“You look like you need a break”, Sally's voice disturbed her from her reading and Darrell looked back over her shoulder at her friend and room-mate.
“I must look awful if you're tell me to stop working”, Darrell offered Sally a lopsided grin, and her friend just rolled her eyes in response to the teasing.
“You make me sound like a taskmaster”, Sally said, “Do you want to come for a walk?”. Darrell nodded and got to her feet with a wince, her body protested to the sudden movement and the discomfort must have shown on her face.
“You have been in the same position for about two and a half hours”, Sally chided gently as she handed Darrell a coat, “You've been working yourself too hard”. Darrell laughed and followed Sally out of the door.
The evening air was cool on her skin and she shivered at the first contact.
“Anywhere in particular?”, Darrell asked as she put her hands in her pockets,
“We can just walk, see where we end up”, Sally said and Darrell shrugged in agreement.
“Probably lost”, her smile broadened when Sally swatted her playfully. A moment passed and then Sally linked her arm through Darrell's; Darrell glanced down but didn't comment on the, unusually, overt sign of affection from her friend. They walked in silence for a long time and just as Darrell was about to suggest they turn around and head back before her predication came true, Sally spoke,
“I have something I need to tell you”, and Darrell stopped walking. Sally unlinked her arm from Darrell's and moved to stand facing Darrell, putting her hands into her own pockets away from the cold, “and I don't really know how to so just let me talk.” Darrell immediately began to run through scenarios in her head, none of them good,
“I...okay”, and Darrell tightened her arms against her side, as if constricting her movement would help constrict her speech.
“I'm not good at this sort of thing”, Sally sighed and lowered her gaze, “Talking about things. But we've been friends for a long time and, I don't want to ruin that, but if I don't tell you then all these feelings will still be here”. Sally stopped talking for a moment, and pressed her hand to her forehead. Darrell felt a strange feeling inside her chest, and squirmed as she struggled not to speak.
“I'm scared I'm going to tell you and you're going to...”, Sally ran her hands through her hair and Darrell startled at the unspent tears in her friend's eyes, “That you're never going to talk to me again”. In her surprise, Darrell forgot her promise,
“You can tell me anything”, she stumbled over her words, bewildered by Sally's upset, “I can't think of anything you could have done that would make me stop caring about you Sal...”. Sally met her gaze and Darrell swallowed heavily as dark blue eyes searched her face. There was a peculiar look in Sally's eyes that Darrell couldn't place. Then Sally's shoulders slumped, and they broke eye contact. When Sally spoke her voice was barely audible,
“I love you”
“I love you too Sal, I don't...”, and then Sally stepped forward, closed the short gap between them and pressed her lips against Darrell's. Darrell froze, for just a moment, as her body reacted in an explosion to the sudden contact. Then, without any conscious thought, she returned the kiss. Sally pulled away with a soft gasp, as if she had shocked herself as much as she had shocked Darrell.
“I mean...I love you”, Sally said.
Darrell rolled onto her side with a wince and pushed her pain-induced daydream to one side. Alicia was pacing the cave, obviously waiting for her to regain some semblance of lucidity. Darrell groaned as the cave began to sway in front of her, how long had she been out?
“Are you okay?”, Alicia stopped pacing, “You look...”, Alicia stood and studied her for a moment and then her voice softened, “you look really sad”.
“I got stood on by a dinosaur, of course I'm sad”, Darrell shot back, and her words must not have come out as good-naturedly as she had intended because a look of hurt flashed across Alicia's face, “I didn't...it's nothing. Just stop walking about, it's giving me a headache”.
“You've been out of it for the last two hours”, Alicia pointed out, “I don't think you much noticed my pacing”.
“Please shut up Alicia, I'm too tired to argue”, Darrell slumped back onto the floor, an awkward moment passed and Darrell spoke again, “I didn't mean to snap at you”. There was silence and then Alicia crossed the room and sat down beside her.
“How's the head? Leg?”, Alicia took one of Darrell's hands in her own and held it.
“I really do have a headache, but...I can't really feel my leg”, Darrell felt Alicia's panic and carried on talking before her friend could start, “which is probably a good thing”.
“Not really, you might lose your leg”, Alicia said.
“That's certainly cheered me up”, Darrell groaned, but she squeezed Alicia's hand as she spoke to soften her words. A wave of nausea went through her and she closed her eyes, her entire body shuddered and she winced as muscles protested to the movement. She couldn't imagine being in a much worse position, with her own mortality being dangled in front of her, but Darrell felt strangely calm at her core. It was as if all the chaos had drained her of the strength to panic.
“I just want to go home”, Darrell said, once it no longer felt like the world was spinning around her.
“I know...me too. Not that you're not enough company for me or anything”, the teasing was back in Alicia's voice, by this point Darrell wasn't sure if it was a coping mechanism or if it really was just the way Alicia was.
“I know you enjoy having me all to yourself”, Darrell replied. She had meant to keep the light atmosphere going but something, that was so familiar in its presentation, crossed over Alicia's eyes. The light heartedness was gone, and Alicia got to her feet.
“I need...”, she brushed herself down as she avoided eye contact, “I need to go and get some more water. Do you feel up to looking at Connor's notebook?”. Before Darrell could reply, Alicia dropped the notebook at her side and headed towards the cave entrance.
It was only when she was halfway through deciphering the next page in Connor's book that Darrell realised when she had seen that look before. She shook her head, then immediately regretted it as her head pounded in response to the movement.
'It must be the headache', she reasoned, 'There's no way Alicia feels...', and then the conversation with Sally, when the other woman had asked Darrell if she had been stepping out on her with Alicia, came to mind and she wondered if her more perceptive partner had seen something that Darrell had missed.
“Oh bloody hell”, Darrell groaned, and she slumped onto her back. How could she have been such an idiot?