She absolutely hated it when she was right.
She sent a glance to her brother, who merely acknowledged her scowl with a twist of his head. She scowled even harder at that and turned to look out the window, hiding her clenching hands behind her skirts and trying desperately not to haul off and hit the source of her ire.
They were currently pressed inside their wagon, with their brother and his mate and her brat of a child, waiting out the passage of a thunderstorm that came from the south before they could make it to shelter.
She had been walking next to him as he drove the team, ignoring the chatter of the brat and her mother on the other side. She had given up her seat on the wagon to the child, just so her mother would shut up and stop complaining about how harsh it was to walk so much in the heat for such a small child. Every now and then, the man would reach down and lightly flick her on the forehead, just to show her he was still there and hadn't forgotten her. She'd make a playful face and sing a song under her breath, until the woman's demands for her to be quiet because "she couldn't hear her daughter" or "they didn't know the words, couldn't she pick something that they knew" or "that is so inappropriate to sing around her daughter" would wear on her and she'd fall silent again.
When the wind changed, she stopped in her tracks immediately and raised her gaze to the sky. He had turned back and looked at her when he realized she'd stopped, and she called out with a hand to the clouds.
He immediately stood on the step and looked towards the horizon. They were unique in that they could taste the weather on the winds, and he didn't doubt her exclamation. He was more focused on finding shelter for the wagon, or at least the team so they wouldn't suffer in the rain.
Of course, nothing was so easy anymore.
"I don't want to get rained on!" the brat whined, and the girl scowled and bit the inside of her cheek until she could taste blood.
She hadn't wanted the kid to come along but her mother insisted that she was, because she was going to bring her along and if they thought that she would allow her mate to go off without her for a few weeks and leave her and her daughter behind, they were mistaken. And so, for the past two weeks, the girl had bitten her tongue and only spoke her mind in whispers and glances to her soul-brother as they moved through the days. She only could murmur to him as he brought her meat at night, or as he handed her the gun as she exited her bedroll to keep watch, and it was not enough.
"Mince pies, Maudlin dear, mince pies." The man chuckled as he lightly flicked the switch against Osric's flank.
"The brat needs to watch her tongue, 'fore I cut it out." She mumbled back, moving towards the back of the wagon.
"What are you doing?" the woman screeched at her as she opened the door. "You told us not to weigh them down, and now you're in the back! And a storm's coming-"
"I know, I can smell it." The girl spat as she excited, two oilcloth tarps under her arms. "I wasn't riding, I was looking for these." She unfurled one and snapped it in the woman's face. "Tarps for the team; to protect them against the rain. We won't make it to shelter 'fore it breaks."
"Give me one, I'll put it on one." The woman snatched the unfurled one from the girl's grasp and moved towards Osric, ignoring her thunderous expression.
"Wait a bit, it's not time. We've still got ground to cover." The man ordered, glancing at the woman out of the corner of his eye.
The girl snickered into the tarp as he casually flicked the team again, causing them to speed up and move away.
"All beware the gunslinger." She murmured as she caught up with the wagon, earning a wink and a chuckle in response.
They had managed at least half a mile before the storm was too close to ignore. With a nod, the man tugged the reins and halted the wagon. The girl quickly tossed the tarp over Darlin', arranging the hood carefully over her shorn horns and smoothing out the folds over her back. With a quick twist and click, she buckled it underneath the ox's throat before twisting about and ducking under the reigns to Osric's side. Quick as a whip, she snatched the tarp from the woman's hands and settled it over the male, glaring at the other female as she tried to step up and take over.
"Osric doesn't like strangers." The girl informed her curtly. "His horns are shorn but his heart is not."
"Why would you have such a vicious animal then?" the woman demanded, "He could hurt my daughter!"
"It's a good thing to have him wary of strangers." The man cut in from behind, swinging from the wagon seat down to the ground. "He protects our home and Darlin' from those who would seek to thieve or do us harm."
"Besides, if she was smart, she'd stay away." The girl shrugged carelessly, buckling the tarp and caressing the ox's back lovingly.
"My child is smart!" The woman snapped hotly, crossing her arms across her chest and puffing up indignantly.
"Then there won't be a problem." The girl shrugged again, her careless attitude hiding her sadistic glee at irritating the woman deep inside her heart. "Osric's not one for others. It's me, Darlin', and him." She jerked her head towards the man, who was tethering the oxen to a small weighted anchor. "We're his family, his herd, and he's ours. It's as simple as that, and we all work together to make sure we survive. We don't allow temporary sights to distract us or destroy us, and you'd do well to remember that."
"Is that a threat?!" the woman blustered, taking an aggressive stance, her fists clenched and her face turning red.
The girl shrugged a third time before turning her back on the woman, her actions stating her dismissal better than any words could.
And thus they had found themselves in their current predicament, waiting out the storm in terse silence versus their usual companionable. The only noises beyond the pattering of the rain were the pouting whining of the child and the promises of the mother. They only had two beds in the wagon, one for the girl and one for the man, both of which had been taken over by the three "guests" they were beginning to regret picking up. The woman and her brat had taken over the girl's bed, and their brother had taken the man's. The two had slept outside next to the oxen, sharing their beds on the soft grass- but more commonly, on the hard ground scattered with pebbles.
