A/N: OK, so this is my first attempt at anything 'smutty'. I don't know...It's not really my strong suit, but I kind of just started writing and ended up with this. This is, I guess, 5x15/5x16-ish (no 'I hate you', no Vegas craziness).

----

It had been too long. Far too long. And it didn't take Brooke's constant reminders to clue her in to that fact. She'd been told repeatedly by her best friend to just go out, have a couple drinks, and meet a boy who'd take her home and end her dry spell. She'd considered that, even. It just felt too pointless. Too business like (somehow). Too adolescent. Too unlike her.

It had gotten to the point that any attractive man she passed on the street would send her mind racing. The scent of a nice cologne would intoxicate her. A smile from a stranger would speed up her breathing. But she didn't want just a random one night stand. Sure, she wanted someone, but she didn't want someone that way.

It was late, maybe 11:30, and she found herself outside his bedroom door, wondering what the hell she was even doing there. They were barely speaking. Everything was awkward and uncomfortable between them now.

After he'd almost gotten married, he spent the next two months trying to convince himself and everyone else that he'd win Lindsey back; that she would come back to him. But when she didn't, and when she told him in no uncertain terms that they were over, he was left alone, single and mending his own heart. Peyton had heard all the details from Brooke, though she let on to no one that she knew. She still felt responsible for his breakup, though he'd tried to convince her it wasn't her fault. She had come to terms with the fact that they were over, though it had taken time. Eventually, it just became easier to accept it.

They'd had only three real conversations in the four months since his wedding day. Sure, they'd exchanged pleasantries and joked while they were with their group of friends, but one on one encounters were few and far between, and they were both thankful for that. Things were tense already without revisiting old mistakes and misunderstandings.

She took a deep breath and wished she had taken a couple sips of alcohol before showing up at his house. She calmed her nerves as best she could, and knocked gently on the door before just opening it, just as she'd always done. She immediately cursed herself for falling back into the old habit she had no business executing.

There he was, sitting against his headboard with his legs stretched out in front of him as he read Bright Shiny Morning. It was the same book she was currently reading, and she thought about mentioning it, but was immediately distracted by his eyes as he looked at her. He was in jeans and a simple black tee shirt that clung to him in all the right places. She watched as his hands closed the book and laid it on the bedside table, somehow reminding her of all the things those hands used to do to her. She wondered how such a simple act could make her want him to touch her so desperately.

Yeah, she was in a bad place.

"Hi," she said softly. She realized this was the first time she'd even been close to his room since the night of their kiss and his subsequent proposal. But none of that mattered now.

"Hey," he replied timidly. He wondered why she was there - at all, let alone at the late hour - and why she seemed so nervous. "What's up?"

It sounded lame as soon as he'd said it, but he could come up with nothing better. She looked beautiful, though he wanted to kick himself for even thinking it. But he always had, even when he'd been with another woman, she never failed to take his breath away in those moments when she'd let her guard down enough to show him that she was still the girl he used to know. He wasn't sure he'd seen that side of her more clearly than he was seeing it now, with her standing in his room.

"I um..." she started, before sighing and looking skyward.

"Peyton, what's going on?" He knew there was definitely a reason for her visit, and it was scaring him that he didn't yet know what it was.

"OK," she said, sighing again as she clasped her hands together just in front of her. Just like ripping off a Band-Aid, right? "I want you to have sex with me."

She said it so quickly that all the words merged together and if he didn't know her so well, he wouldn't have heard her. But he heard her. God, did he hear her. The grimace on her face was adorable. It was as though she was holding her breath waiting for him to tell her she was insane, or yell at her for showing up and requesting something so ludicrous.

"You want...what?" he asked, completely confused and shaking his head, as though that would help him to understand better.

"It's just been a long time and I haven't...I mean...I know it's stupid to even ask and...Oh God, I can't believe I am even here, standing in front of you and rambling like a lunatic," she said quickly. "But I need to be with someone, and trust me, I wouldn't have come to you if I had any other choice and..."

