After a while, no one even bothered to pretend they were sleeping. Kilgore’s ears had been on high alert even as he lay in his sleeping bag, Juni lying wide awake worrying that it was she who had brought this danger upon them all and Liz, though more used than some of the others to sleeping despite imminent danger and doom—sometimes, one must simply get some rest, especially when a situation goes on long enough—unable to relax so long as she knew Einar was out there in the icy cabin freezing himself to death as he sat immobile and almost certainly without adequate covering beside the water barrel. It was Liz—she had not been to sleep that night, had been doing some very serious thinking of her own—who first broke the silence, leaving Will tucked cozily beneath the bear hide and feeling her way over to sit beside Einar, who based upon his reaction—nearly jumped out of his skin when she touched his shoulder—had indeed been wandering in faraway places as Kilgore had expected he might do through the night. Didn’t take him long to come back, however, alert as he’d been striving to stay for the passage of planes, and when she draped the rabbitskin blanket over his shoulders before lowering herself down beside him, he did not resist. Liz was glad. She had some things to discuss with him, and a lot was hanging on the way he answered. She did not like to test him, did not mean to do so, really, but the conversation to come—if indeed she could get him to converse, in his present state—was indeed a test of sorts, like it or not.
“Not quieting down much, is it?” She whispered, finding his hands and seeking to warm them between her own. A shake of his head which despite his best efforts spread throughout his body and left him shivering uncontrollably for a long moment, no attempt at speech, for he did not want to wake the others, nor was he especially anxious for Liz to hear the tremor in his voice. She did not need to hear in order to know, pressed closer to him and shivered, herself, at the bitter chill that seemed to come from inside of him, seeping through his clothing and her own.
“Might as well come to bed for a while, don’t you think? You can listen just as well from there.”
“Not tonight. Stay…right here where I can…”
“Freeze solid by morning? That’s not such an amazing feat when it’s well below freezing in the house, you know. Anyone could do it. Now come on, before Will notices that I’m gone and wakes up. It won’t hurt you to spend a few hours under the hides. You can get right back to freezing again in the morning.”
“No. Too many…planes. Be alone. Might fall…asleep if too warm.”
“Might fall asleep if you get too cold, too… And then you might not be waking back up again. What’s the problem, now? You’re afraid you’ll get too warm and comfortable if you come to bed, fall asleep and not wake to hear planes when they come over?”
“No. Afraid to…wake up near you…when planes come. Got to be alone.”
He was shaking so hard by that time—talking seeming somehow to have made things worse in that regard as it robbed him of the concentration which had been necessary to control the shivering—that when Liz got her arms around him and tried to warm him a bit before leaving, she could barely hold him.
“Let me stay with you, then. We can be awake together. Make a night of it. Maybe even light a candle for a little warmth, if you think it’s a safe thing to do.”
“Better if you leave. Wish you…just leave.”
“Well, I’m every bit as stubborn as you, you know, and I won’t leave. You’ll have to try and make me, if you really want that.”
Einar grinned into the darkness at the spark in her voice—had no intention of trying to make her do anything at all, though she had almost seemed to be daring him, hoping he might take her up on the challenge—shook his head, rested chin on knees, exhausted by the battle. So, she could stay if she must. Didn’t like it, not the way his night was likely to go, but he was too tired to fight her anymore.
Blanket around the two of them and Einar slowly beginning to warm, Liz retrieved a sack of jerky from its place hanging in the rafters and pressed a piece into his hands, urging him to eat. It’ll help you get through the night, stay alert for planes… But he was plenty alert already, and in no mood for food, though he did not want to tell her so, for then he would leave himself open to questions as to why. Should have known better. His very refusal, after several days of willingness to eat whenever she offered, spoke volumes, and she did not need to ask in order to have a pretty good idea what was going on in his head. It was starting again, and she'd had enough.
“I know you didn’t want to talk about it with Kilgore, but maybe you’ll talk with me? Just to help pass the time, if nothing else?”
“Lizzie, there’s no sense in it.” He sounded frustrated. Exasperated. Exhausted, and she could hardly blame him, but did not intend to let the matter go. “Same old story,” he continued. “Talking about it…changes nothing. Always…same old story.”
“Maybe it doesn’t have to be. And what if I disagree? About there not being any sense in it…”
She felt him shrug. Wished, almost in tears, that his response might have been something else Wondered for a brief moment if perhaps she was being unreasonable, attempting to discuss such serious matters with him when he was, by any reasonable measure, more than half dead from cold and the continuing effects of his self-imposed if lately somewhat relaxed regime of starvation and hardship, but shook her head, trying her best to maintain her resolve. There was no way around it. When, lately, was he not in that state? Which was a large part of the whole problem…
Drawing even nearer and lowering her voice so that only he could have any chance of hearing, she whispered, “I want to go down.”