For a Season

Will was perfect at the party, just as I hoped he would be. He stayed by my side, fetched me drinks, laughed at my jokes, and effectively kept all the undesirable office-mates away. Perfect.

He walked me home afterward, always the gentlemen, and now we're at my door. I may have had a few drinks tonight, but I'm thinking clearly enough to know I don't want him to go. Not yet. "Would you like to come in?" I ask, cracking open the door. "For one last drink?"

"Why not," he agrees. "Could do with a little warming up before I head home."

Inside my flat, I turn on a lamp here, the Christmas tree lights there. I'm nervous, which is silly. I know Will Stanton well enough to understand this isn't going anywhere. We're friends, good friends, and that's all.

I hang up our coats. Will sits on the couch, loosening his tie and unfastening the top button on his shirt. I picture myself walking over, straddling his lap, and burying my lips in the hollow at the base of his throat. I swallow. "What would you like?" I ask. "There's vodka, there's wine. . ."

"I'll have whatever you're having," Will says.

"Even if it's a fruity girly drink?"

"Even if," he replies.

I pour a glass of red wine each, and settle on the couch at an appropriately friendly distance. After a moment, he shifts closer, and I think: Well.

I wonder if he's drunk. It's possible, I didn't keep track of his drinks either, but somehow I don't think he is. There's just something . . . unsloshable about Will. Steady and rock-like and sober. I can't imagine him losing control, not in any way. I've never seen him raise his voice, even. Not that he'd need to. He's far too good at the quiet-authority-thing.

If he's drunk, he got that way on purpose. I know it sounds odd, but I'm rather flattered.

"Are you going to Buckinghamshire for Christmas?" I ask. Small talk. Small talk is good.

"Mm," he says. "Me and every other Stanton in Britain. Not to mention all the Stantons-by-association."

I can't imagine what a family such as his must be like, and I tell him so.

"Eh," he shrugs, and his shoulder brushes mine, "you get used to them."

He places his glass on the coffee table. "Jane," he says, and his voice is definitely husky, "you didn't tell me about the mistletoe."

I blink. "But I don't have -" He points at the ceiling, and I stand corrected. "Oh." I don't remember putting that up. Then again, I'm not so sure I remember my own last name right about now.

Will stands abruptly, and I think he's heading for safer ground. But he proves me wrong, taking my hand and tugging me to my feet. Then he leans in, tilting his head, and I'm more than happy to meet him halfway. He tastes like alcohol and smells like cold and Christmas and Will, and I try to burn it all in my mind, every bit of sensation; this is one memory I don't want to fade into a dream.

There's no space left between us now, and I can feel him hard against me - this may just go somewhere after all. The world is spinning, I'm panicking, did I wear matching lingerie, did I shave my legs, will he love me tomorrow?

I think: Shut up, Jane.

He releases my lips finally, murmuring in my ear, "All right?"

"All right," I whisper, and suddenly I'm in charge, I'm the one walking backwards toward my room, pulling him along in my wake.

He seems quite willing to follow.

The tie is the first to go; then I set to work on shirt buttons, although the way he's kissing me makes concentrating difficult. I break away and step back a little, to get a better view, thankful for the light spilling in from the hall. I want to remember this too: Will with his hair completely mussed, eyes unfocussed, crisp dress shirt hanging open to reveal warm bare skin beneath.

I don't get to look for too long. He reaches for the zip on my dress, and in no time all our clothes are gone and we're tangled up together on the bed. I know what I'm doing, I'm not new to this sort of thing; but this is Will, and that little fact makes my heart beat faster and my hands tremble more than they ever have in my whole life.

This is Will.

I want to make him moan.

I begin exploring his body with my mouth, taking my time, enjoying the feel of his chest and stomach against my lips. When it's clear where I'm going, he shivers - then he stops me. He puts a hand to my face and stops me. I think: Will Stanton, you are an idiot. And possibly not human.

I shake his hand away.

He grasps my shoulders and rolls me gently onto my back, and before long it's impossible for me to hang on to any shred of irritation. His hands are perfect, I decide, and his mouth isn't too bad either. Together they seem to know it all - every right there, every don't stop, every single thing I'm too shy to say out loud.

My last thought coherent thought is that if Will's gone and developed ESP, it would explain a lot; and that he certainly knows how to make use of his talents.

***

It's later, much later; we're sprawled across the bed, content, my head on his shoulder, his arm around my waist.

I say something stupid. "Are you sorry?"

He hesitates. Not much, but enough. "No."

"Oh really," I say.

"I'm not," he replies, turning his head away. "I've wanted this, Jane. But -"

"I don't want to hear it," I cut in. "For once, Will, no buts. No hedging. If I want this and you want this - why don't we try? At least for a little while?"

Will turns to me then, and I catch my breath at the sight of his face. I don't have the words to describe what I see there, but it's sadness and longing and thousand things I don't think I've ever felt. And I think I should be happy, watching that reserve crumble, but my heart almost breaks when he touches my cheek and whispers, "All right. For a while."

***

Note: Many thanks to Stacy for betaing.