"Where's... Where's Kat?" Joe whimpered, favoring his left leg and holding his stomach. It felt like he'd consumed a carpenter's entire inventory of nails, each piercing his organs with inanimate indifference for his plight.
"Gone, I guess." Casey shook her head. "When I looked up, she was gone."
"She and Parker were a'ways behind us," Casey said, glancing over her shoulder. No one was following them. "They must have gone for help."
They reached the bench and Casey lowered him to a sitting position, Joe involuntarily gasping as pins and needles stabbed him from within. She sat next to him, cradling his head with her hands, nestling as much of him as she could fit into the comfortable nook between her shoulder and chest.
"Yeah." Not a question; a monosyllabic acknowledgement that he had spoken, a simple utterance to just keep him talking - even though she wished he'd just be quiet, for she knew what was to come.
"It's gone, isn't it?"
"Yeah." Same inflection, same tone. "Yeah, Joe, it's gone. It's gone, Joe."
She held him as he began to weep, tears and snot and a shiny streak of blood collecting on his upper lip. She stroked his hair and held his hand, her eyes fixed on the winding road that stretched into the desert beyond.
"Can we," Joe began. "Can we just wait here a while? For the others?"
"Sure," Casey nodded. "We can wait here a while. The road won't get any longer."