Nicole swung her legs over the side of the bed, gripping the edges of the bed in her fists, shoulders slumped forward slightly. She lifted her head yawning and blinking sleepily as her eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light in the room. Judging from the golden rays seeping through the shades, it was probably early afternoon. That means she had gotten at least four hours of sleep, an improvement.
She pushed herself off the bed, making sure to not disturb the other sleeping inhabitant of her bed. She stretched, groaning slightly at the stretch in her arms and rib cage. She glanced down at her chest, a small smile twitching at the corner of her mouth. The bruises littering her collarbone and the underside of her breasts were ample proof of just how energetic and needy Waverly could be.
She puffed her chest out a little in pride, happy that she could make her Omega want her so much. She knew that not all Alphas liked being marked, believing it made them submissive, powerless, weak. But her Alpha Aunt had taught her, since she was young, that to be an Alpha was no excuse to be violent and possessive, that Alphas weren’t created to rule, but to serve their Omegas. It was an alien philosophy in their world, but one she believed in whole-heartedly. She had seen too many times, Alphas who “lost” control, abusing their Omegas, painting their flesh in purples and dark blues; and using their Alpha biology as an excuse. She frowned and shook her head, vowing again for the hundredth time, that she would never do that to Waverly.
She’d looked up to her Aunt her entire life, and had tried to model her life after her Aunt’s, and she hoped that she would be proud of her now, proud that Nicole had taken her lessons and applied them to her own life.
To be an Alpha is to serve, Nikkie. You weren’t created to rule with an iron fist, to take what you want from omegas, to give in to the animal instinct that is within us all. You were created to nurture and love and protect your omega, to serve them. A strong leader serves those they love, sacrifices for them, empowers them. Empower your omega, serve them, and they will love you in ways you couldn’t imagine.
She smiled at the memory, before turning her attention to getting up for the day, or at least for a few hours. She shuffled around the room looking for her clothing, wincing slightly at the pull in her muscles, and the awkward first few steps of trying to walk with an extra appendage between her legs. She huffed in irritation, never quite getting used to growing a member during her rut and Waverly’s heat. She knew some female alphas gloried in it, and wished it was more permanent, but for her it was simply a part of her anatomy that arrived a few times a year, and she didn’t particularly miss it the rest of the year.
She finally found her pants in the dim light, but then threw them back onto the chair, deciding instead to wear soft cotton shorts. She pulled them out of her drawer and slipped into them. She grabbed a t-shirt, but hesitated, blushing slightly at the thought of not putting it on. She wasn’t really one for walking around nude or even partially nude, but it was her house. She put the t-shirt back, blushing again, glad Waverly was still sleeping and hadn’t seen her.
She took a deep breath, feeling slightly self-conscious about being topless. She shook her head again, rolling her eyes at her own prudishness. She turned back to the bed, gazing at her omega asleep on her belly, arms tucked under the pillow. She leaned down, her fingers gently brushing against Waverly’s cheek. She let her gaze travel down the slim back to the sheet that was pulled up to Waverly’s waist. She kissed her arm softly, smiling at the way Waverly wrinkled her nose, and pressed her face deeper into the pillow.
She walked down the stairs and into the kitchen, turning on the coffee pot, relieved she’d remembered to fill it yesterday between their rather energetic sessions of…fucking. She wrinkled her nose. She didn’t really like to think of making love to Waverly as fucking, although what else would you call it when you bent your Omega over the table and fucked her until she squealed. She blushed again at the reminder of what they’d done to the various pieces of furniture in the house. She had a lot of cleaning ahead of her.
She glanced down at her feet, smiling at the grumpy face of Calamity Cat.
“Hi, Calamity. Guess we kept you up with all our noise?” She chuckled at the cat who simply glared at her, flicking her tail a little too fast to indicate anything nice. “Well, now you know how I feel when you leave dead mice in my boots. It’s rude.”
She laughed again as Calamity pointedly turned her back on Nicole, giving her a nice view of her butt. “You’re such an asshole,” she muttered, affection tainting each word.
“I know you want to bed fed,” she walked over to the pantry and grabbed the bag of cat food, filling her bowl the usual amount. When Calamity simply stared at her, flicking her tail a little faster, Nicole rolled her eyes. “Fine. I get it. You’re pissed at all the noise last night, and you want more food to make up for it. Fine.”
