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Almost Familiar

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Nile has always prided herself on knowing a lost cause when she sees one. In boot camp, she was always the first to predict the dropouts, and she was always right, even when it came to the upsets. During deployment, she always knew when to give up on a line of questioning so as not to waste precious time. Now, ever since she died and came back to life, she has prided herself on helping Nicky decide which missions are worth the work. There is good to be done, yes—but they need to pick and choose where their expertise can be best put to use.

She has just decided to call it quits on her own private mission for the evening when the bartender sweeps away her empty wineglass and replaces it with a tumbler of brown liquid.

“I didn’t order this,” she says, her voice sharper than usual because she’s already wasted more than enough money at this upscale hotel bar for nothing in return.

“Guy over there sent it,” the bartender tells her, tipping his head to the side, where the empty bar curves away and the admirer sits, presumably, just out of her sight. “He took care of your tab, too,” the bartender adds, handing her card back. Before she can ask, he’s excused himself and disappeared into the back.

She considers the drink—straight whiskey of some sort, by the look of it—and she knows she should walk away from it. It isn’t her drink, first of all, and secondly, accepting drinks from strangers isn’t her style. It is easy at best and dangerous at worst, and she doesn’t like to be anything else except firmly in control of herself at all times. But tonight is already a lost cause, she has accepted this. And besides—she can’t pretend she isn’t curious about who sent it.

After tucking her card into her purse, she picks up the tumbler, swirling it around just to watch the alcohol dance. It is beautiful and shining and even in this low light, she can tell it’s something expensive.

She lifts the glass to her nose to sniff.

It burns her nostrils, but she makes herself lean into the pain, and breathe deeper. It goes to her head, and she likes the feeling. She gets up from her chair, shouldering her purse, and still holding the glass to her nose, she makes her way around the bar. She doesn’t fall or trip or stumble. She thinks nothing of this feat until she sees who’s on the other side of the room and she stops dead in her tracks.

“The hell are you doing here?” she blurts out.

Booker smiles, an anxious and delicate thing, and she swears she can feel her heart burn in her chest at just seeing him alive. Of course he cannot die. Of course he was always going to be out there somewhere, walking and talking and living. But there is something about seeing him in the flesh, after eighty years of silence that might as well be death, that triggers something. She feels the inexplicable urge to cry simply at the sight of him.

Instead, she tips the glass back and downs the whiskey in one go.

It makes her want to vomit, but she swallows the impulse as she’s swallowed so many others.

Her legs are shaky now as she walks over to him. The seat beside him is open, and slightly kicked out, as if in invitation. He planned this, she thinks, and she warms with the reality of being expected. Wanted, even.

If that’s what this is about.

He turns more fully to face her, sipping from his own tumbler as they size each other up. Nothing has changed, of course. They have not aged. They have not grown. They are exactly the same as they were when they last saw each other eighty years ago on the banks of the Thames.

He has changed his hair, though, cut it shorter. And he has grown out his beard a bit. She likes the changes, and she tells him so. His returning smile is careful, controlled in its pleasure. She can tell just by looking at him that, while he may have had a few drinks throughout the night like her, he isn’t drunk.

The realization makes everything all the more flattering.

She does not ask where he’s been for the last eighty years, or what he’s been doing, and nor does he offer up the information. She does not tell him about the mission recently completed, and nor does he ask after it. Instead, they talk about the city, the weather, all manner of meaningless things until they can’t avoid it any longer.

“How long have you been watching me?” she asks finally.

“Tonight?” he clarifies, swallowing the last of his drink. “Or…?”

The silence stretches on, and she can feel the implication thrumming through her veins. The things he has seen, perhaps. The things he has wanted to see. She crosses her legs, knowing the motion will cause her dress to ride up, knowing he will—gotcha.

It’s just the briefest glance. It might’ve been a blink, had she not been paying attention. But she saw the way his eyes gravitated down, and slightly to the right, before returning immediately to her face.

The upper part of her right thigh feels hot, suddenly, as if he laid his hand on it. She so badly wishes he would.

“Let’s start with tonight,” she says. “And we can talk about the rest later.”

A wide smile spreads across his face—no more careful ratcheting of his joy—and when she looks back on this night later, she’ll realize that this is the moment she knew. She is no longer limited to just spotting lost causes anymore—she can find new beginnings, too.

“I noticed you the moment I came in,” he says. He’s tracing the rim of his glass with his index finger, and though it makes no sound, she can’t look away. She swears she hears the call like a dog whistle, built specifically for her. “Though I understand why you didn’t notice me. You were busy talking to a lovely—ah—Spanish gentleman, was it?”

“Catalan,” she corrects. She doesn’t remember his name, but she remembers that much. He kept going on about Barcelona as if it were the pinnacle of the world.

“It appears he did not measure up to your standards.”

“He talked too much,” Nile replies dismissively, and she is rewarded with the briefest snort from Booker before he grows serious again.

“And the others?”

His voice is low, his eyes curious as they settle on hers. She watches him for a moment, choosing her words. He is asking about more than just why she rejected them. She wonders if he’s creating a blueprint in his mind to follow in the future.

“The others…” She purses her lips, tilting her head to the side. She does not know where she’s going with this; she can’t think of one way to lump them all together. Each was wrong in their own way, the men and the women, but eventually she realizes the commonality. The proof of it was sitting here all the while, hidden from her view.

“The others were not familiar enough,” she says, and she watches the satisfaction rise in his eyes like the dawn, full of promise.

The bartender appears soon after, wondering if he can refill their empty glasses. With a nod from her, Booker orders more of the same for them both. She doesn’t tell him she doesn’t like whiskey. Instead, when it arrives, she nurses it, relishing in the knowledge that he so enjoys it. Thinking of him tasting it on her.

