Shadow Walkers Chapter 15

You've all got your brothers, your comrades, your lovers,
Your friends, your companions, your partners in crime,
And there's girls that you meet in the pub or the street,
That'll set you to singin' or writin' in rhyme.
One or two of them stay, one or two pass away,
And the rest of them fade like a dream that is lost,
And we watch them walk out without raisin' a shout,
Without realizin' or countin' the cost - The Toast/Darby O'Gill

While Borias wrung out the cloth, Caeoimhin frowned at the x-ray he held up against the light. The Scáth Siúlóir healer silently cursed the hospital's incompetence for not sending Caitlain's x-rays with him, let alone even entering the findings in her file. "Damn me! Tis a wonder her arm ever healed to begin with. There be at least twenty old breaks beside this new one."

"Twenty?" Borias half demanded. "How the hell does a wee snip of a hellion, break her arm twenty times?" He gently began to wipe Caitlain's face. "Twenty noses, now that I can believe, but no her arm. What do ye suppose happened?"

"How the hell do I know? Mayhap twas one of them bastards she spoke of in the courtyard, that did it." he snapped back irritably. "If ye hellions broke yer arms, then nothin' would surprise me." He frowned at the x-ray once more. "All these breaks remind me of a broken spider's web."

"How old?" came the quiet reply.

"Nothin' recent. No in the past couple of years anyway. Why?" Caeoimhin asked, glancing over at Borias, who dipped the cloth back in the basin.

Borias gave a small shrug of his shoulders. "Just somethin' she said, when I picked her up. She was tellin' someone no to drop her." He folded the cloth and laid it over her forehead, before he leaned back in the chair and looked at Caeoimhin. "Cam? What the hell be a stud muffin?"

What the hell be a stud muffin? The question almost made him smile. Sometimes Borias could ask the damnest things. It may not happen often, but when it did, it was usually noteworthy enough to mark on a calender somewhere.

"Why? Did she call ye that, Bri?" he asked casually, when he went over and sat on the edge of the bed. He touched her cheek with the back of his hand and felt the fever.

"No, someone else. Do ye know what it means?" he asked again.

"Aye, I have heard the term," he answered slowly, gauging his friend's reaction to the news. "It means a young man that be sexually attractive to a lassie."

It wasn't that Borias stiffened through the shoulders, that made Caeoimhin run his hand over his face to hide a smile, but the fact that he saw the little, green eyed monster called Jealousy sitting on his shoulder and grinning like hell.

"Damn me," he muttered dropping his head. "I should have known. With all the talk about a man's bare arse that she does, the wee hellion had one waitin' some damned place." Borias shook his head, and looked back up at Caeoimhin. "So this fever?" he asked. "Do ye know what caused it?"

Caeoimhin had to hand it to Borias. The old fire was back in his eyes, and he had asked the question without missing a beat. "It be an infection. Tis no real bad, but I think I caught it early enough to do somethin' about it. I started her antibiotics so we should see a difference in a couple of days."

"And ye still think twas a good idea to take off her cast?" he frowned back, carefully running his fingers over the top of her hand. "When Faolán broke his arm, ye dinna take off the cast."

"His arm dinna start to swell again either. Ye saw her fingers when ye brung her back. Hell Bri, I could no even get one of mine under the cast. It had to come off, it was cuttin' off the circulation. Tis best to wait till the swellin' goes down a bit and put another one on. Till then, I be keepin' her arm in the partial cast. That way, I can unwrap it and keep an eye on the stitches. And another thin'..."

"Aye?" he blinked up owlishly, quickly pulling his hand away.

"There will be no more practicin' with swords. Do ye hear me, Bri? None. I want her to heal, no be crippled up. As hard as the two of ye were hookin' up with them damned wooden swords, tis a wonder her arm no be broken again. Ye heed my words, Bri. No more sparrin'. A'sides, she looks like she can handle her own, when it comes to weildin' a blade, wood or otherwise. Let's just keep it that way, aye?" he informed him, as he stood up and walked toward the surgery door. "Twuid be a damned shame, to send that bairn home to what family she has, as a cripple. Remember that."

"Ye are leavin'? Where are ye goin'?"

"When wee Caitlain wakes up, she'll need something nourishin' in her stomach, so I figured I would go and start a small pot of broth fer her. Why? Did ye want somethin' while I be gone?"

