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Saturday, February 20th, 2021
Balloch, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland

“Uuhr… Rayla?” Callum mumbled sleepily, making his way to the waking world with a lot resistance and no grace at all.

She was sitting cross-legged in his computer chair, her chin resting in her hands. Watching him. Smiling, as she noticed him waking up.

“What are you doing in here?” he asked, smiling a bit too, despite his pounding head and the memories of… so many terrible choices returning to him. Because Rayla was here and smiling at him, and that alone was… so much better than the world he had feared he would wake up to.

“Watching you sleep, dummy.”

“Ehhr… why?”

“Because it’s romantic, come on, work with me here!”

“Are you still drunk?” He was pretty sure he had been a lot drunker than her, and he had very conclusively made it to ‘hungover’.

“Nope. I’m in love.”

“With…?”

She rolled her eyes, like this that was an outlandish question to ask your explicitly platonic housemate who seemed to have cracked enough to camp out in your room. “The idea of romance.” She spread her arms dramatically. “The fleeting beauty of the perfect moment. Adventure and things. The sound of catching a crisp apple. The triumphant feeling when you separate a chicken thigh right through the joint.” She looked down, suddenly bashful, a hesitant little smile on her face. “And… you. Mostly… the last one, really.” The bravado had entirely left her now. She was... blushing? “And for a long time, too. I remembered that day, with the pisang ambon, because when you promised that you wouldn’t fall in love with me… it… hurt.”

“You-” This was… a lot to take in, first thing in the morning with his head pounding from… yesterday-wine. A lot of yesterday-wine.

“Yep. Make of that as you will. I’m a bit of a mess, but you know that. And I was tipsy and I freaked out that you had some romantic idea of what I was like and you would get disillusioned about a week into a relationship with me and move out and… yeah. Brain spiral. Wine. Panic. Sense of my own worth as a person hitting the absolute crapper.”

“It probably wasn’t helpful how I… phrased it,” he said gently.

“No… you could have… saved the bit about our babies until after the second date like a normal person.”

But she was still smiling.

Callum got up, as if lifted by air, only remembering his pantslessness because Rayla’s gaze flickered down. It really didn’t matter at all. Any of it. At least, much less than other things, like that she liked him and was sure about it and thought his happiness was more important than him fulfilling some vague notion of potential he had always been told he had and liked him even after he had confessed his love to her in the absolute worst way he… actually couldn’t have imagined until after the verbal diarrhea had already explosively left the bane of his existence that was his mouth.

She was in love with him, and she was here, and not backing away as he drew closer.

“Rayla.”

He cupped her flushed cheeks, like seeing her for the first time.

In a way, he was. It was all real. He could actually kiss her… and should probably, because… he was heading for overthinking or verbal diarrhea again.

So he did kiss her, but gently, with as little… pressure as possible, letting them both… get used to this.

It didn’t take very long at all, that… getting used to it-

Oh, wow.

Wow, wow, wow.

They drew apart, but not far, resting his forehead against his. He had been wrong yesterday - this was the best pressure in the world.

“Wow-” She gasped.

He laughed, breathless as well. “That was my line.”

“I’m… dizzy-”

He put his arms all the way around her to steady her, although he didn’t feel all that steady himself. And his ankle hurt a bit, the dancing had been another in a long line of terrible ideas last night.

“Sit down with me?” Callum asked. “And… talk… maybe? Or kiss more? Or… we don’t really need to do either, right now. I… might need some coffee and the greasiest thing the chippy has on offer… before I feel like a person.”

“Maybe… lie down with you?” Rayla suggested. “I haven’t really… done that. All night.”

Oh damnit, Rayla. She really did look and feel exhausted, dark circles under her eyes and sagging against his shoulder. And she was cold too, she hadn’t brought a blanket into his room and her nightclothes left her arms and legs bare.

He scootched in on his bed to make room for her.

He didn’t put his arms around her and pull her close like he wanted, because that would be something new, too, cuddling here and like that and… he should give them both time to… get used to this.

That really didn’t take long at all, either.

Her cold feet pushed under his legs.

Same-old, except the feeling of bare skin and utter elation.

She sighed, low and pleased, when he stroked her tangled hair until she unwound, relaxing against his pillow, her eyelids fluttering shut.

