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Realistic or Modern Those That Remain

It was very clear the longer they sat, just how enormous the task was that they were about to take on. Ruby wasn't particularly hopeful for the outcome they wanted as she watched the bear rip into one of the corpses, but that action alone was enough to spur her to want to bring down the damn thing before it could do the same to her family. Only did she tear her eyes away from it when Grim sniped at her, and she had just been about to retort with, well if the cap fits, but he luckily cut her off before she had a chance. On the contrary, there was elements to Grim that looked exactly how Ruby imagined a zoologist might, but then she supposed she had a pretty distorted view of what one of them was and it wasn't likely someone who wrangled lions and tigers for a living. In any case, Ruby listened when he began to list off the weapons they had and could use, looking back over at the creature when it finally began to make for the trees. That was their cue.

Pushing open her car door, Ruby hopped back down onto the ground and headed around the back of the truck, gathering the shotgun, ammo, her hunting rifle and two pistols each. It didn't take her long and they were soon meeting around the side of the vehicle once more, with Grim reaching his hand out for the shotgun. Their eyes met in the next instance as he began to instruct her and although Ruby wanted to make some quip related to yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir, she didn't on this occasion, knowing how serious this was and knowing like he did, that they had to be on the same page. So, she looked up at him towering over her and her gaze didn't falter even when his large hand wrapped around her wrist. Only at his threat did she let out a snort, of amusement at the thought of him haunting the shit out of her, and out of disbelief because yeah, there was no way in hell she'd leave him behind. Not under any circumstances. He didn't need to know that though. What was important, was that she did.

So, as Grim curled her fingers round the keys, Ruby gripped onto them and gave him a nod, her own heart pounding, the unhinged smile that he gave her speaking to some broken side of her. "Got it."

After his declaration, Ruby managed her own smile in return and pulled her neckerchief over her nose and mouth before kneeling into a crouch and making her way around to the end of the truck. The bear was now nowhere to be seen as she scanned the perimeter of the trees and then quietly began to edge forwards, gesturing that Grim should do the same.

If there was thing that Ruby was good at, it was tracking creatures. Having lived for so long on her own after her mum had died, she'd had to learn how to survive on her own and even before then, her mother had shown her prematurely how to hunt rabbit, how to skin and gut them for food, just in case. She guessed that the tracking of a bear wouldn't be much different, like following a huge overgrown bunny. When they reached it would be when their trajectory became a whole differently story.

Moving gracefully through the rotting hulks of bison that were left across the road and beyond, the redhead made a point of not looking at their poor, strangled faces, the horror there right before they'd breathed their last. Every so often she would stop and rub her shoulder against one and encourage Grim to do the same, a horrendous task but one that would mask their scent as they encroached upon the thicket of trees. Large paw prints led them to where they needed to be, along with the smell of death and a sludge trail of innards. It didn't take them long before they came face to face with the large mouth of a dark, dank looking cave and Ruby came to a halt behind a tree, glancing over at Grim and giving him a single nod. A signal, for him to do his thing when he was ready.
This might have been the stupidest idea to ever cross his mind but Grim had to admit that there was something incredibly pleasing about the way Ruby nodded along with the plan and when she confirmed that she understood he had the sudden insane urge to kiss her. It probably wasn't the best time to be having those thoughts, especially when they had a serious issue to focus on but his brain didn't seem to get the memo. Ruby seemed to be in her element however and he followed after her as she took the lead, stepping around the bodies and limbs of the dead animals around them.

They moved quickly, pausing only to rub up against the creatures, sinking their stench and blood into their clothing in an effort to remain hidden from the bears working nose. It was disgusting and Grim prayed this might be over soon so that he could rip the clothes from his skin. Ruby found the bears tracks easily enough and when they stepped into the thicket of trees Grim pulled out his knife and with a few quick slashes, he made the first mark on the tree, drawing a crude arrow. This was also probably the wrong time to be thinking of showing Ruby the age old tradition of carving initials into a tree, perhaps into a heart. At the thought Grim's lip curled in distaste at his own unschooled thoughts, was he fucking serious right now?

"Head in the game Grim." He muttered softly to himself, breaking into a light jog to catch up with Ruby as she plodded on forward, following the tracks with her keen eyes. They were mostly quiet as they traversed through the woods, passing a stream and over turned trees covered with moss and mushrooms. He knew they were near the bear when the pleasant smell of pine and forest fell away to more decay, and when they clamoured up a hill they spotted a large rock face nestled into the ground, a wide mouth of a cave nestled near the bottom of the rock face. The remains of meals and entrails were like sludge near the caves entrance and it took all of Grim's effort not to gag at the brown rotting mess.

Ruby caught his attention, her olive eyes focused and ready. At her nod he inclined his own head and bent, quietly pulling open his pack and grabbing the mason jar and the few grenades he had. He didn't want to just blindly throw in the bomb without confirming that the bear was indeed inside and within range. Once making sure his shot gun was loaded with the explosive ammo Grim took a deep steading breath before pushing from the ground and considering his next plan of action. His large boots ate up the ground as he approached the caves mouth slowly and carefully. A fallen dead trunk of a tree became his cover, and with one look toward Ruby to make sure she was in position he threw the first of the grenades into the cave, hoping to both startle and drive the beast closer to the mouth of the cave. He heard the clink of the pin releasing and then twisted to face the cave and chucked the grenade as hard as he could into the caves entrance. His aim was true and he quickly bent behind the trunk of the tree and began to ready the mason jar by opening its lid. The grenade went off, making Grim jump a little from the resounding blast and answering bellow of the beast. He was pulling the next pin and shoving it into the mason jar as the bears heavy running pounded against the stone floor of the cave.
He threw the jar aiming for the lip of the cave just as the best appeared from the shadows, rising to its hind legs. Once more his aim was true and Grim ducked behind the trunk of the tree, covering his ears as the next explosion ripped through the beast.

He heard the dull thunk of nails embedding themselves into the dead wood he hid behind. A rage filled roar shook him into action, and he scrambled to his feet and aimed the barrel of the gun for the bear. He could see the gleam of the nails embedded in the creatures rotted fur, and its dead yellow eyes narrowed on him as it fell to the ground, supported by only three of it's legs as the fourth hung uselessly from it's socket. Grim wasted no time, lifting the weapon to his chest and aiming right for the bears gaping mouth, it's tongue rotted and black curling as the creature launched itself at him. He fired, the bullet going wide as he also scrambled to get back from the beast as it careened for him. With a quick pump of the gun he lifted the weapon once more and fired, the air around him lighting up with the force of the bullets propulsion, just as the beasts paw struck him in the arm with such force that Grim didn't even recognize how quickly he hit the ground.

One moment he was standing and the next there was a loud crack as the air was being forced from his lungs as he hit the forest ground. The bear had clocked him so hard that his bones seemed to still be rattling, He let out a chocked gasp struggling to find the power to breathe while the bear forced itself to its legs once more, its fur now smoldering as it rose to its hind legs, clearly intent on crushing him with it's next move. His hands scrabbled uselessly at the shotgun, the fabric of his bandages catching on the pump reload.
Her heart was in her mouth the entire time that Grim progressed towards the cave, little by little. Ruby trusted him, of course she did, but she also knew that one wrong move here could prove fatal for the both of them. She'd never known of an infected animal before and as far as she was aware, neither had Tim. For all her camp new, the infection spread between people not creatures, though perhaps the thing had finally mutated, was finally beginning its last leg of the end of the world? The thought caused a swirling terror to begin in her gut that the redhead tried very hard to press back down again, given the situation they currently found themselves in. Anything else that wasn't watching Grim and the cave mouth like a hawk for signs of something that could go wrong would have to wait. He was her priority as things stood, him and making sure that he got out of this alive.

The cave mouth itself was not like anything Ruby had ever seen before either. Sludge and rotted entrails spread across the ground, the stench of death almost unbearable as flies buzzed around the space and bones lay cracked and chewed in piles of muck. It was another kind of wilderness, another distortion of what a more natural version of the habitat should have been and nothing in Ruby wanted to stick around and explore. Instead, she was constantly battling the urge to run and drag Grim with her, in favour of crouching behind her own tree as he readied the first grenade. Her hands were already trembling as she watched, for this was just the start and something, call it instinct or intuition, was telling her that this wasn't going to go their way. They'd gotten lucky up until now, surely there would come a time when that luck would run out? Nevertheless, they didn't have much choice, just like Grim had said and despite everything, Ruby felt an odd sort of attachment to the dead herd they'd left behind. She wanted vengeance, wanted to put something right in the world again when so much with it felt so very, very wrong.

When the grenade finally exploded and the roar of the bear echoed through the trees, Ruby popped her head back over her trunk to see if there were any signs of movement. There wasn't until the second grenade was thrown and this time a low rumbling, followed by a thudding of paws began to reverberate through the ground and the redhead quickly readied her hunting rifle, digging the handle into the wood to steady it. When the beast finally emerged, Grim's timing for the third explosion was perfect and Ruby watched, wide-eyed as the nails scattered and sliced through the creature's fur. It screamed out in rage and pain and she took that as her cue to start shooting, aiming several times for its skull, but each time just missing that vital point; either that or the bear wasn't about to go down like a normal animal.

"Fuck." When Ruby missed for a fourth time and her round finished, she flung her rifle to the side of her, scrambling for one of the pistols, and raising her head just in time to see how much ground the bear had covered between Grim and itself. For a moment, Ruby felt her entire being grow cold as she watched Grim struggle for his gun. "Come on, Grim. Come on." But the words didn't hit, and instead the bear lashed out with unrelenting force, swatting Grim's body into a nearby tree trunk like there was no more effort to it than swatting a fly. A scream erupted from Ruby at the sight before her, one that was born out of pure terror at seeing him cast aside, the creature approaching him to finish the job. At this point, she didn't even know if he was alive as she hauled herself to her feet, acting on pure fear and adrenaline alone as she ripped open her pack and pulled the bottle of petrol she had prepared back at the truck earlier, yanking a stopper of material from it's neck.

