He opened his eyes, confused. Where the hell was he? He started to sit up and pain volcanoed through his head. He collapsed back blinded. He bit down hard on his lips and tried slow breathing to fight the nausea. His reactions were instinctive; it was a least a minute before he could think clearly enough to have an actual thought. That was 'what the fuck?'
He wasn't about to try to sit up again, but what about the rest of his body? He was able to wiggle his fingers and move his arms. He moved his legs and flexed his toes. Okay, so the major pain was in his throbbing head. Since he still wasn't willing to make a move that could cause another flare of pain he tried to assess what he could with minimal movement.
He realized he was lying on the ground, not a floor. He seemed to be outside, partially on grass, partially on gravel. A quick squint suggested it was either dusk or overcast. He was still reluctant to open his eyes fully, so determining which one would have to wait another minute or two.
He carefully moved his arm and his hand brushed against wood, not a tree, it was sawed. Shit, he needed to try again. Very carefully he opened his eyes and then tried moving his head slowly to the side. Pain blossomed again, but not as bad. He saw that his hand was touching a railroad tie and the upper half of his body was in the gravel of a railroad bed.
Had he jumped from a train? He closed his eyes again and slowly turned to see what was in the other direction. Down the slight slope from him was another body, curled on its side, away from him. It looked like a young girl. Okay, had they been thrown from a train?
The only sound was a bird somewhere off to his left. He drew a deep breath and moved to sit up again. He took it much slower this time and though there was pain, it was no longer blinding.
He sat for a minute, waiting for another stab of pain. When it didn't come, he began moving slowly toward the girl, crawling on hands and knees. He checked for a pulse. It was there, steady, and her breathing seemed okay, but she didn't stir. He eased himself down beside her and started checking out what he could. He was wearing a gray t-shirt and jeans, and a well-used pair of running shoes. She was similarly clad in black pants and a light green t-shirt with a darker green leaf pattern that had three-quarter length sleeves. She wore scruffy white athletic shoes.
He checked his pockets; no keys, no wallet, no watch. He didn't see a purse lying near her either. What the hell was going on?
The girl shifted beside him, and his attention returned to her. She uncurled slightly and he realized this was no little girl. She was a woman; full breasts and nicely rounded ass.
She opened her eyes and jerked away at the sight of him bending over her. He held out a hand, not touching her. "Take it easy. Don't move too much. How does your head feel?"
That sudden movement had birthed a headache of migraine proportions, so she remained still. He wasn't making any threatening gestures and she already had evidence of what happened if she moved too much.
"What - " she croaked and closed her mouth, swallowing.
"I don't know. We may have been thrown from a train." He tried a small smile, and gestured toward the tracks nearby.
She took a deep breath and tried to sit up. She was grateful for the way he moved back to give her space. She couldn't make it all the way up and lay back trying to get her breath.
She took a good look at him and saw that he was on his knees a little distance away. He seemed tall, dark, with beautiful eyes. He didn't look like someone who wanted to hurt her, but what the hell was going on? Where were they?
She tried to look around and he saw her wince. "There's not much to look at," he gestured toward the tracks. "I haven't heard any traffic."
"So where are we?"
He started to shake his head, but realized that wasn't a good idea. "I don't know."
"Who are you?"
He sighed then. "I, uh, I don't know. I checked for bumps on my head, but I didn't find any. I don't want to hurt you."
"Uh, thanks," she said softly. She slowly moved to rise again and he reached for her. She hesitated, then let him assist her to sit up. Once she was steady, she let her fingers trace her hairline and checked for lumps. After a minute, she met his eyes. "I don't have any bumps either."
"Then may I ask who you are?"
She blinked and a look of unease came over her face. "I, I don't know."
"Yeah. Look, I don't think we should get too hung up on this."
"Don't get ‘hung up' on the fact that we don't know our own names?" her expression said a lot more.
"I just mean, we both have killer headaches. I'm sure when they're gone, when we start feeling better, we'll remember everything."
He shrugged. He turned from her then, and carefully rose to his feet. She saw the wince, but he managed to remain on his feet.
"Are you okay?" she asked quickly.
"I'm pretty sure I've been better." He wasn't looking at her now, but checking the landscape. Now that he was standing he could see more. It hadn't changed much.
"Anything?" she asked finally.
He didn't look at her, just shook his head as he continued to scan in all directions. He noticed when she started to stand, and turned to her. She made it to her feet, but swayed and grabbed her head as pain gripped her again. He took hold of her arms, steadying her.
When she got her breath, she looked up at him. "Thanks."
