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She had been alive again almost two weeks when Ned was in the shower and she wanted to brush her teeth. After announcing her intentions loudly enough to be heard over the running water and receiving the go ahead, she opened the door and stepped into the small bathroom.

The shower curtain was all fogged up and behind it Ned was a wet, tall, obscured shape that was no longer quietly singing to himself.

"You know I can hear it when you sing in there," Chuck mentioned casually as she unscrewed the lid of his toothpaste (she hadn't bothered to go buy her own yet), "You have a nice voice."

He made a noncommittal noise in response.

"Oh come on now," she said, toothbrush in hand, "No need to be shy."

"To be fair, at this point in time I'm very naked."

"It's all steamy in here anyway," Chuck replied, "It's a little disappointing to be honest."

"Well, cold showers make the show less enjoyable for me and a lot less impressive for you." She didn't need to see him to know he was smiling.

"Those little boxer briefs you were wearing the other day left very little to the imagination, I assure you," she replied with her toothbrush in her mouth.

Ned turned off the water, "Much like that t-shirt you wear to bed sometimes?"

"That's your t-shirt!"

"Which I stopped wearing because it's so old it's almost transparent."

"It's so soft though," Chuck replied after spitting into the sink, "The fact that you blush every time you see my boobs through it is just a fantastic bonus."

"Yes well," Ned replied, "It's a good look."

Chuck rinsed off her toothbrush and returned it to the special toothbrush holder Ned had given her, "You air drying in there or what?"

"My towel is hanging on the back of the door." Ned said this like it was answer enough.

"And?"

"You are standing between me and the door."

"So come get it."

"I could slip and crash into you! Do you know the statistics about fatal accidents in bathrooms? And those are people without our specific circumstances."

"So this has everything to do with you not wanting to kill me and nothing to do with the fact that you are naked."

"I'm going to go with yes."

Chuck smiled, "Would you like me to pass you a towel?"

The man behind the shower curtain said, "Yes please."

Chuck held out the towel at arms length as Ned peered around the edge of the shower curtain, carefully assessing where her hands were before taking it and beginning to dry himself off.

"You know the steam in here is really starting to clear," Chuck pointed out conversationally.

"Keep me updated," Ned replied, "Wouldn't want you to get more than you bargained for."

"Oh I think that ship has sailed."

——

Ned was sitting down and Chuck was leaning over him holding the plastic wrap between her gloved fingers as they kissed lazily through the barrier. It was slow and languid and exploratory. The kind of kissing that happened when kissing was the journey and not just a step on the road.

It would have reminded Ned of his teenage years had they not been filled with loneliness and misery. Likewise, it would have reminded Chuck of her high school boyfriend and making out in the backseat if her high school boyfriend hadn’t been a fictional composite of her favourite book characters. They smiled against each others' lips as they felt nostalgic about something neither of them had experienced before.

——

She wanted to take him hard and now and often and just rip those sweet little expressions right off his face until he was too consumed with lust and love to form a coherent sentence. She ached with the knowledge that she couldn't kiss him without plastic wrap. She couldn't rough him up and scratch her way down his back as she moaned. And he was in this boat with her (a safe distance away) but sometimes she got the feeling that she was the one fighting the urge to tackle him in ways he was not.

——

In their separate beds they lay in the dark listening to the rain hammer against the window. The power had already gone out so the room was dark except for the intermittent flashes of lightening that temporarily brought them into light.

"It's times like this I really wish I could touch you," Chuck admitted, "What good is a thunderstorm if we can't mess around?"

"…Providing water to the plant life?" Ned replied from the darkness.

"Oh please," Chuck laughed, "Like your head isn't as filled with as many 'if we could touch' fantasies as mine is."

"I might have had one," Ned replied with deliberate lightness, "Or two."

"Is that in the last minute or-"

"I'm not going to dignify that with a response," Ned said.

"Come on," Chuck sulked, "It's storming, we're awake. I need something to take my mind off wanting to do lots of sexy things with you."

"And your solution is to have me describe sexy things I want to do with you?"

"I'll tell you one of mine if you tell me one of yours," Chuck said playfully.

Predictably Ned said, "You start."

"Okay," she paused as thunder rumbled outside their room, "We're in the kitchen and it starts with a how-was-your-day kind of kiss that gets way out of hand until you lift me on to the counter and push my dress up and go down on me until I come against your mouth." She was suddenly grateful for the darkness, though she kind of wished she didn't have to imagine Ned's current expression.

She laughed nervously, "You okay over there?"

"I- I just need a minute to process that," Ned squeaked.

"Take your time," Chuck replied, "Although that's the theme of another one of mine, but I do believe it's your turn."

"Uh," Ned stalled, "I was going to say I wanted to know what your lips felt like against mine without plastic wrap-"

"Yeah I'm looking for less G-rated fantasies over here."

"Okay. We wake up late on a sunny Tuesday morning in our shared bed-"

"That's even less scandalous than the last one, Ned." She smiled as lightening briefly illuminated the man across the room looking back at her.

"I'm not done," Ned protested, "And we sort of wake up slowly and we sort of lazily cuddle and maybe kiss and maybe have sleepy morning sex in a warm dreamy haze."

"That sounds really nice."

"So does yours," Ned said emphatically, "Really really nice."

"Got any other nice ideas?" Chuck asked innocently.

"One or two. You?"

"A couple," Chuck said, "But you go first this time."

——

Chuck had a lot of trouble concentrating the day after the first time she and Ned had gotten physical without getting physical at all. Ned was such an awkward bundle of anxiety and baking sweetness that she hadn't been prepared to see him unravel for her. Because of her. And sure, she'd seen him in varying states of undress over their time living together, but none of that had prepared her.

