Freaking finally. RAWR. Gray was a butt and didn't want to work. This chapter...well I'm not happy with it, but I never am. I'm trying to give closure on certain things, and move on with the plot. So there is some mystical/supernaturalness, a crap loud of know. So...thanks for reading and reviewing, and if you have time let me know what you think about this.

The musty smell of dirt and mold filled the air, and the silence was enough to drive me crazy. But that was much more welcomed than the random sounds of scurrying and squeaking that I could hear from all around me. From Goddess knows what creatures that resided this deep in the mines. The constant dripping of water somewhere beneath me was not comforting in the least. After all that sound meant I had managed to end up deeper in the mine than I had suspected. The only place with water was the final floor where there was that underground lake.

I peered into the darkness, able to make out a few of my belongings scattered from the fall. My hammer…I was damn lucky that thing hadn't clubbed me on the way down. I also saw my hoe, and being as it was closer I crawled over to it and used it as support to get up. Other than those two tools I saw nothing, not even my rucksack. Which meant I had no food or water.

I was hurt. How bad I had no clue, but I knew it hurt to move. But it was more important to try to get out of here. I glanced over at the large pile of crumbled debris and wobbled unsteadily over to it. I let out a shaking breath as I stumbled, hands resting on the rough rocks. I glared at the pile obstructing a good portion of this level of the mine, knowing there was no way I could move any of it. And I don't think, even if I wasn't hurt, I could attempt to break any of this.

Not only was there hardly anyplace for the crap to go, but there was no way I could use my gold hammer to bust this up. I stiffened as the cave seemed to groan and rumble, fear gripping my very core. Dust and a few stones fell from the ceiling and cause me to go into a coughing fit.

"I can't go up, so…I have to go down. I certainly can't stay here," I whispered to myself, glancing around the small area of floor beneath me. "I just hope the entrance to the last level is buried here somewhere," I added bitterly, my eyes shutting as I walked to the edge of the level.

I hesitantly lifted the hoe, swinging down uncoordinatedly and hitting the ground beneath me. The action resulted in a sharp pain shooting through my abdomen and back, and that resulted in me crying out in pain. And of course the echo of that cry caused more dust and soil to fall from above. I blinked back tears and looked at the turned soil, shaking my head and reaching into my pocket.

I shoved my handkerchief in my mouth. If anything it would keep the level above from falling in on me because of my cries. And as it turned out it was a good idea. The next swing did cause me to cry out, but it was greatly muffled and no debris fell from above. I was thankful when I finally uncovered the tiny stair way leading to the last floor, and totally exhausted. I collapsed on the mine floor, removing the handkerchief and panting as my eyes shut.

My lungs burned with every inhaled breath and the throbbing pain in my right side became more and more intense. My arms felt limp and useless, like noodles. And the cool gritty earth against my cheek felt soothing against my hot skin. My fingers curled into a fist, dirt being held in my hand as I rested. I didn't move for awhile- that is until I felt the ground tremble and heard the walls around me groan again.

I slid as quickly as I could down the pathway, stumbling when I hit the ground of the final floor. I was unable to right myself and hit my knees. I grabbed the hoe that had landed with a clatter next to me, and was able to get to the side of the cave using it as a cane. I took a deep breath as I slumped against the archway leading to the cavern with the lake. It should be the safest place, as the arch worked as a support beam to this part of the caves. I should be fine here. I blinked in the dim light, a few tiny thread like beams of light shining into the cavern, causing the lake to sparkle in a few places. The holes were up high, no doubt were some of the water came in to fill this lake.

But now the question that came to mind was how long I would be here.

I could feel worry and panic beginning to set in. I was suddenly breathing even more heavily, hyperventilating from my own stress.

"Calm down," I told myself, forcing myself to take a deep breath, and then another. I didn't need to have an anxiety attack right now. I need to be able to think somewhat clearly- and move if another cave in occurred. "Everything is going to be fine. Someone will realize I'm missing. Gotz saw me coming in here. So when people start asking he'll tell them. And then they'll…find me."

