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Smile, Light of the World

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Thankfully, the day was clear and bright with the sun’s rays beating down upon the ruined, upturned city that was Redgrave. It was a beautiful early afternoon to what might as well have been considered the tail-end start to the end of the world, but a beautiful day, nonetheless.

Already, the plants on your balcony were looking a bit perkier than normal. With the days tending to be on the dreary end, courtesy of the massive demon tree growing toward the sky some distance away, you were beginning to worry over a few that really needed the sunlight. By whatever graces above, perhaps a farce of luck from below, they were getting exactly that, thriving through the impending-apocalyptic state of the city you called home.

The thought of it had you grinning as you carefully snipped away a few dead leaves from some of the smaller greenery. All those tall plants were greedy little things, soaking up the most light – you would have to move some things around to ensure they all had a chance to flourish in the warmth of the day.

There is a Smile of Love, and there is a Smile of Deceit-”

You paused in your pruning, turning from your crouched position to find V leaning against the opened balcony door, eyes roving the page of his poetry book as he held it before him.

“-And there is a Smile of Smiles, in which these two Smiles meet.

“I don’t think I’ve heard you recite that one, before,” you spoke almost wistfully. V’s voice had a way of making you feel like that when he read to you, spoke to you, wistful and longing and soothed to the very soul.

“The moment felt adequate,” he mused, eyes continuing where he left off from the poem. He must have been keen on just saying those few lines, and that was fine. He had a tendency of doing that, and whatever words were said usually had some sort of significance to them.

It was a rather sweet gesture that he let you in on his inner thoughts through those very poems he so loved; at least, you assumed it was.

What did he mean by those particular words, exactly?

“So, which one is mine?”

Your question must have caught the mysterious man off-guard, because he looked a tad on the surprised side at your inquiry, nearly confused.

“Which one is your…?”

“My smile,” you iterated, “which one is it? Loving, deceitful, maybe somewhere in the middle? Maybe it’s none of those. Huh, never really thought about it, until now.”

You watched V’s expression change to that of thoughtfulness, and you wondered briefly if he hadn’t quite thought of it, either. No, that didn’t seem right – V wouldn’t have recited such an obvious thing that eluded to something more if he didn’t have any intent behind it. It may have been presumptuous of you to think he was referring to your smile, in general.

The question, then, was why had he said anything, to begin with?

The prompt snap of V’s book had you almost jumping out of your own thoughts. He was smiling, plush lips lilting to one side and green eyes holding the twinkle of something you couldn’t quite place, like a little secret, one you were privy to, but hadn’t realized you knew of, yet.

“Perhaps that is a question better answered another time.”

He held your gaze for a moment longer, and the contact felt exposing, electrifying. You waited until he finally turned away to let out a semi-shaky breath, blinking a few times to compose yourself.

That was…that was definitely strange, but in a good way.

The sun was getting a tad too warm against your neck and your face, you decided, and the ache in your head was becoming more pronounced. It was time to go inside.

It was an apt excuse to the warmth in your cheeks, at least.

---

Something had changed during that bright, sunny day, something you couldn’t quite put your finger on, not at first.

Whatever it was, it was subtle, if not maddening.

V still went out during the day, doing his best to rid the surrounding area of any lingering demons while venturing further to eliminate what he could. He would come back, always a bit haggard, casting a lingering, lilting smile your way as Griffon squawked his praises and tribulations of the day and pestered you for the hell of it, if not just to get a rise out of you. Shadow would come out to soothe you, sometimes even growling out at Griffon for being too wordy, hilariously enough, and then you would head to bed with a little wave and a small smile, only to start the day over again come morning.

It was the same routine, but things had shifted. The dynamic between you and V had changed yet again to something just a bit more.

And neither of you were acting on it.

Not only was it excruciating, but it was also damn near driving you crazy. You were both playing by rules you didn’t even know had been set out. Nothing was necessarily different, but it was, and the tension between you both would drive even the most mundane of fools insane, you were sure of it.

For some reason, one of the unwritten, unspoken rules was to avoid physical contact. Not even a tap of fingers, and it was something you didn’t even realize was a thing until you very nearly dropped V’s mug of hot chocolate as you passed it to him at even the promise of a lingering touch.

The motion hadn’t gone unnoticed, nor had V made any inclination that he would broach the subject of whatever it was that was happening.

How utterly maddening, indeed.

In an effort to ease your tremulous thoughts one evening, you had taken to fiddling with the hospital band around your wrist, having already read your personal information on it over and over again. Surely, you were doomed to read it a few hundred times more, especially with the odd way you were feeling at that moment, fidgety and all too aware of the closeness between you and V.

He had taken it upon himself to rest right beside you on the couch that evening, the day’s events having worn him out more than usual. You hadn’t moved, lest you accidentally woke him, and found yourself gazing about and losing yourself in thought for all of barely half an hour. He had woken up from his rather brief nap some time ago, gracing you with yet another small smile, then promptly pulled out his book of poems to read over idly in the quiet.

V didn’t seem at all interested or even worried by your close proximity to him, neither commenting on the matter nor moving away. In fact, when you attempted to move, he simply stopped you with that soothing voice of his, looking up from his book to fix you with an intense, imploring stare.

