(2018-09-02) The Spot
Maddie shows Luke a secret spot in the woods.

It is a lazy Sunday afternoon and the weather is beautiful, with the sun shining and a cool but pleasant breeze coming from up off the mountains. It's one of those days where it is way too nice to stay holed up inside - which would explain why Luke had driven down to Silver Lake Park. His ride is parked alongside the road, an eco-friendly sort that gets good mileage on long drives, and he's meandered on sneakered feet down towards a clearing by the picnic tables. He's dressed for the weather, drab olive cargo shorts and a fitted cotton t-shirt, dark sunglasses currently resting ontop of his head rather than shielding his eyes. And he's with his dog.
The black and brown furred pup is an odd mix, looking as though someone had taken a Rottweiler and squished him until he was short and stout, with a too-long body and an even longer tail. Luke's got a tennis ball that he's tossing into the grass, the dog bounding on giant paws to find retrieve it and bring it back.

Maddie's hair is up in a loose and messy bun, her golden skin glistening in the outdoor air; she was simply made for the sun, and there's not a single bead of sweat on her. Though there is a small leaf stuck in her hair.
It's not a hiking outfit she wears — but it's also not NOT a hiking outfit. An army green tank top with spaghetti straps, ripped blue skinny jeans, and a pair of black boots with flat and rugged soles adorn her body, and she has a big backpack hanging off her shoulders. She's shuffling down a hill in that speedy way gravity forces one to do sometimes, feet scurrying as they disperse dirt and rock, going fast until she's on flat enough ground to stop the momentum. She skids to a halt near the grass, just a few feet away from the squashed Rottweiler mutt that's retrieving that ball — though it's taken more of an interest in her, instead. The pup sniffs at her boots, but there's something in her backpack that's apparently much better, and he jumps and barks at it for a second before nudging his wet nose into Maddie's leg. "Ohhh, hey. Friendly dog." She blinks, perhaps a little uncomfortable. She hasn't noticed Luke yet.

It was the bark that got Luke's attention, the man squinting in the shine of the sun to catch his pup off in the distance, harassing somebody. "Ahh, come on, Sarge! Leave that lady alone!" he hollers out, his deep voice booming across the grass, before he puffs out his cheeks and exhales in quick succession and begins to jog in that direction. Sarge was a friendly enough dog, young and curious, his tag wagging furiously as he sticks his cold, wet nose in Maddie's leg and snuffs. Luke slows in his step once he comes up upon them, recognition dawning in bright blue eyes when he spies Maddie there. The grin he flashes to her is lopsided and apologetic, the dimple deepening in his right cheek.
"Well if it's not Sheriff Short-Shorts," he chuckles, before pursing his lips to whistle sharply towards the dog, who looks as though he's gotten his paws caught in a cookie jar. There's a tip of his head, one of his pointed ears flopping, before he pads obediently back over to Luke. "Sorry about that, he just tries to be too friendly. Isn't that right, Sarge?" he feigns a glare down to the dog before stooping to scritch the pup behind the ears, though his attention remains almost wholly on Maddie. His brows raise, his question curious, "Out hiking?"

It's been a week, give or take a day or two, since Maddie served Luke at the Last Chance. So, it takes a second for everything to register for her. She gives him an appraising squint, and then her eyebrows nudge up with realization at the 'cute' nickname. "Right, hey," she says, giving an apologetic smile for her momentary confusion. "It's Sheriff Skinny Jeans today, but I'm off duty." She glances down at the dog with a wry look, and gives him a ruffling pet on the top of his head, as if to satiate the pup's need for attention. Which it apparently does, as he lopes back on over to Luke after. She hooks her thumb under one of the straps of her backpack, adjusting how it sits over her shoulder.
"Sarge, huh? Like a Sergeant?" She joins the dog on its walk back to its owner, a casual smile upon her face. She squints up into the sunny sky for a moment. "Out hiking," she confirms. "I like the, uh… backwoods trails." That's to justify why she just emerged from the wilderness like some particularly tall and leggy squirrel. Her jeans are ripped for fashion, sure, but a few cuts look brand new, and there's a bit of grass stain on the knees.

