Very many thanks to Mrstater for her wonderful beta help and support.
The night was far from young when Tonks and Remus made their way into the drawing room at Grimmauld Place. Tonks found herself wildly distracted by the heat spreading through her lower back, radiating from where Remus had settled his hand to guide her into the room.
They had just finished a long, yet uneventful patrol together, and both were more than a little tired. Since neither of them was ever able to head straight off to bed after work, Remus had suggested a little night cap to help them relax -- a suggestion that Tonks had jumped on immediately, she hoped without too much enthusiasm.
'Take a seat and I'll sort out the drinks,' offered Remus, taking his hand away from her.
The sudden loss of contact surprised Tonks, so much so that in her next step she entirely failed to notice the abandoned extendable ear lying on the rug – until, of course, her foot tangled in it and, in the blink of an eye, she found herself vaulting over the coffee table.
She barely registered Remus' cry of 'Nymphadora!' as her thigh connected with the corner of the table and her elbow slammed down painfully on the side. In the last moment of motion, her head knocked against the hard wooden moulding of the settee.
Her eyes closed in a mixture of acute embarrassment and pain. Of all the people she would want to witness such a spectacular fall, Remus was the last on her list. Would she ever manage to appear mature, sensible and able to stand on her own two feet in his company?
She opened her eyes to find a concerned face peering down at her. 'Tonks, are you all right?' he asked, kneeling in front of her. 'Where are you hurt?'
There was only one thing she could do, her eternal defence mechanism in the face of the embarrassment she constantly felt when her feet betrayed her: joke about it.
She forced a chuckle that was accompanied by a wince as her head gave a particularly painful throb. 'Yeah, I'm fine, I bounce well.' Struggling to sit up, she muttered, 'Bloody Fred and George.'
Remus slipped a steadying hand behind her shoulder and eased her into a sitting position then, threading a supporting arm under hers, helped her up to the couch.
'Let's have a look at you,' he said, lifting her arm to inspect it closely.
'Really, Remus, I'm fine,' she protested.
He gave her a sceptical look as he glanced at her arm. 'Tonks, does this look alright to you?'
She looked down and saw the beginnings of a bruise that promised to be rather spectacular, even by her standards. Already her skin had taken on an unhealthy grey hue that spread from the crook of her elbow to her shoulder. She made a non-committal noise as she found her objection to his concern waning. Really, why was she arguing when the delightful sensations of his fingers tracing her arm as he examined her injury mingled with the ache that had taken up residence in her elbow?
Her head was still pounding so she reached up and tentatively poked at the side of her head to assess the damage. Immediately she was unsure whether it was a good or a bad idea, because Remus noticed what she was doing and in a second his fingers has replaced hers at her temple. He was leaning so close that she could feel his breath tickling her forehead.
'Doesn't look like anything too serious,' he murmured a moment later, his thumb brushing over the lump soothingly. 'Do you have a headache?' He pulled back slightly so that he could look her in the eye.
He was still so close, and Tonks felt her heart quicken. Tongue tied, she only managed a faint nod in response. After a pause to try and compose herself, she added, 'A little, yeah.'
'I think Molly's got some Bruise Away in the kitchen. Sit tight and I'll go and fetch it.'
She began to protest but he shot her a look that clearly warned her away from arguing with him.
As she watched him leave, she began to feel rather silly. It was just a few bruises, and here she was letting Remus fuss over her as though she were a child. Yet she sat there meekly, letting him tend her, and, was enjoying it as an adult. As if it weren't bad enough that she'd made a fool of herself by falling, she was sure to cause worse embarrassment by giving in to feelings that could surely never be returned.
Determined to do something useful, she stood up, waiting for a few moments until her head cleared enough to attempt something similar to walking, and headed slowly over to the drinks cabinet. After extracting a bottle, she shuffled over to the sideboard, selected a couple of glasses, uncorked the bottle and poured them each a generous measure.
Just as she'd finished and was about to re-cork the bottle, Remus returned. 'Nymphadora, what are you doing?' he asked, in a tone that hinted he thought she shouldn't be up and about, and perhaps certainly that she ought not to be attempting anything so perilous as handling glass. Annoyance surfaced.
She turned towards him and with no small amount of defiance said, 'I'm not a child, Remus, I may be somewhat clumsy, but I'm perfectly capable of pouring us a drink. And as much as I appreciate your concern, I really am fine.'
He regarded her for a few moments before placing a tub of what she assumed must be Bruise Away on the coffee table and approached her with a thoughtful expression on his face. She felt slightly exposed under his gaze, but oddly, not in an uncomfortable way. Cocking his head he said, 'It embarrasses you, doesn't it? You laugh it off every time and yet, it does hurt you, in more ways than one.'
No one had ever seen through her ruse before, or at least, if they had, they hadn't felt comfortable enough to mention it to her, or perhaps hadn't cared enough.
She looked at him with surprise for just a second before turning back to finish re-corking the bottle. She was even more surprised when she felt his hands on top of hers, stilling their fumbling movements.
In the softest of voices he said, 'I don't think any less of you for your clumsy tendencies. In fact, I find it rather charming.' His breath whispered against the side of her face, sending a shiver right through her.
Not really knowing what to say, and afraid to move in case he took his hands away, she blurted, 'How can it be charming? I just make a nuisance of myself, causing trouble for people everywhere I go.'
