In Which Mieve is Uncertain and Unhappy

First: A beginning of a story which obnoxiously cuts off just before the description,
Previous: In Which Amrit sulks Usefully.

Mieve had done her best to stay busy, even if she was being a bit more violently busy than she needed to be. She weeded, she sorted through her food stores, she cleaned the kitchen, she washed all the sheets and hung them in the brisk breeze. She made a list of things she’d need for the winter — they’d need for the winter — the stuff they could make here, and the things they would have to trade for.

She should find out his Words. Meentik, yes, and obviously tempero and Tlactl. Not Panida. So he could make things — what things? Making flesh didn’t seem all that useful — and he could control bodies. Good if they were attacked. Didn’t happen all that often, but sometimes roamers came upon her little hide-out, and she didn’t like attacking with the bees if she could avoid it.

Could he work with earth? More importantly, could he do that very nice Working her last Kept had, to turn earth into fuel oil for the stove and the back-up furnace? Could he work with heat and make the cooler into a fridge, so they could store leftovers in the summer?

She put some lentils on the stove with the last bit of sausage she’d traded for. Rice, she missed rice, and while she could grow legumes just fine here, rice wasn’t happening. She wondered how good he was with Huamu, with plants.

All of this was moot if he was just looking for his trick, for his way out. She ought to put the chains and gag back on him before he could attack her, before he could steal her tools, steal her honey or her stores of winter food.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, the beehive buzzed. She quieted the noise with something human, the way she always tried to do – a crossword puzzle. She was running out; she’d need to find a new one the next time she went out trading. Or get Amrit to start playing board games with her.

Again, could be a moot point. She put a lid on the lentils-and-sausage and started looking around for something nice for dessert. Not more apples, she was sick of apples. Maybe something like a cake? Or brownies – no. Chocolate. Another thing she missed more than she cared to admit.

She distracted herself with the trivial and the long-gone for a good hour while the sun slowly sank behind the trees. Crossword puzzle, cake, check on dinner, fret about stove fuel, crossword puzzle. She paced, walking down a groove she’d paced many times before. She sorted her books, putting back the few that had fallen out of place.

He was never coming back. He had run, somehow, despite all his oaths. She was going to have to move, or put up wards that would exhaust her, or…

He walked back into her clearing carrying a dead turkey. It was already field-dressed, she saw, and he looked both proud and abashed.

Mieve made herself walk, not run, out to the clearing. “That is a big bird.” She couldn’t help a smile, and not just because he’d come back. “That will feed us for quite a few days.”

“I missed meat,” he admitted. “But I forgot about uh, blinds, for a while. Sorry it took me so long.”

“Most of the meat out there is crepuscular anyway. Next time… maybe go out there just before the sun is going to set?” She looked him over. “You’re wet all over.”

“It’s summer, I’ll be fine.”

“It’s spring, and still cold. Let’s get this thing into the kitchen and decide what we’re going to do with it.”

“You have that fridge in the garage… we could probably use that as a cooler. It’ll hold a kwxe Working nicely, pull it down to zero super fast and put it in the freezer area. Surround it with blocks of ice, maybe?”

“I, we. One of my old Kept, he did that. It’s a good idea,” she agreed. “It’s why I kept the ‘fridge.”
He eyed her thoughtfully. “You haven’t asked me about my Words.”

“The gag sort of made that moot.” Past tense? Why had she used the past tense?

“Planning on putting it back in, then?” His shoulders tensed. Mieve couldn’t blame him.

“Depends,” she answered, even though she wanted to say Of course not. “Your promises will run out.”
“They will.” He stalked into the cabin, leaving Mieve to trail along behind her. “And you haven’t asked for new ones,” he called back over his shoulder.

“I didn’t need to, the first time.”

“I was feeling generous, the first time.” He dropped the turkey on the table. “How do you want to handle this?”

She studied the bird. “I’ve got it, just give me a second.” A series of long Panida Workings — it might be dead, but it was still an animal — and a couple judicious cuts with a cleaver later, the bird was ready for the freezer. She wrapped it carefully in butcher paper — another thing she would miss badly when it was gone. Like running water, like new clothes, like grocery stores. “There. Ready for flash-freezing.”
“Are you going to answer me?”

“You didn’t ask a question. But I’ll give you an answer anyway — after we get this turkey dealt with.” One leg quarter she left out, tossed into a pan for dinner.

“So these Workings are fine but then you’ll gag me?”

“You want your hard work to be useful, don’t you?” She should have told him she didn’t plan on gagging him. She should have assured him she wanted to know his Words. But that’s what he wanted, wasn’t it? For her to trust him?

“What do I have to do?” he snarled. “For you to believe I actually want to stick around? For you to trust me?” He slammed his fist down on the table, making the pieces of turkey bounce. “No, don’t answer that. I don’t really want to know how many more hoops I have to jump through. You line ’em up, I’ll jump. I told you I was here through the winter, and I’ll do that. But, let me tell you, I never liked-” he cut himself off with a wave of his hand and started freezing the turkey with angry, spat-out Kwxe Workings, pulling out all the heat in quick movements.

He was good, Mieve had to give him that. As a combat tactic, that would be terrifying. And he hasn’t started with that, any time he’d tried an attack.

She didn’t know what to say. He was furious… and she was a little bit scared.

“Thanks.” She gathered up the turkey and helped him carry it out to the freezer. “This’ll.. this’ll be good.”

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