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“You have to consider the applications of quartz, in this case,” Tris says, opening her book and flipping through the pages while Alen tugs at his hair in frustration.

“I’ll never learn this before our test,” he groans, covering his face.

“Not with that attitude, you won’t,” Tris says bracingly, and pushes the book in his direction. “Here,” she says, pointing at the section in question. “Read this part over again while I take a look at your paper.”

Two doors down, in Tris’s room, Briar lets out a sound of frustration; it’s nearly inaudible, but the wind helpfully carries it out her window and back in through Alen’s, right to her ear and nowhere else, the way they both knew it would.

Trouble? Tris asks blandly and touches the edges of Briar’s mind, enough to get a sense of his building need, a flash of his hand stroking down his own bare chest, scraping over his nipples; he tugs at his own hair and says, squirming on the bed, Tell that ninny to hurry up and learn already.

Ninny? You liked him well enough last time you met him, Tris says, making notes in the margins of Alen’s paper.

Last time, he wasn’t keeping you from—oh, Briar breaks off, strokes himself again, continues, from me.

Slower, Tris says sharply, when she feels Briar drawing too close to the edge, and even as he growls at her in frustration and slows his strokes, he lights up inside when he listens. Like this, they have no secrets from each other.

And he isn’t keeping me from you, she continues, rubbing an ink splotch on her finger. I’ll come to you when I’m good and ready.

Heat kicks in his stomach at that, hard; he lets her feel it. Tris presses her hands against the table and wills her flush away.

“Wait, can you just—” Alen says, and she spends the next ten minutes teaching him before returning to marking up his paper, and all the while Briar puts his hands on himself and tells her how he’s waiting for her, like she’d asked, drives her heart to thump rapidly in her chest.

The heat of Briar’s mind is like swallowing sunlight. Tris sinks herself into him, keeping enough outside awareness to ensure Alen notices nothing amiss; when Briar turns his head to rest it on her pillow, the coolness of the pillowcase touches her own cheek; he bites down on his lip and she feels the sting; he touches the head of his cock, shudders, licks his fingers, and Tris’s mouth flushes wet in response.

Tris, Briar says, distinctly a plea this time, Tris, Tris, Tris; and he’s asking in words and in body both, but she knows he loves doing this on her terms. She could make him wait an hour more, if she wanted.

She has nothing like the patience that would require.

A hand touches Tris’s wrist, jolting her out of their twined minds; she blinks at Alen, who is eyeing her with some concern.

“Are you feeling well?” Alen asks. “You’ve gone a bit flushed.”

“I’m feeling a little warm,” Tris says, and gathers her things, rising to her feet. “I think I’ll lie down in my room for a while; you can keep that book until you’re done. Do you think you’ll be fine, now?”

Alen nods gratefully, and Tris waves off his thanks and leaves, walks halfway down the hall to her room and stops outside the door.

Evil, Briar says in her mind, terrible, terrible girl, and Tris smiles, unlocks the door and walks inside.

The look of him, stretched out on her bed, one hand around his cock and the other running over his chest—she shuts the door behind her and locks it again, all without turning to see, because she couldn’t take her eyes from him for all the world.

“About time,” Briar says, voice strangled, grinning at her a little helplessly. He’s beautiful and driven to near-distraction, breath hitching audibly when she kisses the corner of his mouth. She touches him with the tips of her fingers alone, rests them in the hollow of his throat to feel him swallow, scrapes her short nails carefully over his quivering stomach.

You love this, Tris says, cool and certain, and his voice breaks when she finally wraps her hand around his cock, setting a rhythm that carries him rapidly over the edge as she watches him fall apart.

Briar grins up at her when she wipes her hand on the sheet, flushed and satisfied, eyes sparkling even greener than usual. He links his arms beneath his head and lingers in a feline, full-bodied stretch, fully aware of the effect of the sunlight filtering over his golden-brown skin and the lines of his lean muscles.

Tris considers prodding him somewhere tender for his swelled head, but refrains; call her sentimental, but it’s been a month with him gone to help Rosethorn with her medicine stores, and it felt far longer than that.

Miss me, Coppercurls? Briar asks, something teasing and pleased unfurling in his mind as he looks up at her through his lashes, reaching out to curl his fingers around her wrist.

Tris looks at him for a moment, before she runs her fingers over his mouth, down the line of his throat, all the way down to his stomach still wet with his release; a frank and unhesitating caress that has him shifting under her hand for more.

“Silly boy,” she tells him, voice shivering with open fondness, and bends down to kiss him in answer.