“They’re going to catch us eventually, aren’t they,” Katie says. It isn’t really a question.
Sitting by her side on the hood of their stolen car, Andy contemplates this not-a-question, gazing up through the clear dry air at the stars and the bright half moon. There was a time, Katie knows, when he dreamed of going up there, of living all alone on the moon. Or of packing a bag and wandering north, away from this desert, to some green and wooded wild space where he could catch fish from the rivers and live wild and free. Well, they’re living wild and free now, in a way - but it can’t last, can it.
“We could go clean,” he says, but she can hear in his voice that he doesn’t really believe it. “Fuck, we could go to Palm Springs, or San Diego or LA even. Start a new life in the city. You always wanted to be a city girl.”
It was the first thing she ever told him about herself, that second night together - she was going to be a hotshot police detective in the city someday, she just knew it. It wasn’t until much later that he told her that Palm Springs sounded like hell on earth to him. Or that, even then, he would have run for Palm Springs City Council if she’d asked.
Hard to believe it all started as a one-night stand, just a naive young cop and a lonesome young mechanic leaving a bar together after a long day. They both fell so fast. By the time she left his bed that first night, he was already picking out baby names, and she - she just couldn’t resist coming back to the same bar, a few days later, in hopes of finding him again.
If she hadn’t taken him home that second night, maybe he would never have known where she lived, and if she hadn’t held him just a little too long after their breathing slowed from desperate panting to sleepy satisfaction, maybe he wouldn’t have thought there could be something more to this than sex, and if she hadn’t smiled at him just so when they said goodbye, maybe he wouldn’t have shown up on her doorstep the next evening with that wild grin on his face and that huge bouquet in his hand. She never knew where he found so many fresh flowers in their dusty little desert hometown. She never knew why he yipped and howled like a coyote instead of ringing the doorbell - but she knew even then that she loved him for it.
For almost three years it seemed like there would be, somehow, a place for them in the world. They got engaged, got a mortgage on a run-down bungalow with a gravel driveway and a scraggly cottonwood tree in the yard. They laughed and goofed around as they repainted the walls in the soft spring green of Andy’s daydreams and the rich terra-cotta brown of Katie’s, smearing paint playfully on each other’s clothes. They tried to plant a flower garden in the yard, but even with more irrigation than was responsible in this climate, they only managed to coax a handful of hardy iris blooms from the sun-scorched gravelly dirt.
They would lie together, in those days, and talk of plans for the future - where they would take a road trip once they had the time and money for it, how many years before they would move to the city, how many kids they’d like to have someday.
But then Katie was fired from the police force, after she refused to detain a man who had been doing nothing but walking resolutely north along the highway. And while she tried in vain to find a new line of work in this stagnant little town, their meager savings dwindled, and their bills started to go unpaid, and their pillow talk turned more and more often to desperate escape fantasies, the kind of run-away-and-leave-society dreams Andy had not had since they met, and Katie had never had at all.
And the town continued to stagnate, and the bills continued to go unpaid, and Andy’s decrepit car finally broke down beyond even his ability to repair, and Katie took to wandering far out across the desert on foot just to pass the days.
And one desperate day, the bank foreclosed on their house, and Andy grabbed the hidden pistol and all the cash he could from his boss’s desk drawer, took the keys to a rusty green station wagon from a hook on the wall, and stopped by home one last time to pick up his fiancee and whatever possessions they could throw into the trunk, before driving off into the desert.
That was just a few weeks ago. It feels like a lifetime.
“...All right, what’s today’s haul? Might as well enjoy this while it lasts.”
He hands her the backpack with the latest stolen goods.
“Twenty, forty, sixty, sixty-five, seventy, seventy.. two dollars?” Even for a gas station it’s a paltry amount of cash. “And… Doritos and bananas? Really, baby? You couldn’t have at least grabbed us a couple of cup-o-soups?”
“Hey, that’s lunch tomorrow! Tonight, honey, we are taking that seventy-two dollars and getting you a nice steak dinner.”
They cling to any glamor they can - roadhouse steak dinners, shiny sunglasses, driving down the highway with the windows wide open, nights under the stars. Robbing, instead of begging. Anything to ignore the fact that their hair is greasy and they’ve long since run out of clothes that don’t smell. Any way to keep pretending that they’re romantic bohemian outlaws, the new Bonnie and Clyde, not just Katie and Andy, desperate and homeless and lost.
“Anyway, babe, I got us cigarettes too, this time. And - ”
And a box of condoms. She raises an eyebrow at him, surprised but not displeased, and he smiles a complicated smile that looks hopeful and sheepish and mischievous all at once.