"Are you okay?"
"Like you said, I've been better." She stepped away then and looked around as he had. There was nothing that looked like civilization in any direction.
"At least we're not in a desert," he spoke, too close to her ear, and she jumped. "Sorry."
"What are we going to do?" She ignored the apology.
Good question. He looked around again and spotted something farther down the rise. There was clear space near the tracks, but the terrain was relatively flat. There were trees, but it wasn't heavily forested. There was no sound, no traffic. He couldn't see a road. He moved carefully toward the object and as he neared it, he realized it was a leather bag.
He picked it up and looked back at her, then returned to her and opened it. Inside were two plastic water bottles, one empty, one about half full of water. There were power bars and a few cans of Vienna sausages, a roll of fishing line and a box of matches.
"We just hit the lottery." He looked up grinning and found her watching him. "Do you want some water?"
She looked at him for moment before responding. "I, maybe we should wait."
"Yeah, okay. I'd say we need to start walking."
She looked at him for a long moment, then, "Which way?" she asked, looking down the tracks again.
"Good question. Do you have a preference?"
She would have laughed if her head hadn't hurt so much. "No, I don't think so."
He took another deep breath and looked in both directions again.
"We could split up," she said. "I could - "
"No!" he spoke sharply and she stepped back at his vehemence. "Uh, sorry. I just don't think we should separate."
He seemed sincere, and to be honest, she didn't want to be alone. This was creeping her out.
After a moment she nodded. "I agree."
That relaxed him a little. "Well, the sun's going down to the left. West sound okay to you?"
"Yeah, I guess it does." She didn't look convinced, but there was no reason she should.
He took her arm and she hesitated, but then fell in step beside him. They didn't speak for a while, then she glanced over at him. "The stuff in the bag, it's survival stuff, isn't it?"
"Yeah, it is. I need to know what you're thinking," he said watching her.
"I think you're right," she said after a moment.
"I don't know where we are or why, but we should be okay for a few days."
"Not if we don't find some water," she responded.
He nodded. "But it's not cold. We shouldn't have to worry about exposure."
"You think we'll be out here for a while."
After a moment he nodded. "Whoever left us out here, they've given us material to make a snare, catch our own food."
She stopped then and after a step or two, he realized it and stopped as well.
"A snare? You know that but you don't know your name?"
He blinked at that. "Good point. Maybe I was a boy scout."
Her eyebrow rose and she just stood there staring at him.
He finally grinned. "I need something to call you. How about Red?"
She blinked and reached for a lock of her hair. "I'm a redhead."
"Bring back any memories?"
She shook her head. "So what should I call you? John?"
"As in Doe."
"Umm, I don't really like that. Let's think about it a little while."
She contemplated him seriously, but nodded. He wasn't panicked, and that was helping her. She didn't know if that was his intention, but whatever it was, it was definitely helping. Thank goodness she wasn't alone out here in the middle of nowhere.
"Well, come on. We don't know how far we're going to have to walk."
They continued on in silence, but it wasn't uncomfortable. They'd been walking nearly two hours by the sun when she stopped again. "Do you hear - "
"Water!" He turned and grinned at her. They hurried toward the sound and were excited to see a good size stream. They filled their bottles and shared one of the power bars.
He looked around the area, then back to his companion. "It's going to be getting dark soon. Why don't we set up a camp here for tonight. We've got fresh water and we can see the tracks from that little grove over there."
She opened her mouth as if to speak, then just nodded.
"We'll be okay," he reassured her and she gave him a tentative smile.
They gathered wood for a fire, though they wouldn't need it for warmth. The weather was mild, but they wanted the light. They settled in and shared a can of the Vienna sausages. He offered a second power bar but she shook her head. He didn't insist.
Finally he stretched and rose. "We should probably turn in. No telling how far we'll have to walk tomorrow."
She nodded and stood as well. "I'm going - "
"Don't get out of sight."
She gave him a long look, then turned her back on him. He merely chuckled and tried to make a more comfortable place to sleep. When she returned, she took a seat opposite him with the fire between them and wrapped her arms around her knees.
"Uh, listen. I know it's not cold or anything, but I think we should, uh . . . "
"I think you should sleep over here with me."
For a long moment she looked at him, then slowly rose and moved to him.
"I don't think we need to keep a watch, but this will be more comfortable. I promise to be a gentleman."
"Comfortable, huh? I think I'd prefer a sleeping bag - " She paused, going inside herself a moment.
"I, I feel like I just made a joke." She looked up at him, puzzled.