Before it was even a conscious decision to do so, Ruby was running, full pelt towards the bear, one hand pulling her lighter from her back pocket once more. "Hey! Hey, asshole! Over here! Hey!" The redhead waved her arms at the creature who seemed to pause its focus on grim, a guttural growl emanating from the gaping, bloody holes ripped into its throat. "That's it, this way, over here," Ruby murmured as she started backing up to draw it away from her partner, her thumb flicking the lighter as quickly as her trembling hands would allow. By now, the bear's yellow eyes seemed to have zeroed in on the distraction and it came, limping towards her, its black tongue flailing over one side of its mouth as it bared its rotten, black teeth. The closer it got, the more panicked Ruby became as the lighter wouldn't quite catch and before she even realised it, the bear was upon her and swiping with its paw, catching the her shirt and torso with its claws while she managed to lurch just out of reach of crumpling. Letting out a groan of pain, Ruby stumbled, but just as she did so the flame finally caught and then with one huge inhale she sent the bottle flying through the air.

When it finally collided with the bear, the whole thing went up in flames above her so instantaneously, that Ruby had curl in on herself to stop glass or fire from catching her. The creature let out another gurgling roar as it flailed, the fire licking up what was left of its fur, the stench of burning, rotted flesh filling the forest. Moments turned to minutes turned to what felt like hours as its putrid cries filled their ears before it finally collapsed into a smoking heap before her, allowing Ruby to lie for a moment, trying to catch her breath, trying to see past the white dots dancing in front of her eyes. The trees around her had caught too and although she didn't quite realise it right now, the fire was spreading... and quickly. She seemed to be in some kind of state of shock as she eventually pulled herself into a sitting position, groaning at the stinging of her skin, olive eyes scanning the woodland floor until... she spotted Grim, unmoving where the bear had left him. In a blind panic Ruby scrambled back onto her feet, running as quickly as she could over to where he was and then dropping onto the ground by his side, the ground that was soaked in warm crimson. Blood. His blood.

"Shit... Grim? Grim?" Ruby's hands shot out to his chest, his shoulders, and then to the sides of his face as she tried to rouse him. One look at his left arm told her all that she needed to know; great, gaping wounds where the bear had caught him ripped across his flesh, tearing through his shirt. It was a mess, a wound that went deeper than just a surface scratch and that was only the beginning as far as she could see. "Hey, hey," Ruby's voice was laced with panic as she forced him to face her, cold fingers brushing his hair from his face as she became increasingly aware of the fire that was beginning to circle them. "You're alright, you're okay. I'm right here. I need you to try and stand with me, okay? We need to get you back to the truck. Come on, grandad. You lean on me as much as you need to. This is a one time opportunity, so you'd better damn well take it, do you hear me?"
The trees looming above them seemed to have doubled between blinks and Grim fought to stay alert as the bear hovered over him. His ears rang with the force of his shock, his brain barely registering that what he was hearing was Ruby's warrior scream as she ran towards the bear- to save him. He kept waiting for the crush of the bears paws against his bones but the impact never came, and Grim groaned slightly, the noise sounding garbled as his consciousness slipped from him like water between his fingers. He remained blind to the battle the Ruby waged for him, deaf to sounds of the fire catching hold of both the bear and the surrounding forest as Ruby took her victory. The both of them were torn and tattered from the bears vicious claws that now lay dead and burning, but Grim was blissfully unaware of it all as his blood leaked from his arm and onto the ground.

He came back to her with slow blurry blinks, the cold yet comforting touch of her fingers rousing him. She was speaking to him, and he focused on the urgency in her voice, she needed him and he would rise to her call. Grim's body ached the more he brought himself into focus, shifting on the ground as Ruby pulled him to his feet, and he finally noticed the blaze around them as Ruby slung his arm over her shoulder, though he did his best to support himself as they rushed forward only to be stopped by the tell-tale signs of a trunk giving way. A low drawn out creak filled his ears and he let out a soft noise of surprise as a blazing tree that had been long dead toppled before them, cutting off their forward path and sending them stumbling a few steps backwards.

"You set the fucking forest on fire?!" Grim exclaimed, sounding almost like he didn't quite believe what he saw. Birds took to the sky in loud cawing shrieks as they escaped the blaze around them and Grim was eager to follow suit. His eyes scanned the surrounding area hopeful for any sign of a way out, but with the fallen tree and the surrounding burn it wasn't looking good, desperation had him turning his eyes on the cave, there was nothing other than the entrails at the cave entrance to could catch fire, though they could certainly die from the smoke... There had to be another way. Perhaps they could find another way out through the cave? it seemed that there was no choice as another falling tree forced them backwards once more. The stench of the cave was soon overpowered by the rich scent of smoke and ember, and Grim reached up to adjust his mask as Ruby led him into the darkness. He reached with his non injured arm, for one of the pockets of his pants and pulled out a small handheld flashlight that illuminated the innards of the cave. He spotted rubble to the left of them, and noticed the small puddle of water lapping back and forth at the base of the debris. Water usually meant a way out, and Grim let out a small noise of hope as they staggered towards the pile of fallen stone. From the markings on the way he had to assume the grenade had caused the cave to collapse in on itself in the blast.

"We've got to clear the way." Grim rasped, his throat turning dry as smoke entered the cave. "And fast." His left arm burned as he pulled it off of Ruby's shoulder, and he hissed in pain. Now that Ruby was in front of him and he could get a good look at her, he couldn't help the hot rush of fear as he took in her torn shirt and the stain of her blood on the torn fabric. Instead of running like he'd told her to, she'd run head first into the danger. He didn't know whether to be mad at her or grateful, though truthfully it was a mixture of both. He couldn't let the storm of emotions swirling within him to hinder their escape, he owed Ruby that much for her bravery. Forcing his gaze away from her injuries, Grim summoned every bit of remaining strength within him and turned to the pile of rubble. The muscles in his arm were torn, and fresh blood seeped from the gaping wounds but he didn't stop, not once as he pulled stone after stone from the pile. Ruby worked with him, and together they managed to open, a small gap near the roof of the wall, and Grim watched with a renewed sense of hope as the the smoke was pulled towards it. Air flow meant that they were close.

With a few more heaving pulls, they managed to create an opening big enough for the both of them to crawl through, and Grim gestured for Ruby to go first, and as she climbed through the hole and jumped down to the other side, a great hacking cough moved through him and he suddenly saw stars as the pain became too much.

"Fuck." Grim groaned, his eyes watered as he began to heave himself up the pile and towards their escape. It was a tight squeeze and he barely understood the brush of his torn skin against the jagged rubble as he pulled his way through and collapsed to the ground on the other side, his chest heaving. Everything hurt, and he was so goddamn tired, but thoughts of Ruby and her guiding hands forced him back to his feet. Grim's head lolled in the effort to keep it up and when Ruby pulled his arm over her shoulder he sagged heavily against her. It would take everything within him to follow her, but he would fucking do it.

With his light guiding their way, they pushed forward into the cave, their feet splashing against the water that seemed to be flowing towards something, perhaps an exit. His boots and socks were soaked, and it made his steps heavier, sending the flashlight bouncing over the walls with his every step. Grim was too focused on putting one foot in front of the other to noticed the red and black markings on the wall, ancient faded pictographs.
It wasn't lost on Ruby how Grim's eyes seemed to struggle to focus and the sickly pallor his skin was turning the more blood that he lost, but somehow she managed to cut through his daze, long enough for him to let her help him up. At his question, perhaps she might have usually sniped back at him and grumbled something about him appreciating that she'd saved his sorry ass, but not this time. This time, Ruby let out a strangled sound laugh because at least what he'd said to her meant that he was still here, that he was still with it enough to crack wise. "Apparently so," the redhead yelled over the crackling of the flames as she shouldered as much weight of Grim as she could, olive eyes scanning the falling trees as he did. "Don't say I don't do anything for you." Although it soon became clear, that this was no laughing matter.

Needless to say, Ruby hadn't considered what might happen if she started flinging petrol and flames around in an area predominantly made up of wood. She'd simply panicked at the sight of the impending crush before her and acted in a way that had thankfully never failed her before. And it hadn't this time, in a way. The bear was dead, burning and smoking a small way away from them. But now they faced a new danger, one that was just as difficult to control.

It very quickly became clear that there was no way for them to get out of the forest without heading towards the cave and they began to stumble along together, pain and aching already taking ahold of their battered bodies, their noses and throats burning from the smoke inhalation. Grim lit up their way with a small flashlight and Ruby glanced to where he was looking when he choked out that they needed to clear the way. The rubble up ahead of them signified how far in the grenades had landed and although fear and defeat clawed at the edges of Ruby's mind, seeing Grim in his worsened state make for the rocks spurred her on to do the same, the two of them reaching for whatever they could get their hands on to try and make a path, or find some kind of clue as to where they needed to go next. They moved quickly, grunts of pain passing between them until finally the smoke began to filter out through a gap unearthed and Ruby took in a gulping breath of air, patches of black beginning underneath her nose from where the smoke had begun to pool. A few more rocks hauled later and they were able to find a makeshift passage that seemed to take them deeper into the cave, Ruby squeezing through the gap first and then helping Grim through second. Her own wounds were almost unbearable at this point, her actions fuelled by adrenaline alone so she couldn't imagine how Grim was feeling, couldn't fully understand how he was still on his feet. So it was for this reason that once she was back up again she was immediately by his side helping him to do the same, draping a heavy arm over her shoulder. "Come on, I got you."

They pushed forwards through the water, the cave paintings occasionally illuminated by Grim's flashlight. Ruby's olive eyes scanned them and had she been more with it in that moment, she might have stopped to examine them, but her sole focus now was on getting them both out of here and trying not to succumb to the panic that was beginning to eat at her throat within the confines of the cave walls, the suffocating feeling of piles of rock and earth crushing down on them from above.

After a little while, the water seemed to start getting deeper and faster and with it, the daylight more pronounced. Visibility improved, a sure sign that they were close to the fresh air they could smell and Ruby tried to up their pace as they sloshed in the stream, getting closer and closer until... the end of the tunnel came into view, cut off by a metal grate at the end of it. "No..." The water was continuing to build up against the metal columns, as Ruby eased Grim against the rock wall and gripped onto the barrier that blocked their way. "Fuck. This isn't..." The thing moved as she pushed against it, but it would take some effort, and Ruby... she wasn't sure she had it in her until she looked over at her companion and was reminded that right now, she didn't have a choice. So, using the last remaining bit of strength that she had left, she began to kick, and hard. Her boot pounded against the metal, again, and again, and again until it began to creak, giving bit by bit. Eventually, just as the redhead was beginning to tire it finally gushed out with the last push of her foot against it, releasing a surge of water that Ruby hadn't been expecting. One minute she was watching the metal finally give away and then... her feet were knocked out from under her.

