Author’s note: Thanks to all who have been submitting reviews. It does actually help to know that your story is being enjoyed by others. LOL Wouldn’t be worth putting them up for public viewing otherwise, would it?

It is also the reason that updates have been happening fairly regularly. If things start to slow down a little from this point on, though, please be patient. It is only because I do not want to rush through this story and spoil it simply for the sake of finishing it as quickly as possible.

“I wish we knew where we were,” Alex muttered breathlessly as they struggled up a gradual uphill slope. “It’d make this just that much easier.”

“Just keep going straight,” Bobby told her, sounding equally breathless. “We need to keep heading upwards… Get to a higher point… where we can be seen.”

“And hope Mathers doesn’t see us, too,” she added, hating herself for it but knowing it had to be said.

“Gotta take that chance,” Bobby said. “Don’t… Don’t know if that chopper is… is for us… or not… If it isn’t… this might be our… our only chance.”

She didn’t like the way his breath was coming in laboured gasps and, purely out of concern, stopped and looked back at him. It proved to be a deadly mistake. Bobby, focused intently on the ground in front of him as he shuffled forward, didn’t realise she’d stopped. He walked straight into her, causing them both to lose their already precarious sense of balance and sending them both over in a painful tangle of arms and legs.

They skidded back down the slope together, sliding helplessly on the loose dirt and gravel, and were brought to a painful halt at the bottom by the thick trunk of a tall tree.

Alex was unable to stifle a howl of pain as she felt another bone in her already badly broken left arm snap. Her cry mixed with Bobby’s as he, too, cried out in agony.

Neither one of them moved for a good three or four minutes, both slowly recovering from the shock and pain of the fall and the subsequent jarring stop. Then, slowly, Bobby shifted a little.

“Alex…? You okay…?”

His voice came out as little more than a strained whisper, followed by a pained cough.

“My arm…” she said, her voice muffled from where her face had somehow ended up mashed against the trunk of the tree.

“Hang on…” he mumbled, and proceeded to try and disentangle himself from her. It took nearly five minutes of careful, exhaustive manoeuvring, but he eventually succeeded, finally collapsing flat on his back on the ground next to her. His white face was layered with sweat from his efforts, and his breath came in wheezing puffs. Alex slowly pushed herself away from the tree, and crawled over to him, slumping to the ground beside him.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, tears filling her eyes.

“Not your fault,” he mumbled. “Just… Just an accident…”

Her sense of guilt would not be so easily assuaged, though.

“We hardly need accidents on top of everything else,” she said miserably. “I shouldn’t have stopped. I just didn’t realise you were so close behind me.”

Bobby stared up towards the sky, past the treetops.

“It’s gone. I can’t hear it anymore.”

She knew he meant the chopper, and felt her stomach turn. He was right. The sound of the chopper had vanished. Before she knew it, she’d burst into a fresh flood of tears as her hopes faded once more.

Bobby pushed himself up slowly, cringing at the renewed pain in his leg. In all honesty, he felt like crying too, but it was with considerable effort that he held back his own tears. Taking extreme care, he gently helped her to sit up, and then slipped his arms around her in a warm hug.

“Let it out,” he murmured, shutting his eyes as he took what comfort he could from holding her to him. She sobbed into his shoulder, overcome by the pain, the stress and the despair.

“We’re going to die, aren’t we?” she choked out, her voice muffled by his broad shoulder.

He didn’t answer that. As desperately as he wanted to tell her no, he couldn’t. There was no way he could guarantee that they wouldn’t die, so he had no intention of raising false hopes, in either her or himself. Instead, he tried a different tact.

“I’m going to ask you something that you asked me yesterday,” he murmured. “Tell me honestly, Alex… Are you ready to quit?”

Slowly but surely, she grew quiet in his arms. For nearly five minutes they sat holding each other in silence. Then, finally, she drew slowly back from him.

“No. I’m not. I’m sorry, Bobby…”

“Quit apologising,” he ordered her. “You don’t have anything to be sorry for. Neither do I. So let’s both just stop saying sorry. Okay?”

She nodded wordlessly, and he smiled his approval.

“Good. Now, can you get up?”

“Yeah,” she muttered. “I think so. What about you?”

In answer, he reached for his makeshift crutch, and slowly dragged himself to his feet, shuddering in pain as he was forced to lean nearly all his weight on the stick. Alex winced as she noticed the splint he’d fashioned for himself had cracked. He saw the look on her face, and offered her a crooked smile as he shed the damaged piece of wood.

“It’s okay. It’s just the wood. There’s no worse damage done than that.” He paused, eyeing her face with concern. “Can’t say the same for you, though.”

Alex rubbed one hand lightly over her face, and it came away smeared with blood.

“Crap,” she muttered. “I hate the sight of blood.”

Bobby grinned, then laughed.

“C’mon. Let’s try and find some water, see if we can’t clean ourselves up a little. And I could really use a drink.”