They are nearly finished by the time she asks, once more, what he is doing here.

He takes his time, toying with the dregs of his glass. Swirling, tilting, sniffing. He takes so long over it that she nearly snatches the glass out of his hands and finishes it herself.

“I believe I am here,” he says eventually, drawing out the words slow, “for the exact same reason you are.”

If they had been alone, she would’ve kissed him then. She would’ve slid her hands beneath his clothes and her tongue into his mouth and she would’ve demanded more—more, more, more—than all this empty talk.

But the bartender is mere feet away, there are cameras throughout the hotel, and besides, she does not want to make things too easy for him. He does not get to disappear for eighty years and then buy her off in one night.

Or maybe he does. Just the thought of it is intoxicating in all its wrongness.

“What do you think I’m here for?” she asks instead. She still has a drop left in her glass. She supposes she should make it count.

He is not smiling anymore, when she glances over. He is sitting very rigidly—just how rigidly, she can’t exactly tell at this angle—and when he speaks, his voice is harder than before.

“Do you really need me to spell it out, Nile?”

He sounds as if he is gritting his teeth, and she has to laugh. She can’t remember the last time she had this effect on someone. Or, to be quite honest, the last time someone had this effect on her. She wants to toy with him like this all night. She wants him to bend her over the bar and fuck her senseless.

“Never been much for spelling,” she answers, hoping she doesn’t sound as breathless as she feels. “To tell you the truth, I always preferred show and tell.”

For a moment, the vein in his forehead looks so prominent that she fears he’s going to have some kind of aneurysm. That would be a poor end to this night, she is thinking to herself, but she can’t even finish the thought before he’s tossing the contents of his wallet on the bar-top and grabbing her hand.

A shout of laughter escapes her—is it mere surprise, or real joy?—as he tugs her through the bar and out into the lobby. It is bright, but late. The only other people in the space are the night clerk and the doormen. They all pointedly avert their eyes as Booker walks quickly to the elevator with Nile at his side. The sound of their footsteps reverberate across the marble and when the elevator dings its arrival, it is as loud as a bomb going off.

He presses the button for the twenty-second floor, jamming it impatiently with his index finger, but he does not wait for the doors to close before kissing her. She gasps as his arms circle around her waist and pull her to him, right there in the middle of the elevator with the doors still open. Her hands rise immediately to his shoulders, first to steady herself, and then, with one pulling on his jacket collar and the other sliding behind his neck, for greater purchase.

His mouth is hot and ferocious against hers, and even as he’s kissing her, she wishes she could freeze the moment and save it to study later. She wonders if his hunger is borne out of some kind of forced celibacy he’s imposed upon himself along with the exile. She wouldn’t put something so masochistic past him. Or perhaps it is borne out of simple want—for sex generally, or better yet, for her specifically. She doesn’t ask. She slides her hands up and through his hair, tugging him closer, and she chooses to believe the latter.

She has even decided to rethink her stance on whiskey by the time they reach the twenty-second floor. She touches her lips after he breaks away, pulling her by the hand into the hallway. For as good as his tongue felt in her mouth, she can’t help but think it can do its best work elsewhere.

He fumbles with the room key, just like in a movie, and she laughs, so loud he has to shush her. She bites her lip instead, wrapping her arms around him from behind. She’s just sliding her hands down his front when the door beeps, and—

The two of them stumble forward, all but falling into the dark room. She never wears heels, but she is especially glad she didn’t tonight. Flats are easy to kick off, just a flick of each leg, and it’s all she can manage before he has her up against the nearest wall, his hands rough on her waist and his mouth on her neck like he’s trying to suck the life out of her.

She moans, rolling her hips forward, seeking the hard touch of him, but he purposefully keeps himself just out of range. She shoves his suit jacket off in retaliation, and is halfway through the buttons of his white shirt when suddenly he disappears.

The room is pitch dark, thick curtains shut against the world, and so she can see nothing until the moment she realizes she has to look down, and there—there are his eyes between her knees, looking up. She swallows hard, seeing the question there, visible somehow through the darkness. She nods frantically, realizing only when he doesn’t move that he might not be able to see her.

“Yes, yes, please,” she gets out, reaching down to squeeze his shoulder with one hand. “I mean, you don’t have—but—if you want—”

She’s babbling, and she knows she must seem so desperate, so easy, but she doesn’t care. His head is beneath her dress and she can feel his mouth on her skin now, his beard scraping deliciously against her thighs as he kisses her skin, and she reminds herself that he started this. He’s the desperate one. He’s the easy one. She is simply capitalizing on the opportunity before her.

And then his fingers pull her panties to the side and his tongue touches her for the first time and all thoughts of who started this go out of her mind. She feels like she’s a second away from orgasm, just from that one delicate touch of his tongue, and she wants it now, immediately—and why not? Why wait?

She can feel herself starting to sink, sliding down against the wall and falling into his orbit as if by gravity, but then his free hand is there at her hip, holding her up. She bites her tongue hard, deep enough to taste blood, and forces herself to straighten up. His hand doesn’t leave her hip, and so she covers it with her own, squeezing her eyes shut as his tongue goes to work.

He laps at her slow and steady, like a treat, and perhaps if this were not the first time, she would have the wherewithal to tell him to hurry up. To demand more.

As things stand, she can hardly breathe. She is panting and starting to sweat and the only constants in her world are his hand at her hip and his tongue buried deep inside of her. Nothing else seems to matter, let alone exist, except the two of them. He does not speak, he does not let up, he just keeps going and going until she’s certain he’ll kill her from such treatment.

It would, at the very least, be a new way to go.

