He’s been alive for three decades, and known too many women to be fooled. His mother, bless her, taught him well. His sisters did nearly as much again. He knows his own mind. And Austin knows enough about hers.
She spouts propaganda in the car, about Jimmy’s vision and Tyler’s plan, and when he asks her what she does for the group she stumbles in her speech. If he hadn’t thought it had been coached to her before, he did now. He invites her into his apartment and waits politely as she regathers her thoughts and organizes her head, and then waits again as she tries to make her half-formed ideas into words that will convince him to turn his back on the world. They sit on his couch as she begins. He interrupts her once to offer coffee, or tea. She declines both. That’s good, because he doesn’t have any of either.
When she’s finished he drops his head to the soft leather of the couch and considers her through half-closed eyes. She looks at him, expectant, waiting. He figures that is what she’s here for, to wait.
Instead of saying anything he kisses her, and she doesn’t pull away. He figures she might be here for that as well.
But those three decades have given him knowledge. The loud and insistent speeches in the light of day hold nothing to the quiet whispers in the night, the web of soft words that can wrap up both participants.
But, just maybe, words of any kind won’t hold a candle to a laugh. So when he flips her up into a newlywed’s carry and makes her giggle, he feels that web start to form. Later when he’s kissing every inch of her and quite deliberately tickles her sides, when he smirks exaggeratedly over her breasts, when he blows lightly over her belly, he feels the web starting to come closer, and damn it feels good.
When he’s buried in her and her hands come up to tangle in his hair, he thinks there’s nothing closer to that Christian heaven he hears so much about. When he gets that half-second of peace as her lips part and she lets out one breath before stiffening around him, there’s nothing better. And when she curls up beside him, head on the pillow next to his and one arm entwined around his own, he knows there’s truth in her tiredness.
But what she says doesn’t match what she thinks.
When she wakes up, spent after that night, she’ll get dressed in one of the brightest and ugliest shirts he owns. He’ll be in the kitchen, merrily burning breakfast before giving up and making cereal. And he’ll get to know Lacey as a person, and not as a plaything of the Age of the Fall.
And Austin can’t wait.