Author Topic: Learning To Fly  (Read 644 times)

Loren

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Learning To Fly
« on: February 25, 2017, 09:55:41 PM »
[size=9]((Contains material of an adult nature.))[/size]

A man's wedding night should be a memorable occasion. If he's lucky, filled with warmth and love, new touches and thrilling kisses, the sharing of love before sleep claims him as he has claimed his bride. For Gerard ... it was a little different. Three hours with friends to dine and celebrate had resulted in his naive bride drinking wine for the first time in her life, and the consequences were unfortunately predictable. Loren was all but asleep on her feet by the time they returned to their rooms, easily pulled out of her gown and into a nightgown by Talis' capable hands while Gerard made the most of the bath that had been drawn in the hope that Loren might need it. And, indeed, Loren was asleep by the time he emerged, curled up in a ball in the bed that was now theirs to share, and snoring enthusiastically.

Some men might have been disappointed to find their new bride tucked into bed and fast asleep on their wedding night, but Gerard was not most men. He knew that they had the rest of their lives to spend together and that tonight was only the first night of the rest of their lives. Though he had waited a long time to share his life with someone like her, he was a patient man. He had waited a long time; he could wait a little longer. And so, he quietly went about the chore of disrobing, except for a pair of loose-fitting pants. And much to Talis' satisfaction, he had unbuckled his swordbelt and laid his sword to rest on the dressing table for the night. Carefully crawling into bed beside his bride, he tucked the blankets over her and kissed her cheek before settling in beside her, a protective arm wrapped snugly around her waist, and a ridiculously happy smile on his face.

Tucked back against him, her snoring soon abated, allowing him to drift off to sleep in a stillness that was broken only by the sound of their syncopated breathing, warmed by one another's bodies in the stone-clad chill of night that clung to the ancient palace. Yet it was that chill which woke him, hours later. Loren was not at his side, the sheets where she had been cold. But he could still hear her breathing ... breathing that came from the foot of the bed, where she was curled up on the floor, her cheek pillowed on her arm, shivering just a little even as she slept.

He awoke, a little cold, a little disoriented. It took a moment for his muddled and dream-laden brain to realize he was alone in the bed and that he shouldn't be. He hadn't been when he'd drifted off to sleep, but now he was. Loren was not at his side, where she should be - where he'd tucked her in and seen her last - and for just a moment, he panicked, until he heard the steady sound of her breathing coming from the floor at the foot of the bed. He furrowed his brows as he peered into the darkness, the only light that of the moonlight that was streaming through the window. He slipped out of bed, shivering with chill, his feet bare on the cold floor, and tiptoed around the bed to search for her. Frowning down at his young wife, he watched her a moment, puzzled, trying to sort out why she had left his bed.

Illuminated by the moon, it was clear there was no peace in her rest, nor even any rest in her sleep. Her slumber was fitful, awkward, uncomfortable ... and yet she had put herself there. She had taken herself out of his arms, out of the warm nest of blankets, and laid herself down here at the foot of the bed. At her master's feet. Perhaps it was not so difficult to guess what had urged her to do that, when he considered Talis' oft-repeated entreaties for Loren to at least use a pillow.

Gerard had three choices - he could either wake her and ask why she was sleeping on the floor, which would probably open another Pandora's Box full of questions and forthcoming explanations, or he could stoke the fire and lay a blanket over her and leave her be til morning. Ultimately, though he decided on his third choice, which was to very carefully scoop her up off the floor, tuck her back into bed again, and hopefully not wake her.

She stirred as his arms wrapped about her, her eyes blinking open in confusion as he laid her back against the sheets once more. "Master?" The word was barely a murmur, a half-asleep request that begged to know what she had done to be removed from the place of honor at the foot of his bed. And then she realized who she was speaking to. Her eyes snapped wider, horror in her expression as she covered her mouth with her hand. "Not master, not master, she is sorry!"

