Author's note: This was written for a friend of mine for her upcoming birthday. She's a big Andre/Claire fan, and since I'm pretty fond of them myself, my muse gave me an idea and I wrote it down for her. So with her approval of the story, I'm now posting it here. Hope you enjoy, and please review.
Disclaimer: I do not own, do not sue me. Savvy?
HEADS ABOVE WATER
It was only a couple more days until Claire and Andre were to be married. Yet it seemed like it would never come. Claire and Andre had taken to avoiding each other for the most part the past week. Claire was resolved to wait until the wedding night for things to go very far, but it seemed to be harder and harder for her to tell Andre to stop.
And Claire knew it was getting harder for Andre to stop when she asked him to.
So, their solution had been that they would try to avoid each other as much as possible, and to never be around each other, alone. The latter especially would be bad for them, they knew.
But avoiding each other was getting hard to do as well. Claire longed to be near Andre again, she longed to feel him again. She was having a difficult time not hunting him down and telling him that propriety meant nothing to her anymore.
She wondered if Andre was having the same difficulty. If there were times he was almost unable to keep himself from coming to her and telling her to stop saying stop.
Claire sighed, rolling onto her side. The moon was full, the night was humid, and she couldn't sleep, because she kept wondering if Andre was in the same state as she was. Her skin was damp with sweat, her hair matted to her skin, and she felt like she couldn't breathe. There was an almost unbearable ache between her legs, and she felt smothered, frustrated, so many things.
It was driving her mad.
Finally, she decided to get out, go down to the river, and take a swim like she used to do when she was little. The moon was bright enough, and she certainly wouldn't catch a cold this night. Besides, the water would do her good, as would the activity of swimming. She needed to do something to release all the pent up energy she could no longer use against the English.
Silently, Claire snuck from the camp, heading down towards the river. She was silent, her time spent as a spy for her brother teaching her the art of sneaking around camps at night without making hardly any sound, at least not fatal ones.
It took her five minutes to reach the river, most of that time spent slowly and carefully sneaking away from the camp. When she was finally at her destination - after dodging fallen tree limbs and moss covered logs - she took a moment to simply stare at the beautiful sight before her.
She was standing on the edge of a five foot tall cliff - a frightening jump for a nine year old, but hardly daunting for her now - that was a few feet away from the river. Directly below her was a mixture of ground and smooth boulders that led to the riverbank. From her perch, she had a perfect view of the river, its gentle waves reflecting the silvery light from the sky, the moon's reflection rippling as the water appeared to shimmer.
Claire smiled in quiet awe, captivated by the beautiful, peaceful appearance. The gentle wind that barely did anything to cool her off did help her bare the moist heat, and caused the trees to rustle softly, adding to the serenity of the moment.
"Come here often?" a familiar voice said softly from not too far away, whispered just loud enough to be heard by her, causing her to start in surprise. Familiar hands grabbed her, steadying her as she stumbled slightly, keeping her from falling. Andre Marek smiled almost sheepishly and apologetically at Claire, but there was a familiar - and maddening - impish twinkle in his eyes.
"Do you nearly frighten innocent people to death often?" she questioned him accusingly, trying her best to glare at him. But she was rather happy, relieved, to see him again, to have a physical reminder of how it felt to be held by him. Her gratefulness for being in such close proximity to him wasn't helpful with her glare, and she ended up being laughed at.
Andre tried to stop, or at least pretended to, whispering he was sorry between muffled laughs as he brought one hand up to cover his mouth so the others wouldn't be disturbed, even though they were far enough away by now for him to laugh without worry.
"Well I am glad you find it so amusing. Now why don't you compose yourself and explain to me what you are doing here," Claire requested, though it was more like a politely worded command.
"I came here to get some fresh air, away from the others. Perhaps cool off in the river," Andre replied when he calmed himself down, his grin softening into a faint smile as he glanced out at the river, his gaze becoming as appreciative as hers had probably been before his interruption.
