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Withstanding The Tide

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The wind had picked up to such a rage outside that waves would periodically slam up against the front wall of Elliott's cabin, swamping the beach and turning the sand into wet sludge. The sky howled hungrily and rain drove into his roof like rivets, the view outside his meagre windows one of darkness and ink. It was barely eight o’clock in the evening, but it had felt like the night had raged on for an eternity. The ongoing drone of wind cawing over the ocean like a vengeful ghost consumed each slowly passing hour, and Elliott rested his forehead on his desk, the creaking of his house surrounding him like a wet blanket.

It wasn't so much raining cats and dogs as it was storming entire sea creatures. Once or twice the writer was positive he heard the echoing thunk of a fish slamming into one of his walls with each passing tidal wave that smashed into the side of his shack. He felt torn; this tiny hut of his never had electricity, and so it was not like he was worried about the tide and rain damaging anything like that and so getting a nasty shock was no threat, but oh how he wished there was some light now. He didn’t want to light candles in fear that his papers would singe. The thick clouds outside lit up for only split-seconds with each shard of lightning falling from the sky and it left Elliott bathed in darkness, the cold chill of loneliness seeping into him.

A leak had sprung in his ceiling - rainwater had trickled onto his bed and the sheets were now damp and stuck to the boards of his bed. He had never bothered with a mattress, resting on wood and thin cotton in the hopes that hardship would breed inspiration. Elliott huffed a little and had done his best to plug the gap, stuffing crumpled up papers in the hole and watching them rapidly growing sodden and cry under nature's assault. He could barely see the gaps to fix them. He certainly was not feeling inspired at all.

He hated storms.

He could barely think; the all-consuming noise of wind and rain and water and ferocity wiping his mind blank, the race of repairing any leaks and moving his simple belongings to somewhat safer spots in the tiny hut leaving him short of time to sit and work, especially now it was so dark. The cabin around him groaned under the weight of itself and drips spilt through a quickly growing crack in his window.
Pushing himself from his desk and scooping his papers into his arms, Elliott carefully pressed the pages of his book into the messenger bag he kept under his bed, silently hoping the smooth faux-leather on the outside would keep the damp out of his work. He could barely see, the night drenching his home in darkness.

A nasty gust slammed into the side of the shack and with it volleys of seawater and salt followed. The wood trembled and creaked before the telltale crack of lightning overhead rumbled through the floor.

It was mid-February and it felt like the heavens were caving in. The sea gurgled and snarled beyond his front door, the repetitive clap of its snagging waves biting at the dock and Willy's store caused a hard lump in the writer's throat. He did not need to be outside to know that the rain stung like needles and the wind bit like shards of cold glass. He shuddered, wrapping his jacket around him a little tighter as he sunk into his chair in the corner, hoping his windows would not cave in on themselves under the strain of keeping the mighty ocean out. The floorboards were surely damp, but he never dared to remove his shoes for fear of ruining one of the few decent pairs of socks he had left. Thunder groaned, slowly approaching like a hungry beast outside his door, the flash of its eyes illuminating the room for a brief moment before it faded, the ice of its teeth making the window beside the front door rattle in fear.

The leak was getting worse, streaks of wet painting the walls from the inside and fat droplets staining his lumpy pillow. The ruined clumps of paper slopped to the floor and he pulled that messenger bag closer, cold dread running down his back - if this kept up then his work would be washed away into the darkness of the storm and night, his masterpiece lost to all but the fish at the bottom of the deep. Casting a glance at the hulking shadow where he knew his piano sat, Elliott silently hoped the damp would not damage the instrument's innards. Perhaps he should not have bought the thing in the first place, he felt so foolish squeezing the thing into this tiny place.

Wind screeched through the gaps in the wooden walls and the rolling waves struck again, the clatter of water thudding against the side of the cabin deafening Elliott for a moment.

