Like her brother, Bast wore her rust-colored hair in a set of dreadlocks. It was said this act alone showed how laid-back, and, in some ways, liberal, Levant County was, since she was the archivist. Like her brother, she seemed more feline than human. Although, the older Lankin was more of the domestic variety, not straying very far from Leeds most of the time, where as the younger was considered more feral, disappearing into the Backcountry on such a regular bases.
It was the accident up Deneb Gulch, five years ago, that kept her closer to home. The rollover left Bast paralyzed from the waist down. Timothy, her fiancé, had not been so lucky, being ejected on that brutally cold and snowy night. His broken body was recovered from the river of which it landed in a week after. There was speculation he may have actually survived were it not for the hypothermia.
Some of the old-timers, like Grizz, expressed concern for Lankin. The accident, and subsequent recovery of his potential brother-in-law, had a profound and devastating effect. It was whispered the last time he had gotten like that was when he recovered the body of Bethany Tabor, some years earlier.
Bast shocked everyone, including her brother, with her recovery. The Denver doctors were continually shocked by her obstinate refusal to chained to her wheelchair. She worked on her upper body strength, and was able to use a pair of crutches to drag herself along within six months. On any given early morning in Leeds, she could be seen pulling herself along through the town park.
“I’ll summit the Death’s Head by the time I’m fifty!” She would defiantly proclaim. Some asked her brother if he thought if it was possible.
“Even if I have to carry her,” was his response.
Bast offered Ira a sphinx-like smile as she refilled her coffee. The jingle of the bell over the café door got her to turn to see her younger brother strolling toward her with his sense of predatory purpose. It was back in mid-March when they had last seen one another, and late April when they’d last spoken over the phone. Given their natures, the estrangement between them that others perceived was hardly noticed, and, were it to be, it would be embraced.
“I wasn’t sure if you were having coffee or tea this morning, Lazarus,” she said nonchalantly as he pulled up a chair.
“And I was hoping you’d surprise me with one or both,” he returned in a similar tone, sitting down. “I hope you at least ordered us something to eat.”
“Of course, our usuals,” Bast said before leaning closer. “Miss Milligan says you’ve not been disappearing as much, even though it’s warmer.”
“Ira Milligan is ancient and should not be counted on for facts,” Lankin shot back. “At her advanced age, her ability to recollect anything is suspect.”
He might have said more, but the ringing of the bell over the door got him to turn. Desdemona and Sydney walked in, chatting quietly amongst themselves. They both cast looks over at Lankin, and it was hard to tell which woman’s glance lingered longer. With a growling curse under his breath, he turned back to meet his sister’s amused smirk.
“There’s why,” she observed. “Although Dessy and Marty have been married for twelve years, she still nurses a bit of affection from your time with her. And what of the dark-haired girl? She appears to have a defiant streak to her.”
“It’s nothing,” Lankin said quickly.
“Maybe we should invite them to sit with us?”
“Piss on you, Bast!” Lankin snapped before looking up to Ira, who had just returned to their table. “May I have some mint tea, please?”
“Of course, Lazarus,” Ira replied. “And Sydney wanted me to let you know she’d buy your breakfast if you’re willing.”
“That’s splendid!” Bast exclaimed with child-like glee. “Ira, please send those young ladies to come and sit with us.”
“It’ll be my pleasure,” she said with a wink and a smile, although it was up for interpretation as to which Lankin sibling the wink or the smile was for.
“I want a divorce.”
“I’m your sister, Lazarus, not your wife.”
“There’s probably some law somewhere saying a brother can be released from his cantankerous sister,” he shot back.
“I wish you the best of luck finding it,” Bast said wryly as her gray eyes tracked across the café. “Now behave, our guests are arriving.”
“Morning, Lazarus,” Dessy said as she sat down. “And Bast, thank you for sharing your table. I swear, it’s been at least a year.”
“At least,” she echoed before turning her attention to the dark-haired, dark-eyed girl sitting down across from Lankin. “And you’re…Sydney, the nice girl who’s buying my little brother breakfast?”
“Yes,” She said somewhat bashfully. “I feel like I kind of owed it to him after the other day.”
“Oh, dear, what happened?” Bast’s inquiry, while polite, carried an edge to it.
“I stopped her from falling face-first into the Kirkpatrick,” Lankin said in a low voice that let his sister know there might be more, but not to press.
“Exactly,” Sydney said quickly. The look in her eyes seemed to one of gratitude that what happened at Magpie Jack’s was not being mentioned. “Breakfast seems so insignificant for someone who saved my life.” She allowed herself a slight smile and an unintended giggle. “My knight shining outdoor gear.”
“You give me far too much credit, Just Sydney,” Lankin said, noticing how Bast and Desdemona were exchanging glances.
Breakfast arrived quickly, which put an end to the invasive inquiries. Almost before she was completely through eating, Sydney offered to pay, saying she had to get to work. Lankin watched her leave with feline detachment, though he cast a quick glare toward Bast when he heard her snickering.
“She really does like you, you know,” Dessy said as she stood up to leave. “Just give her time.”
Left alone with Bast, Lankin sat back with his tea. He kept his eyes riveted to the outside, not wanting to meet his sister’s gaze. The idea of disappearing up into the tundra for the remainder of the summer suddenly seemed infinitely appealing. In his mind, he began to catalogue what he would put into his pack.
“What do you suppose she’s running from?” Bast asked finally.
“Most likely a who,” he muttered. “Someone who she hopes never finds her.”
“That someone might be coming, Lazarus,” Bast said. “You know that, don’t you?”
“It’s really not my concern.”
His head snapped around, gray eyes narrowed. Something looking quite like a snarl rolled across his lips. Bast gave a small smile and placed her hand on his.
“If, or when, that happens, she might just need you,” she said. “And you’ll be there for her before you even consider it.”
“You’re pretty sure of that.”
“Of course,” Bast chuckled. “You’re my brother, and, besides, it’s what you do, and there’s no escaping it.”