Disclaimer: I do not own anyone. Universal, Sea Change, Mr.'s Cassidy & Koslow, et. al. own them. Any characters you do not recognize, I probably own. Please do not sue me.
WARNING: This fanfic contains lots of references to Episode 9 "Tash". If you haven't seen it yet and don't want to spoil the surprise, you may want to skip it.
PLEASE NOTE: This fanfic was started after I saw Traps and Tash, but before I saw Daybreak, The Cage and Sweet Brigid. The story does not take into account things that happened in the last three eps.
Conor surveyed the ruins that had once been his village. The land had already taken over in the year since Gar had burned it, and his family, to the ground. Wild grasses and blue heather grew in craggy patches, in-between where walls and houses once stood. The sun shown brilliantly. Here and there he caught glimpses of life: a grasshopper leaping from blade to blade, birds peeking through branches, an inquisitive rabbit searching among the stones for a sweet berry.
Could it have only been a year? He thought about the impatient boy he'd been. Always wanting to keep up with his older brother. In one fiery moment everything had changed. The man he'd become thought back and wished he had just one more day with those he had loved. And lost. An saol seo go dti an saol aile. From this life to the next. Good is as eternal as evil. The Father had taught him that. Again he felt a tinge of sadness as he thought of Glas, the boy with no choice. Much like himself. Even though the young leader was dead, his spirit lived on through the land. Conor knew his duty, his fight. When he felt the sorrow attempting to overcome him, he remembered those who had died. If he didn't continue to fight, their lives and deaths would have been in vain.
He wondered what his father would think of him now. When he had died, Conor had been Derek's unsettled son. He was never prepared to be a leader; that was Aiden's burden. He wondered if his father would be proud. He knew Fergus, though he would never admit it, was proud of the work that they were doing. The big bald ox loved him like a son. He often times marveled at the depths of man's loyalty.
The people in the Sanctuary had become his new family. People brought together in turmoil. Tully had never really known another family. He had lost his own even earlier than Conor did. The young man was tough and resilient and reminded Conor of his former self. Always wanting to go forward. However, Tully was less foolhardy than he himself had been. He had already learned the harsh lessons of survival.
Then there was Catlin. He sighed... Catlin. She knew Conor better than anyone, even Fergus. She understood his heart. She was his best friend, his conscious. Catlin was the only one who saw through the mask he had to wear as a leader. She knew his doubts and fears, his lingering guilt and sorrow. She knew because she had experienced so many of the same things herself. Conor could never know the horrors she must have endured as a slave, but he understood Catlin enough to help her through the painful memories. She could make him laugh, usually at himself. She was what kept him grounded, sane. He smiled at the thought of her and casually picked a few of the wild flowers that were growing in the remnants of the stable. As if by magic, he heard her voice.
He turned around quickly. She stood at the edge of what had been his home. Sun shrouded her face. Her long hair rustled in the breeze. She glistened like an apparition, like something out of a dream. She was beautiful.
"Are you all right?" she asked worriedly walking over to him.
"I'm fine," he smiled.
"What were you thinking about?" she said softly, her eyes full of concern.
Conor gazed at her face, lost in thought.
"I said," she smiled with a hint of sarcastic annoyance, "What were you thinking about?"
His gaze quickly fell to the ground. He suddenly seemed quite interested in the grass.
She was slightly puzzled. "No secrets, remember?" she said referring to the first time either had kept a part of their lives hidden from the other.
Conor looked back up at her. He took a flower and plaited it in her hair among her braids. A serious look cast over his face, warning her not to laugh. He lifted his hands to her face and looked her deep in the eyes.
"I was thinking about you," he whispered.
"What?" she said softly. Catlin's face began to feel warm.
"You heard me," he smiled.
She returned his smile and looked into his eyes.
"Conor..." she started with uncertainty. He put a finger to her lips.
"Catlin... I need to tell you this while I still have the courage-" he stopped at the sound of horses.
They quickly scanned all directions, looking for a place to hide.
"Cat, this way."
Conor grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the trees at the eastern perimeter of the ruins. They reached safety in time to see a group of people ride through.
"Are they Longinus' men?" Catlin whispered.
Conor searched the arms of the group as they rode through the square. He nodded a quick affirmative and squeezed her hand. He silently pulled her close to him, encircling his arm around her waist. They crouched in the brush as motionless as possible. The seconds ticked by like hours. Conor could only hear bits of the conversation between the leader and his group-enough to know that they were out looking for Conor and his people. After an eternity they rode on towards the west. Catlin and Conor waited until they were over the ridge and they could no longer hear the sounds of hooves before they emerged from their hiding place.
For a moment, neither spoke.
"Catlin, we've got to warn the others."
She nodded. He grabbed her hand and they ran as fast as they could toward the Sanctuary.