When his fingers make an appearance, she knows she’s done for. Hopeless, helpless, all she can do is writhe and wait for it and beg

“I’m gonna come, Book,” she moans, her hips rocking incessantly to no rhythm but their own. She doesn’t beg, usually, but she can’t keep quiet anymore, and she has to admit: he deserves it. This. Everything. She wants to give him everything in the world in exchange for what he’s giving her now. “Please—fuck—please just a little more. Come on, I need it. Please let me—”

She doesn’t get to finish the plea. She doesn’t have to.

When she explodes, he’s there with her, drinking it in, drinking it down, and somehow still holding her up.

She does not know how long she is gone, but when she comes back, he is speaking softly to her in French, murmuring things she can’t begin to translate. Somehow, she regains control of one of her hands. She shoves the hem of her dress out of the way and slides her fingers into his hair, but it’s so short she can’t find enough purchase to pull him back up. She scrapes her nails against his scalp instead.

“Tell me,” she pants. “What are you saying? What is it? Tell me.”

He scoffs, his breath hot against her damp thighs. When he tilts his head back, her eyes have adjusted enough that she can meet his gaze through the dark.

“It’s been eighty years,” he says, sounding genuinely insulted. “Why the hell haven’t you learned French?”

She just smiles and shakes her head, dropping her hand from his hair. If he can’t sort that answer out for himself by now, then there is no point in telling him.

She closes her eyes, resting her temple against the wall as she continues to take steady, even breaths. She listens to the sound of him getting to his feet. She murmurs in contentment when his hands cup her ribcage. She breathes him in deep as he bends forward, pressing a kiss to one of her collarbones, and then the other. He smells so good, this close to her. Did he always smell this good before?

“Watching you come like that, knowing it was for me…”

She shivers at the feel of his lips as much as at his words. She turns her head forward again, and presses a kiss to his hairline.

“Because of you,” she corrects softly, feeling his body sink against hers.

“Was it?” he murmurs, his head still pressed against her chest. “I am still not convinced this isn’t a dream.”

“Oh?” She laughs in surprise. “Do you have a lot of dreams like this?”

“If you’re asking like that, Nile, I don’t think I want to answer.”

She opens her mouth to argue, thinks better of it, and settles instead for brushing her hands through his hair. It’s damp at the edges of his temples and she smiles to herself at the feel, the evidence of such exertion. For me, she thinks, and her belly burns hot with want once more.

But still, she gives them each some time before she tugs on his ear, pulling his face up so its level with hers. For a moment, they watch each other in the dark, barely able to pick out more than the whites of the other’s eyes.

She feels his nose first, brushing against hers. Then his forehead, bony and heavy in its press. She waits, but his lips do not reach for hers. So she goes searching on her own.

The groan he gives off when her tongue slips into his mouth is enough to make her want to fall to her knees too. It is pure selfishness that keeps her standing, keeps her mouth on his, keeps her hands wrapped around his back.

“What now?” he whispers when they break apart, and she smiles, ducking her forehead against his jaw. 

What now, what now? She lets the words echo in her mind as the possibilities spread out before her, endless and full of enjoyment.

“Take off my dress,” she whispers, turning in his arms.

His fingers do not hesitate atop her back; he does away with the clasp at the top easily, dragging the zipper quickly down its predestined path. She pulls her arms out of the shoulders, and lets the little black dress pool at her feet before kicking her ruined underwear all the way down her legs. He slides one strap of her bra off her shoulder carefully, questioningly. And then the other. She bows her forehead against the wall as he unclasps it and lets it drop to the ground.

“Yes,” she hears herself mumble. “Yes, like this.”

His hands trail down her back and fall to her hips, squeezing, nails digging in a little to force some clarity. “You sure?” His nose presses against her shoulder, rubbing insistently. “There’s a bed, Nile,” he reminds her, as if she’s forgotten they are in a room made of more than just walls. “You’d be more comfortable.”

“I’m comfortable like this,” she replies, which isn’t really true, but also doesn’t matter. She’s too attached to the idea now—him fucking her hard against a wall, just mere feet from the door—and she isn’t about to give up what could be her only shot at it. Who knows if they’ll ever have more than this?

“If this is what you prefer…”

She closes her eyes, listening to the sound of his belt unbuckling, his zipper lowering, and his shirt being discarded. The noises sound impossibly loud in the dark, close room, and she thinks she would like to listen to them forever.

When he presses up against her, so close that she can feel the hard length of him, she moans, one hand sliding back to his bare ass to pull him closer. One of his arms warps around her stomach, holding her place, with the other hand moves down her front. His fingers slide easily through her wetness, spreading her wide before two digits slip inside again, teasing the already warm waters.

“You feel good.” His voice is a low rumble behind her ear, and she pushes her ass back into him, gratified when he returns the pressure, pressing her even closer against the wall. He grinds his hips hard against her ass, letting her feel his cock and making her moan. “You want it?” he mumbles roughly in her ear, nipping at the lobe, his teeth snagging on the diamond stud, and she can only nod rapidly, her forehead rubbing against the wallpaper.

“You can’t even speak.” She can hear the smirk in his voice, but it’s amused, not proprietary. “My, my. Who knew Ms. Freeman could be stuck dumb by just the prospect of taking my cock?”

“Fuck, Book,” she mutters in surprise, not having expected such filth from him.

“Don’t like that?” he murmurs, nuzzling his nose against her neck. “I can shut my mouth if you prefer. I know you don’t like talkers.”

“No.” She shakes her head vehemently. “No, keep going. I like—I like your talk.”

“Mm.” He presses a wet kiss to her neck, and then sucks hard. “I like your body,” he whispers back, smoothing over the already-disappearing bruise with his tongue.

