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dance by firelight

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It’s not often that they get to do this. Parties and celebrations and all that — but the end of cold winter nights and the April thaw is certainly something Joel can agree is worth celebrating. It’s a town effort, and by the end of the night, there are flowers and food and questionable liquor. The crowd disperses across the barn, groups of people merry and pink from homebrew and the pleasant warmth, the younger crowd spinning each other around on the dance floor.

“Can’t honestly remember the last time I’d ever been to a May Day party,” Joel says to his brother, watching from their corner of the room as the townsfolk laugh and dance and drink. He’s got his own glass in hand, a pleasant warmth buzzing through his belly, and he feels...content.

Tommy claps him on the shoulder and jostles him playfully. “Feel like everyone needed their spirits lifted some,” he says. “Winter’s over, now we let the good times come.”

Joel chuckles, clinking his glass to Tommy’s. His eyes slide over to the dance floor and they crinkle warmly at the sight of Ellie dancing about with Max. It’s good to see the kid having fun. He knows that it’s been hard on Ellie to act her age; to do all the things the other teenage rebellions of the town do. She knows better, and the thought makes him sober a touch.

He’s glad she’s finding her place.

His eyes and mind drift towards the other woman in his life — the one whose laugh he can just make out, even over the music and chatter. He figures he could pick her out of any crowd, no matter the size. This is her comfort zone, handling people; drinking and chatting and working the crowd as easy as she used to work the boys down at the Boston slums. Here though, her eyes are illuminated in the firelight, her cheeks warm and flushed with drink.

A spreading warmth stirs in his belly, and Joel tears his eyes away before she can catch him staring. He’ll find his way to her before long.

He always does.




The din of the crowd dies down as the night wears on; the music slows to something saccharine and steady. The thrum and twang of banjo and guitar overlaid with the reverberating tune of a cello stirs in his core, a strange tingling warmth spreading. More than the liquor, more than the heady thrill of a good night out.

A modest crowd of townsfolk converge on the dance floor; mostly teens caught up in shy and awkward touches, but some of the older folk join along, swaying with the timeless familiarity of the long-married.

A sharp tingle twitches at his fingertips, and Joel shuffles back into the corner of the room, buzzed enough to smile a warm smile when he sees Tommy leading Maria with a twirl onto the dance floor. His eyes drift as his foot taps idly to the beat, but his listlessness dies down within an instant.

There she is.

Even through the haze of alcohol, he sees her as clear as day. Standing by the punch bowl, fingers fidgeting habitually around her glass of homebrew, a glow about her that he’s pretty sure is emanating from the inside out. She’s not doing much in particular, just standing in her usual lean, but the halo of light reminds him of something ethereal and light.

A goddess among men. Hidden from sight.

She’s watching the crowd with a distant sort of warmth, her lips pulling back into an easy sort of smile. He spares the dance floor a glance once more and catches the sight of Max and Ellie dancing on the edge of it, away from people, heads ducked low and shy in the fairy lights. 


He turns away, smiling to himself behind his glass. His eyes slide across the room again, almost longing in the way he makes out the shape of Tess. He’s filled with a rush of something he can’t quite place; a giddy sort of youthfulness he hasn’t felt in decades. A faded memory of prom nights and slow dances underneath disco balls lingers in the back of his mind. The overwhelming urge to touch her, feel her fingers slipping between his; to feel the weight of her body pressed against him as they danced —

He moves before he can help himself.

Guided, as he always is; blindly, devotedly, to her side.

She’s turned away now, refilling her cup, and he can taste the anticipation on his tongue. It doesn’t take him more than a few strides to reach her, soundless and smooth, even with how much he’s drunk in the night. He presses into her space, practically sees the prickle of the hairs on the back of her neck as she shivers at the proximity of him. Body heat bleeds between them like something palpable, and because he can’t help himself, he reaches out. Spreads his hand across the small of her back, spans his fingers out and marvels as he always does, the way he could engulf her with just one grip if he tried.

