Chapter 30: Take it Back Now Ya'll
Bo could tell James was in shock.
Almost dying would do that to you, but it was pretty obvious that James had been through a lot of close calls in his life. It might not have been obvious at first glance, but when Bo and Robin had hurried James to the guild and finally laid him on the examination table, they saw all the scars. Some of them looked like ones James shouldn't have survived from - especially the giant slashes across his back.
Bo was surprised that James was still somewhat functioning after he woke up. Frankly, he was surprised that James woke up at all.
James had been barely holding on, and when he woke up, it was clear the only thing keeping him holding on was Clandestine.
The sound of horse hooves walking over the underbrush of the forest was all that filled the morning air at first. Then a few birds started chirping nearby, waking with the sun.
Dinny was sitting up with him in the saddle, still holding on with a vice-like grip to the horn of the saddle, but looking around in wonder. It was her first time atop a horse, and Bo understood how it could be scary, especially with his draft horse being so large, and her being so small.
He rode up beside Mel, feeling like he always did: towering over everyone, except this time, on a towering horse. She was bundled up with a scarf around her face and thick wool gloves Raj had knitted for her, for occasions like this one. She turned to look up at him and smiled with her eyes, pulling down the scarf from her mouth to show her mouth.
"How's it going up there?" she asked in goblin.
"I'd say it's going pretty well," Bo replied in kind, then looked down at Dinny. Dinny just nodded, with a small smile plastered on her face.
"You're not too nervous, are you?" Mel asked.
Dinny shook her head.
"It's okay if you are," Bo said.
Dinny was still for a moment, then looked over at Mel and nodded her head.
"This is weird," Dinny said as if she'd spouted it out suddenly.
Bo laughed. "Sometimes weird is good though, right? Not all change is bad."
"Sometimes it's just different," Mel said.
"A little uncomfortable, maybe," Bo added. "But not bad."
Dinny looked like she relaxed a little and let out a long sigh.
"It's nice, I think," Dinny said quietly. But her gaze drifted to James.
He'd ridden up ahead of everyone else, leading the way. It looked like he wanted to be alone, so everyone was giving him space. It was a quiet, unanimous agreement. But still, they were worried about him.
Raj was riding a little bit behind him, and Robin was walking beside him.
Bo wondered when Robin was going to shift. Robin didn't like riding horses because he preferred his wolf form, and that made riding awkward for both him and the horse. But neither James nor Dinny knew yet that he was a werewolf, and Bo had a feeling Robin was going to... sit on it. For a bit.
Dinny looked up at Bo, craning her head back and twisting around.
"James... am I saying his name right?"
"I don't know if he likes goblins," Dinny said quietly.
Bo and Mel exchanged a look. They didn't know either. Most people outside of the guild felt about goblins the same way they felt about mages: a universal hatred.
James had a lot of walls up, and he hadn't really said much since him and Bo talked about why he was wanted in the first place.
Bo pursed his lips and twisted them to the side, then sighed.
"I don't know either," Bo said. "But I think... he might surprise us."
Dinny looked from Bo to James, with her brows pinched together.
"If he has no problems with us," Mel said slowly. "Then I think he might warm up to you. Just give it time."
Bo patted Dinny on her tiny, tiny shoulder. She sniffled.
Bo tilted his head and leaned down a little to see her face. She was wiping her eyes.
"I just really miss my sister," she mumbled, her words getting garbled by incoming tears. "And I don't know if I'll ever see her again after how I messed up with everything."
"You know... we're on good terms with the tribes in the area, right? We've spoken with some of your chiefs before." Mel spoke softly. "I think we'd be able to explain that you were with us. That should be okay."
Dinny shook her head.
"No, no, you don't understand," she said. "I- I told Mickey--" she sniffled again, loudly. "I was going to -- I thought I was going to kill him. And Clandestine."
Bo and Mel exchanged looks again, their eyebrows each drawn together in concern.
"Obviously I don't anymore!" Dinny sputtered defensively, even though neither of them had said anything. "I don't know what I was thinking! I wasn't thinking at all, and I never would've imagined that you could be this nice."
Bo set his hand back on Dinny's shoulder, and she looked up at him, with her yellow eyes glistening with tears.
"That's a lot of people's stories when they meet us," he said quietly. "But not everyone is able to see past their fear of mages right away, just like some humans can't see past their fear and hate of goblins."
Their conversation lulled as Dinny wiped her eyes again, and frowned. She seemed to shrink down even more into the saddle.
"I don't think a lot of people try to see," she whispered. Bo had to lean down a little to hear.
"You're right," he said quietly. "A lot of people don't."
Up ahead, Robin looked back at them, making eye contact with Bo.
Historically, goblins and humans had always been at odds. In the last hundred years, humans and mages were at odds. And in those last hundred years, the harpies had kept to themselves, leaving the conflict to play out between humans, magic-users, and goblins. But werewolves - they'd been feared and hunted for even longer. Even longer than goblins and humans had been at odds, and Bo didn't even know how far back that was.
Bo knew Robin could hear their conversation. Robin was waiting. Waiting to see if it was worth the risk, showing who he really was, to two new people.
Bo, Mel, and Raj would never let anything happen to Robin, but... like Dinny said. They still didn't really know James, and they were just getting to know Dinny.
And as nice as it was to get to know another, they still had to stay focused on their goal, because Clandestine still needed their help. Urgently.