Desperation at the End of a Long Winter

Title: Desperation at the End of a Long Winter
Time Period: April, 127 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Edmund defends his herd from a Storm Bringer and is defended in turn.

Winter never relinquishes its hold on Dornie without putting up a fight, and the last storms of the season are sometimes among the worst that the settlement has seen all year. Sleet turns to ice on the coldest nights, freezing trees solid and making the heather so brittle it splinters and falls apart when brushed. Ice appears on the edges of the lochs and rocks trade their texture for something smoother and more treacherous like glass.

This year, it's held out through the spring.

It's all very pretty to look at when viewed from a window close to a well-tended hearth, but many of the settlement's inhabitants — the ones whose livelihoods are tied directly to the land — don't have that luxury, including the keeper of the horse herd grazing on the edge of the moor. Their fur has grown in dense and thick over the last few months, enough that Edmund doesn't need to worry about blanketing any of his animals except for the youngest foals, which are still too small to retain much of their body heat.

Wind blows over the hills, kicking up flurries of snow that show up as shining specks of silver against a pale sky when enough sunlight seeps through the clouds to catch and illuminate the individual grains, and although this doesn't happen very often, it happens this morning in spite of the thunder quaking somewhere off in the distance.

He would be wise to finish his work in the field and return to Eilean Donan before it gets too much closer.

Bundled in kelpie and wolf skin, Edmund is moving through the herd with his hand latched to a rope, the rope in turn lashed to horse whom he is planning to bring back with him. It's a young thing, out of season and brittle as far as horses go, and never seems to take weight despite its grazing. If it doesn't last through the last death throes of winter, however, Edmund refuses to take that blame. Let it die of stupidity and ill health, but not because he left it exposed to the elements when he didn't have to. It moves with obedient reluctance behind him as the snows begin to dance in the air and catch in his eyelashes.

Lashed to his thighs are pistols, long barreled and semi-automatic, and a knife at his belt. It's a reasonably standard set of equipment he'll bring out with him if he doesn't expect to have too much labour to worry about, or a capable shooter to watch over his work. Right now, it feels only like additional burden.

The air has the strange scent of metal, and its his instincts that start to twinge before his head can formulate the reasons. He hurries his pace.

The shadow that passes over the ground in front of Edmund could belong to a cloud. It is shapeless, like most shadows are, and seems to roll over the moss-covered rocks that jut out from the frozen ground, but shadows do not drop from the sky as this one does, and are not heavy enough to break the back of the horse he's leading, yet this is exactly what happens.

One moment, Edmund is on his feet — the next, he's sent sprawling by the force of the impact, which turns out to be fortunate for him because what now occupies his former space would have crushed him as easily as it did his horse's back. Long and sleek with a shaggy white coat and black lips that peel back around a whiskered muzzle full of teeth, the dragon mantles its wings in an impressive display from atop its kill and blows jets of fog from its nose at the man on the ground a few feet away.

He's close enough that he can count the Storm Bringer's ribs through its fur, though he does not have to look any further than the wild look in its eyes to see that it's desperate.

He rolls and lies still in shock as prey might before lifting his head, staring past his arm at the beast that he's seen before more often flying over head at the nose of a storm just like this one. Never like this, never this close, and he settles a stare on the broken horse beneath its immense weight, unable to particularly feel much of anything over the choking rise of anger.

It's a good and vicious antedote, that emotion. Makes him fairly forget the crack in his ribs and the rising bruises. Slowly, the arm trapped beneath him searches his belt, the click and scrape of leather and metal barely heard through the wind coming up over mountains, or so Edmund tries to convince himself of. He can't hear much apart from his own heartbeat, mouth split like a gash in his face and showing teeth as the barrel of his gun is settled over bent arm. He aims for its nearest, desperate eye when he pulls the trigger, damning himself to ringing ears and burns.

If anyone in Dornie should know how to shoot, it's a Rowntree. There's too much blood thickening in the snow already for Edmund to be able to judge whether or not he his his target by its colour — it flows freely from gashes in the horse's side where the dragon's claws have split open skin and muscle, exposing coils of gut that it would toss down its gullet first if it wasn't hurling its head from side to side.