He hears the hitch in her breath at the touch, strokes his fingers along the ridge and curve of her spine as he rumbles wordlessly under his breath to soothe her. He waits patiently as the tension in her shoulders melts away, replaced with recognition.

She glances at him sidelong, eyebrow arching as her smile becomes something amused and teasing. “Had too much to drink, Texas?” Her voice is lower than usual, warmer, and it makes his belly stir pleasantly. This close, he can see the sparkle in her eyes, the flush of drink that brings out the constellation of freckles across her cheeks and nose. 

He leans his head down to her, pressing into her space and giving her a hazy-eyed smile.

Tess tilts her head up at him, smile turning wry as she regards him. She gives him a heavy-lidded look, turning to face him completely as he crowds into her space, the sheer broadness of him shielding her from view from the rest of the barn. “What is it?” she murmurs softly, and the affection and warmth in her voice makes a thrill run up his spine.

He reaches out, sliding his fingers purposefully around the hand holding her drink, and guides the glass back down onto the table behind her. “C’mere,” he mumbles, twining his fingers into hers. It’s only with a slight fumble that he backwalks her towards a secluded corner of the barn, partially hidden by wooden beams and partitions. Tess eyes him dubiously, but the smile on her face is indulgent and giddy when he takes both her hands and pulls her flush to him. She must have had more than he’d thought; for her to yield so easily to his touches.

Tess’ brows go up in surprise, but she makes no effort of pulling herself away from his touch. Instead she leans her weight into his chest ever so slightly, fingers stroking over the aged material of his button-down, toying with a loose thread in the seams. “What’re you doing, old man?” she asks, laughter in her voice.

“Dance with me,” he murmurs, sobering somewhat. He looks down at her seriously, sliding her hand into his and gripping tight, wrapping an arm around the narrow span of her waist.

Tess furrows her brows slightly, and then she rocks back on her heels, eyeing the man with a wary sort of amusement. “Can’t handle your liquor anymore, big guy? You gonna step all over my toes?”

“Never,” he whispers, and feels the breath leave his lungs when Tess melts readily into his embrace. He holds her close, cradles her to his chest like something precious. They sway in place, hardly moving at all, really, and he doesn’t think he trusts his feet at this point to move them. She tucks her head into the crook of his neck, breath warm and damp as she sighs, and Joel can smell the faint sweetness of punch and homebrew.

He dips his head in on impulse and buries his nose into her hair like a bashful child. Citrus-sweet and Tess.

They sway a little longer, he hardly even hears the music anymore, but they’ve never needed music. They dance to their own little rhythm, their own beat. He moves her and she goes, the same way she moves him without so much as a word. It takes him a moment to realise that he’s humming, lips warm and grazing against the curve of her ear, and Tess sighs again, soft and light.

He pulls back the same time she does, and they freeze at that moment. Trapped in amber together, clinging to each other as tightly as they dare. Her eyes have gone heavy-lidded, trailing over his face like a physical caress that makes him shiver to think about, and they linger over his lips, her fingers dancing up over his shoulders to his neck.

He doesn’t think too hard on it — he knows this dance well enough.

They kiss.

It’s a reunion and a revelation at once. Familiarity and newness; he knows the taste of her, the touch of her, the sounds she makes in the back of her throat when his hands slide up along her neck to cup her cheek. He knows the gasp on her lips and the bite of her teeth when she gets his lower lip between them. He knows the taste of liquor on her tongue.

And yet...he feels painfully reborn.

It feels like seconds, hours, days, forever — he could kiss her for eternity, but eventually their lungs ache for air. Tess pulls away, and he almost chases her lips with a ragged sound in his throat. He opens eyes heavy with lust, and he sees the whorls of need pooling in her hazel eyes. She stares up at him, licking her lips, and he wants to taste her again.

