42_souls, table 3, theme #36) "only fools rush in."

She giggled and rubbed the inn-provided shampoo through her hair.

Marie was a shower fan. In fact, she'd even suggested marrying Stein's shower head when they lived back in his house. After thorough consideration, it was a more logical choice for a husband than a toilet. Unfortunately, according to Stein, his shower head was indeed female, and did she really want to go through those legal issues?

Stein would need to shower as well, since they didn't know when they would next be able to afford to stay at a place wherein becoming thoroughly clean was an option, and health was improved through cleanliness. Marie was wary about caring for a sick, insane man in the wilderness.

She would probably use up all of the hot water, though. The opportunity was just too good to pass up. Marie just loved showering.

Apparently, Stein had other plans.

She was immediately snapped out of her steam-induced haze at the loud, bodily thump on the bathroom door. Jolted, the weapon slipped past the shower curtain and wrapped a white towel around herself. She opened the door. "Stein?"

He was lying in front of the door, writhing on the floor in a fit of mad giggles that tore at her heart. Marie dropped to her knees at his side, rolling him over to face her. "Stein..." There was nothing to say in moments like these, but speaking helped her keep herself in check. "Stein, be still." She touched his shoulders with a gentle firmness. He giggled her name. "I'm here, Stein. Calm down." Marie was surprised at how even her voice sounded; for certain, inside she was shaken. It never ceased to amaze her that cool, composed Franken Stein could be so prone to madness. It hurt her. But she would persevere.


His hand attached itself to her shoulder, fingers stiff and tight. Marie's eyes widened. "Stein?" She took hold of his forearm with both hands. "What's wrong?" It was a stupid question. Obviously, she was the problem. Without needing much force, but using it anyway, Stein fluidly shoved Marie to the floor. She stared up, vaguely noting that the steam from the still-running shower was wafting slowly through the doorway on her right. Stein looked back down lazily, his eyes tired. The madness drained him, she knew. He was so exhausted... Marie's heart lurched.

With her free arm, she reached up and touched Stein's cheek with her fingertips.

"Stein. Get off of me."

His gaze didn't waver. Stein didn't move.

"Do you want to leave, Marie?" he asked suddenly, startling her. "Don't you want a life with someone who will love you?"

"Get off of me," she repeated, the gentleness that had once been in her tone quickly vanishing. Likewise, his eyes were revealing a maniacal tinge around the edges.

"Wouldn't you rather go back and take time to mourn the mole? Wouldn't you rather get on with your life?"

"Franken Stein, get off of me."

He leaned down, so close that Marie could have sworn that her heart had stopped beating. Fierce eyes bore into her own, and she could feel his ragged breath on her lips.

"Wouldn't you rather let me go?"

And her heart began to beat once more, an aching, painful rhythm. He wasn't just saying this to hurt her; he was speaking the words in his heart. Her hand had never left his cheek. "Stein..." She was sure that he could hear the tears in her voice. She did not know what to say. "Stein." Leaning up, consciously, unconsciously, no doubt mindlessly, she kissed him. Just for a second. Just for a heartbeat. And she said it again. "Stein." One tear fell and she kissed him again, the second no longer than the first. "I'll never leave you," she said, punctuating the remark with another brush of lips. "I won't let you go." Another. "Stein."

He didn't move, but she didn't mind.

Perhaps now he understood. Questions like that hurt her, left her hollow. But healing him made her feel whole.

It must have been fifteen minutes later. Stein lay exhausted on top of Marie, the left side of his face burrowed in Marie's towel-clad stomach. She touched his hair, content watching him doze. And faintly, barely, she spoke his name.

"Stein. I've got to turn the shower off."

Slowly, he inclined his head and gazed up at her reproachfully. She could not help but smile. "Come on, get up. I'll get dressed, and when the hot water comes back, you can bathe, and we'll be on our way. It's a new beginning."

Stein pushed himself up with his arms, eye-to-eye with his partner, and in a deadpan tone uttered the words that she never expected to hear from Stein's mouth.

"Get out of your towel."

Marie was puzzled at first. She wasn't an idiot, but there was no way he could mean what she had initially thought he meant. It was nothing to blush about, for sure. Stein had to have some sort of back-alley motives and would hold any gutter thoughts against her later.


"Take it off. I'm going to take you."

Well that was misleading. Marie supressed a sigh.

"Take me where, Stein?"

"On the floor, unless the shower is still hot. But that's doubtful, so the floor is my first choice." He didn't move, and Marie waited for him to grin slyly and ask her what she could be thinking because surely, her face must be a brilliant red. But he didn't. She squirmed awkwardly.

"Um, Stein... what do you mean..?"

And quickly, almost too easily, he kissed her. And she was on her back once more.