Finally, he forced his eyes open. Blinked the matter out of them, let them adjust to the dimness. His head was swimming, but breathing was getting easier. The dregs of his dream drained from his head; he tried to hold onto them, but they were gone, and there was no making sense of the panic. He was left with the steady thud of his pulse, the rhythm of his breath, the empty bed with its cold twist of sheets and moth-eaten blankets. Still, lavender and sage and patchouli hung thick in the air, clinging with the faint but ever-present smell of cannabis. It set his heart at ease.
Tom disentangled himself from the sheet, lying there for a moment on his back. The curtains were drawn and the shutters shut tight against the Intas chill, but a pale, frosty light drifted in through the cracks.
It took him awhile to orient himself. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he groaned, pressing the heel of his palm to his forehead; that dull headache, that old demon, had started up at the base of his skull again. Last night’d been his first long, deep sleep in days. He’d been tangled up in work for weeks, taking what little rest he could get where he could get it, and now, he felt as if he were taking his first few breaths after he’d had his head held under the water.
He would’ve sworn he could see his breath misting in the air, but he knew it was much colder out there. In fact, it was warmer in here than it should’ve been, warmer than it’d been when he’d gotten in. Somebody must’ve lit the woodstove. Ishma had been out when he’d gotten in in the small hours of the morning, and Tom wondered when he’d gotten back. By the light and by his senses, he thought it must’ve been sometime around noon, but he didn’t know for sure.
At length, he forced himself to stand up, rolling his shoulders and wincing at a crack in his back. He’d dropped off in his clothes, and even under heavy wool, he shivered from the cold. As he left the bedside, he dragged the blanket with him, wrapping it round his shoulders.
Tom was still knuckling the sleep out of his eyes when he wandered out, and so he didn’t see her immediately. He heard the low crackle of the woodstove – and smelled it – before he saw it, and he smiled tiredly. “Hama?” he called; the old floorboards creaked under his heavy footsteps. There was no response. Grunting irritatedly, drawing his aching shoulders up and burrowing deeper into the patchy wool, he dragged himself over to the stove, thinking he might put on a pot of water—
When he glanced out into the room, he finally saw her, nestled on the sofa. He raised his heavy brows, pausing with one big hand curled round the handle of the kettle. “Hey, hey. Look what the banderwolf dragged in,” he said, gravelly and slurred with sleep, but a little softer. “Far’ye, Caina?” He squinted for a moment, brow furrowing. “What’s that you’ve got?”
He didn’t spare it much thought. The kettle was still mostly full, so he set it on the stove, then wandered over to the cabinet.
“Can I get you a cup of tea, lass?”