The sound of the door shutting barely reached his ears, only the click of it falling into its latch informed him that someone was home. Dustfinger paused, extinguishing the tiny flame he had been watching as it sprouted from his finger tip, leaning over to peer out of the window and into the driveway. It was empty. Which meant that Mo and Resa weren't back yet. He frowned lightly, listening closely for the sound of soft footsteps on the stairs, the door to Meggie's room slightly louder in the silence of the house.

Dustfinger looked at the clock on the wall, she wasn't supposed to be home for a while. She and her friends had left hours ago in a haze of perfume and taffeta, all smiles and giggles as they headed of to their graduation party. They had suspected them to be out until late, if not the small hours of the morning, and Mo and Resa had taken the opportunity to make some time for themselves, heading into town for what Mo had promised to be a wonderfully romantic night.

"Meggie?" He called softly, leaning heavily on the banister.

She didn't answer him and he stared at the top of the stairs darkly before he heaved himself up the first step, his feet bare and pattering on the polished wood.

The short hallway was dark as he approached her pale wooden door and he hesitated for a moment, wondering if he'd heard wrong, that maybe he'd actually heard something from outside. He knocked regardless, eyeing the pink and glitter name plaque that her mother had bought as a joke the year before, no doubt the deep, dark relic of her desire to capture something of the years she'd missed out on watching her daughter grow up.

He heard a soft sound from behind the door, one that could have been either assent or a muffled request to go away. But he took the chance and leant on the handle, the door swinging open with ease.


She stood in front of her mirror, her hands busy with the grips in her hair, pulling them loose and tossing them onto her make up table. She flashed him a breezy smile, a casual 'Hey', but he could see right through her nonchalance, could read the stiffness in her movements, the redness of her eyes.

"What's wrong?" He asked, his eyes on her hands as they tugged at her hair, hand slipping from the door handle.

"Oh, nothing." She smiled briefly, shaking her head. "just came back early, that's all."

He wasn't good at a lot of things, but he was good at reading people, at listening to the timbre of someone's voice and knowing when they lied. He recalled many a time when Mo had dragged him into the living room, his face expectant as he forced him into listening to one of Meggie's stories, waiting with a barely controlled patience for Dustfinger's judgement, obviously uncomfortable that he could read his daughter better than he could. His decision usually depended on who had recently earned his favour, but lately he had found himself winking slyly and telling Mo that she was telling the truth, her faithful ally in covering up late night parties and sneaking out the house when grounded. It wasn't anything he could really call a gift, but it certainly had it uses.

"You know I can tell when you're lying." He said softly, very aware of how easily she could be antagonised.

She huffed, glaring in the reflection of the mirror at the knot of hair that had gathered around the beaded clip. "Not now Dustfinger, okay?" Her voice sounded thick and she let out a low growl, angling her head to better see the mess she'd made.

"Wait, wait…here." He rushed forward when she made to rip the clip from her hair, pulling away her hands and gently untangling the knot that she had made.

He stared at her reflection, at her down turned eyes and the rush of colour on her cheeks, the residual affects that spoke of indignant anger. "Meggie?"

"Please don't." She whispered, meeting his eyes in the mirror. She didn't sound angry, more tired than anything. Her shoulders fell and she dropped her gaze, flickering briefly as he drew his fingers through her hair, smoothing out the knots. He simply stood for a moment, staring at his hand as it came to rest between her shoulders, flattening out the curls that she had put in her hair.

Truth be told, he was glad she was back, not because he didn't want her to have her freedom, or because of the harrowing possessiveness that came with the heart thumping awareness that he felt things for her he really shouldn't. It was because of the look in her dates eye when he had come to pick her up, dark and roving as he'd raked his gaze over her body, so wonderfully wrapped in the most beautiful dress Dustfinger had ever seen.

Was it jealousy to want to punch the lascivious smirk off someone's face?

