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“We… did say we’d pick up where we left off, last time,” Webb said, trying for nonchalant, but their heart was beating very fast and it came out a bit breathless. “Though, I mean, the circumstances aren’t exactly…”
“I’m not in a rush,” Lore said, a little flustered. “I mean—in terms of that sort of thing. I really just wanted to know if you wanted time with them, or…”
Webb wrinkled their nose, knuckles bumping up against Lore’s cheek. “I’m not sure what impression you’re working with, here.” They lowered their voice somewhat, rolling onto their back, coaxing Lore to ease back with them. “I’m not—I mean, I like them, obviously, but—”
Webb was in no way equipped or qualified to be having this conversation or confronting their feelings about their companions in any way. And yet, and yet…
“I see,” Lore hummed, pouring over Webb like an exhalation of smoke. Their expression was soft, fond and patient and a little teasing. But apprehensive, too; Webb could see concern in the way their brows creased, the light indentation of their teeth as they worried at their lower lip. “Well… either way, it’s fine. Though, keep in mind, I was shadowing you when you kissed Faraday in the truck—”
“Don’t remind me!” Webb protested, swatting at the coils of hair that were winding their way around their wrists.
“And when you and Ariadne got bitey in my sitting room…”
Webb blew at them, which did absolutely nothing. It seemed Lore had control over what their amorphous body was doing at all times, which made Webb feel all sorts of ways. They settled on flustered, grabbing a pillow and yanking it over their own face.
“I’m sort of getting this impression,” Webb said, muffled into the pillow, “that you like to watch.”
Lore was quiet for so long that Webb immediately lifted the pillow back up to search for them, suddenly worried that they’d said the wrong thing. Lore hadn’t gone far, but they were sitting back, arms wrapped around their legs, chin resting on their knees as their hair pulsed behind them like the tendrils of a jellyfish.
“I… do,” Lore mumbled shyly. “I do like to—observe people. I won’t, obviously, without your permission, not for… not for anything you’d rather I not. And there’s things I want to experience for myself, of course, but I just—”
Webb sighed, reaching out their hands to try to coax Lore closer again. “Is that a you-thing, or a shadowfolk thing, or…?”
“A little bit of both,” Lore hazarded. This time when they leaned down, they stayed more corporeal, a surprisingly warm weight against Webb’s side. Webb hesitantly leaned in and pressed their face into Lore’s hair, feeling it stir against their cheek. “Is that… alright?”
“I like you,” Webb said simply, finding that the words came with surprising ease, even though it came out a little hoarse. “I’m… not really sure what to do with all this, but I’ve liked you for a long time. I’d look forward to your letters, our visits. Also, what you did to me earlier tonight was simultaneously the hottest and most terrifying thing that’s ever happened to me, and I’m into it?”
Lore let out a choked, horrified little laugh. “The most terrifying? After what you just told us? I’m so sorry…”
“No, no, I meant, I was both horny and afraid,” Webb assured them hastily. “Not mutually exclusive. It’s a good thing.” They drew in a deep breath. “But it felt nice. I… I’d like to do that again. If you liked it. That… going inside me—and also, I mean. If you want to watch… whatever, it’s fine, as long as you get the consent of everybody involved?”
Lore’s eyes widened. “I see,” they said, eyes wide. They looked shy, amazed, a little overwhelmed. “That’s…”
“Only if you want to!” Webb said immediately, feeling their cheeks burn and wondering if they’d just majorly overstepped. “Fuck, I mean, it’s been a really long night for everyone, and emotions are running high, and my experience with and capacity for emotional relationships of literally any kind has long since rusted, so—”
Lore leaned in to kiss them again, framing Webb’s face with both hands. “That all sounds very, very nice,” they said softly, against Webb’s mouth, smoke licking at Webb’s tongue and lips, coiling under their nose. “I don’t… have a lot of experience with relationships, either. But I value… you. And this. I’ve tasted what you’re made of and I’m hungry for more.”
Webb felt a sensation rush through them that they were very sure was something violently short-circuiting, a heated rush of electricity that left them gasping a little weak. “Oh, wow,” they breathed out, stammering, trying frantically to remember how to string words together in ways that made sense and weren’t just some variation of hello, yes, please, more.
At the back of their mind, they knew they probably shouldn’t commit to too much. Even now, some part of them was frantically sending up warning bells, making their breath come fast and their chest tighten. Years and years of don’t get involved, don’t let them close. Whatever they were plunging into with Lore seemed the antithesis of that in every way, but—
They’d been empty and alone for so long that as much as the rush of warmth and heat felt like they’d drown in it, if they were running around risking their life and dashing their personal comfort zone to pieces, they might as well get something nice out of it along the way, not just the miserable parts.
