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Ryan offers to give Deok-mi a ride home after they both accidentally fall asleep at his place while watching a movie. Its’ so late at night that the hallways are deathly quiet and deserted, devoid of their usual chatter. Outside, the sky is ink-dark, the kind of night that seems full of magic, that usually has Deok-mi wanting to stay up beyond her bedtime.

There’s hardly any sound but the muffled thuds of their footsteps on the carpet and the sliding of the elevator doors shut as they step into it. It makes her feel cocooned inside here with Ryan, cut off from the rest of the world. It’s like they’ve stepped into another realm like Sleeping Beauty’s fairy tale kingdom where everyone else has been put into a deep sleep and they’re the only ones who’ve managed to escape the spell.

Ryan’s hand tightens in hers as the elevator goes down. Deok-mi flushes suddenly as she thinks about the last time they’d been here, how Ryan had thrown himself across her, shielding her from view. How Shi An and his manager must have thought they’d been making out. Just thinking about it sends tingles up her spine. It isn’t so much that she’s embarrassed. It’s because, part of her had wanted it. Ached for it so much, she could practically taste it; the feel of Ryan’s mouth on hers, the heady excitement of it all. Afterwards at night, in bed, she’d tossed and turned for hours, unable to sleep because of the images flooding her mind. Imagining herself kissing him in the elevator, the delicious thrill of getting away with it in this public/private space without anyone else catching them.

Ryan’s eyes slide to hers amused. “You look like you're thinking deeply, Sung Deok-mi-ssi. What are you thinking?”

She smirks back. “Nothing you need to know, Gwajang-nim.”

He leans forward, nose brushing hers. “Are you perhaps thinking,Deok-mi-ssi, about what happened with Cha Shi An when we were last in here?”

“What are you thinking, Gwajang-nim?”

He smirks at her, face smug. He knows. “Are you by any chance, answering my question with a question? Is there a reason why you’re deflecting, Deok-mi-ssi?”

“I’ll tell you,” she concedes. “But only because you look so cute right now.”

“Oh?” She watches as his smile grows wider, inching up his face; delight spreading across it. He reacts like this every time he’s being paid attention to. Praised. Cared for. She likes when he looks like this. It makes him look softer, and also hers, this secret part of Lion that only she gets to see. And most of all, it thrills her that it’s her who’s making him react like this, that it’s she, Sung Deok-mi who has the power to please him. Like this part of him belongs to her and only her in some way.

She reaches out a hand to cup his cheek. She loves how comfortable she feels around him, the easy affection between them, how simple it is to express their care for one another through these little touches.

“How about this?” he continues. “If you tell me what you’re thinking, I can see if I can make that happen for you.”

There’s heat pooling in her belly now, at his words. “I was thinking,” she murmurs as he kisses her tenderly on her nose. “What if...we were really making out that time?”

“Oh?” he asks, his smile tilting into a wicked grin. “Tell me, Deok-mi-ssi. What did you imagine? Do my thighs improve your welfare? Are my clavicles sexy?” He’s looking at her like he genuinely wants to know, like he’s curious about all of her, right down to her bones, the innermost parts of her, her desires and her passions because everything about her delights him.

“No.” She smirks back. “Shi An’s thighs improve my welfare. But you...” She deliberately lets her voice trail off.

“Yes?” he asks. She’d never thought that being in a relationship could be like this; how this man who’d professed himself as having ‘taste’ and being able to recognize value is hanging on her every word, just as she herself had done to Shi Ahn without expecting anything in return. It’s a heady kind of power.

She feels something like tenderness blooming inside of her and she reaches up to stroke his hair, brushing a few strands back, thinking mine. He leans in to her touch like he’s been starving for affection all his life. She cups her hands against her ear, just like when she’d sang Snapshot to him,even back then, an intimacy meant just for him. “Your hands,” she whispers into his ear. “Are sexy.”

“Tell me more,” he continues, his voice hushed, not quite a plea but almost, eyes fond as he tucks a bit of her hair back behind her ear, fingers rubbing the tip of it gently. She likes how he does it with such care like she’s something precious, someone deserving of being cherished and protected. Just that small touch makes her shiver. “Did I touch your hair like this?”

She’s having trouble forming words now. She’s lost in a sea of sensations, cast adrift by the smell of him, the woody masculine notes of his cologne, the gentle pressure of his fingers on the back of her neck, anchoring her, letting her know that she’s not alone, because he’s here. Like that time at the writer's house when he'd whispered, "Hello," to her just like the photographer in his portrait. Hello, I'm here. I'm always here looking at you like this. She’s never felt so connected to anyone before. The world narrows down to this, just this, the warmth of him; alive, heart beating right next to her. Vaguely as if from somewhere far away, she hears the elevator ding announcing that they’ve reached the Basement floor, the doors sliding open to an empty desolate car park. “Close it,” she murmurs.

He obeys, pressing the button.

He turns to look at her, attentive. “Up?” he asks, his finger hovering over the buttons, waiting for her response.

“The last one,” she says, gesturing to the button for the highest floor and the elevator climbs again.

“You said,” she continues. “ ‘Do you want me?’ Then you leaned in and kissed my cheek.”

“Like this?” he murmurs. He’s looking at her now like he can’t take his eyes off her. He leans in, lips brushing her cheek, just a graze, the gentlest of touches but it’s like he’s pressed warmth into her soul. It’s even better than in her imagination. She brings her hand up to touch the spot where he’d kissed her, just as she’d once pressed her thumb to her lips, feeling the phantom imprint of his when he’d made it look to Sindy like they were making out. He turns her hand over, pressing a kiss, reverent, to her palm, then her nose, her eyelids, her forehead like he’s worshipping every part of her. He makes her feel seen.

“Then, what next?” he breathes out.

“Then,” she whispers. “I kissed you. Like this.” She pulls him then into a lingering kiss, equal parts desire and need, every part of her screaming more, more, more. She wants to be closer to him. “Then…” she murmurs. “You lifted me up and pressed me against the wall. And we made out for hours.”

“Hmmm...for hours?” he asks, smirking. He laughs into her mouth as they kiss. “That long? It must have been the longest elevator ride ever.”

“Be quiet,” she says, trying and failing not to laugh herself. She smacks him on his shoulder. “Fantasies aren’t logical. They’re about what’s possible. Don’t you know...Ryan?” She proceeds to kiss him then to shut him up and to do exactly what she’d just described. Kissing Ryan here in the elevator as it travels up, and up, into the night sky, she’s never felt more expansive, like she’s floating free. Full of infinite possibilities.