And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured
I'll always do my best for her, on that I give my word.
In a world of steel-eyed death and men who are fighting to be warm,
"Come in" she said.
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

In bed, Shawn stared at the ceiling, espresso-alert and more self-conscious than he'd been in middle school.

He and Jules had made up that evening - traded fears, reconciled differences. Tied up loose ends. Like adults. Like adults in a relationship.

He felt secure in the outcome, confident that he'd proven himself, said the right things, explained himself. Knew she'd forgiven him, knew he deserved it.

But, since he joined her in bed, he kept to his side - at least he had a side again. He hesitated to cross to her, to touch her, kiss her, look at her. She'd reprimanded him before - not long ago - for touches she hadn't asked for, hadn't wanted at the time. She'd allowed contact since then, but not without careful convincing. Now his fingers crawled across the mattress, trying to be brave, but always stopped short of her hand, her hip, and slid back to his side, defeated.

Sure, she'd forgiven him. She'd helped him tote his clothes back to the house, unpacked boxes. But her smiles had been half-hearted, as if she still harbored doubts. Even after they'd settled in for a late movie, she'd kept to herself, hadn't reached for his hand or leaned against him. She'd hardly moved. He'd tapped the arm of the couch, losing interest in the movie, distracted by boundary walls that still seemed to tower over him. Walls that Jules seemed reluctant to break down.

So when she shifted in bed, switched on the bedside lamp and turned to face him, he stared at her, frozen with nerves and surprise. His self-consciousness skyrocketed - atmospheric levels - as she propped herself up on her elbow and peered down at him.


He swallowed. Time to be serious. No jokes - eat the jokes. Not the time. Rational reminders - his Gus Voice - pummeled his instincts dead, and he forced himself to meet her eyes and keep an even expression. Play it cool. "Hmm?"

"Something's been bothering me," she said, her voice scratchy from disuse. She brushed her hair -

- away from her face, worried, scared. "Shawn, I need to ask you something."

He shut his eyes against the memory and trained his ears on her words. Her words now. Not then. Not then.

"You were quiet," she said. "All day. You were quiet all day."

"Jules, look, I - "

"Just - " She raised her hand - stop. "It just seemed like - you're never that quiet - " She sighed, frustrated. "Are you - what I mean is, are you okay? This is going to sound ridiculous, because of - it just seemed obvious that you wanted us to - "

He raised his eyebrows as his eyes flickered to her mouth, tracking her words as they stormed past her lips like gusts of wind. When she paused, he saw the pink tip of her tongue wet her lips, and blinked hard.

"Shawn, did you not want to come back?"

For a second, he stared at her, mouth open, dumbfounded. As soon as her words registered, relief coursed through his whole body. Relief because she'd misunderstood, misread his silence, his apprehension. And, God, he tried to stop himself, but - waves of quiet, giddy laughter spilled out of him.

"It's not funny, Shawn," she mumbled, straightening her elbow, pushing off the mattress to turn away from him.

Forgetting his earlier hesitation, he reached for her. His arm curled around her waist, and his hand pressed against her to guide her back to him. "Jules, don't," he said, managing to stifle his laughter. "Come 'ere."

She closed the rest of the distance, settled against his side - there, pressed against him, God, finally.

"Well," he said, maintaining an even tone despite the kick in his heart rate. "That did sound ridiculous."

"Look, I just wasn't sure if, after the last few weeks, and everything that" - she trailed her fingertips down the center of his chest and tilted her head, looking down - "was said between us - if you really wanted to - "

He interrupted her, shaking his head. "Of course. For the - for the Froot Loops. They really missed me. I could tell."

His heart warmed at the genuine laugh that escaped her, and, for a second, he laughed with her.

"There, on the counter," he continued, playing up the dramatics. "All alone, in this great house. With nobody to enjoy them. They were so sad, Jules. Just devastated - "

He had no time - no time to prepare before she braced herself against his chest and kissed him. God, kissed him, leaving him with just enough brainpower to process the pressure of her hand on his chest, her lips on his - moving, pressing, God.

Memories jumped, backtracked. Blurry photos of your espresso. A sudden surprise kiss on the heels of an attempted emotional cover-up. Espresso. Froot Loops. Operational equivalents, right? Something like that.

Juliet moved closer, breaching the boundary again. Hands in his hair. Body shifting, sliding, covering his. Legs framing his hips, and all the while kissing, kissing - pulling sounds, groans out of his throat.

God. Fuck.

When she pulled back, face still inches away, he found her eyes, inhaling as deeply as he could. Breathe, man. Just breathe. It's real. It's all real. Just breathe.

