Despite pain that had grown rather intense as his fingers finished thawing--at least if they hurt, if means they’re alive--Einar was confident that the damage had been minimal; most of them, upon careful inspection, did not even appear as if they were going to blister, and it was a good thing. He sure couldn’t afford to temporarily lose the use of his hands, just then. Wasn’t too pleased with himself for having allowed the injury to take place at all, wanted to tell himself that it could have happened to anyone, becoming disoriented and turned around in whiteout conditions and wandering a bit longer than one intended in finding the way back, but he knew the situation had been dramatically worsened by the fact that he was so starved and depleted as to be barely able to maintain a tenable body temperature under normal, sheltered conditions, let alone out in a howling storm such as the one that gripped the basin that morning. The resulting poor circulation had endangered his fingers, hypothermia muddling his thoughts and slowing his responses far more rapidly than it would have been able to do under other circumstances, and he felt rather foolish about the entire thing at the moment, angry at himself for having willingly put himself in such straits. Didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense, though he knew there were times when it must have, or he wouldn’t have kept at it with such drive and determination. Well. A strange thing, the human mind, but he had little time to muse on its convolutions just then; breakfast was nearly ready. All he had left was to season the gravy using some of the wild garlic leaves Liz had dried during the summer and saved, that, and perhaps a tiny sprinkle of the black pepper Susan had brought Liz, along with her other gifts. It was a rare and precious substance--no wonder in ancient times spices were such a source of revenue, their sourcing, trading and transport the inspiration for so much travel and exploration--but he supposed they could probably spare a tiny bit to enhance the gravy. Only trouble was that he could barely use his hands, fingers proving less than dexterous between the frostbite damage and Liz’s careful treatment and bandaging of several of the fingers. Kilgore saw his difficulty, snatched the pepper container away from him and got it open.
“Where’re you heading with this thing, and I’ll do it for you? Wanting to put some in the breakfast, or sprinkle it in your eyes just to compliment the sting of those fingers and give yourself something else to focus on? ‘Cause I wouldn’t want to get it wrong, and put the stuff in the wrong place…”
“Gravy. I was heading for the gravy. Though the other doesn’t sound too bad, either.”
“Yeah, figured. Well, maybe if there’s some left when we get done spicing up the breakfast…”
“You know me too well, Kilgore. Got to get out of here. Not room for the two of us in this little place.”
“You turning me out into the storm, Asmundson? Me and my new bride, and in the middle of our honeymoon, too?”
“Didn’t say a thing about your bride, did I? If the raven can get by out there in the storm, so can you. Just find yourself a tree, and perch. You’ll make it.”
“Aw now if you insist, I guess this is your home and I got to do like you say, so out into a tree it is…” but he made no move to leave, sprinkling pepper into the gravy and chuckling, Einar laughing with him as Liz grabbed him and steered him back over to the bed, fussing over his fingers and the damage he’d done to her bandaging job by prying and poking at the pepper container in his efforts to get it open. Nothing that couldn’t be repaired, but she admonished him not to make her do it again.
Einar’s breakfast of rabbits and gravy had come along quite nicely despite--or perhaps because of--his having to abandon it to Susan’s care more than once while Liz tended to his frostbitten fingers, everyone gathering around the fire when it was finished and sharing in an abundance of meat and gravy that well suited the cold, gusty morning. Will was quieter that morning, having tired himself out, it seemed, with his restlessness in the night, and after having his own breakfast he allowed Susan to hold him while Liz ate, thoroughly enjoying the departure from their regular fare of soups and stews and doing her best to see to it that Einar got his share of the meal despite what appeared to her to be fairly serious ongoing difficulties when it came to swallowing his food without choking on it. Hungry, still thoroughly chilled and wanting to partake of the feast he had initially taken a few bites on his own, scarfing them down but soon setting his portion aside when he nearly gagged on a chunk of meat. Liz, not wanting to see him give up so easily, had taken it upon herself to pick through his bowl of rabbit and gravy, handing him small bites and encouraging him to try them, and to her surprise he seemed willing to go along with the arrangement. A pleasant surprise, even if it was not to last, but his apparent deterioration worried her--perhaps, she wanted to tell herself, he was just tired after a long, sleepless night and his long, cold wander out in the storm, but she knew there was more to it--left her concerned that just as Einar was showing more of an inclination to make the effort needed to get himself turned around and doing better, physically, he was reaching a point where he quite literally might not be able to do so.
She tried to set the worry aside. No point fretting over any of it. He was, for the moment, making the effort, and that was the main thing. The thing she’d been unable to talk him into doing, but perhaps seeing and spending time with his son, seeing firsthand the reality of a new little life who was depending on him…perhaps that was finally providing him with the motivation he needed to get things turned in the right direction. She offered him another bite of rabbit gravy, waited patiently as he worked to get it down. Success. His willing compliance was rather unfamiliar, strange, and she hoped he wasn’t simply too cold and weary to remember that he was supposed to be putting up a good deal of resistance. Just in case, she determined to get as much of that meal into him as she could, before he finished warming. Though fairly well wrapped up in enjoying their own breakfast and in keeping an eye on the little one--Kilgore had somehow ended up holding Will, sat there looking awkward and out of place with the tiny person cradled gingerly in his big, rough hands, but beaming as he opened his eyes and looked up--Bud and Susan noticed Einar’s difficulty, exchanging meaningful glances and nodding. Definitely time to have a serious talk with the two of them, bring everything out in the open and lay out some options, but neither of them had the heart to do it while the meal was ongoing; best let him eat first, what little he was able, while he seemed willing to do it. There would be plenty of time for talk later that day, storm raging on and the little cabin snug and warm with the glow of the fire.