Actions

Work Header

A First Time for Everything

Chapter Text

String notes drifted from her kitchen and echoed off the walls as Conrad walked down the corridor still rubbing remnants of sleep from his eyes. He willingly followed the trail of both song and singing voice, which seemed to be calling like a siren, a tempting call that he could no longer ignore.

I'm tingling right from my head to my toes, so help me, help me, help me make the feeling go

The scent of food and freshly made coffee, rich and sweet, enveloped him in a familiar sense of comfort once he reached the open space of the kitchen. And in spite of the sudden rumble in his stomach, the sight of her made him stop abruptly and lean against the nearby wall, entirely amazed.

There she was, with her back turned to him, smartly pouring batter into small round shapes on a pan, while music flowed from the cellphone. As the batter sizzled on the stove, and the air grew thicker with its sweet smell, her voice never wavered. To his surprise, Nic sang soft and clear, not entirely off-key. Conrad realized then he had not heard her really sing before, only the occasional broken lines muffled by the shower spray or humming along with the radio on the car, but never in complete abandon like this.

Clearly encouraged by the sense of being alone, Nic allowed her body to move freely to the beat of the song, while her voice carried the lyrics high up in the air. His eyes followed the sway of her hips, barely covered by the shirt she wore, his shirt, and then traveled down the long expanse of bare legs. The sight evoked vivid images from just a few hours ago, when he spent a luxurious amount of time caressing that creamy skin and committing to memory again the outline of her body. His heart beat fast once more, despite the remaining exhaustion of a night well spent, but he did not move to fulfill the desire that began rushing in his veins. Instead, he remained silent against the wall, watching her from a distance, not wanting to interrupt that rare moment.

Cause when the loving starts, and the lights go down and there's not another living soul around

Conrad enjoyed seeing her like that, away from the constraints and gravity of the hospital, as the weight of being a caregiver, which she carried heavily on her shoulders, was forgotten even if only for a brief moment in time.

You woo me until the sun comes up and you say that you love me

He did not recognize the song at all, even with the distinct guitar sounds of several decades ago, but the lyrics were clear enough. There was an easy smile as she sang, along with a sincerity that radiated from her whole body, which caught him entirely by surprise. It was plain obvious that they were falling deeper with each passing day, and even though the sentiment was woven all over lingering looks, tender touches and passionate kisses, neither had materialized their feelings into words yet.

Nic was far more skilled with emotions than he was, and still, she seemed reluctant to be the first to say how she felt about him. A few times he had wondered if she did not feel the same way, or if perhaps she was afraid of not being corresponded. Neither were true, for everyday he showed how much he cared, if not in words at least in actions. But how could she know for sure when he was unable to tell her?

Conrad always felt uncomfortable with the idea of revealing his feelings completely. Even long before Nic, those words had not been spoken frequently, the verbal expression of his emotions never came easily. But once or twice in the few months they had been together, he whispered them tentatively into her ear, as Nic slept snuggled against his chest, completely unaware of the tenderness that captured his heart like never before, or the struggle to admit it.

Say you love me, say you love me

Her voice rose in the air as the song entered the final melody, effectively bringing his full attention back to her. It was then that Nic used the spatula in her hand as a microphone and the sudden movement of her head to the beat released a few more strands of blond hair from the messy bun.

The vision was both silly and endearing to such an extent that Conrad struggled to contain the laughter that rumbled in his chest. And just like that, the words were right at the tip of his tongue again, begging to be said out loud without fear.

With mind fully aligned with heart at last, he finally moved towards her. His arms circled her waist from behind and she jerked abruptly out of surprise, song interrupted mid-sentence. Conrad buried his face on her neck, her own scent more tempting than any other, and allowed his lips to design a random pattern of kisses on the skin there.

"I love you." he whispered, the words coming out clear and effortlessly this time.

He felt Nic tense in his arms momentarily. There was a breath trapped in her chest along with an internal dialogue he was not private to. Conrad did not move, his lips remained motionless where they landed last until she eventually relaxed in his embrace and looked over her shoulder.

“That’s the first time you say it when I’m not falling asleep.” Nic said casually, though her eyes were brilliant with barely contained humor.

“You heard it?” he asked surprised.

She only nodded, smiling widely at him. "I love you too."

Chapter Text

Nic threw the keys into the bowl next to the door, producing a loud crash as they landed. His loud grunt made her regret it immediately, but before she could apologize, he started walking down the hall, stumbling precariously along the way, and she tried hard not to laugh at the sight.

