She rubbed the crust from the corner of her eyes, opening them slowly, repeated tries at focus, the just-breaking dawn giving the tent a pale, ghostly inner glow, ethereal, hazy. Everything that disappeared in the darkness of night had reappeared. The mattress and two pillows, the battered gray plastic storage locker, the cooler that doubled as a night-stand, crossbow leaning against it, silently keeping watch over them. The once-vanilla-scented flameless candle that gave the tent a comforting glow at night, casting tell-tale shadows of their embrace, their intentions, before an otherwise-occupied hand clumsily shot up from the warmth of the covers to flip the little black switch, plunging them in darkness, into their own private sanctuary.

She turned her head slowly, quietly against the lumpy foam pillow and searched him out with her eyes, honing in on him, listening for the slow intake of air and the slower exhale, followed by the little rattling whistle as it left his lungs. One silver lining to a zombie apocalypse, she thought, Marlboroughs were now hard to come by and usually stale when you could manage. Might just save his lungs. His lungs. Lungs that filled hers with his breath, smothering, hot and moist as his mouth covered hers in urgent kisses stolen behind trees, trucks, outbuildings. Lungs that gasped for air as the rest of him bucked and rocked against her, his brain on autopilot as waves of pleasure rolled over him time and time again. Lungs that shouted for a little girl lost, screamed at the undead as they fell victim to his crossbow, lungs that growled unspeakable desires into her ear when others were deaf to the whispers. Lungs that held his very life-breath, and thus hers.

He sighed heavily and rolled over, his arm draping across the bare skin of her stomach, heavy and warm. A welcomed weight, comforting and comfortable at the same time. She looked at the contrast of their skin. Hers pasty-pale, unmarked, stretched smooth across newly-acquired hipbones, another silver lining at the end of the world. His, tanned, rough, covered in blonde-brown hair, scars and nicks, scratches, reminders of how damaging life is nowadays. How dangerous.

His hand dangled from his solid wrist. Large, calloused from work, nails clipped short, dirt defying a scrub brush, clinging to cuticles, shoved under nails too far to reach with the tip of a knife. Cool to the touch hands on hot, flushed skin. Rough, roaming hands that would give no quarter, show no mercy. Hands that could elicit sweet agony at one moment and in a heartbeat, be tender, gentle, caressing softly. A delicate stroke against a cheek coupled with a hungry, probing finger inside. Fire and ice both at once, capable of jumbling her senses and turning any resolve. As if any would remain after his lips finished.

She followed the contours of his arm, past the bend of his elbow to the gentle rolling curves of his bicep. Taught, beefy, the muscle just under the skin forged from lifting, carrying, pulling, pounding. Repeated movements required for survival. Muscle memory from actions not deserving of many fond recollections. Sculpted by a loss of body fat from days and weeks of too little food, too much painful exertion. She thought about the feel of the arm across her. Pulling her to him. Wrapped around her shoulder. A pillow at times. A steely rail on occasion when he used it to hold her back, keep her from making a mistake, hold her down to save her life.

Her eyes snaked up the hills and valleys of thick sinew to his shoulder, lighter in color than his arm, a sharp line of contrast from a wardrobe choice that was nine parts survival, one part affectation. Sleeves became an hindrance, a nuisance, binding his arms needlessly, tight against the muscles chiseled from the pull of the bow, repeated time and time again. Sleeves also covered his now-massive arms, hiding them from her appreciative gaze.

His shoulders were strong, not necessarily broad in a physical sense. He was tall, but not stout. Thicker before, but leaner now, lanky. Wider here than any other place, his waist, his hips both narrow by comparison. His shoulders were broad, however, with respect to the weight he carried on them. Her safety and well being. The self-imposed responsibility of being the hunter for their dysfunctional little group. The weight and worry of the older brother, long gone but not forgotten, always whispering in his ear, a ghost on his shoulder spreading doubt and a good bit of self-loathing. Out there somewhere like a rattlesnake waiting in tall grass, a danger yet to be addressed.