"Well, that makes me feel special," he said slowly and squinting, interrupting her rant. She'd always found that squint undeniably sexy, and certainly seeing it now wasn't helping her situation any.

"No! I didn't mean..." she started. "You know what? Forget I even came. This was...this was a mistake."

She was beyond embarrassed. He'd barely said two words, and she'd said far too much. She was sure he'd never speak to her again. She could feel her face going red and, just before she turned to leave, she saw the smirk on his lips. He was laughing at her. Great.

"Peyton," he said urgently. "Wait." She took a deep breath and turned around to face him. "Why me? Really?"

She realized then just how it must have looked to him. She'd professed her love for him numerous times, and now she was standing there telling him she wanted to sleep with him. He no doubt thought it was just a ploy to somehow make him realize he was in love with her.

"It's not anything...more than what I just said," she explained, making her way hastily to his side of the bed and sitting down next to him. "I just need someone I know."

"You know lots of people," he said confusedly. There was a part of him - the male ego part - that wanted her to say it was because he was the best she'd ever had.

He knew she could have any guy she wanted, especially looking like she did tonight, in her black skirt and olive green tank top. She was still as stunning as ever. Maybe he should have asked her to leave, telling her that this would only complicate everything, but he just couldn't bring himself to do it. As much as he hated to admit it, he'd missed her. Just her. Whatever presence she had about her that always calmed him. It wasn't that he was in love with her. He wasn't. He just wished he could be around her more. Having sex with her never even crossed his mind.

Well, rarely ever crossed his mind.

"No. I mean, yeah, I do. But you and I...I mean, we've done it before and I know you won't..." her voice trailed and he looked at her expectantly, wanting her to finish her sentence. "I know you won't...disappoint me."

A prideful smirk came to his face. He believed that was as close to what he really wanted to hear as he would get, and he'd take it. But this was crazy. They couldn't do this. Right?

"Peyton," he said, shaking his head as he looked at his hands. "I don't know if..."

"Lucas," she said pleadingly. "I can't even look at a man without feeling weak in the knees. I'm dying here."

Suddenly, it felt like she was begging, and, well, she kind of was. But she figured any shame or pride she had was left at the door when she came in and blurted out what she wanted. And she'd always been able to tell Lucas pretty much anything, so she didn't feel as awful as she could have.

"Couldn't you just...um...Brooke yourself?" he asked with a playful grin, wiggling his eyebrows.

"Lucas!" she squealed, swatting his side as he laughed. "I'm serious!"

"I'm starting to get that impression," he said with wide eyes as he chuckled. He raised his hand and rubbed the back of his neck like he always used to do when he was fighting an inner battle, trying to make a quick decision.

The subtle move almost made her lose it then and there. He was still as sexy as he'd always been. Sexier, even. She'd noted it the first time she saw him after she returned to their hometown. He was older and more rugged and his body had changed in ways that were obvious to her and probably no one else. She watched as the muscles of his arm moved, and unconsciously bit her bottom lip. Lucas didn't fail to notice that action. He took in the look on her face, and recognized that it was one he'd seen before. She wasn't messing around.

"You really are going crazy, aren't you," he said, smirking boyishly. For some reason, he was happy that he could still have that effect on her, although she'd just said she'd been attracted to just about anyone lately. He was choosing to ignore that statement.

"Don't tease me," she warned.

"I thought that's what you wanted," he said, lowering his voice to the tone he knew drove her wild; she'd told him as much when they were dating.

"OK, if you're going to do this, then not follow through, I'm leaving," she said curtly, but her smile stayed in place.

"I didn't say that," he said quickly, stopping her from leaving her place, perched on the side of his bed. "Just, if we do this it's..."

"Just sex," she finished. "Trust me. We don't even have to cuddle after."

The last bit was a joke, and he knew that, so he smiled and chuckled, making her do the same.

