The winter air chilled his bones, but he paid that no mind. His eyes fixed on the blooded documents before him, he did not notice the snow falling outside his small shelter. It was an unusual sight. Snow was rare here. He didn't care about things like that anymore.
"Sky, the tea is ready." A young woman said to him.
He glanced up, then got back to work. "I'll get some later."
Sky took pictures of the papers and copied over the text he could read. His hands ached. Minutes later, he felt heat in front of him. Sky looked up again. The young woman held out a metal cup to him.
"Drink. We never know how long we can be anywhere." She reminded him.
Sky retorted. "That's why I can't stop working."
"You can't work long on an empty stomach. Besides, it'll warm you up." The young woman said.
Sky took the cup. He looked at the light red color. The tea was made from dried flowers and herbs he'd collected on his travels. He made sure to prepare items like this to keep on hand, but he often struggled to actually make himself drinks and food. Sky sipped from the warm liquid. He didn't notice it before when he was so focused on writing, but he was really cold. His fingers hurt to move. The tea going down his throat felt like a fuse being lit inside him. Another warm spark was set off against his left side. The young woman rested against him, with her own cup in hand.
She was poorly dressed for the weather, he thought to himself. In the morning, he would go out and search for more clothes for her. Tonight, he'd have to keep her close to him.
Sky stared at her closer. She didn't look like the girl he knew years ago who also dressed too recklessly for the weather and the land, though their clothes were similar. A foolish white dress and a coat too thin over it that he'd made her wear. But she wasn't loud and brash like that girl, nor anywhere near as fierce. That girl, June, Sky thought, she was more like the feeling he felt when he took the first sip of tea on a snowy night--like a firecracker going off. Beautiful and bright, loud and explosive, gone too soon. He wondered if she would be like that girl, flicker brightly and disappear in the darkness like a firefly.
She wasn't like the boy after that either. In that young man, Sky saw a perfect partner in his plans. He knew as much as Sky did. Sky rarely had to explain himself. They didn't say a lot of things to each other because of that. Sky regretted not saying a lot of things to August. A part of him was bitter he didn't get a goodbye in person, but he already knew why. Sky wouldn't have given one either if the situation had been reversed. Together, they were like the snow falling around him, impossible to separate one from another and entirely silent.
The woman beside him knew only what Sky told her, but she listened carefully and she didn't forget a single word. She learned to act without his guidance from his past words. He liked that about her. She learned quickly, and made an effort to connect the pieces she learned. That made her more than someone simply following orders. She could eventually plan on her own. She could be a partner in his efforts properly one day, but Sky told himself he shouldn't want that.
This woman didn't let things go unspoken, even though he knew she could. She saw right through him so often. Everything he tried to hide about himself, she uncovered with a steady, deafening rain. Like the other two, he couldn't push her away. Worse than that, he thought, he caught his mind imagining futures. Sky was done with relationships. There was no place for that in his life with what he had to do. This place was unsafe. His goals could get him killed. He should take her somewhere safe, far away from here.
"You're thinking silly things again." She said.
Sky blinked. He glanced over at her. "What are you talking about? You don't know what I think."
She laughed. "You're thinking about how I should go somewhere safe, but you know I won't leave."
"And why won't you?" He asked.
"Because, if I left you alone, you wouldn't live." She got up and picked up their blankets.
"I was surviving just fine before I met you. You've only been on the outside for a few months." Sky said.
She put one of the blankets over him. The young woman sat back down and put the other blanket over herself. "That's not what I said. I was surviving just fine before I met you too."
"What are you on about?" Sky took another sip of his drink.
She leaned against him. "You know you don't want me to spell it out for you."
Sky felt another heat around him, this time in his face. "You should go to sleep. It's getting late."
"I'll wait for you. I'll be too cold otherwise."
"You should wear more. You'll be safer that way."
The young woman pressed her face against him. "I'm warm enough here. I'll sleep when you do. Do you want me to help you with the records? You've been writing, typing, and photographing for hours straight. Let me take over."
Sky told himself he should reject her request. He didn't need a partner. He was better off alone.
Sky handed her the documents and passed her his laptop. He rubbed his hands together. "Have at it."
She put her drink down beside his and got to work. "You should let me help you more. You keep on like this, and you'll have the body of an old man before you're thirty."
"I'm fine." He said. He slouched back. All at once, his body complained at him, begging for sleep. Sky struggled to keep his eyes open. Without thinking, he repositioned himself. Sky lay out on the floor under his blanket, his head propped up by the young woman's thigh.
She looked down at him and smiled. "Goodnight, Sky."
He lightly pulled her right hand from the keys and brought it to his lips. He kissed her hand and held it against his face. To the clouds above them, he said. "Let me be lucky."
"Hmm?" The young woman tilted her head.
"There's a place I want to show you, but I don't know if either of us will make it there." Sky said. He was already half asleep, his mind seeing some other landscape in another season.
"I have a place I want to show you too. It's the reason I'm here." She said back to him. The young woman took one of his hands and kissed it. "I want to find it, that place I saw, that rainstorm in July. I won't die until I see it."
"I can't die either." Sky said in his sleep. He was where he wanted to go in his dreams, but the place was beyond his reach even there. He saw it as a phantom stretching to the horizon, dancing in blue. The dream faded and he regained consciousness briefly. Sky saw the young woman was now focused on the documents. He watched her hands move across the keyboard. Sleepily, he said. "Do you love me? Really love me? Or am I just convenient to you?"
She stopped typing. The young woman brushed aside his bangs. "It would be more convenient for you, wouldn't it, if I didn't? But you know more than anyone that comforting lies don't help you in the end."
"I know." Sky turned his head and looked up at her. "Julia, I love you."
"I love you too. Get some rest." She said.
Sky closed his eyes. He couldn't quite rest easy. There was no telling if they would be safe through the night, or tomorrow morning. But he found enough comfort in her words to dream of a day long after tomorrow.