So, I thought this story was after “Pause in the Journey,” but the weather doesn’t fit…
Girey woke slowly to the warm sun streaming in, and the familiar sound of water splashing. He reached for the tent flap to close it, eyes still closed, and hit wood instead of canvas.
Wood. He opened his eyes, blinking, as the long evening past came back to him. It had been raining buckets, cold nasty stuff that didn’t seem to want to let up long enough for them to pitch a tent, and so they’d kept riding long past sunset, torches lighting their way, until they’d found this way-station. His captor seemed to have an allergy to them, using the sturdy buildings only when no other opportunity presented itself, but this had counted as an emergency, or she’d been too damp to care about her normal objections.
She hadn’t shared her logic with him – she never did – so Girey was left to simply be happy for the soft bed, the roof, and the pleasant fire. And the splashing water, which made less sense now that he knew they were in a waystation.
Splashing…? And the scent, trailing under drying-goat-odor, of perfume. Girey sat up, looking around. A bath? There was a bath?
He had his feet on the floor before his arm was jerked short, his left arm chained to the box-bed. He swore quietly in his own language; did she ever, ever forget?
“Good morning, sleepyhead.” Rin’s voice, treacherously cheerful, wafted over the screen separating the two halves of the small cabin.
“You chained me to the bed,” he informed her, although he was sure she hadn’t forgotten.
“I did,” she agreed.
“Let me go.” That was, of course, futile. He’d spent nearly every moment of his captivity so far chained to something. As if he had anywhere to go.
“You’ll have to wait until I’m done with my bath. Just give me a few more moments, and you’ll have your turn.”
His turn. A real bath, from the sounds of it, with soap and warm water. A chance to be clean, to wash the stink of goats off his skin, if only for a little while. He lay back down, trying not to sound too impatient. “I’ll wait.”
“Good.” She made splashing noises for a few more minutes, while he tried not to think about the hot water, the soap, his captor, naked, in the tub just a couple body-lengths from him. He squirmed uncomfortably, his chain jangling. “Almost,” she called, and he could hear her stand up, the water sluicing off her body.
Girey caught his breath, and reminded himself that she was the enemy, his captor, and generally a miserable woman to be around, not the sort of woman that hung around Bitrani war camps.
Of course, a treacherous part of his mind whispered, if he had captured her and not the other way around…
He yanked hard on the chain, letting the shackle dig into his wrist, and thought about sword-drills. Sword-drills, and long marches through swamps, and not….
“All right.” She dropped a fluffy scrap of cloth atop him. “Stand up, it’s your turn.”
He stood, blinking to clear his eyes. She was in her undertunic and trousers, hardly revealing clothing, her hair falling loose and damp around her shoulders. And she was smiling. Girey held out his wrists to her, surprised as she unlocked his wrists altogether.
“No peeking,” he teased nervously, as she ushered him behind the screen.
“You have nothing to worry about there,” she assured him.
“Good.” He tried not to think too hard about why that itself would concern him.
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