Somewhat reassured by the knowledge of Bill’s guard on the place—not many he would even remotely trust with such a thing, but this man seemed fit to be one of them—Einar might not under other circumstances have felt the need to fight so hard against the soft, enfolding heaviness which seemed to be creeping through his body, leaving limbs to feel like alien things and quite effectively dulling, as it advanced, the rather significant pain which had been left him from the night’s ordeal. But something told him he must fight. Maybe it was Will—busy little guy, so intent on discovering the world—or the look in Liz’s eyes when they met his own—not ready to let him go, and that was, after all, what was hanging in the balance, wasn’t it?—or perhaps simply the innate, senseless stubbornness which had carried him through so many of life’s trials, but fight he did, somehow getting himself to his feet and stumbling over to the window on his knees before it, staring up at spruces which rose straight, supple and wind-dancing into a sky of purple-blue; looked like home. He wanted to go home, lead his family up those soaring, timbered slopes and take refuge once more in the vast solitude which had for so long shielded them, but he knew he could not. Not with the search on, weather not cooperating.
And not, he told himself, like this. You’d only slow them down, get them caught, killed, wouldn’t be likely to make a thousand feet of elevation yourself, even if no one was immediately pursuing you, before you collapsed and didn’t wake again. Which is likely as not to happen right here in Bud and Susan’s kitchen, for that matter. For no good reason at all, no heroic struggle, no giving your life in striving to save your family or defeat a pursuer, no last battle, not even the satisfaction of that one final climb, like your friend Willis had. Not the way this ought to end. Only, he wasn’t entirely sure how to prevent it ending that way. Figured he’d better try again with that tea, hydration seeming a pretty critical element just then.
Results were the same as before. Maybe a little worse. Just couldn’t get the stuff to go down, choked when he insisted on pressing the matter but couldn’t seem to cough strongly enough to get the stuff back out, sat there for a full thirty seconds gagging and struggling and starting to turn blue before Susan gave him a hard thump on the back and he could breathe again. Not good. Not what he’d been aiming for. Thought maybe if he had plain honey instead of the tea, just got some under his tongue so he could absorb a bit of it and then tried to swallow, he might have more success because of the thicker texture, but when he rose to go get himself some from the kitchen—seemed a lot simpler than asking, seeing as he appeared incapable of meaningful communication just then—everything went black around him, legs cramped up then turned to jelly and he fell hard. Liz was there, rolled him onto a foam pad that Susan had quickly brought upon seeing the need. He was awake, trying to rise but Liz held his shoulders.
“Einar. Let Susan help you get some hydration. Let us help you. I can see that you’re trying so hard right now to live, but you can’t keep going on like this. You know the physiology of it, what’s happening with you right now, and why. There’s nothing wrong with a little help. It’s no different, in principle, than the things you did for me after Will was born, making all that chlorophyll drink and being sure I drank it to help after I lost so much blood…please let us do this.”
Shook his head, stared at the floor. It was different. Was a thing he could not do. Could not allow. Wished he could explain it, but words weren’t coming together very well for him. Weren’t wanting to come out. She seemed to understand, anyway.
“I know. You see it as some sort of a compromise, a surrender. And you don’t want to surrender, even in this little way, do you? It probably seems worse to you than going on like you are, no matter the ultimate consequences…”
A nod. That was the bulk of it.
“Einar, I know. I understand, at least somewhat. But think. We’ve willingly given our hearts and to some extent minds and bodies to one another, I’ve done it, you have too, so how about looking at this as an extension of that gift? As an act of love. You’ve been willing to give up your life for me and for Will on more than one occasion and without a second thought, put yourself in harm’s way, risked everything, so how about giving up a little control right now, just for a short while, so you can go on living for us? Doesn’t that seem like a reasonable exchange, really?”
He guessed it did, when put that way. Difficult to argue with that, to withhold from her this gift of himself that she was apparently so badly wanting. She, who had lived and fought and strived beside him through so many difficulties, seldom even complaining. Who had carried his son. But Lizzie, you don’t know what you’re asking. Asking me to give up just about the last thing I’ve got left. Though every fiber of his being rebelled at the thought, he looked up at her, nodded. If that was what she wanted, alright, he would give it. She deserved that much. “Ok.”
“Ok? You’ll let Susan do the IV?”
“Yeah, but…not here. Got to be…” Struggled to rise, and she helped him. “Got to be up there where I can…kinda keep an eye on things while…”
“Yes, Ok, how about here at the table?” He nodded and Susan, when Liz met her eye, nodded as well, yes, that would work. She wished they could get him to lie down as it would have made everything easier and more immediately effective, but she had no intention of pressing the matter and perhaps spoiling everything, now that he’d agreed to let her help. So he sat, arms stretched out before him on the table in a sign of surrender, head sagging.
Liz sat with him as Susan set things up, bringing all the gear out from her bedroom where she’d been storing it since the three of them had come to the house, seeing a need and hoping to be allowed to use it. Einar had to inspect all the components several times before he would allow her to proceed, had to make absolutely certain she wasn’t giving him anything other than the solution he had agreed upon, and when he was done he had Liz inspect things for him too, not entirely trusting his own reading comprehension. Even after completing the inspection and nodding his final consent he was clearly terrified, shaking, put on a stolid, stoic face but Liz could see his consternation, eyes big and white and staring like those of a trapped animal, and she sat with him, offering silent reassurance while Susan hung the IV bag from a kitchen cabinet, took his blood pressure as a reference so she’d be able to chart his progress. Frighteningly low; good thing, she could not help but think, that he’d agreed to the assistance when he had done, or it might well have proven too late. Might be, regardless, for his blood pressure was so low and he was so severely dehydrated by that point that she has a lot of trouble finding a vein that would work, finding one at all, and had to go back to the basement to get her children’s kit in the hopes that it might make some difference… Einar breathed a sigh of relief at the temporary reprieve, decided he’d better make one more attempt at drinking.