"Shhh," Gerard whispered, as calm and gentle as a summer breeze. He wasn't expecting things to change overnight, just because he'd made her his wife. All she could ever remember was being a slave, and he knew it would take time for her to understand what it meant to be free. "It's all right," he told her quietly as he tucked the covers around her again, eyes shining in the faint light from the window. "Everything's all right. Go back to sleep," he said, leaning close to touch a brief kiss to her cheek.

Mortified with herself for ever calling him master, Loren nodded mutely as he kissed her cheek, lying stiff beneath the blanket as she stared through the darkness at the ceiling above them. What had she done? She didn't remember getting out of bed, but she must have done it. Every night, she went to sleep in the bed, but woke on the floor, exactly where she would have been if she were still a slave. Would she ever be able to sleep a full night in a bed?

Now that he'd tucked her back into bed, he was wide awake and not quite sure what to do. He'd told her to go back to sleep, but he wasn't sure he'd be able to do the same. His mind was racing with worries of his own. Would she ever understand that she was free and beholden to no one, save the Queen? Would she ever feel safe enough with him not to leave their bed in the middle of the night? What was it that made her do that? Was she having nightmares and would she ever tell him about them? Would she ever trust him to be the man she needed him to be?

How long they lay there, side by side, neither one speaking, neither one sleeping, was up for debate. But eventually slender fingers brushed tentatively against his knuckles, daring a touch that she wasn't sure would be welcomed. "She never had a bed," she whispered into the darkness. "If she was very good, she was allowed to sleep at the end of his bed. If she was not, she slept on the other side of the door."

Maybe she could tell from the sound of his breathing that he wasn't asleep, or maybe she just needed to explain,whether he was awake to hear her or not. Whichever the case, he was awake and he did hear her, as evidenced by the way his fingers curled to link with hers. So, she wasn't sleeping either. "Would you feel better if I slept somewhere else?" he asked tentatively, unsure if he was the problem or if it was just remnants of her past.

The gentle curl of his fingers through hers drew a shaking breath of relief from her lips. His question, however, did not. "Where would you go?" she asked unhappily. "How can I sleep in front of your door if I do not know where you are?"

"I'm a soldier. I can sleep most anywhere," he replied, in that quiet, raspy voice of his. Of course, like anyone, he preferred to sleep in a bed, but her comfort was more important to him than his own. "You need never sleep on the floor or in front of my door, Loren. You're my wife. This bed is as much yours as it is mine, but if you prefer, I will sleep on the chair."

"She is not used to beds." It was offered in a whisper, but Loren could feel herself wavering on the verge of tears. Somehow, she had made him think he was unwelcome in his own bed, and that could not be further from the truth. "It is your bed, you should not go because she is foolish. She will go." Loosing her fingers from his, she sat up, making to leave the bed and find somewhere else to sleep that would not disturb him.
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Loren

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Re: Learning To Fly
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2017, 09:56:17 PM »
He caught her hand, just as her fingers were slipping away from his, to hold her back. "I don't want you to go," he told her quietly, an almost pleading tone in his voice. "Perhaps we should sleep on the floor together," he suggested. He knew it was a silly request when the bed was so much warmer and more comfortable, but maybe if she took small steps with him right there to help her, it would make the transition easier for her. "Come," he urged, sitting up and tugging at her hand to join him. "I'll get the fire going, and you arrange the pillows and blankets," he told her.

Loren did not know what to say to this, stunned that he would give up his warm bed to share the floor with her just because she couldn't be trusted to stay in the bed. "This is silly," she pointed out as he tugged her up, but she was already seriously considering how to make the floor comfortable for him. Odd, that comfortable was not something she sought for herself.

"There's no point in sleeping in the bed if you're not going to stay in it," he pointed out. Maybe it was silly, but on the other hand, maybe it would work. If he could get her used to sleeping with him on the floor, maybe she'd be more likely to stay put once they moved to the bed. It might only take a few days, or it might take weeks or months, but he was a patient man, and he was willing to wait as long as it took. He went to the hearth to stoke the fire and add another log to take the chill out of the air. Even he was shivering a little in the chill without a shirt to cover his back.

