient, gentle kisses—Fleet, who used to box for sport, who used to make bets against himself just for the laughs, who would go down to the seediest place in Even Greater London to get beat up after a particularly rough case.

Fleet, whose knuckles have been scarred and healed and scarred over countless times, hands rough as sandpaper, who ghosts his fingers over Clara’s body with the most delicate of touches, a caress here, pressing against her back there. And he does so eagerly, pressing her against him, not wanting an inch of space between them as he kisses her mouth, breathes into her ear, moves his lips down her neck.

He doesn’t touch her clothing, doesn’t dare unfasten any of the tantalizing buttons on the front of  her gown, no matter how tempting it may be, no matter how often during their kisses Clara moves his hands to the fastenings. They’re mindless, unaware of whether or not the train is still rattling, if the train is even moving at all.

“Fleet,” Clara sighs, pulling away slightly after he moves his hands away from her breast again, and he only smiles in response. “You don’t want to?” His mouth tightens, and he shakes his head.

“Not here,” he grits out, ignoring the protest his bottom half makes in response. “Not like this.”

“Does it matter?” she asks, as if he’s going to take her on a train, forcing her down on his cock with all of her clothing still on. Yes, it bloody well matters, if it’s going to be any good for her. If he can get her how he wants her, show her what it can be like.

His lips quirk up and he presses kisses to her temples, her forehead. “I can’t do everything I want to in here,” he tells her, and Clara’s breath hitches. Good. That’s good. “Not enough space.”

“Oh,” she says, and he leaves it at that, lets her imagination run her wild, as he pulls her off of his lap and onto the couch next to him.

 


 

A few hours, naps, and prepaid meals later, they arrive in Switzerland, somewhere in a small town with a few taverns and only one inn. Fleet can’t completely concentrate as their car takes them to the inn, his mind still remembering the taste of Clara’s mouth. He should be concentrating on the job that he has to do here, on the things he needs to prepare and people he needs to see, and instead he's thinking about the sound that Clara made when he got his mouth in the spot behind her ear. This is what it feels like to be insane, he thinks, but he doesn’t question it, doesn’t stop Clara from taking the lead and telling the cabbie everything he needs to know.

She asks him more questions that he can’t answer, and Fleet tries to calm his racing pulse, which is an impossible task, because their kiss has broken a boundary between them and Clara no longer has any qualms about invading his personal space.

How had he never noticed how good she smells before? He feels like he’s been drugged with it. She asks him a question and has to repeat it, twice, before he can hear her.

“Do you know which name we’re staying under?” she asks again, a laugh bubbling from her throat, and he shakes his head, trying to clear the fog away.

“Same as the train, I suppose,” he gets out, and Clara nods, turning towards the attendant, because they’re inside now, apparently.

Fleet can’t hear anything over the rushing in his ears. They’re in bloody Switzerland, he can’t speak a word of Swiss or German or whatever, and somehow Clara’s got them checked into the inn before he can even say a word.

She’s pulling his hand, and all of his concentration settles in on that one point of contact. Surely you can’t be this aroused from handholding, he thinks. It should be impossible to want so much, to want someone so much. And he wants Clara, that much he knows. He wants her more than he’s wanted anything, like a child on Christmas day, like she’s the sun and he’s a starving, freezing man in the middle of a cold waste.

Clara tugs him along, humming all the way, and he just stumbles behind her and tries to remember his own name. He’s never noticed her neck before, how all exposed it is when she wears her hair up like that. Someone could easily just… come up behind her and plant their lips right there on her exposed nape, like he wants to do, and she’d be powerless to stop them.

He doesn’t know what possesses him to do it, really, besides the beating of his heart and how short she is. It should be criminal, really, for someone to be so small. He walks up right behind her as she’s slotting the key into the door, crowding her space and enjoying it only a little bit too much. She tenses, her hand frozen on the doorknob, Fleet’s hands coming around to rest on the door in front of them.

