Even in heavy biker boots, Bo's feet hardly seemed to sink into the snow at all.
Lauren hung back, choosing her own steps with care. When Bo was like this, so focussed on a quarry, the doctor couldn't help studying her with a guilty fascination. She might be long way from her native cityscape, but in pursuit of prey, she was still in her element.
Lauren could see only the back of the other woman's head, dark hair whipping freely in the wind, and each brief trace of her breath hanging on the air before it was snatched away. Against her polite insistence Bo had worn only her usual street leathers, but if she were in any way uncomfortable out here, it didn't show. Hell, she looked more at ease now than Lauren had seen her for months.
The succubus' movements were graceful and efficient.
"Perfect", Lauren almost let herself say aloud. Her movements were perfect. Peering through ranks of tree limbs, gripping the rifle with the familiar ease of a lifelong hunter, Bo looked like she was born to be exactly here and now.
No, Lauren corrected herself; not a hunter. This woman, this woman was a predator.
Bo stopped in her tracks suddenly, and lined the rifle at something distant. The doctor could see nothing through the trees, and she couldn't see whatever cued Bo to relax again, but Lauren trusted Bo's instincts wholly. She glanced back to Lauren, and started forwards again.
Lauren marveled again at how uncannily comfortable Bo seemed to be with the thing - as she seemed to be with every weapon she could get her hands on. The massive rifle had been constructed to the Ash's exact specifications for a very particular purpose, and was probably the only one of its kind. It was cumbersome and heavy as hell, but Bo wielded it with instinctive fluency, and the oversize barrel swept neat arcs as she scanned the trees for movement.
The thing looked like more like a piece of factory equipment than a conventional firearm. Aesthetics hadn't been a consideration at any point in its design - it fired a gas powered projectile the size of a soda can, and delivered a liquid payload through a needle the breadth of a milkshake straw. It was a machine of blunt, brute function, and the impact alone would be enough to kill almost anything; but they weren't hunting just anything.
A predator, stalking down its prey. Lauren could never really think of Bo like that, but watching her now, the description suggested itself insistently. She was certainly lethal, the doctor knew, and born to be so; but even when that was as nakedly apparent as it was now, Lauren found her mesmerising all the same.
"Especially then", she thought a little sheepishly, and buried that troubling line of thought with some urgency.
Bo led on as the wind pitched up into a howl. Sleety snow found every inch of bare skin, and Lauren found herself wondering again about how impervious Bo seemed to be to the cold. Looking at her right now, Lauren wondered if she might even be so consumed by the task at hand that she could be oblivious to the rising intensity of the weather. Her sole concession to the elements was a pair of leather gloves, and Lauren suspected even they'd been chosen more for style than practical purposes.
The storm made it futile to shout, and Lauren had to charge through the deepening snow to try and close the distance between them. She hesitated before touching Bo's shoulder – reluctant to startle an armed woman prepared for a fight - but her caution was needless. The moment she made contact, Bo's shoulders relaxed and her combat stance dissolved away. She turned and met Lauren's gaze with mild concern and gentle enquiry, and a treacherous flicker of downward eye movement that Lauren enjoyed far more than she cared to admit.
And that was Bo too, Lauren understood. The sleek supernatural apex predator, and the all-too human being who wore her every impulse open to the air. Bo was all of these things, always and all at once. The capacity to inflict and withstand ferocious violence came as naturally and instantly to her as the capacity for compassion and gentleness. It was a very scarce and heady combination; one as frequently devastating to Lauren's capacity for rational thought as it was to her instinct for self-preservation.
"This storm's not natural, I think we're getting close. We should be careful not to get disoriented and separated."
Bo had to shout her reply and repeat it once, and even then Lauren could detect the sharkish grin in her voice.
"Why Doctor Lewis, if you're looking for an excuse to get close, you just need to ask!"
She shuffled the huge gun into one hand effortlessly, and stretched her free hand back to take Lauren's own. It was a sweetly childlike gesture that would have seemed absurd in any other time and place. Lauren rolled her eyes theatrically, and obliged very gladly.
Bo's eyes lingered on her companion's features just a little longer than strictly necessary, before she marshalled them back to the task at hand. She stepped more cautiously now though, and Lauren fancied she detected something new and protective in her body language.
She couldn't feel the warmth of Bo's bare hand through her own glove, but the single point of contact still made her pulse pick up. She had long since realised it was futile to scold herself for indulging in such schoolgirl pleasure. Lord knows it had never made the slightest bit of difference.
It was unearned, this contact, and that made it precious. An ugly knot of hurt still lay between them and would not be resolved soon. But even if, for now, it remained too difficult or painful to expose and confront, they could at least have this. They could at least find ways and means and excuses to navigate around it instead.
The awkward, precious link of hands slowed their progress even further, but Lauren's concern was quite valid. They were deep in the wilderness here, hours from civilisation, and rapidly approaching nightfall. They were already effectively lost, and to be separated now could prove fatal to one or both of them.
One of the two goons the Ash had sent with them had been incapacitated in the beast's initial attack; Bo had wasted no time convincing the other to take him back out on the plane before the weather deteriorated further.
It didn't escape Lauren's notice that the men, likely there as babysitters for the doctor herself as much as for their fighting prowess, didn't actually take much convincing. When the Ash found out they'd abandoned their instructions like that, Bo's persuasion or no, Lauren guessed they may have wished they'd stayed out in the cold.
Lauren had known then - even if, perhaps, Bo didn't - that were things to go badly there would be no rescue attempt until morning. Protocol dictated it, and the Ash loved protocol. And even then, that was the best case scenario, assuming the unnatural storm abated soon. Otherwise, even if the Ash were to employ some of his more specialised resources, if they were to venture much further from the landing point, they would not be easily found.
Particularly, Lauren recognised with a private thrill, if they did not want to be.
Lauren had rationalised matters by reminding herself that they were carrying supplies for 48 hours - and The Ash's men had proffered to leave their own supplies at the pontoon before they took off - but she couldn't fool herself long. The danger they'd struck out into was totally unjustifiable, and there was no pretending otherwise. They had stranded themselves in the middle of nowhere with an aggressive, wounded animal, which was currently stirring up a storm of mythical proportions to make them feel unwelcome.
And they'd done it because… well, there was no rationalising that either; but she only could theorise it might have something to do with the hand clasping her own, and the woman belonging to it.
That hand released her now, and Bo signalled a stop. She looked back to Lauren with concern and gestured a warning to stay back. Lauren backed away and felt her chest tighten with dread. Whatever else she might be called, she was no fighter, and she did not relish violence. At least this time, the beast couldn't take them entirely by surprise, but this was not as comforting a notion as she might have liked.
Bo readied the huge rifle and those predatory lines took her profile again. Lauren looked out into the trees again and could find no living movement in the swirling snow; but even in the midst of the storm, she could smell the unmistakeable stink of rot on the wind. Surely, she hoped, Bo had detected it too.
Suddenly, and even over the shearing gale, she heard a thunderous bellow. The treeline burst into a furious explosion of dirty fur, claws, teeth and unbelievable physical strength.
And that roar, that incredible roar, that Lauren could feel like ice crystals in her blood.