He was nudged from his thoughts when she poked at his arm, her hairbrush in hand. He smiled softly in the face of her hangdog expression, taking the brush from her as she walked over to the windowsill, perching on the wide spread of cushions and aiming her tired gaze out the window. It used to be one of their little traditions, back in the days when he still roamed the country, called away by the songs of the stars until his wanderlust was slaked. He would have barely made it through the door before she would pull on his sleeve, leading him over to the chair in front of the fire where she would sit before him, eyes closed as he talked to her parents, telling them stories of the road as he brushed her hair. He didn't know where it had come from, especially with her mother sat across from them and more than willing to see to her unruly curls. But she always chose him, and in some way he felt a perverse sense of pleasure when on her seventeenth birthday she had folded her arms on his lap, smiling peacefully as he smoothed his fingers through her hair, muttering at him to keep going long after every one else had gone to bed.

He sat behind her carefully, noting how the cool slice of moonlight that poured in through the window made her hair shine like silver, her skin white. He tried to ignore her sigh of content when he drew her hair back, the heat of her skin as he purposely avoided brushing his fingers against her neck.

The brush felt heavy in his hand as he raised it, gently pulling it through the blonde tumble of curls, catching briefly on small knots and kinks.

The minutes passed slowly, measured by the slow and even cadence of her breath, the occasional shiver running down her spine. It never used to be a problem for him, and if he were honest with himself he couldn't actually pin point when his thoughts had turned to something that would find him out on the street should Mo ever find out. But there was nothing Mo could say that he hadn't already said to himself.

"You didn't just come back early." He said quietly when she sighed again, pulling her knees up onto the bench seat. He didn't like to see her unhappy and it didn't take much to figure out that something had happened, he just wondered which of her friends had said something this time. She put up with a lot from them, having spent enough time trying to fit in after having been home schooled for so long, and she was so very different to them, her changing lifestyle and the pressures put on her from an early age making her more mature than her mercurial peers, it wouldn't be the first time one of them had made an off hand comment that had mortally offended her.

"It doesn't matter." She whispered, folding her arms on her knees as he let the brush fall, watching the shallow rise and fall of her shoulders.

"It does when it looks like you walked home crying." He told her, the faintest hint of tension in his voice. Her shoulders tensed, fingers tight on her own arms, the silence that followed his words flowing out from the shadows that clustered in the corners of the room.

"Look, I just…" She stood suddenly, her dress settling with a soft sound. "I had a bad night is all."

She didn't meet his eye, and he knew then that she was lying to him. She never lied to him.

"What happened?" He didn't like the way she turned her face from him, holding herself as though to stay warm. She looked as though she would speak, mouth opening and closing as she thought of words one moment and discarded them the next.

He watched her carefully, her swaying movements as she moved back and forth, his eyes on her hands which trembled faintly against her arms in the cool moonlight, taking in everything about her until finally he saw it, couldn't understand how he had missed it before.

"What's this?" He took her arm in his hand as he stood, concern etched into his face as he stared at the smudge of colour beneath her skin, the faint but distinct pattern of someone's handprint wrapped around her arm. She stilled, breath frozen as she looked at the bruises under his scrutiny.

"It's nothing." She said, her breath tremulous and shaking as he bent closer to inspect the marks, noticing that they weren't the only ones. He turned her sharply, making it so the light from her floor lamp lit her skin and showed off the darkening patches on her skin, some still red, still recent.

He felt a sick rage building in his chest. "What happened?"

"Nothing." It was almost like she was pleading for him to believe her, but he knew her better than most.

"What happened?" He demanded again, soft words contradicting exactly how he felt.

"It's nothing…nothing bad, okay." She tried to turn out of his grasp, but he held her still.

"Nothing bad?" He almost laughed. "Where did you get these bruises?"

She looked as though she would cry, and he felt a tug in his chest for having spoken roughly, a sinking ache in his heart as she shook her head. "Don't, please don't." Her words breaking as they fell from her lips.

"Don't what?" He breathed, his hand beneath her chin so she would look him in the eye, the shimmer of her tears glittering in the dim light.

She breathed raggedly, closing her eyes as one shaking word tumbled across her lips and broke his heart. "Care."

It was a bitter sweet agony to see her cry, to know that she hurt. But she was never so beautiful as she was when the light caught the tears on her face, the pain in her eyes as she looked up at him.

"Tell me what happened Meggie." He asked her softly, turning his hand so he could hold her face, could feel his heart thump in his chest as she turned into his touch, something dark twisting in his veins when she rested her hand on his waist.

