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what's in a name

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There are times Harrow says her name differently.

Not in the last ditch effort way, the we're both going to die way , or the real killer: one of us did die and came back and we're still a little fucked up about it way. That's desperate times and desperate measures—maybe some things really should stay buried—but this is so much better.

Harrow always starts with 'Griddle', even when they kiss. She bites the syllables off with harsh familiarity, cold and sharp. Every part of Harrow is sharp—her cheekbones and shoulders, the rapier points of her elbows, even the round side of her knees press like daggers against Gideon's ribs when she lays on top to blanket Harrow in heat and comfort. It's as if there's an armory inside Harrow, desperate to break free and slice open the world.

Well, maybe that isn't so far from the truth.

She has to work to get 'Grid', even if that means getting Harrow so flustered that the second syllable feels like a chore. Her mouth worships the mantle of Harrow's collarbones, kisses down to the stubborn beat of a necromancer's heart, nuzzles the faint softness of Harrow's breasts even though she's been told time and again there's nothing to appreciate there.

Gideon disagrees.

When Harrow's breath catches, she knows she's getting closer. Calloused hands frame Harrow's ribs, lips and tongue following the gentle slope of her stomach, tracing skin so thin that powder blue veins branch like cold tributaries everywhere that her mouth can touch. She pays special attention to the peaks of Harrow's hips, because a touch of teeth along those pointy edges makes Harrow gasp, back arching up off the bed.

"Grid—mm." There it is, and if Gideon's learned anything about being a cavalier, it's how to press an advantage.

So she slips further down the bed, seeking to hook her arms under Harrow's thighs, but slender fingers suddenly grip the back of her skull and squeeze.

"Stay close," Harrow grits between her teeth.

"I'm not going anywhere," Gideon promises, emphasizing the words with a kiss against the wispy black curls between Harrow's legs. "Not going anywhere."

Harrow's hold relents—slightly—and Gideon parts the field under her lips with a broad stroke of her tongue. There's only a hint of wetness, but if there's anything Gideon's learned from the two of them fumbling around in bed, it's that Harrow burns slow, and there's always a way to get her how she wants to be.

Gideon sees no reason to complain, not when it means she gets to feel Harrow getting slick, the soft swell of her clit growing hard and eager. She even earns a rare moan the first time her tongue pushes inside, Harrow's nails biting into her scalp as the rest of her necromancer's body clenches tight with need.

"Grid— oh." Closer, and closer still. "Stop being such a damn tease."

Gideon laughs, and Harrow's startled gasp at hot breath against sensitive skin makes it all the better. She focuses her attention solely on Harrow's clit now, slow sweeps of her tongue and gentle sucks around the hood until Harrow's hips jerk upward, knocking right into her nose. With a grunt, Gideon pulls Harrow back against her mouth, ignoring the brief jolt of pain.

She had actually broken it once, when Harrow had been held on the edge so long that reflex made her writhe and kick, but Gideon couldn't be mad at a little bit of blood after Harrow gasped her name like salvation, over and over in the best chant she'd ever heard.

"I mean it," Harrow whispers above her, back in the moment, "I want you up here."

One complaint is foreplay, but two is serious, especially if Harrow's willing to stop being eaten out for a minute to adjust. It gives Gideon another idea, though, and she ignores Harrow's irritated huff after slipping off the bed. She expects an insult, maybe even a backslide to 'Griddle', but Harrow is surprisingly quiet as she hoists the straps of the harness up her hips and draws the buckles tight.

At least, until she turns around.

"You know you look ridiculous with that thing hanging between your thighs," Harrow says, as if her eyes aren't laser-focused on the shaft of black silicone.

Gideon had wanted one that matched her hair, but apparently that offended what remained of Harrow's Ninth House sensibilities too much to go without protest.

"That's the point," Gideon answered with a grin, "I'm ri-dick-ulous."

Harrow's aggrieved groan means she's won, so Gideon returns to the bed, and every ounce of irritation leaves obsidian eyes as she moves across the sheets on all fours. There's a little lunge in the instant before they kiss, Harrow's impatience made plain, but Gideon is glad to answer it with tongue and teeth while she settles back between spread thighs.

She starts slow—it's a necessity, because even after the lead-up, Harrow never quite relaxes until something pushes her further—but Gideon never tires of seeing Harrow's mask fall away when they join together like this. Not the greasy old nun paint, but the real mask, the part of Harrow that guards her heart and soul out of desperate, terrified reflex.

Gideon understands. It's why she waits and moves by degrees, carefully rocking her hips between kisses. They're messy and quick, Harrow biting at her lip, tongue seeking hers, hands clutching at the breadth of her shoulders to make sure she can't get away a second time.

Now she's hilt-deep and Harrow's moving with her, demanding more. The pressure of the strap grinding back against her isn't enough to get off, but it's enough for Gideon to feel the need, driving her towards Harrow's orgasm with every thrust. Except she still wants those three syllables, more than any physical pleasure that could be offered in return.

If she just wanted to come, she'd jerk off. Hearing Harrow—Harrowhark fucking Nonagesimus, her flesh, her end—calling out to her and meaning it, was a hundred times better than a thirty second burst of nerves and adrenaline.

"Grid—" Not enough, not quite enough.

Gideon braces one arm against the pillow, right near Harrow's head, and sends her other hand down between their bodies. Her fingers find Harrow's clit, and Gideon uses every last bit of focus she can muster to keep her hips in sync, every thrust and touch both loving and relentless.

"Oh!" Pleasure lights up Harrow's eyes like a dying star, perfect and explosive. "Oh, Gideon— "

Friction and biology be damned, Gideon is pretty sure she comes on the spot, a split second before Harrow does, clinging to her like the last piece of driftwood in a dark and endless sea. Everything is instinct, ragged breaths and staggered thrusts until they're both spent, a tangle of limbs on the bed.

One of Harrow's dagger-knees is pressing into her hip, but Gideon can't even begin to care. She's perfectly content with her face buried in the curve of Harrow's neck, relearning how to inhale and exhale as the tide of her heartbeat falls back into a regular rhythm.

"You're heavy," Harrow mumbles, but it doesn't sound like a complaint.

"If you want to be on top next time, just say so," Gideon replies, holding back a smile.

Harrow clears her throat in the way that means she's ignoring a blush, and narrow fingers stroke through the red crown of Gideon's hair. "I'm not going to ride you like a girl in one of your magazines."

There's no switch yet, so she ignores the obvious joke for one more chance. "Would you say my name again?"

She hears—and feels—Harrow's pause, drawn up through her ribs. "You maddening cavalier."

Ah, well, it was worth a shot.

Then Harrow's hand cradles the back of her head, turning so her lips are just against Gideon's ear. Those three syllables are whispered again, low with longing, shaking Gideon to her core.

Absolutely fucking worth it.