Lore was watching them with heavy-lidded eyes, their lashes heavy, waiting for Webb’s reaction. Idly, Webb wondered what the long-term effects might be of having let Lore in—could they tell what Webb was thinking or feeling right now? Did they have to let them fully inside again? Or were they, like Webb, relying on expressions and words and actions?
Webb decided to err on the side of the latter, leaning in to give Lore a gentle kiss, a little teasing. “You are quite intense for someone that seems so mousy.”
Lore made a soft noise, shoulders shaking with laughter. “You like it, though.” They managed to make it mostly sound like a confident statement rather than a prompting question, which just earned a laugh out of Webb in return.
“I like it,” Webb agreed. They brushed Lore’s hair back again, leaning back in, then stopped suddenly, turning their head towards the front hall. “Fuck, I forgot about—”
Ariadne and Faraday were nowhere to be seen. After a moment, Webb realized that they could hear the muffled sound of running water coming from the bathroom, beyond the closed door. Two bathrobes were laid out on a nearby chair.
“Ah,” Lore said softly. “I think they saw that we were… talking… and decided to. Give us some space.”
Webb let their head fall back on the pillow, letting out a muffled laugh as they dragged their hands down their face. “That’s probably for the best,” they muttered. “I think trying to deal with my feelings for you and them at the same time is way beyond my current level.”
Lore stroked Webb’s hair lightly. “There will be time,” they said softly. “For this. For them. For… everything. I’m very determined to get you out of this alive.”
Something twisted in Webb’s chest. They left their hands over their face for another beat, taking a deep breath, then reached out both arms to Lore again.
“I don’t have the heart to believe in promises,” they said, voice rough and raw. “But I’ll accept that in the spirit it was meant. Still, there’s this very nice moment that I’ve been afforded with you, and I’d really like to live in it fully.”
Lore’s eyes, dark in their shadowy face, still seemed to brighten somewhat as they leaned back down into Webb’s embrace.
“I did feel bad about leaving you wanting, earlier,” Lore said softly. “Let me make it up to you…”
Afterwards, Webb lay panting on the bed, still half-clothed and feeling like they’d run a marathon. Although Lore had pulled back enough that Webb was no longer feeling them along every nerve and with every breath, they still remained pressed close, cradling Webb in their arms and pressing lazy kisses against their temple.
“Fuck,” Webb breathed out, trying to nip at Lore’s ear and just getting a mouthful of smoke instead. They let it loll around their tongue indulgently before exhaling. “Did you—you’re amazing. Are you—was that…?”
“Shh,” Lore murmured, bumping their nose against Webb’s. “That was wonderful. That was perfect.” A bit shy, then: “Not… too weird?”
“It was incredibly weird,” Webb said fervently. “In the best possible way. Fuck. I have to go make eye contact with Ariadne and Faraday, now. I need to use the bath. I need to kick them out of there and they’re going to know that you just railed me on the bed that we’re all going to sleep in together.”
Lore’s hair was squirming like a nest of snakes, which Webb was beginning to identify as a sign of amusement on their part. “Oh no,” they said seriously, not sounding sorry at all. “Poor Webb.”
“Poor Webb!” Webb grumbled, rolling over with great effort, groping around until they found their discarded binder, shirt, and Ariadne’s sweater. They stared at them all balefully for a moment, then tossed them off the side of the bed, shimmying down to their boxers and hauling a bear robe on overtop of it.
They made it partway to the bathroom, then abruptly doubled back, running back over to give Lore a brief, urgent kiss.
“I’m complaining, but it’s happy complaining,” Webb assured them quickly.
Lore blinked, then eased into another wide grin, resting their foreheads together. “I know,” they murmured. “I know you.”
Webb closed their eyes tightly, drawing in a few deep breaths before easing back away again, making a second attempt to head towards the bathroom. They stood outside the door for a moment, cheeks flushed, weighing the pros and cons of listening in before knocking—after all, Faraday and Ariadne had clearly done them a solid by making themself scarce for a bit. If they were busy—
They heard a sudden laugh from the other side of the door. “Webb, I can smell you,” Ariadne called out, sounding far too chipper. “Are you going to come in, or what?”
Webb let their head thunk against the door. “Ariadne, you’re killing me. Every single one of you is on thin fucking ice.”
They were smiling, though, still buzzing with a sleepy, warm sense of satisfaction—even as wisps of thought and worry about the day started to creep in again unbidden, like shadows. They knew they’d have to start planning again soon. Was there anything else they needed to talk about with the others before setting out once again? Any preparations they needed to make, or any questions that they’d left unanswered?
Still, sleep would come first, and whatever that brought with it. At least tonight they wouldn’t be alone.
[Please suggest or +1 an action in the comments.
As a reminder, it can be thoughts, words, deeds, or curiosities!]