She doesn't remember the last time she wore a dress. Before, she guesses. Before the cancer, before the skitters, before Pope. Just... before. Definitely before Hal.
He looks at her as if he doesn't recognize her. She understands: she doesn't recognize herself either. Her hair is too long, her skin is too pale, her body is too scarred. The boots, though. Her combat boots are still in place as if a lucky charm. She is a good soldier after all.
However, the dress. It's a silly little thing, the dress. Lourdes gave it to her from a box full of clothes probably stolen from a mall. A gift, she had said. Maggie doesn't remember the last time somebody gave her a gift either.
The old school in which the Second Mass is staying is full of dust and broken tables. Maggie tends to wander off, filled with nostalgia and melancholy. Today is different, though. Not because of the dress, but because Hal follows her like a moth to the flame.
“What?” she says, “what's wrong?”
He seems pensive. His hand reaches out to her, but it stops suddenly.
“Nothing,” he answers, “you just look... different.”
She tries for a smile, but her face only manages a grimace. She turns around, the skirts of her dress dancing graciously against her thighs. She keeps on walking, passing deformed lockers and crumpled papers.
The afternoon sun forces its way through the windows of a small classroom and Maggie steps inside. Whoever was here before them made a mess. Tables and chairs upside down, broken glass and scattered books. Despite the chaos, Maggie finds the picture charming.
“Why do you do this?” Hal asks behind her.
The classroom looks like melted gold in this light.
He steps into the room, his eyes lost in the scene.
“Walk away,” he whispers.
Maggie looks at him this time. He looks exactly of what he is: a soldier boy. His eyes find hers and he doesn't restrain himself this time. He touches her waist, and presses her gently to the wall of the classroom.
They both become part of the golden canvas.
He puts a strand of hair behind her ear and kisses her neck. Hal is taller than her, and younger. He is the school star turned into the star soldier. He used to play lacrosse and make out with girls in the back of his car, and now he shoots to kill and longs for freedom.
And Maggie? Maggie is just...
“I don't know,” she sighs against Hal's cheek. Her hand tangles itself with Hal's hair, “I don't know why I do it.”
He stares into her eyes for a long time, searching for something she can't even begin to imagine. Maggie is scared of times like this. She is scared of people finding out things they shouldn't know. However, Hal is different and she hates that. She hates that because she feels weak, and she has promised herself she won't show weakness ever again.
When Hal kisses her properly, she wants to push him away. She doesn't need pity or compassion. She doesn't want to be Karen's replacement. Because what else would she be but a distraction from the missing loved one.
“Hal,” she starts, but Hal won't have it.
His hands tighten around her hips and he pushes her further into the wall.
“Margaret,” he grunts, and there is no Karen in there. “Please, don't.”
Maggie allows herself to pretend then. Just for this time. She pretends everything is okay, she pretends there is nothing rotten in all this. She pretends she deserves this and that she deserves Hal. She brings him closer, and swallows his desperation, and tastes his eagerness. She tells herself this is what she wants, and she hates herself a little bit because this is what she wants.
She is a fool.
Hal mumbles little nothings against her lips and Maggie can feel him aching for more, so she presses a thigh against his hip. Hal gasps and holds it there, his fingers warm on her skin. Maggie dares open her eyes then and sees Hal parted lips and flushed cheeks, all painted in golden strokes of light.
He thrust gently against her, so gently she feels like a teenager again. That's when she remembers Hal is a teenager, despite everything. She runs her fingers through his hair and kisses him on the mouth. He suddenly seems a little bit weaker and she is secretly thankful for that.
“Hal,” she sighs, just for the sake of saying his name out loud.
But then he stops and looks at her. He blinks and there is suddenly confidence, and love, and desire. Maggie has to correct herself. She is not in front of a boy anymore. Hal breathes against her lips and then kneels.
The room is melted gold and so are they.
Hal's fingers are trembling when they stop at the back of her knees, barely brushing the end of her dress. Maggie feels her heart pounding rather hard against her ribs, a thump-thump so loud she wonders if Hal can hear it.
“May I?” he mutters against her belly.
She nods, waiting for her heart to settle down.
“Okay,” she concedes.
When Hal reaches slowly for her underwear, Maggie's eyes fix on the room, on the thrown chairs, and the piled up glass, and the written chalkboard. She holds her breath like when they raid a building or fight in plain sight.
And then Hal's mouth is warm on her, perfectly sweet and wet. She grabs his head instinctively, gasping with every lick and kiss. She directs him sometimes, showing him exactly what she wants, and he complies, always a fast learner. She would mock him (she will mock him), but not now. No. Right now he is hers, and she is his, and just for one second the room is shattered gold.