They don’t get things in half-measures. When the sky opens up on them, it does it hard.
They’re under the trees, but the trees make for no shelter, and in seconds they’re soaked through, clothes sodden and heavy, hair hanging in their eyes and dripping and making them squint and blink and rub. It’s useless. The world blurs away in front of her like tears except she’s laughing, because she can’t get any wetter and there’s something wonderful about that. About giving up. About letting go.
A little over a week ago she saw that in him. She held it, felt it: the trembling, the sobs heaving his shoulders from the inside out, his own tears on her hands like he was rain in and of himself. He was a swollen thundercloud and he released, and while there wasn’t any joy in it, the sheer intensity with which he needed it was very clear. She also knows how release like that can be joyful, because sometimes it builds in her and escapes her as music, and the pressure lightens along with everything else. Everything seems literally brighter, like her songs are cleaning her vision, washing her eyes.
This isn’t a song and it isn’t what she saw in him, but it’s not entirely unlike those things. They’re hurrying, he’s leading her, and she has no idea where or what for when there’s not much point in shelter anymore but she’s following anyway, because that’s what she does. Not - now - because she can’t think of anything else to do or because she thinks she’ll die if she doesn’t stay with him, but because of something much more fundamental: She wants to.
She suspects she’s needed.
They crash through brush, trampling over wet pine needles and leaves, sloshing through mud. She should be miserable but she’s not. She’s breathing hard and something is happening to her, heating and speeding her blood. Used to happen at night sometimes - the air would seem thinner and sharper and she wanted to run. Or snowfalls, when her stomach would twist in the most delightful way and she wanted to roll around in it like a dog. When the world changes - that’s maybe what it is. Just for a little while, because a storm this hard can’t last for long, but all at once she’s gasping, and when they burst into the open, into a wide, grassy strip of land stretching into the distance as far as she can see, power lines strung along high, spindly towers running down the center, she grabs his hand and drags him to a stop.
He skids, whirls and stares at her, palming water out of his eyes, obviously confused. “Beth, what the-”
And she takes a breath, turns away from him, drops her pack into the grass and starts stripping off her clothes.
She’s almost laughing as she does it, giggles dancing at the top of her throat. Pulling her yellow polo off and sending it down to join the pack, bending and lifting her legs one at a time to remove her boots, going to work on her belt and jeans. She doesn’t have to glance over her shoulder to know that he’s staring even harder, and a warm little tingle runs through her from the top of her spine to her fingertips. It’s not the first time they’ve been in close proximity to each other when one or both of them hasn’t been wearing much; they do bathe when they have the time and the water and the safety, and someone has to keep watch. But they don’t look. She knows he doesn’t and she doesn’t either, but while before it was because it felt weird and embarrassing and she could sense he wouldn’t like it, might even feel like it was some sort of violation of something…
After a while it was because of that warm tingle. All the way down to her toes when it’s his turn and she hazards a very quick glance and she catches a glimpse of his powerful shoulders, thighs, his bare arms - bare anyway when he’s dressed but somehow it’s different when most of the rest of him is bare as well. She’s seen the scars, hasn’t asked and doesn’t intend to though she can make some guesses, but…
Warm. Wanting to see more. This rain is warm and cool both at once and she wants to be in it. It’s been hot for days, she feels grimy and sticky with layer upon layer of sweat, and she feels herself loosening into the wet.
She keeps going until she’s down to her bra and panties and she stands, her head back and her mouth open, rain flowing onto her tongue.
“Beth.” Quiet, somehow audible over the constant drumming all around them, on them, sound that enters through her skin. “The fuck’re you doin’?”
She turns to him.
It’s actually very easy. Her underwear used to be white though it isn’t really anymore, and it’s as soaked as the rest of her clothes and with another tingle - more a buzz that strengthens itself into a fine little shiver - she realizes that they must be semi-transparent. He must be able to see at least some of her. The outlines of her nipples. The darker shape of the thatch of hair between her thighs.
He must be able to see her, and she wants him to see.
“I want a shower,” she murmurs, low and husky, scraping pleasantly against the back of her throat on its way out. It really is that simple. She’s dirty, she’s been filling up with something for the last few days, it’s pressing against the inside of her skin and straining at her bones, and she wants to get it out of her and wash it away.
“You can’t just…”
Because this is what she does. Everything gone to shit, him just about ready to lie down and die right in front of her, wandering through nothingness with no goal aside from a stunted kind of survival that felt increasingly pointless, and she wanted a damn drink because she was exploding inside, she was a fucking volcano, and she needed to erupt, she needed to do something. It’s better but she still does, and if anything it’s easier now, because she’s done it once and she knows he’ll allow her.
He stammers and she holds her ground, drenched and mostly naked, hands clenched at her sides. Not in anger or impatience but because she feels like she might sprout wings from her shoulders and leap into the air and stay there. Crazy.
“‘cause you can’t, we could…” He stops, blinking, and pushes his hair out of his face. He’s got nothing and she knows it and he knows that she knows.
You had your fun.
