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I tear my heart open, I sew myself shut

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Of the two of them, Hansel has always thought he's the more impatient. Yeah, Gretel can be hot-tempered, but her moves are usually a little more calculated, even when she's pissed.

Hansel, on the other hand... Well, he knows his limitations, and they usually involve shooting things.

Right now, however, it's Gretel who's shifting impatiently, irritation snapping in her fingers, tense along her spine.

"I'll be done when I'm done," he says, putting patience in his voice just to piss her off that little bit more. It's her own fault - you jump in front of an axe-wielding troll, you take your knocks. They've both learned that the hard way, but this is harder than usual.

"What's taking you so long?"

And there it is, the temper - hot and bright - rising in her voice. He stops what he's doing long enough to rest blood-grimed fingers on the back of her neck, feeling the tension starting to build in her again.

"I'll be done when I'm done," he repeats, and this time she sighs, the tension leaching back out of her.

He lets his fingers stroke over her skin as he pulls away, before turning his attention back to what he's doing. The calluses on his fingertips catch against the smoothness of the skin at the nape of her neck - she has as many scars as he does, but not there, not yet.

After today, she'll have another scar to add to the tally.

"You're taking forever," she gripes, but there's no heat in it, not this time. Instead, he hears the echo of every whine she's ever given voice to in her words, every petulant moment, every unreasonable little temper tantrum. Not that there have been many of those since their parents died.

He swallows down the smile that wants to rise to the surface - she wouldn't hesitate to wipe it off his face again, and, really, he's just saving her the effort. Instead, he focuses on the small, neat line of stitches he's etching into the skin of her shoulder.

His needlework has always been better than hers.

Gretel sighs, but stays still for him, barely wincing as the needle slides into her flesh. "You don't have to be so fussy," she says. "It's not like anyone will see it."

"I will." He pauses for a moment then leans down to press a kiss to her neck, just below the small, dark curls at the edge of her hairline. He flicks out his tongue and tastes salt and sweat and iron.

He tastes Gretel.

When he straightens up again, she sways towards him, just fractionally, the way she always follows that pull towards him and he follows the same pull back towards her.

"Just try a little patience," he chides, letting the smile show in his voice. "You never know, you might get a taste for it."

She snorts, and this time he lets his fingers stroke down over her spine.

"Are you sewing me up, or trying to get me to lie down and spread my legs for you? Because I feel I should point out the fact that I have a fucking axe wound in my shoulder."

"Yeah, like it'll be the first time you've been on top."

Her laugh turns into a gasp as he pushes the needle through her flesh again, but she bites it back, like she always bites it back, even around him.

It doesn't mean he doesn't see it anyway.

"Won't be long," he soothes, and Gretel turns her head to glare at him.

This time he lets the smile show; she can't smack him around the head from this angle.

Gretel realises that at the same time he does, and lets out a slightly disgruntled sound as she faces front again; when she turns away, all he can see is the sleek, silky curve of her spine, and the ugly row of black crosses against the red line that had split her shoulder open.

His stitches will never be neat enough, not for his Gretel's skin, which might be sun-darkened and wind-roughened, but is still beautiful to him.

But they'll do what they've always done - make do with what they have.

He makes the last stitch, as small and neat as the others, and ties it off, cutting the thread close to the skin so it won't catch when she pulls her shirt back on. And then - task done - he lets his fingers rest at the top of her spine again.

This won't be the last scar Gretel bears. There are others already, older ones carved into her flesh: the nick where her shoulder joins her neck, left when a thrown knife missed its mark but marked his Gretel anyway; the shiny, smooth oval of a burn on her shoulder blade, where a hot coal had landed right before they burnt that bitch's shack to the ground; the crescent shape over her hip from the claws of a swamp witch. He traces them all with reverent fingers, pressing his lips against those he can reach.

When he finally pauses, his hand is curled around her hip and his face is buried in her hair.

"Do me a favour and learn how to duck?" he murmurs, rubbing the stubble from a three-day beard against her neck just to feel her twitch. "Embroidery's always bored me."

This time she twists sinuously in his grasp and smacks her hand against his temple. Hard.

"Smart ass," she grumbles, but again there's no heat in it, not until he runs his hand along her arm, fingers wrapping lightly around her wrist and his thumb stroking over her pulse point.

"It was close," he says, always one to point out the obvious, a habit she's complained about more than once.

"I'm fine." There's warmth in Gretel's eyes now, the heat banked behind them, but, as always, ready to leap back into flame. "You worry too much."

"And you don't worry enough."

She smiles at him, and it's soft and tender, all the things that Gretel isn't. He must be freaking the fuck out if that's the way she's looking at him.

He doesn't know how to stop.

Her hand cups his face, her thumb now stroking a line along his cheek, above where his beard is starting to grow thickly. It itches and he'll shave it off soon, leave it just long enough, just rough enough to add to her pleasure when his face is buried between her thighs.

"I'm fine," she repeats, and her smile grows dark and dirty, more familiar, quieting the rapid beating of his heart. "Want me to prove it to you?"

He sighs and turns his head, pressing a kiss against the dry, callused skin of her palm and breathing in the scent of her. His Gretel, made of equal parts gunpowder and grim determination. He knows how this will go - wounded or not, she'll have her way.

She already has him.

"Hansel?" she prompts, her eyes already softening again, so much in them behind the leather and attitude, and he's the only one who gets to see it.

Like he's the only one who sees her scars.

"Yeah," he says, putting a challenging note in his voice just to bring that smile back to her face, the one that's hungry, not pained. "I want you to prove it.

"But only if you're on top."

The end