If he notices her momentary lack of recognition, he doesn't comment on it or look offended by it. Instead, he just grins at her. "We'll just go with Maddie then, yeah? Since you're off duty, no sense in the official titles," he chuckles, straightening up once he's given the dog an appropriate amount of scritches. Sarge plops down on the grass, tail still wagging, but he does not go back over to bother Maddie again. Luke nudges the ball in the grass over to the dog with a sneakered foot, who starts to gnaw on it attentively.
"Like Sergeant, yeah. When he was a puppy, he was all paws and tail, and would stand up on his back legs like he was saluting, so the name stuck," Luke tells her with a deep laugh, his grin wide. "Now he's just an asshole most of the time, so the name still fits him," he wags his brows in a comical manner, his focus briefly trailing down her form when she mentions the backwoods trails. It's nothing more than a cursory glance, taking in the slashes and stains on her jeans, before his eyes settle back on her face. "The backwood trails, huh?" there may be a note of suspicion in his voice, but he doesn't pry. "You go hiking by yourself a lot up here?"

Maddie scrunches her nose at something, perhaps noticing that subtle undertone of suspicion. She definitely doesn't comment on it, though, and moves past it just as fast as Luke does. "Si," Maddie replies, voice easy 'n' breezy as she watches the dog gnaw on that poor tennis ball. "I like the quiet." She shifts her backpack, tugging at the straps to pull its weight up her back a little. "Should be careful out here with him, Sergeant or no." She clicks her tongue against the roof her mouth and gestures back towards the hills with a vague nudge of her head. "Coyotes," she says, inflecting the word with her subdued and but perceptible Spanish accent — she's a local, born and raised, but she has some Mexican twang from her parents. "Bold ones, too. Sniff around by the trailer park sometimes… Ate my cat a few years ago." A pause, and a slightly lopsided smile. "She was a bitch of a cat, though. Probably started it."

There's a flick of his glance too follow the nudge of her head over towards the mountains, eyes narrowing to squint out towards the distance before he bobs his head in a slow nod. "He doesn't go far without me, but yeah. They tend to get bolder when their food sources get thinner." There is a small frown when she mentions her cat, even if her latter comment earns her a snort of laughter. "Well I'm sorry regardless. Bitch of a cat or not. Hopefully she put up a good fight?" he lifts his brows, then glances down to the dog at his feet. "Sarge is too big of a wuss to go too far without me. And you don't see too many coyotes downtown. Up where my mom lives, though, there's a lot and you can't chase them off easy," he shrugs. "You live up at the trailer park?" There's no criticism, just honest curiousity.

Maddie's shoulders bounce up into a shrug, causing the heavy backpack to sway. "Probably, si," she says back to the question about her cat's combative skill. "It was a massacre. There's a community of strays at Ash Park. Whole sandbox full of local gatos. It was, ah, a feeding frenzy." She crinkles her nose at the memory. "Blood and fur everywhere. Was in the papers." Still, she doesn't seem too concerned. Things like that don't bother her much apparently. She's smiling again, and she glances down to Sarge when Luke does. "Yea, all my life. Got my own trailer now, though, thank Jesus." A pause before she asks: "Do you smoke?"

Luke screws up his nose, making a small face at her talk of the Gato Massacre of a Few Years Ago (trademark pending). "I think my mom told me about that, now that I'm thinking of it," he comments, casting a look back down at his dog, as though he was making sure the pup was still there. "She's had her fair share of coyote problems up where she lives though. They like to eat the chickens," he shrugs his shoulders. "My dad used to shoot them, but he's been gone for a long time." There's a hint of somber softness to his look, but it's gone in another instant, as he looks back up to her, flashing her a dimpled grin in response to her question. "Smoke what?" he chuckles his response, before he waves a hand dismissively. "The answer is yes to either."

Maddie's sympathetic when that soft somberness crosses Luke's face, and there's certainly understanding in her eyes. She doesn't say anything about it, though. And when Luke confirms he smokes, she's smiling and turning towards the lake. "Good. I like both at the same time." She's referring to cigarettes and weed, of course. "Want to see my favorite spot?" Her eyes cast over the sparkling crystalline waters of the park's large lake, and she gestures for Luke to follow with a curl of a finger. "I've been on my feet for hours; hiking /and/ a shift at Johnny's."

"Yeah?" Luke's eyebrows spike at her prefence, but he's already starting forward at the curl of her finger. "I generally like cigarettes with beer, but I'm not opposed to your suggestion. But sure, lead the way!" he chuckles, looking over his shoulder to make sure that Sarge has gotten up to follow. He has, the tennis ball held between his teeth, padding dutifully just a step or two behind the pair. Luke ambles up to walk along beside her, glancing aside to keep her in his sights while keeping at least some of his attention on the path ahead of them. "When're your days off?"

