“Come on.” Fatin pulled on Leah’s hand, tring to get her to stand up. Leah grumbled about not wanting to move, but it took little effort to get her to her feet.
Fatin began to walk down the beach, away from the direction of camp, her hand wrapped around Leah’s wrist. Leah lagged behind slightly, moving sluggishly. Fatin’s grip wasn’t tight and she didn’t urge Leah to go any faster, the point wasn’t to make her uncomfortable or feel any worse than she already did.
The second Fatin had fully woken up that morning, she knew something was wrong. Leah was already up, not laying in her spot beside Fatin. That was the first sign. Fatin had sat up, rubbed the sleep from her eyes, and took a look around camp. Leah was not there. That was the second sign. She spotted her further down the beach, knees pulled up into her chest, looking horribly small. That was the third sign. Fatin grabbed a water bottle and some lychees and made her way over. Upon arriving, she saw Leah staring blankly out at sea, fingers pulling out the hairs in her eyebrows. That was what confirmed it. Leah was going dark again.
Fatin had sat beside her without a word. She gently took Leah’s hand from her face, her heart falling at the sight of a patch of hair missing from the corner of her eyebrow. She had been doing so good lately, but Fatin knew she was going to fall back on bad habits sometimes. It still hurt to see it, though. She was able to coax her into drinking some water and eating some food. From the dark circles under her eyes, Fatin could tell Leah had barely slept the last night. She mulled over telling her it was okay to wake her up at night if she wanted to talk or just wanted company, but she could tell Leah just wanted silence at the moment. She stowed that thought away for later.
After another hour of doing nothing, Fatin got an idea. Leah had relaxed slightly from Fatin’s presence, eaten a few more berries and drank more water, but it wasn’t enough. That was why, instead of either of them doing tasks that day, Fatin was taking Leah to the waterfall for a day away from it all (as away from it as they could be while still stuck on the island). She would take whatever chastising the others had in store for her when they returned, but she refused to let any of them reprimand Leah for taking a break.
“Where are we going?” Leah’s voice cracked from misuse, but Fatin’s heart soared at the sound. It was the most she had said all morning and Fatin didn’t even have to goad her into speaking.
“Somewhere nice,” she threw back with a smile. Leah let out a little huff that Fatin recognized as a tired laugh. Instead of saying anything else, Fatin readjusted her hand so her fingers slid between Leah’s. She squeezed her hand reassuringly and Leah squeezed back.
It was nice, holding Leah’s hand, even if the circumstances weren’t very pleasant. They had started holding hands every so often lately, mostly when they were alone. There was nothing to hide from the others, but Fatin really couldn’t deal with the teasing she was sure Toni and Dot would unleash on her if they saw them in a compromising situation. This thing had been slowly growing between them and they were both aware of it, but neither of them had outwardly acknowledged it. Fatin was fine with that, she was happy to have their little moments alone, holding hands, laying in the sand wrapped up in each other's arms, sneaking glances at each other and smiling shyly before looking away. It was torturously slow, but it was Leah, and Fatin knew she would do anything for her (and that thought terrified and excited her all at once). So, if Leah just wanted to hold hands once and a while and not verbally address the thing between them yet, then Fatin would wait until she was ready.
By the time they got to the waterfall, Fatin could tell Leah was feeling a little better. Her eyes didn’t have a far away look in them anymore and she stopped chewing on her bottom lip. There was still some tension in her body and a permanent frown on her face, but Fatin was determined to make them disappear by the end of the day.
She led Leah to the rocks beside the water’s edge and kicked off her shoes. Regretfully, she let go of Leah’s hand to remove her shirt and shorts, folding them and placing them neatly on a boulder. She would have felt a bit self-conscious being so exposed in front of Leah (she was a very confident person and was proud of her body, but the intimacy of being alone with Leah made her nervous), but the current circumstances and her need to cheer Leah up overrode her nerves.
Leah stood stock still beside her, back to chewing on her lip. She looked at the water, then over to Fatin, eyes wary. Fatin took a step closer and grabbed her hand with one of her own, her other hand she placed on Leah’s back comfortingly.
“You okay?” Fatin knew the answer was no, but she was also asking about the current situation, not just in general.
“I haven’t really gone in the water since that day.” It was said in a whisper, her voice cracking at the end of the sentence.