It’s been a while since they’ve been able to do much more than touch each other with their hands. The backseat of the station wagon just isn’t big enough to accommodate them both in any comfortable way, not with Andy’s long limbs, and neither of them has been willing to try laying a blanket on the ground again. Not since the scorpion incident.
But they’re on the hood of the car now, alone, unrestricted, and scorpion-free, and if he would lie back against the windshield just so, then maybe she could - carefully - yes - sit astride his lap, and slide her hands up his shirt, touch the coarse hairs just below his bellybutton, feel his lean muscles through his thin layer of softness. And if she anchors her feet and knees just so against the slope of the hood, then maybe she can lean forward and kiss him, slowly, deeply. And if she keeps one hand here, on the windshield, then - yes - she can run the other through his hair, still soft and beautiful despite its unwashed state.
He’s been craving this as much as she has, she can tell. She feels his breathing quickly getting rougher along with hers as they kiss; the raggedness of it turns her on as just as much as his hands now firmly grasping her waist under her shirt. Fuck she’s been needing this, she needs to hear him gasp and moan, needs to feel his skin against every inch of hers.
She sits up and pulls her shirt off, craving more skin contact, desert night air just slightly cool against her back and shoulders. She lowers her hands to his chest, her mouth to his neck, and he gasps just how she’d hoped he would, and rolls his hips, and -
And they lose their precarious grip on the sloping car hood. They slip, startling, nearly falling off the car entirely. They laugh off the sudden interruption, and find firmer footing on the ground.
“Okay, fuck, maybe not here, then,” he laughs, his voice breathless and low.
“Uuugh, fiiine,” she pouts. “But I am not done with you yet, mister.” Looks like they’re still limited to backseat handjobs - not what either of them had been hoping for, but still good. She twists her hands in the front of his shirt, pulls him with her to the car’s rear door, gently pushes him inside.
“Oh?” is all he says, still breathless - not a question, she knows, so much as a request for her to keep talking. Oh, she can keep talking.
“We need. A bed,” she growls as they struggle to fit both their bodies into the backseat in something resembling an intimate position. They’ve done this many times now, but they still bump their heads and elbows against the edges of the restrictive space, laughing a little without losing the mood. “I need to get you naked, I miss your skin.” She unzips his jeans, a little awkwardly - despite their best efforts, the angles still aren’t ideal. “I need to ride you.” She always loves watching the faces he makes when she does that - and the faces he’s making now are just as good. He gasps raggedly, mouth slack and soft-looking. “I need you inside me.” He moans, closes his eyes, face twisting with need. God, she loves doing this to him. “I need you to hold me tight and fuck me into the mattress.” He throws his head back and whines, a high, ugly, desperate sound that drives her absolutely wild.
She tears her eyes away from his exquisitely desperate face just long enough to finish him off with her mouth, then pulls back again to watch as his howling face softens into a blissful smile, which lingers as he catches his breath.
After a minute he opens his eyes, and simply says “My turn.”
Again, the awkward shifting of limbs and bodies as they rearrange themselves. She takes her bra off for him, but puts her shirt back on, unbuttoned, to keep the leather seat from sticking to her skin. She’s already plenty aroused just from doing him, but he works her over anyway, kissing her mouth, her neck, her breasts, before unzipping her jeans and slipping a hand inside. His breaths match hers, heavy and rough, until, too soon, her body decides it’s had enough, and she brings her hand to his to signal him to slow down.
“Not tonight, huh?” he murmurs, a little disappointed, as their breathing calms.
“No… Still felt good though. Thank you, baby.” They both know it’s nobody’s fault, that sometimes this is the best they can do. More often, now, since they’ve been living in the car. She kisses him tenderly, presses her forehead to his, squeezes her arms around whatever parts of him she can reach in an approximation of a hug.
As he shifts to let her move away, he brings his fingers to his mouth and sucks them clean. “God, I miss the taste of you. You’re right, we really need a bed.”
“Yeah…” is all she can say. She zips up her jeans, buttons up her shirt, climbs out of the car and back into the front seat to lie down. He reaches across the back of the seat to stroke her hair, leans over to kiss her temple. This is the cruelest thing about not having a bed - that he can’t hold her. Not being able to have proper sex is a problem, sure, but not being able to really sleep together is so much worse.
“We could go to a motel,” he murmurs after a while. “Or we could break in somewhere, maybe get some more money or food or something out of it too.”
“Mmm,” she agrees sleepily. Burglary sounds nice, actually. They could take a shower. Maybe even use somebody’s kitchen, make a home-cooked meal.
“...We could go home,” he whispers.
That gets her attention. She opens her eyes, turns to look him in the face. “Home?”
“It’s still there. I bet they haven’t sold it yet. We could break in.”
Yes. God, yes, let’s go home. Right now. She sits up and puts the key in the ignition. In the whisper-quiet of the desert night, the engine is startlingly loud.