She bit at her lip, worrying it between her teeth, a frown marring her brow as her body seemed to shrink slightly. "I…" She stumbled over her words, trying to think of how to tell him. "I told him no." She said eventually, the devastating meaning of her words chilling him to the core.

"What…" The breath felt shallow in his lungs, eyes on her face, catching on the faintest of marks that highlighted her cheek. "Told who? …Meggie, did he hurt you?" The question brought forth the image of those dark eyes, the cocky smirk that had irked him. He'd hated the kid the moment he saw him, wanted to break the arm that he'd snuck around her waist as he'd promised Mo to keep his daughter safe.

"He, umm…"She shook, her fingers curling into his sweater, holding fast. "I don't know, I mean…I got out of the car, so…" She was mumbling.

He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen red, had wanted to rip the throat from someone, and he knew it was only because he needed to be here that stopped him from searching the streets until he found him. "What did he do?" His heart felt leaden in his chest, he didn't think he even wanted to know, couldn't stand the thought that someone had inflicted her pain.

She looked so lost, so frightened. "He…he wanted to, you know." She blushed, dropping her eyes to where her hand was twined into his jumper. "But I said no…" She sniffed loudly and he felt the unmistakable dampness of tears soaking his hand where he held her face. "I said no, but he kept going."

"Oh god, please Meggie," He could barely breath, "Please tell me he didn't…"

"No." She rebutted him strongly and he felt his heart beat again at her vehemence, "No, I, uh….I hit him then."

He felt his breath rush from him in a laugh, the sick, sharp panic bursting forth in one relieved breath.

He'd never been more proud of her than in that moment, wanting to crush her to his chest, to hold her close and protect her, to never let her come to harm. "Oh Meggie…" He slid his hand to the back of her neck and she didn't resist when he pulled her close, holding her tight, his arms surrounding her as she started to cry, her body trembling, rocking against his. He rested his cheek on her hair, pressing his eyes closed and trying to rid the images from his mind, of rough hands sliding up her thigh, grasping and rough on her waist, holding her down as she struggled. If he saw him….well, it wasn't worth thinking of.

"It's not that I wasn't ready." She mumbled, the words muffled against his chest and he drew back slightly to hear her. "It's just I didn't want it to be him, I told him I didn't like him." She swallowed roughly, holding back her tears. "I think that's why he got angry."

He would have spoken, to tell her sternly that nothing she said could make any of this her fault, but she cut him off when he would have spoken, something cautious and halting in the way she talked. "He's one of the most popular guys, everyone said I was so lucky he'd asked me to go with him." She refused to meet his eye when he tried to see her face, "I think he thought I would jump at the chance," She shuddered slightly, and he hated to think she was remembering his hands on her. "He didn't believe me when I told him I didn't fancy him, that I liked…." She sighed heavily, such devastation in that one breath. "That I like someone else."

It was almost as painful to hear those words as it was to know that some insolent kid had tried to have his way with her. He bit down on his cheek to stop the inevitable crushing sensation that her admission would cause. This wasn't about him now, this was about her.

"Don't excuse him Meggie, it doesn't matter what your reason was, he was wrong. He will always be wrong." He pulled her face up, thumb tracing across the light bruise that marred her cheek, berating himself when she flinched under the gentle pressure. "You did the right thing." He tried to smile, but it wouldn't come.

"What, you mean hitting him?"

He did laugh then, "Well, yes, but making sure you came home safe is more important." He brushed the hair from her eyes, still soft and shining from where he'd brushed it. She nodded, something hidden in her eyes.

"I'm glad you were here." She told him softly, releasing his jumper from her tight grip and smoothing her hand over the creases she'd caused, eliciting a thrill that ran through his body. He didn't even want to think of what would happen when Mo got home.

"I'll be here whenever you need me." He told her, pouring out his honesty into those words, realising that nothing had ever been easier to say.

She smiled faintly, something tight about the gesture and she seemed on the verge of saying something, suddenly folding her arms again, an oddly protective gesture considering that she had held herself open up until now. "And what about when I don't need you?" She asked quietly, looking up when he frowned down at her, unable to hide his confusion. "Will you still be here?"

"I'll always be here." He reassured her. "Just call my name, and I'll come." He really shouldn't feel the pang of desire those words caused.

