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It is very late at night. Cold rain, almost sleet, beats against the nearby window, and were Thyme on her own tonight she would surely find it far too chilly and unpleasant for her liking. But a little fire crackles quietly in the nearby hearth, the bed in Roe's apartment is piled high with soft down pillows and silken sheets, and Roe, of course, is there, tucked against her body and warming her from head to toe. The day was stressful, and the evening was fraught, but the night—this they have all to themselves.

And so it's slow and easy and wordless, this time, the way it starts: Roe simply kisses her, slides a hand up the gentle curve of Thyme’s spine to knit in the hair at the nape of her neck, and Thyme kisses her back, and soon it deepens into something more, something heavy and ponderous that thrums in the dark like a beating heart.

Thyme’s fingers slip up beneath Roe’s shirt to trace lazy, formless patterns along the taut muscle of her stomach, her side, the slight jutting of her hipbone—Roe’s skin feels blazing warm as always, and she inhales sharply at the comparative cool of Thyme’s fingers. When Thyme plucks at Roe's shirt hem and murmurs “Let’s get this out of the way” against her lips, Roe obliges immediately, pushing herself upright to wriggle out of her shirt with that somewhat clumsy eagerness that is so very her. Beneath it she wears nothing—from the slight heaving of her chest it is clear she is already breathing a little harder—and she practically slingshots it across the room.

Thyme laughs as she sits back on her heels to tug her own chemise up over her head and off—she feels her hair go tumbling down her back and shoulders as she pulls the fabric free and hears Roe inhale sharply, just a little, at the sight of her bathed in firelight. She smiles a little sheepishly when Thyme catches her eye, and even in the dim light it’s not hard to see her cheeks have gone a little flushed; even after all this time, Roe never seems as though she can quite believe her luck. Of course, Thyme thinks, the feeling is mutual.

“Lay back for me,” Thyme says then—firm but gentle, the way she knows Roe likes. And so Roe does without a word, ever obedient, leaning slowly against the pillows behind her as Thyme climbs into her lap. She slings a leg over and settles her weight against her hips, tucks her knees flush against either side of Roe's body, then leans down to brush a light, chaste kiss against the corner of her mouth. “Stay,” she says when Roe arches up toward her, chasing her touch. “Stay down. Let me.”

Roe's jaw has gone slack, just a little, her lips falling parted as she nods, and she silently lets herself settle back into the pillows.

“Good girl,” Thyme says, and she feels Roe's breath hitch in her chest, just a little. “I want you to stay very still for me. Does that sound alright?”

“Uh huh,” Roe breathes, the sharp, deep orange of her eyes slightly hidden behind lids gone half-lowered.

“And no touching,” Thyme says. “Not yet.”

Roe's hands freeze in their tracks, having started to inch their way up Thyme's thighs. She almost pouts as she removes them.

“Good.” Thyme gives her another kiss for the inconvenience. And then she sits back and stops, for a moment, just to look at her.

Roe, true to her word, is utterly still. She looks up at Thyme through her long, dark lashes with the quiet, anticipatory observation of a jungle cat at rest. In motion her body is statuesque and powerful, all long, long limbs and broad shoulders and hard lines. But not rough, never rough, Thyme knows all too well—merely firm, strong, enduring. In repose the firelight dances across her skin and smooths her edges like lace draped across carved marble, and she is hard lines and soft curves all at once, silent and serene. A work of art given breath, entranced and draped across her bed. And oh, she is a sight.

“You're so beautiful,” Thyme murmurs, leaning in and bracing her hands astride her in the sheets so she can press her lips against the hollow of Roe’s breastbone. At her movement her hair cascades down her shoulders to brush and pool against Roe’s bare skin, making her quiver just a little, a feather caught in a gentle breeze. “Stay still,” Thyme breathes. “Stay for me.”

And Roe does; as always she is so, so warm, still and steady like the light of the sun. The whole of her body—her long, muscular legs, those beautiful arms, her chest—is dusted all over with little scars, little lines of white and red that faintly glint when the light hits them. Thyme knows Roe is proud of her scars for making her strong, for sculpting her into who she has become, and so she presses her lips to each and every one and kisses where the skin knit itself back together. She drags her lips across salty-sweet skin, reveling in the taste of her, and she listens as Roe’s breathing begins to sharpen, to turn ragged and quick. She is endlessly grateful for them all: every mark left by years of struggle, from heartbreak and pain and triumph and fury.

