"You're looking particularly beautiful today," Kellog says, silver-tongued and glib as a CTV holocaster. He takes her coat, and even that is a performance, an act of a gentleman, a little too slick and showy. He hangs it up carefully, smoothing creases out of the arms.
Kiera sits down. She leans back and looks up at him. She's tired. "How can I believe anything you say?"
It's a rhetorical question, really, but he answers anyway. With a smile that looks so genuine even her HUD is fooled. With words. "You could look in the mirror."
Kiera can't help smiling at that. She tries to hide her reaction, but he notices. Of course he notices.
He doesn't gloat, though, which is what she'd expect. That or his smile to turn into something more, a laugh perhaps, gentle mockery. He just turns sad, the smile sliding away like it was never there. "I can't work out if this is real or not," he says eventually. Kiera's not sure if he's talking about whatever it is between them, a fragile almost-trust, fledgling feelings that she doesn't want to have but can't seem to fight. Or if he means everything, the life they're leading, the people they are now, in this time. He's tracing the line of her vest top, down from her shoulder, this finger hesitating a moment as it runs over a fresh scab, a memento from last week's encounter with Sonia. She shivers at the touch, though it doesn't hurt. "In the future, do you have a scar here?" he asks. He doesn't wait for her answer. "Of course you don't," he says.
Kiera was twenty-two when she fell in love.
She thought it was forever.
It's 2012, and she won't fall in love for another fifty-five years.
There's a diary entry for Jan 11th 2054. She's played it more than once, smiling at her little girl voice making determined pronouncements of exactly who and what she was going to be when she grew up. She played it to Greg when they were engaged, to make him laugh, and later to Sam, just days before she got sent here.
She was a Protector and a mother and a wife. That was exactly what she had in mind for her life and nothing like it. The excited child in the recording could never have guessed at all the doubts or fears: that in becoming a Protector, she might somehow be less of a mother to Sam; that Greg had secrets, that he might even have known something about Alec Sadler's plans; that in becoming a Protector she was doing the right thing yet protecting the wrong things.
"Am I turning you?" he asks one morning, still fog-grey outside. He traces her jaw, smoothes back a stray hair.
"It's the other way around, surely?" she says, sleepy, the pillow too soft for her to want to move. "Unless this is a long-term operation to lull me into a sense of security and then spring a trap." She doesn't believe that, not really. He's had more than enough opportunities to kill her or hand her over to the remnants of Liber8. For all that he's a con-man, and a good one, she is slowly coming to trust him. Against her wishes and her training, it's just happening. Her body trusts him, that much is obvious — she wouldn't be able to fall asleep with him in the same room otherwise.
She can see from his smile that he doesn't take offence at her accusation. "Or I could be after your suit's technology. I could sell it, make a killing, live large."
"I thought you'd already made a killing on the stock market." She looks pointedly around the grandeur of his boat's stateroom, the glossy wood panelling and his collection of artwork.
"I have," he agrees. "But that's the thing about being rich. You always want more."
"And yet, if anyone were to be an exception to the rule, it would be you." She lifts herself up on one elbow and kisses him. She's given up on running away the next morning, pretending this isn't happening. There's only so much denial one person can live with, a limit to the lies. She's lying every day to Carlos and Betty, tells Alec half-truths and edited versions of the truth (all the time aware that he's the one person who understands everything that's going on, just not yet), and it's exhausting. She isn't going to lie to herself. And now, it seems, she doesn't lie to Kellog. "I want you, now," she says, turning over and sliding on top of him.
She rolls her hips. He isn't hard yet, but he has a hungry look on his face that tells her it's only a matter of time. She'd wait, but she's due in the precinct in less than an hour, so she kneels over him.
