Blood on the Snow: Chapter 16 (draft)

It wasn’t a book. Or a lover’s gift – or, if it was, it was a bloody strange one. It was a box. 

It was small and flat, about the size of a cigarette packet, and made of dark wood, with silver detailing etched into the lid, sides, and base in a looping interlocking pattern which seemed to move and change the moment Sabbat took his eyes off it (though, given the fact the snow under his feet didn’t seem entirely steady either, he wasn’t too sure that wasn’t his eyes blurring rather than anything to do with the damn box). And it was also, much to his irritation, locked. 

Normally, that wouldn’t have been too much of a challenge – he was a thief, after all, and his lockpicks were as much a part of his daily rig as his belt-knife or his razor. But right now even a simple lock would’ve required more concentration than he’d be able to give and still stay upright, and whatever lock this particular box was equipped with, it definitely wasn’t anywhere near simple. 

Can’t even find the sodding lock. Suppose it’s too much to hope it’s just a hidden spring-catch. 

He leant back against the wall, biting down hard on the corner of his lip until he tasted blood in an attempt to focus through the haze. 

Come on. No bloody use having half-inched the thing if we can’t open it. 

Carefully, keeping the box pressed tight against his chest with his forearm, he peeled the glove off his left hand, hissing in pain as the leather dragged against the improvised bandage wrapped around the palm. 

No sense losing my good hand if this thing’s trapped. 

It wasn’t a good plan. It wasn’t even a halfway sensible plan – and, if Archer was there, he’d almost certainly have said as much. But Archer wasn’t there, and, besides, Sabbat had a fairly good sense of what the vampire’s opinion on opening random boxes he’d half-inched from Sinnlenst was likely to be, no matter where the random box in question had come from. 

Namely, ‘Don’t.’ But then again, there’s a reason I’m a thief and he’s not. 

The looping lines of silver were almost uncannily smooth under his fingertips, still blood-warm from his bodyheat even in the freezing night air, and, as his fingers traced the design over and around the base and sides of the box, he found the pain in his hand, his spine, his head fading away into the snow and fog, subsumed by the slow, sinuous curves and shapes of the strange, repeating pattern.

I don’t- Something’s not-

It felt… good: warm, and comfortable, and oddly familiar, like the buzz from a half-flask of gin, or a good hit of Smoke on a day when the pain would’ve otherwise left him sick and sweating. Something he could lose himself in, if he wanted to. And fuck, but he wanted to right now. 

Just… let the whole fucking world go hang for a bit. Take the Smoke, knock yourself out, go watch the seaserpents swimming across the ceiling until Archer comes knocking on the door to ask where the hells you’ve been for the last-

Shit. Archer!

His hand slipped, the metal edging of the corner of the box biting into his wounded palm and sending a spike of pain shooting up his arm – he swore, dropped the box, and fell to his knees, cradling his hand against his chest as hot blood dripped down his wrist and splattered onto the snow. 


The strange Smoke-like fog had cleared from his mind the moment he let go of the box, washed away by a sudden tide of agony from every single bruise, cut and break that nearly threatened to send him spiralling back into unconsciousness again. His throat spasmed, ripped raw by the shout of pain, and he doubled over, coughing up a mixture of bile and gore onto the already-stained ground as he fought for breath. 

Shit shit shit shit shit-

Something sparked across his vision, lightning-bright in the dark. The ghostly fingers around his throat tightened. And his bare hand, scrabbling in the muck, landed squarely atop the lid of the discarded box.

A wave of warmth ran up his arm, as though he’d stuck his hand into a hot spring, and with a strange, unsettled shift of pressure, the tightness in his throat suddenly eased. 

I don’t- 


I can breathe. 

I can breathe. 

What the shitting fuck?

His hand had stopped hurting. His leg had stopped hurting. Hells, everything had stopped hurting, even his throat, and – given the taste of blood in his mouth and the stain soaking through the bandage on his left hand – he was fairly fucking certain none of ‘em had suddenly magically stopped being injured. And, more importantly, he wasn’t currently fucking choking to death. 

