"Maybe if I just held onto you?"

How long had it been since Katie had said those words while lying in bed with Dan? The two of them analyzing their complicated life and trying not to fight about Livia, love and the nature of time. He had never denied her right to skepticism in those early days. In fact, he frequently added a healthy dose of self-doubt, fear, and ire to the mix. Shared emotions made the Traveling easier to bear but no less frustrating. She had stopped imagining what it was like for Dan but she could not completely lay the demons down when she was alone. Unguarded by distance and time, Katie pondered those hopeful words as she sat at the bar in the kitchen with a cup of tea warming her hands.

Outside the first rays of dawn rode on tattered layers of fog drifting between the houses. Storm clouds roiled on the western horizon forming a mottled wall against the tentative sunlight. A dog barked and a car crawled slowly past the driveway. Both sounds were thin and high in the dampair. It was a sleepy Sunday morning. Dan had been gone since late Friday night: whisked away with unexpected speed, leaving a bottle of wine and a thin, blue-tinted glass to fall crashing to the floor in his wake.

Katie had seen it happened several times now. She told Dan that the smell of ozone and a haze of blue light lingered for several seconds after his departures. Perhaps it was important. He was not sure and said he would ask Livia. Katie felt a surge of jealousy at the comment but she held her tongue. Livia was the closest thing they had to an expert on the subject. The fact that she had been Dan's fiancé was secondary—at least that's what she told herself for sanity's sake. In place of anger Katie forced acceptance and kissed his cheek, tasting blood and feeling the heat from a fresh bruise just below his eye. How many times had he come home battered? What if he never came home at all?

When Dan was home, Katie tried to stay within sight of him at all times. She knew the signs of an impending disappearance and she found herself moving ever closer, testing his resolve and hers, each time it happened. Fear stayed her hands from grasping his arm or wrist. What would happen to a person not meant to Travel? Would she disappear and not come back? Would Zack cease to exist because his mother had disturbed time? Would Dan come home or become marooned in a past with a shadow of himself for company? Too many questions neither of them could answer.

Friday night had been the final straw. Her sister Annette was coming back from a business trip in Asia. She would sweep in and demand an explanation for Dan's whereabouts. The conversations about moving and divorce would begin anew. Dan had to stay to quell the rumors, had to stay until dear sister disappeared.

They had sat in the kitchen hours before her plane was due to land. Eating French bread and cheese and talking in soft, nervous tones about the blandest of subjects. Katie felt faintly desperate as he reached for the bottle of wine and her glass to refill it. This would be their last stolen moment for at least the next three days. She dreaded the fates that would inevitably drag him away and leave her to deal with the fuss and panic of a well meaning sibling who could never understand. The Traveling headache struck with unexpected force and Dan gasped aloud as the glass slipped free and fell. Katie rose from the table and her hand shot out of its own accord. Fingers curled tight and bone-white around Dan's wrist, her entire body lurched as he lost balance from the sudden pain.


"Katie, no!"

She stared in horror at the bright circle of light that blossomed behind Dan's head. The vortex unfurled like an obscene flower and the familiar stench of ozone spilled out. Her skin tingled and her eyelids trembled in the glare, forcing Katie to look down. One breath and she could see the palm of her hand through the blue cotton of Dan's shirt and the softening flesh of his wrist. Another breath and the shirt and skin were a watercolor image rippling up the length of her arm. Katie's mouth fell open and a sigh ending in a muted sob dribbled out. She clenched her hand and the fingers slipped through the outline of Dan's arm and came together with a wet ticking sound. "Dan..." She looked up but only the silhouette of his face remained, drifting in a macabre haze of electric blue that faded to nothing before she could blink.

Now it was Sunday and Katie was both grateful and overwhelmed at the unexpected delay in her sister's arrival. Next week, Annette had said with a slightly drunk lilt to her normally husky voice. Katie had clutched the phone and tried not to cry her relief into the darkness.

Hours after Annette's cancellationand a fitful doze on the couch, Katie called Jack. He and Theresa now shared an apartment and Zack had become much closer to his uncle and 'aunt' over the last six months. He was fascinated by Theresa's advancing pregnancy. He did not stop talking about it the entire twenty minute drive to their home late Saturday morning. Katie swallowed back a surge of jealousy at the sight of Theresa framed in the front door of the apartment. Her skin was a healthy bronze, her pregnant belly protruding proudly outward while the rest of her seemed unchanged. Katie envied the uncomplicated existence she shared with Jack, though a scant year earlier she would never have insinuated that the life of an ER doctor could be anything but complex. Theresa remained blissfully ignorant of Dan's trips. Jack handled her questions and his own without troublebut Katie knew he wanted to know more. She wished she could tell him. She wished for the baby she and Dan had decided never to have and she struggled not to hate Theresa for the life that might have been her own.

Letting Zack stay with them for the weekend was the easiest way to avoid his fears and questions. He knew the secret and he was learning to keep it. Still, his little boy's mind could not see beyond the magic and the pleasure and pain it brought to his world. Katie hoped she was being kind in attempting to shield him and wondered anew whether he could ever maintain a strong bond with a father who literally vanished without warning.

