Summary: He remembered her mouth (and his mother's mouth, wide and open, screaming as she fell). He remembered the cool bottle of champagne pressed up against Rachel's neck, and the small wet impression her lips made against the glass.
Part II: Please
The sun had set, leaving a dusky orange hovering over the horizon. Marco wasn't sure they would find any golfers at this hour, but with some luck they might find the last lingering group at the resort. They wandered around for a while, jogging along when they thought they heard the sound of people up ahead.
Then suddenly Rachel cried out.
"There!" Her voice was breathless and rushed.
His eyes lifted towards the distance and he saw a lone golf cart sitting on the path. Marco let a long, piercing crow escaped his mouth. He couldn't help it. He wasn't sure he could stop any of his impulses at this point.
Rachel had slowed her run to peer around the grassy hills surrounding the path. Marco thought he heard the jingle of voices nearby, but his mind wasn't as quick and suspicious as he was accustomed. The floating voices seemed amusing, only adding to the electricity of their hunt.
"I'm too drunk for this," Marco admitted suddenly.
"Shhh!" Rachel hissed, grabbing a hold of his arm and dragging him off the path. "They only left their cart for a second. We really only have one shot at this." Her voice was low, and Marco found himself staring again at her mouth, which was only a few inches from his own.
That mouth. That fucking mouth. It was filthy, sweet perfection—deep, dark, warm, wet, a safe harbor for Marco's fingertips, and tongue, and frothy growls of need. He just wanted to—
Rachel shot out across the path, and Marco stumbled along behind her. She was already in the driving seat and pushing her foot on the gas pedal by the time Marco got one leg into the cart. He clung to the bar overhead and somehow swung his body into the moving vehicle in time not to get left behind. There were questioning voices from up on the grassy hill—"What the hell? Is that our golf cart?"—and Marco was suddenly giggling uncontrollably.
"What the fuck? You sound like a school girl," Rachel snickered as she swerved manically around the hill back towards the hotel.
He continued giggling, watching the way the half-empty bottle of champagne on his lap danced to the rumble of the golf cart.
"That ... was ... it was ... just ..." He couldn't finish his sentence.
When he looked up again, Rachel was grinning.
"That was thrilling," she said, completing his thought. And then she laughed—a true Rachel laugh. It sang out into the still, cooling air and seemed to fill up the sky.
Before he knew it they were both cracking up, unable to control the volume of their laughs as they sped along in their stolen golf cart.
They ambled along the path for a while in silence, until Rachel yanked the bottle of champagne from Marco's lap.
"You probably shouldn't be drinking and driving," Marco declared. "Plus, I'm the professional here."
Rachel screwed up her face. "Even sober you're only capable of driving into trees, street signs, trash cans ..."
"Pshaw!" Marco waved his hand in the air dismissively. "Those were flukes."
Her grin was loopy as she grabbed the neck of the bottle with one hand and downed the remaining liquid inside. Marco was temporarily captivated with watching her drink. He stared, fascinated, at her throat as she swallowed. There was something sexy about it, almost secretive, like he was watching an intimate act. Rachel finished the last gulp of champagne and then pried the bottle away from her mouth. For a moment she was slack-jawed, heavy-lidded, and beautiful. Marco wanted to burn that image into his brain.
Rachel smiled. "It's your turn."
Marco was still distracted. "My turn for what?"
"Truth or dare."
Marco leaned back in his seat, considering the gravity of this choice. Under normal circumstances he wouldn't be opposed to the safety and cowardice of picking truth. He was sure he could talk himself out of any potentially embarrassing question. But his judgment was clouded with alcohol, with his mother's inevitable fall, with the heat of Rachel's mouth. It was pressing down on him, filtering through the layers of his skin, and settling into the base of his stomach. It waited there, coiled and heavy, trying to escape.
He needed… something.
"Dare," he decided.
Rachel cackled, bringing the golf cart to a jerking halt on the pathway.
It took Marco a moment to realize they had stopped in front of the swimming pool which was up against the tall hotel building. Dark windows lined one edge of the pool deck, and tiny lights illuminated the long rectangle of water.
It was deserted.
