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come, gentle night

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(This was how the story went: 

Jo befriended the Laurence boy first, and in turn staked her claim on him. This was not what Jo had intended, but anyone with working vision could see Laurie’s infatuation, so the claiming was not an issue worth pursuing. Everyone expected them to marry by the end, naturally.

But Amy—she knew. 

She saw, and she felt, and she knew. She might have been young, but she understood her sister—and after a while, she began to understand Laurie too. And here is what she understood: Laurie loved Jo, but Jo, while she felt strongly for Laurie, did not return his affections. Not in the way he wanted.

Here is what Amy did not understand:

She was in love with Laurie.

How that happened, when it did, she did not know. She barely noticed as it was happening; she simply woke up one day and—despite not wanting to, despite trying desperately not to—fell in love with him.

The good thing was that she was young. Perhaps it meant nothing, or maybe it would fade over time. It was nothing (nothing, nothing, a fickle crush mistaken for love) but still, she saw how he looked at Jo and couldn’t help the burning resentment. 

She spent a lot of time looking at Laurie. Attempting to understand him, getting to know him. He did not pay her much attention, but her pragmatism chalked that up to vast difference in age and personality. It was fine. She could ignore it. Laurie was much too obsessed with Jo to pay her any mind, regardless. 

In the meantime, she drew him. Subtle strokes of pencil along parchment, whispers of her truth in every miniscule movement. A sharp line for her anger, a careful shade for her secrecy, a gentle curve for her heart—over and over and over until she bled and wept and emptied herself into a simple drawing. 

And then she did it again. 

It was the only way she could survive. This feeling was all-consuming, and she had no one to share her secret with, no one who would understand what it meant to her. No one but her canvas, where she poured every sacred bit of emotion, devastated by the inevitability of a broken heart.

Her sister had words, and Amy had this.

She did it until she no longer felt burdened by the weight of a love for her sister’s future husband, until she did not feel hurt looking at Laurie without reciprocation, until she was numb with the feeling, instead of destroyed by it.

This was how the story went, this was how it happened. 

Until it turned out that this wasn’t how the story went, after all.

Suddenly, remarkably—Laurie began to look at Amy, too.)

 


 

Ultimately, it was Amy that Laurie chose to wed, not Jo.  

She felt happy with him, and he loved her, but peace was a luxury she could not afford. Not when she’d finish painting for the day and find them outside the window, sparring in the gardens, and ignite with jealousy.

Amy knew he picked her; she was perfectly aware, and yet. 

Yet, there remained a stubborn sliver of insecurity that crept inside her and found home. It did not leave, despite her most valiant attempts—instead, it festered, it blossomed, and it never failed to remind her that she was second. 

(Second best, second choice. Second love.)

She was losing a race that Jo never wanted to participate in to begin with—and she hated calling it that, a race, but her pride was a demon she barely knew how to fight.

She couldn’t help the doubt. She knew it was her he’d married, not her sister. She knew, before she married Laurie, that this was something she’d need to accept. It was something she’d have to put aside, move past, overcome. She knew.

(But Jo was still his first love, wasn’t she?)

It was not Laurie’s fault. If Amy was honest, this issue held roots in more than simple-minded jealousy. It was bigger than the man she’d chosen to be her husband. He was a part of it, of course, but he was also facing the brunt of it all—of the years Amy had spent in Jo’s shadow, enamoured by her elder sister’s presence, but also fiercely envious of it. Envious that Jo was so effortlessly everything Amy wished to be: brillant, enchanting, joyous, carrying a heated warmth that was not easily mimicable. More than that, though, Amy felt envious that Jo had a choice. She was brave enough to be great, the greatest of her kind—she could afford to be when Amy could not. Jo had spent years learning how to be great, while Amy learned the importance of taming passions out of pure necessity. 

And yes, she did regard her sister with envy, but that did not mean that Amy lacked self-esteem. Amy had grown into herself. This, she knew. 

Amy did not need to be informed of her strengths, nor her flaws. She was beautiful, intellectual, spirited, and passionate—sometimes even to a fault: all callous intensity, biting remarks, and impulsive decisions. She was an artist, it was embedded in her soul, and although she did not consider her gift in the same manner that Jo considered hers, she protected it with equal measure. She was good, in the very sense of the word. She was picky about who she loved, but when she did, she felt it with her entire being. 

