Whenever she stopped to think about why she did it, she told herself that it was about regaining control, because she hadn't felt anything faintly resembling that in such a long time. Every morning she told herself that this had to stop, that she needed to step up, to get a handle on her life and mold it into something she could approve of, but it was easier said than done. It couldn't just be solved by clicking one's fingers; this was a process, and there were several stops in the complicated path of reclaiming herself. Besides, she had already managed to do the hardest thing, leaving Alex, physically extracting herself from under that long, seductive shadow. And yet, managing her life was proving to be much tougher than she'd imagined, which was frustrating, because it implied that she still hadn't washed Alex Vause out of her system.

At one point she had likened their shared bond to an invisible string connecting them, a string whose strength could have faded over time, but which apparently was elastic enough to endure her march out of the Parisian apartment and even her trip home. She was doing her best to make it snap, though, since it was no use distancing herself physically. She was trying to erase every trace of the dark-haired woman by auto-medicating herself with a steady flow of booze, some occasional stimulating complements, and the use of other bodies to rub her out of her skin.

Those exorcising activities made her feel insecure at times, because there was a very thin line between that stage in the process of repossessing her own life and simply indulging in an assortment of nightly activities to avoid the fear and emptiness brought on by having walked away from the person she had dubbed as her home, the person who had taken care of her and been her one and only constant through that ever-changing backdrop. And now it was the other way around; while the streets and bars were always the same, the people were different. The planet didn't seem to spin quite as fast now, so there was generally more time to think - which could be nice, yes, only that sometimes… sometimes it made Alex's absence stand out more obviously, and she needed to avoid that.

Strolling around the terrace of the nightclub, where people had drifted to escape the suffocating atmosphere of the inside and the loudness of its music, or simply to have a smoke, Piper distanced herself from her group, all the while taking big sips from a newly acquired drink. It was no wonder that her every acquaintance believed that she had lost her mind at least a little during her mysterious travels, if not before, since she had returned as suddenly as she had left, and without offering a single explanation. Furthermore, Piper knew that there were instances where she was unrecognizable even to herself, moments when her jumpy spirit refused to settle here or there and was all over the place, because she hadn't yet decided, she hadn't found her "thing" yet, and sometimes it showed.

But having a crazy Piper was definitely better than having no Piper at all, Polly had indeed told her, and Piper guessed that that was exactly what everyone else was thinking, including her family. The secondary aspect of which Piper was going to end up coming out was her problem - a matter still filed under an "under construction" sign in her mind. Even so, Polly had expressed her opinion loudly and clearly, as was her custom, appointing hgerself as an example, claiming that what Piper really needed was stability, which by the way was the grownup thing to do now, especially after her lust-driven, adolescence-revival escapade. The blonde usually scoffed at such an oversimplified caption, but wouldn't it make things easier if she could get it into her head that it had been a little fluke, just a tiny glitch in the much larger, remaining scope of her life? That was something which she found easy to do, taking a promising statement and reorganizing it, polishing it until she found it aesthetically pleasing and could be interiorized as the truth, because it sounded better.

Several people had approached her on the terrace, of course, complimenting her on an array of physical features ranging from her eyes -which were presently inexpressive- to her smile -which was currently inexistent-, but that was how it worked sometimes: the more lost and detached you looked, the more they hit on you, interpreting the fact that you were alone as a flaw, because how could anyone want that? Wasn't any company better than none? But Piper did not wish to be rescued; she could settle for a distraction, though, if an interesting, good-looking one did present itself. She hadn't been trying to replicate what she'd had with Alex, nor did she go out partying in the hopes of finding pale imitations. On the contrary; she wanted nothing to do with those ghosts of feelings from the past; they were too painful. And besides, she couldn't even picture herself being with someone forever - how could she, after having spent month on top of month building foundationless constructions in the clouds? To her, "forever" still implied a bottomless pit, a cage of time, a vast extension of space with nonstop flashes of country after country, of planes, trains, and buses, of hotel rooms, swimming pools, and beaches. Paradoxically, she found such immensity asphyxiating. The fact that it was all so terribly temporary could be a relief sometimes.

How she had felt so completely safe standing on the edge of a gigantic cliff remained a mystery. That was just how Alex had made her feel, but it didn't make sense now, looking back. It hadn't been a thing of logic. What Polly had meant was another kind of security, the kind that wouldn't backfire.

Contemplating the thankfully starless sky of the city, Piper spotted a distant spark of light between the rooftops, and then another, and another, varying in color and size. Fireworks, she noted, shaking her head with disapproval, but at least all she needed to do to ignore them was divert her gaze, since they were too far away to be heard even over the muffled music. Her eyes casually fell over someone who was already looking at her, and who took the chance to approach her and ask her if she wanted a drink. Piper raised her tall glass, indicating that she already had one, and thanked them anyway, inevitably wondering if, as a side effect to what had happened to her, she had completely lost the capacity of being bashful. She believed she possessed a certain degree of worldliness now, after everything, although she couldn't help but imagine how Alex would laugh at her for daring to presume that.