"Ye are goin' to leave me alone with her? Just like that? What am I supposed to do while ye be in the kitchen makin' broth, ye hellion?"

Caeoimhin didn't miss the combination of worry and nervous energy that came from Borias, when he looked like he may bolt and run. Good, he thought opening the door and stepping out. It was just what Borias needed to keep him regular. "Just dinna drop her again, nor hit her with a sword, nor snap at he,r and ye should do fine," he answered over his shoulder when he started to pull the door shut behind him.

"Oh and Bri, if I were ye, I would think about eatin' a healthy serving of crow too, when ye apologize to Mick fer callin' him an idgit." With that, he was gone before Borias could even utter a word.

That had been two hours ago and Borias had yet to see Caeoimhin, let alone Michael come through the door. When the door finally did open, it was Michael that came in without a word. He didn't even look at Borias, as he walked to the bed and looked down at Caitlain, who slept huddled under the covers.

He gently touched her cheek, before he drew it back and put it in his pocket. When he pulled it out there were three colored stones in it that he placed gently under her pillow as to not disturb her.

Borias remembered when Mary Kate had found the dreaming stones and given them to Michael so long ago. They will bring ye good dreams, leanbh," she'd told him and helped him place them under his pillow....

Michael bent over and kissed Caitlain lightly on the forehead and whispered a prayer.

"May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities, and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered, and protected.
May your soul calm, console, and renew you."

As he turned to leave, Borias frowned at his back. "Mick? Where ye goin', Pup? Are ye no goin' to stay and ask how she be?"

Michael shook his head, without turning. "No. Cam told me already. Luckily, he dinna think I was too dumb, that it dinna all sink in, thank ye kindly."


"No, Bri. I dinna want to talk to ye. Ye said yer piece and that be all there is to it. Ye said it all. There be no more to say," he finished, shutting the door behind him.

"Dammit to hell," he sighed, leaning back in the chair and closing his eyes. "How can I talk to someone that willna listen to me?"

"You could always give him a wet willy or a wedgie, or a monkey bite," came Caitlain's tired voice, causing him to sit up. "Of course, he may punch you in your hard head if you do. Tell him if he needs help, I'll hold you still."

He started to ask her, just what the hell a wet willy was, but before he could, her breathing evened out and he knew she was asleep again. "Do ye always have to get in the last word, Netta?" he mumbled under his breath, leaning forward to touch her face.

Her fever was beginning to come down, but it still hadn't broken yet. Dipping the cloth back into the porcelain basin, he wrung it out and again began wiping her face and her neck. "I swear if I dinna know better, Caeoimhin and Mick be takin' lessons from ye all of a sudden. I suppose Fal will be next."

"Since I brung ye here, ye have turned our lives upside down, ye wee hellion. I dinna know rather to turn ye over my knee or kiss ye senseless. And make no mistake, I should no be wantin' to kiss ye. I should no feel like I do, but tis yer own fault ye know. Ye make a man crazy with strange notions."

He dipped the cloth into the water once more, before he folded it and laid it back across her forehead. "Bare buttcheeks indeed," he grumbled, sitting back in the chair. "Does this Brogie of yers, does he have buttcheeks? How many times have ye seen his I wonder, and just how the hell many times did he see yers? Does he look at ye the way I did on the roof, wee Netta? Did he even see what I saw, or did he only see ye with lust in his eyes?"

Borias felt his irritation growing. "Does yer Brogie look like he fell off one of yer romance novels? What the hell is a romance novel anyway? Some book with flowery words, and a blow by blow description of makin' love? Well let me tell ye somethin', ye wee deamon. Ye are no old enough to be doin' somethin' like that, let alone readin' about it to see how it be done in the first place."

"Hell, ye have no been out of the cradle that long to be thinkin' about a man bein' nekkid." He reached up, rubbing his fingers roughly over the middle of his forehead. "Love is no only flowery words, or even lewd descriptions, ye wee hellion. It be more than that. A hell of a lot more. If ye were older ye would know that. I been around long enough to know what I be talkin' about."

There was a deep resounding passion in his voice, as he shut his eyes against the pain. "Love be a spark that kindles and ignites in the blood, and flows to yer very soul. Why? A'cause it started out as a wee spark of friendship a'tween a lad and a lassie. It be eternal and as old as time itself. It be patience, compassion, mercy, communication. It be talkin' to someone, and listenin' to what they say to ye, dammit. No doin' what ye were told not to do, and havin' it yer own way."

