Baa Baa Bathtime

There are candles in sconces and one lone lamp on the chair beside the tub. The corners are full of shadows – shifting, moving, deepening, retreating as the flames twist on their wicks. Only the lamp burns steadily and it's turned low, the flame a weak yellow under the glass.

"Dios, I stink."

Steam mists on the lamp glass, running down it like the water running over broad tanned shoulders; he poured it from a jug to clean his hair. He throws his head back and sighs, eyes closing. He's sprawled in the wooden tub, the back of his neck resting on the rim, his breathing slow. It's very quiet for a few minutes.

She crouches in the shadows.

He straightens, pushing his shoulders back to flex his back. A little drop of water meanders down his neck. He scrubs his face, long fingers moving over skin and stubble, then soaks a sponge in the hot water and rubs a bar of soap against it back and forth, back and forth. There's an earthy, rich smell. He sniffs.

"Lavender." Eyes roll. "Thanks, Boston."

She tenses at the sound, but he doesn't look at her

Strong brown fingers squeeze the sponge until it's thick with foam. He runs it slowly up and down his arms; then first one shoulder and then the other. He wriggles to rub the lathered sponge across his back, sliding it against the long scar below his left shoulder blade. He dips the sponge into the water, rubs it against the soap again – back and forth, back and forth – and runs it across his chest and stomach. One leg lifts out of the water to be soaped; then the other.

She watches from her corner, quiet and safe.

He's smiling now. He lets the sponge soak up water, raises it above his head and squeezes it, laughing. He shakes his head like a dog, drops of water showering around the room.

He stands up, water streaming down his chest and flat stomach, running down his thighs and legs. The water glistens on his skin, shimmering over muscle and sinew and bone. His body gleams, limned by lamplight, when he steps out of the bath and reaches for the pile of rough towels. He's singing under his breath and he's rubbing the towel across his chest when he sees her. He freezes.

"Wha—well, hell. How did you sneak in here after me?"

She's silent, pressing back against the adobe.

"Ain't right, watching a man in his bath." He chuckles. "Or doin' other things." He's rubbing himself hard with the towels and his eyes half-closed in pleasure. He doesn't let it last long. He wriggles into his pants and comes over to her.

Her hair's matted and dirty. He touches it, fingers gentle and kind. "You could do with a bath yourself, carina."

He laughs and gets up, flinging open the door, yelling: "Lincoln! Can't you even keep your blasted lambs outa the damn bath house?"

"Baaaah," she says.