She had started it. She wasn't sleeping and it had been a long time and-

She grinned at the memory of it. Of his shyness, and of hers. At the rush of knowing what he was doing under the covers on his side of the room while she did something similar under hers. They were both blushing and stealing glances and breathing a little faster. Then he bit his lip.

Even covered with blankets, it was easy to appreciate the shift in his body language (and she very much appreciated it). They came under their respective sheets and wished each other goodnight, still giddy, still a little embarrassed and unsure.

She couldn't wait to get home, and going by the looks Ned kept giving her, he couldn't either.

——

Chuck thought focusing after the first time she and Ned got each other off was challenging, but it was absolutely nothing compared to the constant struggle that was concentrating after the fifth time. Gone were the jitters and the hesitation and the weirdness of having sex from across the room. Also long gone was their initial need to be under the blankets and Ned naked and turned on across the room was something Chuck enjoyed having fresh in her mind thank you very much. It wasn't quite enough to satisfy her utmost cravings, but Ned with his hair all dishevelled with his chest speckled with come, still breathing hard, was difficult to argue with.

——

Ned was pretty terrible at dirty talk, but what he did end up saying once he was too turned on to be super self-conscious was sincere and flattering and sexy in all the right ways.

——

"So I've got an idea," Chuck said after dinner one night, "But before I start I don't want there to be any pressure or anything so if you're not comfortable we'll think of something else."

Ned looked at her with a mixture of curiosity and concern, "Is this a big conversation? Because that's okay-"

"No, it's nothing earth shattering," she reassured him before he began to spiral into panic mode, "I think I've found a way for us to have sex and for me not to die."

"And by sex you mean?"

"Sex-ish," Chuck replied using her hands to emphasize the ish.

"Go on."

"Basically, it's one of us under the sheets and the other not."

Ned looked worried, "But the sheets could slip or rip or-"

"I thought of that," Chuck said, "So I took the initiative to get us this." She lifted up a wrapped box and presented it to Ned. He looked up at her before ripping off the sparkly wrapping paper.

"Bed sheet clamps," he read off the packaging of the sturdy plastic brackets in his hands.

She nodded, "And I bought two king sized bed sheets. In different colours so if one starts to rip or wear thin we'll see the other's colour through it.”

Ned looked like he was trying to find some critical, lethal flaw in this plan, but after a moment he returned Chuck's smile. "Can we test it with clothes and gloves on before..."

"Yes," Chuck grinned, "Yes we can."

Ned lay on his bed fully clothed while Chuck went about arranging the two oversized sheets over top of him and tucking them firmly under the mattress before clamping them down. She left a lot of slack so that Ned could move around under the sheets freely with no risk of dislodging them. She had him test them by moving his arms and by tugging on the sheets, but the clamps did their job and held them safely in place.

"Ready?" she asked finally.

"Ready," Ned replied.

She hopped on to the bed as he held perfectly still beneath her. She straddled his hips and put her hands on his chest.

No one died.

——

Ned wasn't saying, "I can't believe you brought me here" out loud, but his body language was doing a good job of getting that across. Chuck was having a great time. She looked at everything, picked up every sample vibrator and tested all of the speed settings. She pointed out various features to Ned who stood at least three steps behind her with his hands in his pockets. She asked for his input often ("Rechargeable is better right?" "Which colour?" "Do you like the look of this one?") and Ned answered quietly when he had an opinion and with a series of perplexed expressions when he was faced with a question he'd never considered having an answer to.

Chuck approached the woman behind the counter and asked, "What are the biggest dental dams you've got?"

The woman came out from behind the till and led her over to the wall where assorted barrier methods were displayed, "Are you looking for flavoured or non-flavoured?"

"Either," Chuck replied.

"These ones are the biggest at 12x10 but don't come in fun flavours. These ones are 10x10 and come in strawberry, vanilla, mint and orange."

Chuck turned back to Ned, "Might be nice to have a vanilla make out."

Ned looked a little awkward but nodded, so Chuck grabbed a few of every flavour for research purposes as well as a couple of non-flavoured ones. The plastic wrap worked great, but they were always on the lookout for better options.

"Come here and help me choose," Chuck told Ned and he cautiously stepped a little closer to the display of vibrators. Ned carefully picked up the three Chuck was considering, feeling the balance in his hands, and seeing how easy they were to operate. They eventually decided on one the owner recommended highly.

That evening after they had both brushed their teeth Chuck opened a mint dental dam. They laughed at the way they could almost taste the toothpaste on each others' tongue.

——

"Just lie under the sheets okay?"

Ned did as he was told as she meticulously clamped down all of the edges of the over-sized sheets before carefully lying down beside him. For safeties sake she kept her head past his arms (as the sheet only covered up to his chin) as she snuggled against his chest. They talked about their day, about Emerson and the ridiculous case, about the pies she had made, about the pet goldfish she'd had as a child and about nothing really. Chuck fell asleep draped across him while he lay awake to be absolutely certain that the sheets that separated them stayed safely between them.

——

Ned hummed against the plastic wrap and she laughed as the vibrating plastic tickled her lips.

——

Ned was little awkward at the best of times. She found it endearing. He was also a little awkward when turned on. She found this adorable. She had been the one to initiate all of the early sexual stuff, generally from across the room in their separate beds, before they had begun to figure out the many, many ways they could make sex work for them.

She was immensely grateful for the way he had handled her appearing in his life and in his home. He made her feel welcome and gave her space to call her own. He made it explicitly clear that this was her place too now and as they learned to navigate cohabitation and the early stages of a relationship with a very cold cut rule on touching, she was thankful she didn't have to worry about the sex stuff until they had both adjusted a little bit.