Which meant that whatever this box was, for the moment he and it were going to be very good friends. 

Provided it gets the sodding message about who’s in charge around here. I’m not being bossed around by a chunk of fucking hardwood. 

This time, at least, it didn’t seem to be trying to send him back into the Smoke dream. In fact, apart from the strange warmth radiating up his arm and the lack of pain, it wasn’t doing anything other than… sitting there, being a box. 

He picked it up, careful to keep at least one edge of the wood pressed against exposed skin and, with a grunt of effort, yanked open the lacing at the top of his shirt and dropped the box down inside the front of his collar. It settled flat against his belly, the warmth pooling there as though he’d just downed a glass of spirits and, when he tentatively moved to put his glove back on, the pain and tightness in his throat stayed gone – apparently whatever the box was doing, it was going to keep doing it as long as it was in contact with any bare skin.

Still ain’t sure I’m not hallucinating the half of this, but I’ll take it if it means not dying in a snowbank. And, as he dragged himself to his feet and looked warily down the alleyway towards the nearest lamppost, Just have to get back to the Daggers before whatever this is wears off. 


Bloody hells. I could have started walking home at this rate. 

She’d no intention of doing that, of course. Her leg was aching like a bastard and, even taking her werewolf healing into account, she had no illusions about how far she’d get if she tried to walk back to the townhouse on it. But spirits and ancestors, how long could Amelia and her fiance draw out their bloody goodbyes?

Admittedly, I’m a sodding hypocrite. I’ve been worse with some of my girlfriends, and I know as much. But…

But she was tired, in pain, and wanted her own bed and her own space and not to be worrying about getting an earful for letting her charge run off into the slums to go meet unsuitable men. 

And, fine, I’d be a whole lot happier if I’d actually met the unsuitable man in question before she went ahead and got betrothed to him. For all I know, he’s a bloody Sinnlenst agent or something. 

He almost certainly wasn’t. Amelia was smarter than that (or, at least, Viola really bloody hoped she was), and she wasn’t about to let a pretty face or a friendly smile fool her into getting into bed with the enemy. 

And I am never using that phrase about her lovelife ever again. Whatever my surrogate little sister wants to do with her partners in that way is her own business, and I do not need to know about it. 

Anyhow, that was beside the point. Harry Mortimer was almost certainly not a Sinnlenst agent, or an assassin, or anything other than what he appeared to be, and she was almost certainly being completely bloody paranoid about the whole thing.

And I really hope that’s the case. Because for once, I’d far rather be wrong about this. 

“Vi?” Amelia pushed open the door again, somewhat tentatively. “Are you ready?”

Viola nodded, pushing herself up onto her elbows and flexing the muscles in her leg experimentally. It hurt about as much as she’d expected it to, and she’d not be able to put weight on it for long, but she reckoned it’d probably hold her for long enough to get to wherever the sleigh was. “I’ll be fine. Are we going?”

“As soon as you’re on your feet,” the male voice she’d heard from the other side of the door confirmed. 

She looked up. 

Standing in the doorway behind Amelia was a young man of about average height – human, with warm brown eyes creased at the corners with laugh lines, an open, honest-looking face, and a skin tone which sat almost exactly midway between Viola’s pale and Amelia’s dark. He had one hand on Amelia’s shoulder, fingers intertwined with hers, and the other… was missing, the sleeve of his shirt pinned up at the shoulder. 

…Oh. She told me he’d lost an arm, but I didn’t think-

She looked away, suddenly realising she’d been staring and hating herself just a little for it. Pull yourself together, Viola. It’s not as though he’s the first person missing a limb you’ve seen in your life. 

“You’re Viola, right? Viola Cervanso?”

“Aye. And you’re Harry Mortimer.”