Then she finds Roe's largest scar (her most sensitive, and therefore, Thyme’s favorite): a jagged, cruel shape the size of a man's palm cut into her breast, where an errant dagger hit home years ago. Thyme takes it into her mouth to explore it with her lips and her tongue and her breath, skirts her teeth along its edges, willing Roe to begin to unspool beneath her touch.

Roe's hands fist in the silken sheets. But she does not move, and she does not touch. “Good girl,” Thyme breathes against her skin, and Roe lets slip a little, bitten-off hum in response that's as sweet as summer rain.

Then Roe gasps out a half-garbled noise and jerks against her as Thyme wraps her lips around the peak of her breast and sucks, as she begins to swirl her tongue in senseless patterns. “Tee, shit,” Roe groans—it comes out gravelly and low, stretched taut with arousal. Thyme pulls back to look up at her face and oh she's so gorgeous like this: her golden eyes have fallen half-lidded, her lips wet and parted, her brow deeply furrowed with something like frustration. “You’re going to be the death of me,” she says, and Thyme feels a thrill of affection and desire go panging through her chest like a snapped rubber band at the way she almost growls it.

“I certainly hope not,” she answers, and Roe huffs out a quiet chuckle in reply as she lets her head fall back into the pillows.

Then Thyme moves upward. She pauses in the valley of Roe’s breasts, paying tribute to her breastbone, then up and along the hollow of her throat to press her lips to the curve of her shoulder, her pulse point, the tendon pulled tight beneath her skin. Then up to the place where her throat meets her jaw, up to nip at her earlobe, up to run the tip of her tongue along the shell of Roe’s ear. And Roe's breathing grows more hitched and uneven by the moment—Thyme knows that it's greedy of her to tease her so, but gods, she's too far gone now to try and resist the urge—so as her mouth busies itself at Roe's throat, Thyme slides a hand down, down, skimming across Roe’s chest, over her belly, slipping between her legs to grind a finger or two against the fabric of her underwear. She's unable to wait any longer, dying to watch her come undone in her hands—

And at her touch Roe bares her beautiful throat as her back arches in earnest. Her hands clench hard in the sheets and her head falls back against the pillows with a soft thump, and she makes a noise—something whimpered and utterly inarticulate, thready and lovely and high in her chest, made all the sweeter with Thyme’s knowing that it’s just for her, something Roe would never let anyone else hear.

“That’s it, my darling,” Thyme murmurs against Roe’s skin, almost intoxicated by the headiness of the sound of her. “Let me hear you.”

And she does, oh, how she does. The floodgates have well and truly opened now. She sighs as her skin pebbles into goosebumps beneath Thyme’s breath, gasps as Thyme dusts kisses and licks and grazes and little nips along her sweat-sweetened skin, almost whimpers as Thyme returns to all her favorite spots (the jutting ridge of the hipbone, each breast in turn, the spot where breast meets ribcage, the tendon straining at the curve of the throat, her lips) and bites, kisses, sucks. At each spot she makes sure to leave a mark; she loves the sight of them blooming and red on Roe’s skin in the dark, every one a little trace of her, a fingerprint she’s left. She leaves them gratefully, humbly, an offering at an altar, all the while slowly, indulgently grinding her hand between her legs, and Roe receives her with desire and warmth, murmuring notes of longing and gratitude; try as she might, she can't help but let slip more and more soft, whimpering sounds at the feel of Thyme's mouth on her. And although Thyme would gladly do this all night (and she can, and has before)… quite frankly, with the way Roe's looking down the length of her body at her, eyes glassy and dark with want, she's not sure if she particularly wants to keep things slow anymore.

So soon enough she slides backward on the bed to settle kneeling between Roe’s legs, smooths her palms across the slats of her ribcage and down her sides to her hips, reveling in the feel of her stretched taut and sensitive and warm beneath her hands. Roe sucks a gasp through her teeth as Thyme lightly drags her nails across the skin of her belly, bucking into her touch like it's the first time she's had her in years. “Fuck, Tee,” she almost whines, so plaintive and sweet, and oh, how Thyme loves when her shyness burns away and that want is made plain on her face and in her voice, so earnest and blistering. It feels like she might be set aflame by her brilliance.

