So I started this right after Tallahassee aired and always chickened out of posting it anywhere and committing to finishing what I started. This, hopefully, marks my decision to stand by it. Thanks to the small corner of the OUAT fandom that favors these two together, from which I've pulled together many ideas/theories for this story.
Portland, he believed, could be a nice place to live. If one were inclined to settle down, own a piece of property, carve out a permanent existence and start a family, August thought that maybe Portland would be the place he would do it. Metropolitan enough, but without the kind of vast loneliness that came with cities like New York. Mild weather, neighborhoods on the outskirts that almost seemed as if they were plucked out of small town America, and the people as a whole: kind.
But fuck that rain.
A week earlier he'd rolled into town and it had rained for nearly all the days he'd been hitting the pavement across the city. A morning shower, an afternoon drizzle, a late night downpour. Unusually wet this year, he'd heard the locals comment, and though August didn't have a particular aversion to rain—in fact, if he was honest, he kind of liked the cleansing aspect that came with it—it just didn't lend to very good weather for the only means of travel he had.
Man. Fuck that rain.
August tugged the collar on his jacket up, an absentminded action to shield the back of his neck from the downpour as he darted underneath the overhangs of the storefront lined street. It was, however, a motion that proved rather fruitless as the heavy drops left his shoulders and sleeves wet, so sodden with rainwater that he could feel the dampness as it soaked into his shirt below. An umbrella, he'd have to finally invest in one of those, though August had the sneaking suspicion that the moment he laid out the cash for such an item, the rain clouds would mysteriously disappear, soon leaving Portland in an unprecedented drought simply out of spite. For him, that was usually how most things worked.
A couple wrapped up in each other exited his intended destination and August grunted his thanks as he shouldered the heavy weight of the half open door, slipping inside for himself. The humidity of the bar was only trumped by the mustiness, the kind of scent that came out of the old floorboards and walls from an extended dampness, but it was a familiar smell to him, of watering holes and dive bars across the country, places that had become his home when nowhere else fit the bill.
He passed by the other patrons, and though it was crowded for a Wednesday night, he paid it no mind; there'd been enough sweatshirts with identical block lettering to tell him that he'd wandered into a college bar. He'd never been—hadn't had the money, the grades, the determination, the parents, the… anything that he would've needed to get that nudge in the right direction—but there was one thing he knew about college bars: the drinks tended to be cheap.
At the bar, a girl spun away from the counter with drink in hand and a bag slung over her shoulder in the same moment that August approached. In another life she would have barged right into him, spilling her drink across the both of them in the process, her bag and its contents tossed across the floor. They both would have grumbled half-apologetically but mostly irritated, her for the half a beer she was now missing, him for already smelling like a bar without anything to drink in him yet. Maybe, though, maybe as they crouched down to politely gather her things he would have passed her a wallet, fingers brushing one another's, eyes meeting in the dimness of the room. And if they were lucky, they both would have smiled, washing away the unpleasant thoughts of before.
The girl caught herself, however, and August turned sideways with quick enough reflexes, narrowly missing the collision that had once threatened them both. All he saw was a mess of blonde hair ducking her head without more than a mumbled 'Sorry' before she was out of his way and disappearing amongst the rest of the patrons. August watched her go, more fixated on the heavy weight of the bag she carried than anything else. It reminded him of himself, the type of person carrying their few worldly possession's along with them, always ready to make home wherever it was for the night… not that he often found it. She was gone though, and the thirstiness in his mouth and head drew him back towards the bar. He waved the bartender down with a couple of bills, eager to put the days behind him.
