He brushes his lips across the part of her hair and whispers into her forehead, "You're beautiful."

In her sleep, she shifts restlessly, fisting a hand in his shirt and tugging him closer to her. Her breath fans on his neck as she parts her mouth just a hairbreadth to murmur, "Liar."

Through his curtains, she's illuminated in a bit of an ethereal light, every curve and slope of her naked body drenched in silver. He traces a birth mark on her hip, a freckle behind her ear, a stretch mark tearing across her stomach. He swears she's the most beautiful she's ever been.

"I never lie." That's a lie, of course, but she doesn't call him on it.

Time stops for no one, but for them, he thinks, it might go a bit slower.

He understands her, a little.

He knows that she goes through life lying through her teeth about her self-worth. Every moment the words slip off her tongue, she's living her lie, burying herself deep into the ground with her self-hatred. She wants to fix herself even more. Fix herself until she's broken.

He likes her stretch marks. He likes the way they feel under his touch, because they're his, in a way, in the same way the handprint upon her ass is his, in the same way the bruised lips are his.

When she's rubbing them as if it could make them go away, he's reminded of simpler times — lying across his bed with her head propped on pillows, her eyes closed as she hums Mozart to their baby, opening them just a sliver to ask for pickle juice because she might die if she doesn't have some right this instant.

It's funny that those are the simpler times. His entire life revolved around that baby.

It still does, sometimes, but that's neither here nor there, is it?

The clock ticks to midnight and she ripples like water underneath him, fingernails digging into his shoulder blades and eyes squeezed tightly shut. He wraps his arms around her frail waist, dipping his tongue to her neck, feeling her legs curl around him at once.

It's in this moment, the split instant before she comes, that he feels infinite.

He knows it's coming when she whimpers his name, and in those few seconds —


She tears the skin off his back with her nails and screams his name into his flesh and in a way, he becomes hers, like she's always been his.

And in that moment, she's never been quite so free.