"It's not as popular with Americans… But it's not that uncommon. You'll like it," Maddie says, blinking a bit at the reaction from the vet. "You're coming too, Sarge," she chirps down to the dog, patting the side of her thigh to invite him along. She walks beside Luke as the two move through the untouched overgrowth of the national park, the sun beaming down from above; the cool breeze licking at their clothes. "Whenever, really, it's not that scheduled. I work weekdays, mostly, but my shifts are always changing because I have to take care of my dad." And, perhaps, do… other things. She looks to her side, sharing a vague smile with Luke. Mysteries abound. The grass beneath their feet turns to rocks and pebbles as they get closer to the lakeshore, the scent of fresh pine ripe in the air.

"Well, I'll just have to trust that you've got good taste," Luke grins over to her, before his attention drifts about the scenary around them both. Sarge picks up a bit of speed when Maddie pats her leg, coming up to pad alongside her, wagging his tail as he goes. "You take care of your dad?" Luke asks her, canting his head back her way. "I look after my mom. Well. Mostly just take her to and from her chemo treatments right now, make sure she gets enough to eat and all that," he sighs, a hint of a frown touching his lips, but it doesn't linger. "Is your dad sick?"

"Impeccable." Luke and his dutiful pup are lead down the shore of the large lake, where the line between forest and water becomes a little too thin to travel comfortably. Maddie seems used to traversing rough terrain though, and she hops over the large rocks and uneven, dampened ground with familiarity and ease. This path, particularly, seems rather familiar to her. "As much as anyone can take care of Victor Hernandez, si. He's not sick, he's just an idiot." She says this all lovingly, somewhow. "Chemo? I'm sorry." A brief frown, and an earnest glance of sympathy. "Papa isn't sick, no, he's… Well. He's got his own problems. Hm? His main one being himself. But… Well." She just shrugs.
Soon, when it's clear they can go no further without wading through knee-deep water, Maddie breaks off into the forest, pushing past a few broken branches that have been beaten away by — well, her and her friends, probably. "Just in here," she says, calling back to Luke over her shoulder as she ducks into the woodsy growth, low-hanging branches full of green leaves creating something almost akin to a tunnel.

Luke doesn't have the benefit of familiarity with the terrain, but he's got enough awareness and athleticism to traverse through the uneven grounds and slick rocks without falling flat on his face in an embarrasing sort of way. He keeps it slow and steady, occassionally reaching to grasp Sarge by the collar to help him over particularly large rocks, his focus on her as much as it was on where they were going. "Nah, there's no need to be sorry," he says in response to her sympathetic frown. "She's gonna pull through, I think. I've got a good feeling about it." He flashes her a mild smile, chuckling at her explanation of her father, though there isn't a whole lot of humour to the sound. "I guess it's a good thing he's got you, huh?" he looks over to her, and mirrors her shrug with a roll of his own shoulders.
He slows as they break through into the forest, squinting at the tunnel of woodsy growth that she ducks into. "I feel like we're going into some kind of rabbit hole here, Sarge," he mutters to the dog, but if he has any second thoughts, it doesn't hold him back. He ducks his head and hunches, a little too tall for the low-hanging branches, and makes his way through the branches just behind her.

It's not much farther, and after a sharp turn in the tunnel-like opening between the thick trees and encroaching branches, one can see 'the spot'. Maddie smiles. "I'm sure she will. Children know, I think, there is a connection," she says as she emerges into the beautiful little mossy clearing. The canopy of trees makes it almost feel like they're inside, and the sun filters through the leaves giving the whole area a faint greenish hue. Rocks and logs have been shoved around and set up into something of a sitting circle, and an old burnt out campfire crumbles in the center. Through the patterns of criss-crossing branches the lake can still be seen, sparkling and pristine. Maddie's 'favorite spot' is beautiful… Save for the litter. It's not a lot, but a few old glass bottles of Corona are scattered around, labels peeling and sunfaded on dusty glass touched by grassy mold. In a way, it almost blends in. There's an ashtray on an oddly shaped rock that has a little groove on the top — perfect for a butt. And that's exactly where Maddie places hers, sitting down and hoisting her backpack around into her lap. "I've been coming here since middle school," she tells Luke, hands rummaging around in her now unzipped pack. The faint, herbal scent of weed emerges into the air. "Still, no one but the local kids know about it. Handed down from generation to generation. I feel like I'll forget it exists once I turn 30. Like Peter Pan and Neverland or something…"