Marco felt his heart thumping as he stared at the long body of water. The pool was casting pale, blue reflections along every surface, causing light and shadow to waver through the air. This place felt haunted. His ghosts were here. And his heart sputtered in its spot. He wasn't sure he wanted to move, afraid to face the dark quality of his thoughts. But then he looked up, and Rachel was already waiting for him next to the black, iron gate that surrounded the area. She was bathed in a blue light, gleaming in the dark. And with shaking hands he managed to climb out of the golf cart to meet her.
"Do you have a key?" she whispered.
Marco reached into his pocket and fingered the smooth keycard his dad had given him. They had paid for a bachelor suite for the wedding, and Marco was going to stay the night in the hotel. Yes, he had a key. He could feel it between his fingers, the hard edges pressing into the base of his palm. But he shouldn't say yes. He should stop. He should lie to her and end the game. A foggy part of his mind already knew where this was heading, tipsy and lightheaded and ... wet. The light from the pool danced, shadows rippling across her breasts, and lips, and skin. She was haunting him, he was drunk, and he wanted her (breathing, warm, mouth).
He couldn't stop.
His hand moved, and the key slid easily into the slot. The door opened with a soft click and swung inward.
Marco hesitated before entering. "What are you going to make me do here?" he asked, his voice low.
Rachel barreled through him and turned around. "I'm going to make you jump in."
Her smile was wicked, and his heart thumped wildly in response. "I can't. I'm wearing a tux," he protested.
His feet still moved. He listened to the clang as the iron gate closed behind him.
"Then take it off," she said, shrugging.
Marco stalled, staring at her. He suddenly felt small and afraid of losing the barrier his clothes provided him. Even though Rachel often saw him in nothing more than bike shorts, Marco still felt like the air was narrowing in around him. If he lost the layers of defense that clothing got him, he wasn't sure he'd be able to control himself. He wasn't sure he would want to.
"If I'm jumping in the pool, you're coming with me," he finally decided, eyeing her darkly, especially that troublesome little dress.
"This is YOUR dare," Rachel said, shooting him a dirty look.
"Yeah, but I stole a GOLF CART with you," Marco pointed out. He knew she wouldn't like him boasting and claiming credit for a dare she completed. It would force her into doing something more.
Rachel tossed her head back, eyeing the pool thoughtfully. She was biting her lip, the tiny points of her canine teeth digging into the folds of her skin.
Marco was feeling dizzy again. God, he was feeling dizzy, and Rachel looked warm and soft as she chewed her bottom lip. The Rachel he knew wasn't like that. She wasn't warm and soft. She was a warrior. A killer. A king. He had witnessed the destructive power of her anger. He had seen her haunted and hollow and mean.
It scared him.
But this was his life now. The Animorphs existed in a barren landscape. They wandered with corpses. They only lived half-lives. They had blood on their hands.
And the war would kill them.
The war would kill them.
The war would kill them.
Marco often thought about this. He secretly believed they would all die before they had a chance to exist. It made him ache, knowing this. He just wanted to be young. He wanted to live. He wanted to know how it felt to go to college, and grow ironic sideburns, and unhook a girl's bra. He wanted to see Jake laugh the way he used to. He wanted to forget about the crippling and sick feeling that accompanied the last memory of his mother. The war was killing them, and it wasn't fucking fair. It wasn't fair that Marco would never experience all the meals, music, sunshine, sex, life.
Rachel looked up. With her eyes suddenly on him again, Marco had to force his gaze away.
He stared out across the water of the pool and the eerie movement of light along its surface. One hand moved to his chest, clutching at an ache he couldn't reach. His heart moved against his palm.
Yes, his ghosts were here.
He was thinking of the first night his mother disappeared. Everyone thought the ocean had swallowed her whole. Many times growing up he had imagined what it felt like to drown. Late at night in bed he would hold his breath for as long as he could, until his mind felt cloudy and faint, and his lungs strained painfully in his chest. And then ... he would breath. He would breath, and it would hurt. It hurt so badly to be left choking and gasping air into his lungs.
Rachel's voice seemed to float out of nowhere straight into his skull.
"Unzip me, will you?"
He shifted his gaze and saw her, blinking rapidly to clear the memories from his mind. She had turned, showing Marco her back, her hair gathered to one side of her neck.