Fatin knew exactly which day she was talking about. The day she almost drowned. While the water before them was not the ocean, she could see how the idea of going for a swim would make her scared, or anxious, or sad, or whatever emotions she was feeling.
“Hey, it’s okay,” she whispered back, even though there was no need to be quiet. She wanted to be gentle, though. Leah didn’t need tough love, she needed a steady hand to hold and a soft voice that would tell her you’re not crazy, I’m here for you, I believe you, we will be okay.
“You can just dip your toes in if you want. I will be right beside you the whole time.” She rubbed slow circles on Leah’s back. Leah nodded and squeezed her hand, then turned to give her a faint smile.
“Okay.” Fatin heard the thank you in her voice. She smiled, squeezed her hand back, and knew Leah understood her of course.
Leah kicked off her shoes and set them beside Fatin’s, but opted not to remove her clothes. Fatin didn’t push her, just led the way to a good rock along the shore to sit on and stick their feet into the water.
They sat there for a while, listening to the rushing of the waterfall, their feet slowly kicking under the water, their pinkies interlocked where their hands rested beside each other’s as they leaned back. The sun was rising high into the sky and Fatin predicted it was midday. The birds sang in the trees, out of sight, but ever present. It was peaceful, but Fatin’s skin was starting to heat to the point of discomfort from the sun. She sat up and shifted closer to the edge of the rock, preparing to jump into the water to cool off. Leah sat up as well, but otherwise did not move.
“I’m just gonna go for a dip, it’s getting a little hot out.” She looked over her shoulder at Leah, giving her a smile.
“K,” Leah replied with a nod and an attempt at a return smile. Fatin studied her face for a moment. She didn’t look happy, per se, but she looked a lot better than that morning and even a bit better than when they had arrived at the waterfall. Fatin took it as a sign her plan was working and turned back around.
Using her hands and her thighs, she pushed off the rock and slipped into the water. It was much colder than she expected, her feet had long grown accustomed to the chill. She regretted leaving the rock so abruptly, her head becoming fully submerged. She broke back up above the surface, spluttering and gasping from shock.
“Jesus fuck that’s cold!” She wiped the water from her face and shivered as freezing droplets fell from her hair onto her exposed back and shoulders. The water was just above her navel where she was standing, so she was somewhat grateful the sun could heat the top half of her body as the bottom half remained cold.
Fatin heard laughter, loud and melodic, coming from up on the boulder behind her. She was smiling well before she was done wiping the water from her face so she could open her eyes.
“Don’t laugh at me! It’s fucking freezing in here,” she said lightly as she turned around to look up at Leah. Leah was smiling, beaming actually. It was a brighter and more beautiful sight than the sun itself. It was the happiest she had looked all day and Fatin would gladly let Leah laugh at her over and over again if it meant she was brought out of the darkness for just a moment.
“That’s what you get for jumping in.”
It had only been a moment, but it already felt like Leah was back to normal, laughing and teasing Fatin with ease. The chill of the water meant nothing when Leah’s smile warmed Fatin from the inside out.
“Oh, fuck off,” Fatin teased back with a smile.
She waded over to the boulder for no other reason than to be closer to Leah. She lifted her arms, crossing them and placing them on top of the rock where she had been sitting, leaning her whole body into the rock like she would against the side of a pool. The rock was only a few inches taller than the surface of the water, so Fatin’s shoulders were just a bit taller than Leah’s knees where she sat on the rock. Fatin was grateful the sun had yet to begin to set, or else the sun would have blinded her from how she had to tilt her head back to look at Leah’s face.
They stayed like that for a few seconds. Fatin standing just beside Leah’s legs, which dangled off the side of the rock. She could feel the ripples in the water hit her side from how Leah slowly kicked her feet back and forth. Leah looked down at Fatin, a small smile on her face, looking a million times better than that morning.
“Thank you,” Leah broke the silence. Her expression grew serious and Fatin could tell the darkness was creeping back.
“You don’t need to thank me. I just wanted you to have a good time today.” Fatin tilted her head to seek out Leah’s gaze, which had slipped to staring at her hands in her lap. When that didn’t work, Fatin reached out and placed a hand over Leah’s. Leah looked back over at her, eyes slightly squinted in appreciation.
