2010-12-24: Eye Of The Storm



Guest Starring:

Petunia and Alice, and also featuring Tobias and John

Date: December 24th, 2010


The dog's heroics aren't over yet, and neither is Maggie and Laurie's adventure. Solace is found in an unlikely place in the middle of the woods. It's quiet in the eye of the storm.

"Eye of the Storm"

Petunia's enthusiastic path doesn't stretch for long, all told; it's several minutes' jaunt, made longer by the fact that it isn't especially kind to their beaten, chilled bodies. She takes them through trees that look just the same as most of the other trees they've plowed through, over paw prints being filled in by snow that thins in the air, now, but doesn't let up. She takes them across a narrow creek, through more forest, and alongside a rugged rock face draped with icicles, where — somewhere in the distance — her fervent bark is answered by a deeper woof; there's life in this here forest. Finally, she takes them to her destination.

Maggie is looking in the southeasterly direction of the answering bark just then when Petunia rounds the corner of the rock face. It prompts her to haul the radio out, eager to try again. It's turned back on with, at first, a whine of static. Her attempt at communication is delayed, however, as she swings her attention to following the closer canine. "What do you have over there, puppy…?"

Waiting around the bend, Petunia is nosing importantly into a thick snarl of many bushes growing — once upon a time, now dead and encased in ice — under a dark rocky overhang. In front of them, a gentle snowy hill eases upwards. On top, the forest opens up to make way for something that looks very out of place in the middle of the wilderness: a building. The corner of a dark log cabin. Maggie takes to the new landscape strangely: she stops, giving her surroundings a slow, quizzical study that seems, gradually, to become shocked. Getting her bearings, she doesn't even take note of the fact that protruding from the bushes and shadow of the overhang, half-covered in snow, is a blue winter boot. It moves ever-so-slightly as Petunia fusses about.

"Hey, good girl…" it's the kind, but firm encouragement that means to maneuver Petunia a few steps backwards, giving Laurie room to settle into a crouch next to that waving flag of a boot. Limbs resist movement, but he forces himself determinedly down, elbowing brush aside for a better view of the strewn form, torn clothes: Alice. A hand falls onto that blue footwear, the other, as he reaches, aiming to sort for a pulse. Finding frozen fingers to the job, he aborts to shift his crouch, switching. "Alice," he murmurs, to those questionable signs of consciousness amid skin familiarly cold to the touch, "You've been here long enough."

An assessing glance up and down as he slides an arm beneath the woman's shoulders, then she's drawn toward him with as much gentleness as possible against storm and brush. Everything is slow, gradual — and twice as taxing, trying to keep a tight control over overused muscles. But Alice's treatment never falters, and she's pulled against Laurie where he leans shoulders over her. He doesn't keep out snow as well as rock, but he makes a strong effort, with one arm wrapped about her and the other unabashedly reaching amongst her clothing to undo the tangle that's become of her wintry scarf. It's shaken out to its full size, folded over with a flip of a wrist, and then reapplied over the woman's cold head. Her torn jacket is tugged up around her neck as much as it will go.

"Powers— " the call, bordering on hoarse, is tossed over his shoulder to the detective, "Try the radio," his head bobbed then to the building that's risen out of snow, "And the door." While twisted, he lets his arm continue the motion, shrugging right out of the sleeve of his jacket into the impossible weather. It's generally larger bulkiness, wrestled about the front of the girl clutched against him, does twice as good a job bundling up her neck and chest.

She's petite, but she's not fragile, and she's holding on. Nicks and scratches mar a face pale as death and with the accompanying blue tint. Soft murmuring escapes the young woman. At first it's just the nonsensical sounds of realizing the world around her. Her pitch increases; doe brown eyes as dark as her father's have fluttered open past icy lashes and spot Laurie. She's alarmed by the unfamiliar face … then drifts, barely hanging on to her consciousness.

Maggie, caught staring past the hint of the building with gradually narrowing eyes, as if envisioning something that stretches far beyond it — maps, roads — snaps out of it with a suddenness that has the very cold present reality flooding back in. She absolutely rushes to the side of Laurie and Alice, falling into a kneel that pays no mind to the complaints of her body. She needs no second reminder on what to do, but she can't help but take in the sight of the woman, laying a hand upon her jacket-bundled form, reaching up to touch her face, every movement quick, fretful, warm in intent if not temperature. Smiles and frowns work cold-reddened cheeks in turns. "Oh, honey," she says in soft-voiced relief and sympathy, "you're all right. You're gonna be all right."

Less soft-voiced — swallowing some of that emotion and setting her fussing over Alice briefly aside — Maggie focuses on Laurie. "I know it sounds like it's … out of left field, but I've been… here… before. The way I came then, it was from a different… direction, I didn't…" she trails off, unsettled, but the point is: "The door, it's around the other side. It should be open. It's abandoned. Here," she shuffles upon knees to get close to Alice's other side, and hurriedly gets an arm firmly under her back and shoulders. "We can get her in out of the weather." Multi-tasking as best she can, her free hand works the radio, practically yelling in her insistence: "Can anyone hear me out there?"

