"So, that was the police."

Amy gave a sharp look up, a small shiver running up her back to her already numb fingers.

"They want to know if I've seen a sixteen year old girl, five seven-ish, dark blonde hair."

She looked back down at her feet, the dark blonde hair releasing itself from behind her ear and falling down her face.

"Apparently she's run away from home." Ephram walked around her and sat down on the third step of the stairs. She seemed as if she was about to open her mouth to answer, but Ephram said instead, "I didn't say anything," his eyes following hers to the floor.

They sat there for a few minutes, not doing anything really. Amy tried to shake her fingers but she couldn't feel the movement, and she figured her fingers must be blue by now from the cold. She wished she had a few more minutes to grab a coat while at home, because the brown skirt was made of some flimsy material she could see her legs through. Even stiletto boots might have provided some warmth, but no, it was below thirty degrees and she had the brilliant idea to run away from her house in the dead of night not even taking her jacket.

But then again she wouldn't have been able to run in anything but these sneakers.

"So, are you going to tell me why you're here?" he asked, in that low serious type of voice. She tried to find her own, it was somewhere there in her throat, but her brain couldn't connect to what she wanted to say.

"No." She couldn't meet his eyes and kept them fixtated on a corner in the wall. He sighed inaudibly.

"Then, do you need anything to drink? A blanket?" She shook her head but he got up anyway in search for tea bags and the extra comforters. She continued to sit there, looking at the corner, but it started to slowly become darker and darker and different colored spots began to show up everywhere, like her eyes were playing tricks on her. She slowly got up and walked towards the light in the kitchen.

The water wasn't boiling yet as Ephram leaned against the counter with his hands crossed. It took a while for her eyes to get adjusted to the light, for it was so dark outside in the night that she wasn't even sure where she was running. In the light it felt like every step was pre meditated, things were in slow motion and not quite real. But she preferred it to not being able to see where she was.

"Your kitchen's really nice." It was awkward, the way she talked. When the words came out, it was as if it wasn't even her own voice. It was too low and too monotone. Usually she talked in high pitched rambles, loud, and it was just the way everyone talked. But somehow she now talked in a deep throated whisper that mirrored Ephram's.

"Thanks," he murmured. "I picked out this chrome-ish thing. It used to be this ugly wood stuff." She nodded. She really didn't care if the table used to be made out of Jello. Stupid question, Amy.

"Yeah, um, ours used to have this linoleum? It was green and really gross." He nodded as well. "And the pantry had like, cobwebs in it. Mom had to clean it out, cause Dad thought they could be poisonous, and Bright's just scared of spiders. He's also scared of heights and being on a boat too long."

"Why did you leave?"

It cut through her talking with precision and left the silence following it uneasy. Her lips stopped moving, her mouth was open in a probably really unattractive way. Close your mouth, Amy.

She shifted herself slightly, the counter was digging into her waist, leaving a mark. She steadied herself with her hands behind her, then moved one in front, deciding finally on one hand ruffling through her hair and the other crossed in front of her.

"I didn't really *leave*, per se. I mean, I *left*, but it's not like I just wanted to..." Her voice trailed off and disappeared into the distance between her and Ephram, like the clouds of cold that escaped her lips with every breath as she waited outside his front door, hoping for sanctuary.

"It's like. Sometimes you just need an escape. You know?" She looked up for the first time in a while and found his eyes concentrating on her. She swallowed and tucked her lips in an 'mmm', waiting for something that she wasn't quite sure of.

His gaze broke suddenly and he turned himself to concentrate on the stove. "It's boiling," he said. "It'll be ready in a sec." She slowly nodded and sighed softly.

[]

"This is the best cup of tea I've ever had," Amy said. The steam from the cup traveled to her face, and slowly she could feel some color returning to her cheeks. She gripped the mug tightly, savoring its warmth more than anything else.