'Did it ever occur to you that I might like it because it gives me a reason to be useful to you?' She heard him take a breath as if to speak again, but there was a pause, tinged with hesitation before he added, 'That I like helping you?'
Her brain was stunned but her heart certainly wasn't incapable of moving as it started pounding again in her chest.
'I-' she began, unable to continue, not least because she hadn't the words, even if her mouth had been capable of forming them. Instead, she closed her eyes as he pulled her back to rest against him. He gently leant his head against the side of hers, bringing their arms to wrap around her front.
'Will you let me patch you up now?' he asked.
She nodded, feeling her hair move against his jumper. Disentangling her hands, but keeping hold of one, he led her back to the settee where he sat down, pulling her gently with him.
He plucked a jar from the table, and she watched as his long fingers pried away the lid and he secured the jar between his knees. Loading a large dollop of brownish goo on his fingers, he reached for her arm.
'This really does look dreadfully painful, Tonks.' Remus observed as he once again looked closely at her arm, before applying the ointment to it and beginning to rub it into her skin.
She flinched as the cool gel made contact with her skin. Remus looked up in concern, apparently worried that he'd hurt her.
'It's just cold,' she said, reassuring him. She added, 'But it does hurt like a bastard.'
He gave her a gentle smile that spread to his eyes. 'See,' he said, a teasing note in his voice, 'that wasn't too hard to admit, was it?'
She smiled ruefully. 'It's just easier not to draw any more attention to my blunders than necessary. I'd rather grin and bear it than be even more embarrassed by having people fuss over me.'
His fingers moving over her arm really did feel wonderful; he was applying just the right amount of pressure, making sure that the whole area was covered properly.
'But you don't mind me looking after you now?' he asked softly, with a smile that held a mixture of hope and concern, and which she thought was adorable.
'No,' she replied, meeting his eyes and finding herself returning the shy smile. 'I don't think I do.'
They held their gaze for several heartbeats. She wondered what he was thinking; no, she desperately wanted to know what he was thinking. Those dear, kind eyes of his -- were they trying to tell her something?
She'd never allowed herself to hope too much that he might care about her as much as she did him. But something had changed tonight between them: his admission earlier, the cuddle that would re-visit her in dreams and even now, he sat closer, spoke to her in softer tones.
Could she dare to hope?
'Let's look at this bump on your head,' Remus' slightly hoarse voice broke the silence. He shifted slightly closer, close enough that their knees touched and when he hunched to take another, closer look, their faces were inches apart. She hardly dared breathe as he rubbed the ointment in small, soothing circles around her temple.
His fingers slowed and his eyes flickered to hers. 'Better?' he whispered.
'Much,' she answered breathily.
His face came closer, oh so much closer, until his lips touched hers in the barest of kisses.
He pulled away slightly and then came back to kiss her again, with more confidence this time. His lips moved gently over hers and she was lost in the feeling of him, in her feelings for him.
After a while – which Tonks thought was definitely not long enough – Remus pulled away, smiling.
'You have no idea how long I've wanted to do that,' he said in a low voice, resting his forehead against hers.
'Oh,' replied Tonks with a slight laugh, 'I think I've a fair idea.'
'I'd still be doing it," he said, pleased grin becoming slightly sheepish, "were it not for, well, that stuff is a bit sticky and I need to wash my hands, I think you've got rather enough plastered on you to be going on with.'
Tonks laughed. 'Here, hold out your hands,' she commanded, drawing her wand. He did so and she flicked her wand over them with a muttered Scourgify.
'Thank you,' he said softly, taking her wand and laying it on the table.
And then his hands were on either side of her face, his lips were reunited with hers and then, then they were kissing more deeply and she thought that nothing in her life to date had made her feel more complete. There was something in his kiss that she had never felt before. It was trusting and open and felt so completely right that she wondered how she could possibly have thought him indifferent to her.
How long they were lost in that kiss, she had no idea. When Remus finally pulled away and once again rested his head against hers – their ragged breaths intermingling – he managed only a few words. 'Fancy that drink now?'
She nodded. When he came back, he seated himself in the corner of the couch and held out his arm for her. Gratefully, she snuggled up to him and accepted the glass he held out to her, thinking how long it had been that she had yearned to do exactly this.
She wondered idly whether they ought to talk about this seismic shift in their relationship but really, his arm curled around her shoulders, her head resting lightly on his shoulder, the warmth of his body pressed against hers, it was perfect. Any conversation could surely wait, she thought, as his hand brushed up her arm and tangled in her hair.
A/N: This story was born out of silliness, mostly my silliness when I took the tumble over the coffee table that inspired this story, unfortunately, I didn't have Remus to help me:( Clumsiness seemed to be in the air that week. After a couple of friends wrote in their LJs about their own accidents, I half-jokingly mentioned that we should hold a Nymphadora of the Week competition, and so we did. The suggestion that the winner should have to write a story based on their calamity was put forward, and well, this story is the result of that.
There maybe a few more stories to come out of the competition – there was a tie for second place, those individuals are being encouraged to write their stories and mrstater has a fun idea for hers – look out for them!
Taking the opportunity for a bit of shameless advertising, mrstater and I have recently started a new community for Remus/Tonks writers, it's called MetamorFicMoon, you can find the link at my Live Journal, the link for which is in my profile.
Anyone lovely enough to leave a review gets their very own Remus to patch them up the next time they take a tumble.