Winter – Chapter 17 – 02

            There was snow on the ground, the paths between the rows of sheds dusted with wet, fluffy white.  A warm snow, but snow just the same.  It was still falling as we stepped out into the darkness before dawn, our breath steaming in the air as the snow hit our sweatshirts and jeans, our gloved hands and our hair, melting quickly against the warmth of our bodies.
            Thom shook his head, dusting some of the damp white from his hair as we headed for the tent that still held our cookfire and piles of extra dorm furniture.  “Snow.  Barely November, and snow every night.”
            “It’s not going to get any better,” I said as I leaned against him.  He slid an arm around my waist.  “At least not until March or April.  It’ll just get worse.  Michigan winter to the Nth degree.”
            He sighed and shook his head again.  “I was holding out some hope, you know?  That maybe the snow and everything in October was just some kind of cold snap.”
            “I’ve got news for you—it wasn’t.”  I kissed his jaw lightly as we crossed into the tent.  Rory glanced up from his spot near the fire, brows knitting.
            “What the hell are you two doing up?  Did someone forget to relieve me from the graveyard?”
            “Apparently so,” I said.  “How long has it been snowing?”
            He shrugged.  “Maybe an hour.  You lose track of time, sitting here at night.”  He stretched and stood up, smothering a yawn.  “Must be around three-thirty or four.  Someone’s usually relieving me by now, but I haven’t seen anyone.  Mind if I go to bed?”
            I shook my head as I started to fill a kettle with water.  “I don’t see a reason to make you stay up.  Do you, Thom?”
            “Sack out, Rory,” Thom said, hefting a log and adding it to the smoldering cookfire.  “Has it been quiet tonight?”
            “Like the grave,” Rory answered around a yawn.  “Haven’t seen or heard anything.  Things have been quiet since the pack of puppies showed up.”
            I winced at the terminology and shook my head.  “Don’t let them hear you call them that again.  The little one about took your head off the first time.”
            Rory shot me a cheeky, if tired, grin and wandered off toward his bed.  I just sighed and shook my head again.
            “He’s going to insult the wrong thing someday and get himself killed.”
            Thom chuckled, taking the kettle from me.  “More than likely.  Let’s hope that day is a long, long time in coming, though.  We need all the hands we can get, and his ability to bitchslap the Greys is useful.”
            I couldn’t argue that point.  Hopefully he’ll learn not to do it in a way that isn’t a hard way.  I barely stopped myself from shaking my head a third time as I got two heavy mugs from the shelves of clean dishes nearby.  Thom settled by the fire, letting me continue my preparations for two mugs of strong black tea to get us through our early morning watch.
            The vision tugged at me, something niggling in the back of my brain.  There was something familiar about both of the figures—the man more than the woman—but I couldn’t quite sort out what it was.  I don’t understand why either of them would be that familiar.  I’ve never seen either of them before in my—
            Of course.
            “That’s it,” I murmured, feeling like I should smack myself upside the head.  I saw one—or both of them—in a vision at some point.  The question is, is it a vision I can remember, or is one I’ve forgotten?
            “What’s it?”  Thom asked as I turned and came back to the fire and settled in next to him.
            “The dream,” I said.  “The two people I saw.  They were familiar, but I know that I’ve never actually met them.  Then I figured it out.”
            Thom studied me for a long moment, then said, “You’ve seen them.  You’ve seen them before—in a dream, in something.”
            “Exactly,” I said.  I stared off beyond the fire, into the darkness of the night.
            “A seer, or a shaman?”
            I jumped two feet in the air at the sound of the barely-familiar voice, my heart starting to race at twice normal speed.  Thom jerked around and cursed, glaring at the shadows.
            “Goddamn it, Daniel.”
            The shifter melted out of the shadows behind us, looking only vaguely abashed for having startled us.  “Sorry.  I thought you’d heard me coming.”
            “For a werewolf, you move like a cat,” Thom said, waving for him to join us by the fire.  I got up to get another mug.
            Daniel winced slightly.  “Well, a hunter’s only as good as his ability to remain undetected, isn’t he?”  He seated himself near the fire, his back to the interior of the tent.  “Sorry to have startled you both.  That wasn’t my intention.  I’m not intruding, am I?”
            “No,” I said as I returned with the third mug.  “Neither of us could sleep.  You, too?”
            “At the risk of heightening my resemblance to a cat?  No, I couldn’t.  I’m one for short bursts of sleeping.  Catnaps, if you will.”  He offered us a brief, rueful smile.  “After an hour of staring at the ceiling, I decided it would be best to at least come where it’s warmer—not that your hospitality is not heartily appreciated.”
            He and the rest of his pack were sharing two of the spare sheds near the end of one of the rows.  There were a few that were unoccupied that we’d been planning on using for supplies until the need for them arose.  The fact that we hadn’t moved supplies into them yet turned out to be an unexpected boon.
            “You’re welcome to it,” Thom said.  He hadn’t warmed much to the five shifters in the week they’d been here, but they hadn’t crossed him, either.  Only Phelan seemed to regard them with more trepidation—though I had a feeling that had something to do with them calling him Wanderer upon their arrival.
            I still wondered who Cara O’Shea was, but I hadn’t had a chance to ask.
            “My thanks,” Daniel said, resting his hands on his knees as he sat cross-legged.  “So which is it, if you don’t mind my prying?”
            “Seer,” I said.  There wasn’t harm in telling him, I’d decided.  He was Drew’s half brother, after all—another story that hadn’t quite been relayed to us.  Sometimes I wonder exactly how much I really know about all of these people around me.  Even Thom and I have secrets—less now than we used to, but still.  What other surprises are going to come out of the woodwork?  “Been seeing things for a long time and it’s gotten worse since the world ended.”
            Thom winced slightly and put his arm around my shoulders.  He kept his mouth shut.
            If he wants to keep his own ability a secret, that’s fine by me.  “Why do you ask?”
            “Curious, largely because of what I overheard.”  Daniel smiled faintly and shook his head.  “From what I understand, it’s a rare gift—the gift of true visions, of true prophecy.  They come unaided?”
            “Unaided and unrequested,” I said with a rueful smile.
            “Remarkable,” the Welshman said, smiling faintly.  “A Cassandra.”
            “Cassandra?”  Thom asked.
            I don’t like the sound of this.
            “Cassandra,” Daniel said.  “From the Illiad.  Daughter of Priam of Troy.”
            What is he implying?  “Gift of prophecy.”  I stared at Daniel.  “But no one believed her.  I’m not her.  People believe me.”
            “Then you are truly blessed,” he said quietly, inclining his head.  “Truly blessed indeed.”

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