“What do you like about it?”

“Oh, everything,” he mumbles, and she laughs at the cop-out. “I like your skin, and the way it reacts to mine…” He trails his fingertips along her ribcage, making her shiver, before moving up to her chest. “I like your breasts, and how they feel in my hands.” Her breath catches as he plucks casually at one of her nipples, as if taking a berry off a branch. “I like that I’m not even inside you yet, and I feel like I’m going to come all over myself.”

“Makes two of us.”

He grins, leaning around to kiss her hard on the mouth. She kisses back just as forcefully, pulling away only when she feels him start to grind himself more insistently against her. She shifts her stance, spreading her legs wider and bracing against the wall with her forearms.

“Yes?” he murmurs, pressing a last kiss between her shoulder blades.

“Yes,” she whispers back, bowing her head in anticipation. “Yes.”

She can feel his breath loud in the room as he takes himself in hand, and uses the other to slide his fingers between her folds. He starts murmuring to her in French before remembering, and correcting himself.

“You’re so wet,” he whispers, brushing the head of his cock against her entrance. “I wish I could taste you and fuck you at the same time.”

“Book, Jesus.”

She can feel him grin against her skin as he nips at her shoulder. She waits, poised for whatever filthy comment is next, but instead of speaking, he slides right inside.

“Oh, fuck.” She crumples forward, breath escaping her all at once as she feels him press inside, so hard and raw and eager.

She learned from Andy long ago that protection for women like them is entirely unnecessary. There is no disease they could contract that wouldn’t immediately heal; there is no possibility of pregnancy to worry about. But still, his complete lack of hesitation makes her wonder how, exactly, he knows this. The obvious answer makes her burn with such an insane surge of jealousy that she hardly recognizes herself. But then there’s his voice in her ear again, and all other thoughts scatter to the edges of her mind.

“Mon Dieu, you’re still so tight. Haven’t you been fucked properly in all these years?”

Nile shudders, trying and failing to come up with a smart response. She can’t, but it doesn’t matter, for soon enough he’s moving inside her and she doesn’t have enough breath to manage words even if she wanted to. His hands are firm on her hips, his touch hard enough to leave bruises if such a thing were possible for her. At some point, he picks his pace up, and all she can do is eagerly take it, bracing herself against the wall with both arms and moving with him as he retreats and advances, again and again and again.

It takes her some time to realize the unhinged moaning she can hear is coming from her own throat. She clamps her jaw together, flushing with embarrassment as much with arousal. His thrusts don’t let up, and she thinks for a moment that he’ll let it slide—

“No, no, don’t stop.” He slows down, pressing sloppy kisses against her shoulders, one hand tangling in her hair. “I love hearing you like that. Please, don’t stop.”

“Not usually—not usually like this,” she gasps, which is true. She enjoys sex as much as the next person, but she doesn’t typically scream in hotel rooms about it. Then again, she doesn’t typically have sex with him.

“Okay.” He huffs a laugh. “So I guess I should take that as a compliment?”

“Don’t care,” she mutters, annoyed at her own self-humiliation, reaching behind to grab at his ass. “Just keep fucking me.”

“You’re demanding.” He presses one last kiss against her neck, pulling away with a scrape of his teeth and a whispered, “I like it.”

She nearly tells him to shut up again, but thankfully he starts moving before she has a chance. She can’t help herself this time—he’s fucking her so hard, it’s impossible to stay silent. He can’t manage it either.

“You like that? Like the way I feel inside you?”

“Yes. Yes, fuck, more, please.”

“You gonna come for me, Nile? Hm? Gonna come on my cock just like you came on my tongue?”

Sébastien,” she whines, and she can tell from the way he lets out of a string of curses in French instead of English that he likes hearing her say his name. Nile files that information away, oddly proud.

He doesn’t let up, and in seconds she knows she’s finished. She can only try for so long to stave off an orgasm and, if she’s being honest, she doesn’t want to bother anymore.

“Oh, you’re close.” His voice in her ear again, hot and mesmerized. “I can feel it. I can feel how ready you are for me, mon Dieu, it’s beautiful…”

Even he can’t manage words by the end. He fucks her through her orgasm, and through his own, and then they’re nothing but a speechless, heaving mess, half-collapsed against the wall. His breath is too hot against her shoulder and the side of her face, but as the minutes pass, she can’t make herself turn away from him. He’s still inside her, soft now, and she finds she doesn’t want it all to end just yet. She likes the weight of him on top of her, the heat of him around her. She likes the way he buries his face in her neck afterwards, and hugs her around the middle, his grip so tight that she can feel his fingertips hooking into the spaces between her ribs.

“I should shower,” she whispers finally, shivering once the sweat has cooled on her body. “Clean off.”

“Mm.” He seems to consider this for a moment. “Leave the door open so I can watch?”

She laughs. “You can join me if you’re so interested.”

“Very tempting.” He nuzzles his nose against her shoulder before finally slipping out and stepping back. “But I don’t trust my legs on a wet floor right now.”

She doesn’t exactly trust her legs either, not after what they just did, but she doesn’t cop to the worry. Somehow, she finds her way through the darkened room to the bathroom and, despite his request, she pulls the door shut behind her. She stands there for a moment in the dark, just breathing, before reaching for the light.

Nile looks herself in the mirror, eyes roaming over her own nakedness as if trying to find clues. If she were mortal, she knows she would walk away from such an encounter covered in bruises. It is almost a disappointment that, when she inspects the places where his hands held her the hardest, her skin is as flawless as ever.

