My teeth chattered as I pushed myself to go further faster. I was close to Sara's now and all I could think of was getting inside, getting warm, and oh, a really hot shower. My pace increased until I was nearly running; well, jogging with a lot of sliding, really. Her alley appeared around the next bend and I pushed my tired legs to keep going until I reached her door. I paused for a moment and made sure no one was nearby, but the area remained empty of life.
My fingers trembled as I worked the zipper for the pocket with the key. I wrapped the chain around my wrist to make sure I didn't drop it and be forced to dig through the icy slush for it. I unlocked it and stepped inside with a sigh. The TV droned with a newscast and the blanketed lump on the sofa pushed up at the sound of my steps.
"Hey, Sara. Uh, that offer still open?" I asked and my voice quivered as my body decided to shiver from head to toe.
She scrambled up and helped me out of my heavy, wet clothes. Her hands brushed against my own as I handed her my hoodie.
"Snow to slush to ice; it's fucking miserable out there."
"Go get in the shower. I'll take care of this."
My smile was tired. "Thanks."
I couldn't stop the tremble that wracked my body as it tried desperately to warm itself as I stumbled towards the bathroom. My hand knocked the control knob as far as it would go towards hot. As soon as the water started to warm up, I stepped into the spray. Standing under the hot water, I decided that this was probably my most favorite thing in the world right now. Of course, I might have been a little biased. I just hoped Sara didn't need to take a shower anytime soon since I had no plans to leave until it turned too cold to bear anymore.
All too soon, it seemed that point where the water no longer felt hot enough arrived. I shut it off and reluctantly climbed out. Now that I was warmer, exhaustion hit me and I wanted nothing more than to be able to sleep for more than a few hours. My used towel was left draped over the laundry basket as I left the bathroom.
Sara jumped up at the sound of me opening the bathroom door, but seemed unsure of what to do next as she shifted from foot to foot. "Better?"
"Much. Do you mind if I crash on the sofa for a few hours?"
"No- I mean, oh, just use my bed."
My laugh was soft and before I could protest, Sara was behind me, pushing me towards where her bedroom was.
"The sofa is fine, really."
"I've got an electric blanket on my bed and thank god you aren't a real turtle."
"Uh, what?" When I looked in the mirror, I thought I looked like a giant talking turtle, granted I really didn't have anything else to compare myself to, but I definitely wasn't human.
"Ugh, I apparently can't form a coherent sentence. If you were a true reptile, as in just a turtle, you would've died out there. They can't handle sudden exposure to cold and you were so cold when you came inside."
I hadn't really thought about that. Sure, I didn't like the cold, okay, I fucking hated it, but I could function in it. I let her push me into her room and climbed into the bed. My eyes were only half-open when she showed me how to operate the blanket.
"Just turn the dial. It's off now, but spin it to the right; the further you go, the warmer it will be."
"Got it," I mumbled against her pillow.
I fiddled with the dial and finally settled it about halfway to max before closing my eyes and sighing into the heat that surrounded me. My eyes watched her leave before I closed them all the way. Of course, it didn't hurt that I was surrounded by her scent and somehow it made me feel safe.
A loud grumbling from my stomach eventually dragged me from sleep. After turning off the blanket, an invention that might be better than a hot shower, I mused to myself, I slid out of the bed. Out in the living area, the light from the TV shone across the sofa where I could see the lump that was Sara. My feet shifted under me as I tried to decide whether I should move her to her own bed, where she belonged, or not. Afraid to wake her, I left her where she was, for now.
Instead, I turned my sights on the fridge and hoped there was something leftover for me to eat. There were several containers and I opened them all, curious as to what my choices might be. A whimper from the sofa had me spinning around with the door still hanging open. The next cry was worse than the first one. Shit, Sara was having a nightmare. I've had a few of those myself and they aren't fun. The sobs that came next wrenched at some part of me and with a snarl, I shut the fridge and hurried over to the sofa. I knelt down and gently laid a hand on Sara's shoulder as I didn't want to startle any more than I had to.
"Sara, uh, wake up. You're having a nightmare," I said. It was stupid, but I didn't know what else to say to her.
I wasn't expecting her to erupt off of the sofa, her face pale with tears still rolling down her face. Shit, I was so out of my depth here. Not knowing what else to do, I took her hand in mine. Of course, I had no idea what would come next, as she flung her arms around my neck and I just barely managed to catch her and stop myself from falling onto my back onto the floor. Instead, I landed on my ass with her plastered against me. At a loss for what to do, I copied what I had seen other people do and wrapped my arms around her. Her tears rained down on me as sobs shook her body with an intensity that frightened me. I was so lost.