Reassuring myself wasn't working very well, especially considering the fact I was on the bottom level of the mine, and there was no telling how many levels above me had collapsed. It could take them days to get to me. And I had…nothing. If I somehow didn't die from exposure then starvation or dehydration would get me. And yet surprisingly, as panicked as I was, I couldn't find it in me to cry.

I looked up at the tall ceiling of the cavern, my eyes thoughtful and my mind blank. This must be what its like- to be buried alive. Only at the least I had a few threads of light from the surface to comfort me before I ceased to function. But the feeling of utter loneliness, knowing that it was highly improbable that I would get out of here made that comfort seem trivial. But above all those thoughts was something else. Someone else.


Gray would find me. I was certain of it.

I just hope it isn't too late when he does.

"I'm going to be fine," I whispered out loud, hearing my strained voice echoing some in the cave. "I still haven't told him how I feel. So I have to make it out of here. He'll never forgive me," I smiled at the later statement, knowing that it was true. Gray would never forgive me if I gave up after everything.

This was all my fault- not just being here. But the situation last night, the last few weeks. I was expecting a lot from Gray, for him to be more understanding and patient than he was capable. And the patience he had already shown with me amazed me.

I had been so selfish, so self absorbed with worrying over myself that I hadn't much thought of him until I had talked with his grandfather- and even then I still continued to be childish about the situation. I was in my early twenties. Not a teen. And yet I had been acting like not much more than a confused teenage girl.

Gray loved me and he wanted to be with me, and that should have been enough for me to understand and accept at my age. And though it had taken me a few weeks to get to that point, I had finally made it.

It had hurt last night when he had left the way he did. But I knew he hadn't meant to sound as hateful as he had. He was frustrated, and it was my fault. I had wanted to make it up to him and I had come here looking for some more rare ores like Orchilum and gold so he could focus and work more on his blacksmith projects. I hadn't even considered what could have happened- what did happen.

And Gray would never forgive me if I died in here. If I gave up before he could tell me he didn't mean those things he said, and before I could tell him I forgive him. And though he had no idea I would say it, when I saw the man I would tell him how I feel.

"I love him so much." The words seemed to echo all around me, and a sudden unknown sound erupted in the mines, making the water ripple. I didn't feel fear from this sound, and if I didn't know any better I would swear that it was a giggle. But why would a giggle be coming from the pond?

"You have really surprised me in how much you've grown."

The voice earned a gasp from me as I glanced warily around, looking for the unknown female. But when I finally saw her- or it- I found myself petrified. Out of the depths of the lake had emerged a woman that could evidently float- and remain dry despite having had to come out of the water.

"Hello Claire. Sorry to be meeting you on such circumstances," she murmured, and I simply blinked. She had to be a figment of my imagination- a scantily clad woman with green hair. The problem was why would she be a figment of my imagination if I had never so much had seen a picture of anything or anyone that looked like her.

"Am I dying?" I asked out loud, mostly to myself. The woman appeared to take a few steps, the water icing over and mist coming out from under her feet as she came towards the shore.

"Not yet," she replied gently, her delicate face turning to the side as a perfectly manicured nail tapped her full lips. "You're hurt," she added, kneeling next to me and touching my side gently. The contact had me jerking, the sudden warmth and euphoria that filled me soothing.

"W-what are you doing?" I whispered, looking up at her as she became hazy.

"Making it less painful until someone finds you." She had said it with a small smile, her eyes half lidded as she watched me lose more and more of my grip on reality.

"There must be some noxious fumes in here that I'm inhaling," I muttered, vaguely aware of the strange woman sitting next to me. Next thing I knew I was laying down, my head resting in her lap. She smelled like…


"You're going to be fine, Claire. But there was a reason this happened…"

"I'm an idiot," I interjected groggily, feeling her fingers brush through my hair.