"I'm sorry." Again, the words were so soft they might almost have been lost, a deeply felt apology for being difficult, accepting the blame for something she had no control over. Arms filled with the furs usually left merely as decoration on the bed, she shuffled over to the fireplace, dropping onto her knees to spread and layer those soft warm coverings into something he might be comfortable on.

"No need to apologize," he replied as he coaxed the embers to catch fire again. This was usually the kind of work for a servant, but he wasn't accustomed to servants tending to all his needs, and so, he had never even thought to ask about it. "I have slept in far less comfortable places than this," he told her honestly, knowing she had, as well.

"You should not have to in your own rooms," she said quietly, guilt feeding every nuance of her voice as she rose to pad back to the bed and strip it of all the linens and blankets, the pillows piled up in her arms until she could not see where she was going.

He looked over to see her buried in pillows and blankets and chuckled a little to himself. "Here, let me help," he said, moving to do just that, taking some of the blankets from her before she collided with or tripped over something.

Her face came into view as he relieved her of some of her burden, pale and worried in the firelight. She didn't think this was the wedding night Talis had been expecting them to share.

Talis was the last thing from his mind. It didn't much matter to him what Talis or anyone else thought. This was about him and Loren and no one else. It didn't much matter to him if they slept on the floor or in the bed, so long as she was safe and warm and comfortable. "What's wrong?" he asked, noting the look on her face as he took some of the burden from her arms.

She shook her head, uncertain she could explain herself without somehow upsetting him. "She is ... she is not the wife you should have chosen," she attempted, dropping to her knees to lay the pillows down and fight with the blanket remaining to her. "She is awkward and wrong, and she does not know how to sleep like a real lady. She is a disappointment."

Gerard considered her quietly a moment, a thoughtful frown on his face. How was he ever going to make her understand that she was none of those things? While she might be awkward, that was normal for a new bride, and he didn't much care if she ever learned how to become a real lady. He knelt down beside her to help spread the blankets over the furs, creating a bed, almost as cozy as the one they'd abandoned. It didn't hurt that the fire in the hearth was doing its part to warm the room. "She thinks these things, but she is wrong," he told her as gently as he could. "You are exactly the wife that I want."

She laughed, but the sound was sad. "You want a wife who does not even know how to be a woman?" she asked, her tone making it plain that she did not believe him. "She only knows how to be a slave. She was never very good at that, either."

Gerard reached for her shoulders, turning her gently to face him, needing her to meet his gaze, awash with firelight. "Loren, listen to me. You have to stop listening to the thoughts in your head. You are not a slave; you are not what they made you or what they told you. You are free now. You can be whoever you want to be."

"I don't understand free," she admitted softly, her hands hesitating between them before once again daring to touch, laying palms-flat against his bare chest. She leaned into him, knowing he wanted the best for her, no matter what. "I need to belong. To have orders. And I know it is wrong, but I need it."

Was she free though, now that they were married, or had he just offered her a kinder, gentler form of servitude? The thought bothered him, even though she'd confessed that she loved him. Did she even understand what the word love meant, or did she only think she loved him because he'd shown her kindness? "Free means making your own decisions, Loren. It means you're not beholden to anyone, not even to me. I can tell you what I want, but I will never force you to do anything against your own will. And if you eventually decide you do not wish to be with me, then that is your decision, too," he told her, taking her hands between his own. He found himself hoping that wouldn't be the case, but he would stand by his word, no matter what.

"But whenever I say what I want, you tell me that I do not know what I want, or that I do not understand, or that you will not force me," she countered in confusion. "I love you, and you told me I did not know what love was. I want you, and you say you will not force me to share you want. But I do not know what to do, how to do it. A slave who touched first was killed. I cannot even sleep a full night in a bed. How will I ever feel with you when I cannot do anything about it? You do not believe my heart."

