Gretel has beaten him to the river and is already washing herself off by the time he's finally finished cleaning his blade. The witch's blood was thick and black, clinging to the edge of his knife, and even now the acrid stench of it is filling his nostrils.
He should be used to it by now given the number of witches that he and his sister have taken down, but there's something about that smell that lingers, clinging to his clothes and skin. It's the scent of corruption, something older and darker than time itself, and it would make a weaker man than Hansel sick to his stomach.
He kneels on the river bank and washes his hands clean over and over again, his nose wrinkling as the blood swirls from his fingertips, leaving ink trails in the crystal clear water. But the river runs fast here; it's not long before every trace of that bitch is gone, hopefully all the way down into hell.
By the time he's finished doing that, Gretel has stripped off her clothes, rinsing them out and leaving them to dry on the rocks, lined up one by one in the midday sun. He swallows down a smirk; they've never really been the domestic type and this will be the closest that Gretel has ever come to a washing line.
He's smart enough not to comment on it, though. His sister wouldn't appreciate it, and the day is shaping up too nicely to spoil it just because he's still hankering for a more satisfying fight than the one he got. The tension might still be itching underneath his skin, but the sun is bright and high overhead, sending sunlight dancing on the water and casting a golden sheen over Gretel's skin.
It's a pretty sight, more than pretty. He's not a poet - he's the furthest thing from it, so much so that some days it feels like he can barely string three words together to form a sentence, let along capture something like the sight in front of him. But if he were, if he had that kind of gift of the tongue, oh, the poems he could write about his Gretel, how fair and fierce she is both in and out of battle, and how much of his heart she holds.
Of course, it's nothing to the grip she has on his balls. And he's not sure she'd be willing to trade the one skill he has with his tongue for another.
He grins at the thought, ducking his head so that Gretel won't see it. His sister knows him too damned well; she'd see through him in a heartbeat and since this latest witch wasn't much of a challenge he's pretty sure she's still got enough energy left to kick his ass. She wouldn't be his sister if she didn't.
He lets his eyes linger over her form for a long moment before he sits back on his haunches and stares up at the sky instead. It's definitely a nice day, and they don't get many of those. Most of their time seems to be spent in deep, dark forests, the kind of real estate that's definitely not family friendly. Witches never seem to go for nice, pleasant meadows, or picturesque hills. Dark and dank is their preferred motif - he's never met a witch yet who was original.
Still, this is nice, much nicer than he expected. There are actually birds singing instead of crows cawing, spiders spinning, or something unsavoury squelching underfoot.
Even without the witch being much of a challenge, he still thinks it was a smart idea to leave Ben back at camp with Edward to watch over him. It means that he and Gretel can take their time wending their way back home, with no need for breadcrumbs this time. And if Hansel has his way, they'll take a little longer than they should.
And Hansel definitely wants to have his way. It's been too damned long now that they have to share a fire with a raw, green kid and a forest troll.
His eyes are drawn back to Gretel where she's standing in the sun, her hands slowly sculling in the water. Her face is turned up towards the sky, her eyes closed as she drinks in the warmth. The faint breeze ruffles her hair, a few loose tendrils working their way free of her plait to caress the skin of her face, and small water droplets still bead her skin, on her shoulders and down over her breasts, glistening in the sunlight.
Yes, she makes a pretty sight, and he's pretty sure that that's intentional. He doesn't think that he's the only one who's been deprived.
"Enjoying yourself?" he asks, and the corners of her mouth turn up in a smile even though her eyes stay closed, her face still tilted up towards the sun.
Oh yeah, it's intentional.
He lets the silence stretch out, watching as her smile deepens, becoming something mysterious and mischievous both at once.
"It's a nice day," she says eventually, finally opening her eyes and turning her head to look at him. "It would be a pity not to enjoy it."