"No, my child, not that. You need to understand that…you are you. This is pretty much your wake up experience- to realize that you don't have to be worried about things that you are." I snorted at that, deciding to play along. Besides, maybe if I could prove to myself that she was a hallucination she would leave.

"Such as?"

"Turning into your mother."

I stiffened at the words, some of the good content feeling leaving me but not enough that I bothered to move.

"But I already am," I murmured out, my eyes falling to my arm as I pulled up my sleeve. "There is the proof."

"No, that is proof of a mistake you made, a mixture of grief and depression brought on by guilt, and taking to heart the misplaced blame of others." She stopped there, her small delicate hand resting on my wrist. I watched in some type of aw as she stroked the scar, seeing it glow and change.

"I can not heal it completely, but I can make it less." When the eiry glow ceased. "To only prove to you on some level that this event isn't all in your head."

"Why?" I choked out, turning to look up at the woman. "Why help me?"

"Because you deserve it. There are people- of different kinds in the other realm. People that love you, that care about you, that want you happy. People that beg for forgiveness for what they've done to you."

"People? What people?" I muttered, taking a deep breath as she smiled down at me.

"Ah, a young enthusiastic soul. He follows you around a lot, has for years. Always seeking your happiness and wishing you would forgive yourself. Then of course there is her…" I stiffened and felt my eyes cloud over at the meaning of those words. "Ever seeking to atone, that one weary soul- once corrupted by such illness, is whole again. Only to suffer with what she did in life that can't be repaired."

"M-mama," I whispered, through my tears seeing the woman above me nod. "W-who are you?"

"I'm the Harvest Goddess- the deity that rules and cares for these parts."

"I don't believe you. I can't believe that there are souls that just…follow me around." The deity sighed, her eyes looking up towards the ceiling, smiling at the light.

"There- little Claire. That light shining through those small cracks is never there- that is the boy. Always trying to give you hope and the strength to cling to it." I didn't respond to the words, my eyes just drifting over to the small rays that danced through the cave. "And when you're out in your field, toiling away and you feel that smallest of breezes touching your face- that is her."

"Why…would you tell me this?" I gritted out through clenched teeth. And shut my eyes, facing the lake.

"Because despite it all, you have never been alone." As the words were uttered in a voice I hadn't heard in so long, the wind suddenly brushed over my face. I opened my eyes, seeing before me that woman.

"Clarabelle…" the word came off her lips slowly, her eyes darting away and her face turning down to the ground. Her blond hair fell over her green eyes as she remained still. "I can never apologize enough- never be in purgatory long enough to forgive myself for what I put you through," as I went to interject the Goddess placed her hand over my mouth, in a gesture to remain silent. "You were a child, and…you had no idea what was really happening around you."

"I was sick, in spirit, mind and body. I blamed you for things that weren't your fault. I tried to get better but I just couldn't…" She seemed to disappear at the words, before reappearing next to me. She leaned in, her eyes focused on mine. "You are not me- you never will be. That…isn't possible. You are much stronger than I was. And you have realized that you can take his help- without feeling weak. The one thing…that I ever did in an act to kindness towards you when you got older was to thrust you outside in that storm…" she trailed off there, closing her eyes. "Sick as I was, I didn't want my child to see me like that, to see what I planned to do. And I knew if I hadn't, I would have turned on you as well…"

I closed my eyes, recalling the day she died, when she had pulled the trigger.

"I never expect forgiveness. But please…live. Live on where I could not, enjoy your life and its gift- and never shun the love you have for others." I opened my eyes, ready to respond, only to look into empty space.


"It was too much for you. She went back to the other realm," she Goddess murmured, looking down at me. "She said what she wanted to say. She expected nothing back."

"When will they find me?" I forced out, my voice hoarse and choked. I watched the woman above me shrug, shaking her head.

"Soon I hope. It will be dark soon. If…they don't find you today then perhaps tomorrow? I can't tell. Destiny and the like really isn't my area. I simply know that…you wont die in here."

