The baby? Einar shook his head, saddened to think that she had to wonder about such things, wonder if the baby’s presence was somehow making him “not himself,” wanted to reassure her that little Will’s arrival--while certainly an enormous change for both of them, all three of them--was one of the greatest things that had ever happened in his life, but wasn’t sure how to do so without telling her the true cause of the strangeness she was apparently seeing in him. Hadn’t realized it was so obvious. Had thought he was doing just fine, really, at maintaining outward appearances, but he never had been much good at judging such things, and apparently she’d picked up on some aberration in his--ha!--otherwise entirely consistent and predictable demeanor which had got her to questioning. He wondered just what it might have been, but knew the details didn’t really matter. No concealing the matter, now. Didn’t want to tell her. Worry her. Find himself confronted with the questions she’d inevitably ask, and for which he had no answers. She’d just had a baby, needed a provider, protector, killer of game, hauler of wood and guardian of the home fires, someone she could rely on--not another source of worry, and certainly not the thing he felt himself so dangerously near becoming. But he saw no way out, now. Figured she ought to know, and preferably before one of the little incidents happened in her presence, which the way things were going it was all but bound to do, eventually. Nothing for it.
“No, not the baby. Just been having these…incidents where I get all dizzy and can’t stand up for a bit, arms and legs get weird and stiff and I’m wide awake but can’t move. Just can’t make myself move. Has happened twice today, and it seems I end up a little bewildered, after. Tried to chase the bewilderment away before coming back in here, but it must still be lurking around, some. Sorry.”
“That’s why you ran out into the tunnel early this morning before breakfast, isn’t it?”
“Thought you were asleep for that.”
“Just resting. I saw you, thought you were moving a little strangely as you fixed breakfast and then didn’t think you looked quite right when you came back in, but wasn’t going to bother you about it. I know you don’t want to hear it but Einar, this doesn’t sound good. Sounds almost like seizures or something, actually. Do you think you could be…”
“I’m just tired. Be fine in the morning.”
“It doesn’t sound like ‘just tired’ to me, but you do need to get some sleep. And when’s the last time you had something to eat?”
He shrugged, rubbed the back of a hand across his face, contemplating. Really wasn’t sure. “It may have been a few days.”
“A few days? You can’t be going a few days, not as far behind as you are and spending all day and most of the night out in the cold busying around like you’ve been. Your body’s got nothing left to work with. No wonder you’ve been having ‘incidents.’ There’s some stew left in the pot. I put it back on the stove to stay warm. Finish it.”
Which--Liz starting to get that rabbit stick look in her eyes and an edge to her voice that he hated to hear in the presence of the peacefully sleeping little Will--he tried to do, really did, but could only bring himself to take a few little tastes of the stuff before becoming so nauseated that he had to stop. Later. Would try again later. For the moment he still had all that usnea to spread out and set to drying, maybe some more firewood to bring in and… Liz restrained him with a firm grip on one arm, prevented him from rising. “I’ve been sitting here for a while--why don’t you take a turn? Will needs someone to lie on while he absorbs his daily dose of sunlight, and it probably wouldn’t hurt you to absorb some, too. That’ll give me time to look at all the new usnea ‘diapers’ you brought us, do another hound’s tongue compress to help me heal up and besides, the little one needs some time with his Dad.”
Difficult to resist such a plea, and though he tried--I’ll just make him cold, he’ll be more comfortable with you--Liz was already pulling him over into the patch of sunlight, arranging the rabbitskin blanket on his lap and nestling the sleeping form of little Will there between his knees, Einar staring and blinking and shivering in the warmth of the sunlight, dazed, weary, awestruck, once again, at the innocence and perfection of the little creature that was his son. Fearfully and wonderfully made, indeed… Liz was helping him off with his shirt, draping a bear hide over his shoulders to keep out the chill while he joined the baby in absorbing some sunlight. “You’ll both be fine. Just sit here with him while I do a few things. And finish that soup. I want to see it gone.”
“Well,” Einar spoke softly, low tones, words for the child’s ears only, “what do you think of that, little one? Finish the soup, I’m told. Ordered. That definitely sounded like an order, and I know she’s still got that rabbit stick around here somewhere. If she’s found where I hid it while she was in labor… Do you eat soup? Not yet, I don’t guess--no teeth, and it does have some chewy bits--or I’d let you finish the soup. You’ll learn to…yeah, you’ll learn to like this stuff real well by the time you’re a few years old and eating things besides mama’s milk, cut your teeth on tough old wolverine meat and squirrel bones and good, solid elk steaks, won’t you? And be snaring rabbits and taking ptarmigan with a little bola by the time you can walk. That’d be a good weapon to start you out with, a little bola. Something with strings not too long for you to handle when you whirl it around, that, or a sling. Then will come a spear, a little bow and atlatl… Got to learn to take care of yourself out here, get to know the country, its moods and whims and the way the snowpack behaves after a big wind, how to avoid the spots where it’s likely to slide and take you down with it. We got a lot of miles to walk together, you and I. Got to…”
He stopped, shook his head, words catching in his throat and mind going blank for a moment, world blurring around him as his gaze returned to the little person in his lap. Looked like he was beginning to wake, squirming about and Einar gently moved him so that his head was no longer in the sun, watching as those great grey mysterious eyes came open and searched about, tiny forehead wrinkled in concentration until he found his father’s face, eyes lingering for a long moment before once more easing closed in sleep. Einar picked up the remaining soup where it sat neglected in its pot beside his knee, took a tentative taste and would have drained it, had he been able.