Still, the first time she came home and found Ned looking at her with such unmediated desire that her heart started pounding was a very good day indeed.

"I put the king sized sheets on my bed," Ned told her. It was the dirtiest thing he'd ever said to her unprompted and they both knew it, "I need you to get under the sheets. Now."

"What's gotten into you?" Chuck asked, smiling at the way he watched her as she put down her purse in the front hall and kicked off her shoes, "I like it."

"Bedroom," Ned said.

She didn't need to be asked again.

He followed her into their room, from a safe distance (as always), but she could feel him there, wanting her. It was exhilarating. She crossed to his side of the room and turned to face him. She stood on the far side of his bed as she shimmied out of her dress, all the while watching him watch her. He pulled off his shirt as she unclipped her bra and tossed it to him. It was warm in his hands.

She got under the sheets ("safety sheets" as they’d come to call them) and he waited and watched her as she tested them for any faults.

"Ready!" she said as she tingled pleasantly with nerves and lust.

He climbed up on top of her and his hands were everywhere, tracing her body, running the length of her torso, brushing over her hips, her legs, her breasts, her arms, as he breathed a massive sigh of relief. She reached up through the sheets to return his touch, moving against him every way she could, rolling her hips and arching into him, desperate to aid his quest to map his way across her body any way she could.

——

“This feels weird,” Ned said, his finger poised above the spider corpse on the coffee table.

“This way we’ll know for sure,” Chuck said breezily, “But like I said, I’ve seen you take a bite of food and give the rest to Digby. Digby likes to sleep on your sweaty shirts. If body fluids could kill, Digby wouldn’t be here.”

“Right,” Ned already agreed with her, but before they took this as absolute fact, he wanted to test it, “Pretty rough deal for the spider though.”

“Better than spitting on people at the morgue though,” Chuck replied.

Ned touched the spider and it sprung to life and scuttled away from them. Ned quickly put a spoon in his mouth (he’d refused the premise of actively spitting at the spider because he doubted his aim was good enough) and pulled it out with a little saliva on it and flipped it on to the spider.

He looked at Chuck and she looked at him and they both looked at the spoon upside-down on the table. He lifted it to reveal a slightly soggy but very alive spider.

He touched it with his finger and it went still.

“Told you,” Chuck said brightly.

——

They'd both had the 'hand-job in the car' fantasy (the glove placement was more than a little suggestive and they were only human). They'd discussed it. They'd talked logistics and strategies and agreed the cons outweighed the benefits.

In theory it would work, in practise they weren't sure how sensual the rubber glove would actually be, or if the brackets would hold the glove securely in place. Chuck secretly kept a few packets of lube in her purse in case they ever decided to try (because lubrication would be crucial to any attempt they made), but the idea of having to clean off the rubber glove afterwards wasn't terribly appealing. And they both reasoned that she could give Ned a hand-job at home using gloves better suited for both sex and quick disposal, but every time they held hands through the hole in the shield and Chuck brushed her fingers across his leg there was a tiny part of them that wanted to throw logic to the wind and see if it would work.

——

"Can we do the sweater thing when we get home?" Chuck asked.

"That better not be a euphemism," Emerson threatened, "Because we've talked about how terrible you two are at euphemisms and how they keep me up at night."

"Yes, we can do the sweater thing," Ned answered Chuck first before adding, "And for the record, the sweater thing is about as scandalous as it sounds."

"We wear sweaters and then we trade sweaters and then we wear each others sweaters. Like when we're watching TV and want to cuddle but can't," Chuck said brightly, "It's cozy and intimate."

"It's cozy and intimate," Emerson mimicked, "I don't want to know. I do not care."

"But you're the only person who knows about our situation and some of our ideas are really good," Chuck replied unfazed.

"So tell Digby. Start a blog. Write a book. Do literally anything other than tell me."

Chuck's eyes lit up and Emerson panicked, "DO NOT WRITE A BOOK. Knowing my luck there would be a horrifically popular movie adaptation."

——

The sheets were smooth and she liked the way he gasped when she stroked his dick through them while she ground her hips down against his skilled hand. It was funny how normal this was. Sure, a quickie after work wasn't quite the same as the couples where both parties were on their first run through of being alive, but it got the job done.

——

Chuck was covered from head to toe when Ned came home. Black leggings, long sleeved shirt, gloves up to her elbows and her beekeeper hat. Ned smiled at her as she outstretched her hand to him.

"Two pairs of gloves?" he asked.

"Of course," she replied.

He took her hand and she pulled him in close for a hug.

When he moved to take off his jacket she stopped him, "Let me."

Getting to actively undress him felt like such a luxury. She intended to enjoy every part of it. She unzipped his jacket and pulled it carefully from his shoulders while grinning up at him, "Mind if I keep going?"

Ned shook his head.

She went for his scarf next, pulling it off his neck and dropping it on to the nearest chair before reaching up to touch his face.

"Hey," he said as he sometimes did, like he'd only just realized he was in love with her.

"Hey," she echoed back as she ran one of her gloved hands under his shirt.

——

Chuck emerged into consciousness first. Sort of. Her mouth was dry and tasted like wine and sexual frustration. Ned was passed out on his bed, naked except for the sock on his left foot.

She tried to get out of bed to brush her teeth but instead crashed to the floor with an impressive thud, her leg still attached to the frame of her bed by- she looked closer- one of Ned's aprons? Maybe?

"Chuck?" Ned was awake and protective but not entirely alert.

"Don't move!" she commanded quickly and she heard him stop moving immediately, "I'm on the floor." she added. It sounded like a question.

Very carefully Ned peered over the edge of his bed, "Why?"

