South of San Jose
4th April 2009, wee hours

"Get in!" he hollered to Noah as he slid into the driver's seat. Once he knew everything was secure, Daniel jammed his foot on the accelerator, surging forward as they raced away from the inferno. Even as they delved deeper into the tree line, he could see the smoke obscuring the sky above and there was one consolation in that the skyfighters could not spot them. Searching for another track out of the parkland, Daniel weaved and ducked, risking the headlights to see through the smo


If Mick had been conscious, he could have told them where they were but, looking at Daniel's map, Noah figured it was Anderson Lake. Maybe thirty or thirty-five miles outside San Jose. Crashing through the county park, they had emerged on the other side and found it bordered a lake.

They were presently making themselves at home in an empty fisherman's cabin, not because morning had broken but because Mick had still been bleeding. Stevie didn't look much better but she had managed to close him up, grateful he was still out as the lidocaine she'd used on Jeremy had been Paolo's.

"Give him some Aspirin or Advil when he wakes up," Stevie told Noah as she finished bandaging Mick with his help.

"Sure," Noah said, watching her closely. "How about you sit down and I clean up that gash on your head?"

"No, it's okay," she replied, already pulling away, unsteady on her feet. "I'll go check in the bathroom."

"Stevie, you're white as a sheet," Noah countered, looking to the door to see if Daniel could be of any help in making her see sense. The man had been busy repacking the Jeep in some kind of order so they would be ready to head out when needed, but surely he would be about done by now.

"I'm just tired... just tired." She tried to give him a smile so he'd get off her back. She felt numb and cold, but the dizziness and nausea had somewhat abated - except when she moved too fast. The (almost) nurse in her recognised the signs of a concussion and shock. Grabbing the med kit and one of the flashlights, she went to the bathroom, closing the door behind her.

She sat on the toilet after putting the cover down and just stared at her hands. The blood... it blurred and merged with a similar image she had of when Davey had died. This was Mick's blood but it could have easily been Noah's or Daniel's. Oh, Daniel. She started to tremble, fighting to keep the tears at bay.

How could she be so scared to lose him when she didn't even have him?

Daniel glanced at the door to the bathroom when he returned to the cabin after ensuring that the jeep was packed properly after their encounter with the Visitors in the woods, having mounted the guitars on the roof with the alligator straps so that Mick could have a bit of stretching room when they were on the move again.

Even now, the smoke was a thick grey cloud behind them. They were out of the fire's reach but its presence was still evident. Daniel had driven through the burning wood at breakneck speed, convinced that God was watching because they didn't crash into a tree or, worse yet, get overtaken by the flames. Somehow, Daniel managed to find a single-lane road meandering through the forest, which took them away from the fire. As he followed the road, hoping it would take them to the highway again, the dense wood began to thin out and in the distance, the moon shimmered off the surface of a lake. Glancing occasionally through the rear view mirror, the blaze from the fire continued to diminish and it seems for now, they had outrun its fury.

"Mia." He stood at the door. "Are you alright?"

Stevie looked up towards the door. Daniel's voice, scratchy and tired, was drawing her in despite knowing better. "Yeah," she replied, not wanting to be turned down, wishing he would leave her alone if he couldn't... wouldn't choose her. But then thought better of it.

"No," she said as she opened the door. Life was too short.

He didn't step inside, waiting instead at the door. "Do you need some help?" he asked, uncertain of what else to do. He had made his case clear before this and anything else he said to explain himself about his choice would only seem like an excuse. He knew what was at the heart of it, even if he dared not to admit it out loud.

"I just need to get cleaned up..." She just needed to see him, she realised, make sure he was alright. She glanced down at her hands again before she looked up, meeting his eyes. "Would you... would you hold me?"

He could do that for her. For everything else he had put her through, Daniel would give her that much. Wordlessly, he stepped into the bathroom and gathered her lithe body to him, wrapping his arms around her and letting her, for a moment anyway, draw what comfort she could from him. He owed her that much. "Everything will be okay, Mia."

She let out a shuddering breath as he pulled her in and she found herself sinking into the comfort of his arms and chest. She held on tight for a moment before she tried to relax. "Thank you for getting us out."