He tapped the toe of his boot against the lower wall of the bar's counter as his shot was poured, counting down the seconds until the alcohol was burning all the way down his throat and into his stomach. The beer washed away the sting but he was reluctant to have it go, that kind of sensation had become a regularity over the years, a constant always to be called on when he needed a reminder that, of all things, he was alive. To his left and right he could hear the conversations of those around him, incessant and loud when all he wanted to do was drown in silence or someone else. August set his foot back down on the floor and pivoted where he was, elbow back on the bar behind him as he raised the cup to his lips, but down below, the sole of his boot slid on a sudden slickness on the floor. He repeated the motion, testing the irregularity for a sudden slip of the mind. The slickness was present again.
Half-stepping in the confined space allotted to him between the people occupying the bar space, August glanced down to the darkness, nudging the front of his shoe against the floor to push up the offending object. He squinted in the lack of light and crouched down towards the small piece of plastic, flipping it over as he stood back up. Huh. A girl's face stared back at him, blonde hair, pale, serious. The tight line of her lips and the line between her brows: they nearly made him laugh.
Diane Anderson. Resident of California state. Born January 10th, 1979. And, he looked over bottom of the card when an ounce of curiosity struck him, not an organ donor.
August glanced around in the immediate vicinity for the card's owner, then even turned back towards the bartender. She was further down the countertop serving other customers, and without a few more dollars to wave in his hand, August was reduced down to persona non grata in the bartender's eyes. He sighed, took a sip from his glass, and peeked down again at the picture. That was right—he actually knew two things about college bars. The drinks were cheap and the girls were beautiful. Pushing off from the edge of the counter, he made his way back into the crowd, ID in hand, and began the hunt for the face that matched the photograph.
"Diane?" August said, casually interrupting the conversation of a couple women he passed, moving on when recognition failed to dawn across their features. "Any of you know a Diane Anderson? No? …Great."
He sighed in frustration, wiping a hand across his brow while he took a drink. Through a window formed between other bodies, August caught a glimpse of long blonde hair. Jackpot.
August found her at the far end of the bar, occupying a booth on her own. It was a coveted spot, one she'd been lucky to grab at all, much less keep to herself with the larger roving groups that ambled about looking for a place to park themselves. With hardly a glance up, she turned one such crowd away quickly and abruptly before they could make a second protest. He had to admit, he was impressed.
It, of course, also set him up to be just as easily brushed aside, and before he'd even leaned his elbow against the top of the seat across from her own, he was hearing the voice from the girl that had nearly mowed him down back at the bar ten minutes prior, only this time she wasn't meek and apologetic, but stern.
August didn't budge, instead sipped from his glass again as he remained steady, fighting away the coy smile that tugged at the corner of his mouth. "Diane Anderson. Never expected to see you here."
Her head jerked upwards towards him at that, eyes narrowing behind the thick frames and lenses of her glasses. An expression of startled shock, and a hint of something else—was that confusion? bewilderment?—read across her face.
"You know," he tilted his head and played his card outright, lifting her driver's license before him to take a deliberate, almost dramatic, inspection of her picture and details across the front of it. "Doesn't say anything about corrective lenses on here. I like them though, they suit you."
She reached for her bag, shuffling through the outermost pocket for her wallet and then opened it to presumably look for the missing piece of identification. There was a stiff sigh and her eyes raising to him in a kind of submission, the sign when August knew she'd realized what was missing. That tough exterior though, it didn't fade away, and where a second before she'd looked ready to downright beg for her ID back, she pursed her lips and offered an open hand.
"Going to be a jerk about it or just give it back?"
August raised a brow at the combative tone and opted for a sign of good faith in handing the card off. "You could," he shrugged a shoulder, "say thank you, although it seems like that might actually cause you physical pain. Wouldn't want that to happen."
Diane slid the card away along with the wallet, shutting her bag up tight before even regarding him again. "Thank you."
"I hardly believed it—but," he tipped his head, raised his cup, and smiled, "you're welcome. So—California, huh? What brings you to Portland?"
"What brings you to Portland?"
"Who's to say I don't live here?"
"Mmm," she hummed as she took a drink, buying herself some time. "I'm good at telling when someone's lying, and even if I weren't, you're a damn bad liar. Anyone ever told you that?"