"Okay, ready? One, two— " The third moment is up, Alice huddled between them as Laurie orchestrates the smoothest rise out of three exhausted bodies. Once standing, he's forced to reevaluate the position, ordering, "Get her— lift her higher against me." Kevlar meets the swaddled form of Alice; sans jacket, Laurie's barred it to the wind with, underneath, the innocent white of his knitted sweater, previously spared most of the dirty abuse, but close to unraveling at one end. He isn't willing to jostle their new precious burden to get more comfort, but there is an immediate, instinctive shirking of his body when she's tucked too low near his abs, where the Kevlar would rub against any forming bruises.

However the arrangement, there's not time especially wasted for it. Nodding to Maggie's lead, he picks the path she pointed, towards the side of least obstacles around the cabin. Whistling once to Petunia, he expects her to follow without checking. Eyes ahead, it's all about the goal of putting one foot in front of the other towards the shelter. Just as steadily, dribbles of blood mark where's he walked like red candy droplets on the snow, as the blood pushes freshly to the surface of his leg, the exertion having jarred the forming clots. He remains irreverent to his own body's needs for that minute of walking, watching the goal, and conversing jovially — though sometimes through a tight jaw — to the bundle in his arms. "So, Alice Forrester, my name's Laurie, and I'm not exactly— a friend of your family, but I have spent a night at the ranch. I'm sorry for the forwardness of this meeting, but — you see — Petunia was quite insistent. She's a fabulous dog, which, you know, tells me that you're pretty special, yourself. Also, she has very healthy teeth."

Tromping around the side of the cabin stretches like warped time, a target that just gets farther away. But, eventually, the solid shadows of thick wooden planks overtakes the snow, and people, introducing the welcome construct of a door in the dark wall. An arm around the woman's shoulders, and an arm beneath her legs, it's possible he could wrangle a hand free enough to turn a handle, but he nods a grateful instruction to Maggie, instead.

A welcome construct to all but Maggie; she stares down the door like a challenge she doesn't particularly want to take on.

Having long since fallen out of upkeep, the log cabin looks run-down despite the sturdy construction, save for the sagging porch. It's dark beyond the thickly paned, dirty windows.

Resolute, she obliges. "Any port in a storm…" she murmurs under her breath like a mantra. It's an awkward finagling of weapon and radio under her one free arm to reach for the doorknob. It resists. It's not locked; it's only jammed by ice. Nothing goes quite easily on this woodland adventure. After a few tries without luck, Maggie braces, her grip around Alice becoming tighter, and resorts to giving the door a solid kick with one heavy boot until it jars. A wince is drawn for it and her boot comes back down upon the porch almost as hard as it hit the door. She opens it; it eases inward into darkness, and she guides the way into over the threshold.

Curling out from under the door onto the floor at their feet, as useless and brittle as shed snakeskin, is faded yellow crime scene tape.

Oblivious, Petunia bounds ahead around them, waiting inside the small musty space, waiting. Her owner is also oblivious — mostly; Alice's head sways from side to side when they stop and her eyes fight open to puzzle out Laurie. "You're … " she manages, "…not the police…"

Sturdy hand-hewn table and chairs covered in dust are the only furniture within. They might have been worth something if anyone cared. No one wants anything to do with this place, for a few bored visitors — probably hunters of a less intense stock than had been previously roaming these parts — who have left behind trash and beer cans. "Okay, let's set her down— " Maggie says once they're beside a — by now, probably less than safely functional — wood stove. She's noticeably trying not to look at anything but what's exactly in front of her. "Nice and easy…"

"Nice and easy," Laurie echoes, sounding, for a second, anything but. It passes; deep, straining, breath and then he's working his way downward, bringing Alice's cold body carefully with. "No," he's told her, a little, not quite apologetic, shake of his head following hers. "But I have a very shiny badge— and, they're right behind us." Staggering down inch by inch, he's basically seated once she's got legs on the floor, her arms wrapped and still biased towards his chest. A few tugs here and there make sure that his tan jacket is as snug about her as possible. Body heat is sparse between the three, but he stays nearby anyway, back tucked against the stove; maybe half as much because it's a good deal nicer to be sitting. A pat of the dusty, worn floorboards demonstrates to Petunia exactly where she should curl herself up, against her shivering owner.

Maggie sets the shotgun and as yet quiet radio on the stove on her own way down. The last bit of distance to the floor is something of a slide, landing stiffly upon her hip. Once down, she straightens to her knees and carefully extracts herself from the limp woman, reluctant in doing so, but for a purpose — she gently leans Alice against Laurie while she goes about unzipping her oversized brown coat. It's shed; so is the blue fleece pullover, aptly pulled over her head, leaving her briefly unprepared in the still, cold air of the cabin, left in the thinner layer of black fabric that makes up her blouse. Blood from beneath has seeped onto the back of her jeans.