He froze. The dress she was wearing met in a deep V between her shoulder blades. Her soft, smooth skin was illuminated from the light of the pool, and Marco had a sudden urge to press his mouth right up against the back of her neck. His insides were aching. His insides were aching and Rachel was so nonchalant about it all, like it meant nothing. Like undressing her was something mundane and normal, like he wasn't dying inside. He knew they had seen each other strip off their clothes down to their skintight morphing outfits before, but this felt different. This felt like he was holding his breath, needing to see another square inch of her skin to breath again.
His hand wavered in the air between them as he reached out to unzip her dress. The tips of his fingers grazed over her skin as he slid the zipper down, slowly, so slowly. He held his breath as he watched more and more of Rachel being exposed to him. His mouth felt dry and his heart was pounding, but he was captivated by every inch of her. A spill of goosebumps followed the trail of his fingers on her skin, and his insides seemed to tighten and overflow with warmth.
Moments later, Rachel was shrugging, the dress slipping down her body and then pooling at her feet. She was wearing that familiar black leotard he had seen many times. But his concentration was occupied knuckle deep in the soft swells of her breasts, and the long honey of her legs, and that deep scoop in the back that showed off the curve of her lower spine.
She looked at him once over her shoulder, grinning. She had no idea—no idea—what that smile was doing to him (inside).
"Let's do it!" she said.
Marco let out the breath he had been holding, in a shaky chuckle that was hoarse and broken. Oh, god.
"I'll beat you to your own dare!" Rachel called out.
She ran and dived straight into the pool without a moments hesitation. He felt small drops of water land on his cheeks, on the front of his hands. He watched as her ghostly figure glided through the water, until she broke the surface at the far end of the pool. She was still grinning, her teeth gleaming in the dark, like a hungry shark surfacing to eat its prey.
(Alive, warm, mouth, smiling.)
Marco's hands were shaking, and he anxiously ran one over the top of his head and then stood with it hooked behind his neck. The other hand remained clutched at his chest. His heart fluttered. He didn't know what the fuck was wrong with him.
"C'mon, dumbass. Stop staring and jump in. The water's fine!" she crowed, slipping back under the surface. He watched the flash of the bottom of her feet as she kicked, sending more water in his direction.
This is just Rachel, he reasoned with himself, trying to get over his intimidation. Beautiful, violent, unstoppable Rachel.
High school boy's fantasy Rachel.
Rachel half-naked and yelling at you to join her.
What the hell are you THINKING?
He blinked once.
In the next moment he was yanking on his tie and unbuttoning his shirt. The urgency that had filled him was sudden and startling. He didn't care anymore. This was his chance to indulge, to be reckless, to live.
By the time he got down to his morphing shorts, he was already running to the pool. He jumped in, feeling warm water consume him. When he surfaced, he was a few feet away from her, standing on the tips of his toes to keep his head above water.
"About time," she drawled.
Then Rachel ducked her head back underwater, and he felt her swimming next to him. Her body artfully weaved its way around his. When she surfaced again, she had that same shark's grin, shining in the dark.
"What now?" Marco asked, his voice feeling smaller than he once remembered it.
She kept her predator smile, coming up right against him. "My turn for a dare."
His stomach plummeted. Rachel's voice was suddenly deep and sultry, and he was having trouble breathing with her right against him. How was he supposed to think when she was this close?
"I can't think of anything," he mumbled, too scared to follow the path he was suddenly on with her.
"Come on," she goaded. "I did both dares. Make this one a thrill…"
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
"You're like a thrill junkie," Marco shot at her.
"And you're a pussy," she shot back.
Marco blinked, distracted by her choice in words. "Jeez Rachel, do you have to be so crude?" he demanded.
She laughed at him cruelly. "What's wrong, Marco? Scared to say some nasty, dirty words?"
The way she was laughing at him made his insides hot with shame. There were plenty of things to be scared of in this ugly world, but not tonight. Marco needed to forget about the fear (falling, a corpse rotting). He needed tonight. He needed this. Her.
His voice sounded firm. "No, I'm not scared."
Rachel was still grinning her shark grin. His mind was foggy, but he could feel an idea starting to take shape.
"How's this for a dare?" Marco said, interrupting the silence. He moved closer to her. "I'll say a word into your ear, and you have to repeat it out loud."
"Doesn't sound like much of a dare at all," she scoffed.
She rolled her eyes. "Try me."
He smirked. "Alright, I'll start out easy." He sidled up next to her, and dropped his voice to a murmur. "Say, I want Marco."