She looked up at him and shook her left leg which was propped up against her bed at a strange angle, "Do you remember this?"

Ned rubbed his eyes without precision, "No?"

"Well, you've got one too. Watch out."

"Huh?" Ned sat up and examined his ankle in disbelief, "Why am I wearing my pyjamas as a shackle?"

Chuck bit back a laugh as she remembered, "I think last night you called it a love shackle?"

"Please tell me I didn't do that," Ned said seriously.

Chuck lifted herself back into her bed and began untangling the primitive knots at her feet without answering him.

"You're wearing my shirt?" Ned said as he watched her, "And I know you wear my shirts to bed and that's great but that's the shirt I was wearing last night."

Chuck looked down, "So it is."

Ned looked down at his naked body and back over at her looking a bit like an overgrown puppy faced with a complex problem.

"Since you clearly don't remember I'll spare you, yes, it was part of a strip tease."

Ned looked horrified, "I didn't."

"Oh, you definitely did," Chuck said as she squinted at the light creeping through the blinds before consciously deciding to enjoy every part of Ned's current facial expression, "It was very enthusiastic. Robust even. I particularly liked the high kicks-"

"Ohmygod," Ned smushed his hands over his face as if trying to squish out the shame.

"Relax," Chuck grinned at him, "It was very entertaining. I probably won't even reenact it for Emerson later."

The absolute terror in his eyes when he dropped his hands to look at her was priceless.

"You're cute when you're mortified," Chuck teased, "Besides, it's a little late for modesty, no?" She made a point of letting her eyes roam down his naked (save his left sock) body, "I've seen you naked dozens of times."

"Not like that!"

"No," she agreed, "That was something special."

"How much did we drink last night anyway?" Ned asked as he grabbed a mostly full bottle of water off the nightstand and took a sip.

Chuck shrugged, "Enough to tie ourselves to our beds so I wouldn't die?"

Ned shook his head in disbelief as he put the cap back on the bottle and tossed it over to Chuck.

"I guess there's a lesson to be learned here."

Chuck nodded as she took a sip of water, "Creative sex-"

"Works much better sober," Ned finished.

——

Ned could be such a fucking tease. He liked to camp out between her legs (which like everything but her head was safely under two layers of bedsheets as per their usual set up) with one of their favourite toys in hand. He took great pleasure from moving the purple vibrator up the insides of Chuck's thighs slowly, agonizingly slowly, never allowing direct contact with her clit which was begging for attention in the same way Chuck was begging him to make good on the promises his body had been making for the last ten minutes. But today, Ned's fondness of giving Chuck as much pleasure as possible was winning out over her need to grind against him until she came. Despite her ever increasing desire to get Ned on board with just making her come already, she was more than happy to linger in the moment. It was only a matter of time before Ned followed though (and going by the way he was looking at her it was going to be sooner rather than later), and it was always worth the wait.

——

Ned had modified a bed tray by removing the tray part and placing a few sheets of plastic wrap securely in the frame. The goal had been to develop of way to hold the plastic wrap between them while allowing hands free kisses while other sexy things were happening. The prototype worked great in theory, but in practise it worked for about a minute before it became pretty claustrophobic and terrifying. He safeworded out and they removed the device. Though it was sometimes a nuisance to have to manually shift gears between kissing and other activities, at least that didn’t feel like being trapped in a plastic bag and given Chuck’s history, Ned was especially glad he had been the test subject of this particular contraption.

——

There was something so pleasingly obscene about the way his semen soaked through the sheets after a successful hand-job. With her hand still wrapped around the base of his dick to hold the sheets in place, she leaned down and slowly dragged her tongue across the damp spot as he whimpered.

——

He was covered from the neck down complete with medical grade gloves that went up to his elbows over top of cut-resistant glove liners that were snug around his fingers. He had tested this particular combination rigorously for the past week and a half for any signs of weakness or probability of failure before agreeing to this. Chuck had walked in on several stages of the testing process, most of which were rather mundane but one stage had Ned yelping that he was testing their reaction to "vigorous friction and water-based lubricant". Chuck thought his attention to detail was commendable.

But it was finally time. Chuck felt really under-dressed lying across her bed wearing nothing but gloves while Ned stood at the foot of the bed checking for any weaknesses in his makeshift armour. His pyjama pants were tucked securely into his socks, the long sleeve shirt he wore was similarly secured into his waistband and under the edges of the elbow length gloves. And all of this was on top of the base layer of clothing which she knew he had applied with equal precision.

He twirled in a circle, "Any exposed flesh?"

"Only mine," she replied.

"You sure you don't want me to put on the beekeeper hat, just in case?"

"Very sure," Chuck replied, "The sexiness of this ensemble is already reaching critical levels."

"Yeah I bet," Ned sighed as he looked at where his socks overtook his pants.

"I mean it," Chuck looked him over and reached up to touch his chest, "It's going to be nice to do this without the sheets, you know?"

Ned knew.

"Come here," she said as she held up a piece of plastic wrap with which to kiss him. As they kissed Ned started to relax a bit.

"Is it okay if I-" Ned hadn't finished the sentence before Chuck had pressed the bottle of lube into his hand.

Ned took his time, exploring her body slowly as he circled her clit as he knew she liked. It was still strange to be able to see both her and his gloved hand while he did this, as he had grown so accustomed to having sheets between them. Chuck was really starting to get into it, writhing up against him as he teased his fingers past her opening without a hint of penetration. It didn't escape either of them that they'd never had direct penetration between them. Indirect? Sure. But nothing like this.

"Alright you big tease," Chuck told him, "I want you to fuck me. Now."

"Yeah?" Ned asked as he smiled down at her.