Then, amidst the din of storm and wet and weather came a noise that Elliott hadn't anticipated. A knock at the door. Elliott blinked, unsure that he had heard it.

And then it came again, more urgently.

Frowning, he trudged over and gave the door a firm tug, the wind flooding into the gap and Elliott could barely see now- salt water burned his eyes as his hair whipped around him and mingled with the wind stinging his fair skin. A wave rumbled close by, ocean spray threatening the wood of the cabin.

“Elliott!” Someone shouted, and as Elliott blinked and wiped the blur from his eyes he found the farmer, dressed head to toe in a bright yellow smock, rainwater cascading from his rainhat and clinging in his beard. His large hand immediately wrapped around Elliott's forearm and gave a tug. “Elliott, come on!” He yelled over the noise, flinching a little as thunder rumbled threateningly overhead.

“Braeburn?” Elliott shouted back, his voice lost and swept aside by the storm. Rainwater soaked into his shirt instantly and his bones ached. “What are you doing here, it's not safe!”

“Exactly!” The farmer called back, squinting against the rain. “The storm is getting worse, you gotta get somewhere safer, c’mon!”

Elliott frowned, his ears filled with the roar of the ocean and the howl in the air. “But,...” The wind whipped away his voice, rendering it useless. A sudden bolt of fear ran through him as he imagined a wave crashing over the both of them and flooding into his house. A large rush of water swept up the beach and soaked the back of Braeburns boots and stopped a half-inch before the open door.

“Come on,” Braeburn repeated, now grabbing Elliott's skinny shoulder instead with that one hand and tugging him a little. “-grab what you gotta and get your arse in gear, I won't let you stay here, not tonight!”

As lightning flashed overhead and a jagged bolt crashed into the sweeping tide Elliott swallowed, grabbing and clutching his bag to his chest and nodding.

“Okay!”

Time seemed to both slow down immensely and speed up all at once as Braeburn grabbed his hand and ran; despite the wet slop of thick sand sinking their feet down they ran until the sucking sand turned to thick mud and slippery cobblestones.

Elliott had at first assumed that Braeburn was dragging him to the Mayor's house, that perhaps Mr Lewis had asked the farmer to round up those in danger of the storm and use his house as refuge, or even the Saloon, but as the larger man charged past the Mayor's house and pulled the writer westward and down the less-beaten track towards his farm, Elliott realized that town was not their goal. The houses were dark and quiet, the rain wailing above the sound of ever-incoming thunder so loud that their village lay quiet and dormant beneath, ghostly still and hauntingly dark. Elliotts face burned with each needle-like raindrop.

Trees on either side of them grew thicker, the path growing slicker and more silent. Elliott caught a glimpse of the bus stop as Braeburn showed no signs of slowing, his bulky frame in front catching the rains sharper points. Slowly, the rain eased as the trees grew thicker overhead and shielded the pair. Leaves rattled and hissed in the wind but the rain was softer, less biting. Fence posts surrounding covered areas came into view before the farmhouse did. It was an old house but a pretty one nonetheless; the creaky wood of an old Tudor townhouse restored and painted white and dark, with ivy creeping up the side. The farm itself was sprinkled with pretty wildflowers and planted bushes alike, which had surprised Elliott the first time he had visited - he had never been inside any of the buildings, visiting briefly one morning to drop a letter in the postbox, but the contrast between the grounds and the farmer who owned them now had made him blink. Not that he could see much of the land now. The cold burned his eyes and he was positive his hair was a mess as it whirled around his head in the wind.
Braeburn pulled him under the awning as he rustled in his pockets for his keys. Elliott was shivering now, his clothes soaked through. No doubt his thin shirt was translucent and his jacket black with wet. He squeezed his bag, feeling the rain slick through his fingers as he hoped the papers inside would be unharmed. He should have made copies. What kind of idiot doesn’t make copies? He squeezed his eyes shut. Yoba, he was an idiot. Braeburns big hand on his back brought him out of his thoughts, the man urging him inside.