"We have to stop, now Gray."

I carried on with my swing even after the old man had barked the words, determined to break through this level of the mines. It was damn frustrating that about every five levels or so that we had to excavate the damn place to find the next level.

"I won't stop," I growled, glaring at the man when his old hand grabbed the grip of the hammer.

"You will. Because if you don't, you'll only make things worse. If she's in there and still alive, and you make a wrong move you can cause a chain reaction and another cave in beneath us. There isn't enough daylight left for us to do any good today."

That was the only thing that the man could have said to me to make me stop, and it had the result he wanted. I dropped the hammer and took a shaking breath, simply glaring at the pile of debris in front of me.

If she's still alive.

Claire had to be alive- she just had to be. I…I wouldn't be able to tell her I was sorry for yesterday if she wasn't.

"To hell with you then,"

"Don't. I quit, alright. I just quit."

Those were the words I said to her the last time I saw her. Because I felt teased….

"We'll find her tomorrow," Gramps muttered, his hand resting on my shoulder. "We're more than half way through the mine. There aren't that many more levels."

"Why in the hell is she so deep in the mines?" I growled, taking the drink Gotz offered me and chugging it. I hadn't realized how thirsty I was until the ice cold water hit my tongue. It was soothing as it drizzled down my throat, soothing the dryness and aching feeling from breathing in so much dust for so long.

"She must have been looking for rare ores," Gotz supplied, scratching his thick brown beard and shrugging his large shoulders. "That's the only thing I can think of. No other reason to be this deep."

"There is no reason at all," I snapped, my eyes shutting as I leaned against the rock wall. "There isn't the first reason for her to be in this mine- let alone this deep."

"She might have been looking for an ore to upgrade her tools," Grandpa mused. I grunted in response, the idea of her being in here for that irritating me more. After all I could have gotten them for her. There was no reason for her to be in here.

Especially after she had been worrying over me being in here not to long ago.

"Come on, we need to get back to the surface."

"I'm staying right here." I felt my arm being pulled after my statement.

"No. It's too dangerous," Grandpa insisted, pulling me up. "We'll camp by the pond. There might be another cave in and we'll be trapped too."

"But she's still in here, and I'm not leaving without her," I hissed in response, not wanting to argue with the old man.

"Gray," Gotz said quietly, his large hand resting on my shoulder. "If something happens to you in here tonight you won't do her any good. Saibara and I can't do this on our own- we're both getting to old. So why don't you come to my place, we'll get some food, some sleep, and be back here at dawn."

I stood, somewhat reluctantly. I just didn't feel right- it was like I was giving up.

The night drug by, and I don't think I slept at all. Even if I wasn't constantly thinking about the woman in the mines, the loud snoring of the old man would have kept me up anyways. I leaned against the wall, looking up at the apposing window at the full moon. I only realized that it was only one man snoring when I felt a large hand on my shoulder.

"It's hard, I know," he whispered, offering me a cup of what a presumed was liquor, judging by the harsh smell. I took it anyways, and then without another thought choked it down. "Sitting her, thinking about her- if she's hurt. If she's scared…if they are crying for you."

I furrowed my eyebrows a his words, realizing he was right. He did know- even more than me. He'd been on the receiving end of a tragedy, and it hadn't turned out alright for him.

"I don't know what I'm going to do if she's not alright," I admitted, leaning my head back on the old cedar wall.

"You won't know- until you find her." Gotz offered, sitting on an old stool. "I'm hoping she's alright, that everything will work out for you."

"What…what did you do, when you found them?" I whispered, gripping my hair tightly. I couldn't imagine it- if Claire was my wife- which hell it didn't mean I loved her any less than that now- and we had a child…

A little girl that was the mirror image of her mother. Or a little redhead. Or a boy that was just like me…

Children were something that never crossed my mind. Even after our first time. I just…

Hadn't considered it.

The image of her, a little older, trapped in that mine with our child, our son or daughter, terrified me.