The first time they slept together she'd told herself it was a mistake, but she couldn't help it. Or didn't want to. It wasn't the drink — she wasn't drunk or even half-way there, not on two glasses of whisky. She just needed a warm body, needed it so badly she couldn't walk away. From the moment she stepped on his boat, she knew they were going to end up in bed together, no matter how much she tried to pretend to him that it was so far from inevitable it simply wasn't going to happen. She saw in his eyes that he knew she'd stay. It wasn't just his usual cocky arrogance. He could read her because they were alike, the two of them, in the wrong year, adrift from the world he knew. That was why it had to be him.
"I'm married," she'd said, one last protest as he'd unbuttoned her shirt. She hadn't moved away though, or stopped him, and her words had seemed to disappear, gone as soon as she'd spoken them.
"No, you aren't. Not yet. Not for decades," he'd said, and she'd closed her eyes as his fingers brushed against her bare skin.
"You know the argument's flawed," she'd whispered, but she still didn't move away. That was her last protest until her denial the next morning.
It's different now, and not just the difference of familiarity, knowing what turns the other on. It's the difference of wanting him because he's Matthew Kellog, because she feels something for him, even if she hasn't let herself examine what those feelings are. She wants him, the man, not just the fellow time-traveler. Maybe she'll even tell him that some day.
Maybe she has. Not in words, as such. She trails her hand down his chest, curling a finger around the wiry hair there. She presses kisses where her finger has been, working her way lower and lower.
It's turning him on, just this. His chest is rising and falling faster, and he's quiet. He only goes quiet when he doesn't quite believe what's happening or doesn't know what to say, and it's rare that Matthew Kellog doesn't have the right words. She looks up at him — and this, this moment is all the difference between then and now, because that first night she couldn't look him in the eye — and she holds his gaze. She's barely moving, the back of her fingers brushing slowly up the length of his cock. There's a little bead of moisture on the end — she rubs it between her finger and thumb and then runs her finger around the head. It's little more than a tease, barely-there pressure, but he's fully hard now, biting his lip. He wants to tell her to move, to give him something more, but she knows he won't.
She bends over further, licks a strip up the underneath of his cock. His thighs shudder under hers, and she can't wait any longer either. She wants him inside her, wants to ride him until he's shuddering all over.
There are condoms in the bedside table. They were there that first night, and one day Kiera might ask him if he'd known there was going to be a night she'd show up and not leave. If he'd believed it had just been a matter of time. She hadn't meant to stay, even told herself afterwards that it was all one neat ploy to recover the part of the time device. That was a lie. But she hadn't meant to stay.
She's glad that she did. If she hadn't, they wouldn't have this now, Matthew buried deep inside her while she rises up and down, clenches around him as if she'd hold him to her forever. She comes first, a hot glow inside that spreads through her until she has to grab onto his arms to hold herself up.
He laughs when he comes, a rich sound. Addictive. "We should do this every morning," he pants.
She could live with that.
You know those little metal clips you've seen in the top left corner of paper documents, that hold them together. Those are staples, Alec says.
History lessons in the future don't cover such little details of early twenty-first century life as staples. Or staplers. Even though hanging onto a stapler is apparently very important in a police precinct. Ramirez has just handed her one and warned her to write her name on it in indelible marker. "If you don't, it'll walk."
"So how do I get the staples into the paper?" Kiera whispers, because it's obvious that no one else in the room needs instructions on how to staple paper.
Put the pieces you want to staple in the widest part of the V of the stapler, press it down sharply, and let go.
"Okay, that sounds simple enough," she says, and smiles as Betty waves at her.
"So, that guy who dropped you off this morning," Betty says, handing her a document file. "Dark, good-looking in a raffish kind of way." It's worded as a statement, but there's a definite question in there.
Kiera's barely paying attention, juggling her coffee in one hand and her new stapler and box of staples in the other, while Alex is giving her instructions on filling the stapler. "Who, Kel—" she starts, before reining herself in quickly.
Wow, that was close, Alec says. He sounds like he's laughing.
"Kel, huh? And is Kel responsible for you wearing the same clothes two days running?"
