The words still sound strange to her ears. She wonders if she'll ever get used to them. Unlikely, she decides.
Glancing up she sees a young officer hovering in front of her looking nervous. She recognizes her as one of the soldiers on patrol of their perimeter today and wonders what could have prompted her to leave her post. Marcus' Guard are all committed and disciplined. Something is wrong. Something else is wrong.
The little pin that Marcus left her a few weeks ago comes with a deceptive weight to it. She can feel it dragging her down day in, day out. She sighs, exhausted, already though it's not even midday yet.
She's given up trying to anticipate what new problems this job will have in store for her, choosing to simply face them as they come. It's easier just to react.
"Ma'am, we have a situation." She officer tells her, flushed and panting, looking flustered and agitated, confirming Abby's suspicions that something has happened.
She gets heavily to her feet. There always seemed to be a situation that required her immediate attention. Either as the most skilled surgeon this camp had or as Chancellor. And quite often both at the same time.
She was beginning to seriously consider the possibility that she might have been too hard on Marcus the first few weeks they'd been on the ground and he'd been in charge. How he'd managed to get this camp up and running and reasonably well stocked and defended without suffering a mild breakdown from stress she still had no idea.
At the entrance to the tent the officer had found her in stand two more. This has been the source of a certain amount of contention between her and the military group of soldiers Marcus left behind. They seem to think that she needs them hovering around her like armed, plated wasps every hour of the day. Which became especially taxing in the cramped quarters of medical.
She snapped after two days and snarled that she would permit two of them to stand at the gates of wherever she was at one time and no more than that. They had argued. She had threatened. And ultimately pulled rank. The damn job had to come with some kind of perks or no-one would ever want it.
She's holding Marcus personally responsible for the over-eagerness of her guards. It has him and his concern for the loose cannon he perceives in her written all over it.
A dense crowd has gathered around the main gate in to camp, all staring out of it at one fixed point. The many headed entity of fascination and curiosity acting as one being while one thing holds their attention.
They're tense and quiet, unusually so. Normally she's greeted by an overwhelming cacophony of noise as people clamour to explain their side of whatever's happened, always deeming it more important than their neighbour's.
The flat, dead silence worries her therefore.
The thick sea of people before her parts to let her pass. Also unusual.
She pauses when she finds the channel that's been cleaved between the crowd leaves her face to face with three Grounders. All female. All armed.
She almost feels naked and foolish without a weapon of her own and wishes for a moment that Marcus and his ever present rifle were there by her side.
She shakes the feeling as quickly as she can. It won't help her now. And forces herself to stand firm and avoid shrinking back into the protective cluster of her people.
Now is not the time to show weakness or fear. She knows that.
She waits, holding her ground and her silence, choosing to let the other women make the first move. They're the ones who've turned up on their doorstep unannounced and uninvited. They clearly have something to say.
After several moments of tense silence, the middle grounder steps forward and speaks. Her voice is clear and carrying in the still quiet. "I am Indra." She announces quietly, her eyes flick towards Abby's, "You lead these people?" She enquires.
"Yes." She finds herself saying, trying to match the confidence in her own voice with that of the woman identifying herself as Indra. "I'm Abby." She informs them, wasting no time in adding, "What do you want?"
The other woman's dark eyes flash slightly at her boldness but she doesn't see the point in mincing words. They came here with a purpose in mind and the sooner she knows what that is the happier she'll be.
"I was going to ask you the same question." Is the cold answer she gets back.
The two Grounders behind Indra shift and Abby feels the members of the Guard at her back tense and begin to move protectively in front of her. She stops them, raising a hand. She's wary, but she's not afraid yet. And a wall of armed, hostile soldiers springing in front of her will undoubtedly sour the mood of the tentative little parley she has here.
She hears a ripple behind her and focuses on what's going on in front of her again. Her heart sinks as she realised Indra's guards have moved to reveal exactly what they want. Her eyes light on the body of a dead Grounder. Missing an eye. An unmistakable bullet wound in his head. Clearly marking them as the most likely culprits.
