“He was slumped on the path to the house,” Fynn said, panting. He looked like he’d seen a ghost. “Face right in the dirt. Like he’d been walking and decided he’d had enough, and fallen on his nose or something.”
Libby scowled. Traveller was one of the last people she’d hoped would come visit her in her new home, yet here he was, stretched out on her shabby couch, snoring loudly. He was, at least, dressed, which she took as a blessing, but everything else about the man was as detestable as ever, from his wave of greasy brown hair to his hopelessly-smelly armpits. Indeed, she quickly found something even worse about him when she noticed the distinct change in his face. She prodded both of his eyes open just to be sure.
“Shit.” She took a step back, heart thudding. “Shit. What did he do? What did he do?”
“His skin around that one eye looks really pale,” Fynn muttered, almost to himself. “Jeez. I… mom, what’re you…?”
Rage fuelling her, Libby leaned over Traveller and wrapped her fingers around his neck, throttling him. She put her full strength into the gesture at first, but memories of a similar attack abruptly flooded into her brain, an attack that had deprived her of a son, and she consciously eased back enough not to hurt the man. Much, anyway. “Where is he? WHERE IS HE? WAKE UP, YOU FUCK, WHERE IS HE - “
“Whoa! Mom! Calm down!” Fynn wrapped his arms around Libby, and they struggled for a moment. He pried her away with gentle strength. “C’mon! We… he’s not even awake! At least let him wake up first!”
Gritting her teeth, Libby allowed herself to be steered away from the couch. Despite the ruckus, Traveller did not wake up.
Traveller’s condition remained the same for the next two days. He snored, farted, and rolled around a bit, but showed no signs of waking from what appeared to be a perfectly healthy coma. Libby begrudgingly agreed to let him remain on the couch, provided they closed the living room off with blankets each night to block out his loud snorting. Fynn watched over Traveller, occasionally forcing water down his throat, and the shaggy man accepted it without complaint.
“I don’t understand why he’s fucking here,” Libby muttered during dinner on the first night. “He shouldn’t know we’re here. Nobody told ‘im we were out here. Unless it was Logan, that fuck - “
“It wasn’t King Logan,” Fynn insisted, sipping at a bowl of soup. “He didn’t like Traveller much more than you, mom, and he wanted to leave him with grandm… um, his parents. He seemed happy with them. He probably found his way out here on his own.”
“But how?” Taking a ferocious bite of her ostrich steak, Libby glared at the hallway leading to the living room. Traveller was, as ever, snoring loudly. “He couldn’t’ve found us on his own, we’re, like, five days’ trip away from fuckin’ Pubton by wagon. He’s not a fuckin’ bloodhound.”
Fynn shrugged. “I don’t know. Ever since I found out about… y’know, dad… I’ve never really ‘gotten’ that guy. He’s friendly, but… weird.”
“Understatement of the year, kiddo.” Libby slammed her mugful of milk onto the table. “And that ain’t all. Why the fuck does he suddenly have two eyes? Why the fuck? I thought… I mean, that one’s…”
Fynn shrugged again. It was a hopeless, sad gesture, but one without malice for Libby to latch onto. She had too much trouble remaining angry around her son. In ways, he was the exact opposite of his older brother, and she was thankful for that.
On the third day, Libby thought Traveller woke up. But only briefly.
She was sitting in her study, pouring over one of the technical books Logan had ordered shipped to the house - they were among the only things that pleased her about the dump - when she heard a light murmuring. It was not Fynn’s voice, she knew that at once, and her stomach leaped into her chest as she jumped out of her chair. She realized that she’d tensely been waiting for answers, even if they came from a detestable halfwit like Traveller, and now she was expecting a payoff.
Traveller was not awake when she entered the living room. He was, instead, sweating profusely, his forehead bright red and shiny. He thrashed lightly in a fitful sleep, eyes pinched and tense, and Libby could hear him speaking to himself. Her first instinct was to drape a wet washcloth over his head, perhaps to break the fever… but she settled herself on the ground instead, listening. If he had a fever, it could fuckin’ wait.
Traveller’s mumbling was not coherent, not at first, and not for most of the night. Libby stuck around long enough to know just how little sense he made most of the time. But there was a moment, mere minutes after the fever appeared, where Traveller’s noises turned into actual words, even if they only lasted for two sentences.
“And… and just a… just a little bit… left… on it,” Traveller muttered. His voice was high-pitched, as though he was trying to mimic a woman and doing a rather bad job of faking it. “There… yep… yep… that’ll… that’ll do… yeah. Yeah.”
Libby didn’t know what it meant, of course. But she clung to those words as her only hope, her only clue, until the end of the third day. That’s when she heard a low, dull knock on the front door.