Nat is still standing by the motorcycle. She's pale, almost green. Her eyes are locked onto the blonde man's. I notice that his eyes are light gray-blue and very cold. "Hi dad." She grimaces. "Hello, daughter." He has a British accent and his voice is very calm and controlled. His eyes are locked on hers. I am still on the ground, hands gripping my gun, which is now pointed at Nat's father. He averts his eyes from Nat and takes notice of me. "Well, now, we can't have you pointing that weapon at me." He walks towards me, heavy boots crunching the driveway gravel. All I can see is a dark silhouette of his body as the sun is shining behind him. I look up, squinting into the light. He squats down, the leather of his boots and belt squeaking slightly, and takes the Glock from my hands. He inspects the gun, smiling a smile that doesn't touch his eyes. "Nice choice in pistols." He stands up and throws it hard, overhand, to Nat, who catches it with barely a flinch or glance and stuffs it in her belt. She's still staring at her father. He turns to her again, meeting her eyes. "Well, looks like you've been up to some trouble, lass. I, for one, do not like bailing you out of these troubles." He motions towards the dead man on the ground. His men are picking up the mess as he speaks, putting the body into a plastic garbage bag. Nat's leg is still bleeding. I claw my chin strap loose, yank my helmet off my head and pick myself up off the ground. I limp over to her. I touch the bloody fringe of her chap leg, where it's torn from the road, with my fingertips, wetting them. I hold my hand up, looking at her blood on my fingers. "You're bleeding, it seems." Her father observes, taking a folded handkerchief out of his back pocket, wadding it up and tossing it at her. I suck the blood off my fingers, tasting Nat's copper saltiness and take the handkerchief from her to bind her leg. "I'll survive." Nat grins as coldly as her father as I stoop down to tie the cloth around her knee. "That you shall. I have no doubt." He grins back at her. "But, you must be going now, my dear. I'll supply you whatever you need but you must leave here." Nat nods. "I know." I have no idea what is happening at this point. The men have finished cleaning up the mess and one is driving the dead man's car away. The others are turning over the stained earth with shovels. Nat's father makes a motion to a few of them and instructs them to take the Ninja and get us two fast, clean bikes. "Japanese or Italian, please." He grins. "My daughter never acquired a taste for your Harleys and her companion here looks like she belongs on an old Motoguzzi." He turns to Nat. "Is there anything else you need other than transportation?" "No." Nat replies curtly. She's still looking at him like she wants to stick her knife in his belly. "Good. As I'd be rather disappointed to see you at a loss for resources, having to beg your father to bail you out." I take our stuff off the Ninja and a man wheels it away, crinkling his nose at our rice-burning crotchrocket. I smile and shrug at his apparent disgust. I drop our duffels on the ground in-between us and Nat's father. "How long have you been keeping company with this one?" He looks me over for the first time. "A while. She's a good thief." Nat ruffles my windblown hair and kisses my cheek. "Looks like a bruiser." He grins at me. "I'll call you Bruiser, then." The man who wheeled off the Ninja returns riding an Eliminator, kind of a Ninja in a cruiser frame. Very fast bike. Another man behind him, riding one as well. He has a faraway, grim expression on his face. "Take care of her." I wonder which one of us he's saying this to. Nat and I bungee-cord down our duffels to the bikes and pull on our helmets. I straddle my motorcycle and start the engine. It's a heavy breather, low register engine sounds fill my ears. Nat is starting her bike now as well. She revs it with satisfaction. "Bruiser!" Nat's father shouts over the noise. I look up and he tosses me a box of 9mm shells. I grin through my helmet visor and slip them into my jacket pocket. Nat and I ride off, down the driveway. I can't get her father's face out of my mind as I follow her to wherever she's taking me now. I wonder who that man was, the one who her father killed. Wasn't law-enforcement, I'm pretty sure. The sun is starting to set, turning the sky red on the horizon and painting the clouds pink and purple as the sky rolls back towards the east. I realize just how tired I am. My riding is disintegrating