The water swept her out of the side of the rock face and thankfully, down into a plunge pool below. In her panic, it took her several moments to figure out which way was up and which was down but just as her lungs began to protest, she broke from the surface, coughing and spluttering in an attempt to gulp in some air, and thrashing wildly to try and see if Grim had been caught up in the surge too. When she couldn't see another body at the surface however, panic once again began to grip onto her heart.

"Grim?" Ruby's voice echoed out over the sound of gushing water, olive eyes switching this way, then that while she tried her best to tread without dipping back under. "Grim?!"
Grim had to admit that having a partner with him on this journey was likely the only reason he was still alive, and he'd never been more grateful to the redhead as she pressed him against the cool walls of the cave and tackled their next obstacle while he focused on keeping upright. Ruby's powerful kicks against the metal grate echoed down the cave and with each caving of the metal bars the water seemed to come alive around them as it was given a place to go. Grim in his weakened state was helpless as the grate gave way and the water around them picked up the two survivors and swept them out of the cave and down into the cool waters below. He barely had time to catch a breath before he was plunged underwater. His legs kicked feebly, and the water near his shredded arm turned a soft pink with the tendrils of his blood. His whole body burned with the effort to push to the surface and with one last push his head broke through the waters and he took in a heaving gasp of air as Ruby called for him.

"Here!" His words came out choked, but it was thankfully loud enough for Ruby to hear him, and he swam as best as he could towards her; his head only dipping under the water a few times before they made it to the edge of the pool and heaved themselves down onto the lush ground around them. The faint smell of moss, earth and something floral was a welcome change to the burning and death that had filled his nostrils previously. Grim's eyes closed and he could see the faint orange hue of the suns beams as it peeked through the trees above them through his eyelids. They should likely keep moving, but without a blaze or an infected bear to motivate him Grim found he was content to stay right where he was. With the arm that wasn't torn asunder he crept his hand to the side until he found Ruby as she lay next to him. His hand curled around hers, and he let his fingers lace with hers.

"You'll fucking sleep well tonight knowing you've saved Erin the headache of that bear." Speaking to her kept his mind away from the growing pain in his arm, and he focused on the connection of their hands as water and blood dripped from them down onto the moss. "You saved me too... again." That part had him feeling a little grumpy, truly he would have preferred if he hadn't needed saving but the truth of the matter was that were it not for Ruby, Grim would have been long gone too many times to count. In a way he felt indebted to her, he half expected to resent Ruby for it but he found comfort in knowing that there was something that bound them together. "Thanks for everything Red." His voice was gruff, a low gravelly tone that was laced with his earnestness. It had taken more effort than they thought possible but the job that they had come to do was done, he hoped that a heavy rain would come soon so that the blaze might not take more of the forest but truly there was nothing they could do to stop it now, nature would endure.

It took some doing, but Grim forced himself to sit up after a long moment of silence and turned his amber eyes to Ruby his gaze moving down her form to take in the soaked clothing that clung to her wounds. He let out a sympathetic noise and reached out to lift a small bit of the clothing to see how deep the scratches went. She might need stitches in some places and Grim didn't even want to think of the work that needed to be done on his arm. He had some supplies back at the truck, they just had to make it there.

"Do you think you can walk back?" Grim asked, gritting his teeth against the idea, silently he let out a small prayer to whomever was listening. Please let us make it back alright.
Ruby didn't know what she would do if she lost Grim. It was really that simple and their close brushes had forced her to think of what that might feel like and how... unbearable it would be. She didn't know what she would do when their time together came to an end either, but she supposed she could cope, could live through it if she knew he was existing somewhere else. So long as he was alive...

As the man in question burst through the surface of the water, Ruby gasped and started towards him almost immediately. Her swimming technique wasn't the best and it could be argued that he reached her before she did him, but they clung to each other regardless, finally helping each other from the pool and onto the verge of the mossy ground that awaited them. No sooner than they collapsed on top of it did they lay there in an attempt to catch their breath and process what had just happened to them. Neither of them felt the need to say anything, when all could be said through the simple gesture of Grim's hand finding her own, Ruby immediately latching onto his fingers and squeezing them, tightly, as though she never wanted to let go. Water pooled from her hair, her skin, her clothes but none of that mattered in the moment. All that truly mattered was that they were both here, alive and semi-okay, despite their war wounds.

"She'd best fucking appreciate it," Ruby murmured in response to him, but the wavering of her voice gave away the emotion that cut thick across her throat. When Grim thanked her, she glanced over at him with sparkling eyes, gaze lingering upon his profile before she turned back to the cloud ridden sky and the sunlight streaming through the gaps. In all honesty, she didn't feel deserving of his gratitude, not when he lay beside her, with his arm torn to pieces. It was for this reason that in the end it was all she could do to squeeze his hand again in response until she felt fingers on the ripped material of her top, the sting of it pulling away from bloody skin. She dared not look down at the mess the bear had made of her and she was grateful when Grim sat up, so that she could do the same, gritting her teeth through the sting of it.

"I'm fine," she reassured him. "Do you think that you can? Your arm..." With a nudge of her head towards it, Ruby finally took a good look at the torn flesh that ran so deep it looked almost purple. The sleeve of his shirt was completely shredded and Grim looked like he was holding it awkwardly, like he didn't know where to rest it so that wouldn't cause him pain. Looking down at the floor, Ruby felt her eyes sting again. "I'm sorry," she muttered out of the blue. "That I didn't get to you sooner. I was taking shot after shot, but it just didn't seem to be doing anything, and then when it hit you and you... you... I-I thought..." The flash of Grim being struck to the ground caused her to wince slightly and in an attempt to push it from her mind, she stumbled back onto her feet. "I can bandage you up, back at the truck but when we get back home... there's someone who can look at it properly for you. 'Kay?"

And with that, she held out a hand for him to take. "Lean on me as much as you need to, grandad. I know what I said about back there being a one time opportunity and all but." Then she shrugged, managing a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. "I'm feeling generous."
The air seemed almost palpable between the two of them, like there were so many things left unsaid just lingering in the space between them and had Grim not been struggling with his arm and his body that wanted nothing to do with his standing motion, he might have noticed the way Ruby didn't quite meet his eye. Perhaps he would have corrected her on her apologies or tried to ease her worries, but instead he grunted, pushing one foot forward and attempting to take a step. Ruby was there in the next instant, ducking under his arm and offering the support she could.

"She's a saint, what generosity... I can't wait to stop bleeding." He muttered. They walked a few steps together, walking back through the thicket, the both of them keeping their eyes peeled for one of the markings Grim had left to help point them in the right direction. With them falling out of the rock face, they certainly had gotten a bit turned around. However lady luck graced them once more a few minutes later when Grim spotted one of his markings and he let out a pitiful "wooo," and pointed in the direction they were meant to go. "I could really go for a fucking burrito and some tequila." He spoke softly, saying anything that came to mind as the blood seeped from his veins, truthfully he felt a little delirious- their every step back was dotted with his blood or hers.

The sun was lower in the sky by the time they arrived back at the truck, the stench of the herd once more filling their nostrils as they hobbled their way to the back of the truck. Grim pointed where his first aid kit was and the two of them bent their heads together to work on patches for the both of them. There wouldn't be enough gauze for the both of them, so Grim ripped off what remained of his shirt hissing only a little when the fabric tugged at his shredded skin, and cut at the fabric that hadn't been stained with his blood to create strips for the both of them.

"Here, take yours off as well, we need to see what we're working with." Grim directed, there wasn't anything suggestive in his tone, everything about him at the moment was serious with the task of getting both her and him to stop bleeding. They worked well together, pressing hard on spots to staunch the flow and using tape and tied rags to keep the wounds compressed. Their blood dotted the ground around them as they worked and by the time they were both patched up Grim was exhausted. He leaned back from adjusting one of the bandages over Ruby's stomach, ensuring that it was secure and looked blearily at his partner. "Let's get away from this mess and set up for the night." He didn't want the reminder of the bear anywhere near him or Ruby- truthfully he just wanted to lay down and hold her. He needed to wrap himself around her and find the ease it brought him. Ruby was like a breath of fresh air, or that moment after jumping where he felt like he was floating.

It was that thought that had him summoning the last of his strength and lifting to his feet. They gathered their things and shuffled past the dead animals around them to the cab of the truck, their shoulders both drooped and weary. Once again they worked together to get the truck out of there. Grim had Ruby sitting in the passenger seat, and he called out what gear so that she could switch to it on his mark. They drove no more than ten minutes before stopping on the highway, not even bothering to find cover. All he cared about what climbing into the back of the attached camper part and sinking into the small double bed there. Ruby followed him to the back of the truck and when he opened the tailgate and the corresponding door that housed a small set of steps that led to the upper part of the camper.

"After you." He gestured that she should go first and Grim followed soon after her. The inside of the camper was simple, the space only having room for a few small storage areas and the bed. He crawled on the mattress after Ruby and once they got the sheets over their bodies he wasted no time in anchoring her to him with his good arm. He wanted to lay on his side and hold her but his present state made that position most painful. Instead he glanced up at the skylight that showed the evening sky to the both of them, the strongest of the stars already shining. With her against him, he breathed his first relaxed breath since the bear, his eyes closing of their own volition, and words slipping from his mouth that perhaps he shouldn't have said aloud. The words slurred together as sleep took him.

"I'm keeping you Red."
The walk felt endless. Even when they came across Grim's makeshift direction markers, Ruby was unable to rouse a smile as the two of them became increasingly wearier. The only thing that really kept her on her feet was the thought of how Grim must be feeling what she was tenfold and she'd make it back to the truck with him, even if it killed her. "I'll raise you that for a burger and milkshake," Ruby managed to mumble back, anything to keep herself from gagging at the sight of the herd again, the rotting smell fiercer than it had been now that the sun had spent a day speeding up the process. Her stomach was rolling by the time they made it into the back of the truck and began to sort through what supplies they had. The redhead watched Grim trying to rip material from his wounds and when he told her to do the same she soberly nodded her head, shrugging carefully out of her shirt and then her top, gritting her teeth against the burning sensation. She was eventually left in just her bra as they both set to work on bandaging each other up, shifting position and trying to make it easier for each of them to get to the other without hurting them. Numerous curses and gripped hands were needed to get them through it and by the time that it was over, Ruby was trembling from both the cold and the adrenaline trying to shut out her pain.