It was dark inside, save for a few low embers in the fireplace. Elliott stood a little awkwardly in the doorway as Braeburn shook himself down. He rummaged in a drawer somewhere in the dark before a soft flame lit up the farmers face as he lit some candles. Braeburn was all soft features; a button nose among thick hair and bright blue eyes that held secrets confided only in his smile.

"Powers out all over town." He frowned, wagging his hand to extinguish the match. He placed a few candles along the counters of his kitchen and on the small table. It was something, at least. Braeburn turned back and shrugged off his raincoat and pulled his hat away, slotting them on a coat peg and gesturing to Elliott. "You should get out of those wet clothes before ya catch a cold. Gimme a sec, I might have something in your size."

Elliott stood, frozen, as the farmer disappeared into his bedroom. He let out a shaky breath and peered into his bag quickly. The pages looked dry and safe and Elliott felt his shoulders physically drop. Yoba, they were safe, his work was secure. Copies, man, copies, he thought, shaking his head.

He glanced around for a safe place to put the bag. The front door led into a kind of living room. The wallpaper was a bright, pastel purple with bubble-like patterns. The windows were lined with thick plum-coloured curtains and paintings of greenery were dotted around, matching the variety of potted plants that were everywhere - a tall shrub in the corner besides the TV, two miniature trees beside the front door, a vase of bright yellow flowers on the table, tiny cacti and succulents on the windowsill, spiderplants on a bookshelf. A fuzzy rug spread across the wooden floor, big and brown with concentric circles, like the rings of an old oak tree; Elliott felt the strange urge to take his shoes and socks off and dig his toes into the plushness of it. To his left was the kitchen and there within were rows of wooden cabinets and drawers, broken up only by the metallic sheen of the oven and the fridge in the corner. Plants had spread there, too; potted herbs growing on the spice rack, a small potted tomato plant sprouting from its tub on top of the fridge, something that Elliott thought to be aloe vera reaching for the window from next to the sink. It felt really nice, somehow, greenery spreading into the house. It felt homey and warm, life growing within the old place. Elliott could remember when he first arrived in the Valley, and the old farm had been abandoned and left to rot. He himself had made some attempt to recreate this feeling - a few fresh flowers in a chipped vase on the desk of his old cabin barely compared to this, however. Thunder rumbled quietly overhead, and Elliott realized that he had almost forgotten about the storm and the icy ache that gnawed at his muscles.

Since Braeburn had breezed into town it felt like life had flourished everywhere and this old house somehow felt like a testament to that. On the rare occasions that the writer had allowed himself a trip into town, the farmer seemed to be there, chatting to the townsfolk with bundles of crops in his arms, helping that elderly lady - Eve? Agatha? To his shame Elliott could not remember - helping her prune her flowers, recommending books to Penny, sharing recipes and stories at the bar with Gus.

As if on cue, the farmer appeared from his room, a bundle in his arms, giving a little frown.
"Come on, I don't want you to get sick." He gestured to the clothes. "These might not fit you quite right but they'll keep you warmer than those will."

He didn't let Elliott argue, gently pulling the bag away from Elliott and trading the clothes with him. He trudged over to his bookcase and nudged some novels aside, slotting Elliotts bag in the gap and taking care to ensure nothing got wet.
"There. It'll be safe there. Make yourself at home," Braeburn nodded towards the cosy-looking sofa that faced the TV. "I'll make some tea."
The split-second the farmer turned his back to boil the water, Elliott started to unbutton his shirt, rapidly slipping out of his sodden clothes and pulling Braeburns on without a second thought. The shirt was big and baggy, grey with a faded logo across the chest, and Elliott glanced back at the farmers broad back. Braeburn was thickly built and strong, his arms bigger and thicker than Elliotts, his stomach softer and shoulders wider. The trousers didn't quite fit, either, but they were old slouch trousers with a drawstring at the waist. It didn't take Elliott long to figure it out and get them to sit comfortably on his hips.