"It's not that I don't believe you," he tried to explain again. "It's just that I'm afraid you will change your mind." That wasn't it exactly either, but it was part of it. Then again, he'd agreed to marry her with everything that marriage entailed, and he was suspected he was falling in love with her. Why else would he be feeling this way? Like he didn't want to think about his life without her in it. "I was not lying when I said I love you, but I have never been in love before," he told her, trying to make her understand the reasons for his own confusion.

"I trust you," she whispered to him, the words fervent on her lips. I trust you. With all that implied. She trusted his love, his want, his desire. She trusted that he would never hurt her, that he wanted her in his life the way he had said. She trusted him with everything she was. And she hurt, knowing that he did not trust her the way she trusted him.

"Perhaps we should start slow," he suggested, trying hard not to notice the fact that she looked very appealing and very desirable in that flimsy gown of hers. He had truly never seen such a lovely creature in all his life, and he had been with a few women in his day, but none that had touched his heart the way she had. If he'd known how he'd hurt her, he'd have tried to ease her pain, but he had no way of knowing, unless she told him. "What do you want?" he asked, simply enough, knowing this might be new to her. It was likely no one had ever asked her such a thing before.

Never asked, and never been so willing for anyone, either. But the words would not come, stuttering to stillness in the back of her throat as her mouth worked uselessly. She might almost have given up, but for the memory of his response to her in the daylight. Gripping his hands tightly, she lunged at him, hoping for a kiss and very nearly splitting his lip open against his own teeth in the process.
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Loren

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Re: Learning To Fly
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2017, 09:56:49 PM »
Taken by surprise, she nearly toppled him over with her exuberance, but he somehow managed to find his balance, catching her before they both ended up on the floor - though they were going to end up there anyway eventually. "Easy!" he told her, laughing a little as he rubbed at his bruised lip. "Easy, love. I'm not going anywhere," he said, reaching around to the back of her neck to draw her closer and pull her in for a tender brush of lips to hers.

He cut off her stuttered apologies with that tender kiss, with the firm curl of his hand to her neck that told her he knew what he was doing, that she didn't need to be afraid of the warm body pressing closer to her own. Reassured, she relaxed as he kissed her, her hands tentatively inching over his skin to press flat against his back, holding herself snug against him as they lingered on their knees before the fire.

But they were only kneeling a moment before he eased her onto her back, careful to pull her legs out from beneath her. He leaned over her without pressing his weight against her as his lips plied hers, very slowly easing past her lips to explore her mouth, gently and almost tentatively, gauging her reaction to see whether or not she welcomed his ministrations.

She pressed back into the soft prickle of bear fur, feeling her body tremble as he eased them both past the longing chastity of that first kiss into something far more exhilarating. No virgin she, and despite her wariness when it came to touches, her body reacted even as she gasped into his mouth. Nails turned to drag gently over his skin as her knee rose, tucking her thigh tight to his hip as she set her foot flat against the fur, feeling the soft length of her nightgown fall to her own hip. She felt ... restless, eager, unsure if that was how she should be feeling, better used to resigned pain and patience. She had never willingly invited more.

He did not want to hurt her, but once he had started kissing her, he found it difficult to stop. He could not deny that he wanted her, and if he was reading her reactions right, it seemed that she wanted him, too. He tore himself away from her lips, if only momentarily, to gaze into the loveliness of her eyes, lit by the glow of the fire in the hearth. "You must tell me if you want me to stop, if I'm going too far, or if I'm hurting you in any way."

She whimpered when his lips left hers, her head rising to chase the kiss before he spoke, her eyes half-lidded with limb-loosening desire as she held his gaze. "I will," she promised, and to her credit, she meant it in that moment. What she didn't know was if she would be able to tell him if she found pain. Wasn't pain a part of this, after all? She had never been taken without it. "Please, Gerard ..."

He didn't bother to ask if she was sure; he already knew how she'd answer. It seemed she wanted him just as much as he wanted her, but was it only a learned response or did she truly want him, like she said she did? Perhaps it was time to stop thinking, stop analyzing, and start acting. How could he deny her, after all, when she was clearly pleading with him to go on? He wasn't sure how far he was going to go, until he got there, but at least, he knew how to start, and he started with kisses and caresses - soft and sweet and lovingly tender. He eased her gown back just a little, just enough to trace her bare shoulder with his lips. He didn't notice if there were any scars or marks on her flesh, but if there were, he would have only kissed them, too, as if to prove to her that it didn't matter - that he loved her, scars and all.