His plan went straight to the dark, dark depths of hell when she moved down his body, hands trailing over his chest, his hips. Fingers curling under his boxers, stripping him down while he forced shaky breaths through the bone-deep burn in his chest. Her clothes sailed through the air after his, and he tried not to stare - fucking sexy, so sexy. He reached for her, curved his hands around her waist, and pulled her back over him.

She propped herself up, hands flat on the bed above his shoulders. He traced her curves - hips, breasts - and basked in her warmth, accepted her kisses, tilted his head, trying to give her every possible advantage. He groaned, mid-kiss, when she spread her knees wide and rocked against his erection, a gentle motion first, then harder, forcing him to tense and break the kiss, looking up to find her already flushed. He gripped her hips and guided her, pushed back and slid against her - hot, wet, fuck.

Her mouth covered his again, kissed with more force. His ears tuned into the sighs that rolled out of her between kisses and, God, he wanted to hear more of her - push inside her, make her gasp, make her loud.

Frantic, he nudged her backwards, just enough to slip his hand between them. She beat him to it, reaching down first. His head tipped back, shoulders following to press into the mattress, as she curled her hand around him - God, oh, God, yes, Jules - held him straight and still, making him wait as he - fuck, stopped breathing. His hands slid up her thighs, her hips, and tried to encourage her, urge her down, but she waited. Waited until he met her eyes.

She held his gaze, commanded his attention as she sank down, guiding him inside of her.

She leaned forward, and he caught her, his arms a locked circle around her waist, pulling her close. Holding her. Keeping her close even when she raised her hips and started to move, slow, taking all of him into her before rising back up. He tucked his face into the side of her neck to kiss her - her neck, her ear, curve of her jaw, shoulder - anywhere.

She sped up, coming down harder. Her voice - short, steady moans - streamed into his ear, a direct feed that made him slide his hands down her back, squeeze her hips, help her move. Oh, God. Yeah. "Uh. Yeah. Jules. Oh, God."

He rose to meet her - faster, God, faster - until he paused abruptly, cupped her face with both hands, and kissed her. He slanted his mouth over hers, trying to focus on her lips, her body, and failing, only able to concentrate on one part of her at a time.

Her voice filled the air between their mouths when he pulled away. "Shawn," she whispered, then brushed her lips across his cheek - barely a touch, just a trail of warmth across his skin.

The pressure inside him mounted, built with each stroke, every roll of her hips. Every time she curled her fingers in his hair. Grazed his lips with hers. She breathed his name again, and he arched, pushed up and into her as far as possible, a loud, low groan rumbling in his throat.

Close. So close.

It took another few whispers for him to realize she wanted an answer. He strained to speak. "Yeah?"

Her breath warmed his ear. "Just let go, Shawn." Quiet, soft. She reached down, found his hand, and laced their fingers together. With her free hand, she stroked his face, tracing his jawline, his eyebrow. "I want to see."

"Oh, God," he stuttered. Her voice echoed in his head. Let go, I want to see. Her words, her touch - everything - made him twist under her, close his eyes, and give her what she wanted.

If she spoke again, he didn't hear her. His ears filled with the sounds of his own halting half-breaths. His body tensed, twitched with each firework-spark of pleasure, his mind reserving enough awareness to feel Juliet's soft touch on his chest, the squeeze of her hand.

As he recovered, his head un-fogging, he heard her voice over his own thunderous heartbeat.

"Mmm. Shawn," she said, kissing the back of his hand. "Honey?"

The pet name made his chest tighten, and he released her hand to wrap his arms around her, pulling her closer. She hadn't used one, hadn't called him that - or anything else - since she'd taken a seat beside him at Lassiter's wedding ceremony.

She hummed, pleased. "That was - "

"Jules, I'm sorry."

She stayed silent for a moment before she replied, "I know." She raised her head and pressed a kiss to his forehead, then his mouth. Her hand cradled the base of his head, fingers curling in his hair.

"I'm so sorry." His voice broke on the last word, and he inhaled, filled his lungs as much as possible, stomach and chest expanding. It wasn't enough. He glanced anywhere but her eyes - her hair, her shoulder, collar bone, her lips. Anywhere but her eyes. "I never wanted to - "

I never wanted to hurt you.

"I know," she repeated, smoothing the hair along his temples before cupping his jaw, thumb stroking his cheek.

He exhaled and turned his head, kissing her palm.

"It's okay," she said, reassuring him.

He answered her with another kiss, lips lingering against the pad of her thumb.

"It's over, Shawn. Okay? We can move on. The bad part's over."

He nodded, eyes closed tightly. Juliet shifted off him, nestling against his side, and rested her head on his shoulder. Her hand slid across his chest and settled on his opposite shoulder, her thumb lazily stroking his collar bone.

Calm, safe, warm.

Shawn breathed deeply.

The bad part was over.