He folded his wet clothes quietly, watching Braeburn work.

They had become friends rather quickly. The farmer was quiet and kept to himself at first, but after a little bit of encouragement from Mayor Lewis, he had introduced himself to everyone in their small village. Elliott had been the last one he met, and he had not been what the writer was expected at all.

Leah had caught him on the off chance on a day where Elliott had allowed himself to take a walk up to Pierre's for some groceries, and she had smiled wide and took his arm as they walked up.

"Have you met the new guy yet?"
"No? I wasn't aware there was one."
"Oh, man. You'll know when you see him. You won't miss him. He came up from the city, he's been here a little while but he's only just started getting out of the farm and saying hello to everyone. He seems nice."
"Oh, good." Elliott remembered nodding and while he felt a sense of the farmer's arrival as somewhat unimportant - I mean, its just another person in the village he won't really see or talk to besides at festivals, right? - there was a strange feeling in the writers gut of him no longer being the 'new guy', not quite so much the outsider of the town anymore. However, some part of him knew that he would always be an outsider here.

They ended up bumping into each other for the first time at the beach as Elliott stepped out for some fresh air after a morning of scribbling in frustration in one of his many now-ruined notebooks. The shock of pinkish hair and beard coming towards him made him double take at first.
"My goodness," Elliott had breathed when Braeburn approached with a sheepish smile. He had blurted it without thinking. "What...colourful hair you have."
"Ah, it’s dyed." The new farmer admitted quickly. His voice was soft and embarrassed. "New life, new me, I guess. I just moved here and figured I should make some changes, so. Uh. Yeah, pink hair."
"....I'd say it's more of a fuchsia." Elliott remembered tilting his head a little and did the same now as he leant against the sofa. Brae's hair was tied back now as it was then into a messy ponytail at the base of his skull, wayward curls sprouting off in seemingly random directions. The first thing people tended to talk to Elliott about was his hair - its length, the shade, its quality, how pretty it is. Perhaps it was only natural that it was the first thing he and Braeburn talked about.
Braeburn had confided in him that day that he had been so nervous to meet everyone and that he had felt so intrusive as the new person in town. It had been the same for Elliott, what seemed to be all those years ago, and they swapped a few stories on the beach. Before long, Braeburn bumped into the writer regularly, chatting to him about his work, how Elliott's writing was coming along, and tossing him a few things from the farm here and there. Every day, in fact, the writer realized. On the days when Elliott didn't leave the cabin he would find things on his doorstep; a bag of apples, baskets with a few flowers, foraged goods wrapped in paper collected from the wilderness. It was nice, thought Elliott had figured he had just been trying to be friendly.

He snapped back to reality when the farmer turned, fuchsia beard reflecting the candlelight as he approached with two mugs of hot tea in hand.

"Careful, still hot." he murmured as he placed Elliotts on the table with a coaster beneath it and slid into a chair. The writer slid in across from him. They said nothing for a moment and it didn't take long for Braeburn to look a little uncomfortable. He broke the silence. "The storm should die out by morning, then I'm going with Clint to see if we can get power back up and running. I, I figured I should make sure you were safe. I made sure, everyone, ah-"

He stumbled over his words a little and Elliott said nothing, nursing his tea. He was thankful for its warmth immediately.

"-I, uh..." Braeburn took a deep breath, shoulders drawing tight. "...I made sure Linus was safe first. He lives up there all alone and he doesn't even...have a proper roof over his head or anything. He's such a good guy and I couldn't help but feel like I had to do something. I know he's lived out there for so long but you can die in weather this bad. I took him to the bar and Gus agreed to let him stay the night and I tried to offer to pay but Gus wouldn't hear of it."

Braeburn was rambling, and Elliott smiled over the rim of his mug.

