23 Years Old

Dave stood at the grill with Burt, touching the brand-new sunburn on his neck as he carefully turned over their dinner: burgers for Burt, Finn, Puck and himself; salmon patties for Kurt, Sarah, Carole and the three toddlers. He'd spent all afternoon yesterday at the beach with the kids and Sarah while Burt and Carole took Finn, Puck and Kurt out for lunch, and he hadn't realized they'd been out in the sun as long as they had. He was glad he'd remembered to put sunscreen on the kids, at least.

He had one eye on the grill, but the other was on the twins toddling around the backyard with Cleo. Even though Sarah and Carole were keeping a close eye on the kids, they never left his consciousness when he was around them. It was amazing what being a father did to a person, he thought. He was still blown away by the whole thing.

He could hear Kurt's voice wafting out from the house, singing some showtune or another, and Finn joining in with occasional harmony. He couldn't hear Puck's voice, but that wasn't surprising; Puck still didn't sing much when other people could hear. Every now and then, in the evening when the kids were sleeping, Dave got him to jam along with him on the guitar. It was one of his favorite ways to spend time with him.

Burt adjusted the bill of his ball cap and nodded at the three kids, tripping over their eighteen-month-old feet in the grass. "They play together like they were siblings." His expression looked like Dave felt, kind of awed and rueful and content all at once.

"I guess they're cousins, of a sort?" he said, grinning, and Burt nodded. He prodded the salmon with his spatula and took the burgers off the grill, leaving one for Puck, who liked his meat well-done.

"You guys ever regret not knowing?" Burt's voice was speculative; Dave followed his gaze to the boys, all curly hair and hazel eyes like Sarah, with no clear evidence of either he orKurt in their genetics.

He shook his head. "Never. We never thought about it all that hard, really. I mean, we're all family anyway." Dave took a swig from his root beer and looked back at Burt, who was watching Carole and their daughter with so much love. "What about you? Having Cleo didn't change Carole's mind about marrying you, did it?"

Burt laughed, low and full. "Nope. I suppose it doesn't really matter anymore, anyway. Like you said, we're all family and have been for a long time."

Dave started then, as Aidan tripped over the root of a tree and Ethan started crying in that weird connected way twins seemed to have, but Puck was suddenly there, lifting Aidan back to his feet as Sarah scooped Ethan into her lap and smothered him with kisses. In moments, all four of them were laughing. Dave shivered at the sound. Happy, he thought. I'm happy.

It was like Burt read his mind. "You really look like you've made a place for yourself here," he said quietly. "All of you, but - especially you, Dave. Carole and I, we want you to know how glad we are to have you in our family. Kurt, he's still crazy about you."

"I'm crazy about him," Dave said, looking shyly at his feet. He felt the by-now familiar blush spreading across his chest. "All of them, really."

"It's mutual, man." Puck, holding Aidan on his shoulders, trudged up the slope of the lawn, the two of them wearing nearly identical smiles. Dave set down his spatula and wiped his hands on his grill apron before taking hold of Aidan and swinging him into his arms. He was only a little embarrassed when Puck planted a kiss on his lips, but Burt and Carole were clear about the way things were with all of them; he knew it was okay.

"Dada," Aidan said with relish, and squealed as Dave draped his squirming form over one arm, doing acrobatics. He made a raspberry noise on Aidan's tummy and got in a three-second hug before the toddler twisted away and escaped across the patio.

"He's getting faster," Burt chuckled. "You're never going to keep up with him. Good thing Ethan's more calm."

"Yeah." Dave grinned at his other son, still happily sitting in Sarah's lap, pointing at the hippos in the book she was reading to him. "He's more like Kurt."

"Except Kurt was a holy terror when he was a toddler," Burt pointed out, lifting the rest of the burgers off the grill and onto a plate. He grinned and indicated his baby daughter, who was clutching a big maple leaf and clambering into the other half of Sarah's lap. "This one's like a dream baby. I never thought being a parent - again - could feel so easy."

"I guess it has something to do with the people you're doing it with," Puck said, his arm sliding around Dave's shoulder.

Dave heard the faint trilling of the doorbell, and the water turning off at the kitchen sink; it wasn't unusual for the teenagers who lived down the street to come over and take the boys to play with the other kids in the neighborhood on Sundays, so Dave didn't think too much more on it before turning his attention back to Ethan and Sarah, and to Aidan who was running circles around them in an attempt to start a game of chase. He laughed lightly under his breath, and was interrupted by Kurt's slightly edgy voice echoing from the open kitchen window.


