Lys: Strange Bedfellows

Cathair was still sitting by the fire when the question suddenly came to him- would it be better to speak to Lord Artos on the matter, or follow his original plan and address the Guttersnipe? Lord Artos was master of the villa in his uncle's absence, but the Guttersnipe was the default mistress of the house at all times... He thought he would rather speak to her. She knew Aithne better, would understand better. He just did not wish to slight Lord Artos in any way.

Either way, he was not going to repeat last night...

"Goodnight, Aithne, sleep well." Cathair had seen her to her room as usual, and soon they would part, as usual.

"Goodnight, Cathair. I will... I will sleep well." She had not easily been able to say "I will see you tomorrow" since they were reunited. Too many memories of what had happened since the last time she had said it- they had not seen each other the next day, nor any other day for too long.

Cu pushed past them, knocking Cathair into the room. He was shocked by the cold. "Faith, Aithne, it's colder in here than it is outside! Why haven't you lit a fire?"

Aithne looked apologetic. "There's no fireplace."

"What?" He looked around. She was right. The room was much too small for one. And judging by the way his boots stuck to the floor in places, no hypocaust either. "Aithne, this isn't right. Why haven't you said anything?"

She was quiet awhile, her head bowed. "They've been so kind to me, giving me a room to myself... I didn't think it was right to complain..."

"By all that's holy... Aithne!" He stepped closer and lifted her chin, trying to be gentle and control his anger. "You are not a slave anymore. If there is a problem, you tell someone. Even slaves shouldn't have to live like this!"

She shrank away, looking hurt and fearful, and it took the fight out of him. He pulled her into his arms. "I'm not angry with you. I'm angry that no one's thought to move you now that it's so cold." He stood there awhile. Her hands felt like ice on his back. Pulling away, he took the blanket off her bed. "Come with me. It's too late to have you moved tonight. You're going to come spend the night in the barn, where at least I can keep you warm."

She took it back. "No, Cathair. You know that can't be. You know what... I'll be fine for one more night. It would be..." She was blushing. "I'll be fine."

She was right, Cathair knew. All the same, he couldn't leave her this way. He nodded and told her to wait awhile, then went out and fetched his lambskin from the barn. Returning, he handed it to her. "Sleep under this. And let Cu in the bed with you tonight. At least he can warm you. It isn't good for him to sleep on this floor, anyway."

"But what about you?" Aithne asked. Here she was, freezing, and she was worried about him.

"I will be fine. I have plenty of hay to burrow under." He winked and kissed her cheek. "Now you go to bed. Sleep warm."

As soon as he had the opportunity, he would speak to the Guttersnipe. And he would be back out, working on the house, as soon as he could. He prayed the heavy snow would hold off until he finished.

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