They had spent the night among friends at Jessica and Irvin’s engagement party, where conversation ran lively and freely, and so did alcohol. Conrad, as the best man, was compelled to every single toast and they had only multiplied as more people joined the party. The outcome of the night was a very drunk Conrad, unusually chatty, wearing a permanent smile on his lips. Nic had rarely seen him reach that level of inebriation, so watching him in such state was immensely amusing to her.

Nic found Conrad standing at the bottom of the stairs, wavering slightly and looking at the steps carefully, certainly pondering the merits of climbing by himself.

“Do you need help?” she asked.

“Not sure if I can do this without falling.” he replied very slowly.

Nic laughed freely then, threw a hand around his back and allowed him to lean on her. Together, they moved upstairs and along the corridor at a painfully slow pace until they reached their bedroom. Once they were near the bed, she helped him take off his shirt, and when the fabric came off entirely her hands landed on his chest, the skin there burning like a furnace. There was a tingling on the tip of her fingers as they ran lightly over the smooth skin, the defined muscles, and the outline of the tattoo, all amounting to the quickening of her breath and a warm sensation taking over her body. But Conrad was looking back at her so sweetly, with only intoxicated happiness on his face, that she set aside the lust that was running through her veins and pushed him gently to sit on the bed.

Conrad managed to pull his pants and socks rather easily for someone with poor coordination at the moment, and all that was left to do was ease him under the covers. She leaned over once he was settled and placed a tender kiss on his forehead, but before she could move away, his hand grasped hers and pulled gently.

Nic sat on the edge of the bed, with the free hand she caressed his cheek, and observed closely that he was trying to stay awake just a little longer.

"You’re really good to me, Nic. I love you so much." his voice was rougher than usual, either from too much drinking or fatigue, though the words remained as sincere as ever.

"I love you too.” she smiled widely. “Now, go to sleep."

Even with exhaustion visibly overcoming his mind, and blinking slowly, he still went on. "I don't want to sleep; I just want to spend the rest of my life with you."

“And I want both of those things.” she whispered amidst a chuckle.

"Will you marry me?" he simply asked.

The question caught Nic entirely by surprise, a laugh escaped her lips involuntarily and for a brief moment wondered if she actually heard Conrad say the words or if the secret desire to hear them had somehow manifested as a trick on her ears.

In the absence of an immediate answer, Conrad repeated the question, only this time there was no laughter in reply. He smiled at her, his eyes were nearly closed, looking like two dark slits in the warm light of the bedside lamp.

“Yes, I will.” Nic replied at last, her voice quivering with emotion. But by the time she answered his eyes had closed entirely and he was now snoring lightly. “It's a shame you won't remember this tomorrow.”

Nic glanced at the dresser then, the presence of a very special box inside weighted heavily on her mind. She had found it not long ago, completely by accident. Temptation had been too strong to resist and when she opened the box, the ring inside caught the sunlight in a sparkling burst and took her breath away in the same instant. In the next instant she had scolded him mentally, for such an intelligent man hiding that particular box in a drawer of easy access seemed like poor judgment on his part.

Now, as he slept peacefully and oblivious to it, all she had to do was either wait patiently, however long it took, or ask the question herself.

Chapter Text

The doorbell rang only once, enough to disturb the silence of the house and announcing his arrival. With hurried steps, Nic walked to the door with a smile already on her lips. The open door revealed a grinning Conrad standing on the porch, holding a takeout bag in one hand and a real, though very small, pine tree on the other hand, decorated with tiny lights that flashed intermittently. Her smile faded at once, replaced by an immediate frown. For a brief moment she was torn between holding him in her arms and leaving him outside to freeze among the falling snow.

“I told you before, I don’t do Christmas.” she mumbled, grabbing the bag at the same time with a little more force than intended. She walked back to the kitchen and left him standing behind, probably questioning her greeting manners.

Conrad followed her inside after closing the door against the cold night. “Yes, you have. Several times in fact, but you haven't said why, so I brought some Christmas to you anyway.”

He placed the little tree on the coffee table and the lights reflected on the surrounding walls like colorful fireflies, effectively immersing the house in the spirit of the season.

Nic groaned, already annoyed. She turned away from the festive sight and busied herself by filling the plates on the counter with the food he brought. “I just want a normal meal, a movie and you.”