Finn and Bellamy. She thinks with a sudden sharp pang of guilt. It had to be. None of her soldiers had authorisation to be beyond their wall much less shoot anyone in the head.
What have I done?
"You have an interesting way of trying to propose a peace between us." Indra growls icily, her eyes flashing dangerously again.
Cold horror twists in her stomach as the full reality of the situation hits her square in the chest.
He would have arrived at their camp with a prisoner in tow in the midst of the rage that would have been generated at the murder of one of their own. God knows what they did to him when he got there...
She forces herself to try and focus through the graphic images of Marcus restrained and tortured that keep interrupting her rational thought.
She takes a deep breath and tries to steady herself and stay calm as she says, "I'm sorry."
"Is that supposed to fix things?" The other woman interrupts harshly.
She forces herself not to lose her temper, though it's tempting. The thought of what it might mean for Marcus and the rest of her people is sending panic spiking through her uncontrollably. "No." She says firmly, "I'm just..." She closes her eyes, trying to think but distant screams she can't possibly hear are echoing around in her head,
"The people who killed your man." She begins, deciding an explanation may serve more use than an empty apology, "They were prisoners here. They escaped." She says, slowly, choosing to omit the part where she facilitated said escape, and the murder in question by arming them. That won't help her now. Guilt won't help her now and it sure as Hell won't help Marcus. "I, I had no idea that they had done anything like this that they would do anything like this." She says, shaking her head. That much is true. She had put her faith in the wrong people to bring her daughter home. To keep her people safe. Marcus had been right.
"We do want peace." She says steadily, meeting the other woman's eyes again, "These actions were not sanctioned by anyone here. They weren't done on my orders or by my authority." But it doesn't mean they weren't my fault.
" This, this is unforgivable and when we find those boys again, when they are brought back here, you my word they will be punished for what they've done." It's all she can do for now. Trapped in an impossible situation. Worsened by the fact that she knows it's entirely of her own making. "This, this was never my intention." She finds the words spilling out of her before she can stop them.
"And yet it still hapepened." Indra says coldly, seeming to share her own thoughts. "This happened. This was done. On your authority or not. It was done. By your people. Whether you ordered them to or not is irrelevant. This is your responsibility." She says. Abby's eyes close slowly, despair twisting in her stomach, "His blood," she gestures towards her fallen soldier once more, "Is on your hands."
She turns and Abby starts forward, desperate, knowing that if she leaves this conversation now then it will end in a war and if he's not dead already, the next body that's left at their gates will surely be Marcus'. She can't stand the thought.
"Please." She calls out, "We can still negotiate." She says urgently, nothing more inspirational or convincing coming to her in her moment of panic.
She gets a harsh, cold look for her troubles. "Not with the likes of you."
Her temper that's been fraying so close to breaking point already flares then. "Your hands have blood on them as well" She snarls, ignoring the murmured warnings of the officers behind her to be careful, to return to them and their protection.
Indra pauses and she realises she has something. She's found something to hold on to, something to sink her nails in to and tear open now.
"You tortured, crucified and killed three of my people." She growls at her, "There is fault on both sides. I don't deny our part but you're not blameless either." She says, noting the line she's found and following it, her words rising in strength as she goes on, "We can't go on like this. Not if we want to survive. Not if we're going to survive. Revenge, an eye for an eye, it won't work. We'll kill each other off one by one. I don't want that. You don't want that. There has to be another way."
She waits on tenterhooks, her heart in her mouth, her breath trapped tensely in her lungs, waiting, hoping against hopes that the reply that came would be the one she wanted; the one she needed.
Finally, Indra says, "I will take your words back to my people." She promises, "This is not a decision I can make alone. I will come back to you when we have made it." Abby nods gratefully.
But the woman turns to leave again. "Stop." He finds herself commanding. She's pushing things and she knows it. But they're not done here yet. Not by a long shot.
"One of my people came to a few weeks ago to negotiate for peace." She explains quickly, trying to keep the fear and the desperation out of her voice, to remain neutral, a leader, not a friend, "He hasn't come back."
"Nor will he." Is the curt, cold reply she gets.