She turns on the shower, pushing the knob all the way to the side until the room fills with steam. The water is scalding on her skin, but it feels good in the way pain sometimes does, distracting her from other thoughts. She rubs the hotel-issue bar of soap all over her body and rinses her hair, knowing she’ll be in her own room with her own products soon enough to do a proper job. But still she lingers in the shower, liking the heat and the steam, imagining him coming in to join her.

He doesn’t, and when she’s finally had enough, she shuts the water off and steps out. She helps herself to one of the clean towels, wrapping herself in its absurdly soft embrace before wandering over to the mirror again. She looks the same ever, and now it makes her smile. It’s just occurred to her that, unless she tells, there is no way the others will find out about this. It’ll be a secret, just for him and just for her. She can’t remember the last time she was able to have a harmless secret.

He’s sitting on the edge of the bed, wearing a black t-shirt and boxer briefs, facing the bathroom door when she returns. The lamp on the nightstand is on, casting long shadows throughout the dark room. Nile hesitates as she steps out of the bathroom, unsure of what the protocol should be between them. Usually she leaves immediately after these sorts of encounters, but she realizes when she looks at him that the last thing she wants to do right now is leave. Perhaps sensing this, or maybe feeling it himself, he smiles from the bed, waving her closer with one hand.

She grins back at the open invitation, stepping forward and holding his gaze all the while. It’s only when she steps between his spread knees that she drops the towel to the ground. His eyes widen briefly in surprise, but he recovers quickly, his hands moving to cup the backs of her bare thighs. She shivers as he slides them up and down, barely restraining herself from shoving her hips into his face again. He already treated her once, and no matter how eager he was, even she knows it’s a little rude to demand more so soon.

His head dips forward and she sighs, melting into the warm touch of his lips against her stomach. She can’t resist lifting a hand to his hair, cupping the back of his head in encouragement. The hair there is still a bit damp, and it does something to her, feeling the lasting proof of their tryst between her fingertips. It almost makes her wish she hadn’t washed off. She lets him bestow minor blessings with his mouth until she can’t take what feels like teasing any longer.

“It’s getting late,” she whispers, dropping her hands from his hair to his shoulders, where she squeezes once.

He doesn’t look up, but merely hums in agreement, his mouth intent as ever on exploring her skin. She smiles down at him, more than a little charmed. If there was ever a textbook definition of a one-night stand, it’s the two of them. Surely she’s supposed to leave now. Walk out without a backward glance.

But he is still kissing her, his hands gently brushing along the backs of her thighs, and so it seems like the last thing he wants is for her to leave. All at once, she decides there’s no harm in testing that hypothesis. She grips his shoulders, steadying herself as she lifts one leg, then the other, to straddle him.

“I should probably go back to my own room now,” she says, settling into place atop his lap. “Don’t you think?”

“Mm.” He mumbles his agreement as his hands slide up her bare back. “You probably should.”

“If I stay,” she murmurs, draping one elbow and then the other lazily over his shoulders, “I’ll have to leave tomorrow morning wearing last night’s clothes.”

“Well.” He ducks his head down, nudging one her breasts gently with his nose. “We can’t have that, can we?”

She rolls her hips, pushing her chest into his mouth, inviting his tongue on her nipples, but he shifts away at the last moment.

“Booker,” she groans finally, and it’s only then that he lifts his head to look her in the eye. They stare at each other for what feels like a very long time. She waits and waits, but he doesn’t ask her to stay. He doesn’t tell her to leave. He doesn’t say a single word.

She drops her shoulders, ducking her head down until they’re face to face, nose to nose. He doesn’t break, not even when she steals a kiss. She hates him for his newfound self-discipline, even as she knows she should applaud how far he’s come. She searches his face after she pulls away, wondering if, in this new reality of his, she herself counts as a vice.

His hands are still moving along the curve of her back. She can feel his fingertips following the notches of her spine, skipping across them like piano keys. He seems to be waiting for something, and though she does her best to hold out and deny him, eventually it’s impossible.

“I want you,” she whispers finally, and those words are like magic. Something changes in his face, and then his hands fall from her back only to reappear, cupping her face so very gently she can’t help but close her eyes.

She shivers at the scratch of his beard when he kisses first her left cheekbone, then her right. When he pulls away, she knows what he is waiting for, and so she opens her eyes. He regards her for a long moment before finally leaning forward.

This kiss is nothing like the first. This is achingly slow and gentle and—she can’t help but think the word—sweet. His thumbs stroke the curves of her cheekbones as their lips move together, learning softer, calmer rhythms. She keeps trying to force it somewhere stronger, but he doesn’t match her fervor. He just pulls away again and again, until finally she gets the message and lets it be. This kiss is nowhere near as electrifying as the ones from earlier in the night, but there’s a new kind of thrill in the unknown of it all.

She doesn’t know how long they spend like that, wrapped up together, kissing slow and deep, but eventually even he needs more. He picks her up, moving her off his lap and down onto the bed. Nile sighs, throwing her arms behind her head and reclining against the soft mattress, watching through the dim light as he moves towards her on his knees. She automatically spreads her legs wider and he grins, moving into the empty space as he pulls the t-shirt over his head. As he tosses it aside, she almost tells him to stop and do it again. He’s still only half-naked, but she thinks she could watch him take his clothes off for the rest of her life and never get tired of it.

He kisses her mouth first, messy with tongue, and she gives as good as she gets, hands in his hair and scratching down his back. When he pulls away, he’s panting, but he doesn’t stop. He kisses down the side of her neck, and across her collarbones, clearly hungrier now but somehow still patient. This time, when she pushes her chest into his mouth, he takes the cue and curls his tongue around one of her nipples. She arches into him, desperate for the bite she knows won’t come, at least not right now. There’s a look in his eyes, as he continues down her body, that she likes to think promises there will be more of that another time. Or perhaps she’s just seeing what she wants to see.

