My dearest Sarela Jade. As always, my written words – and inspiration – are dedicated to you. Your devotion and encouraging words have given me the spur to write and post another chapter. Enjoy.

Crow and Dove

Chapter 10:

It was quiet except for the soft whisper of rain. Clouds drifted through the sky; the moon casting struggling individual rays of light down upon the drenched city. Most people had retired to the safety of whatever shelter was available to them whether it was a bar, an abandoned building, or a spot under a dripping awning. A few wanderers trudged through the drowned streets, their footsteps creating more whispers of water.

A lone crow on a mission emerged from its hiding place and glided through the rain effortlessly. It dipped down over the rooftops and angled to the left and disappeared. A dove, pale white in the dark, watched it go but didn't follow. Instead, it tilted its head down at two people who shared the shelter of an abandoned apartment with it.

A bedraggled man sat cross-legged in contemplation, cheeks still damp from shed tears. His scattered thoughts shifted from the purpose of his return to the memory of the vision he had shared with his friend.

Said friend sat behind him, her own eyes red and watery. She sat silently with her hands clenched together in her lap and legs folded under her. She sat in that same position when the man had relived her memories and then had recoiled from their effect. She sat in that same position even as the man had collected himself, gazed at her sadly for a moment, and then had turned away to take up his thoughtful pose. And a statue she remained, her eyes locked onto the back of that man.

"What now?" she rasped in a voice that barely made it past the lump in her throat.

Eric sighed and opened his eyes. It made little difference. It was still dark. But when he turned to face Sarah, he saw her clearly, her figure draped in a ray of moonlight that managed to slip through the cracked ceiling.

He knew what he had to do but he doubted Sarah would agree.

"I take down Thrash," he answered darkly.

Sarah's eyes widened and she leaned forward, breaking her formation to place one uncertain hand down on the floor. "But he's strong. Stronger than T-Bird and the others. And he has an army of hired guns."

Eric shrugged and stood. "I came back for a reason," he said simply in a gentle voice usually reserved for quelling the fears of a frightened child. "I made a promise to Shelley to take care of you and that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to take down the man that hurt you."

"Why?" Sarah stammered. "Can't we just run away? Leave this place? Hide?"

Eric sadly shook his head as he crouched down before Sarah. "If you could have left this place, I'm sure you would have already."

Sarah bit back a retort. Traveling in the open was a dangerous risk night or day. There was always someone watching. Besides, she had no friends or family to help her or take her in. She would still be alone and being alone in a familiar place was better than in a foreign land. She knew where all the escape routes where here.

That and she didn't want to leave Eric and Shelley.

"And Thrash doesn't seem like the type to give up on a chase."

That was true too. If someone crossed Thrash or tried to run from the gang, he hunted them down. He had the resources: eyes in the sky and on the ground. His men were assassins trained to follow a trail and remove any threat or inconvenience. Hiding was pointless too.

"I have to do this," Eric continued, slipping his hands under Sarah's in an assuring manner. He came back to protect her and that was what he was going to.

Sarah searched Eric's eyes, seeing only his resolution. There would be no arguing with him. More tears welled up in her eyes and her lips quivered.

"What if you get hurt?" she asked desperately. "What if he kills you?" Sarah pulled her hands out of Eric's in frustration.

"I can't lose you again!"

Eric straightened in surprise at the declaration. Sarah sat stiffly before him, biting down on her quivering bottom lip and blinking back the tears that threatened to fall. Anger mixed with remorse and absolute fear raged in her features.

Eric's gaze softened and he leaned forward to wrap the rigid girl in a hug.

"You won't," he assured.

Sarah lifted shaking hands to grip the back of Eric's shirt and allowed her head to rest against his shoulder, turning her head to hide her face against his neck.

She hated this.

She hated having to be the piteous damsel in distress who could only cry and wait for her hero to rescue her. She hated feeling so helpless, unable to provide Eric any assistance in taking down her threat because she wasn't strong enough help. She hated being the cause of the burden Eric had decided to take. It was her fault that Thrash was hunting her and now it was her fault that Eric was hunting him. She hated herself for being so weak and breaking down in front of Eric.

