The rolling hills of almost grey grass offered no protection. We were bare to any attack, from the Government or otherwise. The countryside was a hot spot for thieves and similar people. Things like that are against the Law, but it's tough luck now, everyone can do with more money. Even the rich. Greedy bastards... Erik ran in short strides, his head almost always turned around. I don't really blame him. He was very cautious when he wasn't someone where he knew. He feels lost. I took the lead, even though he was the one with any sort of clue where to go. My sword kept hitting into my leg every other stride, it was quite irritating but it's not like we had time to waste.
Erik began to slow behind me, his heavy breathing faded from my hearing. I turned swiftly to him.
“You alright?” I inquired. He wasn't by the looks of it, his face was pulled back in pain, showing his teeth. He moaned, and sat on the grass, holding his calf. I knelt down to him, hands on my knees.
“Just pulled a muscle, rather harshly. Sorry,” he said admittedly.
“Why are you apologising for pulling your muscle? It's not like you did it on purpose.” I reached out to his left calf, he lifted his hands away, allowing me to roll up the leg of his trousers. This was quite regular, I was always the one helping him with injuries and such. It's not that he was clumsy, he was just more likely to get injured due to his habit. A habit of trying to run faster. He's never been as fast as me, so he thinks he's slow.
I shuffled closer to him, both hands on his slightly hairy leg, tensing to find the muscle.
“Is it this one?” I asked, squeezing my hands like pincers, thumbs at the front on the bone.
“Nope, it's closer to my knee,” he said, relaxing his back and leaning his head back slightly. I rolled up the trouser leg above his knee but didn't try to find the muscle, I could see the problem. There, in his knee, was a bullet hole. I gasped. I almost pushed my head closer, to look at the wound.
“Ow! Found it!” he declared. He laughed nervously, but stopped when I looked up at him.
“What's wrong?” he could tell by just looking at me that it was serious.
“You don't know?” I didn't believe he didn't know that there was a bullet somewhere in his knee. He simply shook his head, I sat more comfortably, knowing this was going to take a while to get out.
“You have a bullet in your leg,” I said calmly. Trying to not make a big deal out of it, obviously it wasn't a critical hit, or he would have been curled over in pain earlier. Wait a second...
“When did this start hurting?” I blurted out. I looked closer into the wound. It went sideways, so there wasn't a bullet inside his leg, which was some good news, we just need to heal the wounds. I moved to the other side of knee, the other wound was basically the same, and there was not too much blood loss. It dripped out, so this must have been recent.
“Just a moment ago. What do you mean I have a bullet in my leg?” he asked, trying to stay calm. He leant forward, wanting to see I'm guessing. Didn't he believe me or something?
“It's not in your leg, it's passed through. But we've got to get out of here, now!” I jumped up and looked around. There must be someone watching, cause that wound is fresh. No bullet can penetrate and not hurt until later on.
I watched in horror as Erik tried to get up, it was torture to me. My heart raced, doing laps around my throat. I grabbed Erik's hand, and yanked him onto his feet. We weren't too far from a house, I could see smoke rising from over the hill just a few minutes run away. But since Erik couldn't walk, well, it's going to take much longer. He hobbled a bit on his right foot, he patted the ground with the other, attempting to pressure his knee into letting him walk. I pulled his arm over my shoulder,
“I don't think so, you've got to keep off of that leg.” I wasn't an expert, but that was obvious.
“I'm fine Suzanne, please, I can walk,” he insisted. But I wasn't going to risk it, it could do long term damage, the less pressure on the wounds, the better. I held his hand that gripped my shoulder.
“No Erik! I'm not going to let you hurt yourself to try to remain strong for me.” I began to walk, he hopped after me, gritting his teeth in pain but he kept going on. Strong. I had to give it to him.
“Thanks,” he breathed. He gave into the fact, he was injured at the worst possible time.
Erik's breathing was uneven and hoarse by the time we got to the top of the hill. But to my shock, it wasn't a house. It was a town, a small one, but still a town. A dozen or so houses, and a bunch of other buildings. Erik exhaled as I did. Relieved. There has got to be at least one person in the town that could help him, there had to be. At least the hard part of getting up the hill was over, now to get down, but with Erik, that could be dangerous. One slightest imbalance and he could fall and damage his knee further.
“Erik, we've got to go steadily, okay? So just follow my lead,” we started hobbling down the hill.
“What? Were you following me up until now?” he joked. I gave out the small breath of laughter.
“Oh, of course,” I went along with it. He chuckled quietly, and gripped onto my shoulder tightly, obviously afraid of falling. I looked at him, his eyes were shaking, his lip was trembling, a drop of sweat rolled down his forehead, and around his cheek. He was pale, very pale. I couldn't bear to watch him. Seeing the wound in his knee was like a stab in the gut, and with each step he takes, the dagger twists. I can't even imagine how he feels if I feel like this.
I couldn't look at him, I had to look away, I stared down the hill, like a showdown. One small fall could be the end of Erik ever walking again, that simple. The air was thin up here, not thin enough to notice, it just felt thin. Nothing alive about. The wind blew though, barely, pushing the clouds above very slowly. To our misfortune, more than we had anyway, the wind was blowing against us. I know a small, not even gust of wind is nothing to worry about. But at the moment it is.
“Suzanne. You don't have to worry about me.” I turned to Erik. His eyes were watering slightly, was it from pain? Or from the wind? I didn't care which it was for, they were tears, real or not I didn't care.
I didn't reply, I just held onto his hand, and resumed looking down the hill.
“Suzanne..” he said, softly, like smooth velvet. I bit my tongue, not wanting to talk about it.
“It's going to be alright,” he reassured me, but I knew it wasn't going to be. I was hoping so deeply that it was going to be, but I have to face reality, we're not going to make it.
“But Erik... What if it isn't going to be? We have the whole of the Government looking for us, how can we know it's going to make it?” I got a little tearful, a droplet or two leaked out. The saltiness slipped onto my lips, my throat was dry and my nose tickled almost.
We were at the bottom of the hill by now, and Erik hadn't replied to that. I didn't expect him to. What was there to say? But there's one thing I still have, that no-one can or will take away from me. Erik. I'd rather die than see him be hurt.