They were still coming.
Too tired to run any further, her legs trembling as her exhausted adrenaline supply began to fade, she stumbled into a dark alley and collapsed against the wall. Sure her chest was going to explode and yet somehow able to steady her ragged breathing into a quieter, less detectable whisper, she leaned against the wall and waited. And prayed.With eyes closed, she tried to hear past the incessant pounding of her pulse and could find nothing beyond the alley except the lazy humming of late night traffic. She dared to release a long sigh of relief and could feel the first tears gathering. And then there was a sound. Somewhere in the amber glow beyond the alley.
They were still coming.Tears fell freely now and she shook her head in disbelief, her silent prayers more earnest as the footsteps and hushed voices drew nearer. There was no escape. Even if the alley contained some kind of exit, there was no strength left in her to run any further. With a small sob, she gave in to the weakness in her knees and slid down the wall, waiting for the inevitable.
"There you are."
Barely able to lift her head, she somehow managed to look up and met the smiling eyes of her pursuers. And the guns that were aimed down at her.
"Did you really think you'd be safe?" One of the men jeered in amusement, breathing heavily from the excitement and exertion of the chase.
"Where are your friends now?" The other chuckled.
She closed her eyes and hung her head. It was over. And then she felt it again. The odd sensation that had suddenly begun the previous week; a small flicker of something deep inside her. Something moving. With fresh tears blurring her vision, she looked down at her abdomen and another hiccup of a sob filled the alley.
"It's too late for all that, girlie."
She looked back up at the two assassins and shook her head. "Please. You don't understand. I'm preg - "
TinTin sprung upright with a gasp, her body shaking and damp with sweat. She peered around the dimly lit room with wide eyes and slowly got her bearings. Gradually her racing heart settled and she hugged her knees to her chest as she calmed. She was in her room. She was safe.
But then she was not the problem.Her lips quavering, TinTin clambered out from under the tangled sheets and swallowed back the sobs that arose as the nightmare lingered. Only it was more than a nightmare. It always was. And the visions were becoming more detailed of late.
The images still swirled in her thoughts as she padded into the bathroom and perched gingerly on the toilet seat. The nausea rose and she turned to raise the seat, clutching at her stomach. But nothing came. The feelings passed as swiftly as it had arrived and she leaned over the bowl for a moment, tired and shaken.
TinTin splashed cold water onto her face and patted her skin dry, sighing into the soft cotton towel. She returned to the bedroom and wandered across to the computer terminal. With a frown, she entered the network and watched the comm. traffic transcripts scrolling across the screen.
After a few minutes, she logged out and opened the comm. system. Her call was answered quickly and she smiled at the familiar face that suddenly smiled up at her from the plasma screen.
"Another one, darling?"
Penny sighed in sympathy. "Tell me."
TinTin coughed past the lump in her throat and relayed the brief flashes of images that she could clearly recall.
Penny absorbed the information and nodded slowly. "I will run a check on those descriptions, darling, but …" Another sigh, "I took her off field work since your last warning. I promise she is quite safe."
TinTin shrugged a reply.
"Have you spoken to your father about all this?"
TinTin shook her head.
"Darling, I think you ought to. Perhaps there is something that can be done?"
TinTin frowned, "Like what? I'm not letting Brains poke around inside my head, Penny. Not again."
"I know." Penny smiled thinly, "I know. I just … well, I worry about you, darling."
TinTin managed a small smile of gratitude.
"Will you be alright?"
"Good." Penny paused for a moment but then seemed to decide to let go of whatever thought had occurred to her. "Well … call if you need me. Anytime."
"I will." TinTin shrugged slightly, "Goodnight."
Penny glanced at something off screen and laughed softly, "Good morning, by your time.""I guess." TinTin acknowledged and closed the connection with another fond farewell. The screen faded to blueish-grey and the stand-by logo appeared. She stared at the family symbol for a moment and then turned to peer into the bedroom. Knowing sleep was lost to her but needing so much to rest, she stood and headed for the door.
