The primary reason he wishes he was walking unaided is so he can have both hands free to cup her face...to draw it to his...so he can kiss her.
And that fucking terrifies him.
Both his skewed sense of priority *and* the thought of kissing her...kissing the Diva. Chloe Lane. But he can't help it. She haunts him...she haunts him like the tragic operatic heroine she longs to be. The curves of her cheeks, the blush rose of her mouth...the thick curtain of her wavy dark chestnut hair...and her eyes...her thrice-damned, all-seeing eyes...so blue they're almost silver. She is all things beautiful and lush and mysterious. There is a banked fire hidden beneath the ice water in her veins and it longs to burn free.
When he reaches for her now, he always stumbles--leans heavily on his cane as pain threads through his knee. And he draws back his hand before she can see it stretching, longingly, towards her. His whole life is a series of such motions, he thinks. Stumbles, spills, falls...connections never quite made. Because it is easier to be hard, to be cold, to be flip and snide...to be the bad boy...than to be the young man who still craves his mother's warm lap and the pine-vanilla scent of her long, curly hair.
It isn't the Diva's resemblance to Isabella that makes him crave her, of course. Nothing so simple as Freudian theory can explain why she calls to the very core of his soul...why she makes him so damned vulnerable...why she makes him want to be *more*, to *do* more...
But when he hears her giggles in chorus with Belle's...filtering down from the inner sanctum of his sister's bedroom, he finds himself obsessed by the questions...and the answers. As the two friends "sleep over" and do each other's hair and watch girly movies, he envisions them leaning close and practicing chaste kisses. Tentative tongues and even more tentative hands as they conduct the secret exploration that lurks in the hearts of so many nubile young Lolitas. Do they wonder if their fumbling experimentation comes close to how Shawn Brady kisses? Does it measure up to Phillip Kiriakis? To *him*?
He tosses and turns and levers himself upwards, makes himself walk as many steps as he can across the converted den that is now his bedroom before he has to fall to his knees, curse, and reach for his cane or his crutches.
She is sixteen. So young. Practically illegal. So obviously fucked up. Too much for his little uncle Phillip...too much for him....too much for any sane man, really. But she is built like Venus...an armful of pure woman that even Rubens couldn't properly capture in paint...and she sounds like a Siren--although he'll never admit that out loud. She sees inside him...and he wants to *be* inside her.
He wants to make her sing...to make her hit the highest, clearest notes as he comes into her and plays her body like a virtuoso...backed by a symphony of moans and gasps and sighs.
And then he wants it rough. Like an electric guitar solo...strumming hard and fast without a pick...until the calluses on his fingertips open up again and bleed a trail across her glowing peach skin, drawing a map to all the secret places that will no longer be a secret to him.
He hasn't had anything remotely close to that kind of music since he left school. Since Jean-Paul...the son of some French cabinet minister. Good old J.P. had a great mouth. The best in the freshman class and quite possibly the best on the Continent. He'd blow most anyone for a joint and a cheap pack of Winstons, but for Brady, he'd always done it for free. And those soft, bow-shaped, pink lips had taken him to Never Never Land and back a hundred times before he'd dropped out and come back to Salem.
The Diva has that kind of mouth. And he wants to live in Neverland with her forever. Where they can both stay young and gold and make love on a bed of librettos and roses that will crunch and crumple under their dueting bodies.
But first he has to walk unaided.
So he can step towards her with confidence.
So he can reach out and hold her fast.
"*You*." He whispers the accusation, eyes blazing bright blue. He can't seem to stop staring at her and his gaze burns...burns right to the very core of her soul. Naked. Angry. And...hungry. Devouring her whole with this one look. This one word.
"Brady?" she wonders, working his name up her throat slowly, like a call to a higher power that has never been answered. "Brady, what is it?" she asks, as the blush heats her cheeks...as her knees quiver beneath the shimmering folds of silver silk Belle said would make her look "totally mindblowing."
He shakes his head, mutely, the barely checked fury radiating from his taut body in waves. His knuckles are white and his fingers clutch the knob of the cane so tightly it seems to be on the verge of snapping off.
She tries to smile. To joke. To tease. "Come on...I can't possibly have struck the Great Brady Black speechless," she scoffs, tossing her head, feeling the thick mass of her hair whip around like in a shampoo commercial...exactly the effect she intends.
But her words and her physical challenge seem to come to no end. For he is still fixated on her face, on her body...silent and yet speaking volumes. She shivers, running her hands up and down her bare arms as she walks down the last few steps, into the Blacks' living room. "I-I just came down to get a drink of water. Belle's asleep. I think she's worn out, the poor thing."