“But it’s Christmas eve Nic, we should celebrate it.” he insisted, the grin never wavering.

“I said no.” her voice rang loud in her ears at the same time that her hands slammed on the counter top with the dry sound of flesh against stone, which echoed in the silence that followed the outburst.

Feeling slightly ashamed afterwards, she withdrew her hands and held them trembling against her chest.

"Talk to me, Nic.”

His voice was soft, and softer was the hand he placed on her back. Nic inhaled deeply and the earthy scent coming from the small tree triggered bittersweet memories of years long gone. She could no longer remain silent under his comforting touch and the need to tell him became overwhelming.

“I used to love this season until my mother died before Christmas. It was our favorite holiday, so she decorated the entire house, made amazing food and hot chocolate, and sang all the while.” she finally looked at him, his eyes were kind under the yellow glow of the kitchen light and she felt her own eyes burning with tears. “I struggled to keep us going after she died, it was mostly Jessie and I anyway, and no matter how much I tied every year Christmas never felt the same. All those memories hurt all of us too much, so I gave up and haven't celebrated ever since.”

“I'm so sorry.” there was no pity hidden in his voice, only a sincere sense of sympathy for the abrupt disruption of a happy childhood.

Conrad moved closer and she accepted his embrace eagerly least she gave into the pain and succumbed entirely; his body seemed to be the only palpable thing holding her together at the moment.

“Let's just eat, you can choose the movie.” she said feeling calmer at last. Nic moved them to the couch, food and all, and settled in silence against the warmth of his body for the rest of the evening.

Well past midnight, with the credits rolling and the final soundtrack playing, she yawned deeply and prepared to stand up, but was detained by a hand on her arm.

“Don't be mad…” Conrad didn’t finish the sentence, instead he produced a small box from his pocket and placed it gently on her lap.

“Conrad, I said no Christmas, no gifts. I have nothing to give you in return.” she felt the annoyance rise again inside since he seemed determined to remind her of the importance of that day, being stubborn as ever.

“I know, but I’ve wanted to give you this for a while. Also, being here with you is enough.” he was smiling broadly, attempting a casual facade, though she detected an undercurrent of nerves running through his body by the way his leg twitched and how he fidgeted with the ring on his index finger.

Nic yielded to his words, as endearing as his pleading eyes, and opened the box. She gasped at the content and all remaining annoyance faded away at once. With delicate fingers, she removed the ring from its velvet nest and examined it closer. The band was made of silver, vintage it seemed, with an intricate design that surrounded an oval ruby. It slipped easily into her finger.

When she looked back at him, Conrad seemed to be observing every move intently, still and breathless, waiting for her reaction.

“It's lovely, thank you.” her voice was thick with emotion. Unaware of the weight of unspoken words in his chest, but seeing him relax again, she leaned in and captured his lips in a lingering kiss.

--“—“--

The next day came as the first rays of sun burst through the window and landed on the bodies nestled on the bed. The light caught the gem on her finger at the right angle, making it sparkle in a myriad of red shades.

Her back rested against his chest, but even holding her from behind, he noticed that she was smiling. There was relief in his heart that morning from the admission of his feelings for Nic, if only to himself, along with memories of his own mother and by having the love of his life completely naked in his arms, wearing only that ring.

And as she turned the hand in front of her once again, slowly admiring the ring, he slipped a hand along her palm and entwined their fingers together. Without turning in his embrace, Nic brought their joined hands to her lips and kissed his fingers gently.

“Merry Christmas.” she whispered.

Chapter Text

Moments like this were few and far between in their lives, but when Conrad proposed a weekend getaway, their first vacation together, she jumped at the opportunity to leave the rush of the hospital behind and find solace in nature. He drove them in his truck into the mountains, the city traffic slowly morphed into long stretches of open road framed by tall trees, their vivid green hue was a shocking contrast to the greys and whites that surrounded them every day.

After a long, well humored argument, they had finally agreed on the radio station and the rest of the ride was filled by her soft singing. They rode for a few hours to leave the commotion of the city behind and reach a secluded cabin in the woods.

There was something soothing in the idea of being utterly alone, with no other human presence for miles, just them and the sounds of nature. The gentle rustle of leaves in the wind and the dark sky illuminated by all the stars that were usually hidden from the city, were their only companions as they loved each other late into the night with unhurried passion.

