"In here boo" she called out after hearing his approaching footsteps.
"Hey" he said softly, walking through the bathroom door.
"Hey yourself. So where did you run off to?" she asked, trying not to reveal her suspicion.
He remained silent while he removed his ring and placed it on the sink. With the speed of thought, he was no longer in his familiar emerald green and black uniform, but standing in his underwear. As he began to remove his last piece of clothing, he stopped, looked at Mari through the shower door and smiled.
"Like what you see?" she said, while slowly turning her back to him.
"You know I do" he replied, as he tracked a bead of water trickling down her firm, apple-shaped buttocks.
He kicked his underwear off as he reached for the shower door. She had begun to wash her neck and chest when he stepped in. She could feel the weight of his stare as he stood behind her. As the water rolled down her neck and shoulders, he began to absorb her image. Without question, Mari was stunningly beautiful, but unlike the walking pixiesticks, he often called her fellow models, she had curves in all of the right places and the build of a world-class athlete.
He hated himself for doing it, but while looking at Mari, he began comparing her to Shayera. It wasn't the first time and it wouldn't be the last. Both were smart, both were statuesque, both had a keen sense of humor, and both were strong-willed.
Why had she come back now? Why now? he asked himself.
"Wash my back?" Mari said, interrupting his daydreaming. She held the soap in her left hand while displaying it over her right shoulder.
Silently, he took the soap and began to rub the back of her neck.
"Rough night" she said matter-of-factly, noting his silence.
"Yeah it was" he replied with a sigh, after a small pause.
"That Grundy was some kind of powerful" she said, placing her hands against the shower wall for leverage.
"Chaos magic" he replied, distantly.
The soap continued to lather as he made his way from her shoulder blades down to the small of her back. He moved the soap from one hand to the other and his arms moved in slow, circular motions. His hands and mood were heavy tonight she thought.
"Wax on, wax off?" she said with a laugh, but her quip received no response. "What's wrong, John?" she finally asked, after several seconds of silence.
"You took too much damage tonight, Mari. I'm worried about you" he replied.
"I can take pretty good care of myself" she said defensively, turning her head, but not enough to completely face him.
"Grundy fractured your arm, remember?" he replied, with some agitation.
"I'm tough. I can take it" she answered.
"This isn't about you being tough, Mari! This is about being smart. Even with your healing abilities, I can still see the effects of tonight's battle on your body" he said with a tinge of anger.
She turned to face him and in doing so his hands now found themselves on her abdomen instead of her back. She put her hands on her hips and frowned at him.
"You sure this is about me and not about Pretty Polly?" she asked, with annoyance.
"Shayera has nothing to do with this" he replied, lying.
"Ya know, you never answered my earlier question. Where did you go after the battle tonight?" she asked.
He deeply sighed before answering.
"I've nothing to hide from you, Mari. I was with Shayera…talking".
She frowned harder even though she had already suspected as much.
"So what did you talk about?" she said, strumming her fingers on her hip bones.
"What do you think?" he responded, sarcastically. "I haven't seen her in over six months and when she left, we still had unfinished business to resolve" he answered.
"Unfinished business or unfinished feelings?" she inquired, raising an eyebrow.
"We had…we had some catching up to do" he said, solemnly.
They stood silently in their nakedness, staring into each other's eyes as the heat from the shower's water began to fog the glass door.
"She's come back for you, hasn't she?" she asked, breaking the silence and relaxing the frown on her face.
"It's not like that Mari. She only came back because of her feelings for Grundy. She's conflicted right now. Too conflicted to be thinking about what we had" he said, realizing his last three words were a mistake.
Mari raised her eyebrow again.
"You still have feelings for her don't you?"
The pause lasted only a few seconds, but to Mari, it seemed like several minutes.
"I honestly don't know what I feel for Shayera anymore" he finally said, casting his eyes downward at the shower floor. "I'm not going to lie and say it didn't feel good to see her again…because it did" he said looking back up at her. "But that doesn't mean I'm ready to throw away what we have Mari. I care for you and I wouldn't be here right now if I didn't".
She didn't like hearing the word "care". She wanted to hear "love" even though she knew it was still too soon for that.
"John, I know this has to be hard on you. I can only imagine the emotions you must be feeling right now, but don't…don't play me" she warned. "If your heart isn't in this…" she started.
"Mari, what happened tonight was completely unexpected" he said, interrupting her. "The last time Shayera and I spoke, I wasn't sure I was ever going to see her again. Are things kinda weird right now? Yeah, but I entered this relationship to move forward, not backward".
She desperately wanted to believe him, but her instincts were telling her otherwise.
"Ya know John, I can't control what you do. I can only control what I do and right now, I want to give whatever it is that we have a chance to work. Shayera or no Shayera, the future of our relationship is in your hands".
With that she took his hands and placed them on her breasts. He raised an eyebrow as a smile slowly made its way across his face.