Kiera looks down at herself. It isn't actually the same shirt. She has three identical blue shirts. She's never been big on shopping, though Greg used to like to buy her a new cocktail dress every Christmas. "Yeah," she says, trying to sound a little sheepish. It won't hurt to reassure Betty that Kiera doesn't have Carlos in her sights as anything more than a partner. Betty deserves that.
Betty grins. "Good for you," she says.
"Is it the meat?" Kiera asks. They're having breakfast, the works: scrambled eggs, plump sausages bursting out of their skins, hash browns, mushrooms, tomatoes, toast dripping with butter. The waitress has just topped up their coffee. It's the sort of meal that's a distant memory in the future, for any class. It's delicious.
He doesn't ask her what she means. He shovels a forkful of sausage and potato into his mouth and licks his lips when he's swallowed it. "I certainly don't miss soya-moo," he says.
Kiera has a sudden flashback of Sam with a spoonful of soya-moo, toying with it, stirring it back into the slop in his bowl, looking up at her hopefully and only eating it when she shook her head. It wasn't bad, just bland. For all the technology available, artificial flavors still tasted artificial, never quite as satisfying as the real thing.
There is a family walking by the large picture window of their café. Father, mother and small boy. The boy is holding an icecream, so engrossed in it he's barely watching where he's walking.
"I do," she says, and she can't help the loss in her voice. Kellog looks outside as the family disappear from view. He doesn't say anything when she puts her fork down and leaves her egg and sausage untouched.
Kiera never knows what to do with days off. There's a constant itch under her skin telling her she should be doing something, working, planning, researching, trying to anticipate Liber8's next move. Finding out the identity of Mr. Escher, working out who set up the façade of Section 6.
The bleep of a new text is a welcome wake-up call, even if it is 6:30 on a Saturday morning. Until she sees it isn't Carlos or the Chief or even Betty. It's Kellog.
She can't ignore it, though. It's a set of coordinates, and when she checks they're an hour east out of the city.
Do I need backup? she texts back.
No, comes straight back.
Then: Wear pants.
Ten minutes later she's driving. She's gotten the hang of the car, though she always ends up thinking how fragile lives are in 2012, how unprotected.
She makes the drive in well under an hour. Kellog flags her down from the side of the road, grinning like a cat who's gotten the cream.
"You found it okay then," he says, which is too obvious a statement for Kiera to bother replying.
"This had better not be a trap."
"Yeah, well, you'll be even more hurt if it is a trap. I'll make sure of that."
Kiera checks her weapons, and Kellog puts up his hands, shaking his head. "No, absolutely not. You won't need those."
"You seriously think I'm going anywhere with you unarmed?"
"I seem to recall you were pretty much unarmed the other night," he says slyly.
"That's—" She wants to say different, but it isn't really. If she trusts him there, she ought to trust him here. On the other hand, however confident Kellog is about whatever he's leading her into, he can't have allowed for every single eventuality. She's keeping her weapon.
He throws up his hands in despair. "Okay, if it makes you feel better. But I promise you don't need it."
"So, what's out here? I haven't seen any signs of Liber8." She'd grown gradually more puzzled as she drove, the city thinning out to suburbs and then to rural peace. She'd passed a lake and a golf course, and nothing about the area had made sense to her. Liber8 didn't recruit from the affluent, and there was nothing out here that struck her as a likely target.
"Kiera, oh, Kiera," Kellog sighs.
"It's your day off, right?"
"Which means you're not working today."
"This isn't a case?"
"Come on," he says, and takes her hand. She resists for a moment, and he just looks at her, eyebrow raised, as if to suggest she's being childish. So she gives in, and follows him. There's a turn-off ahead, a tree-lined neat asphalt road. They take it.
"Are we walking far?"
"No," he says, and he sounds like he's having fun. It's a beautiful day. Perhaps Kiera should just enjoy being out in the countryside. Even if the air isn't as sweet as it could be — there are definitely farm animals nearby. They side-step the occasional pile of manure on the road.