The truth was, he always had trusted her. And he'd probably have said yes to her oddball request even if she didn't look so damn good and wasn't wearing the same perfume she always had; the same one that had always been so uniquely her. But there was still a part of him that was skeptical, and she could tell that just by looking at him.

"Lucas," she said. He couldn't ignore the warm feeling he got as his name rolled off her tongue. "Don't make me beg even more than I already have."

He grinned again, realizing that whatever was about to happen would make or break their entire relationship - or what was left of it - either way. If he said no and she left, it could be a good thing or a bad thing, and if he said yes and she stayed, it could be a good thing or a bad thing. Well, he knew it would be a good thing for one reason, but he wasn't sure about any others.

He worked up the nerve to place his hand in the bare skin of her thigh where her skirt had ridden up, and she took a sharp breath at the contact. Her skin was soft and he wondered if he was making a big mistake. But when her hand rested on top of his, any doubt was gone, and he saw only Peyton, sitting next to him and ready to have him do whatever he wanted to her.

She looked down at their hands, and only briefly thought about how good they still looked together. That thought was cut off when he sat up and moved closer to her, his face only inches away from hers.

"How bad do you need this?" he asked instead of kissing her. There was no going back now, and he knew that, but he was still curious.

"Bad enough that this is..."

"What?" he asked quietly.

"You just won't have to work very hard," she said, taking a slow breath when his thumb began to move over her skin.

"Doesn't mean I won't," he said with a smirk.

And that phrase, right there, was the reason she'd come to him in the first place. His tone was gravelly and she wanted his lips on hers as quickly as possible, so she made the first move.

Her lips touched his for the first time in months, and only the second time in years, and they still felt just as perfect as they always had. The kiss was languid and slow, as if they needed just a moment to re-familiarize themselves. When he passed his tongue along her bottom lip, she didn't hesitate to open her mouth and give him what he wanted. She moaned into his kiss when he slid his hand to her inner thigh and moved it closer to exactly where she wanted it.

He pulled away from her kiss and rested his forehead against hers as they struggled to control their breathing, both knowing they were fighting a losing battle at that point.

"Are you sure?" she asked quietly, just needing to know that he wouldn't regret her in the morning.

He let out a breathy chuckle before opening his eyes to look into hers. "Definitely."

She smiled her relief and moved to kiss all his favourite spots that she hadn't forgotten about in their time apart. He reached over to turn out the light before refocussing his attention on her. The more he felt her lips on his skin and the heat off her body, the more he started to think that this was exactly what he needed.

He tilted his head to the side to allow her better access, and his hand moved beneath the cotton of her skirt once again, brushing against the material of her underwear. She moaned against his skin, and threw her head back when she spread her legs and he took advantage of the opportunity to feel just how badly she needed him. And all those little sounds she used to make, that he'd never quite been able to stop hearing even when they weren't together, were now turning him on more and more.

She pulled away from him completely then, standing and making the move to pull her shirt over her head. His hands stopped her; he wanted to do that job. He kissed her again, hard on the mouth, forcing their tongues together, though she did nothing to protest. His hands found the bottom of her shirt and pulled it over her head skillfully before doing the same with his own.

She took a moment just to look at him, and he did the same. Her hands ran down his chest and over his stomach, seeing him this way for the first time since they were teenagers. She stood with only her bra covering her upper half, aware that he was staring at her, but not caring in the least. She'd wanted to stay away from any more words and declarations, but she needed to say something.

"You're fucking hot," she said, as though it was the only truth she knew. In that moment, it may have been.

He smiled and let out a laugh before kissing her again and pulling her body flush to his, needing the friction. His hands moved to her face, then her hair, and she took that moment to slip her hand between them and feel him through the material of his jeans. She wondered if that act had more effect on her than it did on him. He knew it didn't.

