Disclaimer: The characters belong to Stephanie Meyer, I just have a good imagination and a lot of free time. I own nothing.
Feedback: Comments and reviews make my inner bunny very bouncy. :D
A/N: Thanks go to Dean'sAngel17 for being a super quick, fabulously encouraging beta... She's bad ass :P This is a one shot of lemony goodness, please enjoy responsibly.
She stood looking at the glass door, she could see herself reflected in the hazy patterned pane, her short hair a carefully careless mess. She ruffled it slightly and sighed. She knew he was here, his car was in the drive and she could hear soft jazz coming from an open window overhead. She knocked again, and for a split second she thought about bolting before he answered, but she was resolute. It did not stop her from straightening her skirt and ruffling her hair again, for the millionth time, and tapping her feet nervously as she waited. She looked back over her shoulder and surveyed the empty street beyond the fence. The area was modern and all the houses identical. The gardens - well manicured and lush - were all identical too, the only originality coming from the various flower beds dotted around close cropped lawns.
Her work clothes felt too heavy in the balmy evening air, her navy skirt and white blouse seemed almost leaden and she longed to be wearing something cotton and summery, but because she had been thinking about this all day, thinking about what she was going to do, she was sure that she wouldn't have been able to wait the hour or so it would have taken to go home and get changed. She was fidgeting with the collar of her blouse absently as she stared around her.
Her gaze was brought forward again by the sound of the door opening and she put on her best dazzling smile. There he was, her best friend, her confidant, always the same each time she saw him; the beautiful halo of curls framing his face, his gracefully casual stance as he wore the t-shirt and low slung jeans combo he always wore around the house and the one thing that never ever changed, the look on his face he wore when she showed up on his doorstep. The look of surprise mixed with love and a touch of sadness. She knew his pulse had quickened just at the sight of her, knew that if she stood close enough to him she could feel the subtle brush of his breath against her hair as he fought to regain his equilibrium and as his smile faltered she knew he felt the same as the last time she had been there.
"Hi Jasper." She whispered and dipped her head slightly; all her courage had vanished when she saw that flicker, all her resolution had gone.
"Hey Alice." He stood back from the door and offered her entrance and without looking up or acknowledging him she crossed the threshold and shut the door.
He had already turned and walked up the flight of stairs in front of him. She followed without a word.
He was sitting at his computer desk when she rounded the corner and stepped into his bedroom. It always struck her that his 'office' looked like a set piece from Star Trek, like one of the big consoles you saw the ensigns working at, with him floating in front of it all in a huge leather chair. She had told him this once and he grinned and high fived her like this was a great compliment; he was always such a geek. He had knocked down a wall to make the office a part of his bedroom because he didn't have space in the spare room for all of his equipment and now the room was huge. One corner was just computer screens and monitors and from that corner there stretched an immense bookcase filled with everything, not just books. Against the wall behind the door was a sofa that was strewn with cushions and clothes and on the opposite wall his bed sat looking just as huge as everything else in the room. Just as she always had, she placed her bag on the floor by the sofa and crossed the room to the bed. She tutted disapprovingly as she shook out his duvet so she could smooth it out flat; she inhaled the scent of him from the sheets and closed her eyes to his intent gaze.
She fussed with the duvet for a moment longer and then looked at him as she took a seat on the now made bed. He had the grace to blush just a little, knowing that his mama would take a switch to him if she knew he let any girl into his room when the bed wasn't made. She smiled at him when he looked up at her through his long gold lashes making the green of his eyes sparkle and he grinned cheekily.
Just as she was beginning to feel the infectious grin spread on her face she remembered that she was here to make amends, to confess, and she scowled down at her shoes.
"So how have you been?"
She was surprised by his easy tone and saw the twinkle in his eye. She knew that the hurt she had caused him had been forgiven, but she could not forget it and it ate away at her, guilty and raw.
She felt the tears welling and she raised a hand to her forehead trying to hide behind it and pretend she wasn't close to losing control. She smiled a little crookedly and felt her lip tremble ever so slightly.
"Let it go, darlin', it's over with." He said in that same calm, disarming way.
She stifled a sob and fought back her tears. "I've been okay." She said in a falsely cheery voice looking him in the eye, daring him to call her on it.
He smiled and nodded. "Good." He swung his chair round and returned to tapping away lightly at the keyboard in front of him.
