Now that they were on the move properly, Nicola had a perfect opportunity to examine Andrew. He very slender, almost delicate looking, at what she guessed was around six feet. Black hair interspersed with flecks of brown hung to his shoulders, with a center parting revealing his tall forehead.
She was thankful for the company he provided. Nicola hadn't had a proper friend since she had worked at the bakery, and he was refreshing company, even if he did have an odd sense of humor.
Unfortunately for both of them, he had absolutely no training in combat, and didn't have much muscle to fall back upon if things got hairy. Conversely, he was very quick, so the plan was for him to run off to where they had met should a fight get out of hand. Though Andrew protested that running away would be the cowardly thing to do, Nicola sternly told him she could look after herself in a fight better if she didn't have too look after him too.
"...Not to mention you're unarmed." she finished, while he rolled his eyes and sighed.
"Yes, mother." Andrew responded, his throat still sore from his earlier breakdown.
Nicola had learned not to respond to his sarcastic comments. It only seemed to make him more prone to utter them.
That said, she still hadn't worked him out. Since he'd regained his composure earlier, he had hadn't let anything slip about himself apart from when asked directly.
Though she didn't think he'd lie to her, it wasn't in her nature to interrogate people. If they felt like opening up, she would listen.
But Nicola knew there was more than just the friendly, happy boy to Andrew. She just didn't know what.
"Quiet..." whispered Andrew, putting a hand on Nicola's shoulder.
He pointed two fingers at his eyes, then used them to point vaguely around a corner.
She listened intently, staring in the direction Andrew was pointing. Then she heard it too, a scuffling sound.
Nicola looked around and took stock of her surroundings. Since they'd left the outskirts of town behind, most of the buildings were intact. Either the fire hadn't spread, or the buildings in this part of town were not as flammable as those on the edge.
She pushed Andrew against the wall, crossed her lips with her finger, and inched towards the corner with her back against the wall.
The scuffling noise stopped.
Nicola's heart jumped.
She glanced back to where Andrew was, and he flashed her a small concerned smile.
The noise began again.
Determined not too look cowardly in front of him, she steeled her flagging resolve, drew the knife from her sleeve and held it ready.
With a final deep breath, she poked her head around the corner, and then quickly withdrew it, struggling to hold down the contents of her stomach. Andrew saw this, and quickly pulled her back down the road by the hand.
"What is it?" he whispered urgently. While she expected him to be panicked by her reaction, instead he looked completely in control of himself. His eyes shone with worry.
"Another soldier." Nicola breathed.
"Something tells me that's not all." Andrew said, his eyes narrowing.
"Well-he-by the looks of things-he's eating a-a..." Nicola was stumbling over her words.
"A what, Nicola?" he asked. Fear was beginning to show itself in the quickening of his breath.
"Body." Nicola retched again, luckily her head won out against her stomach and she managed to hold it down.
Aside from his eyes widening, Andrew displayed no sign of the nausea that had taken Nicola. With a gesture that told Nicola to stay there, he walked quietly back to the wall and stuck his head around it.
He took a step away, and then walked back to Nicola, who was sitting on the floor, head between her knees.
"Can we go around?" Asked Andrew.
"We'd have to do a lot of back tracking. It could add another hour to the journey." she replied, not looking up.
"Then I guess we've got to make him move." He decided.
"I don't think I'm up to fighting him, Andrew." Nicola said, looking at him now.
"You fighters," chuckled Andrew, "You don't have to kill everything hostile, y'know? Sometimes you can use this." He tapped his head.
"How do you mean?" Nicola asked, genuinely confused.
"You never sneaked out?" He asked, with mock surprise on his face.
"Sure, but what has that got to do with the price of grain?" she shot back. She was no stranger to sarcasm herself.
"Watch and learn." replied Andrew.
Picking up a rock from the ground, he held her hand and walked back to the corner. "Okay, when I say go, we're both going to run straight across to there." he motioned to the other side of the street. Her first thought was that of suicide, but then he noticed the rock he had in his hand. Holding her tongue, Nicola watched intently. If there was something new she could learn about survival, she was going to pay attention.
Andrew took a quick glance around the corner, and then hefted the rock with considerable speed over the head of the feeding soldier.
It made a large clattering noise, which didn't faze him, but made Nicola flinch. Andrew held up his hand, fingers outstreched in front of her face, still with one eye around the corner.
The soldier looked up from his feast, and then let out a bloodcurdling cry. Once again, Nicola was startled and Andrew was not.
"This boy's made of sterner stuff than I thought..." she thought to herself.
The soldier ran off towards the source of the noise, which happened to be around another corner, putting him out of sight.
Andrew looked back to Nicola, the normal jokey smile now gone.
"Don't look left. Go."
The steely tone took her by surprise, but she gave a small nod.
Heart beating wildly, she followed right behind Andrew, still hanging on to his hand.
At the other end he pushed her on ahead, and stopped by the wall, listening to hear if their foe reappeared.
After a few moments, he seemed satisfied and winked at Nicola.
"How many roads between here and the center do you reckon?"