She rummaged through the pantry and pulled out a can of Fancy Feast White Fish. She opened it and scooped a spoonful on top of the dry food.
“Ugh. Fine.” She scooped another spoonful on top of the food, rolling her eyes again as Calamity stalked past her, and finally deigned to eat.
She grabbed a spare lid for the can and put it in the fridge, leaning on the door as she glanced inside wondering what to make Waverly. They’d eaten all the steak and French fries last night, eaten most of the cereal. Oatmeal? No, not oatmeal. Waverly needed protein and a lot of it. Her body needed almost three times the usual calories as her heat burned through her body. And she needed protein also. She figured that they had a least another full day of her heat, and then it would taper off and be gone in another day and half or so.
Eggs. Eggs were good. She grabbed the double carton and the small glass jug of milk. She would make scrambled eggs. And bacon. She was sure she still had bacon in the freezer. She pulled open the freezer door, pushed aside the Ben & Jerry’s containers of ice cream, making a mental note that she was almost out of Waverly’s favorite, and needed to by some from the delicatessen in town. It took a moment, but she finally found the pound of bacon. She set it on the counter with the rest of the items. Thankfully the delicatessen had layered each piece with wax paper, so she could easily pull off each frozen piece.
She flicked on the small radio on the counter, smiling at the opening notes to one of her favorite Civil War songs. She hummed while she cooked, putting the bacon in the oven to make it crispy just the way Waverly liked it. She cracked ten eggs into a bowl and added freshly chopped chives, and whisked in some milk. Soon she dumped the mixture into two cast iron skillets, continuing to hum quietly as she started to sway to the music.
“Well, this is a beautiful sight.”
She gasped and spun around, flushing at being caught. But she soon forgot her embarrassment at the sight of Waverly wearing her uniform shirt, unbuttoned to almost her navel. If Nicole was capable of any rational thought at the moment, she would have hazarded a guess that Waverly was wearing nothing else but that shirt and an amused smile.
She stepped forward, pulled by an irresistible force, that she had no intention of ever fighting. She felt slightly dazed as she wrapped her arms around Waverly, burying her nose in the other girl’s tousled hair. She inhaled deeply through her mouth, shivering at the scent of Waverly’s dormant heat sliding across her tongue. She pressed tightly against Waverly, trying not to shudder at the feel of Waverly’s arms wrapping around her.
She turned her head and pressed a kiss to Waverly’s cheek, her jaw, her nose. She purred in contentment, shifting and relaxing more of her weight in Waverly’s arms, having learned that despite her short stature, her girlfriend was very strong and capable of bearing Nicole’s weight.
Waverly whirred in contentment, enjoying the feel of Nicole relaxing against her, proud of the way the alpha trusted her enough to bear some of her physical weight. Nicole had the bad habit of worrying that she was hurting or burdening Waverly, when the opposite was true.
She slid her hands up Nicole’s back, smiling at the way the alpha purred and pressed into her. She mapped her skin, her fingers skating lightly over the small scratch marks on Nicole’s back. The first time she’d ever marked Nicole like that, she’d been afraid of how she would react, their relationship still so new. But she should have known that Nicole would bear the marks in pride, delighting in the fact that she could make her omega feel safe and aroused enough to scratch her.
She could feel Nicole’s breasts pressing into her, and as much as she wanted to touch them, let her fingers skate over her nipples and watch them pucker, taste them with her tongue, her heat sensitive nose picked up another smell.
“Babe, the eggs.”
She gasped and pulled out of Waverly’s arms, spinning back around to the stove, and grabbing the skillets to move them off the heat. She yelped the moment her hands closed around the handles, having forgotten the potholders. She cursed, stepping back and shaking her hands, relieved when Waverly stepped in and grabbed the potholders and quickly moved the eggs off the heat, saving them just in time.
“Bacon. Bacon is in the oven,” she managed to mutter as she blew on her hands, trying not to whimper.
Waverly nodded and pulled out the bacon setting it on the counter, before finally turning back around to Nicole, who was blushing again. She held out her hands and waited a moment until Nicole got the hint and placed her hangs in Waverly’s, palms up.
Waverly winced at the reddened skin, relieved though that Nicole wasn’t badly burned. “You need to run your hands under cold water.”