Her words are arch, and he leans back on his elbows, smirking at her from the bank, now completely sure that they're both on the same page. "Well, I'm definitely enjoying the view," he says, and she rolls her eyes even as the corners of her mouth quirk up again, more pleased than irritated.
"You might want to wash yourself off before we head back to camp," she says, and that's an invitation if ever he's heard one. "It's a long way," she adds, her tone a little more sly this time, full of the kind of teasing that he's missed these last few weeks. "I'm sure you don't want to stink of witch the entire way back."
"No? And here was me thinking I'd start the latest fashion. Bottle it and sell it the next big city we stop at. Eau de..."
He trails off, not quite able to come up with a witty name for whatever stink is still clinging to his clothes. In the end, he shrugs in the face of her grin and starts toeing his boots off, pulling his shirt over his head.
The water's cold when he plunges into it, stealing his breath away as his balls try to climb back into his body. Gretel laughs out loud this time, swirling her fingers in the water as she turns to face him.
He knows her too damned well, too. He's already ducking when she sends the first wave of water in his direction, laughing again when it splashes against his skin. He surges towards her, grabbing her around the waist and toppling the pair of them over into the river, grinning as Gretel shrieks, the sound still full of laughter and filling his heart with joy.
Grinning might have been a mistake; he swallows down a mouthful of water before he straightens his legs and pushes the pair of them back above the surface. He's still holding tight to Gretel, who's spluttering with laughter as she tries to both wriggle free of his embrace, and push her wet hair out of her face the same time.
She fails at both tasks, and settles against him, panting little from the exertion, little shivers of laughter still running through her. It makes for an interesting sensation, and he lets her feet settle back down onto the riverbed, bracing the pair of them against the current. It leaves his hands free to roam over Gretel's lithe body, mapping familiar and much loved places. Her skin isn't silky smooth, not with the scars she's collected over the years, all of them hard-won, but he wouldn't get rid of a single one.
He lowers his face to the puckered mark on her shoulder, the one left behind when something with claws had ripped through Gretel's skin. He lets his lips brush against it as he breathes in the scent of her hair, the faint smell of gun power and Gretel that's so achingly familiar. He could pick her out of a crowd, in pitch black darkness if he needed to.
But he'll never need to - she'll always find him, just like he'll always find her.
She sighs and sinks against him, the only sign he needs that she's missed this closeness as much as he has. She makes another abortive attempt to push the hair from her face, but it's too thick and heavy and she finally gives up, sliding her fingers into his wet hair instead and pulling his face back up to meet hers.
She tastes clean, like fresh river water, and he pulls her closer, needing the comfort of her touch and deepening the kiss until he can taste her underneath it, something richer that makes him shiver just as hard as she is. The water is cold, but that's not the reason why; she's the reason. She's always the reason, the only one he has for anything.
She pulls him closer, twining her strong arms around his neck and lifting her feet up from the riverbed until she's floating, with only him as her anchor. She's smooth and slippery in his arms, as agile as any fish in these waters, and he gladly bears her weight, holding her steady until she manages to wrap her legs around his waist.
The river surges around them and he braces himself against the current, pulling her so tightly against him that not even the water can get between them.
She settles her head on his shoulder with a sigh, something that sounds suspiciously close to content.
She's strong, his Gretel, all lean, corded muscle that doesn't come close to showing her true strength. She should be heavier than this, but she's buoyed by the water and Hansel has a strength all of his own. He sets off towards the shore, still carrying her, as the water courses around his legs, full of subtle currents that pluck at his skin, just waiting to drag him under.
But he's carrying something too precious to drop, although Gretel would laugh herself sick if she knew what he was thinking. Even so he takes it slowly, making sure his footing is secure before he places his next step just to keep her safe.
The rocks at the edge of the river are warm from the sun, and he carefully places Gretel on the largest one. She leans back almost straight away, propping herself up on her elbows and staring up at him with a challenging glint in her eye. He grins down at her, not at all surprised when her next move is to slide her legs apart, the move subtle but the message clear.
