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Don't Say It

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I closed my eyes, accepting my fate. I’d failed her, but I’d tried. I could only hope she didn’t blame herself again.

But the blow never came.

She stood above me, her hand ivory pale on his wrist and her face sad. Tormented. She wasn’t crying anymore. Her eyes pleaded with Leon gently as she looked from him down to me, then back to him.

I wanted to tell her not to do it, that he would have to kill me anyway before I let him have her ever again.

Leon reached out to her, touching the scar across her cheek. His hand slowly crept around the back of her neck and into her hair to pull him to her. If it weren’t for the dent in my chest holding me down, I would have shattered his legs.

I think I was almost as surprised as he was when she shot him. And then again. And again. And again.

It was finally over.

Turns out she didn’t need my help after all; it was I that needed hers.

She’d saved my life.

The way she cried then, so confused by all the violence… I don’t know if it made me angry or sad, but it stirred something in me. She needed that man like a bullet to the brain. But even after everything he’d done to her, some part of her still loved him.

I closed my eyes. Standing was too difficult to manage on my own, but I tried. When she heard my armor grinding to push me to my feet, she rushed forward and helped pull me up with trembling hands, dropping the gun like it was on fire. Again she clung onto me, sobbing her pain away. The discarded weapon lay at Leon’s feet.

“Come on, let’s get out of here,” I said. I’d said it so quietly I wasn’t sure she’d heard me, but she nodded and lead me away. Back up to my room.

When she started undoing the clasps of my power armor I wanted to tell her that it was alright, I could get it. My voice stayed stuck in my throat until each piece was pulled away and I was left in just a long-sleeved shirt and a pair of ratty jeans. Holes were worn through the fabric at every place the armor had a joint, a piston, a strap. They were old, same clothes I’d worn under the armor since before Leon destroyed that town.

Her skin was so pale.

I focused hard on the opposite wall. “You gonna be ok, Scarlett?”

She shook her head yes, then no. Then she’d pulled herself into me again, clutching my aching frame. Sighing, I gave in and held her close to me.

Without any warning she let go and pulled me to sit down on the edge of the bed with her. One hand snaked around my back and held my side, the other gripping the front of my shirt as she lay her head on my shoulder.

“Scarlett…”

“Don’t,” she said, a warning in her voice. “Just don’t.”

“You know we can’t—”

“I said don’t,” she said, cutting me off with a stern tone. “I don’t care. No one gets to tell me what to do right now.” She looked up at me; I stared out across the room, unsure of what to say or do. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, it was that we shouldn’t. She was too young for a washed-up old paladin like me.

“I—”

“Please, just don’t,” she begged. Her forehead pressed against my cheek and I closed my eyes, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to say no. “Please.”

I reached my hand up and brushed my thumb against her cheek. The words wouldn’t come out, but she knew I’d given in.

She nudged me with her forehead, gently, until I turned to look at her. I glanced at her hair; the way Leon had done it up made her look like some sort of fallen-angel-raider. It wasn’t the Scarlett I knew at all. I ran my hands through it, smoothing it out until it fell neatly to either side.

“That’s better,” I said, looking over my work and running my hand down the back of her head to rest on her neck. She smiled, still clinging to me with both arms. A real smile, one that reached her eyes; I hadn’t seen her smile like that since the day I first pulled her out of Leon’s grasp.

Still smiling, she lifted her hand from my shirt to rest it against the skin of my neck. The room seemed hotter inside than it could have been, so late in the night. The only light in the room came from the moon, its beams shining in through the glassless window.

This had to be her decision, whatever it was. I wouldn’t force her hand, either to pull her closer or push her away. If she asked, she knew she could have me.

But no one else could know.

It wasn’t right.

She didn’t seem to care.

She nodded, pulling me close to her, and –wastes preserve us– I gave in. She pressed her lips to mine. Finally, I found what I’d been looking for all those years. It had been so long since I’d connected, with a woman, any woman, and still it felt like I’d been in her arms for a lifetime. She deepened the kiss and I let her. Pulled her closer to me. Wrapped an arm around her waist. I was afraid she’d realize her mistake and run away.

When she broke the kiss and pulled away I let go of her instantly, not sure whether to pull her back to me or apologize. Neither happened. Instead she moved farther onto the bed, laying her head down against the pillow. She held a hand out to me, the other resting on her stomach.

It couldn’t happen. None of it could happen, but it did. I took her hand and laid down next to her on my side, pulled her body up against mine and kissed her like it was the last time I ever would. Maybe because I’d wanted to for so long and denied myself it, maybe because I thought it would be the last, the only time.

She rolled up on her side and wrapped an arm around my back. Her neck felt hot against my hand.

“Scarlett,” I repeated, but softer this time, her name becoming my mantra. She only smiled in response.

Her hand crept up under my shirt, fingers splaying against my back and then around to my chest. I could feel her hand drag across every scar, but she didn’t seem bothered by them.

I moved my own hand slowly from her neck down across her shoulder, then along her side. My thumb brushed against the exposed skin of her chest; her eyes closed and I shuddered. She was too beautiful for someone as old and worn out as me.

Too fast.

