A/N: I don't really know what this is. Although I've been posting here I haven't actually written anything in months. Today I just made myself start so I could get back in the groove, and this is where I ended up.
Disclaimer: Disclaimed.


The touch is deliberate, although he is well practiced at making his intentions appear accidental. He often uses the skill to blindside an opponent who thinks him dumb and vacuous with keen observation and intellect to the contrary. But trapping an opponent is not his motivation for today.

Not exactly.

Because his partner is not an opponent, and she was read in years ago on what truly lies beneath his surface. He doesn't doubt that she is aware that the grazing of his hand over the curve of her hip was premeditated. Just as he is sure that she will not call him on his behavior, or even acknowledge it. The touch is not unwelcome and only mildly prohibited by others not caught in their web. But the two of them have learnt to keep their mouths wide shut about these fleeting moments of intimacy.

He isn't sure why, after all this time, they still say nothing. Why they still do nothing beyond graze and glance and goad. Comfort in each other's space is acute, as would be comfort in each other's skin. Affection for friendship would surely extend to a shared love for emotional and romantic entanglement. Commitment to their partnership is fierce, and he sees no reason this cannot be replicated in other parts of their bond. And yet, their relationship is paralyzed.

Fear is a powerful emotion. It makes intelligent people do stupid things. It causes cautious people to take wild risks. It makes brave people hesitate, and those who have been bitten overly shy. Perhaps this is their problem. They have both been mauled in the past by people who have professed to love them. Recovery from such an attack is never fast or easy, and the pain lingers long enough to teach a person to avoid situations that could deliver that agony again. Some people possess the strength and desire to overcome that fear and try again anyway. He used to be one of them, until she was taken away and hidden in the desert. He mourned for a year (even after she returned) and surrendered too much room in his soul to the pain and fear of losing her again. He vowed to be hands off to save himself.

But desire is more powerful than fear. And his natural born need to love with a fierce and open heart can only be restrained for so long.

Particularly when she is always so close.

But while his touch is welcome on her body, he remains unsure whether she would allow him to imbed himself beneath her skin. He doesn't know if her desire for him (and yes, he is sure it exists) outweighs her fear.

Where would it leave them if it did?

He looks at her with interest and 'what ifs' growing in his head and finds himself still so close that he feels the warmth of her breath on his cheek. He is surprised to find her looking back at him with welcoming eyes and the hint of a questioning smile. She is not ignoring the touch as she has in the past, and he finds himself excited by the thought that his partner still has the ability to surprise him.

He wonders if maybe, finally, they've landed on the same page at the same time.


She knows the touch is deliberate. Her partner is not the type to grab the curves that his eyes routinely check on, but that does not mean that he places a yardstick between them. He is tactile by nature (and visual, and verbal) and while he usually succeeds in staying hands off, at times he can only make his point with physical punctuation.

She has never been bothered by the habit. She does not shy from his hands like she does from others'. Rather, she seeks them out. Not overtly, of course. But if he is there, and everyone else is not, and the mood is right, then she sees no issue with the indulgence. His hand on her body is like a piece of the highest quality chocolate melting on her tongue. A treat to enjoy when she has either been very good, very hormonal, or very glum. It is known that chocolate consumed at these times contain no calories. And his touch, when consumed sparingly, delivers no guilt.

But there are times—many times, in fact—when sparingly is, unsurprisingly, not enough. A square of chocolate is not enough. She wants to devour the whole block, and then run for her sins in the morning. She tells herself that devouring all of him couldn't possibly be a sin, but thinks it would be smart to start with something smaller. A taste. A sample. An appetizer. Just to test his compatibility with her tongue. But she is not sure that he will comply, or that she should ask him to.

The answers to their relationship have never been easy to come by.

Sometimes she thinks she is so intimate with the fear of being honest with him—truly honest—that there would not be room in her heart for him anyway. She is already betrothed to apprehension and a spectacular history of romantic calamity that she finds hard to make peace with. It is an abusive relationship that she has been trying to end so that she might have the space to allow him permanent residence. Until now she has only been able to accommodate fleeting visits, but it is becoming harder and harder to end them and say goodbye.

She wants to be honest and ask him to stay, but the words always catch in her throat.

But since when have they needed words?

Her heart flutters as she realizes that sending him a glance will be all the recon she needs. A romantic scout mission to determine whether the ground between them is safe to cross or littered with land mines. The military comparison sets her nerves at ease—she has always been at home in the battlefield—and so, before bravery fades, she sways her body closer to his and sends him a silent question. His eyes narrow a fraction, turning his observation into curiosity, and she knows he recognizes the maneuver. His eyes warm and the line of his mouth softens, and she shoves apprehension out of the way to give him room to move.

They hold heavy gazes as they have done a thousand times before. History predicts that one of them will break and retreat, but they hold their nerve and the moment stretches out far longer than its predecessors. Then, without warning, he tilts his head to hers. Their paralysis is broken.

And there will be no doubt that this touch is deliberate.


I *might* continue this (I have some ideas), but considering that I routinely make fanfic promises that take me forever to deliver on, don't hold your breath. I'll leave this in progress for now.