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Eight could hear the steady rhythm of Howie walking behind him as they continued to walk through the night. Neither one had spoken since Eight told him he knew where they could go; Eight just hoped that they wouldn’t run into any guards searching for them between here and their destination.

“Wait,” His companion muttered. “Need a break.”

Eight stopped and turned to face the other man, the sky was starting to get light again and they still had a good distance to travel. Eight had not seen kind of cave or any rock outcrops that the two could hide behind to sleep with less fear of being discovered. They needed to keep going but at the same time, he was glad the other man requested a break, he could use one too.

Eight hoped that Howie would be too tired to ask any questions, he wasn’t up for answering any questions. He was never up for answering questions but that, he knew, never stopped his neighbor before. Howie was the only one who tried to talk to him in prison after that time in the yard; he was the only one who would approach him. The more Eight thought about it, the stranger it was.
This other man who only said he killed someone so he wouldn’t be considered a Lady was the only one who really talked to him, tried to get to know him no matter how he acted towards him. Howie was the one that helped him escape. For the first time since he’d met his companion he actually found himself wondering what it was the other man had done to land himself in the prison, what his story was.

Eight shook his head trying to make the questions disappear. It wasn’t his business why the other man was in prison, he didn’t share why he was why should he expect another person to share that information with him.

“Where are we going?” Howie finally broke the silence.

“It’s a place with a roof,” Eight said aloud, it was a place he’d called home for several years before he turned to the crimes that lead him to where he was now.

“Well a roof is good,” Howie replied. Eight couldn’t see it but he was sure the other man was smiling at his answer.

“I should just give you the directions to get there, it isn’t much further.” Eight hoped maybe the other man would agree to split up again. It really would be safer for them both, plus Eight didn’t really want to show up at the house they were heading to; too many memories.

“Why wouldn’t you continue on? I’m sure you could use a roof,” Howie chuckled at his own comment.

“We really should split up, less chance of getting caught,” Eight’s voice was insistent though he could already see Howie shaking his head.

“No, we need to stick together.” Before Eight could ask the other man why, Howie continued. “I don’t know the place we are going, you do. We don’t know everything out in these woods but I have a feeling you would be better prepared than I if we ran into trouble. I would just feel more comfortable if we traveled together.”

“So you need me to protect you? I guess you are a Lady after all.” Eight didn’t laugh at his remark but a faint smile could be seen on his lips that Howie must have caught sight of.

“So there is a sense of humor in there somewhere,” Howie let his grin get wider not attempting to hide it like Eight was trying to do. “I’m ready to go again.”
Eight breathed a sigh of relief. The other man had been sitting there watching him for a few minutes after the “Lady” comment and it was starting to make him feel uneasy. He desperately wanted to be moving again with his back to his traveling companion again.

They had taken only a couple of steps before a rustling to their left caused both men to stop again. Eight could feel his heart beating faster in his chest as he stood still waiting. Thankfully, Howie had known to keep quiet and stop moving as well. The sounds continued to get closer to them; Eight could hear voices and the whimpering noises of a dog.

Quickly Eight ducked down hoping that the bushes he was near would help hide him. Movement in the corner of his eye alerted him that Howie had also ducked down. The other man may be a chatty busybody as far as Eight was concerned but he knew how to be calm and follow direction without speaking when needed.

The voices got closer as they sat hiding. The sky was continuing to get light and the bushes were not tall enough. Eight knew that if the dogs caught their scent and the men came in their direction they were going to get caught. Eight braced himself to do something he’d only done a few other times out of necessity; he mentally prepared himself to fight. As he predicted the dogs started wailing in their direction and Eight could hear the voices of the men excited that they finally caught a trail.

“Over here,” He could hear one man say, it wasn’t hard to see them approaching now; they were in Eight’s line of sight which meant it was only a matter of time before they could see him. Eight could see Howie starting to panic; he held his hand out flat to indicate the other man to relax. If Howie ran, he’d be caught for sure. He didn’t have time to wonder about what the other man was going to do as it was apparent they had been seen.

“There you are!” The guard shouted as he let the dog loose. Eight stood and swung his walking stick. The branch hitting the dogs head was a sickening crunch and Eight felt bad for a second that he had to kill the animal but he knew if he didn’t the animal would attach to his leg and render him immobile.

The guard approaching Eight pulled out his baton and flung it forward so it would expand. He blocked Eight’s attempt to hit him upside the head and pushed Eight backwards. The guard took his opportunity with Eight stumbling backwards and began to wail down on Eight with his baton. Eight managed to get his walking stick between the baton and him just in time to block several of the hits. His hands tingled with pain from the shock of the baton impacting with his walking stick. His arms were beginning to weaken holding the stick as he finally caught himself from falling completely backwards. He tried to push forward, tried to make an attack move but the guard was relentless with his attacks.

Eight cursed himself for getting in this position. He should have left Howie in the cave last night alone, he would have been fine alone but now he was going to be killed here or taken back to the prison, back to the mines and his ultimate death. The force the other man was throwing at him knocked him to the ground. He still held is walking stick up but it was only a matter of time before his arms gave out. With Eight on the ground the guard took this chance to use his feet on him as well. He landed a kick to Eight’s side causing him to move to try to block another attack on that side. The guard landed another hit on the walking stick, this time hitting his hand with a force that caused Eight to open his hand and drop his only weapon.

Eight looked up at the smirk on the other man’s face and braced himself for the next onslaught that would likely kill him or leave him dying. He closed his eyes waiting for the pain but nothing came. He looked up and saw the guard on the ground, Howie straddling the man, struggling with the guard in an attempt to get the baton from the guard’s hand.

Eight quickly stood and grabbed his walking stick. With a quick glance around to find the other guard still a few feet away he moved over to the guard on the ground and used the wide end of the branch that had killed the dog on the side of the guard. He didn’t give the man any chance to recover from his hit before he hit him again. Howie realizing he was somewhat in the way of the blows quickly got off the man but kept fighting for the baton. Eight used this as a chance to hit the guard with multiple blows, eventually the guard no longer struggled and Howie held tight to the baton as they both turned to face the other guard who was rushing at them. This one had a gun pulled and was taking aim.

“NO!” Howie shouted holding his hand out towards the guard. Eight stared in disbelief as Howie’s hand lit up and a white ball shot from his hand and collided with the guard knocking him easily to the ground. Eight stared in disbelief at the other man.

“What the fuck was that?” He finally managed to shout at his companion.

Howie pushed the baton closed and stuffed in the waistband of his pants. “We should go.” He said as he continued in the direction they were heading to the safe house.

“No, not until you tell me what the hell that was.” Eight stood in his spot and stared after Howie who continued to walk. He groaned and jogged to catch up to the other man. “What was that?” He asked again when he caught up.

Howie sighed, “That was the reason I was in that hell hole,” He answered finally shrugging.

“If you could do that, how could they keep you there?”
“Something in the walls of the prison kept it deep inside of me, inert. I just felt it come back.”

“And you need me to protect you?” Eight shook his head and mumbled under his breath.

“Something like that,” Howie looked at Eight with a wide grin on his face, winking when Eight caught his eye. “Now how much further until we get to this safe house?”
Chapter End Notes:
Howie and AJ have taken over, the end scene played very differently in my head but this is how it came out because of the characters.