A broad, muscular tail as thick as its neck at the base whips out and smashes into Edmund's arm to shatter bone and send his pistol sailing. Where it lands, he does not know, but as the dragon lunges forward and snaps at the air, he can see that his aim was true. A fistful of gore dangles from where its left eye used to be, and if it could tell exactly where he is, it would probably be doing more than thrashing and screaming.

The cry that comes from Edmund is ragged and rare, his arm coming to fold against his chest. He's more huntsman and farmer than soldier, kicking up dirt and mud as he struggles away from the thing, fleeting glances backwards to see its immense body writhe and the dark red blood shot through thick white fur.

Through streaming eyes and his own raging distraction, Edmund can't see if any help is on the way as he rolls to his back, gun still in hand. He can't hear anything either, a piercing whine settled in his skull and making the world seem spinning as he tries to aim down the length of his body at the thrashing creature. He can't recall any stories of a Storm Bringer being taken down by one man and a pistol. He can't recall any stories of a Storm Bringer brought down at all. He fires, regardless, a little less true, and feeling like the metal pellets buring into its thick hide might as well be thrown.

The dragon swivels its head to regard Edmund with its one good eye, chest heaving, and as he's scrambling to put distance between them it stills enough to watch him, either attempting to decide whether or not he's worth going after, or what the best way to go about it is. Edmund's second shot has it responding with a thin, shrill hiss in the instant before it lashes out at him, cobra quick, and closes its jaws around his shoulder, teeth punching through the waterproof material of his kelpie skin coat.

Its breath washes over him, filling his nose and head with the stench of decay — its mouth is in bad shape, which explains the lack of muscle on its bones, and if Edmund could focus through the pain, he might be able to glean some small amount of satisfaction from the tooth that breaks off under his collar, wedged between his muscle and the bone.

The pressure from the Storm Bringer's jaws alone should still break his body, but before it can bite down the rest of the way it's suddenly screaming again and there's space between Edmund and its muzzle that wasn't there before. A wolf hangs from its torn lip, hind paws braced against its chest and front paws scrabbling to find purchase someplace else, and when the dragon lurches backwards in an attempt to fling its attacker off it, the wolf goes with.

His hand is shaking where it clutches at torn leathers and fur, blood sending steam into the air even thicker than his own heaving breathes as he sacrifices dignity in favour of getting away. Gun left behind somewhere in the muddy grass, Edmund makes for a crawl away, legs pushing his own weight until he simply stops in defeat when a jostle to broken bones screams white through his senses. If it comes at him again, then that's it.

So he lies still, a rough growl between each hard breath as if keening. Bright blue eyes struggle open, twisting enough to look back.

Unable to roll without snapping its wings under its own weight, the Storm Bringer is reduced to slashing at its muzzle in an attempt to dislodge the wolf, and it does, but not before a pair of boots steps over Edmund, sheltering him between someone's legs. Sunlight ripples along the barrel of a rifle and snow glitters in a wild tangle of fair blonde hair. The pain is so intense that his brain is only able to process individual pieces of the picture, which is split between his senses and what each one is able to capture.

The rough weave of heavy winter fabric grazes his cheek. A long coat. A dress.

A rifle shot explodes in the air.

He feels stupid with pain and helplessness, flinching into the grass at the thunderous sound of the firearm, seeking darkness and silence.

A hand finds the toe of the boot stapling into the ground just near his head and grips tight onto the leather, unabashed in his cowering and seeking anchorage if only because Edmund's choices in this matter have greatly reduced. His hands have turned red with blood, as has the fabric at his chect and shoulder, spilling passed his collar to his neck, matting in his hair— there's just a lot of it, and it's all he can smell and feel, the insidious wet warm. He's pretty sure this is where he dies.

Out here, men die of more minor injuries, if not in the moment, then days later, weeks, of infection. Or he might simply be crippled and pained. These flashes of his future are disjointed and panicked, the animal wrangler side of him too sharp at assessing the damage with the chilly eye of someone who knows when the lame beast needs to be put down.

Snow crusts in his hair and wind chaps bloodied lips. The weight of his clothes, thoroughly soaked with a combination of his blood and the blood of his horse, pull him down like boots filled with water, except Edmund is on solid ground even if he'll soon feel like he's floating.

