AN: No less than six people contacted me in the last week to see if I was still breathing. I am. They also asked if I'm still writing. Kindasorta. I still write, but not as often and not as quickly. I now delete two words out of three and still have to remove seven commas and twenty ellipses.

The following is a fluffy, smutty take-on-a-trope, with a wee bit of angst for garnish.

Not mine, no money.

Hermione Granger took her heaping plate and went and found a quiet place to hide. Up in the sitting room, she found Professor Snape, as expected, seated by himself at a small table in a shadowed corner. He was hungrily wolfing down the same appetizers that she found irresistible. She started in that direction, shoving another flaky chicken puff in her mouth.

In the years since the war, she and Snape had become allies of a sort in the annual torture of Harry's Phoenix Weekend. Every year around the anniversary of the last battle, Harry cleaned out the unused bedrooms in Grimmauld Place and invited the surviving members of the Order for fun, food, and friendship.

Hermione found them inescapably depressing.

Snape was inevitably dragged along by Minerva, and unless there was a meal, one rarely saw him out of his room. He was still a surly bastard, but these days she was on the inside of his barbed wit, sharing the humor, and not dangling on the pointy end like she most often had been in the past. They had developed something that could almost be described as friendship.

If you squinted.

"Hello, Professor, fancy seeing you here. May I join you?" She stuffed another bite into her mouth.

He lifted his gaze and stared at her for a moment, his eyes almost frighteningly intense, then he flicked his hand at the chair next to him and took another of the little meat pastries and popped it into his mouth.

"I see you've got some of Angelina's appetizers as well. It seems you and I are the only ones that like them." She sat down and balanced her plate on her lap, placing her wineglass on the table next to his. "They're quite good, aren't they?" She leaned closer and lowered her voice. "This is my second plate, to be honest."

His eyebrows rose. "Good heavens, Miss Granger. Where is your restraint?"

She blushed. "I had a busy day, and I was starving. Besides, you know these get-togethers make me miserable. Comfort food sounded more appealing than curling into a ball and rocking back and forth for three days. Honestly, if you can't avoid coming to these things, how can I expect to dodge it?"

He snorted and ate another puff. "Tell me about your busy day," he said, dabbing at his mouth and reaching for his wine. He shifted back in his chair and adjusted the folds of his robes. It struck her that he seemed unusually fidgety.

She tilted her head to the side. "Are you really interested?"

"No. I'm hoping you will be so obliging as to bore me into a coma, and thus shall I escape the sack race or balloon toss or whatever horror Potter has planned for after the meal."

She snorted and drank some wine. "Right. Well, where to begin? Let's see. I wasted three hours Flooing prospective landlords—"

"You're moving out?"

"Trying. I outgrew living with Harry and Ron a year ago. I've just been lazy. I was looking for new roommates, but I really just want peace and quiet, you know? At twenty-five, I'm a big girl now. I want my own flat.

"Then there's the matter of looking for a new job as well. I'm sick of working for the MLE. You only ever see the worst of humanity, and I want out before I turn into a nasty, antisocial harridan. I'm already half way there, but I blame it on my associating with you at these get-togethers." She smirked at him and it broadened into a smile when he chuckled quietly. She could still remember the first time she'd heard him chuckle. It was over a comment she'd made about Argus Filch. She couldn't for the life of her remember what it was she'd said, but she'd remembered her almost child-like joy at seeing him smile for the first time. That had been three years ago, now, and she could still count on one hand the number of smiles she'd seen since. Each one felt like a minor miracle.

"My biggest problem," she continued, "is I've absolutely no idea what else I want to do. I thought I might want to open a bookshop somewhere, but I'm not sure I could make a go of it. I fear the joy of owning a bookshop would sour the first time someone actually walked away with a book. I think I really just want to have a lot of books. Letting them go might be problematic."