"Yeah?" Dave and Puck chorused back, and Dave caught Burt trying to smother a grin.

"You should come inside." Dave didn't like the tightness in Kurt's tone. It wasn't angry exactly, but Dave knew that something wasn't right. He grabbed Puck's hand with a nod to Burt, and called across the yard.

"Sas? Leave the boys. Kurt needs us in the house." Sarah shifted, and Ethan and Cleo were up and chasing Aidan and the book was in Carole's hand before Dave had a chance to breathe. Sarah was there next to him in what felt like an instant. She took his free hand and pulled him and Puck through the sliding door and into the cool and dim of the air-conditioned house.

Dave let go of Puck and Sarah and followed the sound of Kurt's voice through the kitchen and living room to the entryway, where he was talking with a teenage girl. He didn't recognize her from the neighborhood. She was maybe an inch or two shorter than Kurt, dressed in a way that made Dave think of Sarah in her darkest days. She looked up at the press of bodies into the hall, and Dave suddenly couldn't breathe.

"Davey?" Her whisper was low and rich, her green eyes mirrors of his own.

"Lilly-belle." He kind of felt like he was going to pass out until he felt Puck's hand firm on his shoulder. He took a step forward, and she did the same. He wanted to grab her into a hug, but there was a challenging tilt to her chin that made him hold back.

"Mama changed it. I've been Grace a long time. I wanted to change it back the second I turned 18, but I still had all of senior year to go. Mama thought it would be too confusing, or too much work or something, with all my school records." She laughed harshly. "Like it wasn't confusing for mewhen she changed it in the first place."

Dave was mute. He couldn't find any words at all, but Puck spoke up from behind him. "That's what made it so hard for us to find you."

Sarah nestled her hand in Dave's, and smiled at Lilly. "We've been waiting a long time for you. Your mother wouldn't let Dave contact you until you finished school, and the letter he sent in June got returned."

Lilly shrugged. "Typical Mama, get scared and move. And forget about a change of address. But I suppose when you can barely get out of bed some days, there are bigger things to worry about."

"How- Mom? Is she-?" Sarah's hand squeezed his, and he closed his eyes for a moment to clear his head. When he tried again, the words were there. "How is Mom?"

Lilly's eyes were steel, her words glass. "How do you think?"

"The same, I suspect. The same as always."

"If by same as alwaysyou mean drunk off her ass and crazy to boot, then yes. She's the same as always." Dave winced. He'd known what the answer was going to be before he'd asked, but hearing it aloud hurt worse than just imagining the way of things ever had.

Sarah beckoned Lilly into the house, and she followed, somewhat reluctantly, setting her bag down beside her. "You look like you've been on the road a while. Can we get you something to eat?"

"Just a glass of water." Lilly's eyes took in Dave and Puck, and as Kurt moved close between the two of them, her expression grew more perplexed. "What is this place, like, a hippie commune or something?"

"It's our home," Finn said, handing Lilly a glass of water. She sipped it, her eyebrows raised at Finn. He shrugged. "This is our family."

"This...?" She looked back at Dave, seeking clarity, and he felt another wave of dizzy disbelief at her presence in his kitchen. It was a little unreal. Kurt seemed to sense his need for support, and he spoke up.

"We all depend on each other. It's the way it's always been. Dave's part of it." He smiled up at Dave and leaned back into his body, and even though he was the one standing in the crook of Dave's arm, Dave felt like Kurt was holding him up.

"So . . . you all . . .?" Dave watched Lilly's eyes flickering among them, taking in Kurt and Dave, and Puck's slightly possessive hand at the small of Finn's back, and the easy way that Sarah moved around all of them, and he heard Puck laugh lightly.

"No. Sarah and I are twins. Finn and I, we've been together since high school." He cocked his head toward Kurt and Dave. "Those three, well. That's been since high school, too, even though someonestill claims that he's gay."

Kurt laughed against Dave's side. "Fluidity, Puck. I thought I'd taught you better than that."

"Whatever, man. As long as you're happy." The glance Puck shared with Kurt was lightly teasing, overlain with smoldering heat.

Finn took in Lilly's still-confused face and spoke gently. "Yes, before you ask. I share Puck with Dave and Kurt. And I'm fine with that." The reassurance behind his words seemed as much for Puck's benefit as it was for Lilly's. "But that's a more recent development."