The road bends around a copse ahead, tall conifers, the dark green blocking most of what's beyond. But she can catch a glimpse of the red roof of a barn, and there are voices now, carrying on the breeze.
When they round the bend, Kiera gasps. She stands stock still in the middle of the road and simply stares. She swallows down the wave of emotion, the desperate wish that she could share this with Sam, and just looks.
"Hey, no crying allowed. This is supposed to be a fun surprise," Kellog chides her.
"It is," Kiera says. "It really is." She turns to him and flings her arms around him. "Thank you."
He seems startled by her response, fidgeting for a second before his usual cocky self reappears. "Okay, so, let's go find out which horses we're riding."
"I didn't think you were the kind of person who'd be content just looking," he says. "And besides, I'm not going to make a fool of myself alone. If I'm riding one of these beasts, so are you."
They have a one hour lesson first, during which Kiera learns that her sense of balance is considerably better than Kellog's. She only falls once; he falls three times, and blames his horse each time.
She also learns that riding a horse is totally unlike anything she's ever done before. She's accustomed to machines, not a creature that responds to her like this. One that she can pet and talk to. That has a name. Her horse is a salt and pepper colored gelding called Norberto, and when she says his name, he flicks his ears as though he understands.
"Norberto means heroic in Spanish, doesn't it?" she asks their instructor, Alice.
"Don't worry, he's much more likely to want to stop and graze than do anything heroic," Alice assures her.
Kellog's horse is reddish-brown with a black mane and is called Backstreet Bay. Alice tells them the name with the sort of smile that makes Kiera suspect there's a joke that she isn't getting. At least with Kellog, there are two of them not getting the joke.
After the lesson, they hit the trails. Besides the two of them and Alice as guide, there's a teenage girl who reminds Kiera of Lily — something about the dyed black hair and her wary expression — and an older couple, Bill and Frieda, who do the trek every weekend. "It helps keep us young," they tell her.
The trek starts on a white picket fenced lane, studded with conifers, across a bridge over a fast-flowing river, and into a forest. Kiera's never been in a forest before, not a real one that spreads as far as she can see. They pass by a small clearing with a car park full of camper vans and SUVs, families heading out with backpacks. The air is so fresh and sharp, not even the cars are enough to mar it.
They take a break when the sun is just past its zenith, jumping down with stiff, awkward legs, stumbling for a moment until they get used to standing again. There's a water trough for the horses, and when they're watered, they tie them up to a row of posts.
Kellog brings out a packed lunch. They pull off their boots and sit on the grass, feet dangling over a stream, a little apart from the others, eating ham sandwiches and apples and snickers bars, and for a moment it is all just so overwhelmingly wonderful she has to close her eyes.
Norberto and Backstreet Bay eat their apple cores and then snuffle around their pockets for more treats.
"Glad you came?" Kellog asks her, petting Backstreet Bay but watching her.
She doesn't have the words to answer, but she thinks the look on her face says everything.
She's sore when she gets to bed that night, with a bruise on her hip from her fall and a blister on the palm of her hand, but she's so content she simply lies awake, not trying to sleep, just reliving the day.
Kellog makes her doubt everything she's ever known or believed. She doubts the system, the law, the rightness of everything she's put faith in. She doubts her own ability to fall in love with the right man.
She thinks she's in love with him.
The day this hits her — while she's combing through a pile of garbage behind Norgate Substation — she throws up. She doesn't think it's cause and effect, but who knows?
You've thrown up three times this week, Alec comments. Are you—? You know.
"No," she says, sharper than she means to. The hum of the power lines overhead is making her head hurt.
Are you sure?
"It's a stomach bug. There's one going around at the precinct," she tells him. It's a lie, but he doesn't know everything, and he can't be right.