Nicole shrugged and shook her head, avoiding Waverly’s glare. “They’re fine.” She was an Alpha for god’s sake. Alphas didn’t whimper over small burns on their hands.
Waverly barely refrained from rolling her eyes. Nicole was not the typical alpha, for which she was eternally grateful, but every now and then Nicole chose a moment to act like a stubborn, macho alpha, and this was obviously one of them. She knew it was that Nicole was more embarrassed than anything, but she wasn’t going to let her girlfriend not look after her hands.
“Babe, I know you’re tough and strong, and I love you, but you need to run your hands under cold water, so the burns heal.” She watched as Nicole flexed her jaw, her lips thinning slightly, and she pulled out her ace card, knowing that Nicole would cave.
She stepped closer and leaned down, gingerly kissing Nicole’s palms before looking up at her, “Besides, I’m invested in these hands. I need them to be healthy and strong and tender.”
She watched, as predicted, as Nicole’s shoulders slumped slightly but then her tall deputy was already nodding and moving towards the sink before Waverly could even smile at her victory. She had learned rather quickly that Nicole would do anything to make her happy, to make sure she felt loved and safe, and Waverly knew it gave her immense power over Nicole, probably more power than most omegas possessed. And she also knew it didn’t take much for her to hurt Nicole, to turn her into a wounded puppy desperately seeking Waverly’s love. And Waverly had vowed to never abuse her power, to never make Nicole feel unsure, unloved, or weak.
She knew the alpha worried sometimes that she was weak, that she was different. She had very little desire to possess Waverly, although she did get jealous when other alphas tried to sniff around the omega, but her jealousy was always eclipsed by her desire to keep Waverly safe. She simply wanted to care for Waverly, love her, protect her, cherish her.
She smiled and turned towards one of the cupboards, pulling out plates and cups. She set them on the table and reached for the skillets to ladle out the eggs, when two hands wrapped around her own.
“No, you sit. I got it.”
She knew it was no use arguing, so she simply nodded and sat down at the table, smirking when she remembered what they’d done yesterday on the table. She supposed they would need to scrub down the house, but that could wait.
She looked up when she heard the soft pad of Nicole’s feet, and she grinned when she saw the plate piled high with fluffy eggs, bacon, fried tomato, and a huge glass of milk to wash it all down. She immediately dug in, forgoing proper table etiquette in order to sate her hunger. Her heat was hard on her body, demanding perpetual sustenance from various sources, and previous heats without Nicole had left her too thin and weak.
She glanced up mid-bite at the small chuckle from Nicole, having the grace to blush at the way she was wolfing down her food. But her slight embarrassment soon turned to concern when she realized that Nicole had given her most of the eggs and bacon.
“Babe, is that all you’re eating?” But she knew the answer before Nicole even opened her mouth, and she was already standing with her plate, determined to share her eggs and bacon.
“Waves, no. I’m fine. You need it more than I do.” Nicole put down her fork and raised her hands, in an attempt to shoo Waverly back to her seat, but she recognized the look in Waverly’s eye, knowing it was probably useless to argue with her. Instead, she slid back her chair a little and caught Waverly around the waist.
“Waves, you need to maintain your strength. The more food you eat, the less pain you feel from the heat cramps.” She leaned forward, ducking her head under the plate of food in Waverly’s hands, and kissed Waverly’s belly. She could smell her simmering heat, slowly building. The energy from the food worked to help soothe cramps and pain, but it also increased the omega’s arousal.
Waverly snorted and dug her fingers into Nicole’s hair, tugging slightly to pull her girlfriend away from her belly. She set her plate down next to Nicole’s, and then pushed the alpha back into the chair, before turning and sitting in Nicole’s lap.
“We eat it all together,” she stated, her tone clearly indicating that Nicole was not to argue with her but simply agree.
And with her arms full of the woman she loved, Nicole could only happily agree. It didn’t take long for them to finish eating, despite the number of interruptions to kiss and touch each other’s skin, let their fingers skate close wet heat, and the longer it went on, the more Waverly squirmed in Nicole’s lap.
Waverly pushed the plates away, her hunger pangs satiated for the moment, knowing it was time to focus on another type of hunger. She turned in Nicole’s lap, straddling her legs and wrapped her arms around Nicole’s neck. She could feel her slick starting, the heat simmering in her belly, and she ground down into Nicole’s lap, smirking at the way the alpha whimpered. She could feel Nicole’s cock growing, and as much as she was looking forward to Nicole filling her, there was something else she wanted first.