She’s lost in thought, her eyes on the ceiling, and so she doesn’t realize he’s reached his destination until she feels the flat of his tongue slide along her labia.

“Again?” she gasps in disbelief, jerking her head up off the mattress.

“Don’t worry.” He lifts his head, she is certain, just so she can see his smirk. “I do not require reimbursement in kind.”

Her face colors. “That’s not—I wasn’t—and I can—”

“Shh,” he whispers, lowering his head again. “Relax. Just feel.”

She starts to argue, but when his tongue starts to move, she doesn’t see the point. If this is what he wants, she will happily let him take and take until he can’t anymore. She reaches down, sliding a hand into his hair to cup the crown of his head. When his hands slide beneath her thighs, she takes the hint and lifts her hips, offering herself more fully to his mouth.

“Oh, God,” she whimpers, digging her nails into the back of his head. She’s probably hurting him, but she can’t help it—though the least she can do, she figures, is tell him when he’s doing a good job. “Your tongue, Book… It feels so good. You—” She groans when he strokes her clit. “God, how are you so good at this?”

He’s too busy to answer, not that she minds, though it does make her wonder if this particular skill is one he’s cultivated over the centuries, or if he was this gifted as a mortal. She looks at his head, bobbing intently between her thighs, and she thinks a man like him doesn’t impregnate his wife four times without learning a thing or two about female pleasure. Nile shuts her eyes, pushing herself further down the bed. She can’t imagine what it would be like to have this, every night, for years on end. All things considered, she has to admit she’s surprised he only had four sons. She knows she’s growing delirious with pleasure, because she suddenly finds herself thinking that she’d have a hundred of his children if it meant he would bless her with that tongue of his on a regular basis.

“Please, oh, please,” she gasps, lifting her hips again and again to his mouth. She can feel her orgasm close, so close that she can’t believe he’s toying with her like this, licking at her everywhere except right where she needs it. “Please, Book, I’m begging; please let me come,” she whimpers, so out of her mind she doesn’t care how pathetic she sounds. All she needs his his tongue on her clit, just a little more, just a little longer. But whenever she tries to force it, he moves away. He’s too focused, too calculating, and with her mind so far gone, it takes her a minute to remember what made him lose his head before.

“Sébastien,” she pants, dragging her hands through his hair, “Sébastien, more, s’il vous plaît, s’il vous plaît, I—”

She braces herself, arching her back in preparation, but instead of being caught in an avalanche of pleasure, there’s nothing. She can’t feel his tongue anymore, and his head is no longer between her hands, and it isn’t until she picks her head up that she realizes he’s laughing.

“Seriously?” Booker snickers, wiping a hand over the back of his mouth. “You actually thought that would work on me?”

Her cheeks burn hot, embarrassed at being caught trying too hard. “I—I don’t know,” she rushes to defend herself, “I needed more, and you weren’t giving it, so I just thought—”

“And the formal, Nile? Really? I was just inside you. I think we’re past vous, don’t you?”

“Oh, fuck,” she groans, covering her eyes with one hand as the humiliation burns deeper. “Look, I haven’t spoken French since I was twelve, okay! That’s over a century ago, and—”

“And so you thought trying it out now, in bed… You thought that was a good idea?”

“I was trying to knock you off balance!”

“Well, you certainly did that.” As she mutters darkly under her breath, he bends back down, pressing kisses to her thighs. “For the record, I love to hear you beg for me, but please do it in English, all right? Otherwise I’ll be too distracted by your terrible grammar to get you off.”

“I’m not sure you’re capable of getting me off in the first place,” Nile mutters sourly, choosing to ignore all the evidence to the contrary as she glares down at him. “You’re taking forever.”

“And you think complaining will get me to hurry up?”

“At this point, I’m willing to try anything.”

“How about you try having some patience?”

She opens her mouth to argue further, but before she can get a word in, his fingers are sliding inside her once more, and she can’t think of a reason anymore, to keep complaining. The thrusts of his hand are slow at first, but she manages to hold her tongue, letting him take his time, knowing without wanting to admit it that good things will come if she can just wait.

She shudders when she feels his tongue lick from where his fingers are buried up and along her clit. She can feel the first knuckle of his thumb, brushing ever so gently there too, and it doesn’t take long before she’s writhing again, her body feeling far too out of her control.

“You’re gonna kill me,” she mumbles, pushing herself into his face. “Please, Book, you can’t keep me on edge like this. I’m gonna go crazy. I need—oh, God, yes,” she gasps when he sucks on her clit, hopeful that this is the end, but just as quickly he lets go, and she nearly screams in anger.

She hooks one leg around his shoulder, locking him in place as she mutters furiously, “I’m going to break your damn neck if you keep this up.”

His resounding laughter makes her overtaxed body twitch, and she tightens her grip with her leg until she can feel him flinch and swear in discomfort. She only manages a few seconds of superiority, because he sets to his task with unparalleled determination, diving deep inside her with his fingers as his tongue licks along the seam of her, never letting up even as her body writhes uncontrollably.

When she comes, it’s with a mix of desperation and fear, for she’s certain that at the last second he’ll pull away again. Thankfully he doesn’t; he pushes her through to the end as she cries out, overwhelmed at finally reaching her peak. Her body seizes—her leg gripping his back far too hard and her hands pulling at his hair—and then all at once,  all the pressure is gone and she’s boneless. She feels half-dead, lying there, waiting for him to pull away.

But he doesn’t. He keeps licking her through it, his tongue somehow more eager than before, and soon enough she’s whimpering again, squirming beneath him, begging for more until finally he drives her full-speed into another orgasm, making her scream her release this time.

