Her arms hung down loosely over his chest, draped across him from behind as she was, her nose pressed into the corner of his jaw as she murmured away to him, a careful stream of words bubbling from her as he tried to work. It was difficult and distracting, but a reassurance in itself all the same. She was here. She wanted to be close to him.
How bizarre, all things considered.
“Darling, the theatre has a production on tonight that's meant to be simply divine – it's Shakespeare's The Tempest, I'm sure you've heard of it – and I was thinking we could-”
“No. Not tonight. I can't.”
“Why not? It would be fun – I know drama isn't quite so much your thing as they are mine, but it would be-”
“I can't, Grell.” He put one hand up to touch hers, hoping that it was a reassurance, and looked up at her. “I would be more than happy to accompany you out, but tonight I need to finish this.” Gesturing at the pile of papers that crowded his desk – and a section of his floor; the week's death count had been horrendous – didn't seem to do the situation justice, a feeling that was only amplified when she sighed into his ear.
“You're always busy,” she said, very critically. “Would it hurt you to take a few hours off?”
“At this moment in time, yes. Don't you have work to be doing yourself?”
“Hmmmmm...” She pretended to think about it, tipping her head to one side as though in deep thought, and then concluded, “No, I don't think so. I've a reap in, oh, about ten minutes... but paperwork-”
“Go, then!” William pushed her off his shoulder and stared at her, put out that she would choose to cut things so fine just to float around in his office. And then, out of a desire not to cold-nose her too completely, he relented on the previous issue. “Look, I can't come out with you tonight – but if you want to spend time with me, you're more than welcome to accompany me home.”
Interest sparked in her eyes, and Grell tapped a finger to the side of her mouth. “I've never been to your house before.”
“I know. Meet me at the end of the day; I'll jump you there.”
The joy that crossed her face was incredulous and then incandescent, and she grabbed him in an awkward and slightly painful hug before jumping away.
William rolled his eyes, refusing to let the smile that threatened his lips come to pass, and returned to his work.
The passage of the day found them both outside his home, Grell still grinning as though this were some great honour. William opened the low black gate and let her sweep into the garden ahead of him, casting whatever judgement she felt was prudent on the state of it; he should have tidied it up, at least a bit, he knew – but then again, he hadn't known she would be coming round, and the weather had not been anywhere decent enough to compel him to attend the externalities of his house for some time. It was, to put it plainly, a mess.
She didn't seem to notice, or didn't care, or pretended not to notice to preserve his sense of organizational dignity, instead putting her hand to her mouth as though enthralled by her surroundings and trilling words back at him through her glove.
“Oooh, you have a rhody! How lovely.”
Following Grell's gaze, he considered anew the scraggy rhododendron that occupied one corner of his garden. It was old and huge, a mess of dull emerald leaves, and wasn't even in bloom at the moment. More than once over the years he had decided to dig it out but been distracted by some other trivial matter and it had just slipped his mind, time and time again. He didn't know if he should now be congratulating or kicking himself for this oversight.
“It's been here since I bought the place.”
Privately he wondered if Grell was interested in the bush because of its distinctive red flowers – which were attractive in their season, admittedly, but made a terrible mess when they died – or if she had acquired a genuine liking for botany somewhere along the line. He couldn't imagine her sullying her nails with dirt or digging up weeds, but it wasn't too difficult a feat to envisage her pruning bushes or dead-heading spent flowers. Possibly watering things, or mangling hedges with her scythe and calling it art.
“Your garden's beautiful!” she said enthusiastically, spinning round to gesture at all of it. “It's a shame it's just at the start of its cycle now, I'm sure it looks even better at its peak.”
The dull yellow leaves that had floated down from the small ash tree – another weed – the past autumn still littered the ground, and moss clung to the path. The garden did look nice in the summer, that was true enough; the annuals and perennials in the flowerbeds were always bright and attractive despite their persistent disorder, and the roses creeping up the walls were usually quite stunning. The two ornamental trees behind the pond were much hardier than they looked and were as pretty as their stouter counterparts in the shrubbery.
At the moment most of the plant life looked dead, and William wondered if Grell was lying through her teeth. “Has it always been like this, or did you plant bits yourself?” she added, raising her eyebrows.