The early morning covered the ground with a delicate mist as far as she could see into the woods while they made their way on a trail towards what Conrad promised to be a breathtaking view from the top of the hill. Nic breathed in the fresh scent of pine infused in the air and felt the soft soil move under each step as they left two pairs of prints on the path behind.

The silence that enveloped them was intimate, each alone with their own thoughts but still enjoying their time together. Even though Nic freely admitted to be a romantic person, neither were keen on excessive sentimentalism. She had learned early on that Conrad preferred to express love quietly in gestures, holding her hand, stroking her hair, long embraces and she responded in kind, although far more verbally than him. Nic looked down at their entwined fingers and was assaulted by a sense of security that she hadn’t felt in a long time. Yet, along with the happiness inside came a bitter sensation as well, the fear that the present peace could easily be ripped away as was a life tendency to teach her, time and time again, that nothing lasts forever.

The hand that held hers squeezed gently and Nic managed to set those thoughts aside quickly, squeezing his hand back.

At the top of the hill, the closely packed trees opened into a wide clearing with the lake down below, its surface gleaming under the early sun. The view was as beautiful as Conrad had promised and an immediate sense of peace settled inside.

Her cellphone rang suddenly, loud and out of place among the peaceful nature. Birds flew away startled by the noise and they both jumped, entirely unprepared to be bothered this far from civilization.

Nic saw an unknown number on the screen and right away the seed of restlessness was planted.

“Hello?” Nic said answering the call.

“Ms. Nicolette Nevin? This is Dr. Harris speaking. I’ve been trying to reach you for a while now as the emergency contact of Jessie Nevin.”

Nic’s heart raced wildly at the mention of her sister’s name, the hand holding the phone trembled and she struggled to speak again.

“She’s my sister. What happened?”

“I’m sorry to give you this news over the phone, but your sister overdosed on Oxycodone.”

The information sounded odd at first, and Nic wanted to believe it was a terrible mistake, but her mind new better. One of her worst fears, the news that her sister was in danger, or dead, was finally materialized into the phone call she had been dreading for a long time. Then, the truth settled and she felt cold all of a sudden as if blood had ceased to run in her veins.

Nic had always prided herself for being calm and collected under stress, her stoic demeanor had carried her through the worst moments of her life, but now she felt like some kind of tight rope that held her together was unraveling and she struggled to maintain control.

Her hands became clammy and breathing seemed an impossible concept. Nic tried several times to fill her lungs but to no avail. The beautiful view of the lake, which was supposed to be soothing, blurred with each struggled breath while her vision narrowed. Brilliant dots floated in front of her eyes instead.

Nic recognized the symptoms all too well, though she had never felt them before. That self-awareness lasted briefly and soon her brain was fully plunged into a turmoil of emotions with no control over her body.

All surrounding sounds were gone, leaving Nic in an artificial deafness that prevented her from hearing the phone slip from her hand and hit the ground.

“Hello? Ms. Nevin are you there?”

“Hi, this is Conrad, Nic’s boyfriend. Can you tell me how Jessie is? Is she alright?”

“Jessie is currently under our care at Atlanta General Hospital. She remains unconscious but we’re monitoring her response to the treatment closely. Will Ms. Nevin be able to come over to discuss the situation in person?”

“Yes, we’ll be there soon.”

“Nic, are you alright?” Conrad asked while ending the call.

Her body hit the nearest tree for support and she felt the hard bark on her back while sliding down to the ground.

Conrad kneeled in front of her and his hands held hers tightly. “You’re having a panic attack.”

Feeling suffocated and scared, her trembling hands grabbed the collar of her shirt and pulled hard, as if it would somehow help end the struggle. When she finally looked at Conrad, his eyes were wide and dark with concern. Nic could hear him call her name, over and over, sounding far away despite their proximity, and focused on his voice until it became clearer.

“Breathe with me, please.” he was breathing rhythmically, in and out with a cadence that she tried to mimic.

With blurred peripheral vision, all Nic could see was Conrad until their breathing synced and her heart slowed down to its normal pace. She moved forward eventually and threw her arms around his neck, holding on tightly. He was strong and solid in a world that had suddenly crumbled around her and the warmth of his embrace kept her from fully succumbing to chaotic emotions.

“We have to go, Jessie needs you.” his voice was gentle in her ear.

Nic nodded silently, still unable to talk, but allowed Conrad to help her stand up.

