November 30th, 1264
The second one was waiting for them by the bridge.
Neither XXX or XXXX noticed him until they were almost close enough to touch. Since they had woken up, the sky had subjected them to a merciless deluge that left them cold, miserable, and wet, and when the bridge came into view - the covered bridge, a little relic from when this area had been a popular path to a nearby village, before time had destroyed the houses and highways had rendered the path obsolete - neither of them were too concerned about what it might house. It was covered and dry, and that was more than enough to set them running forward - almost running, at least; more of a galloping skip that got XXX under the bridge as quickly as was possible without leaving a half-blind (and today, wheezing with a sound that set XXX on edge) XXXX behind - ending in a skidding, stumbling stop as they ground to a halt underneath the miraculously still whole roof, stopping to catch their breath and relax
which lasted long enough for XXX to see the man with the gun and duck just fast enough to avoid losing an eye.
XXXX flew into a panic, whirling around and blindly searching for the source of the gunshot - a firefight is an especially bad place to not have your vision - but luckily for him, the man appeared to only have eyes for XXX; unluckily for XXX, that left her stuck in not-close-enough quarters combat with someone who could end the fight with a single well-placed shot, and damn it, this would be so much easier if she hadn't just finished running, sprinting, whatever, she had barely had time to breathe before some asshole with a gun -
The support just over XXX's ear exploded in a spray of splinters as the Asshole With A Gun silently took aim and fired, just barely missing what would've been a fatal shot, and XXX realized that whatever this was - XXXXXXXXX was the word that came to her unbidden in a sudden but useless flash of recognition - it had to end and it had to end soon because even if that gun (a revolver, maybe a magnum, like the ones the detectives in Jess's books always used) had only four (five? no, four) shots left, it would only take one to put her out of commission for good and she doubted the man even needed the gun to kill XXXX in his current state. So XXX made a snap decision to -
- to clench her teeth through the pain that suddenly exploded along her shoulder (she didn't feel anything pierce her but she couldn't trust that feeling (or lack thereof), and she couldn't look, not now, she just had to deal with it) and get closer, too close for the man to take aim, close enough that she could reach into her pocket (her right pocket, thank god, while her left arm slowly bloomed into a pain... flower, a whatever, some kind of big complex flower with a lot of petals, she couldn't think straight enough to come up with an apt comparison but her brain somehow found the time to still be disappointed in her for failing in this regard) and grasp the knife, this one already bloodied and stained and rusting and not great for (a chrysanthemum! yeah, that works) slicing and stabbing, but it would have to do; the man in front of her was dressed casually, almost slovenly, even with the paints on his face he seemed a far cry from their previous assailant but moved just as fast and just as deadly and even as XXX pulled the knife free -
- he took aim and fired, barely missing but blowing a hole in the floorboards near where XXXX was standing, cowering and growling and looking as imposing as he could (not very) while completely aware that this wasn't his fight, not this time; XXX lunged forward as the man cocked back the hammer of the gun and swiped at his hand, not drawing blood but causing him to drop the weapon on the floor with a grunt, bouncing across the floor and she was sure it was going to misfire but it settled there on the ground thankfully inert for just a moment longer, already the man was moving toward the weapon and XXX made to kick it out of reach before he could get to it but the man was too fast - not fast enough for the gun, but fast enough to stop XXX, to send a dizzying open-handed slap across the side of her head, to grab her by the shoulder and drive his thumb into the not even half a minute old wound turning her arm into an ever-growing garden of pain (her arm felt like it was about to fall off but at least the half-baked metaphors were still coming pretty readily (or was that a simile?)) leaving her reeling and gasping for breath while the man went for the gun and pressed the warm metal cylinder into the side of her head -
- and the shot went wide as the man screamed with pain at the teeth suddenly lodged in his ankle and he let out a swift kick that sent XXXX flying backwards to lie in a crumbled, shaking heap in the corner, not that XXX saw it or heard it, all she heard was a dull muffled ringing and all she felt was a numb, burning sensation all along her face (which later she will realize is a powder burn from the gun going off less than a finger's width away from her face; close enough to leave a mark and her hearing faint for a while yet but not close enough to put her out); all she saw was the man flinch and kick at something, and in that time, she managed to pull out the knife one more time and slash forward again, cutting at the man's hand (the wrong hand, she realizes too late) and then stabbing forward at his stomach, making contact and her knife comes back sticky and the man gasps in pain, the gun staying in his grip but it falters after the second stab and the third and on the fourth it falls free and XXX lunges for it as the man kneels over, wounded and hurting but not as wounded and hurting as he should be, not with four stab wounds in his gut and already he is straightening up and turning back toward XXX and XXX has never fired a gun but she still grabs it in her hands and with both hands (yes, even the hand that is rapidly going numb but still moveable) and spins and on her back looks along the sight and hopes to god she knows what she's doing and -
- the left side of the man's head dissolves into a mass of viscera and flying blood and bone and for a second it looks like he's almost about to say something, to keep moving but then he stumbles back, back, back over the railing and off of the bridge and down to the river below, carried away by a flow bolstered by the pouring rain outside and the moment he's gone the rain is all that's left, pounding on the room relentlessly and filling the empty space where there used to be another Person and now there is not.
Now there is only rain.