"The secret's in the Lipton," he said, not drinking any of his but just watching the liquid swirl. She laughed quietly, even though it wasn't funny.

"I'm sorry." It was a whisper, and Amy didn't look up to acknowledge that she had said anything.

"For what?" Ephram stilled himself, stopped making designs in the carpet with his finger.

"For this." Amy motioned around her with one hand, the other still steady on the cup of tea, rapidly losing steam. "I ruin everything. I mean, it's Thanksgiving and I show up at your door at eleven oclock, and expect you to do all these things for me. And you do."

Ephram bit his lip trying to formulate an answer that didn't sound like crap.

She took a deep breath and pulled the blanket tighter around her. "I know I'm an idiot. I mess up orders and forget to write papers and get drunk at college parties, and you're always there like some sort of hero. I don't get it. I know I screw things up, but I don't know why you always cover me."

"I guess it's just what I do," he said, slightly turning his body to face her. "I guess it's just what backups do."

She felt numb again. Her lips were turning to blocks of ice and she lost contact with the rest of her body. The cold almost seemed to diffuse to the cup of tea, for even it stopped steaming and its temperature fell to luke warm.

"What I'm trying to say is, I'm sorry for everything I do, and I'm grateful that I haven't lost you yet."

"Yeah," he brushes, "me too."

[]

"So why are you here?" asked Amy. She could feel him raise his eyebrow and smirk, but it was too dark to know for sure.

"I live here."

"Well, I mean, duh," she said, and she hated herself for sounding like a Kayla or a Paige. They were definately not who she wanted to be, someone like Kayla would not feel like this if her boyfriend died, she would never run away from home and try to date an ex-addict. Or someone like Ephram.

"What I mean is, why aren't you circled around the fireplace with your dad and Delia and telling stories or playing charades or something."

"Did we ever strike you as the kind that circled around fireplaces?" he asked, and this time she was sure she felt a small smile. "Dad's out somewhere, probably crusading for something or the other, Delia's fell asleep at around eight. Too much excitemement for her. But we did the whole turkey-mashed-potato deal."

Amy silently agreed, almost amused with the day so entirely different from her own.

"What about you?"

She looked at him through tendrils of hair falling down on her face, and she could feel her voice starting to creep away. Finding a way to put it into words, finding words at all was lost to her.

"Um, well." Her lips felt dry and she felt the bottom one disappear into her mouth. "I invited an ex-drug addict and arsonist to dinner. My dad blew a fuse, interrogated until the kid excused himself and walked out. Proceeded to blame me for ignoring everyone and locking myself in my room and global warming. Messed up, depressed once-a-day Zoloft me."

Amy huffed quietly and turned sharply to see if Ephram was laughing at her yet. The porch light's luke beams shined against him, the rays only reaching his cheek and brow, leaving his eyes in the shadow.

"So you ran up to your room, and the more you thought about it, the more appealing the darkness outside your window was. So you climbed out. You ran away."

She was pretty sure he was laughing at her now, the way he said it made her decision sound so stupid, so hasty and gullible, so unlike anything she wanted to be. She didn't want to be innocent, young, naive. Not the old Amy that wore pink polo shirts a lot, and rainbow striped belts straight from the Gap. One that was so easily swayed, so unknowing of the world outside her, who would get to college on her father's money and find out what she wanted to do when she got there. The girl who always seemed to be wearing a diamond studded tiara, or at least the way she looked and talked and walked and lived was worthy of it.

She didn't want to be her. She wasn't what anyone wanted. She wasn't what Ephram wanted. Ephram wanted cool and sophisticated. Tall and mature. Worldly and the kind that would be able to tell you the signs of a ripe tomato or how to parallel park. Someone able to give advice and not constantly knocking on your door looking for some.