I moved my hand down to rest against the curve of her waist.

Heat began to coil in my stomach but I pushed it down; no use getting excited over something that might not happen.

My breath caught as she carefully undid the buttons of my shirt; for once I was grateful for the lack of light in the room. She might not be able to see my war-torn skin as she pushed back the fabric.

She was so beautiful.

Her lips brushed against my chest, kissing each and every raised patch of skin where a blade or a bullet had marred it. Her hands feeling for them in the dark. Try as I might, I couldn’t stop the stifled moan from escaping my lips. All I could do was hold her, bewildered. She explored my body. I refused to push her.

So when it was her own hands that undid the half-vest around her waist, I was relieved and terrified. Terrified that she would stop, or that she wouldn’t. There was no way to know which would be worse. I just didn’t want her to regret any of it. For her to someday wish she hadn’t made this choice.

I couldn’t push down that heat in the pit of my stomach anymore. I tried to pull back from her, just enough so that her hips wouldn’t touch mine. She pressed them back to hers again with her hand on the small of my back. Her foot pulled my leg between hers. No hiding anything anymore.

Her white dress, dirt-stained from the day, fluttered as a breeze blew in through the window. My eyes glanced to the door, but it hadn’t moved. No one wanted to bother Scarlett. Thought she was too fragile. Maybe she was. But I knew her better.

She looked up at me, her eyes full of lust and what I refused to let myself think was love. And I gave in.

I pressed my lips to hers and wrapped an arm all the way around her back, pulling her as close to me as I could. If I lost her after tonight I wanted this memory to hold on to and know I tried.

She seemed so small against me.

Her fingers wrapped around my bicep, hesitantly squeezing. Moved, to rest at my belt. It felt like fire tracing along wherever she touched. Then her fingers slid, just slightly, under it and against my hipbone.

I squeezed her tight to me, kissing down her neck. A quiet moan in my ear made me gasp for air. Or maybe it was that her trembling fingers were quickly undoing my belt and sliding down the zipper of my jeans. Wait.

“Scarlett…” Her name was still like honey on my tongue each time I said it.

No response.

“You… We don’t have to… I won’t be upset if—”

“I want to,” she said, quietly. She pushed me back just enough to look at me. “I want to,” she repeated. Her hands went to her neck and undid the buttons of the halter dress she wore. Slowly –god it was tantalizing– pulled the fabric away, down from her shoulders. She looked from her chest and hands, to me, and smiled, then pulled it further. Down her chest, her waist. I could feel her feet kicking it off and onto the floor.

Transfixed, I let my hand rest on her bare hip as she returned to the task of pulling away my own clothing. Felt unfair to be laying there in my boxer-briefs while she was baring all to me, but it gave me one last chance.

One more time.

Offer her a way out.

But she pulled me on top of her, on top of her beautiful, pale skinned self. I hovered over her, supporting myself on my hands and knees. My hips pressed up against hers. I wanted her, I wanted her more than anything.

“Scarlett… you’re sure you want this?”

She said nothing, just looking calmly up at me, and for one terrible moment I thought she really was going to change her mind.

“I love the way you say my name,” she said. She cupped my cheek with one hand and wrapped the other around my side. I gave in completely; I nodded, and let her pull me down to her.

Anything for her.

I kissed from her neck down to her chest, wrapping an arm around under her to pull her body closer to me as I took a nipple in my mouth. Her mouth fell open and she arched into me; the heat in my groin made it hard to think straight. My free hand slid down the outside of her thigh. Raked back up it.

She clawed at my back but it didn’t hurt. She could have slit my throat and I wouldn’t feel the pain.

“You’re so beautiful,” I muttered against her skin, moving to her other breast. “So beautiful.”

“Ron,” she whispered, a half-gasp. Her hips pressed up and I ground mine down to meet them. A full on moan from her lips nearly drove me over the edge right there. Then it was her lips on my neck and shoulder, her teeth gently biting at my nape.

Her hands sliding beneath the waistband of my briefs.

Her hands pushing them down toward my knees.

Her hands reaching for me.

My turn to gasp as I felt her fingers wrap around me, slow but not unsure.

With a groan I moved my own hand between her legs, calloused fingertips pressing against her softest skin. I’d waited so long for the moment, not allowed myself to even think about it for so long, I almost forgot what to do. Her hips bucking beneath me and her half-choked moans said I wasn’t doing all bad though.

My head felt heavy against her shoulder. I breathed in and out, slow. Focus. Slid a finger between her folds. Hot wet heat met it and I pressed it into her, groaning at the feel I’d forbidden myself for years. I added another finger. The slick skin of her core tightened. Her fingers tightened around me as well; it was maddening.

I had to hold myself back from just taking her right there. No warning.

So beautiful.

She pulled, stroking me up and down with slow, deliberate movements. I pumped my fingers in and out of her. Dared a glance to see her face: head thrown back and eyes closed, mouth open in a half-gasp. I kissed her, hard, teasing her tongue with my own, and she bucked her hips up to meet my hand.

“Please,” she whispered, breaking away to breathe. Her hands moved to my hips and pulled them down against hers. “Please.”

