The lights that they dimmed are enough to echo the lateness of the hour and to give the impression of Earth’s night despite the perennial darkness of space beyond the window and the harsh brightness of the corridor. With her laid out before him in the center of his bed, sheets and blankets twisted into the pile they have been kicked into at the foot, and a smile playing over her mouth, he decides he is content with the inability to tell the time from the glow of the sky or the sounds of the city, the stillness of the ship and consistency of the subdued light lending themselves to the sense that for this night, in this room, time is not passing.
Illogical, he acknowledges, fanciful and irrational. He hooks a finger under the length of hair that spreads across her bare breast, pushes it over her shoulder and watches as her smile widens, her eyes blinking slowly under his touch.
“And this one?” he asks, his finger next pressed to a mark on her knee.
“Learning to ride a bike.” Her skin is as soft there as it is everywhere else and he feels a tendon move as she shifts. The scar is not large, only a tiny sliver. She points to a longer one halfway up her thigh and he touches that as well, then covers it with his palm, his fingers wrapping around the top of her leg. “That one is from that training exercise out in Yellowstone. I slipped and fell on a stick.” Her nose wrinkles slightly. “I wish it were a better story.”
She licks at her lips when his fingers trace up her thigh and despite how her hips shift against the bed, he continues the path upwards, counting out her ribs with a fingertip pressed to each one, finding the softness at the inside of her elbow, the hard and delicate ridge of her collarbone. Along her waist, a light touch pressed there makes her squirm and he follows the movement of her body as she twists on the sheet, her hand slapping lightly at his side in what he assumes is a signal to stop. He does, but not before she laughs, her stomach tightening and every muscle there tensing with the motion.
“You are ticklish,” he states, her nod a confirmation of that new fact. She catches her bottom lip between her teeth as she continues to smile at him and he looks away only to examine the spot on her skin that elicited such a reaction.
“Don’t,” she instructs when she correctly guesses his desire to touch there once again.
He does not, but his fingers do find a similar place higher on her ribs, her response stronger this time with how she twists away. The sound of her laugh is one he has grown accustomed too, but the sight of it written out in her body remains new, something to be studied, categorized, and committed to memory as details he once did not even know to wonder about and now contribute to his ever expanding knowledge of her, filled in here with these hours spent in his bed, the meals they have shared together, and their lengthy and winding conversations that serve to add to his understanding of the intricate details of her. With each interaction it seems that there is always more to uncover, features to her that leaves him wondering if he will ever understand her completely or if it will always be like this, every new fact learned uncovering a new question to ask.
Her skin is damp with sweat and when he bends to kiss next to her navel, it is tacky under his lips and tastes of salt. Her fingers scratch through his hair and he stays there for longer than he had intended, ignoring how his back protests at the position in favor of her nails light against his scalp and how her thumb rubs at a spot behind his ear that causes his eyes to fall shut.
He moves only when he hears her yawn, but she is already shaking her head, answering the question he has yet to voice as to whether she would prefer to finally sleep.
“Come here,” she says when she drops her hand where she has pressed the back of her palm to her mouth. Her kiss is soft and slow when he meets her halfway, her propped up on an elbow and him kneeling over her. She lays back again when he shifts further forward and kisses him harder and more insistent when he switches from lightly stroking over her stomach to firmly palming her waist, the top of her thigh, down to her knee and then back up again, her leg rising into his touch. Her knee falls outward when he presses at her inner thigh, her teeth catching at his lip. She breaks their kiss when his fingers find her, her throat working in a swallow and her head falling back into the pillow.
So too is there more to learn with this, every movement of his eliciting a reaction in hers, some that he is able to anticipate and yet always the possibility of an undiscovered response. With a touch here, her breath hitches, and there, she draws in a short, sharp inhale. He slicks his thumb, presses and her chin tips up towards the ceiling, her mouth working soundlessly. Her hips shift against the bed, moving with his touch. The stimulation to his fingers is enough that he has fisted his other hand into the sheets without realizing it, only loosening his grip when the strain is enough to be noticeable above the unfurling, coiling pleasure that has taken up residence in his hand, his stomach. He wonders if he will ever grow used to this and in the moment that the thought coalesces he immediately dismisses it, not as he might once have due to an uncertainty as to the enduring possibility of their future together, but the categorically unequivocal reason that to do so would be impossible.
He is studying the sight of his hand on her, in her, fingers wet in the dim light, when he feels her eyes on him. Her hand pats at his shoulder, curves around the back of his arm and pulls him forward. There is a familiarity with this that takes him aback, the slide of her knee up his side, the grip of her thighs at his waist anticipated and expected, perhaps even before he knew to predict it. He is well acquainted with breath she lets out against his cheek when he pushes into her, as is he to the heat that immediately takes up residence at the base of his spine. He might have expected it to be more muted now, less insistent and unremitting, but repeated exposure to the stimulation that seems to be firing all of his synapses at once in a way that leaves him reeling, seems inadequate to diminish the need that crests in waves and breaks through him with every movement within her.
Her hands knead through his hair and her leg tightens over his waist and he bends to kiss her, attempting to focus on the progression of sounds she makes, how her body begins to tremble, controlling his own response to her skin pressed to his and how her hips move with him, and also the necessity of breathing. When the latter becomes too pressing of a demand, he drops his head to the pillow next to hers and listens to the soft gasp against his ear, the low, cut off whine that follows it. It is a sound he has heard before, one that he has memorized and long remembered, the timber and pitch unique as it is to her. His previous familiarity to it does not lessen his focus on it now, and serves only to center his attention upon it and the accompanying way in which her fingers scrabble at his back and her entire body tightens.
Afterwards, when he has stilled and his breath has yet to even out, her legs do not loosen from their hold on his waist. Her hand cups the back of his neck, the other sweeps down his back, up again, and down once more. She presses a kiss to his cheek, the corner of his jaw, down the side of his neck to his shoulder where her lips touch over and over. He knows there will be no mark there in the morning, not from the soft touch of her mouth on him, but that does not outweigh his certainty that he will bear signs of tonight all the same, laid down deep within him, immutable and fixed, lasting in a way that he might once have believed impossible and now carries with it a surety of the future he still finds difficult to truly comprehend, no matter how confident he is of it.