Luke doesn't have much of a response to her - he just grunts a little in agreement or acknowledgment of her words, keeping his thoughts to himself as he ambles through the lowhanging branches until the 'tunnel' gives way to the clearing. He slows in his step just outside of the opening, glancing back behind him from whence they came and then slowly letting his blue eyes drift through the hidden spot, the corners of his lips twitching with a small smile. "Nice," he decides, clicking his tongue on the roof of his mouth and giving his side a little pat to get Sarge's attention, the man and his dog ambling over to the place where Maddie perches. He flops onto the ground just beside her rock, stretching out comfortably. Sarge finds a place beisde him, setting his muzzle on Luke's thigh.
"Yanno, I've lived here all my life, and would've never known this place existed," he chuckles, canting his head to look up at her as he rests his hand on Sarge's head, "I must've hung out with the wrong crowd." And then there's a lopsided grin, his laughter growing deeper at her talk of Neverland. "Well, I can promise you that turning thirty doesn't take the magic out of things," he winks at her, "Though your knees might start yelling at you at the effort it takes to get here."

"This is precisely where the 'wrong crowd' hangs out," Maddie says with an amused twinkle of her eyes. "… Oh, and, yeah. Don't come here without me." She frowns a little. That's more of a warning, for Luke's sake. "Ah-hah," she says then, finally finding what she was looking for in her bag: A ziplock containing a medicine bottle of weed and a pouch of rolling tobacco. She sets her backpack down on the ground, where it flops against the side of her stony perch. "I hope not," she says, pulling a paper out from the tobacco pouch and nestling it inbetween her thighs before going for the weed bottle. "Oh, I'm really not looking forward to the aches and pains. That doesn't start at thirty, does it?" She blows a puff of air from her lips, and then begins to sprinkle a mixture of tobacco and ground weed into the canoe'd rolling paper. "How old are you, anyway?" She doesn't look up when she speaks, eyes preoccupied with the task at hand.

"Uh, yeah. I don't even think I could /find/ this place without you," Luke acknowledges her warning with a laugh, tipping his head to watch her fumble around in her backpack before she locates the baggy. At her question, he feigns solemn seriousness, looking at her with wide eyes and a flat expression. "Oh, yes. The instant you turn thirty, everything starts to hurt. Your knees, your back! It's like someone flips a switch and.." but he can't hold the straight expresion very long, and soon he's laughing again, flashing her a dimpled grin as he watches her work with the tobacco and weed with a curious sort of interest. "It's not that bad, honest. I remember thinking that I was going to up and fucking die when I turned thirty, but here I am. Still alive. Mostly," he smirks, and then squints at her question. "Uh, I'm going to go with maybe too old to be sneaking into the 'wrong crowd's' hangout to smoke weed with a bartender I only just met a week ago?" he laughs, shaking his head. "But thirty-two. And you?" His eyes raise to her face as though he were assessing her, "I'm betting somewhere in your mid twenties."

Luke's first joke — about the instant horrors of thirty — only gets a roll of her eyes. It's what comes next that has Maddie giggling. "Bad decisions don't come with an expiration date, I guess. You're back in your hometown, might as well pretend you're a teenager again." Her lips curl up at the amusing truth of his self-effacing statement, rolling paper lifting to steal some wetness from her tongue. "… Not that hanging out with me is a bad decision." A purposefully held pause of tension. "Or maybe it is." She folds the paper in on itself, and twists it tight, starting at the crutch and working her way up. "The opposite," she says. "Twenty-three." FLK - KSSSH. She lights the spliff with a bic from the sidepocket of her bag, and puffs on it, smoke rising. "Smoke it like a cigarette," she tells him, passing it along, "Just chill with it. No puff puff pass or anything, that's not how it works with spliffs."

