Word Count: 4,337
The next few weeks passed in a crazy blur. Between his case and Claire's classes ramping up as she got further into the semester they rarely saw one another. She was always in his bed when he got home each night, though.
He knew there were times he'd seemed emotionally distant to her. And probably uninterested in what she wanted to share with him. He tried to explain that he just had to keep focused on the case, which had taken some dark twists and turns before they'd finally collared Mahkah's killer. He'd told her more than once that her presence in his bed possibly meant more to him than the actual act of sex. Neither had the time for it after that night anyway, so it was a good thing he felt that way. He doubted she'd ever understand, but it was true. His job was done, now it was up to the DA and his people to ensure the charges Lee and his team had worked very hard to bring the suspect up on stuck.
The day after they'd had sex he'd put in for these next few days off. If the case hadn't been solved by then he wouldn't have gotten them, but since it was they were his. He was off-duty free and clear. Some other detective would get woken up in the middle of the night on Thanksgiving for the first time since he could remember.
"You're not going to tell me where we're going?" she asked.
"No," he said. "Just pack warm."
"I did!" She leaned against his doorframe, watching as he put his shaving kit together.
"All right, then that's all you need."
"Why are we doing this again?"
He shrugged. "You've been studying hard, I've been working hard. You've got a few days off, my case is done. Why not take a break for a few days? Beats it being just the two of us here Thursday."
"I told you my friend invited us."
"Yeah, not into the meeting your friend's parents."
"And that would be why?"
"Because they'd probably want to call the cops, thinking I'm some dirty old man not realizing, of course, I am the cops."
"You're not a hundred years older than me. And it's not like Gloria told her parents you were my boyfriend or anything."
"No, but they'll think it. We're living together. I'm not a relative. It stands to reason…"
"People do just have roommates."
"Yeah, well, you haven't been just my roommate for a couple of months and it'd show unless they're denser than rocks."
"Who cares what they think? Anyway, you're a cop, you're supposed to be good at hiding things."
"It's not so much me I'm worried about. I've been told by more than one person that the way you look at me is a dead giveaway."
"What does that mean?"
"I don't know. I didn't ask for specifics. I imagine it means you look at me as if you like me."
"And you don't?"
"I think, perhaps, I'm a little more practiced."
"So, what, everyone thinks it's one-sided? I'm just a moron with a crush on you unrequited or what?"
He stepped away from the sink to look at her.
"I'm not sure why this is turning into an argument. I'm trying to surprise you. Is that such a bad thing? This idea came to me and it worked out we can work it in. Trust me, you're going to like it better than sitting at Gloria's house, eating turkey in a strange place."
He threw his packed shaving kit into his suitcase, closed it, and walked to her.
"Maybe you just don't want to be alone with me with nothing to do for days."
"No," she said, her eyes daring him to challenge the response.
"You sure? I know I'm not the most exciting guy you could probably be hanging around. If you regret what happened that night we don't have to go there again."
"I don't regret it." She lifted her chin defiantly. "And I'm positive."
"All right then. If you're set then let's go. Unless you're going to argue with me some more."
"No," she said with a sigh.
He was admittedly surprised she'd had a coat warm enough. He found out on the drive there that she'd gotten it when she'd spent some time in New York during the winter. She knew she wouldn't need it in Phoenix, but not knowing where she was going to end up next she took it with her.
She fell asleep about two hours into the drive. He expected she would, which helped make the surprise all the better. Especially when they woke up in the morning and she saw where they were. It was after dark, but not real late, by the time they pulled up in front of the lodge entrance.
He put the car in Park and let it idle. He could go and check in, bring them to their room. They hadn't eaten before they left, though, and he imagined she'd be hungry. He was, too, for that matter. He unfastened his seatbelt and leaned toward her, finding the part of her neck exposed to him with his lips. While they hadn't gotten to the actual act of sex since that night they'd gotten to know one another pretty well. He knew, for instance, when he kissed a particular spot on her throat that she mewled just like a cat. He'd decided over the course of the two months she'd been sleeping in his bed that exploration was a wonderful thing.
She stirred as he kissed the spot in question, reaching for him, apparently forgetting where they were.
"Wake up, sleepy head," he murmured against her ear. "We're here."
"You'll find out in the morning."
She opened her eyes, rolled them at him. He was close enough he could see that.
"We'll check in and then we can have dinner before we go to our cabin."
"And no fair asking anyone where we are."
"This is so unfair."
"I know, surprises are just a fate worse than death."
She made a small sound that sounded something like hmmph, but he wasn't entirely sure.
She was true to her word, even though she hadn't actually given it outright, and did not ask anyone. She was sitting on the bed when he brought their bags in.
"This has to cost a lot."
He shrugged. She was right, but he wasn't complaining about the expense. "So?"
"I don't expect expensive things."
