"Are you all right?" Daniel was saying as he helped Kelly to her feet.
She stood uncertainly for a moment, then blinked and shook herself. Her arms tingled where his hands had touched her. "I don't know," she said. "I don't know." She wrapped her arms around herself and shivered.
Daniel looked away and breathed deeply. It may have been a trick of the dusk light, but the colors seemed even more oddly sharp than before, the smells stronger. A bird called out, and he was oddly aware that the bird was over a mile away, yet he could hear each note distinctly.
He walked over and leaned against the building for support. Those distant roars still seemed to be echoing through his ears, and with a sinking feeling in his gut, he realized what they were from.
"God damn it," he said softly, then clenched his fists, took a faltering step away from the building, and screamed his frustration at the sky.
Kelly stared at him, her eyes wide. "Daniel, I think we'd better get you home," she said. "You don't look good at all."
He laughed then, a quick, barking sound that startled him as much as it did her. "You think I don't know this?" he said, staring into the distance where, as near as he could guess, the first roar had come from.
She took a quick step toward him. "Daniel, I'm on your side here," she said with a catch in her throat. "I don't like this any more than you do. You don't need to take it out on me."
He stood still for a long moment, then turned to her. "Yeah," he said softly, his voice closer to normal again. "Yeah, you're right. I'm sorry."
He reached out and gently touched her shoulder, then ran his fingers down the side of her arm. She stood very still for a long moment, except for a slight shiver that passed through her at his touch. He noticed her shiver and bit his lip.
"Come on," he said, turning to where Goewyn was watching nervously as she munched on the grass. He looked at the sword where he had dropped it earlier. "Got any ideas for a way to attach that to the saddle so I can hold the reins?"
"Why not use the scabbard?" she said, frowning.
"The what?" he said, puzzled.
She pointed. "On the left side of the saddle. Go around her, it's there. Didn't you notice it when we rode her before?"
He circled around, as Goewyn eyed him nervously, still skittish after the splash that had accompanied Seamus' death. There was indeed a scabbard attached to the saddle. He let out a low whistle. "No, I didn't notice it," he admitted, "although I was a little preoccupied. Wow. That's not standard equipment on saddles these days." He looked up at Kelly. "Seamus didn't have a sword, though, did he?"
"I don't think so," she said. "Actually, no, I don't think he could have. Remember how surprised he was that you had been able to kill the raptors? If steel can hurt them, then he probably didn't have anything steel."
Daniel reached out and ran his fingers down the hardened leather of the scabbard. He stopped and stepped forward to look more closely. Goewyn shied away. "It's okay, girl," he said, reaching out to gently stroke her neck. "We're not going to hurt you. I don't know what that was that just happened, but you're okay. You're safe."
Goewyn flinched slightly at his first touch, but did not shy away. At his continued coaxing, she gradually calmed down. Finally let out a soft snort, turned her head, and gently nuzzled his arm. Kelly watched silently, hugging her arms around herself.
"Thatta girl," he said. He stepped closer, still absently stroking Goewyn's neck, and took a closer look at the scabbard. Looking up at Kelly, he said, "There's a name engraved on here. Looks like 'Kearnan O'Toole'."
"Maybe the saddle belonged to Seamus' uncle, and that just came with it?" Kelly said. "I wonder if the scabbard had something to do with those 'Guardians'."
Daniel retrieved the sword from the ground and slid it into the scabbard. It was a tight fit, and left about two inches of the blade sticking out; even though the scabbard was longer than his sword, it was designed for a slender, more functional blade, not the mostly-decorative one from the mall. "Not the best fit," he said, "but it did kind of make me nervous to be swinging a bare blade around all the time."
He put his foot into the stirrup and climbed into the saddle, then offered her a hand up.
She settled in behind him, taking a long look at her hand after he had released it. Then she wrapped her arms around his waist, and shivered as Goewyn set out at a fast walk.
"Where are we going?" she said. "Back to the apartment, or..."
He was silent for a moment. "I don't know," he said. "It is getting late, but... do you still have that address?"
"Do I?" Kelly released his waist and fumbled in her pockets. "Yeah, here it is. I didn't even remember what I did with it, but I guess I did think to put it in my jacket pocket before we went tearing off." She pulled out the driver's license. "1911 William Street," she read.