Rachel narrowed her eyes, her lips folding into the smallest pout. "You bastard."
"Uh-uh, Rachel. Save that foul language for the challenge ahead. Unless you're too scared … "
She released a breath through her nose in annoyance. "I want Marco," she bit out. The words came out in one hasty breath, a little too loudly and a little too quickly.
Marco grinned. "I knew you had it in you ... " He leaned in close to her, a few inches from her neck. He was feeling warm and dizzy again, and the light from the pool was making his vision blurry. Maybe it was the alcohol, or her skin, but Rachel didn't seem so scary anymore. She smelled warm and sweet, like someone warm and sweet might smell.
And she wanted him.
When he spoke, his voice was quiet and deliberate. "Now this one should be familiar. Say, pussy."
She fell still beside him, suddenly quiet.
"Fuck you, Marco." Rachel whispered.
Maybe she was guessing at his intention now, with his mouth so close to her.
"Are you scared?" he asked in a soft voice. His breath fanned over her neck and seemed to fill the space between them.
Rachel looked like a caged animal, her shoulder blades bumping into the corner of the pool. Her eyes seemed different. Darker. Hungry. Something. Marco dismissed the sort of warning in her eyes. Nothing seemed to matter to him quite the same way when he was this intoxicated.
Just the challenge.
She remained frozen in place, staring straight forward. Marco was acutely aware of her breathing, which had become elevated and stilted. He felt himself leaning towards her, drawn to that mouth, and the shallow graves of her breath. She was just so warm. Her mouth, oh god, was so warm.
He felt her tense up. In the next instant, she lunged forward. The look in her eyes was suddenly frantic. One second she was still, breathing ragged. The next she was at his throat, grabbing him with her hand around his neck.
"What are you doing?" she cried.
Marco stared, dumbfounded. What had he been doing? Was he about to kiss her? He couldn't even remember now. All he could focus on was her grip around his throat, and the drumming of his heart against her palm. When he breathed, he suddenly realized their stomachs were touching. Oh god. Ohgodohgod. The alcohol was making him dizzier with each second. The reality in front of his eyes drifted and swirled. He felt himself planting a hand on her shoulder to steady himself. The words came from his mouth.
"It's just a game," Marco mumbled. "It's fine."
"Just a game," she echoed.
For a moment they stayed there, staring at one another. Then her hand seemed to relax around his throat. The oppressing grip was gone, and all that remained was her thumb, softly brushing along his adam's apple. It was a warning. Or a beckon.
"Say wet," he whispered, breaking the silence.
She stared, and Marco stared back. When she finally spoke, it came out in a broken whisper.
Marco leaned back, overwhelmed with the reaction one tiny word could incite in him. His ears were buzzing, his heart pounding in every limb. He had never been this close to Rachel before—or any girl. It seemed like a dream. The only thing that felt real was her thumb against his throat, and the liquid pit of warmth in his stomach, waiting to go nova inside of him.
"Say fuck," he slurred into her ear, leaning forward now. His voice had adopted a dangerous quality, like there was no other choice but to consent. It felt like he was sharing secrets with her, and every time she replied she was promising not to tell anyone about them.
Said quietly now, through a shaky breath. "F-fuck."
His hand tightened on her shoulder. He could feel her breathing up against him, connecting their bodies down the middle with each broken inhale. He wanted to run his fingers over her lips, and feel the warm air from her mouth. He wanted to lave his tongue over that same spot, as if he was licking an open wound.
"Mouth," he whispered in her ear. It was a confession.
He wanted her to know.
And she knew.
"Mouth," she whispered back.
The alcohol was making it harder to see straight. The lights in the pool were playing tricks on his foggy mind. Marco was having trouble remembering which words he had already asked her to say, or why they had started this game in the first place. All he knew was that he wanted something from her. Her promise. Her secrets. Her mouth. Something. And he wanted her to know. To plead with him. For something.
His voice came out, hoarse and wavering. "Please."
Her breath hitched. She found his eyes again, and Marco saw that she was hesitating, fighting back against this latest request. There was an expression on her face that Marco couldn't quite remember. Something like anger, or pity, or both. He knew he had probably asked too much of her already. He knew this was wrong. It was too intimate. Too significant. Too much. But he wanted it. Her. Something.