The question seemed honest, so he answered it honestly. “Almost everything that wasn't here when I bought this place self-seeded, with the exception of the tulips. Replanting them has become a habit.” Not quite a regime, not quite compulsory; it was just a habit, an unimportant task that was partaken the autumns after the seasons that they failed to grow, if he remembered. Sometimes he didn't, and was always mildly put out by the lack of their colours in spring. Grell looked enamoured, enchanted by the notion much more deeply than William felt was deserved, so he abandoned the garden in favour of the clean safety of the house itself.
Grell caught his hand and let him lead her through the door.
Entering his home was like looking into his heart.
The garden had been startling enough – it was a breathtaking difference to the interior of the house, and indeed to everything he conveyed through his self-image in every other way. Wild would be one way of describing it, she supposed; as would unkempt, or neglected. And it was a shock for these words to be applied to him in any sense, tied to anything he did, because Will was meticulous in his orderliness; it should have been unthinkable that there would be weeds in the flowerbeds, grasses growing quite clearly wild. It had clearly been tended to at one point or another over the years, perhaps not long ago – but its state when she laid eyes upon it was... alien, in terms of Will.
But he replanted the tulips, instead of letting them fade into the past, and she felt that that, perhaps, was telling. She wasn't quite sure as to what it told yet, but she'd be damned if it wasn't something. Their green shoots had just been beginning to emerge from the soil in their pots, coaxed into the world on the mildness of a shinigami spring. In time they would bloom purple or yellow or perhaps even red – she hadn't asked – populating his porch with pigments. It painted a poignant picture in clear contrast to the monochrome man.
It also made her feel unusually poetic, which was always a plus on a date, even with someone like Will. She had the feeling that, in spite of all appearance, he could appreciate the intricacies of romanticisms without indulging in them himself.
God, but she loved him.
The only mild dissettlement in the scene was how very close to the edge the house was. It nagged away at her, catching her off guard in the corner of her eyes, reminding her of how unfixed their plane really was – but she could understand why William chose to reside out here, given his temperament. It was deathly quiet and presumably rather more solitile that anywhere near the office could be, and perhaps the white fuzziness would stop being noticeable after a while.
She hoped it would, at least. It was off-putting.
Her beloved didn't seem to have all too much to say in terms of his living domain; in comparison to her own sham-grand tour when he had first graced her poky flat, Will merely gestured shortly with one hand to indicate the general direction of any room he deemed appropriate. Bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, bedroom, bedroom – who in their situation had three bedrooms? - sitting room, another bathroom, assorted other rooms which he dismissed with a shrug. The place was clean – almost uncomfortably so – and she wondered suddenly if his sterility had nothing to do with his dead body at all.
She'd frowned upon thinking that, and to Will's credit it only took a short amount of time before he asked her what was wrong. Laughing it off as mere surprise at the size of his house was easy, and he let it go without further comment.
His promise that he would just be doing paperwork fell through; he sat with her in the lounge, which looked barely used, fidgeted - surely William T Spears wasn't nervous? - and then stood abruptly and announced that he would make dinner.
Grell raised her eyebrows. “This early?”
“When do you usually eat? It'll take time to make, anyway.”
“Can't we just – sit? Relax together for while.”
She watched William hesitate, and wondered briefly if she were breaking one of his routines, before he nodded and sat back down at her side.
“Of course we can,” he said, although the way he said it made it seem almost a question.
Grell leaned her head on his shoulder and after a moment felt his arm snake behind her to hold her around the waist, and she felt whole.
* * *
The absolute familiarity of cooking shook off the last remaining flakes of awkwardness that had lingered in the other room, and after only a brief period of decision making William came to the conclusion of what they could eat. Salmon sounded acceptable; he retrieved it from its storage and heard Grell follow him though into the kitchen, heels as much a give-away here as they were in the office.
Her head appeared round the door, followed by the rest of her, and her eyes flicked across the room. “Can I do anything to help?”
“Yes, actually; could you cut an onion? They're in the cupboard, third shelf down.”
“Of course! Onions... Onions. Um.”
He glanced up from the half prepared fish and found Grell staring into the cupboard aimlessly, her expression clearly displaying her complete lack of familiarity with onions.
“They're the round brown ones. The stalks are tied together in a plait.”
“Oh. You know, Will, that would be adorable if the onions themselves weren't so...” She reached in to retrieve the offending vegetables and held them out, dangling the whole bunch between her thumb and forefinger as though proving a point. “Are you sure these aren't still alive?”
“They're vegetables, Grell.”
“And? Vegetables might have souls too. There could be a troupe of parsnips in suits on the second plane, carrying very small vegetable knives and collecting the cinematic records of onions like these. Have you seen any?”
