Her breath was raspy, soft in the night as he held her cradled against his side, staring up through a canopy of trees at a thousand stars above them, more than he’d ever seen in all the years before the meteorfall killed the world they’d known. Dread coiled slowly in his belly as he stared up at those stars, despite the peacefulness of the setting—the smell of smoke from their fire, the sound of crickets in the woods surrounding them, of owls calling softly to each other in the night, and the stars above.
How far will we need to go to find what we’re looking for? He was afraid it’d be too far, that they would return too late.
These were the moments he’d been dreading for a decade and more, when the visions had finally begun to change, to give him hope where once there had been none.
He kissed her temple tenderly in the darkness and murmured into her hair, “We’ll make it home to him. However long it takes, we’ll make it home to them all in time. I promise.”
He closed his eyes and tried to let himself go to sleep as her arms tightened around him and she pressed closer against his side.
The screaming started a moment later.
“Earth to Thom?”
He jerked back to himself at the sound of Tala’s voice, blinking quickly and trying to will his heart to beat a little slower. “Christ,” he murmured, rubbing his head. “What was I saying?”
“That you need me to cook five course meals from our stores for the next five days,” Tala said dryly. “And I was telling you how idiotic that would be.”
“I don’t think five course meals are necessary,” he said. “I just think that we need to be a little more festive. We survived the biggest threat we’ve faced so far. It’s the season to celebrate.”
“Do you really think that he’s gone for good?”
He hesitated for a moment, then exhaled. “I don’t know. But I’m also not so sure he’s an enemy anymore, either. Not after what we watched happen today.” The bloody bastard fucking saved us. I’m not sure if that was so he could finish us off himself or if he’s developing some kind of insane affection for us. “We’ve still got a reason to celebrate, though. We’ve made it this far. If we’ve been able to do that, it’s only right that we celebrate the season.”
“Christmas, you mean,” Tala said, sighing softly and pivoting back toward the fire. “I don’t know, Thom.”
“It’s not like you wouldn’t have help.”
“Who’s going to help? You?”
He winced. “I could, you know. I can cook.”
Tala shook her head slightly. “It’s going to be a lot of work, Thom. Could really strain our resources.”
“Give Phelan and Thordin bows. Hell, give me one. We’ll go take a deer or two. Would that help?”
“By light-years. You going to field dress it for me, too?”
Christ, what did I just volunteer myself for? “I guess I could. It’s been a really long time.”
“I’m sure Thordin and Phelan will remember how to do it.” She looked back at him after a moment. “You were seeing something, weren’t you?”
Tala smiled faintly. “When I was trying to get your attention. You were seeing something. It’s been a while since you had, right?”
Thom grimaced. Weeks. “Yeah.”
“I wonder why they started up again now,” Tala said thoughtfully. “Think there’s a reason?”
“Don’t know,” Thom said quietly. But I’m afraid that we’re going to find out. Just like every other time, I’m afraid we’re going to find out.