"I didn't say you did. I don't take vacations. I have very little to spend my money on. No family, I don't drink or go out very often. So, I had some socked away and decided this would be a nice way to spend some of it."
"Do you even know how to start a fire?"
He chuckled. "I suppose you don't know very many boys who not only were in Cub Scouts but completed the full circuit."
"No. My brother was in Cub Scouts and I think Boy Scouts for a year or two, but you're right he dropped out."
"Well, I did, and this fireplace is nothing compared to starting a campfire with nothing but flint and steel."
"I suppose," she said, watching as he piled some wood into the fireplace. He checked the damper, put in some kindling. Then the wood, leaving enough space so that it would burn properly.
"You really do know what you're doing."
"Want to learn?"
"Sure," she said, moving to sit next to him. As he hadn't started anything yet, he took everything out and started over again. He walked her through how to tell if the chimney was drafting upwards and continued from there.
"You've really never done this?"
She laughed, leaning against him once they'd set the last piece of wood on the pile.
"No. There wasn't much need for fires in Texas or Southern California."
"I suppose not. What about New York?"
"I wasn't really there long enough and I don't think the people I stayed with had fireplaces."
"Huh," he said.
"When's the last time you did this?"
"Oh, I don't know. A few years ago. Skiing in the Rockies."
"Hmm, and who did you have with you to teach then?"
"What you think I teach just anybody how to build a fire?"
She smirked a little as he stood, backing away once he was convinced the fire was off to a good start.
"So, will we need to run the heat?"
"I guess that depends on how cold we get."
She stood then and ran her hand along his chest. "I think we can come up with ways to keep warm."
"I think I like the way you think."
She gave a soft laugh and reached up to kiss him. "Me, too."
She woke slowly, very aware that he was touching her in ways that made being woken up well worth it.
"Time to get up," he whispered.
"Not yet," she mumbled, though she doubted he understood her.
His hands grew bolder, more demanding.
"Oh my God, we just fell asleep like an hour ago." She'd thought for sure they were finally going to make love again last night. That had to be why he brought her here. Private and remote, away from their worlds where they were constantly on the go. He hadn't completed the deal despite her being very vocal about her willingness. She was beginning to get a complex that she'd done something wrong that night.
He gave a low chuckle. "It was six hours ago and it's time to get up or you're going to miss it."
She draped an arm over her eyes, peaking at him out of one she left just a little uncovered. "I didn't realize there was an expiration date on that type of thing," she said with what she hoped was a wicked smile.
"Very funny. Come on. Really, you're going to kick yourself for missing this if you do."
"Mm, fun first?"
"Hmm, that might actually mean something coming from you."
"Absolutely it does."
"Do I have to shower and everything?"
"No, just put your clothes on from yesterday with your coat and stuff."
"I'm not sure I can find them."
"I've already taken care of that for you," he said, gesturing to the foot of the bed.
She sat up, not bothering to cover herself. "It's not even light out!"
"You're horrible! I'm a college student. I don't get up before dawn."
"I will totally make it up to you."
She worried her lower lip, smelled the fact he'd made coffee already and sighed. "All right," she said, scooting to the end of the bed to put her clothes on again.
Both bundled up as warm as they could get, he led her outside.
"Stay with me, Claire, until you can see where you're going."
"Okay," she said cautiously.
"I'm serious. Don't stray from the path I'm taking."
"I said okay."
"I just don't want you getting hurt. Or worse."
She gave a little swallow at that. What could be worse? Where in the hell were they that he was worried about injuries and death occurring to either of them?
They hadn't walked far when he gestured for her to sit. She did and he poured a cup of coffee from the thermos he'd brought.
"Yeah," she said, though she would have given anything to be in their cabin in front of the fireplace just then.
They talked softly until the sun started making its appearance. Claire was instantly transfixed by the sight around her. She'd seen sunrises before, but nothing in her life had ever compared to this.
"Worth my getting you out of bed?"
"I'll never doubt you again," she whispered, handing him the cup before she stood.
"Careful," he said.
"Yeah, I get what you mean now."
"You've been here before?"
"No, never. Talked about it, of course. Doing the family vacation thing, but first Lyle was too young and then things just got too hectic. So we never made it."
"Well, now you have," he said and she sensed that he was watching her more than he was the sunrise.
"Better than sitting at Gloria's parents house?"
"Yes," she said with a soft laugh. It was a perfect morning, too. There were a few clouds in the sky, but they were the soft, cotton ball looking ones so their view of the sun and the rim of the Grand Canyon near them was almost totally unobstructed.
He took her hand and they started walking further along the trail. She understood now why he told her to stay with him. A few steps the wrong way and she could have ended up going over the edge. That would not have been good, especially the part where she'd have to explain not just to him but everyone else how she survived it.
