Running feet. Angry screams. Something clattered. Something fell. Shouting, cursing, yelling. Pain. Pain. Pain.
She’d been shot again.
There hadn’t been any guns. She’d have known. Only hers and Raoul’s.
Raoul would never shoot her.
He’d been screaming. He and someone else. Shouting. Cursing.
Had been. It was all silent now.
Her face ached.
Groaning, she tensed up, pulled her elbows in, pushed, and rolled over onto her back.
Raoul stood next to where she lay, pointing a submachine gun at her sister and the little brown skinned man from earlier.
Raoul. Tall and dark and handsome.
She knew that stance. Armed and dangerous. Terrible in his fury.
Yeah, he was good when it mattered.
Poor fools to get in his way. Poor fools.
And then the memories clicked into place and Toini gasped. Her heart froze.
She’d been talking to her sister, and she’d said something bad and made her sister angry and now Raoul had pulled arms and if Paivi as much as looked at him wrong he’d shoot her.
“Raoul! Stop!” Toini slapped at his leg. “Stop!”
“Toini.” He didn’t take his eyes off of Paivi. “Get up. I’ve got you covered.”
“Toini? What’s going on?” Paivi screamed.
“Shut up,” Raoul barked. “Shut up!”
“Raoul…” Toini took a deep breath – got to keep calm. “Raoul. Stand down.”
“Get up Toini.” Raoul didn’t move an inch. “She hit you.”
“What?” She stared up at him. “I said stand down.” He’d just disobeyed a direct order.
“She hit you.”
“I know!” Toini clenched her teeth and slammed her fist into his foot. “She’s my stupid sister and she gets to stupid hit me if she stupid wants to.” She ground her teeth and glared up at him. “Now stand down! That’s an order.”
Raoul twitched. Once.
For a moment he stood absolutely still, and then he lowered his weapon. “Yes, your holiness.”
Without another word he spun around and stalked off – back to the table in the booth by the door where he’d sat down when they came in earlier.
Toini exhaled and let herself relax. Her head fell back against the floor, and a jolt of pain shot up into her jaw and made her groan with pain. Stupid.
“Toini.” Paivi appeared at her side, knelt down, and placed a hand on her shoulder. “I’m so sorry Toini. Are you okay?” She shot a glance over towards the door.
“I’m fine.” Toini forced herself to smile and then grimaced when another another stab of pain shot through her. Her sister sure packed a punch.
“Ali’ast, get some ice and a pint of water,” Paivi shouted over her shoulder.
Toini didn’t see the man from where she lay, but she heard his footsteps and the creaking of the half-door by the bar. Water gushed from a tap, ice cubes crunched against each other.
“I’m fine,” she repeated.
“Yes, yes. Of course you are.” Paivi grinned at her and patted her shoulder. “Just you stay there and we’ll get you some ice to put on your chin.”
Toini scowled at her. “It’s okay. It’s nothing.” She squirmed and pushed herself up on her elbows. Her head swam and she blinked a few times.
Paivi looked at her – eyes full of worry, and with her hand still on her shoulder.
“I’m fine.” Toini closed her eyes, pushed the pain and the dizziness to the side, and forced herself up into sitting.
Just at the edge of perception, the pain still reached for her. It wanted back. She still hurt – was still damaged – and her body wanted to make sure she knew.
“Toini. Take it easy. You should lie down.”
“I said I’m fine,” Toini grunted. “Where’s that ice?”
The short man from earlier – Ali’ast – appeared behind her sister and handed her a plastic bag full of ice. She took it, and he held out a pint of water towards her.
“I’ll take that.” Paivi took the water from him. “She’s only got two hands.”
“Thanks.” Toini pressed the ice against her cheek where her sister had hit her. The pain hammering at her mind receded a little. It was still there, but now it had to fight against the cold too. Good.
“Right, let’s get you off the floor.” Paivi pushed herself up to standing and reached down towards her. “You think you can stand?”
Toini looked at her sisters and scowled. She didn’t need any help. She could stand on her own – and then she sighed and reached out and let herself get pulled to her feet.
Paivi grinned at her. “That’s a good girl.”
– – –
A chair by the fire in the snug by the bar. A paladin is looked after by her sister. Lets herself be helped. Drinks her water. Presses ice to her face.