He held her close, hating himself for being weak, for being too afraid to let go of his old life or to contemplate a new one with her in it. "It's the least I could do," Daniel said quietly.

"When we went down..." she spoke quietly against his shoulder. "We saw all that fire, I thought they'd gotten you and Noah," she admitted. She hadn't even minded crashing then and that feeling scared her.

"I'm sorry we scared you," Daniel said, stroking her back gently, the way one would soothe a racehorse attempting to bolt. "The skyfighter just landed in front of us... we didn't have a choice. But we're okay, Mia, all of us."

"Yeah. Mick should be fine." She took a deep breath and allowed herself to enjoy his closeness a little longer before pulling back. She looked up at him and gave him a small smile in thanks before she turned to the mirror, looking at the damage for the first time.

"It's odd," she said, peering at herself a moment longer before her fingers went to look for the scalp wound that had bled so much. "I don't recognise what I'm looking at..." She winced, prodding a bit more before turning to the med kit so she could clean the mess and the cut.

"I do," he said with a faint smile, looking at her in the mirror. "It's the same strong woman I met at a gas station in the middle of nowhere."

Her eyes met his. Stevie had meant before that... back in Ensenada, pre-Visitor attack. That girl might have been strong too - she had never thought about it really - but she'd been happy and relatively carefree... and drunk. The eyes that looked back at her now were way too serious and heavy. And even washing all that blood away wouldn't bring the old Stevie back.

She washed her face and hands and then got some gauze and peroxide and proceeded with cleaning her cut. "Can you check it's clean?" It was in a tricky spot and while she could clean the gash by touch, she couldn't look at it through the mirror.

"Of course." He circled her so that he could get a better look at the wound. "Let me have the gauze," he said, taking the bloodied scrap from her and continuing to clean the wound. It was a nasty gash but it looked worse than it actually was. "Sit down," he gestured to the toilet so she could sit while he did the rest. While he wasn't a nurse as she had almost been, he had cleaned a few wounds in his time.

Docile, Stevie sat down and angled her head so he would have a better view. She hissed a little at the pain and blinked. "Needing stitches?" she asked.

"Probably not," he said after a moment. "Just a band aid will do." Fishing through the first aid kit, Daniel sealed the gash with two butterfly band aids after cleaning it appropriately. A few minutes later and Mia's injury, the physical ones at least, were attended to.

"Come on," he gestured to the door. "You need to lie down and get some rest."

"Thanks." She stood and headed out. "You should rest too."

They filed out and Stevie went to check on Mick in the kitchen, who lay on the double bed there. It had been more practical for Stevie to work on him, close to running water. Noah was still with him and he looked up.

"Looks better," he commented about her appearance, his gaze moving from her to Daniel behind. "You guys should go crash for a few hours..."

"You need to rest," Daniel reiterated his advice from the bathroom. "You took a pretty hard hit to the head," he said, leading her to the other bedroom where he had seen bunk beds.

"Call me when you need to get some rest," Daniel said to Noah, whom he'd assume planned on keeping an eye on Mick.

"Sure." Noah nodded. "Keep an eye on that concussion," he warned Daniel.

Stevie entered the room of the little cabin where two twin bunk beds were. Hard to imagine you could cram six people for a holiday in such a small space but then it beat a tent, or even the arrangements her parents used to make for scientists and their families back in the day. The space had been a lot more cramped then. She looked around, torchlight in hand. There were pillows and she noted that Noah had already moved in some of their own blankets.

"Ladies choice," Daniel joked to hide how awkward he felt. He had only thought of getting her to bed but now realised that he'd have to sleep in here too and that opened another can of worms, on top of the bait shop he had already squirming around them. Hopefully, they could do this without making things any more tense between them.

"I won't risk a top bunk," she returned, thinking she was dizzy enough on terra firma. She handed Daniel the torch and sat down on the closest bed, too out of it to clue in on his discomfort.

"I'll take this one," he said, having no desire to climb up either. Lowering himself onto the mattress, he swallowed thickly, sitting across her.