August coughed, stifled something of a laugh though the lightheartedness he felt previously was temporarily washed away, weighed down with a sudden heaviness. He blinked it off, steeling himself against her innocent remarks. "Once or twice." There was a pause of silence, an awkwardness that almost had his feet moving again, but just as he was about to push off and leave, Diane chimed in, volunteering and sticking her neck out for the first time where she'd otherwise kept to herself.
"I always heard Portland was nice—thought I'd see for myself."
"That's what everyone says."
"So what about you? You don't seem like the type to be here for the scenery."
"No, I—" he motioned to the empty seat, "mind if I sit down?" But didn't wait for an answer, instead slipping in halfway through his own words. "Came to look for an old friend," he said, and it wasn't a lie, not really, just a stretch of the truth.
"Not yet," he paused, a far away glance given beyond her for a breath before he came back to the present, "but I think I'm close."
"Well, good luck with it," she said, elbows slipping from the tabletop, a sign she was withdrawing unto herself if August ever did see one. He didn't miss the social cues, he knew she was a second away from telling him to get on moving, but still he remained, ever the one to push boundaries when he could.
"If you don't mind me saying," he motioned his glass in the direction of her bag perched in the space beside her, "you seem to be carrying around a lot for someone just grabbing a drink in a bar."
"And you seem to be way too nosy for someone who wasn't even invited to sit down," Diane bit back.
"Fair enough," he offered a solitary hand raised as a concession. "You've just got that look."
She lifted a brow, curious, and just as he'd hoped, it gave Diane another reason to continue their conversation. "What look?"
"Like someone who's used to carrying their world with them wherever they go."
Despite the volume of the rest of the bar, there was silence between them, a long stretch of quiet in which August wasn't quite sure if she was going to deck him or give him a piece of her mind. Both, he decided. She'd probably do both.
"I just mean," he spoke up, intervening before she armed her fist or formed the beginning of the dressing down she was planning for him. "I know that look because it's my look, too."
He'd been wrong about the cheap drinks, he thought, as the words left his mouth. They had to be something powerful to leave him spouting the kind of bullshit that found him tonight. Bars were for chit-chat and quick conversation, not saying too much, and wanting to hear even less from the other person. Too much talk always led to reconsideration and going home alone. Too much talk meant facing reality head on, something he'd never been good with, and talking with strangers in bars about tough life lessons and absent parents wasn't exactly the best come on.
"I'm not drunk enough for this conversation," Diane said with a deep exhale.
With the corner of his mouth quirked into a smile, he asked, "you want me to get you drunk? We're in a bar, you know. We can fix that."
She returned his subdued smile, but logic won out in her words. "I don't even know your name."
Rather than answer, August shifted his weight in his seat, struggling to pull his wallet from the back pocket of his jeans. It had seen better days, the spine half torn, the leather scuffed and scratched, and half its weight made from scraps of mementos like movie tickets, phone numbers he never called, and notes he'd made over the last few years on the trail to find Emma. Though his attention was on his hands, from the corner of his eye he caught the way she sat up, leaning forward slightly as though to get a better view of what information could be gleaned from something so personal as someone's wallet. August slid his ID out and then held it before her in the middle of the table.
"Booth, August W.," she read aloud. "You're a long way from Kansas, did you get lost? Leave Dorothy behind somewhere along the yellow brick road out of there?" Diane quipped, but her question was lost as another came to mind. "What's the W stand for?"
"You let me buy you another drink," he said, putting the license back where it belonged, "and not only will I tell you my middle name, I'll let you make all the Wizard of Oz jokes you want. Fair deal, if I say so myself."
"You would," Diane rolled her eyes, but as she ran the bottom edge of the nearly empty glass in slow circles along the table, a little of her resolve faltered. She nudged the cup towards him. "Beats drinking alone, especially if you're paying. Hey—" she called as he stood to leave, already a few paces off. "You don't even know what I want."