"They looked like they were sleeping…" Gotz said lowly, his face contorting in a mixture of grief and pain. "but they wouldn't wake up…" I remained silent, trying to give the man the time he needed. And if he chose to end the conversation there I was ok with that.

"I died that day." He finished, standing up and grabbing the empty cup from my hand. "We'll leave here in a few hours. Try to rest." That said the great man disappeared into his room.

And somehow I could see that. I know that put in his position, my family taken away from me- I would die like that too. Emotionally at any rate. Not that there was much here to begin with.

The next morning I was up before the two older men, shaking them out of their slumber and telling them we needed to go. By the time their old asses got up and down to the mines it would be daybreak.

Descending the levels of the mines seemed to take forever, no matter how quick I tried to go down the ladders with the bags strapped to me. Finally I ended up on the level we left off on, and without waiting for the other two men I dug for my hoe.

I heard the sound of dirt shifting and moving under the hoe, and then the scrap of metal of metal. I had found the entrance to the next level. I had cleared it about the time Gramps got off the ladder, and then without a word I headed down the new ladder. One that was unusually long.

I let out a low curse the moment I got into the level, because I'll be damned if it wasn't full of debris. Which meant I possibly could have had Claire out of here yesterday.

"I've found the cave in," I snapped, grabbing the lantern off my hip and holding it up, trying to determine the original layout of this floor- where the walls were supposed to be. The area I had gotten into was damn small compared to most levels…

"Start digging over there," Gramps barked, pointing to a pile of rubble and dirt. "This is the bottom level Gray. The one above it…well its gone. There is a cavern on that wall. So find it. She has to be in there…" he trailed off and I climbed over rubble as I began hacking away with my hoe, snatching violently back and watching the dirt and rock slide down.

He hadn't finished that sentence. But I knew what it was. If she wasn't in the cavern…

She was under the rubble in here.

I finally got a gap between the pile of debris big enough to put the lantern and my arm through, one eye peeking through the narrow opening.

The golden light flooded the area, reflecting off the large underground pond. At first I didn't see anything but rocks and the pond itself. But finally as I turned my head to the left, I caught sight of a golden mass of hair.

"Claire!" I shouted as I peeked through the tiny gap in the rubble, able to make out her form lying limp in the next section. She didn't respond, didn't budge, and that had my heart tightening painfully.

She couldn't be- she just couldn't be.

I started yanking and tossing rocks and rubble with no rhyme or reason, feeling my fingers becoming raw from the abuse against the coarse stones they scrapped over. But still it didn't matter. All that mattered was the tiny woman lying on the other side of this crap. As soon as I had a large enough whole to crawl through at the top of the pile, I wasted no time in climbing through it, landing with a loud thud on the other side. I winced at the feeling of landing on rubble and rocks, knowing I would more than likely have a strange pattern of bruises tomorrow.

The dirt and rocks beneath me made a scraping sound as I forced myself to my feet, starting over to Claire before I was upright- which only resulted in me nearly falling again. I was breathing heavily by the time I reached her side, dropping the lantern and my fingers immediately searching her neck as I held my breath, praying that there would be a pulse under them. I let out that breath the moment I felt the faint heart beat, my eyes shutting as I murmured thankful prayer.

She looked like she had just curled up here to go to sleep. I allowed my shaking hand to hesitantly reach out to touch her cheek. Her skin was cold, her face covered in small scratches and dirty. Her clothes were filthy, and torn- she looked like hell.

But when her eyes opened…and she gave me that faint smile… She was absolutely beautiful.

"G-Gray," he voice came out cracked and strained. "I'm sorry," she whispered, her hand grabbing mine weakly as she held my gaze. "I didn't mean for you to get mad-"

"No...just…it was my fault," I began, pulling her up in a sitting position and burying my face in her dirty hair. "There was no reason for me act that way…and say those things."

They could have been the last things I had said to her.