The blue fleece covering, slightly warmer from being closer to her body, is transferred to Alice's, tucked under the protection of Laurie's coat. Beneath, zippers work to nestle the fleece yet closer to Alice's core. Once it's all set, she tucks everything in just as snug as before and runs a fond thumb over the woman's cheek between the network of scrapes and scratches. She looks childlike and asleep.

Sliding back into her outer jacket, Maggie moves in close, the young woman rather cuddled between her and Laurie, and Petunia cuddled up in their midst. They all need warmth and have so little. Neither Alice nor Laurie escape Maggie's concerned eye, though she looks a cause for concern herself, worn down and several shades of unsettled. Her gaze escapes off beside her where, off on the other side of the cabin, a large, dark stain has long since settled into the hardwood. A distinct metallic scent exists under the smells of musty wood and forest.

"You know, there are more dangerous criminals on my block in New York, than… in the entire state of Wyoming," she says quietly, as if self-conscious of that admitting so, when the fact is it ought to be a good thing. She looks down on a shift of her shoulders. "And I wind up in the middle of the worst."

Laurie's nearly a coat-rack, except that, beneath those well-meaning layers of fabric, lies a frozen and beaten woman — to whom he plays supports, quietly turning his head over Alice's forehead to watch the process of blue fleece transference. A critical examination of Maggie's condition without the overcoat is performed, but his mouth keeps thinly shut. Quiet continues a bit longer, his eyes almost lazy in their remaining on the detective; once his head is settled, he seems unlikely to move it. Except, after she speaks, he does, actually, turn forward, letting his head now fall against his stove rest. Some minor cabin decoration gets to catch and keep his eye. "Now, aren't you glad you didn't stay with the officers like you were supposed to."

Half a joke, he doesn't laugh afterwards, but fall into the old quiet. Arms wrapped protectively around a near stranger, he sits, and the sound of him trying to pace his conservative breaths competes only with the seemingly insignificant drop of blood onto the floor near his side — lending to scent a stain much newer than the floor's seen in a while. And not quite beside the spatter of torn fragment holes in the thick of his leg. Literally beaten and bleeding, the both of them — the all. Once in a while, Laurie's hand trails to Alice's neck and forehead, adjusting the scarf and keeping diligent track of her vitals where time flickers by.

After a couple of these seconds, he sidles an arm farther than its snuggly reach to a pocket that's tucked halfway around Alice — the pockets of his own coat. Fishing expedition, and then he's flopping a plastic bag across the mostly unconscious woman's other side to Maggie's lap. Flop, flop. It's trail-mix.

Maggie pauses in her similar attention to Alice; instead of checking the vitals and adjustments Laurie has covered, it's a warmth-inducing rub of her leg here, a less practical but just as comforting squeeze of her hand there. The smallest of smiles has frozen on her tired face despite a certain haunted distance in her eyes, banished, somewhat, by the appearance of a snack. "Stolen trail mix from a criminal." This skeptical observation doesn't appear to affect the buoyancy of her next sentiment at all. "Thanks. I feel like I'm starving." She gratefully opens it, pours some bits into her palm and holds the bag across to Laurie.

Stiffly, Maggie then leans back against an unfriendly edge of the big old stove; they are, in all likelihood, adding dust and soot to their resume of shabbiness. "You're bleeding," she points out, "some more." Casual comment, real concern; her gaze fixes straight upon Laurie, unshakable. "Where else."

Less hurtled about by storm could be considered more warm, and Laurie is content enough by this, settled in their soot and old house dirt, the black ash of it leaving vast impressions on the remarkably less white of his sweater. "You didn't get enough peanuts," he points out, though not moving to rectify the situation once the bag is reclaimed. Rather than pour, he picks; sticking fingers into the bag and tugging out whatever he can get a hold of. It's inelegant and, for this round of carelessness, not entirely accurate. If a few raisins scatter to the floor as overflow, then more to Petunia's benefit.

He's popping one of those fabled peanuts into his mouth when she observes; a skeptical, dismissing glance hops to his leg; he twists it under the scrutiny then, when that elicits an unmeant groan, lays it to rest where it was. "It'll clot again," he speaks, sincerely regarding — and then setting aside — the issue as moot, "How's your back?"

She regards him for a length of time that edges her concern into the category of suspicion, but eases beyond the matter and looks instead to the trail-mix eventually. A few unstoppable shivers transfer from Maggie, through Alice, to Laurie, a chilly vibration running between them — and to Petunia, by far the most carefree about the cold. She simply tracks falling snacks and every so often noses Alice. Maggie clamps her hand over the trail-mix to stop it from shaking, too, but still brings it up to thumb a few pieces of dried fruit into her mouth.

