[This post is from Phelan’s point of view.]
For a few seconds, Phelan stared at the clouds without really seeing them. He took another deep breath and exhaled it slowly, eyes fluttering shut for a second. In a long-ago yesterday, he could hear the sound of blade against blade, of spears splintering against shields. He listened to the cries of the dying, to the sounds of battle all around him.
Then his eyes blinked open and it was gone. Seamus’s hand was on his shoulder.
“You’re surprised,” Seamus murmured.
“Yes and no,” Phelan said. He scrubbed a hand roughly over his face. “I shouldn’t be. I know the bargain we struck. I just—to think of this as their home, too, to think of them having any kind of home again, it’s jarring and strange.”
“A little,” Seamus agreed. “Believe me, I never thought that we—they—would have a home again.”
Phelan glanced at him, his jaw tightening for a moment, then easing. “We, Seamus?”
“It’s still hard,” his cousin murmured, staring out over the field and toward the clouds again. “I’m still adjusting.” A brief smile curved his lips. “Leinth keeps calling me on it. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m free.”
“You are free,” Phelan said, grasping his arm. “Don’t forget it.”
“I know,” Seamus said, dipping his head. “But they’re still a part of me, Phelan. They’re a part of me as much as you and Teague and Neve and Aoife and Leinth are—as my children I never knew are.”
Phelan’s fingers tightened for a moment. There had been a bare trace of pain in his cousin’s voice, one that struck him to his core. “I’m sorry, Seamus.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for,” Seamus murmured. He shook his head. “It was nothing you did that caused any of it. You know that and so do I.”
“That doesn’t mean it should have happened. It doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything we could do.”
“But there wasn’t.”
Phelan shrugged. “We’ll never know whether there was or not. I still feel like if we’d known, we would have done something.”
“But you didn’t.”
“No,” Phelan said softly. “No, we didn’t.”