But it remained true that when she saw Laurie and Jo together, even if they solely acted as friends did, there was a part of her that wanted to throw a fit and yell: He’s mine!   

She adored her husband, and she adored her sister. She trusted them with her life. These were facts.

When Laurie had asked for her hand in marriage, she’d asked him, in an unsteady voice: Are you positive you no longer love her? He’d informed her that while he’d once believed himself to be in love with Jo, he hadn’t quite been—at least, not really, not in the most direct sense of the phrase. He’d learned real love through Amy, he’d said, and while she hadn’t entirely understood what he meant at the time, she had accepted it—simply because Laurie always spoke with his eyes, and when she looked at them, the honesty bared to her was unquestionable. 

Laurie would never hurt her with intention; he wouldn’t lie to her. 

But today, stepping onto the evergreen grass outside their house, she was once again struck with that stubborn, regrettable question: did Laurie know what he was doing when he made this commitment to her? Was he really sure? Because Amy—she didn’t know if he did.

“Is that all you’ve got?” she heard Jo mock Laurie, in a teasing voice. Her sister cackled when Laurie failed to defend himself, flinching away when she attacked him with her sword. Amy looked toward the chairs to see Friedrich observing their antics, book in hand, with a fond, sincere smile. 

(But of course he could be genuine about his happiness for their friendship—it was not his wife, after all, that had once loved Laurie. Amy was alone in this predicament, with no one to share her worries.)

When her gaze returned to them, Laurie had moved three more feet toward the gates, still passionately attempting to get the upper hand. “Jo! You are cheating,” Laurie said, between heavy pants and sharp movements.

Jo gasped, dramatics in full force. “You can be so sore sometimes, Teddy. Admit to it, here and now, that I am better at you.” She shoved her sword back at him, definitely not in the proper usage of the instrument, but it was somehow benefitting her in the fight.

“How could I say you’re greater?” Laurie cried. “You’re barely following the proper etiquette! You must be aware that there are rules for swordsmanship!”

“There are no rules in war,” Jo replied, all haughtiness. She continued, with an air of mild, joking condescension, “Do you truly believe that people win wars with fairness? Please do not be naive, Teddy.”

“Naivety doesn’t suit me, dear Jo,” Laurie replied with a slight smirk. Then fluttered his eyelashes and said, sotto voce, “I may be quite pretty, but I do not lack brains.”

Amy bristled, wondering if she should have stayed inside to avoid this. Her hands were still covered in fresh paint, but if they hadn’t been, she might have opted to wring them anxiously. 

Laurie has always been this way, she reminded herself. It’s simply how he speaks—he does not mean it harmfully.

She knew it—but the part of Amy that craved Laurie’s validation, for his attention, for his preference, wished that he would look away from his time with Jo and notice her presence. 

And it was at that moment, magically, by some grace of the Lord, that he did. The instant that he caught sight of her, he turned fully toward her place in the doorway, a toothy grin overtaking his boyish face. More surprising than that, he dropped his sword in an automatic sign of defeat. “Oh, Amy!” he called. “Have you finished your duties?”

Amy opened her mouth to respond, but her sister cut her off with a loud, triumphant yell.

“I win! Oh, Friedrich, did you see? I won!” Jo cheered, jumping on spot, unladylike.

Laurie gave Jo a side-eye glance, glaring scornfully. “You’re a cheat, Josephine March. But yes, I surrender.” Jo stuck her tongue out, walking toward her husband with a large smile, and Laurie decided to follow in her footsteps, approaching Amy with an eye-roll that conveyed the common sentiment of, That sister of yours. “This time!” He added, in one last call to Jo, before reaching Amy and wrapping his arms around her.

Amy tried to pull away, but Laurie held on. “I’m covered in paint,” she protested, pushing at his chest. She had forgotten to wash her hands and take off her smock when she came outside.

“I don’t quite care,” Laurie said sweetly, squeezing her tight and showering the crown of her head with kisses.

She blushed, but countered with firmness, “Those clothes are expensive, dear.”

“How lucky that I am rich, then, and can replace them easily.” 

Amy huffed. “That does not mean you should destroy them, Laurie,” she chastised. He spoke like this, sometimes, and Amy had still not gotten used to it—the freedom that came with being economically privileged. Laurie was frivolous with his money, and his financial carelessness was one of the few things about him which truly bothered her.

He hummed against her temple. “You are right, my Lady,” he conceded, voice more tender than it had been before. 