Lilly shook her head the way Dave always did when he needed to settle his jumbled thoughts, and then listened, hearing the sound of the kids laughing out in the yard. "Who's that?"

Sarah moved forward then, resting a gentle arm across Lilly's shoulders. "For you, probably more complicated and overwhelming. For us? The rest of the family."

"You're handling this remarkably well," Carole said to Dave, watching Lily and Kurt play with the twins on the floor beside the couch. Dave smiled as Lilly held Ethan on her lap, telling him secrets in his tiny ear. Ethan's smile was a perfect mirror of Lilly's.

"Don't get me wrong," Dave said quietly. "I'm a little overwhelmed. But - even from the first day, I always felt like I belonged here, with this family." He gestured at Lilly, laughing with Sarah. "She's doing the same thing. That makes it all so easy to accept."

Carole smiled. "I know overwhelming. Just keep breathing. You'll be okay."

Dave touched his arm and cocked his head at Carole. "Did Finn ever tell you about the magic?"

"Do you mean Sarah's markers?" Dave nodded, and Carole sat back, remembering. "Wow. That was a long time ago. Sure, I remember. Finn really wanted this drum kit."

"I think it stuck with them," he said. "I mean, it really made a difference, on a deep level. Sarah - she designed tattoos for us."

Carole's eyebrows went up. Sarah's skin was patterned everywhere she could reach with small designs, in black-and-white and color, since any good tattoo artist practices on herself before attempting anything on someone else's skin. But until now, the rest of the family had declined body art of their own, even though Sarah was clearly talented. "Really? You, too?"

"I don't think she would have let me say no," he shrugged, but his eyes were calm and clear. He pushed up his sleeve and showed her the stylized key decorating the inside of his arm. Carole exclaimed over the design, then went to tug on Finn's sleeve.

"We've been found out," Kurt said, smiling up at Dave. He carefully rolled up his own sleeve to reveal a gossamer blue morpho butterfly. Upon more careful inspection, the pattern of a question mark, a key, an hourglass and a hand could be found layered upon the butterfly's wings.

"Sarah," Carole breathed, tracing Kurt's arm with one gentle finger. "This is incredible."

"Now everybody wants all the designs," Kurt said, satisfaction clear on his face. Finn knelt down by Aidan and showed Carole his own hourglass, outlined in sturdy black, but filled with fine multicolored sand.

Lilly watched from the edges of the group, eyeing Dave's tattoo with questioning eyes. When Dave caught her glance, she reached under her shirt and pulled out a small silver key on a raggedy string of hemp. "I thought I'd imagined it all, but I had this, all this time, so I couldn't have made it up."

Dave blinked, and swallowed around the lump in his throat. "I didn't know how else to keep you safe. I don't- Dad and I, we never talked about why he didn't fight harder. Why he didn't make her leave you. God, Lilly-belle. You were just a baby. So was I, really. I did the best thing I could think of."

Lilly ran her thumb over the key and bit at her bottom lip with her teeth. "Mama tried to cut it off my neck once, when she realized what it was. I couldn't let her. Because even if I'd imagined the whole thing, this was the only part of you I had, Davey."

Puck's tight t-shirt didn't need to be rolled up to reveal his tribal hand tattoo. His arm slipped around Dave's back and tightened on his shoulder. "He was keeping you safe, even from a distance. Just like he did with Sarah. It's what he does."

Dave held Lilly's eyes. "I didn't do a good enough job, Lilly-belle. Not with you."

Lilly blinked back tears, and took an awkward step towards Dave. "I don't think either of us had much of a choice, brudder." Dave shuddered at the long-forgotten moniker from his childhood, and Puck clasped his shoulder even harder. "And Mama, well. She's a bitch on wheels on her best day, and there haven't been many of those in a long time." She tugged at the key again. "I knew you loved me, though. I always knew you were out there somewhere."

Sarah crossed the deck and slipped her hand into Lilly's. "You've always been with Dave. And with us, all of us, because you're a part of him. We take care of each other here. Let us take care of you, too." Carole gathered the twins and Cleo and coaxed them into the other room, giving the five - the six -of them time together.

Dave leaned into Puck's chest, and Kurt put a comforting hand on his knee. He wasn't sure why he was having trouble breathing. He felt tethered to something he couldn't name, not anymore. It was the same feeling that used to send him to a razor, or out walking in the dark night. He hadn't felt it since finding his family.