Her stomach drops. Clenches. Twists. A rush of guilt of hate of anger and despair threatens to consume her for a moment. For a moment the world dissolves around her and all she can see is him. And all she can feel is the horror at the idea that she never will again.
Something moves her and comes over her and she throws caution to the wind and strides out until she's face o face with the other woman, inches from her, "That's not an option." She growls forcefully, putting all of the strength she can muster into her voice.
"it's not up for debate." Indra answers flatly. "You kidnapped, tortured and killed one of my men. My people expect justice."
"This isn't justice." Abby spits in disgust, "He had nothing to do with the death of your man. Torturing and murdering a man who came to you in peace to satisfy your pain and your anger is not justice. It's revenge." Her voice trembles slightly as she speaks, her hands curling themselves into fists fury and fear boiling up inside her despite her efforts to suppress it. She couldn't let him die. Whatever it took, whatever they wanted, she would not let them kill him for this, because of her, because of what she'd done.
"It's expected." Is all she gets in reply. And it's not good enough. It's not near good enough.
"I want him back." She declares fiercely, trying to stop her voice from shaking.
"I want him back." Indra retorts, hot colour flaring in her words as she looks down at her dead soldier once more, pain twisting in her eyes.
The thought of Marcus tortured and killed, leaving her to lead these people alone; alone with the weight of his death on her shoulders for the rest of her life because it would be her fault. She disobeyed his orders. She armed the people that killed this grounder, that's going to get him killed. If he dies, if he's hurt, it'll be her fault, it'll be all her fault. And there was so much she wanted to say, so much she needed to tell him and she can't let this happen; she won't. It's too much. The last bit of her restraint snaps.
"You should know then," She says wildly, trying to keep her voice steady and even and almost matter-of-fact, "That the man you're threatening to murder is our chancellor." She announces boldly, "And if you kill him then things will be expected of me." She says firmly, meeting the other woman's eyes so she knows damn well that she means every word she says, "And I won't hesitate." She breathes, "Every bomb and every bullet and every soldier that I have at my disposal will be at your gates and they will destroy everything you have."
She lets the threat hang in the dead silence its created for a moment. She just promised to go to war over one man. Over the life of one man. But it's one man she can't bear to lose. Even though she knows that Marcus would kill her for this, that he'd never agree to any of it, that he'd tell her she was crazy and that she should have just let them kill him but she can't. She can't let him die because of her. She won't.
"Or." She says in a carefully measured voice, "We can resolve this peacefully." She adds slowly, an idea suddenly coming to her.
Indra studies her for a moment then, "How?"
She's won. She knows it. If she can do this, if she can just do this. No-one wants this to lead to more death and more war and more bloodshed. She can still save him. She can get him back. Her heart soars at the thought. But she forces herself to stay calm.
"An exchange." Abby answers simply, "We have one of your men; you have one of mine. We both want them to come back home safely. And it gives us a clean slate to start from. No prisoners, no bargaining chips, nothing to threaten."
She waits for a reaction; hoping with every fibre of her being.
After what feels like a lifetime, Indra finally nods. "We'll bring him to you tomorrow." She says fairly.
"No." Abby says, sharply. She's not taking any chances with this, with him, "I'm coming with you."
He stirs in the darkness. Senses trickle back, slowly, as though reluctant to wake him.
As they should be.
His eyes crack open first. Ironic as, away or not, his view of the world is the same. Black. Nothing but solid uninterrupted...Nothing.
His world is empty and void. He could have gone blind and not noticed. He could have died and never realised.
Sound returns to him next. He can hear his own soft, shallow breathing he only noise to break the harsh never-ending silence of the room around him. A callous contradiction to the idea that something as sweet as death could have happened to him.
A shiver runs through him. His breathing becomes ragged and uneven. He knows what comes next.
It comes slowly. Teasing and mocking and playing with him. Soft waves that lap harmlessly at a shore to begin with. But his body trembles. It knows. It remembers. His extremities begin to shake more violently as the pain increases. His nerves like lit fuses begin to burn, ignited by him waking once more.