She smiled, something genuinely happy, and Dustfinger prided himself in that moment for being able to raise her spirits enough for her to beam up at him. But the expression was quickly replaced by something more troubled, fleeting glances diverting her gaze to where his hand was held gently against her arm, a warm band on her chilled skin. "If I told you something, and it was completely out of line, would you forget I ever said anything?" She looked at him now with a pained hope, something so earnest and desperate he could no sooner deny her than forget to breath.

"You can tell me anything, you always have." He reminded her.

"I know, but this is something I've been so afraid of saying, because I didn't want it to ruin anything." She bit at her lip again.

"Meggie…?" He could have gone on, could have told her that no matter what she said he would always be there for her, would always open his arms to her, if she needed him he would do everything in his power to reach her…

"It's you."

Her simple, quiet statement interrupted his thoughts, grinding them to a halt as he stared at her, at the apprehension in her eyes. "What?"

"It's you." She repeated, her voice wavering the second time round. "When I told him I liked someone else, I was…I was talking about…you." She dropped her gaze, staring resolutely at her arms where they were folded across her chest, her cheeks aflame. "I'm sorry if that's inappropriate." She muttered quietly.

He felt like he was falling.

The sudden rush of blood around his body made it hard to breath, heart frantic in his chest as he repeated her words in his mind, such beautifully sweet words that he'd never thought he'd hear, never deserved to hear. He almost shook his head. Refusing to believe her, but she stood before him, her eyes downcast as she waited for his judgment, her skin warm beneath his touch, suddenly more thrilling than just a moment ago.

She was speaking, her words lost on him, something about 'never mind' and 'forget I said anything', and suddenly he was kissing her, had drawn her face up and brushed his lips over hers, capturing the soft gasp of anticipation and surprise, waiting those few precious moments for her to regain her composure before she opened up beneath him, such soft warmth and depth, her tongue meeting his as she whimpered softly, the sound making the low pool of his arousal flare and ignite. Her hand was on his chest, firm as she ran her fingers upwards, an aching perfection in the way she caressed the back of his neck, pulling him down, closer, deeper, and his own hands answered, pressed with repressed longing to the small of her back, dragging her up against him, the silk beneath his hand nothing compared to the feel of her skin, her velveteen warmth as he drew his hand from her arm and pushed it into her hair with a fervour that was felt in his kiss, making her sigh against him, holding her in a fierce yet gentle grip as he kissed her.

His mind was screaming at him, it was so wrong, so very wrong in so many ways, but he couldn't help himself when she leaned into him like that, her body arching as she draped her arms round his neck and his hands were free to smooth up the length of her back, her body fitting perfectly in the circle of his arms.

He pulled away with what he thought a heroic effort, pushing her back with his hands against her shoulders when he realised he had somehow ended up pressed to the uncomfortable shape of one of the struts on her four post bed. He swallowed roughly, wishing he had waited just another moment to open his eyes, then he wouldn't have seen her in the wake of new passion, her face upturned, lips pink and glistening in the shallow light, the dusky haze of arousal that clouded her eyes as she held his.

Could he say it? Was he really strong enough to say no? to ignore the heat of her hands as they wandered down across his chest, her fingers seeking out a new path as she snuck her arms around his waist, dipping lower until she could run them smooth and deft beneath his clothes, just one glorious inch consumed by her burning touch as she dragged her nails across his back, his hands useless as she pulled herself back against him, her curves soft and warm against the hard steel of his body. It was only for this moment that he gave in, his eyes closed as she rubbed up against him, a delicious friction heating the space between them at the same moment she fastened her lips to his neck, immediately finding the sweet spot near his shoulder that made his knees weak and tremble, the smouldering embers that had heated his desire to flourish and flare into a full on blaze.

"We really shouldn't be doing this." He ground out, not even recognising his own voice under her far from innocent attentions.

"You don't want to?" Her breath melted hotly into his skin, followed by the slick heat of her tongue as she licked and bit as his neck, making him shiver, his hands clutching at her shoulders and forcing her back, holding her stiffly as he breathed raggedly, clawing back his composure.

He couldn't look at her now, because to look at her with her dark eyes and sultry stare would have turned his restraint into indulgence. "Meggie, we can't…." He sighed weakly, ignoring the thundering beat of his heart, or the way her hand curled around his wrist, the confusion and hurt on her face that swam in the periphery of his vision.

