AN: This is rated 'M' for language and suggestive scenes especially in Vol II.

Tyne's fingers tightened around the ripped, faux-leather steering wheel as he glanced through the inky, mid-winter shadows to his right. His breathing spiked, raking over his dry his throat as he focused on the tight arrangement of tiny birthmarks below the first knuckle of his right thumb. Focus on his odd assortment of skin discolorations was easier than mulling over his current state of carjacking-victim. At the slightest change in speed, his sleeping passenger snapped to full attention: stopping was out of the question. He considered slamming his beat-up, old Chevy into one of the snow-covered trees on the side of the slushy highway—he'd even decided he would—but that black fear of death rose up to beat him back.

He glanced to his right, and his gaze caught the glinting of the small handgun's barrel. The ball of cold anxiety knotted a little tighter in his gut. What did this stranger want? Why hadn't Tyne scrambled out of the car as he'd always told himself he would in the event of a carjacking? Oh no, smooth-thinking-Tyne had stared with dropped jaw when the raven-haired man slipped into his car at a stoplight. And damn, Tyne would have sworn in court that the door had been locked.

The tense man had set the gun calmly in his own lap and leveled endless grey eyes on the recent high-school graduate—yes, it'd taken Tyne an extra year-and-a-half of night-school. But really, having one's parents die in the middle of one's freshmen year could do that to a guy. Instructions for Tyne to head towards the interstate had issued from a deep, liquid voice—cool as the wind howling through the cracks in the doors and windows.

Tyne had swallowed hard and found himself obeying, despite the drive to do anything but. He remembered all the tricks and tips—his attacker was not belted in after all. Hitting something prior to reaching the interstate would have probably been semi-safe for Tyne. It would render his car useless and therefore Tyne's 'company' useless as well. Yet, he couldn't do it. He'd simply driven to the interstate like an idiot.

Reaching for the gun was as out-of-the-question as slowing down or hitting something. Anytime, Tyne so much as moved his hand from the wheel, the man jerked awake and gripped the weapon faster than a coyote on a jack-rabbit. The first two times, Tyne had just been reaching for the wiper control to the left of the steering column. No, Tyne's sanity couldn't take such experiences many more times, so he kept motionless and barely-breathing.

Now, some six hours later, Tyne found himself still driving east on the empty highway as tiny dots of white fluff swirled over the road and up around his windshield. Damn his fuel-efficient junker. A normal car would have had the decency to demand gas and provide him with a perfect escape opportunity, but nooooo. He'd just filled up before being 'joined' and his gas reading still indicated a half-full tank. How far would they get before the car refused further progression? What would this man do to him in the meantime? Tyne wasn't sure if he truly feared for his life or not, but the man had a gun. He was in Tyne's car, uninvited.

To add insult to injury, his little 'joyride' forced him to stand up Ponnele on their first date. He ground his teeth in frustration. It had taken months to work up the courage to accept the sexy red-head's veiled invitations. If he hadn't flaked out today, Tyne knew they would have worked, that they could have been a great couple, even if it didn't end up with love. However, Ponnele wasn't the kind of man, despite his perfections, to put up with being blown off—if Tyne ever made it back alive.

The stranger stirred in his seat and then emitted a deep, troubled moan. He curled a little further around himself and then grunted as if in pain.

Tyne shook himself and returned his eyes to the road, reminding himself that he didn't care whether this threatening stranger was in pain or not. He was an unwelcome assailant in Tyne's car. Let him die right there in the passenger seat for all Tyne cared. Of course, Tyne wouldn't appreciate the time and energy that would be required to explain it to the police. However, nothing in life was easy.

Tyne's eyes widened as he noted the car coming up from behind.

A police-cruiser.

He bit his lip and blessed whatever guiding entity had a hand in his life. He lowered his left little-finger to flick on his flashers while he raised his right index finger toggled the headlights on and off. Tyne prayed the cop would get his silent plea for help.

He breathed a sigh of relief when red and blue lights illuminated the interior of his car.

The man jerk upright as soon as Tyne took his foot off the accelerator.

"What are you doing?" he growled, gripping the gun tighter.

Damn. Maybe this hadn't been such a hot idea. The man could demand Tyne run. He could shoot at the cop. He could do anything.

"The cop," Tyne jerked his thumb over his shoulder, "he wants me to stop. If I don't, we're gonna have a car-chase. You want that?" Maybe if Tyne could get them to stop he could indicate he was in trouble some other way than straight out.

The stranger looked over his shoulder and growled. "No, you can stop. Don't say anything unnecessary."

Tyne breathed a sigh of relief and stepped on the brake pedal. He felt sweat rise to stand on his skin in anxiety and hope when the police officer finally stepped out of his car and illuminated the interior with his flashlight. Tyne rolled the window down and waited in the cold rush of air for his, hopefully, savior to arrive.

It took years for the man to finally stand near Tyne's window.

The police officer shined the light first in Tyne's face and then bent to illuminate the stranger's and a quick sweep of the back seat. "Where are you two headed?"