Time slows down, or maybe it speeds up. He seeks darkness and silence, and he finds both, but he's also wrong — this isn't where he dies. A pair of hands gloved in lambskin and clutching at the front of his coat jolt him back to reality. Something smells like wet wool and damp hair. Gunpowder. Fingers touch the corners of his mouth, his lips, and smear the hair off his brow in short, frantic movements like the panicked flutter of a song thrush's wings.

Someone is crying his name.

One can tell he is coming back to life— or at least, consciousness— when his breathing chokes, blood specks flying from between stained teeth and a grimace pulling through his expression, like taut strings pulling beneath the surface. There is something wedged in his torso, a tooth, and feeling it jostle at even his breathing is almost as bad as the blunt feeling of impact its going in had been. But at least the pressure of the bite, and the smell of the beast's breath, are both gone, replaced with blood and gunpowder and snow.

It's his name, but with less. D's in it. But rings true all the same, enough for him to hear it and comprehend it and try to open his eyes. They're blurred in water, and sounds keep tearing out of his throat, gulping efforts to draw in air against his own closing throat. He'd move his arms and grab for familiarity, but he has good reasons not to.


Aislinn wears the rifle slung over her shoulder, its leather strap pulled taut and flat across her chest and she cradles Edmund's face in her hands, lifting his head when he opens his eyes so she can better see whether or not they're able to focus. She's gone gaunt and white with fear, her small mouth set into a grim line that shows no teeth and pinches her expression. There are lines on her face where there normally are none.

A rough tongue laps the blood from his temple and cheek, and although Edmund can't see it without twisting his head, he can feel the wolf's nose pressing cold against his neck. It lets out a low, plaintive whine.

"Stay strong, Eamonn— my brave one—" Aislinn shrugs out of her coat and hikes it up around him like a blanket. The heels of both her hands apply direct pressure onto the wound. "Help is coming."

The white face of the canine creature is barely a haze in his bleary periphery, drifting along the present as if simply skimming it like a pebble on a lake. But details niggle their way in, beneath the pain. The ground is cold beneath his head and her coat warm over him, and the wet licking of animal tongue at his ear isn't entirely unpleasant, except that all of these things continue to keep him attentive when he'd rather not be. He swallows, hard, around the dreadful noises he's making, and the reedy breathing, and the thick taste of copper and salt at the back of his mouth and through his nasal passages.


He has his priorities. And he can't see the thing lying dead, focused instead on Aislinn's face as his own hand seeks out where hers' keep insisting on hurting him. Leaving his broken arm to lie cautiously still, the other smears more blood on her knuckles.

Aislinn tangles her fingers in Edmund's, not wanting to take either of her hands off him. When she does, it's to place his palm flat on the ground at his side and cover it with hers so he can feel their hooves drumming through the earth. "Here," she says, "they're still with you, and so am I. For as long as you need me. Here—"

The wolf's ears prick up at attention, and Aislinn turns to look in the same direction. Her hand hasn't left Edmund's while the other keeps pressing down, staunching the flow. He's already lost so much. "Hush, go. Bring Donagh. Go."

And the wolf is off.

Lost so much, but not enough to not to think to turn his head and watch the beast run in a blur of white and flashing black paws. By the time he steers his head back, blood has gathered at that corner of his mouth, working red and sticky with saliva. He makes a wet sound in his throat, chest-deep and hiccuping, hands splayed against the ground where she's pressed it before, almost insolently, he works his digits out from beneath her palm. They snag again in her coat lapels and tendrils of blonde hair, probably painful when he tugs at her to come further down.

His belief in his own inevitable death is almost cloying to her senses. It isn't dramatic or uneducated, but probably biased, the pain disproportionate to hope of recovery, and the shock of being so swiftly turned into prey still making it so that he trembles when he's aware enough to think of it.

Aislinn leans down until her crown is touching Edmund's. The hand that had coaxed his to the ground finds the side of his face and cups his cheek, fitted against the hard curve of his jaw. She plants a kiss between his eyes, maybe because that's what a wife should do for her husband, or maybe because she's crying too. "I'm with you," she says again, her voice reduced to a hoarse whisper. "You won't be alone."

She can't promise him that he's going to be all right. There are some thing she doesn't know, and Edmund's future is one of them. "Please stay, Eamonn. Please. I swear I'll never ask another thing if you'll stay."

