Disclaimer:
Do not own, do not make any profit. Suing = pointless and laughable.

Author's Notes:
This title has been rattling around my head for a while, because I often think up titles and then write a story to fit instead of the other way around.

Now that it's written at long last, it should clear up some mental harddrive space. Maybe I'll finally get back those three hours I lost after getting thrown off of a horse. 16 years later, and that whole period remains just a black hole of 'duh-wah?'

Enjoy.

The Morning After
Undertow


The bed feels odd, is your first thought, and it's only barely an actual thought as you haven't fully slipped from asleep to awake just yet. You're still land-locked in that moment between dreaming and consciousness – the one where your senses begin to bring things to your attention, but your brain isn't yet cognizant enough to really place any actual meaning to them. So you receive and acknowledge the signals from your nerve endings that tell you that the mattress doesn't feel like it normally does, that it's warmer than average under the covers and colder above them, that there's an unusual dip in the flat surface below you just a few inches away, and that even the air itself smells different.

It takes a few more moments for you to awaken enough to process all these signals and interpret them, but when you do, your eyes snap open. You experience another one of those peculiar moments of humanity – the one where you're attempting to absorb entirely too much information all at once, and time itself just seems to slow to a crawl until your neurons can catch up and stop staggering around like dumbstruck, sucker-punched cattle.

Her apartment, you realize firstly, which explains the lower temperature. She's always preferred the cold to the heat, and is usually the last to start dressing warmly and the first to stop.

Her bedroom, is the next realization, and her bed. That explains the unfamiliar feel of the mattress, and the scent of everything that is her in a concentration that your own home just doesn't contain.

The warmth that has stored under the covers in an amount that exceeds what you're normally exposed to is, of course, due to the fact that you're not used to sharing them with another person. But there she is, just inches away; on her side facing you, sound asleep still, and with several strands of straight, pitch-black hair falling over her face. One arm is tucked safely away under the pillow, and the other extended slightly – just enough for her hand to rest on top of your own on the mattress between your faces.

An unplanned glance tells you both she and you are naked under the duvet, and the night before comes rushing back to you – a frantic, whisking blur of sounds, sights and sensations so intense that it almost frightens you. It's a shame, you decide, that most of it remains a blur – albeit a very pleasant one – because the moments that you do remember clearly are enough to make your heart race and your breath catch in your throat. Mostly, you remember surprise; shock, really. She's always been passionate about a few select things in life – first her quest for revenge, then her frenetic studying to graduate on time, then the entrance exams to university and more recently, the slow process of learning to live life for herself, and not for others.

She has passion, and in measures beyond what most would imagine, except for maybe you. You just never truly expected to have that passion focused on you. You dreamed of it, certainly, and in some way, continued to hope for it even as you resigned yourself to the fact that she just couldn't feel the same way. But that... was nothing like how you would have expected it to happen.

Somehow, you'd always pictured yourself to be the aggressor – imagined that if she finally did decide that she was willing to try, then it would be a slow, steady shift from friendship into something more. Perhaps, you now reason as you rub your thumb over her knuckles and study the motion, you should have known better. While she can certainly take an age to decide if she wants something, once she does, she has a tendency to jump in headfirst from the highest possible point into the deepest available end of the pool.

It's a darn good thing that both of you are adept swimmers.

You remember coming here yesterday – there was some sort of friendly gathering happening last night that both of you had agreed to join. You, as always, were early, and she, as always, was running a little behind. So you had reclined on her bed and politely kept your eyes turned to the ceiling while she muttered and grumbled and occasionally held up some clothing item or other and asked. You hardly minded being her sounding board – certainly not as long as she was walking around in jeans and a bra.

Five minutes before the two of you really had to leave, the mutters and rustles stopped. You remember being curious as to why, and dropping your gaze despite the lack of an invitation, just to see what she was doing.