"I'll surprise you, and by the way—the W's for Wayne."
He didn't know how it happened, when the tides had turned, or the exact moment Diane had stopped looking at him like a stranger and instead like well, still a stranger, but one she no longer needed a table's width distance from. It was after, definitely after he'd started to wonder what the red buttons down the front of that floral printed dress would feel like under his finger tips, but somewhere before she'd brushed the side of her boot across his ankle and against his calf. But to be fair—August didn't very much care when it had happened, just that it had happened at all.
The bartender had shouted for last call and with somewhat unsure footing, it had been Diane pulling him from the back of the bar, their empty glasses left behind. August, he'd followed her like a lost little boy drunk on his first taste of liquor, and when they'd made it outside and been greeted by the cool air, Diane had leaned in close, pressed her mouth to his without the kind of pretenses most girls needed to take what they wanted. He'd stumbled, almost shamefully caught off guard, into the brick of the wall behind him, and it had been clumsy the way he'd pulled her with him. She'd just laughed as their mouths separated, the kind of wildness and confidence to her that had grown the more she'd imbibed, and then again found him with another kiss—this one he'd been prepared for.
She teased him in the way their stomachs and hips met, the way her thigh pressed outward against his hand as it dropped down, skimming the bare flesh where the end of her dress met skin. Despite the temperature of the night air, August felt warm as her body draped itself against his, and it was more than just the heat of her cheeks radiating against his own or the steam of her breath. It was the warmth found in the way her fingers curled into the hair at the back of his head and the thigh she ran between his own legs, the uppermost portion pressing tight at the seam of his jeans. August groaned against her mouth accordingly.
"Not that I don't like where this is going," he said between gulps of air, "but we're a minute away from public indecency charges." For emphasis, his fingers traveled up the length of her outer thigh, pushing the hem of her dress with it a few inches. "You got a place we can go?"
At the question, Diane quickly shook her head and instead kissed him again. "How about yours?"
"Suddenly not afraid I'm going to murder you?"
"Quit," she laced their fingers together and pulled back, encouraging him with her, "while you're ahead, Kansas."
And because August had always needed a voice to guide him on his way, he listened and led her by the hand.
They'd walked much of the distance back to his motel without a word, but as the light above the door numbered 2 flickered above them while August fished the room key from his pocket, Diane acted with renewed vigor. She kissed his jaw, her mouth tickling against the stubble that had grown in over the course of the day's time, even nipped on the lobe of his ear—an act that had nearly made him drop the key just before he'd slid it home into the lock. August curled one arm around her, meeting her unfair actions with a gentle sucking at the curve of her neck, and with the other hand turned the handle to open the hotel room door, let them both inside.
Diane dropped the bag she'd been carrying just as the door clicked shut behind them both, shrugging and working off the denim jacket with the same eagerness that August removed his own coat of a darker wash. They were close but still separated, no more than two feet of space between them though they worked in tandem, minds inexplicably linked where no such thing ever should have existed. Diane went for her left boot and August toed off his shoe. She went for the right and he did just the same, mirroring her actions while their eyes otherwise kept contact.
At his waist, August roughly unbuttoned and unzipped his jeans, but when he made move for the bottom of his shirt, fingers pulling at the frayed edge of the hem, Diane caught his hands with her own.
"I've got it," she responded with a nod of her head, and it took no coaxing for August to give in once the goosebumps had spread from where her fingers grazed his abdomen.
In the blink of an eye, or so it had felt to him, she'd pulled his shirt up and over his head and then tossed it blindly to her side, somewhere in the vague direction of the solitary chair the room held in addition to the single bed. When her hands moved to the topmost button of her dress, August proceeded just as she had except wordlessly, brushing her hands away to replace them with his. By all things holy, he was going to finally learn what those buttons felt like under the pads of his fingers.