"Like I rolled down a hill into a hole in the ground and fell onto a sharp rock," she says, simply honest. "… Sore," she admits after a moment, a low, sighing quality to her voice as evidence of her fatigue. It sticks around. "But I think it's just a scrape." It's not like she can see it to tell. There's a pause, and a tired blink, and she seems to find herself unwilling to settle into silence; she announces, "I didn't get enough peanuts." Maggie twists with a regrettable wince to reach her other hand toward Laurie again, expectant. "Do you think… if we lit a fire in the stove this whole place would burn down?" she asks idly … mostly idly; instead of concern, it seems like an ounce of hopefulness in that tired voice of hers.

Similar notable weariness in him drains the conversation of tension, secrets — the day to day shields versus probing. Simple; like her answer, they just talk to each other. "Before… or after it explodes from probable gas leakage?" Far from shooting her down, Laurie is instantly regretful to be the bearer of concerns. This, or another thing, has him thinking, with the only signs manifesting as a mournfully dry lick of his lips before they press together, rubbing all the moisture right out again.

"Alright," he hefts out a sigh around Kevlar, a feat in its own right; alright, fine; but there's nothing but peanuts that he need be agreeing to — except for stove-assisted suicide. The question is answered as he lifts his arm away from vigilance at Alice's neck, beckoning across her to the detective. "Come over here a second." It's a weighty and surrendering command, as though he's propelled by some other source of nagging. Nudging Alice's body higher against his shoulder, he wiggles the the other one away, after amble tucking of coat to cover its departing warmth. When it's moved, hovering a few inches away from his side, he's nearly literally welcoming Maggie with open— arm. "I'll take a look at your back," he tells her — tells — not with any audible concern, but a certain idle to-do, "And then you can have more peanuts." Incase she's thinking of getting them the easy way, the source has been tucked on his opposite side, between the nested Alice and his hip.

After a few moments' consideration, Maggie heaves a sigh. It's not put upon by the command, only tired, and preparatory of the movement that follows. "Okay," she accepts easily enough; the only complaint is that of her body, a quiet unwitting moan elicited when it's made to move after sitting stiffly in place. She careens forward until she can shuffle upon snow-soaked knees in front of Laurie and the lethargic form of Alice. She turns around to face away from him to aid his task to be. Rather tall upon her knees, he'll have a clear line of sight — if dim, in the dark, dingy cabin of times past. Finding her gaze pointing toward various corners of the room, she bows her head and closes her eyes instead.

"I suppose I don't have to tell you that it's cold…" she says lightly — but with a note of seriousness; seriously, it's cold. The climate is not hospitable to her gathering up the length of her woodsy coat. That done, her gloved fingertips fumble for a moment against her hips to feel the hem of her shirt. Once seized, it's eased up until it's quickly blocked by the snug-fitting bulletproof vest; that's shoved up a very scant distance as well, all to reveal the small of her back.

The otherwise smooth window of fair skin visible is marred by patchwork blood and bruises; the affliction of everyone save Petunia. There is, indeed, a scrape along the right side of her low back, but the aggravated scratched skin is only the prelude to the source of the blood; blood which has mostly dried— or is too cold to move. An uneven cut, arcing up around her sacrum up along the strong channel of Maggie's tense spinal muscles, gouging out a thin half-moon that partly disappears upward under Kevlar. It isn't especially deep; only messy and sore upon sensitive muscles, and set within a bruise from impact.

With her own aid in lifting the shirt, Laurie's that free hand to retrieve and flick on the LED flashlight for a much more aiding purpose than the blinding it started out with. In the dusk of the cabin, it flawlessly illuminates tattered skin, drawing light-bright, but unfeeling paths along her skin, up and down that back where it meets Kevlar to where it dips to more personal curves at the rise of her jeans. "You've definitely got a cut there," he illustrates for her, "But it doesn't seem to be bleeding out too much anymore…" A thin breath, then, this time, when he opens his mouth it's to accept the the handle end of the flashlight. It bobs awkwardly and too heavily between teeth, but he juggles the task the seconds needed.

This right hand called to the task skimps on obeying once in a while, fumbling numbly with its own affliction, and beginning to prickle with the irritable sensation of foreign warmth. But a few tries and he's curled fingers under to push down the sleeve of his sweater in favor of the undershirt preserved below it. Unknitted, unaffected, and the closest garment to his body, it's as close to warm and clean as he can come when forcing the length around his palm to dab just carefully along the edges of Maggie's broken skin. Avoiding the build-up of blood that, if bothered, could burst into fresh loss, he concentrates on a few of the clumps of dirt, mess along her spine, ever sensitive to bruises. There isn't much to be done, so the process is quick; then it lingers. Drifting from clinical into aesthetic is somewhere between the sleeve falling away and just the side of his finger tracing a line along the outer curve of her back, free, for the most part, of the clutter of injuries chronicling the day — only pale skin, smoothed down by a calloused but achingly gentle thumb — so much it's nearly not there. A suggestion, only, of intimacy amongst medical.