They were swaying on the spot now, out in the open—her face buried in his chest, his arms wound around her, his lips gracing her golden curls. The thought came to her that perhaps her husband had sensed the tensity within her, and felt a need to comfort her; however, she could not tell if he understood that her tension came less from the reminder that she had grown up poor and he had not, and more from the interaction she had observed between him and Jo. 

He pressed his cheek against hers and said in her ear, “Let us go upstairs and soak them in water. Would that be better?” 

Laurie pulled back, keeping her close, but enough that he could look at her properly. Amy hesitated briefly, unsure if she could handle being alone with him in a state of fraught emotion, but relented at his molten gaze.

She gave her agreeance, replying her steadiest voice, “Yes, let’s.”

Their attempt to bid farewell to Jo and Friedrich didn’t bode well, mostly because they did not hear it—they seemed to have entered a heated debate about something or the other, as they usually did. Amy thought, privately, that for her sister, arguing was almost a substitute for flirting.

“I, for one, am thankful that you saved me, Amy,” Laurie was saying as he led her away, their fingers intertwined. “Those two had been bickering for nearly an hour before you came outside. Over coursework! Of all the things to do on a day off.”

Amy hummed, looking at the back of Laurie’s head, the only part of him she could see as they went up the stairs. “It seemed as if you and Jo were enjoying yourselves.”

Laurie huffed. “That is only because I fell bored, and begged her to practice with me. Your sister does not back down from a challenge.”

You don’t have to inform me, I am well-aware, she wanted to say, but they had reached the bedroom, and there were more important things to be done than make vague, passive-aggressive comments. “Please remove your clothes,” she said instead, leading him to the washroom to run a bucket of hot water in the bathtub and remove her own painting smock.

Laurie sat on the stool by the bath and removed his vest, handing it to her to wash.

When he made no move to unbutton his dress clothes, she prompted, “Your shirt, too, please.”

Laurie gave her a sly smile, complying with her request, but added, “I would have much preferred you to undress me.”

Amy suppressed a smile as she lifted the bucket to the sink, submerging the vest first. “That, you’ll have to earn,” she replied primly.

Laurie looked up at her, continuing with his task. “How do you suppose I do that?” he murmured to her, reaching a hand out, requesting her return to him.

She obeyed, moving closer to push the garment from his frame, hands lingering on his bare shoulders. Leaning down, she brushed her lips against his cheekbone, listening closely for his sharp inhale. “Prove your devotion to me,” she whispered teasingly, lingering against him until the tension between them built out of control, and she needed to pull away. 

Laurie laughed breathily, and began moving so quickly that she couldn’t tell what he was doing, removing his shirt and promptly throwing it at her face. “Laurie!” she yelled, grinning at his childishness. By the time she pulled it away from her, he was already in her space, much too close than required.

Amy,” he teased lowly, a smile quirking at his mouth. His arms went around her, in an instant—through their marriage, so far, she’d learned that Laurie showed his love in physical affection, and she relished in it. Nosing at her cheek, he murmured to her, “My love, let us go to bed.”

“It is ten after three,” she replied, sighing happily in his embrace.

Laurie laughed, kissing the crevice of her jaw. “Not for sleep, dear Amy.”

She flushed. “Oh,” she said, spine going taut. She wanted it, she did, but what she had observed earlier was still nagging at her. To stall for time, she told him, “I need to wash this first, before it stains.”

“Hmm,” Laurie responded, pulling back to look her directly in the eye. “I’ll watch, then.” His hands pushed her back toward the sink and wrapping his arms around her from behind, bare torso warming her through her own layers.

“Staying while I work?” Amy asked, lips quirking. “That does not sound quite appealing.” Although, the press of his front against her back most definitely was.

Laurie sighed. “Amy,” he said, voice muffled into the hair close to her neck, “the thing most appealing to me is spending time with you, no matter how it is done.”

Her heart jumped into her throat, and she couldn’t help but melt against him. He was so, so good to her—he really was. He gave her everything, and he clearly loved her. And here she was, questioning his honesty. She was a wretched wife.

If she did not voice her concerns aloud, they would continue to ruin her. It was not going away, there was nothing she could do about it by herself, and Amy did not know how much longer she could endure witnessing their bickering or sparring without combusting.

It was time, she thought, for the truth. 

“My Lord,” she began quietly, as she went through the motions of washing, “I have a question, if you wouldn’t mind.”