“C’mon,” she breathes, tugging fondly on the hair curling at the nape of his neck. “Let’s get outta here.”

She takes his hand, her grip steady and strong. As ever, she leads and he follows, stumbling and staggering and whispering to each other like giddy teenagers all over again. He clings to her hand as tightly as he can, refuses to imagine her as anything but a lifeline, a grounding light at the end of the tunnel. She goes and he follows, red hues of her hair illuminated in the fairy lights and gleaming moonlight when they spill out of the barn.




They get to their front door without stumbling over their own feet, breathless in the heady night. He pins her to the solid wood of the door as soon as he’s within reach, growling under his breath when he braces her hips with his hands and grinds his own into them. A moan pulls from her throat, but Tess bites down on her lip to quell it, and Joel grins at her in the soft moonlight as she fumbles for the door.

His fingers slide deftly between the space of her jeans and shirt, trailing fingertips across the band of bare skin there. Boldly he spans his palm upwards under her shirt, travelling up across the smooth, flat plane of her stomach, cupping over the faded material of her bra.

She sucks in a sharp breath at the heat of his hand, nipple pebbling hard against his palm as he rubs a slow, torturous pattern around it. She bares her teeth as if pained, reaching behind her for the doorknob as he descends to mouth and suck viciously against the column of her neck.

She lets out a harsh breath, shuddering and thick, and he can feel the heat of her building through two layers of jeans. The door finally gives, and they nearly careen backwards into the house. He braces for impact on instinct, wrapping his arm tight around her waist and balancing them on the other. The door slams backwards into the wall, nearly bouncing back on recoil, but he pays it no mind. He barely has the brain power to shut the door behind them before he has his hands full of her thighs.

He lifts her into the air without a second thought, as if she is weightless, and Tess wraps her legs around his waist immediately. This dance is most familiar to them, this tangle of limbs and movements that come from years of time together in the Quarantine Zone. Desperate and hungry, familiar and foreign; she’s still lean muscle and strength, but healthier in the glow of her skin and the swell and curve of her hips and breasts. He feels an aching pull in his groin to touch her bare skin.

Tess purrs in delight at his touches, arching into the warmth of his embrace as her own hands move to any and every part of him she can get a hold of. She cards her fingers through his hair, tugs hard, and then she’s wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing him with all the viciousness and desperation he loves.

He doesn’t quite remember how they get upstairs — only remembers the taste and touch and scent of her. His knees hit the end of the bed and they tumble forward, Tess squealing quietly when they bounce against the mattress. He braces himself upright on a forearm, pulling back with a wet sound as he opens his eyes and stares down at her.

She stares back up at him with eyes sparkling in the dim light, lips wet and kiss-swollen as she pants. Her cheeks are flushed, freckles dark across her face, and he sees the bloom of reddened marks across her neck where his hungry mouth and his beard had scraped her.

He undresses her with care and urgency, peeling off her shirt with the reverence of a disciple in the face of a god. As soon as her skin is bared to him, he puts his mouth back to work, latching over the dip of her collarbones, sucking and biting over her chest and the swell of her breasts.

His hands move to her jeans, tugging and yanking until he has them pulled haphazardly off her long legs. He strips her down to her underwear and growls at the sight of the damp cotton, rubbing over her folds through the soaked cloth just to hear the way her breath hitches.

He shreds it impatiently, ignoring Tess’s hiss of disapproval.

“That was a nice pair,” she tells him petulantly.

“Like you better without ‘em,” he rumbles back, pulling her legs around his waist and kissing the inside of her knee.

He moves to crawl back over her but she pushes at his shoulders abruptly. He reels back just enough to look her in the face, barely registering the feral gleam in her eyes before he’s pitched over onto his back. He gulps at the sudden shift in perspective, from the alcohol swimming in his head.

He looks up and sees her hovering over him, eyes predatory and dark.

