Water in the Desert
Indiana was thirsty. His thick tongue clung to the roof of his mouth and his throat was raw and swollen. But he'd been an officer since he was 18, and he knew that when rations were limited the leader goes short. He'd given most of the day's water to his digging crew. Now they were back late and the mess tent was locked down. Well. He would just have to hold out till morning, wouldn't be the first time.
He trudged through camp to his tent, saw a faint flicker of light within, and smiled. Marion. Marion was waiting up for him. The evening was looking better already.
Though if you want more than a smooch on the cheek, baby, it's not going to happen tonight. I could drop where I stand and sleep for a week. Preferably with you. Not that Abner's going to give me that chance.
He lifted the tent flap and stumbled blearily for his bedroll. When he laid his hat down on the camp chest beside it, he found a carafe of –oh, thank God- water waiting for him. He snatched the jug up and drained it in greedy gulps, letting the blessed coolness soothe his mouth and settle in his belly. Then he rubbed the last few drops over his face and sank down on to the bedroll. He knew he should get his shoes off, he should undress, God he was so tired...
A shadow fell over his face as the girl who had been curled up in his camp chair walked over and kissed his forehead.
"Could you eat?" she asked quietly.
Silently, she brought him a plate of goat cheese, figs, and bread rolls, and watched as he tore into them.
'There's wine to wash it down with if you want some."
Chewing and swallowing, he nodded, again.
The wine was thin and astringent, but the best the camp had to offer. His tired mind wondered what machinations she had performed to get it.
She tugged off his boot as he finished the last few sips.
"Marion, thank you, this was..."
"Wait till you see the piece de resistance". She reached into a shadowy corner, and, grinning in triumph, held out a pitcher of water, a basin and a sponge.
"Where did you get wash water?
"Saved it from the mess tent. It's all right, Fatima doesn't mind."
"Fatima knows too much."'
"Fatima is hardly the president of Abner's fan club. Besides, I told her it was for my hair."
"Which smells wonderful."
"Stand up, OK? Let me get the dust off, you'll feel better."
"I feel pretty damn good right now."
He looked at her, sighed, and tried again to tell her what this meant to him. "Honey, never, not since my mother, no one's ever... "
She stood on tiptoe to kiss his nose "Then maybe it's time someone did."
She eased the shirt off his aching shoulders and unbuckled his belt. He turned to place the gun and coiled whip on his camp chest, within easy reach. He had someone to protect, now...Then he allowed her to unfasten his trousers and tug them down. He was swaying on his feet from exhaustion and wine, and had to steady himself on her shoulder to kick them aside.
She poured the water, dipped the sponge, and started down from his neck. He lost himself in a daze of cool water, soothing comfort, and soft, tender hands. When the rivulets from the sponge began to trickle under the waistband of his drawers, he started to unbutton them, and the lovely rhythm faltered as he stripped them off.
What 's wrong?" He was her lover, and there was no part of him that she had not explored, and caressed. Oh. Wait a minute.. Most of their intimacy took place after dark or under blankets. This might be her first well-lit, full-length view of a naked man.
He caught the hand holding the sponge, and kissed it. The he guided it gently over his body.
"Nothing new here, sweetheart", he said huskily, "Just Indy-and all yours."
The water in the basin was black when she finished, and she slipped outside to empty it.
He sprawled on the bedroll, letting his body dry in the desert air. Woman's magic, he thought muzzily, to take a hot, hungry, bone-weary man and make him cool, clean, fed and...loved. Only one thing could make this interlude more perfect.
When she returned and blew out the candle, he reached out to touch her wrist.
"Can you stay?" he whispered. "It's better when you're here."
"For a while." She skinned out of her shirt and trousers, and cuddled into his side.
He rolled over to nuzzle the nape of her neck, and murmured soft words into her hair. She's with me, where she belongs. She'll wake up my arms, and in the morning, when I can hold my eyes open, we'll make love. Sweet and slow, the way she likes it...
Arms wrapped around her, he sank into deep blissful sleep.
'Somewhere in the Pacific', 1943
Major Henry Jones Jr., Office of Strategic Services, snapped awake and sat up in his bunk.
Only a dream, boy, only a dream. No. Not only a dream- a memory, as well. But it was 1943, not 1926. Instead of the desert wind, he inhaled salt sea air. Instead of a tent, he was sharing a cabin with two other officers on a steamer bound for Surabaya, Indonesia.
And fiery, sweet Marion was long gone from the arms that ached to hold her again.
And whose fault is that, exactly, Jones?
It was going to be a long night.
He picked up his cigarette case, and walked over to the porthole for a smoke.
He lit up, leaned his head against the cool glass and looked over the moonlit water. Silently, he finished the litany he'd repeat to Marion when it thundered, that he'd whispered to her in his dream-the words 'I love you', spoken in every language that he knew.