Her giggles seem to be contagious, because he starts chuckling again with her, his eyes bright with shared humour. "I guess you're right. And it could've been a far worse decision, yeah? Sharing a joint out by the lake is like, the most tame this could've gotten," the smirk twitching at the corner of his mouth blossoms into a full grin as he stretches out, shifting to have his back more supported by the rock, keeping his head tilted so that she was in his sights. At her mention of being a bad decision, his brows slowly raise towards his hairline. "I guess only time will tell on that one," he remarks cooly, that grin of his staying wide. "And I was close," he says of her age, reaching up when the spliff is offered to hold it between his fingers, nodding at her instruction. "Twenty three's a good age. I spent my twenty-third birthday in basic," he remarks, considering the spliff with a thoughtful look, before he shrugs and lifts it to his lips, taking in a slow and steady inhale. The smoke is held for a tick or two, the spliff plucked from his lips and held back up to her as he exhales the stream of smoke.

"Huh?" Luke's brows spike up when she asks if he wants something stronger, his laughter sounding a little choked. He coughs into his hand, giving his head a shake. "Oh, nope. It was a joke. A really bad one at that," he admits in a self-critical fashion, but he grins up to her as she reclines. "I'm good with the weed. I really shouldn't even do that, what with the random piss tests and all, but.. you gotta live, right? And I don't do it right before duty weekends," He grunts as he stretches back against the rock, a glance down to Sarge, but if he notes the dog's tension? He responds to it only by scritching the pup behind the ears and around the neck. Her joke is met with a light laugh, and he rolls his eyes back up to her. "Nah. I got this guy when I got back from Afghanistan," he shrugs.

"I s'pose I'm being a bit of a bad influence, no?" Maddie scrunches her nose; though her lips still curl into a smile beneath it. She's not overly concerned about it — in fact, she's not concerned at all. She shifts the jazzed-up cigarette into the opposite corner of her mouth, taking a few more long, smoky draws before passing it back pinched between thumb and forefinger. There's a faint rustling in the bushes, but Maddie doesn't seem to notice it. "Dios mio," is her honest and immediate reaction to Luke's reveal. "You were in Afghanistan?" She scrunches her nose. "I am not the, ah… Biggest fan of the American military. But. That must have been rough. For how long?" A pause, and then a question of helpless curiosity: "Have you ever killed anyone?" The question is oddly calm. Maybe it's the weed. Maybe it's Maddie.

"Yes. This is totally, completely, one hundred percent your fault," Luke replies to her, absolutely deadpan, his blue eyes wide as he stares up at her. He even manages the serious expression for more than half a second, though not -much- longer, before he's breaking out into heavy laughter again. It's a sound that dies away at her reaction, his shoulders rolling against the rock as he shifts, no attention given to the rustling in the bushes. He doesn't seem bothered by the line of questioning? But there's some tension in his shoulders that doesn't seem to go awawy when the spliff is passed back to him. "A year," answers her question about the time, the spliff raised to his lips for a long draw, managing to not cough the smoke back out at her spookily calm second question. But he does stare, the spliff held at the corner of his mouth. "Nah," he finally says, pulling the spliff out of his mouth after another sucking inhale, the smoke billowing back out from his lips. He looks away from her, casting his gaze out towards the woods. "I was there as a vet for the military dogs. I'm pretty sure -they- killed people," he shakes his head, taking another slow drag from the spliff, before it's returned to her.

"I'd apologize, but," Maddie just finishes that sentence with a brisk shrug and a flicker of a smile. She lazes against the 'armrest' of the smooth, worndown rock, perched there like the Queen of The Spot. A warmer breeze passes through the clearing, indicating th shift from morning to afternoon. The sun is a bit higher, and there's a few more boats out on the lake, now. And then there's that rustling again. Louder. Closer. A soft, closed muzzle growl from Sarge. Maddie glances in the direction of the sound, but she's too high to care about it. Probably a rabbit, anyway. She yawns into her hand and greedily taking the spliff back into her hand. "Combat medic," she says as smoke spills from her lips. "But for. Dogs." She can't help but laugh a little. "So, you're a vet through and through, huh? You must like animals a lot…" She considers that statement for a bit. "I suppose I like them more than people, most of the time." Eyes. Yellow, gleaming eyes in the darkness of the shrouded and untouched overgrowth of this hidden part of the mountainous park. They're behind Maddie, so she can't see them — but Sarge and Luke sure can.

