A/N: Quick posting as a belated birthday ficlet for I-can-if-I-want-to... A little bit of fluff. Thanks to Pemonynen for the polish!

Enjoy! :)


Cooled By Night

Mary sat by the window, glaring accusingly up at the stars as she wafted the fan beneath her throat. It was nighttime, and nighttime was supposed to be cooler, in her mind at least, only it wasn't at all. The muggy heat that had pervaded the day, uncommonly warm even for June, seemed only to have intensified as night had fallen.

Damn the stars, damn the summer, damn this stifling nightdress, damn the... No, not that. Never that. With her other hand she stroked her belly gently, the large swell taut beneath the silk of her nightdress, and sighed, tried to sit up a little straighter as she knew that slumping as she was would only make her hotter. She felt the weight of her hair over her shoulder, clinging to her neck. Closing her eyes, she tried to focus instead on the pressure beneath her palm, purposefully calming her thoughts and gently rubbing to soothe the restless baby in her womb. It didn't seem to help at all.

She heard soft footfalls and the door, quietly opening then closing, and then a pause. Her eyes snapped open to see Matthew, watching her, always with that same guarded sympathy in his expression.

Gently he began, "How do you-"

"How do you think?" she snapped back, gesturing to herself. She could feel the faint sheen of sweat upon her skin, suffocating her, each waft of the fan only making her warmer with the effort it took.

Matthew licked his lips, and she saw his fingers flex as he came towards her and crouched by her side. Briefly she supposed that he must feel just as irritable as she did, between the heat and her own behaviour, but he disguised it with slightly more success. The thought did not help ease her frustration. "Please Matthew, don't crowd me," she sighed, her hand closing over his on her belly, unsure whether she wanted to push him away or hold him there fast.

As he leaned nearer, his soft lips peppering gentle kisses along her jaw, she felt him smile. She tilted her head, angling away from the heat he aroused, only for him to take advantage of the movement as his mouth caressed her slender neck.

"I'm helping," he murmured, teasing away tendrils of hair that clung to her skin as he kissed, and kissed.

"You're not..."

"I'm trying to..."

She huffed out a wry laugh and pushed him away, wondering whether irritation or desire was the stronger feeling within her. Either way, it wasn't fair of him to kiss her like that when he knew perfectly well she felt like this, and she felt her cheeks flush.

"You're not. You're not helping and you're not trying to. Now think of something more useful to help me to cool down, or go away."

Glaring at him with a challenge in her eyes, daring him to make such a move again, she waited as he rocked back on his heels and pursed his lips. Staring at him made her boil with frustration even more, his floppy hair and annoyingly endearing smile, the fact that their baby was growing within her but he was perfectly unaffected and she must suffer like this. More so, the fact that her hands were so restless, torn between dragging him to her in passion and slapping him away. Good God, it was insufferable.

At last Matthew smiled, his eyes twinkling with purpose.

"Come and lie down, and take off your nightdress." He stood up, meaning her to follow.

"A sensible suggestion, Matthew, please!" she sighed, despairing of him. She thought she might cry. Damn.

"Trust me," he said softly.

"It's cooler by the open window. And no." If he was honestly trying to seduce her, now...

"Darling... please, trust me," he said again, more softly. His voice was a caress, coupled with his fingers brushing her cheek, tenderly sweeping back her hair. "I'm trying to help, really I am."

She frowned up at him, but saw no sign of teasing, only gentleness and care.

"Alright," she murmured as she let him help her to her feet. "But you must turn the light off and not look, and I'm getting under the covers."

He only chuckled, placing a soft kiss on her lips before walking away to the dresser.

While he busied himself with... something... Mary made her way to the bed and tried to lift her nightdress. The silk clung to her skin, and she struggled, feeling like an unwieldy elephant as she struggled to work it up. When she felt his hands close over hers, trying to help, her first instinct was to bat them away, unable to bear him seeing her like this.

"Matthew-"

"My eyes are quite closed, I promise."

She stilled, considering this for a moment. She trusted Matthew's promise... Over the smallest thing, even something as small as closing his eyes, she trusted him never to lie. So she relaxed, or tried to as much as she could, raising her arms as he lifted the garment over her head and off, his hands fumbling without sight. "Alright," he whispered, and she climbed into bed.

Once she'd clambered in, twisted with some difficulty onto her back, and pulled the cotton sheets up to cover her, she glanced up at Matthew.

His eyes were still closed, a gentle, fond smile tugging at his lips. She felt a fierce ache of love in her chest, almost enough to forget the heat and her discomfort, almost... but not quite.

"Alright, I'm ready," she whispered, stroking reflexively over her belly, soothing, herself as much as the baby. Matthew nodded.

She watched him go back to the dresser, and pick up a basin of water, and a cloth. He brought them and placed them on the bedside cabinet, before perching on the bed beside her, taking her hand and rubbing his thumb across her fingers.

Without saying anything, he dipped the cloth into the bowl, wrung it out, and dabbed it across her forehead. The water was cool, a heavenly balm, and Mary's eyes slipped closed as she sighed. Instantly the burn of heat and irritation was a little less fierce, and she felt herself begin to relax.

"How's that, darling?" Matthew murmured, dampening the cloth again and touching it to her cheeks, and again to her forehead, dabbing away the unpleasantly sticky sweat that had beaded there.

"Better... thank you..."

"Good."

He smiled as he continued to bathe her, cooling her forehead, her throat, her collarbone, shivering as her hand instinctively rested on his knee and began a gentle caress in her pleasure.