He stared at her, uncertain as to what she was trying to say. “No?”
“Well, then! There's every chance that these are still alive!”
“...You've never seen an onion before, have you?”
She refused to meet his eyes. “No... Not one that hasn't been incorporated into a meal already... So what?”
“I just assumed that you'd have had some experience with cooking whilst you were... butlering.”
“We hired a cook when based in her house, and managed to be invited to a surprising number of social meals the rest of the time.”
“And you never cooked for yourself when living on your own?”
She shook her head, causing her hair to swing dangerously close to the food. “Nope! This body's built on fast food and fancy restaurant meals paid for by other people, my dear. I'm about as self-sufficient as a goldfish.”
“What a stunning character attribute - it's a miracle you're not head of our department. Please don't get your hair in the salmon.”
“Hm? Oh, sorry.” Taking a step backwards to put the food out of her hair's impressive reach, she held up the onions again. “What am I meant to be doing with these? They need... Washing, right? Do I have to unplait them or..?”
“Just cut one off, and peel it. But you might want to position your glasses as close to your eyes as possible before doing so – onion juice is not pleasant.”
She cast a scornful look his way before rummaging through the cutlery drawer for a knife, and said, “I'm not exactly going to be rubbing my hands in the stuff and smearing it in my face, am I? It'll be fine.”
Perhaps he should explain it further, and prevent Grell from reaching the nasty conclusion that most people hit at a very young age. William considered it, and continued seasoning the fish. He heard the sawing of the onion being cut from its fellows, the scratchings as it was peeled, and then Grell's surprised “Ah!” as she cut it in half and released the airborne chemicals into her eyes.
He sighed, moved the fish into a pan and met her streaming gaze.
“I gave you fair warning.”
If looks could kill, Grell would be single. “You didn't say- How are you meant to cut these things?!”
“Just like that. It's a good idea to wear some sort of eye protection – glasses that aren't halfway down your nose, for instance – but your eyes get more used to it after a while.”
She shook her head violently blinking tears from her eyes. “And you're certain that these are edible??”
“Yes. Please hurry, otherwise the fish will be done before you've even finished cutting that.”
“I'm trying!” she snapped at him, and sped up, mincing the vegetable into pieces that were almost certainly too small to be cooked properly. He considered pointing this out to her, but she'd finished before he had much of a chance to.
“There!” she cried, triumph in her voice and an ecstatic grin on her streaked face. “Done. Finished, lacerated, no further remarks.”
“I'm so proud,” he said dryly, and took the cutting board from her and poured the half-liquefied onions in with the fish. “Thank you, anyway.”
Her grin stretched even wider, and she grabbed him in a crushing hug. “Not a red rose or a satin heart,” she recited, voice muffled due to her face being pressed against his shoulder. “I give you an onion.”
Non-Shakespearean poetry? What a remarkable change. He had no idea exactly what poem it was, right enough, but it sounded almost contemporary.
“Yes,” he agreed. “A desecrated onion, but an onion nonetheless.”
Hugging her still felt very odd, given how long he had fought tooth and nail to avoid doing so, but he did so anyway and felt her sigh contentedly against him. “I love you, Will. Even if you do insist on being a heartless git in terms of not warning your lady about dangerous health risks in the kitchen.”
“And I love you, even though you insist on not heeding any advice I give you and then blaming me for whatever outcome is reached. It's endearing.” It was getting easier to say that to her, the words ringing less hollow each time he gave them voice, and he was glad of it.
She laughed. “Sarky.”
“P-” -erverse, but this retort was cut off by the sound of the fish beginning to simmer. “Okay, stop clinging onto me or the food will burn.”
“Let it,” she murmured, holding him tighter. “You're more than worth clinging onto.”
“That's not even romantic; it's just silly. Let go of me, Grell.”
She muttered dissent but did as asked, releasing him to lean back against the counter. “It smells good,” she informed him, raising her head slightly as though scenting the air in the manner of a dog. “Do you cook often?”
Managing to hide a half-smile was more difficult than he expected. “Most nights, if I'm out of the office on time. It's more enjoyable than purchasing a meal from someone else.”
“Really? I didn't have you pegged as that sort of a man. You seem more... Classy restaurants, business meals. That sort of thing.”
“You misread me,” he said simply, and to his surprise she flushed pink at the statement.