My fingers gripped her tangled hair, my chin resting on her slender shoulder as I fought back the stinging in my eyes. But in the end I couldn't stop it. It was all too much. Especially when I felt her tiny arms wrap around me and her chapped lips on the side of my face and she whispered into my ear "I…I love you. I do…more than I show."

"I-I know," I forced out, doing my best to keep my voice from cracking. "I knew already. I was.." just being stubborn I suppose. But I had wanted to hear her say it. After a moment of clinging to her and doing my best to compose myself I cleared my throat. I dug into my cargo pocket, grabbing the bottle of water and ripping the cap from it. I brought the bottle to her dried lips and she drank greedily from it- almost the whole damn thing. Her cold hand rested on mine that held the bottle, and then finally pushed it away.

"Are you…hurt?" I asked, eyes trying to look over her in the dim lightening. I didn't see her arms or legs laying in any weird angles.

"Yeah," she whispered, and I felt her shift. I pulled back to look at her grabbing the lantern and holding it up, her eyes searching the left side of her body. "My side…I was bleeding yesterday."

"Goddess," I muttered, my eyes focusing on the large section of dried blood on her clothes. The need to see her wound was overpowered by the knowledge that it could reopen it- or cause it to get infected with bacteria from within the mine. "Claire, we have to get you out of here and to the clinic. Can you walk?"

"Kind of," she murmured, her small hands grabbing my shoulders as she struggled to her feet. I helped her the best I could without grabbing her waist and when she fell against me I grabbed her arm and wrapped it around my neck.

"I'd carry you, but either way I'd put pressure on that, and I don't want to chance making it worse," I muttered to her as I guided her over to where I had come in at.

"Help her through the hole. We got her on this end," Grandpa ordered through the opening, and I complied. Of course in the end I did have to pick her up to get her short self onto the pile and able to slide down the hole.

The whole time we were trying to get her out of here, Claire didn't say much of anything, and other than her labored breathing and the occasional whimper she was pretty much silent. And it worried me. Because at least if she was grumbling or something like that I would know she wasn't as bad off as she looked.

"You're a lucky woman," Grandpa hissed as he finally got her on the other side of the rubble. "It's amazing that you're alive." I began to climb up the debris, opting to go out feet first now that I was less panicked- not bothering to stop the lecture Claire would receive from the old man one way or another. I slid out and let out a curse when I felt the rubble pull up my shirt and scrape my back.

As I stooped over and rubbed my back, I couldn't help but to look at Claire, seeing her eyes watching me, somewhat unfocused. Her face seemed paler as she leaned entirely against Grandpa, and in that moment I realized his arm was wrapped around her torso, close to her arms as he stared at her bloody side. And his arm was evidently the only thing holding her up, because when he shifted she slumped towards him.

"Boy, she needs to get to the Clinic quick. That…looks like it was bad when it happened."

"You two help her out of here. I'll go send Louis to make sure that the doc is ready for her when she comes in," Gotz stated, the great man beginning to climb up the ladder. "And I'll get the gurney from my house- it will make getting her to the hospital quicker."

I approached Claire more slowly this time, racking my brain to try to figure out how I should get her up the levels of the mines. It was obvious she couldn't really do it on her own, and I wasn't sure how I could carry her up the ladders without dropping her.

I took her from Gramps and ran a hand over her tangled hair, my eyes not really focusing on her but becoming more distant while focusing on the task at hand. My attention was brought back to Claire when she leaned into me, and at the gesture I helped her to the ground.

"You need to rest. So just…sit tight and we'll figure this out," I promised. The woman simply nodded, her eyes shutting as Grandpa got my attention.

"We're going to have to tie her to you somehow," Gramps muttered, old fingers running through his beard as he began digging through our excavation kit. It was something we had at the shop- a sort of prepare all for this situation when you went mining. He pulled some rope out, looking between it and me before tilting his head to the side.