He thought about it, then smiled. "Maybe you did. When we get our memories back, we can check on that. Now, try to get some sleep."
He pulled her against him and spooned around her. That did feel good and, and slightly familiar.
She woke the next morning still within the strange man's arms, having rested quite well under the circumstances. When she began to pull away, he woke as well. He seemed to realize where they were instantly. He released her and sat up, taking her arm to help her up.
She nodded, watching him stretch. "I guess this isn't a bad dream."
He shook his head. "Actually, I had pretty good dreams last night." He grinned at the color that rose in her cheeks. "I think I'll use that tree over there." Still grinning he moved away from her.
She sighed and turned in the opposite direction. When they met again at the ashes of last night's fire, he handed her one of the refilled bottles of water. "Are you okay?" he asked, watching her closely.
"Don't mind me. I think I'm missing my coffee, and I have a severe case of penis envy right now."
He grinned then, but refrained from comment. He pulled out a couple of the power bars and offered her one.
"How many does that leave us?" she asked, trying to see into the bag.
"Uh, four, eight, and let's see, six cans of sausages. Surely that's more than enough until we find the road."
"And how long do we travel after to find a road?"
He sighed and put one back in the bag. He opened the other and broke it in half, offering her the part still wrapped.
They washed up at the creek and filled the water bottles, then headed out again, following the train tracks to the west.
They had been walking a few minutes, looking around at the vegetation when he said, in a companionable way, "I think we're in the northern mid-west or northwest." He realized after a couple of steps that she had stopped. "What?"
She was grinning up at him. "You are so full of it. You don't have a clue where we are."
"Well, uh, sure I do. The land, the trees - "
"And you know what kind of trees are in the northwest."
"Sure, that's Pacific Yew, and there're tons of different cedars and juniper."
She stared at him for a moment, hands on hips. "What's your name?"
"Uh, I don't know. Maybe I was an Eagle scout?" He grinned.
She shook her head but continued walking beside him. He began pointing out certain trees and naming them.
"Okay, the real question is, can you catch one of the squirrels living in them and feed us?"
"Me Tarzan, you Red."
"Oh God." She rolled her eyes but he smiled at the slight curve to her lips.
They walked briskly for a couple of hours, finally stopping for a lunch break when the sun was directly overhead. They each had a power bar and then shared a can of the sausages.
"I know I'm getting protein, but damn this is boring," he remarked, looking at the label of the power bar.
"And not exceptionally filling either," she commented.
"Do you want some more?" he asked quickly.
She shook her head. "Better not." Then for something else to say she turned to him. "Did you come up with a name for yourself?"
"Nope. Who do I look like?"
"Well, if your hair was longer, like one of those guys on the cover of those romance novels."
"Fabio? You think I look like Fabio?"
"Another chunk of information. You read bodice rippers. Interesting . . . "
"I do not!" he backtracked hurriedly, "but I've seen them on the racks. You think I'm a hunk?"
She cut her eyes at him as she stretched her calves. "Actually, I've always thought those guys were more interested in their own looks than mine." She stopped and looked at him, really looked at him. "Why do I know that and not where we are or who I am?"
He took his time answering. "I don't know. It's strange what we're not able to remember. I think we know each other though."
"Why do you think that?"
"We're comfortable with each other. It's . . . I don't know, but I feel like I know you."
After a moment she nodded. "Yeah, I do too."
"Think we're married?"
She looked startled at the thought, then glanced down at her hand. "No ring."
"Could have been stolen when we got tossed off the train."
"No indention on my finger."
He nodded thoughtfully. "Maybe we're taking our time."
She laughed then at the expression of mock despair on his face. "Yeah, you keep on thinking that and we'll keep on taking our time."
The pout drew another chuckle, but she rose then, brushing off her slacks. "Come on Fabio, we need to get moving."
He grimaced as he rose beside her. "No, not Fabio."
She looked him up and down then. "Zorro?"
"Keep walking," he was shaking his head now, but pleased that she was able to kid with him. They were in trouble, whether either was admitting it or not. At least she had gumption.
"Renard," she said definitively, nodding her head.
"Yep, Ren for short."
"Ren and Red." He looked skeptical. "We need to find some civilization." They picked up their pace.
He looked down at her. He was lucky that whatever was going on, wasn't happening with some girly-girl. For a second he searched his brain for that phrasing, but then shook it off. She was no wimp and hadn't whined at all about the distance they had covered or the lack of basic essentials. She was in good shape, probably ran and worked out. He'd had to shorten his strides, but not drastically and she hadn't complained at all.