"I love ye. Do ye no understand that, Woman?" he pleaded hoarsely. "I love ye, Mary Kate. Dammit to hell, I told ye to stay home! Why will you no listen to me?"

She'd been ready to answer, before he'd said the magic words, I love ye, Mary Kate, but she'd closed tear filled eyes, and turned on her side away from him.

Caeoimhin, who had returned with a tray, stood in the door way watching in silence, and shook his own head at the both of them. He wondered if Borias could even feel the hurt coming from Caitlain now. Probably not, he reasoned, because Borias' pain was just as great as her's.

He wished Borias could have just seen the wonder shining in her eyes, as she listened to his declaration on the subject of love. Maybe then he would have tempered his words, and that certain spark could have ignited, and started a bonfire and kept those tears from smothering it, before it caught. If ever there were two souls that needed soothing, it was Borias and Caitlain.

Caeoimhin looked down at the covered pot of broth, and the empty bowl that sat next to it, and sighed to himself. He'd be lucky now, if he could get Caitlain to take any of it. That in itself worried him as much as what had just happened. She'd barely eaten since she'd arrived and that included the noon meal. She was lucky if she weighed seven stone he thought, finally coming into the room.

Borias quickly scrubbed a sleeve over his eyes and sat up. "Yer back."

"Aye," Caeoimhin answered, moving the envelope before he sat the tray on the table. Sitting down gently on the side of the bed, he looked at Borias. "Ye look like hell, Sunshine. What happened? She pick ye up and drop ye on yer heid?"

"No," he practically whispered with the shake of his head. "She woke up a wee bit earlier, but twas no fer long. She mumbled somethin' about some kind of ape bite, weedgies, and wet willies then she went back to sleep. I figured mayhap twas the fever, a'cause it made no sense to me."

For a moment he studied Caeoimhin intently, as the healer's hand rubbed gentle circles on Caitlain's back. It dawned on him then, that she had turned over on her side. Leaning forward in the chair, he felt an uneasiness knot in the pit of his stomach.

"Cam, what be wrong?"

Not wanting to betray her tender, fragile feelings, he glanced at Brorias, giving him an off handed look. "What do ye think be wrong, ye hellion? Her arm be broke in case ye fergot."

"I dinna..." he mumbled. "I just dinna see her turn over, that be all."

"Mayhap, if ye paid attention to what be in front of ye once in awhile, and no what be behind ye, ye would see."

Borias frowned at him. "Hell Cam, I only closed my eyes fer a wee bit. Twas no more than that. How did I know she was goin' to turn over?"

Caeoimhin felt her tremble under the covers. "Bri, if ye want to whine and snap at a body, go outside and do it. Ye be givin' me a headache with yer prattlin' on and on in here, like an auld maid that canna get any. And stay the hell away from wee Mick when ye do," he warned. "Better yet, go find a damned post or a wall, and beat yer thick skull against it a few times fer good measure."

Well there was more than one way to skin a particular cat. Now it was time to try and bait the trap for it, he thought when Borias raised his hands in exasperation, and headed for the door. He leaned conspiratorially toward Caitlain and quietly said. "Shhh now, wee one. Twill be alright now. Dinna cry. The nasty auld, big bad hellion be leavin'."

Just as Caeoimhin thought, Borias stopped dead in his tracks and turned around. Worry etched his features as he walked back toward the bed. "What be wrong? Is it the fever, Cam?" he asked, pulling the chair closer before he sat down. Reaching out he gently ran his hand down the back of her head, searching Caeoimhin's face for the answer.

"Among other things, no doubt," he answered, keeping his voice flat. "A man would have to be blind to know she doesna feel well. Especially after everything that's happened to her. Hell, she has no eaten enough to keep even wee Digby alive, since she's been here. No wonder she dinna feel like comin' down at meal times, but then again...there be no maid service aye?"

He gave Borias a dispassionate shrug and spread it on a little thicker. "Still tis probably just as well she did stay up stairs. With yer luck, she would have probably tripped and fell down the damned steps, and broke her other arm. Maybe even her skinny arse right, Bri? At least it saves ye from havin', to explain to her family, how she fell and broke her fool neck, when ye was supposed to be tryin' to keep her safe."

Caeoimhin heard the choked sound in Borias' throat and thought, 'Tis good fer ye, ye hellion. Now chew on that fer awhile'.

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