The corridor was quiet and the house beyond still, a stark contrast to the raucous celebrations of the previous night. Peering out towards the lounge, she could see the room lightening with the approach of dawn. Usually by this time, most of the house would be up and about, perhaps seeking a light breakfast before an early jog along the beach. But after finishing off a few bottles of champagne together, rising and shining would not doubt occur a little later today. And it was an opportunity not to be wasted.
Holding her breath and listening for any evidence of activity, TinTin stepped out into the corridor. The room she sought was at the entire other end of the hall and she tiptoed over the stone floor warily and slipped inside the last room on the left.
Inside there was only the gentle murmur of contented sleep and she wondered for a moment if it would be wiser to turn back. A remnant of her dream/vision then stirred and she shuddered, swallowing back further tears and stepping away from the door.In the darkness she could just make out his form in the bed. She edged closer and whispered into the quietness but there was no response. Stepping up beside the bed, she gingerly reached out and touched his bare shoulder, chancing a gentle nudge. Still nothing. Deciding she was being selfish and that he ought to be left to rest, she stifled a groan of disappointment and turned back towards the door.
She froze, her hand on the door handle.
"Y'okay?" He husked.
TinTin looked back.
He yawned wearily. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing." TinTin managed in a whisper. "I'm sorry. Go back to sleep."
She could just make out his form as he perched up on one elbow and seemed to be trying to focus on her in the dim lighting.
"Tin?" He urged, suddenly more awake. "Did it happen again?"
Still unsure as to whether to just go back to her room, TinTin turned the door handle. And then the tears welled and she spun back into the room, choking on a sob as she hurried across to him.
"Hey!" He rolled back in the bed to allow her room and held out his arms. "Oh, honey! Come here!"
TinTin sank onto the edge of the mattress and moaned appreciatively as his bare arms embraced her.
"Hey …" He soothed, pulling her close and pressing his lips into her forehead, "It's okay … shhh …"
"It was horrible, Scott!" TinTin husked.
"Oh, honey …"
"I called Pen and she said she's okay but it was so real!"
Scott hugged her tighter and groaned in dismay. "Alex again, huh?"
TinTin nodded, the skin of her brow catching on the stubble of his chin.
Scott sighed and pressed another kiss into hair. "You wanna talk about it?" He asked softly, feeling her shake her head in reply. "Okay."
"I just - " TinTin sighed wearily, "I'm just tired …"
"Okay." Scott settled alongside her and edged back to give her a little more room in the single bed. "You can stay here. It's okay."
TinTin turned onto her side and wriggled into him, her back pressed into his chest. She drew his arm closer round her and mumbled in gratitude.
Scott squeezed her gently and then gave a small laugh. "'Course, this'll be a good one to explain if anyone finds us."
TinTin frowned in the darkness.
"I don't know who'd be more scary." He laughed again, "My dad or yours."
"Well … I don't think they'd understand …"
TinTin sighed loudly. "No one does. No one but you."
Scott hugged her in reply and they fell into silence once again.
TinTin lay beside him and could sense his body relaxing and hear his breathing slow as he began to sink back into sleep. "Scott?"
"I can't deal with this." She began quietly, "I thought I could but I can't."
"What do you mean?"
TinTin considered this for a moment. "I need to know more. I need answers. I mean … more than Brains can give me …"
"I think - " She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I think I need to go see ... him …"
Scott's eyes flicked open and, suddenly wide-awake, he pulled her protectively closer. "Really?"
Scott was quiet in thought.
"You don't think I should."
"I … I'm not sure." Scott answered softly, "But … I'll take you … if it's what you think you must do …"
TinTin smiled and snuggled against him. "Thank you."
"I've gotta go with Dad to Houston later," Scott continued, "Maybe you should think on it and … I dunno … we can talk again maybe …"
"Mm." TinTin murmured in agreement and yawned wearily, finally feeling sleep approaching and unaware of the fear that crossed Scott's face or the dread that made his heart suddenly race.