Marin was walking toward Thom when Kellin caught her by the arm. “We need a pow-wow,” she murmured.
Marin blinked at her. “When? Now?” She glanced toward Thom.
Kellin winced. If we have it now, he’s going to wonder what the hell we’re talking about and we’ll have to include him and that wouldn’t be productive at all, now would it? If he’s denying everything, he’s not going to be of any help. Not until he knocks it the hell off.
“No,” Kellin said after a moment. “After he goes to sleep.”
The smell of smoking meat filled the air. Dr. Doyle and Tala were keeping a close eye on the smokehouse they’d rigged up, so they could preserve some of the meat looted from the grocery store before the generators gave out and the meat went bad. Hopefully, it would work. Otherwise, they’d have to start hunting deer sooner than anticipated.
Marin’s hands balled into fists and Kellin shook her head a little. “You know how he’ll react.”
“I know,” she murmured, then exhaled. “Doesn’t mean I like it. What’s wrong?”
Kellin shook her head. “We just need to talk. All of us who can feel it. You and Rory and Drew and Carolyn and I, at the very least. Plus anyone else you think we should include in that number.”
Marin shook her head slightly. “No. I think that should be all right for the start. Are you sure about Carolyn?”
“You’re the one who told me she was Awake, Mar.”
Marin took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly. “No, I know I did. I just…old habits die hard, and I still feel like we should be protecting her.”
I wish that was an option. But she needs to walk into this with her eyes wide open. We can help her with that. “She can feel it, too, Mar. The light and the dark and the balance. The lines and the boundaries. She feels it.” Kellin paused for a moment, then frowned. “We should set wards. Tonight, if we can.”
Marin blinked. “Why the sudden urgency? You’re the one who kept saying that nothing would hurt us if we didn’t bother it first.”
Kellin winced. I did say that, but that was back when we outnumbered them. Now I’m afraid that they outnumber us, and I’m pretty sure right now, they’d have the upper hand. There’s a balance to be maintained, but I don’t like being defenseless, either. “Maybe I’m worried I’m wrong.”
Marin stared at her for a long moment. “Better safe than sorry?” She murmured, glancing toward Thom again. He was roughly in the same position he’d been in the last time Kellin had seen him, a few hours before, half buried under several bolts of fleece.
“Yeah,” Kellin mumbled, crossing her arms and following Marin’s gaze. Thom was staring blankly at the fire, unmoving. Then he suddenly snapped back to himself and got back to work. Kellin frowned. Either he’s thinking really hard, or…nah. No. That’s Marin’s gift.
“He’s worried,” Marin said quietly, hugging herself. “Probably about everything.”
“Everything is a good thing to be worried about.” Kellin shook her head. “We’re all worrying about that, though some parts of that are more immediate than others.”
“Like wards?” Marin managed a weak smile.
Kellin nodded slowly. “Like wards. We’d better save the salt, though. I think we salvaged some sage plants from the grocery store. I’ll see what I can do with that.”
“Wards and cleansing,” Marin said dryly. “I like it.”
Well, to listen to you, this campus needs a little bit of both. Kellin huffed a little and shook her head, crossing her arms. “We need to save the salt. Sage and some energy will do the trick, unless I’m mistaken.” She frowned a moment. “I’ll talk to Drew.” Drew might have some ideas. I’d talk to Rory, too, but I’m not sure what he’d have to add. Maybe a few things here or there. I’ll have to see.
“You’re right, Kel. Sorry.” Marin smiled weakly. “Just a little edgy.”
“You’re still worried.”
“Of course.” Marin rubbed her eyes. “It’s bloody hard. I lay next to him at night and wonder how many more nights we’ve got together. It’s awful.”
Kellin squeezed her shoulder and didn’t say anything. The single thing that could crack her in half would be losing him. We can’t afford that—can’t afford to lose him, either. So we’ll just have to make him believe again. Carefully.
“I just hate the way it feels sometimes, Kel, that’s all,” Marin whispered, still staring at Thom. He hadn’t noticed them looking yet—or if he had, he’d decided to pretend he didn’t. “Like he’s only half with me. It’s not like it was before.”
Kellin squeezed again. “I made you a promise, Mar. It’ll be okay.”
Marin wet her lips. “I hope you’re right.”
Thom finally looked at them. He smiled at Marin and waved with the hand he held a pair of heavy sewing shears in. Marin waved back and started over toward him.
“Don’t forget, Mar.”
“I won’t, Kel. Promise.”
Kellin nodded to herself and headed over toward her cubby while she had a few minutes to breathe before hunting down something else to do. She’d find a few things for the wardings they’d need to do as soon as they could. The dim across the river made her nervous, probably more nervous than she should be, she admitted to herself, but it was, after all, better to be safe than sorry.
Sorry wasn’t something they could afford about now.
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