She met his gaze briefly. A jumble of thoughts swam in her head, like where they were exactly, how long until San Francisco, what they would do once they got there, when was the last time they ate. But what stood out was how strange it felt to find herself in a confined space with him again since Pismo Beach.

"I've got gummy bears," she offered, pulling a packet out of her coat pocket. "Want some?"

Gummy bears.

He was never going to be able to think of those without thinking of her. "No thanks," he said with a little smile, thinking how magnificently absurd she could be and how much he liked that about her. "Are you hungry?" he asked after a moment. "For some real food?"

"No." She shook her head slowly before popping a handful of gummies in her mouth. She was too drained for real food, besides she wasn't sure she would keep it in. "Good night, Daniel," she said, lying down.

"Goodnight, Mia."

Daniel waited until she was settled before he loosened his collar, removing the neck piece and discarding the dark coat over it. Removing the Rabat to reveal a white t-shirt beneath it, he kicked off his shoes and lay down himself to sleep at least for a while.

Turning on her side, Stevie caught what was probably Daniel's ritual every night. It was refreshing to see him sporting only a white t-shirt. With that image in mind, she closed her eyes, willing sleep to come.

Daniel turned off the flashlight and closed his eyes, uttering a silent version of his nightly prayers because he didn't want to disturb her. Lying in the darkness, he could hear her breathe and tried not to focus on the soft wisp of her breath, feeling so close it could be against his skin.

Stevie didn't know how much time ticked by but she still couldn't find sleep. With a tired sigh, she shifted, trying to find a comfier position. But all her attention was really on one thing. One person actually. Daniel, not three feet away from her and still not sleeping either.

He could hear the stops and starts of her breath, the way her body kept shifting. Eyes open in the darkness, he listened despite himself, her presence was tantalising and he thought about the choice he had made and found the need to be with her, rising to the surface again.

"Can't sleep?" he asked.

Stevie hesitated. "No. Sorry, I must be keeping you awake with all my shuffling..." She turned again to face him, even if she couldn't see him. "Daniel?"

"Yes?" He rolled over and faced her in the dark.

She waited a beat, not knowing exactly how to put her need into words. "Mind holding me again..?" Stevie couldn't believe she was asking this of him but she was so tired and stressed out and she knew he was the answer. "I don't mean... Daniel, I don't... just let me be close." Had she ever been this needy before? There was a first for everything...

He almost said no for selfish reasons and then found he wanted to say yes for the same reasons. However, above all else, he could not say no to her because she needed him. He suspected that was how it would always be, he was her creature if he gave in to her. Sitting up in his bed, he moved across the narrow space between their beds and sat on the edge, waiting for her to move aside to let him in. His presence an answer.

Relieved when he didn't flat out say no, Stevie shifted towards the wall to make room for him on the single bunk.

Daniel slid into the bed with her, arm sliding over her waist, and pulled her close, feeling the heat of her body against his.

It felt like coming home. It was ridiculous given the fact they had never shared a bed together before, but closeness they had shared, like after leaving Los Angeles. She moved in against him, her nerves already settling down as she breathed him in. "Thank you," she whispered.

He barely heard the words she spoke through the pounding of his heart. Once again, an act which he thought would be a simple sharing of heat, nearly overwhelmed him. The intimacy of it was like nothing he knew. He could feel her breath against his neck, the heat of her body taunting his from neck to toe. He fought the need to pull her closer, to breathe in her hair, to explore every part of her skin when everything she was swirled around his senses, threatening to drown him. In a hoarse voice, he answered, "You're welcome."

One of her hands went to rest on his chest, her palm feeling his heartbeat, strong and a little fast. Daniel was really there, next to her. They had really lived through that attack and the crash... had outrun the inferno. She realised she had felt adrift, restless, either rolling down the hill in their van or rushing through smoke and trees in a mad dash for their survival, until he held her. He was her anchor, he grounded her, and that was a good thing because she had been drifting for so long.

Closing her eyes, her own breathing slowed as her body relaxed against his. It struck her how nicely they fitted, a fleeting thought she refused to dwell on because it would bring forth all that couldn't follow... all they couldn't have together. She just went with the present, with what he allowed them now, and she drank it in, committing it to memory.