When she offered no further information, Laurie prompted her further. “What is it, my Lady?” 

She didn’t know where to begin, so she dug within herself until she reached the crux. “Have you ever been jealous?”

Laurie’s chin dug into her shoulder as he looked over it to watch her work. “Why, of course. Many times in my life. Why do you ask?”

She was quiet for a moment, pensive, swallowing around the lump in her throat. “Because throughout my life, I have always felt jealous of Jo.”

His fingers tightened around her hips. In a quiet voice, he acknowledged, “I know.”

She stilled. “You knew?”

“It is common, with siblings,” he explained simply, turning her in his arms so that she could face him. Her hands were wet and soapy, but she rested them on his chest anyway, allowing his skin to soak up the residue. “And… I could tell, especially growing up. With your fights, and the way you’d act during arguments—it is clear you have your differences.”

She bit her lip; of course Laurie noticed, he had always been observant. “It is more than that, I believe,” she admitted, looking at the floor.

Laurie’s hand went to her chin, tilting it upwards so he could see her. “What more, then?”

She tightened her jaw and added, “Well, you—it is true that you loved her, once.”

Laurie pressed his lips together and did not reply, waiting for her to continue.

“I know that we talked about it, once,” she said, in a low tone, “but... there is a part of me that cannot let that go.”

“What are you saying to me, Amy?” Laurie whispered. When she looked at him, he had fear in his eyes.

“Oh, Laurie, no. Not that. I love you—I have since I was a girl, and I always will,” she told him, first. Laurie relaxed at that, kissing her quickly, gratefully; she knew it had been what he needed to hear. “And I know you love me, too. I do.” Laurie nodded, relief seemingly overcoming him. “But—”

He blinked, and went tense again.

“But—” Oh, she couldn’t do it, it was much too embarrassing. She breathed slowly, and hoped for the words to come easier. “It is simply that—I sometimes wonder if I could ever compare to Jo, in your eyes,” she rushed out, flushing in embarrassment. Laurie made a devastated sound, one that made her want to cry. “You loved her first. You did. She is—she is everything I have ever wished to be, and everything I never could be. And you two have this bond. It is so different from the one we share.”

“Yes, it is,” Laurie said, finding his voice. “Our bond is nothing like my friendship with Jo.”

“Precisely,” she replied, because that was exactly it. “It is why I believe you prefer her.”

“Oh, Amy,” he breathed, in anguish. “Have you always felt this way? I mean—I knew you did, once. But… still?”

She swallowed. “On occasion,” she replied quietly, which she knew Laurie would understand as yes, always.

“I thought my word might’ve been enough to convince you,” Laurie replied. He sounded so heartbroken, as if a part of his spirit had died hearing her truth. “I thought that—you’d know, once we were married.”

She hated seeing him forlorn in any way. She cupped his face between her hands, rubbing a thumb over his mouth. “Oh, Laurie. I didn’t mean to upset you; I apologise.”

He ran a hand through his curls, harried. “For what are you apologising, my love?” he asked in confusion. “It is my fault, after all. I have not made my feelings clear enough to you. I feel nothing but anger for myself.”

“Laurie,” she tried to utter, but her voice wobbled pathetically. She shut her mouth in an instant, shame twisting inside her. Despite the fact that she had given him her heart, she still held onto a gratuitous amount of pride, much too much to consider being proper for a lady, and she did not like showing any signs of weakness.

Laurie kissed the corner of her mouth. “My Amy,” he whispered to her, and when she finally looked at him, there were tears caught on his waterline. “I am in love with you. I love you, I do—so, so dearly. When I look at you, I sometimes fear my heart will burst inside me.”

And—Amy knew he loved her, but hearing that from his mouth, the affirmation, was the last piece to undo the wall she had built. She let out a ridiculous sob, and Laurie gathered her in his arms, almost in a motion to protect her from herself.  

“Please know this, Amy,” he murmured, kissing her everywhere he could reach with his mouth. “I love you so desperately. Please remember this.”

“Laurie,” she repeated, whimpering. It was all she could bear to say.

“I know, I know,” he soothed, and did so until she stopped trembling.

When she finally contained herself, she pulled away, shaking her head in dismay. “My apologies.”

Laurie let out a noise of disapproval. “You are my wife, Amy. It is okay to cry in my presence.”