"I don't think I know that street. Where is it? Is that an east-west, or...?"
"Yeah," she said. "It's a few blocks south of Leavenworth."
He shook his head. "Not sure where that is, either, but from the number, it must be way downtown," he said. "About... what, eight or nine miles?" He was silent for a moment, then shook his head. "Even at a gallop, it'd probably take us at least an hour to get there, I'd guess. Without streetlights, I'd just as soon not be outside that late. Besides, if we galloped that long, I wouldn't be able to walk for a week."
"Back home, then?" she said.
"Yeah, I think so."
She hesitated another moment or two, then slipped her arms around his waist again. He lowered one of his hands briefly to touch hers, then took the reins in both hands again, guiding Goewyn through the gathering dusk.
They had gone about two miles before either of them said anything more.
Finally Kelly spoke. "So... what was that? When Seamus died -- what happened to us?"
He involuntarily tightened his grip on the reins, and Goewyn slowed. Shaking his head, he loosened the reins and urged her forward again. "That's not the only thing that's bothering me. Before Seamus died, what happened to us? It was midmorning, and then it was sunset. We lost an entire day."
She tightened her grip on his waist and said nothing.
He sighed. "You have a history of not liking my theories, so don't blame me if this sounds just as crazy as the others. But... well, you remember what happened when the raptor got Seamus. That 'splash' of... of intensity, of feeling. Whatever the hell it was. Do you remember feeling anything like it when the girl -- when Amanda fell?"
Kelly shook her head. "Nothing like that."
"No, nothing as strong," he said. "But I think... I think some of it was there, too. I didn't so much notice it at the time, but it seemed like the world was holding its breath... and then it felt like something hit me when she fell. When she landed. Nothing as strong as what happened with Seamus, but..."
"I guess," she said. "Maybe there was something. I don't know. We were watching a girl jump to her death. That's enough to make me feel a little tied up in knots."
"That's what makes it hard to be sure," he admitted. "And that's why I'm not sure whether I really did feel it again when the raptor got to her later. It wasn't the same that time, though. It was the... the darker part. The part that feels like a ghost walking through you."
Kelly shivered. "God, don't remind me about that."
He hesitated. "When you... when you were going through her pockets. Did your hands feel funny when you touched her?"
She swallowed. "Um. You mean the electric thing again? Like with the sword this morning?" She laughed suddenly. "God, was it just this morning?"
He smiled faintly and nodded. "Hell of a long day... anyway, yes, that. And do you remember feeling dizzy when you stood up?"
"Daniel, that could have been --"
"I know, I know. It's not every day you dig through a dead woman's pockets. And yes, I think that was part of it too. But... I don't know. It was just for a second, but... do you remember smelling anything? When we were over there by her?"
"You thought that was odd too, huh?" Kelly said. "She'd been dead for over a day... wouldn't we be smelling at least a little something unpleasant by then?"
Daniel turned to look at her. "You know," he said, "that didn't even occur to me. You're right. Shit, that makes sense too, doesn't it?"
"What does? What the hell are you talking about?" she said. "Why, what was it that you smelled?"
He shook his head. "I don't really have a word for it. It was like... like rain, and tree leaves overhead, and moss by a waterfall." He paused, searching for words. "I don't know how more to describe it. But the thing that jumped right into my mind was that it... it smelled like faeries."
She opened her mouth, but it was several long seconds before she could think of anything to say. Finally she shook her head. "You're right. I don't like this theory."
"I haven't even told you my theory yet," he said. "I got kind of that same feeling when Seamus died, too. Remember how he said the Guardians worked to keep the veil intact, to keep the faerie world and the human world separate? I think that, when he died, a little bit of that support broke away, and the veil brushed a little closer to us."
"Oh, my God," she said. "I don't know if I want to believe that."
"Believe me, I agree," he said soberly. "But you know what else? I think Amanda was a Guardian too."
"That's why he came here to see her," she breathed.
"Yes. And that's why, when we got too close to her body, we... we got pulled into something. A lot of the folk tales say that time flows differently in the faerie world." He looked up at the moon, just beginning to peek over the treetops. "I'll bet that's why Seamus couldn't get too close to her, too. The veil was too thin. It was too much work for him to hold it."