"That was kind of you. I never would have thought, really, of doing that." Elliott sighed a little. "I supposed down on the beach I'm in my own little bubble. The mountains seem so far upwards and the only people I really see and think of is Willy and you. Sometimes Leah." He admitted with a shrug. he felt a little guilty. He was so stubborn and set on sitting and trying to think of his work that he hadn't considered that other townsfolk would be finding the storm hard to get through. He was truly glad that Brae had thought about others.
"I would have let him stay here but I think that might've been a bit much." The farmer mumbled and took a drink. Elliott wasn’t sure in the low light whether the farmer's face was pink or if the candlelight shining in his hair and beard just made it seem that way. "I just...kind of felt something bad was going to happen and I'd hate to see anyone hurt."
Before Elliott could open his mouth to say anything, something brushed against his leg and he froze, fingers clenching his mug. It was heavy and bristly, and a shudder passed up into his knee. Shudders ran up his spine.
Then a soft, wet nose pressed into his thigh and gentle eyes looked up at him from under the table. A dog. Braeburns dog. Oh, thank goodness. He let out what must have been a loud breath because Braeburn jolted a little.

"Oh, ah, I forgot about Mac, oh man, are you okay with dogs? I-I didn't think, sorry."

"Its fine." Elliott bit back a chuckle, reaching down to pet his head. Mac was a border collie and seemed to like the attention because his tongue flopped out of his mouth in what seemed to be a crooked smile. "Admittedly more of a cat person myself, but it’s fine. He just startled me."

"He's usually pretty protective." Brae admitted, scratching the back of his head. "He seems to like you, though."

"Perhaps he's just frightened by the storm?"

"I would be." Brae frowned, and Elliott caught the look as the farmer glanced out the window into the pitch-black beyond. Mac licked at the writer's fingers slightly. "This is a bad one. Worst I've ever seen. I'm glad you're here, rather than out there in that little cabin all alone."
Truth be told, Elliott was glad too. He didn't realize how cold and miserable that place was sometimes. Braeburns home certainly felt more like a, well, home. Mac slid down beside Elliott's chair and laid down on one of his still-damp feet. The tiniest pang of envy stuck the writer straight in the chest and he did his best to quash it. He should be thankful for what he had on his meagre budget. He sighed and forced himself to look up.

The tea mug looked so tiny in Braeburns massive hands. He was still dressed in his farm gear, his dark overalls and purple shirt that clung to him a little from the damp. His hair was messy and so was his beard and moustache, the purpley-pink seeming to glow in the low light. He dwarfed Elliott in his broadness but the writer didn't feel intimidated or trapped at all. Despite his massive size, the farmer had been nothing but a big softy for the most part. He was a gentle giant at heart, hiding behind his frizzy beard and bright hair. It was obvious that he cared for the Valley and the people within it and worked hard to ensure things were going the way they should be going. Brae was kind above all else, and Elliott suddenly felt very humbled and honoured to be in his home.

“Thank you for accommodating me,” he murmured and ran his fingers through his hair, neatening it from the rain. “I truly do appreciate you thinking of me.”

“We’re friends.” Braeburn shrugged and took a long drink of his tea. Elliott's throat tightened a little and he smothered an awkward cough. He supposed they were friends, yes. Braeburn had shared some of his farming knowledge with him several times in the floundering moments were Elliott found himself reaching for a topic of conversation and blurtingly started questioning him about roses. Brae had taken all of his questions with a smile and answered them with sage knowledge. In return, he had asked about Elliott's work, the style in which he wrote and what genre he had found himself in.

It had been difficult, truth be told. Elliott had written forty pages of a novel before scrapping it, tossing the pages under his bed in frustration and finding himself at a loose end. The beach and the cabin and the waves were no longer giving him inspiration and claustrophobia was leaking into his muscles like a slow-acting poison. He had grumbled and clenched his fists around his pens and huffed like a child, fed up with his work and writing in general.

 

The knock on the door had broken him from his thoughts and Braeburn was there. He had a basket of apples in his arms and gave a sheepish smile when Elliott answered.