She buys five pregnancy tests on the way home. Sits in the bathroom, remembering the last time she did this. It's easier in the future, no painful wait for a strip to change color.
They're all negative.
The next day Carlos is throwing up. Sometimes lies aren't lies after all.
"Is there anyone for you to get back to?" Kiera asks. She knows his sister is dead (she has to think of it that way, not that she killed her), but maybe he had a lover, someone he cared about.
He shakes his head. "Turn left just ahead, after the hardware store," he says. The street they turn into is steep, dotted with little unmatched houses. She can see the harbor in the distance.
"No one?" Kiera presses, though she knows it's cruel.
He turns the tables on her. "If we were to find a way to get back. Say, tomorrow. And we reached 2077. What would you do with me?"
"I—" Kiera pauses. He's sentenced to death. It was — or it will be, she never knows how to word it even in her mind — a legal trial. "I don't know," she whispers. "I don't know."
"I think you'd do the right thing," he says. And then, "pull over, behind that red SUV. There, isn't that perfect for you."
Kiera lets the car idle for a minute, thinking. The bungalow they're parked outside is compact by 2012 standards, but it has a daisy-studded lawn out front, with a tree, and a hanging basket full of orange and gold nasturtiums next to the front door. It looks like a home for a family — she pictures a wooden swing in the tree and a shiny red bicycle left on the lawn. She can almost hear Sam begging her to push him higher in the swing.
She can't do this. She can't settle into this time period, rent a house, act like she's never going back to 2077. She turns to give Kellog an excuse — it's too expensive, too long a commute, too far from him even — but instead she drops her head on the steering wheel and can't stop the tears.
She doesn't tell Kellog about Alec.
Alec notices, naturally.
I thought you trusted him now, Alec says.
But you haven't told him about me.
"I trust him. I—I trust him with my life," she says, and that's the first time she realizes that truth. She does, she implicitly trusts him, not just in an ordinary sense, but the way she trusted Elena. Elena was her partner at the CPS from the start, someone she knew had her back, no matter what. And yet, even with Elena, there were some things better left unsaid. Safest for both of them. "It doesn't mean I have to trust him with yours."
Or trust Alec with Kellog's. She hates thinking that, because she does trust this young Alec, but learning that she's a pawn in the hands of his older self makes it hard to see him the same way.
Her CMR doesn't have all the recordings of the few times she came face to face with the future Alec Sadler. She has to go by memory. It isn't good enough. She can't remember if there was a hint of recognition on his face that first time Greg introduced him, a blink, a tightening of his jaw, any sign at all. She had no reason to be suspicious, wasn't looking for anything. For her, it was just a chance meeting with her husband's boss.
It must have been so strange for him, a surreal conversation with a woman who knows his name but not the man, when he knew her so well. At least the future Alec is more circumspect — no exclamation of what are you doing here? CEOs of companies like Sadtech can't allow themselves off-guard moments.
It angers her, knowing she's a pawn in his game but not knowing her purpose. She's always had a clearly defined role, in the military, in her family, as a protector. Now she's working it out as she goes along.
It angers her, but deep down, under the frustration and the anger, deep enough that she only acknowledges it when she's falling asleep, she feels reassured. There's someone looking out for her. The mysterious Mr. Escher, the future Alec. She's having to work out her role, but at least she's certain she has one.
It was far worse when she thought she was here by chance. A random accident.
At least a chess game has rules, even if the pawn doesn't know them.
"I used to think that time was linear," Kiera tells Kellog one night. They're taking the boat out of the harbor. Not fleeing anything this time. She's simply there more than at her own room. Maybe she'll give it up soon, move in here permanently, now she's given up on the idea of renting. "Not that I ever gave it much thought."
"Most people don't think about time, other than to wish they had more, or that they could go back and try again."
"All I can think about is time. And the madness of our timelines. I've met my grandmother, pregnant with my mother. Talked my grandmother out of aborting my mother. We've been plucked out of one time and thrown into another. We act and interact, and our actions make a difference to the world, they must do, but they don't affect the future. How do we begin to cope with that?"