"Scared of heights?" he asked, so she must have made a face or something.
"No, just thinking," she said. "Thank you for this."
"You've been here before?"
"I come here once in a while. I don't usually stay in a cabin like we are. Sometimes I'll just bring a sleeping bag and a tent I have. It's a nice place to get away to when you need to think or just want total peace and quiet. I mean, there are other people here. We're staying at a hotel, but it's not like going to Disneyland or anything."
"That'd be fun."
"What would? Disneyland?"
"No, camping with you."
"I'll keep that in mind for another trip."
"Good," she said, reaching up to kiss him.
She gave a loud cry as a sudden, stabbing pain shot through her leg. Another quickly followed to her side. And another to her arm.
"Get down," Lee said, but not before he was struck, too.
She followed him, ducking and limping to cover. So much for staying on the trail. She imagined unusual circumstances called for breaking that rule.
It wasn't until she sat next to him on the ground that she realized they'd been shot with arrows. Three had hit her, two hit him. One was in his thigh, the other in his shoulder. The one in his thigh looked to be in there deep. That he managed to walk this far surprised her. She reached to remove the one from her side first. She wouldn't be able to help him unless she got rid of them.
"No, don't. You could bleed out if it hit an artery or something."
She laughed a little at that. If she didn’t pull them out the wounds would start to heal around the arrows. And while they'd come out, it'd hurt like hell all over again just to get them out. Besides, she couldn't take Lee's out. He didn't heal as she did and while she wasn't aware of all the dangers that went with this type of injury she knew that just pulling the arrow out could cause damage.
"I have to."
"Claire. I don't know who's out there or what else they have. I can't protect you and worry about you bleeding to death out here in the cold."
"That's why I have to. You're not going to be doing anything with that leg," she said.
"And you are?" he asked, pulling his cell phone out of his pocket. He wasn't sure he'd get reception out here, but they hadn't gone too far into the trail so he hoped he would.
"Yes," she said. She bit her lip, stifling the cry of pain as she pulled each arrow out of her. She dropped them one by one on the ground. One, judging by the length of the blood trail on it, had been in deeper than she realized.
"You have a gun I assume?" she asked, realizing he'd be full of questions. Of course, he would have over the last month or so if they'd been having sex. She knew she'd have to explain to him why her body was the same as it was their first time. And then he'd doubt it had been her first time. That bothered her, which was one reason she hadn't gone out of her way to initiate intercourse again. He'd seemed fine with the foreplay they did.
"Yes," he said. He carried it everywhere, she knew that
"Get it out," she said. "And give me the phone."
She shed her coat, draping it over him.
"What are you doing?"
"I've got to go get you help. We can't be that far from a cabin."
"You're hurt, too. More seriously than I am."
"No, I'm fine." She said, taking a minute to draw her shirt up just enough so he could see her side was fine. She ran her fingertip over the spot where the arrow had been. She, of course, felt nothing. Her skin was closed and healed, hiding all evidence that she'd just had an arrow deep into her flesh. "See."
He stared at her in disbelief. At least it wasn't horror, she supposed that was a good thing.
"I could try and pull you, but I'm not that strong."
"There are more cabins around here. Why don't we see if I can walk leaning against you."
"The arrow, Lee. If it brushes against anything, even I know that could cause more damage. The one in your leg is pretty deep."
"Break it off."
"Break it off. I'd do it, but I don't have a very good position to do that."
"All right," she said, taking off her gloves. "You're sure," she said, crouching by his legs.
"Yes, though, I think I may have to break my promise from earlier."
She frowned, concentrating on getting a good hold on the arrow. "Promise?"
"The fun I promised you in exchange for getting up so early."
She smiled a little at that, meeting his eyes. He was so clearly in pain, trying to act brave. He wouldn't take anything for pain even if it was available to him.
"We get out of this and I'll do my best to keep your mind off the pain you're in."
"Oh yeah?" he asked.
"Yes," she said, hoping the conversation's path would distract him from her breaking off the arrow.
"What did you have in mind?"
"Hmm," she said, smiling again before focusing her attention on his leg. "Lots of oral sex."
"That could still hurt my leg," he quipped, doing his best not to make a sound as she broke the arrow off. It wasn't as short as she probably could have gotten it, but at least the chance of it catching on something out here were less than before.
"Not the way I have it envisioned," she said.
"I can't think of any way that wouldn't put pressure on my leg."
She smiled then. "You assume I meant you'd be the one receiving it."
"Hey. That's not nice."
"I'm teasing. We get out of this, we can even rent a nurse's uniform for me to wear if you want me to."
"I don't think you'd need anything but the cap."
"Nurses don't just wear caps."
"I'd make it worth your while."
"I just bet you would. For you, I'd consider it. Now, should I put anything around it?"
"No, as long as the arrow's still in there it should be okay. What about you? You going to explain that to me?"