How strange it was, to realize that just a few gentle kisses to her neck and shoulder were enough to reduce her to a moaning mess of desire. Yet kisses were not part of her experience. She truly did not know how Gerard would get from where they were to where she wanted them to be, only how masters and magisters did it. And despite herself, despite ingrown fears that should have paralyzed her, she wanted to echo his tenderness. Hungry lips dragged along the line of his throat, her breath hot against his skin as she shifted restlessly beneath him. Perhaps her scars would not matter to him, perhaps they would. There was only one way to find out, truly.

Once the flame of desire had been kindled, it was hard to extinguish, needing to see this through to its inevitable conclusion. If she stopped him before that, he would abide by her wishes, no matter how difficult or even painful it might be. He heard himself groan at the touch of her lips against his throat, his pulse quickening as his desire for her deepened. There would come a point where there would be no turning back, but they had not reached that point quite yet. He trailed kisses down the line of her neck, down her shoulder, easing her gown further down her shoulder with a slide of his fingers against her flesh.

The knot at the back of her neck unraveled at the insistent push of his fingers against the fabric, until there was no resistance to the gentle tug that drew the pale silk from her skin before the tender march of his lips. Nothing to prevent him from feeling the raised scarring of her brand beneath those lips as he found the first swell of her breast. She stilled, frightened of how he might react to feeling it, to seeing it, remembering the banked anger in him when she had confessed to wearing the magister's mark on her flesh.

There was anger and hatred for those who had hurt her, but none of that anger or hatred was directed toward her, and though he paused for a moment when he felt the raised flesh beneath his lips, he did not recoil in horror or disgust. Instead, he traced it very gently with a fingertip before brushing a single gentle kiss against the very spot, and then he was moving on, as if it was only just another part of her to discover and love and cherish.

She shivered as he traced that mark, unused to gentle touches at all, stunned to discover how sensitive she was to such a touch from such a man. Her eyes grew wet with grateful tears as he simply kissed the brand and moved on, giving no indication of disgust or hate, only love. What had she done to deserve a man like this? Yet as he moved over her, distracting her mind with skimming fingers and warm kisses, she found she could no longer think clearly, trembling anew in his arms as she arched with mindless need toward him. She did not even recognize her own voice, painting the air with eager desire.

They had not yet reached the point of no return, but if they kept on the way they were, it wouldn't be long before they did. Gerard didn't linger over the brand very long, too eager to explore further, rewarded by the way her body reacted to his loving ministrations. It wasn't long before he had stripped her of the gown, the warmth from the fire and his own body heat keeping her sufficiently warm. He did things to her that he had a feeling no man had ever done before, ever careful to go slowly and gently, testing the unspoken boundaries she might not even be aware of.

If only he had known the truth of her experiences; the pain of being used without care, even by others who were slaves themselves. Just his gentleness set him apart from all those who had gone before. But this ... Loren had no words for this tenderness, this searching, driving wave that crashed over every raw nerve as he teased and tested her form. She might almost have been frightened by her own wildness - indeed, would have been, were it not for the fact that it was Gerard coaxing her away from silence and stillness, Gerard praising her writhing limbs and heedless cries. It was only when that crashing sea threatened to overwhelm her senses entirely that she tried to drag herself back, her hands tightening on him. "She ... I ... can't ..."

