Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Added the ability to comment, if anyone manages to stumble on this story from lord knows where, it would be nice to hear their thoughts. Also, I'm really behind, I didn't hardly write anything at all yesterday, so I need to start pumping out the text. Now for the conclusion of chapter 2:

John saw the shirt lying on the ground, Gabby hadn’t noticed it or thought it odd at all, just as John had let it slip his mind just now. He guessed the shirt had come undone in the night and for the first time all morning me moved fast and quietly after his companion popped her head inside of the second tent and had the shirt in his hand with the drive inside it. A moment later he was in his own tent, safely packing the drive away, with the same shirt as a protective padding inside his own pack, which he slung over his shoulder before backing out of the tent. He wasn’t one to brag about his adventures, he would tell her about it in his own time. She was so impulsive; she’d want to get someplace where they could look at it before it was time to leave. He wondered if she knew that he kept things from her on their expeditions. His ponderings were put to rest after his tent was quickly folded, rolled, tucked away, and hidden behind him slung beneath his pack. It was really a moot point whether she knew or not.

“ I didn’t see you last night “, he said.

“ I was around “, she shot back as she slung the third tent at her side.

“ Where are we headed? “

Gabby stood up straight and scanned the horizon. She was almost certain someone was headed to where they were. She decided quickly, “ South by southwest. I want to cut past the city on the western side; if we head that way we have a good chance of running into Wicker’s tracks. Let’s stay in the woods, I want to stay as hidden as possible. Try not to leave too many tracks. “

“ What makes you think we’ll run into Wicker’s tracks? “

“ Call it woman’s intuition. “

“ That where you were last night? “

Let him guess, she thought as she threw a wink in his direction. It wasn’t where she had been last night, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to make him think some. She finished the last of her bar, popping the last meat-like bit between her lips. It took her a minute before it occurred to her that he wasn’t asking anymore. She looked at him and wondered, that sort of answer had never satisfied him before.

John’s face was an unreadable slab. If she had offended him, he certainly wasn’t letting on. He looked different today. His expedition yesterday had certainly taken it’s toll on him, it had taken her a while but she eventually noticed the reddening bandages on both feet and the effort he was going through not to limp. She was only barely able to notice the latter. She wondered where his shoes were, and considered asking before she thought the better of it; he would tell her if he thought it was important. After a bit more cross debate with herself, she finally decided on a subtle enough way to bring it up after they had been hiking through the woods for maybe an hour or two. It was hard to tell exactly, it wasn’t the gray of dawn anymore, but it wasn’t full noon yet either.

“ Don’t you think maybe you should be wearing shoes, or are you just showing off? Cause if you are, then I wont be the one to spoil your parade “, she said.

“ I lost them “, he replied without even looking back at her.

“ Want to talk about it? “

“ Not really. “

“ Come on, Johnny boy, we’ve got an awfully long walk and I can’t think of a better way to spend it than hearing. “

“ Well, I would, but we have an awfully long walk, and the more we talk the longer it will take to get where we’re going.”

“ Haven’t you ever heard of morale? That logic only works in the short term. “

John kept up his steady pace without replying to that one. He was hopping logs and covering as much ground as he could. In his bare feet she was having trouble keeping up with him. He had never shown this kind of forward determination before, during their expeditions. He didn’t even look to be breaking a sweat at the extra effort he was exerting. She realized, as she got closer again that it was just her imagination, his skin was getting a hard gloss for the day over the filthy bronze that covered him in the morning. The dustier parts of his skin were actually muddy from the sweat. Before it completely slipped her mind he answered, “ I have heard of morale. Trust me. Talking about it won’t do anything good for my morale. “

“ Fair enough. “ She wasn’t about to push the issue. On the other hand, she really did want to talk about something and if he wasn’t going to make it easy, she might as well take it on herself to do the sharing.

“ I was trying to get a signal “, she told him.

“ What? “

“ For the repeater, I was trying to get a signal, so that I could maybe have a few words from Gabe if I could get his attention. “

“ When was this? “

“ Last night. That’s where I was all night. I didn’t finish trying till well after four in the morning. “

John’s right hand flashed as they came to some thick underbrush and in a blur a small but sharp and well-balanced blade appeared in his hands from a hidden sheath on the belt in his pants. His hands cut through the vines and thorns almost surgically; he’d clearly been practicing lately. She guessed one reason he might not want to talk about the city yesterday. He may have had to kill someone. In all the years she’d known him, he had never warmed to the need for brutality. Most like him died quickly, too quickly. What made him different is his distaste for it didn’t stop him from doing it. It haunted him, and left a look in his eyes that had made finding a partner nearly impossible. If he had been forced to kill yesterday, it would explain too much to brush aside the possibility.

“ Did you get one at all? “, he asked.

“ Only a few minutes here and there. As far out as I went there was still too much interference from the city. “

“ Sounds disappointing, why so much work? “

“ We’ve been out so long, I wanted to know if anyone one else was in the area, I wanted news, mostly about Bobby. “

“ Any luck? “

“ Just enough to find out about Wicker party. Most of it was full of white noise from the city, but they had that info ready. Too ready, considering that I never got a clear enough signal to them to ask about that myself, scratch? “

“ Scratch, “ he spat. John got a hard look in his eye. She hoped she was wrong, but if she wasn’t, this was not going to be the best day of John’s life. He gripped his knife harder and left a mark on a nearby tree as he continued walking, faster than before, even. As she approached, she recognized it, and said the passing prayer. There was no longer doubt in her mind that he had killed. And like her, he highly suspected that the need would come about again soon. Far too soon that he would have to bloody his hands with another’s blood.

After they were clear of the underbrush his hand flashed again, and as quickly as it had appeared, the blade in his hand vanished into its secret little sheath. He hadn’t even been showing off. He was certainly better than her, but it was impossible to tell how much better. She guessed that the speed he had been using it with just now wasn’t as fast as he was capable of, even if it was the fastest she’d ever seen him do.

Gabby sighed inwardly. She was softening up as the morning went on and acceptance sank in about what she knew they had to do. It helped that she had gotten the main reason for their camp change out. He hadn’t taken it well, John didn’t let on about how bad things were; but when things were good, you could always tell how good they were. It was always when you couldn’t see anything at all in his eyes that you knew something wasn’t right. She’d learned a lot about him, and it was this absence that let him see how badly things affected those around them. With no judging how important something was, everyone filtered the problem with his or her own values. He didn’t consciously decide to do it; it was just something that he did.

That let part of her mind rest; it was the bit of familiarity in the ocean of oddities of the morning that let her go on and just ignore everything else while they went on. The chitchat died down pretty much instantly. If he had been in the mood to talk with her, he would have found her in a better mood, but he clearly wasn’t. John was too busy thinking about the Wicker. It let her go on for another two or three hours before the pace got to her. Being in the practice of leading, she let him get too far ahead before she realized that she was going to need a break. After a few moments of catching her breath, she knew it was time to swallow her pride and call after him to slow down and wait for her. But when she looked up, he was out of sight. She felt a little panicked and she opened up her mouth to yell for him to come back but only a single unintelligible syllable escaped before a hand clamped over her mouth from behind. Whatever her mouth had been about to say, her mind let out a burst of profanity at herself. She knew exactly what was happening. And it scared her shitless, because it was too late for her to do a damn thing about it.

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