This, too, is revealed to have a purpose. The trailing thumb does not just slide for the sensation, but is part of his hand swooping down and along her side to find the one of hers on the far right that keeps her shirt up. "We can't do a lot for it here; I trust the water as far as I trust the stove." Fingers against hers, he gives the go-ahead tug to let shirt settle to its place, helping after to nestle the Kevlar to sit properly so it doesn't ride up against her awkwardly.

Hand briefly vanishes to let his words become more pronounced when the flashlight is stored away again. "But this cold I've caused, I guess I should be the remedy, too." The hand does not shoo her; here it comes around her shoulder, waiting there until she's settled into her clothes, but there to wrap comfortably at her upper arm, encouraging her to take that empty space at his side.

Maggie is acquiescent of what's told to her about the injury at her back, and that there's not much to be done. After clothes settle atop goosebumps that had begun to multiply on clean skin and stained skin alike, as Laurie wraps an arm around her, she turns head over shoulder, eyes blinking open to once more meet dim cabin. The look she gives him is one of vague surprise; short-lived — it's with acceptance than she moves in, settling herself down beside him. She keeps her knees close to her, a bundle of cold denim, leather boots and crumpling brown jacket at his side. A shoulder nestling to fit into place against him, there she curls up, settling, but not yet leaning. Bodies diffusing only the vaguest traces of heat, the most warmth is found in what press of person to person there is, reminding sluggish muscles that their blood should flow.

After a few moments to settle into the crowded together huddle, self-preserving shivers give her cause to tremble. Alice is subject to similar tremors even in through she seems unaware, only moving her head of matted brown hair against Laurie. Waiting out a careful watch of the young woman, to see whether or not she'll stir — she doesn't — Maggie's appropriately icy colored eyes look up toward Laurie. "Was that," she says around a sniffle, "the famed flashlight?" She hasn't given that up.

It's difficult to discern if Laurie's part of the shivering, or merely subject to the woman on either side of him sending those shakes through from body to body. While Maggie's getting comfortable, he spares a last, stressful twist to sort out the radio where it's been left, bringing it down amongst them for easiest retrieval should its currently quiet airwaves decide to pick up. Then that arm resettles around Alice's coat-heaped shoulders, busied with rubbing her arm up and down, inspiring both comfort and circulation in the vast cold. Maggie nestled, his right arm does similar, staying perched along her shoulder until she's against him, then dropping behind her some. Gathering up loose bulk of her jacket, he brings it around towards her front along with his own hand; the byproduct is him seeming to turn her in, nudge to a more curled state. But not press; as soon as the hand's settled against her arm, it stays.

A bit of a grunt and straining while they moved, he tries to relax into the new settings, back not quite right against the jutting parts of the stove, but unwilling to jostle either female — any female, with Petunia tucked amongst the feet, doing spare help for frozen toes. "The very same flashlight," he mutters, his hand journeying as if to go up her arm stops, "featured in the fable of how Wes Langston was blinded." If his voice is somewhat distant, perhaps it's preoccupation with that hand. It's moving again, retreating — stuck against Maggie's back — then folding in. He can't reach across her, really, so, clutching jacket, it relinquishes attempts to fall where it started.

A bit of a sorting pause. "Don't— " Pause. Backtrack. The negativity filtered out, he's borderline sheepish — sans actual embarrassment, it's merely a very straight-forward acknowledgment of what he's saying. "This isn't going to sound right, but— there are… peanuts in my pocket… and Iiii… — can't seem to reach them. Myself. Anymore."

Oh right. Those. Maggie, having been watching Laurie throughout his bout of failed movements, on the verge of asking what he's doing, now gives him a bit of a raised brow. She seems too distracted by her serious chill to give him the properly quizzical look he deserves, and momentarily seems to pass by this small dilemma … but she tips her head away to listlessly consider, weighing options. Moving versus just reaching.

Without reply, she goes about it. Her closest hand bracing just behind them, the other banishes trail-mix she still has — into her mouth — before her arm unfurls to reach neatly across Laurie. Her body twisting against his upper torso in the movement, a firm press of unyielding vest material instead of what might otherwise be softer curves — to safely arc her reach toward his far pocket for a quick, shallow expedition, throughout which she gives something of a wince. The bag is claimed into her possession between two fingers after a few tries — slightly inept as a pickpocket; blame the cold fingers — and Maggie settles back, a snugger presence than before. The bag rustles shakily open; pausing her grasp inside, she faintly arches an eyebrow at Laurie. "Do you want one."

That eyebrow — and the eyes with it — will immediately pick up why he'd been so quiet during her fishing: strain. Below vests that wouldn't relay that information, he's gone tensed, gritted teeth and starkly outlined grimacing detailing it better. It's fading as she looks. Either that, or shoved forcefully behind a blown out sigh that flattens into a low hiss until it's gone, settled. "Hrrrm, sorry," he relates, tucking a shoulder in some minor adjustments to try and find some measure of comfort where his body is quickly stiffening into tired immobility. "I think there's a real sore spot right there." A somewhat backwards apology, when he's the one just done wincing, possibly aimed at the bit of jogging her that happens when he deflates out of tenseness.