“Hey, uh, I was in the area and figured you’d maybe like some of these? For free-” he added quickly “a-as a gift, I mean. Trees have come into season and there’s lots growing and also some of these-”
After a bit of juggling in the basket, Braeburn had pulled out a few small white roses on skinny stems. The thorns had been cautiously removed with gentle care.

“There’s a few small bushes near the house and I know you like them. Thought maybe they’d smell nice and inspire you, or something.”

“...Would you like to come in?”

Even before knowing Braeburn had such a nice little farmhouse, the moment the farmer stepped inside the cabin Elliott felt a flood of shame wash his cheeks. This was stupid, so stupid, inviting such a nice person into a dreary place. But Braeburn had smiled and bent to peer at the dehydrated rose on Elliott's desk.

“Oh, a fairy polyantha rose. I’ll admit that Charles De Gaulle roses are my personal favourite but I do like this kind, too.” His smile made crinkles around his eyes appear and they stayed there as he placed a few apples on the desk. Honeycrisp apples, he had confirmed later, one of the many kinds he had growing. He gestured to the pot of pens and stacks of blank paper. “How is the authoring business coming along?”

“Poorly,” Elliott had blurted a little, frowning. “Hitting a bit of a wall, I’m afraid.”

The farmer gave a sympathetic frown and ran a hand over his moustache. “Maybe you need a change of pace. I find that when I find something difficult, trying something new or different and then coming back to the original thing can help. Maybe try writing something a little different?”
Elliott tilted his head and picked up one of the apples, biting into it and chewing thoughtfully. It was almost overwhelmingly sweet. He didn’t look at the farmer and chose instead to frown at his empty desk, resting his weight on one leg and leaning a little, avoiding the farmer's approval-wanting look. After swallowing, he glanced over. “What would you write? What kind of book would you want to read?”

His cheeks went dark and Elliott hadn’t been sure whether it was just the bright colour of the farmer's hair reflecting off of his face - something that he would continue to get mistaken, he found - and the farmer cleared his throat.

“I’m partial to something kinda ...sappy, now and then, I guess. Kind of nice reading something heartwarming and soft with a happy ending.”

“Romance?” Elliott cocked his head and the presence of the roses on his desk made his gut clench.

“Sometimes.” Braeburn had shrugged, tucking some loose messy hair behind his ear. “Something warm and gentle can take your mind off of the cruddy stuff going on in the world sometimes, you know? It can give folks hope, or ideas, or just a good feeling, I think, maybe. We got a war going on out there. Nice to know folk can still fall in love sometimes.” Braeburn was avoiding his eyes now, and Elliott had nodded and taken another bite of his apple. The farmer's nervousness was endearing.

Since that day Elliott had written thirteen chapters of a romance novel and had not said a word to the farmer about the fact that the burly bear of a man had inspired him to write of flowery nothings and fleeting glances and gentle kisses yet to come. He had eaten each apple down to the core. The seeds would have been washed away in tonight's rain.

 

“Yes,” Elliott admitted now, sipping his tea and leaning down to pat Macs exposed belly. “I’d say you are a good friend to me, Brae.”
The smile he got in return was soft but had the sweepings of tiredness behind it. The day had been long and as rain pattered down on the roof Elliott could understand the bone-deep ache of calling sleep.

“You can take my bed, if you like,” Braeburn must have read his mind. “Or I can get you some spare sheets and take to couch. Mac might try and sleep next to you though.”

“I’ll be happy to take the sofa, I wouldn’t dare deprive you of your bed.”

 

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Morning came, as it always does, and Elliott found himself reluctant to move. The soft cushions of the sofa had pulled him in deeply and his bones groaned in protest when he attempted to move. It did not help at all when Mac snuffled up close before hopping up, lying across his legs and trapping him there. It could not compare to the bare bones of his rotten little bed.