On impulse, he reaches up and unravels the bandana from her hair, letting it spill down over her shoulders, half-shrouding him in a curtain of dark hair.

A slash of white in the dark — her grin is absolutely wicked.

Wordlessly, she crawls up his body and kneels over his face. He reaches up readily, braces her over his head with hands large and warm and rough, squeezing her ass and groaning at the sight of her slick thighs, her folds pink and swollen and glistening.

Her scent floods his senses, musky and sweet. Joel swallows back a gasp and lets his mouth latch onto her inner thigh, sucking a vicious bruise there. He laps his tongue over the stripe of wetness, growls in his throat at the taste of her. Tess gasps and trembles over him, her scent growing headier, and tangles her fingers in his hair again.

“Get to work,” she orders, but breathless and wanton she only sounds desperate.

He drops his mouth open obligingly and pulls her down onto his face. Nuzzling into her folds, he spears his tongue between them, making hot, flat passes from her entrance up to her clit. He laps at her hungrily, delving deeper into clenching walls and bracing twitching thighs apart as he traps the throbbing bud of her clit between his lips and sucks. Tess lets out a warbling moan, all but collapsing forward to brace herself with palms flat on the bed. She rides his face frantically, shivering at the bristle-rough scrape of his beard against her aching clit.

Joel groans in his throat again, thrusting his tongue into her and sweeping the blade of it against the sensitive outer walls. A gush of wetness floods into his mouth and he swallows eagerly, dragging his hands from her shaking thighs up over the flat plane of her quivering belly and squeezing her breasts.

Tess keens when his fingers pinch at her nipples, stiff and tender with the way he rolls them between callused fingers. His hands can’t seem to stay in place; he wants to map the curves and ridges of her, to run paths long-memorised. To cup and squeeze her hips and waist, to reach behind and grab hearty handfuls of her great ass. He gives her a sharp little spank on one cheek and grins against her pussy when Tess lets out an outraged hiss.

His palm makes a loud slap against her other cheek, and Joel growls before reaching between slick and sweaty thighs to spread her folds apart with his fingers.

He gives her cunt a wet, messy kiss, nose nudging against her swollen clit as he licks in a swirl of patterns over her fluttering walls. He knows just how she likes it; knows when to press his tongue inside, when to curl and trace the alphabets, when to tease her outer walls with the firm blade of his tongue. Knows the feel of her losing patience; the harsh grip of her fingers returning to his hair as she forcefully grinds her cunt into his mouth and rides his face.

She’s dangerously close. He knows it in the desperate tilt of her hips down into his mouth, the shift of weight she does every time her clit passes over the bristle of his moustache. It won’t be long now, and Joel feels a surge of pride at the way Tess wails when he presses two fingers in abruptly, curling them brutally into her front wall.

He rubs mercilessly, tugging and stroking until Tess’ thighs clench down so hard on his head that his ears ring. She collapses forward onto her elbows, panting loud and harsh into the sheets. She nearly smothers him between her legs, but Joel manoeuvres her easily onto her side, rolling them until he’s resting his head on her quivering thigh.

He cleans her up with languid strokes of his tongue, gentling her into a shuddering second orgasm that shakes her down to her toes.

“Shit,” she gasps, turning over onto her back. She lets her arm fall limply over her stomach, fingers skimming over her damp and swollen folds tenderly. “Jesus.”

He puffs out a little chuckle, pressing a path of wet, biting kisses along her thighs and stomach. “Somethin’ like that.” He sucks a bruise into the space between her breasts, nuzzling into the soft swell of them as he cups them in his hands, giving them a firm squeeze as he tugs at her nipples between his fingers.

Tess tugs him back up, licking into his mouth with a low purr. She likes the taste of herself on his tongue; he knows the way it makes her that much wetter, that much more desperate. She shudders again, humming in the back of her throat like a pleased house cat as she trails her fingers over his back. “You’re wearing too many clothes,” she murmurs, fisting at his shirt and tugging impatiently.