“Please.”

He added more lube to his fingers before slowly easing two inside, revelling in the way she arched her back and spread her legs wider as she hummed with satisfaction.

"Better?" he asked as he slowly moved his fingers within her, watching for her reactions.

"Yessssssss," she breathed, "Just keep doing that."

"My pleasure," Ned replied.

After she came around his fingers they looked at each other with matching smiles of disbelief.

——

They went to a dance and gymnastics supply store for unitards and it was only vaguely mortifying. Every lie they had come up with on the drive over as to why they needed unitards felt ridiculous, so they were immensely grateful the sales clerk didn't ever directly ask what they were for.

He kindly pointed them towards the ones made from the sturdiest fabric when they requested strength and left it up to them to pick out colours (Chuck was a little more adventurous, while Ned was determined that his outer layer would always be black).

A couple hundred dollars later they left with a bag of full length, long-sleeved bodysuits which they were already playfully referring to as "sex armour".

——

As terrifying as it was to put their fantasies into words, (and despite the frequency with which they did, it was still terrifying) there was a level of safety that came with knowing that most of them were impossible anyway.

This was why Ned was so startled when Chuck replied to one of his quiet descriptions of something that would never happen with an excited, "We can totally do that."

"What? No we can't," Ned countered quickly.

"Sure we can," Chuck replied, "Have you got any rope around?"

"Of course not. I can't believe you're considering this. It would be way too dangerous!"

"How?" Chuck asked, "I'll obviously be in all the usual layers. And you can be in full sex armour too if that will help you relax."

Ned considered this, "You're serious."

"Of course. Should we start with rope? Or do you think maybe something like bondage cuffs would be less stressful?"

"…Probably the cuffs."

Chuck smiled, "We'll fit them loose enough for you to be able to slip out of them, just in case."

Ned nodded, "That would help."

As they continued to talk about the ways to make them feel and be as safe as possible during such an event it slowly dawned on Ned that they were going to get to do this.

——

They’d planned this meticulously. They’d spent the last ten minutes getting into their respective sex outfits and going over the various safety protocols. They’d gone over their safewords and how they would respond to each should one of them be called and the exact notch on the bondage cuffs for his wrists that would allow him to get himself out should it be necessary. They’d discussed their goals for this afternoon (seeing how Ned responded to the reality of being restrained and whether it was a fantasy worth pursuing). He was specifically worried that instead of being relaxed (and turned on) by the restraints, he’d get stressed out and panic instead. Because of this, they’d agreed that initially there wouldn’t be anything explicitly sexual about their activities. Chuck was going to shackle him and then they’d collectively wait and see how he reacted. After that they could figure out where they wanted to go from there.

Ned’s fears had been unfounded. He reacted so well to being restrained by Chuck that he was smiling dreamily in his bindings almost as soon as they’d begun.

Chuck brushed his hair off his forehead after a few minutes as he breathed deeply, “How are you doing?”

He hummed contently in response.

“Would it be okay if I tied you down?” she asked.

She reached under her bed and pulled out the bondage straps she had taken the liberty of installing without Ned’s knowledge. She had picked them up shortly after they had bought his cuffs. She wanted to have them available for when or if they were ready.

“When did you-“

“You didn’t answer my question,” she pointed out playfully.

“Yes,” Ned said emphatically, “Please.”

Chuck smiled at him as she unclipped his wrists from each other and affixed them to the convenient metal rings at the top corners of her bed. Once his wrists were secure she circled back to the foot of the bed and fished out two more of the hidden straps. Ned watched as his ankles were fastened to them in turn. Single beds were not designed with people of Ned’s height in mind so his feet hung off either side of the bed, but the end result was much to both of their liking.

“There,” Chuck said, “How’s that?”

He nodded at her as she watched his body process the shift between the ‘relaxing proof of concept’ phase to the ‘this is fucking hot’ stage.

She stood at the foot of the bed and began undressing in the most deliberate way she could. She peeled off the outer layer of gloves first and flicked them on to Ned’s chest where they stayed, as he was obviously unable to remove them. He looked at the blue latex on his torso before looking back at Chuck who had already removed the cut-resistant second layer and discarded them. This hadn’t been part of their game plan. Ned raised his eyebrows as she slowly dragged her uncovered finger down his calf towards his ankle. Despite the fact that he was wearing the usual two safety layers his breath hitched.

She started work on the bodysuits next. The green layer came off first, and she paused to enjoy the way Ned was shifting against his restraints before she stepped out of it and slid it across the floor with her foot. She took her time with the final layer and stretched when she was finally and absolutely naked.

“That’s better,” she sad brightly, “Don’t you think?”

Ned’s erection spoke volumes.

——

There was a group of four people sitting in a booth with a huge stack of pamphlets in front of them which they were sorting into neat piles in between bites of pie. The pamphlets had names like "Consent and Communication" and "Everything you wanted to know about the internal condom". When Chuck brought them some more coffee she admired them and they offered her any she was interested in. She picked up the one called "The Little Book of Barrier Methods" on a whim.

Ned returned to the Pie Hole that evening and found her leaning over the counter flipping through The Little Book of Barrier Methods. Ned read the title and sat down across from her, "We definitely need a bigger book."

"I do not need to hear this," Emerson said.

"I was trying to think of a catchy title," Chuck replied, "50 Ways to Screw When He Can't Touch You?"

"I do not need to hear this," Emerson repeated as he lost hope that this conversation wasn't going to happen.

"Those dental dams we like come bulk now," Chuck told Ned casually.

"Come on!" Emerson exclaimed, "I'm trying to enjoy this pie."

Chuck rolled her eyes, “They’re for kissing, so you can just relax and enjoy your pie."