It had taken absolutely everything in her to leave their apartment in Paris, everything, even if she had already made up her mind, because if she hadn't made herself do it, who knew if she would've been able to gather enough willpower again. It had been necessary for her to distance herself so much from what was going on and wherever her feelings were located to be able to speak and act coolly. So much, that it appeared as if she'd been looking at everything through the wrong end of a telescope. In a way, she still was.

Since she had rejected the offer of a drink, the person asked her if she wanted to go inside and dance instead. Nodding and finding her smile, Piper agreed to follow the person back into the club, and allowed their balmy hands around her waist.

The dense obscurity of the place swallowed her, as the combination of electric green and red spotlights made every movement seem robotic instead of fluid, broken down by very brief periods of darkness. She finished her drink and ventured further within the ragged wave of jumping and dancing bodies, wanting to reach the crowd's core. She found that she was comfortable there, sufficiently distracted by the ambiance, the music, and the person. As the pink and blue lasers illuminated the floating specks of dust around her head, she was reminded of something, something she would rather not be thinking about, but there it was, involuntarily responsible for making her feel warm inside and proving that she wasn't yet completely free.

The wooden floorboards of the cabin squeaked, announcing the brunette's proximity, so Piper wasn't surprised when Alex's strong arms circled her waist from behind and pulled her close. Piper felt the woman's bare stomach against her naked back, vibrating with that deep, charming laughter of hers. Realizing that she was laughing too, the blonde leaned into Alex and closed her eyes for a moment, all at once overthrown by how content and satisfied she was. Smiling, she looked down at Alex's arms, crossed over her stomach, and rubbed her hands over them, smearing the countless droplets of water sprinkling the woman's skin.

She couldn't quite believe all the magic she had seen and experienced in the sea -the bright, minuscule explosions of blue frantically shaking before her eyes-, and yet she had to wonder if every single one of those breathtaking things she had witnessed during that seemingly never-ending trip would've been half as fantastic without Alex there to show them to her, to explain them, and basically to be there with her, holding her hand and doing… other things - marvelous, arresting, mind-crumbling things which only heightened what she already felt.

Because this thing between them wasn't only based on lust - that much was already clear and was something which she admitted on a daily basis; it was much more complex, even though the tiny hairs covering her skin were but scrap metal to the magnets of Alex's hands. The pure chemistry kept them seeking each other, yes, but there had also been an undeniable affection from the beginning, as well as a secret need of getting inside the other person's head. Piper could only admire Alex's mind, which was able to surprise her on a daily basis. This was someone who had captivated her from the very start by being completely different to everyone she had ever met, by teasing Piper's nervous, dissolved self with her sense of security, of knowing exactly who she was and her place in the world. Then came the books, the art house movies, the music, and the constant travelling, although the brunette kept saying that this was only the beginning. There was always more to do, more to see. And who would've thought, after contemplating the very real eruption of an actual volcano?

No, by showing her this magical phosphorescence, the brunette had more than proven her point and, just as she'd done with every other experience, she had complemented it and expressed her joy in a physical way. For Piper, Alex's striking physicality was a source of both excitement and comfort. The way she used it to her advantage made her appear even taller, but never clumsy, and the way she moved was controlled but fluid, almost feline, so one could never call it fake. And within that sometimes confusing whirlpool of control and sincerity, Piper found that she was safe.

They were both drenched and dripping all over the cabin's floor. As Alex rested her chin on her shoulder, several strands of raven hair fell from behind her ear and touched Piper's parted lips, leaving a salty taste. The blonde spun around and pressed her mouth and her entire body against Alex, who welcomed her eagerly, albeit apparently unable to suppress a chuckle. She invariably seemed to find Piper's forwardness funny, whenever it presented itself.

"You want something, babe?" the brunette asked humorously, her words muffled by their uninterrupted kisses.

"What do you think?"

Of course she did; she wanted everything; she felt capable of everything. And right at that moment, she wanted all of Alex. Again. She slipped her fingers under the straps of the brunette's bikini and pulled them down slowly, earning a surprised, throaty giggle from the woman. But the move proved to be effective, making Alex drag her to the bed, while their hands removed each other's bikinis, which landed on the floor with a series of soggy splats.

She climbed on top of Alex, pressing her hips between her legs, which were already spread open, and enjoying the brunette's reacting gasp. However, when she was about to repeat the movement, Alex slid her hands under her arms and turned her over, getting on top.