"Shh, you are safe now," I murmured against her hair since her head was tucked under mine, and to be honest, that was the only thing I could think to say.
Not knowing how to stop the tears, I just held her as I waited out the storm. Assholes I could pummel, but how could I help her through this, I just didn't know. I'm not sure how long we sat there, but eventually her arms dropped away from my neck and I followed her lead.
"I'm sorry," she said softly in between some sort of sad hiccupping thing she was doing.
I shrugged at first, unsure of how to answer. "It's okay. I get them sometimes, too."
That brought her face up. "Nightmares?"
"Yeah," I said and I couldn't stop the tremble that went through me at the thought of them.
"Could they be some sort of memory?" she asked as she rubbed away the tears that remained on her face.
"That would be totally fucked up if it was."
My mouth opened and shut for a second. "I'll tell you mine, if you tell me yours." I grinned a little at ducking out of answering in that way, but I figured she wouldn't want to talk about hers any more than I wanted to talk about mine.
She nodded and clambered off my lap before finding her way back onto the sofa. Her hand patted at the spot next to her and with a soft sigh, I pushed up off the floor and took the spot she indicated. Well, shit, this wasn't how I thought it would go.
"It's the accident every time," she said, her words so soft I almost missed them. "Except unlike the real one, I have to watch them die and there is nothing I can do. I'm still trapped and everything hurts and I scream for them, but all I can do is stare as they melt before my eyes."
"Fuck, that's horrible!"
"I know. I actually was unconscious when they pulled me from the wreck, so I know I didn't see any of this, but it doesn't stop my mind from creating this horrible scene in my head. I haven't had one in awhile-"
I patted her shoulder, unsure of what else to do for her even though I knew I had to keep my end of the bargain. Taking a deep breath, I gazed over at her tear stained face for a moment before I closed my eyes.
"Mine is, well, something has me and I can't get away. I can't tell what it is, but I know - I know it's bad and if I don't get away I'm done for. But I can't ever get away. I usually manage to wake myself up at that point. Can't scream on the street that brings in the real animals, the ones who enjoy causing pain to others."
Her gasp at my words brought my gaze up to watch her. Sure her eyes were dead, but the rest of her face was still expressive and I could see my words shocked her.
"Fucked up, yeah, I know." A change in topic, that's what I needed. "Um, yeah, I don't suppose you have a map of New York?"
"A map - I don't think so. But I can get you one."
A sigh escaped me. "Good, otherwise it will take me forever to find all those buildings."
"Did you -"
"I found two. Nothing, though."
"What time is it? I can run to the store if it's late enough."
My eyes shifted over to the clock and saw that it was a little after noon. I had slept longer than I thought.
"Noon. But you need to wait until dark so I can track you easier, you know, just in case those two jerks are out already. Although the one will only be hobbling at best," I said with a little grin at that thought.
Her tone was such that I knew she was a little relieved that I would be watching over her. Of course, that was when my stomach once more made itself known. Its bitching brought a smile to her face. Well, that was one way to make her forget her nightmare, at least.
"Got any leftovers for a hungry turtle?"
"I'm sure I can find something for us."
A small sigh escaped me. "You don't have to go to any trouble."
Her shoulders lifted and dropped carelessly. "I need to eat as well and I'm pretty sure there is some of that pasta left over from the other night."
"Yeah, I saw it in there."
"I'll just nuke it for a moment."
"Microwave - it heats things up or cooks, even. Follow me and I'll show you how to use it."
"I can eat it cold." After all, that was how most of my meals had been up to this point; one more wouldn't matter.
"Oh, no. This is easy and you can raid the fridge whenever you come in."
My eyes never left her as she walked me through the steps for the proper use of the device. The pasta reheated finally, she handed me the whole thing.
"What about you? We can share."
"I'll get something else."
I shuffled over to the table after grabbing myself a fork and sat down with my prize. Sara joined me only a few minutes later with her own container of something leftover. The TV still droned in the background, having never been turned off.
"I'm glad you came back," she said in between a few bites.
"So am I, Sara, so am I," I said. A friend was in fact the best thing, I decided.
~A thank you to Mordinette for all her help with her magic grammar wand and another to Scribbledincrayon for her suggestions, thank you ladies! Another thank you to the readers.~