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in the in-between

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It’s quiet in the room, but not melancholy – calm, serene. Paige is huddled against Alicia’s chest, exhausted, and Alicia pulls her closer, holds her tighter. She knows how Paige is feeling just as well as she knows what it’s like to be the one who took Paige there: sometimes, it’s both Alicia and Paige that Nikki attends to after a scene.

Not tonight, though. Tonight, it’s only Paige who’s been pushed out of one comfort zone and into an entirely different one, and Alicia is so, so proud of her. They both are, both always make sure she knows it. It’s the best feeling, Nikki says, to be bursting with that kind of pride over both what someone else managed to achieve and over what you pushed them to be capable of. Paige thinks it’s the opposite: to have somebody be that proud of her. Alicia isn’t sure which she likes better. She glows either way.

Nikki appears in the doorway, back from clearing up after the scene in the adjacent bedroom. It’s not exactly a playroom, but it serves that purpose just fine.

“Hey,” she says, voice soft, not taking another step into the room but hovering by the door instead. “How is she?”

Alicia reaches a hand out to stroke Paige’s cheek, and Paige smiles, leaning into the touch with a sigh.

“She’s good,” Alicia tells Nikki. “Come over.”

Nikki does, sitting beside Alicia on the bed.

“Who do you want, Paige?” she asks, even though she already knows the answer: Paige nuzzles into Alicia even more. “OK,” Nikki continues, understanding. If both of them have been domming Paige, Paige tends to gravitate towards Alicia afterwards. Nikki used to feel a little upset by that, used to think it meant that she did something wrong, but now she gets it. It’s because Alicia gets it, because she understands how Paige feels, how she and Nikki made her feel.