The rain drove into them in sheets, now horizontal, now swirling around her in spirals. He held her hand and her elbow, supporting her against the hard drops. Despite his captivity he was wonderfully solid. He shouted something but she couldn't hear the words; the wind sucked his voice this way and that, stealing the sound then amplifying it.
They walked for what seemed an eternity, his strength holding her against the relentless wind. Her hair whipped about stinging her cheeks, and the cloth of her skirt slapped painfully against her legs. Her ears ached terribly and her hearing was dull, as if her head had been swathed with cotton. Slowly what had happened dawned on her.
Levi was dead. The Brave had scalped him and he was dead. And now he was taking her away from the camp. She turned to look behind her. The camp was small and far away, steadily getting farther. The vision didn't affect her one way or the other. She had a strange floating feeling, as though she were watching another woman fight through the high grass, hand in hand with an Indian, lightening arcing over head and the air swirling dizzily around her.
On the horizon line a dark cloud took on a point. It would dip toward the Earth, then pull back again, sometimes dissolving completely, sometimes gaining mass until it seemed half a mile in width. Her companion's eyes never left it. He began moving faster toward a rise in the ground, gathering her closer to him.
The funnel touched down, lifted, touched again and caught. Weaving almost drunkenly back and forth it looked as though it would collapse in upon itself. Soon it righted and picked up speed, heading straight towards them. With a terrific effort he lifted her up and sprinted through the gale toward the little hill before throwing them down beneath it, using it as a barrier to the menacing cloud.
He laid on her, heavy and warm and her nose was filled with the strange smell of him. When she tried to put up her head he pressed it down, smoothing the hair from her brow. Turning her face, they came nose to nose. Dreamily she looked up at him. He was so close all she could see were his eyes. They were deeply shadowed despite the strange glow in the air, but when a burst of lightning illuminated them she could make them out- black, almond orbs rimmed with thick lashes. He was looking back at her.
Thunder Crow ignored the screaming pain in his foot- if it had healed it was now open again- and covered Beatrix with his body. She lay quiet and trusting beneath him, her body relaxed. She looked up at him calmly. He pulled her a little closer, tucking in her skirts and burying his fingers in the turf.
The twister, which until this point had been a dull roar muffled by the screaming wind, rose in pitch before taking on its characteristic sound. Thunder Crow's only experience with trains was the solitary double line of tracks at the railroad camp, but if he'd ever heard a freight traveling at full speed he would have recognized the sound immediately.
Beatrix did recognize it, and put her head up again to listen, but he pressed it down, leaving his hand on her cold brow. Pressing his lips to her face he half sang the love song. The wind took the words from his mouth but in his mind they were clear.
Her face the fairest star,
Light... where all is dark...
My home fills with light...
He knew he should be paying attention to the storm but at this point if it was going to get them it would. What ever else happened he was free, and was it really so bad to die young and strong, especially if the last thing he ever saw was this face? Closing his eyes he touched her with his fingertips, feeling a strange sort of possessiveness.
He wasn't afraid to die- he never had been- but the will to survive surged up in him as he felt her delicate features. She would live. It was an easy resolution to make but he wasn't sure how he would keep it.
The wind picked up further, ripping away the last shreds of his shirt. A beam landed with a heavy thunk within ten feet of them. Nails were studded into it at intervals and a rough, worn bridle hung from one of them, much as its owner had placed it the day before. The rain slowed as the twister approached- he couldn't see over the mound in the earth but he knew it was still headed straight for them.
He looked about in frustration, trying to think of something, anything that would save them. He felt himself being lifted by the wind and clung fiercely to the sod, pressing his knee into Beatrix to try and keep her still. Dry, brittle grass sliced his fingers but gave him little hold. Her two white hands came up to clutch his shoulders and her eyes left his to look in the direction of the clouds. The roar of the tornado reached a deafening pitch, then slackened, then dissolved. Debris and wet dirt rained down and the winds continued their frenzied swirling for a few moments longer, then a cold northerly blew in, slowly effacing the clouds until the starry sky was once again visible.
He looked up at it and laughed, shaking back his sodden hair and letting out a great war whoop. Flopping back to the ground beside Beatrix he kissed the side of her face. The neck of her dress was ripped, revealing the wet cotton chemise beneath. He moved his lips to the hollow of her collar bone, eyes trained downward. Wounded, exhausted, and starving, his libido amazed him. But that could wait.
For now they had to move.
The brave pulled Beatrix to her feet, wrapping her soaked shawl more securely around her. He was favoring his leg, bleeding and obviously in pain, but as he took her hand he was smiling.
Just then the gravity of what she was doing hit her and she struggled to take back her hand.
"No, I have to go back! Please, let me go!"
He looked at her in confusion, then smiled indulgently as he pulled up her against his chest. She pushed against him.
"I can't go with you! I-I have no idea how to- I can't- I don't- We can't even talk to each other!"
He caught the hair at the nape of her neck and angled up her face, trapping her in a proprietary kiss. His lips were surprisingly soft and warm. His hands roamed her body, at first gentle but then with growing urgency. Pulling back he examined the effects. Though her eyes were still wide and frightened she clung to him, lips parted and breath coming in short gasps. He placed an open kiss on her neck then rested his forehead against hers.