Morning quickies are the best, he thinks.

Well, no. The long, sweaty, blisteringly pleasurable nights are the best.

But the morning quickies, they really don't suck.

This morning, they woke a little too late, so they were rushed and eager, trying to get off somewhere between the chirping of the alarm clock on his nightstand, and the shrill beep-beep-beep of the "this is the absolute latest we can tear ourselves from the bed" alarm on her phone.

The apartment had been chilly the night before, so she'd shrugged back into her shirt before they fell asleep. It's his shirt, really, but she's appropriated this one for herself, and he thinks of it as hers, now. Like the blue mug in the kitchen, the coconut-lime soap in the bathroom, and the other side of the bed.

She'd let him be on top this morning, a rare treat, so the shirt just ended up bunched under her armpits - he had access to everything he wanted, and she never had to unwind her arms from around his neck. Now she lays there, tousled and sweaty, catching her breath, her usual post-sex smugness dulled from a smirk to something more like a soft smile. She scratches her nails lightly over his lower back, runs her foot down his calf, and says, "This is always a nice way to wake up," in that morning voice he likes so much. Her accent is lazier, thicker, dripping over her words like honey. All her rough edges are smoothed away by sleep and sex, and she's just... his. For a few minutes, in the morning, some days it feels like she's all his.

He dips his head down to hers, plies her into a slow, lingering kiss. He hears her inhale slowly, feels her chin tip up to meet him more fully.

And then her alarm rings out, and he jumps just slightly, breaking the kiss. Charlotte smirks at him, lifts one eyebrow. It's not like he didn't know the alarm was coming.

"I was distracted," he mutters good-naturedly, as she pats him pointedly on the shoulder and starts to wriggle.

"By what, I wonder?" she teases, adding, "I need to get in the shower," when she deems he isn't extricating himself fast enough.

Cooper sighs, and rolls off her, flopping unceremoniously onto his side of the bed. Her morning voice is already fading.

He watches as she slides from the bed, stretches, winces slightly when her back pops, then sighs. She lets her arms fall again, then draws her shirt up, up, up, and over her head, tossing it at his face with a naughty smile. She's giving him a little show.

Cooper grins, inhales the smell of her, then tugs the shirt away from his face with a chuckle and lets it fall next to him on the bed.

"God, I love you."

It's out of his mouth before he even knows it was on its way there, unexpected, unbidden. Light, and casual, and true.

And she knows it.

The flirty smile on her face falls, her mouth dropping open just slightly. Her eyes go guarded, she sucks in a breath, and Cooper scrambles to do damage control. "By which I mean, I love your body. And the way you flirt. You're hot." It's stunted, and lame, and transparent, and he can tell by the look on her face that she sees right through him, and that she's so not ready for what he's just handed her.

"Right," she says carefully, evenly, and then, "I need to take that shower."

And then she's gone.

He waits until she's safely behind the closed bathroom door, waits until he hears the shower running, and then pulls the pillow over his head and lets out a growl of frustration. They were having such a good morning, and he had to go throw the L-bomb into it. He knows Charlotte well enough to know that she's trying to pretend this isn't serious, that this thing between them isn't really a relationship. That it's good sex, and sarcastic banter, and a PMS backrub or two, but nothing more. Nothing real. Nothing heavy.

Except it's not that, and they both know it. He knows it, and he knows she knows it. This thing between them, it's something. It's not just sex-on-speed-dial, not just bodies. He can feel it on round three of a marathon night, when she's worn herself out a bit and drops the pretenses, when she smoothes his hands over her skin, when she shifts gears from competition, and dominance, and games down to pleasure for the sake of pleasing, something more indulgent and genuine.

He knows it on the mornings when she's his.

And now he had to go and bring voice to it, to say it, the thing he's been trying so hard lately not to say. Because he knows her, and he knew this was how she'd react.

He lifts the pillow, glances at the clock. He should really start getting ready, too.

Of course, she's occupying his shower, and she probably wants to be alone right now. Or at least, away from him.

But he has an early appointment, and...

He gets out of bed, heads for the bathroom, considers knocking, then decides it's his place, and his bathroom, and screw it. He tugs the door open, and is met with a billow of steam. He can see her silhouette in the shower stall, her back to him, hands up to lather her hair. She's not moving, though.

"I need to brush my teeth," he says, and she answers, "Okay," and continues soaping her hair.

The air is heavy with steam and tension as Cooper squeezes toothpaste onto his brush and pops it into his mouth. After a good thirty seconds of silence, she asks, "Did you mean it?"

Cooper stills. Spits. Says, "The first thing, yeah," and starts brushing again. Like if he's vague about it, it's not the Big Thing that it is.

"Okay," she says, and he's almost having trouble hearing her over the shower, over the swish-swish of his own toothbrush. "We're gonna pretend you didn't say it," she tells him, and his heart drops into his stomach, but then she's adding, "Not forever. Just... for a little while. I need some, uh..."

"Time," he finishes for her, but his mouth is full of minty froth, and it comes out more like "hime."


He spits, repeats, "Time," more clearly, and she answers, "Yes. Time. Exactly."

Cooper rinses his mouth, wipes it on the hand towel. She sounds off-kilter. He's thrown her, he knows that, but if she says what she needs is time, he can give her that. If he has to keep the words to himself a little while longer, he can live with it, as long as he can keep her from retreating further than the bathroom. So he says, "We still on for dinner tonight?"

"As long as you're still buyin'," she replies. It's teasing, and sarcastic, and if it's a little forced, well, at least she's trying.

Cooper smiles, drops his toothbrush back into the cup next to the sink and tells her, "I'm gonna go put some coffee on. Don't hog all the hot water."

He leaves her to finish her shower and thinks to himself that maybe this wasn't such a collossal mistake after all. She didn't run out on him, and at least he's got her thinking about it. About them.

Yeah, it turns out maybe it was exactly the right time to bring up the whole love thing.