Come have fun with me. Come have fun while we’re still alive to have it at all.
She shakes her head, her whole body feeling like one big grin. “C'mon.”
He gapes at her. “What?”
“You heard me. You need it just as bad as I do, get your clothes off.” She tilts her head back again, hands out and palms up, little puddles forming in the cups she’s making. “It feels good.”
“Beth,” he whispers, and that’s when she hears it. Just an edge of it, a hint, a whisper beneath the whisper. But it’s there, a tiny shiver, tingling of his own, and her breath stutters and clings to the walls of her lungs. He’s looking at her.
He’s really looking at her.
“Daryl.” She smiles and it’s teasing, gently so, and none of it is pretense. None of it is something she has to put on. This good man, wound as tight as she’s been even after how he let go in her arms, and she wants him loose like her. “Daryl, it’s okay.”
There’s a world of meaning in those two syllables and she intends for it to be there.
He gazes at her for another moment. Two.
Then he sets down the bow, sets down his pack, shrugs out of his vest, takes hold of the hem of his shirt and tugs it up.
She watches him. She doesn’t try to hide it, abandons subtlety on the ground with her clothes. His eyes are locked downward, his face turned slightly away, but she watches him as he slowly reveals his rough skin, all those scars, his faded ink, the hard, corded muscle underneath. He’s big; he’s not really that much bigger than her but somehow when he’s next to her he always feels huge, looming over her. And stripped, pushing his pants down his thighs, he looks even bigger. Feels bigger, and that warm shivery tingle blossoms into a rush of heat racing along the power lines of her nerves, plunging down to her cunt.
Again she thinks about the volcano that was her. Steam and molten rock bursting up from her core - rage and frustration and a sick grief that felt like an infection, like a fever, and he was so close and he refused to help her, so she did something because he sure as hell wasn’t going to so it pretty much had to be her. And she wants to burst now, wants to erupt, the top of her head a lava dome, her eyes all fire and her cunt a lake simmering with deep heat, and as he steps out of his pants and starts to straighten up her hand moves without her planning for it to do so and without any desire on her part to stop it, and it slides under the waistband of her panties and her thighs spread a little as her fingers nose between them.
And God, she’s so wet, and it’s not the rain.
She hears him gasp. Hears his throat click. Her fingertips graze over her clit - swollen and aching and needy - and her eyes roll up and fall half closed, but she forces them open, forces herself to look at him, and his cock is hard and jutting, making a tent of his shorts. A tent that clings to him, plasters itself against him, and there’s really nothing to hide his length and his thickness, bobbing a little as he sucks in a huge breath.
She did it. She did that to him.
Her fingers sink deeper, the tip of one nudging her slick lips aside and just a little way into her, the side of her thumb maddening pressure - maddening because it’s not enough and she looks at him and knows what she could have. She sighs, rolls her hips against her hand, and his moan is soft but the most audible thing for miles.
She pushes deeper, manages to focus on him enough to see that he’s wrapped his hand around the base of his cock, and that’s when everything breaks open and she lunges.
Her hand jerks free as she reaches him and seizes him, digs her fingernails into his biceps and uses him to haul herself up, mouth open and latching onto the soft skin of his throat. His own hands are groping for her and she can tell it’s all instinct, him moving without thinking, gripping her hips and yanking her closer, hard, cock pressed low against her belly and rocking, grinding, hissing breath and fuck, Beth, what’re you- and she tangles her fingers in his dripping hair and surges into his mouth, sharp edges and lips and her tongue licking its way into him. This is what she’s doing, this, fumbling for his hand and lifting it to her breast, and when he squeezes her she knows he doesn’t need any further encouragement.
Gasping against his jaw, his chin, his scruff scratching her face, his free hand closing against the side of her neck and tipping her head back with his thumb so he can kiss her there, scrape her with his teeth, lick water and sweat from her skin. “Touch me. Daryl, touch me, I need-” There’s still too much between them and she’s frantic, legs spread and her cunt against his thigh, one hand on his ass as she drags him in and rolls herself, the hot length of him, so much heat, too much for the rain to ever cool. They must be steaming.
“Need what?” He doesn’t sound confused anymore. She can feel his grin, feel how helpless it is, crazy as she is, and he bites at the soft skin beneath her jaw - and she wouldn’t have expected this from him. Wouldn’t have expected this roughness, hands all over her and everywhere at once even if that’s not possible, because a lot of things are possible now that never would have been before. Things she never would have believed.
“Touch me.” All she can say. She wrenches in air, whimpers, and he growls and lifts her off her feet and brief apprehension twists at her until she realizes what he’s doing. He’s holding her tight, almost cradling her as he drops into a crouch and then drops her, depositing her onto the ground and into the grass and the mud, knocking the breath out of her for an instant before he’s sliding on top of her and shoving her legs apart with his knee. Using that knee on her, jammed against her cunt in a clumsy rhythm.