Kelly's grip tightened again. "But... does that mean that more things are going to start coming through now?"
Daniel swallowed hard. "God, I hope not."
They rode the remaining few blocks in silence.
Kelly giggled as she finally pushed her way through her apartment door. "I can't believe we tied a horse up with an extension cord."
Daniel managed a smile, lacing his fingers together and stretching his arms. "How many city folks just keep fifty feet of rope lying around their apartments? She's gotta be able to get enough grazing room, you know." He picked the saddle back up and carefully negotiated it through the doorway. "I'm glad we had enough moonlight to be able to see all these damned buckles. I never had any idea a saddle took that much work to put on and take off."
"Just gives us something to look forward to in the morning," she said drily. She watched Daniel carry the saddle to a corner of the living room, dimly visible in a ray of moonlight slanting in through the window. She pulled her arms back around herself and shivered.
He got the saddle set and came over to her. "You all right?" he said quietly.
"Just thinking," she said, with a catch in her voice.
"What about?" he said, his gaze penetrating.
She looked up. "Actually, I was --" She broke off and bit her lip, then suddenly plunged ahead. "I was thinking about how you talked to Goewyn, telling her you weren't going to do anything to her, and that everything was all right. And --" She raised her eyes, bright with tears, to meet his. "Would... would you mind telling me that? That I'm... safe?"
He caught his breath, and reached out to run his hand through her hair. "Oh, girl, you're as safe as I can make you," he said in a choked voice. "I can't promise anything about tomorrow, but... right now, you are safe, and everything's okay."
She choked back a sob, and stepped forward to put her arms around him and her head on his chest. He put his arms around her and rocked her gently.
It was a moment before he realized that she had her arms around him and was rubbing his back gently. He looked down at her. Her face was calmer than he'd seen it in days. "Tell me again," she said softly.
He tightened his grip around her. "You're safe," he whispered.
She took a slow, steady breath, and slipped her hands inside his shirt. A thrill ran down his spine as she began to run her hands slowly up and down his back. "Again," she whispered.
The moon had slipped behind a cloud, and the apartment was in total darkness. He ran one of his hands up her back and lightly ran his fingers across the back of her neck. "You're safe."
She took hold of his shirt and pulled it up. He raised his arms, and she pulled it over his head, letting it fall to the floor in a whisper of cloth. "Again."
He found her body again, ran his arms up her sides, and touched her face. She shivered.
"You're safe," he whispered, and kissed her in the dark.
"Again," she said breathlessly.
His hands slid down the front of her shirt, lingering on her breasts, then moving on to grasp her shirt and pull it up and off. "You're safe," he whispered.
A rustle of motion and clothing, and then she took hold of his hands and placed them on her now-bare breasts. "Again." Her hands sought out the front of his pants.
He let out a shaky breath as he ran his thumbs over the smooth skin. Her nipples were hard in the cool air. "You're safe," he said.
His pants slipped down. "Again."
A moment of activity, then her pants joined his. "You're safe."
Their bodies slipped gently to the floor amidst their clothing. She knelt and ran her hands down his stomach, then moved back. She took a deep breath as they slid together. "Again."
He pulled her closer, running one hand down her back as he tangled the other hand's fingers in her hair. "You're safe."
She kissed his neck, gently, and buried her face in his hair. A minute or two later, she whispered in his ear, "Again."
He traced the contours of her back, of her buttocks, of her thighs, as they moved in the darkness. "You're safe."
He caught his breath. "You're safe."
She swallowed hard, pressed close against him as they moved, and said nothing for a long moment. Then her breath hissed in, her grip tightening on his arms.
He wrapped his arms around her, then, as she lowered herself onto his chest, breathing heavily. She kissed his chest gently, and sighed softly, nestling closer.
They lay still for a while, holding each other close, listening to the sound of each other's breathing. The clouds thinned enough to let a glimmer of light through.
Kelly raised her face to Daniel's and whispered, "Again."
He tightened his hands around her shoulders and whispered, "You're safe."
She smiled in the moonlight. "That's not what I meant."
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