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Abbi looked at him from the corners of her eyes as she walked next to him. At least he seemed to be walking more stable.

A grin spread across her face, before she shifted her weight to one foot and bumped her shoulder against his.

YH
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He stood for a moment on one leg, precariously perched, swayed, then righted himself. He looked at her and rubbed his shoulder, losing the battle badly to fight against the smile and keep a straight face, "That'll be a bruise; I'm very fragile, you know."

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She now returned the gaze, without losing the smile. "Of course you are," she answered, "that's why you dive straight into a fight with a huge machine without ever thinking about yourself to save a bunch of strangers. Fragile as porcelain."

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His smile disappeared and he looked straight ahead again, "You're right, I'm totally insane, aren't I?" He smirked, "In fact, I should go, just because you're probably in more danger with me here."

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Abbi shrugged, "It would otherwise get boring anyway."

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"Right, can't have that, next you'll be yawning at me every two minutes," he rolled his eyes.

As they came into view of the cabin, Jarrod saw that the old woman was still sitting on the stoop. He thought he heard a dog barking somewhere behind the building, but maybe not. He had the strangest and strongest sense of déjà vu, suddenly.

She smiled at them, evidently satisfied with her premonition, "I knew you'd come back."

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Abbi looked between the two, not sure what to think of it. Who was the woman anyway? She decided to let it be. She remained silent and simply stood there, waiting for something to happen again.

She never had been out of the city before and at the moment it was all big and huge and enormous.

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He nodded, but looked her in the eye. "I won't stay, though. It's too much of a risk, there's nothing I can do if they come for us here."

"You look like your father," she said, the creases in her thin, pale skin deepening. "You have a lot of him in you now, I can see that. You're not the shy little boy you were last time I saw you."

He shook his head, "I'm not your son, ma'am."

Karinna frowned thoughtfully, "No, not that little boy anymore." She looked at Abbi, but spoke to Jarrod, "Where will you go?"

"Morrowind."

Her eyes and mouth opened in horror. She rose to her feet, shaking her head, "Why?"

Her reaction surprised him, and it took him a moment to recover, "I--what choice do I have?"

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Abbi held the gaze of the woman for a short while, before turning her eyes to Jarrod. "Where in Morrowind?"

Not that she knew Morrowind, she only had heard of it. She knew what it was. So after running away from one of their bots, he now wanted to go straight to the heart.

 

She needed some new screws anyway.

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"I have to fix this," he was hesitant, "Give you your lives back."

Karinna interrupted, "They're monsters, those Dagoths!"

Jarrod was extremely confused now, "Dagoths? What are you talking about?"

"She's talking about House Dagoth, the ones who held her captive for so long." This was a new voice, and the Blade spun to face the owner. He liked to beleive he was a difficult man to sneak up on, but this woman had just appeared as a ghost.

"You do look very much like him. Little older, and I see some gray, but the face...the eyes...." She moved closer, inspecting him like a predator. There was a wildness in her eyes and movements, but something very familiar as well. She smelled like the earth and woods, a strong smell, but not unpleasant.

For a long time no one else said anything, then the woman held up two dead rabbits, "Stew?"

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 "Stew? Oh, man I'd love stew. I'm starving." Favonius said, his head poking in through the door. "Seriously, this place is quiet. I like that, you could hear someone trying to sneak up on you a mile away." He pushed his way inside. "By the way, if you see the Boss, give me a shout. I don't wanna deal with that crap yet." He tapped his forehead. "Still figuring stuff out."

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You had to love Cyrodiil. The rolling pastures around the Red Ring glowing a brilliant gold in August, tied up neatly by the smooth blue sky and sealed with the cold stamp of the ancient tower. He was sitting on his porch outside of his Colovian estate, with his mother and father. And his brother. He knew Damon was there too, but he hadn't seen him yet. Everyone was drinking wine, too drunk to notice his age. Red. Thick stuff. Old. The high society would have called it matured. Not to him. Just old shit. Like the house and the car and his mother. Old shit no-one knew the use for anymore.

And that's why dad wanted to move to the city. He found a good deal on a nice house in one of the Insula districts. Everything here was old. Everything there was new. Shiny. Better. There was a nice lady who he was going to meet, and it would be closer to his work. And he'd get to see Damon more often. Maybe they could actually hang out, with no parents breathing down their necks. Yeah. He wouldn't miss mom either. She'd still show up from time to time.

Someone called his name from inside. It startled him, made him drop the glass.

It broke.

Elgin sucked in a long, shallow breath. His head still felt like it could explode at any moment. He couldn't feel his leg. The room was cold and he felt the fresh dryness of it as it went down his throat. He swallowed it noisily, and stared at the ceiling. It sat there above his head like a giant omnipotent absolution. The rules that balanced shit out. They made sure he got his. They made sure everyone got theirs.

