“So, how have you been? What have you been doing for the last six or so years?”
They were a good distance back into the town, looking for the most 'comfortable' abandoned house to rest in. They hadn't seen anyone else since hitting the deserted part of the town, and Slinker had just taken it upon himself to break the silence.
Charleigh didn't look around, but smiled slightly. “Living, mostly.”
Slinker gave a dry chuckle, his eyes flickering shades of green. “So have I, but I doubt it's the same thing!”
Charleigh now turned, and looked at Slinker. Her deep brown eyes seemed to shift two shades darker in the now slowly fading light.
“There's not much interesting I've been doing, really. Studying in my own time, and a part time job in the gym.”
Slinker chuckled. “What are you studying?”
Charleigh raised an eyebrow. “What does it matter to you?”
Slinker shrugged. “I sleep a lot in libraries, so I read practically everything.”
Charleigh gasped suddenly, her eyes wide in realization. “So YOU'RE the boy in the library! I could've..” She pauses, then continued. “I mean, if I'd known, I could've gone and met you there!”
“And you say you've read everything?...” Her eyes glinted suddenly, and sprung a question on Slinker. “What molecule is the main source or 'currency' of energy inside eukaryotic cells?”
Slinker thought for a moment and tried to recall a book where it was mentioned, then answered. “Adenosine diphosphate, and I guess you're studying biology?”
Charleigh grinned approvingly, and said “Yeah, I'm studying biology. And it's adenosine TRIphosphate. Duh!”
Slinker laughed. “Hey, that answer was from memory! Not bad, I thought!”
Charleigh shrugged. “Rather be harsh then allow mistakes, right?”
Slinker nodded thoughtfully. “True.” His eyes faded slowly, to a dimmer, misty green.
The silence descended again momentarily. Then Charleigh spoke up slightly.
“What's up, Slinks?”
Slinker paused before speaking. “I was just thinking. About what you said. You're right, harshness is the best teacher.”
Charleigh's wry smile slowly faded as she comprehended his meaning. “You're talking about not having a family, aren't you?”
Slinker looked up startled; he hadn't even mentioned his past to her yet. He was about to speak when the expression on Charleigh's face stopped him.
She nodded. “I don't have a family either. I live in youth hostels, and all the money I have goes on food and shelter.” She manages a quick smile. “That's why I have to study in my spare time.”
Slinker paused before saying anything. “I'd hoped you could find your family again. When we escaped. Couldn't the police track them down or anything?”
Charleigh shook her head, silently.
Silence once more.
“What about your parents, Slink? Couldn't the police help with yours?”
Slinker laughed bitterly, slightly startling her. “You think the police would help me? They'd just lock me up again, saying it's for my own good! They wouldn't help, they'd think I'm a – a freak!”
His eyes flashed a dark red in his sudden anger. Charleigh took a step back, remembering suddenly what had happened the last time Slinker had had those tell-tale red eyes.
Slinker stopped walking for a moment, closed his eyes and took a deep steadying breath. When he opened his eyes, they were a faded orange colour.
“...Sorry, I guess I get worked up about the subject.”
Charleigh shook her head. “It's all right, I should have guessed you would.”
Slinker shook his head, and didn't reply. The silence came down heaver then before.
Eventually, Charleigh looked up at the darkening sky. “It's getting late. We ought to find somewhere to rest for the night.”
Slinker nods, and suddenly veers down a side alley.
Charleigh looks around a second later. “Hey, wait!” She hurries after him.
Slinker doesn't look around to see where Charleigh is. He flashes down two more alleys, and ends up in a clearing outside a large warehouse. He turns around, and gestures to the warehouse as Charleigh follows him more cautiously. “Will this do? This is a favourite haunt of mine.”
Charleigh stops dead and stares at the massive abandoned building, her anger at being left behind momentarily.
Somehow, she saw Slinker in a strange new light. The large forlorn building, the deserted streets, the empty district of town – and him, the master of all this realm. This was his home, his habitat, his kingdom. Even watching his movements around the warehouse - smooth, confident, assured – he was in complete control. There was nothing to touch him here.
Slinker looked up, and saw her stare. He stopped his cursory glances, and looked confusedly at Charleigh. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
Charleigh shook herself, and resumed her previous emotion. What was it again?
Oh yes. Anger.
“Well, you just ran off! And left me!”