He snorted again and set his wine down on the table. Picking up another chicken puff, he popped it into his mouth. As she watched him chew, it occurred to her that the way his jaw moved was strangely fascinating. She blinked several times and turned to her own food. She'd seen the man eat a hundred times, and yet, for some reason this time it seemed… excessively intimate. Sensual.

"What about you? What have you been up to?" she asked, stuffing another pastry in her mouth to cover for her flustered nerves.

"Peaceful nothingness," he replied with a pleasant sigh. "I try to make a point of doing fuck all for a week when the term is over. It doesn't always pan out that way, but this year I managed to squeeze in a bit of laziness. Monday I start a new research project."

"On what?"

"I've been doing some experimentation with utilizing Tattinger's Theorem as applied to bone regrowth. If my calculations prove correct, I can improve the efficacy on Skele-gro by thirty percent."

"That's fascinating!" she said, enthralled by the idea.

He darted a startled look at her, and then his eyes narrowed with suspicion.

"No, I'm serious," she said. "I think that's intriguing. I would love to hear how your experimentation works out." And she meant it. She pictured a friendly correspondence throughout the summer on the subject. Or even better, perhaps they could meet for tea regularly. Or dinner…

His head tilted to the side, and she saw a glint of confusion. He blinked several times and turned to his plate, reaching out and picking up another pastry. He broke it open slowly and smelled it.

Hermione shrugged and went to pop another puff in her mouth, but Snape grabbed her wrist and stopped her. The pastry fell out of her fingers and dropped to the floor, bouncing under the table by her feet. Her protest was aborted by the look of alarm on his face.

"Who did you say made these?" he hissed.

"Angelina Johnson. You remember her, surely? Captain of the Gryffindor team after Oliver Wood? George started dating her a couple of months back."

Snape's face flushed with anger, and his grip on her wrist grew uncomfortable. She tugged at it, and he looked at his own hand as if wondering what it was doing. He let go of her wrist with effort. "My apologies," he murmured. "But you don't want to eat any more of that."

"What's wrong?" she asked.

Snape wiped at his lips with his napkin, muttering to himself about being a dunderhead. "I suspect our truncated twin is finally back in form. I'm sorry, Miss Granger, I should have caught on to the taste sooner, but I, like yourself, was rather hungry." He stood up and snatched her plate from her hand, stacking it on top of his own. She was still watching him in shock as he stalked away with her food.

She wandered back down to the kitchen, curious as to what George had put in the food and wondering if there was anything to eat that hadn't been tainted. Even with as much as she'd already eaten, it seemed her appetite wasn't appeased. She tugged at the neck of her robes, feeling fidgety and overly warm.

"You did what?" Molly's cry could be heard throughout the house.

"Oh, come on, Mum! It was a joke! I didn't mess with everything."

"George Weasley, I should put you over my knee! You're a grown man! What made you do such a stupid thing?"

Hermione appeared in the kitchen to find George rolling his eyes and Angelina behind him trying to smother a laugh. Snape was staring at him with a thunderous expression.

It occurred to her for the first time that Snape had rather lovely posture. He stood straight and tall and held himself with immense dignity. And why was it she'd never really noticed just how regal his nose was before? Sure, it was large, but it was his nose. A smaller nose would just seem out of place. He had a face made for that nose.

"Hermione, dear, are you alright? I'm so sorry."


Snape turned to her when Molly said her name and Hermione was struck by just how dark and addictive his gaze was. Like unsweetened chocolate. She watched as his eyes widened just the slightest bit. His lips parted just… so.

Molly stepped between them and put the back of her hand to Hermione's forehead. "I think you should have a bit of a lie down. You look flushed." Molly looked back over her shoulder. "George put something in the food, but he won't admit what. Apparently, only you and Severus ate it. Merlin only knows what he's done to you."

Hermione blinked several times. She did feel overly warm. "I'm fine, Molly. No harm done yet."

"Are you sure?"

