The first time he gets it up, fully hard, his dick pink and hot with blood, he laughs up into the wide blue sky.
It isn't really the first time, of course. He must have had erections before, years ago, when he had a name, the first time he was alive. Hundreds, probably more. Thousands of erections. He must have had sex, masturbated, slept with women, had inappropriate hard-ons.
He doesn't remember those times though. And he can't imagine that any of those times, not even the first — was it in the shower, full of surprise when his soft little prick swelled as he soaped up, or curled up in his bed late one night with stolen magazines hoping his parents wouldn't catch him, or in his sleep, no memory the next day but a sticky spot on his pajamas? — could have been the wonder this is. The sheer, overwhelming wonder.
He holds his dick in his hand — the hand that's healed, bones knit together under pink skin — and strokes. Closes his eyes and feels the sun warm on his eyelids, sees light red through them.
Julie's nearby, picking wild berries in a hollow further down the hill. They're on a scavenging trip, but not the old sort of trip, an armed group raiding old buildings for what they could find, constantly on the lookout, always in danger. There's just the two of them today. They drove as far in Mercey as gas would allow them and still get them back. They'd headed for these hills deliberately — Julie chose the direction.
"Perry and me, we'd sit on the roof of the Stadium and wonder what was out here, if there was anything beautiful still left anywhere. I always used to hope there was in the hills, that they were far enough from humans to have survived, that there'd be some animals still, wild flowers, streams of clean water that tasted of the sky not metal."
She was quiet on the journey out, jigging her leg, fiddling with her iPod.
"We can turn back," R offered. "If it's... difficult." It wasn't exactly what he meant to say — he's getting better at words, but they still sometimes flap out of him like injured bats instead of soaring eagles. He meant to say it's okay to be scared of being disappointed, and if you want to keep your hope that there's something beautiful there, keep it safe, not risk it, then that's okay.
Julie understood. She usually does, though sometimes now she pushes him, presses him to use more words, keeps at him to set new records of syllables. "I want to," she'd said, and squeezed his thigh.
And they weren't disappointed. The hills are too remote for zombies to have ever congregated here, and when Julie sees a patch of Black-eyed Susans she dances around them like she's drunk on happiness.
She flops down on the ground afterwards, reaching out to pick one. She tries to put it in R's hair, but he shakes his head and she tucks it behind her own ear. It hangs awkwardly, and looks ridiculous, and it makes the feeling inside his chest that he knows is love ache even more. He lies down beside her, and for a while she rests her head on his shoulder, squashing the hapless flower against his shirt.
"We should try to get a tan," she says after a while. "You'd look good with a tan. And the sun will feel great."
"Just used to looking pink," R says. He still finds it hard to believe it's him when he catches sight of himself in a mirror or a puddle or a shiny piece of metal, pink-cheeked, and lips red after Julie kisses him.
Julie's taken to answering by doing, rather than by saying — she says it's his bad influence when he asks her about it. Right now, she doesn't say anything more, just peals off her top and shorts, and then her bra and panties, and lies back in the short grass. R wants to stare, because he can never get enough of her body, but she raises an eyebrow expressively, and he smartly interprets that as your turn.
R's not self-conscious about his body. Maybe he's not quite Living enough for that yet, or maybe he never was the kind of guy to get self-conscious, or maybe he's just too grateful for all the changes, so he doesn't worry about the dent and scars on his leg from the time the dog tried to eat him, or all the other scars he's covered with from injuries before his memories became something settled instead of fluid like clouds.
Julie's right: the sun does feel great. It sinks into his skin, almost like water used to seep through the perforations in it before he started changing, but unlike that, he feels this. He feels the heat and the energy, and it's not quite like the remembered buzz of a fresh brain, but it's making him feel even more alive than that ever did. Alive in himself, not with some other person's stolen memories, but alive in the moment, creating his own, new memories. He spreads out his arms and legs and stretches out, gathers as much of the sun as he can. He doesn't want to move, so when Julie gets up, puts her underwear back on, and picks up the basket they've brought in anticipation of finding wild berries, R just shakes his head.
"I'll collect berries, but... not now," he says. "Later."
He can hear Julie in the distance now, humming a song. R hums along, the rhythm right for stroking his dick. He's not sure what started this: the sun, Julie, life itself. He brings his hand to his mouth and licks his fingers, then starts up the rhythm again, smoother this time, less friction. He starts to breath faster, can feel his heart rate increasing, and he can't help groaning, just a little. Not a zombie groan — he hopes it doesn't sound like one — but a pleasure groan. He's still growing into living pleasures: food is a necessity now, and not as foully tasteless as it used to be, but not exciting either. This is exciting and he feels like he could burst with the joy of it, a few more strokes and he's groaning again, sounds of a sort, words in there maybe but he's not aware of what they are, not when his body is sparking from the release. It feels like lightning and thunder all rolled into one, like Fourth of July fireworks, and he puffs and pants afterwards, holding onto all the sparks and flames of his new life.
His hand is nearly dry, the moisture from his tongue worn off, and nothing added to it, but that doesn't dampen his enthusiasm. He smiles, his hand over his softening dick, and lets his heart rate get back to normal.
When Julie comes back and offers him a berry, he nods and she drops it into his mouth. He eats it slowly, exploring the texture of the skin and the pips, pressing the juice between his tongue and the roof of his mouth. It tastes... good.
He pulls Julie back down to the ground, and she slips willingly into his arms. He kisses her, and she tastes better than berries. "I want..." he says, and pushes up against her, his cock stirring again at the press of her warm thighs.
Her eyes widen. "R?" she asks. "Can you?" she starts, blushing a little as though she shouldn't be asking.
He nods. He can. He thinks he can do anything.