Wrapping her arms around his neck, Beatrice slowly pulled him over her on the bed. As they kissed, Beatrice curled her hands under his jacket to gently squeeze his sides. The way her fingertips grazed the bare skin of his waist where his shirt had ridden up caused Benedick to shudder, pulling back.
She giggled, softly, before shifting both hands to cup his face. Her thumbs caressed his stubbly cheeks.
“Benedick,” Beatrice whispered reverently. “I do love nothing in the world so well as you.”
The corner of his mouth tugged upward as he nuzzled his nose against hers. “Is not that strange?” he whispered back.
“Not at all," she replied before tugging him back down for another kiss. She felt his contented hum against her lips. They lay in the cottage bedroom, trading tender, deep kisses. Her hands roved between his face and hair as she desperately wanted to keep him close.
When he slowly smoothed his hand down her side, his fingers grazed her breast, and Beatrice slightly pushed his shoulders, breaking their kiss. Swallowing heavily, she closed her eyes as she fought from trembling. Now that this night seemed to be progressing, a whole colony of butterflies danced in her stomach.
As if sensing her nervousness, Benedick scrambled back to his feet, and took a few steps back. "My most sincere apologies, my wife," he said with much emotion. "I did not mean to be presumptuous."
Much as she missed his warmth, Beatrice was glad for a little breathing room. She pushed herself up to sit on the edge of the bed. "What do you mean?"
"Us...this” He gestured between them. “We did not discuss your expectations for this evening."
Beatrice regarded him silently.
Benedick went on, "What I mean is, I do not want to pressure you into anything you are not ready for. Our wedding happened so fast without the usual preparations." Stepping forward, he gently grasped her hands. "Do not mistake me. I very much want to make love to my wife, but only if you are ready."
Her eyes stung from the truth of his words. They hadn't shared more than kisses and a few innocent caresses, but he cared so deeply about her comfort.
Standing up, she leaned their foreheads together. Beatrice exhaled deeply. "I am very much ready. I'm just…" she trailed off, too many emotions swirling in her heart, competing for attention: nervousness, excitement, even a little fear.
But Benedick merely nodded as if he understood. "Of course. I promise we will go slowly." She squeezed his hand, some of those butterflies settling. "And if at any time you want to stop, you just need to say so and we can go to sleep. I will even retire in the other room, if you so require."
Beatrice absolutely believed him and what’s more, that he would not be upset if they did not consummate their marriage, on this night. It was comforting to have that power, that agency, should she need it.
But, as gentle and loving as Benedick was, Beatrice was certain she would not need it; just his patience.
"Thank you," she breathed.
Benedick smiled warmly at her, hoping to convey his gratitude. The fact that she trusted him meant everything to him. He was absolutely determined to make this night as wonderful for her as possible. If that meant nothing more than falling asleep together on top of the covers, then Benedick would still count himself a very, very lucky man.
He held up a finger. “There is just one thing I must do first…ever since our wedding…” Beatrice pulled back slightly, her brow furrowed. Benedick brought an ankle across his knee to untie his dress shoe before moving to the other foot. Once he took off both shoes, he sighed happily, his aching feet sinking into the plush carpet. “Much better!”
Giggling, Beatrice followed his lead, removing her heels. “That was not the first thing I thought you might have wanted to take off.” She did not even try to hold back her smirk and raised eyebrow.
Cupping her face with a soft laugh, Benedick brought his head down for a slow, gentle kiss. He couldn’t get enough of her soft, pliant lips. He eased his mouth to her cheek, and then began nosing his way to her jawline. Finally, he gave into temptation and kissed her neck. Her breathy sighs tickled his own skin, which only spurned his exploration further. When Beatrice buried her fingers into the hair at the back of his head, he couldn’t help the happy rumble he emitted.
She laughed again, the sound vibrating under his mouth and, oh, did Benedick loved that sensation. Dimly, he felt her hands run up his arms before stopping at his shoulders, just under his jacket. He held his breath as she slowly slid it off of his shoulders and it traveled to the floor, until there was a dull rustle. Beatrice did not pause, but performed the same sensuous actions by removing his black vest and necktie.