He returned to that previous spot of her neck he'd visited before as he began the slow, meticulous process of undressing her, working downward as more real estate became available. Her upper chest was exposed, the place that covered her heart and lungs, and August dragged sloppy, lazy kisses across breadth of her ribcage. The further his hands worked the more of her he earned, especially when Diane joined in the process, slipping the fabric down her shoulders so he needn't unfasten each and every one of the pesky little buttons, since the lower ones were mostly unnecessary when it came to divesting her of her clothes.
The dress fell away with gravity as its only aid after that, the thin, silky fabric pooling around her ankles. August was lost in the sight of her, even if the room was dim and dreary at best. It had been months. Months since he'd undressed another person where for most of the years prior he'd spent his time getting lost in the feel of another, invigorated by that temporary feeling of being lost and at home at the same time inside of a stranger. There were spots of tiny dark moles flush with her skin that spotted her sparingly all over, small brown dots he wanted to learn and map out and memorize the routes in between, but the delicate fabric of Diane's underthings caught him first and there was no coming back from that.
August ran his fingers over from her shoulders on south, down over the thin straps to the small cups of her bra. There was nothing particularly intricate or fancy about it, by all means it was as plain as one could get without lace or a useless microscopic little bow sewn at the center—but the lack of such things didn't make his interest any less, and that missing decorative bow didn't mean August didn't look at her like she was anything less than a present all dressed up, just waiting to be unwrapped like a child looked to presents under the tree on Christmas morning. He'd never had many of those when he was a kid, hell he hadn't even understood what Christmas was the first few years he'd been in this world, and for that reason and more, August sought to makeup for lost time.
His mouth dropped to her chest, sucking and kissing on a collarbone as one of Diane's hands wrapped around him, palming the back of his scalp and pushing through his hair, inspiring him on. She made the softest little sounds that lit him anew, and he ventured forth, kissing the top swell of her breast. At her back, the width of his hands found the curve of her spine, even the roundness of her bottom, squeezing and pulling her body back into his as though enough pressure would allow the two of them to join together permanently. Fingers slid up to the clasp of her bra and with only a small struggle, August deftly pushed together the two ends until the tension released, going slack around her ribcage though still just barely covering her. He lifted his head, standing back to his full height in front of her, and the hand at her bra came around, this time cupping the sharp line of her jaw and full cheek.
"You've been drinking," he said, but didn't elaborate. It wasn't an out he'd ever really given before, instead choosing to walk the line of morally corrupt in exchange for his own pleasure, but there was a pang in his chest as he looked at her that made him hesitate like never before.
"So have you," Diane responded, a little quieter and unsure of herself than she'd been all night, but then she blinked, tightened her jaw, and lifted her head ever so slightly, and where that question of uncertainty had been before, she replaced it with something else. "Just shut up, August." With that, she made her choice just as she'd done at the bar the hour before when their mouths had touched the first time or when she'd taken his hand and let him pull her on his way towards the hotel room they now shared.
Her hands moved to his waist, and as an emphasis of her determination, Diane roughly wrenched with the belt buckle at the front of his jeans, a simple, oval flat piece of metal. In her hands, the buckle came apart, the softest of pops as the spot of shoddy welding that secured the metal loop to the back ripped from where it had been fastened.
"Sorry—" she mumbled, but didn't let it stop her on her way, "I'll get you a new one."
Whether she would or wouldn't wasn't really the important part in all of it; it was a cheap little thing he'd picked up years back. Maybe there was some sentimental attachment to it, but nothing that couldn't be replaced or emotions simply transferred to another little knick knack he carried with him wherever he went. What did matter, however, at least in that moment, was the way she continued, each half of the belt limply hanging in the loops of his jeans while she unbuttoned and unzipped down the front, driving the two of them forward.