more and more as we wind through the trees. I can see Nat weaving a bit too. How I want to find a huge bed with crisp, white sheets to curl up in with her. I want to cry and cry. Cry in her arms and get out all the tension that has built up in me over these past weeks. I want to rest. I have never seen Nat cry, at least when she's awake. She cries in her sleep, sometimes, and I wake up with her tears wetting my shoulder where her head was resting. I wonder if she's having nightmares. I have never asked her. It is dark now. The sky is filled with stars. I can see the dusty band of the Milky Way. The moon is just a sliver. Nat signals to turn off the highway and I follow her as she heads down a small road lined with oaks. There is a small house hidden in the trees. Nat stops in front of the house and I do the same. We cut our engines and lean our bikes on their stands. We both groan and stretch our legs and backs and then we free our bags from the bikes. Nat walks up the steps of the front porch and inspects the lamp mounted to the wall by the front door. She opens the little glass door you can get to the bulb through and fishes around. She pulls out a key and then tries the lock on the door. The tumblers fall into place and the deadbolt clicks back. Nat pulls my gun out of her belt, holding it in one hand and her bag in the other. She uses the butt of the gun to slowly push open the door. The house is deserted, but she doesn't want to chance it. I am standing behind her with my duffel and my Zippo in hand, ready to give light. Nat and I walk into the hallway. She tries the light switch. An overhead bulb turns on and we jump. Our faces are lit up and we look at one another. Nat's face looks like she hasn't slept in a week: eyes swollen and red. I must look about the same. We start laughing and she hands me the other duffel. I set both of them down at our feet and kiss her. We kind of cling onto each other in the hallway for a while. We draw apart slightly. "This is my house." Nat says. "A friend of mine takes care of it. Keeps it from totally going to pot while I'm away." I can't resist asking any longer. "Who was that man, Nat?" "Just someone from my past. He got lucky and ran into us." I am silent, not wanting to ask further. "I was running shit for him. He wanted me to fuck him. I wouldn't. Then he wanted me to fuck his girlfriend and he'd watch. I told him to go to hell. He tried to beat me up and I shot him. Guess he got over the physical wound but not the ego deflation ion." "Shit." I shake my head. "Sounds like some of the offers I'd get at the Asylum." Nat looks into my eyes for a moment. "Do you miss working and living in Sac?" I think for a few seconds. I haven't considered it either way since I left. "Yeah, I guess I do. I miss the Bay Area too." I had all sorts of friends from Sac and San Francisco that I haven't seen or talked to in almost 6 months. "Just wondering." "I miss racing too." I raced two-strokes on the amateur circuit when I had time. I built engines and helped a friend with his racing bike. He let me race it in return. "Are you ever going to finish school?" "I dunno." I scratch my head. "I think it would be cool to get it done someday." "Hmmmm...." Nat wraps her arms around me tighter. I gladly return the embrace and hold her to me. "I love you." She mumbles into my breasts. "You know that, right?" "Yeah, I do." I stroke her hair. I am starting to feel frightened by the things that she's saying. "Let's go to bed." She sighs. "I'm tired as all hell." We part and pick up our bags again. Nat leads me to a bedroom and flips on the light as we pass under the doorway. There's a large bed in the corner that's calling to me. I drop my stuff and jump onto it. I start taking off my clothes. The night is very warm and there's no need to wear these soiled rags. There's a mirror on the closet door, a full-length one. I strip down to my boxers and stand in front of it. "Jeeezzz." I groan. I have lost a ton of weight. My ribs are sticking out. I drop my boxers and look at myself nude. My hip bones are poking out as well. "You're a skeleton, hon." Nat is standing behind me. I grin and flex my muscles which stand out even more now that they have little flesh to cover them. My skin has taken on a translucent pallor, making my tattoos look really pronounced. "I look cool. Like the undead." "Like one of the woodland folk." Nat grins. "One of the faerie folk." There's a bathroom connected to the room. Nat leads me into it. There's