They made their way back to the cabin, this time the silence between them was heavy with anguish and his grip on her hand was much stronger than before. They managed to get back into the truck, their vacation was effectively over when he drove away as fast as he could. There was no singing this time.

Chapter Text

Conrad limped down the corridor, following Nic into her bedroom. Each step brought a flash of pain all the way from his knee up to his head, and for the first time that day Conrad regretted his decision. Against her warnings, he had left the hospital in a hurry at the end of the shift, after the death of a close patient, leaving a very exasperated Nic behind.

He grabbed his bike and drove madly through the woods for hours, pushing his body hard until no thought remained, only muscle pain and the path ahead. By the time he returned home his mind was certainly clearer, though his knee was throbbing, hot and swollen.

Ignoring both the pain and the late hour, Conrad found himself knocking at her door with an apology. Her previous annoyance had ebbed away, and had probably resigned to his stubbornness. But when she noticed the limping, the wrinkle between her eyebrows came back, and the worry tenfold with it. Nic had closed the door behind him, turned away and moved inside the house without a word.

The air around them grew denser as he observed Nic pacing around the bedroom, making him feel increasingly worried with her restless behavior. Her silence hid a brooding quality inside, and tension was nearly visible, reflected in harsh movements as she pulled the bed covers and threw pillows aside without care. Conrad had seen her mad plenty times before and he would find it endearing if all that anger wasn’t currently directed at him. Unlike him, her emotions ran on the surface of her skin, heart constantly bare to others, but she burned them slow and silent inside before eventually unleashing them.

He felt the need to talk, though a wrong word could be a trigger, so he threaded carefully ahead.

“Don’t be mad at me, please.”

She pressed her lips tightly together, turning them into a thin line, clearly trapping some sort of outburst inside.

“Show me your knee.” she asked in a calm voice without looking up.

“I’m fine…” he started, cheekily taking his shirt off instead.

Nic lifted her head immediately and the stern look on her face made him sit on the bed and push his pants down at once. She walked closer and bent over to observe. Her long, delicate fingers pressed gently into the sensitive skin of his knee and an involuntary wince left his lips. This close, Conrad could almost see the anger igniting in her eyes in response.

“Fine? Your knee is far from fine.” she stood straight again and looked at him in disbelief. “Is your health a joke to you? I’m taking you to the hospital to get that checked.”

“No need to go to the hospital, this is not a big deal. It will be better tomorrow, you’ll see.” he attempted to smile in reassurance, though it faltered slightly with another flare of pain, enough for her to notice.

Her hands came up to rub her temples and he could tell that a headache was slowly forming.

“Conrad, your knee has been hurting for a week and even after I begged you not to go, you still went biking. Your complete disregard for your well being is infuriating.”

“You don’t understand, I needed to go and clear my head.” The day had been overwhelming after losing that patient and feelings of failure rang loud in his mind. So, he escaped as he usually did, running from his thoughts if not from himself.

“I understand it perfectly. This is what you always do when you're hurting. You can’t deal with the emotions so you push your body to the limit instead, until it hurts so badly that you can't feel anything else anymore. Then you get all stoic and refuse help from everyone that cares about you!” Nic said, voice raised in anger.

Without his consent, she exposed him raw and made him feel scared of the truth in her words. Instincts of self-preservation kicked in and he yelled back in reply, his voice echoing loudly off the walls.

“How I process my feelings doesn’t concern you and I can't talk with you when you're being this irrational.”

Her eyes widened in shock and glazed slightly in the dim light. Before he could apologize, she was on the move again.

“You know what? If you can't talk, you can't sleep with me either.” she reached for a pillow and threw it in his direction, her voice, cold as ice, cut through him as mercilessly as he did before. “You're sleeping on the couch tonight. I hope the ride was worth the pain.”

--- “---“---

The angry red letters of the alarm clock mocked her lack of sleep. There was no comfortable position to be found as she turned from side to side. The expanse of her bed seemed endless without him and she reproached herself for having grown accustomed to his presence in there. Now, hours later, the anger had subsided, leaving only worry in its wake. Nic was aware that she had pushed him to an emotional limit where he was not yet ready to go and he had pushed back hard until she hurt just as much. Yet, the concern spoke louder in her mind than the hurt feelings, and she found herself sliding out of bed and padding down the hall, barefoot on the cold floor.

