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sugar coated, melting in your mouth

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Across the house the kitchen door swings open with a soft creak, accompanied by the telltale arms-full-of-overstuffed-shopping-bags-versus-the-just-barely-too-narrow-doorframe scuffling that signals Roe’s return from the market. A gentle late summer breeze sends the chimes hanging outside twinkling merrily as if to mark her arrival. Thyme stands, leaving her book discarded on the sofa, and pads her way across the house.

She rounds the corner into their cozy kitchen just in time to see Roe kicking off her shoes with the back door still hanging open behind her. The evening sunlight sends a golden blade of light cutting through the west facing doorway as Roe looks up, standing slightly off-balance with her arms still full and one foot wedged awkwardly against the back of her other shoe, and her whole face lights up in a delighted smile. Just like always.

Thyme relieves Roe of a few bags, delicately placing them on the nearby countertop—though Roe seems to have it well in hand, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time Thyme had narrowly saved some delicate item from a grim death on the tiled floor below—and kisses her. “Welcome back, darling.”

“Hey.” She smells of warm summer air as she kisses Thyme back.

“I hope you didn’t have too much trouble finding those items I needed,” Thyme says as she begins the delicate process of making certain none of the remaining groceries succumb to the seductive allure of gravity.

“Nope, all sorted,” Roe answers with a grin. She unceremoniously dumps the rest of the bags onto the counter (Thyme silently thanks her lucky stars they weren’t in need of any eggs this week), and, her hands now freed, begins rifling through her haul. Thyme, meanwhile, picks up a few items and steps across the kitchen to put them away. “And super smoothly, actually—the merchant I went to practically exploded with excitement, he was so thrilled to see I was his next customer.” She grimaces a little at the small bottle of milk she’s holding. “Which is why it, uh, took me a little while to get back. It sort of drew a crowd. Sorry.”

“You know I don’t mind, sweetheart. None of it was urgent, anyway,” Thyme answers as she stows a fresh loaf of bread in the breadbox. “Besides, I was so busy reading I didn’t even notice how long you’d been out.”

“Right, but to be fair,” Roe pipes up as she stoops to stuff a bag of rice into the cabinet at her feet, “I don’t think you’d notice anything short of another Umbral Calamity if you were in the middle of a particularly riveting passage.”

Even though Roe’s currently got her head stuck in a cabinet and can’t possibly see her, Thyme rolls her eyes anyway. “Oh, hush, you.”

“What? You know I’m right.” This entirely unwarranted show of sass nets Roe a playful swat to her backside that sends her jolting upright with an entirely undignified, giggling yelp of surprise. “Hey!”

Now returned to Roe’s side, Thyme entwines her arms around her waist from behind and gently presses her lips to the side of Roe’s throat, just at the curve of her jaw. “So are you going to give me my things,” she murmurs, “or are you just going to sass me until I fall over dead?”

“Yeah, yeah. Let’s see.” Thyme cranes her neck to peer over Roe’s shoulder at the remaining groceries—all Thyme’s requested items, now—as Roe unpacks and arranges them in a neat row on the counter. “Three bottles of crescent spring water, direct from Othard—or so I’ve been told, damned if I can tell the difference… six onzes of palladium sand—only the finest sand here, none of that rocky dross you’ll get from our competitors, the guy was very emphatic on that point… and, oh yeah. A bundle of dried windtea leaves from Yanxia. Did you know that when you steep these things to make tea or whatever, they turn blue?”

Thyme huffs out a laugh as she returns her attentions to Roe. “I did know that, yes,” she murmurs, feeling Roe shiver a little as Thyme’s breath gusts against her throat.

“It’s just—” Roe’s breath audibly hitches a touch, mid-sentence, at the feel of Thyme’s lips at the spot just below her ear, and Thyme grins against her skin. “It’s just weird,” she continues valiantly, “because the blooms are pink. You know? How does that work?”

Thyme kisses her again. “I could explain it, if you want me to?” she asks softly.

“Mm, well…” Roe answers after a moment, visibly struggling to keep her brain from spinning off its tracks, “you know I wouldn’t remember the specifics.”

“You sure?” Another kiss, this time ending with a light nip to her earlobe. Thyme can practically hear the color rising in Roe’s cheeks as she turns away from the groceries and leans back against the counter, her hands—calloused and warm, as always—gently pulling at Thyme’s waist to tug her in close. “I’m a good teacher.”

“Well,” Roe says as Thyme drapes her arms about her neck, her voice dropping to a low rumble that Thyme can feel against her body, “you know I like it when you get academic on me.”

“Hm, duly noted,” Thyme murmurs, making Roe laugh, a light, breathless sound that’s more air than voice. Thyme’s fingers are in Roe’s hair now, pulling her in closer, and though the early evening sunlight from outside is warm against her back, it pales in comparison to the warmth she feels now, kissing her as languid and slow as she can, wrapped up tight in her arms and in sunlight and in the smell of her skin—the smell of home.