Staring had been what she was doing. Directly at you, and in a way that made your heart stutter almost painfully. You were so utterly and ridiculously dumbstruck that you couldn't even move - as if her eyes were pinning you in place – and there was a long stretch of your own blood thundering in your ears and the sound of two sets of breathing. Then the blouse in her hand fell to the floor with a plop, and when you blinked, she was at the foot of the bed and still moving. It was a captivating display of sinuous motion when she crawled closer still and held herself on all fours above you – a play of light and shadow, smoothly shifting power that she still maintained under a layer of unblemished skin, and the long, silky strands of hair that tumbled over her bare shoulders and fell in a jasmine-scented curtain around your faces.

Then those lips were on yours, and you vaguely remember sobbing into her mouth before it all becomes lost in skin beneath your hands, in the taste of her lips and the sensation of warm hands finding their way under your clothes. The world zeroed back into your consciousness some time later when there was a buzzing from the nightstand, and you remember her growling, then a sudden, violent motion as the ringing cellphone that caused the disturbance was claimed by one hand and flung unerringly out of the door and into the next room.

Things begin to blur again at that point. Mostly, it's flashes of clear green that's somehow several shades deeper than usual, of hands and lips in places that you've prayed to have her touch, of hot breath against your skin and a low voice whispering in your ear as you fall to pieces in her arms and slowly re-assemble. Again, your expectation of her falls far short, because once she's given you just barely enough time to regain your faculties, she kisses you again – impossibly with even more sheer want winding around your tongue – and then proceeds to tenderly make your body shatter into a million tiny pieces all over again.

They call her the 'ice princess', and it's usually for good reason. She likes the cold, and she can very easily be cold in both manner and speech, but you now realize that she can burn hotter and brighter than molten gold as well. Every touch, every breath scorched you last night as she positively ravaged you, and in doing so, she fulfilled a fantasy that you didn't even know you had. She probably didn't even realize it herself, because to your trained eyes, it's clear as day that she was simply doing what she wanted. And somehow, that makes it all the sweeter.

There is a soft groan and the gentle sounds of bare skin shifting against the sheets, and it draws you out of your recollections even as it also brings back moments much later last night, when it was she who came apart under your touch; her lips who drank from yours, and her hands that clenched against your skin when she finally allowed herself to drown.

Her eyes are brighter now than they were last night. Her eyelids are still heavy with sleep and her gaze a little unfocused when she first opens her eyes and looks at you, but it soon sharpens. Her face twitches subtly in a way that you interpret as her remembering the events of the past evening as well, and you try not to hold your breath as you wait to see how she will react to it during the light of day.

She blushes faintly, but that was to be expected. And then her fingers twine with yours.

"Morning," she offers, a little shyly.

"That it is," you agree, and find yourself smiling giddily; it becomes a giggle when she rolls her eyes.

She's always been beautiful in your eyes, but that beauty isn't something you've truly been able to take in while under the guise of simple – if close – friendship. Now, however, there's no such pretense to stop you, and you certainly aren't above taking advantage of the situation. You reach out to brush the hair away from her face, and feel her warm skin under your hand. She closes her eyes at your touch and sighs softly, and you slowly trace your fingers over her forehead, draw gentle lines over her sculpted eyebrows and down the length of her perfectly proportioned nose. Her cheekbones are high and the skin covering them smooth as silk and as soft as that to the touch, and when you reach the pale pink satin that makes up her lips, you can feel them purse slightly as she kisses your thumb.

"Why did you do it?" you then ask her, because you're honestly more than a little curious.

Her eyes open, and you can almost see the proverbial wheels turning as she seems to be asking herself that question as well. She certainly doesn't need to ask what you meant.

"I got tired of swimming against the current," she finally says, and as she speaks, it seems to you that one last, final wall has dropped behind her eyes, because there's a light in them now that you've never seen there before. She's letting you all the way into her soul, and walking towards the risks involved in that with her eyes open and her head held high.

More shifting, legs twining with yours, and when her lips cover yours again, you silently agree that swimming against the current can be tiring indeed.

Sometimes it really is preferable to just let yourself be swept away.

xXxXx