Claire bit her lip, glancing down. That made things, complicated. She had come there for the exact some thing, but she couldn't very well do that in front of him, nor could he do it in front of her either.
Her betrothed noticed her expression, his eyes lighting up with concern. The hand that he had dropped from her to cover his mouth now returned, gently caressing her cheek. "Claire, what's wrong?" he asked, his Scottish brogue growing a bit thicker with the concern.
"I used to swim in this river when I was little, before the English had populated this area so densely," Claire told him, her voice soft, her eyes distant, nostalgic. "I wanted to come and swim in it again. My mind has been so clouded lately, and I couldn't sleep," she admitted, her eyes focusing once more, looking up at him. "But I will return to camp and let you enjoy it tonight," she said with a firm nod of her head before moving to walk past him.
Andre's grip on her shoulder tightened, his other hand sliding down her neck and gripping her as well. His grip was tight, firm, but not too hard, not even enough to leave anything more than a brief, red mark whenever he let go.
"Claire, I know you want to wait until we are married, and I am for that too, I am," he told her, though she could tell there was something he wasn't saying. "But Claire, we're almost to the day. Only two days left until the wedding, and we have come even to the point of avoiding each other to make certain we keep our hands to ourselves or our eyes were they should be," he continued, his voice and manner becoming passionate, the way he was when he told Arnaut to keep her safe or when he talked about the land and the times, as if he had just woken up to France and its customs, though he had always known of them.
"Andre, listen," Claire finally whispered, one hand lifting to cover his mouth. She took a deep breath, his words hitting home, cutting through her frustrations and her beliefs and her doubts. "I have spent so many nights wanting to just throw away propriety, but as you said, only two days. It is so close, and yet it feels as though it will never come."
Claire paused, unsure of how to say what she wanted to say, unsure just what exactly she wanted to say. She had no idea where she was going - if she wanted to stay with him and join him, or if she wanted to tell him that they could wait, that they needed to wait.
Andre let go of her shoulders, reaching up and taking hold of her hand. He kept silent though, his eyes watching, waiting, letting her think things through in her mind without putting any pressure on her. He was wonderful that way. He never put pressure on her. Even when she felt the reluctance in his body as he moved away from her those few times they had let themselves get carried away, he had never really put pressure on her.
She needed that right now. Needed his patience, his presence that would wait for her to come to her own decisions, not try and make them for her when it was obvious she needed to. She needed him there, needed to look at him when she made her decision. Because either way, it had to be a decision she could keep when he was not around.
And she already knew that staying and joining him in the river was something she could live with when they parted ways that night. She just wasn't so sure she could live with the decision to stay away from him. She remembered seeing all those lovers torn apart by the war, and she did not want to face another nightmare when she returned to bed tonight.
"I want to stay with you, Andre. I want us both to go into that river," Claire stated after several moments of thinking. "If there is one thing I learned from the war, it is that life is a precious thing, and we never know when God sees fit to allow it to be taken from us. I thought one of us, perhaps even both of us, would die that night at La Roque. We did not. And now, even with the day so close, I do not want to risk it. I cannot stand risking it," she told him, her decision made.
There was a brief uncertainty in Andre's eyes that frightened Claire, but when she felt his lips on hers - she was certain she had not seen him move - her fears were appeased. He was gentle, tentative, again not pushing her, and she felt her pulse quicken just knowing he was letting her tell him when to move forward.
After a few moments, Andre pulled away from the gentle kiss, giving Claire the soft smirk of a reformed rascal. "Shall we take that swim?" he asked her, not even waiting for her answer before he jumped down onto the ground below them. He turned, watching Claire, his eyes hopeful, as if he was still unsure she would go through with her decision.
Claire carefully climbed down, giving Andre a reproachful look, but they both knew it was false. Her mocking expression melted into her own playful smile and she walked past him, swiftly undressing and laying her clothes on one of the taller rocks. She could hear the soft rustle of fabric behind her, alerting her he was following suit.