"I don't want to have to think about the logistics of anything you two do in your free time. Is that clear?"

"Some of it is pretty impressive," Ned said.

"You should see what Ned can do with-"

"Stop!" Emerson held up both his hands in protest, "You've ruined plastic wrap, shower curtains and pretty much every type of glove I can imagine for me already."

Ned and Chuck caught each others eye and asked each other, "Did you tell him about the shower curtain incident?"

"I WAS IN THE CAR WHEN YOU WERE DEBRIEFING THE NEXT DAY," Emerson said loudly, "Think back on that conversation and listen for someone squawking in the back seat."

"That does sound familiar," Ned said thoughtfully.

"To be fair, it was really funny," Chuck said

"And an important learning experience," Ned added.

Emerson rolled his eyes, "You two are going to put me into an early grave."

Chuck smirked, "Ned can fix that."

Emerson scowled, "Don't you dare."

——

"So it occurs to me that your birthday is coming up. Anything specific on your list this year?"

Chuck looked up at Ned from the dough she was kneading, "Just you. In your cute little apron."

Ned smiled back at her, "Anything else?"

"No," Chuck said mischievously, "Just the apron please."

"Oh!" Ned exclaimed as he arrived at the implications of her request, "…oh?" he added as he looked down at the apron currently around his waist and then back at Chuck, "The apron huh?"

She nodded appreciatively, "Yep."

Her gift was presented as ordered, lying across the bed trying not to look too self-conscious. She giggled with delight and made a predictable but necessary pun about how much she was looking forward to unwrapping her gift that year.

——

“I want you to know that if we ever accidentally touch-“ Chuck began as they were folding laundry one night.

“We won’t,” Ned said firmly as he placed one of his many black t-shirts into the basket with more care than was necessary.

“If we do-“

“We won’t.”

“Ned, accidents happen. And if it does I won’t be around to forgive you and I do.”

“Chuck-“

“Look I know this is a touchy subject,” Chuck said quickly as she put down the dress she was holding to look at Ned, “And odds are you can just forget this conversation ever happened but I just hate the idea of not saying this out loud now and then not being able to when you need to hear it. So just in case. Please.”

Ned nodded solemnly.

“Ned, if it happens and I die again you can’t blame yourself. Promise me you won’t.”

“…If I kill you, I’m not supposed to blame myself?”

“I was dead already. Literally. I was dead and you came along and changed everything and I am thankful for that every moment of every day. So if something ever happens to me I want you to remember how much I love you, and how much extra time you gave me, and how much we cherished it. I forgive you. I love you. Okay?”

Ned said, “Okay.”

——

They were both desperately horny and no where near patient enough to find the sheets and clamps or the multiple layers of sex friendly safety clothing and gloves that would allow some vaguely direct sexual contact between them. The prep work was way too daunting and they realized this in much the same way they realized that they were both determined to get off in the next two minutes come hell or high water.

"Just," Ned said as he fumbled with his belt, "Just stay over there."

Chuck was already pulling off her dress, "Way ahead of you."

——

She couldn't touch him, but the business end of the riding crop certainly could.

——

"I wonder how many miles of plastic wrap we've kissed through?" Chuck mused one day while watching Ned bake.

Ned tossed a piece of fruit from his gloved hand to the other, where it sprung back to perfect ripeness as he looked over at her, "Not enough."

——

"You're so tense," Chuck said as she massaged his shoulders using her gloved hands.

Ned murmured in agreement as he turned his head back towards her slightly, "I could really go for-" he hesitated, still not used to being able to ask for this, "for being tied up right now. Do you mind?"

Chuck brushed her finger down his cheek before she got up to get the required supplies, "Thought you'd never ask."

She returned with several long lengths of smooth rope and got back into the bed and resumed rubbing Ned's shoulders. She was wearing two bodysuits underneath her sweatpants and one of his old button up shirts. Ned took a deep breath and began to loosen up under her hands.

"Take your shirt off when you're ready," Chuck instructed. Ned nodded his understanding and a couple minutes later he peeled off his shirt and swayed back into her touch as she explored his skin.

"Remove the rest of your clothes when you're ready for rope," she told him, running some of the rope against his bare shoulders. He exhaled slowly at the contact with the rope, and shortly thereafter his remaining clothes were on the floor.

Folding the longest piece of rope in half and starting at the back of his neck, she began the series of twists and loops that formed the familiar diamond shape pattern down his chest. She loved this part because of how much Ned loved this part. She took her time with the tying process because she loved being Ned's guide as he slid into subspace as she worked the rope across his skin.

For his part, Ned always tried to savour this bit. He tried to watch her so intently, to appreciate each moment she was with him and the rope, but half way through his eyes would be closed and he'd look like he was having the most pleasant dream.

She quietly directed him through the motions, when to kneel, when to test the ropes' tightness, when to hold extra still. He knew all the steps as well as she did, but in this state he needed direction, which she was more than happy to give.

Once his torso had the intricate groundwork in place she paused for a moment to admire her work. The view was great and manipulating rope with precision while wearing gloves was no easy feat. After a quick check in she went to work on his ankles and then his knees. Once his legs were sufficiently bound she used her final length of rope to tie his wrists together. When she finished and did a final inspection to make sure the rope wasn't too tight Ned was already putty in his bindings. He looked up at her blissfully and murmured his thanks.

"You're welcome," she responded as she pressed her palm against his forehead and leaned in to kiss the back of her covered hand. He melted into her touch.

——

The first strap-on harness they bought didn't fit Ned at all. He couldn't get it to sit right and it crushed his junk in a number of unsexy ways.