"We have to. That's all."
Kiera huffs out a breath. "You're so phlegmatic. Don't you get frustrated?" There are days she gets so frustrated she could scream.
He shrugs. Puts his arms around her and draws her to his side. Presses kisses to her cheek while the boat slows to a standstill in the open water.
"If this is fate," he says, "I approve."
The stars are brighter out here, away from the city lights. The only sound is the water lapping against the sides of the boat. If this is his way of bringing her peace, it's working. She turns into his kisses, mouths needily at his jaw. "Let's go below," she says.
They don't make it below. He strips her on the deck, slow, even though she's urging him on, stupid little impatient noises that she can't help. He slides her bra straps off her shoulder and takes each nipple into his mouth, laving them with his tongue until they're hard and aching. She tries to pull her panties down, but he pushes her hand away and does it himself, slipping them just far enough down to her ankles that he can spread her knees apart and kneel between them.
She's soaking already, and the first touch of his tongue is almost enough to set her off. She tips her head back and looks at the stars, the same stars she'll know in the future, and he flicks his tongue against her and the stars blur.
When the stars come back into focus, they're lying side by side on the deck, naked and sated.
She gets hit in a shoot-out, twice in the gut. Carlos sees her go down, but she's learned a valuable lesson since she's been in this era: nobody wants to believe the impossible, so give them a plausible lie, and they'll accept it. Agent Gardiner is the perfect example — he blames everything he saw the day of Kagame's explosion on a concussion. He doubted for a while, and watched her a little too carefully, but she could see the way he didn't want to believe his eyes.
"Got lucky there — I must have tripped," she tells Carlos afterwards, keeping her jacket buttoned up over the holes in her shirt, and that's what goes in the report.
Learning that Greg had cheated on her was worse than a barrage of bullets. At least her suit softens the blow from a bullet. The night she learned what he'd done, nothing could have kept her from feeling like her world was falling apart, like everything solid under her feet had turned to quicksand.
The thing about Greg was that he'd always made her feel so safe, so loved. He was her shining beacon of what a decent man should be: honorable and trustworthy. Dependable. A man who would do what was right. No matter how badly other people acted, no matter what horrors she saw in her work, or how many strongly-held beliefs got crushed, she knew there was at least one man in the world who would never let her down.
When he tried to justify it, that only made it worse. If he'd only stood there and said yes, I cheated, I was wrong, no excuses, she thinks she could have born it better. But to hear him defend what he did—it made it so much harder to forgive him. She didn't, not really. She went through the motions of forgiveness, but he'd crushed her. He made their marriage feel like a lie, cheapened every happy moment they ever had, and she couldn't find a way to forgive that.
It's strange, falling out of love with someone half a century before falling in love with them. Cheating on him before he cheats on her.
It's easier to forgive him now it doesn't hurt so much.
"Are we special?" Kellog asks. "I mean, here we are, in a unique position. We can change the world. We know the future, see the present far more clearly than most. We have power, the sort of power that even world leaders can't dream of because they just don't have the imagination needed."
"No, we're not special," she says. She doesn't feel special. Sometimes she just feels incredibly unlucky.
She walks on. She has to step into the gutter to get past the trash piled up against the row of dumpsters. The sky is incredibly blue, the sort of blue that a child paints — that Sam painted, complete with smiling yellow sun — it looks too perfect to be real. There is dust on her shoes and a slimy trail of something revolting caught on her heel. She stops and scrapes the heel against the curb. She scrapes it longer than she needs to, long after the remnants of whatever trash it was are gone.
Kellog takes her arm. He gently edges her forward, a step at a time, until she's walking again, out onto the riverfront.
"I think you don't take enough credit. Own your successes."
"What? I do?"
