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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Always Already
By Mira


A lover's alphabet falls from your lips on nights like these, your voice stained with whisky and husky with desire, cigarette smoke clinging to your hair like night clings to the city. You start off hard and dirty, somewhere between a purr and a growl. By the time we make it to the bedroom, fumbling at buttons and pawing at breasts, you're quieter, lifting your head so I can gloss over your throat with my lips.

"Yeah," you whisper, with your lazy half-smile, your eyes slitted like a cat's. "Just like that." Pressed into my mattress as my fingers trace patterns over your skin, though, you're reduced to simpler things, and anyway I don't like it when you talk. These things, I already know. I know how to make your back arch, how to make your breath come up short, how to wipe that smirk off your face. I know what it takes to feel your fingers wind into my hair, tugging me against you until you're breathless and clutching at my pillowcase and gasping into the moonlit air of my bedroom. It's not because of that that I let you come home with me on nights like these: I'm ten years past a time when I could fuck you and call it love.

It's because I noticed, once, something else, hidden among your silky demands and your bruising caresses like a diamond in a coal mine, something deeper and more careful and more needy. I tried, for a while, to find it by studying you like I study a witness, a suspect, concentrating on the tightening around the corners of your mouth, the flutter of your eyelids. But it's not a matter of looking for it, but looking against it, the way the faint stars resolve themselves only in the corner of the eye, slipping away under the harsh glare of a direct gaze. And if I look away from you, like that, I might be rewarded with a glimpse of a spark in your eyes, a flash of your dimple, a breathed half-second of a moan: something that gives me the hope I'm not sure I want, the hope that maybe I'm a fraction of a moment more to you than a convenient way to forget.

And so tonight, instead of dipping between your legs, instead of pressing into you the way I know you think you want, I lean forward and kiss you, without lust, without challenge, just a kiss. Gentle, quiet, chaste, and your lips are tense under mine. When I pull away, I can almost glimpse a brief flash of something else there, something that could be the almost-fondness I'll never tell you about either.

"Olivia," you say, and your voice, for once, is almost uncertain, and what's in your eyes isn't fear, isn't desire, might just be something like affection, clear and pure and the only thing I need to know from you. And I think your lips might even curve, a little, in something approaching a smile. And it's not love, this; it's not even tenderness, but it's more than a momentary shield against the pain you'll never explain to me. And it's enough: already you've taught me what it is to be unadorned.

The End

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