They told themselves the first night that it was just for comfort. A few too many glasses of champagne, overwrought emotions, and what Steed had intended as a friendly comforting hug somehow ended up with Emma's mouth on his, her tearstained cheeks cool and damp where they brushed his. She was gone by morning and they never spoke of it again.
The second time neither of them could deny that the decision was entirely rational. No excuses, no way to convince themselves that what happened was meaningless. Emma looked him in the eye and smiled before deliberately leaning in to kiss him, taking his silence for the assent it was. This time she stayed till morning and he awoke to find her face turned towards him and her arm across his chest, sleeping soundly. He was the one to leave, carefully slipping out from her embrace and pulling on a dressing gown to dress in the front room. He left her a note on the pillow:
"Help yourself to breakfast, and I'm sure you know where the whisky is. Steed."
The night was added to the list of things they didn't discuss.
By the third time, and the fourth, they'd given up lying to themselves, but carried on lying to each other. Hastily murmured endearments and passionate confessions might as well not have been said when the sun rose, and staying beyond dawn would have been admitting too much for both of them.
It had almost become a habit by the time Emma received word of her husband's return. One last night, they told each other. One last night and it would be over, forgotten, unspoken.
On the last night everything changed. Desperation fuelled them, not need, and in the heat of the moment they acknowledged to each other what they'd known separately for what felt like forever. It wasn't comfort, it wasn't habit, it wasn't physical need that had drawn them together.
Too little admitted too late. The next day Peter picked her up from his apartment, and all Steed could do was watch from the window as she drove away and out of his life.
The habit was broken.