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Under the Never Sky

Under the Never Sky

Under the Never Sky 40

Page 40

 

  “When did you get your Senses?”

  In the quiet, she could practically hear him sinking into his memories.

  “My sight came first. Around age four. For a while no one knew that it was different . . . even I didn’t. Most Seers see better in the light, but I thought everyone saw like I did. When it came out that I was Night-Sighted no one made much of it. At least not around me. I was eight when I started scenting tempers. Eight exactly. That I remember. ”

  “Why?” Aria asked. But there was something about the way he’d said it. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know.

  “Scenting tempers changed everything. . . . I realized how often people say one thing and mean another. How often they want what they can’t have. I saw all these reasons for everything. . . . I couldn’t avoid knowing things people hid. ”

  Aria’s heartbeat quickened. She found his burned hand. He’d stopped using the bandage the night they left Marron’s. The skin at the top had patches that were too rough and patches that were too smooth. She brought it close and kissed the marbled skin. She’d never have dreamed a scar could be something worth kissing, but she loved every scar on him. She’d found them and kissed them all, and asked to hear each and every story that had left its mark on him.

  “What did you learn?” she asked.

  “That my father drank so he could bear to be around me. I knew he felt better still when his fists found me. For a while, anyway. Never for long. ”

  Her eyes filling with tears, Aria pulled him close, feeling how tense he was against her. She’d sensed this piece of him. Somehow she had known. “Perry, what could you have possibly done to deserve that?”

  “My . . . I’ve never talked about this before. ”

  When he sniffed, Aria felt a sob catch in her throat. “You can tell me. ”

  “I know . . . I’m trying. . . . My mother died birthing me. She died because of me. ”

  She leaned back so she could see his face. He closed his eyes.

  “That wasn’t your fault. You can’t really blame yourself. Perry . . . do you?”

  “He did. Why shouldn’t I?”

  She remembered what he’d said about killing a woman. She realized he’d been speaking of his mother. “You were an infant! It was an accident. It’s just a horrible thing that happened. It’s a horrible thing your father did to make you feel like that. ”

  “He just felt what he felt, Aria. There’s no disguising a temper. ”

  “He was wrong! Did your brother and sister blame you too?”

  “Liv never did. And Vale never acted like it, but I can’t be sure. I can’t scent his tempers just like I can’t scent my own. But maybe he did. I’m the only one who carries her Sense. My father gave up everything to be with her. He built a tribe. He had Vale and Liv. And then I came and stole what he loved most. People said it was the curse of mixing blood. They said it finally caught up to him. ”

  “You didn’t steal anything. It’s just something that happened. ”

  “No. It’s not. The same thing happened to my brother. Mila was a Seer too, and she’s . . . she’s gone. Talon’s sick. . . . ” He exhaled a shuddering breath. “I don’t know what I’m saying. I shouldn’t be talking about this with you. I’ve been talking so much lately. Maybe I forgot how to stop. ”

  “You don’t have to stop. ”

  “You know what I think of words. ”

  “Words are the best way I have to know you. ”

  His hand slid under her jaw, his fingers threading into her hair. “The best way?”

  His thumb ran back and forth across her chin. It was distracting, and she knew that was what he wanted. Maybe all he’d ever done was move forward. Try to save the people he could. Try to make up for something he’d never done.

  “Perry . . . ,” Aria said, covering his hand. “Peregrine . . . you are kind. You put your life at risk for Talon and Cinder. For me. You did it when you didn’t even like me. You worry about your tribe. You ache for Roar and your sister. I know you do. I saw it in your face every time Roar spoke of Liv. ” Her voice was shaking. She swallowed the lump in her throat. “You are good, Peregrine. ”

  He shook his head. “You’ve seen me. ”

  “I have. And I know your heart is good. ” She put her hand over it and felt all the life that drummed through him. A sound so strong, so loud, as if she’d rested her ear against his chest.

  His thumb stopped. His hand moved to the back of her head. He drew her toward him until their foreheads touched. “I liked those words,” he said.

  In his glinting eyes, she saw tears of gratitude and trust. She also saw the shadow of what neither of them would dare say to each other, with only days left together. But for now, for tonight, they were done with words.

  Chapter 38

  PEREGRINE

  Aria made him forget to eat. It was as real a sign as any that he was in trouble. They’d finished the small provisions they had brought from Marron’s. Today he’d need to hunt. Perry made a few quick arrows in the morning using shoots he’d been collecting, deciding to track for game as they went. It would slow their pace, but he couldn’t ignore the cramping in his stomach any longer.

  They were working down into the foothills when he scented a badger in a wide glade that gave to a river. The animal’s odor wafted out of its underground tunnels. Supper, he decided.