The silence felt like it always had, soft and comfortable yet with the electricity of something waiting to happen.
She composed herself and sat looking at the back of his chair. He wasn't ignoring her, she knew that much; he just had a knack for letting her do the work, sorting issues out in her head and then coming back to him, letting him have the control whilst retaining the sense of power.
She stood up and skirted the bed, quietly and almost stealthily she approached the back of the chair. She put out a hand and ran her fingers over the soft black leather, so cool to the touch. She was just taking in the breath to start avoiding the real issue she wanted to deal with when he spoke. He didn't look round, just carried on typing as if sensing that she wanted to hide for a moment longer.
"What do you want me to say Ali? That I hate you? That I blame you for not wanting me?"
"No Jas. I want you to say that you believe me when I say I'm sorry."
"I always believed you, but you don't have to apologise for the way you feel. It's not my place to tell you who to love."
"I do love you, I always did. It's just that there were so many distractions, so many other selfish thoughts in my head. I just needed the time to figure it out."
"You love me like a friend and I can respect that, because I respect you and I love you."
"I love you, like you would have me love you, like you love me, and I wouldn't blame you if you told me it was too late to say it; if it's too late then I really am sorry for wasting so many years. I just hope you can forgive me that if nothing else."
She quickly leaned over the arm of the chair and pressed a soft kiss to his cheek and just as suddenly turned and walked over to the door. As she was retrieving her bag she heard him turn in the chair and as she hooked it over her shoulder she heard him stand, just as she put a hand over the door handle she felt his hand on her arm.
She closed her eyes and dropped her head. He turned her gently to face him but her gaze was still fastened to the floor. Raising her chin with a finger he smiled down at her and her heart quickened in her chest. She was sure he could feel the subtle brush of her breath on his face as she fought to regain her thought. There was so little space between them now, she was sure she could hear his heart beating but it may have been the rush of blood in her own ears.
He held her whole body in check with the hands on her face stroking gently through her hair pushing back the obstructing strands from her eyes. She wound her arms around his neck and melted against him. She let his hands soften her, she felt like she was flowing in his arms, allowing herself to be swept up in his love for her.
He kissed her then, not their first kiss, but the first that meant as much to her as it did to him. It was searing all of the hurt out of her heart, it was more than kissing, it was healing. His kiss was a balm for her broken self and she gave herself over to it completely.
She remembered the times before when she had fallen into his arms and into his bed, times when she had loathed herself and times when she needed company, but never a time when she wanted him. She remembered the hurt in his eyes in the mornings when he awoke to find her dressed and perfunctorily telling him that this couldn't happen again but knowing inside that it would. She knew that her selfishness would be forgiven because he truly did love her, in all the ways that her other men didn't; knew that he would always be her best friend, the person she could talk to, that would listen as she cried, would hold her when she asked and would follow when she lead him upstairs. She knew that he wanted it to be real, to be fair and uncomplicated, but she also knew that he would pretend just for the night that she was there for him, for his arms and for his caresses as he fucked her as slowly and gently as she would allow or as hard and unfaltering as she needed until she was screaming out someone else's name underneath him, and he held her close on those long nights when she cried beside him; in his arms but miles away from him.
Every time he opened the door and she saw that look in his eyes, one part of him saying 'perhaps tonight she will love me' and the other saying 'don't let it happen again' she knew that she should hate herself more and more for what she put him through.
She knew that this time it was real, that this time she was there just for him, that she would know what it was to be loved by him. She would focus on his movements, on his tender touches that she always managed to blot out when she needed someone, anyone, to make her feel alive. She would take her time and let him do whatever he wanted, because she was there to enjoy it with him. He wasn't there as a substitute for someone else who had hurt her, he was there as her lover, the one that would never hurt her.
So wrapped up in her thoughts and the feel of his mouth dancing on hers, she hardly felt him wrap his arms around her, crushing their bodies together and reaching back closing the door behind them. She hardly felt it as he walked her slowly backward until she was hard against the unyielding wood and ran his hands down her sides, sliding warm and gentle over the starched material until they reached the waistband of her skirt. She didn't realise he had tugged her shirt out from her skirt and had slowly unbuttoned it until he laid his hands on the soft warm skin of her belly.
