As hectic as his life seemed, there was nothing that put him more at ease than watching his son sleep. The look on his tiny cherubic face made Steven feel as though he could handle anything; that no matter what, everything would be alright. He leaned down and placed a loving kiss on his head remembering how his father used to tuck him in every night when he was the same age before quietly taking his leave.

He could have stayed there the entire night watching his little chest rise and fall wondering what he dreamt about, but there was someone else who would miss him just down the hall. Her comfort was just as needed.

“Everything okay?” she asked.

The corner of his mouth turned upward in an attempt to smile, but it didn’t reach his eyes. They didn’t keep secrets from one another, but sometimes it was hard to tell her things. Maybe it was an imaginary sense of male machismo, but he liked to be the rock in their circle; the one she came to when she was having problems. She’d done her fair share of being there for him earlier in their relationship; he just wanted to return the favor.

They’d met nearly twelve years ago. Every time he thought about it, he could hardly believe it. She was a junior working in the college library for work study while he was working as an assistant professor on the tenure track. It wasn’t love at first sight by any means, but he’d be lying to himself if he wasn’t immediately attracted to her. Her bright smile and infectious laughter was the first thing he noticed until she was putting books away on one of the shelves high up on a ladder one day. Her ample curves became his late night spank fodder from that moment on.

He began finding reasons to go to the library until she finally called him on it. He stumbled through a half-assed explanation until she cut him off and gave him her phone number. Though it was rough in the beginning having to keep their relationship a secret, adding to the fact that social networking provided him with a window to everything she was doing without him, Ciara always made it a point to make it up to him… as many times as he needed her to.

She was originally working on some slides for an advertising campaign when he walked in, but his sulky behavior stilled her movements. She could always read how he was feeling.

Sometimes he hated it.

He climbed into bed looking up at her soft brown eyes knowing he’d have to get the words out. She’d nag him until it was finally out in the open, but at that moment, his throat didn’t feel like cooperating. The four simple words just couldn’t make their way past his lips like his tongue was in a vice grip. He took a deep breath realizing that he wasn’t ready for it to be real yet. He just wanted to be strong a little while longer.

Without words, he took her papers and placed them on the nightstand. Afterwards he turned out the lamp on her side; his eyes never leaving hers. She watched him, but didn’t protest, which was her normal style. Instead, she allowed him to pull her down into a hard kiss. His thick fingers snaked around her waist pulling her body into his. Ciara became pliant moving however he wanted her to. He needed this from her, and she was allowing him to take it.

Their lovemaking was quiet, but the intensity with which he held her and she held him made it something more. Every thrust was a desperate attempt to be comforted by her body. Each long, lingering kiss was his way of telling her that he loved her and needed her more than he needed anything else in that moment. His grip would leave purple bruises on her dark skin in the morning and his dark brown whiskers would leave her cheeks and neck irritated and itchy, but she took it all from him. Even when he began to speed up his pace, slamming into her with all the anger and hurt he felt until it came away in one of the most intense orgasms he’d ever had.

He knew she hadn’t come, but he knew she’d understand.

Once the last of his orgasm had passed, everything seemed to loosen up. Tears mixed with sweat dripped off the tip of his nose onto the pillow and her neck; tears he hadn’t realized were so close to the surface. Tears he would have never cried otherwise.

They kept silent for some time. Ciara’s small fingers caressed the entire span of his back. As strong as he’d tried to be, she still ended up being there for him. He didn’t think it was possible to love someone any more than he already loved her, but his heart told him otherwise.

Finally his throat released and his tongue and mouth seemed to move on their own volition. “My father died today.”

He waited for her to start to speak but she didn’t. Her hands kept moving over him, still comforting, still cradling. Steve lifted his head to see her face and nearly choked on a breath.

“Why are you crying baby? Did I hurt you?”

Ciara shook her head. The tears began to flow even more.

He brushed the matted hair from her face and kissed on her cheeks. “Sweetheart, please tell me what’s wrong.” He pleaded.

Her head turned into his and she kissed him. Her hands moved up to his cheeks so that she could look into his eyes before telling him, “I’m sorry.”

Steve wrapped his arms around her tightly. Of course she’d known. How could she not.

“My mom called?”

He felt her nod.

“I didn’t want to rush you, so I waited for you to say something.”

Steve chuckled despite the situation. He wasn’t sure how he’d gotten so lucky to have someone in his life who meant so much to him. One day, he’d be able to be that rock for her to, but it wouldn’t be tonight. Tonight, they needed each other.

July 2018
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