Something flickers in his eyes when she says his sister's name. Something that isn't hatred, but isn't quite brotherly fondness either...and, still, he doesn't bother to vocalize whatever it is he's thinking, feeling. Instead, he turns his face away...stares back in the direction of the den.
With that merciful gesture, his gaze no longer holds her captive. And she feels breath whoosh up from her lungs as she realizes what holds more power than that unearthly blue. His long legs...not looking like the legs of a cripple...they are muscled and seem to go on forever...disappearing into the cuffs of impossibly tiny blue shorts. The shorts are all he has on. His chest is bare...smooth and hard and glistening with faint drops of midnight sweat. Moonlight crowns his ice blond hair. And he looks like a breathing statue of Adonis...or perhaps Apollo. Not simply beautiful but god-like.
Phillip looks like a boy. Mortal. Young. Handsome.
Not like this.
Not like *this*.
"Brady?" she tries again, moving slowly towards him...reaching out one hand. Whether it is to soothe and reassure him or to touch him, to make contact with his tantalizing skin, she doesn't know. "Did we wake you? Do you need something?" A muscle in his cheek jumps, and she can see that his proud jaw is clenched tight...so tight he must be grinding his teeth. "Listen, if you're going to be all creepy on me, I'm just going to go."
She turns on her heel...and his hand shoots out...the cane clatters to the floor as he grabs her wrist. "No!" The single word explodes into the quiet tension around him. And, suddenly, he is looking at her again...something like fear filling his turbulent eyes. "No...don't...," he pleads, softly.
And he takes one step.
And then another.
Three whole steps. Perfect steps. Without shaking, without wincing. Crossing the chasm, closing the distance.
"Oh my God...you walked!" she gasps, staring down at his steady feet, at his firm fingers encircling her wrist. "Oh, Brady...!" she cries, joyfully, glancing back up at his faint smile...at the gorgeous sight of this shared victory, this secret triumph. And then the smile is gone and her breath is stolen from her lungs once again.
His mocking mouth hovers just a fraction too close. His magnificent eyes contain something just a fraction too intimate.
He whispers her name, eyes blazing bright blue. And, suddenly, he can't seem to stop kissing her and his lips burn...burn right to the very core of her soul. Naked. Angry. And...hungry. Devouring her whole with this one word. This one kiss.
And she is lost.
Or maybe she's found.
Silk bunches up in his hands as his fingers dance up and down her back. They flow towards the sofa in a flurry of choreographed movements and she matches him kiss for kiss...opening her mouth for him, and letting the notes pour from her throat as their tongues guide the orchestra.
Her nails score the planes of his shoulders, his chest, his flat-hard belly and it feels like the most natural, logical, progression of the music that has always been between them...like pages upon pages of glorious passion translated into touch and taste and sensation beyond song.
"Brady...Brady...Brady..." she moans, as he pulls her more securely into his lap, locks her legs around his hips. She moves, restlessly, against the flimsy barrier of his cotton shorts, raising her arms so he can tug the thin chemise over her head and toss it away. "I...I...need...want..."
"Oh, Diva...so demanding..." He laughs, hoarsely, against the column of her throat, into the strands of her hair that have wound around them both. "I have to have you...I'll go crazy if I can't have you."
He pulls her head down to his, once more consuming her like a wildfire. She can't remember being kissed before, by anyone else, and knows she will never remember any kisses beyond these...beyond Brady Black's. He demands that of her with his lips and his tongue and the taste of bittersweet agony that makes her crave more and more and more. He demands all. Her very best, her whole heart poured into the aching aria she sings to him now.
They were made to duet. Flush against each other. Her curves molded to his angles. They blend and rise and fall at exactly the same places...driven by instinct, by divine providence, by the hand of a master conductor.
And his name is the highest, clearest note she will ever hit.
She is curved against him, in the center of his bed...a perfect armful, just like he imagined on so many hot, lonely, nights. The cane, his old enemy and damnation, lies, forgotten, somewhere in the outer room...he knows he will never have need of it again.
Not in Neverland. Where they will both stay young and gold and make love on a bed of librettos and roses that will crunch and crumple under their dueting bodies. The curtain will never fall on their opera...it will go on and on, into infinity. He will make sure of it.
He reaches out and holds her fast, holds her close and tight.
He is no longer terrified.
He is safe.
He is loved.
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