He blushed – honest to the spirits, blushed – and, untangling his fingers from Amelia’s, ran his hand distractedly through his hair (which, she realised belatedly, was short enough that he must have had it shaved back to the scalp during whatever wound-sickness he’d had after the loss of his arm). “I take it Amelia told you about me.” 

“Eventually.” She sat up, trying to ignore the lingering twinges of pain from her bruised spine, and proffered her hand. “It’s good to finally meet you.”

“Likewise,” Mortimer said, crossing to grasp her offered hand in his own. His grip was firm, but awkward, and she wondered suddenly if he was – had been – left-handed. “I’m only sorry it couldn’t be under better circumstances.”

“Honestly, I’d rather this than at your wedding.” She grinned, tightening her own grip just a little. “At least this way I can find out in advance if you’re planning on doing anything horrific to her.”

“Viola!” Amelia snapped. “That’s not fair!”

Mortimer, however, didn’t seem insulted by the implication – if anything, he seemed to Viola to be looking at her with rather more fellow-feeling than before. “Seems perfectly fair to me. I’m an unknown quantity, after all, and you’ve no reason to believe that I am what I say I am. What can I do to prove myself to you?”

“I don’t- wait, what?” 

“What can I do to prove myself to you?” Mortimer repeated. He laughed, quietly. “After all, you’re practically my sister-in-law – it’s going to be bloody awkward if I’m having to watch my back any time we’re in the same room.”

Not yet you’re not, Viola thought, but there weren’t many teeth behind it. He’d wrongfooted her, she’d happily admit that much – and, if she was honest, she wasn’t exactly getting the feeling that he was some sort of terrifyingly competent double-agent. Maybe I really was just being paranoid and he is exactly what he looks like. 

And maybe I’m too tired, too hurt, and too bloody awkward to be having this conversation right now. 

“Fine.” She sighed, loosening her grip on his hand, and sank back onto the bed. “Truce, for now – if you get us back to the townhouse before her parents show up.”

He nodded, seemingly content to drop the subject for now. “Of course. Do you need a hand up?” 

“I’m fine-” she began – then paused, took a breath, and realised exactly how badly her leg was currently hurting. “I- Yes. Thanks.”

“You’re very welcome,” he said, and apparently meant it. 


Archer started awake to the sound of the window creaking open, his hand already moving to his belt-knife even before his eye had properly focused. 

What the-? And, as memory flooded back and he remembered why on earth he’d somehow ended up falling asleep sitting on the floor, That had better be Sabbat. 

The window creaked again, swinging wide as a dark shape dropped into the room. It looked like Sabbat, Archer was sure of that much, but something in the way it moved seemed off somehow, as though whoever it was was drugged or wounded, and-

And he could smell blood. 

“Sabbat?” He was on his feet before he realised, heading for the other man with his hands out. “What happened?”

“‘m fine,” the assassin grated, waving him away. He stumbled towards the bed, falling face-first onto it with a groan that seemed equal parts pain and relief. “Lemme ‘lone.”

For crying out loud, Sabbat. Considering how rough you look, you and I both know I’m not going to do that. Not without knowing you’re not going to bleed out on me, at least. “Please at the very least reassure me that you’re not currently poisoned, bleeding to death, or otherwise about to expire in the next few minutes.”


“That’s not an answer.” He sighed and closed his eye briefly, trying to fight back the seeds of panic growing in his chest. Logic, always logic. Eliminate the obvious possibilities first. “Before we go any further with this – are you drunk?”

That won him a groan which sounded as though it might have been in the negative, and a raised middle finger which definitely was. 

And, to be fair, he didn’t smell like drink. He smelled like blood, and sweat, and something else that Archer couldn’t place, oddly warm and spice-scented. 

What happened to you? “Alright.” He moved closer, seating himself carefully on the edge of the bed next to the assassin’s sprawled form. “Considering the fact you currently smell like blood, I would very much like to double-check that you’re not seriously injured. If I touch you, are you going to attempt to stab me again?”

Continued raised middle finger.

“Is that a yes?”