The living room was quiet and she could see an outline on the sofa, half drown in shadows. He hadn’t left after their fight as she feared, instead he had tried to fit into her sofa as best as possible, just as she said. A wave of guilt came and she walked carefully towards the sofa.

Conrad’s eyes were closed, though he was not asleep. Nic pulled the blanket back slightly and moved to lay on top of him, mindful of his knee all the while. Heat filled the small space and she melted against him immediately. His arms came around her while he moved slightly to find them a comfortable position.

“I hate to see you hurt.” she whispered against his chest, hoping he would understand her reaction.

“I know and I’m very sorry for what I said. It’s been a while since someone has cared about me like this.” he said calmly, kissing her forehead tenderly. “I'll try to take better care of myself.”

Chapter Text

He had carried her to his bed effortlessly, laid her over the sheets there and wasted no time removing the remaining clothes that prevented their skins from fully touching. There was no uneasiness of movement, no hesitancy of touch, and even though they were not yet fully coordinated, they had explored the unknown territory of each other’s bodies without rush.

Now, with his head still framed by her legs, his lips brushed lightly over the sensitive skin there and the muscles of her inner tights went on spasming from recent pleasure, her hand remained firmly attached to his hair.
Nic felt a sting of embarrassment from the echo of her loud moans still ringing in her ears, but when his mouth started a blazing trail over her navel and upwards, stopping only to capture a nipple between his lips, the gentle suck vanished all worries. Driven by the need for more, Nic reluctantly detached Conrad from her breast and brought him closer until their lips met, the kiss hasty in their hunger for one another.

His eyes met hers eventually, dark and soft in the faint moonlight that shone through the large windows of his apartment, then he slid deep into her all at once. Air left their lungs in matching gasps, their foreheads met, but no movement followed.

It took a few seconds for her body to accommodate to the novelty that was him, and once it did, Nic rolled her hips, begging silently for him to move, which made him slip inside another inch with a low grown.
At first the motion was unsteady, though not at all unpleasant, but soon enough they found an inner rhythm when she wrapped him securely in the cradle of her legs. His skin burned hot as a furnace and their bodies became rapidly slick with a thin layer of sweat, while her hands traveled over the expanse of his chest, then his back, feeling the muscles contracting underneath the skin.

Encouraged by her moans, that grew longer and louder, he thrust with abandon again and again so all she could feel was him; inside, above, all over her body, consuming all that was her until there was nothing left. She sought his lips briefly, turning them red and sore with her own yearning, while his hands scratched and groped the softness of her skin.

By now, Nic could almost grasp the edges of a familiar throbbing sensation that would soon rise from where their bodies met and spread like liquid fire in her veins. All she wanted was to postpone the inevitable ending only to have him just a little longer, but then his body rose, a creature in shadows looming above, clearly on the brink of losing control as well.

His arm surrounded her hips, rising them slightly from the bed and closer to him. It was then that Nic finally gave into the illusion of being one and was reduced to incoherent gasps, deaf and blind at once, with his name continuously on her lips. She pulsated like a warm heartbeat around him until Conrad buried his face on her neck and shuddered loudly as he too dissolved, blissfully emptying his mind and body into her. Her nails dug onto his back, leaving half-moon marks in the skin there, anchoring herself least she drifted away with pleasure.

Conrad rested motionless on his stomach as soon as he fell ungracefully back onto the bed, breathing a deep sigh of satisfaction. Nic lay close by, halfway turned to him and struggling to supply air into her lungs.

Without the shield of his body against the cool air of the night, her skin erupted in goosebumps while the heat that had consumed her whole body only a few minutes ago evaporated into the air around them. Conrad stared at her for a long while, pupils large in the dim light.

“You alright?” he asked in a gruff voice, deeper than usual.

Nic only nodded in reply, unable to find coherent words to express how she felt, if such thing was even possible.

Exhaustion was evident in his face and Nic watched him blink repeatedly until his eyelids closed over those dark eyes she had grown to adore, and moved no more. Light lashes lay against his cheeks and his features acquired a relaxed tone, a glaring contrast with the permanent worry lines hatched deep in his face during the day. While sound asleep, he looked so at peace that she could not avoid reaching out to touch him.
The tips of her fingers were light on his cheek, the beard soft to the touch, and they made a path along the skin until they reached the letters branded on his back. There, her fingers followed the outline of the letters closest to her, over and over again, until the steady sound of his breathing lulled her to sleep as well, feeling thoroughly sated and with a pleasant ache all over her body.