As she relaxed against him, Daniel marvelled at the closeness between them which seemed to transcend the mere sensation of flesh against flesh. Beyond the pleasure of her body pressed against him, Daniel felt something else that was almost as satisfying, a connection of spirit that made him aware of her in so many different ways. Like a man in possession of a painting he had admired from afar, he was appreciating Mia in different ways now, basking in all that was her. He had never shared a bed with anyone in his life and suspected after tonight, he'd never be able to sleep without wanting this again.

It never occurred to her this could be difficult for him. Selfishly, she only thought on how right it felt to her, how it made her forget about the outside world. And sleep came upon her sneakily. One moment she was listening to his heart beating, feeling his chest move rhythmically and his warmth envelope her, and the next she was slipping under.

He watched her drift into sleep, admiring the gold dust on her eye lids as the peace bled into her face. Only when she slept, did he brush the stands of hair off her face, admiring the silkiness of her skin under his finger tips. He basked in the sight of her until sleep claimed him and Daniel thought as he finally succumbed, that his dreams was not equal to the beauty of her.

Scribe31oz 22:25, May 14, 2010 (UTC)

Wakefulness came to her in waves. Warmth and comfort first, and then the fact she was being held close. Stevie recognised his scent before the memory of what she had asked the night before hit her. It was Daniel's chest her back was pulled against, his arm that pillowed her head while the other was draped over her waist, his palm resting against her stomach. Her thighs and legs were plastered to his, it seemed, and she wondered just how much more amazing this would have felt to wake up to had they been naked.

The sun filtering through the trees hit the window and was warming the room with its still pale rays. It couldn't be that late. Six, maybe seven in the morning. She couldn't remember the last time she had slept four or five hours straight like that. She blinked, and closed her eyes again, listening to his slow, even breathing, refusing to move until he woke up.

He was dreaming.

She was beneath him, whispering his name in pleasured whimpers. His mouth was exploring her in all the forbidden places, tasting her flesh, his hands fondling her breasts, his cock pushing into the soft damp between her legs. He could smell her arousal, could hear her voice calling his name while her nails raked across his back. He never imagined, never dreamed that it could feel so good to be with her, to belong to her. He wanted it to last forever, wanted her forever and he didn't care if God....

Daniel woke up.

The fantasy evaporated around him. However, Mia was still there, against him, soft and warm. They fitted so well it was unbelievable. God in Heaven, how could she be forbidden to him when they seemed so right together? However, reality returned to him with awareness of where they were and...

And Mia wasn't the only thing that was still there.

The arousal of his dream was evident most prolifically by the hardness pressing into her back.

It appeared that Hell didn't necessarily mean fire.

Stevie was staring at the window, at the leaves swaying gently in the breeze. Daniel had been in the grasp of a dream, his breathing turning a little erratic, his heart rate increasing and his limbs jerking here and there slightly. Remaining still, she thought it was rather intimate to witness that kind of thing. It was... touching.

A slight shift later, his arms pulling her closer as his hips pushed into her, Stevie blinked, her breath catching. A second later, she realised Daniel was awake and he wasn't the only one. His erection pressed in the small of her back and it took everything she had not to press back against it.

But he was so still, she guessed he was totally mortified, when in fact it was something no bloke had ever any control over, especially in the morning. She smiled slowly, thinking of how damn endearing he was.

"Morning," she said softly, like there was nothing to it.

Daniel couldn't even savour how good it felt to wake up next to her when all he could think of was the fact that he was as hard as a nail and she knew it. Swallowing thickly, trying to figure out how to deal with a situation he had never had to deal with in his life, he responded almost an auto pilot. "Good... good morning," he stuttered.

Torn between doing the right thing and the fun thing, Stevie toyed with the idea of teasing him, of rolling her hips, grinding her behind against him. Had he not made it clear to her that he had already made his choice, she would have. But the fact that he had slept next to her only because she had asked him to made her reconsider. It wouldn't be nice to repay his kindness like that, with tempting him, with disrespecting his choices - even though she didn't agree with them.

So what could she do to make him more comfortable about this, to help him not lose face? Ignore the elephant in the room or mention it in passing?