Kurt must have sensed it, because he leaned in and whispered in Dave's ear. "Baby. What do you need?" His closeness took a hint of the edge off Dave's anxiety, but it wasn't enough.

"I don't know." Dave spoke through gritted teeth. He did what he always did when he was uncertain: he turned to Sarah to reveal the mysteries. She was right there, holding his hand.

"You're scared?" she said, and he nodded. There were no secrets between the five of them, only ideas yet undiscovered. She stroked back his hair from his face, watching him carefully. Then she turned to Lilly and held out her hand.

"What?" Lilly said, hesitating, one arm around the other.

"Will you come over?" Sarah beckoned, and Lilly moved in closer, facing her brother. "Touch the key," she urged. Lilly put out a cautious hand and put her fingertips on his arm. Dave met her eyes, anxiously waiting.

"Dave needs something from you." Sarah held Lilly in her appraising gaze. Lilly's eyes were wide, and a little apprehensive. "Can you give it to him?"

Lilly gasped at Sarah, and at Dave in turn. "What? What is it?"

Sarah sat, silently, and waited for Dave to find the right words. When he finally did, his voice was rough. "Absolution."

"For what?" Lilly shook her head in a search for understanding.

"For letting her take you. For not coming to find you sooner. For not fighting harder." There were more words, words Dave hadn't even known were rattling around in his head and heart. "For not being the brother you deserved. For not taking care of you. For what Mom did to you, to me. For everything."

And Sarah was tugging Kurt over, the strength, the stability of the three of them evident from the moment they touched. "Baby," he said, pleading, but Sarah forestalled him with a hand.

"He needs you to help him say goodbye," she said, the certainty in her eyes making him sit up and take notice. "Just as you said goodbye to someone, once."

Lilly's arms were scrabbling to wrap around him then, and he pulled her close. She felt the same in his arms as she had when they were kids. She was his sister, after all. He held her tightly, and listened to her whisper in his ear. "I forgive you, brudder."

Dave's eyes were wet, but he wasn't letting go, not yet. "I don't want to needher anymore," he ground out.

"You don't have to," Sarah said, but Kurt shook his head, kissing Dave's moist cheek.

"I know," he said. "But as much as you want to be the one to take care of everybody,baby, sometimes, someone has to take care of you, too. Because we're not butterflies." His voice was sad. "If it's not going to be your mom, who's it going to be?"

"You?" Dave was small and worried in this space, and Kurt reached out his hand to him. Dave gripped it back. Sarah's hand found a place in between theirs.

"And me," Puck said. He took Dave's other hand, and it was joined by Finn's.

"Is that enough?" Sarah asked.

Dave's eyes were screwed shut. "Enough for what?"

"Enough to let you say goodbye."

He let his breath out all in one gasp, and the four of them took up the slack, holding him up. "That's it," Puck murmured. "We've got you."

"Whenever you're ready," Kurt said quietly.

Each rasping breath brought him closer to where he needed to go, closer to lettinggo, to saying goodbye not only to the mother who had never been able to care for him, but also to that little boy who'd been left, alone and wanting.

He felt something rough and cool press into his palm, and Lilly was there with the others. His fingers closed around the jagged edges of the old key, and the combination of the sharpness in his hand and the gentleness of Lilly's arm around his waist cut the last of the string tethering him to his past.

"Goodbye, Mommy," he whispered. That was all he could say, but it was enough.

Christmas: 23/24 years old

The bed was still warm, but empty, when Sarah startled awake. She could hear dishes clanging in the kitchen, the noise of all her boys, the big ones and the babies, getting breakfast ready. She rolled over and stretched, feeling pretty good until the acrid scent of strong, black coffee sent her reeling out of bed and up the hall.

She wasn't going to be able to keep this secret much longer.

Sarah was rinsing her mouth out when she felt a cool hand against the back of her neck under her braid.

"Ginger Ale or crackers?" Lilly's voice was so much like Dave's, and she moved like he did, too. Soft, silent, and always watching.

Sarah shook her head. "Neither. Not yet. Damn coffee." She took a shaky breath and felt her stomach calm. "Why those? Ginger ale and crackers?"

Lilly shrugged. "Daughter of an alcoholic, remember?" She acted like it wasn't a big deal, but Sarah knew just how big a deal it really was. She hooked her arm through Lilly's and led her back to the master bedroom.

