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the eye of the storm

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August 2004

They have been sleeping together for four months and in that time Roz has learned many things, among them: the best use of Frasier’s mouth, the exact constellation of freckles on his right shoulder, and the startling clarity of his eyes as he watches her lower herself onto him, taking his hardness like a kiss, slow and intentional. It is almost unnerving the intense way he watches her when they have sex, like she is the only thing in the world that has ever mattered.

Some nights those eyes are just too much. Tonight he is mostly sitting, propped up by pillows behind him, in the bed Roz can’t bring herself to admit she has come to think of as theirs. She is rocking and sliding herself up and down the length of him. His hands cradle her hips to guide, to anchor, and to adjust the angle as needed. Her hands find purchase at his shoulders, gripping tightly to skin slick with perspiration. Frasier’s eyes are settled on hers, drawing her in even as she is nearing her climax. The heat between her legs has nothing on this. It will surely burn her if she’s not careful. She moves her hands into the short bristles of hair at the base of his neck, pulling him closer as she slides down hard and then shatters with a gasp and a blinding wave of pleasure. The waves crest and crash but she continues to move. Frasier’s hips buck up and into the aftershocks of her climax until his body reaches its own crescendo.

Afterwards, she is still holding him and he sags against her, his mouth open against the juncture of her neck and collarbone, breathing slightly labored. They stay close, connected for a few minutes even as he grows soft inside of her and her overstimulated body aches to be relieved of the burden of him.

When they are disentangled and lying side by side, his gaze falls on her again. Intensity is replaced by something equally dangerous, tenderness, with just as much capacity to burn if she stays too close for too long. Roz can’t keep looking, but she can’t roll away. She moves into Frasier instead, burying herself in his embrace, unsure whether she will ever be able to dig herself back out.

-

Days later on a Sunday morning Roz wakes with Madge’s feet against her stomach. Frasier is already out of bed and their daughter has taken advantage of the empty space to sleep sideways as, Roz learned when Alice was this age, is the preference of small children everywhere.

Madge is fighting off a summer cold and spent half the night awake congested. She is sleeping peacefully now, so Roz eases out of bed quietly.

Down the hall in the kitchen, Frasier is at the table drinking coffee and looking at the paper. Alice sits across from him with the comics section and a “baby coffee,” which is a splash of coffee in a small mug of milk and a little sugar. Morning sun streaks in from the windows over the sink, basking the room in a warm glow. Roz shakes her head at the sight of them. They could be a Norman Rockwell painting with their coffees and their papers, Alice in her dinosaur pajamas and hair a mess, and Frasier with the fatherhood-issued bags under his eyes and plaid pajama bottoms paired with a plain white t-shirt. Alice can’t read yet, but she is Frasier’s mimic and partner in crime in all things, including looking through the paper on Sunday mornings. Alice swings her legs back and forth under the table. Then, in a move uncharacteristic of a six year old, turns a page carefully and smooths it out - just as Roz has watched Frasier do a thousand times. A glance his way finds Frasier smirking at her. Yes, he saw that, too, and has the audacity to be smug about it. Roz fights the urge to roll her eyes. He’s still entirely too full of himself, arrogant to a fault, but there’s no denying how much he loves the girls or how much they love him. Roz ends up smirking back at him in spite of herself.

“Cinnamon rolls will be out of the oven soon,” he says by way of greeting.

“Morning, Mommy!” Alice chirps, wriggling in her seat.

“G’morning, baby.” Roz comes up behind her, drops a kiss on Alice’s head.

“We’re reading the paper,” Alice tells her with all the seriousness she can muster.

“Very nice,” Roz murmurs and smooths down Alice’s bedhead, drags her fingers lightly through a few loose tangles. Roz hasn’t even given a thought to her own hair this morning. It’s still mostly up in an elastic, but whether it’s anything resembling a ponytail, who knows. She gives half a thought to going to find a brush for her and Alice before sinking into the chair next to her instead.

Alice turns back to the comics and Frasier to the business section. Roz sits and enjoys the quiet. She stretches her legs out and props her feet on the chair across from her. Coffee would be nice, but it can wait. She leans her head back to rest on the top of the chair and shuts her eyes. Frasier’s hand reaches over to give her ankle a gentle squeeze, rubs his thumb over stubble that’s at least a week old and yet he doesn’t seem to mind.

Could it all be this easy? Roz wonders to herself. Two years ago they were still awkward and fumbling their way back towards something like friendship after that first ill-conceived one night stand. One year ago she was heavily pregnant with Madge. They were cautious and careful, waiting to see what their new normal would look like, anxious to learn whether they could handle the transition. Now they’re here on a Sunday morning and it feels like… Is this their new normal? Raising the girls, friendship, and good sex? Will it be enough for him? For her? She thinks back to a few nights ago in his arms, to his eyes on her and how it makes her shiver. Sometimes it feels like she’s in the eye of a storm. Everything seems calm right now, but for how long?

Roz opens her eyes. Madge is calling ‘mama’ from down the hall and the timer on the oven is going off. Frasier lets go of her ankle and closes his newspaper.

“I’ll get her,” Roz tells him as she swings her legs down from the chair and pushes herself away from the table to stand.

“I’ll get the cinnamon rolls.” Frasier shoots her a smile before she disappears down the hall.

Madge is sitting up in bed whimpering, reaches chubby arms out to her. “Awh, did you wake up all alone? That’s no fun is it? I know you much prefer to climb all over me or Dada.” Roz chatters at Madge as she changes her diaper, zips her pajamas back up, then runs a wipe over her face and hands trying to clear them of snot residue. “C’mon now,” she tells Madge as she sets the baby on her hip and kisses her cheek, pushing stray strands of hair out of her sweet face. “Let’s go see if they saved us any breakfast.”

Back in the kitchen, Frasier has set out Madge a bottle and pulled apart some pieces of a cinnamon roll to cool on the high chair tray. She settles Madge into the seat. Frasier hands Roz a cup of coffee. She murmurs her thanks, flashes a smile, and watches him kiss Madge good morning. Alice is licking icing off the top of her cinnamon roll and giggling.

Mornings like these are so simple, but Roz finds she likes it that way. With a glance towards Frasier, she takes a sip of her coffee. It’s warm, not too strong. If this is the eye of the storm, she hopes whatever comes next stays long in the distance.