As if to make up, his wrapping arm locks her securely into that cuddlier position, reaffirming its legitimacy. His deep breath with the study of the trail-mix bag has somewhat of a harder edge still, but his effort to reply casually is clear — which, in itself, is another sign that the strain is not entirely passed. "You know…" he ventures, puzzling with a dropped eyebrow that begs to be scratched curiously. But won't. For the same reason as: "That's probably also beyond my reach."

"Sorry," Maggie expresses, not for the very true fact that he cannot reach the snack, but for the also legitimate fact that her move caused him strain. A strain which does not pass under her scrutiny now; eyes shining brighter and clearer in the closer proximity don't let the lingering signs of Laurie's tension escape her. This very serious look of concern pauses a brief moment; her sifting through the trail-mix resumes; concerned eyes once more raise, her head turned up toward him from her snug spot.

"So." Casual; so what. At the behest of a gloved hand of questionable cleanliness, Maggie tosses a peanut at Laurie's face — so what if he can't reach. A hint of a smile runs across chapped lips, there and gone; she seamlessly switches tracks, clear care for his well-being oddly balanced by this sillier venture of throwing things at him. Both keep her occupied, purposefully not looking around the shady cabin. "Are you sure you're all right… where does— " Her half-frozen aim is less than spectacular. That doesn't matter, because she tries again with another. " — it hurt— the most?" Another toss; she is really bad at this in her shivery, worn-down state, and it is probably a good thing she is no longer in charge of a shotgun. "Is it here, at your side?"

"Sorry— ?" Who's apologizing to who now; he's lost track, or else he's knocked off it by the tiny salty projectile hitting him on the mud-encrusted cheek. Several failed syllables are just a general complaint noise as the snack tumbles away to his shoulder and then, when he tries to squish his chin down to see where it went, skips off to the floor. Five second rule — except he still can't reach. It's eyed forlornly for all the time it takes another shot to bounce near his nose. "Wha— " when the third makes a jumping leap for his eye, he flinches backwards, and then squints most determinedly at her. This arm around her takes action, patting her lower arm firmly down to discourage further flights of trail-mix. "Okay! Okay, okay— okay, I think I've been properly — assalted."

Pause. Then a snort, rude and loud when he con't contain it; his chest underneath her jolts with held-back humor. It's considered a social disgrace to laugh at your own jokes — here, it's also just a bad idea. The second Laurie shudders with a taste of his chuckles, the laughs come out as soft ow ow ows and, hissing like an angry tea-kettle, he commandeers himself into quiet. His back, so tense, has to be man-handled into resting, which has him squirming some in the last vanishing bits of amusement. "Yeah… yeah. It's the side. That is one hell of a bruise."

Petunia comes to life to find every last peanut. Meanwhile, what distant hint of a grin lingers on Maggie's face now fades, and she stops rolling her eyes at Laurie's joke; the rain of peanuts also comes to an end. Her hand, paused mid-air after the last botched flight of trail-mix, comes down to hover above, then splay upon, his chest. Comfort— or an indication: "You shouldn't put too much pressure on it. Maybe you should take the vest off."

On the note of pressure, Maggie's eases back ever-so-slightly; an effort against the floor that disappears the bag of snacks and moves her away to make a slight space between them, though not enough to jar Laurie's secure arm around her. A pointed glance travels down between them, to his side. "Okay," she says softly in preparation for a directive just as soft, but insistent. "Okay, your turn. Let me take a look."

A bit of muffled hemming and hawing, but it's all tune to Laurie weaseling his left arm from the mass that is Alice. "This isn't a very effective part of the warming regime…" Freed, he indulges the routine of brushing her hair to spy upon her resting face, press fingers to her neck, and then make sure she's set to not slipping off his non-Maggie occupied shoulder. It takes a slight awkward angling to get his hand at the front side of the Kevlar, where the vest is secured in by a strip of industrial velcro. His breath all gets caught in his chest while he pulls, failing initially and giving his shoulder a bit more room around Alice's; a second tug, and the fabric noisily peels away, stripping back that layer of vest so that the whole thing can be tucked open to either side.

That's as far as he goes, taking a breather that replaces his slung arm partially where it was. "It's just going to look— all purple and blotchy… wildly unattractive…" His dismissive words herald the unveiling— one that will prove slightly more laborious than expected. Blood, a mass of sticky, sweater-staining, red has plastered one garment to the other, and the last below those to penetrated skin at the border of ribs and where the vest stopped. "Oh…" Laurie, having been only half paying attention, is focused down now, a bland but absorbent stare the spectacle of his own self. "That's— not a bruise…"

"No," Maggie has to agree, "it's not." She spends a moment just looking at the blossom of red upon white, her lips pressed firmly together in sober consideration of it, and takes another to linger on the vest — fragments, caught, in its material. "Okay," she says once more, quieter; the tone of preparation is identical to that which came before. "Okay, I think you were hit."

