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Walking the Tightrope

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-x- April 

The day that Killian forgets the coffee mugs on his counter is the day he locks himself out of his apartment for the first time. He and Emma huddle on the front stoop together in the early morning chill waiting for his landlord to come unlock the door. He opens his jacket and pulls her closer, jumping when her cold nose touches his collarbone and she chuckles as she repeats the action until her nose is warm and he’s even warmer. They thank Marco profusely when he arrives with the spare set of keys.

They’re also both late for work that day.

The next day, when Emma comes back from getting coffee, there’s an envelope propped in front of her computer at work. When she opens it, a weight settles in the envelope and she pulls out the folded note. Killian’s neat handwriting stretches across the paper.

“My love,

understand me,

I love all of you,

from eyes to feet, to toenails,

inside

all the brightness, which you kept.

It is I, my love,

who knocks at your door.”

So next time I lock myself out, you can unlock it for me.

She peers into the envelope to see the key resting in the bottom and thinks he may be onto something with poetry if it always sounds like that.

Emma makes sure to beat Killian to the door when they walk back to his place after work so she can try out her new key, and she only smiles wider when the lock slides open. She makes a big show of swinging open the door, gesturing him inside with a sweep of her arm. 

When she gets home that night, Snow and David have once again broken into her loft, but she doesn’t much care for two reasons. Firstly, she knew they were going to do this after they texted her twenty minutes ago and asked whether or not she was spending the night at Killian’s. Secondly, it takes her five whole seconds to read the message on Snow’s shirt that proudly states that she’s “Pregnant AF” (the shirt’s words, not hers) and there’s a whole bunch of happy crying and flailing that follows. 

-x- Late August

Emma arrives home a little late one night to Killian already making dinner. The routines they do still live with all include household chores and the way they divvy them up, and she’s perfectly fine with the structure he’s brought to her previously chaotic lifestyle. He glances over his shoulder when she walks in and smiles.

“Get stuck late again?”

“Not quite,” she says as she comes to stand behind him. “That smells amazing, by the way.”

“It’ll be done in just a bit.”

“Want me to set the table?”

“I’d like to know why you’re avoiding a simple inquiry into why you were so late in such an obvious manner.”

Emma sighs heavily. “I kind of walked all the way back to the loft before I realized I didn’t live there anymore.”

“Kind of? I don’t think that’s something you can kind of do, love,” he says, still managing to stir whatever it is he’s making even when she goes to swat his arm. 

“Okay, so I did. You said it yourself, though. Old habits, right?” She hops up on the counter to watch him cook. 

“Indeed, love. So, I’ve been meaning to ask you. How do you feel our adventures have measured up to the expectations?”

“Well, you didn’t turn into a frog.”

“Aye, I’m sure there’s still time for that. We’re only in the middle of this tale. We’ll just have to see where the pages take us from here.”

“You are such a fucking romance novelist,” she says, laughing brightly when Killian removes his sauce from the stove and turns it off before he moves in to attack. And even though she’s squirming to get away from his nimble fingers as they target her ticklish spots, she sends up a quick thank you to Killian’s faulty alarm clock and his old habit of routines. 

-x- September

“You could just leave those until later,” Killian says, coming up behind Emma as she washes their dishes from dinner. He has his hand and hook on her hips and his lips on her hair, his voice full of implication. 

He’s learned not to try to talk her out of cleaning up, and instead he just enjoys distracting her in the best ways possible. 

She’s wearing a skirt - something she only does when she’s out of leggings - and the soft gray jersey fabric clings to her hips before flaring and draping down. It hides much of her legs, but her backside looks fantastic in it. On top, she has a light yellow shirt that’s tickling at his memories, the lines of a poem he once memorized during his university years making their way back to mind. 

Steady movements continue as she washes and rinses each dish, stacking them in the drying rack before starting to scrub out the sink. He’s struggling to remember the lines, yellow sweater , and with a smirk he glides his hand down to palm the back of her thigh.

“These are anything but boyish haunches,” he says out loud. Emma gasps as the shift from peaceful innocence to dirty.

“What?”