Her eyes were huge and luminous in the flickering candlelight of the bedroom. With shaking fingers, Beatrice slowly started to pop open the buttons on his dress shirt. As much as he longed to keep touching her, Benedick kept his hands to his sides, perfectly content to let her control the pace.
With the last button undone, Beatrice slid the dress shirt off. Benedick may have been slim, but he still had a solid build. A couple of jagged scars, some thicker than others, ran over his chest, evidence of his days in combat.
The sight of those traumas were sobering because they meant she could have easily lost him long before they ever admitted their feelings; and where would that have left her? Mentally shaking her head, Beatrice refused to let herself get lost in such dark thoughts; Benedick stood there, alive and well and very much in love with her.
"May I touch you?" She whispered. When he nodded, she spread her hand across his chest, the fine hairs tickling her palm. Her confidence soared when he visibly shuddered under her touch. Beatrice was completely out of her realm, with her lack of experience, but it didn't seem to matter to Benedick. He let out a ragged groan as she pressed her mouth to the hollow of his throat.
When her fingers skimmed under his ribs, he squirmed and actually giggled .
"Are you ticklish?" She asked with an amused grin.
"No," Benedick squeaked before clearing his voice to a deeper tone. "I am not ticklish."
But when she danced her fingertips over his waist, he curled in on himself with a bubbly laugh.
He started to back away but Beatrice just followed him with a mischievous grin. "Does the Prince know he has a ticklish soldier in his service?"
"I certainly hope not!" Benedick protested.
She chuckled when he managed to catch her hands, but it was cut off when he captured her lips once again. Her knees nearly buckled with his warm skin surrounding her. He smelled like the gentle ocean breeze on a summer afternoon with a trace of fresh green apple underneath.
She wasn't so distracted that it stopped her from bringing her hands from his back to skim over his ribs, again. He broke the kiss with another snorting chortle that was truly rather endearing. This wonderful man had such a lighthearted side to him that was impossible to resist.
Benedick's smile turned more impish as he stepped closer. "I do believe the lady is slightly overdressed for the occasion." Her heart now threatened to beat out of her chest when he cupped her neck. When she offered no resistance (more so because she was frozen in place), his deft fingers found the zipper at the base of her neck and started tugging it downward slowly, like a caress.
Her own bravado seemed to disappear when she felt the zipper pulled lower and lower. Beatrice was more nervous of revealing herself to him than anything else about this night. Her breath came in short, stuttering bursts.
He suddenly ceased his movements, taking his hand away from her. He asked worriedly, "Are you well? Do you want me to stop?"
Beatrice didn't know how to voice her fears so she just threw herself back into his arms, burying her face in the crook of his neck. Thankfully, Benedick didn't push any further and held her close.
Even though they’d never been as physically close to each other as now, Benedick’s scent was comforting, it helped to ground her. After a long moment, Beatrice closed her damp lashes. "It's…I…I'm not…" she trailed off, swallowing heavily. "...I do not look like my cousin," she finished almost inaudibly.
Hero had always turned suitors' heads with her stunning figure while Beatrice learned to accept her own wide hips and not so flat stomach; some days were easier than others. She'd overheard rude remarks about her body from some of the men her uncle had presented as potential husbands in the past, and tried not to take their opinions to heart; as if she'd give herself over to such lowly men. But that still did not stop those comments from smarting.
No, it had always been Benedick's opinion she cared most about. Even in their war of words, he'd never attacked her appearance. The thought of seeing him disappointed once she truly revealed herself bodily, was almost too sickening to bear.
This wasn’t the Beatrice that he was used to seeing.
The bold, confident woman was falling into herself and he couldn’t understand why.
Didn’t she know how beautiful she was, to him most of all?
“Beatrice,” he said her name slowly, trying to be mindful of how his tone might come off, “What do you mean you don't look like your cousin? You're absolutely stunning.”