Joel growls, pulling himself up onto his knees between her legs and unbuttoning his shirt. He notes the way Tess’ eyes darken at him, the hazy look in her eyes as she eyes the spread of chest hair and the trail of dark hair that tapers into his pants. The bulge of his cock stands out even in the dim moonlight spilling into the room from the window over their bed, and Joel hisses through his teeth when Tess reaches out to cup him through his jeans.

He grits his teeth when she starts to stroke him, thumb dipping seamlessly into the seam of his zipper and tugging it down on the next downward flick of her wrist.

“Ain’t gonna last if you keep messin’ around,” he rumbles, reaching down to still her touch. She gives him a filthy little grin as her fingers reach for his belt.

It’s sloppy and fumbling, but they get his jeans pulled down low over his hips, the heavy weight of his cock spilling out when Tess yanks off his briefs together with his pants. He groans, gritting his teeth harder at the touch of cool air against his blazing skin, and his cock twitches against his belly.

Tess sits up abruptly, licking her lips as she reaches out and takes him in hand. Her thumb circles over the sensitive head, teasing over his dribbling slit and squeezing just the way he likes. She tilts her head up, wrapping her other arm around his neck and tugging him down for an open-mouthed kiss, and Joel growls.

She kisses him greedily, the taste of her spreading between them, and it only makes his cock that much harder. Trapped between them, her hand moves in stilted, twisting motions around his shaft, spreading the musky slick of his pre-come over the thick length of him. She squeezes hard at the base and glides up over his straining head, and Joel feels his eyes flutter at the sensation.

He pins her with the sheer bulk of his body, as easy as breathing, as easy as kissing her and stealing the breath from her lungs as she moans and writhes beneath him. Her legs fall open against his hips, spreading herself open to him as wide as she can as she sinks her nails into any part of him she can touch. It’s a dizzying rush of unbridled passion and lust, something he hasn’t felt so pure and unadulterated in a long while. An animal hindbrain pushed to the forefront; primal and raw.

Instinct drives him now, beyond any thought else as he spans his hands along her waist, her hips, her thighs, gripping along the taut muscles of her ass and squeezing tight. Between her legs she’s hot and slick and pink, and when he pushes in, she opens for him with a violent quiver of muscles and a low gasp of relief.

Ah —”

He buries his face into her hair, gasping out a ragged noise at the way she grips him so tight, walls like hot velvet squeezing down over him. A shift of his hips and Tess lets out a strangled little noise again, tendons pulled tight along her groin as her legs give a little twitch. He’s bottomed out inside her, pressed so deep into her heat that his balls are nuzzled tight against her perineum, low and heavy and full, slick from the copious wetness of her cunt.

He pulls out in one slow, torturous drag just to feel her walls clutch and seize on him desperately. Fingers winding into her hair, he fists it tight in one hand — and thrusts .

Tess gasps, high and tight in her throat. Her nails dig into his back, scrabbling for purchase as he pounds into her wickedly, senses blinded to anything else that isn’t the raw heat of her. He puts his teeth to her skin and marks her with a blunted, frenzied instinct to claim, claim, claim. He wants to lay claim on her skin; to brand her with his touch for all to see. He knows the way the men and women of the town look at Tess, and something animal inside him digs his teeth jealously into her skin until she’s squealing.

He mouths her neck, her chest, her breasts, palming the weight of them in his hands and relishing the feel of lust-flushed skin; the sweet and sweat-slick scent of her flooding the roof of his mouth. He grinds into her desperately, pulling out and pushing back in with such wet, lewd noises. It prickles at his scalp, runs shudders down his back at how wet she is, how tight and hot and slick she is between her legs, the thud of bone-on-bone when he checks the angle and shoves in that much deeper.