Her eyes fluttered shut at the feel of Nicole’s mouth on her neck, the delicate kisses whispering down and across her collarbone. She shuddered, wanting nothing more than to give in to the promise of all that Nicole would give her, but this other need, this…thing…growing in her belly and muscles, pushing and demanding to be heard…now more than ever was the right time.
She was well aware of the fact that Nicole wasn’t a typical alpha. While she was strong and sometimes dominating and more controlling in bed during Waverly’s heat, it was always built upon tenderness. She was always cautious, handling Waverly gently, more gently than Waverly sometimes appreciated.
And now there was just one thing she wanted from Nicole: submission.
She smiled at the picture Nicole made, legs spread wide, weight resting on her elbows and knees, her cheek pressed into the pillow. She could tell from the rigidity of Nicole’s spine that she was a little apprehensive. She shifted closer, strapon bobbing between her legs. She’d used it on Nicole before, but never like this, never when she was in heat and when Nicole was in a partial rut, and certainly never in her ass.
She leaned forward, pressing her belly into Nicole’s bottom and leaned down pressing warm kisses along the nobs of her spine. She let her tongue slide along the ridge, caressing each tiny valley, swirling her tongue across each small protrusion. She gripped Nicole’s hips, her fingers digging into her smooth flesh, not enough to hurt, but to remind Nicole that she was the one now in control.
Waverly took a deep breath focusing on the inhale and slow, measured exhale. She could feel her heat rising through her muscles, resting just under her skin. She needed to remain in control, long enough to not turn into a whimpering, trembling mess that would simply lay down and show her belly to her Alpha.
They’d talked about this before, exploring this aspect of their relationship, experimenting with what it meant to be dominant or submissive. She leaned down, pressing her mouth against the curve of Nicole’s bottom, scraping her teeth gently along the soft skin. She placed her hands on top of Nicole’s bottom, pressing her cheeks outward.
It was small and pink, slightly wrinkled. She leaned down and pressed her tongue against it, smiling at the slight soapy taste. She rolled her eyes, not surprised that when Nicole was freshening up, she made sure to freshen everything. She licked the crease, marveling at how soft and delicate the skin was. She pressed kisses along her crease, licking gently, and pressing her tongue firmly against her opening, coaxing it gently to relax enough to open.
She pulled, chuckling when Nicole gave a displeased grunt. She kneaded the muscles of Nicole’s bottom, enjoying how firm and taught they were in her hands. She picked up the bottle of lube, squirting a healthy amount in her hand and then slicking the shaft of the strapon with it. She squeezed another dollop onto Nicole, smiling a little when Nicole flinched, before leaning down and kissing the curves of her cheeks.
“Are you ok, babe?”
Once Nicole nodded, she used her fingers to spread the lube around, gently caressing the tiny pucker. They’d talked about this, agreed that they both wanted to explore it, but she was still a little surprised that Nicole had agreed to do it now, when her Alpha was most in control; and she could appreciate how hard it must have been for Nicole to rein herself in, and allow herself to submit so completely to Waverly.
She reached between Nicole’s legs, her slightly sticky fingers sliding along Nicole’s member. It was softer than it would have normally been with Waverly’s heat growing between them, but she understood it for what it was, nervousness at the unknown. She trailed her fingers along it, smiling when Nicole shifted and spread her legs a little further apart.
She squeezed Nicole’s hip, her other hand finding the shaft of the strapon. She rose up on her knees, pressing closer to Nicole, “Ready?”
She felt Nicole shift, saw her head nod slightly. “I need to hear you say it, Nic.” When Nicole said nothing, she sat back on her heels. “It’s ok, we don’t have to.”
“No! I do. Sorry,” Nicole chuckled weakly. “A little nervous. My alpha isn’t overly pleased.” She pushed up on her elbows, looking over her shoulder. “I want to.”
Sometimes to serve means to submit. We submit to show that we understand the battle of our biology, how a strong omega can be brought to their knees by biology. And we can offer this freely as our greatest act of love.