Silence. Then a rasping, choking intake of breath, and “Jus’ do it, Archer.”

Focus. He’d likely not have been able to get back up into the room if he really was bleeding out, and you know as much. More likely, he’s broken a couple of ribs and got himself cut up again: nothing you can’t fix, and certainly nothing worth panicking over.

Moving deliberately slowly, as much to keep his own hands from shaking as to avoid the possibility of Sabbat managing to stab him entirely on reflex, he reached out, brushing the younger man’s hair back away from his face and neck – and freezing for a moment as the movement exposed four livid fingerprint bruises marking the side of the assassin’s throat. 

What in the name of- “Gods above, Sabbat, what happened to you?”

There was a brief pause. Then the assassin’s one visible eye snapped open, rolling up and to the side in a non-verbal gesture which, coupled with his expression, fairly handily conveyed the phrase ‘what do you think, idiot?’ (with or without the addition of a fair number of swearwords). 

“Well, yes,” Archer conceded, a sudden flicker of relief pushing past the panic – if Sabbat was well enough to pull faces at him, he obviously wasn’t in imminent danger. “Obviously, someone tried to strangle you.” And, judging by the colour of those bruises, whoever it was wasn’t human. “I’m assuming that’s the reason you’re not exactly being talkative at the moment?”

Eyeroll. Wince. 

“Entirely fair. Given how one-sided this conversation currently is, I’m going to stop asking questions which can’t be answered with either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.” He frowned, running his fingertips lightly across the edges of the bruising. “Though I’m honestly surprised you’re still conscious at all. This looks deep.”


“I- what?” 

For a moment, he thought he must have misheard. Then Sabbat hissed something which sounded distinctly uncomplimentary, rolled over, and, grabbing hold of Archer’s hand, pulled it down to rest for a moment on a strange flat shape tucked under the folds of his shirt just above his belt. “Box.”

“I don’t understand.” It had felt like a cigarette box, or something like it – had he been taking something which had kept him conscious until he got back to the rooms? “Is there Smoke in that?”

“Fuck. Off.” That, somehow, was clear as the proverbial, though the look on Sabbat’s face implied he’d pushed through a fair amount of pain to manage it. “‘s magic.”

That got Archer’s attention, though possibly not for the reasons Sabbat might have hoped. While there were talismans which were supposed to aid with healing – had been for centuries, ever since the Fall – he was damn certain that a) most of them were nothing more than placebos and b) Sabbat didn’t own one, given they were generally the preserve of backcountry and out-of-city folks who put more trust in their own particular superstitions than gods and ritual texts. The fact that he was suddenly in possession of one which, if Archer was any judge, was doing at least some actual measurable good suddenly raised a number of fairly significant questions. Not least of which: “Where did you get it from?”

The assassin looked, if possible, even less impressed than he had been by Archer’s previous enquiries. “Stole it,” he growled. Then he closed his eyes, tipped his head back against the pillow, and made a vague, half-hearted shrugging gesture which Archer had, over the years they’d known each other, learned to interpret as ‘do whatever first-aid you want, I’m going to sleep.’

I should be grateful you trust me that much, I suppose. I doubt there’s anyone else in the city you’d extend the same courtesy to. 

I just wish you’d not decide to disappear inside your own head right when I could do with being able to talk to you. 

He took a breath, the cold breeze from the open window cutting sharply through the lingering mess of tangled emotions and anxieties, and stood up. “I’m going to get the medicine box. I assume it’s still where it was the last time I had to patch you up here?”

Surprisingly, that actually got a response. Unsurprisingly, it came in the form of another raised middle finger. 

At least I know he’s not broken his hand again. “Very helpful. I’m going to take that as a yes.”

It was. Or, at least, the remnants of the medicine box were exactly where they’d been the last time he checked. 

“I thought you told me you didn’t need any more supplies for this. I seem to remember you very distinctly telling me that.” He sighed. “At least you’ve still got needles and gut. I’ll need your hipflask, if you don’t have any more gin hidden anywhere around here.”

