Author's Note : Ryan and Rylie are just friends in this story.
"Ryan, hey!" Rylie waved her left arm extensively until she caught the jogger's attention. The light drizzle made it difficult to see clearly, and Rylie watched as Ryan slowly made out who the blonde with an umbrella was. Casually, he paced himself towards her.
"You're soaked," were Rylie's first words to him. She tilted her umbrella towards him, but their height difference proved difficult for her to balance it. After being knocked in the head a few times, Ryan took hold of the umbrella and shielded Rylie from the April shower.
"I have two more laps to go."
"You already know I'm not going to let you run in this weather." Rylie said. She could sense Ryan's mind trying to calculate his way out of her refusal, but he didn't say a word. Instead, he guided them onto the path heading towards their apartments. They walked in silence, which wasn't unusual, but Rylie knew something was on his mind.
"Zack told me what happened."
"It's not your fault, Ryan. It was only one missed shot."
"One missed shot." Ryan repeated gravely.
"Exactly. And you didn't harm anyone or anything else. It's just
he got away."
Ryan said nothing. He held her arm to coast around a puddle and led her to a detour. They walked into a gazebo that was in the middle of their apartment gardens. Rylie gave him a questioning look.
Putting down the umbrella, Ryan pointed towards one end of their compound where the gate was located half a mile away. "Can you count how many lights are at the exit gate?"
Rylie could see that a few lamps were lighted under the continuous downpour, but they appeared to flicker from their distance. "No. Can you?"
Ryan nodded. "There are eight in total, each two feet apart, and the second from left is broken." He paused. "If I'm instructed to shoot one, I can't miss or a different one breaks. Every shot makes or breaks a sniper, Ryle."
Rylie listened as she wrapped her arms around herself. She looked onto the direction. "How do you know there are eight of them?"
Ryan appeared bemused. He took her hand and pointed out towards the lamps, guiding her to discern between the light source and the refracted light. Rylie gave him an impressed look.
"There's so much room for a fatal error."
Ryan shrugged nonchalantly.
"Isn't it stressful?"
A brief smile appeared on his lips. "All I need is one moment of clarity before the trigger is pulled."
"Oh?" Rylie was intrigued. "How do you find that?"
He casted his eyes towards the rain. "I think of the things I know for certain."
Ryan raised an eyebrow and turned his head towards Rylie. Their eyes locked in a muted exchange of lingering questions, making Rylie blush. As quickly as it came, Ryan dropped the ominous glare.
"I need to go change," he spoke normally. "Let's head back."
Rylie hesitated, but knew Ryan better than to prod on such a trivial instance. Putting it aside, Rylie joined her companion after he held out the umbrella for her. She found comfort in seeing Ryan amused when she accidentally submerged one shoe into an unseen puddle, and later, when she held out her arms wide to taste drops of rain. Perhaps her lack on inhibitions towards pneumonia made up for her constant nagging.
Unbeknownst to her, behind his cryptic smile, Ryan was collecting mementos that would calm his nerves in the chaos of a minefield.