The wind was cold, fine on Joe's hot skin. His breathing slowed as he leaned over where Melanie lay on the rooftop. She was staring up at the stars, giggling mindlessly, but whimpered as his face came into her line of sight. Tears squeezed out of the corners of her eyes and she curled up on her side, turning away from him, her thumb finding her mouth.
"Sleep," he whispered. Melanie's eyes closed, two more tears gleaming on her wet eyelashes and she sighed like an infant as he drew the tattered sheet across her shoulders. She sucked at her thumb, once, twice, then her hand dropped limply to the side, cupping her cheek. She slept.
Brittany was already sitting up as he approached, but instead of raising her arms to meet his embrace she batted his hands away, shuddering.
"Sleeping," Joe said. "How are you doing?"
"I've been better," she said, shuddering and moaned. "Aw my head! She gave me an electric shock. I'm sore all over. Joe, it's not true is it? What she said?"
"It's not true."
"But this demon?"
"Is in Mal now. We've got to find him. Are you okay to get up?"
"So that part was true. Joe, you have to tell me. I don't know what's going on! Is there anything else you're keeping from me?"
He knelt down next to her and tried again to slip his arm around her, but she moved a little, shrugging.
"There's nothing, Brittany, really."
"If you're lying. Joseph Tayna, I'm telling you right now; if I find out you're lying...after all of this. I swear I'll never..."
"Never what? Sweet, I wouldn't lie to you. I swear it." Joe's skin prickled, not only from the cold. He couldn't help but glance around and Brittany, spooked, moved closer to him.
"What is it?"
"I don't know," he said, though he knew very well and smiled over her shoulder. When he put his arms around her this time she didn't break free but pressed close. He wished they had time. The wind raised goosebumps on his cooling skin, and a shiver ran down from the nape of his neck, circling his lower back. She pressed into him harder, her breath in the hollow of his collarbone warm and sweet.
"We need to go."
He helped her up, her legs stiff and cramping from the shock. She worked these out while he stood waiting, shivering now, the sweat drying on him.
But Mal wasn't in the room, and things were missing. Brittany stared around, at the remnants of ties on the bedposts, at the unfamiliar disorder and watched Joe's expression harden. He threw on a pair of pants and a shirt while she sat on the bed and watched as he then began to hunt around the room. From a drawer he took a large box of salt and began to spread it on the carpet, forming a ring.
"Shit!" she said as he started to pour it, drawing her feet in. "What the hell are you doing!"
"We're going to find Mal. Only if the demon's in him we'll need protection. Come into the circle Brittany, come on." He finished his circle and tossed the empty box to the other bed, holding out his hand. He was smiling. But she could never see him somehow when he smiled. He was closed from her, and his hand, only two feet away, seemed to stretch across a gulf of miles. "Come on. Step carefully. Don't break the circle."
She took his hand, wondering what the fuck was going to happen, wondering if she should just run now, because surely she'd done enough. She needed sleep. God, I could sleep for years! I want a shower, I want my bed. I want things to be ordinary.
She took his hand and stepped into the circle.