"Yes, you can," he replied softly, soothingly, encouraging her to let go of herself, of her inhibitions, of her fears. "Just let it happen, love. I'll be right here to catch you," he told her, realizing with some wonder that she had never felt this kind of pleasure before and that it frightened her a little. This wasn't the time to scare her further with his own needs and desires. This was about her; it was about teaching her that love was not meant to be painful, but beautiful. If she could understand that, then together they could conquer anything.
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Loren

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Re: Learning To Fly
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2017, 09:57:30 PM »
No one had ever taken the time to teach her this. No one had ever even suggested that she might be capable of doing it by herself. For Loren, this was merely one more reason to love him, that he had chosen to teach her this startling effect of love rather than take his own pleasure and be done, as others had before. Gently encouraged, she tried to let go as he told her, wavering on the edge of that frightening precipice until she thought she might burst ... and falling without warning. Shock and wonder combined fueled her cry, his name on her lips, as she arched beneath him, an instrument played to perfection to produce music never before heard with agonizing sweetness that echoed around their chambers. And afterward ... stillness. Not silence, not shame; just the shattered rasp of her breath, the stuttering staccato of her heart, the tremble of her body from the very core as she clung to him, in awe of that unexpected reward for her loving trust.

To his credit, he made no further demands on her, but only held her close, despite the fact that his own body was aching with almost painful desire, heart pounding in his chest. It was a response that, if not answered, would eventually calm and fade and settle, but he was determined to be master of his own body, if nothing else. This was about giving, not taking. There had been too many men who had taken from her, and he wanted her to know that he was not and never would be one of those men.

Slowly, as her wits came back to her, she became aware of what he had not done, as much as of what he had given her. Soft lips pressed kisses to his cheeks, his chin, his mouth; tentative hands stroked against his skin. "Now you," she whispered to him, unprepared to leave him unsatisfied even while her mind was still reeling. Her hand slipped between them, practiced and gentle, a strangely confident contrast with the wild disbelief that had accompanied his ministrations.

He might have argued with her, even denied her, if she hadn't taken him so confidently and literally in hand. Whatever his intentions, however strong his resolve, his mind went blank when she touched him, his body betraying him. Even if he'd wanted to resist, his body was incapable of it, reacting to her in such a way that chased all rational thought from his head. He groaned aloud at her touch, surrendering and trusting himself to her care.

She purred to him, soothing sounds that accompanied the gentle stroke of her hand as she eased him over onto his back. And this, too, was new to her; this strange thrill of power, of having him surrender to her, trusting her to do the right thing for him. "Tell me what you want," she whispered against his lips, nuzzling tenderly to him as she waited to hear him finally admit what he needed from her.

It was hard to put into words what he wanted and needed at that moment. Sweet release, but more than that. Simply put, he wanted her. Nothing else and no one else would do. She was different than anyone he'd ever met before - eager to please, but as lovely and fragile as a butterfly, with a heart that was easily wounded. He wanted to keep her forever safe and secure in his arms and his love, but he knew that was not what she was asking of him. And still, he could not tell her in so many words what he wanted, could not take her as a man might take a woman. No, let it be her decision.

She was the master here, and he was the one who was worshiping at her feet. "I want you," he told her at last, in a voice that betrayed his own needs and desires. He reached for her, to touch her hair, in wonder of the simple beauty of her. He was at her mercy to do with as she would, though he was hoping she would understand somehow that this, too, wasn't only about his own pleasure, but hers, if she was brave enough to follow her own instincts.

With him, she could be brave. For him, she thought she could do anything. And she understood those simple words, remembering her own response when he had asked her the same question hours before. She knew what she had meant then; she knew what he meant now. And though it was in a way wholly new to her, she did not intend to disappoint him. Cast into glowing shadow by the flickering firelight, she rose over him, daring to align her body to his, to take him into her, unaware of the wanton image she presented with her arched back and gasping lips, dark hair falling in a shimmering curtain down her back. What happened from there was in his hands, but she had taken the first step. She needed him to steer her.

This time he did not groan, but only sighed deeply, as if by that simple joining of their two bodies, she had given him the greatest gift and the greatest pleasure possible. He savored that feeling of exquisite warmth for a long moment before opening his eyes slowly to look up at her, smiling as he realized she was not sure what to do, though he was still determined to let her be her own master for once. His hands reached for her hips, moving her against him, before pulling her down against his chest, heartbeat to heartbeat. "Do whatever you like," he whispered, hoping her body would know what to do, even if her mind did not.