“Clara,” he breathes into her neck, and her full-body shiver runs right through him. “Tell me to stop,” he murmurs against her skin, and she shakes her head, a soft movement easily missed, but this close he feels every move that she makes. He’s so embarrassingly aroused, pressed up against her back, leaning over her like a predator. Christ, but she’s so tiny. His hands clench into fists on the door in some pathetic attempt to control himself. “Tell me you don’t want—” he starts again, but she’s gained enough sense to finally push the door to their room open.

Their room. Because they’re husband and wife, technically. It wouldn’t be wrong, technically. But something in his gut keeps telling him to slow down, to stop, to leave her before she can make this mistake. Before she makes the mistake of getting to close to him, to him and his disaster of a life, before she gets hurt like he did.

Clara somehow manages to close and lock the door behind them, and with the final click shut she leans back against it, gazing up at him. Fleet’s dumbstruck. He can’t move, he’s so paralyzed with the wanting. He’s going to botch it, he knows he will—he wants it too much.

“Will you just—” Clara breathes in, deep, her chest heaving. They haven’t walked up that many stairs, he thinks. She shouldn’t be so out of breath. And yet it’s impossible, isn’t it, for her to want him the same way? “Will you just get over here?” she asks him, and it’s such a vulnerable question that he almost chokes on it. A breath escapes him, like he’s been injured, and Clara looks nervous for a second, before he almost trips over himself in his eagerness to reach her.

His hands immediately go to her waist and she settles down at that, breathing out a sigh of relief. Her arms go up around his neck and it settles something inside of him, too, something that says they belong like this, she belongs in his arms, just like this.

And it’s Clara. Clara with a lady for a mother, Clara with money, Clara a lady herself. She’d said it jokingly before, but it was true. She was a lady and he was—he was nothing, really. A common inspector, nothing special.

He trails his lips anywhere he can reach—her forehead, first, then her cheek, brushes his lips over her own, once, twice, moves down her neck. This is bad, he thinks. It feels so, so right, but he knows that this is wrong, this isn’t what gentlemen and ladies do, no matter how much he wants it. He thinks about what her overbearing mother would say, what the rest of society would say, if this got out. 

No one would consent to marrying her after this, it’s just not done. Fleet’s never been the marrying kind, and he knows that Clara knows this, even though it’s not something that they’ve discussed. She’s a smart girl, she’s always been more than, if not as clever as him. She’ll be ruined if they do this, he knows that she will. 

But she kisses him, anyway. He lets out a pathetic breath into her mouth, a sound so full of wanting he sounds like the wounded creature that he is. He can’t stop kissing her, can’t stop the slide of his mouth and her tongue and Christ, how does she just undo him like this? Fleet buries his hands in her hair, tugging it out of its perfectly styled arrangement, letting the soft curls slide through his fingers. Somehow he knew it would feel like this, that he wouldn’t get enough of tugging at it, enough of the sounds that she’s making.

He’s got a thigh in between her legs somehow, and she’s gently moving against it, wanting something that she might not know of yet. She’s a virgin, presumably. He might as well be, with how many years it’s been since his last time. He feels like one, like a pathetic child rutting against a woman for the first time. Still, she doesn’t stop kissing him, doesn’t stop trying to get his arms out of his jacket. He manages to talk enough sense into himself to pull away. “I’ll ruin you,” he says, but he doesn’t know who he’s trying to convince anymore, her or himself. “I’ll ruin you,” but it comes out as a breath across her face. 

“I don’t care.” Clara’s always been so firm with that phrase, hasn’t she? It makes him want to be something, someone, that she genuinely does care about. “I want to, Archie, please.” There it is again. His chest heaves against hers, and he wants to know what’s under that dress of hers, wants it so badly he might explode. “Please,” she says again, and he can’t take it anymore.

And his hands are shaking as he moves to unbutton her dress, those fucking buttons, as he gets a flash of her flushed, pink skin underneath. “Fuck,” he groans against her neck, his lips moving down towards that exposed bit of skin, laving at her collarbones. “Jesus, Clara.”

“Archie,” she whines, writhing against the door, and her skin is so hot, she’s so hot for him, fucking hell. “Archie, I want—”

He looks up at her, takes a break from desperately trying to rip her clothes off for a second, and feels like he’s losing his mind. Clara, his Clara, flushed and panting, eyes dreamily gazing down at him, half-naked at this point and gasping his name. It’s like every fantasy he’s ever had about a woman in his life multiplied tenfold. Better than a fantasy, because she’s right here. She’s right here and she wants him. “Yeah,” he says, “yeah, love, I’ve got you.”

