Her hand creeps up to her face, her fingertips gingerly play across her jaw.

The pain is sharp, making her quickly suck in a breath. Even expecting it as she did, it's still a shock. She continues to press her fingertips against the tender bone, every little ache bright and insistent beneath the pressure.

Her hand travels up over her swollen lips, the flesh smarting even beneath the softest touch. She licks her lips and tastes blood, then pushes her tongue against the split. It feels raw and pulpy.

Her fingertips trace up and over her aching cheek, then dart back in a sudden flinch as they reach the puffy, bruised flesh surrounding her eye. But she persists, smoothing her fingertips again over the swollen skin. Her lips part and she lets out a soft sound as her flesh twinges and aches beneath her gentle probing.

She can imagine what she looks like: one eyelid swollen half shut and ringed in red; the skin surrounding it a foul looking purple and black. Her lips mottled red and distorted, and her neck stained with grubby looking bruises; the brand where his hands had been, pushing the life from her.

She swallows and the muscles of her neck protest. Her head feels heavy, her thoughts shrouded in the murk of her dazed senses. She shifts a little and shooting pains flare up along her ribs and she bites down on her lip.

She turns her head, though the world seems to tip with the motion. He lies beside her, turned on his side towards her, one hand under the pillow beneath his head. She sees, spattered on the sheets between them, small dark splotches that shine slickly in the half-light: her blood.

Despite the aching protest of her body, she turns herself towards him. She moves with careful ease, gingerly drawing her knees up, letting a soft hiss escape between her teeth as she smarts and throbs in various places. Her black eye is pressed uncomfortably to the pillow and her bruised ribs ache as she relaxes her weight.

The room is half-illuminated by moonlight filtering in through the slatted blinds, bathing his marble white skin in a silvery glow. He looks unreal, luminous and bizarre, tousled green hair battered down over his forehead and the red of his lips dark in the shadows.

Unusually, he is asleep, his breathing heavy and slow. His fingertips twitch and fleeting expressions dart across his countenance, but one thing remains constant: he is smiling.

This smile is not the calculated leer of his malicious delight nor is it the grimace of his unrestrained fury. There is nothing sinister, nor cruel, nothing vicious, amused or delighted in it. In waking, he uses his smile as a weapon as much as he uses exploding marbles or acid-squirting flowers; to frighten and intimidate. It wasn't so long ago that terrifying smile was above her in the dark, making her pulse run rapid even as her head swum beneath the blows.

But in sleep his smile is soft and unconscious. His lips are just parted, their upwards curve relaxed. His face is not contorted in violent emotion, but slack and peaceful. She blinks and a smarting tear runs from her swollen eye; then she smiles as well, her split lip cracking painfully. At the height of their violent lovemaking, he'd seemed as terrible as a god and she'd adored him then. Now, as her body softly throbs in the wake of his ardour, that adoration swells to consume her, delirious at the sight of that tranquil smile.

As she had settled, the aches had softened and faded to a quiet thrum. Now she deliberately wiggles and makes a soft noise of contentment as a fresh wave of pain floods her body, every tingling spot enlivened as though his hands were still on them. She moves no closer, but lies there peacefully, gazing upon the beauty of his smile.