Snape walked closer and murmured, "Miss Granger. I think it would be for the best if you went and rested for a few hours." His voice skittered up and down her nerve endings, making her shudder as if from a chill. However, she merely grew warmer.

"Perhaps you're right," she said.

"Severus," Molly said, "can you escort her up the stairs? She looks a bit faint, and I have to put these pies in the oven before I beat my child. Call me if you start to break out in spots, or horns, or a tail," she added with a glare at George.

George and Angelina both dissolved into snorting giggles, earning a snarl of disgust from Molly and a look from Snape that should have been lethal for all the venom.

"I will deal with the two of you later," he hissed, taking Hermione's elbow.

She let him lead her up the three flights of stairs. The warmth of his hand on her arm made her body sing. She became acutely aware of the smell of him, a mixture of leather, herbs, and his own, distinct scent that she found overwhelmingly appealing. As they approached her bedroom door, his thumb started rubbing her arm in ever-widening circles. She stopped at her door and turned to look up at him, her entire being jolting at the sight. Snape was not a good-looking man, but at this moment in time, he was utterly compelling.

"Professor, what did George put in the food? I think you know."

He pulled his arm back with imperfectly concealed reluctance. "Powdered ashwinder eggs, Miss Granger." Her eyes widened in alarm, and he grimaced and nodded at her understanding. "I'm sorry," he said with feeling. "It will wear off in about six hours. Until then, I think it would be for the best if we both remained out of sight."

She pressed a hand to her belly. Merlin, she must have eaten a dozen of the damned things. "Yes, of course. I understand…"

He nodded again and backed away from her, his face barely masking his distress. Turning away in a mesmerizing swirl of robes, he headed down the hallway and into his own room, closing the door behind him quietly.

She heard a creak on the stairs and turned to find George and Angelina spying. "What the hell were you thinking? You should be ashamed!" she hissed.

"And you should be more observant," George replied cryptically before he and his girlfriend backed down the stairs laughing.

She spun on the spot and shoved open her bedroom door, banging it shut behind her. Ashwinder eggs! Of all the stupid—No wonder her mind had started to wander in such… strange directions. Gods, and she'd stuffed her face full while looking for Snape, of all people. She briefly thought about all the other men she might have accidentally imprinted on and shuddered. Snape was actually not the worst. By far.

Six hours. She just needed to get through six hours of wanting to shag Severus Snape. She shuddered. What an absurd thought.

Maybe she could just sleep the time away.

She looked at the clock. It was only half-past four in the afternoon.



The end of the first hour had found her restlessly reorganizing her bookshelves, separating her formerly beloved books into piles basically labeled 'useless', 'insipid', and 'not helping at all'. What the hell made her think romance novels were ever a good idea?

Hour two had her whipping open the door to her room with her towel in hand and stomping across the hall to take a shower. Ten minutes later, she stumbled back to her room on numb feet with her teeth chattering. It hadn't helped one jot. She stopped and stared down the hallway toward the door that hid the man that now consumed her every thought. She caught herself after two steps in that direction and fled into her room.

Hour three had her storming out the door to go track down George. She found him and Angelina in the library playing cards while everyone else was enjoying pie down in the kitchen. Except for Snape. Snape was in his room. Gagging for it. For her. Her elbow practically throbbed where he'd rubbed it with his thumb.

George's eyes widened when he saw her. She didn't blame him, she knew what she looked like when she charmed her hair dry, and she was sure her imminent dementia was written on her face.

"What did you mean when you said I should be more observant? Was there something about the chicken pastries I should have noticed? Or were you referring to the fact that no one else was eating them, and therefore, I should have suspected you were up to something?" She blurted her questions while pacing back and forth in front of the fireplace, alternating between wringing her hands and shaking them loose. George snorted, and Hermione whipped out her wand and whirled on him. "Look, you pillock, I just want a simple answer. You can tell me, or you can kiss your bits good bye!"

George covered the bits in question with a yelp.

"Tell her," his girlfriend said. "It's only fair."

