"Curse Will, curse him and his damned winter holiday suggestion" Dr Helen Magnus grumbled as she trudged her way back to the cabin they were supposed to be staying in.
Problem was, they were snowed in, food was running low, and the prospect of several more days in such a place was enough to drive her to distraction, or was it desertion?
Knee deep in snow was something Helen was not unused to, having dealt with the oppressive winters of London for many many years. Collecting firewood, and foraging for food were not her strong points though.
Ordinarily such tasks were assigned to her manservant, but since he had caught a rather nasty cold during his last outing into the wintery outdoors, she had confined him to their cabin until he was suitably recovered. Who would have thought Bigfoot would catch a chill with all that fur? Again she cursed Will. It was his suggestion that after a rather stressful last few months that everyone needed time to relax and recharge, or in his own personal case – remind himself of what normal people did in the normal world. Not chasing monsters, rescuing misunderstood mutants, or trying to cure themselves of longevity and unleashing the three evil witches on the world at large. So thus he had booked them a small remote cottage somewhere in the wilderness, so that they could bond as a family and not rip each others throats out. Not that it wasn't tempting. Helen had reluctantly agreed with the idea, hoping that it might repair her somewhat tenuous relationship with her daughter Ashley. So thus, the four of them were now stuck in this godforsaken place with no means of getting out.
" What I wouldn't give for a good cup of tea" Helen mused as the cottage came into view, barely visible among the deep snow drifts that surrounded it.
Unfortunately the tea had run out yesterday and now all that was around was the demonic substance Will seemed to thrive on. Coffee. It took her a little longer to finally make it back to their humble abode, her arms aching from carrying a large assortment of branches and kindling. Kicking the door so she didn't drop the bundle she waited to be let in, wondering how long it would take for the frostbite developing in her toes to become irreparable. Thankfully the door swung open, revealing a pissed off Ashley and a relieved Will. So there was trouble in paradise after all.
" Finally.. I'm starving and its freezing in here" Ashley complained, reminding Helen that this was a monumentally bad idea to start off with. Bigfoot ambled over and took the wood, stacking it next to the small fireplace and tossing some of the drier stuff onto the meager excuse for a fire. Instantly the cold seemed a little less invasive as the fire flickered and danced a little brighter, casting eerie shadows everywhere.
" What food have we left?" Helen asked, knowing that if Ashley was hungry – the rest of them would be too, although they would generally be a little more courteous about announcing such things.
" Not much" Bigfoot grumbled and opened the pantry cupboard door. Not much was an understatement.
" I saw some deer, as well as rabbits, we may be able to catch one of those" Helen suggested as she pulled the outer layer of her frozen clothing on and sat by the fire. All heads turned towards Ashley, who was the obvious hunter of the group aside from Helen herself. There was a few moments before Ashley realized what was going on.
" You expect me to trudge out there in the cold and shoot rabbits and deer for food?" the aforementioned hunter retorted, a look of distain on her face.
" Unless you wish to live on boiled potato and cabbage I would suggest you do so. You were the one complaining about being hungry" Helen shot back, wishing she hadn't used quite as much attitude in her own reply. Like mother like daughter.
" Ugh! Just like always I have to do everything myself!" Ashley trudged over to the coat-rack to get her coat and boots, checking her shotgun to make sure it was loaded and ready to use. Helen moved in behind her.
" I'll come with you, there's only a few hours of daylight left" She said by way of an explanation, shucking back into her now semi-frozen coat and boots, reminding herself to pack her weapon on the inner layer of her clothing so it didn't freeze… again.
" We shouldn't be too long" Helen said as the two women headed out into the frozen wasteland, instantly sinking into the deep snow. For some strange reason she didn't want Ashley going out alone, not this time anyways.
For what seemed like a small eternity they trudged silently side by side, Helen easily keeping pace with her daughters determined and pissed off march. She decided against saying anything, knowing it would only antagonize the situation further and that was the last thing she needed at this point in time. Finally, Ashley seemed to make the first move.
" You don't have to babysit me, it's not like I've never hunted before" Ashley remarked sourly, letting her emotions clearly show through the scowl on her face and the tone of her voice.
" I'm not babysitting, I'm aiding you. We can carry twice as much food this way" Helen remarked calmly, hoping to diffuse the situation. Foreboding loomed within her, something was going to happen and it wasn't going to be good.