"Daughter of a recovering addict. I'd never forget." She knew she didn't need to say anything. All of their secrets had been laid bare for Lilly months ago. But a reminder never hurt.

Lilly settled herself into the middle of the bed among the blankets while Sarah rummaged around in the closet for one of Dave's sweatshirts. She slipped it on over her sweatpants and t-shirt, and sat down next to Lilly, who was eyeing her curiously.

"How far along?" Lilly asked casually. Sarah laughed.

"Five or six weeks. Just found out last week." She stretched her back and groaned. "I knew before the test did. Stupid queasy stomach. And the twins nursing, fuck, that hurts. I hope it gets easier soon or they're going to wean, like, now."

"Congratulations." Lilly clasped her hand, but her curiosity was clearly about to spill over, so Sarah forestalled the question.

"I have no idea whose. But really - it doesn't matter, does it?"

Lilly bit her lip and blinked, and finally laughed. "I guess not."

"I'm telling them all tomorrow morning." Sarah had "I'm a big brother" t-shirts for the twins, wrapped up in some silly reindeer paper that she'd stuffed under the tree two days ago when the house was empty. And she'd bought two little onesies that said "I love my Daddies" that she was planning to put in Kurt and Dave's stockings. It was going to be sweet, and the boys would be so happy and surprised. If she could keep the secret until Christmas morning.

Lilly just held her hand and smiled. "I get to be an aunt again, and with a baby this time!"

"Of course. And don't let Dave force you into slave babysitting labor, either. A girl has to be kept in coffee and music somehow."

Lilly rolled her eyes. "Don't forget books, and bus fare. Granted that I won't have to pay room and board, but the transfer might put me behind if all my credits don't transfer."

Sarah put a hand on her barely-there bump. "Dave's going to be going crazy with his dissertation, and Kurt will be just starting his student teaching when thisone comes along, so I think the Aunt Lilly Nanny Express will be plenty busy."

They could hear music drifting down the hall, and they followed it to the twin's room, where they discovered a Santa-hatted Puck kneeling on the edge of Ethan's toddler bed, strumming his guitar to an inspired rendition of "Jolly Old St. Nicholas." The twins were bopping around in their candy-cane striped footy pajamas, and Aidan was mimicing Puck's guitar-playing on a red plastic one.

"Good morning, Mama Bear," Puck grinned, as Aidan attempted to snatch the hat off his head for the fourth time. Sarah glared at him.

"You are worse than me at keeping a fricking secret," she said, fending off Ethan's loving, sticky hugs. "I'm not letting you near Kurt orDave all day."

Puck shrugged. "Too late. Dave and I made breakfast already. With bacon and fresh orange juice."

"Do not mention breakfast," Sarah warned, clutching her stomach, while the twins stampeded for the door. "Really? They're not even dressed yet."

"Aw, come on, Sas - it's Christmas Eve," Puck said, kissing her on the cheek as he followed the twins into the hall, watching their precarious balance as they one-stepped it down the stairs. "They can deal with getting pancake syrup on their pajamas this once."

"He's good with the kids," Lilly said, and Sarah nodded, pulling the twins' comforters over their toddler beds and opening the blinds.

"I think he wishes he could have some of his own," she said. "But he's happy enough with ours. They belong to all of us, after all."

"Who belong to all of us?" Finn swung his head around the door frame.

"The munchkins." Sarah nodded towards the stairs, and Finn smiled at the sounds of the twins squealing over waffles and maple syrup.

Sarah took in Finn's pressed khakis and crisp button-down, and rolled her eyes. "I thought you weren't working today. Don't social workers get Christmas Eve off?"

Finn twirled his phone in his hand. "I'm on call, Sas. That's the problem with being the newbie. I'mthe one at the end of the emergency number. Holidays can be a real crisis point for these kids. I'll be home when I can."

He kissed her on the cheek - the same one Puck had kissed - and scurried down the stairs. She heard the door open and slam closed just as a yawning Kurt wandered out of their bedroom at the end of the hall. She felt her stomach clench again and willed herself notto ruin their Christmas day surprise.

Kurt pressed a sleepy kiss against her neck, and ruffled Lilly's hair and kept moving, mumbling something about coffee. Sarah watched his retreating back. "Damn coffee."

"Don't forget we have to pick Dad, Carole and Cleo up at the airport at eleven," he called over his shoulder.