"Yeah, this isn't going to work," Ned said as he gave up and let the offending harness fall to the floor around his ankles.

Chuck agreed, and once they opted to write off the whole thing as a non-refundable learning experience, Chuck decided to try on the harness for fun.

It fit like Cinderella's glass shoe, but with 100% more dick.

"It's a good look," Ned said.

Chuck admired herself in the mirror, "You into it?"

"Yeah," Ned replied mischievously , "I kinda am."

It wasn’t quite how they had pictured the first use when they'd bought the strap-on, but two vivid orgasms later they were grateful the harness wasn't returnable.

——

Not for the first time, Ned tripped over the unitard as he attempted to pull it over his feet and he went reeling to the floor. Chuck attempted to stifle her giggles until she confirmed that he was okay, but when she looked over the edge of her bed and saw him continuing to wrestle with the stretchy fabric she burst out laughing and found it hard to stop.

Ned generally struggled with the application of protective layers more than Chuck did. She put it down to her years of practise wearing pantyhose and he put it down to the added difficultly level of trying to put on tight clothing over a boner. The ensuing passionate discussion about the unique challenges they faced while applying bodysuits while in varying states of arousal led them to become acutely aware of how ridiculous their sex life was. Thankfully, their shared laughter only made it sexier when Ned was finally able to finish dressing himself and get on with their scheduled activities.

——

It wasn't their first one night stand. Sometimes after work one of them would prompt, "Hello stranger" and the other would continue the conversation as if they had never met before. Tonight it was Ned who started and Chuck who returned his smile and fell into character.

It was great fun to get to know each other while shamelessly trying to get each other in bed.

Ned had set up his bed with extra sheets that morning on a whim and Chuck grinned when she saw them. Skipping over that part of their regular foreplay helped fuel the illusion of the spontaneous one night stand that they both really enjoyed.

Afterwards, Ned lay sprawled across his bed, already fighting the post-orgasm pass out as he watched Chuck put her clothes back on.

"I gotta run," Chuck-the-Stranger told him as she pulled her shirt back on, "I have to work early."

"You can stay," Ned-that-she-had-just-met offered.

"No thanks," Chuck-the-Stranger replied, "But it was nice meeting you, Ned."

Chuck-the-Stranger left the room and after a moment Chuck-his-girlfriend came back through the door, "That was great! We have to do that again sometime. Great touch with the sheets!"

Ned-her-boyfriend smiled at her, "Your bed is all made up for you."

"You're the best," she replied as she ripped off a piece of plastic wrap from the roll on the nightstand and kissed him goodnight without any of the urgency of their last encounter.

——

It wasn't that they were less careful now, they'd just adjusted to the reality of their situation. And sex, like everything else, was about communication and compromise. Their sex life had two over-arching themes: sex where they had to take turns and sex where they could both (theoretically) get off on roughly the same timeline (plus the third category of sex that they could only vividly fantasize about). Each had their advantages, and as Chuck pointed out, these were categories that all sexual partners had to deal with in some way or another.

Today Ned was feeling patient and Chuck was very on board with being the one getting fucked, especially since the whole getting fucked thing still felt extremely novel.

Once Ned was fully encased in the usual amount of sex armour the more active part of foreplay could begin. He did not feel comfortable taking Chuck's shirt off without some sort of face barrier (just in case) so Chuck dealt with that, but he took great pleasure from unbuttoning her pants and sliding them down her legs.

He started as he often did, gloved fingers exploring her body slowly, eventually teasing at the increasing wetness between her legs. Chuck moved her hips up against his fingers enthusiastically.

"What do you want?" Ned asked, "More of this?" He knew of her fondness of being fingered and it wouldn't be the first time they'd gotten carried away with what was originally framed as foreplay.

"More," Chuck replied contently as she ran her gloved hand down his torso and stroked the bonus dick currently harnessed to Ned.

It was just as intoxicating as it was the first time from the moment Chuck guided the silicone cock inside her and Ned began to move. Ned loved that he could watch the exact moment he pressed inside her and feel her gasp with pleasure and pull him in deeper. She loved being able to grab at his ass as she urged him to fuck her harder. They could feel their bodies reacting to one another, and sure, one of Ned's dicks was under several layers of fabric, but the other was surrounded by Chuck and moving perfectly inside her.

She rubbed her clit while he rolled his hips against her until she tensed and squirmed against the onslaught of pleasure and tensed beneath him.

When she was done she held her gloved hand gently over his mouth and said, “Come here”.

He put his hand over her mouth and leaned down so the backs of their latex-covered hands were against each other so they could kiss vicariously through each others’ palms.

——

"Red," Chuck gasped and Ned immediately followed their safeword protocol to the letter, leaping off her and standing beside the bed, his arms by his side.

"I'm okay," Chuck reassured him as he looked down at her with concern, "But I can see the blue layer." She gestured to the point just above his hips where the blue bodysuit underneath the black outer layer was clearly visible.

"Good catch," Ned breathed as he poked his finger through the hole.

"The system works," Chuck said, "That's good."

"The system works," Ned echoed he began undressing to get at the layer that was now useless.

"I guess it's time to stock up on sex armour," Chuck said as she watched Ned peel himself out of the black unitard and toss it into the trash bin in the corner, "We can go this weekend."

Ned nodded, "So how are you feeling? Want me to get out the sheets?"

Chuck looked at him slyly, "I could be convinced. How about you? Are you alright?”

He nodded, "I'm okay," he said, "Because you're okay."

"I'm okay," she said warmly.

——

"Chloe left a message yesterday that the new dental dams are in," Chuck said over breakfast.

"I'm still not sure how I feel about us being on first name basis with the owner of a sex toy store."