Both hands curl under the bottom of Laurie's sweater and the shirt beneath to slowly peel back the layers. Careful fingertips nudge here and there in the effort to keep the roll of fabric tucked up as the affliction beneath is revealed. She's especially chary of the blood clinging to injury; as she should be, because it does indeed stick. Slower yet, and especially gentle, she forges on until she can get a glimpse. She studies it. "Do have the flash— wait, wait, haaang on— " Immediately, she presses her hands to it— and he'll have to deal with it, as it's those very hands which put a stop to the newest rush of blood from draining out.

"Well," Maggie begins to wearily deduce, replacing the fabric over the bruised gunshot wound. Never mind the flashlight. "…I think you've fared a little worse than me… I can honestly say I've treated a gunshot wound in… debatably, worse conditions, but I think it can wait this time. As far as I can tell," her sober concern lightens a bit, "you'll live." It's far from out of sight, however, what with the bloodstain, nor is it out of mind.

Maggie pushes back into her former, closer, arguably warmer spot; there, she takes the place of the vest keeping the wound from bleeding. Hers is a gentler and less constrictive pressure. A hand holds to Laurie's wound in question, but it is mostly her own side against his as she curls there. Her far hand leaves a bloody trail on parts of the sweater that are — or were — still white as it moves toward his other occupied side in a hold, securing her to her position, to him, and there she settles.

His attentions to the prodding were only moderate until cold hands press to his stomach; a soft gasp catches in his throat; the stomach seizes up, sending more blood pumping beneath Maggie's fingertips, also to his heart, grasping it in a slight shock. It's laboriously calmed as sweater lays over the wound, the spot combination chilly by the exposure to air and morbidly warm by the blood leaking out. Nearly frozen before, sensation has begun to trickle back in with the tiny shelter of the cabin: a mixed blessing it bears. But his response to her evaluation is a bobbing nod, and the grimmer side of a cheeky look, adding to the little facial twitches that have been plaguing him since examination began. "Well— that settles it." His head's already falling to place against the stove, eyes roving to the ceiling with no purpose.

Then the unique pressure of not a replaced vest; eyes travel downward without his head dropping, giving him a clearly quizzical look for watching the detective become — questionably — comfortable as human padding. Well… that settles her. Floundering only momentarily, he slips his arm where it'd been; only now, Maggie's curled form has him crossing atop her arm and into her contained and matted hair. Brushing this ponytail aside, his fingers cup right around her shoulder, with his elbow pressed protectively against her back — the vest that she's managed to keep on. He truly holds her there, tucked in against his side where he wishes her all the warmth — warmth of the blood her snuggled weight aids to keep in. His other side props the starved huddle of the traumatized Alice, sharing space with her loyal protector, Petunia.

It's all of these things that Laurie feels, taking constant stock of each breath and pulse in their tight semi-circle of crowded bodies. But it's to the radio propped on the floor next to his knee that his gaze pins, watching its vague rounded shape against the darkness of the cabin's growing shadows, sensitive to every lacking spark of life in its indented speaker.

So, they sit. And, they wait.

Waiting, without confirmation that anyone's on their way, save for the distant bark of another dog and faith in a flare.

Maggie has settled into a faintly pained expression. It's a poor defense against the cold that plagues all but the hint of warmth between them. It is, perhaps, not only the cold or worn out body that pinches her brow, but the fact that the — questionably — comfortable silence has set her eyes to wandering the shadows. Eventually, she focuses solely on Alice — the missing woman who's no longer missing. Now she's a survivor.

They say a watched pot never boils, but Laurie's gaze upon the radio proves that a watched radio does transmit. It comes to life both suddenly and sharply, a strange, strident noise in the midst of a quiet where even the wind has forgotten to beat against the sides of the cabin.

"Detec— Miss— Deput— Powers!" It's an overly cheerful voice ringing out: Tobias. "I think we're comin' into better range. Hello?"

Jarred, Maggie is quick undrape her arm from Laurie and grabs up the radio there on the floor — careful, always, of the injury she rests against. "Tobias! I'm glad to hear you're alive."

"And so are you! You both are — you are, right? I got knocked out! What kind of killer just knocks a guy out— was that your flare? We're on our way."

In the middle of the officer's updates, Maggie turns a heartened, optimistic smile at Laurie. "Yes," she answers Tobias as a catch-all.

He goes on: "The team got to the cave — turns out there was no one there, just a sleeping bag and a heater and some other stuff, but the dogs came in and picked up a trail…"

Another voice cuts in, deeper by far. "Powers. Where are you?"

"Forrester. I thought I heard you earlier— "

"I got halfway to the other location and I realized that couldn't be it. I turned around."

