Soothe — Firefighter Steamy Romance/Comfort Romance — Australia 2019/2020 Charity
This steamy short story about a married couple overcoming extreme stress together was included in the charity anthology book, Slow Burn, The Fires that Bind Us, published by Little Quail Press in 2020, which is no longer in print. You can read it here if you think you might enjoy it, and proceeds received from claps totaling $2 or more will go to the environmental charity, NRDC, to address our increasing global wildfire crisis.
January 1, 2020
We’d heard about wildfires during Australian summer before we moved here. We even knew that they were likely to get worse each year because of climate change. But how does one prepare for what is happening now?
Our first months here were fun: setting up a new home in a new and different land, seeing koalas and kangaroos in person, having completely different birds come to our feeders, learning the local lingo. One of my favorite memories from that time is taking the Jenolan River Walk. Such a beautiful place. I squealed when I finally caught sight of a platypus and Amado laughed delightedly at me. When the walk was almost over and night was falling, a wombat took a liking to him. It watched him and he watched it, and they began to mimic each other. He didn’t want to part from it, but another wombat distracted it.
His workload increased as the wildfires began. It didn’t take long to get where we are now: people and animals are dying, the fires are taking over, and everything seems too horrible to be borne, but undeniably real.
Against this backdrop of pain, our relationship began to suffer. He was gone most of the time, and I was deathly afraid for him. I resented that he was having to fight something that should never have happened in the first place, a natural event made worse by man’s greed throwing figurative gasoline on it.
I was too tense to be tender with him, and we began to argue over little things that became much bigger than they should have been. Oddly, it was getting harder and harder to fix dinner. I didn’t feel like messing with it, and the resentment I had built all day from worrying about him made our conversations awkward at best, and volatile at worst. The low point was just before Christmas. I’d already been banging things around through each step, and cut myself just before he came in. He tried to hold me, and I reciprocated, albeit stiffly.
There was a sense of vulnerability in his voice, “They’re going to have to extend our hours.” I didn’t give him a chance to explain why. Instead, I pulled away, pushed the kitchenware that was near me off the counter and onto the floor. I turned off the stove amidst the shattered shards of our lives, and ran and hid in the bedroom.
I felt horrible, for myself and him, and just generally. He needs me, like I need him, but what if us arguing kept him from being safe while he was working? I’d look at him: his short, mussed black morning hair, t-shirt and boxer briefs on his slightly muscled, medium-skinned body, and want to cry, even though I’d just been yelling. I love this man. What was I doing to him? And I wanted to spend quality time with him for myself too, in case I did lose him. What if these were my last moments with him? I didn’t want us to spend them fighting, or be torn apart.
So, I worried, angry, and designated time together to nothing but relaxation and support, for myself and for him because I couldn’t be supportive when I was at my wits’ end. Thankfully, he was a willing and active participant in that decision, mindful of my feelings as well as his, as much as a fallible human being under stress can be. We still bickered now and then, but we quickly overcame it. We still talked of what’s going on and our feelings about it some; it’s part of the release, but we also commit to spending more time mending than anything else during the short time when we’re together.
Night before last, I unmade the bed while he was in the bathroom and at the tooth brushing stage of preparing for bed. He came out in his well-fitting shirt and boxer briefs, and I was wearing a lacy nightgown, sitting up in bed with a book, my hair hanging loose for my enjoyment, and his. I patted the bed and smiled at him.
“What?” he asked with a breathy laugh.
“Sit here,” I told him as I pushed the sheets away and spread my legs.
He climbed in bed and leaned against me so that I could hold the book in front of him and read it too.
“It’s my favorite book,” he voiced, reasoning out what I was doing, his hand on my leg.
“I love you,” I whispered and kissed his neck.
“I love you.” His voice was heavy with feeling.
He turned to kiss my mouth, sliding his hand up my leg, and turned further around to kiss me better. His powerful body language hinted to me what he was thinking.
I ran my hands down his sides. “Is that what you want?”
He kissed me again. “Now. We can read after I’ve been duly appreciative.”
“Payment before the service?” I grinned at him, and he quieted me with another kiss.
He moved down to my breasts, paying attention to what showed above my gown. Then his hands worked downward, sensually grazing me through the fabric. He touched me between my legs and teased me with his fingers. When I writhed, he kissed me again, long and passionately.
He stopped and deftly lifted me onto his lap. Our underwear pushed aside, he gripped my hips, I put my arms around his neck, and he entered me. The pleasure to my eager body escaped in a moan, and I collected myself enough to grind into him. His fingers pressed into my hips.
As our body heat rose, so did the lingering smell of smoke and eucalyptus on his body. It stung me, but I held him and kissed him with even greater passion so that I could ignore it.
He pulled me close, once, twice, over and over with desire, stopping me when it grew so good that I tried to jerk away. I reached my peak, and the awareness of it and the sensation it gave him made him moan and move with even more forceful need inside me.
