fifty-seven

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THEO'S HAND HAD SLIPPED under her sweater in the night, his fingers now splayed against the expanse of her stomach. Perhaps she had woken up in his arms a million times before, but now she was waking up in his arms as his—though, she supposed she always had been.

Shuffling back in the bed, her back hit his chest fully, and she snuggled closer into him. His head pressed further into her neck with a grumble, and her lips tipped up at the edges.

She rolled over in his hold, which earned her more grumbles and her smile grew larger. Merlin, it should be physically impossible for someone to be so happy in the morning — and yet she was because she was with him.

"Good morning," she whispered, smiling up at him.

His eyes blinked open, and he lifted a hand briefly to wipe away the sleep from his eyes, but his hand returned so quickly to rest on the space between her waist and hip it was like he couldn't stop touching her. He'd even slid his hand back under her sweater, and she shivered at the feeling of their bare skin touching.

Softly grasping her jaw, the thumb of his other hand touched along the bottom of her lip. "Tell me."

Those two words. It had become their thing, she supposed. Amid frenzied kisses, they'd break for air only for one to murmur: Tell me. Lips against her temple, mouth whispering against her ear, bodies tangled together, secrets exchanged in the dark.

"I love you," she smiled.

He leaned down, and she could tell he intended to kiss her. Tilting her head away, she saw the rejection flash across his face, and she rushed to reassure him with, "I have morning breath."

"Don't care," he grumbled, and then he sealed his lips to hers.

She wasn't sure she'd ever get used to the way it felt when their mouths joined. As if the world was ending, burning, ashes blown away in the wind; and then as if it were being rebuilt, with them at the centre, every atom irrevocably linked to them.

It was not a feeling she had ever experienced anywhere else but in the taste of his lips. She didn't ever want to stop feeling this way. The war would change, and tensions would heighten, but she wanted to keep this. Just between them. Selfishly.

"Theo," she murmured. "Would you hate me if I asked something of you?"

"As long as it's not you asking to steal my memories, then I could never hate you," he said.

She threw her head back with a groan, flopping back onto the bed. "You're going to hold this over me for the rest of our lives, aren't you?"

Smiling, he ducked his head down and dug it into her throat. "The rest of our lives, huh?" he exclaimed, leaving a peck on her neck, still chuckling softly. "God, I love you."

"So, you won't be angry if I ask you if we could keep this between us for now?" she rushed out.

"Of course not," he reassured.

Unhearing, she spat out, "It's not because I'm ashamed of you or anything, I would shout it from the rooftops if I could, but with everything going on, I just want to have you and our relationship to myself for a bit since we basically share everything with them already and I—"

He shut her up with a kiss.

"Darling, I know. I feel the same way. It's okay. Stop worrying your pretty little head about it."

She stared up at him, dazed. "I will never use my head again if you keep referring to it that way."

He laughed, kissed her again, and then he kept kissing her until she was gasping for breath and squirming beneath him. Eventually, they pulled away, and he settled on top of her.

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