“You've been so good,” Thyme says, “I think you've earned a reward.” She curls her fingers beneath the band of her underwear, casting a glance back up to Roe’s face to make sure, but:

“Yes,” Roe answers immediately, her voice gone rough and cracked, “please,” and the note of longing in her voice sends delight and arousal spiking through Thyme’s body in equal measure. Of course she would never dream of keeping her waiting any longer—not when she's been so good, so gorgeous, just for her. So she rolls Roe's underwear down her legs and tosses it away before she curls her fingers around her wrist to gently tug her backwards, leading her to the bed’s foot.

The apartment’s carpet is blessedly plush beneath her knees as she settles on the floor to better reach her with her mouth, and gods, she’s so wet already, swollen and heated and positively dripping. Let it never be said that her ministrations are found wanting for rigor, Thyme thinks, with a little thrill of pride. She tucks herself beneath her legs, slinging the crooks of Roe’s knees over her shoulders, and works her mouth inward along the expanse of Roe’s broad, muscular thigh, nipping at the crease where her leg meets her pelvis. She skims feather-light kisses along the length of her slit and listens to her shudder and sigh as her legs clench, as her heels start to dig into Thyme’s back. Then she moves inward, finally using long, broad strokes of her tongue along Roe’s folds to guide her open, pressing deep into the slick heat of her center, then skimming up to swirl around her clit—

And Roe finally lets slip a proper, gorgeous moan at the feel of it, a rich, long “oh” as her back arches, as her hips roll forward to meet Thyme’s mouth while her hands fist desperately in the sheets. It rings in Thyme’s ears like music, and something deep in her stomach is sent twisting with arousal as she is utterly enveloped by the whole of her.

Thyme loves to eat her out slow and teasing, providing the barest attention to her clit with her lips and tongue; just enough to get Roe’s thighs tensing about her face before she backs off and slips back downward. She takes her time, chases the joy of winding her up and finding all the little spots she knows drive her crazy, the spots she knows by heart. It gets Roe breathing even harder, jagged and rough as she chases her release. “You’re such a tease,” she groans, just the slightest bit frustrated, her voice spiking back up into a wordless moan as Thyme glides the flat of her tongue back across her clit.

“I know,” Thyme answers, pulling back for just a moment, “but you like it,” and Roe makes an adorable, indignant noise in response to her words and the feel of her breath against her skin that would probably be disgruntled if it weren’t so saturated with pure need. Not that Thyme would want to stay away from her for long—she only nips playfully at her inner thigh before she presses into her again, and Roe shudders and groans out a curse or two as her fingers squirm from their nest among the sheets into Thyme’s hair, grasping desperately, trying to pull her in deeper as she rocks her hips to meet her mouth. And true, Thyme had said “no touching”, but at the moment she’s certainly not inclined to complain. Roe tugs at her hair and Thyme feels herself huff out a gentle moan at the sweet pain it sends coursing through the sensitive nerves of her scalp; were Roe not otherwise occupied she'd no doubt be chuckling with pride at the way she’s set Thyme's Viis ears twitching.

She knows she’s getting close when Roe’s hands start to twist restlessly in Thyme’s hair and she gasps out a high, breathy “Tee, please,” and the time for preamble is over, she thinks. So Thyme presses a finger upward and in, and then another, just the way Roe likes, and Roe’s body offers little resistance as Thyme stretches her wider and begins to crook her fingers just so. And Roe’s voice goes thready and gasping again, splinters into sparkling, inarticulate pieces as it meets the air; Thyme listens, enraptured, feels the heat of Roe’s body clenching around her knuckles and her thighs squeezing hard about her face, sucks at her clit, increases the pressure, drags her tongue just a few more times—she’s utterly consumed by the feel of her now, so needy and perfect and desperate, and oh, how Thyme wants her, body and soul.

And when Roe comes apart, oh, the whole length of her shakes and she arches upward like she’s been struck by lightning, and she moans Thyme’s name—not “Tee” this time, her name—and she breathes it over and over like a prayer, like it’s the only word she knows. Thyme works her through it, steady and slow, until Roe shudders away and presses back against Thyme’s head with the pads of her fingers, overwhelmed. Only when Roe is still again at last does Thyme pull back to sit back on her heels.