Slinker shrugged. “I'd have gone back for you.”
Charleigh huffed derisively. “Yeah, like that's better than just making sure I could keep up!”
Slinker shook his head slightly, and began to walk back towards the building. “You wouldn't understand.”
Charleigh marched up behind Slinker and, seizing his shoulder, spun him around and pushed him against a wall. “Them MAKE me understand!” Her voice rang out against the bricks behind them. Her eyes, deep and brown, bored into Slinker's skull, past the suddenly yellowed eyes and into his mind.
Slinker couldn't speak for a moment. Then he hung his head, and looked again into Charleigh's eyes. “I needed to get here. It clears my mind, lets me think. It's the closest thing to a permanent home I have, for the moment.”
Charleigh looked hard at Slinker. The she nodded, and took a step back. “It's all right. I just – wanted to know.”
Slinker nodded as well, not quite looking her in the eye. Then, suddenly, he turned around to face the wall, and the next time Charleigh looked he was about twenty feet up it, climbing through a window.
“I swear you'll have to show me how to do that!”
Slinker laughed slightly, gladly dispelling the atmosphere from the last few moments. “It takes a while to learn, to be honest. People don't just wake up and climb up brick walls!”
Charleigh shook her head, and chuckled. “Teach me something else, then! I'm not tired yet!”
Slinker looked down from the window, and considered. “How about fighting technique?” He leapt clean off of the wall, and landed like a cat behind her.
Charleigh turned, crossed her arms, and gave him a cocky grin. “I've taken self-defence classes, I can handle myself.”
Slinker grined, and a green twinkle flashed in his eyes. “Oh yeah?”
Charleigh tensed, waiting for the inevitable test. Her hands clenched and came up to her chest balled into fists, her feet spread apart and her centre of gravity lowered, all in a split second. “Yeah, wanna try?”
Slinker grinned, and threw a feint. Charleigh reacted, jerking her body away from the blow... and her feet catch on Slinker's waiting foot. Her ankle is dragged upwards by the force of the kick, and over she topples.
Charleigh gasped as she impacted the ground, and Slinker's laugh only fueled her embarrassment. She looked up to see Slinker offering a hand to help her up. She ignored it, and scrambled upright herself. “No fair, that was an underhand blow!”
Slinker laughed, but his eyes didn't sparkle like they usually do. “And that would stop the bad guys how? Didn't I have to save you from that guy mugging you?”
Charleigh glared. “That was different, I was surprised! And he was armed and everything!”
Slinker still didn't properly laugh, or smile. “And most of the goons Tim's hired will be as well. I can fight them, and so can you as you proved earlier. Now, can you fight me?”
Slinker didn't wait, but he threw a slow, easy punch. Charleigh blocked it mechanically.
“Good, but this isn't training any more! Come on, adapt!”
He threw a few more punches, and each one was blocked in the same mechanical style. It took mere seconds for him to spot the weakness in her defence, exploit it, and Charleigh found herself with an elbow around her throat.
“You need to be more adaptable, changeable.”
Slinker released her. Charleigh, in a rage of humiliation, launched several attacks at Slinker, who blocked and dodged each of them. If Charleigh was in a mood to learn and observe, she might have seen how Slinker dodged each blow slightly differently, how each block came from a different angle, and with a different amount of force.
It didn't take long for Charleigh to end up pinned again, and Slinker talking softly in her ear. “And last of all, never – ever – attack with blind emotion.” He let Charleigh go, saying “I think that will do for tonight.”
Charleigh nodded slightly dejectedly, and went inside the large warehouse just ahead of Slinker. Casting an eye over the almost black surroundings, she saw just behind the window Slinker had crawled through, on the first floor, was a light and two piles of mattresses that had probably been left here when the warehouse shut down.
She climbed carefully up the stairs to the welcoming mattresses, and pulled one off of the pile. Dragging it to near the window, she lay down on it, and closed her eyes.
Slinker watched while she did this, and when she was lying down he crawled up to his own sleeping place; in the rafters. There, he curled up on one of the wider beams, a blanket over it to protect him from splinters. Within moments, he was fast asleep.
Several minutes later, a small shadowy shape that had been following them throughout the day padded into the warehouse. The shape scampered up the stairs, and easily leapt up onto the pile of mattresses. There, Dave happily lay down, and slept.