And pain slowly sparks and flickers through him like fire. He curls in on himself, gritting his teeth, his eyes clamped shut, waiting for the inevitable explosion that would be triggered soon, trying to convince himself that he could handle it this time.
It happens a few seconds later and he convulses in agony. Blackness, more condensed and absolute than the darkness in the room floods his vision. He finds himself a few minutes later, slumped on the low sleeping cot they'd left him on last, panting and still trembling violently.
The pain has ebbed away slightly now, his brain blocking it, shielding him somewhat from the true horror of his situation. He shifts uncomfortably. His laboured breathing now coming in short, hard bursts. He's thin and weak. His throat scratches and rasps, craving the water that's making his head swim as he forces himself into a sitting position.
The chains around his wrists and ankles rub at the already raw skin. He ignores it. He leans back, resting his head against the wall behind him. He can't keep this up for much longer. But no, no he has to. He knows he has to. He came here to make peace. To protect his people. He won't tell an army of Grounders anything, whatever they do to him. won't. He can't. He can't warn them what they'll be facing if they choose to attack Abby and the others.
She's been on his mind a lot since he's been here. He doesn't know how long. Time seemed less and less important after the first few days. When hours became measured in interrogation sessions and days in ever increasing thirst and hunger.
But she's been a constant down here too, as much as the pain. Something familiar, something soothing. At least at first. At first it was a reassurance. If he died down here, and he would before he told them a damn thing, it would not be long now, he had left his people in her hands. She would lead them, she would protect them, she would shape them into something good, better than he ever could.
He trusted her to do that and to do it well. He had put his faith in her, with the unspoken knowledge that he may not come back from this. That the shoes he had asked her to fill may not be temporary. They had both known that it might come to that; to this. And now it had. He still trusted her. He still had faith in her.
But she found her way into his dreams too. Already unsettled and uncomfortable from the tolls that had been taken on him during the day. He saw what he had done to her again and again and again. Woke up gasping her name, panting. Her eyes; the way she had looked at him, stalked his nightmares and haunted his waking hours.
She had rarely left him, since he had come here, in one way or another. And what he wouldn't give to see her one last time. To tell her...To tell her what? Tell her something. Something that should no doubt have been said a long time ago.
His thoughts were interrupted a moment later. His eyes snapped open, his body suddenly taut and alert. Footsteps. He had been sure he had heard footsteps outside the door. But not now. Not yet. It was too soon. If he had had anything to cling to down here at all it was routine.
Something had changed. Something was different. Something was wrong.
Keys jangled in the lock a few seconds later. It was him. They were definitely here for him. But why?
He forced himself to sit up as straight as his broken body would allow.
His eyes reflexively snapped shut as a bright torch was thrust into the dark cell, burning his eyes, the light blinding him as badly as the pitch black.
When he managed to force his eyes open again his heart went into free-fall at what he saw.
She grimaces as her eyes struggle to adjust to the different light in the room. Then she finds him. Her heart jumps into her throat. The hot light of the torch above her casts him into sharp relief and if she didn't know him so well she would have had difficulty recognising him.
He's pale and shaky and covered in blood, some fresh some cracked and old. He's holding himself awkwardly, as though in pain, and shying away from the harsh light which is dancing and catching on the scars and wounds that pepper his skin.
His eyes worried her most, though. They're wide and wild and there's a terror in them that she's never seen before. It's not what she expects from this man, usually so calm and composed and in control. Her eyes meet his properly as he sees her properly and he finds his voice as they do.
"No." He cries, desperately, straining against the heavy chains that bind him in place, his eyes moving from her to the masked figures behind her. "No." He repeats urgently, his voice cracked and strained as though he hasn't used it in weeks.
She ducks around the guard in front of her and rushes to him. She crouches down in front of him, her hands on his shoulders, trying to steady him.
"Marcus." She says, her voice clear and loud, trying to cut through his panic, "Marcus." She says again, sharply.
He pauses, his name and her voice calling him back a little, still shaking, looking down at her, panting, his eyes meeting hers again and softening slightly as they do.
