One Last Problem

Reluctantly, Michael pulled away from Catherine, a small cup in hand to gather water. In retrospect, it probably wasn't the best idea to try to stay in the same spot for so long, particularly not after the encounter with the tueur mécanique. However, he didn't see the harm in trying to act a little chivalrous toward his traveling companion.

It was as he kneeled to collect water from a nearby lake, thinking back on his trip north and the chance encounter with Catherine, that he learned just how poor of an idea it was. Over the sound of his boots shifting in the snow, the all too familiar click of a round being loaded into the barrel of a gun reached his ears.

"So you're the one Cat ran off with huh?" a snide voice asked. Slowly, with his hands in the air, Michael turned to find a man in black armor pointing a rifle at his face. Behind this man, another five mercenaries stood, all of them looking just as cruel and heartless as he did. From what Catherine had described about the group, the doctor could guess these were Talon Company Mercenaries, which meant the man in front had to be Eben.

"You stay here," Eben ordered, pointing to one of his soldiers even though his eyes stayed fixed on Michael. "No gunshots. We don't want to wake Cat, now do we?"

Smiling the way a child would as it pulled the wings off a fly, Eben turned and headed toward the destroyed drone. While four of the mercenaries followed him, one stayed behind. The soldier who stayed behind slung his rifle over his shoulder, grinning at the doctor.

"I know what you're thinking," the mercenary stated placidly. I whole heartedly doubt that, Michael thought, though he kept his mouth shut.

"You're thinking you might be able to shout, or maybe force me to use my gun to warn Cat." Still grinning he pulled a combat knife from its sheath on his shoulder. "Go for it. She won't hear a thing."

In fact, Michael was too busy berating himself for leaving the revolver at the tent. Even if it held only two rounds, and he was a piss poor shot with the weapon, it did him little good there. He was also contemplating something much more rash than simply shouting a warning. He was intimately familiar with human anatomy, that and his familiarity with sharp objects might have given him an edge if it came to a brawl. But against a trained soldier, he doubted he'd be able to do much. Before he had a chance to make up his mind one way or the other, a gunshot echoed through the trees.

"Well," the mercenary said as Michael's blood turned to ice. "I guess they didn't have much to-"

He was interrupted by a sudden burst of automatic gunfire. In an instant, the forest in the direction of the makeshift camp was alive with the sound of an intense firefight. While the doctor was still trying to recover from the shock, the mercenary grabbed his shoulder.

"Move! Get out in front," the man ordered, pressing his rifle into Michael's spine. While the doctor's brain had been trying to cope with the sudden onrush of information, the mercenary had evidently not been as hindered. The two of them marched into the, Michael leading the way and acting as a rudimentary shield.

Well before they reached the camp, however, the sounds of gunplay ceased, and with it, so did the duo. After only a brief pause of silence, a scream split the sudden quiet air. Though he never thought he would take delight in hearing a man suffer, Michael knew it hadn't been Catherine who'd shouted, and that let a breath of hope enter his fear clouded mind.

No sooner had the mercenary behind him decided to move again, than more gunshots met the doctor's ears, this time sounding much closer. When the forest was silent again, Michael knew he'd have to act. Even if it meant he'd be shot, at least it would tell Catherine that there was another of these madmen in the forest.

In addition, the mercenary who'd stayed behind was breathing heavier, pressing the barrel into Michael's back harder and harder. At any moment, the mercenary would decide to be done with the doctor, and shoot him anyways.

Curling his hand into a fist, Michael took a step forward, hoping to land a right hook on the man behind him. Before he could so much as begin to pivot, a light flashed in the forest, and the deafening boom of yet another gunshot sounded.

Knowing he'd been shot, Michael waited for the sudden agony to hit him. He was in shock. That was the only explanation for why he hadn't already been thrown to the ground. In just another moment he'd feel the hot piece of lead lodged in his chest…

Except, it never came. After the gunshot, he must have closed his eyes, because he had to force them open in order to look at his own torso. There, he found no blood or shattered organs, no gaping bullet wound. Cautiously, he ran his hands over his arms, chest and thighs. Still feeling nothing, he turned to look at the mercenary.

Michael found the man who'd held him at gun point lying in the snow, his brains leaking from a gaping hole in his skull. Slowly, he looked in the opposite direction. Standing only a meter or so away, and looking as though she'd just run a marathon, Catherine kept a newly acquired pistol trained on the fallen mercenary.

Without a word, she crossed the narrow distance between them and wrapped both her arms around Michael's shoulders, firmly pressing her lips to his. Before he could get too comfortable, she pulled away and slugged him in the arm.

"What's the point of having a revolver if you don't carry it around?" Catherine's voice had climbed into a high pitched shout by the time the last word had left her mouth. Though she sounded angry, she kept on arm on Michael's shoulder, her face pale. "Are you okay?"

Rather than answer with words, the doctor kissed her, hugging her just a little tighter. Laughing, both from relief and from her outburst, Michael brushed a finger against her bruised cheek. He could understand her state of mind: anger, terror, joy and adrenaline all mixed together.

"Are you?" he asked, more than a little worried that Eben had hurt her. The question seemed to take her aback, almost as though she wasn't exactly sure yet.

"Yeah," Catherine replied after a moment. An expression that he could only interpret as contentment spread over his traveling companion's face. "I think I am."

Silently the two packed their belongings and left the blood stained campsite. Though, the road that marked the edge of Le Devin territory was closer than Michael thought it would be, neither of them had the energy to continue on much further beyond. Rather than push themselves harder than was needed, the two stopped in a field only half an hour or so from the road, finding a spot under a tree to rest for a moment.

"You know," Michael began as Catherine leaned against him, his left arm around her shoulder. They'd managed to find a moderately dry spot that overlooked a nearby lake to sit side by side. "We still have one problem."

Rather than respond, his traveling companion gave off something akin to a soft grunt. When he looked at her, Michael found that her eyes were shut. That made saying the next part easier as she was less likely to call him a wuss or blame it on "Canadian chivalry."

"See, when you're around, and when we aren't arguing or running for our lives," the doctor continued, grateful that he could say this while she slept rather than try to speak his mind when she was awake. "It's like I have something to lose again, something I'd miss… something worth missing."

He paused long enough to ensure that Catherine's eyes were still shut, and that she was asleep. If she had been awake, she probably would have told him to quit being so melodramatic. After all, they had just survived more than four attempts on their lives in less than twelve hours. Wasn't that stressful enough?

"I don't know if I can do that again," Michael stated, glad to have said it out loud.

"It's okay Mike," Catherine replied sleepily. She lazily tilted her head up to look at him, revealing the obvious fact that she'd heard everything he'd just said. With a comforting smile she once more leaned her head on his chest. "I'm not going anywhere."

A/N: Okay, that's all of it. Thank you to everyone who took the time to read and review! Let me know what you thought of it!