"Daniel..." she started saying before she turned in his arms to face him, removing the direct contact to his groin. "Don't worry about it." She didn't look down between them. She didn't need to. It was on his face, that he was acutely aware of his state of arousal. His blue eyes caught her and she was relieved to see it wasn't so much shame he felt but more embarrassment.

"I... I... am sorry," he continued to stammer. The pull of his loins and the need for her so acute, he could barely stand it. "Uh.." He pushed himself off the bed. "I should..." He couldn't meet her gaze from sheer embarrassment and nearly fell off the bed, hurrying into the bathroom and shutting the door behind him, like the frightened virgin that he was.

"Shit," Stevie cursed, sitting up and swinging her legs to plant her feet on the floor. "Well, that went well..." Stevie ran her hands in her hair before resting her elbows on her knees, her fingers feeling her head wound. The headache was gone - thank god - and so was the dizziness. She even felt peckish. Pushing to her feet, she decided to give the poor bastard some room and went to relieve Noah and check on Mick.

Back pressed to the door, Daniel tried to will away the traitorous response of his body, mortified that she had seen him in such a state. It wasn't the first time he had awaken up like this. there was that time after watching an Angelina Jolie movie... but it was the first time he had done so with someone else. Horrified at being so exposed, he tried to think of the something else and only images of Stevie flashed in head. The fragment of the almost wet dream returned to him so potently, Daniel didn't even realise he was jerking off, until his hand was wrapped around his cock.

"Slept well?" Noah asked when he saw Stevie emerge from the bunk room.

Mick had woken up in the night briefly and since he had been coherent, Noah hadn't felt the need to go get Stevie. He'd given him water and soon Mick had drifted back to Lala-Land.

"Yeah, actually," she let out, voice still sleepy. She moved to him where he sat on the bed against the wall and a bunch of pillows, not far from Mick, and kissed the top of his head. "Morning."

"Morning." He gave her a tired smile. "He's been good," he told her as he saw her look at Mick.

"No fever?" she asked, moving around the bed until she could take Mick's vitals.

"Nope." Noah sat up and stretched, uncrossing his legs. "He woke up for a bit, had a whinge and some water, and fell asleep again."

"Good." She nodded. "You go crash. Daniel is up... he's in the bathroom." Stevie thought she'd better warn him.

"'Kay." Looking exhausted, Noah disappeared in the room, the door closing behind him.

Stevie pushed a lock of hair behind her ear and bent down to check Mick's bandages. It hadn't bled through much. She would wait until he woke up to take them off and have a proper look. For now, as long as he wasn't bleeding out, sleep was the best medicine.

Pushing the door open, she stepped into the chilly air and went to stand on the balcony. The smell of smoke still hung heavy in the air and the sky had the funny colour it often took during bushfire season, but the birds were chirping and that told her the fire wasn't coming their way, if it was still burning at all. She could see the lake from where she stood and the view was just breathtaking.

Daniel felt like a teenager again.

Inside the bathroom, his back pressed to the door, one hand stroking himself to completion. The whole thing went a good deal smoother when he had remembered those heated images he had seen in his dreams. Mia calling out his name in abandon, Mia's small but jutting nipples under his palm, letting him taste her.

He came through gritted teeth.

After cleaning himself up, he emerged from the bathroom, no evidence of his earlier discomfort, to join the others.

"Good morning," he said, a man decidedly calmer than he was not long ago.

"Morning, Daniel," Noah replied with a nod as he let himself fall into the bunk Daniel had first chosen. "I hope it's comfy," he let out and then cracked a smile. "Actually, I'm so damn tired I don't think I'll notice," he joked.

"It's comfortable," Daniel said, wondering if the man had noticed that the bed really hadn't been slept in and said nothing to enlighten him if he didn't. "How's Mick?" he inquired of the injured member of their party.

"He looks good. Still sleeping it off, the poor baby," Noah returned, though he was far from belittling what Mick and Stevie had gone through last night.

"We should let him sleep as much as we can," Daniel replied, since the day was just beginning outside. "They'll be looking for us. Best we move tonight."

"Yeah, plus I need my beauty sleep too." He gave Daniel a smile and kicked his boots off before lying down. "Night, man."