Roe has gone limp against the bed with an arm tossed haphazardly across her forehead, and it takes her a few moments before she stirs and cracks her eyes open. But when she does she huffs out a breathless laugh—her voice has gone croaky and deep, a touch shaky from exertion—and says “gods, you’re good at that.”

“Mhm.” Thyme wraps an arm around one of Roe's legs, still slung over her shoulder, and nuzzles her cheek against the warm solidness of her thigh, presses a kiss into the softness of the muscle there. “Just for you,” she murmurs. “My darling Rosemary.”

“C’mere,” her darling Rosemary says, grasping blindly in Thyme’s direction from the sheets to entreat her closer; and Thyme is climbing back into bed and up into her arms in a heartbeat, of course, as Roe snakes an arm around Thyme's waist, spreads her hand around the swell of her hip and lets her fingers knead into her curves as she tugs her in close. Their bodies press into one another as their legs entwine like creeping vines.

Roe kisses her, then, long and loose and messier than before, and sighs into her mouth when Thyme swipes her tongue at the gap between her lips, as the taste of Roe on her lips intoxicates them both. And now it's impossible to ignore how Thyme can feel her arousal twisting and curling deep in her core like paper set aflame, the delicious ache of it—almost unconsciously she feels herself slowly roll her hips against the bare skin of Roe’s thigh and the relief of it pulls a moan from her lungs that she didn’t mean to let slip.

“Wanna touch you,” Roe mumbles against the corner of her mouth, her voice slow and rich as desire slurs the syllables. And Thyme can only murmur something soft and in agreement as they break the kiss for a moment for air, because gods, she’s utterly unable to hold onto any thoughts other than how wholly, desperately she needs her.

So Thyme shifts to rest on her back and lets Roe settle against her side, and the feel of their bodies pressing together is a solid and comforting, as always. Roe hooks her fingers around her panties, gently rolls them down her legs and tosses them away—Roe’s eyes now seem to glint in the dark with a deep, quiet hunger: twin precious stones like tiger’s-eye or amber, golden and sweet. She nuzzles her cheek against Thyme's shoulder, presses a kiss to the thin, sensitive skin above her collarbone, and Thyme’s eyes flutter closed with a sigh. Then Roe guides Thyme’s legs apart and slowly slides a hand down, her broad, calloused palm skimming across the gentle curve of Thyme’s belly, through the soft patch of hair between her legs, down, down—

And Thyme arches into her touch and groans out a long, deep sound of pleasure at the sheer relief of it, her hips stuttering forward against the pressure of Roe’s hand. Where Thyme was slow and teasing, Roe is firm and intense, and it doesn’t take long for her fingers to find their rhythm; by now, they both know all their tricks by heart. Thyme can't help but let herself get lost in the motion of it, grinding up to meet the heel of Roe’s palm, shuddering as Roe senselessly works her mouth along the curve of Thyme’s throat and the underside of her jaw, as she murmurs words just too low for her to make out, the hum of her voice sweet against her skin. Her fingers crook just so, and— “There,” Thyme manages, breathless, “yes, darling— ah—”

Thyme’s head lolls backward as she cries out and Roe lets slip a noise of her own in answer, a low, honey-sweet groan at just the feel of her, the taste of her on her tongue. The sound of it rolls through Thyme’s body like a wave, sending her spine arching desperately as she reaches a hand out blindly, searching—and Roe is there, as always, nestling her cheek against Thyme’s palm and letting her guide her toward her lips, a compass chasing its north pole. “You’re so good,” she gasps against Roe’s mouth, “so good, my heart, my Rosemary,” and Roe murmurs something wordless in response, her fingers pressing into her and curling just so, just right as she kisses her like she’s a desperate gulp of air, the last light in the darkness guiding her home.

When Thyme gives in, she comes unspooled in Roe’s hands with a shudder and a soft “oh” that leaves her head spinning, and she collapses back into their thoroughly mussed bedsheets like a puppet with its strings cut. And Roe is there, curling into her side, the warm solidness of her body settling against her from head to toe like she can’t bear to not feel every inch of her against her skin even now. Thyme smiles and turns to nuzzle her cheek against the crown of Roe's head. “You're so good,” she mumbles into her hair, eyes barely open and head still buzzing, and Roe shivers against her in response, just a little. “That's my good girl.”