He wanted to scratch his chin, but he was tired in a way he couldn't understand. He closed his eyes and tried to go back to sleep.

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Nara leaned forward, closer. She was certain she'd seen movement, and the sound of his breathing had changed.  "Elgin? Are you awake? Can you hear me?"

***

Jarrod waited for an introduction that never came, only for a long moment he and the other woman stared at each other. He somehow felt diminished under her gaze, he felt himself being measured against some irrefutable standard.

"Jarrod!" It was Nara's voice from deep in the cabin. With great effort he pulled himself away from the women and hurried inside, into the back room where Elgin lay. Nara was leaning over him, repeating his name.

"He's awake?"

"I think so." There was renewed hope in her voice, which renewed hope in himself.

***

The two older women followed Jarrod into the cabin, but went straight to the kitchen instead of to Elgin's room. With practiced fluidity, the huntress began cleaning and prepping the meat while Karinna went about roughly chopping vegetables and herbs and throwing them into a pot. She regarded Favonius almost warily, but kept her eyes on her hands while addressing him, "Would you be a dear and fetch some water from the well?"

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 "Uh, okay." Favonius said. No piping or running water. I hope that guy can walk soon. 

 

He walked outside and lowered the bucket into the well. He pulled the rope up, and spilled some of the freezing water on himself. "Can't imagine needing to do this whenever you need water." He muttered, before walking back inside. 

 

"Okay, here it is. So... why no running water or any of that?" He asked the closest of the women.

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Abbi followed Jarrod inside, but stayed a bit at the back, leaving as much room as possible for Nara and him.

She finally was able to remember the guy's name: Elgin. He seemed to look better, better than before anyway.

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Karinna continued about her chores as she spoke, placing the pot on the stove to boil before cleaning up after her work, "This outpost has been here for a very long time," she shrugged, "We manage fine."

***

Nara regarded Abbi with a cool glance, moving to place herself behind Jarrod and in front of the other woman, ostensibly letting him closer to Elgin. She leaned against his back, craning over his shoulder to see her friend.

"Elgin?" Jarrod spoke gently, as if trying to rouse a slumbering child.

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Abbi saw, even understood, but did not react. Not at all. With her arms crossed, she stood in silence, watching Elgin.

She had bumped him. And he had smiled.

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Elgin kept his eyes shut, kept thinking. He didn't want to see that kid again. Shouldn't have to fucking wake up because someone else told you to. He should be dead, and he knew it. There was no reason for him to stay alive anymore. Aside from making Jarrod feel better. And hadn't he done enough? That's all he ever did since Damon went south for the winter. His shithole life must make Jarrod's look that much sweeter. And he didn't need any sugar. Maybe that's why they became "friends". Nara thinks she's so damn lucky to have him watching over her. A million words he could say, could have said, coursed across his temples. One in particular stood out from the rest. Get the fuck out of here. But still that lip hair didn't move, still quiet on what was supposed to be his deathbed.

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He could tell by the breathing that Elgin was awake. Suppressing a chuckle, Jarrod looked back at the two women, obviously relieved. He backed away from the bedside and moved toward the door. Nara caught him by the hand, and when he looked back, she stood on her toes and planted a kiss on the corner of his mouth. "Thank you," she said quietly.

Taken aback, he shook his head, "Wh--why?"

"For saving him, and me," her eyes hooked to Abbi for a moment, then back to him, "All of us. You did the right thing."

The Blade looked at his friend, so near death before and only barely removed from that doorstep. "Did I?" Doubt tickled him, tried to press down, but then he looked at Abbi and remembered. He nodded once and went out of the room to join the others.

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Abbi caught the glimp and stared at Nara for a few seconds. This feeling was new to her. It felt like someone had punched her in the stomach, kicked her ribs and laughed about it. Even while she had no idea what that felt like, because she had never experienced it before.

As Jarrod turned to go outside, though, she smiled softly, locked eyes with the woman again and turned as well to follow.

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Creaking noises emanated from the floor as Barusi walked in a circle, who otherwise was completely quiet. His mind had wandered to the issue of what the crew was to do next. As the captain, he had to keep up their morale somehow, and the best way to do that would be to find some way to move towards repairing the ship or benefiting the group. Normally, he'd simply propose a trip to a tavern in Chorrol, but fugitives are normally quite easily spotted.

 

Lost in thought of how to possibly pull them back up from the place they all found themselves in, he finally in desperation pulled out a small frayed yellow pamphlet from his pocket. He stared for a short time at it, then stuffed it in his pocket again. A thought, for later. For now, though, he needed safer moves to make.

 

Regardless, he would get the ship fixed, and the crew would be back in fighting spirit before he was done. He was sure enough of it, so of course it was going to happen. His crew would be the best of any ship in the air, he their couragous leader. Not one of them would fall to any ill, and they would triumph against even the most impossible of odds.