She turned quietly to his face. Peaceful, relaxed, a rare look of calm on a normally stormy expanse. Two eyes, two lips, a smooth high brow, a pointed chin, topped with shaggy brown silk. Features combining to convey so many raw emotions. Like a children's book. Open, the pages easy to read. No doubt to their meaning. A look, a glance, everything right up front. Honest. Feelings he fought so hard not to express with words, betrayed every time by his own beautiful face. He was no enigma, no mystery. His every mood, every thought, clearly decoded, spelled out by the slightest wrinkle, scowl, twitch, nod. Every crinkle in the outside corner. Every eyebrow raised in a look of surprise, disbelief. Every tiny suggestive curl of his lip. Every wicked gleam and twinkle that combined with a flick of his tongue on the lower lip.

His eyes were his weapon of choice, leaving her utterly defenseless, breaking her will effortlessly. Hard. Cold. Demanding. Piercing. Burning. Smoldering. Embers of brilliant blue, scorching her to her core. He could bring her to her knees with one look and a second later, make her feel like they were the only two people on earth. He undressed her with those eyes. He made her feel like throwing herself from a cliff with those eyes. He told her he loved her - or hated her - with those eyes. Flawless blue diamonds. Hard, unyielding, more precious to her than any other gem. Eyes that spoke when his lips were silent. Eyes that bore through to her soul.

His face weather-beaten, worn smooth in some places, rough in others. Forehead lined slightly, more than it should before someone his age. Worn down. Sleepless nights, exposure to the elements, stress, worry, all combining to carve character into his handsome features. Deep-set eyes against high cheekbones. Worry carving lines at the corners. A small mouse permanent under his right eye, the cause unknown, unmentionable, not fodder for discussion.

She watched his mouth move, lips pursing slightly in his sleep. Those lips, rough from wind and sun. Punishing and brutal as they dragged over her skin in the most intimate of places yet easily moving with the softness of silk, a feathery delicate whisper. Murmuring her name in the dark. Lulling her to sleep with the touch of them pressed against her neck. Making her shudder as they trailed down her spine, inch by inch, warm breath and promises escaping from between them like vapor trails from a jet. Vanishing quietly into nothingness.

The back of a slow-moving finger lightly traced his jaw line. Firm, determined, it's rounded point softened even more by the mottled brush of brown and blonde whiskers that sprung from the pores of his skin. Soft, like the hair of a cat. Smooth. Fine. Tickling ticklish parts as his chin rubbed against a neck, the under-side of a breast, a warm inner thigh. Stopping under the outside of his lips, but not really stopping, just thinning, only to continue up over his upper lip. Even thinner than his beard, his mustache unattended-to, wanton, a mind of it's own. Claiming it's territory under the straight strength of his nose, knowing that it was competing for attention. The blemish that he found distasteful and she found utterly irresistible. Brown. Round. Above the corner of his left lip, a diagonal line down along the corner of his nose, up from the corner of his lip. Perfect placement for an imperfection that drove her to madness, made him utterly ooze sexiness without even being conscious of just how sexy he was.

Unaware of the dissection of his physical being, in a deep sleep, a luxury he seldom afforded himself, he missed the slow movement of the worn cotton sheet as it slipped down, hooked by a toe, pulled gently, surreptitiously, revealing his back, backside, thighs. One long expanse of territory, skin and muscle coming together in strength, grace, beauty to the eye and the touch.

Her eyes skimmed his back, a long wedge of flesh wide at the top, narrowing at his hips. She caught herself and pulled the hand back, desperate to run it the length of him from the flat plane of shoulder blade to rounded ass cheek and past. To linger and swirl her fingers lightly in the soft downy hair on the back of his muscled thigh. A sweep of hard and soft at the same time, contrasting sensually, a feast for the fingertips and the psyche. A back strong, solid, supple. Rigid when challenged, inflexible with indignance. Tattoos of wee demons dance along the side, peeking playfully from behind a curtain of muscle, two on one side, a shy one hiding safely tucked under an arm on the other. A mottled yellow shadow of a fading bruise, the cause long forgotten. A matching pair of faint fingernail scratches from an unconscious moment of passion, dragging across skin, sticky and sweaty with desire, a hunger fulfilled, a need satisfied. The backside of his arrow wound, the irregular, jagged, hole-y scar a reminder of just how tenuous and fragile life is now.