Nicole took a deep breath, closing her eyes, her aunt’s words whispering across her mind. She sank back down to the bed, her stomach a tight knot. And when she felt the firm pressure against her, she stiffened and then forced herself to relax. She licked her lips, her spine still slightly rigid, her fingers pressing into the mattress.
Waverly waited a moment, watched as Nicole’s spine slowly softened, before pressing the blunt head against her again and pushed slowly, but firmly. And she gasped when the head popped inside of Nicole, and she stilled herself, her breath ratcheting upwards more than she would have guessed from the simple act. She grasped Nicole’s hips, squeezing as she pushed forward, letting an inch of the shaft sink into Nicole, before slowly pulling back out until just the tip rested against Nicole. She pressed in again, and pulled back again, sinking in just a little further each time.
Waverly bit her lip, watching as the shaft slowly disappeared into Nicole, a little at a time. She was surprised at the desire to simply keep pushing forward, the desire to not take her time, but to try and possess Nicole as quickly as possible. Her heat was flaring, and she could feel the sweat gathering at the nape of her neck, her slicks forming between her thighs. She shivered, pulling out again, but still leaving an inch or so inside of Nicole. She squeezed her hips firmly, and pressed forward, this time not stopping, until she bottomed out inside of Nicole. She rubbed Nicole’s lower back, whispering and cooing to her under her breath, until she could feel the tight muscles start to relax.
Nicole whimpered when the head popped inside, her stomach roiling at the flash of pain, her body automatically seizing slightly. Her body immediately tried to resist, push the foreign object out, but when she pushed, she felt Waverly sink deeper into her. She stiffened, and then relaxed as she felt Waverly withdraw, and she took deep breaths, exhaling slowly. She groaned when she felt Waverly sink back into her, hesitating and withdrawing, trying to find an rhythm, until she pressed fully inside not stopping until she’d bottomed out.
It hurt, but the pain quickly faded as her body started to adjust to the burning stretch, and soon she simply felt full. She pressed her face into the pillow, her stomach still in a hard knot, her chest aching with the struggle to regulate her breathing. But she relaxed the moment she felt Waverly’s hands on her lower back, rubbing her hard muscles, whispering soft words that she couldn’t really hear.
She inhaled deeply, her mouth watering as she could smell Waverly’s building heat. She shifted restlessly on the bed, her Alpha stirring and pacing, not used to feeling so unsure and apprehensive. She pushed back against Waverly, searching for something, groaning as Waverly shifted inside her. She panted lightly, feeling her cock starting to harden.
Waverly smirked at Nicole’s groan, but when she pushed back against Waverly, searching and pressing, Waverly felt her stomach drop in excitement. She started to move, realizing it was what Nicole was seeking. She was all too familiar with the unsettled burning in the stomach, the cold ache of morning frost rooting inside the body, and the body intuitively searching for more, but not knowing what it was.
She pulled back just enough to push forward, soon picking up a gentle rhythm, as she withdrew and then thrust gently inch by inch inside of Nicole. She could feel her excitement building, the heat burning in her stomach. She groaned as she felt Nicole start to push back more against her, and her slick started to drip down the inside of her thighs. Her omega growled, not quite understanding why it was the one in power, but starting to relish it all the same.
She could feel her own growing need to be filled, the emptiness of her omega starting to breathe, but it was a shadow of it’s normal self, as she pumped inside of Nicole, her hips slapping against her ass. She gripped Nicole’s hips harder, and she could feel the sweat glistening on her skin. She could smell Nicole, her rut mixing with her own heat, and she opened her mouth, drawing in the taste of her. She scraped her tongue against her teeth, swallowing the sharp edges of Nicole’s pheromones.
She felt dizzy, her mind fuzzy, as she continued to pump. She felt almost disconnected until she heard Nicole whispering her name, chanting it quietly. She slid her hand between Nicole’s legs, and found her wet cock. She pumped the shaft, her fingers grazing the throbbing head as it spilled pre-cum.
Nicole groaned, her hands digging into the mattress as she panted for air. She couldn’t move, her limbs shaking and growing heavier by the moment. She was trapped in an endless burning cycle that plucked at her nerves, each thrust causing the heat inside of bottom to intensify and build inside of her pelvis. She could feel her cock leaking, and she wanted to grab it, pump it until she came, but she didn’t have the strength to do it, to caught up in each thrust and slide of Waverly deep inside of her.