"Alright! Fine! Lower your wand!"

Hermione did, but didn't put it away.

"I don't know why you're so blind. It's obvious to practically everyone else. He fancies you."

"Who? Snape? Of course he does! You poisoned the both of us while we were sitting next to each other. We imprinted on each other. It's not like he has a choice."

George rolled his eyes. "No, you dolt. He's fancied you for ages. Think about it, Granger! Why on earth would he come here for the weekend every year? Why does he always show up at the Burrow for Christmas dinner? Why on earth would he bother to attend Mum and Dad's anniversary party? Gods, Hermione, wake up! He only ever talks to you. He doesn't say a word to Harry, or any of the rest of us, aside from 'pass the potatoes.'"

Hermione pressed her hand to her chest to try and physically still her wildly beating heart. It had to be indigestion from the chicken with ashwinder curry. It couldn't be, well, anything else.

"Minerva drags him with her every year, you git. He never gets a choice in the matter. She says it's for his own good, though what good it does him to be trapped with you lot for a weekend is beyond me."

George smugly shook his head. "I asked. She stopped ordering him to come a long time ago. Snape comes on his own now."

Hermione digested that in silence for a moment before narrowing her eyes. "Even if that's true, and I'm nowhere near convinced you're not delusional, what the bloody hell made you think I returned his interest?"

He rolled his eyes. "The fact that you light up like a Christmas tree when he's here? The fact that you don't bother talking to anyone else when Snape does venture out of his room?"

"That's because he's interesting, you prat. It is possible to find someone interesting without wanting to sleep with them!"

George's face took on an expression of mock surprise. "It is?" he turned to his girlfriend. "Did you know this?"

Angelina widened her eyes and shook her head. "I had no idea. And here all this time I've been sleeping with everyone I found interesting."

"Me too!" He grinned at her and then waggled his eyebrows. "Another thing we have in common. That makes you rather more interesting, don't you think?"

Angelina gave him a wicked smile full of promise. "Indeed. I find you extremely interesting right this very minute."

George leered at her. "Want to go be interesting together?" he asked, placing his cards down and rising from the table.

"Absolutely," she replied. "I think this could be very interesting."

He took her hand and looked back at Hermione who was scowling at the both of them. "Time's wasting, Hermione. They say if you try to tough it out it only gets worse before the end."

She growled as they left and then fled back to her own room.

By the fourth hour she broke down and crawled under her blankets. As her fingers fumbled between her legs, her mind filled with thoughts of Snape. She replayed even the shortest interactions she'd ever had with him and expanded them into long, torrid fantasies. Each sad, little climax only brought a moment's relief. She didn't want fantasies, she wanted him. She wanted to feel his weight crushing her to the bed. Wanted to feel him deep inside. She wanted to know what he looked like when he lost control…

She eventually pushed the blankets off and jumped out of bed, slipping into her dressing gown before pacing in a tight circle

This was stupid. She was above this. She was the master of her own body, and she certainly didn't need Snape anywhere near it.

A brief flash of Snape mastering her body rushed into her mind, and she whimpered.

She'd never had any sort of romantic notion about the man before. In fact, it had never occurred to her that Professor Snape even had bits. She admired him, of course. Hell, she admired Arthur. That didn't mean she wanted to shag him. Snape was one of the few people in her acquaintance who could hold an interesting conversation on a wide variety of topics. Why wouldn't she look forward to him coming every time? And she liked being one of the few he would speak to. It validated some childish part of her that still wanted to be made to feel special. That's all. He was always a gentleman in a house with far too few. Thinking of him in this way was demeaning to the man.

Unless, of course, George had been right and she had been utterly blind. If Snape really did think of her that way, well, that changed things, didn't it? Did it? Or was this just the damned ashwinder eggs working their insidious magic? How could she tell in this state? She shook her head. She could handle this. All she needed to do was make it through another two hours.

Maybe three, she did eat nearly two platefuls.

