Rice Bluff Burrito Wolf
Unfurling a bit as Max dragged her into his arms, she lifted her other hand, relenting on the cheek squishing to simply hold his face. Shifting to lie on her back, she just gazed up at him, one thumb skimming over his cheekbone, just under his eye. Her foolish smile grew into a fond one. She didn't have a response to that, except to scoff, and roll her eyes. If she tried to remember all of what they got up to, there wouldn't be time left in the day for other things.

"Hey." She murmured, very quietly into the space between them. "Can I tell you something?"
They readjusted on the couch, Emily letting go of his face and turning to better situate herself in his arms. He was struck by how naturally it happened, how they tended to find a space in each other no matter how silly or serious they were.

Max did a bit of his own fond staring when Emily did, tilting his head a little curiously as she looked at him. Her hands on his face were a soothing touch, her thumb striking across his cheekbone another sensation in all of it. His eyes half closed, watching her through heavy lidded eyes and enjoying the moment.

"You can tell me anything," he murmured back, equally as quietly. It felt like a delicate and precious moment, even if they weren't doing much at all.
She drew in a breath, bit her lip and then, "Love you."
It shocked him to hear it, eyes widening a fraction as the words hit him. He'd thought of it himself, on and off, shied away from the word and the stark reality of it. Things had changed though. Their carefree August after that decision in July, for September to have shaken it all up again. The feeling in his chest tightened and he felt protective and possessive of the woman with her mussed up hair haloing around her, delivering a confession he hadn't expected.

Max couldn't help but smile, soft and helpless with the corners of his eyes crinkling. He was momentarily speechless, leaning down to kiss her rather than pushing clumsy words between them. It was a soft kiss, not angling for more than the private intimacy of the moment, Max closing his eyes. He pressed closer, impossibly again, arms tightening a fraction around her.

He didn't have words, but didn't want her to think he was responding badly, so he used his body to fill in the silence.
After saying it, actually saying it, Emily worried her lower lip with quiet anticipation, blood rushing in her ears. She watched his expression, a heartbeat feeling like an eternity. The widening eyes, the shock, made her feel like she might spring out of her own skin, maybe even literally. But then he smiled, a soft precious look, and Emily thought she could just burn to cinders in it and be perfectly content.

Max didn’t say anything, but it was okay. The kiss he offered instead was hardly tepid, his arms tightening around her, their lips touching softly. She let her own eyes slide shut and just drew in the moment for exactly what it was. Didn’t see the point in asking him to respond, to say it back. Maybe she’d been ready to say it. Maybe he wasn’t. It was okay though, she wasn’t afraid about how he felt.
A few months ago, he would've been scrambling to get out of this. Instead he found he couldn't quite conjure the words that felt right for it, even if he knew he felt it. It choked itself out in his throat, overwhelming in the way that froze his head up and made it difficult to think through it.

He'd get there eventually, but he didn't think it'd be tonight. Too much had happened, too on guard to think it through. It was something he'd struggle with in the right state of mind, but right now he couldn't hope to get over his own little personal issues and mental blocks about it.

There was a strange urge to apologise for it, to apologise for being generally so forward and honest, but falling short in this moment. Pivotal to Emily. To him too, but more for her, being the one to put it out there.

Pulling away from the kiss, he pushed his face into her throat and curling more around her if it was possible. Hiding, partly, mostly just wanting to be close even if he couldn't bring himself to speak.

"Soon," he said uselessly, contextless unless she understood somehow. "There's... so much."
Soon. That was okay too. One hand slipped over the back of his neck, hugging his head close. The other went over his shoulders, letting him curl about her. She tilted her head to press her cheek against his temple, drawing in a breath and then exhaling gently into his hair.

She... well, she didn’t know his hang-ups, not completely, but he’d always been very straightforward about what they had. It was easy to draw conclusions from that and once, she’d been okay with it. Really, she’d been okay with it for years—they were on the same page, even if she was certainly fond of him—but it seemed that once they had a proper go at each other, circumstances aside, it just clicked. They found what they needed.

And it was really that which she had faith in. Everything that led up to this moment was real and unmistakable. If anything else were the case, she wouldn’t be saying it. She was too wretchedly cynical for it to be any other way.

So “soon” was okay. Soon was lovely. Em hummed, exhausted suddenly, but content at least to have said it. Like a weight off her chest. "S’okay." She murmured, pressing a kiss to the side of his head, the shell of his ear. "Not going anywhere."
Max closed his eyes as her hand settled on the back of his neck, for once not reacting to it with anything but a small twitch from the wolf. Her other hand sliding over his shoulders and her cheek against his temple made him feel enveloped, her breath gusting over his hair.

Her murmured okay, the kiss to the side of his head, was reassuring beyond belief. He knew he'd get there, eventually, but he needed more time to actively think on it. Emily having said it would help, that uncertainty was gone. He knew where she was and she... seemed to understand where he was, not pushing for anything.

With his eyes closed, curled around Emily and her curled around him, there wasn't much but them in existence right then. Faint ambient noises, of course, but he was blocking out anything around them, not focusing on them. Focusing just on her heartbeat, her breathing.

He could easily fall asleep there.
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