Title: This and My Heart
Author: Philiater
Category: AU, post colonization, DSR,  remembered MSR
                very angst-filled.
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were. They belong to CC
and 1013.
Beta thanks once again to Keleka

Summary:  Can love survive in a world where so many
have died?
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

It's All I have to bring to-day,
   This, and my heart beside,
This, and my heart, and all the fields,
   And all the meadows wide.
Be sure you count, should I forget, --
   Some one the sum could tell, --
This, and my heart, and all the bees
  Which in the clover dwell.
--Emily Dickenson

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The desert is an angry, hostile entity; daring creatures to
survive its terrible embrace. It arrogantly steals the very
essence of every living thing: water. Desiccation
becomes a tangible process, leaching life in agonizingly
slow increments.

I'm a seaman's daughter forced to live in a place where
ships will never sail. The irony wasn't lost to me.

It was also not lost to me that I'm here with him. The last
time we visited this place we stood on opposite sides of
a common goal. Suspicion, fear, and hostility were
shared between us in equal amounts. I could not keep
him from chasing me through the desert. Now I only
wanted to him near.

Irony indeed.

I was waiting for him now to return from a mission. I
knew the rules when I came here just as he did. It still
didn't keep me from wanting to break those rules.
Neither of us was supposed to fear the death of the other,
to want the other to survive this time intact in body if not
soul. I was not supposed to fear his going or triumph in
his return.

But I did anyway. And I knew he did too. I knew he
lived to come back to me.

And I lived to see his weary face, and embrace his
sweaty neck. He used to think he was disgusting in that
state and that I should be repulsed by him. Like the first
time he came back.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

His unit had gone out on a routine reconnaissance, and
had been surprised by super soldiers. Reports of many
dead soon came filtering back to the camp. I was
terrified that he was among them, so much so that I had
to leave the infirmary and go outside. I couldn't breathe
or even think clearly. I'd felt so little for so long that this
amount of emotion was too much to take all at once.

Wounded began to come back and my attention was
directed elsewhere. All the while I looked for him
among them, making deals with God.

Let him live, I'd prayed, and I promise to love him.

When he came through the infirmary door, I thought I'd
died. He was dirty, covered in sweat with a gash in his
shoulder. Blood ran down, painting the arm dusty
sienna. I felt myself begin to shake uncontrollably, and
fell down onto my knees.

He was over to me before anyone else had even moved.
I felt myself pulled tightly into his arms.  He murmured
softly that he was all right, and quietly told me he loved
me. With a strangled sound, I returned his hug and cried
like a baby.

Over his shoulder I could see people backing up with
embarrassment at this overt display of emotion. They'd
always seen me as a passionless creature, incapable of
love. I turned away from their reticence. I would not,
could not hold back the wave of emotions that surged
through me.

I don't know how long we remained there; time no
longer held meaning.  I was living only at that moment
with him. Surprise at my behavior played along the
muscles of his back. He finally made a move to separate
from me, but I only held him more tightly.

He'd protested, saying he must smell awful and was too
grubby for me to touch. I denied the statement by
turning my face into his neck and kissing it. He froze in
place, became rigid in astonishment. I continued my
ministrations, lapping at his neck and tasting the salty
tang of his skin.

I rubbed my face against the side of his, as a cat rubs
against its owner wanting him to mark me. I told him I
loved him too, and that I was sorry for never having said
it. I told him I wanted him. I told him to take me home.

This additional revelation seemed to render him
speechless, unable to respond. I repeated my request,
whispered close to his ear. I asked him to make love to
me.

His surprise had been understandable. I'd shown him no
affection since arriving in the camp after invasion. I was
still a widow of sorts, deep in a private mourning.
Everyone else I knew was dead and gone. That I was
alive had been bitter even then. I'd decided to never love
again. Consequently, I was distant in my all dealings
with him.