"Good night," Daniel said, leaving the room, and swept his gaze through the lodge, trying to locate Mia. He saw the open door leading to the balcony and stood next to her, admiring the view.

"It's beautiful," he remarked.

Stevie pulled her gaze away from the wisps of fog still hanging over some areas of the lake. "Yeah," she said, her eyes settling on Daniel. He looked more... a little less rattled.

"Whether or not she noted the change in his demeanour, she did not say and Daniel opted to move past the moment. "I think we should take the day and spend it out of sight, give Mick a bit more recovery time."

Stevie nodded, turning back to the lake. "I wouldn't like to risk travelling in daytime this close to San Jose and San Francisco - and especially not after what happened last night. They'll probably be looking for us." She glanced back at him. "Wasn't your dad in San Jose? Was Frank... certain of what happened?" Maybe they should go check his home. If not for his father then maybe his sister.

"Frank was certain." Daniel nodded, remembering the old preacher's words before things had turned so ugly between them. "He found my father." He refused to entertain any false hopes. No one would be happier than him if he was proven wrong but Daniel knew in his bones, his father was gone.

"Okay..." Stevie looked at the lake for a moment before giving it her back to face him. "Hungry?" Keep it civilised, keep it to basics.

She tried real hard to distance herself emotionally from him, if not physically. It wasn't easy. Especially with the few hours they had just shared in a single-sized bed. Even if they'd been both dressed, Stevie felt like she had connected more with him than with other guys she'd had sex with. But she also felt a little sorry for him, a little guilty even, at the way he'd woken up and fallen out of bed because of her, and so had decided just a few moments ago, as the morning sunshine kissed the lake before her, that she would not ask anything from him again.

"Uh, a little," he confessed, not about to lie even though he sensed she was drifting father away from him. Perhaps beyond his reach forever. Daniel wished he knew what to say to keep that connection but the choices of his life made it impossible.

Scribe31oz 22:25, May 14, 2010 (UTC)

They had made it to San Jose without incident and the closer they approached San Francisco, the more Daniel was of the opinion that they ought to play it safe. They were on the Visitors radar now, having two narrow escapes since meeting up. Daniel wasn't certain how Visitors communication worked but he was certain that they would be on the look out for a jeep with at least two passengers. Not wanting to risk a third encounter and suspecting that eventually their luck for evasion would be exhausted, Daniel turned south briefly, heading into the mountains away from the urban sprawl that their present route would take them.

Taking the I-7, he headed southwards for two or three hours, allowing the jeep to turn of the Santa Cruz highway into the small one lane Black Road that wounded and twisted through the mountains. In the darkness, they made their way to the coast, with sparse covering of vegetation on either side of them. If there were people about, Daniel didn't see them, more focused on the road and what was in the sky. Occasionally, they saw the lights of a skyfighter zipping ahead and during those moments, Daniel shut down the engine and sat motionless in the dark until the craft had passed.

They remained on the same road, passing the Castle Rock, Portola and Pescadero State Parks before climbing back onto the I-35 and riding it all the way to Half Moon Bay, a town that geographically was isolated by the ocean and state parks. On the Junipero Serra Highway, Daniel noticed that the cars abandoned had been left untouched, except for the open flap of the gas tank, indicating that someone had been busy siphoning gasoline out of the vehicles. Possibly enterprising residents, who had opted to flee north like they were doing themselves.

The journey within the vehicles was mostly peaceful, with no opportunity for comment to be made on the humiliating situation when he woke up with Mia that previous morning. Daniel thanked the Almighty repeatedly for that one. With Noah and Mick in the car, there was also little opportunity for further awkwardness between himself and Mia. However, it was likely clear to the two men in the car that while neither he nor Mia were hostile to each other, they were in some way estranged.

Despite this state of limbo that he and Mia seemed to be in, Daniel found his thoughts constantly returning to the moment he had woken up and found her there in his arms, before the insecurities and fears in his heart had opportunity to remind him of their presence. In fact, he found his thoughts constantly preoccupied with how it felt to wake up with another human being for the first time in his life.

And how good and completely happy he felt to know that it was Mia.