Tyne put on his guiltiest, most frightened expression and shrugged. "Uhm… you see—"

"My friend's driving me to the hospital." In that moment, the stranger's voice sure as hell sounded like he needed a doctor.

The cop remained motionless, and Tyne thought he was going crazy, since his flashlight-blinded eyes couldn't detect the officer's expression. Did he believe him? God no! This was ridiculous!

The light settled on Tyne's face before a stead, soothing voice asked: "Son, what's really going on?"

"I—" Tyne's eyes widened when he felt a cold, hard presence dig into his right side.

Apparently the halting and the pause was too much for the officer: "I need you both to step out of the car and put your hands on the roof of the vehicle."

Thank you… Tyne breathed to himself as he started to comply. He froze when his passenger snatched his wrist.

"We don't have to get out of the car," the stranger murmured.

"You don't need to get out of the car," the police officer mimicked as if he were a trained parrot.

Tyne's jaw dropped, and his heart turned to stone in his chest.

"We weren't breaking any laws," his carjacker continued.

"Well, since you weren't breaking any laws, I suppose I'll have to let you fellas go on. Do you need an escort to the hospital?"

"That won't be necessary, sir," the stranger replied. "Good night, officer."

"Good night, gentlemen. Drive safe."

Tyne stared after his would-be savior in his rearview mirror as his lungs refused to function. His heart slammed about in his throat, and his eyes stung with the width he'd thrown them open to. What. The. Hell?

The stranger slumped over again, reaching up to grip his head. "I have no desire to see you hurt, but if you know that you will end up so if you do anything that stupid again. Do you understand me?"

It was the first time Tyne's assailant had asked a question. He swallowed hard. "But I didn't—"

"Don't insult my intelligence." His cold glare lifted to meet Tyne's gaze. His shadow-darkened eyes reflected the blue, red, and white lights from the cruiser behind them just before the lights extinguished to plunge them both back into the deep darkness, but not before the stranger's mouth turned in a grim frown as he curled away again. "Drive."

Damn it. Tyne obeyed.

} • {

Putting the car in park beside the gas pump, Tyne glanced around the poorly-lit, run-down gas-station and then the empty fields of white surrounding the half-fallen-down shop. He'd never make it far if he bolted now, and it looked like the slobby attendant inside wouldn't care if Tyne was gunned-down right in front of him so long as it didn't interrupt his TV time.

The stranger clutched the door handle. "Stay in the car."

"It's been ten hours, man. I have to go."

The man turned to look at Tyne and raised one eyebrow. "Go?"

"Yeah, you know…" Tyne's fear, frustration, and the pain in his abdomen overcame his reserve and sharpened his tongue. "Go. Pee. Relieve myself. Piss. Take your pick. I have to go."

The man frowned. "Wait until I come back."

Tyne scowled and hunkered down, crossing his arms against the chill that crept through the car since the engine was off and the blowers silent. What was that guy's deal? Wouldn't stealing the car be enough?

Tyne glanced up from where he felt himself nodding off. The stranger stalked towards the car with a large board in his hand. He walked around to the driver's side and jerked the door open. "Come on."

Fear crawled up Tyne's throat to choke him. "Where?"

The man's serious eyes settled on Tyne's face as a deep frown set in. "You said you have to 'go'."

Tyne noticed a small key dangling from the end of that board. His eyes flew wide and he shook his head. "I can't go with you."

"Well you're not going alone."

"Look, man," Tyne barely kept the pathetic out of his voice, "Take the car; I won't get back to civilization for hours, if not days. I swear I won't report the car stolen until next week. Just let me go."

"Funny." The man grabbed Tyne's upper arm and dragged him out of the car, the door slamming shut again behind them. His none-too-gentle hands shoved Tyne along towards the side of the building.

"Why not?" Frustration and fear tightened Tyne's chest. "I just want to go home… My… my family back there will be worried, you know."

"You have no family there."

Tyne wasn't sure if he was more offended by the man's certainty or just plain creeped out that he was right—which begged the question how he knew.

Never releasing his grip on Tyne's arm, the stranger unlocked the bathroom door and shoved Tyne through. "Go."

Tyne glanced around. What looked like seven years of dirt, grim, slush, old toilet paper and paper towels covered the once-white tiling on the floor, a single, naked bulb hung from the center of the small room, and a cracked urinal stood across from a single stall, whose door hung crooked on one hinge. The entire right front corner of the sink was missing, and the graffiti covering the walls advertised for hookers, cheap dates, and whores—Tyne had never been quite sure how to tell the difference.

"I told you, I can't with you." Tyne didn't want to whine that normally he wouldn't step foot in a room like this, much less use this kind of bathroom, but it was probably written all over his childish pout.

"Use the stall. It won't kill you."

Tyne locked his jaw and pulled out of the man's hold to slip into the stall, careful not to touch either the side or the door. He curled his lip in a sneer of disgust as he forced himself to forget where he was, why he was there, and who was on the other side of the divide.