Soon, I was able to grind against him again, and when my pleasure mounted, he kissed my neck and my breasts. I trembled, and he moved the strap of my nightgown aside, exposing more of my breast for him to love. He enjoyed one and then the other, as he moved in me and held me down again when I almost jerked away. I peaked again, loudly, and he joined me. I stroked him and held him, and he kissed my neck.
We stayed in this cuddly state for some time and then finally resumed our original positions. I felt his body between my legs, the top of his back and shoulders against my torso, his head near mine so I could sometimes lean my head against it. Both of us were lazy and happy.
I began to read, putting feeling and subtle character voices into it. At one point, he leaned further into me, his head drawing toward mine. Shortly after that, I kissed his head, briefly, not stopping my reading.
He fell asleep just before I had finished the second chapter. I laid the book down and dozed for a while like that, my arms wrapped around him, gently pulling him to me. At some point, I woke and roused him enough so that we could get into bed, between the sheets, and snuggle. I stroked him just a little, to hopefully feel soothing to both of us without being enough to wake him up.
The alarm clock woke us the next morning. We both sat and pushed the covers away, showing in our speed and the way we moved a complicated mixture of commitment to our tasks. Before we were completely free of the sheets, he turned to me and gently pulled me close to him for a kiss on the neck. I held him tightly for a few moments, and then we got up to have breakfast.
We barely spoke about the fires or work. Just what had to be said, then we’d put those thoughts away in their place and talk about our favorite characters and scenes in what we’d read the night before.
We prayed together before he left and held and kissed each other. I kept myself busy throughout the day, cleaning some, using the internet to raise awareness for what was going on here, turning my writing to discussing the fires, designating periods to try to calm myself. My latest relaxation method was to journalise. I felt like I had to be careful which methods I used to alleviate stress. They have to be occupying enough to distract me and feel like healthcare rather than fun. I don’t want to have fun. I don’t really want to relax. I just know I have to. What I wanted to do was run through the streets, screaming.
After lunch, I heard the siren of a fire engine outside the house, and I ran to the window, wondering why there was a siren here. We weren’t supposed to have any need for them in this area; not yet. I didn’t see anything for some seconds. Then I discerned movement; a bird. I think I remember someone told us it was a Magpie. It was moving, and the sound was coming from it, not a siren, but carolling, over and over; the bird’s whole body moving as they do when they sing. I broke down right there, in front of the window.
My husband called me briefly in the middle of the day, and being able to hear his voice felt like soothing rain, like I’d been fighting a rage in me and this connection with him ended it, at least temporarily.
He told me where he was and what they were doing, and I told him how brave he is. Then I let him go back to it.
Last night, he ate his dinner with that kind of calm remoteness that comes from being tired and asked me about what was being done and what people were saying.
“I’m so exhausted,” he told me afterward, “my body, my mind, things I’ve seen. Thankfully, there is some goodness to lighten the load a little.”
He was leaning back against the couch like sleep would come as soon as he let himself go.
I would normally wash the dishes after dinner, but since that terrible argument, I began letting them sit and cleaning them while he was gone. I wanted to save all things like that to do when I was alone.
We were sitting on the couch, turned half toward each other, in each other’s arms.
“Do you want to talk about it? The good things?” I asked.
And he did. For a little while he told me about good deeds he witnessed, and one he credited himself with.
When he began to struggle to keep his head and arms up because he was so tired, I said softly, “Let’s go to sleep,” and tugged at him.
We went through our nighttime routine and got into bed, where we spooned together. I wasn’t sure if I was sleepy or not, but I wanted to be there, for him and for me. He drifted off almost instantly, and I leaned in closer to him. I spent some time appreciating his warm body, the tender and intimate way he clutched me, the sound and rhythm of his breaths, that he could rest. Then, I fell asleep too. Apparently, I was sleepier than I’d realized.
I was aware of warm, sweet kisses on my shoulder, then him stroking my waist. As I softened at his touch, his kisses began to linger, then trail up my neck and to the side of my face. I reached back to touch him, and he climbed on top of me to settle in, kissing my neck.
Moaning and stroking his back, I said, “What if I want to do something for you?”
He moaned and then paused and looked me in the face. “Like what?”
I smiled and guided him onto his back, and he gave me an intense, expectant expression, his hands sliding up my thighs and hips. That face drew me in, and I gave him many kisses all over it, one hand in his hair, hearing his sighing breaths, feeling him appreciate my body.
I worked downward, his neck and Adam’s apple, his collarbone, arms, chest, belly button, and his hips. I teased him here with my lips and hands, getting creative with places to love.
His intensity and need became evident to me, and I worked my way back up to place my hands on his shoulders and slip him inside me. I took in the sights, sounds, and sensations of his pleasure to skillfully work him up, and I explored his body with my hands. As our pleasure mounted, I rested my hands back on his shoulders and pressed him down, moving with more power, and worked until the sweet, overwhelming satisfaction came for both of us.
He held me and softly laughed where I could hear it and feel it in the movements of his chest against my body.