Chapter 9- Part 3 - The End
Dismounting, Indie walked Nellie into the barn, her legs shaky from riding so long. She had just finished unsaddling and bedding down the horse as the barn door squeaked open. She paused, her entire body tensing.
“So you’re back?” Ryan called out, and she relaxed, stepping out of the stall.
“Did you figure out the secret to unlife?”
Indie rolled her eyes, heading out of the barn. “I learned some interesting stuff, but not that.”
He caught her arm, and tugged her to him. “I was really worried about you.”
“I'm a big girl I can take care of myself.” She muttered, wrapping her arms around him.
Sliding his arms around her waist he ran his fingers along her spine. “I know you are, but maybe next time we go together or you take someone as a back up. Please, for my sanity.” He nuzzled her neck. “We're all we have and I don't think I could take losing you.”
Tendrils of dread and grief, spread through her chest. Squeezing her eyes shut she pushed all those feeling down, she'd deal with them later alone. Tightening her hold on Ryan she didn't reply, she couldn't guarantee any of them would survive. Ryan tipped her face up and his lips were on her's. The kiss was intense. Pent up grief, worry and frustration, being released in a burst of passion. Indie pressed herself against Ryan, her fingers twisting into his hair. He eased her around, pressing her against the stalls wooden slates. His hips ground against hers.
Indie's eye's flew open and she planted her hands on his chest pushing him back. Panting she shook her head. There was no way her first time would be in a barn. “I'm gross, I need to get cleaned up.”
He nodded, stepping back. His face was flushed, as he stuttered.“Right, sorry. I...”
“It's ok.” She cut him off, not wanting him to say anything else. She changed the subject, “Is there still hot water?”
“Yeah, well there should be now.”
“Great.” She headed for the house, after a moment Ryan followed.
“Hey before you go in, you should know we have visitors.”
“Like real people or the kind that want to bite us and not in the good way.”
“Good maybe they know what’s going on down state.”She quickened her pace.
Ryan jogged to catch up. “And just so we're clear, what sort of biting is the good way?”
Indie smirked and jogged up the stairs to the porch, entering through the back door. She stopped just inside the door, staring. Susie sat at the kitchen table with two men and a woman.
“Indie, you’re back,” Susie said, glancing toward her. The other three looked at her as well.
Indie stared in shock. “Lyric.”
“Hey cuz,” the woman muttered, getting to her feet. “You look like crap.”
“You cut your hair.” A surreal feeling swept through Indie and she swayed on her feet. “I'm going to get cleaned up and then we can talk.”
Lyric nodded, sitting back down and giving the others a tense smile. Indie ignored Susie and Ryan's questioning gazes and headed for the bathroom. Avoiding the mirror, she stripped off her dirty clothes and climbed into the shower. The freezing spray made her gasp and jump back for a moment. She fiddled with the knobs before getting a steady stream of hot water. A sigh escaped her lips as her muscles loosened under the spray. As she scrubbed her hair, the door opened.
“Indie, I'm leaving some clean clothes on the sink.” Susie called, then the door clicked shut again.
After rinsing off, she climbed out. She toweled off, then wrapped the towel around her hair. The sweat pants and shirt were slightly big, but then with all the weight she'd lost, even her own clothes were a little big now. Judging from the kittens playing with a ball of yarn, these had been Ryan's mom's. Susie must have picked up her stuff, since it was no longer on the floor.
Wiping the moisture from the mirror, she finally looked at herself. Other than a few small cuts, she didn't look too bad. Letting down her hair, she brushed it and pulled the long locks back into a ponytail. Satisfied she no longer looked like she'd rolled in the mud, Indie exited the bathroom. Walking down the hall, she got that surreal feeling again as she heard voices from the kitchen. Pausing in the doorway, she watched everyone animated, talking. The smell of food hit her and her stomach growled. She couldn't remember when she'd eaten last. Behind her the front door slammed and she jumped, reaching for the handgun that was no longer at her waist.
“Sorry, didn't mean to scare you.” It was one of the men from earlier. He gently held up his hand.
“I'm just jumpy. Not your fault.”
He nodded and gestured for her to head into the kitchen. As they entered, everyone looked at Indie.
“So are you going to tell us what you found out?” Susie asked as Indie sat in a vacant seat at the table.
“Sure, if I can have some of whatever smells good.”
Susie filled a plate from the pans on the stove. Indie recounted her run in with the doctor. “It's not much but it's more than we had. Thanks, Susie.”
Susie nodded and Indie began eating. Venison steak, potatoes, corn and homemade bread.
“Indie, I'd like to introduce you to Marcus and Ira.” Lyric said, gesturing to the big African American man behind her and a skinny Hispanic guy with dark hair sitting beside Susie. “Guys, this is my cousin Indiana.”
“Nice to meet you,” Indie muttered around a hunk of meat, then swallowed. “So, what's your story?”
Lyric looked at Marcus, then back at Indie. “Well...”