Maggie rushes past this information, clutching the radio incredibly tight and bringing it up close. "We found her, we found Alice. She's okay." Relatively speaking, that is — but nothing stops the relieved enthusiasm spilling, emotionally, into her voice. "She's all right." More firmly, "Get on one of those GPS devices. Tell the searchers where the cabin is— " Her voice falters and dips lower. "You remember where it is— Walsh's. That's where we are."

The response from Forrester is indiscernible, static-filled breath, relieved mumbling, and possibly thanks to God. It's Tobias who pipes up. The room is suddenly full of chatter. "Alright, hang tight. What… happened out there… you two disappeared. I swear if someone says aliens— "

"We…" Maggie pauses a good long moment in an attempt to sort out just how to answer. "… will explain later. Be on the lookout for Langston and Curtis on your way. They should still be on the ground."

"Hang on, hang on, on the … come again?"

Tobias — and everyone else listening to the conversation — is left wondering. A murmur from Alice takes Maggie's attention wholly away. The younger woman struggles to lift her head from the resting spot Laurie has made for it; she only winds up nestling into his shoulder with a troubled, pained little groan. On opening, her dark eyes don't quite focus, but they point toward Maggie, as if actually realizing her presence for the first time. "Mmh…" The troubled lines of her face are her fight to speak coherently through exhaustion, pain, cold, and quite possibly, lasting effects of drugs. She moves beneath her layers and a hand knocks about, searching, reaching out. "Mm… Maggie?"

"Hey, yeah." Thus named, Maggie soothes instantly, smiling, abandoning the radio to the floor to seek out Alice's hand and clamp hers around it tightly, intertwining bloodied fingers. Their arms bridge across Laurie. "You're not seeing things."

"Where's my dad," she asks. For the moment, she's a little girl wanting her father. Bloodshot eyes roll up to the man she leans against, fighting to focus there, too. "W-where am I…"

"He's coming, sweetheart, he's on his way." Maggie's soft consoling voice has a motherly quality to it; absolutely sincere, her hand grips Alice's tighter. "He's been looking for you. You're here with me and…" Her eyes roll up to Laurie's face, too, finding her words faltering in a moment of unexpected hesitation. A few sudden, quick blinks flutter her back down; not wanting to confuse the out-of-sorts woman, she finishes confidently for Alice: "You're here with me and Laurie."

"Hi." Thus named, Laurie confirms his status with a small nod down to Alice. Under her newly conscious struggles, he's contained the winces they've caused, choosing to keep his face as smooth and friendly as possible to her disturbed mind. This is hindered slightly by the way his eyebrows seem permanently lifted, a bit of shell-shock on his face where he goes to eye Maggie in all this. Staring, bewildered… once the ladies have found each other, the consultant dips his hand to take up the duty of the radio, but his stare lingers on the detective, his hand hovering above her head with the instrument, that elbow resting along her back as it still tips against him. He starts and stops his sentiment, mouth closing around a hmmm of how to phrase this. What's the… "… You know it's Laurie and I— right?"

Quizzically as he stares her down, the radio springs to life, interrupting this surprised berate. "You can't leave us hanging like that! Where are the little bastards? Are they dead?" from Tobias swings Laurie's head that way.

"No — probably — but they're getting a bit of exposure, so you might want to hop-to. You'll find Curtis at the flare," he scrunches an eyebrow to concentrate, "and Langston in a grove of dead trees juuuust… southwest from there, over the hill. They're unarmed, and unconscious. Enjoy."

Maggie diverts her doting attention from Alice long enough to send a look up at Laurie while he speaks on the radio; flatly, though not quite seriously, berating him for berating her grammar of all things. It's paired with a small, softer smile, which then turns down to Alice.

"Uhhh… copy." Tobias responds, meanwhile.

"I didn't kn… o-ow…" the young woman says hoarsely, "… if I'd ever make it out. I just kept running, and hiding, and they'd chase me, and find me and shoot— at me and drag me b-back in…"

"Shh, I know. But you're tough, like your father, and you're safe now."

A shiver racks Alice's body, turning into a sob; she chokes on it for a few moments, but doesn't cry. She only closes her eyes, nods her against Laurie, and falls into shivery, relieved silence.

So does Maggie; after a lengthy sigh, all the tension, at least that which is unrelated to anything strictly physical, seems to dissipate. Gentle resettling against Laurie is more relaxed. Her hand, shared with Alice's, rests on Laurie, and she hangs on tightly with a comfort that suggests, were she on the other side, she's be holding the woman herself just as much.

"Something terrible happened here once," she says; quiet, this lackluster revelation is meant for the ear closest to her. She doesn't look to note whether or not that ear is receptive; she just talks honestly, tiredly, and with a certain rare melancholy. "I made … a mistake and it was too late. A woman died out here." She slowly runs a thumb over the hand of the woman who is with them now as she looks into the cabin's corners, its history, until her gaze drifts out the dim, dirty window, where snow can just be seen falling beyond. "But not today."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License