I spent the next couple of days in a fog of pain and want. Nat feeds me pills and food and sits next to me, reading a book. She reads out loud to me...stuff about wizards and elves, shit that really makes my hair tingle to hear. I sometimes think that Nat's an elf...more like a goblin at times. She's reading me something about this great ring of power that everyone wants and these little, simple people who are saving the world from it. I wonder if the little people are going to save this world? She has moved me into the bedroom, onto a scruffy little twin sized bed there which is full of fleas. It can't be helped, though. She has to put me somewhere. I am not allergic to flea bites like most people so the biting bothers me but I don't itch. Funny how those things can really mean something at a time like this. I have wild dreams when I can sleep. I'm starting to want my smack really bad. Nat is feeding me methadone to keep the want down just enough so I can bear it. But, I really want it back. I dream about little men with furry feet who bring me needles to stick my arm with. I dream about a dragon who Nat kills with her knife, which is really a sword because it's so huge. I also have this reoccurring dream: me and this woman are partners in vengeance. I don't know who we're going after, but we're after someone who did something really bad. We're in this warehouse, for no particular reason. It makes perfect sense in the dream world, though. So, here we are in this big metal and concrete building with huge hallways and cubicles. Everything is half-lit and gray. Like it was twilight. But, I could have sworn that it was daylight outside. The sun was shining when we were outside and there are huge windows in this building. But, none of the light is getting though. We hear screaming and we start running towards it. It feels like I'm running though gearbox oil, it's so hard to get my legs to move. Almost like I've forgotten how to use them. We run and run towards the noise. When we get to the source, we see this thing beating and raping a woman. I can't think of what it is...but it turns into the cop that shot me. He's got some woman in a corner, bloodied and torn. She can't even whimper anymore. My partner and I start running around, looking for weapons. Guess we didn't remember to bring any. Guns and knives, that's what we need. I can't find a thing, though. Neither of us can. We come upon this room where we find a metal can of gasoline... one of those great steel cans that you can't find that easily anymore because the plastic ones have taken over the world. I grab the gas. I don't know what's happening to the woman in the mean time. Must have been put in dream-limbo or something because nothing has changed when we get back. My partner grabs the gas out of my hand and douses the man as I kick him away from the woman. I take out my Zippo and set him on fire. He screams as his hair catches and I can see him starting to roast, his skin is blistering and turning black. It smells like burnt hot-dogs when you roast them on sticks made of wire coat hangers over fire at the beach. I don't know what happens to the woman or to us. Just watch that guy fry and then the dream's over and I wake up, wanting to scream. I grab Nat, who's sleeping next to me, slumped over onto the side of the bed. She wakes up and takes my head in her hands and holds it, telling me it was just another dream. I whimper to her that I can't take these fucked up dreams for much longer and she tells me that she's gonna shoot me again if I don't shut up. I wonder if she means it. She looks really tired. There are dark bags underneath her usually bright, sharp eyes. I never have seen her so worn down. Nat stands up and goes into the kitchen and gets my pills. She finished the Jack Daniel's a long time ago and there's no more booze in the house. She doesn't seem to care much about that. She drinks when she wants to and does drugs when she sees it fit. I've seen her go for months without either and it never bothers her. She's not the type to get hooked. She takes her knife and plays darts with a old stump outside the house in back. She carefully places the blade in her fingers, positioning it just so, and holds it until it feels right and then throws it. Thump! It buries itself halfway into the wood. She stands there for a second and then walks over and works it out methodically, as to not break the blade. I hear her do that when I sleep. Thump. Silence. Thump. Silence. I don't know if she has noticed that I have awakened and am watching her. She is concentrating on throwing her knife so hard that I doubt that she has. But, she has this ability to notice things, when I think she's not paying attention. Nat is back with the pills and water. I swallow them down and lie back. My leg is healing really well. I'm amazed the pain has died down a bit. She sits down by the bed, cross-legged and rests her head against its side. "I have to get food for us. We're almost out." "That bike is dirty." I say. "They'll see it and you're history." "Plates are no good." She shrugs. "We don't have any others. I'll have to chance it." I'm silent. I know that she's good enough to pull it off without a hitch but there's this part of me that's always afraid. No one's that good all of the time. "We have to eat, unfortunately." She shakes her head. I bought Nat her knife in this little shop in old-town Sacramento, California. It's a wonderful place. A pagan playground w/ great swords, amulets, knives, and other things. I was living in Sac at the time and that's where we met. I was working the bar that this industrial club off of Arden Blvd, in a strip mall, of all places. It was a cool club, actually. Everyone was into the black/leather/bondage thing: chains and piercings and tatts and all... Nat walked up to the bar one night and asked for a shot of JD. She was in motorcycle boots, jeans and a real leather riding jacket. I knew that because I ride too and I can always pick out the real ones from the fakes, which are just poor imitations made of buffalo hide are not stitched well. I had just dropped out of school. That was a year ago. Just gave it up and decided to work and get my head together. Went to bartending school and got my license. Then I went to work. I am a night owl so the job fit me. Sleep all day till 2 or 3 and then get up, eat "breakfast" and then start my day. I usually got Mondays and Tuesdays off so I'd stay up Sunday night after work and then go out really early Monday morning, when everything is really crisp and fresh, and ride my motorcycle around. I'd then go out for breakfast downtown at this great cafe with the best coffee and munchies. Lots of motorcyclists hang out there so I liked it. I had a Virago, a Japanese V-twin cruiser, at the time. I couldn't afford my dream bikes then...or steal them. So, I watched Nat drink her JD. She didn't quite look like she fit in the scene: no piercings (that were unusual), no visible tattoos...