Winter – Chapter 17 – 01

            The pair lay together inside a tent, the first rays of dawn lighting its pale walls.  The man held the woman protectively, not sleeping.  She pretended to sleep, her dark hair tickling his cheek.  They held their silence until the sun crept a little higher.  He shifted his weight.  She winced, catching her lip between her teeth.
            “We can’t stay here much longer,” she said quietly, turning her head to look at him.
            He gave her a squeeze and then eased away from her, starting to sit up.  He groped for a discarded shirt.  “We’re only staying until I think you’re fit to try and ride, Neve.”
            “We can’t be stuck here when the snow starts.”
            “We won’t be.”  He tugged the shirt down over his bare torso.  His shoulder and arm were marked by nasty, fresh scars from something, but they seemed to bother him little.
            “Cameron.”  The woman—barely more than a girl—pushed herself up on an elbow.  “The snow is coming soonWe don’t have much time.  I will find a way to sit in the saddle, but we can’t stay here more than another day or two.  We have to keep moving.”
            He stared at her for a long moment, brows knitting.  “How do you know?”
            “Because I can feel the pressure changing in every part of me that’s broken.  The snows are coming.  We have to keep moving if we want to make it to some kind of settlement.  If it’s just you and I out here against the—”
            “Okay.  Okay, stop, I get it.”  He leaned in and kissed her gently, rested his forehead against hers.  “Just one more day, though, okay?  Let’s get one more good meal into us before we ride off into the unknown.  We’ll both need every ounce of strength a meal like that can give us, I think.”
            She kissed his cheek and stroked his jaw, nodding slightly.  “All right,” she whispered.
            A keening shriek split the air.  The man jerked.  The woman gasped.

            I pitched upright, sucking in breath as if I’d been drowning.  Thom fumbled for my arm in the darkness.
            “Marin?”  His voice was thick with sleep but equally weighted by concern.  “What’s wrong?”
            “A dream,” I whispered.  “It was just a dream.”  Just a dream.  It must have been.  I squeezed my eyes shut and saw the sudden terror etched on the woman’s face.  No.  Not just a dream.  A vision.  It was the first one in weeks.  I took another few deep, ragged breaths and forced myself to relax.
            Thom’s arms closed around me and he pressed a kiss to the nape of my neck.  “Are you okay?”
            “I don’t know,” I said quietly, shivering a little as I pressed back against him.  “I just saw something and I’m not sure if it was a vision or a dream.”
            He went rigid for a bare moment, then shuddered.  “Sorry,” he said.
            “It’s okay.”  I kissed his cheek gently and got out of bed, shivering again as the cold air kissed my body.  The radiant heat was working—the floor was certainly warm—but the lack of insulation thus far was showing.
            Thom had promised that they were working on that, but making sure the walls were as strong and secure as possible had taken precedence.  Every time a new threat reared its head, our defenses always seemed lacking.  I was beginning to wonder if we’d ever feel safe.
            “It’s still early, isn’t it?”  Thom stretched out on his side, hauling the blankets back up as I lit the lamp and started to get dressed.
            “Probably,” I said as I swapped my nightshirt for a tee and a sweatshirt.  “But after that, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be able to get back to sleep, so I might as well get up and go help get breakfast started.”
            Thom grunted and got out of bed.  “Guess I’ll check the walls, then, if you’re getting up.”  Our breath steamed in the chilly morning air, even inside, even with the heat rising from beneath our feet.  It never seemed to make it much further up than our waists.  As we each pulled on a pair of jeans, his gaze met mine.
            “What did you see, Mar?”
            I took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly.  “Two people in a tent, talking about how they couldn’t stay where they were, how they had to keep moving.  Snow was coming and they couldn’t afford to be stuck out in the open when that happened.”  I closed my eyes for a moment and shrugged.  “Sound logic.  It might have been a dream.”
            “What made you wake up the way you did, though?  You jerked up like someone had stabbed you something sharp.”
            “Something screamed,” I said, shaking my head.  “I woke up.  I didn’t see what it was.  I’m not even sure it was real.”
            He stared at me, expression serous and hard.  He shook his head slowly.  “Don’t lie to yourself, Mar,” he said, his tone soft, gentle.  “We both know it wasn’t just a dream.  It was something real.”
            “Something real I can’t do anything about.”
            He inclined his head.  “True.  But it was still something real.”  He pulled on his shirt and came to me, sliding his arms around my waist and drawing me tight against him.  “We should start writing them down.”
            “Writing what down?  What we see?”  My stomach twisted.  Why?
            Thom nodded slightly, resting his forehead against mine.  “Never know when someone else might need a record of all we’ve seen.”
            That makes sense.  But I don’t want to write down some of what I see.  “I don’t want to write all of it down,” I whispered.  Writing it down would make the nightmares real.
            “Neither do I,” he said.  “But that’s why we have to do it.”
            What brought this on?  I swallowed hard.  “Why all of a sudden…?”
            “Why do you think?”
            “Did Phelan say something?”  I asked.
            Thom shook his head.  “No.  I saw something, too, last night.  I think it’s time we stopped all the secrets and start being honest with ourselves and everyone else about what we see when the visions come.”
            “Are you sure it’s a good idea?”
            A wry smile touched his lips.  “No.  But I think it’s a necessary idea.”  He kissed my forehead again before letting go.  “Think about it, at least, before you tell me it’s a terrible idea.”
            I watched him as he sat down on the edge of the bed to pull on his socks and shoes.  “Okay.”
            “Okay you’ll think about it?”
            I nodded.  “I’ll think about it.”  I don’t like it, but I’ll think about it.  He could be right.
            But what the hell did he see that made him think that it was something we had to do?

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