“I know I'm not as skinny as she, nor is my face as radiant, and I just want to make you happy," came her watery confession, while she still tightly held on to him. Benedick allowed the words to sink in, registering where she was coming from.
He didn’t understand it, but he also knew women did this, that they compared themselves in ways that a man could not fathom. It was the way of the damn world and his heart twisted at the thought that his wife felt this way.
“My dear Beatrice,” he said, pulling back slightly, but still keeping her close. “How could you not see that you're so beautiful in my eyes? I love you - all of you. I love your curves. Love how soft and supple they are.”
He made a point to place his hands on her hips, giving them a little squeeze. She squeaked in surprise and he smiled down at her, as he gathered her closer again.
Turning his head, Benedick let his mouth brush over her ear as he softly stated, “How could I not love the parts of you that make you who you are?”
Beatrice didn't say anything, but he could feel the tension slowly dissipate from her body. He hoped he sounded as genuine as he felt.
Sliding her arms from around his back, Beatrice brought her hands up to frame his face. He leaned his forehead against hers, and they were quiet for a long moment.
When she finally spoke, he felt her lips brush over his own as she murmured, "I am so grateful and so very lucky to be loved by you."
Working over the lump in his throat, Benedick's eyes stung with tears; he was actually the lucky one and he knew it, even if Beatrice never understood the deep truth of it.
She grinned as he sniffled lightly, and nuzzled her nose against his, a gesture he gladly returned. The love in her eyes melted into something more shy, as she turned around and pulled her hair away from the back of her dress in a silent invitation.
He wanted to savor this moment, this absolute trust she showed in him. Benedick pressed a long kiss to the base of her neck before slowly unzipping her dress the rest of the way. When she turned back around, Beatrice seemed hesitant, for a brief moment, and Benedick offered a warm smile. With a deep breath, she let the dress fall to her feet.
His mouth went dry, as his heart nearly stuttered to a complete and utter stop. The black bra and panties she wore were enough alone to halt all of his conscious thought processes. The shadows created by the candles, highlighted her curves even more. Even in the low light, Benedick could see freckles across her chest and stomach that he could not wait to trace with his fingers and lips. He felt his eyes nearly pop out of his head at the garter belts that held up the black stockings that covered her beautiful legs. She then removed the hair clip and allowed her red hair to tumble to her shoulders and then he was truly lost in her beauty.
Without a doubt, Beatrice had never looked more magnificent in this moment.
He must have been quiet for too long because Beatrice brought one of her arms up to cross over her stomach as if to cover herself. But Benedick gently took her hand away; all he could do was shake his head dumbly with what he was sure was a slack jawed expression. He would never, never grow tired of looking at her for all of their days on this earth.
Sinking to his knees, Benedick ran his hands up one of her legs to the garter belt on her thigh. Thank God, the tradition of the garter toss had been abandoned at the reception; he wanted the private honor of removing it. Once unbuckled, he looked up, his eyes surely begging for silent permission. At her slight nod, Benedick ever so slowly peeled the stocking down before doing the same to her other leg.
He ran his fingertips ever so lightly from her ankle up her calf, taking pleasure in the way she shivered. Not able to resist temptation any longer, he smoothed his entire hands over her thigh. Her soft skin was absolutely divine.
“I have seen water so blue, you would think it was something from dreams.” Benedick planted a wet kiss on her hip, before moving to those freckles on her stomach. He enjoyed the giggle he drew from her as he nuzzled there. At the sound of it, he fell even more deeply in love with her.
As he rose to his feet, he touched his mouth to the valley between her breasts. “I have seen the clearest of starry nights as if the entirety of the universe was just above.”
He stared intensely into her wide blue eyes. “But none were so beautiful as you.”
Beatrice brought her lips to his again; she could not get enough of the taste of him. What Benedick lacked in their battle of wits, he clearly saved for these private moments. No one had ever made her feel so loved, so seen, so beautiful as him.