Her body started to thrum again, and all her rationale went out the window. Gods, she would sacrifice an entire tribe of Weasleys to feel Snape's hands on her skin. She groaned her frustration aloud.

There was a creak outside her door, and she froze. Had that been too loud? Did someone hear her? Was it Snape? Oh, gods, was it?

She darted across the room and whipped open her door.

It was.

Oh, Merlin. He was a sight to behold.

He was leaning back against the wall across from her door, with his hands shoved in his pockets and his shoulders hunched around his neck. He wore a white linen shirt, improperly buttoned as if it had been thrown on in haste, black trousers, and nothing else. The sight of his bare feet made her belly flip and her knees weak.

His eyes burned into hers, and she saw an echo of her own madness, along with a brutal longing. He said nothing, but as he stared at her, his breathing grew heavier. Somehow, his flaring nostrils were the deciding factor.

She silently stepped back and held the door open in invitation. He didn't move for long enough to make her insecure, and then he pushed off the wall and slowly closed the distance like a panther.

She swallowed around the lump of desire in her throat as he pulled the door out of her hand. He closed it, locked it, and soundproofed the room, before turning to face her.

"Miss Granger, I overheard your conversation in the library earlier. I am aware that this is not something you desire."

She let out a hysterical giggle. "Lack of desire is really not an issue at the moment."

He grimaced and scrubbed his hand through his hair—was it damp? Had he resorted to a cold shower too?—before reaching out and poking her temple with a light touch. "I meant in here." He tapped her sternum. "Or here."

She flushed and clenched her fists, her body on fire from such a simple touch. How could he seem so rational? Her eyes traced one of his long locks of hair down to the tip, and she understood. It was quivering. The man was positively vibrating with pent-up need and yet was doing his damndest to keep control.

"Yes, well, that goes for both of us, I'm sure," she said. Her mouth was almost too dry to speak. Her voice caught and broke on the words. "Despite what George may think."

A muscle jumped in his jaw, and his eyes shuttered before he gave her one sharp jerk of his head in agreement. He tightened his hands into fists and squared his shoulders. "This isn't inevitable," he said. "I can render you unconscious until the morning. You will wake and be yourself again. Untouched," he stressed.

Relief flooded her at this option until she saw the flaw in the plan. "But what about you? Who will you get to Stupefy you? Molly? Surely not George…"

He grimaced, curling his lip at George's name. "I'm sure Minerva would understand and be discrete."

She nodded. "Alright then. That's a much better plan than shagging like rabid nifflers because we were compelled to."

He gestured towards her bed. "Perhaps you would like to make yourself comfortable. Dropping you to the floor seems a little excessive."

She nodded and turned, and he followed, lightly taking her elbow again and setting her body on fire. She stopped and stared down at his hand, finely shaped and elegant, despite the small scars from nicks and burns. A potion maker's hands. Beautiful hands.

His fingers withdrew slowly, a hint of a caress in their retreat, and she looked at his flushed face. "My apologies," he rasped. "I wasn't thinking…"

She blinked slowly. "I understand." Her eyes went to the wildly beating pulse at his throat. A pulse that was far, far too close to the ghost of a wound that should have killed him. This visible reminder of how close she'd come to losing him without ever having the chance to know him stabbed at her.

She reached her hand up toward the scar, and he flinched away. "No, don't," he rasped. "Don't touch me…" She snatched her hand back as his face scrunched up in torment. "We're being idiotic. Let me go call Minerva now. I can't—" He twisted away from her with effort. "I just can't," he spat, heading toward the door.

It was a sign of how far around the bend they'd gone that he grabbed the knob and pulled. When it didn't give, he jerked at it several times and then pounded the door with the flat of his hand. He spun around and stared at her with wide-eyed panic, his back pressed up against the door, and she reached out to soothe him. "You warded it. It's just locked," she whispered. "It's alright. Just use your magic." His shoulder was trembling violently under her hand.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath as she pulled her hand back, rubbing her thumb across her palm to feel the trace of warmth from him.

