It was raining. The sky had finally opened up after hours of threatening to drown them all in a welcome torrent of fresh clean water.
But it came with a roar.
The thunder roared outside, but in here, the steam rising around her shoulders, she didn't care. Here, she was warm. Here, she was content. Here, she was safe.
He was with her.
He was with her all the time. They'd tried that, parting ways. At first. Her sister, God bless her, had found it odd. They'd been given different tasks. The wall. A run. Always at the last minute, she would run to the gate - through it before anyone could stop her - and she'd join them. A tension in his shoulders would ease, though they walked into uncertainty and certain peril beyond its borders.
It went marked by her sister and others, sometimes vocally, that they'd been gone too long. A year they'd been together since their home had fallen. A year since they'd found the signs, her brother-in-law’s name an unsavory smear of pleading. Of direction. The signs. A year since they'd seen the wreckage of the burned-out train station. Hope; wavering like un-shed tears in the face of her fear. And that time, he'd shored her up when hope threatened to leave her. Cajoled, argued, fought her until she remembered her father. Remembered their friends. Their family. Their strength.
Remembered her own.
They tracked, miles upon miles, over railroad, over concrete and through a detour of hellish righteousness.
Where those that serve and protect had corrupted themselves into subject and threat, she'd fought back. Had no other choice. She'd been alone. So alone and the pain of it didn't break her: it gave her purpose. So she fought through them, all with their threats, excuses, screams, knife - blood - gun - and though at once she'd felt herself lifted, floating away, she inexplicably found herself floating back.
Anchored. His hand laced through hers, tight fingers and stroking thumb. Such tender weight behind his eyes, his bittersweet smile, she'd known what he felt. What he'd gone through. For her. To find her again.
He'd track her to Heaven itself if she hadn't come down.
And hope, flaming bright once more in both their eyes: this had happened before but this time dawn didn't rise for those left in their wake. A doctor's directions had given them new purpose, a new direction to follow in their search for their family.
Hell had left scars upon them both. But it had been a crucible. They moved with little need for direction, complimenting one another as they wove through the world as dancers in a duet. If a duet could me made of avoiding death and searching, tracking, foraging.
The long stretch. It nearly broke them both again, terrified they'd find one of their own ahead, turned, rotting in the sunlight and shambling towards them. They'd found signs. Campfire. Months-old remains of a strange roadside meal that had nothing to do with walkers.
They went on.
And then, the 'recruiter'. Their simultaneous suspicion. Words exchanged...and a casual mention of a single name.
She was sold. He took a little longer.
Through the gates - into what might have been Heaven itself, they were surrounded by so many loved ones. They were there. Not all, no. But it was enough. They were together. Family. More than had been at the prison. Welcomed them as long-lost cousins.
Then came the separation. They didn't understand.
Or perhaps, they did.
Different houses, different rooms. It didn't matter. They slept together on the porches until her sister relented and he moved in with them, which she was grateful for. She couldn't choose between family and...
Even under the same roof, they were seldom apart and never for very long. She and her shadow. He and his light. When they still couldn't sleep despite enjoining walls, he joined her and took his place against the door. She fell asleep with her eyes on him. His eyes on her. Everything else of him alert to the slightest sound.
She awoke often before dawn, beckoning him to join her. He did. Leaning against the wall, reluctantly taking her proffered pillow. Her head would lay in his lap and sleep would resume for them both. Her hand, twining through his on the crossbow, angled at the door.
Her trust in the vigil on the wall was only a little more than his.
At daybreak the clouds began rolling in. An argument was for breakfast over 'how things were' and 'Daddy's little girl.' It left her confused. Speculative as she looked at him now.
In all this time, he'd never tried to touch her that way.
The rain began after the skies darkened too early for evening, the gardens abandoned to the fall of water, welcome. Shelter sought. He laughed as he drew her into an embrace, soaking his shirt in an effort to regain some warmth. The sound of it drew her just as the heat of him did.
Having declared themselves cold enough, she declared her need for a different kind of warmth. Her eyes lit in anticipation and his smile gave her yet another variety of temperature even as she sought the bathroom, knowing he would follow.
Her heart turned in her chest. He was a gentleman, turning his back as she drew the water - hot, of course - and disrobed, easing herself into it with a sigh.
Casually he sat on the cold floor, leaning against the tub with his back. It was strange and soothing, this juxtaposition between them. Cold and warm, both wet for different reasons.
He spoke. Of the others. Of her sister. Her accusations. While he did, she noted from the waterline the pinking of his ears and guessed - correctly - that he must be blushing. Worried, angry at how easily they'd adjusted, their impatience with his own and hers. He knew, as she did, that their companionship wouldn't last in its rigid co-dependency, once they relaxed and felt safe. Or safer.
But it might, she thought, in its constancy.
It was with this trembling thought she reached and ran a water-hot fingertip over the outer shell of his ear. He turned and she took advantage, pressing her mouth to his. It was built on relief, a question months in asking and answered in a single gesture.
He should have known.
The water sloshed round the tub as they pressed together, arms and hands reaching, lifting, tightening together. His mouth hungry and needing on hers. She won, pulling him clothed into the hot water with her.
They barely felt it as they slipped roughly over the slick porcelain edge.
She mounted him, clothes tugged off and aside, hands and mouth exploring fresh, dirty, clean, salty and sweet skin mixed with fresh clean water. He slipped inside her with his gaze locked on her own, sharp eyes taking in every nuance of sensation expressed in her face, her eyes. Lost in his own and content never to be found. Bodies moving in tandem until abandon was achieved, water splashing violently around them.
Their moans echoed off the tiled surfaces and she was grateful her sister was visiting Fearless Leader.
They came with a roar.
They spilled over the edge as did the water, tears of joy like rain between them, finally breaking open, breaking free after months of building to drown their pleasure with a torrent of fresh clean water.
As strange as it was to those outside, he so sharp and wild, she so soft and - no longer tame by comparison but calmer, safer - they belonged together.
He listened to the sounds of the house. Faint creaking in the gathering wind, rain pattering down on the roof and windows. Normal. Safe. For now. He smiled and stroked her cheek tenderly, sinking down into the water and easing her against his chest.
The one-eyed dog snuffled at the crack beneath the door. Curious, as the others would eventually be. She nuzzled him like a cat and he followed suit, sharing a dangerously languid smile. They would move. Eventually.
She'd named the dog 'Lucky.'
And for now, they were going to enjoy feeling like they were. They had nothing more pressing to do.
Not while it was raining.