“It is not the crying, I assure you. I have cried near you before.” It is the embarrassment, the humiliation I feel, questioning whether my husband loves me. She would never say this to him aloud—at this point, she had said enough, far too much.

Laurie tilted his head, eyes skirting over her face, and said to her, “Amy, I am going to tell you the truth.” Her heart seized in her chest, and she felt a bout of panic. “No, sweetheart, it is nothing for you to fear, not at all. But I will not hold back, and I will be as forthright as I possibly can. Can you handle this?”

Amy observed him, his open face, the unguardedness that he possessed, and felt comforted by it. She did not know if she could handle the truth, but she did know that she must. And more than that, she trusted Laurie implicitly. “Yes,” she replied, finally.

“Alright.” Laurie led her to their bed, and sat them down at the foot of it, both turned toward each other. They were both silent for a few moments, as they waited for him to gather the words. “Growing up, I never had anyone to play with. We had play-dates, yes, but not the kind enjoyable for a child, or me—or, so I thought, when I was younger. For any reason, I’ve always resisted that part of myself, thinking that it never suited me. The lifestyle, the parties, the etiquette, the formalities…” 

“I think you are better suited for it than you believe to be,” she replied, because it was true.

“But that is my exact point, Amy,” he said, quietly. “The fact that you understand that, and I barely knew it myself. I hardly understood myself when I was younger. Nothing held my interest. I was unbelievably lost—aimless, purposeless.

“And when I met Jo, everything changed. Not only because of her, but because of all of you, the March girls who welcomed me into your family so wholeheartedly.”

Amy could feel a sting behind her eyes, thinking solely of how Laurie found home in her family. In a way, they’d believed the Laurences to be family before marriage joined them, but knowing that she could provide this for him, some variation of an official link to what he’d always wanted, overwhelmed her beyond words.

“And I love my grandfather, I do, but he and I are often at odds, and I was lonely for a long time. You are aware that my parents…” he trailed off. Amy squeezed his hand in sign of comfort, heart hurting deeply for him, but he shook his head and continued. “Regardless. Meeting you all had me realise what I desired from life. It was the exact same thing that I never had much of, to begin with: love, and family.”

“And you have that, now,” she whispered to him, in reassurance, and he nodded. She squeezed his hand tighter, and he smiled at her, almost in thanks for giving that to him. But he needn’t thank her at all—Laurie was a part of her now, and there was nothing she wished for more than his knowledge that he was safe and loved.

“I know. I do.” He kissed her temple with a softness that left her with a need to cry. “Well, I believe I made an attempt at seeking what I wished for—but it was misplaced. Placed in the wrong person.”

It began to fall into place, hearing him explain with the context and circumstance that her younger self did not have. Now that she was grown and could let go of preconceived notions, she was beginning to realise that maybe she had misunderstood.

“I want to be honest with you, Amy. Jo and I share many similarities. But so many that it wouldn’t have been good for me in marriage. She is the first woman I’d ever grown close with. We fulfilled something inexplicable for each other, and I thought of it, wrongfully, in place of romantic love. But it was only until we had time apart, and I understood myself better, that I realised… I love Jo as my greatest friend, and only that.”

“But how can you be sure?” she whispered, knowing that this might be his truth, but still unsure of how it could be. 

“Because I have never fully understood, nor accepted Jo,” Laurie said, almost with a sense of shame. “I wanted her to be who I needed, not who she was. And in the same manner: Jo has never fully understood who I am. With her, I never would have grown. She and I are so similar—the same childishness, reckless abandon… I’d have continued lazing around, and never found my direction. I care for Jo dearly, but knowing what I know now, it is not the same as true love.”

He placed a hand over hers, resting against her thigh, and the heat of his skin, the race of his pulse—warm, true, real—helped her accept that she’d been wrong all along. 

“But, Amy—you saw me. You always have.” 

Shaking his head, almost in wonderment, he intertwined their hands. She ached to be closer to him, so she moved until their legs were against each other, moulding into one.

“And it was not until Europe, I believe, that I finally began to see you, and truly understand. This is how it was always meant to be. You reel me in. You put me in my place, and make me better. You remind me of my purpose.” He raised their joined hands to his lips, kissing her knuckles gently. “There is no one on this Earth meant for me more than you.”

Her breath caught in her throat, and she couldn’t contain herself any longer, throwing herself at him, hugging him against her with fierceness. “And me, you,” she replied, even if he already knew.