"I suppose…the best way is to strap her to the front of you. That way if she loses consciousness, she's got nowhere to fall but between you and the ladder. If we strap her to the back of you she's liable to pass out and end up falling backwards- or choking you and making you both fall."

It made sense- but the question was how exactly we were going to do that.

"We'll have to make something like a seat. We'll have to tie it around her legs and her waist," Grandpa grunted as he began to unravel the rope. "Actually…If we have enough rope, and make a harness that goes around her legs, shoulders, and waist- and have enough to make you one and tie it to hers, we can tie her to your back securely. And you can get up the ladder quicker without having to mind getting her caught on it."

I got the basic idea of what he was talking about- like those climbing harnesses or the ones they used for rescues. So I took the rope from him, carefully beginning to tie it around Claire's shoulders. Better for it to loosen there as opposed to her leg on the way up. I focused on the task at hand, crossing the ropes and double knotting it in key points- around her waist and the middle of her back, securing the rope around her extremities and tugging it to test the strength of the knots.

"When I get you out of here, and I know you're going to be ok, we're going to talk about this," I muttered more to myself than to the woman I thought had passed out.

"I said I was sorry," she muttered, her eyes opening to glare up at me. "It's not like I planned this.I-"

"Had no business in here- let alone this damn deep in the mine," I interjected, my eyes narrowing at her. "Anything you needed from in here, I could have got. I know what to do when things like this happen. I've been trained for years for it. You're lucky you're alive…"

I was lucky she was alive.

I just held the woman's gaze, seeing her glare soften and her eyes eventually glance away from me.

"Let's get your harness together," Grandpa muttered, beginning to tie another rope around me.

In the end he had more than enough rope, and he managed to strap Claire to my back. It was an odd position- much like a piggy back ride I guess. But I suppose that was because her legs were much shorter than mine. I began to go up the ladder slowly, trying my best not to jar the woman on my back to much. On the way up I could tell when she moved in and out of consciousness or became weaker. When she was awake her hands gripped my shirt in front, and the grip loosened and her head tilted forward when she dozed.

About the 5th level up from the bottom I decided that it wasn't good to go slow. She needed immediate medical attention, because the rate she was going out and in couldn't be a good thing.

"Don't be scared to hurry when she's out," Grandpa cautioned as he helped me through the level. "She can't feel it then. It's the best time to hurry."

"I think I'm going to hurry at any rate. It can't be good for her to be in and out like that," I muttered, my eyes narrowing at the ladder to the next level. Grandpa gave me a stiff nod and quickly climbed up it. For an old guy he was damn quick.

The light from outside was damn near blinding when we reached the surface an hour later. Gotz came up quickly, pocket knife in hand as he began slicing the ropes that tied Claire and I together. Grandpa steadied her and then laid her on the gurney as I tried to stretch and walk off the extra weight.

After drinking some water I was ready to go. The old men could discuss this crap later. Gotz was watching me, and as soon as I stood up he joined me, standing at the foot of the gurney. "Let's go, Gray."

"Are they ready for her at the clinic?" I grunted as I picked up the head end and Gotz picked up the foot end of the gurney. We quickly and carefully climbed down from the Goddess pond area, and as soon as we got on the flat path at the bottom of the hill it was a B line right through Claire's farm.

"Ought to be." Was the only words I got out of the man. After that it was a thick silence that held us both through the quick trip. I honestly don't think I had ever made it to town this fast in my life.

I also was fairly sure I had never been so relieved to see Tim in my life. But the fact that he was waiting for us in scrubs had me feeling a little more at ease. No matter what kind of a person he was- he was a damn good doctor. I had to give him that.

I'm not sure how long I sat in the waiting room when Elli and Tim wheeled Claire away. I know I had heard murmurs and water running. I suppose they had to clean her some before they could patch her up- else dirt would be in the wound. But after the first fifteen minutes I didn't hear anything but machines and the occasional murmured male voice.