“Yes... Yes, I think I rather did.” To his mild amusement her colour remained high as the meal finished cooking, and as he plated it and placed it on the table, faintly self-conscious under her adoring eyes. Why did she have to look at him like that? It wasn't new, admittedly; the soft gaze, half longing and half love, had chased him around since she had set her heart on him all those decades ago. But only now did it mean something; only now did he feel as though he had any reason to live up to its bright, affectionate expectancy.
They ate in silence aside from her hums and complementary words; uninterrupted, secure. He could see her smile, half-hidden by her downcast eyes, and wondered what exactly she found so gratifying about the situation. As far as he was aware it was routine, both for couples in general and himself as an individual. The only change was that she was there, but given the nature of their relationship this was an inevitable point to reach.
Perhaps her jaded lenses saw things in an entirely different light to his; perhaps this was not commonplace. Perhaps he had misunderstood the situation entirely, or she had, or they were both just bobbing in the wake of each others' catalytic presences.
Regardless of what it was formed on, it was pleasant, and still rather surprising in that respect. Grell, good company? Had the world turned upon its head? Five years ago he would have scoffed the concept out of the room. Hell, five months ago he would have.
And yet here she was, smiling – not smirking or grinning or flirting or baiting, just... smiling. And for some reason this lifted his spirits remarkably.
Upon finishing she helped him clean up, carrying herself with a strange ease which he realized was likely due to her experience playing butler all that time ago. Grell cooed and murmured whatever thoughts came to her, filling his ears with her gentle static in place of the usual headaches, and he let her inch closer until she was leaning against him, one arm around his waist.
“What say we take ourselves somewhere more comfortable?” Grell suggested, in a way that was neither quite lewd nor quite innocent, and William managed to let his expression slip into one of mild happiness as he agreed and led her through to the sitting room again. There was little difference from what they had been doing before dinner; he sat back against the couch and she coiled herself beside him, in a position just close enough that it was clear to them both that she could pin him down if she wanted to. It wasn't the most pleasant of sensations – in spite of her recurring assurance through words and action that she would do nothing to hurt him, it still felt like a half-lidded threat. But he could endure, and the peace in Grell's elysium eyes made it worth the underlying discomfort.
“Did you not have paperwork to be doing?” she murmured, fingertips wandering across his chest, and he closed his eyes and swore.
“Yes, I absolutely do. I would have expected you to be the last person to remind me of that.”
“You forgot?” Grell looked genuinely surprised, twisting herself to a position in which she could peer up at him over her glasses. “You forgot about paperwork?”
“I am not a machine, Grell.” It was amazing that he could say that with such confidence to her and not himself. She snorted at the remark nonetheless.
“Hey, I'm sure a man of flesh and blood can get just as excited over form-filling as a typewriter can.”
He was torn, now; the imaginary cries of unfinished papers tugged upon the edges of his hearing, pleading to be filled out, but the very real presence of Grell – his partner - was comfortable and content just here and he wasn't certain at all, now, that he wanted to move.
Grell seemed to sense his dilemma, leaning up to press a kiss to his cheek before speaking. “Go on. I know you were dead-set on seeing it finished tonight – that's the whole reason behind my being here, isn't it? - and it wouldn't be fair of me to distract you from your work, much as I'd love to do so. Get it done fast and you'll have the whole night left to spend as you will.”
“You don't mind?”
She smirked and spread her hands. “What can I say? Maybe I like the way you look when you're focused on a task, even when it's not me.”
William nodded, grateful, and stood. “Thank you. You're more than welcome to do what you will with yourself; the house is quite large, if you want to explore it.” It was only just occurring to him that he should have shown her around himself, but it was too late now.
“Why, do you not want me at your side? Am I not the most perfect moral support for your approaching tedium?” Nonetheless she rolled her eyes and stood with a flourish, adding, “I shall endeavour both to be quick and to see everything, darling, don't you worry.”
And then she was gone, and William could breathe again. The careful bubble of heady expectation and fluid requirement of constant attention was burst, although not quite broken, and for a moment he just sat there, and listened to the silence.
It was bitter-sweet, but he knew it was destined not to last and so stood, gathered up the papers that clamoured so hard for his attention and took them through to the kitchen table to fill in. They were all only routine; he didn't expect that they could take all that much time.
Settling down to write was the most natural feeling he knew; the pen sat correctly between his fingers and the silence sat correctly in his head. Paperwork was structured; it had a clear beginning and end, and he could organize himself around it. This task needed to be done; it would take this much time, and this much effort. It held rhythm and order, and made sense.