Nodding in quiet agreement that they should get moving, Ruby clambered down and into the passenger seat, another wave of guilt coursing through her as Grim took the wheel. She did her best with the gears although couldn't help but feel that she should be driving the both of them, even though she was in no fit state to. In any case it was a relief once he pulled them over on the side of the road and set about setting up the camper. Perhaps if she had been in a better state she might have commented on how they hadn't used this sooner, but she wasn't and so she didn't as they both clambered up into the snug space and finally collapsed together on the small double. To Ruby, it felt like basking in a pile of warm pillows as she settled on her back with the sheet pulled up over her shivering body. Grim's arm, when it curled around her encouraged her to shuffle unashamedly into his side and his warmth, her fingers once more linking with his and bringing their entwined hands to rest on her chest. The small space felt heavy, thick with sleep that threatened to claim them, but not before those words left Grim's mouth and Ruby felt them, strike right in the centre of her chest. For a moment, she wasn't sure if she had heard him correctly, if it was maybe her mind playing tricks on her, but deep down she knew. He felt it just like she did. There was no coming back from this, or wanting to.

So, for once, rather than arguing with herself, Ruby let out a soft sigh as he eyelids fluttered, and she brought up their hands to her lips. "I know," she murmured against Grim's knuckles, brushing her lips softly against them. "Because I'm keeping you, too."


Ruby was the first to wake the next morning, her wounds screaming in protest at her as she shifted reluctantly out of the comfort of Grim's warmth. The first thing that she did once she'd rubbed the sleep from her eyes was lean over to check on her companion, pressing the back of her hand to his forehead to check for a temperature and giving his arm a quick once over for signs of inflammation. Thankfully, there seemed to be none and as quietly as she could so as not to disturb him, she slumped back down onto the bed and settled for a little while longer, just listening to him breathe and watching the sky light up through the small skylight above their heads.

Forgiveness didn't come easy to Red, and although the sleep had helped a little with her physical state, mentally? No so much. Forgiveness of herself for fucking up someone she cared about was already proving to be near enough impossible and that, like so many other feelings when it came to Grim, fucking terrified her. To the point that she wanted to run, except she was too much of a coward to do that, because that would mean leaving him behind and Ruby knew, Ruby knew that she could never do that. It was too late. She was in too deep.

And so, rather than doing anything that might have been sensible, she shifted gently onto her side and lifted a hand to very carefully to place, palm down upon Grim's inked chest. For a moment, she let her fingers linger as they raised with each breath, before she trailed them again so that they moved up towards his face, cupping his stubbled cheek and allowing her thumb to stroke back and forth there. Her chin came to rest upon his chest, olive eyes gazing up at him. It was intimate, and soft, but for once Ruby didn't care. She was just so damn glad that he was here with her, that everything else for now seemed to fall away, allowing Ruby once again to merge into sleep without realising that she remained in such a position that partially compromised her own feelings.
Tucked away in the top level of the camper snuggled under the blankets with the personification of fire as his companion, Grim's subconscious had likely never felt safer. He would never be Avery Joyce again, having lost those bits of humanity long ago, but as the man who had named himself after the collector of the damned spent more time with the woman cuddled next to him, it felt as if those pieces he'd long thought were dead had merely been under the surface all along. Grim's hand never stopped touching her, shifting through the night from laced between her fingers to the gentle slope of her hip. Even in sleep he'd given that bit of her a possessive squeeze before succumbing to sleep once more. He didn't quite understand where his hand was now as sleep slowly gave way to wakefulness.

His fingers traced through the soft dips and bumps and the more he woke the more he understood he was tracing the soft line of her spine. He also became increasingly aware of a pleasant weight over his chest, and with a few bleary blinks he brought into focus Ruby's sweet face as she snoozed on top of him. Her hand was extended, curled into the coarse hair of his beard and Grim couldn't help the shift of his head as he nuzzled into her touch. Certainly everything still hurt, but if he was being honest with himself he'd happily be hit to the ground a million times more if this was the end result. His hand continued it's soft stroking motions over her spine, enjoying the feel of her against his rough and calloused hands.

His words from last night, echoed in his head- his desire to keep her still burned as strong as ever but now that he was lucid all of the reasons as to why he couldn't came rushing forward. He wasn't the sort of man to consider joining an encampment when he didn't play well with others. He couldn't ask her to give up her home and stability, Ruby deserved so much more than a life on the road and yet through it all the idea of leaving her hurt worse than the torn skin of his arm.

The sun's warm glow filtered through the skylight, basking his worries in warmth and light and Grim took it as a sign that they should get moving. His arm pulsed with pain as he shifted and Grim groaned a little, Jesus that fucking hurt. He hoped Ruby's doctor had what it took to get him back in working order, because holding a rifle or a shotgun at the moment was out of the question and he hated being limited in his weapons choices. In an effort to distract himself from the throbbing of his shredded skin he reached with his good hand and ran a gentle finger along Ruby's cheekbone.

"Rise and shine Little One." He murmured, his voice like gravel. Gods, she was fucking beautiful in the morning. If he'd had the strength he would have leaned up to press a kiss to her pouty mouth. That certainly seemed like a finer way to wake her, heck he'd enjoy waking her with kisses in other places as well. He needed to get fixed up before that fantasy could be a reality and so he gave a lock of Ruby's hair a gentle tug, a wry smile forming on his face. "I don't mean to make you lose your beauty sleep but I'd like to get on the road again." He told her.
Her dreams had slipped to somewhere more pleasant, as they tended to do in the early hours of the morning. Even in sleep, Ruby felt warm, cosy and something soft drifted up and down her back. The pain of her torso was forgotten, the worries that plagued her mind diminished and for those small few moments, even as she began to wake up again, her brow furrowing and her eyes squinting, she felt happy. Content. Without worry. She could imagine what waking up to Grim like this every morning could be like, in a world where they hadn't been shredded to pieces the day before. His touch was so much more gentle than it had ever felt before as his finger trailed her cheekbone and she let out a muffled moan of enjoyment. If they had been anywhere else and in a better state, she'd have ran with her lack of boundaries and trailed her lips up to meet his mouth so that she could clamber into his lap and take care of him properly, in a way that she knew he'd appreciate especially.

It was his tug on her hair that eventually brought her back down to earth as Ruby realised where she was and in what position. Everything quickly came flooding back; how she'd woken, how she must have dozed off again and how she'd been caught in a moment that wasn't meant to be seen. And so, slightly embarrassed, Ruby used the hand that had been wrapped into Grim's hair to nudge his face away from looking at her with a huff while she reluctantly slid off of him and back onto her own side of the bed, sitting up and stretching her arms out in the small space above her head. "Do you always have to wake me up?" The redhead grumbled, trying to shrug off the intimacy of how they must have spent the past couple of hours. "Can't you just lay in for like, once in your life?"

As she rubbed the sleep from her eyes though, Ruby cast a smirk back at him over her shoulder, gaze lingering on him for a couple of seconds too long because despite the bandages and despite how weary he looked, he also looked fucking magnificent and Ruby wanted so desperately to jump him that she had to force herself to look away before she did. "How are you feeling? If you wait here a sec, I'll get us some breakfast. Oh, and I'm driving us back to camp today. No arguments." Then before he could do so, she pulled back the sheet and departed from their joint warmth and into the back of the truck, where she set about finding herself a new top to pull on carefully over her partially dressed wounds, a canteen of fresh water and the last of the granola bars they'd brought with them. Once she had them to hand, she clambered back up into the small compartment and sat facing Grim in the small space, her back against the opposite side of the wall to where he was leaned against. The food and drink she laid out between them.

"I've decided that I'm going to look after you today," she announced, seemingly from nowhere in particular, yet in her own mind the need to do so made perfect sense. "You're not gonna do anything unless I say you can. You need to rest up for that arm of yours to start healing." Then, she began to open up her bar, taking a bite and thinking around the mouthful. "Just call me nurse Cosgrove." However, as these words left her mouth, Ruby's nose wrinkled soon after. "Actually no, wait, don't. Knowing you, you'd probably get some weird kick out of that."
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He could have spent hours with her lounging there on his chest, hours enjoying the soft noises she made when he touched her just right. She fit just right against him and he wondered if she felt the same. She utilized the hand that had been curled up near his face, and shifted to push his head forcing his gaze away from her face he turned willingly, his grin even wider now as a low chuckle reverberated through him. He liked these bashful morning moments, and when she grumbled her protest in having to wake up early he shook his head at her retreating form, she paused to look back at him and he noted the pause as she took him all in.

"You and I both know that being woken by me is no hardship." Grim cajoled in return, shifting slightly as he tried to push himself up to a seated position. He was thankful Ruby's next words covered his sharp inhale of pain as she asked him if he was alright, and then continued rambling on, promising him breakfast and taking away his drivers seat in one fell sweep. His mouth opened to argue with her but clearly she knew him too well and before he could even lie to her and say he was fine she was out of the space and finding them both breakfast. He could hear her mulling around as he settled himself into a seated position, he'd thought to cross his arms as a gesture of his command before she arrived but sadly that position was out of the cards as his shoulder lit up with blazing pain when he tried.

Grim resigned himself to a death glare instead and when Ruby returned she leaned against the opposite wall after putting the food and water between them. He'd been about to reprimand her but truthfully he was feeling pretty hungry so he instead opened up the covering of the bar and dug in, just as the redhead across from him opened her frustrating mouth once more. She placed herself as his commander and his caretaker and he both loved and hated the idea. Hated that he didn't have the strength to turn this into something more, loved that unknowingly she'd shared another bit of herself with him. Cosgrove, he'd never thought to ask for a last name and yet now that he had it, it felt like one more piece of the puzzle that made up Ruby.

"If you think that I will be a willing patient you have another thing coming, Nurse Cosgrove." He all but purred the name, loving the fire that lit up in her eyes. "Besides, I'm totally fine. Right as rain, fit as a fiddle- and so on." He meant to make a rolling motion with his hand but once more his shoulder flared up and he winced. "See?" He shot a challenging glare her way nevertheless.

