Winter – Chapter 40 – 05

“What do you mean?”  Neve asked, brows knitting, hooding bright blue eyes.  “How do you—did you—?”

“See something?”  Marin gave her a weak, wry smile.  “Both Thom and I have and I suspect that your cousin knows exactly what we’ve both seen.  I think there’s a reason he’s staying here instead of moving on and it’s not because your broher asked him to.”

“Fucking Taliesin,” Neve muttered, then shivered.  Don’t be so hard on him.  It’s a heavy burden, right?  He’s shouldering it alone—more alone than Seamus or any of his predecessors ever did.  She sighed.  “So you and Thom aren’t staying?”

“We’ll be here for a long time,” Marin said quietly.  “I’m just not sure how long.  Not forever.”

Limping along next to her, Neve frowned and shook her head slightly.  “I’m sorry, Marin.”

“Don’t be sorry,” Marin said.  “Think about who else you want to teach to do this besides me—or if you’ll be here for a long time, who you’ll teach after you teach me.”  Marin glanced at her sidelong.  “I’d suggest Angie, eventually—when she’s older.”

“She’s the little one, right?”

Marin nodded.  “A druid born, if you listen to your cousin.  I don’t think he’s wrong, either.”

If he says that, I doubt he’s wrong.

She could hear the laughter of a dozen others as they drew closer to the cookfire, their voices carrying down the corridor.  Despite everything they’d been through, the others were merry.  Maybe Phelan was right.  Maybe reminding them that we’re all still alive is exactly what everyone needed.  She could hear Cameron’s voice among them—he was telling some story from when they were on the road.  Neve smiled faintly.  Marin squeezed her shoulder gently.

“I hope you’ll stay a while, Neve,” she said quietly.  “You and Cameron…you’re already part of us.  You could be safe here.”

Could we?  I don’t know.  Neve nodded slowly.  “It’s something that we’ll have to think about—talk about.”  It’d be hard to travel with a child, but we could do it if we had to.

But do we have to?  Do I have to?  It would be hard to let Cameron take to the road and leave her behind.  But you knew that eventually that might be what had to happen.  Especially in light of everything.

Everything.  One hand strayed to her belly and she closed her eyes for a moment.  Marin’s arm slid across her shoulders.

“It wouldn’t be that bad,” Marin said softly.  “He’d never be gone for that long, right?”

It was as if the younger woman could read her thoughts.  Neve laughed weakly.   I wonder if it’s written all over my face.  “I hope not,” she said softly, eyes sliding shut for a moment.

Then she straightened her spine and smiled again, eyes blinking open.  “But that’s a worry for another night, isn’t it??  Tonight’s the night for celebrating life and teaching you to sing the dead home on the longest night of the year.”

Marin grinned.  “Let the teaching begin.”

Together, they headed for the warmth of the fire and the laughter of family and friends.

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