Elshana lay back on the bedroll, looking up at the night sky, just beginning to brighten with morning. I can hear him. If she closed her eyes, she could hear – or perhaps just imagine she heard – Irenicus. It was like a faint echo, if she moved, she lost it. Is this what Immie felt?
She sighed, her breath smoking in the half-light. At least things had been sorted out, things seemed to be ok. . .
*Who are you kidding, mistress?* Numel fluttered down to sit on the edge of the blanket. *You are worried about him.*
*No.* The retort was too quick, she knew. It was in that knee-jerk response she turned her head to glance at Anomen.
He was sitting close to the remnants of the fire, his back ramrod straight. She couldn't see his face, just the back of his head. His brown hair seemed to have grown out a little. Maybe it was just a trick of the light. The skin at the back of his neck was still paler then it should have been. At least the marks were gone. . . . Damn her. Elshana took a bitter pleasure in Bodhi's death, not only for the return of her sister, but for the return of her . . . what? What was he? More importantly, what was he to her?
*You're still dodging the question, mistress.* Numel came across and rested his beak on her hand. *What -is- he to you?*
*I don't know.* She couldn't pull her gaze away. Onstensibly, he was on watch, and they should all be sleeping. But she couldn't sleep.
*I don't know either.* Numel's black eyes seemed quite sympathetic as he looked at her, unblinking. She ran her hand through his feathers. He always enjoyed the contact.
*So what am I supposed to do?* Her hand paused on his longer tailfeathers.
*I still don't know.* Numel shifted a little. *I suggest you talk to him. Or, wait until he talks to you.*
Elshana sighed again, turning onto her side. It was something that seemed right now, easier to ignore. She had gotten him back; she had -fought- to get him back, and now, she didn't even know how to approach him, what to say. *It must mean something to you, mistress. Or you would not have pushed so hard at Anumator's temple.* He doesn't shut up, does he?
Another breath. *I suppose you're right.* She shifted again to look at Anomen. His hands were shaking as he warmed them over the coals of the fire.
It was easy to tell when Numel sighed. He fluttered over to Anomen and perched on one of the rocks by the fire. Anomen started at the movement. Numel, quite content in the warmth, looked up at him. Elshana knew that Numel was going to act as a councellor to him as well as to her. *Good luck. He can't talk to you.*
*One does not need to talk to comfort. You should be the one doing this.* The direct chiding in Numel's thoughts reminded Elshana of Jaheira.
“What do you want?” Anomen's tired voice cut their communication off. “Is Elshana asleep?”
I hate that bird sometimes. . . “No, I'm awake.” She was surprised at how tired her own voice sounded.
“I wondered.” He sighed. “I cannot sleep either, my – Elshana.” He caught himself. She remembered asking him to use her name instead of 'my lady.' It seemed so long ago. He still hadn't turned to look at her.
“Anomen. . . “ His name faltered on her tongue. “Anomen, wait. Hear me through.” She came over and sat beside him, the heat from the coals warming her face.
“You came to rescue me.” His voice was soft, but it still stopped her short. “You came to rescue me. I had not thought myself worthy after. . .”
“After Bodhi.” Elshana reached out and took his hand in hers. He bowed his head. “I – I did not think you would come back.”
“I would not leave you with such a fate.” She was surprised at the ferocity of her own voice; one part of her wondered where it came from, though the rest of her knew. “I – I want you here.” She reached out and touched his cheek, he drew back for a moment, before allowing the caress.
He placed his hand on hers. “It warms my heart to hear you say that.” There was still a tremble in his voice, and she could not blame him. “I do not want to leave you again.”
I know. There was a part of her that regretted that he could not make that a promise. But she knew better. They both did. And yet. . .
He had her hand in his now; her head was resting on his shoulder. It was all the promise she needed, and all the words she needed. Nothing else needed to be said.
Their breath smoked and mingled in the red-gold dawn.
Morning's Sunlight: Quiz 212
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