How could I say no?

I pulled my hand away, fingers sticky. Popped one in my mouth. It tasted so sweet and the sight made Scarlett moan beneath me. I offered her the other finger. She sucked on it hungrily, licking away the flavor in a way that made my hips grind down against her.

Last chance.

With one hand I positioned myself. Looked down at her wide hips and spread legs.

“Are you sure?” If she said no I’d go mad with the tension, but…

She nodded.

I stared into her eyes. “Scarlett, I need to hear you say it. If we did this and you even doubted slightly? I could never forgive myself,” I said, cringing at the pleading tone my voice took on. I needed to be the strong one here. “I… I don’t know what you’d want with a washed-up old paladin like me. If you want this, I need to hear you say it.”

She took in a deep breath. “Yes,” she said quietly. “I’m sure. I want you, Ron; I need you. I need this. Please…”

I kissed her forehead, closing my eyes. “All right.” It was so quiet even I could hardly hear it. I doubted she was regularly having sex with anyone. Didn’t really know for sure if she’d even had sex at all before. Didn’t want to know. But I knew it might hurt her – even if only a little.

I pressed my lips to hers again. She responded instantly, kissing back with fervor.

No going back.

I pressed into her. Slow. Careful. Guiding my shaft with one hand until it was fully inside her. She pressed her head back into the pillow and gasped; I groaned at the feel of her warm wetness, so inviting. I could feel her insides tightening and relaxing as she got used to the feeling of being filled.

The feeling of her being filled by me.

I brought my free hand up and wrapped it under her, had her held with both arms. If I never felt her warmth against me again, this memory would be enough to bring me to heaven. Her body trembled beneath me. I gripped her shoulder and waited.

Only when she nodded did I again move.

Slow. Caring. Giving. Loving.

God above, I was fucked. In love? And let her have me when I knew she would never feel for me the way I did for her.

Can’t think about it.

I pressed into her over and over and over, feeling her fingers press into the skin of my back, grab at my hips, rake up my sides. Her mouth on my neck, then tugging at an earlobe.

“Oh Scarlett…” I fought to keep myself at the slow, steady, rhythm.

“Ron,” she moaned back. Her fingers tangled in my hair, pulled my mouth to hers. I loved it.

Her?

She pulled my hips down to meet hers, trying to make me go faster. I didn’t let her. Wanted it to last; if she pushed me I wasn’t sure I could. I pulled her body closer, nuzzling my face into her neck. It felt so right. If I closed my eyes she made me feel young, whole again – everything I wasn’t. Everything I couldn’t be again.

So tight and young. More beautiful than I was ever designed to handle. In my youth there’d been more than enough women willing to let me try to please them. No issue with knowing how. She was just more than I could take. More than I ever could have taken.

But damn if I won’t try.

Scarlett whimpered beneath me, a mess of pleasure and need. Still, I kept myself in check with every thrust. Slowly harder and harder, but not changing pace. Not yet. She tightened around me and clawed at my back, crying out. I covered her mouth with my own to keep the noise from reaching other rooms.

My hand slipped between her legs. Almost too much; she nearly screamed into my mouth. I caught her moans with my tongue. She was so close; close to me, close to oblivion, I’ll never know which was closer but it was all pressing harder against us both.

I wanted to last for her, to make it go on for hours and hours but I’m no god. It was her lips pressing kisses to my shoulder, the feel of her leg against my hip, the way she tried to cry out curses and praises and my name –my name– all at once. She’s too perfect and I just want to hold her closer but she’s as close as she can get.

Make it count.

Make her know.

Don’t say it.

So beautiful.

Her hips angled up to meet me and I knew it was over. I caught her mouth with my own and kissed her again, again, again, again; damn it all I was like clay in her arms. She jumped off that cliff and pulled me down into oblivion with her. Against her.

I didn’t want to think about whether or not she might decide to catch me at the bottom.

“Scarlett…” I whispered into her shoulder. Held her tight against me, not believing when she hugged me even closer. She was a pale china doll beneath me; I rolled to her side only so she wouldn’t get crushed.

The sun was nearly up when she finally lifted her head from my chest. I didn’t want to let her go, but I knew she’d never stay. That was why I couldn’t close my eyes all night. The feel of her still burned in my skin.

Don’t say it.

Maybe if I let her go she’d come back to me. Maybe not. Maybe I didn’t want to think about it. I wanted to know where she would go, but even she didn’t know. So I didn’t ask, and she didn’t tell me.

If she’d told me, I probably would have followed her.

There were too many things that I needed to do. The Lockre needed patching up, and men needed burying. It would take a long time to get things back to normal, but I knew her memory would keep me going.

That morning, outside in the heat of the Mojave sun, she pressed herself to my chest, let me hold her – but didn’t look up for one last kiss before she turned to leave. Said she was going to help another young woman, one of Leon’s now freed slaves, find her home again. Another of the wrongs she thought she had to right but couldn’t voice. I wanted to kiss her, to hold on to her, but it still wouldn’t be right. Not even if we were alone inside. She was too young for a washed-up old paladin like me. She was her own and no one else’s.

With a smile and a wave, she was gone.