Roe makes a small, bitten-off noise against Thyme’s chest and shifts slightly against her, unsatisfied. Thyme distantly realizes as she sees her slip her hand down between her own legs that she must be close again herself; she's always been quick on the draw, Thyme's learned. “Fuck,” Roe groans under her breath, her voice gone low and cracked, “Tee, I’m— I need—”

“It’s alright,” Thyme murmurs to her, “go on. Let me watch you, love,” and never one to wait when ordered, Roe arches up to kiss her one more time before she wriggles away and roughly shoves herself over onto her back.

She spreads her strong, scarred thighs and lets her eyes fall shut as her hand goes where she needs it. And oh, it doesn’t seem like it should be possible, but she’s even more beautiful like this: needy, laid bare, perfect and golden. She groans something wordless and stifled as her hand works between her legs hard and almost desperate, as she lets her spine curl and her hips rock the way she needs, baring the long curve of her throat as her other hand works at her breast, pressing the large, calloused pads of her fingers against her scar. Thyme watches lazily, wrapped up in the bliss of her afterglow as Roe loses herself in the motion, as she crumples to pieces just for her—how her strong, handsome brow furrows deeply in pleasure, how the firelight dances on the muscles shifting restlessly beneath her scarred, perfect skin, how those long, dark lashes of hers flutter when Thyme smooths her fingers through her short-cropped hair and sweeps a few dampened strands off her forehead. She shudders, just a touch, as Thyme noses up along the strong column of her throat to nuzzle her forehead against her cheek, and the throaty, gorgeous noise she makes as Thyme murmurs “you’re so beautiful, my darling” into her ear is going to be ringing in her head for hours.

It doesn’t take long after that. Her legs begin to shake and her back arches powerfully as her mouth falls open with a breathtaking, thready gasp. But her eyes—her eyes crack open to lock onto Thyme’s face, and they are heavy-lidded and glassy with desire and the amber of her irises is nearly swallowed whole by her blown-out pupils, and Thyme’s breath seems to seize in her throat because she is radiant like the sun itself.

When at last Roe sags back against the bed to lay with her head tipped to the side, fucked-out and breathless and gorgeous, her eyes have fallen nearly shut, but she’s still gazing up at Thyme like she’s the most beautiful thing she's ever seen. And Thyme leans in and kisses her full and soft, as tender as she can, because oh, she simply can’t help herself, and she loves her so deeply, so selfishly it feels like her heart will burst under the weight of it. She pours her whole heart and soul into this moment of touch, and she prays that she can show her a lifetime’s worth of longing and love and gratitude through a simple, gentle brush of her lips, how she needs her more than air in her lungs. And it feels foolish and besotted and laughably insufficient to even try, but just telling her isn’t ever near enough.

But as she pulls away Roe’s eyes flutter closed with a content little sigh, just as easy and quiet as falling asleep, and Thyme’s heart swells in her chest, because she can tell she feels it, too.

“Better?” Thyme whispers.

“Mhm.” Roe answers quietly, a soft rumble of contentment, eyes still shut.

“Good,” Thyme says. She presses another kiss to Roe’s temple and runs her palm along the broad expanse of her shoulders. “Thank you, my darling.”

“Feels like I should be telling you that,” Roe says, half-mumbled, snuggling close to rest her cheek against Thyme’s chest and snaking a warm, heavy arm across her waist. She won’t be awake much longer, Thyme can tell—and small wonder, after that.

“Tell me anything you like,” Thyme murmurs. Her hand continues to rub circles into Roe’s back. “I’m right here.”

But Roe simply lets out a gentle, sleepy sigh and nuzzles even closer, and her weight settles against the curves and ridges of Thyme’s body like a half finding its whole, rainwater collecting in the hollows of a pitted stone. “Love you so much,” she mumbles after a long, long moment, so sleepy and quiet it’s more breath than voice, and Thyme presses a kiss to the crown of her head.

A drowsy silence fills the air. The sleet outside has stopped—turned to snow, perhaps. The fire burns down to cinders. Roe’s breathing slows after a time, goes steady and deep, shifts slowly to quiet, snuffling snores.

Thyme smiles against her hair as she falls asleep. She is certain she has never loved her more.