AUTHOR'S NOTE: This was a challenge fic, with a 30 minute time limit and the guidelines of havingremote romantic tension …



Red. It was the first thing she saw; a trio of wavering, crimson dots centered directly above the maw of jagged, needle-like teeth poised over her face. For a moment she thought it was too late; from within that mouth a second fanged one emerged, intent on piercing her skull. She screamed and fought as best she could to bring her arms up to shield her face –she didn't want to die like this, not like this-

There was a flash of brilliant blue light, and the alien's head exploded in so much gore. As the putrid green blood spattered her body it immediately began to blister through her clothing to her skin. Gasping, sobbing, she scrambled to her feet and tore furiously at her clothing, fighting to get free of it. She cast her jacket to the ground, to be followed almost immediately by the sweater she tore almost in half in her haste. Her wrists had blistered, and her upper forearms were red, but that was the extent of the burning. Dismayed, she watched as her clothing melted swiftly away into a steaming liquid mass. She'd had supplies in her pockets …

A rumbling purr reminded her of her saviour and the fact that she was not alone, and so she swivelled around to face the hunter. Irrational, how glad she was to see him; he had indeed tried to kill her the day previous, but he'd taken her under his wing, had gifted her with a method of survival. Because of the pyramid's shifting they'd become separated, but seeing him here and now made her weak with relief. He towered over her, easily reaching eight feet with a girth twice the size of hers; his excessive musculature hinted strongly at the hunting, predatory culture of his race. His strange armor and the wire-like mesh he wore over his skin, along with the myriad of skulls and bones that adorned his chest and waist had been terrifying when first she'd encountered him. And now here he was, and he had saved her life …

"I – thank you," She stuttered. He inclined his head to her, alien features hidden behind the impassive metal mask, and his long strands of strange metal-banded hair shook with the movement. "I – I was looking for you … I lost my spear …"

She trailed off, fighting the very sudden and very strong urge to cry. His race despised weakness, she knew that much, and it wouldn't do to become hysterical. The hunter merely rumbled softly. Turning away, blinking furiously, Lex began to rummage through the pockets of her remaining survival gear to look for something – anything- to alleviate the pain of her wounds. Her search was fruitless; all she turned up was a half empty book of matches, and with a harsh, bitter laugh she threw them hard against the wall. Her body was trembling; she couldn't shake the feeling of the alien crashing into her, clawing at her, wanting to kill her …

The sound of heavy footsteps prompted her to turn; the hunter had approached her side. His head was cocked to the side again, and he made the chittering noise she had come to associate with curiosity. She was wondering what exactly had attracted his interest when he reached out with one large, clawed hand to touch gently her cheek; stunned, she watched as he raised his finger up to eye level. A drop of moisture glistened on his skin, and Lex raised her own hand to her face to discover that despite her efforts, she was in fact crying.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she blathered. She needed the hunter, because without him she wouldn't survive five minutes in this hellish nightmare. If he thought she was weak, would he leave her here to die? She didn't know, didn't want to find out. She shook her head, scrubbing furiously to dry the tears that still stained her cheeks. "I'm not like you … I won't make it out of here-"

Her babbling apparently fascinated the hunter, because he took two steps closer. Lex was now forced to crane her neck upwards to try and see past those reflective eyes of his mask. She was abruptly nervous, and began to back away-

The hunter placed one restraining hand on her shoulder, and shook his head.

"What – what are you doing?" She asked in a quavering voice. He responded with a growling purr, and moved his hand to cup her chin. Lex forgot how to breathe. Slowly his touch moved to the side of her face, and his fingers moved over her cheek again and again in gentle strokes.

He was soothing her, she finally realized, trying to calm her. And it was working; her trembling had abruptly vanished only to be replaced by an apprehensive uncertainty. As though sensing this, the hunter indicated with his free hand the smouldering corpse of the alien, and then curled said hand into a fist. He thumped himself once on the chest, and pointed to her …

Telling her, she realized, that she'd put up a good fight.

"T-thanks," she whispered. The hunter dipped his head, sending his long hair falling over both shoulders, and rumbled. His hand left her cheek slowly, lingeringly, and when he stepped back they regarded each other both for a long, silent moment.

He moved then, withdrawing from his back his own spear. With a flick of his thumb he extended it to its full length, and held it out to her with both hands. Lex took it gingerly, realizing she had just been acknowledged as a worthy companion in more ways than one …

The hunter gave a rumbling bark before turning and striding from the chamber. A second later, Lex followed, and as she did something bloomed within her she had thought never to know in this labyrinthine hell.