He spun them around so her back was to the bed, and hooked his arm around her waist so he could lay her down gently. He stopped kissing her for a moment, only to unzip her skirt and pull it down over her legs. Those legs that had always driven him absolutely crazy. He'd been convinced he'd never be able to look at them this way again, so he was going to take advantage of the opportunity. He started at the ankle of her left leg, kissing his way up her calf and past her knee, to the inside of her thigh. When she feathered her fingers through his hair, he moved up quickly to kiss her again. He knew he was teasing her, and that she'd pretend to hate it, but he didn't care. If this was the last night he ever had with her, he was going to do things right; he was going to do all the things he hadn't gotten to do the last night they were together.

"Lucas," she whimpered, expressing her displeasure in his tactics at that moment. He pressed himself against her center momentarily, making her arch her back in that way he'd always found so damn sexy.

He went to work on her mouth again, kissing her as if he had to make up for all the years of not kissing. His hand slid back down her body and she shuddered when he ran his thumb over her most sensitive spot through the material that he wouldn't get rid of just yet.

"Luke," she protested breathlessly as he moved to kiss and caress her breasts. "Stop it."

"Stop what?" he asked, smirking devilishly as he pressed his hand against her through her panties.

"Need you. Now," she demanded. Her hands worked at unbuttoning his jeans, and he was just a little surprised at how quickly she accomplished the task, given that one of her hands was still around his neck and pulling his face closer to whatever part of her body he'd chosen to kiss.

He pulled away from her completely to kick off his jeans, and watched intently as she moved herself so her head was resting against the pillows and she was laying in the center of the bed. He quickly moved back to her and forced her legs apart so he could take his place between them, though they were still wearing too many clothes for that part of the act.

She arched her back again, inadvertently rocking her hips against him and making him groan, to unclasp her bra and pull it off her. She discarded it somewhere in the room, and he took a sharp breath as he looked down at her.

"Quit staring," she commanded playfully, but he wouldn't. A few moments later, she grew slightly uncomfortable beneath his gaze. "What?"

He wanted to tell her that she was gorgeous, and that he'd never lost sight of that. He wanted to say that she was possibly the most beautiful woman he'd ever laid eyes on, and that he felt like the luckiest man on the planet that she was letting him view her this way after everything that had happened between them.

But he couldn't. Instead, he muttered;

"Nothing." He was shaking his head as he smiled, but she got the impression there was much more that he wasn't saying.

"Lucas," she said softly, looking into his eyes and asking without words for him to tell her what he was thinking.

Instead of speaking, he slipped his hand beneath the lace of the only article of clothing she was wearing. She said his name again, but for an entirely different reason. She no longer cared what secrets he was keeping, or what else he was thinking. All that existed was the two of them and what he was doing to her. She knew she wouldn't last much longer with him doing what he was doing, and she opened her mouth to protest again, but he covered it with his own.

She used her hands to push his chest away from her.

"Not like this," she whispered.

"Now you're getting picky?" he teased, halting his movements and making her glare at him playfully.

He felt her hands move to the waistband of his boxers, pulling them down. He kicked them off, leaving him in nothing and her in one very, very sexy pair of Brazilian cut underwear that he now couldn't wait to get off her.

"You know, I could give you what you want more than one way," he said in a low voice, speaking right against the shell of her ear as he let his lower half rest against hers. Her breathing sped up instantly, effected by both his breath on her ear and his length against her, separated by only a thin piece of lace.

"No," she insisted, shaking her head for emphasis.

She kissed him again, and it felt like desperation. He wondered if anyone had ever needed him as badly as she needed him in that moment. If possible, that thought made him even harder, and he was suddenly thankful that she was demanding what she was. He looped his fingers beneath the material of her underwear and she lifted her hips so he could slide the garment down her legs.

She took a moment to think about how this all felt to her. The two of them had never really had anything like this before. They'd always 'made love'. This was clearly not love making. But if you asked her, it felt just as good. It felt really fucking good. And she trusted him. She knew he'd have given her everything she wanted if she'd asked, but she just needed him inside her. She needed his weight on top of her as they moved together. It was foreign and familiar all at the same time.

He reached for the drawer of the night stand, but she stopped him again by placing her hand on his arm and tugging him back towards her.