He responded with a gentle kindness that I did not
understand. Every rebuff was met with tenderness and
acceptance. He'd moved me into his quarters when none
could be found elsewhere; gave me a share of his food
when we ran low. He insisted on using a cot and gave
me the army issue bed. As usual, he was the
consummate gentleman. My comfort was always
foremost, and he sacrificed his own for me more times
than I could count. Because of my selfish state of mind, I
simply hadn't been able to appreciate his gentle care.

But I didn't know then that he was slowly penetrating
into every part of me, melding into my soul.  By the time
I realized his extinction would also mean mine, it was
nearly too late.

And I hadn't told him any of that before he left. He was
still the unwanted stranger to me as far as he knew. I was
determined to make up for that deficiency.

Once we were back at our quarters, I began stripping off
his tattered uniform by unbuttoning his shirt and pushing
up the undershirt. I ran my greedy hands over his chest,
kissed the exposed flesh, lost in a frenzy of desperate
need.

He had finally grabbed my wrists and told me to look at
him. He asked me if I saw him, if I knew who he was.

I fixed him with desire-fogged eyes.

"John," I'd said.

Apparently satisfied, he released my hands along with a
tortured moan. He attacked my clothing with the same
frantic need that I'd been displaying. Like a man who's
long past waiting for permission, he took charge. Cloth
shredded when it wouldn't be moved, and I gloried in it.

He continued in that manner until I stood almost naked
before him. My tattered bra and underwear were
embarrassing articles of seduction.  He caressed my
face, shoulders and arms with a wondered _expression.
War-toughened hands roamed over my breasts, elicited
incoherent sounds of pleasure. All the while we kissed
as if we'd needed the other's breath for survival.

But he hesitated again when he saw the blood on his arm
had transfered itself onto me. A frown deepened the
grooves in his forehead, and he said that he should wash.

Showers were nonexistent things, as were baths. Using
inch high water in a wash basin with petrified soap was
the best that could be done. A film of dirty water coated
the basin I'd used earlier that night. He made a move
toward it, and I reached for his shoulder to stop him.

He flinched in pain, and I realized I'd touched his
wound. Regret, abrasive as sand, severed our
connection. Guilt that I'd been thinking only of myself
raged at my thoughtlessness. My frenzied lust now
cooled, I made him take all but his shorts off and sit on
his cot while I poured new water. A stiff, white
washcloth I'd stolen from the hospital floated briefly in
the water before sinking down. I stood before him
between his legs and began to gently clean his injury.

I remembered how quiet it was in our small room, the
silence broken only by the sound of our breathing, and
my hand dipping into water to ring out the cloth. Sharp
edges in the room were made soft by the yellow glow of
candles. After years of toiling under harsh fluorescent
lighting, it had been a relief to return to a more primitive
illumination source. Civilization became archaic again.

His wound wasn't a cut as I'd thought, but rather a deep
abrasion that ran the length of his upper shoulder. Gritty
sand had embedded itself into the damaged skin, and I
had to scrub to remove it.  He never said a word, but fine
beads of sweat had broken out on his forehead.

Once I was satisfied that his shoulder was clean and
bandaged, I set to work attacking the grime on his face. I
brought the cloth to his forehead, and soothed away the
perspiration and deep creases. My lips followed my hand
as I caressed a spot between his eyes. By the time I
reached his neck, he was breathing much faster.

I started on his chest and back, but he seemed
embarrassed at the prospect. The hard muscles rippled
beneath his smooth skin in the wake of my hand. He was
wonderful to touch, to kiss, to rub against. He made
several attempts to touch me, but I put his hands back at
his sides.

I stood him and reached for his boxer shorts. When my
hand slipped past the waistband, it brushed casually
against his erection. He groaned, squeezed his eyes
tightly shut. He didn't open them even when I pushed the
shorts all the way down, as if he couldn't bear to see me
touch him there.