"It's okay." She breathes quickly, guessing at the source of his panic and seeking to reassure him, "It's okay, Marcus." She murmurs again, trying to soothe him. Her hands reach up and gently cup his cheeks between them, making sure he stays focussed on her as she breathes gently, "It's alright. They're not going to hurt me." She tells him.
She feels him settle slightly beneath her before she turns angrily on Indra, snarling, "What the Hell have you done to him?"
She gets nothing but a cold, hard look in return, those steely eyes giving nothing away.
"Abby?" Marcus' voice, soft and uncertain calls her back to him. He widens his yes at her, still confused as to how or why any of this is happening.
Her thumbs gently stroke his cheeks as she tells him quietly, "I'm going to take you home."
He stares at her for a moment before his face splits into a tentative smile, "About time." He rasps to her and she finds a smile for him in return.
He reaches up a moment later, his fingers slowly and cautiously murmuring around her wrist as though trying to anchor himself to her to prove that she's real, that she's here, that this is happening.
The heavy chains that hang from his arm brush against her side. The cold metal makes her jump and wince involuntarily. She turns away from him again, only for a moment.
"Take them off. Now." She commands harshly, her voice shaking slightly with the effort of suppressing her anger.
Indra exchanges a brief, wordless look with the guard on her left who approaches them a second later. Abby withdraws a little way to allow him to remove Marcus' restraints. He flinches slightly, impulse taking over, as the guard's rough skin brushes his own for a moment. She pretends not to notice, knowing he wouldn't want her to have seen, but her stomach clenches painfully and her nails bite into her palm as her hands ball themselves into fists.
The instant the Grounder moves away, she returns to him and, without warning, wraps her arms around him and pulls him in close. She feels him tense against her, surprised. He hesitates for a moment. A few seconds later, his arms life from his sides and slowly curl around her, completing the embrace. She closes her eyes and buries her face into his shoulder and lets her relief and happiness at having found him and gotten him back wash between them for a moment.
She gently releases him a few minutes later. Neither of them speak. There will be time for that later. When they're safe. When they're alone. For now, she can read everything she needs to in his eyes, in his gentle touch that still lingers, in the way he's looking at her now...
She straightens and turns to Indra once more, "Thank you." She breathes quietly.
The other woman nods curtly and Abby understands the dismissal.
She looks around at Marcus, "Can you stand?" She asks him.
He nods firmly but what little colour he had left drains he stubbornly drags himself to his feet. She hastily ducks under one arm and wraps the other around his torso to support him as he begins to sway dangerously.
She guides him out through the network of tunnels that had led her to his cell, grateful now that she had taken the trouble to memorise the route on the way in.
She pauses a moment once they reach the surface, catching her breath and turning to him as she feels him relax a little beside her. He's closed his eyes and is taking deep, slow lungfuls of the cool, fresh night air. She lets him indulge this moment for a second but it's dark and they're still deep in Grounder territory.
She nudges him gently to get him to move, "Come on." She says softly, "We don't have to go far."
He doesn't move to obey her immediately, glancing around them, then he turns to her and asks hoarsely, "Where are your guards?"
"At camp." She replies evenly, knowing how he's going to react to this.
She starts walking again, trusting that he'll fall into step with her. He does. But he's clearly not done with her yet.
"You came alone?" He growls at her.
"We traded prisoners." She explains, determinedly keeping them moving, "They wanted to bring you back to our camp and make the trade there. I insisted on coming back with them. We compromised." She says with finality, as though that settles the matter.
She knows it won't.
"You let yourself be led into a heavily armed Grounder prisoner of war camp with no guards and no weapons?" He croaks weakly, staring at her with something close to horror.
"The alternative was leaving you there and letting you die." She snarls at him.
"You could have been killed. You could have been captured." He kisses furiously.
Thunder roars dully above them and the heavens open over their heads, cold rain sheeting down upon them. She curses under her breath and quickens their pace, even though he's barely keeping up with her as is. But the last thing she needs is for him to end up with hypothermia in his current condition. She's only just gotten him back. She's damn well not losing him to that now. Not after everything.