"I'm on the pill," she explained. "Stop fucking stalling."

He let out a chuckle at the state he had her in. She really was craving him, and he wasn't going to deny her that craving. His hand trailed lightly up her side and he smirked when she shuddered beneath the touch. He kissed her quickly, and then he was inside her. She let out a whimper that had him concerned, and he opened his eyes to see hers closed tightly.

"You OK?" he asked, caressing the side of her face gently. For some reason, this felt like the first time, and he had to wonder just how long she'd gone without. He didn't dare ask.

"Uh huh," she said, eyes still closed. "Just give me a sec."

His mind raced. He'd gotten some compliments, though none would ever be repeated anywhere other than in his own mind, but he was convinced that was the best one he'd ever received. She needed a second to feel him; to get used to him. After that statement, he wasn't sure how long he'd last.

He must have waited too long for her liking, because she muttered his name again, pleading with him to begin his movements. He obliged her request, moving slowly at first until her hips rocking with his and her breathless commands encouraged him to pick up the tempo.

The rhythm they found felt like it always had, but somehow more grown up. More experienced and more fluid. They were no longer two teenagers in love, discovering themselves and each other at the same time. They were adults, scratching an itch together, recalling the parts of each other that they'd known all those years ago.

He buried himself inside her as deeply as he could as her hands clutched his back. Each thrust had him feeling like she was the most wonderful and warm thing he'd ever had. She could tell he was thinking, even though he was in the middle of something that required him not to think. She leaned up and kissed him as passionately as she knew how, and she felt him relax ever-so-slightly as soon as her lips hit his. They broke apart, and he began pressing open mouthed kisses to her neck.

"Lucas," she mumbled breathlessly against his cheek. "I'm close."

"I know, baby," he breathed. Of course he knew.

He reached down between them and moved his hand against her in that pattern that had always had her spinning. Within moments, her nails were raking down his back and she was calling out his name. She was riding out her own waves, and it impressed him that she could speak anything other than his name, but she managed.

"Luke," she pleaded softly. "Come for me, baby."

The request and the same term of endearment he'd used on her just moments before, coupled with her tightening around him had him reeling only moments later, muttering her name against the skin of her collarbone where he'd always dropped his head as he let go.

He collapsed on top of her, both of them breathing unsteadily, before making the move to roll off her.

"No," she said, placing her hands on his back once again. "Not yet."

"I'll crush you," he managed. He'd always been dead to the world for a few minutes after he came, and she hadn't forgotten that, so she smiled at his ability to form a coherent thought.

"It's fine," she insisted.

They stared into each others' eyes as her fingertips moved lightly up and down his back. He brushed the sweat dampened hair away from her temple in a way that he realized was almost too intimate, despite what they'd just done together. After a minute, he had to move away from her before it was too late. Being inside her like that and looking at her like that was making him want to take her all over again, and he wasn't sure that was what she wanted at all.

They lay on their backs next to each other, no longer touching, and both staring at the ceiling. He pulled a blanket over himself as she leaned up to look at the clock and saw that it was well past midnight. Brooke would no doubt be worried about her whereabouts.

"Thank you," she said sincerely, brushing her fingers through his hair as she looked down at the sated look he wore. She got up and began gathering her clothing, pulling on the items before running her fingers through her hair in an attempt to tame it enough that it wouldn't be suspicious to anyone who might see her.

"You are something else," he said with a smile, shaking his head at her. She sat next to him on the bed, much like she had when she'd first arrived.

"What does that mean?" she asked. "Good things, I hope."

"Well, yeah," he said, his tone indicating that it was obvious he meant nothing negative. "Of course. But I meant that I don't know anyone else who would do what you just did."

"I told you," she said with a shrug. "It was just sex. Really good, much needed, much appreciated sex."

He chuckled again and she leaned down and pressed a kiss to the side of his mouth before standing again and making her way to the door.

"I'll see ya," she said, winking as she walked into the warm night air and pulled the door closed behind her.

