When the window lit up, Molly jerked awake. It was headlights, and the engine sounded like the Jeep. She didn’t relax, though, until she heard the engine chug and cut off. The headlights, no longer shining in the windows, were off a moment later. Dan was back, and, if he was back alone, he was uninjured. There was only one set of footsteps on the gravel going towards the back door whenever the distant thunder didn’t cover the crunch.
The evening had been great -- until the call came for him. His gentle but so-thorough love making would have been the best sort of memory to be the last. The thing was, she didn’t want a last memory of Dan.
The back door shut quietly, and something creaked in the laundry room. Dan was trying to be quiet so as not to wake her, and she was straining to hear to be sure he was safe. The boards creaked along the hall. That she couldn’t hear his shoes meant that he’d taken everything off in the laundry room. The toilet flushed and the water ran in the sink. He was taking rather a long time washing, and that meant that he’d got messed up in the fire. With the lights out, he’d only work on the dirt he could feel. Dan waited outside the bedroom door for the thunder, but she heard the latch release when he closed it.
“I’m awake,” she said. “Are you all right?”
“Told you not to worry. You need your sleep.” His voice was gentle, but a little rough. He’d been shouting and maybe breathing smoke.
“Well, I was asleep until I heard the Jeep. I was worrying, too.”
“Multi-tasking?” The light blanket lifted from her. “Need this?” He put it on the foot of the bed without waiting for her answer. “I’ve told you. Fighting fires isn’t really that dangerous. Greg’s broken leg was the first hospitalization that the department has had in a long time. I’ve gone to two funerals for volunteers, but neither died fighting a fire.” Dan was a darling, but he kept repeating his arguments for her head when it was her gut that worried.
As she shifted back to give him space, the cloth of the nightie stuck to the sweat on her hips. She hadn’t needed the cotton blanket with the air conditioner off. The sheet lifted, and the mattress sank to her right. While he was getting in, she pulled the nightgown off. The sleeves tugged at her armpits, but the edge tickled her nipples. She eased down after she draped the nightie over the headboard. They had made love before the call about the barn fire came, but she needed the reassurance of his body now.
When the subtle shift of the mattress told her that he had relaxed, she reached over towards his side. His arm was damp. She couldn’t feel the hairs as she stroked down, but they stood up as she stroked up toward his shoulder. His biceps were smooth again, but he tensed under her fingers. Then she felt something oily, and he sucked in a breath. She could smell the ointment now.
“Bad?” she asked.
“I dodged a falling board too slow. The nails missed, but it was on fire. I’ve had worse when burning scrap. I don’t even think the shirt’s scorched.”
“Only hurts when you laugh?”
He did laugh at that. He gripped her then, and pulled her into a kiss. His lips were hard against hers, and his tongue tickled hers. She felt the beginning of his whiskers against her cheek, the firm clasp of his hard fingers on her shoulder, the twist in her body as her legs lay back and her torso was pulled to its side to meet his, and his chest hairs scratching her nipples. She smelled soap, smoke, and a little sweat. He kissed her nose-tip. The window lit from some distant lightning, and she saw love on his face as well as a smile.
They were silent as she let him count the miles. Please, God, not another lightning-fire tonight. When the thunder came faintly, he laid her back on the bed. She wanted him to hold her; she wanted to hold him; she had to feel that he was alive. She reached for him and trailed her fingers through the pelt on his chest. She circled wide of the nipple and then spiraled in. When she reached it, it firmed under her finger. She leaned over him, her right breast resting on his arm. She sniffed the ointment and then moved deliberately up to his shoulder before kissing him. She tasted salt and smoke. He rolled toward her, shifting the mattress and rising under her hand. His lips and then his tongue touched her ear. She turned her head, and their lips met. His lips tasted of smoke, but his tongue just tasted like Dan.
When he sucked her tongue, something clutched in her belly in response. When her tongue retreated, his followed hers. When she sucked his tongue and then fell back onto the mattress, though, he fell onto his own back rather than follow her. She trailed her hand down his torso: scratchy chest, smooth stomach, pubic curls. When she reached him, he was still soft. Well, that was the problem, then. He’d worked hard and been in danger, however much he belittled it, after he’d already come once. He wasn’t ready yet, but, whether he was ready or not, she needed him.