They'd been driving for what seemed like hours. The sun was setting for the day now. She had no idea where he was taking her. All she knew was they hadn't strayed from the coast for what seemed like an eternity. She wasn't sure she'd ever seen so much water before in her life. She'd been to the Gulf before, just never like this. It went on forever, or seemed to anyway.
They stopped to eat and for gas a couple of times. He didn't say much, her riding companion. She wasn't sure why she took comfort in knowing that she was the only one who had been aware he could talk until recently. It made her realize that she was special to him for some reason. Special enough he divulged something about himself no one else knew. For years.
Eventually, they stopped for the night. She hid in the car while he registered for a single room. He could erase memories, but he couldn't to passersby he wasn't aware of. They had to be careful. She whimpered softly, hunkered down in the backseat of the car. They would be in Mexico tomorrow. Like she wouldn't stand out there.
How had she gotten into this? Why was this happening to her? Had she done something wrong? Had she used her powers the wrong way?
She didn't think so. She had no way of knowing. Maybe she shouldn't have told Zach a second time. But she'd had to. She'd lost her friend. She'd lost him again anyway. She hoped he still remembered this time. When things settled down she could at least call him and say she was okay. Safe. She'd have to ask HIM first. She was pretty sure she already knew the answer, but it was worth a try.
The room wasn't too bad. It wasn't the Radisson, but there weren't cockroaches walking across the floor either. The door locked, they weren't right up against an airport, and there was a TV. With the window open enough to let fresh air in she could hear the water. The hotel was on the beach, but their room faced the street. That, she was guessing, had been his idea. She would have preferred a view of the Gulf.
He brought all of their stuff in, neither willing to take the chance of leaving anything in the car over night. It depressed her to think her life had come down to this. A couple of suitcases. Even more pathetic, though, was how little he had. He was probably used to traveling light, though.
"Oh, hey, an ice bucket, I wonder if that means there's an ice machine."
"Did you need ice for something, Claire?"
"No," she said almost shyly, clutching the ice bucket. She liked it when he said her name for some reason. She missed Clairebear, knowing she'd never hear it again.
"I was just saying." She shrugged.
She felt. God, she wasn't sure what all she was feeling. So many things. Her dad, the only man she'd known as her dad hadn't betrayed her after all. He'd risked his life to set her free. It was up to her and the Haitian to keep things as they were.
Now that they were there, in a room with a bed and it was obvious that they were done traveling for the day she felt exhausted. Her body was shutting down. She set the ice bucket down on the if-you've-seen-one-you've-seen-them-all hotel dresser and grabbed the remote control for the TV.
He seemed a little afraid and that baffled her. She moved to the bed, kicking off her shoes before propping a pillow against the headboard.
"Are you going to stand there all night?"
"I should see to dinner."
"We just ate a little while ago. I'm fine."
"Are you sure, Claire?"
"Yeah." She found MtV. It wasn't her first choice, but it would do. "Besides, you probably shouldn't be going out too much. We could order pizza or something."
He didn't say anything. The fact he'd said as much as he had in the span of five minutes surprised her. She patted the spot on the bed next to her.
"Don't worry about dinner. I'm not going to starve. I'm fine. My dad doesn't remember anyway, right?" She saw the slight nod of his head as he moved to the bed. "So, it's just you and me then."
"I'm not your father, Claire."
"I didn't say you were."
He moved to sit next to her then. The bed was big enough for the both of them, but she wasn't in the mood to give him his space. So, she stayed almost flush against him. He was solid, real, and knew her secret. She knew his for that matter. And for some reason he hadn't erased her memories.
She turned to face him on her side, hand resting against his chest. She could feel it moving when he breathed. She felt his heart beat against it. He was human. There were times, talking with him, she wondered. She leaned up then to look into his eyes. She couldn't tell what he was thinking. She imagined he'd gotten real good at hiding things over the years.
"I just meant no one's going to get mad at you for not getting me dinner. I'm a big girl, I know when I'm hungry. I don't think I could eat anyway."
"You didn't eat much earlier."
"Would you be hungry if you were in my shoes?"
He blinked and went back to staring without answering her.
"Okay. You'd never be in my shoes. I get that."
She rested her head against his chest, listening to his heart. She might have imagined it, but she thought it had picked up a bit. She smiled at that. She was the only one he'd chosen to talk to. Did that mean something? She felt his hand at her hair, running his fingers through it.
Even with her eyes closed, she could tell the difference between what her father did and this. His touch was gentler in a way yet it wasn't meant to soothe or calm like her dad's. He was touching her to touch her, much as she was. They were it, all alone together. She and her Haitian against the world.
"It sounds nice, doesn't it?"
She turned off the TV, casting the room in darkness. "Can't you hear it? I swear it's right out our window."
"I wasn't paying attention."
"Oh," she said, looking up at him. "What were you paying attention to?"
Finally, a reaction out of him, even if it was just a brief flash of something in his eyes she couldn't read. She wasn't sure she wanted to be able to either. She saw something, though, she did recognize. She'd seen it in him earlier that morning just before he took her father from her, in a way.
"Don't erase my memories." She lived in fear he would one day. She still didn't know why he hadn't when he was supposed to. Or what had stopped him this morning.
"I would not." He certainly didn't sound like a man about to do the opposite of what he just said.
"Not even if I did this?" She leaned up even closer and kissed him. She'd never done that before, made the first move. If it could even be considered a move. It was just a kiss, a nice one. Certainly better than anything Brody had done. It took him a minute to kiss her back. His hand at her hair fisted, bunching her hair in the process. He was either fighting or trying to fight it. The sound of the waves outside gave way to something more intense in the room. Her heart picked up to a gallop, as did his she could feel under her hand. For as long as it lasted she could forget they were on the run, forget the endless miles of coastline they'd driven along that day and would continue to do tomorrow.
For a minute, until he drew away, she felt as if she was drowning. The type of drowning that wasn't going to kill her. He liked her, cared for her. She knew that. He didn't have to talk for her to get that about him. She'd never kissed anyone but Brody. She'd thought about it. What girl her age didn't? His kiss didn't make her skin crawl. It made her want more.
The look in his eyes couldn't have been more different than Brody's had been that night either. He would have raped her if she hadn't hit her head. There was a part of her that wondered why that had stopped him. There was no violence in the Haitian, at least not toward her. He wouldn't hurt her, couldn't even maybe. Not because someone had told him not to hurt her, but because he didn't want to. That was something to be explored. Another day, another time. For now, the idea of drowning in more of him as they drifted off to sleep was all she cared to explore.