It was then that she broke the kiss and looked him in the eyes. He smiled at her softly and his hands travelled their way up and back until they were holding her shoulders from behind. She saw a look in his eyes that was so unfamiliar to her. It wasn't lustful or savage; it was deep burning passion and instantly she wanted nothing more than to rip every item of clothing from them both and demand to be taken fast and rough, so intense was that look.
She hadn't known someone could look at her like that. She had seen lust and felt the vehement press of flesh against flesh, the all consuming desire to feel a connection, but she had never gotten past the release of frustration. With all of her men, it had never been making love, it had always been sex; sometimes mind blowing, orgasm filled and gratifying, sometimes unhurried and quiet, but never the soul reconciling, heart warming, stay forever lovemaking she dreamt about.
Instead of pouncing on him, she unhooked her arms from around his neck and dropped them down to her sides and slowly shrugged her blouse off and it fell to the floor.
His soft open mouthed kisses deepened as he pulled her body closer. The swell of her breasts pushed against his chest and she whimpered into his mouth. He ghosted his fingers over the nape of her neck and back down, trailing feather light touches down her spine until he reached the strap of her bra.
She was pushing her hands under the hem of his t-shirt and skimming the fabric up as he was unhooking and removing her bra and the resulting tangle of arms had them laughing and pulling apart from the kiss.
She relinquished her hold first, dropping her arms and shrugged off the flimsy material hiding her from the eyes she wanted to see her; really see her, know her completely, love her unconditionally.
It struck her as strange that he didn't grab her, as most men seemed to do, the second the underwear comes off their hands are roaming; he just gazed at her with a look that was equal parts longing and bashfulness, drifting slowly over her exposed flesh, travelling over breasts, shoulders, throat and face with timidity that was so uncharacteristic that it made her smile. She pressed forward quickly and pulled his t-shirt over his head, tossing it on the bed. The feeling of his chest, so solid and warm against her own made goosebumps prickle over her arms and a shiver run down her back as she wound her arms around his waist.
As if he had been given permission to delight in the feel of her and the smell of her, he fell to stroking and petting her, drinking in the scent of her skin and hair, the enveloping warmth of her.
"What do you want Alice?" He whispered like so many times before. She felt a small stab of pain in her chest, remembering all the times she replied 'fuck me' or 'I need your hands on me', 'Do it hard' or 'Hold me.' Whatever it was that she needed at the time it always led to the same inevitable conclusion of him wakening to a cold bed and more pain.
Her reply was so quiet she was unsure if he'd heard her. "Tell me your fantasy."
He held her with his cheek against her hair, all but crushing her to his broad chest. He sighed and she could feel it through his body more than hear it or feel it on her ear. "You don't know how long I've wanted to hear you say the word love and mean it like I do."
She stood back from him and looked up into his eyes, what he was feeling registering in the way his eyes crinkled slightly at the corners and the wetness that threatened to flow, but he was smiling just a little and he didn't drop his hands from her waist.
She brushed his hands away and grinned at him. Wiggling her hips a little she shimmied out of her nylon skirt feeling the cold rush of air over her too warm thighs. He just stood there with a half smirk on his face.
"Tell me what you want." She said, her smile giving way to a mischievous look.
"I want you, just you; nothing else, no bows or baubles, just you."
"You've already got me, anytime you want..." She trailed off feeling shy again and letting her head drop down.
"Come on then." He smirked, watching the smile creep slowly across her face and suddenly he scooped her up off the floor and placed her gently on the edge of the bed.
She was wearing nothing now but her tiny expensive panties, and she didn't feel the same way she usually did with her other suitors; she felt at ease and in no rush to get to the sex. She wanted to take her time and get to know his body. There was another little stab of guilt and pain that ran through her when she thought that she should know every inch of him by now, since she's had him around, beside and in her so many times now, he should have the feel of a well used map, every road known and every route taken, but he still felt like a stranger to her. There was not a single time that she had fucked him and it had been him that she'd seen in her head.
He had moved around the bed and stripped himself of his jeans and underwear. She could see the dusting of freckles on his hips and the blue tinge of veins showing through the pale skin, the trail of dark blonde hair, starting off like down and getting courser as it reached the base of his steadily stiffening cock. She was mesmerized by him, the way his body moved, so lithe like a cat yet so solid and sure. She watched as he climbed up onto the bed, pulling the duvet down and out of the way as he patted the mattress opposite him, smiling reassuringly. She swung her legs up and scooted back until she was sitting just below the pillow, extracting the duvet from under her legs and pushing it down the rest at the foot of the bed. She was happy just to watch him, but he had other ideas, and as soon as she was settled, his mouth found hers and they kissed passionately. The tingle that she felt when his hands finally touched her breasts made wetness pool at her core and she groaned when his fingers pinched her nipples lightly. She sat back from his kiss and looked into his eyes.