For perhaps the millionth time in his life, Archibald Fleet wonders why the bloody fuck female clothing has so many bleeding layers. What is the fucking point of the gown, and the underdress, and the corset and all of the fucking parts, Jesus—

He’s finally got her down to just her corset and underthings, and gently picks her up, like she weighs nothing (which he almost suspects she doesn’t), and carries her bridal style to the bed. She bounces a little as she lands, and he follows the movement of her breasts with his eyes, the shape and size of them. He feels wild, like an animal unleashed. Who knew he had this inside of him, this wanting? “Please tell me you’re sure about this,” he murmurs, trying to contain the straining beast inside of him. She’s not yours yet, you moron, don’t scare her off, don’t send her running—

“Arch,” she sighs, scooting backwards into the pillows. “Do I have to beg?”

His eyes flash dangerously at that, and Clara’s widen in response, her breath coming out in a soft gasp. “Don’t tempt me,” he warns, and she eases back into a smile. Somehow, somehow, he manages his trousers off, gloating internally at the way that Clara’s eyes trail down his stomach, over the embarrassing dent in his pants. He settles his weight on top of her, hands moving to undo the laces of her corset. He needs her naked, now, more than anything he’s ever needed in his life. He tries to go slow, tries to tease her with it, and she’s panting before he manages to get everything off.

And then she’s naked under him, trembling slightly, biting her bottom lip. “Clara,” Fleet chokes out. “You’re so beautiful.”

She rolls her eyes, but he strokes his hands over her face, down her arms, over her ribs, settling at her hips. “You are,” he says, and he’s shaking with it, how gorgeous she is, how easily she fits in his arms. Her hands are wandering up and down his chest, gently exploring, and he wants to tell her she can touch him however she bloody well pleases. He wants to say, harder, Clara, you won’t hurt me, but doesn’t want to scare her off. Instead, he helps her shaking hands ease his pants off and presses his mouth against her breast.

It’s almost miraculous how responsive she is, how easily she shakes and shudders and moans into his touches, against his mouth, how her skin is covered in goosebumps. He didn’t think it could be this good, that he could vibrate with need like this. There’s a thin sheen of sweat against her skin, and he licks at a bead of sweat in between her breasts. It’s incredible. She’s incredible. He moves his mouth down her stomach, over one thigh, and she’s tense, murmuring. “What are you—” she starts, but his tongue is between her legs and he’s tonguing at her clit, clutching at her thighs, absolutely losing his mind. She tastes so good, like everything he’s ever wanted, and she’s shaking, tugging at his hair, digging her nails into his shoulders.

“That’s it,” he murmurs, “that’s it, Clara, just like that—”

She comes with a hand clamped down over her mouth, tears leaking out of her eyes.

“Archie,” she pants, tugging at his shoulders, pulling him up to kiss her again. “Please,” she begs, “please,” and she’s mindless with it, twisting underneath him. Her legs wrap around his waist and he almost loses it, almost slams into her right then, but he holds off, teasing her more, moving his fingers against her. She shakes her head, twists her hips against his, needing more friction. “Fleet,” she finally snaps, and he has to remove his mouth from her breast to catch her gaze. “I can’t,” she pants. “Please just… make love to me.” She cringes at the sound of it, like they’re in a bad novel. “Or… I don’t know what to call it, Archie, please. Don’t tease me anymore, come on.”

“Yeah,” he murmurs, “yeah, okay. Just tell me if it hurts, or if you don’t want—”

“Shut up,” she gasps, turning her face towards his, kissing him again. Her hands are roaming his stomach, the hair leading down towards his cock, and he hisses out a breath. “Shut up. I want. I’ve never wanted so much in my life. Get on with it.”

He laughs, triumphant, mindless with his feelings for her, and settles in between her legs. He tests her with his fingers again, and she bucks up against them, wet and wanting. “Get on with it,” he pants out another laugh, mouths at her neglected breast, “just what a bloke wants to hear when bedding a woman.”