It’s nearly three hours’ drive back across the vast Mojave, past several of their own crime scenes and through huge expanses of nothing and past a dozen featureless little towns, before they reach the featureless little town they so recently called home. They eat the Doritos and bananas - there are higher priorities, now, than roadhouse dinners - and Andy dozes a while as Katie drives resolutely on. By the time they pull into the gravel driveway that was once theirs, the bright half moon is low on the western horizon.
There are new, heavy, ugly locks on the doors now, but everything else seems unchanged. Andy heads for the toolshed, which hasn’t been locked up, and bring back a variety of implements to try on the door. The screwdriver isn’t up to the task. Neither is the hammer.
“Wait - why are we doing this the nice way?” Katie asks, frustration growing, as Andy tries in vain to use a pair of garden shears on the lock. “Why not just break a window? I mean - this place was ours, and they took it from us, and now they’re going to try to sell it to someone else like nothing happened - let’s not make it easy for them! Let’s show them it’s ours!”
He grins - that wild, feral grin that she loves so much, the one that means there can be no stopping him from misbehaving. “Yeah,” he says. “Let’s fuck this place up.”
He smashes a window with the hammer and helps her climb through, then returns to the shed and comes back with two cans of paint, soft spring green and rich terra-cotta brown, and a couple of paintbrushes. Oh, good idea, babe. Let’s show them it’s ours. He passes them through the window to her, then climbs through himself.
Miraculously, even after months of unpaid bills, the electricity is still connected. They flip a light on, and are struck by the reality of where they are. Everything is just as they left it, even a few dirty dishes crusted over in the kitchen sink. This was their home, this is the space they carved out for ourselves in the world, this is where they once imagined all they could imagine of their future. It was - is - theirs, Katie thinks, no matter what the bank says.
And they’re not going to let the bank forget it.
“KATIE & ANDY FOREVER” she paints large and messy across the living room wall. He takes the brush from her and adds a heart around the words, with an arrow through it. On another wall, with the other brush, she adds a few rough scrawls cursing the bank and the police force that, together, took their home and their future.
They pause a moment to appraise their handiwork. “It’s not enough,” he says. “You know? We need to make something beautiful, something they’ll have to feel at least a little regret painting over, something to show them that we were people here once.”
He’s right. Anger isn't enough. The brushes are too big for anything but messy angry scrawls, so they paint with their fingers - fragments of poetry, birds, bats, flowers, hearts, stars, cacti, a tall spiky Joshua tree that Andy insists on calling a cactus. A coyote, howling song lyrics that stretch all the way up the wall and onto the ceiling.
Finally, on the last blank wall, four figures holding hands - one very tall, one average, two child-sized. Andy and Katie and the children they had hoped to have someday. The children they might never get the chance to have, now that their future only looks like living on the run, or like prison.
In one last act of defiance, Katie kicks the paint can over, spilling wet green paint to soak into the carpet. “Good luck selling our house now, fuckers. C’mon, baby, let’s go get ourselves clean.”
The water, like the electricity, is somehow still connected. Like everything else in the house, their towels and shampoo are right where they left them.
The dust and grime of weeks flow visibly down the drain as soon as they step into the shower. They scrub themselves, and more and more layers of dirt and sweat and skin cells follow the first wave of grime, revealing soft, clean skin, very pink from the scrubbing and the hot water.
It’s been ages since they’ve been clean, and it’s been ages since they’ve been naked. She pulls him into a soft, tight hug, and they stand there a while, letting the water wash over them, savoring the feeling of this much skin against skin. God, she’s missed the feeling of his chest pressed against hers, with nothing in between, his hand moving slowly up and down the bare skin of her back, her face pressed to the soft skin where his neck meets his shoulder.
Reluctantly, she lets go of his body - there’s something else she’s missed, too, and for that she needs her hands. She takes a generous palmful of shampoo, and reaches up to work it into his wet hair. His face softens into a relaxed, blissful smile at the feeling of her fingers gently massaging his scalp, and he hums happily. She breathes a tiny laugh, bites her lip, shakes her head, overflowing with fondness.
“Have I ever told you how much I loooove washing your hair?” she murmurs.
“Mmmmmm…” He wiggles his shoulders, his smile changing from relaxed and blissful to scrunchy-eyed and giggly.
She combs her fingers through his hair, working the slick shampoo all the way along its length. This is the biggest reason she loves washing his hair - it’s the only time she can really run her hands through it without snagging on any curls.
“It’s been so long since we’ve been clean, we’re not even getting any lather,” she laughs, letting him go just long enough to rinse the not-quite-suds away. “Oh nooo, I guess I get to do that all over again...!”
Her hair, longer and straighter than his, is just as filthy - which means that she, too, get a double session of soapy scalp massage from his beautiful, gentle hands.