"I can do that," rumbled Dave's baritone in her ear, and she couldn't help shivering a little when his arms wrapped around her from behind. He dropped his hands down around her waist, and as she leaned up to kiss him, he lingered on her hips a little too long, and her heart sank as he took a surprised breath.

"You are way too fucking psychic," she groaned, as he swept her into a rib-crushing hug. "Watch out, or I might puke on you."

"Sas," he said into her hair, and his voice was so full of love and promise that she thought her heart might break. Stupid hormones,she thought, wiping her eyes on Dave's t-shirt. He gave her a wide, delighted smile. "For real?"

"No, I just like puking before breakfast." She pulled away from him and swatted playfully at his shoulder. "Of course for real, but you can't tell Kurt. It was supposed to be a fucking surprise."

Dave's eyes went wide, but he nodded in agreement. "I won't say a word."

Sarah held his eyes with hers, and spoke clearly. "Especially not to Carole and Burt."

"What are we not telling Carole and Burt?" Kurt asked, emerging from the bathroom, eyebrows inquisitive.

"About my transfer to Michigan," Lilly said calmly. "It's... a surprise."

"Okay," Kurt nodded, shrugging. He stepped into Dave, their bodies meeting perfectly, lips touching briefly, before continuing his passage through the hallway. Dave followed him back into the bedroom. The electricity between them was palpable, even after five years and two kids.

Lilly took Sarah's hand as they moved slowly down the stairs. "It's our first Christmas with you," Sarah said. "How's it feel? To not be with your mom, I mean?"

"Honestly?" Lilly blew out a breath. "It's a relief. I know Dave feels it too."

It was true. Dave was a changed man, even just from this summer. Sarah could sense the freedom he felt, not being tethered to his past, to the story of his missing sister. His life could continue, all on its own, now.

"Creating our own family - here, in this house, all of us together - it feels just right. The best kind of work." Sarah smiled at Lilly, and she squeezed her hand. "I'm glad you're with us."

Lilly squeezed back. "Me, too," she smiled. "C'mon. Do you think you can handle a plain waffle?"

Sarah nodded. "With Nutella. Baby likes chocolate!"

Later that night, after the kids were fed and bathed and put to bed, and then sung to and read to and put backto bed, the adults gathered downstairs. Burt was helping Finn and Kurt lazily place presents in various quality of giftwrap under the tree. Carole was in the kitchen with Lilly, cleaning up from their dinner of appetizers and snacks. Sarah was on the sofa wrapped in a blanket, her knitting needles clicking softly as she worked a quick, comforting chunky scarf for Puck. Puck and Dave were . . . somewhere.

Carole padded softly into the living room and sat down next to Sarah, and handed over one of the two glasses of red wine she held in her hands. Sarah put her hand up to stop Carole, and shook her head.

Carole held her gaze, and at Sarah's brief nod she broke into a huge smile. She pulled Sarah into her arms. "Oh, baby. Congratulations."

Sarah took the chance to whisper in Carole's ear. "Kurt and Finn don't know yet."

"But the others?"

Sarah pulled away then and smiled sheepishly. "We're terrible at keeping secrets around here."

Burt was there, suddenly, his hand on Carole's shoulder. "What secrets are we keeping?"

Carole just smiled. "Nothing, honey. Just girl talk."

"No." Kurt was standing, backlit by the flickering lights of the Christmas tree, hands on his hips and his head cocked to the side. "There are lots of secrets in this house today. What's going on?"

"N-nothing." Sarah shook her head, and caught Lilly's gaze where she was standing in the doorway from the kitchen, her hands wrapped around a fat mug of hot chocolate. Lilly just smiled in support.

"Sas." Kurt's face was soft and open, and so full of love. "What's up?"

Sarah took a deep breath and pushed herself up off the couch. She moved softly to where Kurt was standing, and grabbed his hand, sliding it along her stomach, under her shirt. He let his palm settle there, and she could feel the warmth from his body seeping into her. He gasped slightly in her ear.

"How far?"

"Five, maybe six weeks."

He pulled away briefly before pulling her into a deep kiss. He wrapped his arms around her and held her tight, and she'd never been more whole than she was in that moment.

Every touch our grace is multiplied
Every kiss our souls are opened wide
Every moment is precious and sanctified

And our time is filling like cups of honey wine
Sweeter the water, the deeper the well
Life is spilling out all over
We're spilling out over ourselves

- Christopher Bingham