The sky grew darker as the minutes ticked by, the storm front perverting dawn into a twisting mass of air streaked with jagged red lightning. Katie shivered and held the tea cup tighter. The heated porcelain burned her palm but she ignored the pain. Beyond the window the trees across the street shook as the wind swept down the street chasing a smattering of debris before it. Katie's body tensed, anticipating the thunder as lightning arced across the sky. The crash that sent the tea cup spinning across the bar top and onto the floor came from behind her. Katie jumped up and spun around. Her eyes widened and she bit her palm to stifle a scream.

Dan lay face down on the floor between the sink and the bar. The toaster and a vase had been dragged from the counter and now littered the wood around him with shattered glass and metal. Katie cringed at the deep bass rumble of thunder. Gooseflesh popped the length of her arms as the sound of Dan's ragged breathing rose above the lash of rain against the windows. Slowly he pulled himself up into a sitting position, his back to the cupboards. His shirt was torn at the shoulder and a layer of white dust coated him from head to foot. He held his left wrist with his right hand and stared mutely at his bruised and bloody fingers.

Katie sucked in a deep breath and slowly knelt down in front of him. "Dan…"

His breathing quickened at the sound of her voice. Fresh sweat broke across his forehead and darkened the short hair at his temples.

Katie swallowed a flash of panic and touched his shoulder. "Hey, it's okay. You're home."

Blood loosened by sweat painted his skin a garish crimson as Dan clumsily kneaded his wrist.

Katie shook him once, twice, then hard enough that his head thumped dully against the cupboard. "Dan!"

He blinked in slow motion. Paper thin eyelids slid down over glassy blue orbs and then flew upwards as he pivoted to stare into Katie's worried face. "I did it."

The words, mere puffs of air, fanned Katie's cheeks. She hesitantly touched his face. The skin was fever warm and Katie struggled for calm as a single tear leaked from Dan's left eye and trailed down to her fingertips. "Yes, you did," she whispered back but Dan's eyes had closed and he was sliding down to rest against her in a boneless heap.

The storm growled its way eastward as Katie struggled to get Dan upstairs. The shower roused him enough to let her finish stripping away the soiled clothes and wash the blood and dirt from his skin. The dust smelled faintly of paint and drywall compound, odors she recognized from the renovations they had done on Zack's bedroom. A fresh bruise blackened the shoulder that had been exposed and what looked like a human bite mark marred the flesh of his left forearm. Katie muttered a steady stream of curses as she cleaned the wound and dried his hair. Dan barely opened his eyes as they maneuvered from the master bath into the bedroom.

Had he left some part of himself behind this time? Katie considered the question as she dressed Dan in a fresh shirt and boxers and eased him into bed. Fear niggled at the back of her mind. Who had hit him? Why? A bite mark? She sank onto the edge of the mattress and reached for the phone. Her free hand strayed to Dan's leg and rested there as she dialed Jack's number.

"Hey, what's up?"

"How's Zack?" she asked by way of greeting.

"He's fine." A pause and then a heartfelt sigh. "Katie, what's the matter?"

"He's home."

"That's good, right?"

Tears started in Katie's eyes at Jack's hopeful tone. "I think so."


"It's different this time."

"Different?" Hope drifted towards frustration. "How?"

"Someone hurt him. "

Jack snorted. "That's happened before. He's tough, he'll be fine."

"No, Jack, it's different."


Katie glanced down. Even in sleep lines of tension cut deep into Dan's pale features. His mouth twitched and he rolled away, leaving a cold space of air between them. She bit her lip. "He isn't talking to me. He's…it's like he's in shock."

"Not a word?"

"He said 'I did it'. That's all."

"Do you want me to come over there? The storm is over. I can be there in fifteen."

"Is it?" Katie looked up towards the window surprised to see sunlight creeping between the drawn blinds.


Yes! She wanted to scream the affirmation but she bit down hard on her traitorous tongue. Blood flooded her mouth with iron and stiffened her spine until the bones cracked loudly in the quiet room. "No, don't come, Jack."

"Are you sure?"

"I wanted you to know he's home. But I think we need to handle this alone."

Jack cursed. "Handle this? Katie, you're not making sense. I'm coming over there..."

"No!" The bed shifted and Katie looked away from the window to Dan, who was now sitting up and watching her. "No, Jack, don't come." She hung up without waiting for a reply. "Hey," she whispered, asher fingers stroked Dan's knee. "How are you feeling?"

Dan's blue eyes skipped around the room never lighting for more than a breath. A sigh parted his thin lips and Katie shivered as his already pasty skin blanched to paper-white. She squeezed his knee. "Talk to me."

The plea seemed to reach some part of him. A second, deeper sigh and Dan briefly met her eyes. "I wasn't sure this time."

"Sure? Sure of what?"