She hated all of it.

But despite the self-loathing roaring within her, she relished in the feeling of holding her friend again; of being able to touch him; to hear his voice; to inhale and smell his familiar scent that managed to be integrated into his new body.

"How can you be sure?" she murmured, nuzzling closer into the nook of Eric's neck. He was still soft.

Eric paused.

"To be honest," he said after a moment, "I'm not."

Sarah pulled out of his embrace to stare at him in horror. She had been expecting reassurance. Not doubt. "What?"

Eric looked to the rafters but didn't see the crow. No answers there then.

"Aren't you invincible?" Sarah asked hurriedly. "Like last time?"

"I don't know," Eric admitted honestly. "I hope so." He offered Sarah a grin in an attempt to lighten the mood.

It failed.

Sarah gaped at him and abruptly stood up to pace in front of him. "What do you mean you don't know? Wouldn't you know if you're invincible or not?"

Eric stood uneasily. Sarah continued to pace, muttering under her breath. Suddenly, she stopped and straightened decisively.

"Then I'm going with you."

Now it was Eric's turn to gape. "No," he said firmly after he had recovered.

Sarah faltered slightly at the tone but marched up to stand bravely before Eric. "Yes I am," she retorted. "If you're not invincible then you can get hurt." Sarah averted her gaze, inhaled deeply, and then turned back, her gaze fierce and determined. "I know how to use a gun and I can spy for you. I can distract them if you need me to. I can help. You won't need to protect me." I will not be the damsel in distress.

Though she didn't say the last part out loud, she seemed to emanate the statement.

Eric was taken aback and then joy flooded him at the prospect of Sarah's loyalty to him. But he couldn't ask her to come. It would be dangerous and she had already been hurt. Eric's eyes flickered to her shoulder where he knew a bullet wound resided. No, he couldn't have her getting into any more trouble. And he certainly didn't want those delicate, gentle hands holding the harsh metal of a gun again.

So, without another word, Eric spun on his heel and walked to the broken window of ragged wood and glass. He pinched off a piece of the tarnished glass. He turned back to Sarah and held the glass out to her for display. Sarah watched him, anxiety ruling as the superior expression.

"If I am invincible, then you won't need to come with me, right?" Eric asked expectantly.

Sarah connected what Eric was proposing with the glass he held ready in his hand and she released a gasp as her feet reflexively propelled her forward, just as Eric plunged the jagged glass toward his hand.

Sarah was faster.

"Stop!" she cried as she gripped Eric's hand and the glass he held, stopping him from cutting himself. She wrestled the glass out of his hand, ignoring the pricking pain as the glass carved thin slits into her fingers.

She threw the glass out the window and then turned on Eric, fury alight in her eyes. "Idiot! I don't care if you're invincible or not. I'm coming with you. Got it?"

Eric just stared at her. Sadness and pride glistened in his eyes at the sight of the person before him. Sarah was no longer the little girl he once knew. She was a woman now: strong and fierce. Though he didn't like it, Sarah was an adult, and as such, she was entitled to make her own decisions. Eric couldn't stop her nor did it appear as if he could deter her either.

And then he smiled. Sarah was a brave woman and was willing to fight by his side. He appreciated her faithfulness towards him.

"All right," he finally said. "It looks like I can't stop you."

Sarah's face immediately brightened as she relaxed in relief. "Not even if you tried."

Eric smiled back at her but it was a mask. Inside, he was terrified for her safety. He didn't want her getting hurt again. He wasn't going to let her get hurt again. Unnoticed by Sarah, he clenched his fists in response to the unspoken promise.

Above him, the dove bristled, fluffing up its feathers in an agitated manner. Glancing once more at the young woman below it, the dove took off in a flurry of feathers and sailed out into the rain to join the crow.

._._._._._._.

Sorry this took so long. Hopefully the next chapter will come sooner.

So, not sure if Eric's invincible and Sarah has volunteered to go against Thrash with him.

What's going to happen next? Guess you'll have to wait and see. And please inform me of any typos please so that I can fix them ASAP.

My thanks to all my reviewers, especially the annoying ones. Happy New Year everyone.

Hobey-Ho