"Why?" She sounded just as undone as he felt. She made to step forward, but he held her fast. "I'm eighteen." She told him, the slightest whisper of petulance colouring her words.

"And I'm thirty four!" He said sharply.

"What does that matter?" She demanded, he was about to mention that she was the one who brought it up when he realised she hadn't been pointing out the obvious gulf between their ages, but merely mentioning that she was perfectly capable of making her own decisions, would have to seek no one's permission. That thought alone was a severe test of his resolve.

"It's wrong." He whispered, ducking his head to avoid her gaze, trying to hide the true emotion in his eyes.

"Why?" She sounded much closer now and indeed he was surprised when he realised he had dropped his arms, allowing her to step back into the heated air around him.

He smothered a self deprecating laugh, tempted to roll his eyes at her naivety, "So many reasons." He breathed. He leant heavily against the bed post, trying to control the fire that raged within him.

He felt the silence more than he could hear it, the pressure and tension rolling off her in waves and it seemed to him as though the room grew darker somehow. "Are any of them important?" She asked him quietly, her voice calm and measured.

He met her eye, something cool and serious layered in their cold blue depth. "It depends on whether your father is actually willing to beat a man to death." His attempt at levity fell on deaf ears, and he was idly comforted by the thought that he wouldn't be first in line for Mo's ire, there was still the matter of the cock sure prom king. He sighed and rubbed tiredly at his eyes, wishing that the dark smudges that marked her skin were just the product of his overworked mind, spots of colour that drifted before his eyes. "Look Meggie," He said softly, "You've been through something terrible tonight, and I can understand that the idea of….comfort, after something like…"

"You act as if I don't want this." She interrupted him with soft disbelief, "That I haven't thought about this for years." She paused, her breathing hitched. "That I haven't dreamt of you."

He felt shaken by the fierceness in her eyes that accompanied her admission, the blush rising prettily on her cheeks as he stared at her, eyes wide and breath shallow. She couldn't know what she was saying. "Meggie….you're young…."

"And I've been thinking about you for years."

He felt the breath stripped from his lungs, his carefully thought out argument dying on his lips as she blurted out her confession, his hands frozen in mid air.

"Every day." She whispered, a beautiful vulnerability to her assertion as she forced herself to keep his unbelieving gaze, the tremble of her lips, her breath unsteady as she pushed herself up on to tip toes, her hands resting on his chest. "Every night." Breathed across his lips. Her bravado an ineffectual front for the innocent naivety that made her tremble as she slowly pressed her lips to his.

It was useless even trying to deny her, to deny himself, not when she pressed herself to him so sweetly, her hand on his face, fingertips shaking as they traced his cheek, soft and sweet down his throat then suddenly hard as they twisted into his soft wool of his sweater.

She was perfection under his hands, her body warm beneath the layers of silk, not the cheap shiny impersonation that every other girl wore, but the real thing, soft and almost weightless until it was held tight with ribbons around her waist. Her breath trembled, fluttering across his lips as he hooked his thumb beneath one of the tightly knotted bows. She met his eyes, dark and determined in the face of his hesitation, unable to truly bring himself to believe she actually wanted this, with him. She leant heavily against him, her lips touched to where his pulse raced beneath his skin as she drew her hand back, meeting his where his fingers were laced into the ribbon that wrapped around her. She pulled deftly and they unwound with a whispering sound, loose now so that when she stepped back the layers of soft ivory fell from her body, pooling at her feet and leaving her exposed, knocking the breath from his lungs.

Shocked wasn't the word, that she could stand before him both unashamed and demure, her eyes only on his face as he felt his own inexorably drawing up the length of her body, memorising every curve, every soft shadow. He felt himself flinch at every mark on her skin, the dark bruises littering all the wonderful places his hands itched to touch. He felt the growl low in his throat, knew his eyes had darkened by the look on her face, her eyes bright, lips trembling as though she were waiting for him to judge her.

"Beautiful." He said quietly, smiling gently despite the quiet rage that burnt in his veins, reaching out so that his fingers could drift against her cheek, through the soft curl of her hair. "So beautiful," quiet words as he leant forward and held her lips with his, her arms around his waist as he spoke softly into the kiss. "Promise me you're sure."