They finished with their breakfast and Grim 'let' Ruby help him out from the camper part of the truck and the two of them made their way to the front seat, ready to once more head back to the encampment. He took the passenger side with an appropriate amount of grumbling and when he couldn't get the seatbelt done up himself he looked both helplessly and frustrated towards the redhead. "Under no circumstances can you tell anyone about this." He muttered. "Or I'll embarrass you in front of everyone." He added the threat to feel a little more in control, though he certainly was warming to the idea.
She had not expected him to like what she was saying, but Ruby was determined to see to it that Grim didn't do anything that might harm him, or put him out any further, and she supposed that a small part of herself wanted to make up for allowing him to get hurt. Not that she would tell him that of course, but if anything it simply spurred her on to try even harder to make sure that he was comfortable, that he had everything that he needed and that she could get them both home safely without further incident.

His challenge, that included his use of the name she had wrongly given him, forced an eyeroll from Ruby and then a raised eyebrow when he winced around trying to convince her that he was fine. All jokes aside, she knew that he wasn't and that he probably wouldn't be until long after the medic back home had seen to him. So, it was for this reason that once they'd finished up their supplies, Ruby helped Grim down from the camper, ignoring his grumblings as she turned him towards the passenger seat before returning to her own. Only did the redhead turn to him when she noticed he'd fallen quiet, to see him struggling with his seatbelt. Another flare of guilt rippled through Ruby, one that she did her best to cover with a smirk before leaning over to pull the material into place, being careful not to jostle his arm in the process.

"Oh yeah, and how would you do that, grandad? Let's just remember who currently holds all the power around here, shall we?"

Ruby was a little less smug however, when it took her several attempts to get her clutch right again, until they were finally pulling back onto the road.

It didn't take them long to return to Ruby's encampment, having completed the majority of the journey the day before. When she pulled the truck off the road, the surroundings began to come more familiar and the walls of her home soon appeared upon their horizon. Once she was in sight of people, she stuck her head out of her open window to show her people that it was her, before they opened the doors to let them through. A small gathering was already on the other side waiting for them, and Ruby, without any warning killed the engine and hopped down from the truck.

"You made it then." Erin's voice happened from behind them as the older woman wrapped the younger into a hug, pulling back suddenly when Ruby let out a yelp.

"We did but we kind of need a medic. Not for me..." She didn't even explain as she moved around to the passenger side and opened up the door, forgetting that Grim probably needed his seatbelt undoing too. She stepped up and subtly clicked it off of him, giving him a look before she held out a hand next for him to take.

"Erin, can you run ahead and let Syra know we're heading her way? We're gonna need lots of bandages. Hey, easy." Turning her concentration immediately back to Grim then, Ruby hardly noticed the people that surrounded them. Her sole focus was on him, helping him, making him comfortable. Everything else other than that, even her home, her family to a certain extent, seemed to melt away.

"Loot's in the back," she called out to the others as she draped Grim over her shoulder and began to lead him to further into the camp.
In the end Grim was grateful for Ruby's ability to drive them back, it gave him the opportunity to stretch his legs out and lean his head back against the headrest. Ruby's snip of who was in control had him mimicking her usual eye roll, and he merely shook his head when she asked him how he would go about embarrassing her. If she knew, then that would take the fun out of it. Ruby was determined to get him home and with only a few issues with the clutch she managed to get them on the road and headed back towards the others. He was grateful for the shorter drive, as each little bump on the road jostled him and had him wincing.

When Ruby pulled the truck up to the gate and scrambled out he caught sight of Erin rushing for them and pulling Ruby in for a hug. The redhead was quick to pull away however and when she came around to his side he felt the hot flush of needing assistance tinge his cheeks and the tips of his ears pink, and when Ruby helped him out he gave her a stern look.

"You also need the medic." He grumped at her, sliding his arm possessively around her shoulder as she helped him forward. "Those scratches are no joke." Glancing up he caught sight of Erin eyeing them warily before she nodded, rushing off to one of the buildings, presumably to alert this Syra person. Ruby's camp mates filtered forward, some speaking words of welcome to her, and thanking her for once more returning with goods for the camp. The others were wasting no time in unloading and bringing in the coveted medications and ammo. He made a mental note to check and make sure they hadn't taken what were Rivers goods before continuing on with Ruby.

They passed Jack along the way, and once more both the men looked wordlessly at one another, their heads turning as Grim and Ruby passed him. Like before, both men inclined their heads at one another, another strange silent conversation finished between the both of them. As Grim turned away he had to admit to himself that perhaps he liked Jack, Riley however, could still die in a fire. Speak of the devil, Riley leaned against the wall next to the door that led to Syra and gave Ruby a once over that made Grim want to punch him square between the eyes. Instead he held just a fraction of a bit tighter to Ruby and ignored the boy as they walked past him.

Once inside Erin greeted them, along with a short adorable looking woman with hair as dark as the night curled up into a messy bun at the top of her head. Cinnamon brown eyes peered up at him, wide and curious through glasses that had a small crack running through the left side.

"You're Grim, I presume." The woman whom Grim assumed was Syra asked and he huffed out a breath of air in response. It wasn't that Grim didn't like people, he just hated giving them more information than he thought necessary, and his name hardly seemed important to the task at hand.

"Ruby's pretty beat up as well, please make sure you take care of her." Grim turned his amber eyes to the woman that still supported him, his gaze imploring as she guided him to a makeshift table bed. A sheet had been pulled over a wooden table, trying to offer the barest amount of comfort.

"What the heck happened to you both?" Erin asked, and Grim couldn't help but notice she pointedly looked away from his arm as Syra began cutting back the bandages.

"It's was handled." Once more Grim didn't see the need to fill everyone in, everything that had happened between him and Ruby was important and those pieces of her time spent with him belonged to him. The cave man part of himself just wanted to get fixed up and then whisk Ruby away. It hit him then that they really didn't have anything binding their time together anymore- there was no excuse other than his longing as to why he should stay. He had other places to be, and Ruby had made clear she wanted nothing to do Fort Haven and the monsters that resided within. For some strange reason he turned his gaze away from Syra as she tsked over his wounds, and when the first bite of the needle pierced his skin he didn't flinch. All he could do was look up at Ruby and wonder if tonight would be their last night. Erin raised a brow at Grim's response and turned to the far more communicative Ruby.

"Nice to see he hasn't changed." She said dryly. "Tell me what all happened while, I'll get started on your wounds as well."
"Yeah, yeah." Ruby was very much aware of the fact that she would need looking at too but that could wait until she knew that Grim was okay. It took them a little longer than usual to make their way to their destination, with her occasionally glancing up and grunting when she was thanked or muttering a hello to greetings that were given as they passed by her people. It wasn't that she wasn't pleased to be home - she was, but home almost meant something different to her now than what it had before. It signified an end to her and Grim's time together, a severing of the tie that bound them. She hardly dared think about what might come next and she certainly didn't need any reminders, so in the end she kept her head down and focussed on the task at hand. Only did she looked up again when she felt Grim's hold on her tighten and she noticed Riley stood wordlessly by the entrance to the block they needed. A quick smile was offered between them, as well as a warning look from Ruby that she hoped Grim wouldn't notice and Riley would heed, before they stepped inside and were greeted by Syra herself.

"Hey Syra."
"Rubes! Glad to see you are home safe and well." Syra greeted them warmly, before she took to peering at Grim through her small glasses. To his response, Ruby simply huffed. "Ignore him Syra, I'm fine. Take care of his arm and then I'll steal you once you're finished." The redhead waved off the older of the women and completely ignored Erin's look of concern as she eased Grim down onto the wooden table and stood by his side while Syra got to work on looking over what needed doing. Like Grim however, when the medic started to cut away the bandages, Ruby looked away, unable to stomach what might lie beneath.

When Erin finally spoke up again, Ruby scoffed. "Tell me about it." However, her amusement was short-lived at the mention of her own wounds. "No, really, Erin. They can wait, I--"
"Enough, Ruby. You're hurt, and I'm going to take a look at you. Come on." With one last lingering glance at Grim and a desperate need to stay close to him and hold his hand clawing its way into her mind, Ruby knew she must have looked forlorn because Erin's expression softened in the next instance. "We'll stay in here, close by. I promise."
"It's not... I mean... Syra's just better at this than you are." Ruby gave the woman a wry smile as Syra cackled over the scissors she was using to snip at the material on Grim's arm.
"Fucking hell, the cheek of it! I see you've been rubbing off on my girl," Erin pointed an accusatory finger in Grim's direction, but her mouth quirked slightly at the corners. "I won't touch anything if you really don't want me to, but I do want to take a look, clean you up if I need to."

The look she gave Ruby next was enough to tell the redhead that she wasn't getting out of this and so with a defeated nod, she moved over to the table across from Grim and hoisted herself up onto it, so she could still see him. Tentatively, she lifted up her top and then pulled it over her head, trying to ignore the way Erin's face paled at the sight. "Jesus. Something got you two bad, huh?" She asked softly as she began to pluck at the edges of Ruby's bandages. In response, Ruby pressed her lips together.

"It... It was a bear."
"A bear?"
Slowly, she nodded. "Yeah. We think... we think that it was infected. No, wait. We know it was. It was real close to this place and Grim... Grim thought if we left it, it might pose a risk so."
"You got it?"
Again, Ruby nodded. "Just about. Thanks to him."
"Well, shit. I've never heard of the infection spreading to an animal before. Make sure you take this to Tim when you're fixed up. He'll be interested--"
"Oh crap! The vase!"

Jerking a little too suddenly, Ruby groaned as she doubled over at the pain the movement had caused her, Erin's hand gently pushing her backwards. "No way lady, you stay right there. Whatever it is, it can wait." A small silence fell then as she tried to regather herself and breathe through the burning eating its way up her torso. "A vase you said?" Red nodded.

