Chapter 21

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I dash out of the cabin to find Father and Fiona in the snow, locked in a struggle for Fiona's rifle. I definitely heard the gun go off, but neither of them appear to have taken the bullet. Thankful that nobody got hurt (and amazed by Fiona's wiry strength, to be able to wrestle for a gun with Father), I try to figure out how to get between them without getting a rifle butt to the chin.

"Stop it!" I shout at them.

"Tell that to the wildcat!" Father grunts.

"Fiona, listen to me," I say. "He's not going to hurt you. He isn't one of the men who came here and killed your dog. He's my dad. He's going to let go of your gun, and then we can all take a step back and be friends, ok?"

"Like hell," Father yells at me.

"Would you trust me for once?" I plead. "Dad?"

Father releases his grip on the barrel of Fiona's rifle and I take the opportunity to dash between the two of them with my arms outstretched. I can see Father's hand dangling above the revolver at his hip. Fiona's eyes are as icy as the landscape.

"Doan truss," she says, holding her gun more like a shield than a weapon.

"I know you don't," I reply, holding out my arms in a pacifying gesture. I feel a burning pain in my shoulder and realize I just tore open my wound. "He's even scarier when he smiles. But he's not here to hurt you...no more than I am."

"Regan," Father interjects, his hand still hovering over his sidearm, "...did she shoot you?"

"No, dad," I say, without taking my eyes off of Fiona. "Just shut up, I'm making progress."

"She's feral, Regan."

"So was Buck," I say, my voice cracking a bit. I turn around to face him. "And she's a person, not a wild animal. And I'm not trying to adopt her, I'm just...trying to..."

"Friend?" Fiona offers.

"Yeah. I'm trying to friend. Remember? That's what we were fighting about: friending versus assuming people can't change."

"Time will tell which one of us was right," he offers.

"Goddammit, dad, you can't even apologize without being self-righteous about it! I half want to shoot you, myself!"

"I thought you might have died."

"Don't change the subject."

"I'm not. I'm...trying to say..."

"What, dad?" I throw up my arms in exasperation. "What?"

A long silence stretches between us. Even Fiona the Feral seems to have picked up on the tension. She looks back and forth between Father and myself, no doubt amazed that human interaction doesn't have to end in someone getting shot. Though to be fair, my last argument with Father did end with me sticking him with a dart.

"I didn't agree with your choice. But I agree with your right to choose."

"And...?"

"And I don't begrudge you the choice you made, despite the fact that you used a tranquilizer gun on me."

"And...?"

His frown morphs into a sarcastic grin.

"And I was thinking of trading in my daughter for this new girl you found. She's less mouthy."

"She doesn't like you, dad." I sigh, trying to force down my own smirk. "I don't like you either. You'd better watch yourself...I have the death sentence in twelve cities." Ladies and Gentlemen, nothing helps you bury the hatchet like a good Star Wars reference.

I'm certain Fiona will be more confused than ever but it's a way forward.

"I should take a look at that wound," Father suggests, relaxing his shoulders.

"It's fine, Dad, just needs a re-dress. I'm more interested in breakfast at this point."

"Rabbeh?" Fiona asks excitedly.

"Rabbit," I say, nodding with authority. We all enter the cabin together, though I notice that Fiona is still keeping a very watchful eye on Father. Not that I blame her, after the interchange she just witnessed. And her most recent encounter with men.

Father inspects the cabin's interior and I can tell he's impressed by Fiona's ability to self-sustain. He's probably thinking the same thing I am: given Fiona's probable age, she was taught how to do most of these things, and learned the rest from books. Father and I watch her work silently on skinning the rabbit. She glances up occasionally to keep a wary eye on Father, but says nothing. It will take a while to get her history from her, I think.

"Did you find usable tires?" Father asks as he rubs his hands together for warmth.

"I was too busy getting shot. Dad, I know the vehicles aren't going to move without parts but we don't know who else is poking around around in this region. You should take some skis and head back down. Fiona and I can scavenge. She knows the area."

Father's head-shake is so subtle, I'm pretty sure Fiona didn't see it. I even know what his formulated answer will be: we don't know her so it's too dangerous to leave you alone with her. His usual 'don't-trust-anyone' response.

Time to set the ambush, I think.

"Plus, she should come with us to the desert," I suggest loudly. "It must get lonely up here. And cold in the wintertime. And there's a lot we could learn from each other."

Father's widening eyes tell an 'absolutely not' story. I smile innocently and drive the last nail in:

"Merry Christmas?"

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