"Chloe is a godsend," Chuck replied, "And you'll feel fine about it when you have three new flavours to make out with me with."

Ned looked up from his toast, "New flavours?"

"Chloe sets some aside whenever they get a shipment in," Chuck said, "She's the best."

"She is," Ned conceded.

"So what do you say, want to come with me to pick them up this afternoon?"

Ned looked conflicted, "Every time I go in there she looks at me like I'm your perfectly trained sub."

"And?" Chuck asked, "I wonder where she got that idea?"

Ned rolled his eyes, "It's not entirely like that."

"And I know that and you know that," Chuck reassured him, "It's just a convenient assumption that helps her get us all the products that work for us."

"She wants you to teach classes about being a Dom!" Ned replied.

"I think she was joking about that."

Ned tried again, "She thinks we have a rule about touching."

"We do."

"She thinks it's a power dynamic thing."

"You have the power to kill me."

Ned shrugged, "She just knows a lot about us."

"She thinks we have a lot of oral sex," Chuck replied.

"She sold us matching strap-ons!" Ned reminded her.

Chuck smiled wistfully, "Bless her."

Ned couldn't help but return her smile.

——

The spooning curtain (as they had taken to calling it) brought one of Ned’s early fantasies to life with little fanfare. Chuck and Ned woke up slowly and made no effort to untangle themselves from each other or the plastic pressed between them. Their reluctant return to consciousness eventually evolved into a series of languid kisses through the plastic curtain hanging between their pushed-together beds.

The outfits and the toys and the sheets and the contraptions were all great, but sometimes a good fuck was as simple as a mutual masturbation session from opposite sides of a modified shower curtain.

——

Emerson froze in the doorway for what he would later consider the longest two seconds of his life as he stared in horror at Ned who was wearing what could only be described as a unitard. He was leaning over Chuck (who was mercifully wearing her regular clothes) who was holding a thin sheet of light pink latex above her face. They were both wearing elbow length surgical gloves.

Emerson's silent scream quickly launched into vocal territory as he hastily retreated.

Chuck giggled into her hands as Ned remained locked in place with his mouth hanging open as he looked at the door in shock. He blinked a few times before turning back to Chuck, "Should I go after him?"

Chuck didn't get to answer him because at that moment Olive crashed through the door brandishing a kettle as a weapon. The scream that Olive began as a terrifying battle cry finished as a shriek as she saw Ned in his skin tight bodysuit. Unlike Emerson, she did not immediately flee the scene.

Ned covered his face with his hands. Despite his wishes, this did not make him disappear.

Emerson came charging back into the room, summoned by Olive's scream. He and Olive had a silent but intense conversation with their eyes before turning back to Ned and Chuck.

Olive said, "We'll talk about this later" at the same time Emerson said, "We will never speak of this again."

Their silent conversation resumed as they backed out the apartment and Emerson closed the door behind them.

"Well that could have been worse," Chuck said lightly.

"Next time you can be the one wearing the unitard," Ned shot back as he looked down at his outfit in horror.

Chuck smiled, "You may want to rethink that."

Ned did. And as visions of the last time Chuck was in her sex armour filled his mind he remembered what state he had been in at that time- "Point taken," Ned said quickly.

"Now where were we?" Chuck asked as she waved the strawberry flavoured dental dam in front of her face with a grin.

——

Up on the roof on a late August evening as the sun was just beginning to fade, Ned lay with his head in Chuck’s lap as the warm glow of summer lingered around them. She was in her beekeeping gear and he was not. He’d come up to check in with her about something arbitrary like what she wanted to have for dinner or books or something and they’d gotten to talking about equally arbitrary things that matter when you’re talking about them with the person you love.

With his back against cool concrete he looked up at her as the stars slowly emerged above them while she absentmindedly played with his hair. Her gloves were thick but they felt like Chuck all the same.

——

Ned was in the shower singing softly to himself while Chuck was in front of the mirror drying her hair. The sound of the hairdryer combined with the rush of running water mostly drowned out Ned’s low voice, but every so often Chuck would catch a line of whatever Ned was singing that morning and smile.

She’d gotten as far as putting on her bra and underwear after her shower but no further, which meant she could see the tattoo of Ned’s hand on her hip in the mirror as she dealt with her hair. The tattoos were her favourite secret. Unlike some of the other secrets she shared with Ned, this secret was had no weighty dangerous consequences or complicated third parties. No one else knew that they’d gotten matching tattoos. They were just for them.

The lack of music coming from behind the foggy shower curtain when she finished with the hairdryer meant that Ned was shaving his face. He couldn’t sing and shave simultaneously without putting his face at great risk and he had learned this lesson the hard way more than once.

She was about half way through her makeup routine when the shower stopped running. She reached for Ned’s towel hanging on the back of the door and when he pulled the shower curtain aside she tossed it over to him.

“Thanks,” he said as he caught it and began to towel off. He started with his hair, which always resulted in a spectacular display of unintentional hair artistry that lingered as he moved on to dry off the rest of his body. He caught her eye in the mirror and they shared an appreciative grin over how ridiculous he looked.

When she finished with her mascara she glanced over at him standing in the shower with the towel wrapped around his waist waiting for the signal that it was safe for him to move. She let her gaze linger on the image of her hand inked just above his left hip. He read her expression correctly and pressed his hand across the imprint of hers that he would never fully feel. Chuck mirrored the gesture and they allowed themselves a moment of shared melancholy. Through sheets and plastic and gloves and fabric they had traced each others bodies and mapped them out as best they could, but there were still times they couldn’t help but crave what they could never have.

But it was comforting to know that although Chuck would never lay her bare hands upon Ned's slender hips, her mark was there all the same.