For a long time the two of them sat together in the storm, the precision and control with which Einar normally sought--largely successfully--to conduct himself giving way to tears that had been many years in coming, years overdue, perhaps, though he wouldn’t have seen it that way, had he been able to look past the moment and examine the thing with some objectivity as he would later find himself capable of doing. Liz wanted to ask him about what he had just read, remembered, keep him talking and get everything out in the open lest he let the thing go before it had been thoroughly explored and thus end up right back where he’d begun after the passage of a few months, or years, might have spoken had she been able to find the words, more words, but those she had already strung together had themselves been enough of a stretch, an intrusion; this was a thing beyond her experience and certainly beyond the reach of regular conversation so she kept silent, held him until, exhausted, Einar too lapsed into silence, stillness, tears having left him empty, hollow, squeezed of the last drop, cold of the day creeping quickly in to fill the void and freeze his almost entirely un-insulated bones.
Too still, it seemed to Liz, he’d become so still that she feared for him out there in the cold, feared that on the path to regaining him she might well end up losing him altogether, for he was in no condition at the moment to be much concerned with his physical state--which had suffered greatly over the past night and on the climb back to the cabin; he’d never warmed since their return, had not eaten--even had he been in the habit of paying heed to such things, which she knew, sometimes by design, others by default, he was not. Rising, pulling him with her she sought to get a look at his eyes, some sense of how he might be faring--relative thing indeed, under the circumstances, but hypothermia was a bit less relative and was her major concern at the moment--only to find that he wouldn’t look at her, or couldn’t, eyes distant, vacant, and the discovery only concerned her the more.
Einar did not want to go in. Bring it all with him. Pollute the air. Best stay outside with his shadows, with the press of time and memory and the events of long years past which had returned to him as if separated by no more than the passage of a scant day or two, yes, must be alone with that until it passed but Liz wasn’t having it, had got an arm under his shoulder and was lifting him, insisting that he walk, and sensing the strength of her intention he tried, managed it, though barely.
“Right, that’s right, come on now. Come with me; its time to go in,” and she was leading him, cabin in sight through the still-blowing fury of the storm but he stopped, shook his head and tried to pull away. Not now. Not yet. Fell to his knees in the snow, partly out of weakness and a genuine inability to feel his legs, much less lift them in anything that resembled a normal gait and partly because it was the only way to prevent her compelling his further progress towards the cabin but again she lifted him, refusing to give up.
“Leave it,” she was saying, head close to his own so he could hear her over the wind, and she smelled of willows; it was the scent of spring, of green and of life; so strange there amidst the storm, foreign, almost, but he smiled, put a gentle hand to her face. “Leave it for now,” she repeated. “Come in and see your son. He needs us.”
No arguing with that, and he went, movements all stiff and uncoordinated but no matter, there was the tunnel gaping black and welcoming ahead of them, cessation of the wind and then without quite realizing how it happened he was inside, back to the wall and front beginning to bake in the heat of a roaring fire, shaking so hard that he was having a difficult time getting a clear picture as he looked over at Will nestled close to Liz, enjoying a meal--beautiful picture indeed, mother and child--and then his head went back, world fading quickly to black around him.
Next thing Einar knew he was lying flat on his back with Bud shaking him hard by the shoulder, Susan’s wise, earnest face inches from his own as she tried to get something into his mouth. Stuff was hot, spicy, and he coughed, choked, spat it out, sat up in a hurry and glanced a bit wildly about the cabin before his eyes came to rest on Liz--baby still at her bosom; guessed he must not have been out for too long--looking nearly as worried as Susan, but equally calm. Chest hurt something awful, breath coming hard and he seemed to be awfully dizzy, bracing himself against the wall as Susan took hold of his arm, checking his pulse. Bud put a steadying hand on his shoulder and pressed him into the wall, seeing that he was about to slump over again and knowing he wanted to remain upright.
“You gave us quite a scare there, Asmundson. What was that all about, anyway, you turning all stiff and blue and falling to the floor like that. What were you thinking?”
Einar blinked slowly, scrubbing an arm across his face and trying, still without success, to figure out what strange and caustic substance Susan had been trying to force down his throat a moment prior. Ah. That was it. cayenne pepper. He saw the container sitting there beside her, laughed with relief at the discovery that it hadn’t been poison of some sort and leaned his head back against the wall. “Yeah, guess I’m…little cold or something. No problem. Sorry to…”
“Cold! Doggone right you’re cold but you were about to be an awful lot colder--on a permanent basis--and would have been, if Sue hadn’t stepped right in and brought you back around. Weren’t breathing, man. Not at all. Heck, I know you’re into extreme deprivation and all that, but when it comes to certain things…well, a fella’s got to breathe, for goodness’ sake! Don’t go doing that again.”
Einar shook his head, tried to pull away from Susan but she still had firm hold of his arm, monitoring his pulse and watching him with an expression that he found somehow a bit disconcerting. No, did not have any intention of doing it again, whatever it had been, knew he needed to get himself a bit further from the fire in order to reduce the chances of such--part of the problem, he figured, likely stemmed from his warming too quickly; he’d done it to himself before, nearly passed out one time and knew it could cause dangerous irregularities in one’s heart rate but hadn’t realized that he’d been cold enough, that day, to be concerned about any such--but couldn’t seem to scrape together the words to tell them what he needed to do. No matter. Could do it himself, and he did, scooting away from the stove to recline with Liz against the side of the bed, slowly regaining his breath as he watched Will finish eating and begin staring about the room in that curious but contented way of his, getting to know the world.