"Abby." He snarls, still clearly waiting for some kind of reply and an answer to her recklessness.
"I couldn't just let you die, Marcus!" She spits at him, turning to look up at him as she speaks so understands some of what she went through. "It was worth the risk to get you back." She snaps distractedly to him, glancing around them through the rain, trying to get her bearings.
"No." His voice is sharp and stranger than she's heard it since she found him.
He's stopped dead and moved swiftly in front of her, forcing her to stop too. She glares up at him. Rain floods between them, the only thing separating them now. Her hair hangs in long, thin strands, plastered to her cheeks one moment then whipped furiously away from her by a wind that's picking up strength with every second they delay.
But he won't let them move. His eyes find hers and hold her in place without him having to lay so much as a finger on her to make her stay.
"No, Abby." He breathes, his voice hoarse and faint but firm.
He's swaying where he stands and still trembling uncontrollably but when she reaches out to steady him again he pushes her away, snarling, "Swear to me, Abby. Swear to me that you won't do that again. That you'll never take a risk like that again. Not for me. Not for anything." He tells her, his voice dropping away to something barely above a strangled whisper, his eyes darkening as he chokes, "It's not worth it."
A violent tremor ripples through him at these words, "Swear to me, Abby." He breathes again. He's chalk white and trembling now, his eyes wide and worried.
"I swear." She says quickly, "I swear, Marcus, okay?" She tells him urgently, moving forwards and supporting him again.
He nods, seemingly satisfied with her answer for now. He's quiet the rest of the way as she leads him through the storm. He doesn't falter or question her, just puts one foot in front of hte other as she coaxes and encourages him on, desperate to get him somewhere safe as soon as she can.
About an hour from the Grounder camp they've just come from and to her intense relief, she finally catches sight of their safe haven through the torrential rain.
She guides him up a short but steep incline and into the mouth of a large, shallow cave. She lowers him down onto the floor as gently as she can. He slumps against the rough, cold wall, his eyes closed, his knees drawn up to his chest, his breathing short, faint and uneven, his body shaking from more than cold.
He's in a bad way and they both know it. But at least she can have a proper look at him now.
She moves to the back of the cave, still keeping half an eye on him in case his condition drastically worsens and her spirits lift at the sight of two large packs waiting for them.
She drags them back over to Marcus, eyes still closed, and nudges a bottle of water into his hands. He gulps eagerly at it then pushes it towards her. She accepts it and takes a few shallow sips watching him study the bags of supplies.
"How?" He asks, turning towards her, eyebrows raised.
She swallows her water then nudges the bottle back into his hands, glaring stubbornly when he appears reluctant to take more than what he perceives as his share. Once he's grudgingly taken another drink of water, she explains.
"When I knew I'd be coming out here to get you on my own I had some of the Guard bring supplies to this spot along with a radio." She pulls it out as she speaks, "I thought we might need shelter for the night if we couldn't make it back to our camp before dark and I wanted some medical supplies on hand just in case." She glances back over at him again as she says this, takes a deep breath, and continues, "And as for the radio," She holds it up, "I asked Raven to have it transmit a distress signal. If it was still transmitting by this time tomorrow I left orders for a group of soldiers to come and find out what had happened to us." She flicks the signal off as she speaks.
He looks mildly impressed by all of this.
"I'm not completely useless, Marcus." She informs him almost playfully, rolling her eyes.
"I wouldn't have left you in charge if I'd thought that." He counters smoothly. She just sighs at him. "Though my only insight into the kind of chancellor you are is one willing to risk her life for the sake of one person." He says wryly.
"For you." She reminds him, glancing up and meeting his eyes.
"Even so." He mutters, the corners of his mouth twitching.
She finds herself smiling at this too as she rummages through their packs.
"We need to get out of these wet clothes." She informs him in a business-like tone. The sooner they do that the better for them both.
"Okay." He mutters grimly attempting to drag himself to his feet, "I'll just wait-"
She pulls him back down glaring at him and tugs her shirt up over her head to make a point as she growls firmly, "We're trapped in a cave by a vicious thunderstorm in the heart of Grounder territory. Now's not the time, Marcus."