Her nerves were nearly making her fidget as she finished removing her clothes, and her stomach was all in knots. She wanted this, certainly, but still. It was, daunting, somehow.
"Am I the only one here who's nervous all of a sudden?" Andre asked from behind her, and she smiled to herself, almost laughing. Andre heard her stifle her nervous amusement and chuckled himself. "I'll take that as a no."
Claire smiled, nodding even though she wasn't sure if he was watching her or not. She hesitantly turned around, her arms lifting up and wrapping around her. She was thankful for the darkness, and cursed the moon for being so bright. She was nervous of what he would see, and nervous of what she would see.
He looked beautiful. He was big, broad, yet he did not seem intimidating - except when he wanted to be - or huge. His skin was tan everywhere, not just on his arms and face. She was unsure how he could get so tan everywhere - or everywhere she had allowed herself to look, but what she glimpsed of his, hips and thighs was tan as well - but did not question him aloud.
Claire suddenly felt very small, frightened, and frozen to her spot. She had no idea of what to do, how to act. She wondered if Andre was still nervous, was just as confused as herself. She glanced out at the river, forcing her curious gaze away from him.
It was still so beautiful, so serene. She wondered if she would be able to possess its serenity when she finally dove in. Would it give her its calm, cool nature, help her soothe her nerves, give her peace of mind?
"Join me when you're ready," Claire told her soon-to-be husband, casting a glance and a playful yet nervous smirk to him before she ran towards the river, diving under when she was far out enough. She swam out a short distance, enjoying the cool water, enjoying the calm it did bless her with. She came back up, inhaling the warm air deeply, hearing a splash.
Andre was nowhere in sight, and the water was too dark for her to see beneath the shimmering surface. There was no sound for nearly a minute, until she felt something brush her legs, and then strong arms wrapped around her waist as Andre came up behind her.
"Andre Marek!" she hissed, turning in his embrace. "You did it again!" she scolded, referring to the scaring her almost to death. But all she got in reply was a laugh and a kiss. Both successfully melted her ire, and soon she was kissing back.
"Are you truthfully complaining, Lady Claire?" he asked, using her title, which she hated from anyone. But he had used it so often she had grown used to it from him. It was when he didn't use it that she was worried.
Claire sighed, then kissed him again, suddenly becoming aware of their state of undress once more. She nervously laughed, glancing down before blushing and thanking God the water was as dark as the night sky. She felt him swim closer, their legs brushing against each other as they kicked to keep their heads above water.
"Claire, are you certain about this?" Andre asked, his tone indicating to her he still was not convinced of her decision, that he was expecting her to tell him they were to do nothing but swim tonight.
Tired of this game, tired of the wait, Claire wrapped her arms around Andre, kissing him deeply. She tugged at him, trying to lead him towards one of the large boulders in the water. The water was shallow enough that they would be able to stand, but deep enough that only their heads - and shoulders with him - would be above water.
Andre followed her lead, returning the kiss, taking them over to the boulder. He pressed her against it when she tugged at him again, a soft moan escaping them both as he pressed against her, keeping her pinned between him and the stone.
"Stop doubting me, Andre. I am not a girl. I can make my own decisions," she told him firmly, wrapping her legs around him more out of instinct than knowledge. She felt him against her, everywhere, touching all of her. She could feel that part of him against her lower abdomen, she could feel her heartbeat race.
A low groan escaped Andre, his arms around her tightening as his eyes closed briefly. He nodded and leaned in, capturing her lips with his again, his tongue daringly seeking entrance in her mouth, and she permitted him access. He kissed her deeper than ever before, and that passion she had glimpsed when he talked, she felt it in this kiss, raw and without limit, causing her to whimper into him.
They would have to be careful of course. Make certain they didn't make too much noise, be on the lookout, listen for any sign of someone nearing. They would have to make certain they did not take too long as well.
None of those thoughts really made it to the surface.