Title: Campfires and Company
Series: Tales of the Abyss
Length: 700 words
Characters: Natalia, Guy
Summary: Sometimes it's enough to know you're not alone.
She could pretend it was because she was a delicate, genteel creature unaccustomed to sleeping on the hard ground, but that wasn’t why she was awake.
So much was going on, so much chasing and catching up and running again, and she should have been exhausted like everyone else, able to sleep on a bed of nails. Still, her eyes were wide open, and her mind refused to calm itself, instead racing with all manner of impossible scenarios.
When she sat up, she saw a figure sitting by their campfire, idly poking a branch into the flames and watching the orange sparks scatter. Insomnia had claimed another victim after all. Wrapping a cloak around herself, she went to join him.
Guy looked up as Natalia settled herself on a large rock next to him. “Can’t sleep?” he asked, his quiet tone extending to her alone.
She shook her head. “Too much to think about, I suppose.”
“Yeah.” Something silver glinted in his hand, and he raised it to his lips. At her curious glance, he said, “A little gift from the bar owner in Chesedonia. Don’t tell Jade I have this.”
“I won’t.” She knew if she did, the flask would be empty the next time Guy reached for it.
“Please.” He set the container on the ground between them. It was an old habit to prevent his fingers brushing hers in the transaction. A small smile ghosted across her face, somewhat amused that he still wouldn’t touch her but had no issue with drinking from the same bottle.
“It’s strong,” he warned.
How strong it was Natalia didn’t understand until the liquid was scorching its way down her throat. Even her tongue and lips tingled from the whiskey’s sting. She brought her sleeve to her mouth to muffle her coughing.
“Good, huh?” he joked.
“Very.” Despite the initial pain, the alcohol quickly warmed her stomach, with the warmth spreading outward, through her arms, down her legs, across her cheeks. She took one more sip, ready for the burn this time, then placed the flask between them again.
He likewise took a long sip before replacing the cap and returning the flask to his pocket.
Natalia pulled her cloak closer around herself, needing something to do with her hands now. Guy had taken his branch in hand again to prod the fire; she found another and did the same. The pop and crackle of the flames would ordinarily distract her, but tonight, she found them yet another taunting reminder.
Flame… and ash.
“He’s okay.” She looked up sharply, and Guy nodded toward one of the sleeping forms. “I’m sure Luke would tell us if he wasn’t.”
Even in the flickering firelight, her thoughts must have been clear on her face. “Yes, you’re right,” she replied, and she wanted to believe it. It should have been reassuring, but it wasn’t enough. She was still going to wonder. Wonder where he was, how he was feeling, if he was staring up at the inky black sky and thinking about her, thinking about what they would do when this was all behind them. “Guy?”
His name had slipped out. She hadn’t meant to say anything. “Do you often stay up like this?”
“Not really,” he answered. “I don’t know. I guess… a lot to think about, like you said.”
It would be prying to ask, so she didn’t. He knew what she was thinking, but his inner workings were still quite the mystery to her, his past something she only knew fragments about. Even so, couldn’t she come up with something comforting to say, as he had for her?
“Thanks.” She was beginning to think he truly was a mind reader, if he had discerned her intentions. “For the company,” he clarified. “It’s nice.”
If that was what she could offer, perhaps it would do for now. Worries would never disappear, fears would always prickle with cold fingers, but having someone else there made them bearable. She could do that for him, he for her, all of them for each other. “Yes,” she replied, folding her arms inside her cloak and looking up at the waning moon. “Yes, it is.”