Relationships, on the other hand, didn't.
Grell was here, in his house, for the first time since she'd dropped her long-dead habit of turning up at his door when they were newly-appointed juniors. And that was fine; he didn't mind her presence now, having lost its jagged edge and softened to something almost comfortable given their mutual understanding of at least some parts of each other. He could deal with her distraction and her noise, filter it out so that her company did not disturb him.
But he was supposed to be doing something for her. He was supposed to be upholding the same charade she held when in his company; keeping things with an aspect of ceremony, some sort of ritualistic formality. And he was almost certainly not supposed to be doing paperwork instead of spending time with her.
But it needed to be done, and he had stipulated that from the start, and so what should have been a very simple evening became paradoxical and unseemly. Grell was not his responsibility – he was not obliged to go out of his way to please on every possible occasion – and yet, inexplicably, he did want her to be happy.
William had no idea how long she had been standing behind him – or indeed how she had managed to creep through without her shoes proclaiming her arrival – but when half on instinct he turned around, he found her leaning against the arch of the doorway, watching him. Raising a hand in silent acknowledgement of his noticing of her, Grell pushed herself away from the brickwork and swayed toward him.
“I like your house,” she told him, and paused. “It's spacious.”
Grell looked at him, eyes brushing the papers on the table and then his face, and asked, “Do you want me to go home? I don't have to stay over if you don't want me to.”
“I don't mind either way, really.” That was a lie, but he wasn't sure which answer was the truth.
“Well, you know what my response to that'll be,” she said, and flung herself down into a seat beside him. “Are you almost done? You must be. You've been at it for ages.”
“Give me five more minutes.”
“You've all the time in the world, my love,” she said airily, waving a hand as though to brush away any notion to the contrary. The she mimed checking a watch and added, “But really, do hurry up. You must be bored to death by now.”
“Well, it's not exactly thrilling,” he replied dryly. “But over the years I've grown used to the arduity.”
“I haven't. You should try not doing your paperwork sometimes; it opens up a whole range of new and exciting opportunities.”
William sighed deeply and put down his pen, hating himself for admitting defeat. “What is it that you want to do so much, then, to harry me away from my ever so important work?”
“Sleep with you,” she answered promptly, and then frowned. “I mean, go to bed with you. I mean – goodness, the English language really isn't set up for this, is it? - I mean, partake in whatever sort of after-dark activities sexless people like yourself do. Which, to my knowledge, is sleeping.”
She nodded, apparently pleased with herself, and fell silent. It took him a minute to realize that she was waiting for permission, or at least an answer.
“That's... fine. Of course you can.” She didn't need to ask – they'd slept alongside each other before, after all. Infrequently and a little awkwardly on both occasions, but that the occasions existed negated the need for formal admission.
“Actually,” she said thoughtfully, “If I'm to stay, I might just pop home for a moment and pick up my nightwear, okay?”
“Do you have the energy to jump that far and back?”
“Oh, yes. Easily. Do you not?”
He gave an openly evasive answer, and she laughed. “Hey, we can't all be perfect.”
William changed his own clothes whilst she was gone, debated showering but decided against it – it wouldn't do for her to return home to find him in the shower; there was no telling what thoughts she would entertain – and sat down on the side of his bed to wait for her.
When she returned she had donned a nightdress, falling just below her fingertips at the thigh and loose-cut around her torso. It was red, of course, a watered-down mimicry of her hair, and showed off the lengthy expanse of her legs and pale arms. Both were hairless, which somehow removed all aspect of sexuality from them; they looked almost plastic, inorganic, and impersonal.
She drifted over in a way that managed to suggest that her feet were not quite tethered to the ground, eyes wide and a little hesitant as her hand reached out to brush his cheek, catch his jaw and direct his attentions upward to her face as she moved to perch upon his lap.
He touched her face in kind, taking the time to comb one of her wild loose strands of hair out of the way before he kissed her. The way she moved was glorious, all sleek undulation and carefully sheathed desire; her lips were as welcoming as always, attention-seeking and warm. And she was his, and he hers, and they were close enough entwined that they could have been mere branches of each other's uncollated bodies. Perhaps they were beautiful.
Her tongue tasted like camellias at spring equinox and he wished deeply that he could feel no rooted peace at holding her so close, utterly unfurled by her flushed proximity. She shouldn't be this close to him and he knew he should want her closer, feel some thoughtless physical attraction to her, want to push her down against the bed and undo them both in an action that he instead felt only antipathy toward. She was at her best here, right here, on him and against him and ubiquitous in his awareness.