The cool water caused him to clench when I washed
between his legs. To his credit he never moved or
complained until I turned the ritual into something else. I
stroked him slowly between my wet hands, and he
unconsciously thrust his hips forward.

Suddenly he took my wrist in his hand, stilling my
movements. When I looked, the raw need in his eyes
was plain. He exerted gentle pressure, bringing me close.
Heat radiated off him in waves.

His mouth was cool and sweet against mine. He took my
lips in a series of soft, gentle kisses, coaxing me, wooing
me this time. All my attempts to hurry him were met
with stubborn refusal. He was in charge now, the shift in
power between us a visible thing.

It was he who divested me of my underwear, removing it
with practiced care. He ran his hands, now clean and
sure over my nipples ever so lightly. I made a strangled
sound that made him smile, and he repeated the gesture
to elicit it again. I rewarded him appropriately and
smiled with him at the noise.

His head bent low as he took a nipple in his mouth, and
a hand rolled the other nipple between his roughened
fingers. With a mouth no longer occupying mine, a near
scream was wretched out of me.

He returned his attentions to my face, and told me
between kisses I'd wake the rest of the camp. I told him I
didn't care.

And I didn't care later when he entered me, causing
sweet agony. He was a practiced lover, but not with me.
Still, it was a skillful violation.

"John, John...," I moaned his name over and over as I
came.

Afterward, he held me close on my small bed. He
seemed to want to make it last, as if he'd never get the
chance to do it again.

He needn't have worried.

Neither of us had slept for days, and the post coital after-
glow was short. Spooned up side-by- side on the tiny
cot, oblivion came quickly.

I woke sometime later in the night shaken by the
unfamiliar contact at my back. For a split second time
had reversed itself and I thought it had been....

I wouldn't finish that reflection. I'd sworn to myself that
I would never speak of the dead again, even in thought.
It created too much havoc on my psyche. If I wandered
down that lonely road I might not ever wander back
again.

He felt me stir, and shifted his weight. He asked me if I
was all right, and I heard a little fear darken the tone. He
must have guessed at what I'd been thinking.

I told him I was fine, gave the arms that encircled me a
reassuring hug. He was silent, unmoving behind me, but
the weight of his uncertainty pressed heavily against my
back.

Turning over, I looked up into his face. Even in the dim
light his eyes shone bright blue. More that a few women
had hinted at wanting those eyes for themselves, despite
the fact that I lived with him. Some had been obvious,
attempting seduction right in front of me as if I didn't
exist. And he'd rebuffed them all with a steely blue gaze.

He reserved soft glances for me alone, and those women
had hated my guts. They'd whispered loudly that I didn't
deserve him and that I was an unfeeling bitch.

They'd been right.

Now I'd caused doubt to show in those eyes that had
held so much love for me only hours ago. Remorse,
pain, and jagged regret leaked out of me in hot rivulets. I
tried to tell him I was sorry, but the words kept tripping
over themselves into a jumbled heap. All the while I
cried the tears of a mortally wounded woman.

He shushed me with kisses, licked the tears away with
no reproach. His capacity to absorb my suffering seemed
infinite.

After that he never questioned me again. We lived as if
there were no future, and no past to lament.

Our love was appallingly beautiful.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

And so now I waited as I had a dozen times before. If he
doesn't come back I've made arrangements to leave this
place for good. He's never been told, but he knows it
anyway. It's stupid and maudlin and needful.

I sagged against an outside wall and watched the soldiers
return.

Just when I thought he wouldn't appear unless it was
inside a body bag, he was suddenly standing there. I ran
to him heedless of anyone else. He caught me in his
arms and pulled me up to his face. I kissed him
furiously, feeling his teeth bite at my lips. I kissed down
his neck in a reverent embrace.

"John, John."

I buried my face in his chest; clenched his burning torso
tightly to me. He smelled of sweat, blood, and dirty
sand. I smiled at the familiar scent, and I rubbed my face
into it.

Home. He was home.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

End
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