"What vase? And what does it have to do with Tim?"
It took a lot of Grim's effort not to reach out and hold Ruby's hand like he wanted to as she hovered between staying with him or letting Erin tend to her. He wanted to tell her that it was ok, and that it was important that she also be taken care of, but all of those words felt far too telling for the present company. He could only slightly nod along as Erin gently coaxed Ruby to sit at the table across from him and together they turned their heads so that they were looking at one another. Syra worked quickly and efficiently on his arm and though each new pull of his skin made him want to crush something, preferably Riley's head he didn't move a muscle. All of his attention was focused on Ruby, he'd have taken a second to think about how telling that might be, but he couldn't allow his thoughts to stray like that, not when Erin exclaimed over Ruby's wounds.

Ruby once more told her camp mates far more than he would have thought necessary, but he remained quiet letting her give the news and wrongly giving the victory of the kill to him. He'd been about to open his mouth and set the record straight when Ruby's words had him jerking, her tone kicked his protective instincts into high gear and he all but launched himself off the table, only to realize she wasn't newly injured and only remembering the vase.

"Easy there big guy." Syra's blood stained glove was placed dead center on his chest and he tore his gaze away from Ruby to look at the woman. There was a moment where he thought about ignoring her and getting up from the table just to spite her but that didn't seem like the right thing to do when she was patching him up. Syra's wide eyes looked like saucers at this point as she pointed looked between him and the table. Reluctantly he sank back down the few inches he'd managed to raise and she once more resumed tending to him. Erin's next question, asking about the connection between Tim and the vase made him huff once more, the memory of the dead infected curling through the vase entered his mind.

"Princess here saw an infected curled around the vase and thought it looked important." This time Grim did supply the information Erin sought, mostly to see the reaction the leader might have to the news. Part of him half hoped that she would join him in thinking it wasn't anything. That wasn't the case however and Erin tilted her head curiously as she contemplated the news.

"Good thinking Ruby, Tim will definitely want to see something like that. He's been so bored after all the bedrest Syra had him on. I'm sure something like that will make his day." Next to him Syra made a small noise that Grim recognized as a suppressed laugh. A few moment's later Syra declared Grim's arm all stitched up and he finally tore his gaze away from Ruby to appraise her work. Fine stitches in the shape of claw marks decorated his arm and he lifted his shoulder despite the pain, testing the hold.

"Thanks... doc." Once more any thanks that came from Grim sounded like it pained him more than the injury himself. This time Syra did laugh and she turned away from him to peel off her gloves and wash her hands before rummaging through the cupboards and finding a bottle of pills. She dumped one into Grim's hand while speaking.

"Here's your treat for being a mostly good patient. Should numb the pain and make it easier to sleep." She told him like she was a person giving out Halloween candy. Grim's mouth formed into a small contemplative frown, but instead of taking it right away he rose to his feet, not bothering to put a shirt back on and hovered over Syra as she moved to inspect Ruby's wounds. "Oh Rubes..." Syra's sympathetic voice sounded and she brushed a latex covered hand over the redheads forehead before bending over and fixing up what she could with new bandages and a few well placed stitches. Grim moved himself to stand by Ruby's head and though everything in his logical brain screamed at him not to touch her, he couldn't deny his heart this one motion. His hand rested over the curve of her shoulder, and he peered down at her though tired but certainly more lucid eyes.

"You'll give her the same pill doc?" Grim asked, never taking his gaze off of her. He heard the snip of the string and Syra chuckled.

"Of course."
While Ruby was trying to breathe through her pain, she didn't quite notice that Grim was attempting to get up and get to her, having momentarily looked away from him so she could screw up her eyes. Her pain tolerance wasn't particularly high, despite what she had been through in the past, and anti-septic plus pretty deep wounds didn't make for a pretty combination. She was thankful then, when Grim answered for her so that she could take a moment to ground herself. Eventually, she managed a smile at the mention of Tim's boredom. "How's he doing, anyway? Any better?" She didn't miss the look that passed between Syra and Erin before Erin was the one to answer. "He's okay. Not much better, not much worse."
"Stable," Syra added as she came over to inspect Ruby's wounds now that she was finished with Grim's arm. "Stable, is the best word we can use for what he is right now."

A brief silence passed then between the women, before Syra set to work on her next patient. To her exclamation of sympathy, Ruby's lips quirked just a little. "You should see the other guy." Her olive eyes immediately flickered however, when Grim's form also came into focus and they went from his face to his arm and then back again. She had a terrible urge to reach out to him just like he did her, and so it was a comfort when the warmth of his hand met her bare shoulder, so much so that she didn't notice the look that again passed between the two older women. "How does it feel?" Ruby asked him, nudging her chin towards his arm. "Better than before?"

"Needle going in Rubes." The redhead made the mistake then of looking down at where Syra was working and her hand instinctively shot up to Grim's to squeeze as a small whimper left her lips. The medic, as always, made quick work of it and it wasn't long at all before she was snipping the thread and sitting Ruby up to wrap bandages around her torso again for extra protection. "There ya go. Good as new. It'll take you both a few days to heal up and I'd recommend lots of rest and no... strenuous activity for a while. Actually, I'd recommend you staying within camp for at least a week, just so I can keep an eye on how the wounds are closing." Then she turned to Grim specifically, "We have... things here if infection takes hold that can help. Stuff you might not get out on the road."

"Syra..." Erin seemed to warn, before the woman held up her hands.
"I'm just saying. Something to think about." Then with that, Syra made her way over to the sink to wash off her hands, leaving the three others stood around, looking between each other. Ruby's mind was clearly elsewhere in that moment, as she dared to consider if Grim would stay for a little while, or whether his connection to Fort Haven would take precedence over his own recovery. She had a feeling it would, and what other reason would he have to stay?

Letting out an exhale as she tried to straighten the crease of her brow, she looked up at Erin again mostly in an attempt to distract herself. "I might go and see Tim if you think he's up to visitors? See if the vase got to him okay."
To this, Erin nodded. "I think that sounds like a good idea, but after that, you go straight back to your room, okay? You heard what Syra said." Then with a small squeeze to Ruby's shoulder, she looked at Grim and left them to it, feeling that they had more to talk about than she wanted to stick around for. Whatever they decided, she trusted Ruby to do the right thing and run it by her first.

Without saying anything more, Ruby slipped from her bed as well and started towards the door shortly after, glancing over her shoulder at Grim only when she reached it. "You coming?"
"Much better." Grim told Ruby, something warm lighting up his amber eyes. The afternoon sun filtered through the windows, gilding Ruby's fiery red locks a deep shade of red. He did his best to keep his eyes off of Syra's work, worrying that he might react poorly if the woman caused Ruby anymore pain in her plight to tend to her.

Every little noise of pain the Ruby made was like needles stabbing through his heart. If someone had told him that he'd be feeling this way after a little more than a week about someone he'd had shot them dead right then and there. It was a little frightening to realize he could feel so strongly, it just hadn't seemed possible to feel more than the anger and fear that had ruled his life beforehand. Ruby's hand shot up, circling around his and she squeezed tightly, putting all of the energy that made her body instinctively move into their shared grip. His bones creaked together under her grasp and he couldn't help the small scoff of pride the turned up his lips a small fraction. Despite it all, Ruby was strong. When Syra had finished and Ruby was once more sitting up and bandaged up again Grim stepped back wanting to give the medic space to continue working.

Syra's orders on how to properly rest and recover had Grim's brow lifting, would he stay for an extra week under the guise of recovery for her? He certainly had done some stupid things to continue spending time with her, and yet forcing himself to stay in one place for a week seemed almost more daunting than fighting a bear. Erin didn't seem to pleased with idea of him staying and he had to admit her worries were valid. He wasn't the type to play nicely with others, especially when they consistently sent Ruby into danger without so much as back up. They might patch her up and house her, but it was clear Ruby was useful to them and they didn't mind capitalizing on it.

He was saved from having to make a choice when Ruby switched the subject to visiting Tim and seeing if the man had gotten his vase. For that Grim was grateful, for it had suddenly felt like the room was closing in on him and began to compress his chest. Stay or go? One path meant his freedom and the other led to her. His gaze shifted away from the group to the window, and in a contemplative pose he shoved his hands into his pockets as Syra and Erin took their leave. Ruby's words caught his attention as she made her way to the door, looking back at him over her shoulder at him.

He twisted, the sun sending warmth over his skin and he nodded silently. Without a word he grabbed his shirt and pulled it back on and followed after her. Ruby led Grim out of the building and began to head for a small looking shack that was situated against the far wall. A dirt path, led them past a number of bushes and Grim wondered if those were raspberries that he spotted growing amongst the thorns.

"You really think this Tim guy is going to find the vase interesting? What is he like an infected nerd or something?" Grim asked, they waked slowly; taking their time as they came closer and closer to the shack. Grim could see wind chimes hanging from rusty gutters and he narrowed his eyes on the annoying yet cheerful sculptures as they twinkled in the soft breeze. They passed a large tree, it's green leaves flourishing from its tall branches. He moved instinctively, much like a herding dog as his long legs pushed him past Ruby until he stood in front of her. With three steps he'd herded her back against the trunk and it provided them a small bit of privacy from the eyes that watched them walk.

"Are you truly doing ok?" He asked, concern etching his features. "If you're hurt anywhere else I'll march you right back to the doc." No matter what she said he still reached with a hand to cup the soft line of her jaw, tilting her head back so he could look at her properly. His gaze was seeking as it jumped back and forth between her olive orbs.
For the initial part of their short journey, the two remained in a contemplative silence until Grim spoke and Ruby was wrenched from her internal dialogue, long enough to glance at him and then back at the dirt path they were beginning up. The latter part of his question saw her smirking. "Something like that. He's been studying the infection since it began... trying to find its origins to help with... a cure." Another sideways glance, for Tim's work was largely a secret maintained within the walls of the encampment, but Ruby figured by now that she could trust Grim, and she did trust him. And it wasn't as though he wasn't about to find out about this anyway when they spoke to the man himself.

"So yeah. Anything to do with the infection and/or infected, he wants to know about. Especially if it's something as unusual as this. The infected never show a want for anything except for... well, us, so to see one cradling a vase of all things. It's pretty out there, right?"

As Tim's shack came into view ahead of them, Ruby could hear the gentle sway of the wind chimes and see the herbs that Tim grew in pots around the edges of his home, each one drooped and browning with lack of care, a bad sign if ever she saw one. The older man was passionate about his plants, would never let them get into such a state of disarray if he was well enough. The redhead considered, just how bad he had become the closer they got and she had been about to warn Grim about the state they might find him in, when she suddenly felt herself being herded in a different direction, against the large tree just outside of the shack.