"See ya," he said to no one. He lay there wondering how the hell his night went from quietly reading, to a really hot, really unexpected romp with his ex-girlfriend. After a couple minutes of thinking, he really didn't care.

He drifted off to sleep quickly, somehow still hearing his name as it spilled from her perfect lips.

----

It had been three and a half weeks - 25 days - since the night she'd shown up at his door. They had hardly spoken since, and even when they had, it was about anything but what had taken place. She'd seen him a few times in group gatherings, and he'd nod his greeting, only talking to her in passing. Everything had gone back to what it had been before that night.

He'd seen her around town often, driving past her, or her driving past him. He'd watched her from afar, much like he had as a teenager, waiting for the moment they'd next be alone, but unsure of when that might be; if it would ever be.

They'd gathered at Nathan and Haley's the night before, all their friends plus Jamie and Sam, for a barbecue. They all laughed and joked and traded stories like they always had. Only this time, when he saw her tug off her dress to reveal the black bikini she was wearing, he felt what he only assumed was the same need she'd felt 25 days earlier.

No one noticed him looking. No one noticed that he'd glance at her just a little too long, or that at one point, he had to go inside just to get away from her as she swam and played with his nephew in the water.

And there he sat at his kitchen table, phone in hand, over 24 hours later, and still he couldn't shake that need. Surely if he called her, she'd oblige him what he wanted, right? He'd done it for her, so certainly she'd return the favour. The worst she would say was no. So he dialed.

"Luke," she answered, almost in shock after seeing her name flash across the screen of her phone. "Hi."

"Hey," he said timidly. "Listen, are you busy right now?"

"Um...no," she replied honestly. "I mean, not really."

It was a Monday night and Brooke and Sam were out, so she'd put on her favourite album and sat in her work clothes eating ice cream. It wasn't that late, but she was sure she'd be up until midnight at least, listening to her favourite songs over and over.

"I was just thinking," he said softly. He convinced himself to man up. This wasn't some stranger, it was Peyton. He just had to say the words. "You want to come over?"

He knew she'd hear in that sentence exactly what he wanted her to. If she was really cruel and felt like torturing him, which he thought she just might, she'd make him spell out why he wanted her at his house; Lord knows she had every right to torment him that way. Thankfully, she didn't do it.

"Um...sure," she said with a smirk that she knew he could hear, but not see. "I'll be over in a bit."

She wasn't sure if she just didn't care or if she knew he wouldn't, but she didn't check her appearance before grabbing her keys and purse and making her way towards her car. She drove the short distance to his house with a smile on her face, knowing that she'd been wanting him in silence since the last time they'd been together. It had been rushed, and a little frantic, and a lot passionate, and it had left her wanting more, but unable to admit it. Now that he had, it was alright for her to.

She parked on the street just in front of his house and made her way to the front steps, noticing that his room was dark. She knew from their days together that if his lights were off, he was either sleeping, or not in his room. Since it clearly wasn't the former, she'd decided the front door was her best bet.

She entered the house after knocking gently a few times. She didn't wait for him to answer or call out for her to come in, just as she'd always done.

He was sitting on the couch, his laptop resting on his legs as they were perched on the table in front of him. He turned to look at her and immediately cracked a smile.

"Hi," he said nervously, moving to set his computer on the table so he could stand.

"Hey," she said softly. She couldn't explain the shyness. She knew what she was there for, but somehow, when it wasn't her calling the shots, she was anxious in his presence.

"I know it's late," he said as he watched her slip off her heels and drop her purse on the table near the door.

"Luke, it's 9:00," she laughed. Knowing he was nervous, made her less so.

"Right," he said, looking down at his feet in embarrassment.

"I think I'm better at this than you," she teased, referring to the 'arrangement' they'd made without actually speaking of it.

That sounded like a challenge, and there were a few ways he could have played it. He could have told her what he wanted, or he could just take her in his arms and kiss her and show her why he'd called her over. Either way would work, but one was much, much more fun.