She almost startled as he guided her against him, only too happy to fall to his chest at the slightest encouragement. It had never felt like this. Heart to heart, nose to nose, one hand found his, linking her fingers through his own, drawing his arm up to rest above his head as she tried to replicate that motion once again, pouring her unexpected pleasure against his lips as she shuddered.

It was a lesson in loving, not just for her, but for him, too. He'd certainly had his share of lovers over the years, but even those who'd been skilled at love-making paled in comparison to this, and he realized that what had been missing from all those relationships was the compassion and caring that came from loving someone and from being loved. It was the one equation he'd always been missing - this sharing and trusting and giving of one's self. He would have given her his life in that moment, if she had only asked for it. And in that moment when he finally reached the precipice and was teetering on the brink, he understood at last what it was the poets meant when they wrote about true love.

Without knowing quite how, she drew him over that precipice, unaware that perhaps he wanted to bring her with him, only aware that he needed that release the way she had needed what he had given her. For the first time in her life, there was no pain, no shame, no desire to run and hide. There was only him, and he was glorious.

He sighed against her lips, every muscle of his body relaxing, even as his fingers strayed over her hips in an affectionate caress of her flesh. He sensed that she had not reached the pinnacle with him, and yet, he wasn't sure if it mattered. They had made progress, albeit slow and steady. All he wanted in that moment was to hold her close and feel her heart beat against his, feeling more content than he could ever remember feeling in his entire life.

Gently, she released the hand she had pinned above his head, drawing her fingers against his cheek as she watched the play of emotion over his face. It was wondrous to look upon, to watch him stagger from bliss to contentment and know that she had been a part of making it happen. The straying caress of his fingers at her hip made her giggle softly, biting back the laughter as she kissed him once again.

He quirked an almost sleepy, lazy smirk at the giggle, which was all too girlish and almost innocent to his ears. "What's so funny?" he asked, though he suspected she was only a little bit ticklish. It was perhaps the first time he'd heard her laugh and really sound like she might be happy.

She shook her head, her eyes alight with something she was unexpectedly sure was happiness. "Nothing I can explain," she admitted, nuzzling to him, unafraid to share a little more affection in the wake of what they had already shared.

"Mmm," he murmured as he slid his arms around her, needing to hold her close and feel the warmth and softness of her body against his. It was strange to know that she was not some wayward lover who would disappear in the morning, but a woman he had taken to his heart and made his wife. A bird with a broken wing that was slowly learning how to fly again. He reached for the blanket, tucking it carefully around her as he held her close, content to remain that way as long as she desired. "You should sleep," he told her quietly. And this time, she would not disappear from his bed or his arms because he was right there with her.

Drawn close against him beneath the comforting weight of the blanket, she nestled into his arms, hesitating only once as she raised her head to meet his eyes. "I ... was it good?"

Good. Now there was a word that fell pitifully short of what they'd just shared together. "Wine is good. Food is good, but there are no words to describe love," he told her, unafraid to use that words in association with them and with what had just happened between them.

She slithered to his side, curling close inside the tuck of his arm beneath the blanket. "But ... it was a good kind of not describing-ness?" she asked uncertainly. She knew how it had felt to her, and knew she would not be able to put into words just how wonderful it had been, how wonderful it still felt with the lingering thrum in her blood. But what of him?

"Yes, it was good," he assured her, turning his head to brush a kiss against her temple. It was more than good, but he could think of no words to describe it.

She beamed, unable to hide that glowing response to knowing that she had done something right, finally. Not even her soft yawn could wipe the smile off her face as she laid her brow into the crook of his neck, seeking and accepting the safety and security he offered her. "I will have good dreams," she murmured, brushing her lips against his skin.

He smiled, happy he could at least give her that. Maybe he couldn't take away the hurts of the past, but he could at least give her a fresh start and a reason to go on. There wasn't much more he could ask for than that.
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