“And you know,” Laurie started, quietly, into her shoulder, “I don’t understand why you continue to compare yourself with your sister, when you and Jo are much more alike than you believe, in the best of ways. But you’re also quite different, in even more marvellous ways that you are alike.”

Amy pressed her lips together, pulling away, unsure of how she felt hearing that. “I do not wish to be compared to my sister,” she told him. After all, it had done her no good comparing them in her past. She could never place them side-by-side, in her mind, and come up as the better half.  

Laurie pulled on a loose curl at the back of her head. “Dear Amy,” he said softly, “you must be aware that everything I admire about you has nothing to do with whom you are related, and everything to do with who you are.” 

“And who am I?” she goaded, because she was Amy March, and he was Theodore Laurence, and while she knew herself, she had always yearned for his praise in particular.

He grinned knowingly, and the mood shifted immediately, taking on a lightness that they greatly needed. “To begin,” he said, reaching his hand up to stroke the slope of her neck with his fingertips, eyes following the movement of his hands. “You are aware that you are beautiful.”

“Yes,” she responded, because—well, it was true, and she would not deny it.

Laurie laughed brightly. “That, also. Your confidence, your energy.” 

“If only you could see the inside of my head,” Amy told him, sighing, although she hated admitting the insecurity.

He went sad, raising a palm to cup her face, and she melted at his touch. “No, no. You are so confident, so bright. You shine so bright, my Amy, so much that everyone is helpless but to notice you.”

They were pretty words, but she wasn’t sure if they mattered—not when her soul was so taken by one person. She let her hands wander along his bare torso, touching simply because she could, because she had the right. “While I enjoy being noticed by entire colonies,” she whispered, a hair away from his lips, “I’ve only ever wished to be noticed by you.”

He kissed her, then, so hard and vicious that she toppled back on the bed with the force of it.  “I notice you all the time,” he told her, in a rough voice. Hovering over her, he asked, “Don’t you see, my love?” 

To prove it, he pulled them up along the surface, kissing deeply along the way, the whispers of his tongue against her, the promise of more. He adjusted them until they were comfortable, then pressed his leg between hers until she could feel it—the undeniable proof of him noticing her. 

She gasped, half-scandalised by his forwardness, half-uncaring because she wanted him so badly. “Laurie!” she laughed, even though she liked it—oh, she liked him so much. 

“What?” he asked, and she could feel his cheeky grin against the side of her neck. He pulled back, softening when he caught sight of her smile. “I notice you, Amy.”

She smoothed a thumb over his eyebrow, memorising his face. He turned his head into her hand, nuzzling it, kissing her palm with an open mouth. 

“I notice every part of you,” he whispered, pressing burning kisses into her skin, her wrist, her forearm, working his way up her arm until he reached her shoulders. “You intellect, your talent, your artistry,” he listed, kissing her lower each time, until he reached the curve of her breast. “I notice your sharp wit, and the ruthlessness that your retorts possess,” he said, biting at the swell of her. She moaned, cradling his head against her. “I notice your sounds, too, like that one.” He laved a tongue over his bite mark, and when she looked down at him, the sight was enough to send her spiralling, how his tongue soothed the angry, red, possessive making on her skin. “I notice how much you like this, too,” he said, and pushed her garments out of the way with a rough hand to take her nipple into his mouth, grazing it with his teeth, the way she’d taught him she enjoyed.

Oh,” she whimpered, and fisted a hand tight in his hair, the way he’d taught her he enjoyed.

He breathed against her chest, looking up at her in a way she could tell held restraint. “Will you come to bed with me, now?”

“Yes, my Lord,” she whispered back, because she adored seeing his pupils dilate when she called him that. Teasingly, she added: “Show me your devotion, once and for all.”

He laughed against her skin, and she pulled him firmly by the hair until their lips met again. The relief she felt—nothing could compare. As they unravelled in tandem, she took a moment to get a proper look at him: her greatest love, her husband, her muse. She wanted to immortalise him in this very moment, the sheer intensity of his gaze when he looked at her. One day, she would paint him like this. Deep, bold, sweeping streaks of the most vivid multicolour, the richest oils. Only the best for her Laurie. And when she was done looking, he pulled her back into him, lips meeting again and again and again, until they submerged in this pure salvation of happiness. She was finally at peace.

You are mine, her kiss said. 

I have never been anything but yours, his returned. 

And, with that, it was done.