This and My Heart

by philiater

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. 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 wring 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 afterglow 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.


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