Eventually the door opened and they both emerged. Tim headed straight upstairs and Elli towards me. "She's still out from the anesthesia," Elli said as she grabbed my wrist, eyeing my hands. "Let's get you fixed up before you end up with an infection."

"Why is Tim," I began, only to be interrupted as I was yanked up by the tiny nurse, leaving my hat on the small table- all but forgotten.

"He figures you would rather me talk to you. He's giving you- and her, your space. He's done his job, and he'll keep an eye on her." The curtness of the woman's response was lost with her large grin as she began to wash my hands with antibacterial soap.

"Well was it bad?" I finally asked, ignoring the stinging feeling from the water.

"Yes," she answered without a second thought. " I mean…well its not life threatening. As long as the antibiotics work. It wasn't the best place she could have been with an open wound. She's bruised and banged up," She added, patting my hands with a towel and then bringing me back towards the examination rooms. She opened a cabinet, bringing out gauze and cream and tape. I remained silent as the nurse grabbed my left hand, carefully applying ointment and wrapping a few of the fingers.

"A few broken ribs. Her side…" she trailed off, her nose wrinkling at the thought. "Is badly bruised, as well as that gash…poor dear will probably have a big scar. It took 23 stitches to close. The area around it is a nasty purple shade," she murmured as she turned her attention to my other hand.

"Is that it?"

"Well understandably she's dehydrated, and I imagine her lungs are full at dirt and dust. She'll probably be coughing it up for a few days. We have her on a liquid IV to replenish fluids. And other than that, Mummy fingers," she let out a small giggle as she finished my last appendage and patted my hand. "I believe she'll be fine. It could have been a lot worse."

"Yeah," I whispered, following the nurse as she beckoned me to. She pointed over to the next room, and I bit the inside of my cheek to see the woman in the bed. A much cleaner woman than I brought in.

"I washed her," Elli said with a shrug, then turned back to me. "We couldn't do surgery with her being that dirty. You can go in- stay as long as you want. She'll have to stay for a few days, just so we can make sure there is no infection. After that you can take her home."

At that point the nurse stopped talking, which wasn't bad because I wasn't really listening. My feet moved on their own accord, and I was sitting in the chair next to the bed without a thought.

"Gray, I do suggest you go get clothes and shower before you sleep there all night," Elli chided. "Of course you can call your sister and ask her to bring you some, and you can use my shower…" I nodded at the woman in response.

"Uh- will you mind to call her?"

"Not at all." I heard her shoes clicking on the tile floor as she trotted away. I kept my eyes focused on the blond, her steady breathing, the rise and fall of her chest and listened to the constant beeping of the heart monitor. I was glad every time the annoying thing chirped, because it meant that this was real. She was alive.

I reached out for her small hand, my arm dragging across her crisp white sheets. But right before I touched her, I curled my fingers into a fist, my face burying in my other hand. I didn't really say much, but in my thoughts, I was mulling over what could have been- shit what probably would have been if there wasn't a higher power. So immediately my thoughts went into an onslaught of thanks and praise to the Harvest Goddess. They only stopped when I felt a soft hand on my fist.

I opened my eyes and looked at Claire. She was looking at me worriedly, her eyebrows knitted in concern. After a moment she shifted, her hand leaving mine and her fingers stroking my face. She gave me a weak smile, one that I returned. My hand came up and pressed hers against my cheek and I closed my eyes.


Thank you. I thought for nearly the hundredth time in the last few minutes.

I turned my face in her hand, my lips pressing firmly against her palm before I wrapped my fingers around her hand and brought it to my chin, resting it on top of it and giving her a relieved smile.

"I'm alright."

I closed my eyes when she reached with her other hand, fingers playing with my hair before gripping it firmly and pulling me closer to her. I stooped over, eyes watching her curiously. She pressed her lips to mine clumsily, and I chuckled to hear the monitor chirp a little more quickly.

I gave her a small smirk when she pulled back, her hand releasing its light grip on my hair.

"You…need a haircut," she muttered, eyes diverting from mine as the bright red hue came over her face.