"Is that right?" he asked with a smug smirk on his lips.

He walked towards her and immediately rested his hand on her hip as he pressed her roughly against the nearest wall, kissing her as her arms made their way clumsily around his waist. He wedged his thigh between her legs, making her let out a noise he wasn't entirely sure he'd heard before. This was the side of Lucas that she hadn't gotten to see often, even when they were dating. And it was exciting and sexy and turning her on in a way she hadn't necessarily been prepared for.

For both of them, though neither would admit it, it felt like the exact thing that had been missing in the 25 days since their last union. She would have retracted her former statement if that hadn't meant she'd have to remove her lips from his.

"You had to wear pants today?" he asked breathlessly before kissing her again.

"What?" she asked, pulling away and showing him the confused look that was on her face.

"You think I don't see you prancing around in those little skirts?" he inquired between the kisses he had begun pressing to her neck. "Tease."

"I didn't know you were looking," she said with a smile, tugging at the material of his shirt, indicating that she wanted it off of him as quickly as he could manage. He obliged before looking her in the eyes again.

"Liar," he said, smirking and making her roll her eyes.

"Whatever," she muttered, moving her hands to work the button of his jeans. He laughed before he pulled the fabric of her shirt over her head, dropping it in the hallway, and knowing full well that she'd have to search for it later.

They moved to his bedroom and spent the time with each other that they hadn't spent with each other the last time they did this. Despite how he'd been when she first arrived, they were calm - well, relatively - and attended to spots they'd ignored before.

But just like the last time, she gathered her things immediately and left him with a smile, well before she had to. They each knew she could have stayed if she'd wanted to, but she didn't, and neither questioned it. This unspoken agreement was what it was and nothing more.

The only difference was that she'd shown up at his door needing just sex, and he'd called her to his house needing her.

----

Their secret rendezvous went on for the next three months. At least once a week, one of them would call the other, asking if there was time. There always was.

She didn't know when she stopped thinking of it as just sex, but one night, somewhere along the way, she'd just forgotten to do it.

The weather had just turned from cool to downright cold, and she barged into his bedroom without knocking, shivering and pulling off her mittens. She was adorable as she slipped off her heavy jacket and settled into the bed next to him, fully clothed for the time being. She draped her arm over his stomach and he rested his hand over hers.

This was what they'd become accustomed to. They'd sit for a measure of time, usually between a few minutes or over an hour, and just be together. They each would wonder what the other was thinking, but wouldn't dare ask. They'd just lay together. Sometimes they'd talk about their days or things that had happened since they were last alone, but more often than not, she'd just lay against his chest and draw circles on his chest. Nothing more, nothing less.

Until one of them kissed the other.

That night, somewhere between whispered demands and satisfied moans of each others' names, he said the words neither of them had wanted to be the first to say.

He said 'I love you'.

She pretended she hadn't heard it, at least until they were laying in each others' arms again. She didn't want to question it. It could have been a slip or a misstep she wasn't supposed to hear, so she didn't pry.

But part of her wished she'd said it back. Part of her thought that maybe their strange way back to each other had been through these meetings. They hadn't spoken about issues or...anything, really. But maybe that's what they needed for them both to realize that exactly what they wanted - needed, even - was each other. And when she heard him whisper that phrase, she felt an oddly familiar feeling of fullness in her heart that had been missing for a period of time, the length of which was not lost on her.

"I meant it," he said quickly as he felt her fingertips grazing his side in the same way she always did.

She was too tired to argue. Or maybe she knew she didn't have to.

"Good," she whispered, curling closer into his side.

"Do you?" he asked. It was a strangely formed question, coming from an author, but he knew she'd understand what he was asking.

"Yeah," she sighed, as though it had been killing her to hold it in.

"Good," he said with a smile. He heard her let out a quick sigh that he thought might have been one of relief, and then she pressed her lips to the bare skin of his chest.

That was the first of time she'd spent the night sleeping next to him.

-Fin-