"Marco," she whispered hoarsely. "Don't—"
"Say please," he repeated, interrupting her. His eyes were dark, but his voice was small. He was asking, begging.
She drew in a breath and closed her eyes. Her lips pulled up in a snarl. This time the word came out louder, a solid push.
Marco didn't care. He just didn't care. There was a swollen feeling behind his eyes, and a heavy pit in his stomach. He remembered the horrified look on his mother's face, and the sound, that terrible sound. And in the same breath he could feel Rachel against him, their stomachs touching with each inhale, and the quiet purr of the secrets they were sharing, whispered in her ear. They could die tomorrow, the war could kill them, but tonight he wanted to live. Tonight belonged to him. Exhausted and used up, after too many days and months and years of battles, this was all he had. How could she resist what was happening between them? It was already done.
"Coward," he spat.
Her eyes flashed open. The wavering blue light danced across her face, and their breath, jilted and shaky, joined in the space between them. Marco already knew she would never admit defeat, even if it was a stupid game. She would rise to the challenge, and something sick and empty inside of Marco would be happy because of it. He watched as her expression changed, as her face began to bend and fall. And then it came from her mouth, uneven and broken. Quiet and still.
"Please," she said.
Marco's mouth was against hers in an instant. He swallowed up her words hungrily. At first Rachel couldn't—didn't—protest. She felt the back of her head bump up against the cement lip of the pool as he captured her beneath him. Marco's hands left her shoulders, reaching up to hold her head with two hands thrust into the mess of her hair. He wanted to empty her out, trace her insides with his lips, devour anything inside. Despite everything, he felt like he had earned it. His hot mouth was open, and soon her tongue was reaching up to meet his in the shallow space between their lips. The sweet, dark hunger was consuming him, making it hard for him to realize what was even happening. All he could feel was her mouth. Her breathing. Her breasts.
He remember the rise and fall of his heart against her palm.
Marco made a muted kind of noise, soft and low. It rumbled inside his head, making him seem hollow and paper-thin. The sweet ache was burning inside of him, gnawing at his bones. He wanted more of her. Of something. Please.
But with each passing moment, he could feel the momentum start to bury itself. The dizzying rush was dying, and Rachel was regaining her head. Marco crowded his mouth against hers, trying to cling onto the last seconds of this delicious unraveling. Their tongues pressed against one another for the last time, and Marco felt an inward inhale of air empty out of his chest.
Rachel started to struggle beneath him, and then she was prying her mouth away from his. For a moment they stayed, breathing ragged, chins dripping, foreheads bumping. Marco tightened his fist in her hair, staring at her navy eyes. Everything else seemed to be swirling around them, tilting him off balance. Marco felt like he was spinning out of control.
Then he let go.
"Oh god," Rachel whispered, covering her eyes with her hands.
The pool suddenly felt cold and uninviting. He shivered, then immediately backed away from her, putting a few feet of distance between them. The lights in front of him continued to swirl, until he realized he was leaning back, floating in the water. The twinkling stars were overhead, and he watched as they swayed, back and forth. The sky didn't make sense to him anymore. All he could think about was her mouth. Warm. Wet. Open. His.
He knew Rachel was already berating herself, chalking it up to a drunk mistake. He knew it would never happen again.
"What the hell were you thinking?" she raved.
The emptiness was back. The jack-o-lantern. The fall.
He heard her getting up out of the pool, water splashing down onto the cement. There was the sound of her feet on the pavement, and the clatter of the iron gate being slammed shut.
The sound echoed inside of him, vibrating in the empty cavern of his chest cavity.
And just like that, she was gone.
Marco closed his eyes. He felt himself sinking, water rushing over his skin. He let himself get swallowed under the surface of the pool. Down, down, until the water surrounded him, and there was nothing but the thick, dark silence. Down. Down. Where there were no more words, no more thinking, where his body wasn't heavy with guilt, or grief, or the sweet ache of longing. All the remained was the need, barking at the dark.
His lungs burned.
And he thought of his mother.
Breathing. Warm. Mouth.
And with that, Marco kicked against the ground and propelled himself to the surface.
Notes: Please review to let me know what you think. I'm sorry I spent so long writing this chapter. I hope it didn't disappoint. This entire story was inspired by that sentence in the last book, where Marco morphs into a lobster and swims at the bottom of his pool. There was something so lonely about that to me. And so, this.