She rolls her eyes, carding her fingers through his hair. “Don’t make me regret this,” she says, but she’s laughing too, eyes light. Fleet thinks he could do this forever, with her. Make her laugh, make her come. He wants her to feel good, wants this to be good for her. He figures one more won’t hurt.

His fingers find her clit again and Clara gasps, a hand flying out and grabbing at the sheets, breasts heaving. “Like that?” he murmurs, concentrating on her responses, how to move his hands just right to get her to lose her mind. He knows what she wants, but he’s not willing to let himself lose it just yet, wants to make her come just once more. And she does, easily, falling apart underneath him, trembling and completely perfect.

“Bastard,” she croaks out, but she’s tugging him closer, lifting her knees and making a space for him between her thighs.

Fleet grins down at her, brushes strands of sweaty hair away from her face, kissing her because he can’t help it. He hands are limp around his neck, so he lifts them up and over her head, leaving her splayed out for him, like an offering. God, he thinks he might even lo—Fleet stops himself there, not ready to take it that far. Who knows if she’ll even want him in the morning, if she’ll just leave him with a cold bed and go running home, full of regret. Not yet, he tells himself, not yet.

Clara’s eyes are warm, trusting, heavy-lidded as he gently eases himself into her, trying to take his time, even though the stretch of her is exquisite, like she’s made for him, warm and wet and his. He freezes when she winces, her eyes shutting closed, but she digs her fingers into his shoulders and bucks her hips to take all of him. Always brave, his Clara, always rushing in without fear. She’s restless against him, even as he’s trying to go slow, rocking against her in a gentle rhythm that’s setting him on edge. “It’s okay,” she says, grabbing at his backside, a movement that makes his eyes roll into the back of his skull. She’s going to be the death of him, this girl. “It’s okay,” she gasps again, “come on.” And he does, surging into her, wild with pleasure.

He slips a hand between them, needing to make sure that Clara comes again, because if he ruins her he at least wants her to get something out of it, as well. And she does, god bless her, turning her head towards the pillow and crying out softly, seconds before Fleet lets himself let go, too.

He kisses her forehead, her cheek before slipping out of bed and quickly cleaning himself up in the loo, bringing back a damp towel for Clara as well. “Mmm,” she murmurs, accepting it with a soft thanks as he climbs back into bed with her, tugging the blanket over his lower half.

“Alright?” he asks, and Clara smiles, turning and settling herself against his side, absentmindedly stroking his chest. He wraps an arm around her, bringing them even closer together, tucking her into him like he’s trying to keep her safe. This stillness, this… peace, this is new. He’s worried he likes it too much.

“More than. Quit worrying.”

“Not possible,” he says into her hair, but she’s already drifting off, her hand stilling on his chest. He presses a kiss into the top of her head and lets himself close his eyes, falling into a peaceful sleep for the first time in months.

 


 

Clara wakes up first, the soft strands of early morning light shining into her face and warming her skin. They’ve moved positions in the middle of the night, Clara on her side, Fleet’s arm wrapped securely around her chest.

She should be embarrassed, but she’s not. She has no need for being a lady, for all of the rules and regulations of English society that she should be following. She doesn’t want to end up like her sisters, like the rest of her family. She wants to be free, and she wants Fleet. End of.

She’s wanted him longer than she knows, maybe, and last night was more than anything she could have hoped for. If it had been anyone, she’s glad it was him, and not some monster her mother had tried to marry her off to, some foreign prince in sheep’s clothing. No, what Fleet had done to her… what they had done together, that’s what she wanted.

Clara can feel him stirring behind her, his warm breath on her neck, and her skin heats up, remembering how all of this started the night before. She’d never thought herself so brave, and yet she had done it, had let him in.

“Morning,” she whispers, testing the state of his consciousness, and he merely grunts against her shoulder, making her laugh. Not a morning person, then.

“Regretting coming with me yet?” he asks, a warm kiss on her shoulder, and Clara practically melts all over again.

God. “Never.”

“Mmm,” he murmurs against her skin, sending tingles all down her body. “Good, then. Wouldn’t want you running off.”

“Of course not.”