There was a brief pause, a hiss of discomfort, and then the hipflask in question clattered onto the floorboards next to the bed, followed by a matchbox, a cigarette case, and an assortment of coins and small pieces of jewellery which Archer was almost certain had been pickpocketed over the course of the past few days. 

“Thank you,” he said, after the last of the contents of Sabbat’s coat pockets had hit the floor. “Though I’m not sure the rest of that was entirely necessary.” Without looking up, he added, “Also, I’m going to assume you’re swearing at me right now.”

He could practically feel the younger man’s glare – which, if he was honest, continued to be oddly reassuring. Consider it some measure of payback for your continued attempts to irritate me. Also, the more I distract you, the easier trying to stitch up whatever it is you’ve managed to do to yourself this time is going to be for both of us. 

The gut and needles were still in the leather pouch they’d been in when he’d given them to Sabbat, (though there was, unsurprisingly, significantly less of the former than there had been when he’d bought it) – he rescued it from the mess of bandages and empty bottles at the bottom of the box and tossed it onto the foot of the bed. The hipflask joined it, once he’d unearthed it from the pile of detritus, as did the box of matches – for all he could see perfectly well in the dark, he preferred to have at least a candle to work by when he was suturing or doing similarly detailed tasks.

Now all he needed was a bowl of water, some rags, and-


The voice was young, female, nervous, and… familiar? Wait-

“Radish? What’re you-” 

“I brought you some hot water. And a lantern. And a scalpel. And some clean bandages. And a rag.” Pause. “Can I come in?”

“Of course-” Archer began. Then he stopped, looking towards Sabbat. “One moment.” He lowered his voice. “Is she allowed in?”

The assassin groaned, rolling on his side and waving a hand irritably towards the door. “Don’ care.” 

“I’m going to take that as a yes.” If nothing else, she’s saved me a trip downstairs. He raised his voice again, looking back towards the doorway, the closed door, and the currently-invisible girl presumably waiting on the other side of it. “You can come in. Do you need a hand with the door?”

“‘s alright!” Radish replied, brightly. There was a clunk, a short outburst of oddly muffled swearing, and the door creaked open, revealing the werewolf girl backing her way into the room with a bowl of steaming water in her arms, a lit dark-lantern hanging off her belt, and a bundle of cloth clenched between her teeth. “‘lo!”

Archer scrambled to his feet, heading towards her in an attempt to rescue the bowl before she dropped it, but she dodged past him, moving surprisingly quickly for someone carrying quite so many disparate and awkward items. 


“I don’t- Would you like me to take that?”

“Nuh-uh!” She crossed to the window, put the bowl down carefully on the upturned crate next to the empty ewer and basin and, that done, spat the bundle of cloth out into her hands and grinned up at him. “See? I got it!”

He couldn’t exactly argue with her. Though… “Radish?”


“How did you know I needed all of this?”

“I guessed.” She stuck her tongue out, dropping down to sit cross-legged on the floor with the boneless ease of childhood. “I heard him come in through the window, an’ you were worrying earlier so I figured like as not he’d probably be coming back hurt.” 

Archer raised an eyebrow, impressed despite himself. “Quick thinking.”

“Oh, an’ I was listening at the door.”

Oh for the sake of all the gods!

Sabbat snarled something incomprehensible, sat up, and lunged towards the girl, obviously meaning to grab her by the scruff of the neck – though halfway through the movement he seemed to think better of it and sank back against the bed with a hiss of pain and his hand pressed to his ribs. 

Radish, for her part, went very pale, yelped, and shuffled rapidly backwards away from the bed until her back hit the nearest wall (which, given the size of the room, wasn’t far). “I din’t hear much of anything! Just enough to know you wanted the stuff!” She looked towards Archer, eyes wide. “I swear, I din’t hear anything proper! Not anything secret or nothing, honest!”