 

His mind drifted to Ventus and Durmuk for a moment, and his customary grin faded, but then it was gone, a small ripple in his thoughts of grandeur.

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 Favonius saw Jarrod walk out of the room where they had left his friend. Since Jarrod wasn't a stone wall on legs, he knew the man would live. He sidled up to him. All smiles and curiosity. 

 

"So if I can ask," Favonius said, "just what were you doing at the crash site? Awful lucky."

 

Changing tack idly, he shot out another question. "So, how long until the Boss gets back, you think?" That was a Blades "light interrogation" technique. He had grown so used to it he didn't even realize what he was doing. The first question was the one less likely to be readily answered, but asking two in succession could shake up a subject. All this was done with nary a conscious thought. 

 

Favonius was even less aware that he was in his direct, focused untroubled chase state. Information the target.

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"Not lucky enough," was the only answer to the first question. Then Jarrod gave the agent a quizzical glance, "The 'Boss'?" The question was amusing because both he and Darus were the same rank, or at least last time he checked. He realized then that Darus had managed to disappear, and that troubled him for some reason. He chuckled, pushing that concern aside; if Darus didn't want to be found, he wouldn't be, no sense worrying about it.

***

Nara watched curiously as Favonius pulled Jarrod away. Realizing she was alone with Abbi for a moment, she took the other woman by the wrist and dragged her outside, "C'mon--Abbi, wasn't it?--Let's girl talk."

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 "Yeah, the Boss. CO. Guy In Charge. Darus. That guy." Favonius said. Give ground, flank, find chink in armor. "So, your friend in there. He'll probably be okay. Did you know those two guys who didn't make it at all?"

 

Switch again. "How about this place, huh? Nice fresh air, none of that city noise. If the pay didn't suck I'd look into this as a rustic vacation home, right?"

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He stopped and raised his chin, wary now, "What's with the buzzing me, Favonius?"

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 Ease off, change tack, and his face dropped into a gruff, unpleasant sneer. "I thought I got an order to follow the airship. I did that, and I got chewed out for it. I don't like it when my information doesn't add up. I get suspicious. When I get suspicious I ask questions."

 

He sat up and was all smiles again. "See, you're a lot higher in the pecking order than me. So I got nothing but what they tell me. And if they tell me wrong by accident, I get hurt. If they tell me wrong on purpose..." He let that hang. "So what'd they do?"

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He watched Favonius, liking the man less and less. It was less what he said and more what he wasn't saying.

"You were told to follow the airship?" His jaw set and brow knit, that was also worrisome. The implications made him dizzy, or maybe that was just the native rotgut sloshing in his empty belly. "Seems you and I have some things to talk about with Darus."

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 "All right." Favonius said. "I only hope it's that easy." Again, he let it hang. He didn't need to spell out his    suspicions for the man. He felt his chase state slipping and his smile changed from the stilted salesman grin to something natural and genuine. 

 

"So my dear hostesses, might I ask after the stew? This man has been tireless in his care, as you well know!" He said, the edge gone from his voice and replaced with real mirth. 

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"Good food takes time," Karinna replied from the kitchen, where she flitted from place to place, humming a melody repeatedly. She appeared to be enjoying herself.

The other woman had retired from her duties cleaning the kill and had sat on the floor across from Jarrod. She had been watching him the entire time, preternaturally still without any of the anxious fidgeting or graceful lazing other people did while waiting. She simply sat and watched.

Hearing the melody for the first time, Jarrod tilted his head an listened, "That song?"

The woman on the floor tilted her head as well, studying him. Her gaze was not greedy like Nara's, nor warm as Abbi's, but almost innocent, as if this were the first time she'd ever seen another living person.

"Hmm?" Karinna looked at Jarrod, but then the kitchen door opened and she was distracted by the elf who entered and seemed alarmed to find the outpost full of people.

"Karinna?" he inquired with only her name.

"They were in an accident, Zel, they needed help." All of this was said matter-of-factly as she returned to her cooking. The elf pondered this for a moment as his vermilion eyes moved from face to face. Without another word he strode past them all and into the back room, with Elgin.

"Karinna!"

She winced at the shout, but then grinned and chuckled.

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Elgin cautiously lifted a lid to satisfy his curiosity for all the noise when the loud, angry footsteps came to a stop. All he glimpses is what he can only assume is someone's genital region as the bed is violently lifted and that gut-wrenching feeling of "oh shit I'm falling over" rushed to his brain; which then proceeded to enact the most logical course of action in this worst-case scenario: Flail as fucking wildly as you possibly can.

Instinct is retarded.

He landed on his nose and yelled, at a fair volume, a predictable cuss word. It definitely did not do wonders for his condition.