“Hey, lady,” Mick said, grinning up at Louise from the crenellation she was sitting on.
Louise sat on the decorative stone outcropping next to Mick, dangling her bare feet over the side. “How are you?” she asked, sliding an arm around Mick’s shoulders and giving her a squeeze.
“Fine, fine,” Mick said, arm moving around Louise’s waist. She rested her head on Louise’s shoulder.
They stared out over the orchard for a few minutes in silence. Louise watched the flower petals explode into a blizzard when a brisk breeze came up, and said, “So is it always spring here?”
Mick raised her head and gave her a quizzical look. “What’re you talking about? It’s autumn—can’t you see all the leaves and colors? It’s gorgeous.”
Louise was about to say something else on the subject, but decided to let it go with a shake of her head and a shrug.
“Want to go downstairs?” Mick said after another moment of looking at Louise.
Louise nodded mutely, and they went down the ladder together.
On their way to the room that Louise thought of as “Mick’s room,” Louise saw something move out of the corner of her eye and spun to look. She caught a glimpse of a woman’s back as the woman passed through a nearby wall.
“Just a ghost,” Mick said, but the line of her mouth was wry, and might have even been a little ghastly if she’d showed her teeth. Louise grabbed her hand and urged them on down the hall.
The sex that followed was far from the rollicking fun it had been for the past couple of weeks—it was silent and intense, one or both in tears at various points, only a few words whispered from time to time. Mick was going out of her way, Louise thought, to practically run down the laundry list of everything and anything Louise had ever expressed a liking for in the past decades.
They were wrapped together tightly when the alarm bell went off, and Mick cursed viciously into Louise’s neck. She let go of Louise and stood up angrily, turning back to the bed and saying, “You have to stay here this time. Please.”
“Mick,” Louise said, sliding out of bed on that side and taking the thinner woman by the shoulders. “You know I can’t, any more than you can right now.”
“I just… I can’t…” Mick started, then said, pulling her pants up, “If you were to get hurt again…”
“I’ll do my best not to,” Louise said, finding her t-shirt and shorts. “I managed last time, didn’t I?”
“Promise to stay in back,” Mick said.
“I promise,” Louise said, thinking that it wouldn’t help much if someone snuck up behind her again.
The object was coming in from the south this time, and was a Category 4 or some such. Louise had another staring match with Sheila at the end of the briefing. Sheila’s gaze slid to Mick, then back to Louise, and then the woman turned away.