“I don’t know what I would do without you,” Leah attempted to say half-jokingly, but Fatin understood the full weight behind her words. She slipped her hand into one of Leah’s and held her fingers firmly.
“You won’t ever have to find out. I’ll always be here for you.” Fatin’s past self would have laughed at her for being so cheesy, but she meant those words with her whole heart. Leah smiled and bit her lip, her eyes glancing down at their joined hands before looking back up.
“I’m gonna try something and I can’t promise it's gonna go okay.” Fatin’s heart skipped a beat at Leah repeating her words from weeks ago back at her.
She knew what was coming next, but was still pleasantly surprised when Leah’s lips pressed into her own. They were a little chapped and the bottom one was rough with the multitude of scabs from Leah chewing her lip raw almost every day. Her neck hurt from tilting her head back at an odd angle and she didn’t doubt Leah wasn’t exactly comfortable being folded in half like she was. It was still perfect. Leah’s hand released Fatin’s and came to rest on her cheek. Fatin hummed at the contact. The kiss was slow and gentle and everything Fatin had ever wanted and, sure, she wanted more, but for the time being she was perfectly content. They broke apart, but didn’t move away. Leah rested her forehead against Fatin’s and they sat there, just breathing in each other’s air for a few moments.
“My back hurts like a bitch,” Leah mumbled out and Fatin laughed. She felt Leah’s smile as she leaned in for another quick kiss.
Leah pulled away and Fatin was only disappointed for a moment before she opened her eyes to see Leah standing up and pulling off her shirt. Fatin’s mouth went dry and she had to remind herself they were there to swim, just to swim. But just looking couldn’t hurt, right? She let her eyes wander over Leah’s skin, trying to memorize it all as if it were the last time she would see it. Leah’s hands went to the button on her shorts, but her hands stopped moving.
“Hey. Eyes up here.” Leah’s voice snapped Fatin’s eyes up to her face. Her cheeks grew warm, but in seeing Leah’s smile and the rosy dusting of her cheeks, she knew Leah hadn’t hated having Fatin’s eyes on her.
“Can’t help it, babe. You’re hot as fuck,” she said with a teasing smile. Leah’s cheeks flushed a deeper red, but she just rolled her eyes and stepped out of her shorts. Fatin politely kept her eyes on her face.
Leah sat back down on the rock at the edge, preparing to hop in as well. She paused, then held out a hand.
“Lend me a hand? I don’t want to make the same mistake as you.” She smiled sweetly at Fatin as she teased her. Fatin rolled her eyes back at her, but held onto Leah’s hand so she could jump into the water without getting fully submerged. Leah let out a small gasp as she was enveloped in the cold water.
“Cold isn’t it?” Fatin let go of Leah’s hand.
“I think I’ll get used to it.” Leah stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Fatin’s neck, pulling their bodies close together. Fatin instinctively placed her hands on Leah’s hips under the water, not caring how cold her fingers would get.
Their faces were inches apart, noses brushing together. They stared into each other’s eyes, smiling slightly. It was all so fucking soft. Fatin loved it. She closed what little distance was left, letting her eyes slip closed. Kissing Leah the first time was perfect. Kissing her a second time was magical. Fatin found it incredibly hilarious how much of a sap she had turned into, but she was damn proud of it. She didn’t care how cliche it sounded to say she felt like she was soaring through the clouds, high up in the sky, just from kissing Leah. She never wanted to stop kissing Leah, so she didn’t. But soon it grew less tender and more passionate. Hands began roaming skin and the water didn’t feel cold any longer from how hot she felt all over.
Leah pulled away first, but again didn’t move far, resting their foreheads together as they caught their breath. Her hand was placed flat on Fatin’s chest, as if she was feeling for her heartbeat, which with the way it beat rapidly, Fatin didn’t doubt she could feel it. Fatin’s arms were wrapped around Leah’s waist, and from her elbows to her fingertips, they were pressed against Leah’s back, holding her as close as possible.
“Do you think Dot would yell at us for contaminating the water supply?” Leah sounded breathless and it stirred things deep within Fatin.
“What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her,” Fatin joked back. Leah laughed and Fatin could feel the reverberations in her arms and the breath hit her mouth. “But we should probably get out of the water before we become prunes.”
Leah laughed again, softer that time, and left a lingering kiss on Fatin’s lips. “We probably should.”