Sixteen – 04

[This post is from Bryant Tapping’s point of view.]

The woman glanced around as she slipped past him and into the cottage, as if taking in the sight of his companions sleeping on various cots, clothing washed as best they’d been able to in the washbasin in the corner, strung up to dry.  She cast a faint, wry smile over her shoulder at him, barely visible in the dim light.

“We have boards and tubs for that,” she said.  “All you have to do is ask.”

“We’re—we’re not used to it,” Bryant murmured, watching as she carefully picked her way through dropped gear and hanging clothes toward the bed in the corner.  David was still out like a light, Issy curled up on a cot pulled up adjacent to it, also still fast asleep.  “Usually we just do what we can when we can get some shelter for a night or two, then we move on.”

“But not this time.”

“No,” he said slowly, quietly.  Why were the others still asleep?  Weren’t they hearing this?  Or were his friends just that exhausted?

Maybe that was it.  He was just too restless, and they were just too wiped out.

If not for David, they probably wouldn’t have pushed onward or as hard.

He watched her slowly turn up the lamp perched on a table at the head of David’s bed, watched as she checked for fever with the back of her hand.  Bryant swallowed hard while watching her, uneasy but at the same time comforted by the combination of briskness and tenderness in her movements.

“You’re a healer,” he said.

“Yes,” she said, glancing back at him.  “I could send the other one, but his bedside manner has always left a great deal to be desired.”

Bryant swallowed against a dry throat and shook his head.  “No.  No, it’s fine.  But—it’s early and they’re all still—”

“Our days have always started early here,” she said.  “Ever since everything came crashing down.  If something isn’t broken, you don’t fix it, right?”

He frowned, but nodded.  In that, at least, she was right.

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