Feeling more emboldened, she tugged at his belt, finding it difficult to unbuckle blindly. He chuckled against her lips, but Beatrice didn't want to let him go, not even for a second. It took her a few moments to loosen his belt. Thankfully, his pants were much easier to undo. As they dropped to the floor, she couldn't help but sneak a look between them. But what she saw caused her to laugh.
"Are those…ducks on your boxers?"
Benedick's ears turned a delicious shade of pink as she stepped back to inspect. Not just ducks, but cartoon depictions of little yellow rubber ducks, some even wearing shower caps with blue bubbles decorated around them.
"I forgot I chose those today…" he muttered, looking at the ceiling, a slight blush starting to form high on his cheeks.
She couldn't help the surge of fondness welling up in her chest. Pressing up on her toes, Beatrice pecked his nose. "I for one think you and your little ducks are adorable."
"I am nothing if not whimsical."
"Your black socks do complete the look though," she said amusedly.
He quickly removed his socks and any further thoughts of his whimsy were dashed when he pulled her back into his arms and she felt the evidence of his arousal against her body. They both shuddered at the new sensation.
They kissed as Benedick moved her gently to the bed. He let her go long enough for her to lay down on the soft sheets before he was over her, and pressed his mouth to hers again. He bared his weight on his arms before, gradually, settling against her. Breaking from his mouth, she panted heavily at the feeling of his erection settling more firmly against her center.
Beatrice thought a man's weight over her would feel claustrophobic and oppressive. Quite the opposite, Benedick, here, above her, felt like being wrapped up in her favorite blanket.
His hands moved under her back and he looked down at her with an adoring smile. "May I?" He asked sweetly. At her nod, he unclasped her bra.
"You are so, so beautiful," he said reverently before one of his hands gently touched her breast. Beatrice found herself arching into his warm touch. It wasn't long before he brought his mouth to the other side and she let out a drawn out, low moan.
He spent long moments there, alternating between kisses and licks, slowly driving her out of her mind. She felt one of his hands caress down her stomach. He stopped just above her panties.
"May I touch you?" He asked through choppy breaths. Even though his eyes were wide with desire, Benedick somehow managed to hold himself back…for her comfort, she realized. She smiled up at him, brushing a strand of hair from his forehead. She gave her answer in the form of a kiss and his fingers slid the rest of the way down. When she felt him brush over and against her labia and then his thumb rolled over her clitoris, she let out a sharp cry.
He expertly swirled his digits through her wetness, teasing, but never quite entering her. His other hand stroked her side lightly, running up and down, while he planted his mouth at her neck. His tongue darted out here and there, occasionally his teeth nipping causing her breathy sighs. He carefully worked his way down to her breast, where he closed his mouth over one of her nipples. Hissing through her teeth, she ground her hips harder against his questing fingers.
He merely chuckled at her response, and instead of increasing the pace and pressure like she wanted, Benedick nestled his unshaven face against her breasts. The rasp of his stubble against her hardened nipples caused delicious sparks to pool in her stomach and below. When she whimpered in frustration, he simply shook his head firmly.
"You bastard," she panted, with absolutely no heat behind her words.
Finally, gently, two fingers slipped inside of her and his thumb pressed and rubbed against her clit. All of that sweet pleasure roared through her body before she came apart with a desperate shout.
As she gradually came back to herself, Benedick rolled them onto their sides and nuzzled against her shoulder.
"Well, well, well," he murmured victoriously, and she could feel his annoyingly smug smile even as she tried to catch her breath. "I managed to make you speechless before I made you beg."
Beatrice rolled her eyes at his arrogant tone. When she finally got her boneless limbs to cooperate, she brought her arms from around his back to his chest. "I do wonder if I could do the same to you," she whispered, feverishly, against his ear as she trailed a single finger down his chest to his stomach, where a trail of fine hairs led to what was tenting in his boxers. Before she could lose her nerve, she slipped a hand inside his shorts.