Coffee is offered and accepted. A big sister goes to see it done. Looks after her regulars, yells at her assistant.
Relaxed, alone, and in comfort. Padded chairs. A rickety old table.
Burning candles, crackling flames, and speakers full of blues. A faded photo above the fireplace, and a sturdy little stool just high enough to put your feet up.
– – –
“Hey, Toini, are you okay?” Raoul stood in the opening of the snug, leaning against the wall.
He’d put his weapon away but kept his coat on – still tense. He held up Toini’s bag for her to see and then tossed it onto one of the chairs beside hers. “Your things.”
“Everything okay?” Raoul crossed his arms over his chest and looked at her.
Toini nodded. “Yes. I’m fine.”
“Okay.” Raoul nodded back. “Good.”
Paivi appeared in the doorway beside Raoul, carrying a tray with two large mugs and a pot of coffee. “Hey.”
Raoul frowned at her, but didn’t say anything. After a moment he took a step back and let her through.
Ignoring him, Paivi stepped into the snug. She shoved a chair out of the way with her leg and set down the tray on the little table in the middle.
“There we go.” She grinned and started pouring coffee into a mug. “Say stop.”
Nearly full. “Stop.”
“Aww, you’re no fun.” Paivi grinned at her. “I even brought a tray with high edges.”
“Next time. Just you wait…” Toini grinned back, and then she winced and pressed the bag of ice against her jaw a little harder. Silly. Probably best to wait a bit with the hot drink.
Paivi chuckled, poured coffee in her own mug, and sat down in one of the chairs across the table from Toini. “Have you had anything to eat?”
“No.” She shook here head – carefully. “Is the kitchen still open?”
“Nope. Lunch is over and we’re not serving again until evening.”
Toini sighed. A pie would have been nice.
“You could get take-out though. Mossy Barn does decent food all day.”
A wave of nostalgia washed over Toini, and her eyes grew wide. “Mossy Barn! I’d completely forgotten.” Her face cracked open in a big happy grin, and she didn’t even care that it hurt. “Do they still do their lingon and meatballs deal? Is Lilac still around?”
Paivi tossed her head back and laughed. “Yes, Toini, you can have meatballs and lingonberry jam.” She took a deep breath and composed herself. “Lilac’s gone though. She only stays there in the winters now and spends the rest of the year on the road. You know how monks are.”
“Aww…” Toini’s smile dropped a little. She’d have liked to have seen Lilac. The little fylk had always cheered her up when she was young. Still, it couldn’t be helped.
A lot of things couldn’t be helped. Her smile faded completely, and she sat starring at her coffee in the mug on the table. Steaming black liquid. The mug would be warm to the touch. Friendly. Some things didn’t change. You could trust a hot mug of coffee.
She shrugged and pulled the smile back on to her face. “Food would be good though.” It barely hurt at all anymore. “They don’t deliver, do they?”
“Hah!” Paivi chuckled. “Orthodox summer anfylk. They don’t even have a phone number you can call.” She raised her coffee to her lips and winked. “Someone’s gonna have to walk.”
Toini too raised her eyebrow, and then she turned to Raoul. “You have a mission.”
Raoul sighed and his shoulder’s slumped. “Seriously?”
“Don’t worry, Raoul.” A mischievous grin tugged at her lips. “I won’t do anything important until you’re back.”
From the other side of the table Paivi smirked at him. “Your woman needs her food. Shoo.”
“What?” Toini stared at her sister. That’s not how it was.
“Ah, yes, of course. My little woman.” Snickering, he bowed his head at Toini. “Of course dear. Meatballs and lingonberry jam from Mossy Barn, right?”
“Raoul.” She ground her teeth. “Just go.” Words would be had. Chronicler or not. Words.
“At once honey. Just you take it easy there. I’ll be right back.” He stepped away from the door and raised his hand to wave. “Bye bye.”
Toini hung her head and pinched her nose. She couldn’t be rid of him soon enough. In her other hand, she still clutched the bag of ice, mostly melted now. She tossed it onto the table and sat back in her chair.
“Sister…” Paivi fixed her with worried eyes. “Your boyfriend’s an asshole.”