Winter – Chapter 21 – 03

            He couldn’t see any light, but something drew him onward—a feeling, a voice, something that set his heart to racing and his body shaking.  Shuddery breaths rushed in and out of his lungs, muscles burning like he’d run for miles to get to this point.
            “Yes, Seer,” a woman’s voice whispered.  “That’s it.  One more step…”
            The darkness pressed inward like a living thing, cocooning him in terrifying cold.  Goosebumps rose along his limbs and his hands hurt from squeezing them too tightly into fists.
            Dreaming, he thought.  I’m dreaming.  This is a nightmare.
            “That’s it.  Just another step.”
            He couldn’t bring himself to take that step the voice was urging him to take.
            What am I so afraid of?  Why does this feel so wrong?
            “Thom,” another voice said in his ear, “Thom, wake up.”
            He jerked and agony lanced through his side.  He gulped air in ragged gasps and stared at nothing but darkness.  “What–”
            Marin’s fingers twined through his.  “You fell asleep.  What are you doing out here?”
            He took two breaths and dimly tried to figure out where here was.
            “My side–”
            “You got shot, Thom.  It took Jac and Jay hours to dig it out.  They think you broke a rib again, too.”
            Just when they were getting better…  He blinked a few times, trying to get his vision to clear.  “Where are we?”
            “Matt’s forge,” Marin said quietly.  “You said there was something you needed to check up here and just got up and started walking.  I wasn’t going to let you go alone with the shape you’re in.  I grabbed our jackets and a couple blankets and followed you.”
            As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he started to make out the tears on her face.  “I don’t remember,” he said, voice choked.
            She let go of his hand and put both of hers on his cheeks, cradling his face between her palms.  “That terrifies me, Thom.  I can’t tell you how much that terrifies me.”
            Believe me, it doesn’t comfort me much, either.  He slid one arm around her shoulders and gingerly pulled her toward his chest, smothering a wince as the muscles on one side of his body protested.  That’s what you get for playing the big damn hero.  You get shot and get another rib broken.  Her arms slid around his shoulders and that was just about the best feeling in the world.
            “I’m sorry,” he whispered into her hair, throat tight.  “Guess I’ve scared you enough for a month in one day.”
            “For a month?”  Marin laughed a weak, broken laugh into his shoulder.  “More than that, but I don’t think anything’s going to change anytime soon.”  She looked up at him, chewing her lower lip hard.  “You walked out into a gathering storm without shoes, Thom.”
            A shudder wracked him and he hissed in pain, one hand going immediately to the wound in his side.  Marin sighed and shook her head, straightening slightly.
            “What am I going to do with you, Thom?” she whispered.  “How am I supposed to…to…”
            “What?”
            “To take care of you, dammit!”
            He rocked backwards momentarily, eyes widening in the darkness.  “You’re not—”
            “Oh don’t even fucking start the ‘you’re not supposed to take care of me’ bullshit.  That’s part of what us being together is all about, Thom.  We take care of each other.  We protect each other.  That’s what we do.”  She took a deep, unsteady breath.  “But I don’t know how I can do that.  I don’t even know what made you get up and walk out tonight.”
            “I don’t, either,” he said, queasiness rising in his belly.  Who the hell was that voice?  Didn’t sound like any I’ve ever heard before.  Shivers shot down his spine and he swallowed bile.  I’m not sure I want to know, but I know that I’m going to have to figure it out—especially if it’s something that might happen again.
            “What’s happening to us, Thom?” she asked softly, her fingers twining with his again.
            “I don’t know,” he said again.  “But I’m terrified of finding out.”
            Her voice was very small.  “Me too.  But we have to.”  She came up to her knees and caught his face between her hands again, resting her forehead against his.  “We have to.  I’m not going to lose you.  Not today and not ever.”
            He swallowed against a lump in his throat.  I’m not going to lose you, either.  I don’t care what the cost is.
            It could be terrifyingly high, but I’m not giving you up to anyone or anything.  No matter what.

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