"I'm sure." She whispered, voice shaking even as she said it. "I don't want the last touch I know to be…" She couldn't finish, bit at her lip instead and forced herself to meet his eyes, to convince him with the truth in her stare that she wanted this, wanted him, for more than just his ability to wipe away the hurt. "Please." all her desperation and desire in that one aching word.

He felt a heady rush as he swept her up in his arms, turning her easily and dropping her lightly onto the bed, her beautiful laugh bubbling up through her nervousness in the most endearing way, making his heart flutter as she pushed herself further back up the bed, watching him with a dark and steady gaze as with slow and deliberate movements he pulled off his clothes, feeling an electric thrill everywhere her eyes met his heated flesh.

Her body was warm, soft beneath his as her hands reached out to him and pulled him down, her skin like silk under his touch and he gasped at the feel of them pressed so wonderfully close , like the most exotic of his dreams come to fruition, and when she kissed him she set his heart on fire, matching the blazing trails her fingers made across his back, the heat of her legs as they wrapped around his, the exquisite, absolving flames that she stoked into a blessed inferno that raged through him.

She sighed softly, body rocking up into his as he kissed her neck, pressing his face to the feel of her pulse racing beneath her skin, her hands in his hair, pulling it back so she could see his face as his lips travelled down across her chest, pausing at every dark smudge to gently kiss away the pain and the hurt, the betrayal. Something dark and feral clawed at his chest when she threw her head back, his name falling from her lips in reverential prayer, and it was all he could do to keep his kisses slow, to let his hands slide with worship over her skin, even though he burned for her, an intolerable ache inside him as he reached the delicate lace edge of her underwear, the one insubstantial barrier between them. He tried to ignore the marks that highlighted the delicate curve of her hips, the soft flesh on the inside of her thigh, focusing instead on the rushed and whimpered breaths that escaped from between her lips, insensible words whispered as he grazed his teeth across her silken skin.

She was glorious in her pleasure, when he finally drew the soft lace down over her hips, fingers drawing lazy patterns up her thigh, unending circles that drew closer and closer, her breath hitching and a soft moan drifting from her lips as the roll of her hips met with the firm press of his hand, each minute movement an eternal ecstasy under his fingers, with her eyes closed and her hair strewn around her face as she breathed his name, whispered pleas for more.

He didn't ask her now if she were sure, could read her assent in the tightening of her hands in his hair, the hunger of her kiss and the darkening of her eyes as slowly, inch by inch, he stripped her of her innocence, swallowing roughly and pressing his face into her neck at the feel of her body hot and tight around him. Her breath was hot and loud in his ear, her muted cries both pained and elated as he moved, a steady, even pace that he knew wouldn't last, couldn't possibly last when she moved against him like that, her body arching up into every slow and heated stroke, the friction driving them both into a heightened frenzy until he ran his hand down the gentle curve of her waist, fumbling between them, thumb sliding in the slick heat down toward where they were joined until he could press down just there, and she cried out, her anguished ecstasy pouring into his open and gasping mouth, captured in the fervour of his kiss as she grasped at him, unable to find enough purchase on his sweat slicked skin as she moaned, throwing her head back as she tightened around him, the explosive force of her release pulling him forcefully with her over the edge. A white heat poured through him, blinding him and reducing the world to ashes around him, his lips forming the pattern of her name and pressing them into her skin, forcing himself not to bite down on the soft flesh under his mouth.

He could barely breath, chest heaving in time with hers, the combined beat of their hearts rocking them as they held on to one another, eyes closed and breathing in the scent of them both combined, the heady scent of sweat and sex cloying in the heated air. She held him tight when he made to draw back, sighing with relished content beneath his solid weight, soft kisses dropped to his shoulder as he pressed his own into her hair. He waited for the guilt, for the shame and regret that should inevitably course through him with an ugly chill, but he couldn't find it within himself to feel the depravation he should, still joined with her, her arms tight around his waist and her slowing breaths brushing like feathers across his skin.

"Fuck." Meggie muttered succinctly, eloquently summing up her satiation, her breathless exclamation shared in his enthusiastic sigh, his hidden smile.