She should sleep. He could watch her sleep for a while, that really wouldn’t bother him at all, she looked ridiculously cute when she slept, anyway. And it was romantic. Apparently.

Her eyes cracked open half-way.

“Callum?” she muttered sleepily. “Did you put ice cream in the noodle bucket last night?”

Oh no. He had. In his very drunk head, it had been something about him needing a bucket of ice cream, like in the movies, and they had only had a square-ish plastic box, so he had put the ice cream in the only round thing of cardboard available in the kitchen.

Out of some masochistic self-flagellation, punishment for his own idiocy, he had not even rinsed it out first.

He had watched ‘A Walk to Remember’ at 3am, while eating chocolate-chip ice cream with Tom Yum sauce.

Absolutely disastrous in every way, last night had been, except for the beginning, that had been fun… and the ending. Because it had led to right now, that complete clusterfuck of a confession.

And it wasn’t the ending, it was the beginning, and that thought made the fizzy happiness inside him push the yesterday-wine-nausea firmly in the background.

Rayla didn’t need to know all the details of his very tragic movie night. If yesterday taught him anything, it was that some things really should not be said out loud.

He couldn’t deny the Tom Yum and chocolate-chip combo though, she already knew.

“Uh, yeah. It was… a mistake,” he said.

“Did you watch ‘A Walk to Remember’ last night? After I went to bed? I could hear it in my room, I think?”

Oh no. “Yes. Another mistake. It’s not very good the second time either.”

“Dummy.”

Drunk Callum really was a complete idiot.

“I’m sorry. Drunk Callum is a complete idiot.”

“I still love you. And I want to give it a go. Us. What you wanted… it’s really not so different from what I want. But…”

“Chill with the talk of babies and moving in together?” Callum groaned, just saying it. What had he been thinking?

She pressed closer though, instead of backing away like she had yesterday.

“A definite yes to that. But also… relax. I love you. Like that. I know of your tragic and chronic foot-in-mouth disease, and I still love you. I’m not going anywhere if you’re not. We already live together. We’re already kinda… in a relationship. I don’t know why I thought you would run screaming after a week of relationship with me when… you lasted two years already. It’s like… we just need to add sex? And I don’t think that will be a dealbreaker for you, I’m actually pretty good at that.” Rayla smirked. “Bendy. Energetic. Resourceful-

He kissed that god damn beautiful, very-definitely-flirty and very-definitely-sexual smile, until it melted away to sweet little whimpers.

Rayla pushed him decisively down against the bed, poking his chest. “Hey! Stop derailing the romantic moment with dumb stuff like taking by breath away and making my heart flutter! I’m not done with the romancing, Callum! I’m following the tutorial, because clearly I have no clue. And I still have to at least sniff you and carry you up a mountain!”

“You carried me down a mountain?”

“But the sniffing! It’s vital!”

Oh, he really loved her so much.

He looked up at her, grinning so widely he could barely breathe. “Day’s just getting started?”

“It’s past noon.”

“Oh shit! We have to get you sniffing then!”

She laughed, flopping down half on top of him, putting her head against his shoulder.

And then the absolutely massive dork took a long and deliberate sniff off the crook of his neck.

“You smell like… Tom Yum,” she said thoughtfully. “And my shampoo, because you ran out of yours. And sweat.”

“Musk?” Callum asked, grinning. That sounded better than ‘sweat’, somehow. More romantic.

“No.” Rayla didn’t wrap things up all pretty, she just liked him anyway. “Sweat. And wine. Not in the romantic sense like ‘her cherry-red lips tasted like sweet wine and impending sin’ kinda way but… the passing out without brushing your teeth way.”

“Sorry.”

“Ah, it’s okay. No regrets on the sniffing. You smell pretty good, actually. A little bit like…”

“Musk?” he laughed, because why give up after one attempt, that hadn’t really worked for him, in his life.

“Still no.” She snuggled back into his neck, her hand sliding along the strip of bare skin between his boxers and the hem of his t-shirt.

“Impending sin?” he asked, and for him that was a very daring line, but his flush had nothing at all to do with embarrassment, he felt… free.

“That. And… home.”