"I've been a bad girl. I don't deserve to be in control tonight." Her eyes saying as much as she liked to dominate she was in this one for being submissive. He just grinned. She knew that he knew what she liked. She had barked commands at him many times before, so she knew he wouldn't do anything that she didn't want, and she trusted him completely.
She was expecting him to be quiet and in control, with long, heady caresses and slow gentle lovemaking, treating her like a princess when all she wanted was to be treated like a whore. She would ask him later to be rougher with her, just let him do what he wanted; it was his turn after all.
He bent his head to her neck and licked a stripe from her collarbone to her ear. He blew on it gently making her shiver. Her arms wrapped around his neck and fingers tangling in the hair at his nape, she pulled his head back just a little and he bit her in response, hard enough to make her gasp, but not hard enough to leave a mark.
"Sorry," She whispered, "force of habit."
He snarled softly and nipped her jugular again, she just moaned. She could feel him smile against her skin. The trail of little kisses and bites that he left down her chest made her nearly light headed with anticipation. She thought she knew what was coming and she held her breath, this wasn't like him at all. His hands had cupped the underside of her breasts and pushed them upward toward his mouth, licking and sucking his way over them until he found a nipple and bit down gently and let go. She mewled, waiting for him to take her into his mouth again; she pushed her chest out and tried to press herself more fully against him. He held her back, teasingly, and looked into her eyes as his teeth grazed her nipple once more and she groaned, wanting to push his head closer to her, but that would probably just make him stop altogether. She used her most convincing pleading face and with a triumphant growling giggle she let her head fall back against the pillows as he bit down hard, sucking the stiffened bud into his mouth and flicking his tongue back and forth over it as his teeth pulled it roughly, he used his hands to massage her breast forcefully and she shoved her chest forward again. She was nearly pleading incoherent as he switched nipples and her fingernails dragged down his arms in her ecstasy. She was so wet now that the thin material of her panties was sodden. One of his hands slid from her chest down her belly and found the hem of her panties, he slid his hand beneath the material and she lifted her hips slightly, letting her legs fall open. His deft fingers found her clit and started rubbing in slow circles. Her arms tightened instinctively around his neck again, forcing his head closer to her boobs, and she started to pant; she was getting closer to her release and he had barely begun to touch her. When he heard her breathing hitch he knew she was close, so he pushed two fingers deep inside her and pumped them in and out, using his thumb to drag over her nerves, and he was sucking and biting her nipple when he felt her clamp down on his fingers. She heard his teeth click together as he released her nipple and she cried out as she rode down on him through her orgasm, shuddering and heart beating wildly in her chest. She felt like he had been reading her mind; maybe he knew her better than she thought, maybe he liked it just as rough as she did. She felt like she had just cheated, that this was supposed to be about him, but she couldn't seem to care.
He soothed her down, kissing her jaw lightly and whispering little endearments into her ear. She let the world come back into focus and smiled at him languidly.
"Wow, just... wow." she breathed.
"Damn, you have no idea how beautiful you are when you come undone, do you?" He chuckled when she blushed. "All the things we've done together, and you blush when I say you're beautiful?"
"So?" She looked into his eyes changing the subject. "Your turn." And with that she took his dick in her tiny fist and palmed it gently.
His head fell onto her shoulder as he groaned. "No baby." She looked surprised when he stilled her hand, surely he wanted her to suck him off, or at the least jack him off. He shook his head.
"As good as you are at that, and as much as I want to, I want to show you how amazing I can make you feel. I want this to be my way of thanking you for loving me, let me show you how I plan to keep you."
"I'm not going anywhere, I promise you, Jas." She looked nearly panicked. He shushed her and stroked her hair. She kissed his face, light pecks over his cheeks and eyes until he took her face in his hands, kissing her fully and passionately and she wound her fingers into his curls. The kiss was as breathless as the first and she moaned into it as she felt his hands ghost down to her hips. He broke the kiss, grinned impishly and said, "Ready for round two darlin'?"