He hums, nosing some of her hair aside so he can find her neck with his lips. “From a poem. Your shirt brought it back to me. ‘The Mists of Pornography’ was the title,” he responds, moving his hand to the front of her thigh and sliding it up to rest on a spot right below her hipbones.

“Why am I not surprised that you know something with ‘pornography’ in the title?”

“Ah, but Swan, it’s about much more than that. Close your eyes. Listen,” he says, and uses his hook to brush the hair off her neck and lean closer to her ear. He sways just a little bit closer as he starts to speak. 

When you rose out of the mist / of pornography - He runs a single finger along her spine until it rests between her shoulders - with your talk of marriage / and orgies / I was a mere boy / of fifty-seven / trying to make a fast buck / in the slow lane / It was ten years too late / but I finally got / the most beautiful girl / on the religious left / to go with her lips / to the sunless place - and here he makes sure to push his hips against her to emphasize as she snorts. He continues reciting, crowding her against the counter, making sure the edge is pressing right where he wants it to.

This was my life / in Los Angeles / when you slowly / removed your yellow sweater - As he speaks, he slowly draws her shirt over her head and she lifts her arms - and I slobbered over / your boyish haunches - He runs his hand over the path that started this all and pushes the skirt off her hips to rub over the back of a now-bare thigh - and I tried to be / a husband / to your dark and motherly / intentions.

I thank you / for the ponderous songs / I brought to completion / instead of fucking you / more often - He punctuates by rolling his hips against her and she gasps as she clutches the sink for stability, and he keeps going.

Your panic cannot hurry me here / and my panic and falling / shoulders / our shameless lives / are the grains / scattered for an offering / before the staggering heights / of our love - His hand glides over her stomach and up to cup a breast through her bra. He’s sure she can feel where his cock is pressing against her ass, hard and wanting. Her hips are pinned against the sink and with each line, he thrusts against her, slowly lighting the fuse of what promises to be a spectacular orgasm if he doesn’t stop.

And the other side of your anxiety / is a hammock of sweat / and moaning - It’s getting harder to pay attention to the poem, especially when he pulls down the straps and cups of her bra, palm meeting her already hardened nipples as he alternates between them. Her body shudders with pleasure and he struggles to continue - and time comes down / like the smallest pet of God / to lick our fingers - he licks her shoulder instead - as we sleep / in the tangle / of straps and bracelets. 

With a great deal of effort, he keeps going, trying to make the lines appear in his head so he can read them off with ease and still give her the attention she deserves - and Oh the sweetness of first nights / and twenty-third nights / and nights / after death and bitterness - She reaches one arm back to wrap around his neck and firmly grasps his hair - and the impeccable order / of the objects on the table - He’s rocking her into the counter at just the right speed and he can tell how close she is with each new word - the weightless irrelevance / of all our old intentions / as we undo / as we undo / every difference.

With the last word of the poem out of his mouth, she tugs hard at his hair and she climaxes, coming undone and leaning back against his chest and tries to catch her breath. 

“Oh god, Killian ,” she moans. He’s still rocking them against the counter as she rides out her orgasm. “By far, this is the most interesting way you’ve ever made me orgasm.

“Have I made you a fan of poetry yet, Swan?” He moves his hand back down to her hips, his fingers sliding just under the waist of her panties. She feels loose and light as she turns in his arms and pulls him against her.

“A couple more poems like that and I can definitely be convinced,” she says. “But for now I think I’m more interested in spending time with this one. What was that about lips and sunless places?”

His mind reels because she drops to her knees between him and the cabinets. He grips the counter for stability when she drags her teeth over the zipper of his slacks.

“Think you can recite another one?” She unfastens his trousers, sliding the material down and taking his boxer briefs with it. She wraps one hand around the base of his cock, lightly gripping his hip with the other.

“Hmm?” He’s concentrating really hard on not rocking his hips forward into her skilled hands, incredibly aware of the counter just behind her head. The absolute last thing he wants to do is accidentally give his girlfriend a concussion.

“Another poem, Killian. You have another one up in that head of yours?” She leans in and licks the tip of his erection, grinning up at him.