In her mind she ran invisible fingers lower, down the curve of his spine, feeling each vertebrae one by one, past where it bottomed out and made a gentle valley with two small dimples, flanking his tailbone, sweeping up, arc-ing to his ass, divided into two perfect mounds, flatter than round laying down, the dark fissure disappearing around the front, scrubby hair thickening on towards the hidden parts. She closed her eyes and envisioned him walking away from her, loose pants hanging from a belt with added hole, drawn tight against an often-empty and growling stomach. Watched his ass under the faded and worn fabric, moving slightly, rounded now, needing to be cupped, squeezed, grasped roughly and pulled closer.

His walk made her smile. Upright, proud, a definite swagger. The right foot slightly turning inward as he planted it. A man's walk. He could move like smoke through the woods with that walk, cautiously, tenuously, one foot slowly lowering, silently, hesitantly, then the other. Other times the walk broadcast nothing but bravado, boastful and loud, a strut, manly and confident. A walk that when aimed for her, made her heart skip a beat, her core warm in anticipation of the coming vice-grip on her elbow, moving her with purpose, direction. A walk with more than haughty promise. Testosterone-driven and hell-bent. Pure Daryl.

She smiled even more when he turned towards her, grunting, his hand flexing on her hip, a tiny smile curling around his lip and the fading. She was facing him now, drinking him in like water on a hot day, quenching, satisfying. His arm under his pillow, cradling his slightly bowed head, his legs a tangle in the sheets, a foot pressed against hers.

She traced lightly down the cleft between his pecs, soft fuzzy hair half-curling around her fingertip, muscles beneath, tight. His skin was tanned, golden-bronze with a smattering of freckles on the tops of his shoulders, a brown mole here, there. The blue-green ink of a faded tattoo over his heart, the swirly script spelling out the name attached to equally-faded memories, also not fodder for discussion. Norma. His mother's name. Long gone except for the dusty back corners of his mind. Worn pictures in a hidden photo album, musty, dog-eared, stuck to cheap plastic pages, now lost to haste and panic, deemed not necessary for survival.

She followed the outward bend of his ribs in past his waist and hips, her eyes landing on the front-side scar where the arrow had pierced him, not through-and-through, just through. Stitches puckered, hastily sewn, appearance not a consideration for the old man's nimble hands. She followed his hipline down towards his flat stomach, more muscles rippling under the tight skin. A line of fine brown hair growing darker, thicker as it moved south, down to...there. Almost disappearing under a thigh, not quite visible, not invisible. A forest of curly dark brown hair, coarse and wild, scrub-brush in a valley dominated by one towering feature. Ever-present, all-powerful, his second brain at times, she smirked. All Hail. Straight, long, smooth thick. Begging to be touched, held, stroked and caressed. A mind of it's own. A singular reason for being.

She closed her eyes again and remembered the feel of it. Hard against her thigh. Pressing feverishly. Moving inside her. Throbbing, vein standing out, rigid and angry. Determined. Unyielding on it's chosen course. Intense, rhythmic. Erupting with lava from deep inside him, as unpredictable and violent as any volcano. Convulsive, desperate thrusts giving way to lesser spasms, winding down finally to tiny ripples as it slips away, spent, slick against skin, resting peacefully, sleeping calmly, it's own petite' morte. She swallowed a dry swallow, her lips slightly trembling. A knowing smile. Been there, done that, waiting to go again and again.

The hand on her hip grasped flesh now, pulling her hard, burying a mouth on a shoulder, biting playfully, his tongue tracing the path of his teeth in a slow circle.

"Mmm." the scratchy voice, raspy, low. A sleepy viper on a warm rock. "You 'wake?" The north-Georgia drawl was honey and whiskey. Warm, sticky, slipping down her spine like a slow drip down the side of a jar of molasses. Slow-talkin'. A country boy's secret weapon. Dropped syllables leading to dropped panties. The silicone lube for disarming will-power. Destroyer of "no." Pillager of all good intentions. Menthol in the back of your throat as you smoke behind the church after blowing the preacher's son. So good and yet so very, very bad. He raises up on one elbow, the sheet sliding deliciously lower, knowing exactly what he'd done, what he'd uncovered. "Whatcha' been thinkin' 'bout?" he grins, the wicked blue eyes flashing, one eyebrow raised.