“I rather enjoy the company, if you don’t mind indulging me,” he admitted quietly, and you were damned if you didn’t feel that admittance in your very heart.

So you stayed upon the couch as he read in the quiet of the room, nothing but the sound of the wind picking up outside from time to time as well as the beat of your heart pounding away in your eardrums and very nearly causing an uncomfortable headache, in the process. He didn’t seem at all concerned with your fidgeting fingers, either, or the light smack of your lips as you attempted to ignore the small distance between you, but unable to figure out exactly what to do with yourself besides remaining in his company, as if doing so satisfied both you and him equally.

It did, but it wasn’t something you were willing to dwell on for long.

“Geez, kid, you look wrung out! Didn’t take you for the kind to be on that crazy stuff, but, y’know, end of the line, and all that.”

Griffon’s voice had startled you something fierce, not having expected the avian demon to appear like that upon the pushed back coffee table. You jumped, feeling your heart nearly skip a beat as your hand pushed down hard beside you, fingers just grazing smooth leather-

“I’ll be right back,” you all but said in a rush as you nearly flew upward in your attempt to stand, nearly tripping yourself in your haste to move away, at least far enough where you couldn’t feel the tension as strongly.

You could hear Griffon making a ruckus about having said the wrong thing for all of a moment before the apartment was quiet again. You waited out a few minutes in the bedroom, taking in deep breaths and attempting to will your heart back into a semi-steady rhythm.

Something was there, but neither of you had been willing to breach the pull, to break the tension that seemed to hold you both suspended in…something or other. At the rate you were going, the tension was going to kill you.

It made you nervous, not knowing what to expect. It made you want to make whatever was being left out in the open happen, just to rid yourself of the anxious feeling and finally get somewhere.

When you turned to move back into the living room, you very nearly ran right into V, barely avoiding colliding against his towering form with a sharp gasp.

In the dim, fading light of the sunset through the bedroom window, his expression almost looked worried.

“I’m okay,” you murmured, but even your quiet words sounded far too loud in the silence that surrounded you.

You made to take a step back, but V followed you with his own step forward, and you were suddenly even closer to the man than you were before. You could very nearly feel the heat that emanated from his form, comforting as it was tempting, devastatingly so.

Whatever concern had been within his gaze had disappeared with the shift in the atmosphere, and once more, you were being suffocated in the cloying energy that had created tension between you several days ago. Speaking was out of the question; you were barely able to keep your breathing in check, let alone question exactly what was happening, if what was happening was even allowed, at that point.

V raised his hand slowly, allowing you to track the movement with your own eyes. The glint of silver against his skin caught your attention, the elongated ring that adorned him and made his long fingers look even more elegant by proxy glinting in the fading light. You followed the glossy metal’s closeness until you could no longer see it as his hand passed your face, nearly out of sight of your peripheral.

The tickling sensation of barely-there fingertips against your jawline was a startling, liberating feeling.

V was walking a thin line, apparently, teetering on the edge of breaking the tension that was coming to a head right at that moment. He was playing coy, perhaps under the pretense of not wanting to spook you away, after all that build-up.

That was what you wanted, wasn’t it, though? You wanted the tension to stop, for whatever silly game you were both playing to just end so you could finally breathe in his presence without feeling like your heart was ready to jump out of your throat.

Was it possible that, given the moment, given his current actions, he felt the same way?

You reached out hesitantly towards him, fingers brushing against what felt like thin strings, though you were unable to look away from V’s intense gaze to rightfully say so. You tugged, regardless, and felt the leathery, twine-like string loosen with the motion until the small knotted bow had been effectively unraveled.

V made no move to stop you. You were in no mood to stop.

With slow, careful movements, your fingers unraveled the string corseting V’s coat together, the dark leather coming apart in slow increments until there was nothing hindering you from parting the material and revealing the inked skin of his abdomen to the slight coolness of the room.

There was hesitation in your next move, as it was new territory, a line in the sand you had yet to cross with V. Any worries were quickly being deemed unnecessary by the way V was looking at you, intense and eager for whatever lay ahead.

You inhaled sharply at the feeling of his skin against your palm but a moment later, and the quiet groan of satisfaction that parted his lips was downright sinful.

The following kiss was expected, a natural progression to the tension finally snapping. Even so, you weren’t sure who had succumbed first to the need to be close, closer, closer still, bodies pressing against each other and clumsy hands roaming with quick swipes and rougher-than-necessary squeezes before easing into soothing caresses that spanned limbs and torsos and faces.

When you finally pulled away for air, you were laughing, breathless and delirious on the high that was V.

“Are you alright, my Starlight?”

V was faring no better, pale face slightly flushed and lips looking even plumper from your brash kisses. It was a look you found you rather liked on him, one you wouldn’t mind seeing again and again, as long as you still had on earth.

You smiled at him, full and sincere.

There was a look in his eyes, the one you noticed from before on that oddly sunny day but only just then recognized, thoughtful and contemplative and heated.

And no Smile that ever was smild, but only one Smile alone, that betwixt the Cradle & Grave-

“Shut up, and kiss me again,” you mumbled, stepping up on tiptoes to reach those poetic lips of his. All he could do in that moment was comply, and he did so without preamble.