“I’m sure you didn’t,” Archer said, caught awkwardly between laughter and irritation. He stepped between Radish and the bed, meeting Sabbat’s eyes as he did so, and folded his arms. “And I’m sure my friend here isn’t going to do anything to hurt you-”

“You don’t know-” the girl began, but Archer kept talking, speaking over her protests. 

“-because if he does, I will be very disappointed in him. Even if he has the right to be angry with you for eavesdropping he is, I would hope, far too mature to take that anger out on someone who’s half his size.” Which is, of course, why he’s currently sticking two fingers up at me and pulling faces. Satisfied that Sabbat wasn’t currently about to attempt to clip the girl round the ear (though mostly because he looked as though he’d possibly pass out if he tried to move that fast again), he turned his attention fully to Radish, crouching down to bring himself closer to eye level with her. “As for you, I would have thought you’d know better than to go around listening at keyholes – or, at the very least, you’d know better than to admit it. What were you hoping to overhear?”

The girl squirmed and looked away, a bright red flush climbing the sides of her neck. “Nothin’.”

“Now why don’t I believe that?” 

“I- It wasn’t anything important, I swear. Jus’…” She stared at her feet for a moment, then, when they seemed not to provide the answers she was seeking, switching her gaze to a point in the rafters a little ways above Archer’s head. “D’you really want to know?”

Honestly? Not particularly. But I also know I’m never going to forgive myself if it turns out you knew something about Rose’s murder and I didn’t think to ask. “I think you’d probably better tell me.” 

“Fine.” She closed her eyes, scrunched up her face in concentration for a moment, and then seemed to come to a decision. “You got to come closer, though. An’ promise me something.”

“And what would that be, exactly?”

“You got to come closer first,” Radish insisted. 

He did so, and she shuffled towards him, reaching up to place one small hand on his shoulder and whispering almost directly into his ear. 

“You got to promise you won’t tell him what I said.”

“Sabbat?” he asked, dropping the volume of his own voice to match hers.

She nodded. 

“I promise.”

“Alright.” She paused, made a small unhappy sound, and then said, very very quietly, “I wanted t’know if the two of you were actually… y’know. If you were goin’ t’tell him you liked him. ‘cause you wouldn’t say, back earlier, but half my sibs reckon the two of you are already a thing, an’-” She broke off, fingers digging into his shirt. “I know I shouldn’t’ve done it, an’ I’m real sorry. You- you won’t tell my granma, will you?”

Oh gods and goddesses, of all the conversations I didn’t want to have right now… Given what he knew of Jenny, she’d probably be more irritated that the girl had admitted what she’d done than that she’d been eavesdropping in the first place, but that didn’t mean Radish’s fear was any less unfounded. And, in the grand scheme of things, listening at doors because you wanted to know whether two people were a couple was a comparatively innocent thing to have been caught doing. But that still didn’t stop him feeling distinctly uncomfortable about the whole situation. Not least because I really did not need to know that half of Jenny’s brood already think we’re together. Dear gods, I don’t even want to think about what Sabbat would say if he knew. 

Very gently, he reached up and disentangled Radish’s hand from his shirt, drawing it down to hold it loosely in both of his own. “I’m not going to tell your grandma, Radish. I promise. But in return, I want you to promise something to me.”

“What kind of a somethin’?” the girl asked, frowning a little. 

“Something very simple.” He raised his voice again, conscious of the fact that Sabbat had probably been attempting to listen in on the entire conversation. “When you’ve finished helping me up here – assuming that’s what you came in here for in the first place – I want you to go straight back down to your bed, hop right into it, and go back to sleep. No sneaking back up here, no listening in on conversations that don’t concern you, nothing. And I want you to promise me that you won’t ever – ever – try to eavesdrop on Sabbat or myself again. Do you understand?”

Radish nodded, a quick dip of her head which did absolutely nothing to hide the fact she was clearly still halfway terrified. “I understan’.” She chewed her lip, looking away from him again. “An’ you promise you’re not goin’ t’tell granma what I did?”