"Later. I promise. Let's get you inside somewhere and get help."
She helped him up, slowly. She wished, not for the first time, that her ability came with some enhanced strength. She almost fell over when he put most of his weight on her at one point, trying to stand without flexing the leg. It seemed like hours, but it was probably more like ten to fifteen minutes went by and finally he was as upright as he was going to be.
"Any idea where they came from?"
"Down the trail it seemed to me. If you hadn't stopped to kiss me I think we'd have fared a lot worse, hitting us in the front."
"Well, yay for the desire to kiss you."
"So, tell me," he said.
She was quiet for a minute. Could have made him ask what he wanted her to tell him about. She knew, though, and there was no sense making him talk more than he had to right now.
"There's nothing much to tell."
"Claire," he said.
"No, I mean. I don't know what Matt told you about me. It's pretty simple really. I regenerate. Heal," she said, starting to shrug and rethinking that when she realized she wouldn't be able to with him pressing into her as he was. She was doing the walking, he was more like dead weight, limping as best as he can but he was definitely using her to propel him where they were going.
At least he'd given her the gun. In his condition she wasn't sure he'd be a better shot despite his extensive training.
"What does that mean?"
"I don't know beyond what it is. I can't get hurt. Well, I mean, I can as you saw, but I heal."
"Can you die?"
"Yes, but it's difficult. Someone would have to cut off my head."
"Well, let's hope no one thinks to do that anytime soon."
"And if I had to I could use my blood to heal you. I would do it anyway except I really don't know how it works and with as deep as that one arrow is I wouldn't want to take the chance I was wrong."
"Wait. You could heal me?"
"Yes," she said cautiously.
"You've done that before?"
"I haven't, no. But a friend of mine has seen someone like me do it."
"There are others?"
"Yes. Not all like me. Officer Parkman has an ability."
"Yes, but I won't tell you more than that. It's up to him to tell you if he wants to."
"So, I could die here today …"
"You won't. I'd do what I could to at least make sure that didn't happen. Besides, there's a cabin over there."
"Let's just hope it's not the perp."
She hadn't thought of that, but what choice did she have. There was no way she could get him back up the trail to their cabin. She just wasn’t that strong.
She helped him sit on the front step the cabin offered. It was a little smaller than theirs and she realized again how much money this trip had probably cost him. She knocked on the door, hoping someone would answer.
'Who is it?'
"Uh, hi, we're guests in one of the cabins and ran into some trouble on the trail. I was wondering if you could call the lobby, ask them to send help for my friend."
The door opened a smidge, enough for an older woman to peak out at Claire. Claire stepped aside so the woman would see Lee barely hanging onto consciousness on her step.
"He got shot with some arrows," Claire said.
"I don't know," Claire said, though it seemed to her that it was on purpose.
"You can't come in."
"That's fine. I'll sit out here with him. We just need help called, his cell phone isn't getting reception."
"No, it wouldn't this far in."
She left the door open long enough for Claire to hear that she did, in fact, call for help.
"Thank you," Claire said sincerely.
"You're welcome," she said, returning to the door with a wool blanket. Claire recognized it as one similar to the one in their cabin.
"Thanks," she said again, taking the blanket and draping it over Lee, tucking him in as best as she could.
"She called for help."
"Good," he said, leaning against her. He looked so pale. She wished she could ask the woman if she had aspirin or something, but she didn't think Lee would take it.
"So, tell me how you found out."
She laughed. "I don't remember really. I didn't always have it. The ability I mean. I just one day realized," she shrugged. "Then, maybe I did always have it. I didn't get sick very often. No colds or flu."
She filled him in on the last few years of her life, leaving out anything that could identify anyone else. She'd already said too much admitting Matt Parkman had an ability. She could tell from his breathing that he wasn't totally with her so she had no idea how much he'd remember later.
The woman from the cabin brought them each a cup of coffee. Lee's went untouched, but Claire drank some of hers.
Eventually, help came. They loaded Lee onto a stretcher. Claire followed them back up the trail. Everyone seemed to be exercising caution in the event whoever had shot Lee was still out there. She saw uniformed officers scouting the area, so assumed they were investigating anyway. That was good to know.
She didn't know what the rules were here about hunting, but she didn't think it would be allowed so close to the trails that tourists walked on every day. So, she had to believe someone had done it deliberately.
She was quiet on the way to the hospital, letting the paramedics do their job. They rushed him into an operating room as soon as the ambulance pulled up to the emergency room bay. Claire was alone then. She had his cell phone, but wasn't sure who to call. He had the weekend off, there wasn't anything anyone could do from Phoenix anyway. It wasn't really her place to make a call like that anyway. She certainly didn't have anyone to call. So, she took a seat in the waiting room, finding the most current magazine available that interested her.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com