As he walked towards Harfreder’s place the villagers gave him wide berth. He wasn’t sure what they thought of him; probably that he was an idiot. He could hear them whispering after he passed, but couldn’t make out what they were saying. He entered the long house where Harfreder lived. It was after dinner and conversation from the residents filled the house. The conversation died off as he made his way to Harfreder’s “room”, which was a curtained off section of the house. You could hear a pin drop by the time he pushed aside the curtain and entered. He supposed everyone was listening, but he wasn’t in any condition to take a walk outside the village for some privacy.

Harfreder looked terrible. She was sleeping on her bed curled into a ball. Apparently she hadn’t cleaned up since the ordeal the previous day and was still smeared with blood. The area around her eyes was red and puffy and she limply held a well used cloth in right hand. She awoke as Billy Jo entered the room. She immediately rushed to him and hugged him fiercely. It hurt like hell, but he didn’t flinch. He couldn’t bear to let her know that she was hurting him; she was in enough pain already so he sucked it up. He put his right arm around her, he wasn’t sure he could manage the left without hurting himself. She was sobbing some kind of incoherent apology. He held her and gently stroked her back and repeated over and over “It’s ok.”

After a few minutes Harfreder stopped trying to apologize and just sobbed into his chest. “Do you mind if I sit down?” She released him from her embrace, suddenly realizing she might be hurting him. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t need to. He could see it in her green eyes, which were too bright from the crying. He sat down on the bed and motioned for her to sit next him. She sat cautiously still not speaking. He wasn’t good at this. He wasn’t good at talking. Oh, he could talk plenty about football and NASCAR and running his mouth off until he got into a fight, but he wasn’t good at this kind of talking.

“Harfreder, this is not your fault. I knew it was dangerous and I went anyway.”

“No…no…It was my fault. I knew the dangers. You are new here, you didn’t understand.” Tears were running down her cheeks.

“Harfreder I realize you haven’t known me for long, but you know me. I would have gone no matter what warnings you gave. If anything I shouldn’t have gone and I should have prevented you from going. I hurt myself all the time doing stupid crap, but if you had gotten hurt. I couldn’t live with that. I love you.” She froze for a second staring at him with a look of surprise on her face and then leaned forward into him with a tight embrace. She started sobbing again, crying into his right shoulder. He tried not to move. He felt like crying himself and not from the emotion, his left shoulder was hurting like hell and the pain was blunting the emotional impact. Harfreder’s sobs slowed and she took a shuttering breath trying to calm herself.

“I really need to get back to the infirmary.” He didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but he really did need to get back.

“I was so afraid I’d lost you.” She sniffed and sobbed a couple more times. She was an emotional mess.

“I promised Donavan I wouldn’t be gone long. We can talk more later.” If he survived that long. Cyan was going to kill him if he had reopened his wound. 

“I love you.” She kissed him. A brief thought of sex crossed his mind, but he really wasn’t sure he’d survive it.

He left the long house and shut the door before he let the grimace of pain cross his face.  He stopped, leaning over with his right hand on knee, his left arm dangling loosely and his breath coming in gasps. He waited for the pain to subside before he straightened back up. 

He hadn’t noticed Donovan standing there, waiting outside the house for him.  Without saying a word, Donovan hooked an arm under his shoulder and helped him walk.

On the way back, they passed Mister Grimm.

“You make things right with Harfreder?”

Billy Jo nodded.

“She’s a fine woman, but lacking in good sense at times.” He gave Billy Jo a meaningful stare. 

Billy Jo dropped his eyes in embarrassment.

“Hear you killed two raptors by yourself. That’s impressive.” Mister Grimm took a draw from his pipe. “Foolish, but impressive.” He leaned back in the chair that Billy Jo had made for him. He’d said his piece.

As the two approached the infirmary, Billy Jo checked behind them to make sure there wasn’t a T-Rex following them.  You never could tell in this place.

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