Crossing the bridge on Crystal Spring Dam, Daniel could see the approaching sun bouncing off the crystal water and, for a moment, was struck by the beauty of the amber light against the surface. A flock of bird burst into flight as they drove past, soaring into the clouds. At moments like these, it was easy to forget the world was in turmoil and fighting for its life.

Driving down to Half Moon Bay, Daniel noticed more of these cars along the road but he had to do very little weaving because the cars were mostly pushed to the side of the road. He wondered if there had been some mass exodus of the population when the Visitors came. It certainly looked as if the roads had been cleared to a degree for a quick exit down the highway.

As they took the Half Moon Bay Road to the town proper, the few homes they happened past, nestled in the green hills flanking them, seemed abandoned.

"Another ghost town," Mick said from the back. He was propped comfortably on blankets and pillows against the door, his long legs stretched in Stevie's lap.

"Yeah, but for some reason I'm feeling... observed," Noah commented.

Stevie was blankly staring out her window, oblivious to their surroundings and the current conversation.

Daniel said nothing at first, watching everything. The sun was creeping above the horizon and the light was pouring through the jeep, threatening to quickly become daylight. Something was off but he couldn't put his finger on it. His sixth sense was telling that something wasn't right and he wondered if coming here had been prudent after all. Half Moon Bay had been remote and close enough to the coast to be a viable destination but now that they were here, he had to wonder if it was entirely safe. Being so remote, who knew what had happened here since the Pulse?

Now on the San Mateo Road, the feeling seemed to grow in intensity as the town limits sprung around them. A caravan park on their left showed no signs of habitation and once again, Daniel noticed how he didn't need to navigate through the cars. While there were abandoned junkers against the pavement, it seemed they had been cleared enough to allow a vehicle to move through the road quickly. Whether the others noticed this or not, Daniel couldn't say but he decided not to call attention to it especially if nothing came of it.

They were passing along a building that called itself the Natural Resources Conservatorium when suddenly he heard what sounded like a backfire and he lost control of the jeep, swerving violently across the Miramonte Street, barely avoiding crashing into the angled parked cars along the road.

"What the hell, man?" Noah let out, grabbing the handle above his window with one hand while he braced himself with the other on the dashboard.

Wearing no seatbelt, Mick cursed in pain as he was thrown on Stevie, crushing her against the door, before he landed back in his seat, holding his side tightly with his arm.

Catching her breath, stunned by the head butt Mick had just given her, Stevie looked around. "Someone shot our tyres?" she hazarded a guess.

"I think so," Daniel said tautly as the jeep skidded to a halt outside what appeared to be a bakery, before an intersection. His eyes scanned the top of the buildings and sighted at least a dozen places where the shot could have come from. Unable to go any further with a blown tyre, Daniel realized that they weren't going anywhere until he could inspect the damage. Even if this reeked of an ambush.

"Stay inside," he asked and climbed out of the vehicle cautiously, eyes searching the street for any sign of life. It couldn't be the Visitors; they wouldn't be so subtle, where else, a bullet meant human and these days were two kinds of humans - raiders or refugees. Looking ahead at the intersection, he saw no evidence of cars approaching or anyone else on the street.

Ignoring the priest's request, Noah climbed out with the shotgun, his eyes scanning the buildings around. "This smells like raiders, Daniel," he said through clenched teeth. "We lost Cage to some, don't intend on losing you." He turned to Stevie.

She didn't need to be told. One look to Mick, who was still gasping in pain, biting down and eyes watering, she placed his .44 in his hand before she opened her door and jumped to the ground. She moved to Noah and took the shotgun from him. "If this were raiders, we'd be swamped by now," she said, puzzled.

"Come on, let's change that tyre," Noah told Daniel, heading for the back of the Jeep, where the spare was mounted on the door.

"Yeah," Daniel nodded, disagreeing with nothing that Noah was saying. Snapping out of his observations, he went to the back of the car.

Suddenly appearing so quickly through the doorway of the bakery, that Daniel barely had time to register he was there until he appeared, was a man in his thirties, with dirty blond hair, intense looking eyes and an AK47 in his hands.

"Passing through?" he asked.

To be continued in Haven