There are not conditions that give enhance or steal from Edmund's options — he doesn't mind it, being asked for things. He might think to tell her so if he were thinking at all. But his blinking is slowly to dull, bleary struggles to keep his eyes open, and his head feels too heavy to stop it from rolling to the side and pressing an ear to the ground, neck slack. Before he swims into unconsciousness, he can hear the rumble of his herd moving over the land, and also the pounding beat of two feet coming closer at a loping run. Seeing who it is seems like a futile effort and an added detail he doesn't need right now.

He'd rather keep a mental clutch on the promises being given, the heat of Aislinn's breathing, as he slips away.

When he next wakes, it is to the whistle of an icy draught shrieking through the corridor outside a familiar room with a large bed dressed in heavy blankets and dense white sheepskin the same colour as the snow crowding in around the corners of a window that overlooks the loch. The water is dark now, but so is the sky — it's because of the fire burning in the room's great stone hearth that Edmund is able to see anything at all upon opening his eyes.

Gauze bandages wrapped around the right side of his body restrict his ability to move much, and so does the splint attached to his broken arm left folded albatross-like across his chest. The first conscious breath he takes in hurts, but letting it out again is easier, and even the worst of it is nothing like what he experienced out on the moor.

He is alive. He also isn't alone. Aislinn dozes lightly, her blonde head on the pillow beside his with her cheek and chin resting in the crook of one arm. The other she has draped over his midsection, her hand on his, which is positioned over his heart.

The first time he went on a ship and made to work, he woke up feeling a little like this from the simple fatigue of it. The drugs in his system dull out the sharper pains, if not by a great amount. Enough that he can think and wince and ponder about what he does and doesn't remember. Thinking, despite being able to, feels like dreaming.

Mouth dry like the deserts he's never seen but once read about, Edmund turns his head to observe the woman that shares his bed, and then down his body to see that that warm spot he feels happens to be her hand on his chest. He doesn't wish to wake her, but this thought doesn't connect to the one that motivates him to bring up the hand that is not bound to his torso and conform his knuckles lightly against her cheek, as if to simply seek the feel of it.

She inhales and opens her eyes at the same time, still in that hazy place between wakefulness and dreaming when she says, very quietly, "Hallo." Aislinn doesn't register that he's touching her face until the moments that come after, and then she's holding still as if unsure whether to reciprocate or attempt to extract herself from the situation with the amount of grace it deserves.

Pale eyes watch his, solemn, considering. She chooses neither. "Does it hurt very much?"

His tongue tests his own chapped lips, swallowing then to wet his mouth before he removes his hand, allowing it to flop against his belly. How to answer that question? Broken bones hurt, as do the muscles around it singing chords of tension into ligaments in rough little snatches of tension beneath the surface. Bruises ache, torn skin stings. He is, however, partway severed from it on whatever cocktail he was given, and considers how to voice his answer for the amount of time it takes his brain to sluggishly follow.

He settles on, "No." If humour scrapes through this answer, it's so dry as to go undetected.

"Liar." Aislinn reaches out to skim the tips of her fingers through the reddish-brown hair plastered to Edmund's brow and delicately tucks it away behind one of his ears, piece by piece. She sits up, then, and unfolds her legs, pausing to relieve a cramp in her calf by squeezing it and massaging the muscle with a firm, clockwise motion of her thumb. A glance at a pocket watch left open on the bedside table tells her what time it is, and how long she's been lying beside him (too long if she's also hurting).

"You're in better shape than the yearling, bless it — there wasn't a thing to be done except butcher the poor creature, and your brother's already seen to that." Bed springs whine in protest as she rises, a wool shawl wrapped around her shoulders, and moves across the room to the fire to where a heavy kettle hangs on a hook above the flames. Aislinn wraps her hand in the shawl to guard against burns before taking it off the hook by the handle and transporting it to a table closer to the bedroom window.

"A few of the younger ones took off," she says, pouring the kettle's contents into a porcelain cup with gold leaf trim, "but the hands are out looking. I have a good feeling they'll turn up."

Sitting up is about as out of the question, right now, as making love.

Edmund isn't up for either, sliding his eyes shut as he hears her moving across the room, only opening them again at the gentle splshing of small water serving into porcelain container. He isn't worried about the horses — fled horses can be tracked down, and in fact, back in the day when he formed his herd and followed rumour of wild equines escaped to breed in the wild, chasing them down could even be fun. It's with this wistful thought that he says, "I could be helpin'." And now, that hand comes up to pick at the bandages, without actually disturbing them — he tests their cleanliness and firmness, a wince writing across his features.