Their brother was quiet for most of the time now; having drawn away from both of them in the time they had been apart. The girl, having been less close than the man, was used to the silence between them, but even she could tell that this new silence was not normal. Sighing, she moved her hand silently, forming shapes with her fingers and palm to spell a message to the man.
He smirked and his fingers silently replied back.
She sighed and stared at the shuttered window, closing her eyes and listening to the pitter-patter of the rain against the wood. Her fingers lazily traced patterns on the wooden floor as she leaned against the wall, her body slack as she enjoyed the little bit of quiet there was to be had.
"Mommy, I'm hungry!" the child whined suddenly, breaking the silence.
The girl twitched and glanced at the man. He raised a brow in response and she mouthed one word at him.
"Hang on a second, baby, I'll get you something." The woman cooed, reaching for one of the cupboards on the side of the wagon.
"No, you won't." the girl spoke up suddenly, rising to her feet and staring down at the woman. "Those food stores have to last us for when we travel through barren lands and can't find meat to hunt. We need that food to survive."
"My daughter's hungry!" The woman spat. "Who the fuck gave you the right to deny a child food!"
"You did, when you brought her and yourself along in our home." The girl felt the man wrap his hand around her wrist; it was meant to stabilize her and prevent her from flying at the woman. She glanced at him from the corner of her eye but made no other acknowledgement.
"You invited us!" The woman screeched. "We came along because-"
"No, we did not." The girl spat back. "We invited our brother and friend, not his whore and her brat."
"How dare you!" the woman stood as well, her face red and her eyes snapping.
"We didn't want you along but didn't protest because of your little fit when we stopped by. You didn't bring anything worth value when you traipsed along either." The man shrugged as he spoke, bringing out a small box. Opening the lid, he began to dismantle and clean his revolver while whistling softly to himself.
"We brought you food!"
"Wrong. You brought yourselves food, and ate almost all of it before the first three days were over, and the rest spoiled. You've eaten our stores, slept in our beds, refused to help with our work but take the results of our hunts, all without contributing. If it were to me, I'd slit both your throats at night and leave your bodies for the wolves, but unfortunately he'd be upset." The girl motioned to their brother, noting the anger and tightness in his face at her words. "That being said, as soon as the rain's over, we're on the move again. Next town, you're all getting off."
"You can't leave us out here!" The woman protested, reaching for her daughter and holding her close. "You have to take us back!"
"No, we don't." The girl snapped coldly. "We agreed to no such thing when you came aboard, nor after. You have your money and your IDs, and you can easily take your... 'luggage' with you when you leave, but you are getting off. Either there or here, it's your choice, but we will not continue with gluttons and fools any longer."
"Easy there, little one." The man spoke up again, reaching up and tugging her wrist again. "None of this is good for the home. We may not get along, but we will not encourage anger either."
"No buts." He silenced her protests with a look. "You will behave, little one, and this will pass. The storm's about to break, and then things will change. 'Til then, keep the tempest at bay, understand?"
"Yes." she muttered sullenly, retreating to her seat and gathering her legs close to her. "But-"
"I'll make your tea tonight, and you'll be camping out with me under the stars. No excuses, got it?"
"Yes." she muttered again, glaring at him.
"Good." He turned to their company and shook his head. "We're almost to the next town. Things aren't working out, and it'd be better for everyone involved if you all departed there and returned home. We won't bother you again, and that's that."
The woman proceeded to rant and rave and insult them for hours, while her child cried and whined and the girl shot glares at them all. Sighing, the man closed his eyes and sat next to the girl, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and silently speaking to her with his eyes. They managed to endure the woman's anger in mutual suffering... until she insulted the girl's family.
He had traveled with his sister for so long, and lived with her even longer, and nothing set her off quicker than attacking her blood relatives. She was proud of her bloodline and her parents, proud of what they had accomplished and endured and life, proud of what they taught her and what they had done for her- and to insult them was the quickest way to make her draw blood.
He had no choice.
The girl landed in the wet mud with a thump, her skirts tangling around her legs, wet and heavy in the puddles and the rain. She stood with a shout, her entire appearance bedraggled and furious, a Valkyrie come to Earth with a vengeance-
And the woman still could not shut her mouth.
"Looks like you finally threw her where she belongs," she sneered, "in the dirt."
"I threw her out to spare your daughter the sight of her mother dying in her lover's arms." The man stated coldly. "She almost drew her blades on you."
"She wouldn't dare!" The woman scowled, her hawkish features turning uglier in the dim lantern light. "She'd face charges-"
"And does that stop a wild creature when it defends its pack?" The man snarled at her. "No, it doesn't, and I don't blame it- or her. I didn't throw her out to please you. I did what I had to do to protect her. Not you. Now sit down and shut up, and keep your kid quiet."