Grell's restless hand groped at his neck and slid cleanly down his front, apparently objectiveless and well-meaning to a fault. Her cheeks were marble and unblemished, as his own delicate explorations revealed to his thumbs the gorgeous structure that no amount of cosmetics could quite hide. It was uncanny how lovely she was, how alien.
Time was motionless and irrelevant when she was so close to him, but eventually she did pull back and allow him to breathe, and laughed, quiet and exhilarated. “Will,” she murmured, arms around his now, face heavy in the crook of his neck. “Will, Will, Will.”
He ran his fingers through her hair, methodical, and she shivered against him before shifting her weight, twisting to spread her legs on either side of his thighs and leaning in ever so slightly more to touch her temple to his jaw.
“I love you,” she breathed. “If you know nothing else about me, know that I love you.”
“I know,” he replied, uncertain as to whether he was supposed to reciprocate the words or if mere acknowledgement was enough. But she grinned either way, and released a breath in tangible happiness.
Sleep had been dragging its tacky fingers across them both, encouraged by their unanimous gentility, and Grell's wide liquid eyes brushed the expanse of the bed before his did. She raised one eyebrow at him, and then the other, and finally said - “It's getting late.”
He frowned half-heartedly and replied, “I would have retired under the covers before now had my lap not been inhabited by someone else.”
She kissed his nose, the gesture entirely unexpected, and then slid to her feet. “You know,” she said off-handedly, watching as he manoeuvred himself under the duvet into a sleeping position, “We really must get you some better night wear, Will. I know you like suits, but really, to wear that to sleep...”
“It keeps me warm. I doubt the same could be said of your current... ensemble.”
“Oh, darling, you don't think I need something like this for my temperature, do you? That's what you're here for.”
Feeling the covers lift and a second body wriggle in beside him in the bed was actually a new experience, and although it was not unpleasant it was certainly strange. She pressed herself up against him in the same way that she had when they had failed so miserably to make love on her couch, all warmth and close proximity, her form complementing his own if not completing it. He pretended he couldn't feel his skin crawling at this novel intrusion into his space, choosing to ignore it in favour of draping one arm over her shoulders. Grell sighed, very contentedly, and nestled her face up against the underside of his jaw.
“So no sex?” she murmured, the question apparently addressed into his neck. “Not ever?”
“...No. I don't think so.”
“You don't think so?” He heard the tiny lift in her voice, and felt her shuffle herself slightly to look at him. “Are you suggesting you have the capability to change, William T Spears?”
“I'm stating that I have no idea, Grell Sutcliff.” In truth, he was almost certain that he couldn't – because it was inherent. More so than his ideas or his opinions or his attitudes; he was almost certain of that. “I do not believe that I am likely to change, but I would have said that about being with you in any sense of the word if you had asked some months ago. You seem to know more about me in these respects than I do.”
“Hm.” She moved again, attempting to bury her head into the space between his chest and the pillows and, apparently finding that comfortable, spoke again, very muffled. “Don't want you to force yourself to be different for me. Don't ever do that.”
Why not, when I have only ever tried to force you to be different? How many times in the space of time that we have known one another have I spat upon you for being who you are?
He felt her drift into sleep slowly, her breaths deepening until they stopped in that horrible death-like stillness that she adopted when past the stage of dreaming, and he held her as though worried that she would slip away, arms around her broad shoulders like a wreath.
Whose bed am I keeping you from, that you can lie here so easily with someone you can't want?
She loved him, but must know as well as he did that they wouldn't work. It was written under their skin, inked into the foundations of their individual beings. He was stone and she was fire, and she wanted passion and grand escapades and candle-lit dinners and intimacy that would fuse them together for an eternity, but he didn't. He had neither the desire nor the ability for that.
Just lying close to her, being engulfed in the flowery scent of her hair and skin-deep heat – that was enough. Sharing her company, her laughing light, was a privilege, and being so close to her in her most delicate state as he was now felt as though he held the world cupped between his hands.
William kissed her forehead, and Grell stirred enough to burrow closer to him again, a bubbled murmur rising from her as she did so, formless voice full of happiness.
The darkness clustered close about him, waiting baited for his next breath. Insomnia had never claimed him before, and yet here it was, hand in hand with the physical realization that he could lie here with Grell for an eternity before the feelings that she had lent him slunk quietly away.