"You will," says Aislinn, "soon as you can stay in your saddle." She sets the kettle down on the table and, with her back to him, tears open an unmarked pouch made of white paper. Its contents spill into the cup. "Your arm is broken in two places and your ribs— they're not quite right either, but it's the bite that has me worried most. We'll want to keep the wound clean and change your dressings twice a day until the stitches are ready to come out.

"I don't know when that will be, mind." There's an apology in her voice even if she doesn't get around to giving it explicitly. His prognosis could be much worse. "You can at least expect to be back on your feet in the next week or two."

And so he is to live. Fear of infection and wrong recovery is a shadow on the sentiment, but Edmund knows Aislinn isn't inept one it comes to nursemaiding and attention. He turns his head to observe the window rather than worry too much about whatever potion she's concocting over there. "I almost got ate by a dragon," he says, mostly just to— say the sentiment out loud and listen to it himself. He's fended off dragons before, but nothing larger and more threatening than a Green — dangerous but less impossible than the idea of a Storm Bringer, even one rolling around in the pain of its own starvation.

But he remembers the wolf, too, and doesn't say this out loud, reliving the memories quietly and to himself.

At the table, Aislinn is silent except for the sound of a spoon tinkling against the side of the cup as she stirs the medicine into the water. Hearing it out loud has a sobering effect on her, and if there had been a smile starting to tease at the corners of her mouth then it's gone now.

Yes, he did almost get eaten by a dragon.

"I've sent Colm into town to buy more bandages and ledum ointment," she continues, tapping the spoon on the cup's rim. "This tea will help with the swelling, bring down your fever." As she speaks, something stirs at the foot of Edmund's bed that he hadn't noticed before, not necessarily out of inattentiveness, but because it's rather difficult to see. An ermine stretched out on the sheepskin blankets parts its muzzle into a wide yawn, showing off its needle-sharp teeth and a curling pink tongue. One front paw hooks over the other, and the little predator rests its head on its feet, its black eyes hooding sleepily.

"There's laudanum, too, if you'll take it," Aislinn concludes. "And I suggest you do."

"I'll take it."

This, he roughs out, despite his claim slash lie that he is in no pain. He can feel it rising up to meet him, bringing about fresh sweat on his brow and slicking his face greasy. Blue eyes flick wavering down towards that source of movement, Edmund looking at the little creature as if trying to decide whether this is some fresh hallucination or not. That he is deciding it is not is written in his expression, wary understanding cutting through the haze. It's tempting to turn that stare to her, but opts not to, for all that he can't break it from the little familiar snoozing by his feet.

Aislinn measures a dosage of dark, bitter-smelling liquid into the cup with an eyedropper and caps the bottle it came from. When she turns around, her gaze goes from Edmund's face to the ermine, then drifts back again, uncertain. She could try dismissing it as a hallucination, but if it was a hallucination then she couldn't see it to dismiss it— and that would be dishonest.

She dislikes being dishonest. "His name is Hush," she says, cup cradled in her hands as her feet carry her back to Edmund's bedside. "I was going to tell you. It only never felt like the right time."

There hasn't been many right times since their wedding, and to admit such a thing before such a guarantee of security would be foolish. Not because she would be in danger, but because there'd be other uses of her, maybe. Edmund knows and understands (or that is his imagined understanding of her situation) and feels bleaker for it that he is against cast alongside the company of his own kind. But how she'd stood over him, wild, gentle hands gripping a shotgun and managing its kick, and he remembers that, against the stark brightness of the snow storm.

"Aye," he says instead, prone to monosyllabic responses when he isn't sure how to frame words around what goes on behind them, which is most of the time.

"I'll tell you a story, Eamonn," Aislinn offers with the cup, which she presses into Edmund's hands. She's more worried about spilling the laudanum-laced tea on him than she is about spilling it on the blankets — it's still very hot, and not quite ready to drink. "It's about a little girl who was born across the Irish Sea in a place they used to call County Kerry. This little girl— she loved very much the settlement where she lived, and she loved very much the people who lived there with her, including her father— and the people— they loved him too, because he was the kindest, most gentle soul you could ever hope you'd meet.