His mind scrambles for any other poems he memorized.

“You’re making it incredibly difficult to concentrate, love, but I did always love a challenge” he admits, another moan pulling from him as she wraps her lips around the head and sucks lightly. She pulls back again and looks up at him, her smile shining in her eyes.

“You once promised to read me dirty poetry. You’ve given me one. Surely you have another up there,” she says before leaning forward to kiss a spot below his hip bone. 

“There once was a man from Nantucket,” he starts, but she cuts him off with her laughter.

“No, no. Make it a good one.”

The poem that finally makes its way to his mind is not dirty, but he knows she’ll appreciate it. He clears his throat, closing his eyes and trying to concentrate on the words in his head instead of the love at his feet.

All night I have slept with you / next to the sea, on the island. He begins, and she runs her hands along his thighs. Wild and sweet you were between pleasure and sleep, / between fire and water. She grips his cock again and begins stroking it gently, placing kisses along his hip again as he continues.

Perhaps very late / our dreams joined / at the top or at the bottom, / up above like

“Fuck, Emma , ” he moans, her mouth going from the innocence of kisses to wrapping her lips around him once more and swirling her tongue around the tip.

“Keep going,” she pants out when she breaks away, dipping her head right back in when he starts reciting once more.

Perhaps your dream / drifted from mine / and through the dark sea / was seeking me / as before, / when you did not yet exist, / when without sighting you / I sailed by your side, / and your eyes sought / what now—/ bread, wine, love, and anger—/ I heap upon you / because you are the cup / that was waiting for the gifts of my life.

The hand that isn’t gripping the base of his cock trails up his thigh once more, pausing on his hip for a moment before brushing under the shirt that he’s still wearing and she runs her nails down his chest.

I have slept with you / all night long while / the dark earth spins / with the living and the dead, / and on waking suddenly / in the midst of the shadow / my arm encircled your waist. / Neither night nor sleep / could separate us.

She begins bobbing her head while her hand strokes the rest of his length, and it’s a struggle to remember the last stanza for a moment. He drops his head, opens his eyes again to watch her move and it’s too much. His movements against her during the first poem had already aroused him, and her attentions on him now are pushing him closer to the edge.

Emma moans around his length and his knuckles go white where he’s still gripping the counter. He can feel his release coming and she feels it too, speeds up and doesn’t prolong the torture. When it hits him, he has to brace his feet a little more so he doesn’t collapse. He’s breathing hard when she gracefully stands back up into the cage of his arms. She’s grinning, the cat that got the cream, as she winds her arms around his neck.

“Is that the end?” she asks, fingers threading through his hair. He shakes his head and swallows, wraps his arms around her and pulls her close.

I have slept with you / and on waking, your mouth, / come from your dream, / gave me the taste of earth, / of sea water, of seaweed, / of the depths of your life, / and I received your kiss / moistened by dawn / as if it came to me / from the sea that surrounds us.

He kisses her after saying the last verse, tasting his release still lingering on her tongue, and she hums into the kiss.

“Not bad,” she says when she breaks the kiss. “You may have just swayed my opinion. I’m now pro-poetry.” She’s smiling when she meets his eyes, and he chuckles. He places one more kiss on her forehead before bending to hastily pull his underwear back up, stepping out of his discarded trousers and leaving them on the floor.

“I’ll try a lofty and pretentious one next time,” he promises, remembering their previous discussions about poetry now that she’s brought them up.

“Only if you’re fucking me into the mattress when you do it,” she says off-handedly. He huffs out a laugh and rests his forehead against hers.

“You’ll be the death of me, love.” He hugs her tight to him as he says it and he can feel the laugh vibrate through her.

“But you love me anyways,” she responds, dancing her fingers across his shoulders.

“Aye, until the end of time.” He kisses her again, and she whispers her love for him across his lips.

And when they wind up in bed a short time later, he recites whatever he can think of—limericks, haiku, even a poem by Shel Silverstein—as he fulfills her request. 

When the Save-the-Dates go out a few months later, there is, indeed, an asterisk at the bottom that says “David was right.”