“Me too,” Alex agreed wearily as she followed him back in the direction of the river. “But I guess water will do just as well.”

“Tell me something,” Alex said a short while later as they sat on the riverbank, concealed in the shadows of a couple of enormous Oaks. “Are you as hungry as I am?”

Bobby grimaced. He had been trying damned hard, albeit with little success, to keep his mind off that particular subject.

“Yeah,” he admitted. “I am. It must be at least four days since we last ate anything.”

Alex stared miserably into the water.

“We stopped for breakfast on our way out to Ray Mathers’ warehouse. I tell you, Bobby, if I’d known it was going to be our proverbial last meal, I would’ve said to hell with it, and just had the damn pancakes.”

Bobby smiled faintly. He appreciated her humour, but wished the subject was anything but food.

“When we get home, Alex, I’ll treat you to all the pancakes you want.”

“Mm. With syrup, and ice cream, and strawberries…” She groaned aloud. “Oh man, I’ve gotta stop thinking about food. Right now, I’d even go for raw fish, if I thought I could catch one.”

“And you swore you’d never eat sushi or sashimi,” Bobby teased. She grinned and shrugged.

“What can I say? Desperate times…”

Bobby scooped up a few more mouthfuls of water, then settled back on the grassy bank. His head was starting to spin unpleasantly and his skin felt hot and clammy, though he dared not say so to Alex.

“It’s your turn, you know.”

She looked at him, confused.

“What do you mean?”

“Our game. Your turn to ask a question. And if you ask about anything to do with food, I’ll throttle you.”

Alex laughed.

“Okay. Um… Oh, I know. Who’s my favourite actor?”

Bobby looked at her with a slightly narrowed gaze. To Alex it appeared a quizzical look, but the truth was that his vision was starting to blur just a little.

“Didn’t know you had one.”

Alex was positively crowing at that.

“Score one to me! That’s something you don’t know about me. I get to ask another question, now.”

Bobby chuckled. “Fine. Are you going to tell me, though, or just let me sweat it out?”

“Oh, I thought I’d just let you sweat it out.”


“Okay,” she laughed. “It’s George Clooney.”

“Since when?”

“Since I saw him in Ocean’s 11.”

“Hmm. Thought you would have been more of a Brad Pitt kind of girl.”

Alex snorted derisively.

“Please. At least George Clooney can act. How much skill can it take to put on a skirt and go running around with a sword, killing people?”

Bobby drew in a slow breath. He was starting to find it hard to focus on what Alex was saying, his head was spinning badly now and he felt hot, so damned hot… He swallowed hard, forcing himself to concentrate and give a coherent answer.

“I take it you’re referring to ‘Troy’?”

“What else?”

“May I remind you that your preferred choice scored one of his probably astronomical pay checks by dressing up as a bat?”

Alex rolled her eyes. “I’m not even going to try justifying that one. Now shut up. I get to ask something else.”

“Ask away.”

“Let me think… Okay. Where was I assigned before I joined Vice?”

Silence met her question. Alex waited a couple of minutes, and was about to throw a teasing comment at him when he finally spoke, his voice no more than a disjointed mumble.

“Clean up… Gotta get cleaned up… before Dad comes home…”

Alex looked at him, confused.

“What are you talking…” She trailed off, gasping a little in fright as she got a good look at her partner. He lay on the grass, his face and upper body layered in sweat, and his eyes were bright with fever. Right at that moment, he didn’t even seem to be aware of her presence, but rather caught up in some mild delirium. Instinctively, she reached out to gently touch his face.

“You’re burning up,” she whispered in dismay. “Bobby, look at me. Look at me.”

Slowly, with obvious difficulty, he looked, and his gaze focused on her.

“Listen to me,” she said in as steady a voice as she could manage. “Bobby, you’re sick. You have a fever. I don’t know what to do. You have to tell me what to do.”

Slowly, unsteadily, he grasped her hand.

“Nothing you can do,” he whispered, clearly fighting to stay lucid. “I’ll be… okay…”

“Bullshit,” she growled. He shuddered a little.

“It’s the… the poison.”

Alex felt an icy chill rush through her.

“Poison? What poison?”

“The spikes,” he mumbled. “I think it’s the spikes.”

“Oh god… Bobby, they have to come out!”

He shut his eyes tightly, struggling to regain some clarity in his thoughts. When he opened his eyes again, they were noticeably clearer. With considerable effort, he pushed himself up into a sitting position and spoke with deliberate slowness.

“You’d have to cut my shoulder right open. We don’t have means to do that. I think it’ll be okay… It’s probably the same poison that was in… in the bodies of the other victims. Not enough to… to kill them. Just…. slow them down.”

“Great,” Alex muttered. “Like we’re not far enough up shit creek as it is.”

Bobby drew in a long, controlled breath, and even as Alex watched, some clarity returned to his eyes.