Another hour passed, and they had shot two rabbits and were tracking the hoofprints of a small deer. Light was beginning to slowly fade, the shadows drawing longer on the snow and the temperature beginning to drop further.
" I see it" Ashley hissed, and almost seemed to slink over the snow, not creating a single sound other than her whispered words. The deer's ears pricked, its head raising with the unfamiliar noise. Ashley raised her gun and fired, dropping the deer to the ground, blood seeping from the wound and staining the white underneath. Helen went to examine the deer, but her foot caught on a tree root underneath the snow, sending her tumbling to the ground. Ashley's laugh would have been refreshing had Helen not heard the crack of bones giving way as she fell. Biting her tongue she rolled over, cradling her now very broken ankle in her gloves. In her mind a long line of rather unladylike words coursed end over end, repeating over and over but not a single one passed through her tightly pressed lips.
" Oh… crap…." Ashley remarked, dropping the deer carcass and moving over to her mother.
" Is it…?" she asked, already knowing the answer.
" Broken? Yes" Helen's sharp reply was. Now they were really screwed as Ashley would say.
" Crap" Her daughter repeated, and began looking around them. " We won't make it back to the cabin tonight, looks like its you and me and a ice cave for two" She quipped, already spying a suitable location in a nearby hillside.
All of a sudden the tables were turned, normally it was her mother that patched her back up, made things all better and gave her a kiss on the forehead, now it would be Ashley's turn to take care of her mother, something she wasn't altogether comfortable with.
" There, see that cave over there… think you can make it?" She asked, pointing out a small cave not too far away. Helen followed the pointed finger and saw the cave.
" I think so, let me bind this first" Helen replied, pulling off her thick woolen scarf and wrapping it tightly around her boot, neatly immobilizing the break. " Give me your hand" She asked, offering her own so that she could stand.
Movement was painful, incrediably so, but at least Helen knew she wouldn't die out here. Ashley however could easily freeze to death in such an environment.
Darkness had just about fallen by the time they had made it to the cave, Helen leaning heavily on Ashley as she hopped clumsily through the deep snow. She flopped onto the rough floor, ignoring the cold seeping through her bones as her body dealt with the pain.
" We need a fire…. Can you collect some wood?" She asked, pointing towards some large nearby trees that had dropped some decent sized branches onto the white snow.
" Be right back" Ashley snorted and headed to the nearby tree, easily dragging up the limb and breaking it into manageable pieces using her hands and boots.
Using the gunpowder from one of Helen's bullets they soon had a small fire going, conserving what little wood they had but managing to starve off the chill just a little.
" It's going to get very cold…" Helen started, but was cut off by her daughter.
" I know… guess this wasn't quite the trip Will had planned" Ashley replied, for once there wasn't a hint of malice or attitude on her voice. Was there a touch of fear perhaps?
" Ashley listen to me, I won't die out here, even injured - you know that. But you… you must stay close to the fire" Helen finished lamely. She'd been afraid for her daughter before, always rushing off to kill some monster that she'd figured needed taking out, but to watch her flesh and blood die from hypothermia right in front of her, was not something she thought she would have to deal with.
" I will" Ashley replied simply, distracting herself by breaking up some more of the wood. She couldn't let her weakness show. Fear was the enemy, to be conquered at all costs. How could the possibility of freezing to death frighten her so much?
Hours passed, the chill invading more and more until Ashley's teeth started to chatter against her will.
" Come here" Helen said, unbuttoning her large overcoat and scooting back so Ashley could snuggle against her. The movement sent spinters of pain from her ankle and she stifled a small moan. Ashley curled up against her mother, thankful for the extra warmth and comfort that her mother's body provided. It was as though she were little again, curled up in her mothers arms as she was read a bedtime story. Safe, warm, protected.
It was in this same position that they were found the next day by Will and Bigfoot, huddled together in the small cave, the fire flickering weakly against the rising sunlight. Will sensed instantly something had changed between the two, but didn't say a thing, merely observing the interactions between the two. Helen was taking a piggyback ride via Bigfoot back to the cabin, where they'd been informed the snowplow had made it to. Now thankfully they could leave this godforsaken place and go home. Ashley kept close to her mother, as though she felt comforted by her presence and was concerned about her wellbeing.
Will smiled and kept a pace or two back, allowing the small family some privacy. Maybe this trip hadn't been a complete waste of time after all.