  Perry found the entry hole and another one, farther back. He set a fire on one end and had Aria wait there with a leafy branch. “Fan the smoke into the hole. It’ll come to me. Animals don’t run toward fire. ”

  The badger saw Perry as it came up from its hole. It spun and did exactly what he said it wouldn’t do. Perry ran toward Aria. “Your knife! He’s coming to you!”

  She was ready, staring down into the opening as Perry reached her. But the badger didn’t come up. Aria straightened from her crouch and began walking. She stopped every few steps, changing directions as she stared at the river-moist soil. Perry had an idea what this was. He’d been wondering since the day they’d seen the wolves. Finally she stood in place and met his eyes.

  “He’s right underneath me,” she said, smiling wide, surprised.

  Perry slid his bow off his shoulder.

  “No. I’ll get him. But I need your knife. ”

  Perry gave it to her and backed away, afraid to blink.

  She waited for a few moments, the long blade clutched in both hands. Then she brought it over her head and thrust it deep into the muddy earth.

  Perry heard a faint squeal but Aria, he knew, had heard it clearly.

  Later, in the same glade, they sat against a stump. Aria lay back against his chest. A fire trailed a line of smoke up into the trees. There were a few more hours left in the day, but with a full stomach and Aria’s contented temper sating him, Perry let his head fall back. He watched the glow of Aether dance behind his eyelids as Aria described the sounds she heard.

  “They aren’t louder . . . I don’t know how to explain it. They’ve just become richer. Sounds that were simple are so intricate now. Like the river. There are hundreds of small sounds coming from the water. And the wind, Perry. It’s constant, moving through the trees, making the bark groan and the leaves rustle. I can tell exactly which way it’s coming. It’s almost like I can see it, I hear it so clearly. ”

  Perry tried in vain to hear what she heard, feeling an odd sense of pride over her newfound ability.

  “Do you think it’s being out here—under the Aether—why this has all happened to me? Like the Outsider part of me is waking up?”

  Perry heard her, but he was so content that he’d started to drift asleep. She pinched his arm. He startled. “Sorry. The Outsider in me was falling asleep. ”

  She glared at him, her eyes shining with cleverness. “Do you think I’m related to Roar?”

  “Maybe generations back. Not closely. Your scents are too different. Why?”

  “I like Roar. I was thinking that i
f he didn’t find Liv, you know . . . we are both Audiles. Never mind. Roar will never get over Liv. ”

  Perry sat up. “What?”

  She laughed. “You’re awake now. Did you think I was serious?”

  “Yes. No. Aria, there’s truth there. Roar would be better suited for you. ” Perry sighed, shoving his hand into his hair. He peered at her. There was another reason too, and he might as well just tell her since he was getting good at telling her everything. “Liv says . . . she says he’s a feast for the eyes. ” He tried to say it without sounding envious, but doubted it would help. Surely she’d hear the emotion in his voice.

  Aria smiled. She took his scarred hand and ran her thumb over his knuckles. “Roar is very handsome. In Reverie most people look like him. Or close. ”

  Perry cursed. His fault for bringing it up. “And here you are. Holding hands with a crooked-nosed Savage who’s been burnt and beaten in—how many places did you count?”

  “I’ve never seen anyone as beautiful as you. ”

  Perry looked down at their hands. How did she do that? How did she make him feel weak and strong? Thrilled and terrified? He couldn’t find a way to return what she’d given him. He didn’t have the gift she did with words. All he could do was take her hand and kiss it, and bring it to his heart, and wish she could scent his temper. He wished it was all easy between them. At least now she’d come to understand. She was learning the power of a Sense.

  He pulled her back into his arms, resting her along his chest. “I can tell you one thing about your father,” he said, because he knew she wondered. “He’s probably from a strong line of Auds for you to be as keen as you are. ”

  She squeezed his hand. “Thank you. ”

  “I mean it. That was no small trick, hearing through dirt that thick. ”

  Perry kissed the top of her head as they fell into silence. He knew she was listening. Hearing a new world. But her good mood didn’t pull him along anymore.

  For days he’d had a shifty, anxious feeling in his gut. A feeling like the instant after a cut, before the pain came. He knew when the hurt would hit him. Three more days and they’d reach Bliss. And she’d go back to her mother. He didn’t know what he’d do if they didn’t find Lumina. Bring her to the Tides? Take her back to Marron’s? He couldn’t imagine doing either. He tightened his arms around her. Brought in her scent, breathing deep, letting it mellow him. She was here now.

  “Perry? Say something. I want to hear your voice again. ”

  He didn’t know what to say but he wasn’t going to disappoint her. He cleared his throat. “I’ve been having this dream since we started sleeping together up in the trees. I’m in this grassy plain. And there’s this blue sky stretching out over me. No Aether in it at all. And the breeze is moving the grass in waves, stirring up bugs. And I’m just walking, my bow sort of combing the tall grass behind me. And there’s not a thing I’m worrying about. It’s a good dream. ”