It was dark again when Samina woke, and for a moment she couldn't remember where she was. She'd slept deeply, better than she had in weeks... Oh. Yes. The Dayborn took us in. She sat up slowly, and made a quick count of the children; it took her three tries to locate Grey, who had curled up in a pile of blankets next to Amarie, but the only one actually missing... was Oberon.
Of course, she thought, and went out to find him.
He wasn't in the loft that overlooked the main room; he wasn't in the kitchen or either of the bathrooms. He wasn't in the master bedroom where the Dayborn slept, or the small library. He wasn't even on the back porch. She checked the back porch, becoming ever more worried, but he wasn't there either. He was gone... and so was the Dayborn.
The last traces of twilight were fading in the valley outside, and Samina could feel herself growing stronger as darkness returned. She was trying to decide if she should rouse the other children and retreat into the woods when she heard noises from the big empty room at the far end of the house. Before she could reach it, the door swung open and the Dayborn came in, carrying a large cloth bag. Oberon was just behind him, and carrying a bag as well.
"Where have you been?" asked Samina, more sharply than she'd intended.
The Dayborn looked apologetic, but Oberon spoke before he could: "All is well. He didn't kill himself."
Samina stopped, staring, while the Dayborn threw a frown back at Oberon. "We went into town to get more food," he said. "I'm sorry, I should have left a note or something. I didn't think it would take this long."
He glanced back at Oberon. "You think you can keep quiet long enough to get these groceries put away?"
Oberon cocked his head and met the Dayborn's eye, then very deliberately turned the corner into the kitchen without saying a word. It left the two of them alone and facing each other, the Dayborn in the short hallway and Samina just outside it. "Were you truly going to kill yourself?"
"No," said the Dayborn, and turned to open the door to the pantry. There was a loud thump, almost certainly deliberate, from the direction of the kitchen. "Careful," warned the Dayborn, tossing the word absently over his shoulder.
Samina hesitated, then stepped past him and went into the kitchen. She should be afraid of him, but she thought that if he'd meant them any harm he would have done something by now. "Was he truly going to kill himself?" she asked Oberon. The hallway behind her went suddenly silent, as if the the Dayborn was standing perfectly still.
Oberon turned from setting boxes on the counter to look at her. "Maybe not yet," he admitted. "But... Did you know Rustilivus? Do you remember how he was before he went into the sun?"
Samina nodded. She remembered. She still missed Rustilivus.
"It was like he was putting things away, letting go of everything." Oberon glanced towards the doorway. "I followed him outside today. He went down to the river. And he was looking at the water with that same expression, like he wasn't even really here anymore."
A rush of panic went through her, startling her with its intensity. She shouldn't care; he was Dayborn, and she didn't even know him. But... he'd taken them in, given them shelter and clothing and food, and asked nothing in return. She stepped back into the hallway...
He was gone, of course. As big as he was, he moved quietly and with a certain grace. It was little wonder that Oberon had been drawn to him, had been interested enough to speak to him out in the woods.
She heard the front door creak open, and started after him.