“I’ll touch you.” Arm under the small of her back, jerking her up and into an arch, teeth against her collarbones. “I’ll fuckin’ touch you if you want, you just tell me…”
It’s not easy, she’s fighting through the slippery chaos their bodies are creating, but she maneuvers her hand between them and grips his cock, gasping when she feels it twitch in her palm, heavy and burning, still trapped under fabric - God, she really has to fix that.
“Here, right here, Daryl, yes.”
There’s no room but she angles her hips, lines his shaft and his head up with her clit and moves her hips in a smooth circle - slow this time - throwing her head back and laughing at his shaking groan. Water in her eyes, in her mouth, dripping off him and running over her in streams, and she parts her lips and it falls onto her tongue. He’s raining on her and she’s flooding against him, soaking herself with how much she wants him, rolling down her sides as he gasps ragged, semi-coherent versions of her name and moves with her.
Rolling everything. Hooking a leg around the back of his - she shouldn’t be able to do this because he’s so big over her, so strong, pinning her down with himself, and maybe he’s just letting her win but she doesn’t care. She flips them clumsily over, wriggles and squirms and scrambles onto him and straddles him, reaching under his waistband and pulling his cock free. She wants to look at it, study it, really explore it and discover exactly how he likes to be touched, what drives him insane, but that’s for another time, not for now, and she grips him tight as she hooks the fingers her other hand under the leg of the crotch of her panties and tugs it out of the way. He’s pushing up on his elbows, eyes wide and gone very dark, flicking from her face to her exposed cunt and back again, his lips parted and his chest heaving.
“Oh fuck, Beth, you-” He sees what she means to do. It’s snapping bright in his eyes, whip-cracks of internal lightning. He’ll fuck her later, she’ll damn well make sure that happens, but right now what she wants is this, bathing in this wild rain and wild herself, pressing his cock flush with her cunt and using him like her fingers - so slick against him and slicker when his precome wells and drips down onto her hand.
She’s never done anything remotely like this. But this world makes no sense anymore.
Might as well make the best of it.
She’s riding him, holding him tight, bucking her hips against him in hard jerks, sliding her clit up and down his shaft and leaning back and bracing herself with one hand on his thigh, back pulled into a bow’s limb and her breasts offered to the weeping sky. She’s seeing in bright flashes, quick fragments of a glimpse of his face all grimace and teeth, still pushed up and not touching her at all and not needing to. She’s getting exactly what she wants, his name carried out of her in sharp little grunts as she takes it from him, guiding him into her rhythm as he lets out a deep, choked noise and starts to thrust up against her cunt, caught in her hand.
She has no idea how close he is and she doesn’t give a damn. It’s coming for her, rearing up like a wave on top of her, and her head drops back between her shoulders and a jagged cry rips out of her as it crashes down and she comes on him, so wet, all of her so wet, this eruption she’s been needing, sparks flying so fast down her power lines that they snap and the towers fall.
Oh my fuckin’ God, Beth, oh my GOD, yeah, just like that, just like- She’s still moving in that wave, rising and falling, giving him what he needs and carrying him up and over the edge, and riding his convulsion as he whines and comes so hot all over her hand and her cunt and his belly, three hard spurts of it, his own pressure releasing.
Then just stillness and the rain, and breathing. Remembering how to breathe.
After some uncountable while she can focus again. She curls forward, hand on his chest and still sticky with his come, but the rain is washing it away. She wipes water out of her eyes and looks down at him; he’s dropped onto his back, hands loose at his sides and his eyes closed. Lips parted. More relaxed than she can remember seeing him, even asleep.
He’s softening against her. All of him going soft.
“Daryl.” Just a whisper, just his name. Seems like all that’s necessary. She bends further, reaches up and strokes her fingertips down his face, and he sighs, finds her thigh with a big, warm hand, and she lets go of the last of what’s keeping her up and folds herself down onto him, her head against his shoulder and her hands light on his arms.
The rain feels like it might be letting up.
She almost doesn’t want it to.
It takes a few more minutes for him to return. His chest is lifting her up and lowering her with every breath, supporting her, his heart thrumming against her breast. At last he shifts slightly and curls his arms around her - trembling but not much - and holds her, his lips ghosting across her brow.
She wonders how long he’s been waiting for this. If he knew he was waiting at all.
Probably not. He’s keenly aware of things, extremely perceptive when it comes to other people, but she thinks it’s the kind of thing he tends to miss.
“It’s okay,” she murmurs again, turns her head and kisses his throat. “It’s okay, right?”
He swallows and she feels a tiny thread of worry tightening around her. Then he nods and she knows it is.
Maybe this shouldn’t be so comfortable. They’re smeared with mud and torn blades of grass, slippery with the rain and with each other, and being this wet all over always makes her itch after a while. But comfortable is exactly what it is. Showered.
Released and washed clean.
For the moment they don’t have anywhere to go, don’t have anywhere to be. She tucks her head under his chin and listens to the steady rush of air in and out of him. She still isn’t sure what this means, isn’t sure where it’s going, but she doesn’t need to know those things. They’ll figure it out.
They don’t get things in half measures. So if this is good, she knows it’s only going to get better.