(at the time I had a few too many holes in me and I have a few tatts). She seemed like she was a little above all of this futile wanna-be crap. And she was, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful women that I have ever seen. I couldn't stop looking at her. I knew that I was staring but I couldn't help it. She caught my eyes at one point and stared back at me with a coldness that really scared the shit out of me. Her face softened and she smiled at me, after she saw me go pale and start shaking. I didn't know what to make of that so I kind of looked away and the then back at her, meekly smiling. I was a nice kid then. I gave her another drink. When the club let out and my shift was over (Saturday night, one more to go and then I could ride all morning in the sunshine), I walked out to my motorbike in the cold Sacramento early hours. She was out there with the motorcycles, starting up a Harley . A big old hog. Funny, she didn't seem like the Harley type...maybe a Sportie but that's it. She waved to me and putted off. Cool. I smiled to myself, shivering in the wind, until I noticed a guy coming out to see his hog gone. I didn't say a thing. Nat came back the next night. Caught her in the corner of my eye as I was mixing drinks for some under-age girls. It was really late, almost time to start shutting down. It struck me how stupid it was to come back to a place where you've stolen a motorcycle the night before. She knew that I saw her take the bike and that I probably saw the aftermath of her doing so. I tried to pretend that I didn't see her. My heart was beating very fast and my hands were shaking. I started cleaning up bar a few minutes later. She was nowhere to be seen. I halfway wondered if I was just seeing things. I finished getting things ready for the next night's bartender and then said good-bye to everyone. I slowly changed into my riding gear in the back office and then one of the bouncers let me out the rear door. She was sitting on my motorcycle, the motor running. She was in her leather jacket, leather chaps, gauntlets and was holding her helmet. My heart, which was still pounding, just about stopped. "Want to go?" She smiled. "Yeah." I didn't even know that I had said it until she motioned me over. I numbly walked to the motorcycle, pulling on my helmet as I approached her. She scooted back on the seat to let me into the saddle. She wrapped her arms around me as I set the bike up to go and I felt as if I was going to burn up. I thought I could die at that moment and be satisfied. I let out the clutch and we started off. I didn't quite know where I was going but it didn't matter much. I took her to Capitol Park, where my favorite tree was: The Tree, an ancient European Olive tree. It's so gnarled and knobby that you can see faces in it at night. I used to hug it's trunk when I felt bad and everything would start getting better. I parked the bike and led her to the tree. We hadn't spoken til then. I didn't know where to start. So, I took her to my tree and hoped that it would help me. It had never let me down so I knew that it would. "Do you always take women you meet to this tree?" She smiled. Her grin had a biting edge to it that I liked. "Only when I need its help." I looked into the bark, feeling it with the tips of my fingers. I then looked back at her. It was hard not to stare. "You think you need help? With what?" She set her helmet in the tangled roots and put her fingers on the tree too. "It's kinda strange that you rely on a tree for that." "Just something that works, that's all." I shrugged. "Why did you steal that Harley?" She jumped a little at my forwardness/stupidity, quickly recovering to grin at my ignorance. "It was there. The guy who owned it tried to pick me up for a quick fuck in another bar. So, as payment for insulting me and invading my peace and sacred space, I took his wheels." I laughed nervously at this, wondering what she was gonna do with me now. For some reason, I felt safe. Couldn't tell why, but I felt like she'd never hurt me. "You know," Nat was now really looking at my tree. "I really like this tree. I can see people in it." "That is what I see too." I smiled. "When I was in school, a friend of mine from campus and I used to come here and hang out under the tree. She's not here anymore and I am not going to school... So, I come alone." "Yeah..." She was resting her head next to my arm, which was what I was leaning on. "Why are you here with me?" I was full of stupid questions that night. "Why did you pick me out of that crowd?" "You ride and you seemed nice. Dunno. It's not something that I wonder about so I don't have an answer." "Okay." I didn't pursue the question further. Didn't seem that important anyway. I carefully lifted my other hand and traced her jaw with my fingertip. I didn't have any idea what I was doing. She smiled and then pulled my face into hers and kissed me. Her arms were so strong around me. Her strength was surprising for her size. I am about five-six and I weigh about 150-155 or so when I'm really working out hard. I am a strong woman with largish bones from my Celtic and Welsh ancestors. She seemed like she was stronger than I was and she couldn't be less than three inches shorter than I and at least twenty-five pounds lighter with fine Asian bones. I probably could toss her around if I really tried but I knew that she could kick my ass easily. I was clinging onto her jacket as she kissed me. I thought my knees were going to buckle. When she let me go, I just swayed and had to catch myself on the tree. I took her back to my apartment. Forget about my morning coffee. We had sex all morning under the sunlight pouring in my window onto my bed. I couldn't stop touching her, holding her, kissing her wonderful mouth with such soft lips, kissing the rest of her body. She has the most incredible dragon tattooed on her back. It's a traditional Chinese dragon that seems to be writhing and twisting as she moves with a character inked in beside it. She told me that it means "burn." I told her about the Celtic armbands that I had tattooed on me and the koi on my leg. They are my strength at times. They help me find my strength. I bought her the knife after I had stolen my first motorcycle. She and I went to the shop that I loved to browse through so much. They had a particular knife that I really liked: fine, German steel and very deadly. Double edged thing, seven inch blade with an ebony and silver inlaid handle. I bought it for her and she put it in the back of her jacket in a pocket that she had sewn back there to hide things in.