"But the girl— she knew things she ought not to know, and so the people told their children to speak kind words to her but not to befriend her, because they were frightened, and when people are frightened they sometimes do foolish things— or so this is what the girl's father said to her."

Aislinn sits down on the edge of Edmund's bed again, back straight and head bowed with her chin tucked in, her hands a knot in her lap. She is very still. "One day," she says, "the girl warned the people about a Terrible Thing she could feel coming, and even though they listened to her, there wasn't much anyone could do— not even her father— and when the Terrible Thing had come and gone, the people started asking each other: what if the girl knew the things she did because she made them happen? They told the girl's family that they had to send her away, so—"

This is the part of the story where Aislinn's voice finally breaks, and she touches her fingertips to the hollow of her throat, then swallows to rid herself of the hard lump she feels forming there. She lets out a slow, shaky breath. "So the girl's father took his sons and his daughter and sailed across the Irish Sea, but he made the girl promise not to tell anyone anything she knew or felt ever again, and the girl— she kept that promise for a very, very long time. She grew up, was married, and she had two beautiful children of her own with a man who made her heart sing. Then, one day— one day she woke up and the first breath she took filled her body with more fear than she'd ever felt in her whole life. She knew another Terrible Thing was on its way, but she remembered the promise she made to her father, too, and she told no one.

"That night, men from the north came, asking to trade guns and ammunition for food, and for water, and for women— and then they burned it all to the ground." Aislinn reaches up to smear at her cheeks with the palms of her hands, but this time she does not stop. "One of the men saw the girl. He thought his brother back home would like her, so he let her live, and he let her son live. She couldn't stop crying, though, and so he beat her— and he beat her— and he left her in his brother's stables for him to find. The girl, who wasn't so much a girl anymore, so we'll call her a woman— she waited in the dark, and when the doors opened and the man's brother stepped inside— she looked at him and she saw kindness, and strength, and she knew he would not hurt her. She thought she could not love him, but about this one thing— she was wrong."

Edmund has little choice but to hold onto the tea and listen. The liquid is too hot, still, billowing steam up into the chilled air, and he feels physically incapable of the act of sitting up. He also can't block her out her words even if he wanted to — and by all evidence, would want no such thing, his eyes on her as she story tells with a knot of anxiety beneath the dull pain and fatigue for where it's going to go. It unties on its own, if only because it's a tricky sort of emotion to hold onto, for him, and unfolding words are soothing to listen to. His eyes unfocus but not because he's passing out or drifting away or otherwise not paying attention—

His hands are still very steady around his opiate drink, which remains unsipped.

He swallows, when she concludes, dragging his attention back up to her. "I'd like her t'be," he confesses, but only after enough silence has passed, until he has little choice but to give her back his own story, and it's done in five— or four, with that slur— words.

Aislinn draws her legs up onto the bed and lowers herself back down onto the pillow beside Edmund, her knees and arms curled like a hermit crab retreating into its shell. There's space between them, enough that he can still rest comfortably without her heat burning against him, but not so much that he could close his eyes and pretend he's alone in the room. Her shape dimples the mattress to his left, and the shallow, hitching sound of her breathing dominates the other noises in the room: a crackling fire and rushing wind.

She will stop crying eventually. For now, she rubs her thumb under her eye with one hand and smooths the blankets with the other. "Drink, Eamonn."

"Stop crying."

It's not a demand, or even meanly said — he's rarely mean, just brusque, blunt, occasionally callous. This time, the request is a suggestion, maybe a bargain, but Edmund doesn't pursue it much further than that. The pain is too distracting, running hot knives through his arm whenever his muscles twitch, and he shifts a little to set about drinking the bitter liquid, wincing against the taste and taking medium to slow gulps, moisture gathering at the corners of his mouth, a thin trickle spilling to drip onto his pillow. By the time he's done, he rests his head back heavy against the pillow, breathing becoming a little ragged.

Aislinn wipes the drink from his mouth and chin with the edge of her sleeve rather than her fingers, which are wet enough already. If it's a bargain, she agrees to her end with a kiss pressed to his jaw as she takes the empty cup from him and twists at the hip, setting it down on the bedside table next to the pocket watch. She rolls back to face him and tucks her hand under her cheek between her hair and the pillow.

"Oiche mhaith," she says. "Good night."