The skin of his tumescent cock was hard and almost searingly hot against her palm. As her fingers gradually closed around his length, he let out a strangled groan. It was difficult to believe she reduced him to a stuttering mess and so quickly. Curiosity overwhelmed any reservations she had as she started to stroke him. His eyes were closed tightly and his breath hot against her skin as he panted into her neck. When she flicked her thumb over his slit, Benedick shuddered.
Swallowing heavily, he wrapped a shaking hand around her wrist before gently pulling her away. "I-I…you…" he tried to take a breath to collect himself. "I yield, I beg."
She snickered, looking into his eyes. The passion, the desire was still there, but there was also love, so much love.
Cupping her cheek, he shifted her onto her back again. He slipped his hands under the waistband of her panties before drawing them, slowly, down her legs. He managed to shimmy out of his own boxers and dropped both pieces of clothing onto the floor.
He took a moment to just soak her in and when he settled back over her, they both hissed at the full skin to skin contact. He brought one of their hands together, and interlaced their fingers tightly. He flexed his hips, settling himself against her center, before slowly pushing forward. Her body tensed at the slight pressure and he suddenly stopped.
"Are you well?" He whispered anxiously.
Not trusting her voice, she just nodded. But he must have felt her trembling against him, because Benedick pressed his lips to her forehead. He then squeezed her hand and after a moment when she squeezed back, he shifted his hips again. He moved ever so slowly ensuring she was still with him and alright. Eventually, he was fully sheathed inside of her and in that moment they were both struggling for air.
He managed to hold himself still as their mouths touched, which thankfully gave her body a chance to relax further, to become more familiar with the feel and girth of him inside her. As she did so, he was able to slide in deeper, fully slotting them together. She broke the kiss, whimpering against his lips. “Benedick…”
“I’m yours.” He then brought her other hand to his chest covering it with his own, his heart beating wildly under her palm. “Always yours, my love.”
He began to slowly slide back out and set a gentle, steady pace that bordered on maddening. But he never let go of their clasped hands. Beatrice clung to him, loving the flex of his back muscles. It was nearly overwhelming to be, in this moment, with her husband. She'd loved Benedick for far longer than she cared to admit. But their years' long battle had finally led them to this wonderful moment of connection.
The pleasure built up, little by little, until she could feel it in every muscle. It wasn't long before her body ached for release.
"Please," she begged, not caring how desperate she sounded. "Please, please."
Without letting her go, Benedick managed to work a hand between them, massaging her clit once again. His firm strokes sent her into sweet oblivion where there was nothing else but the two of them. Moments later, she felt his stomach tighten as his hips stuttered. The hard heat inside of her pulsed, and he released a hoarse shout.
They collapsed in on each other, both gasping for breath. It didn't help Beatrice any when tears started to slide down her cheeks. She never thought she would have any of this moment right here, least of all with Benedick. But here she was, his warm skin surrounding her, their bodies and souls fully connected.
He pulled his head up just enough to look at her, and she was slightly surprised to see his own wet eyes. She caressed his cheek, her thumb running over his lips. The softness of his gaze and all of the adoration there…just spurned more tears.
Thankfully, he seemed to understand hers were tears of happiness because he laughed, presumably at their release of emotions. He brought his forehead down to touch against hers, an already comforting gesture between them.
"I lied in the church earlier," she admitted quietly, her lips brushing against his as she spoke. "I do not love you, no more than reason. I love you more than reason. Beyond all that is rational."
Lifting his head, Benedick's eyes crinkled with that wide, enthusiastic grin she adored so much. "I love you beyond reason. Exceptionally more than a reasonable person should."
Decidedly there, Beatrice changed her mind: she'd much rather hear her husband's love declarations than a dog's bark.
Gently, he slid out of her and shifted his weight to her side. He rested his head on her shoulder, face buried in the crook of her neck. His arm wrapped around her waist, his hand idly caressing there. For her part, Beatrice stroked his hair, fingernails scratching lightly along his scalp. Benedick once again made a contented rumbling, akin to a purring cat. She couldn't help the snort that escaped and kissed his forehead.