He hooked the sides of her tiny panties and yanked them down and off in a second, she just giggled and he placed a sweet kiss to the hollow of her throat.
She ran her hands over the sides of his face and pulled him up to kiss him lingeringly, and when he pulled back just slightly she caught his bottom lip between her teeth and nipped. His small squeak of pain was overshadowed by the look of pure lust in his eyes. He was enjoying the role play more than she'd guessed. Maybe he had a plan. She felt like she would find out soon enough. She let go of his lip as he slipped a finger into her mouth and forced her jaws open, she could taste herself and moaned as he kissed her chin and headed south, she sucked on his finger seductively and he watched her, smiling against her skin as he trailed lower and lower. When his lips found her wetness, she sighed and languidly rocked her hips forward, she was sure that the tight feeling in her stomach meant that she was ready for him again. He nibbled his way over her lips, kissing and sucking, making her head spin with need. His tongue plunged through her dark folds and she whimpered when he dragged his tongue over her clit, flicked a few times and stopped. Her eyes opened wide and she smiled down at him. She had had no idea he was such a tease. She was ready to buck her hips to get him moving again, but he held her down with hands like a vice on her sides, they were definitely going to leave bruises. His tongue flicked out again, like a snake scenting the air, sending tingles along her spine, and she dipped her head back to the pillows, exposing her long pale neck. He murmured into her pussy for her not to move, she just sighed, but he must have known she would agree because he lifted one of his hands from her hips and wrapped it gently around her neck. She tilted her chin down to see him grin at her, lips pulled back from his teeth that were inches from her swollen sex. He squeezed her throat gently and she choked back a growl of approval. He just dipped his head and nipped her clit gently, making her buck forward into his mouth, his hand tightened around her throat and she held her breath. His tongue was lapping at her now, roughly stimulating her as he moved his other hand to her entrance. She was making soft noises in her throat and he checked her face, she was lost in some good place right now, so he proceeded to slip his fingers deep into her, crooking just so, hitting her just right. He had to let up the pressure on her neck for a second so she wouldn't choke as she moaned at the all out assault on her body. She was shuddering and writhing, trying to find purchase in the sheets with her balled up fists, trying to keep her eyes open to stare into his eyes as he fucked her thoroughly with tongue and fingers, holding her in check with the hand around her neck. He was careful not to press too hard, making it just hard enough to regulate her breathing, making her brain fry with the pleasure. Just as he felt her choked whimpers start, he let go of her neck and moved his hand to her pubic bone where he pressed down hard, her eyes rolled back in her head and she let the pleasure wash over her in a powerful wave. He tasted the sweetness of her pussy as she came, and moaned with need himself. Without waiting for her to regain her balance he flipped her over onto her front, pulled her hips up and made her kneel. She smiled back over her shoulder at him, trying to catch her breath, with apparent approval at his forceful and brutal manhandling. She cried out softly when he spanked her ass, leaving a red hand print on the soft flesh. He liked the sound, so he did it again, in the same exact spot, the sting made her eyes water, but she grinned.
"Do it again." She purred.
"Beg for it Alice." He said harshly.
Her eyes opened wide in shock, but she recovered quickly. She liked this side of him. She wiggled her butt against his seriously engorged cock and smiled sweetly. "Please, please, please... spank me again, I'm a naughty girl."
She saw the way his pupils were blown wide with lust and he tried to keep up the pretence of dominance, but he was growling, low in his throat, and he positioned himself between her spread legs. He spanked the other side of her ass, leaving another red welt. "You like that Alice?" He asked quietly, like he was focussed on something else.
"I love it, oh god, please." She continued begging.
He spanked her again. "You want my cock, darlin'?"
She felt the wet press of his heat against her opening, and fought the urge to throw herself back onto him, letting him take the lead was the point after all.
She panted. "Fuck yes, oh, fuck me."