"No, you don't. If things go wrong, you blame yourself. And when things go right, you put it down to good luck, random chance. Or you credit your suit, all your Protector tools. You never stop and think, yeah, that was down to me, I saved the day."
Kiera thinks about what he's said. "When I became a Protector I was told to rely on the tech. That what would make me a great Protector was the tech. Not my instincts or my gut, the tech."
Kellog rolls his eyes. "And I bet you clung to that advice. Did exactly as you were told like a good little robot Protector." There's a bitterness to his words that he doesn't often show. Once, it would have made her suspicious of him. Now, she understands. He squeezes her arm, a subtle apology. She doesn't need it. "It's growth, you know, the way you work now. Relying on your instincts, and your skills, on your understanding of people. You're good at it."
"I know." She does. She believes it. Most of the time. Being without her suit all that time made her stronger, better at her job.
"When things go wrong, I blame bad luck. When things go right, I know it's because I'm brilliant," he says. He's exaggerating, she thinks, but he wants her to smile and she does. And not just because he wants her to. "It's crazy, what we've been given."
"You think it's a gift, being here? Being now, displaced. Unable to get home." She knows she sounds incredulous. There are times when she thinks she's beginning to understand Matthew Kellog, to make sense of him. Tell when he's lying (he hasn't lied to her in a long time), when he's telling the truth. When he's sincere and when he's playing her. She knows their politics aren't as far distant as she would have thought once. And then he says something like this, something so far left field that she's at a total loss.
He nods. "Yeah, it's a gift," he says, and he almost convinces her that he actually believes it. Perhaps she is convinced, only her own uncertainty trying to convince her that no sane person would believe that.
The wind is picking up, swirling dust around her ankles and bringing in a narrow trail of gray cloud, newly visible in the distance, a smudge on the cerulean smoothness. Perfection never lasts.
One Sunday morning, Kiera goes to church. As she's dressing, she thinks it's a spur of the moment decision. But when she walks up the steps and into the building she realizes that she'd made a note of the service times when she passed, and unconsciously worked out how long it would take her to get here from the boat.
Churches are the same in 2013 as they are in 2077: too vast to heat effectively, a certain dampness in the stone floor, hard pews. There are far more churches in 2013 Vancouver than there are in the future, though; over the next sixty-five years most will be converted or knocked down for housing units. Kiera can't remember if this one still exists in the future or not. She suspects not.
The sermon is about making decisions, letting the Lord take you by the hand and guide you. Some things at least don't change. Kiera thinks she heard the same sermon as a child.
Part way through, she turns her head discreetly at the sound of familiar footsteps heading down the aisle towards her. Kellog slips into the seat beside her.
"You followed me?" Kiera hisses.
He shrugs unrepentantly. "If you're going to disappear on a Sunday morning instead of staying around for my delicious cooked breakfast, I want to know why," he whispers back. "I have to say, I wasn't expecting this."
"I don't need to be saved," she says. That isn't why she's here.
"I wouldn't dream of suggesting otherwise," he assures her, but she can see a glimpse behind the words, the age-old male hope that he can save her (and the world). Or maybe just the two of them.
They slip out quickly at the end. "Ready for breakfast now?" he asks, and she nods.
He slips his hand into hers as they walk. It's a strange feeling, but she likes it. They pass by a store-front window and she turns to see their reflection in it. They look like they fit, effortlessly in step.
"Do you ever feel like you need something to ground you? Something to make sense of all the crazy things that have happened? Real answers you can trust?" she asks. It isn't that she feels the need to explain to Kellog why she went to church — she wants to make sense of it for herself.
"And you think God will help?" he asks in return. He sounds skeptical.
"Not really. I don't know." They walk a while in silence. "You didn't answer my questions."
"No," he says.
"No you didn't answer, or no you don't feel—lost?"
"I have you," he says. "You're my purpose." He makes it sound so simple. They're still walking, hand in hand, his hand warmer than hers.
Perhaps it is simple.
Clocks stop, time goes on.