"Why?" The question is asked at her suggestion that she'd apologize, blinking up at her with a light grin. It's an expression that fades at the rustling leaves, but more so at the growl rumbling through the dog at his side. Luke lifts his brows, looking down at the dog for a moment, tryign to soothe him with a few firmer strokes down the dog's back. "It's okay, bud. Probably just a rabbit," he murmurs, before his attention shifts back up to Maddie, her remark earning her a broader smile. "Yeah. Something like that. I guess it's kind of in my blood? Dad was was a rancher, I've been around animals my whole life," he shrugs, bobbing his head in a slow nod at her statement. "I like people well enough, but, animals are a lot easier to understand.." he trails though when his focus readjusts, thrown over Maddie to the yellow eyes in the overgrowth of the trees. Sarge's growls were growing a touch more aggressive - and the yellow eyes makes Luke stiffen at against the rock at his backside.
"Uh, Maddie.." he starts to lean forward towards her, reaching out to put a hand on her leg, just above the knee. The touch is firm, but in a protective sort of way rather than a sudden come-on. He keeps his eyes over her, cautiously locked on the eyes to her back, as he leans in slowly towards her. "No sudden movement or anything, ok?" his voice is lower, "But there's something behind you. In the woods. Animal, I think."

"… The fuck, ese?" Maddie asks in a lazy, stoned voice, her words laced with a little shocked amusement at the touch on her leg and the whispered 'Uh, Maddie,' — she's miscontrusing it as a sudden come-on, whether it is or not. She's high. She also isn't mad about it. "You don't wanna get like that with me, I'm— Uh. What?" No sudden movements? Now she's confused. What a weird way to flirt. And then, that growl. Not from Sarge. No. From the coyote. The large, hairy, scarred and very clearly hungry coyote that's emerging slowly from the outskirts of the little stoner's hideaway. In an instant, Maddie is sober. She stiffens, head slowwwwlly turning toward her shoulder to catch a glimpse of the beast in her periphery. "Shit," she mutters. She glances down at her bag as if there were something in it that could help. She leans toward it, hand gradually lowering to grab for it while making as little noise as possible.
But it doesn't seem interested in her. No. It's staring at Sarge, and /salivating/. Another rustling nearby. Maybe that one's a rabbit. Maybe it's another coyote. Maddie prays for the former.

They would probably laugh about this later. But right now, in this instant? Whatever affect the weed had had on Luke was completely eliminated and he glanced back to Maddie like she'd gone crazy. "Get with you? Wha - huh? Shh!" he puts his fingers to his lips to indicate, and then points those fingers over her shoulder towards the woods, just as the coyote emerges from the hideaway. "Shiiiit," her mutter is repeated by him, the leaves and rocks crunching underneath his feet as he shifts his position. Sarge was up on his haunches now, but the dog was no match for the coyote, and Luke knew it.
"Grab Sarge, he's not that heavy," he instructs Maddie, a hand reaching out for the tennis ball that Sarge had been gnawing on previously. It was gross and wet, but he gripped it between his fingers, knuckles turning white from the firm hold. "And get the fuck behind me. I think I can scare it off." He's already lifting to his feet, with every intention of whipping the ball in the coyote's direction, with the intention of chasing it off rather than injuring the animal.

<FS3> Maddie rolls Firearms: Good Success. (5 6 7 5 7 1 3 3)

"Think?" Maddie hisses back under her breath. Then. Another set of eyes. That was no rabbit. A smaller coyote stalks out from the bushes behind Luke and Sarge. The trio are surrounded. "Nnn— Two. Fuck." She leans to the side a little more, finally able to wrap a finger around the top loop on her backpack. She slowly lifts it up into her grip, and dips a hand inside. She moves slow, quiet. "I'm not risking that, I've been bit by a coyote before, mi amigo, it is not fun," she whispers, "Sorry in advance." A second later and she's holding a revovler. Silver and shiny and utterly deadly looking. She holds it in her hands with some familiary, and she clicks back the safety, and points it at a nearby tree. BANG. Bark scatters, birds squawk and disperse from the branches, and the shot echoes through the park. She flinches from the sound — and the coyotes go running. A long, long pause as she just stands there in the aftermath of the event.

"… We should probably get out of here," she murmurs.