"Al?" she was able to mutter, but the brunette had already started kissing her before her head hit the pillow.

Alex captured Piper's lower lip between her teeth and released it very slowly, frustratingly so, making the blonde whimper. Indeed, the brunette appeared to be in no rush as she traced Piper's lips with her tongue and raked her skin with the tips of her fingers, so for the moment she had no other option but to calm down and adjust to Alex's pace. She felt her own heart beating fast against the other woman's chest, and knew that Alex could feel it too, as she could surely perceive that she was taking increasingly short, quick breaths. That didn't make her hurry, though, as she kissed under her chin and started an unknown, invisible trail with her lips and her tongue, painfully focusing on every tiny curve and dimple.

"You okay?" Alex whispered, when she reached her belly button, about a million years later.

"Am I…?" she shook her head. "Jesus! Just come here!"

The blonde sat up, innerved by her own desire, and even more so because she knew that Alex found it hilarious on top of cute, which only made her want to torture her more. Chuckling, the woman met her at the center of the bed and sat in front of her, surrounding her hips with her legs. And, when Piper embraced her and kissed her furiously, sinking her fingers into her black hair -so that there was no doubt of what she wanted-, Alex finally stopped being so delicate. She found Piper's tongue with her own and, covering her breasts with her hands, replicated the circular movements that she was drawing inside her mouth.

Piper moaned against the other woman's lips, frowning with temporary satisfaction. She cupped Alex's breasts, echoing what was being done to her, and enjoying how they slipped between her fingers, since they were still quite wet. In a way it was as if they were still submerged in the water, with the sensation of being completely alone in the world but still clinging to each other. She scooted closer to the brunette, who immediately hoisted her so that she was straddling her thighs, and kept a hand on the underside of Piper's ass to caress that very sensitive area. Alex then moved her hand between her legs and stroked Piper's lips so very lightly that it made her cry out before even understanding why.

"Well aren't we on edge?" Alex said, mockingly. "What is it babe?"

"Please, Alex," she begged, grabbing onto her black hair to prevent the woman from diving into her neck. She wanted to look her in the eye.

With her blazing pupils, Alex was wordlessly confirming that she was just as desirous, but she did like her little power games, so she was pulling off an otherwise innocent expression. Her hands were telling another story, though, drawing agonizing shapes and dipping between Piper's lips. It made her painfully aware of how wet she already was, how ready for more, and so she instinctually -but naively- tried to increase the contact and rhythm by gyrating her hips.

"Oh, you wanted this?" Alex asked, giving in for just a second before going back to teasing.

Nodding, Piper then tried to grab the brunette's wrist to hold it in place, but Alex trumped her intentions again by pushing her back down on the bed and getting on top of her to make sure she stayed there. Piper held her hands up before her face, showing them to Alex so that there remained no doubt that she was surrendering; she didn't want to be "punished" further for lack of cooperation.

The brunette bowed her head to kiss her, apparently pleased at last, and Piper attempted to adapt more successfully to the deliberate unhurriedness which Alex was setting for them. She slowed down her breathing, like she did whenever she woke up first and didn't wish to disturb Alex, and dragged her fingers up and down her back, coaxing her but in a gentle manner. When the woman's hands returned to her body, she acknowledged that Alex's kisses were imbued with… something, something which she had only recently dared to label as love. And, desperate as she'd been to get fucked -because she hadn't known real lust, or that it could be awoken so easily, until she'd met that woman-, she was also aware of a shared yearning for more, for something deeper.

As she kissed and licked the saline taste off of Alex's neck, she understood - and, as was usually the case with most major truths, it was very simple, really.

"I want you."

"Well, you got me, kid," Alex said, raising her head to look at her, with a candid smile, unusually devoid of sarcasm.

She nodded again and closed her eyes, feeling drunk. That was one of the effects of being around Alex, and it had nothing to do with the fact that they generally did drink a lot of alcohol, since she was entirely capable of distinguishing between the two types of inebriation. The dark-haired woman took it as a go-ahead signal, and recommenced her winding route down Piper's body, using only her mouth, since she had grasped both her hands and interlocked their fingers. But Alex's mouth by itself was more than enough: a very warm piece of heaven rolling down her body - biting her sides, licking and sucking on her breasts, and kissing her lower belly, applying a maddening, very deliberate pressure there.

Missing the contact of Alex's body, Piper grabbed a handful of black hair and deterred Alex's inevitable downwards journey. The brunette looked up at her expectantly, with her eyebrows raised, but not saying anything. She was letting her tell her what she wanted, which Piper guessed wasn't something the brunette was very used to doing, but at that very moment she could read such openness in her eyes that it was somewhat overwhelming. And what she'd meant by "I want you" was the basic need to feel the physical expression of their connection.