Glancing down, she found his eyes closed and face relaxed in soft contentment. Beatrice loved the sweet, snuggly weight of her husband and pressed herself even closer.
"Beatrice?" Benedick asked, his voice slightly muffled by her collarbone.
"We are not going to be as lovesick as your cousin and Claudio…right?" He genuinely sounded worried.
She scoffed lightly. "Of course not." Her other hand that was not busy in his hair, then caressed his cheek, scraping the stubble there. “We will never be as terrible as those two ,” she assured him.
When Benedick had his hungover soliloquy over the supposed perfect woman for him (that definitely was not Beatrice), one of the qualities he listed was she shall be rich. He was only joking at the time…
…but he had to admit, there were definite perks to Beatrice having a wealthy uncle: like Leonato gifting them a trip to Banff, Canada for their first wedding anniversary. There was plenty to do in the snowy mountain town including touring the national park, wine tasting, and walking hand in hand around the frozen lake. And every night (and frankly sometimes during the day), they would escape back to the private, luxurious cabin with its huge bed.
Snow started to fall in earnest one night, but the fire going in the large stone fireplace warded off any chill from the outside. It was also the only source of light, giving the bedroom an even further cozy atmosphere. Benedick and Beatrice were safely tucked under the soft sheets and thick quilt in their own warm cocoon.
Beatrice lay sprawled out on top of him, sweaty and sated. While her head was pressed against his chest, Benedick swept her hair from about her neck to caress her shoulder. He felt the gooseflesh on her skin and smiled when he felt her cuddle even closer to him. Tightening his arms around her, Benedick closed his eyes, and reflected on the last year and all of the lovely discoveries he'd made.
Like how Beatrice turned their house into a home, that was warm and welcoming. And how nice it was to have her in said home when he came back from a bad day at the base. His troubles were easily forgotten when he lay his head in her lap and she stroked his hair. How quickly he'd gotten accustomed to having her in his bed, so much so, he had trouble falling asleep if she wasn't beside him.
There were, of course, bumps along the way, but even still, marriage was pretty damn good. Benedick could not remember why he was so against it in the first place. He supposed that’s what love could do to a person, let them access a part of themselves that seemed foreign before.
He sighed deeply and felt his wife smile against his chest. "That was quite the happy sigh. What are you thinking about?"
Benedick was too relaxed to care about how cheesy his answer sounded. "You."
"And the many good parts you fell in love with?"
"That would imply you have good parts."
Beatrice lightly curled her fingers around his ribs and he let out a very undignified squeaky laugh. When he settled, she adjusted her position slightly to rest her chin on his chest so she could look at him. "You never did answer that question. For which of my good parts did you first suffer love?"
There was no witty quip about suffering from love this time. Benedick certainly was not suffering (especially with Beatrice’s warm naked body curled up against his). So he tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and replied, firmly, "Your strong sense of self. You have always known what you wanted from life, never letting anyone stand in your way. I've always admired your strength and conviction in the face of family and societal expectations."
Her blush made the freckles on her cheeks stand out, and Beatrice buried her face in his chest once again. He may not always have the right words on hand in their verbal sparring matches, but Benedick took pride in making her speechless with his praises.
A few moments later, Beatrice lifted her head again. The adoration in her blue eyes was sparkling and he felt his breath catch. “And to think I only married you to save your life,” she gently teased.
“You did save my life,” Benedick replied softly, yet seriously. “You were the only one who could.”
He didn’t miss the way her lip trembled before she leaned down and kissed him. They’d shared countless kisses over the last year, but the way his heartbeat quickened was in no way lessened by familiarity.
She reclaimed her resting spot with a small smile. Moments later, some thought struck Beatrice because her groan was muffled against his body. "This is so shameful! Oh we're the lovesick fools now aren't we?"
Benedick sighed in resignation. "I'm afraid…well…it appears that way." Then he quickly added, "I won't tell if you won't."