A/N: Here's a chapter from something I eventually hope to build on. It's hardly edited at all, so please forgive any mistakes. Nevertheless, I kind of like how it turned out and please leave some feedback. Thanks!
She entered the cave, leaving the light of day behind. It was darker than she would have thought. Only a few steps in she could no longer see her breath, and she had to stop or risk tripping and breaking an ankle. She reached into her bag for the flashlight she had thought to bring and flicked it on, fumbling a bit with glove-covered fingers.
It wasn't even really a cave so much as a crack in the rock face. Snow and ice and a hard to get to location at the foot of the sea cliff made it hard to see. Unless you walked right up to it, the opening appeared as nothing more than a shadow.
"What am I doing?" she said aloud. The beam of her flashlight revealed a narrow rocky path that delved deeper into the earth, gradually curving out of her sight. She turned to look back at the bright entrance, still only a few yards away. "This is probably a bad idea." I should go back. But even as her mind formed the words, she turned to face the dark and walked on. She probably should have accepted the offer of company, but now that she was here, it felt right that she should do this on her own.
As she walked it grew colder, the ground more irregular and rocky. The more difficult going forward became, the more she felt compelled to keep moving. It was like something was calling to her. Anxiety quickened her breath and her steps as she felt the need to hurry. There was something waiting her for at the end. Something that had been waiting for her for a long time. Something important.
It was a dead end.
At some point in the past, there had been a cave in. The way was blocked. She sat to catch her breath and decide what to do. The obvious answer was to turn back. She had come in here practically on a whim, and it had come to nothing. It was dark and freezing, and who knew how long she'd been in here anyway? But she was so close... She could feel it. That something waiting for her at the end was right there. Somewhere on the other side of this rock fall was what she had come all this way to find. She couldn't stop now, not when she was almost there.
Carefully, she balanced the flashlight on a semi-flat surface so that she could see what she was doing. Starting as close to the top as she could reach, she started to shift rock. Some of the chunks of stone were too big and heavy for her to move, but she found that if she focused on removing some of the smaller pieces, the larger ones would start to roll on their own. After several minutes' toil, she had created a good-sized hole.
"I think I could fit through there," she muttered, eying the space. She grabbed the flashlight, flicked it off and stuck it back in her bag before pushing it through to the other side. Having prepared herself for complete and utter darkness, she was surprised to find that she could still see. There was faint light coming from the other side of the cave in. Cautious now, she wriggled through the hole she had made, falling ungracefully to the uneven ground on the other side.
She no longer needed the flashlight. And there was a chance that she wouldn't have to go back the way she came. The chamber she had come to was little more than a widening of the tunnel path she had been following. This must have been where the path ended, though it was blocked by thick ice. That was daylight streaming through the ice and flooding the chamber with a soft bluish light. She closed her eyes for a few moments. It felt like weeks since she'd seen sunlight and even this weak example felt wonderful on her face.
But that wasn't why she was here. There was something in the ice. She step closer and peered at the frozen wall of water, squinting to try and make out the shape suspended there. It was hard to tell, but it looked like a person. She recoiled, pulling her hand away from where it had been hovering over the icy surface. This was getting too weird. I should go back and tell someone what I've found. But a strong feeling of possession came over her. She didn't want anyone else to know about this. This was for her alone. She laughed aloud at the strangeness of her situation, the sound bouncing off the walls.
"Well," she said conversationally, "I've come all this way. Might as well see what you are." She chose a suitable rock from the many at hand and swung it hard at the ice wall. With a satisfying pop, a chunk about the size of her two fists broke off and shattered on the ground. Again and again she swung, until she was surrounded by shards and the ice face was pitted and broken. Until finally, with an almighty crack like the sound of the earth itself being ripped in two, small fractures spider-webbed and spread, connected and grew and the entire structure started to collapse.
As the ice fell away, the figure was revealed. It was a man. He had been frozen with his knees slightly bent, his face turned away, and his hands held up, as if shielding himself from a blow. As he was freed he crumpled in a heap, toppling onto the fragmented ice that had been his prison until a few moments ago. Unfiltered daylight poured in as the last of the ice fell to the ground, and she could see his face. It was a nice face, young and handsome and so very familiar...
She moved closer and noticed that the cut and design of his clothing was odd, almost old-fashioned, though not in a way that she recognized. He looked pretty good for having been a human popsicle for who knew how long. In fact, other than a slight bluish tinge to his lips, you'd never know where he'd been. But although he wasn't frostbitten or freezer burned, he still didn't look exactly alive.
On impulse, she pulled off her glove to check his neck for a pulse. After a few long moments, miraculous and unbelievable as it was, she could feel it; it was very slow and very faint, but it was definitely a pulse. And what's more, his skin was actually warm. Not as warm as it should be for a healthy person, but she could feel his heat against her icy fingers.
"You're alive!" Shock was almost overshadowed by relief. She didn't know why she should care so much about a random stranger who by all rights should be long dead, but the fact that he wasn't filled her with what—if she didn't know better—she would call joy.
She gripped his shirt, and dragged him away from the ice, thinking that it couldn't be good for him to be lying on top of it. Though if he could survive being inside it... Laying him flat on his back, she took off her coat and laid it over him. She gently shook his shoulder.
"Hey. Can you hear me? Wake up!" Nothing. The bitter taste of panic started to rise in her throat. She held her hand in the air over his face while she stared hard at his chest, looking for the slightest sign of movement. Nothing. He wasn't breathing.
"Damn, damn, damn." What do I do? What do I do? What are you supposed to do when someone has a pulse but isn't breathing? She knew this. Think...
Swiftly, with a sense of urgency—if not experience—to lend confidence to her motions, she set about saving his life. She mentally checked off the steps as she went: tilt his head back, open his mouth, check his airway. She used one hand to cover his nose, bent over him and sealed his lips with hers. In the moment she touched his surprisingly warm mouth, a bright zing of electricity shot through her, traveling from her lips and out to her fingers and toes. But it faded almost as quickly as it had come and she attributed it to adrenaline making her heart race.
She paused and lifted her head for a heartbeat. Then she covered his mouth with hers and breathed into him once more. She turned her head, placing her ear close to his mouth and focusing on his chest again, as if staring hard enough could make him breathe on his own. The seconds dragged on for years. Wait, what was that? Did he just inhale?
"Caris..." It was barely a whisper. Had her ear not been a mere inch away from his mouth and had she not been holding her own breath, she might not have heard it at all.
She turned her head to find that his eyes were open and watching her. Their faces were very close, their noses almost touching, but she didn't move away. Unconsciously, she lightly touched his face, as if to assure herself that he really was alive. He slowly reached one shaky hand up to rest on her hair. He smiled.
"I knew you'd come." Shaking slightly with the effort, he raised his head to bring his lips to hers. It was so unexpected that she didn't even think to pull away. Again, there was that electric feeling, but it was gentler this time, like warm bubbles tingling throughout her whole body. And she was kissing him back.
His head fell back and he sighed, closing his eyes, though the smile lingered in the corners of his mouth. Her heart beating loudly in her ears, she turned her head again to make sure that he was still breathing. He slept.
She sat back on her heels, breathless, her head spinning with confusion and strange feelings. Out of the many things running through her mind, one question was louder than the others. She stared down at his face. His lips weren't blue anymore.
"Who are you?"