Grim's looming presence seemed to emerge from nowhere in front of her and their eyes met as he stepped her back against the trunk, leaning over her and shielding her from view of anyone else. Whether she liked it or not, Ruby's heart began to flutter a little too erratically in that moment, the intensity of those amber eyes burrowing into her own. She had just been about to answer him when he reached up a large, calloused hand to stroke along the curve of her jawline and Ruby felt a shiver run through her, one that she was so sure he would have felt too. It was an effort not to melt into him when she noticed the concern setting his own jaw, an effort not to pull him closer by his shirt and rid themselves of the tension that continued to simmer between them.

In the end, Ruby didn't look away when she answered, her own eyes intently watching his. "I'm fine," she told him softly. "Really." Then she added, her lips quirking slightly at the corners. "Although I'd be better if you did as you were told. I'm supposed to be looking after you today, remember?" Her raised eyebrows were enough to portray the light scolding, but the amusement reflected in her eyes peppered it with gentle humour, a warmth that only fell away to be replaced by seriousness as she reached out for his hand that remained under her chin, wrapping her fingers around it and lifting it, so that his palm pressed flush against her cheek.

"I'm... I'm sorry, that you got hurt." The words came unexpectedly, but Ruby knew she needed to say this, otherwise her guilt would stop her from ever doing so. "I should have... stopped it, tried harder or... something, I don't know. But what I do know, is that I let you down and I'd like to make it up to you." Her hand dropped from his then, and reached out to pluck at one of the buttons of his shirt, just by his chest. When Ruby looked back up at him, her eyes were smouldering with something unspoken. "If you'll let me?" It was perhaps the most heartfelt speech she'd ever given and she wasn't sure why it suddenly felt so comfortable to do so, but either way she sounded sincere and... perhaps in need of a little comfort too.
Ruby went willingly against the trunk of the tree, and Grim was single minded in his mission to ensure that Ruby was ok. She'd spoken about Tim and he'd barely registered what she had said as the worry in his head raged on. There was only one way to satiate the animal within him to protect that which was his and he followed it's guide. Pressing her back against the tree and taking the time to see for himself if she was alright. She kept her gaze trained on him as she answered his prodding question, and he couldn't help the rumble of disapproval when she reminded him that he was under her care this day.

Something changed in those eyes of hers and when she reached up to press his hand more firmly against her cheek he went willingly, loving the way she seemed to melt into him. He'd been about to speak when an apology flitted from her lips and something clicked in him that this was the third time she'd apologized to him in the space of twenty four hours. Something was definitely up with Ruby if she was doing that. His Little One seemed to be in need of his words, of his touch and he was more than happy to give her everything. As she played with his button he lifted his second hand to her other cheek, stepping just the smallest bit closer, until he could feel the warmth of their bodies in the small spaces between them. He wasn't good with grand gestures of long winded comforting words and something told him that Ruby might see right through him if he tried something of the sort, so he stuck to his usual brand.

"If you think that I'm upset at you for how things went down then I think we'd better get back to Syra so she can check over your thick head." The words may have been a little harsh, but his touch wasn't. His thumbs swept over the lines of her jaw while his fingers curled around the back of her neck. He could feel the soft strands of her hair slipping between his fingers. "You fought a fucking bear and saved my life Ruby. You pretty much carried me through the woods, and you made sure I didn't bleed out. I'm not saying you shouldn't do whatever it is that your pretty little head is thinking about doing in order to make it up to me; but I'd much rather you did it because you wanted to, not because you wanted feel like you owe me."

If anything he was the one that owed her everything.

He thought about kissing her, of pressing his lips soundly to hers and taking her once more. It had been all that he'd been able to think of- those moments on the deck with the crackling fire illuminating her sassy pout and those kind eyes. The way she'd taken him as much as he'd taken her. That subtle little noise she made as he did something she liked. It was all too much and suddenly Grim was considering having his way with her right then and there for the whole camp to see. The thought while exhilarating to his more primal side was also a sobering one, though his choice had not been made he couldn't do anything that might push him out of the camp and away from her. At least not yet. Grim settled for leaning forward and pressing his lips to the top of her head, his arms holding her tight for a moment before stepping back. There was a blaze in his amber eyes that promised so much more, though he knew without a doubt if he kissed her there and now he wouldn't have been able to stop. Instead he tilted his head towards Tim's cabin with a wry smile.

"I'd like to meet this old codger then. He seems like an interesting sort." Grim didn't mention to Ruby that all thoughts of a cure seemed hopeless and slightly insane to him (Which lets be honest, is saying something). Instead he slipped his hands into his pockets and turned to walk with Ruby the rest of the way to the old shack, as they walked he caught movement out of the corner of his eye and when he shifted his gaze to the small gathering of broken down cars he waited, wondering if he would see anything else. When nothing else moved, he brushed it off as nothing, his attention shifting as they reached the door. In a move that was a little unlike him he held open the door for Ruby and gestured that she walk in first.
The toying with his button had definitely been another step in the direction of feeding the flame that sizzled between them and when Grim's second hand reached up to cup her other cheek, Ruby found that she had no choice but to look up at him. Their bodies were warm against each other and suddenly she found herself pinned between him and the tree, something that she was embarrassingly more than okay with. When his words came next however, that familiar flare of defensive irritation sparkled in her olive hues but this time it was mixed with something else, something warmer, something more finite. She suppressed a shiver as large thumbs traced her jawline and in a way that only Grim seemed to know how to make happen, what he was saying hit her square in the chest. This was what she had needed, his reassurance, his reminder that she had done good alongside what she believed was bad. He'd read her like a book and given her everything that she needed in that moment... except for perhaps falling short at the last hurdle.

She really thought that he was going to kiss her. Every nerve-ending in her body was tingling with the anticipation of it, so when he leaned forwards and pressed his lips to her head, her stomach lurched a little with disappointment. Perhaps it was unfair of her to put him in that position, especially given how she had reacted the last time and especially given how uncertain things were between them. Yet here she was wanting it anyway, and having the audacity to be hurt when Grim didn't read that part of her mind.

It didn't take long after he pulled away from her, for her mind to start deceiving itself once more. Maybe he didn't want to kiss her? Did that make her pathetic? Her walls were threatening to shoot back up with every passing moment and although her guilt had eased a little, her sense of self-deprecation seemed to replace it tenfold. Ruby wasn't usually one for such complex emotions and it was for this reason that she was having difficulty handling them. So, in the end it was all she could do to let out an exhale and try not to look as disheartened as she felt. Instead, she gave a nod to Grim's suggestion and stepped away from the tree when he held the door open for her, which she eyed suspiciously before heading through.

The shack on the inside, was much more homely looking than it was on the outside. To the left of the door there was a small living area, with an old rocking chair covered in blankets and behind it a tiny, offshoot kitchen that housed an old stove and a few pots and pans that hung on a shelf over a sink. To the right, there was a single bed with the sheets strewn this way and that, and an old oxygen tank and mask that Ruby knew Tim had needed recently. Behind that was a desk and absolutely tons and tons of books and pieces of paper, all with hand-written notes, drawings and the like attached to both the wood of the desk and the walls around it. To an outsider, it looked like the inner workings of a madman, but to the camp... This was Tim. Their most prized possession.

"Tim? Hey, Tim. It's Ruby."

The middle aged man who looked a lot older than he was attempted to stand from the rocking chair that he was sat in, but when a coughing fit seized him, the redhead rushed to his side and helped him back down into it. "Woah, easy now. No need to get up for me." Then when she pulled back she offered him a smile, trying not to look at how ash grey his skin was, or how the hairs around his temples were turning white. "How are you, anyway? Syra's been looking after you, or so I hear?"
"That bloody woman," Tim waved a hand once he'd managed to catch his breath, to which Ruby gave Grim a sideways glance. "She's had me on bedrest for the good half of forever now."
"That's probably because you don't listen to her," Ruby responded, gesturing towards the rocking chair to make her point, which Tim once again waved his hand at before his gaze settled upon the towering form who had also entered the room behind her.

"So, Ruby. I see you've brought me a visitor." The redhead turned to Grim too then and ushered him forwards.
"I have. Tim, this is Grim. Grim, Tim. Grim's the one that helped me out over at Strand, and he's the one you have to thank for... this." Peering around herself, olive eyes finally settled on the vase that was rested on the small dining table between the living area and the kitchen. "Grim went back in and retrieved it for me when... when I couldn't. I guess you could call him the brawn of the operation. I'm the brains, obviously."
Completely unaware of the crumbling of Ruby's confidence in their infatuation, Grim considered his job well done, and he couldn't help the way his eyes lingered over her backside as she walked past him into Tim's little cabin. He followed after her, closing the door behind him and then pausing to blink in surprise at his new surroundings. There was a lot to be said for how an encampment treated their old and sick, most were usually shoved into small rooms having to share the air with others who could no longer fight or provide any use. And yet, here was Tim's little shack which he had all to himself. It was filled to the brim with all sorts of bits and bobs and Grim had to do a double take when spotted the desk littered with more books and papers than a bloody library. The wall was plastered with hasty scrawl and he could make out a few drawings that seemed to include anatomy.

His attention was drawn however when Ruby rushed forward and began to ease the weary man back down on his chair and soothed him while coughs cracked through his lungs like thunder. It was clear the two had spent some time together before Grim and Ruby had ever met, based on the familiar way they spoke to one another and Grim had to admit that was another point for Ruby's encampment. Once the fit was through Tim's sunken in eyes drifted up, and then up a little more as he locked eyes with Grim. At the old man's words and Ruby's ushering Grim took two steps into the cozy little shack, feeling a bit like a bull in a China shop. Ruby made the introductions and when she called their little duo the brawn and the brains he had the insane urge to smile. Damnit, he didn't smile in front of anyone but Ruby, but then Tim went and lit up, a jovial grin pointed right in his direction and Grim couldn't have stopped the tug on his heart-strings even if he tried.

"It's a beautiful piece, those markings there..." Tim pointed to the opening of the vase where several decorative spirals lined it's rim. "Those seem indicative of an ancient culture, likely one of the nomadic tribes that crossed over thousands of kilometres in their lifetime. It truly is fascinating. I can't tell you what it means that you would both bring this to me." Tim's knobby fingers pressed tight to his heart and Grim vowed silently to himself that should he stumble on more pieces like this he would make room in his truck to bring it back.