The hard knot in her belly unraveled in a slither of heat, and she whispered Waverly’s name, chanting it in time to each snap of Waverly’s hips. And when Waverly reached between her legs and wrapped her hand around her aching cock, she almost cried in relief.
“Wave…Waves…” she sighed and grunted, her mouth dry, her eyes squeezed shut, limbs shaking. “More. Please,” she knew she was begging, but she was too lost in the growing heat inside of her. She could feel her orgasm building in the small of her back, and she squirmed, unsure of what it meant. She’d never felt such cold heat before.
She whimpered again, her alpha trembling inside her chest. She could feel her cock throbbing, leaking, the pressure building at the root, and she groaned loudly when Waverly squeezed it firmly. But it felt different, as if she was feeling it through layers, and she knew it still burned, but the heat her in her bottom burned brighter. She squeezed her eyes tighter, her spine bending, as she felt Waverly thrust harshly inside of her, and the heat in the base of her spine, burst, spilling it’s contents up her spine, washing over muscles.
She vaguely felt herself cum, Waverly expertly milking her cock as she dripped on her sheets, but she could feel nothing but the warm waves washing up and down her spine, seeping into her neck. She trembled, her legs giving out, and she landed on the mattress with a small thump. She barely heard Waverly’s squeal as she took her down with her.
Waverly lay on top of Nicole’s back, panting as her own orgasm washed over her. She had never orgasmed just from fucking Nicole. They’d done this before, Waverly fucking Nicole outside of her heat, and while it never failed to excite her, to make her wet; it wasn’t like this.
Her mind was cloudy, her clit pulsing in time to her racing heart, and her own cum glistened inside her thighs. The orgasm had caught her unaware, creeping up on her, resting quietly in her belly, until it suddenly rose up like a tidal wave, swamping her and dragging her along with Nicole.
She groaned and pressed her face between Nicole’s shoulder blades, kissing the glistening skin. Her hand was still under Nicole, wrapped around her cock still. It was slightly uncomfortable, but she didn’t have the strength to move yet. She continued to kiss along Nicole’s shoulders, slightly concerned that the alpha hadn’t said anything yet.
Nicole groaned, forcing her eyes open. She could hear Waverly calling to her, but she simply wanted to curl up and sleep. She shifted, wincing at the fullness inside of herself.
“Hold on. Let me pull out.” Waverly pushed herself up on her hands, after managing to drag her hand out from under Nicole, who hadn’t been much help. She carefully eased out, before rolling on her back. She lay there for a minute before finally unbuckling the strapon and tossing it to the floor.
She rolled over onto her side to face Nicole. She leaned in and kissed her nose, smiling at the hazy look in Nicole’s eyes. “Hi.”
“Mmmm…hi,” murmured Nicole. She was so tired, her alpha curled up inside, sated but vulnerable. She shivered as the sweat started to dry on her skin. She licked her lips, feeling strangely empty.
“Are you ok? Did you enjoy it?”
Nicole nodded, trying to focus on Waverly before closing her eyes again. She felt Waverly’s hands on her face, thumbs rubbing across her cheekbones.
“Baby, what’s going on?” Waverly cupped Nicole’s face, tracing her cheekbones softly. She pressed against Nicole, kissing her gently, brushing her lips against Nicole’s. She jerked back when she heard Nicole’s strained whimper.
“I don’t know. I…I feel….” She cursed, shivering in the air, her mind still too foggy to focus.
“Ok, baby. I’ve got you.” Waverly forced herself from the bed and to the bathroom, gathering a couple of warm, wet cloths. She stopped in the linen closet on the way back to grab a fleece blanket, the softest one she had.
Once back in the room, she carefully wiped the sweat and cum off of Nicole, kissing her gently as she did, whirring until she felt Nicole start to respond. She wrapped her in the fleece blanket and pulled her into her arms. She knew how hard the fall could be, and Nicole had never failed to be there for her when it happened.
Nicole sighed quietly, her face pressed into Waverly’s neck, warm and secure in her arms. It felt good, safe. She purred quietly, sleep closing in around her. She was vaguely aware of Waverly telling her she’d done such a good job, and she’d been a good girl, and for some reason it made her beam in pride.
We serve however we can, even if our omega doesn’t ask it of us, we still serve them. It’s how we love them and lead.
Nicole smiled before sleep claimed her.