When Bud Kilgore wanted to make things clear, he was not a man to waste words, and sitting across from Einar at the kitchen table, he used only a very few of them to impress upon his guest that while at his house, certain rules must be adhered to. Like no sleeping behind the sofa and scaring the womenfolk. And always letting someone know when he was headed outside, because really, anything less was likely as not to get him shot as an intruder, and that would be a real shame. Bud wanted to add something about firearms and knives and how really they perhaps ought to spend the night in a location at least slightly separate from wherever a person might choose to fall asleep, just to ease the waking time and reduce the probability of a mistake, but he kept that one to himself. Not too practical under the circumstances, and he knew how he would have reacted if such a suggestion had been made to him, at a similar time in his life. Well, at any time, really. He’d been a guest at Asmundson’s house more than once, under Asmundson’s roof and his rules, and had survived the experience, so was pretty sure he could manage to do so once again. But doggone it, the man did seem out of place in a house. The old wolverine. Be a lot better off when he could be turned loose again in the wild, where he belonged. Well. The tracker appraised him critically, shaking his head at what he saw. If anything, the fella looks worse than he did yesterday, which is no mean feat. Looks like he’ll be here with us for a while. If he knows what’s good for him, anyhow, which is highly unlikey…
“You got all that, Asmundson? Are we clear?”
Suppressing the beginnings of a grin—would have been a mistake, he was pretty sure, and the way his hip was hurting that morning, he really didn’t need any further bumps or bruises—Einar nodded. Understood.
“Yeah, I got it. No sleeping in odd places and jumping out to scare folks, and no wandering around outside acting like the enemy unless I inform somebody first. Good enough?”
“It’ll do. For now.”
“We’ve got some other things to discuss, Kilgore. Got through last night, but you know it’s not safe for us to be here, long term…”
“Yeah, we’ll get that all worked out. But not before we eat breakfast, because there’s no sense at all in letting it get cold, and not before Sue has a look at you, it seems, because here she is with her thermometer and all.”
To which Einar wanted to make strenuous objection—she’d done all that the day before, and really, how often could a person get curious about such things?—but saw the look on Liz’s face, pleading, almost, the little shake of her head, he didn’t feel so much like resisting, and kept still.
Sitting down beside him Susan took one of his hands, taking his pulse and examining his fingers. It hurt, with the frostbite he’d managed to sustain in working to dig himself out of the avalanche, but he did not pull away, let her continue.
“Your nails are pretty blue this morning. So’s the rest of you, actually. Looks like you may be a little low on oxygen…”
“No problem. I’m just cold.”
“Yes, you sure are, but that’s not the whole cause of it. Your heart rate is 26. That’s pretty low. Very low. You need some energy real badly.”
“Not so low, for me. I’m an athlete. I run a lot. Climb things.”
“Sure. But now you’re a fellow whose body is consuming its own muscles just to survive, including the heart muscle. It’s shrinking, can’t work as hard. That’s probably why your heart rate’s so low, more than anything.”
“Maybe a little of both.”
“You’re not making sense. The two are not compatible.”
“I make it work.”
“Breakfast would work better…”
Liz was already sitting, so he sat beside her, suddenly very tired, word swimming around him. Maybe Susan had a point. But he intended on sticking to his story. Will was awake, had already enjoyed his morning repast of milk and was looking curiously about for the next course, wanting to try Susan’s buckwheat pancakes and starting with especial interest at the pint jar of home-canned raspberries which she was pouring out into a bowl for the enjoyment of all. Making a sudden lunge as he reached for the berries, Will nearly escaped Liz’s grasp before she got a better hold on him.
“Slow down there, little one. You’ll get some, but not the whole bowl, and not head first across the table!” With which she handed the indignant little fellow to his father, Einar quickly fighting to get a better grasp on the by-then rather indignant Will. Before either father or son could do anything drastic—one wanting to move towards the food, the other, for his own reasons, away from it—Susan served them with a big plate of steaming hotcakes, smothered in butter and dolloped with enough raspberries to satisfy even the rather enthusiastic Will.
Eyes wide, the youngest Asmundson made an immediate dive for the raspberries, coming away with a sizeable fistful of the red, gooey stuff and promptly jamming as much of it as possible into his mouth, only to be startled into even wider-eyed amazement at the berries’ tartness. Einar, silently grinning as he helped clean up the mess, tried some of the berries himself and appeared only slightly less amazed than Will at their flavor, and at the instant energy they gave him. So, sharing with Will, he had some more, cutting one of the cakes into little pieces so that the child could experimentally mush one around in his mouth, and trying a few of those, too. This pleased both Susan and Liz immensely, and they could only hope the trend might continue.
Which it might have, for the remainder of that meal, at least, had not an insistent electronic tone in the next room told them that someone had just started up the driveway…