“Proud of yourself?” she pants once she can speak, wiping the tears off her face with the back of her hand.

He just grins, letting his soaked face speak for itself.

She has to close her eyes and turn away. At this point, she wouldn’t be surprised if just making eye contact with him could trigger another orgasm. And as good as that would feel, she has the distinct impression that he’s keeping a tally in his head, and that every time she comes is a point in his favor.

“Bastard,” she mutters under her breath, and he laughs aloud, protesting the insult. “You know this isn’t a competition, right?”

“Mm.” He presses kisses along the curve of her hip. “Everything in life is a competition, ma chérie.”

He crawls back over her then, and she murmurs something about payback, reaching instinctively for his cock—she can clearly see how hard he is though his underwear—but he pushes her hand away.

“Inside you,” he whispers, gripping her wrist tightly. “I’d prefer to be inside you. If that’s okay.”

She smiles at the strain in his voice. “Hey, after what you’ve done for me, how can I possibly say no?”

He blinks at her, suddenly serious. ”You can always say no.”

She looks away, moved by the sincerity in his voice. “I’m not saying no, Book. But trust me that if I were, you’d know.”


He kisses her then, soft and slow like before, and feels herself melt into his mouth, eyes falling shut in exhaustion even as his touch rekindles that now-familiar fire deep in her stomach. His hands are gentle when they touch her—her breast, her cheek, her hair—and if she weren’t so overstimulated, she’d tell him he doesn’t have to be so careful. But she finds she likes the light touch, likes the way he’s holding his weight off her just for now, and she likes most of all how she can tell how much he is thinking through every moment they’re spending together. It makes her wish they’d done this decades ago.

When she feels his hand on her thigh again, she breaks the kiss, holding his face close with both hands.

“I know what I said before, but… I’d like this to last, if we can.”

It was too fast, against the wall the first time, and as much as she enjoyed the frenetic pace, she’s very aware that they’re both near exhaustion. If this never happens again, she’d rather a slow walk than a race to the end.

“I can make it last until dawn, if you like,” he replies, and she shivers because she knows he isn’t lying.

She pulls him down for another kiss, and then, wrapping her arms around him, shifts them until he’s the one on his back. His eyes follow her as she rises above him, back straight as she straddles his waist. His hands slide over the tops of her thighs, rising until he can squeeze the soft skin just above her hipbones.

“You’re perfect,” he whispers, staring up at her, and Nile closes her eyes, wishing suddenly that they were both drunk. She doesn’t know how to respond to these sorts of things sober. She doesn’t know how he’s even saying them sober in the first place.

Crouching down to kiss him is easer than talking, so that’s what she does. She kisses his mouth and his throat and his chest, all the way down until she runs out of bare skin. Keeping her mouth on his stomach, she slips a couple fingertips beneath the waistband of his boxer briefs, and lifts her eyes to find his.

“This is not the way to make it last, Nile, please…”

She can hear the anguish in his voice, and she thinks for a moment of making it a reality. He recovered quickly enough before; she’s certain he can do it again. And she would love to watch him fall apart just as completely as he made her before. It would be fair, in a way. But then—he did only ask for one thing, and after giving her so much…

“Off,” she whispers, tugging at his underwear before moving to the side to give him room to do so.

It isn’t until she looks at his cock, so hard and already leaking before her, that she realizes that despite all they’ve done tonight, this is the first time she’s seen it. She wraps one hand around the base of it, relishing in the way he groans, his head tipping backwards into the mattress. She strokes him once, twice, careful to keep her grip light so as not to overwhelm him. Her thumb brushes against the tip, swiping away the excess. She stares down at his cock as she adjusts her grip, using the heel of her hand against the underside, unable to shake the thought of him, thick and hard, filling her mouth. The thought alone makes her overworked pussy ache, and she has to tell herself it can wait for another time. She knows it would ruin both of them prematurely.

She lifts her hips more fully, adjusting her position above him before carefully, slowly—surely he would say torturously—sliding down. Her breath catches as she takes him in, and she listens to him groan in reply, his nails digging deep into her flesh.

“So good,” she whispers, drawing in a sharp breath as she sinks fully down, resting for a moment, her hands braced against his chest. “You feel so good inside me. So full inside me.”

Though he doesn’t speak, she can hear his words from before reverberating in her head—Haven’t you been fucked properly in all these years?—and she wonders how, exactly, she’s never found anyone in the last eighty years who fits her even half as well as he does.

Adjusting her knees beneath her, she rises up slowly before sliding back down, just as slow as before. He mutters something that sounds like a curse in French, and she just smiles, brushing her thumbs against his chest.

“You're the one who said you could last until dawn, remember.”

“Just because I can doesn’t mean I want to,” he gets out through clenched teeth.

She laughs, bending over to press a kiss to the middle of his chest. She’s about to promise she won’t torture him that long when she looks up, and catches sight of the look in his eyes.

“What?” she whispers, still crouched over him.

“Nothing.” He shakes his head. “I just like hearing you laugh. It’s nice.”

She smiles, kissing his chest again before pushing herself back up. She rides him gently for a few moments, the two fo them finding their rhythm together, until his arms slide up her back, guiding her down for a kiss. She ducks down happily, taking his face in her hands as she kisses him. His hands find their way to her hair and burrow deep, causing her to moan into his mouth when he tugs on the strands.

“That tongue of yours,” she whispers when she pulls away, “does it ever get tired or what?”

He grins beneath her. “Why? You sick of it?”