“I promise.” He’d already said as much, but it seemed important enough to her to be worth repeating. “Now, did you want to help me with this, or were you planning on bringing me the supplies and then going back to bed?” He paused, looking back over his shoulder, then added. “He’s not going to hurt you. Are you, Sabbat?”

“No,” the assassin growled, though to Archer’s ears he sounded somewhat sulky at having to admit as much. “Course I- ngh- ain’t.” He grimaced, reaching up to rub gingerly at the marks on his throat, and settled back against the pillows with a groan of discomfort. 

“There,” Archer said, trying to ignore the worry biting at the back of his mind. “Sabbat might be a criminal, but he’s also a man of his word. You’re fine.”

Radish didn’t look entirely convinced, but, after a brief moment of consideration, she scrambled to her feet and handed Archer the bundle of rags and bandages she’d been holding. “There’s a scalpel in the middle – I nicked it off Jack when she wasn’t lookin’, but she’s got so many she’ll never miss one.”

“Thank you.” She’d wrapped the scalpel well – even knowing it was in there, it took him several minutes to untangle the blade from the middle of the nest of fabric – and, by the time he’d finished unwrapping it, she’d unhooked the dark-lantern from her belt and set it down on the crate next to the head of the bed, positioned where it would shine the majority of its light across Sabbat’s torso. She’s done this, or something like it, before. 

It shouldn’t have surprised him. Jenny’s many children and grandchildren were always getting themselves into scrapes of one sort or another and, for all they normally had the upper hand in the end, it wasn’t uncommon for them to be sporting bandages and bruises for a few days after whatever brawl or streetfight they’d ended up in. And it stood to reason, therefore, that there would be at least a few of them who had some basic medical training – likely more than he did, if he was honest – and that the younger ones might well be enlisted to help hold lights, wash instruments, and generally act as nurses. 

And yet, it somehow still surprises me that she’s as competent as she is when it comes to this. I’m sure Sabbat would have some choice words about the assumptions that suggests. 

“You’re staying, then?”

She nodded. “You’re going t’need someone to help hold things, right? An’ Jack said I was good enough t’start learning how to stitch people up proper- properly.” She frowned, looking towards the bowl of water. “I’m going t’need t’go get more water from downstairs first, though. That’s probably gone cold by now.”

It was still steaming, but he wasn’t going to argue with her – even if she didn’t explicitly need to go and refresh the bowl, she almost certainly needed some space to reckon through the events of the last few minutes. “Of course. Knock on the door when you come back up, will you?”

She nodded again, bobbed what could’ve been a very small bow and, retrieving the bowl from its place by the window, backed out of the room. 

Archer waited until he heard her footsteps pad out of hearing. Then he dropped to his knees on the floorboards, rested his head against the edge of the bed, and laughed, soundlessly and helplessly, until the tears were rolling down the side of his face. “Oh gods! I shouldn’t- but of all the-”

“Wha’?” Sabbat grated, irritably. He reached out, tapping the side of Archer’s head with his bare, bloodied left hand. “Wha’s so funny?”

“She- Oh gods… I shouldn’t laugh, but-”

This time, the tap was a good deal closer to an actual cuff around the back of the head. “Fucksake, Arch’r!”

If I’m not careful, I’ll end up telling him exactly why Radish was listening at that door. And neither she nor I are going to enjoy the potential consequences of that mistake. With an effort, he managed to bring himself back down to something resembling his usual level of calm. “Sorry, I just- You have to admit, the fact that she was more worried about her grandmother’s reaction than anything either of us might do in retaliation…”

Sabbat laughed –  or, at least, started to, before a coughing fit left him doubled over and hissing profanities through gritted teeth. When he’d finally got his breath back, he nodded towards the door and raised an eyebrow. “Wouldn’ you be?”

And, if he was entirely honest, Archer couldn’t help but agree. 


Copyright © 2020 by Finn McLellan.  All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “Blood on the Snow: Chapter 16 (draft)

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