a bathtub on little claw feet. I stand there as she opens the faucet and tests the water. "Damn. Water heater is still good too. I have to hand it to my friend." Nat lets the tub fill as she roots around in the cabinets under the sink. She produces soap and shampoo. "Think she's been using this place as a crash pad." The tub is full and she turns off the water. I dip my finger into the water. It's very hot but we're very grimy and are in need of a good soaking. I slowly place one foot and then the other into the tub and lower myself into the water, groaning. Nat laughs at me and starts pulling off her clothes, leaving them in a heap on the floor. She gets in very quickly, wincing just slightly from the heat. I grab her and we rest together, me lying on my back and her on top of me. I can feel the tension releasing itself from my body. Nat seems to be relaxing as well. We soap each other up and slide around like two little kids, giggling. I clean out her wound with a toothbrush, getting out all the gravel. She washes my hair for me and I do the same. We then lie together for a long time in the tub, until the water is lukewarm. I am almost asleep, holding her in my arms. She shakes me slightly and we both get out of the tub and dry off with towels that are a little musty but clean. I wrap her scrape in some gauze we have left over from my hand and leg disaster. We go back to the bed. The sheets are dusty but we'll survive. I lay down on my back, groaning because it still aches slightly. Nat has a strange look in her eyes. I don't really take too much notice. She jumps on the bed and stands over me, with my body between her legs. She leans down and straddles me. I feel a deep shiver within me, a stirring that I haven't felt in a while, as I touch her, running my fingers from her collarbone, down the curve of her right breast, tracing the line of her belly down to her pubic hair. She leans down to me and I take her right nipple into my mouth and bite her hard. She moans and her body arches, her fingers finding their way into my hair and pulling it. Her mouth finds my shoulder and she bites into my flesh, drawing blood. I feel like an animal, something not quite human as we struggle with each other. My mind and soul are entirely filled with the primal urge of sex, as if it were a holy pagan sacrament. I bury my face into her. Nat screams in her orgasm as I have never heard her do before, tearing at my skin with her fingers. I feel like my eardrums are going to blow out when she makes me climax later on. We are panting, sitting with our legs intertwined. Nat reaches over and produces her knife. She places it in my hand and holds my hand so the dagger's point is pricking her breast. I know innately what she wants me to do, although she has never asked me to do this before. I cut a small slit over her heart, deep enough so the blood flows freely. I drop the knife and take the cut into my mouth, drinking, tasting the salty metallic taste of her life. Nat then takes the knife and cuts the palm of my left hand open and places the wound over her chest. Our blood mixes together as we look into each other's eyes. "I will never be without you now. My love, my angel," She murmurs. "You must go home and I must hide." I am silent. We kiss softly, allowing the taste of our saliva, juices and blood to mix in our mouths. When I wake up the next morning, she is gone: her bike, her stuff, everything but my methadone pills and my own personal stuff. She left the Glock and its ammo as well with a roll of hundred dollar bills the size of my fist, wrapped up in a rubber band, next to it. There is no note. She has gone out and picked wildflowers and strewn them on the bed around me. There is a pile of them on the bed stand by my Glock. I cry and cry as I ride away from the house, onto the freeway and out of Ojai. I can't seem to find any way of making the pain dull. A million needles pierce me, I feel so empty and alone. Later, I ride somberly up the I-5, towards Sacramento, going home. For some strange reason, I feel as if something heavy has been lifted off of my heart as I get closer and closer to Sac. My apartment should still be there with my stuff. I sent the landlord rent for the whole year and had her keep an eye on it. When I get to the apartment, I decide to call a friend in San Francisco and see if she's up to having me over for a while. I feel like I'm waking up from a dream as I ride across the Bay Bridge in the afternoon sun, the wind blowing in my face.