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my heart on my sleeve

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The burn on Sarah’s arm is clumsy and awkward, stretching from her sensitive inner forearm over to the top of her wrist. A caramel gone awry, and not even hers; she had been situated in the corner of the beautiful kitchen, her sugar lacework growing before her eyes for a new window piece, when poor Gregory slipped on a stray splatter of milk and sent his pot of caramel onto the countertop. A swath of it flew through the air and streaked over her arms; she always pushes up her sleeves for intricate sugar work, and it has never backfired so quickly before.

The mess wasn’t so terrible to clean up, and Philippe himself helped her with the burn cream and gauze for her arm. Only two of her bright gold sugar pieces had to be scrapped. Philippe had offered to send her home early, but she stayed through her shift, and completed all her sugar work for the day. She had worked through worse.

But when she arrives home at eight in the evening, home to Patrick’s (and hers, she supposes she needs to get used to the stamp of ownership on his space and his person that she has) apartment, she is tired and hungry and the sting of the burn is all she can think about. The apartment is dark and empty and she’s sad for just a moment before she carefully shrugs out of her sweat-soaked clothes and tosses them in the laundry hamper. Paris is beautiful outside the wide windows, Notre Dame lit up from within and from the last vestiges of a purple-orange spring sunset.

Sarah slips into one of Patrick’s t-shirts and curls up on top of the white sheets in bed. She winces as she peels the gauze from her arm, to air the burn. it’s already shiny-pink, and she knows it could have been much worse. All she wants is a shower, but she can’t negotiate it alone with the awkward positioning of the burn, and besides she’s so tired. A happy tired, but still. She shuts her eyes, her arm flung over the edge of the bed delicately. Just for a moment, she thinks.

When she next opens her eyes, the bed is heavy with someone else’s weight.

“Hello,” Patrick says, mouth turned down in a frown. His broad hand slips under the elbow of her burned arm, holding it up.

She blinks, glancing at the clock in the kitchen. Nine pm. “You’re early.”

“I’m the boss,” he says with a shrug. “I leave when I need to.”

The hotel is alway busy in spring, late into the evenings. Perhaps he is giving Noe more of a chance to take control. Patrick doesn’t plan on being at the Leuce forever; they have too many burgeoning plans to make together. But she still needs practice, and he still loves his work; so as she works under Philippe, he has taken over the pastry kitchen at the Leuce for Luc, and is adding more consulting jobs to his list as well.

They’re happy, she thinks with sudden clarity. They’re tired and see each other in the evenings and on their one shared day off a week, but they’re happy. She has her space, and he has his joy.

She smiles sleepily, turning onto her side. Her body curls around his where he sits on the edge of the bed. “I’m glad you’re home,” she tells him. She’s learned he needs to hear it, to absorb its importance; just as she asked him to articulate, so she does as well.

Those deep blue eyes gleam at her. His thumb strokes her elbow, steering clear of the edges of her burn. “What happened here, Sarabelle?”

“Caramel,” she says with a sigh, wrinkling her nose at the injury. “Not mine. An accident.”

He makes a soft, thoughtful sound in the back of his throat. Even in his sweaty, kitchen-immersed clothes, he is still a handsome man. And he is hers. “Does it hurt?”

She shakes her head stubbornly. “It’s fine.”

Now he smiles, a wry little curve of his lips. His fingers shift away from her arm to her hand, feeling the cool metal, sapphire, and pearl of her engagement ring. They picked it out together a month ago, and she wears it almost always. A mix of old and new, it feels like no added weight on her hand.

“You are happy there?” he asks.

The query brings her up short. It is the first time he has since she began working there in March, after a week’s vacation in which she and Patrick went to California to meet her family. Her mother loved him immediately and had bountiful amounts of home-cooked food at the ready as soon as they stepped off the plane. It had nearly brought Sarah to tears once again.

She looks at him carefully, linking her fingers in with his. Patrick fakes his indifference with blessed ease. Sometimes, she still has to extract the nut of truth behind his easy smiles and careless questions.

“I’m happy here,” she says at last, bringing his hand to her mouth to kiss. “Burns and all. I’m happy here.”

He smiles then, a true Patrick smile just for her. “I love you,” he says. It warms her right through, softens her aching limbs into a perfect nothing.

“Enough to help me shower?” she teases.

He sighs in mock-exasperation. “I suppose.”

She giggles as he scoops her into his arms and carries her towards the bathroom, gentle with her arm even as he kisses down the line of her throat. Tired as she is, as he must be, they are still perfectly careful with each other. They’ve earned it.