She strips her clothes off before he can complain any further and changes them as quickly as she can then turns to help him having stopped him after his first few attempts yielded nothing but winces and stunted cries of pain.
Her eyes slowly travel over his body, taking in his injuries, trying to stop the violent images showing her what probably caused them from flooding her mind as she does so. She gently catches his wrist as he begins to snatch up a shirt.
"Those need looked at." She says softly to him.
"Of course." He mutters grimly.
She carefully positions herself in front of him. Her eyes linger on some of the deeper wounds torn into his chest. Her fingers trace the edges of one of the cuts, her hand trembling uncontrollably despite her normally instinctive ability to keep it steady.
"Abby." He murmurs gently.
"Right, sorry." She mutters, snapping back into action as the sound of his voice calls her back to herself.
He catches her wrist to stop her then surprises her by tenderly linking their fingers together as he gently murmurs her name once more. She turns to him, their eyes meeting and she only realises then how close she is to him.
"I'm okay." He says softly. His voice is still rough and hoarse but it's steady, unlike her hands which still shake slightly, though less so when wrapped in his. "I'm okay, Abby." He murmurs again, his other hand slowly running up her arm, giving it a soft squeeze.
"I know." She whispers quietly, her eyes locking with his again.
And they linger together, suspended in this moment that's been created between them, neither of them wanting to break it but neither know what to do with it either. She can feel him breathing against, the soft rise and fall of his chest so close, his hand still on her skin, hot and rough but gentle. His eyes lingering softly on her lips. And her all becomes too much.
She closes her eyes and draws away from him a minute later, the breath she hadn't realised she'd been trapping her lungs bursting from her in a soft gasp. His hands slowly slide from her as she says in a falsely casual voice, "You won't be for much longer if I don't clean those wounds."
"Of course." He murmurs, his breath hot on her cheek, still close enough to him to feel him breathe.
His voice sounds strange, constricted by some emotion she can't place. She forces herself not to turn back to him, afraid of what impulse might make her lose herself in him if she does, busying herself with her med kit instead.
"This might sting a little." She warns once she trusts herself to look at him again, soaking a cotton pad in saline solution.
He nods, shifting slightly against the cave wall, bracing himself. His whole body tenses and he hisses in pain as she begins cleansing the cuts on his chest and back. It takes a while. She talks soothingly to him as she works, pausing every now and then to give him a breather and coax some more food and water into him.
He does as he's told without complaint for once in his life. Once she's finished she appraises the wounds, crossing over his body, deciding what to do with them. None of them are still open and bleeding thankfully, but she knows some of them will have to be stitched if they're going to heal properly.
She anticipates his grimace as she pulls out a suturing needle. "Necessary evil." She informs him with a grim smile.
He nods tautly, turning away from her for the first time to face the wall behind him, flinching as she begins. She's almost grateful. Every time their eyes meet something stirs within her and tension sparks between them like hot live wires brought too close.
She glances up at him very now and then as she works. There's a little more colour to him now and despite his discomfort, his breathing is more regular and even as well. She decides she can't put t off any more. Knowing that she should probably have asked him long before this.
Slowly, forcing her voice to remain as steady as she can make it she murmurs softly, "Do you want to talk about it?"
Every muscle in his body contracts at her words and she withdraws, alarmed. His expression remains impassive however and betrays nothing.
She gently returns to him once more and her touch seems to soothe him slightly; he relaxes somewhat as her fingers brush over his skin again. Finally, she gets her answer as he tautly shakes his head.
She nods, resting a gently hand on his shoulder and giving it a soft squeeze. She's quiet as she finishes up, letting him calm himself down and think and process while she does so. She checks her stitches and, once she's satisfied with them, digs around in her kit for bandages to cover the wounds and stop them from becoming infected.
She shifts closer to him again, gently raising his arms so she can lean in and wrap the thick linen around his torso. He glances down to look at her as she does this, their bodies bear inches apart.