As he was finishing up, Tyne frowned and glanced to his left as if he could see through the divide when the sound of heavy splashing echoed around the bathroom. He slid past the door again and froze with a deep frown etched into his face.

His assailant leaned over the sink, gripping both sides, and vomited without a sound. Tyne warred with himself. He could outrun a vomiting man. While the stranger was in current possession of Tyne's car-keys, he could make it into the gas station. Maybe the attendant might not be as indifferent as Tyne feared. Still, what if he couldn't outrun him? What if there was something really wrong with the stranger?

What do you care? Tyne growled to himself. The man had carjacked him, forced him to drive ten hours, headed to who-knew-where, all the while threatening Tyne's physical integrity if not his life. Let the bastard vomit out his internal organs.

In his desperation Tyne actually touched the door as he darted for escape.

"Wait!" the stranger rasped as Tyne fled into the yellow floodlight's illumination.

But he didn't wait. He skidded to a halt, almost losing his balance, as he jerked open the glass door. "Mister!" he panted as he caught himself on the counter. "You have to help me. That guy… he's carjacked me…"

The man looked up at him as one looked at the ill-mannered ravings of an angry three-year-old. He looked back to his televised races and jerked his thumb over his shoulder. "Farm out about three miles up the road."

Tyne didn't even give himself time to drop his jaw in disbelief and horror at the confirmation of his fears. Bastard. He shoved away from the counter and reemerged into the howling winter wind. Even more than before, it bit at his exposed skin and whipped at his short, red hair.

Tyne staggered towards his car and jerked at the door handle. Locked. He eyed his coat in the back seat and bit his lip. What if he hurt himself trying to break the window? But what if he froze to death? Just as he lifted his elbow to smash the window, the stranger staggered into view.

The man fell against the side of the building and lifted burning eyes to lock them on Tyne's face. "Stop!" Unlike the first time, his voice did not sound weak or wavering, but more like the deep roaring of the ocean. Still, his body didn't look anywhere near that strong.

Fear got the better of Tyne again, and he turned. He ignored the freezing wind that blew the frozen dust into his eyes and hair and in every crack in his meager protection against the cold—sneakers, worn jeans, and an old sweatshirt.

Three miles up the road, he reminded himself as he half-ran, half-slipped away from the gas station. He knew he had no hope of escaping the man if the stranger didn't want him to—the man had Tyne's car after all. Still, maybe he wouldn't care to chase him down as long as he could continue his journey. Tyne knew, as the man probably did, that he was as good as dead anyway. Still, Tyne's frantic mind named this the best option.

Tyne floundered in the snow as he fell into a hole hidden by the drifts. The frozen water bit at his neck and face. His fingers and toes were long-numb and his teeth slammed against each other until he thought he might shake his brain right out of his head. His skin felt tight and brittle while his stomach churned, daring him to throw up. Did that bastard pass something to him in that short time?

The darkness pressed around him like a crushing blanket. Maybe it would have been wiser to stay with that man and wait for a more-opportune moment to escape…

No, Tyne growled to himself. This was necessary.

Still, the darkness and the cold ate at him, sapping his strength and gnawing at his sanity. He just wanted to sleep. When Tyne stumbled again, he lacked the strength to catch himself or balance again. He groaned as he struggled, and failed, to shove himself up again. I want to go home. Tyne's arms gave up, unwilling to fight for him anymore.

It didn't take long before he couldn't even feel the cold anymore. A heavy darkness spread over him—like the impenetrable shadow of swimming underwater at night. Tyne felt like he was falling—or flying. While strange and whimsical visions flashed before his eyes, bizarre sounds and eerie voices battered against his brain, taunting his delirium. Stupid voices! he screamed in his mind. Let me die! He didn't want to 'come back' and he didn't appreciate being instructed to do so. Leave me alone. Just leave me alone.

Tyne had no idea how long he hung in that empty darkness, but at length, slowly at first, and then gaining in both speed and intensity, an intense heat drove through the shadows he hid within. It coursed through his entire being to heat his core and set him on fire. After what felt like hours, feeling returned to his unresponsive limbs; however, this only laid bare his deep exhaustion and weakness. Not even his fingers would move upon his instructions.

Tyne felt his muscles and skin shaking as well as the burning sensation of fiery skin against his back and wrapped around his shoulders and his arms, which crossed over his chest. He felt as if a cocoon of warm flesh wrapped around him to drive off the deadly cold and to protect him from any and everything that might hurt him. Tyne forced his unwilling eyes to open a sliver, but encountered only heavy darkness. A hot hand slid up his arm and neck to rest against his forehead. He felt his neck curve sideways as a strong force pressed against the side of his head.

Burning breaths played over his ear as the hold on his chest constricted. The feel and the sound of that breathing felt desperate, frightened, and almost apologetic. Tyne felt his heart crawl up to pound in his throat in instant response. Despite his confusion and detachment, the situation felt strangely familiar. As if of its own accord, Tyne's body pressed into the warmth at his back and then surrendered to the stalking sleep.