When she rolls her eyes, he just laughs, and leans up for another kiss. She loses herself into it, and only when she feels his hips twitch beneath her does she start to move again. Slow and shallow, listening to him groan and beg for more between kisses. She takes a secret pleasure in his pleas, happy at the reminder that the desperation she felt before isn’t actually as one-sided as it seemed.

Her pace, however, must be just as agonizingly slow, because it isn’t long before he grips her hips and flips them over, muttering something about how patience isn’t supposed to be vindictive.

She starts to laugh, ready to argue that that wasn’t her intent, but then his mouth is on hers, and instead of bothering, she just wraps her arms around him and kisses him back, breathing hard when he finally pulls away.

“Don’t like the woman on top, huh?” she teases, sliding her hands over the curves of his shoulders.

“It’s not that at all,” he murmurs, kissing along her neck as he slides his hips flush against hers. “I love having you above me. Just can’t handle it right now. If I’m going to last, I need to be in control.”

“Control, huh?” she grins, catching his eye as he kisses down to her chest. “What's that mean? You gonna hold me down?”

“Wasn’t thinking of it, no.” He scrapes his teeth against her left nipple. “Why do you ask? Does that kind of thing turn you on?”

The way her hips jerk upwards is an answer enough, and he smiles around her breast.

“Another time, perhaps,” he whispers, and her stomach clenches at the almost-promise.

She wraps her legs around his backside, silently urging him on. As he shifts forward onto his forearms, looming above her once more, she hooks an arm around his neck and draws his mouth down for a kiss. It’s messier than before—they’re both getting too wild—and she breaks the kiss with a whine when he picks up the pace of his thrusts inside her. It’s faster than she’d like, and yet somehow not fast enough.


He groans at the sound of her crying out his name, bowing his head to her chest. She remembers the way he reacted before, when they were against the wall, and she realizes with a flash that this is what he likes. More than the rough sex, more than the filthy language, more than watching her come apart beneath his tongue, this is what truly gets him off: the intimacy of actually knowing the person you’re with.

She grabs a handful of his ass, hauling him ever closer as she whispers, “Come on, I know you’re close.”

But he shakes his head immediately, lifting his face from her chest. "No, no, no, you should come first, Nile.”

She laughs aloud, the argument is so preposterous. “I’ve come four times tonight. I think it’s your turn now.”

She can see the dilemma playing out across his face as he shuts his eyes. His own desire versus some kind of inborn idea of chivalry. She takes his face in her hands, brushing her thumbs over his lips.

“I want it,” she tells him. “I want to feel you come inside me.” She squeezes his body between her legs as she presses a chaste kiss to his mouth. “Please, Sébastien. Aren’t you going to give me what I want?”

"You play dirty,” he whispers finally, opening his eyes.

She just smirks. “Takes one to know one. Do me a favor and roll onto your back.”

He does as asked, and it doesn’t take long after that. All she has to do is take him deep inside once, twice, thrice—and then they're both shuddering as he comes within her for a second time. He drives his head back into the mattress, groaning out his release, and she quivers astride him, so close to her own.

It’s almost impossible to give him time, but she manages it, rubbing her hands against his torso and whispering all the while how good he was, how good he feels. When he starts to soften inside her, she starts to move again, chasing her last orgasm. It isn’t hard to find, even with him losing shape within her. She comes with the softest gasp this time, collapsing against him as the pleasure surges through her, exhilarating and exhausting all at once.




She wakes the next morning to the sound of the shower running and the knowledge that, if she were mortal, her body would be sore from the night before. But just like any other night spent in the company of an almost-stranger, she feels nothing worse than excessively sleep-deprived. She stretches in bed, pleased to have it all to herself for a few minutes as she tries to sort what to do next.

She could leave. She knows an out when she sees one, and she’s rather grateful to him for offering one as impersonal as this. All she has to do is put on last night’s clothes and step out the door. No forced pleasantries necessary, no awkward goodbyes to stumble over. And as appealing as that sounds, Nile can’t quite make herself get up. Call it laziness, call it curiosity. Whatever it is, she ends up staying, and it’s worth it, to see the smile on his face when he steps out of the bathroom and realizes she’s still there.

“Thought you’d be gone by now,” he says, scratching the back of his neck.

“Me too,” she admits, letting her eyes roam unashamedly down his bare chest and abdomen. “I kept trying, but… couldn’t think of a good enough reason to sneak out.”

“Dignity?” he wonders, wandering over to the closet.

She snorts. “I think you did away with that last night.”

“I don’t remember it like that,” he says quietly, and she nearly gets up and kisses him, just for that.

Instead she stays there, lying in bed while he gets dressed. He puts on a deep blue button-down and dark slacks, and she watches as he musses with his wet hair by hand, combing it this way and that. Eventually, he’s dressed and she can’t stall anymore. She gets to her feet with a yawn, hunting around for the shoes she kicked off in the dark the night before. Her purse, dress, and underwear are all in a heap beside the wall. She retrieves her bra first, sliding it up her arms before clipping the back. After a moment of deliberation, she forgoes her ruined underwear, tucking it into her purse before stepping into her dress. She’s just finished adjusting the shoulders when she feels him materialize behind her. He slides the zipper smoothly up its track without a word.

“Thank you,” she whispers as he does up the clasp at the top. She can’t help but wonder if this is the closest they’ll ever get to talking about last night.

“You’re welcome.”

This is the moment, if either of them are going to ask—about what he’s doing here, about whether she should tell the others she saw him, about where their next mission will be—but neither of them do. They just stand there, barely touching, soaking in the last few seconds of sharing the same room together. She’ll be checking out this morning, and though she wants to, she doesn’t ask if he’ll be doing the same. She doesn’t ask where he’s going next, or volunteer where she will be come tomorrow.

He found her once. She’s certain he can do it again if he wants to.