She can feel his short bursts of hot breath softly stirring the hair on the top of her head sending shivers down her spine. The tension between them that's been there for months is almost tangible now and it's beginning to reach an almost unbearable peak.
His breath whispers over her skin. She can feels his heart hammering beneath his ribs in time with the rapid rhythm pounding in her own chest. She can feel his touch on her body, physically steadying her slightly and emotionally pushing her into freefall.
And all the time the tension between them growing and stirring. A current that's rumbled beneath the surface for so long now whipped into a frenzy that was becoming harder and harder to suppress and ignore.
She clears her throat and takes several deep breaths, looking up at him as she says, "I'm done."
He nods gratefully, "Thank you, Abby."
She smiles faintly, not entirely sure why they're still pressed so closely together just knowing that she can't draw away from him as though some kind of magnetic pull is preventing her from withdrawing from him.
She takes a deep, shaking breath, her fingers murmuring almost absently over his, their eyes crashing together again as she murmurs softly, "I missed you, Marcus."
His hands come to rest, seemingly instinctively, on her side as she shifts a little closer to him.
"I missed you too, Abby." He breathes gently, his eyes searching hers.
She quivers slightly and feels his grip tighten protectively on her waist.
She bows her head, closing her eyes as she confesses shakily, "I thought you were dead. I thought i was never going to see you again. I thought, I thought..."
"Hey." He murmurs softly, reaching up and tenderly cupping her face in his hand, his thumb gently stroking her cheek, calming her as she says softly, "I'm here. I'm here, Abby. With you."
She nods, her lips slightly parted, his hand pressed hard and hot against her waist. A shiver runs through her, her body seeming to vibrate along the same wavelength is his, in time and in tune with each other.
"Marcus, I-" She begins, having no idea what she's going to say to him.
But he spares her the necessity of saying anything. He leans forwards, his fingers sliding into her hair, cradling her to him as he kisses her, hard, their bodies crashing together at the same time as their lips.
She tenses at first, her body trembling in anticipation and want then she relaxes, trusting herself to his arms and his embrace. She melts against him, her body fitting with his as though they had been moulded with the intention of being one.
She shifts slightly, sliding into his lap, pressing in closer to him and deepening their kiss, her lips parting for his tongue, groaning faintly against him. Her hands curl behind his neck, her fingers slide up into his hair, tangling in it and tugging lightly at it as he continues to kiss her.
Her lungs begin to cry out for air but she can't let him go. She won't. Her body craves him like a drug she's been withdrawing from her entire life and his kiss is the sweetest high she's ever felt.
She needs this. She needs him. She's needed it for so long. And everything she could never say; everything she wanted to; everything she struggled to find the words to express she says now. She says in his arms and in her soul as their bodies collide and she loses herself in him and in them, unable to tell where they separate anymore.
Everything was him. The taste of him on her tongue, his scent filling her lungs, his arms protectively surrounding her, warmth and safety spreading from his touch.
She's waited for this. She's wanted this for so long, she's wanted him for so long and to have it now, to have him, everything she wanted, everything she needed. She feels whole again. She feels herself again. Everything feels right now. She feels like she is where she belongs, wrapped around him, pressed so close she can't tell them apart.
He breaks the kiss, slowly, and reluctantly, still cradling her in his arms, both of them breathing hard. Her eyes find his again, soft smiles touching their lips as she does.
She leans forwards, pressing her forehead against his, her eyes closing, his arms tightening around her, keeping her against him, heat rising between them.
"Marcus-" She begins quietly, but again he saves her the trouble of finding words she doesn't have.
His fingers tenderly brush soft strands of hair out of her eyes before he murmurs tenderly, "I know, Abby."
And he does.
Her smile broadens and she leans down, softly brushing her lips against his, "I know you do, Marcus." She breathes softly.
She lets him hold her until she notes him trembling and then begins to dig around in their packs, tugging out a thick woollen blanket and throwing it over them. They huddle together under it for warmth, pressed as close together as they can be. Neither of them can sleep. They just lie in each other's arms, their fingers quietly lacing together as the storm unfolds beyond them.
A/N: thank you for reading, as ever feedback is very much appreciated :)