He swallowed audibly and looked down at his hands resting limply in his lap. "I wasn't sure of you."

Katie pushed her free hand through her damp hair. Go slowly go gently, God, what happened? Keeping her hand firmly in place, Katie slid closer to him. His chest was warm against her side and she leaned in, attempting to pull him close.

Dan shrank back against the pillow. "I can't. Katie, I…just can't."

She blinked back a flush of hurt and offered a shaky smile. "It's okay."

"No," he hissed between gritted teeth, his knee dropping away from under her hand. "No, it's not."

"You're scaring me." The words hung between them and Katie instantly regretted them more than anything she had ever said or done. It was cruel to be so selfish in light of his obvious pain. She opened her mouth to apologize.

"Don't." Dan's fingers brushed her lips, lingering for a moment before drifting back down to the bed. He grimaced and looked away to the far side of the room.

Katie brushed angrily at the tears burning her eyelids. "You don't have to do this alone," she counseled. In truth there was usually Livia to guide him but somehow Katie knew this time was different. This time Dan had seen or done something Livia could not help or prevent. This time Katie had tried to hold him in the present and the ripples of time had tainted the past. She knew it for fact even before Dan spoke.

"I have to go Katie. No matter how much I want to stay I have to go when it calls."


"It, them, dammit!" Dan violently shook his head. "I don't know what to call it. I just know that you can't hold me here, ever!"


His bark of laughter was high and startling in the stillness. Dan threw the covers aside and rolled out of the opposite side of the bed. He stood and turned to face her, jaw clenching, eyes darting restlessly as he shifted from foot to foot. "Okay," he repeated hollowly.

Not okay but what else could she say Katie mused, feeling a touch of hysteria as she stood up. What happened?

Dan gasped and for a moment Katie wondered if she had spoken aloud. His eyes softened for the first time since returning. They wandered over her body, seeming to absorb every curve and hollow. From her rounded cheeks and broad mouth down to the shadows between her breasts. Then lower to the dip of her waist and outward to the swell of her hips and the length of her thighs until they disappeared behind the edge of the bed. Katie reveled in the visual caress, longing to feel his hands on her skin. The silence stretched from seconds to minutes. Dan seemed to gather himself in steps: a calming of the body, a flattening of his twitching lips and finally his eyes rising to meet hers.

Katie did not flinch away. Those eyes had touched her with love, glittered with mischief and delight, filled with tears at Zack's birth, flinted with rage and fear: those eyes were familiar for all of their distance. She waited.

"Do you remember Bryan Pierce?"

Katie did not expect the name or the visceral shudder that traveled the length of her body. Pierce had stalked her for three years when she worked as a reporter for channel 6. It was early in her career. No one could believe a low level reporter mainly tasked with human interest pieces and local entertainment news could possibly have attracted such an inconspicuous sociopath as Bryan Pierce. Thirteen years later she could still see his green eyes watching her from passing cars or in storefront windows. Katie licked suddenly dry lips and nodded. "Someone shot him."

Dan moved to the end of the bed. Holding her gaze he pointed to his chest. "I did."

"I didn't know you…Oh, God." Comprehension weakened her knees and Katie collapsed to the floor. She heard Dan stride across the room, felt his strong hands lift her up and onto the mattress. A beat of hesitation and then enfolding her in his warmth as his lips brushed a kiss against her forehead.

"I did," he breathed.

The knowledge seeped into her pores and coursed through Katie's body in a froth of certainty, gratitude and fear. She clung to Dan and felt his body trembling close and hot against her. His hands cupped her head and shoulder, his breath fanned her scalp in hoarse gasps. Time spun away and Katie remembered the day an unidentified vigilante had killed the man who would have ended her life with a single shot from high above a busy street. She remembered the crack of the gun, the body falling from the window of a vacant building, the screams of onlookers scattering down below. The glimpse—only for a second—of her savior before he pulled back from the window. A glint of blond hair and a torn shirt…

Katie pulled back and reached to cup Dan's warm cheeks in her chilled fingers. He tried to look away but she held his gaze and leaned forward to tenderly kiss him on the mouth. "It was you," she murmured. "My God, Dan…" She saw the full weight of necessary murder come to settle across his shoulders. Shadows darkened his eyes to gunmetal grey and Katie blinked back a wave of insistent tears. "I didn't know, I didn't remember."

"Neither did I," he sighed raggedly. "I don't know how to explain."

"I don't think you can." She meant it by way of comfort as much as truth. Livia and Elliot Langely had only begun to explain the paradoxes of time travel. There was still too much even they did not know. There was still the chance that she would someday forget this conversation, forget Dan himself, and that was unacceptable. Katie pulled Dan towards her and held on. Here was her husband, warm and alive, shaken by doubts and fears. Here was his guilt-ridden relief at having saved her at the expense of someone's life and the shock of grief at what might have been or could still be. Here was a man who had always abided the law and now he had killed someone. This was reality. She could not be concerned with what might come later. She would hold on figuratively, if not literally, because she had no choice and neither did he.