"I'm sorry," he said, pulling out his wand. "I'm not… thinking. I didn't—I didn't even think of asking Minerva for help until after I got here. I really just couldn't—" He sighed and opened his eyes. "—take it," he admitted with obvious difficulty. "I was weak."

She smiled and nodded. "Believe me, I understand. I know you don't really want me, we're just victims here."

His face scrunched up, and he let out a breathy, tittering laugh as he turned around to face the door. He lifted his wand but a sudden impulse made her push his wrist against the door, stopping him. "Do you?" she asked, shamelessly stroking her fingers across his skin. He felt like he was made of burning velvet. "Want me?"

He hesitated, as bemused by her fingers as she was. "Under the circumstances, your question is ludicrous," he replied in a distracted tone.

She tugged at his wrist, urging him to face her. He wouldn't.

"This was wrong," she whispered. Again, that sharp jerk of his head was his answer. "But you are here," she whispered, "and it seems I'm having a difficult time letting you go."

He moved his arm, pulling hers around him and cradled it to his chest as he pressed his forehead against the door. She could feel his rapid heartbeat under her wrist. "Miss Granger—"

"Hermione," she whispered.

He repeated her name like a soft as a prayer or a plea as his voice sizzled across her nerve endings, sending her nearly out of control. Without turning around, he tucked her hand into his misbuttoned shirt and pressed it against his skin. A quiet breathy moan escaped her, and she stepped forward to press herself against his back. Reaching her other hand around his slim torso, she began to unbutton his shirt, stopping after each button to run her hands across his hot skin. When it fell open, she pressed her face between his shoulders. He arched back against her with a hiss as she slid her hands up his hard stomach. When she stroked her fingers across his chest, lingering on his tightened nipples, she heard his wand clatter to the floor. He began to pant. "Yes, yessss, touch me… I'll do anything you want, just… touch me…"

Her mouth dropped open, and she found herself struggling to breathe. The ragged tone of his voice seemed to spear right to her core. Sliding one hand lower, she let out a long breath as she stroked him through his trousers. He mewled and captured her hand, pressing it harder against him as he bucked against her. She began to pull at the buttons on his trousers, but he twisted like a cat and then his arms were around her and his lips were at her neck. The sound of his hoarse breathing in her ear, the feel of his warm mouth against her skin, and she was lost. She pulled at him, hands skittering along his hard angles.

She grabbed his face and brought it to her mouth and their kiss seemed to burn her from within.

He broke away, eyes still closed, and in a harsh voice said, "Christ, you're so lovely…" He kissed her roughly then, pulling her up against his hard body while one hand tugged at her belt. Her dressing gown fell open, and she cried out when she felt his touch on her flesh. His breath leaked out in a long, low, groan, and his eyes grew hooded as he reverently curled his hand around a breast. She moaned softly and pushed herself into his hand. A quick shrug and her dressing gown slipped to the floor; a feral sound escaped his throat. Pulling her up against his chest, he kissed her throat, whispering, "Tell me what you want. I can make love to you," his hand slid down and cupped her between her legs, sliding a finger through her wet folds, "or I can just fuck you."

Her need answered. "I don't have any patience left," she whispered, grinding against his hand.

He growled and reached around, grabbing her arse and lifting her up. Once she had her legs wrapped around his waist, he started across the floor. She was barely conscious of what he was doing or where he was going, all she could think about was the rock hard lump pressing against her. Her stomach swooped as he sat down on the end of the bed. Holding her tight with one arm around her back, his mouth found her breast as he fumbled with his trousers.

"Lift up," he demanded between achingly sweet, wet kisses.