They slowed only long enough for August to drop to a knee, both hands slipping in to the sides of her underwear as he did so, pushing the fabric down along with him. He didn't dare look at what part of her was finally revealed, and rather than simply returning to his feet to pick up where they'd left off—and the ache in his groin was begging him to—he dipped his head in, kissing from her knee on up her thigh. Against him, he felt her body give a quake, swaying unsteadily on bare feet. He shut his eyes and allowed himself to enjoy the temporary calm he found in her, but then there was the softest of thumps, even the subtlest brush of air against his skin, and when August opened his eyes again it was to find the bra she'd once been limply holding to her chest now on the floor.
August took a deep breath before looking up… and then immediately took her to bed.
"What do you do?" Diane asked from beside him in the dark of the room. There was space between them, all of only a few inches, but down beneath the blanket of sheets and bedspread, one of her feet rubbed soothingly, repeatedly, and slowly, along his ankle and calf just as she'd done underneath that table in the bar.
Though August's eyes may have been shut, he wasn't asleep, not even treading on the verge of it. Instead he focused on steadying breaths, chest rising and falling, even the feel of sweat on his skin—particularly in the creases of his joints. "Huh?"
"For a living."
They may have spent the night talking, but even after the intimate mention of that look she wore, the two of them hadn't exactly strayed back to talk of the personal. It had been fun, it had been easy, and since they'd met back here, there hadn't been much talking at all save for the few moans they'd breath against one another's skin in the heat of things.
August opened his eyes and tilted his head on his pillow, looking back to her. He blinked rapidly, adjusting to the low lighting, just barely making out the details of her face.
"I…" He stopped, feigning a catch in his throat as he coughed into the back of a hand, then dropped his palm to his bare chest. "Whatever I can find, usually."
Diane's expression dropped slightly at how little information he offered, but August caught it quick enough.
"You ever seen any of those sailboats in harbors? The kind so big you wonder how someone could afford one?"
She perked up as he spoke, but nodded, smiling. "Yeah."
"I worked on a few for awhile."
"Where the hell did you learn how to sail in a land-locked state?"
"Good question," he said, forcing through some laughter that mostly got swallowed in the back of his throat. "It's not where I grew up—I moved around a lot as a kid…" August squinted in the dark, studying her face. He wasn't sure what he was looking for, there wouldn't be something there he hadn't caught earlier, wouldn't be anything new to give him comfort. He found it though, nonetheless, when she outstretched a hand and curled her palm over his upper arm, thumb rubbing into the skin she found there. Whether she'd done it on purpose, an act of kindness he needed, or not, August didn't really care. Consider it a sign. "I grew up in the foster system," he confessed, "but before my father and I—" August swallowed, looked away from her and back up towards the ceiling, "before we got separated, he taught me to sail. So when I got older… it just seemed like the right thing to do."
Beside him, Diane was still, save for the thumb that hadn't faltered in drawing its slow concentric circles.
"Never really paid well, if anything. But I got a place to stay, got fed, worked with my hands all day, and got to step away from the world for awhile. At the time, that was what I was looking for."
"Yeah," she breathed, "I know what you mean."
There was a shallow nod from her, but she didn't elaborate on the subject. "And now? You said you used to—what do you do now?"
"Off the books construction, carpentry. Moving companies, sometimes. Washing dishes. Nothing glamorous," he cocked his head back towards her, and though he smiled it was forced and insecure, "sorry to disappoint you."
She shook her head, her hand leaving his arm to allow her finger tips to brush over the square of his jaw and the sandpaper grit of stubble he wore. "Not like I've really got my life together right now."
As a general rule, August had never been one for blondes. Sure, they came and went here and there, but he'd always much preferred the deep, warm tones of chestnut browns, even the fiery spark that came with redheads. But as he glanced back to her, raising his hand to gently push his fingers through the tangled, wavy locks of her golden hair, August couldn't see or imagine anything else splayed across the pillow next to him, which was a silly thought in itself. Repeated encounters with the same woman were more rare than not, and August would be lying if he said more than just tolerated the routine of the afterward. Tonight, though, he was clinging to her, in a metaphorical sense if not a physical, and dreading the moment she got up to go.
