Winter – Chapter 19 – 03

            The cold had nibbled its way through his gloves to every part of his hands, leaving them frigid and stiff by the time Cameron stumbled into the second of two lean-tos he’d built at their campsite—one for their horses a few feet away, the other for he and Neve, their tent, and their fire.  The snow had begun an hour before, heavy with thick, wet flakes.  The wind was starting to pick up as he ducked into shelter, gratefully, gracelessly falling onto his rear next to Neve and the fire.
            She reached up and dusted some of the snow from his hair.  “Hopefully we’ll find a town or something soon where there’s a sporting goods store we can loot.  We need more cold weather gear than what we’ve got.”
            Cameron could only nod in agreement as he tugged his gloves off an studied his hands in the fire’s glow.  Red, but not blue or white.  Just cold, then.  Not frozen.  He stretched his hands toward the fire, setting his jaw so his teeth wouldn’t begin to chatter.  Neve was already starting to unbutton his coat for him.
            Even after weeks on the road, battered and bruised as she was, she still somehow managed to look amazing to him.  He stared at her for a long moment, letting her divest him of his cold weather gear as he let his fingers thaw near the flames.  As he warmed, he became increasingly aware of the smell of rabbit roasting over the fire, which they’d managed to snare before the snow started.  Hanging from the same rod over the fire was a small pot of instant potatoes, seasoned with a little freeze-dried cheese and salt from their supplies.
            “Dinner smells amazing,” he mumbled, shucking his coat fully off and hanging it from one of the tent poles to dry.  Beyond the trees and the lean-to, the wind began to howl as the storm finally hit.
            “Thanks.  Sounds like you got under cover just in time.  Do the horses have enough room to graze?”
            “They’re tied to a bush they can nibble on.  I watered them and gave them some of the oat cakes from your saddlebags.  I’ll check on them after we eat.”  He slid his arms around her and stared at the fire.  He glanced toward one edge of the lean-to, watched the snow sheet toward the trees.
            West.  Almost due west.  He closed his eyes and buried his nose in Neve’s hair.  “It feels like it’s a long way away,” he whispered.
            “What you’re running toward?”
            He nodded against her hair and sighed.  “I think it’s running toward, anyway.  I don’t think your brother scared me that badly.”  Of course, he told me that I’ve been sucked into a war older than most of the world’s religions and that I’ve got some kind of destiny that neither of us quite understand—one I’m not sure I’m up to fulfilling, especially if it means abandoning everything I’ve begun to care about in order to pursue.
            The lean-to rattled and he sighed, opening his eyes and glancing up.  Neve’s fingers tangled in the fabric of his sleeve.
            “It’ll hold,” she said softly.  “Stay here.”
            He relaxed in fractions, forcing himself to stay put.  “How do you know?” he asked.
            “I just know,” she whispered.  “My brother’s not the only one with a strange kind of prescience.”  She took a deep breath and exhaled it shakily, shifting against him.  His arms closed around her shoulders.
            Cameron managed to laugh, though it came out slightly strangled.  Neve twisted in his arms, not quite concealing her wince, and took his face in her hands.
            “Cam,” she said.  “Cam, talk to me.  What’s the matter?”
            He shook his head and the words tumbled over each other.  “I don’t know that I can do this, Neve.  I don’t know that I can do all the things that your brother told me I was supposed to someday.  I don’t know if it’s in me, but I’ll be damned if I fail.”  He rested his forehead against hers.
            Her eyes crinkled at the corners as her brows knit together.
            Damnation, Neve, I don’t need your pity, I need your strength.  I need you with me.
            He kept talking.  “I’m not a knight-errant and I’m not a hero and that’s what he said I was, what I would be.  He said that broken world would change us all but I don’t know if it’s in me, Neve.  I’m too damned selfish.”   All I want is to find a safe place to hide with you.  Is that so terrible and wrong?  “He said the cost could be dear—could be everything.  It’s not a price I’m willing to pay.”
            “Anyone who says that they’re willing to pay anything—any price—is lying,” Neve said, her thumbs stroking his cheeks and jaw.  “No matter how selfless someone is, there’s always a cost that would be too high, one they’d say hell no to.”  She kissed his forehead.  “As for a hero and a knight-errant, I don’t think you should sell yourself short.  You wouldn’t have cared so much for a little Black Irish girl you met on the road if you didn’t have some kind of spark.”
            Cameron smiled crookedly.  “I had ulterior motives.”
            “Liar,” Neve said with a grin.  “You didn’t realize how you felt until after I saved your life.”
            “Yeah, well.”  His cheeks warmed.  “You still need to heal up so you can get me using that crowbar properly.”
            “Crowbar!  That’s a magic sword you’ve got with your gear.”
            Cameron froze.

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