Clean, really clean, for the first time in weeks, they towel themselves dry. Tomorrow, she thinks, she’ll shower again, and blow-dry her hair, and put on makeup and clean clothes, and really look the part of a glamorous outlaw before they inevitably have to hit the road. Tonight, though, they have other priorities, which have already waited long enough.
She runs her hands over his bare chest, looks him in the eyes, raises her eyebrows suggestively. “Time for what we came here for, yeah?”
“Yeah.” That wild grin again. With only a little difficulty, Andy scoops his fiancee up in his surprisingly strong lean arms and carries her, giggling, to their bed. He lays her down, and sits beside her for a while, just looking, running his hands slowly over all the shapes and textures of her body. Not aiming to arouse, yet, only to admire. Looking at her with wonder in his eyes, like she’s the most precious and beautiful thing in the world.
“You’re gonna make me cry!” she says - it’s too much, the adoration. “Stop being sappy and fuck me already!”
He brings his face close to hers, intense, hand cradling the back of her head, and whispers “If you insist,” before kissing her passionately.
Far, far too quickly, she’s writhing, gasping, desperate. Moaning as he kisses her neck, sucks at her nipples. He trails kisses down her belly, pauses with his mouth inches from the hair below.
“Is this okay?”
“Um?” she gasps, barely able to speak. “I wanted - to ride you? - or - ”
He grins again. “Oh yes, honey, but I want you to take your time with that. And right now you are in no state to be taking your time…”
She nods furiously in agreement. “Okay. Yeah. Yes. Fuck.”
All too soon, under the practiced attentions of his lips and tongue, she shudders and cries out, gripping tightly at his hair. He pulls himself up to lie beside her, gently caress her hips and thighs as she catches her breath.
He’s smiling, again. Smug fucker.
If she stays lying down like this, Katie knows, she’s going to fall asleep before she gets the chance to do any of the things she’s been dying to do to him. She sits up, sits astride his lap, runs her hands slowly over his chest, his arms, his stubbly jaw, his still-wet hair. He is so, so beautiful.
“Who’s being sappy now, hmm?”
Her turn to smile. “Oh, just taking my time.”
She leans forward, trails a few light kisses along his collarbone, feels his quiet hum of pleasure against her lips as she kisses his throat. He rolls his hips a little, and she stills him, pressing his hips down into the mattress with the heels of her hands.
“Ah-ah-ah, you said you wanted to take our time with this.”
He makes a small whining sound, rolls his eyes, moves his hips again against her hands. She’s enjoying teasing him, slowly driving him wild. She’ll need this time to recover, too, if she’s going to fully enjoy what’s to come.
She continues slowly caressing his body, with a few light kisses here and there, at first visiting sensitive areas just often enough to keep him from relaxing too much, then lingering on them more and more. His face and his breathing grow more intense, more needful, turning her on even more than the skin contact itself, but still she keeps her movements slow and deliberate.
His hands grip at her thighs, his face is twisted, his back arched. She’s ready, he’s beyond ready. She unwraps a condom and rolls it onto him, enjoying the slickness of the thin lubricated latex, then lowers herself slowly and carefully into place with a deep ecstatic sigh.
It takes real effort, now, for her to keep her movements slow - she wants to crash their bodies together, have as much of him as possible all at once. But she knows, even through the fog of desire, that this will all be over too soon if she does. So she focuses on his face, as she moves her body slowly against his, focuses on holding those glorious expressions there as long as possible, his head thrown back, eyes closed, mouth sometimes slack and gasping, sometimes grimacing with need.
She draws this out as long as she can, but eventually her own need takes over, and she lets them both speed up their movements, their moans growing louder and sharper. He brings one hand to the place where their bodies meet, bringing her over the edge with a shudder, just moments before he arches his back and howls out his own climax.
They stay there a minute, catching their breath. Her vision is blurry, her hands and lips tingling. He breathes out a dazed sort of laugh.
Eventually she climbs off of him. She throws the condom unceremoniously on the floor - just one more thing to piss off whoever tries to make this place sellable. She doesn’t bother reaching for a cigarette, or even turning off the light. The mattress is soft, the pillows are soft, his skin is soft. Dazed, foggy, and completely satisfied, she curls up into his arms.
She knows they’ll probably never be able to come back here. She knows that this will be the last time they’re alone, together, in their own home. They can only hope that there will be other homes they can break into, to shower together and sleep naked together, many others, before the law catches up to them and takes them away from each other. They don’t know - can’t know - what they will find in one of those homes, or how it will make their last days of freedom all the more poignant. But they know that this can’t last forever, that their time together is precious. And so, for now, they hold each other close and drift off into the deepest sleep either of them has had in a long, long time.