She woke with a start sometime before dawn, startled and confused. The noises were different. It didn't smell like the tunnels. Didn't feel like her blankets. This wasn't her home.
Lee half sat up, using her elbow to jack herself up high enough to see. The room was dark yet familiar, the sheets around her cool save for the spots warmed by her and Alex's body heat－
The body in the bed beside her hadn't shifted, but Lee could detect the gentle rise and fall of her chest, breathing slow and even as she slept on her stomach, covers just barely clinging to her lower half. Easing into a sitting position, Lee took in the sight, memory quick to recall the sticky night they shared before slipping to sleep in each other's arms. She couldn't remember feeling this happy. This complete. It seemed impossible being here. Being with Alex. Being Alex's.
Lee stayed like that for a time, watching and listening, before sliding out of bed and padding to the window. The view wasn't as spectacular as the one at the top of the world, but it was no less arresting.
Scant hours ago, Alex had shown her their city. Standing atop the Empire State Building, the beauty of New York seemed to go on forever. It awed her. All her life, she only knew the world by looking up. Now, she stood naked and unafraid at Alex's window looking down at a city both alien and familiar, terrifying and welcome.
Puffing out a slow breath, Lee raised her hand and placed it against the cold, fogged glass. It was officially November. Before long, winter would grip the city like it did every year, but this time things felt different. This time things were different in a most unexpected and wondrous way, but a sobering thought stilled the swirl of giddy emotions.
One night of revelry didn't change the fact that though Topside belonged to her as much as the Underground did, it wasn't her world. The magic of the previous night was gone, taking with it her anonymity. Once again, Lee moved as a monster among men and would be reminded of that if she showed her true face to the world.
Even spoken softly, Alex's sleep-muddled call cut through the velvety darkness like a shout. When she couldn't locate her bedmate, Alex sat up, squinting into the half-light until she found the woman standing at her window.
Sorry, Lee apologized, moving the curtains back over the cool panes. I didn't mean to wake you.
"You're fine," Alex said around a yawn. "Is everything alright?"
Just listening to the city breathe.
A beat of silence stretched across the night, heavy despite its gossamer blanket. Thankfully, Lee internal struggle was blissfully brief. After thirty-two years of hiding, she could spend one night Topside.
"Are you sure you're okay?"
Absolutely, Lee smiled, crawling back into bed and pulling Alex in for a kiss that could have easily reignited the fires of their earlier encounter. The slow simmer of passion lingered just below the surface, but the night's cool atmosphere tempered it, drawing the women closer as if their proximity could stave off reality for just a few more hours.
"Will you stay?" Alex asked after they broke apart.
Forever, if you'd allow it.
"I think I can handle that," she smiled. Lee curled into her, tucking her head against Alex's chest, seeking her heartbeat. "I'm here," Alex said, threading her fingers absently through her partner's hair, already drifting back to sleep despite her best efforts.
YOU ARE READING
Journalist Alexandra Bailey never believed she'd become another tragic statistic ripe for the front pages. Abducted off the street. Beaten bloody. Left for dead in the unforgiving winter. The article wrote itself. And her crime? Not even she knew, b...