She did not have much to say, would have liked something a bit more definitive from him, some recognition that he needed to do the thing for himself, as well as for the two of them, but she doubted he was capable of recognizing such, let alone admitting it, saw how much it had cost him to make the concession he had just done, and found herself tremendously grateful at the opportunity it presented. Concerned, too, that things might go badly for him if, in assenting to her will, he ceased the sometimes-desperate struggle which, she was sure, had at times quite literally been making the difference for him between life and death. Well. No sense worrying too much about such things now, for she was pretty sure he would have been gone within days if left to his present devices, and now at least there was some hope of getting things turned around, and she took both his hands in hers, pressed them briefly to her forehead before returning them to their owner.
“I’m glad you’ll do it. It’s the right thing, really is.”
He nodded, wanting to argue already, to resist the notion, but keeping quiet. Did have to know one thing, though. “You’re not gonna knock me out again, are you?”
“Not unless I have to.” And he could see that she was entirely serious, no discernible hint of humor in her eyes as he glanced a bit suspiciously from rabbit stick to cooking pot, imagining a future in which she rendered him quickly and efficiently unconscious several times each day and then poured soup down his throat until he was bursting; an unpleasant thought, and not his sort of unpleasantness, either. Not the kind of thing he’d go for, and he shuddered at the thought that he’d just agreed to it--or to whatever else she might have planned.
Not to worry, he told himself. She’ll want you conscious. Can eat a lot more and a lot faster that way and besides, surely she must realize that despite your hard head, over-use of that rabbit stick might lead to some unfortunate and unpredictable results--like your not waking up at all, one of these times. She doesn’t want that--I don’t think--so you ought to be pretty safe. Yeah…the thought did not appeal to him…safe. It’s over, man. Over. Might as well be in prison, about now, that’s how safe you’re gonna be. Which was indeed the way he saw the whole thing, some part of him, at least, still wanting very badly to resist, but he turned on that part with an inward snarl, commanding it--unhelpful creature!--to be silent. He’d given Liz his word, and intended to stick by it, even if the doing killed him. Which it probably would, if she got too aggressive with the meals she intended to push on him. Well. An adventure, then. Perhaps not the sort he’d become used to expecting, but really, isn’t that the best sort of adventure? The unexpected sort, the ones which require courage and daring and a commitment so fierce as to have one doggedly pursuing a thing against all of his better instincts… Yeah, the best sort. He would have to hope so, because it was definitely too late to be turning back.
He nodded to Liz, “not unless you have to. Fair enough,” rose and got into the warm clothes she was holding out to him. Had to conserve energy, she told him. No sense eating more, only to have it all shivered away into the chilly air of the cabin as his body struggled to keep itself warm while he provided it no assistance whatsoever, and he could see her logic, but somewhat resented the inclusion of such things in her plan. She’d mentioned having some say in what he was eating, drinking, had never said anything about smothering him under furs and hides and such, but he had to admit that the additional garments did feel good, after a fashion, eased somewhat the dull, pressing ache that had seemed to have settled cold, solid and unshakable in his bones of late, and though this left him even more determined that they should go—strange logic perhaps, but it was his, had always worked for him and was the way he lived his life—he settled in and allowed the hides to do their warming work, determined not to break his word to Liz before the process had even been properly begun. She saw his struggle, was not without sympathy but still insisted on the sweater and hides. He simply wasn’t going to be making much progress if some things didn’t change, at least for a little while, and she knew it was in both their interests to keep that while as short and compressed as possible, jam as much change and repair as she could into those days. Might prove more unpleasant that way for the both of them, but at least perhaps it would not go on long enough to drive the two of them thoroughly insane. One could hope not. She couldn’t imagine it would take too much, at that point.
Einar sat there looking out of place and uncomfortable in the comfort of the warm hides—which, she had no doubt, he was, in some strange way—still and stolid in his determination to comply, to keep his word to her, but visibly almost cringing at the touch of the furs against his body, which was far more accustomed of late to the touch of the hard, rocky ground, to snow and freezing and the purple-skinned, stiff-muscled stiffness of yet another night spent barely warm enough to keep body and soul together, and she could not help but smile at him, shaking her head.
“Us. We’re funny, and life is funny, and now I guess we’d better talk about this just a little bit, so there are no surprises for either of us, don’t you think?”
He shrugged. “Up to you.”
“Well, I basically want to see you eating two or three good-sized meals every day from now on, broth and snacks whenever I fix them for you, and you’re going to have to keep off the trapline for a while and stay reasonably warm most of the time too, both day and night, for this to work. Warm by your standards, not by mine. I’m not going to smother you or make you ‘roast,’ as you put it, but constant, chronic hypothermia isn’t going to work either, and you’ve got to admit that’s how you’ve been existing on and off for months, now. I know you say you enjoy the cold, like being cold and that it helps you get through life, and I don’t doubt that and really don’t want to take it away from you, but what you’ve been doing lately…well, it’s just too much, and it’s getting in the way of what you need to be doing for yourself. It’s hurting you. Harming you. Yes, I know those can be two very different things, and one doesn’t always coincide with the other, at least to your way of thinking, but right now, it’s definitely harming you by using up energy your body needs to start repairing itself, not to mention putting you in immediate danger of not waking up again, one of these times when you go to sleep. So, no more freezing for a while. That, and some juniper berry tea now and then to help keep your feet from swelling up as your body gets used to taking in more food, and that should just about do it. That’s the plan. You alright with that?”
“And if I wasn’t?”
“Ah, guess I’d better try and be good, then,” and something in his tone struck them both as so comical that they burst out laughing nearly simultaneously, Einar sliding off the bed and onto the floor and Liz soon joining him there, tension of the moment broken and the two of them enjoying one another’s company once again…though for how long, neither could guess. It was going to be a difficult road.