[This post is from Matt’s point of view.]
“Will you come down?”
Matt watched the clouds for a few seconds more, watched as they twisted back on each other, driven by winds at higher levels. A shiver crept down his spine. “Yeah. Yeah, just let me close up. Are we bringing everyone in?”
Hecate nodded, shifting Lin slightly in her arms. “Your sister sent runners out to the greenhouses and the fields across the river. If it looks like the storm’s going to hit before they can make it back, they’ll stay there. Otherwise, hopefully in the next half hour everyone will be battened down.” She followed his gaze to the sky, chewing her lip a little. “Hopefully we’ll have that kind of time.”
“You don’t sound all that confident,” Matt said as he ducked back into the forge. Hecate followed him into the heat and gloom, leaning against the wall next to the door. He set to the task of banking the forge and closing up for the afternoon. If the storm was going to be as bad as it looked, snug and solid as the forge was, it would be better to be down by the fires and the bunks with everyone else. “What’s wrong?”
“Just my instincts screaming,” she said quietly. “They’re telling me I should run but in the past there’s hardly been a moment when something strange begins and they haven’t, so…”
Matt turned to her as her voice trailed away, saw the flicker of pain and regret in her eyes. He abandoned his work—only for a moment—and went to her, putting one hand on her arm and brushing the fingertips of the other along the curve of her cheek. “Hey,” he whispered. “It’s okay. I’m here.”
She leaned into his touch, eyes sliding closed for a few seconds. “I know. And here, I’m safe. I know that, too. It’s just hard to shake after so long.” She turned her face to kiss his palm. “Go on. Finish up. We’ll wait.”
Her eyes blinked open and she looked down, shifting Lin in her arms again and fussing with his swaddle, making soft noises. Matt watched her for a second, smiling faintly, then turned back to closing up the forge for the day.
I’ll keep you safe and we’ll have that chance. I promise you—both of us. We’ll have that chance.
He touched her arm once he’d finished closing up and she looked up, smiling weakly.
“I’m sorry, Matt,” she whispered, then stood on tip-toe to kiss his cheek gently.
“Working through this shouldn’t be so hard,” she said softly.
“Sometimes it just is.” He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and guided her out of the forge, back into the sunshine that was rapidly losing ground to the clouds in the southwest. Was it his imagination, or were they darker now? “If this isn’t normal, what do you think it is?”
She startled at the question as they began to walk down toward the tents—tents that someday, hopefully before the snow flew again, would be replaced by actual buildings with walls. Thom had the sketches done, Matt knew that much, but the excitement of the past few months and Thom’s lingering injury and illness after this last attack had kept them from being realized on more than just paper.
“What do you mean?”
“Just what I asked,” he said quietly. “If this isn’t something normal, what do you think it actually is?”
“That’s the problem,” she said quietly. “I don’t have an answer to that. Hell, it could be anything—it could be something that neither of us have any experience with. This is a question for Thordin, not me. Wouldn’t he know more about who can conjure storms?”
Matt shrugged slightly. “You’d think that, but considering how fragmentary what he remembers from that past life is…”
Hecate shivered and leaned into him as they walked. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders in a protective embrace. “I hadn’t considered that. Intellectually, I suppose I knew it, but he just seems…I don’t know. It just seems like he’s not that different.”
She hesitated, then sighed. “Yes and no,” she finally said. “It’s silly, isn’t it?”
“It’s not silly,” Matt reassured her. “It’s just different—and I guess it’s not a fair comparison, is it? I mean, I wasn’t anyone important then.” He gazed at the clouds. A tongue of lightning licked between them, soundless, too far and too high for thunder to echo.
He suppressed a shiver, focusing on the here and now rather than the voice at the back of his mind, the faceless whisper.
“Yes you were.” She pressed a kiss to his jaw as they walked. “And not just to me—never forget it.”
Matt laughed weakly. “How could I? No one will let me.” He squeezed her close as they ducked into the tents. “I love you.”
“I know,” she murmured, resting her head against his shoulder. “And I know that’s not going to change.”