Mary felt her breaths deepen, her body relax, as Matthew tended to all of her skin that he could reach. He was such a darling, she thought... So kind, so thoughtful, so caring after all she did was snap at him... And then he stopped.

She opened one eye, peered up at him, and saw him blush.

"What?" she murmured.

He seemed hesitant. "Well there's... not a great deal more I can do, darling, um... unless..." His fingers played along the edge of the sheets over her chest, barely dipping beneath.

Mary felt her chest tighten, frustrated by his hesitation even though she knew it was only borne of her own unpredictable mood. Usually he wouldn't have hesitated, wouldn't have any qualm in teasing the sheet down to expose her body, and taking pleasure in it. God, she wanted to kick him for it, or herself for having forced such modesty on him, and she took several deep breaths to calm down. Already the skin he'd so tenderly cooled with the washcloth was beginning to heat again, she felt stifled and trapped beneath the sheets. Her voice trembled with restraint.

"For God's sake, Matthew, please just-"

"Alright, alright," he whispered, leaning down to gently kiss the frustration from her lips as his hands moved, slipping the sheet down her body. Her fingers wound into his hair, and though she felt nothing more than chaste sweetness in his kisses, suspecting he meant it as proof as much as anything that he still wasn't looking, it suddenly wasn't enough. Didn't he want to kiss her like this? She tugged him closer, a soft groan of satisfaction as his mouth opened to hers, knowing the moment he gave in to it, his tongue caressing hers with ardent insistence.

Then her hand gripped his wrist. His lips slipped from hers, shining softly in the moonlight, as he blinked down at her in question.

"It's only fair," she said, "if you expect me to be naked, that you are too."

She could have laughed at his little indignant splutter, as she finally began to forget the heat and her discomfort in favour of teasing her husband.

"But darling, I was only trying to - to cool you down, I hadn't meant anything - like that, unless you... wanted."

Now she did laugh, a little chuckle that bubbled from her chest. Dear, sweet Matthew, always thinking just of her, trying so hard to cater to her changeable moods and always finding himself half a step behind.

She shrugged. "I want you to carry on... and just looking at you in those dark pyjamas is making me dreadfully warm, so it's only fair if you take them off as well."

He paused a moment, before licking his lips.

"Right, then."

He stood, and did so, quickly shedding the dark blue silk to the floor along with her nightdress, blushing as Mary approvingly scrutinised him. She didn't mind her exposure now, felt less vulnerable about it in the darkness and as he matched her nakedness, and held her hand out to invite him back to the bed.

With a gentle sigh, he calmly wrung out the cloth and began to bathe her again. Mary closed her eyes, feeling as though she were somehow floating and sinking, somewhere between the soft mattress and the cool dampness that worked down the centre of her chest. Darling Matthew, she couldn't blame his confusion at her behaviour, as she suffered just as much herself. He bathed each point of pressure, carefully, tenderly... Her rounded belly, her hips, her thighs, her forehead again, and it was heavenly until she began to ache in all those places he hadn't yet touched. Growing heat within her began to balance out the coolness of his ministrations, a delicious tension that made her sigh and shiver.

And then she felt... something warmer, softer, following the path of washcloth down her body. One eye cracked open, to see Matthew bent and lavishing kisses after each sweep of coolness, and the summer night air chilled the dampness on her skin from the water and his mouth. Her lips parted into a sigh as her back gently arched, and her fingers flexed on the sheets. He must have heard her, her sigh becoming the softest moan, as the washcloth lay forgotten and pressed beneath his palm on the bed as he bathed her with kisses instead.

He covered the large swell of her belly with tender kisses, his hand stroking softly, and Mary smiled as she felt the baby calm beneath the soothing pressure of his hand and mouth.

"Matthew..." she sighed, touching his shoulder and noticing the contours of his muscle highlighted by the stars from the window, shifting as the ache of desire began to outweigh anything else, the ache that demanded sating.

He hummed against her skin, shifted higher, and she gasped as his mouth closed upon her breast, his lips parting again for his tongue to tease her.

He teased her, with his mouth, his fingers, his body, until her whole being was wracked with an ache of devastating pleasure. Though her condition made things more difficult, they were mindful of it, and in their passion the stifling heat of the night was forgotten. Soon it was overtaken by the heat of desire that begged for satisfaction, answered by his skin against hers, by the tight grip of fingers and quick, desperate movements that wrought out gasps from lips pressed to dampened skin, rising to a swift, heady crescendo that left them faint and breathless.

Then they lay nestled together, sweat cooling their skin more naturally, her fingers combing through his damp, messy hair as he pressed languid kiss after languid kiss to the hot skin of her neck. She smiled at the tender caress of his hand over her belly, cradling the promise of their baby that lay within.

"Thank you," she murmured, past barely parted lips. "I don't mean to be so cross at everything. But with it being so hot, and baby so restless..."

"I understand," Matthew chuckled, and leaned up upon his elbow to smile down at her, his hand still gently stroking, stroking. "So don't be sorry, darling. It's not long now, is it, and it'll be worth it. I mean it, every moment. I wouldn't change anything."

"Oh, Matthew." She took his face in her hands, and pulled him down into a slow, gentle kiss. He was right, of course, and she adored him for it... though if perhaps she could change one thing, just one, it'd be the damned heat... And just then, beyond the soft sounds of their lips teasing together, and their breath, there came another sound, just quietly.

Through the open window, she realised. It had begun to rain.

Fin


A/N: Thank you so much for reading! :) I'd love to know what you thought!