"Exactly." He whispered, feeling her body shake beneath him as she silently laughed.

They lay in silence for a while, a boneless fatigue settling in their limbs as breath by breath their hearts slowed, the air feeling cold on their skin until it finally made him pull back, dragging up the blanket from the end of the bed, drawing it over her trembling body as he crawled off the bed, groping for his jeans that lay crumpled on the floor.

"You're going?" Her softly spoken question caused him to look up, pausing momentarily as he closed the buttons around his hips. Her face was hidden in a shadow but he could hear the devastation in her words.

"No." He shook his head with vehemence. "I'm not going anywhere." He settled back onto the bed. "I'd just rather not be caught unaware when your parents get back." He smiled, not daring to imagine the scene that could have transpired had they returned just five minutes ago, let alone now.

She laughed shortly and cocked her head, conceding the point. He couldn't help but notice the fresh tense anxiety that tightened her shoulders, brought about by the sudden distance between them, with the line very much crossed. "Come here." He motioned her over as he moved up the bed, leaning back against the headboard as she approached him, holding the blanket tight around her, her eyes wide and fearful until he drew her down against his side, tucking her head beneath his chin, her hair soft and tickling on his chest. "Are you alright?" He asked her softly, drawing his fingers through her hair, aware that this was a big thing for her, for any girl.

He felt her nod, a soft sigh and then, "Yeah." her hand drifted out across his chest, flattening out and running down to rest on his stomach. "Perfect."

There was an odd timbre to her voice, something quiet and reserved, her arm tense when he ran his hand over her soft skin. "What's wrong?" sudden apprehension in his chest.

"It's nothing." She said softly, and he knew immediately that it was far from nothing.

He hooked his fingers beneath her chin, lifting her face and forcing her to meet his eye, he didn't speak, merely raised his brow until she spoke, letting her know that he could see straight through her defences. "I just….I can't help but wonder where we go from here." She said it softly, with no judgement or expectations, and her eyes were clear, unclouded and heartbreakingly accepting of whatever it was she thought he might say.

He released his hold, pressing a kiss to her head and muttering quietly. "Don't you worry about that. I doubt your dad will be none to pleased, but there's nothing to say he needs to find out." He could feel her smile against his skin, and he felt his own spread across his face, feeling a happiness and a peace he hadn't felt in years. So what if they would have to sneak around, snatching moments in the quiet confines of darkened rooms, waiting until the house was silent until they could creep around, sidestepping creaking floorboards so that they could hold one another in the soft darkness of the night. It would be worth it, every stolen kiss, every minute touch would be an unadulterated thrill. He could hardly wait.

And it all started here, this breathtakingly perfect night, made only more complete when she curled up against him, relaxing into the circle of his arms, sighing softly with every gentle kiss that he placed against her skin.

When Mo and Resa came back they found him sitting in the same chair he'd been occupying when they'd left, still playing with the flames between his fingers. He explained that Meggie had come back early but left it at that, letting them knock on her door and find out the reason for themselves. Mo's fury nearly shook the house, and it was only with the combined effort of all three of them that they managed to restrain him from racing out into the night and kicking down each and every door until he found him.

It was probably a good thing he wasn't at home the next day either when the doorbell rang and Dustfinger could here Meggie's usually soft and understated tone become hard. He probably would have done a lot more than punch him in the face, knocking him backwards off the porch until he rolled into the rose hedge, he probably wouldn't have stopped at Meggie's insistent hand on his chest, her eyes wide and pleading, telling him to just let it go, that her simple and thorough destruction of his reputation would be enough. He certainly wouldn't have been pulled back into the house, the door slammed with contempt before his hand was taken up, her lips soft as she kissed the sudden swelling of his knuckles, red from where they had effectively smashed the irksome smirk from his face as he'd tried to convince her that she was just uptight and that maybe they should give it another go.

He definitely wouldn't have received that look, the one that burnt in his veins, made his chest ache until she beckoned him to follow her upstairs, his eyes on the swaying of her hips, the hunger in her gaze as he followed her, abandoning all reason as they fell down into the mess of sheets and blankets, the world around them lost in the reawakening of senses, of kisses and caresses, dutifully restrained gasps and cries of passion, and quiet attestations of love.