"Just get behind me, if we make enough noise.." Luke hisses back to her - there's no fear in his voice, or in his expression, but there's obvious concern .. and not just for the dog, which seems to be the desire of the coyote that he can see. But the crunch of leaves behind him swings his attention over his shoulder, and his jaw tenses. He's on his feet, stretching to his full height, about to grab Maddie's arm and pull her into a more safe position when he sees the glint of silver revolver. There's a split second where he's not really sure what he's seeing, blinking a few times, but before the thought registers in his head, the BANG! echos throuh the trees. He instinctively grasps her by the shoulder, as though she hadn't been the one shooting the gun, his entire body tensing, and then his hand slumps off her shoulder as he jerks himself back. If she look at him, in that moment immediately after the gunshot? His eyes look glazed over, and it's definitely not from the weed.
But then there's a sharp inhale through his teeth, and Luke pushes himself into movement, scooping Sarge up from the grass. The pup was shaking. "Fuck. Yeah," there's a hard swallow, but he's already stiffly turning back towards the overgrowth they came from.

"Small town," Maddie says in a low voice, her eyes peering through the sparse holes in the trees to look out at the park outside their little hideaway. "Response time is pretty… Responsive. Pretty long drive from the station though. Mn. Yeah." She makes a 'pop' sound from her lips and jumps down from the rock, gun held for a moment longer until the barrel cools off. She flicks up the safety, and stuffs it deep within her backpack, which she zips shut. A pause. She glances to Luke's face then, as if to gauge his expression. Hers is a little self-conscious, a little vulnerable. Afraid of his judgement, maybe. "It's my dad's," she says, in quiet defense. "Come on." She nudges him on the shoulder and ducks back down into the Alice in Wonderland tunnel back out into the real world. And she doesn't stop until she's at the parking lot.

"Uh huh," comes Luke's response, but in the moment? He doesn't seem /all there/. His attention is all over the place, eyes flickering with steady intensity from one end of their little secret hideaway to the other. Maybe he's just hopped up on the adreneline from the moment mixed with the haze of the weed he's smoked, but there doesn't seem to be any judgment for her concealment - and subsequent reveal and use of - the revolver in her backpack. Just anxious to get the hell out of dodge. So when she ducks through the tunnel? He does too, keeping on her heels with Sarge kept to his chest, keeping his head low to avoid bashing it into any branches. There's nothing but silence the rest of the way back to the main part of the park.
But somewhere between the tunnel and the parking lot, whatever had gotten into Luke got out of him. By the time they were within sight of his car, the tension had relaxed from his shoulder, and he clears his throat. "Uh," he sets the dog down once they've come to a stop, Sarge keeping close to his feet, and runs his fingers through his hair, taking in a deeper breath and sighing it back out. "Thanks. That was .. pretty quick thinking, actually." He looks about them, before his attention finally lands back on her, and he scrunches up his nose. "But next time we get high? I've got a patio at my place."

She walks fast, one leg falling before the other in long, confident strides. The pace is quick, but not quick enough to be suspicious. It's a getaway walk; tested and perfected. Fast enough to get the fuck outta there as quickly as possible, but not too fast as to draw attention from the (understandably) shocked boaters and picnickers scurrying around the park like chickens with their heads cut off. She gives a brief, peripheral glance towards Luke and whatever's going on with him, but she doesn't have time to focus on it right now.
The parking lot is a welcoming sight, and tension droops from her shoulders. "Huh, this is your car?" she asks, a huge sigh of relief coming from her lips as she leans up against the ratty, rusted early-90's sedan parked beside it. They parked next to eachother. What a coincidence. "Thanks?" she repeats, surprised by it. She squints at him for a moment, but then just shrugs and smiles: "You're welcome," she says. The last comment elicits a puff of a laugh from her, and she shakes her head. "That sounds better, anyway…"

"That one's yours?" Luke tips a chin towards the rusted sedan, easing back into his far more familiar self as he forces out a slow chuckle. "Kismet, I guess," he mutters, pawing at his pockets to find his keys so that he can unlock the car beside her own. Sarge jumps in the second he opens the backseat, probably grateful for the protection that the car brings, and Luke nudges the door closed with his hip. He breathes out a sigh, slumping against the car for a moment, his nose scrunching as he looks back at her. "Yeah. Thanks," he repeats, as though he wanted to make the gratitude clear. And then he's shaking his head, turning towards his car to open up the driver's side door. "Until next time then," he flashes her a faint smile, "See you around, Maddie."

"… See ya," Maddie says, a quiet consideration given to the man before she's sliding into her own ride, the engine sputtering to life with a roaring puff of blackened exhaust.
The two depart, driving down the winding road back towards town, and on the way? They pass a speeding cop car; sirens blazing.

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