She had known what to expect, when she surrendered to him. When she gave him her parole, on the back of his sparing her life, and agreed to walk with him into enemy hands. She ... had known. Or thought she had.
He hadn't touched her, at first. She had been cold, ice in her gut that had nothing to do with the weather, and for a while she hadn't noticed. That he moved around her always at that perfect, discreet distance, that he walked unconsciously just at the line of her space, and left it to her to move beyond it. She hadn't noticed, in those first few days, how he so carefully moved around her, and did not touch her at all.
Until he did. Until that one night, as she sat with her back to the motel radiator, on the floor with her arms wrapped around her raised knees, and her head tilted back against the cold metal, chin raised and throat bare, in one last, unconscious act of defiance. All the courage she had, when everything else had frozen still around her. She had sat there, in the yellow light of the sodium lamps across the road, and after a long, long moment ... he had sat beside her.
She had tensed, unconscious, instinctive, and forced herself to relax. Forced her body loose, willing, ready, with the liquid control of long practice. Waiting, for a hand at the nape of her neck, maybe, or a touch at her arm. In the yellow darkness, with cold metal at her back, she had waited for a thing that never came.
He sat beside her. His arm-bracer clanging softly against the radiator, his leather jacket creaking gently as he lowered himself to the floor. The warmth of him sudden against her arm, her side, taking the edge off the chill of the radiator. The chill of ... all the other things. He sat there, a warmth at her side, in perfect silence, for a long, long time. While she waited for those other, more familiar things, that it seemed he could not give.
She hadn't looked at him. Had stared blindly past her knees, out into the shadows of an anonymous room and the echoes of a thousand empty lives. While the ice inside her melted into something else, something different, a liquid that knotted in her throat and stung at her eyes. Beside her, he did nothing.
"I ..." she'd said, soft and so much more fragile than she'd ever been, in all these long years. Since the first moment blood had painted her hands, and she had known the monstrous thing inside her. "I don't know ... that I can do this."
A world where they were not monsters, he'd offered. And she had known, even as she stared down the length of his arrow, into the silent, savage faith in his eyes, that it could not be so. That it could never be so. She had never ... never not been a monster.
He'd stayed quiet, for a minute. Resting against her, not pulling away. The silent, steady warmth of him melting things inside her that should never have been melted, freeing things that should never have been freed. He'd been silent, for a moment. And then.
"If you can't, I'll be the one to kill you," he'd said. And it hadn't been a threat. For the first time in her life, it hadn't been a threat. It had been a promise, warm and quiet, all the mercy of an arrow to the heart, and a clean, pure silence where she did not have to be afraid.
She had not cried. There had been liquid in her throat, behind her eyes, a deep, endless well of it that she had not understood, and dared not let free. But she had not cried.
Instead, in that soft, yellow silence, she had tilted her head to the side, and let it rest, for the first time, on his shoulder. No more, not ever more. And he, for his part, had simply moved his own head gently, and let it rest atop hers. In all her life, in all a career of hands and eyes, and a body that had only partially been hers ... that had been the quietest, most intimate moment she had known.
It was not love. Not as once she had understood love, when she had been young and ignorant, and believed in so many fairytales. This was not that, and never would be.
But in that moment, sitting in the darkness with metal at her back, with the cold inside her and his warmth at her side, she had known that she would give her life, all that she was, and all the world besides, to repay to him that gift.