"It was nothing." Grim rumbled out, unable to quite meet the old man's gaze as he spoke.

"I was told in passing that you found this piece because on of the infected was found clutching it?" Tim asked, but in his excitement another round of coughs wrecked through his body, sending the rocking chair moving back and forth. Without thinking Grim stepped around Ruby and stuck his foot under one of the bowed legs, ensuring the Tim wouldn't be shook about as he recovered. "Apologies." Tim said after hacking once more into a small rag he'd procured from one of his pockets. "Now, where was I?"

"The information you were told was correct." Grim said, still keeping his foot under the chair's leg. "The infected really was curled all around it, kind of like it was protecting it or something."

"Incredible..." Tim breathed, his gaze focused on the vase. "What I would give to be able to study this piece in a proper lab... Perhaps then we might be one step closer to undoing all of this calamity." Grim didn't speak again, finding that while it certainly felt nice to make the old man's day, it felt less nice when his actions brought on false hope. There was something dark and defeated in his downturned gaze, though Tim didn't seem to notice as he prattled on to the two of them. "I've never subscribed to any one theory as to the start of it all, but if the infected was interested in this then perhaps it might be the key to a deeper understanding. Ruby, my dear, perhaps you'll keep a watchful eye out for any other items like this on your travels?"
Although Tim seemed oblivious to Grim's efforts to make him comfortable, Ruby noticed and she watched him for a moment, with his foot stuck under the wood of the rocking chair. God damn, her heart fell into weird little spins upon seeing that and instinctively, she moved a little closer to his side in a need to be as near to him as possible, despite what she had felt outside. After all, if these were some of their last hours together, then it wouldn't do any harm for her to make the most of it, even in the smallest of ways. Would it?

Her mind was drifting as Tim continued but what eventually brought her focus back around again was the older man asking for her to keep an eye out for any similar artefacts on her travels. "Sure thing." She gave him a little salute before finally dragging her attention back to the vase, meandering towards it and tilting her head so that her red hair fell across her features. The vase was pretty impressive, the markings nonsensical but beautiful and she found herself wondering how old it was while she considered Tim's theory of a nomadic tribe. Could the past truly hold the key to their world as they found it today? It seemed unlikely, but even she had to admit that it was unusual that a result of a modern day infection had been found curled around the thing, linking the present to the past in a way that they did not yet fully understand.

"Say Tim, have you ever come across anymore artefacts like this? Or is this the first one?"
"Hm, now that is a question. Rubes, would you mind?" Tim gestured towards his desk and it took her a moment to realise what he was asking before she moved towards it. "Oh, yeah. Sure."
"In the top drawer." The redhead pulled it open and there on top of numerous sheets of papers was a rusted metal clasp, with a large green jewel at its centre. "Over here, dear." Taking it into her fingers, Ruby looked at it and then raised her eyebrows at Grim before she handed it over to Tim's outstretched hand. "This... This is the only other I've ever come across. I didn't make the connection until I looked turned it over to look at the back of it." Tim turned it over then, as if to demonstrate. "You see," he murmured, "The markings here... are remarkably similar to those on the vase."

As Ruby peered down at them, she had to admit that she agreed. "Woah. That's... That's something. Where did you find that?"
"Not far from here, in a cave, of all places. Back when I was... well." The old man gave a twinkly smile and Ruby straightened so she could give his shoulder a little squeeze. "You'll be back to your adventuring days in no time, I'm sure of it."
"Hm, we'll see about that." Tim winked but the expression was once more short lived as he paused to clear his throat. "In the meantime, you must take my place. Both of you."

To this, Ruby dared not look at Grim because without knowing it, Tim was very much pointing at the elephant in the room that was where they would go from here and if they'd even remain in each others' company. So in an attempt to change the subject, Ruby asked, "Have you any hunches about where else we might find things like this? Just so we can keep an eye out in case?"
"Well, it's funny you should say that, Rubes," Tim pulled himself up into his chair a little. "Before I found that clasp, I was actually headed to a place south of here... Fort Haven, you may have heard of it?" This time, Ruby did glance at Grim and then away again, quickly. "A while ago, I heard on the grapevine that the leader there... I forget his name... houses a number of old artefacts that used to be in a museum back in the day. I don't know if they're related but I figured they were worth braving that place to take a look at. So if you happen to be headed out that way--"

Tim paused, before once more giving in to coughing into the rag he kept about his person. This time however, when he pulled it away, there were speckles of blood dotted on the material. "Shit..." Ruby's eyes widened, but Tim was quick to dismiss her concern. "A glass of water please Ruby, if you will."
Grim was quiet as Ruby pulled another artefact from Tim's desk and he leaned forward to inspect it with the other two as Tim showed them where similar markings lay on the brooch. Surely it must have been a coincidence, but the way Tim's informed logic wove around him had Grim hesitating to just ignore the hopeful sham. Truly there was no way the cave Tim had found the item in was the same cave with the bear? The idea seemed so ludicrous and perfect that he had to forcibly bite the inside of his cheek to stop himself from jumping to conclusions. Tim turned his serious gaze to the both of them and asked the both of them to take up his mission.

There was a pause, and Grim slid his gaze over to Ruby, she didn't return the glance however as she kept her gaze firmly on Tim. Did that mean she wouldn't entertain the idea of venturing out with him again? Grim did his best not to read too much into whatever storm it was that was brewing between the two of them, hadn't he just fixed things outside? It felt like he'd been able to patch one hole in the sinking ship that was the two of them, only to discover eight more leaks. At the mention of Fort Haven and it's ruthless collector Grant Rivers, Grim caught Ruby's meaningful glance, but before he was able to read into it she once more turned her attention from him.

Another coughing fit took over Tim and Grim held the chair steady with his foot and hand over the back of the chair, and when Tim pulled the rag away to reveal small pinpricks of blood over the cloth he felt his grip tighten over the wood back of the rocking chair. Ruby leapt up to grab the glass Tim asked for and Grim spotted a clean rag folded over the baseboard of the nearby bed and quickly switched out the dirtied rag for the clean one.

"My thanks." Tim's words were raspy and harsh, like his throat was drier than the desert. Grim could only rumble in response. When Ruby returned with the water she helped Tim tilt back the glass and the little shack felt silent save for the greedy swallows of the old man before them. By the time the glass was empty Tim's weary eyes were drooping and he rested a hand against Ruby's and Grim tried not to notice how starkly gray Tim was in comparison to Ruby's fair skin. In his experience the scientist was not long for this world. "Promise me you help to fix things? Humanity deserves so much more... than this." Grim stepped around to the front of the chair when Tim gestured that he should do so, and the giant of a man crouched in front of Tim so the old man wouldn't have to tilt his head too far back.

"I'll... do what I can." Grim muttered, his amber eyes burned like coals as he promised what he could.

"You remind me of my son. Such a rough exterior, but we scientists know there is so much more than outward appearance." Tim tapped his nose and Grim didn't like how seen he suddenly felt. Empathy would get you nowhere in this world. He shifted uncomfortably, about to stand when Tim's voice stopped him. "You'll keep my girl safe won't you?" Grim's eyes slid over to Ruby and he took in her gentle form, he didn't know what the future held for them. He didn't know what Ruby was thinking when it came to Fort Haven but for him the pieces all clicked together seamlessly. She would go with him and he would fix his debt and help this old man in one go. Suddenly it felt like he could have his cake and eat it to. Without taking his eyes off her Grim nodded.

"I protect what's mine, sir." Tim seemed placated by Grim's statement and after helping Tim to his bed so that he might have a bit of a rest, Grim waited by the front door as Ruby said her farewells. As he opened the door, he caught the hasty retreat of someone returning to the fire and narrowed his eyes, as Ruby walked out he forced his attention to her, needing to know everything she felt and thought in the moment.

"So I guess we leave in the morning?" He said after closing the door and falling into step beside her. Perhaps he shouldn't have assumed she would be so eager to extend their time together, but to him, everything seemed to fit perfectly together.
Nobody had told her about the blood.

Tim's condition continued to worsen and in the short time that Ruby had been away, it was clear that the deterioration had accelerated. She was quick to pour him the glass of water he needed before gently helping him to drink it, thankful in that moment that Grim was by her side as he quietly did his bit for the old scientist too. They didn't have long left with him, of that much Ruby was certain and so as his grey hand covered her own, she placed her other on top of it and carefully squeezed to let him know that she was there. For a small while, she was too choked up to speak, so instead she listened to Tim and Grim, smiling just a little when Tim, as she had, saw through the rough exterior to the softer man that was buried on the inside, to the Avery that they both knew existed somewhere within the shell this world had created around him. Her smile only faltered however, when Grim promised to protect... what was his, the words flipping her heart into somersaults as they looked at each other, with meaning, understanding. Ruby was the first to look away again though, her feelings from earlier clawing at the edges of her thoughts as a reminder that no matter what Grim said, things were still uncertain between them and perhaps they always, always would be.

Not long after this, Ruby and Grim helped Tim into bed, with Ruby staying behind to make sure he was comfortable. She placed a glass of water on his nightstand, fluffed his pillows and leaned down to kiss his head before murmuring a good night and softly clicking the door shut behind her. For a small while after that, as she and Grim walked side by side away from the shack, she didn't speak, so involved in her own thoughts was she. It was for this reason that when Grim asked his question, it took her a few moments to register what he was talking about and when she did, she glanced up at him with genuine amusement tugging the corners of her mouth into a smirk.

"What? Yeah, right. Good one." However, as their eyes locked, Ruby slowed when she realised that his question had been deadly serious. "You... You've got to be joking, right?" Then finally, she came to a stop in front of him, her features morphed into incredulity. "Grim, it's Fort Haven. Grant Rivers? There's no fucking way I'm going back there. Artefacts or no artefacts. Tim doesn't even know if they're related and besides, Syra was very clear that we needed to rest up. Going out anywhere, let alone to that den of iniquity, would be... moronic." She shook her head, squinting up at Grim as sunlight filtered through the grey clouds. "Come on Grim, you can't seriously think it's a good idea, or that I'd happily follow you all the way out there like some sort of... naive, lost puppy? You know how I feel about that place."

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