He always tries hard not to disappoint her, and this time is no exception. He takes the hint, wrapping his hands around her thighs and tugging her until her ass is level with the edge of the natural platform formed by the rocks on the riverbank.
The riverbed is gravelly here and he spares a moment to regret the state of his knees after this, but he's suffered worse for Gretel. It's worth it when she closes her eyes with a sigh and lowers herself until her back is flat against the rock, her toes curling against his shoulders as he settles between her thighs, leaning in.
Even here she tastes of nothing but river water at first, but he perseveres, sliding his tongue into her curls and spreading her open with his thumbs. She shudders as he laps at her, flattening his tongue and pressing it against the small bud above her opening, the one that brings her such pleasure. Her taste grows musky, something thicker and headier as her pleasure starts to rise, and he drinks it down, every drop.
She curls her fingers into his scalp, her toes now digging into his back as she arches into his touch. The water swirls around his waist, ice-cold against his dick and balls, a sharp contrast against the heat of her body where it's pressed against him. It's intoxicating, better than the beer at any of the taverns that they drink at and twice as tasty.
God, he's missed this, the taste of Gretel and the sounds she makes.
He tightens his grip on her, his fingers digging into her hips as he holds her down, his tongue sliding deeper into her wet warmth. He breathes in the scent of her, listening to the small gasps she lets out as he moves his tongue up, flicking it over that small bud again before sucking it into his mouth.
This time she lets out a small cry, her knees tightening on his shoulders and her nails scratching at skin. She's close; he can taste it, feel it in the way that her thighs are quivering around his ears, the tension in her body building where his fingers press against her skin. He keeps going, long practice telling him where to touch, where to suck, how fast and how deep to go. He knows his Gretel well, and he fucking lives for this. She gasps again, his name buried somewhere within that sound, and he moves his tongue again, letting it press roughly against her just where she needs it.
She comes apart beneath his hands, under his tongue, and the taste of her spend floods his mouth, thick and sweet.
He keeps his mouth working on her until she's shuddering, pushing his head away with shaking hands. Only then does he let her go, sliding his hands slowly down her thighs just to feel the way that her skin twitches underneath his touch.
She's panting when he finally pulls away and wipes at his mouth with the back of his hand. Her eyes are closed, almost squeezed shut as the last shivers of her climax shudder through her, her expression almost pained with the pleasure of it.
Even so, she's beautiful like this, spread out before him, sweat drying on her body and her hair in tangles around her face.
He pushes himself to his feet, swallowing down a groan when his hips and knees - made stiff by the icy water - protest, the skin on his knees stinging from a hundred tiny cuts. But Gretel's still pleasured gasps are worth any small pain he feels now, firming up his dick now that it's no longer submerged in ice-cold water.
He slides one calloused hand back up her thigh and she blinks open her eyes, catching his predatory gaze. Her mouth curls up in a smile again, something small but smug and satisfied, and she pushes herself further up the rock, leaving space for him to climb out of the river into.
Where she leads, he follows. It's always been that way, and he never wants that to change.
She spreads her legs for him again, reaching down to stroke her hand along the length of his dick as he settles between them. He closes his eyes, sinking into the sensation as her small hand starts to move, her grip strong and firm. She knows how to touch him, just as he knows how to touch her, and it's not long before his dick is full and hard, ready for her.
It's his turn to gasp as she uses that grip to tug him forward, just hard enough to get his attention but not so hard that she risks hurting him, given the sensitive nature of what she's currently holding. He opens his eyes just in time to catch her licking at her lips, her own eyes dark and hungry even though she's come once already, as though he's just stoked a fire that's continuing to burn, hot and fierce.
"Are you just going to kneel there all day and stare at me," she asks, her voice gravelly, rough with want, "or are you going to come down here and fuck me?"
He pretends to consider this for a moment, long enough to have Gretel growling impatiently, her fingers tightening around his dick. He gets the message, loud and clear, but he still grins at her smugly before he finally stretches out over her, bracing himself as he lets her guide his cock into her.