"You know what? This probably sounds really incoherant and delusion and most likely very stupid, but. I spent an hour just sitting in my room, after I locked the door. Just sitting, thinking, I blocked out Mom yelling downstairs and Bright's Gamecube explosions. And I got so tired of everything, of being there and wallowing in self-pity. And, I mean, this is going to sound really dumb. But, when I was crawling out of that window, running...it was so cold and after a while I didn't even know what I was doing. I knew I had to run but I couldn't feel myself do anything. My legs disconnected itself from my body, my face was so cold and unreacting to every touch. So dark I didn't know where I was running, couldn't see anything but a few stars. But when you let me in, it was warm and there was a fire, and lights, and I wasn't so numb. I could breathe and I was returning."

She shook her head and looked down at her hands. "That was stupid. Sounds like one of Homer's 'epic metaphors' Mr. H was so crazy about. Either that, or like I'm on crack. You'd be half right, I'm actually on Zoloft."

She looked back up and tried to find his eyes in those shadows. "Please--"

"I wouldn't laugh at you," Ephram replied, without needing the question.

Amy breathed deeply. "But you really could." She looked up in a 'prepare for a ramble' way. "Last year's Peak County High queen loses her king, broods perpetually and falls into a clinical depression, alienates all friends and family, gets into a hissy fit one Thanksgiving night and runs away from home to someone she really hasn't spoken to in months, her constant, the one who does all these things for her and will never get the appreciation he deserves, and bores him to death with sad sob stories."

Ephram pretended to yawn. "I'm not," pause, "bored." She retaliated and pretended to punch him in the arm. He pretended like it hurt. She pretended like he wasn't the most incredible person she had ever met.

"You win," he said, looking at her a little too intensely for her liking. Without having her heartbeats go postal and so fast she was sure he could hear. "Your life really does suck. I mean, I thought mine was bad, with the whole mother dying, dad's a bastard case, but lately, things have been looking pretty good."

"Really?"

"Well, of course. I've got Amy Abbott sitting next to me on the stairs, she's smiling for the first time I've seen in a while, and her right hand is on my knee."

Amy quickly withdrew and couldn't help but widen the smile.

"So it's almost one oclock. I know my dad's weird, but I'm thinking he's coming home tonight. And he wouldn't like to see me, one, not finished with the dishes, and two, up talking to a girl who is currently the reason for the Code Amber spread across Everwood."

"I'll go home," she mumbled. "This was a perfect way to ruin everyone's day. Great job, Amy. You've done it again." She bit her lip and motioned vaguely to the door. "Yeah, I'll go home."

"You really want to?" Ephram asked, following her cue and getting up.

"Not really. But the longer I'm gone, the more red Dad's face is going to be. I bet he put his tie on backwards like he always does when he's too angry to concentrate, and his eyes always get really wide and it's creepy." She shuddered slightly just thinking about it.

"Well, I mean. We've got a spare room. Things always look better in the morning."

Amy hoped it was true as she followed him upstairs.

[]

It took a few moments to adjust to the light. There was a bed on one side with geometric print sheets, and a digital clock on the bedside table. There was no flower shaped pillow for her to hold onto until she fell asleep, or muted nitelight for when she got up in the middle of the night, like she often did, and decided to read until daybreak, or windchime or crystal curtains or posters along the wall.

It looked like comfort nonetheless.

Almost in a trance, she walked towards the bed, cherished the feel of the blanket against her skin and the pillow cushioning her head, easing the throbbing. He stood at the door, a small smile creeping across his face.

"Ephram," she called, and he took a few steps forward to the edge of her bed. She looked at him through sleepy eyes, the light now allowing her to see his face in its entirety, his lips, the curve of his neck, his eyes. Crystal blue eyes.

"I love you," she said, a soft smile there again.

He flinched. Almost intangible, but he did. Holding his breath, he walked towards the door, flicking off the light switch. The darkness enveloped Amy, seeming like a second blanket.

"Goodnight, Amy."

[]

Dedicated to Alex, for helping me to get over the mental mindblock. Colin's dead but everyone else isn't. Thank you.

Reviews would be lovely.