She rose up on her knees and looked down to see him pull his cock out of his pants. Her breath left her in a rush and her body seemed to want to float up off the bed. She was sure that at any other time, her thoughts would fall somewhere along the lines of, 'Oh, my god! Why is Professor Snape holding his cock?' However, all she could think in that moment was, 'Yes, that! I want that! Gimme! Now! Yes! Oh, that's lovely…'

He stroked himself against her folds, his breath a harsh rasp, and then settled himself into position. "Do it," he rasped.

She lowered herself down and closed her eyes as he stretched her open and filled her. They both moaned, and he fell back onto the bed, pulling her with him. She sprawled across his chest as he thrust into her slowly. When she groaned, she felt him throb deep inside her.

"So good," he growled. "I knew you would feel this good."

"I needed you to feel this good," she replied, kissing his chest. She pushed up and stroked his narrow body, watching the pale flesh pebble under her touch. There were fine black hairs scattered across it, growing thicker over his sternum before they skittered down his body to where they were joined. She stroked his silky skin as he lifted her hips and settled her back down. Smiling, she took over the pace, watching the tendons stand out as he twisted his head up and back. His ink black hair spilled across her white sheets as he bucked up into her.

"Faster," he begged in a breathy rush.

She complied with a whispered, "Harder." He planted his feet on the floor, and the madness began in earnest. She held him down with as much force as he used to slam her onto his cock. Her eyes slid closed and let her mind slip free as they shagged like mindless animals. She was only aware of sensation, the feel of him inside of her, the slightly calloused hands on her skin, the fold of sheet under her knee, slowly growing uncomfortable, the sweat starting to roll down her temples, between her breasts. All the while he cursed and growled and thrashed under her. His hands gripped her thighs, caressed her belly, tweaked a nipple, or dug into her back, as he began to chant, "Come for me... "

Her climax danced just out of reach until she opened her eyes and saw him fighting against his own. His crooked teeth were clenched together as if he were trying to stave off death itself for her. When she saw that, her body shuddered and she cried out, "Yes!"

His eyes flew open just before hers slammed shut, and she threw her head back and howled. His own cry joined hers, and she felt his body shake under her as he came. Her body roiled with waves of ecstasy that slowly faded to a subtle, pulsating hum. She dropped down until she was lying on his chest, and he wrapped his arms around her, gasping for breath. She licked the salty sweat from his collarbone, waiting to feel him soften and slip out of her. It didn't happen. He stroked her hair, her back, her arse, and then, slowly, gently, he stroked his hard cock into her again. She blinked in confusion, feeling hot liquid spilling out of her.

"I thought you came," she said, pushing up to look into his face. His stringy hair was plastered to his cheek, and she pulled at the lock curling into the corner of his gently smiling mouth. What a beautiful mouth he had…

A pained chuckle died before it got anywhere. "I did. I've done several times in the last few hours. I thought it would stop if you were really in my arms."

The very idea of this man taking himself in hand over her sent a shiver through her frame. "How much longer do we have?" she asked.

He shrugged, an odd mannerism for him, she thought. "I've no idea what all that arsehole put in with it." He lifted a hand and stroked it down her face, a clumsy, awkward movement. "Are you… better now?" he asked. "I can leave." He grimaced in embarrassment. "It's not as… dire."

She tilted her head to the side, listening to the inaudible thrum of her body. "No," she said. "I don't think I'm done yet either."

She slid up his body and kissed his parted lips, and he let out a long, sweet sigh before he kissed her back.

He tangled his hands into her hair and kissed her as they shifted until she was lying back on the pillow with him lying on top of her. Holding her face still, he deepened the kiss to a level they hadn't gone to yet, a slow, sensual reawakening of the fire, a steady burn now, rather than a mindless, incinerating need. Together, they wriggled him out of his wrinkled shirt and trousers, while constantly coming back to that same tone of kiss. When he lowered his head to her breast, the burn kicked back up to an inferno.

AN: For anyone that has been hiding under a rock, Caeria's Pet Project, seven years in the writing, is now complete. Best. Fanfic. Ever. Go read. That story inspired me to start writing in the first place.