Sinking into her body is like coming home, like sinking into a warm bath instead of into a cold river. She lets out another of those pleasured little gasps before she catches her lower lip between her teeth, a frown of concentration forming between her brows as he starts to move.
He watches her face; he loves watching her face while he fucks her, all the things that flit across it, the way that her lips part when he pushes into her and the way her brow creases when he pulls out again. He memorises all of those expressions, and they've kept him going these last few, barren weeks.
She shifts underneath him with a contented little sigh, and then slides her hands up his arms, over his shoulders and down his back. Her short nails scratch against his skin, sending shivers through him until her hands settle on his ass, tugging him closer, and urging him to pick up the pace.
He follows her lead in this, too, rolling his hips as he pushes into her just to feel the way that her body stutters underneath his, just to hear those sounds that she makes. She's close again; he can feel it in the way that her body's tightening around him, in the way that her neck is arching, her lip once again caught between her teeth.
"Gretel," he murmurs, and her eyes drift open, unfocused with pleasure. "Tell me."
She shudders against him, but she knows what it is that he wants, what it is that he needs to hear her say. "It's good," she says, and her voice is fractured, broken, her gasps now sounding more like sharp, little cries. "So fucking good, Hansel. Your dick feels so fucking good in me. God, don't... don't stop."
He won't. He can't, not when she's making those sounds, her head tossing from side to side, her fingers digging into his flesh she tries to drag him closer and closer still. They drive him on, bringing him closer to the edge himself, and he reaches down and grasps hold of one of her thighs, pulling it up until it's wrapped around his waist, changing the angle for the better. The sound she lets out this time is sharper still, louder in the summer air, and she brings up her other leg of her own volition, wrapping both of them around his waist so that once again their bodies are pressed so tightly against each other that nothing can come between them.
"Gretel," he murmurs again, and his voice is fractured this time, too. "God, Gretel..."
Her body bucks against him as she finds her release again, more violently this time, her nails leaving shallow furrows in his back. He bites back on a curse, the sharp pain only adding to the pleasure that's already building in his balls and curling its way up his spine. Gretel shudders against him again, her eyes wide open, the look in them lost as she comes, the pleasure surging through her. Because of him.
The sight sends him over the edge and he spills into her with sharp jerks of his hips, the world fading into nothing but the two of them, Hansel and his Gretel.
He hangs over her for long moments after he's come until finally his elbows finally give out and he collapses onto her, barely feeling it when her touch moves from pleasured to soothing, the kind of soft caresses that Gretel only allows herself when it's just the two of them like this.
That's probably the clearest sign of just how much she's missed this, just how constrained she's felt by Ben and Edwards presence. So much so that it takes several minutes before she moves from caresses to shoving at his shoulders, trying to free herself of his weight.
He rolls off her obligingly, settling down on the rock next to her and blinking up at the afternoon sky. "That was... nice," he says eventually, and she laughs, shoving at him again and making him smile. He turns his head to grin lazily at her, feeling that ever-present tension within him finally easing, something close to satisfaction taking its place. He really has missed this, just the two of them with no one to judge them for the things that come as easily, as naturally, to them as breathing.
Even breathing feels easier when it's just the two of them.
"Nice?" She pushes herself up onto her elbow, leaning over him and raising one eyebrow. "Are you sure you can't come up with anything better than just nice?"
He closes his eyes again, basking in the sun and in the warmth of Gretel, her shadow falling over his face, comforting and familiar. "We've got the rest of the afternoon, Sis" he says, not bothering to hide the grin that's once again slowly forming on his face, knowing just how smug he looks. "Give me a little recovery time, and I'll do my damned best to give you better than just nice."
She laughs loud and long, her shadow disappearing as she settles back down next to him, her head coming to rest on his shoulder.
Her hair is still wet, but he doesn't mind.