He knows he won’t last much longer. The world is tipping dangerously around him, too light-headed to focus on much else but Tess. The liquor is kicking in, and Joel fumbles a hand down between them again, thumb nuzzling against her clit and rubbing in tight, firm circles. 

Tess’ eyelids flutter and her mouth drops open, gasping openly now as she arches hard against him, thighs trembling as they squeeze down around his hips. “H—J-Jo—”

“I got ya,” he gasps, mouth worshipping the skin of her elegant collarbone. “C’mon now.” His thrusts go frantic and sloppy, the wet squelch of where their bodies join growing even wetter as Tess’ walls clamp down viciously tight on him. He forces bleary eyes back open, blinking back the sweat and liquor-haze swimming in his view as he stares down into her face.

It’s almost as if he’s forgotten these moments. Mesmerised, every time, with the way her face changes; the flush of release colouring her cheekbones, the openness and vulnerability in the way her eyelashes flutter and her features shift and twist into cycles of pain, pleasure, and both simultaneously. He feels her clit pulse frantically under his thumb, and it’s all too much.

His balls draw up tight, need burning in his belly as he eases her down from her orgasm. He shuffles back on his knees, pulling out slowly, and Tess keens at the loss, shivering with each inch of cock sliding out of her.

Her eyes snap open, hazel and gold sparkling sharp in the moonlight. She cinches her legs tight around his waist and Joel chokes at the feeling of his cock pushing back inside her.

“Tess,” he warns. “I gotta —”

He feels her legs squeeze tight around him for a moment longer, bony ankles digging into the base of his spine, then they fall away reluctantly. His hands spread out warm and needy over her skin; pushing at her knees as he wills himself to pull out.

The bite of the cool air in the room makes him hiss, but it’s nothing like the torture of feeling his belly burn with need. He fists his dick in one hand and peels open eyes that can barely focus; can barely think. He looks and sees Tess spread out under him, the diamond swell of her ribcage as she breathes. The constellation of freckles dotting the map of her body that he knows by heart, can trace in the darkness with only his hands and mouth.

He grunts — jerks, and it’s done.

It feels like a dream; like an out of body experience. His vision whites out for an instant; a long, tremouring moment of pleasure so sharp, like fireworks behind his eyelids. He can feel himself bursting, sees himself painting the long spread of her body in ropes of white, streaking up over the cradle of her hips, the dip of her navel, the pathway between her breasts.

It hurts so good he can barely stand it, but then somewhere their eyes meet like sparks of steel beneath a hammer and it’s too much.

He falls over her, winded and heaving, barely mustering the strength to brace himself on his elbows. It’s all he can do not to just drop, to smother her in the weight of himself, but Tess doesn’t seem to mind it either way. She wraps her arms around his chest and clings tight, so tight he thinks his heart is beating out of his chest and falling into hers.

When the stars stop dancing behind his eyes and his ears stop ringing, he presses his face into the delicate curve of her neck and breathes. “Tessa,” he mumbles, kisses the back of her ear. She smells like soap and sweat and sex. Something sweet and citrus that he never quite understands but cherishes because it’s her.

But right now she smells like him and he loves it. 

Tess squeezes her arms tighter around him and hums. Her legs spread out wide to bracket his hips, and between them he can feel the tacky mess sticking to their skin. She presses her cheek against his, breath warm in his ear, and his dick keeps finding more to spill.

“Joel,” she sighs, and it sounds like a dream to him.

He knows he should move — knows he’s probably suffocating her at this point, but there’s not much that can get him to leave her at this point. Tess’ grip is like iron and he figures they must be having one of their moments when two minds come together and it’s all one and the same.

He wants to say it; feels it sitting at the tip of his tongue, hanging in what little space there is between them. If he opens his mouth, it would surely come out.

Then Tess turns her head enough to kiss him and he lets the words spill into that instead. She sighs against his mouth, slides her hands from his back up into his hair, and it’s enough.

They’ve never needed words anyway.