"What about you?" He posed the question back on her and it caused Diane's eyes to leave his own, a heavy sigh breathed out in the otherwise quiet room. She opted to kiss the inside of his wrist—the one lost in her hair—instead.
"Getting by," she confided and kissed the soft skin again. "Did you ever look for your father? Or did you know—did you know what happened to him?"
No one asked about his father. No one. Growing up, every kid had their own sad story, never interested in getting to know someone else's, and as for the adults, he'd learned early on that talk of the past was never what they wanted to hear. Moving forward, that's what they wanted. Moving on and forgetting. August had tried it once or twice, or really, most of his life. That was how he was here to begin with, searching Portland hopelessly for the ghost of a girl he should've taken care of for the last seventeen years. He couldn't just forget, no matter how hard he tried.
"Sorry," Diane whispered, "if it's not something I should've asked—"
"I knew where he was," August finally spoke, "that might've been the worst part of all of it. Knowing he was there but that I couldn't be with him."
"No," she said abruptly, "that's not the worst part."
His brow furrowed at her tone, head even lifting from the pillow slightly to consider her more seriously.
"Not knowing—dead or alive. Not knowing would be worse."
Sadness shone in her eyes, and he could've sworn maybe even tears growing thick and heavy, but then her hands were wiping at the corners, holding back and pushing away anything that could've shown at all. He wanted to ask, wanted to know why she was so curious to know about the life he'd had, why the uncertainty of it all left her chest rising and falling with uneven breaths, wanted to know what had happened between the day she'd been born and the hour before now when he'd gotten to know her intimately to lead her right here. But August didn't ask, didn't pry, didn't even just let the silence expand between them indefinitely with the hope that she would fill it with words. He curled in close, rolled onto his side and against her, pressing an open palm to her cheek as he leaned in to kiss her. She tasted like him.
The night's chill air was no longer painful while she looped an arm around the back of his neck to keep him close, bare chest pressing to bare chest. She was impossibly soft in contrast to the rest of the world, from the rough scrap of sheet partially caught between them, to the last few months, hell—even years—piled up all together on him. It wasn't just her skin either, it was her hair, each heated breath flaring from her nostrils, the needy sound in the back of her throat that he echoed much deeper. Diane pulled back, only just, and August let his face drop down to the curve of her neck where she smelled of sweat and perfume.
"Should I go?" She whispered, voice suddenly low compared to before.
For perhaps the first time in his life, August hummed his denial against her skin. "No."
"You'll probably have a different opinion in the morning."
"Then I'll worry about it tomorrow," he replied before he'd had even a moment to second guess and change his mind. Though his body desperately longed to feel her warmth through the night, a source of constant heat and a reminder of his very existence, August reluctantly pulled back from her, once again creating that divide of empty space between their bodies. Beneath the blankets he could still feel the barely there sensation of her body temperature radiating off of her skin, and for the night that would have to be enough.
He chanced one last glance back to her, their eyes meeting even in the darkness. Hers were wide and open, awake despite the hour and the exhaustion she should have felt just as strongly as he currently did. Her gaze was unwavering and in it he felt both comfort and fear, as though all the sayings he'd heard in this world were true—the eyes were the window to one's soul. And August, frankly, although he was just as human as everyone else here, he wasn't exactly sure if boys that were carved once upon a time came with things called souls. Maybe that was something the Blue Fairy hadn't been able to give him and maybe that was why he'd never felt entirely right on his own… or more than likely it was just another excuse August sought out to explain away his mistakes.
Suddenly, he dropped his eyes from hers, and in the same move rolled over, giving his back to her as he laid on his other side. The blankets curled around him and he could no longer feel the heat of her body with enough distance between them, only the tug of sheets as she, too, settled in for sleep.
From somewhere behind him, Diane whispered. "Goodnight."