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This Little Faith

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Max hadn't meant to do it.

His body, on the other hand, seemed to act under completely independent plans. Next thing he knew, there he was breathing into Helen's sweet perfume with not a single clear thought left in his short-circuited brain, let alone his previous doubts. There he was, pausing for a second of hesitation, wavering before her completely exposed, his hands hovering just centimeters from cupping her face, her beads entangled between his trembling fingers as her wide eyes rose to his face, her still parted lips frozen mid-sentence – when he waited , hopeful and fearful, for her reaction to follow through.

There he was, eyes closing and heart cracking open in his chest, when Helen brought his hands to her face herself, her own warm hands keeping his palms to her smooth skin as she stood on her tiptoes until they were almost nose to nose. Close enough that the darkness inside her eyes felt deep enough for him to drown in it, pulling him in to the point Max fell, hopeless and willingly, meeting her halfway through.

Their lips met, crashed, hesitantly at first and then eagerly, warmth coursing everywhere their bare skins touched, regardless of the cold wind rushing all around them. Max's hand slid to her waist to pull Helen closer, the void inside his belly expanding with a hunger that nearly begged him to wrap himself around her body and never let go, craving the strangled noise she made at the back of her throat when his teeth scraped her bottom lip briefly, craving the way her fingers mapped his face, her fingernails running deliciously over his beard, his hair, his hands following suit, moving to her hip, the small of her back then bellow-

Helen was the one to pull away first. Panting, they separated only minimally, still cradling in each other's embrace even as she swayed back on her heels, half chuckling and pressing her forehead to his sternum briefly, hands coming to rest over his chest as if to center herself, somehow. Max laughed, too, the sound bubbling out of his lips as he shook his head, realizing impossibly giddy and carefree despite the many what ifs and unspoken words still hanging between them.

Smiling hard enough that his cheeks hurt, he searched for her eyes, moving his thumb to wipe a stray tear away from her lashes as Helen blinked up at him, biting her lip shyly.

"So." He breathed, tracing her cheekbone softly. 

"So," Helen followed, the corners of her lips turning upwards teasingly. "You didn't plan this at all."

"Not even remotely." Max chuckled softly, wondering if she could even hear him over his galloping heart. His knees still felt wobbly, and he fought against the need to bring her even closer, still lured by orbit she ruled over his body with no less than a look. He sighed, trying to organize the jumbled words inside his head. "Helen, I-"

"Don't." She silenced him with a look, albeit soft. She sighed, too – a resigned sigh. "I don't think we should do this right now."

Max's stomach dropped. His face must've translated accordingly, because Helen rushed to add:

"I don't mean ever, just, not right now. Like you said, we need to talk about this… thing between us. Now more than ever." She smiled, eyes shining, and he melted a little. "But it doesn't feel like the right time to discuss us , with everything else you're going through. Once you have it figured out… I meant it, when I said it can wait."

Max inhaled brokenly, still cradling her cheek with the same hand that held the beads she'd given him – and cautiously, tremulously, he pushed past the fear that she'd vanish like a dream in thin air if he ever let her go and weighted in with that little bit of faith . "Will you still be there then?"

Helen pressed against his heart.

"I'm not going anywhere." She promised. "Believe me, I have a lot of things to say to you, Max Goodwin. Lots of things to unpack too. May even have some yelling involved, depending on how we take it, so once I'm done you might get tired of hearing my voice in general."

"Highly doubt it." Max scrunched his nose, smiling a little. He pulled himself a little closer, towering over her, in an attempt of resisting the urge to lean in for another kiss "I've a lot to say too, you know. Have gathered all of my top, too-dumb-to-speak-up moments up here," He tapped his temple. "So be prepared to have an old-fashioned compilation coming on your way soon."

"Oh wow." Helen teased "Cheesy as they get, huh?"

"Absolutely."

Their little giggly bubble popped as soon as Helen's phone buzzed again. She pulled a face as Max pulled away at arm's reach, creating an annoying amount of space in between them that allowed the shared warmth to dissipate. He shivered, resigned in the cold.

"We're lucky my patient is stable." Helen murmured, frowning slightly "Lauren, on the other hand, is not . She'll hunt me down if I don't come out soon."

"Yeah." Max agreed. "You go. We'll… do this, us , soon. Properly, this time."

"Soon." Helen nodded. Then she stepped in, again on her tiptoes to press her lips briefly to the corner of his mouth in a feather-like kiss. She was back on her heels and out of his reach before Max's eyes could close all the way through in response, "When you get our Miss Luna back home, give her an extra squeeze for me, okay?"

Max pursed his lips, his knuckles lingering dumbly on the spot she'd just touched."Will do."

He caught the positively radiant smile she threw his way from over her shoulder before closing the door behind herself, leaving him, once again, alone.

But he felt warmer this time, his thoughts centered on the small beads as he rolled them between his fingers, his heart wrapped ever so carefully around that sparkle of faith she'd left behind her way. Amidst the wind he found the words he'd been searching for, the ones he'd deliver to Georgia's parents when the time came tomorrow – fighting words, angry words, words meant for claiming his daughter back. He made peace with them, then made peace with the ghost wife that shimmered for the blink of an eye as he turned to leave the roof, as well, this figment of imagination and guilt that this time around felt more memory than solitude alone.

Upon descending the stairs, Max's mind wandered towards that soon moment yet to come, another fight ahead of himself he actually could not wait to go through, bearing a clear mind and an open heart.

This time, to fight for them , as he should've a long time ago.