“Oh, mm, wait,” Roe says after a few long moments, her eyes fluttering back open with realization—but Thyme, comfortable as can be in Roe’s arms and determined to be unhelpful, worries at Roe’s lower lip with her teeth, and Roe lets slip a small, strangled noise of protest, a sort of disgruntled mmpf. “Tee, gods, hang on, you’re going to be the death of me,” she murmurs as Thyme withdraws with one last, chaste kiss to the corner of her mouth. She reaches behind her with one hand, blindly grabbing at something. “I brought home one more thing: a surprise. You’ll like this.”

With a smile, she holds something up: in her hand is a narrow, rectangular box, made of white paper, about the size of a deck of cards. Curiously, Thyme lifts the lid to reveal about a dozen of what appear to be baked… sticks? They could almost be incense sticks, but they’re fatter and rounder, and the texture doesn’t look right, either.

Thyme raises a brow. “Are these… edible?” she asks. Roe chuckles.

“Mhm. It’s a snack. From Hingashi originally, I think—they’re called… uh, something that starts with a P. I forget.” She rattles the box a little until one stick shifts apart from the others, then delicately removes it from its home with two fingers. “Look. They’re chocolate covered. You hold ‘em down here, by the non-chocolatey bit.” Smiling, she pokes one in the direction of Thyme’s lips. “Try it. They’re good.”

As instructed, Thyme takes a somewhat trepidatious bite, leaving about half the stick in Roe’s hand as she begins to chew. It’s sweet; the chocolate’s just a little bitter, and the tip of the slightly-salted cookie—it’s a cookie!—breaks off against her teeth with a satisfying crunch. Her eyes widen a little.

“Good, right?” Roe pops the remaining half of the cookie into her mouth as she watches Thyme swallow the last of hers.

“It’s delicious,” Thyme says, as soon as her mouth is free. “I’ve never tried a cookie like that before.”

Roe beams with pride as she swallows the rest of her half. “I thought you might not have,” she says. “I didn’t see anything like them while we were in Norvrandt. And I was kind of surprised to see them here, too, to be honest, cuz you usually see them up for sale around Valentione’s—they’re really popular at that time of year.”

“Really? Why is that?”

Suddenly, Roe has a mischievous look on her face. Oh dear. “Why, allow me to demonstrate.”

With a flourish, she plucks another cookie from its box, holding it between the sides of her pointer and middle fingers as one might a cigarette. Then—with an entirely undue air of gravitas that one would typically associate with a circus’s master of ceremonies, or perhaps a stage magician—she places its tip between her teeth, leaving the remaining length of the cookie poking out of her mouth toward Thyme’s lips. “Go on,” she says, her voice sounding a little strange now with her teeth otherwise engaged. “Take a bite.”

Thyme snorts. “Really?”

“Yup, really.”

“You swear you’re not just pulling my leg.”

“I swear,” Roe says with a grin. “Well? It’s your turn. Don’t leave me hanging, Tee, it’s Valentione’s.” Her eyebrows waggle indecently.

Thyme rolls her eyes. “It is not,” she mumbles, smiling—Roe laughs—but then, of course, she obliges, and leans in closer and takes a bite. Against all logic, the cookie tastes better this time.

“Keep going,” Roe murmurs through still-gritted teeth, her eyes glittering with amusement. “You gotta finish your half.” Her fingers knit in the fabric of Thyme’s shirt, tugging her closer.

“This is ridiculous,” Thyme mutters (Roe quietly hums a proud “mhm”). But she keeps going, as instructed. When they meet in the middle, a few bites later, she presses a soft kiss to Roe’s lips. “Like that?”

“Yup. Congratulations, you’ve now partaken of a fine, long-standing Source tradition.” She reaches up to swipe a bit of chocolate off Thyme’s lower lip with the pad of her thumb and pops it into her mouth.

Thyme narrows her eyes. “We don’t have to do that every time I want to eat one, do we?”

Roe barks out a bright, merry laugh. “Well, I mean, if you want to, I’m up for it.” She rattles the box with a smirk. “Wanna go again?”

“Mm, I don’t know,” Thyme replies. “It’s a bit inefficient, isn’t it? And, upon review,” she remarks, one hand returning to knit her fingers in the hair at the nape of Roe’s neck, her other tugging her in close by her collar, “I think I much prefer kissing you this way.”

“Fair point,” Roe murmurs softly, her voice gone gravely and low. “Think I agree.”

The box of cookies, then, is left to lay forgotten on the kitchen countertop, and Thyme, letting her eyes drift closed, idly thinks that home tastes of chocolate.