She knew it was getting too much, all the teasing, when he plunged deep into her, not stopping to adjust to the tight, hot friction. He filled her up and groaned. He thrust his hips, in a frenzied rhythm, fucking her hard. She didn't have the chance to cry out as he fisted a hand in her hair and pulled her up, so she was tight against his chest, she just grinned. He was pushing so deep, she could feel the strain in his thighs, she held onto the headboard so if his strength gave out she wouldn't fall. His pounding into her was accompanied by the slap of skin on skin; the sound so debauched it made her quiver with lust. She gasped when his rough fingers grasped at her breast, pressing hard, just as hard as his dick inside her. They fumbled with her already abused nipples and she felt like crying at the pleasure he was giving her. He was grunting steadily and then suddenly his hand was gone from her tits and pressing hard against her clit, fingering her, coaxing her closer to orgasm so that she came right after him.
"Fuck, Jasper, yes!"
He bit her shoulder, and then kissed the bruise that was forming. She was coming down from seeing stars, and she ran her hands up his legs, cupping his ass, keeping him pressed into her. He smiled against her skin.
"So darlin', you liked my fantasy then?"
"Nope, you'll need to run through it one more time." She laughed. "Just so we're clear though, was your fantasy to dominate me, or to fuck me 'til I couldn't walk?"
He shifted a little and she whimpered, letting go of him so he could slide out of her. She knew that even if it weren't to fuck her 'til she couldn't walk he had done a pretty good job of it.
"It was to make you remember my name when you came."
He turned her round and wrapped his arms around her.
She smiled ruefully. "How can I prove to you that..."
He stopped her with his mouth, kissing her softly.
When they broke apart he whispered. "And you did. I know you're here, that's enough. I know that I love you and that was always enough for me. You just have to let me show you how I'm going to keep you here. I have always loved you, you know that, but it doesn't make it less true."
"I love you too." She smiled at him, the truth of her words showed on her face and she dipped her head to hide the tears that had welled in her eyes.
He let her press her head to his chest as he lay her down gently and pulled the blanket over them both. Wrapping her up in his arms he let her cry until they both fell asleep.
When she woke up and he wasn't beside her, she sighed and let the evenings events wash over her. She hoped that his absence wasn't a bad thing. When she rolled over and sat up, she heard him downstairs so she got up and padded to the bathroom to shower. She smiled as the hot water soothed her muscles, and cleaned her thoroughly; the ache between her legs was not unpleasant, and she revelled in finding all the places he had marked her. When she went back to his room there was a cup of coffee on the nightstand and a big comfy jumper lying on the bed, she shrugged it on. It came to her mid thigh, but was so baggy that she had to roll the sleeves up. She took a sip of the coffee and its strong bitter taste was wonderful. She decided to go looking for him. He was sitting in the lounge with a book; his hair was wet, hanging around his face in limp curls. He was wearing a pair of soft cotton sweatpants and nothing else, she took a moment to appreciate the view as he read. He was so engrossed in his book; he looked so peaceful and so cute in his glasses. She always knew he was gorgeous, but she had never really looked at him like this. She was totally ogling him as he sat there, thinking about the things she could do with him, about the delicious weight of him on top of her, how his broad chest would look gleaming with sweat...she felt her cheeks turn pink. She was glad that he hadn't bolted from his own home, perhaps leaving her a note saying to lock up when she left; grateful that he hadn't thought about what happened last night and decided it was all a stunt on her part and turfed her out. Although he may still do that, he may be waiting for her to surface so he could have 'the talk' with her. Her head was spinning, if he was going to ditch her, why did he not just put her out last night? Why would he let her stay the night? Why would he have left out coffee and his sweater? Because he's a gentleman and that's what they do. Her stomach was churning and her heart felt a bit jagged, and while he hadn't noticed her she decided it was probably better to go get dressed so she wouldn't have the added awkwardness of having to do it after he ditched her, but just as she was turning to go back upstairs he looked up.
"Hey." He grinned, and opened up his arms to her.
"Hey." She said almost shyly as crossed the room to settle on his lap and she tucked her head against his shoulder. He wrapped his arms around her.
She was so glad that he still wanted her around. There was no need to tell him that his absence had provoked a dread in her that made her feel the same agony that he had every time she had left him without a backward glance. No need to tell him that she felt it would have been justified for him to have done the exact same thing to her.
He knew her too well, knew that these thoughts were plaguing her and just let her have a warm, safe place to come to when she was vulnerable. There were no condemnations or demands on her, just the soft enveloping warmth of his love for her. She snuggled into him and felt his deep even breathing. He went back to reading and she fell asleep on his chest, truly at peace when she was in his arms. He smiled against her hair and let her take what she needed from him, just like he always had.