"Come here," Piper said, again, but with a very different, deeper tone. And when Alex started crawling up her body, the blonde shook her head. "No. The other way around."

Once again, Alex refrained from being sardonic, when it would've been too easy, and complied instead, after kissing the hand which Piper had placed on her shoulder. The blonde mused about the possibility that Alex wasn't so much in control as she believed herself to be -something which she had already considered several times-, but her every thought quickly turned to smoke when she felt the weight of the brunette's body. The mere action of having Alex reposition herself on top of her was already driving Piper crazy. She felt her hips buck with a will of their own when Alex started kissing the insides of her thighs, and had to close her eyes tightly for a moment, grabbing onto the woman's ass for dear life, for fear of coming that very second.

No. No. Finding her concentration, she opened her eyes and raised her head to leave a trail of gentle bites down Alex's ass, to which the brunette responded immediately with muffled moans. She then gave Alex's outer lips a long, slow lick before dipping between them, a move which was replicated by the other woman. Piper gasped and dug her fingers in Alex's skin, striving for focus.

They began echoing each other's movements, pausing whenever one of them elicited any kind of audible reaction from the other. Piper could tell that Alex was containing herself as well, trying to make the sensations last as long as possible, and wondered if it was equally hard for her, because on her part, every one of Alex's undeniably sexy groans and husky whimpers only made her get wetter by the second. Even so, the only thing she could do was get lost inside the murky taste of Alex's center, which had become her entire universe, and a strangely addicting one at that. She carefully circled the brunette's clit, only relenting to touch it when Alex closed her mouth around hers, sucking on it while intermittently flicking it with her tongue. Realizing that she was also feeling the vibrations of Alex's voice, Piper cried out, knowing that her time was up now. She tried to communicate it to the other woman by digging her fingers into her back, since she didn't want to stop licking her for anything in the world.

She had started moving her hips involuntarily, as had Alex, and securing them with their arms was no use anymore. As their glistening, wet bodies writhed, they fell on their side, trying to hold on to that taste of infinity for as long as possible. Piper came hard, suddenly, and Alex squeezed her ass with both hands, a mass of trembling skin and frantic whimpers.

They gradually let go of each other, having to disentangle their tired limbs. Piper covered her face with her hands for a moment, trying to catch her breath and enjoying the placid blankness of her mind. Then she shifted to peer at Alex, who was returning to the normal position of having her head on the pillow and her feet at the foot of the bed. Her face was relaxed, with a wide, shiny smile on her lips.

"That was… I mean, you're truly fucking unbelievable," she breathed out, combing back Piper's hair and kissing her, leaving her with the perennial tang of the sea on her lips.

"You too," Piper said, wiping the teary corner of Alex's eye with her thumb and placing a hand on her cheek. It was true, but that wasn't it. She knew what it was, and was about to say it, when the woman took the words out of her mouth.

"I love you," Alex whispered, with the tiniest but sweetest of smiles, not unlike that of a shy, little girl.

"I love you," she said, smiling back. Her eyes were getting cloudy, and the image of Alex's face appeared as if surrounded by mist.

The brunette grasped her hand and kissed first her palm, and then the tips of her fingers. "Hey, hey, you okay? Come here."

Piper nodded, but snuggled against Alex anyway, grinning against the woman's chest.

Sitting cross-legged in the sand before the shore, the blonde took in the beautiful Cambodian scenery, breathing in deeply, as if she could actually inhale everything in sight. Alex arrived several minutes later, carrying two cups of coffee. She handed Piper one of them, kissed her on the cheek, and slumped down next to her.

"Whatcha doing, babe? Looking for the tiny blue lights? Here's a clue; you can only see them at night."

Piper rolled her eyes, unable to hide her smirk. To tell the truth, she had escaped from their little cabin because of the state it was in. They had made a complete mess of it that night, after returning from their swim covered in water, sand, and desire, so upon waking up, Piper had thrown on one of Alex's t-shirts and had decided to wait for her coffee outside. She'd been doing a great job of not thinking about the future, but at that moment she wondered if it would always be like this, so simple yet perfect.

Alex slung one arm over her shoulders and pulled her close, kissing her lightly on the lips. She tasted of black coffee, and her eyes had a dazzling afterglow, which flooded Piper's insides with emotions and memories of the night, causing her to wonder if she had the same look.

"We're not like other people, are we?" Piper was barely aware that she had asked it out loud, since it was more of a reflection. They were just restless, like industrious little ants, frantically scurrying around the surface of the earth, too high on life to stop, too drunk on each other to give it much thought.

"Who the fuck would want that?" the brunette answered instantly, shrugging and getting back to her coffee.