“You have some incredible willpower, you know that?” she told him softly. He smiled weakly.

“Mind over matter. But just ignore me if I start rambling.”

“Are you kidding? I’ll be saving it up for blackmail later on.”

He started to laugh softly, only to have it turn into a violent shudder.

“Hang on,” Alex murmured. Before Bobby could even begin to protest, she tore away her remaining pants leg, leaving her wearing only a ragged pair of shorts, like him. She then tore the material in half, and then half again, took one quarter and soaked it in the water. She then pressed the damp material to his hot face in an effort to cool him down.

“Thanks,” he mumbled. Alex looked around anxiously as she desperately tried to help her fever-stricken partner. It would be typical, and cruelly ironic, if Mathers were to suddenly turn up now. What was cruellest of all, though, was the realisation that the helicopter they had heard earlier had most likely been a chance occurrence. There was no one looking for them… At least, not here, not in these mountains. And, even if there were, their chances of reaching higher ground now, where they might be able to signal for help, had gone from slim to remote.

Bobby pushed her hand away gently.

“I think I’ll be okay,” he mumbled. “We’d better get moving again.”

She looked at him worriedly. As much as she knew he was right, she was seriously starting to doubt his ability to make it any significant distance. He would not be dissuaded, though, and despite her misgivings she made no protest as he once more got painfully to his feet. She followed suit, wondering dimly when… or if… this nightmare would ever end.

He favoured her then with a gentle smile that belied the obvious pain he was in.


She wanted to scream at him, say that she wasn’t ready. Instead, she nodded numbly.

“Which way?” she asked, deciding to leave that decision entirely to him. He indicated the direction they’d been heading in before they’d fallen.

“That way.”

Mike Logan stood silently, looking at the scene before him critically. It was shortly past noon when they had stumbled onto this little clearing near the river and, so far, was the surest sign that both Goren and Eames were still alive. Now, Mack Taylor, Horatio Caine and Calleigh Duquesne were scouring the area for any useful evidence.

Logan frowned to himself. Screw the evidence. The blood and the torn clothing they’d already found was enough evidence for him. As far as he was concerned, they should be setting the dogs loose to find Goren and Eames, hopefully before that fucked up little psycho Erik Mathers.

“Hey, Logan, check this out.”

He walked around the perimeter of the site to where Bishop was standing.

“What is it?”

“Look at that. What do you make of that?”

He looked down at where she was pointing to, and finally saw what had drawn her attention. There were tracks in the dirt, tracks very obviously made by bare feet, but also heavy imprints of what Logan figured could be some sort of stick. The prints were pretty well mixed up, making them almost impossible to discern accurately, but Logan was fairly sure what it meant regardless.

“Did you two find something?”

They looked to find Deakins had joined them. He looked exhausted, Logan thought, though he dared not voice that opinion.

“These prints,” Logan said. “Bishop found them. It looks like either Goren or Eames were leaning on a stick, or something. Maybe one of them was hit in the leg by one of those arrows.”

“And maybe one of them broke a leg in that fall they took,” Deakins said grimly.

“Whatever happened, we know which way they went,” Bishop said impatiently. “We should just get moving. Why bother with all of this, anyway?”

“I’ll tell you why,” Mack said grimly as he joined them. “We aren’t the first ones to have found this site today, and I’m not talking about Goren and Eames. Someone else was here, not too long ago.”

“Mathers,” Deakins muttered, and Mack nodded.

“More than likely. So before you go charging off into the trees, you might want to consider just who we’re likely to run into first.”

“If we run into Mathers, then so be it,” Deakins said grimly. “This has gone on long enough. If he gets to Goren and Eames before we do…”

He trailed off, unable to bring himself to state the obvious. Horatio joined them, and spoke in his perennially quiet, but authoritative voice.

“We need to find this guy, Mack. We need to find him, and take him out, if necessary. Those detectives somehow managed to survive one night out here, but I don’t like their chances of surviving another one. We have to find them today.”

Mack looked around at the group, wondering just how the responsibility for making a decision like this had been passed to him. He reached subconsciously for his gun, and was reassured by the feel of it pressing in under his shoulder. The thing was, he knew in his gut that Horatio was right. Goren and Eames were probably already suffering from exposure and possible hypothermia, alongside whatever other injuries they had. Mack grimaced. After falling from such a height the night before, it was a miracle they were even still alive, but if they hadn’t suffered any broken bones from it, then Mack would eat his beanie.

So on one hand they had two people, both hurt and probably getting sicker as the hours passed. On the other hand, they had a psychotic killer intent on hunting those two people down to kill them.

Calleigh joined the group. "I just tested the blood on those two arrows. One lot is female, the other is male. They were each hit by an arrow."

Mack almost cringed under the force of the looks from the others. Those looks all said exactly the same thing: it was time for the gloves to come off, and to go on the attack.

“Okay,” he agreed finally. “Let’s find the son of a bitch and take him out.”

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