The clouds beyond the window were pearly grey with smears of pink. The rain had stopped, finally, the continuous pitter-patter having lulled him to sleep what seemed to be so long ago. He had fallen asleep surprisingly quickly, the underlying stress and fear of surviving the storm now lulled away to the tune of warm blankets and Braeburns comfortable presence.

It was far too early to be awake, but the sound of the farmer stirring and getting up from the other side of the wall was enough to wake Elliott; usually the only things he would hear in the morning would be the lapping of waves. Another person being nearby seemed so alien.
Elliott buried his head under the sheet as Braeburn breezed through, coral-coloured hair loose and frizzy around his broad shoulders and his overall straps undone and dangling around his waist.

“Mornin’, Elliott. You want some coffee?”

He was about to give a noncommittal grunt and sink as far into the pillows as the sofa would allow, but then the scent of fresh coffee wafted over and he cracked an eye open.

“Mmm. Well, you’ve twisted my arm.”

He must have looked a mess as he pulled himself from the sofa and draped over to the table, the sheet around his shoulders like a cape. His hair undoubtedly looked wild and he was still wearing Braeburns oversized shirt, one of his shoulders sticking out of the collar of it almost obscenely.

By the time Elliott had rubbed sleep out of his eyes a steaming mug of coffee was placed in front of him and Brae slipped into his own chair.
There was quiet for a moment and Elliott appreciated it - time for him to wake up and get his brain started for the day. The coffee was strong and there was a hint of hazelnut somewhere in the aroma. The taste lingered on the back of his tongue and the writer found sighing a little. It had been a long time since he’d had decent coffee, resigning himself to grabbing some cheap freeze-dried stuff every few months from Jojo Mart when he could afford it, despite his hatred of the place. It would not surprise him if Braeburn grew the beans and made the entire drink himself, but Elliott couldn’t bring himself to ask - not while he was draining the rest of the mugful in a few long, greedy gulps.

The farmer was still nursing his, drinking it slowly and wiping away at where speckles of brown and cream dotted his moustache. “The power is still out, none of the lights work yet.”

“How did you heat the water for the coffee?” Elliott couldn’t help but ask, silently regretting drinking his so quickly. He ran his fingers around the rim of his mug.

“I’ve got a back-up little oil burner for camping and emergencies. I only really use it out in the mines or on the nights I decide to sleep outside. I really should check in with Clint and then Robin as soon as I can so we can see how to get things back up and running. Its probably a felled branch on the power lines further up the road, between the three of us the power could hopefully be up by noon.”

“I’d like to head to Willy’s and make sure he’s alright.” Elliott nodded. “I’m sure he’s toughed out rougher storms but it would not hurt to make sure he’s okay.”

“No problem.” Braeburn stood and drained the last of his coffee. “I’d like to come with you, if that’s alright? Willy’s a nice guy.”

“Of course.” Elliott stood now too, draping the sheet back over the sofa. Mac looked up sleepily before rolling over onto his back, wriggling for attention. Elliott smoothed his hands over the collie’s belly. “It would be nice to spend some time with you, to be honest. I feel like I don’t get to spend much time with you. I mean, I suppose I don’t spend a lot of time with anyone, really, but it would be nice to have some time with you.”

“Ah,...Maybe the fresh air would do us some good.” Braeburn muttered after a moment of words failing him. He cleared his throat and pulled the straps of his overalls onto his shoulders. “I made sure the animals all had food and were safe inside last night; let's go check up on the others and then once we know everything is alright I can get back to working up here.”

Elliott scratched behind Mac's ear. Back to his own (wet and cold) bed in his (tiny, cramped and unpleasant) cabin this afternoon, then, (alone). He hid a sigh, smothering it with a smile and a nod. “Let’s go. The sooner we get electricity back for everyone, the better.”

They dressed and got ready quickly, Elliott borrowing yet another oversized set of the farmer's clothes, and Braeburn let Mac run free as he locked the door behind him and walked into the cold fog of the town.