Turning to the girl, he threw a bundle at her head. Scowling, she caught it and shook it out, revealing an oilskin poncho. It was one of two they had in their possession, made specifically for driving the team in the rain. Refusing to look at him, she swirled it around her shoulders and drew the hood, moving towards the bench seat.
With a sigh, he sat back down in the cabin and stayed silent as the wagon lurched to life, the creaking wheels and soft, angry singing of the girl at the reins the only sound besides the rain.
Eventually, the rain let up and the girl stopped the team. A few clicks and thuds later, and the shutters opened to reveal fields glistening with rain and sunlight and the scent of life flowing around them like a dream. The man breathed in deep, knowing the girl was doing the same on the other side of the wall, and the journey began once more.
"How did this happen?" Their brother asked an hour later, speaking softly as he watched his woman and her child sleep, curled together against the chill that always followed a rain. "Why are we like this now? We used to be different, you know."
"I know." The man shrugged. "Things change. People change. We changed."
"No we didn't." he protested, but his words died on his tongue at the look in the man's eyes.
"Yes, we did." He shrugged again. "You went a different direction than we did, and that's your choice and life. We went on our way together, and you went with her." He nodded at the sleeping woman. "You changed, and we changed, and that's all there is to it."
Outside, the girl began singing a Spanish love song, mangling the words and often just humming the melody when she couldn't remember the pronunciation.
"It's not your fault, it's not mine. It's not hers-" he jerked his head towards the head of the wagon, "-or hers-" he nodded towards the woman on the floor. "It happened, and that's it. No point in cryin' over it now, is there?"
Their brother shook his head. "We used to be so different, so tight... I miss that."
"As do we." The man sighed, standing as the wagon stopped again. "As do we."
The girl opened the door to the cabin, her face blank and tranquil. "It's time."
"As far as we normally get to towns we don't pass through." The girl shrugged, moving aside so the man could descend from the cabin's step. "Didn't feel more comfortable than this, and that's sayin' something."
"Where are we?" their brother asked, descending after the man.
"About three miles outside the Albany settlement." The girl replied. "It's about three miles too close for comfort, so wake up your chosen and get moving. Patrols come this way too often for my tastes."
"Why aren't we closer? It's too far to walk." The woman complained, having now woken up. She carried her daughter in her arms, and the man calmly placed his hands on the girl's shoulders to prevent her from moving towards the two.
"We don't go into settlements, or get to close." The man pushed the girl's shoulders lightly, directing her towards the seat again. "We have the oxen and we have food; add in our supplies and you have a very pretty picking for survivors."
"We kill when we have to, but that's it." The girl murmured, staring at a tree in the distance. "Blood makes the ground go brown."
"The ground is brown, stupid!" the child sneered at the girl, imitating her mother's attitude and expression.
The girl dropped her gaze to the child's and held it until she drew back with a cry.
The girl's eyes were wide and empty, flat and dull and full of things no one should see. She merely stared at the child until she hid her face in her mother's side, trying to escape the images reflected in the girl's eyes; images that would give nightmares to anyone who saw.
"Blood makes brown, blood blooms black. Black poisons the blood and blood stains the sky." The girl murmured, moving slowly towards the seat. "Sky rains down blood and all the people die."
"Shit." The man cursed, turning and watching the girl. "Just what we don't need."
"What's she babbling about? She's scaring my baby!" the woman demanded.
"She's gone away again. Goddammit." He cursed again. "Look, the settlement's that way. Just tell them you got lost on a trip; your suitcases will help with that. You ain't got anything of value in there anyway, and they're not so hard up for clothes in this area they'd rob you."
"So this is goodbye, then." Their brother spoke suddenly, causing the man to stop in his movements towards the wagon.
"Yep. That it is." He replied, nodding his head once."
"You still never really answered my question, you know."
"About what, exactly?"
"About how we ended up like this. You said we changed, but didn't say how."
"It's simple, really." The man reached into the cabin and pulled out a blanket. It was a dark green wool blanket, thin and itchy and from his bed, but it would have to do. Moving towards the girl, he reached up and wrapped the blanket around her shoulders, tucking the edges in around her.
"How so?" their brother followed him to the wagon seat, watching him as he tended to the girl.
He turned and looked at him, and their brother stepped back. In the man's eyes were shadows of what existed in the girl's, and that's when he knew. Knew before the man even spoke, but still he listened all the same.
"You're our brother, but families grow apart." The man moved heaved himself into the seat, stepping over the girl's legs as she stared up at the sky. Picking up the reins, he gave their brother another look, one tinged with sadness and a bit of regret, but mostly calm acceptance.
"You'll always be our brother, but you'll never again be our friend."
With a click of his tongue, the team began to move again, and a broken song began to float among the trees as the girl's voice wove a spell in the mists and fog.
Their brother watched their retreat, until the voice of his woman brought him back to reality and the situation at hand. As they began their walk back to civilization, he continued to think over the man's parting words, and realized with a sinking heart that he was right.
You'll always be my brother and sister, but you'll never again be my friend.