It was only a few minutes before he opened his eyes again, no longer feeling like he’d inhaled knives. Jacqueline helped him sit up slowly. J.T. had Leah by the arm in a vise-grip and Phelan leaned against Carolyn, wheezing.
“What happened?” Thom croaked, feeling like he’d set fire to one side of his chest. Falling hadn’t done his slowly-healing ribs any favors.
“We were going to ask you the same thing,” Jacqueline said softly, relinquishing her grip on him as Marin appeared to take her place.
“Thom whacked me with his crutch, that’s what happened,” Leah growled, rubbing one shoulder and ignoring J.T.’s grip. “And I’m really not sure why.”
“I saw a knife or a needle or something,” Thom said. “Phelan was struggling.”
“It was a needle,” Phelan said, looking pale and—unless Thom was heartily mistaken—more than a little shaken. “Woke up with a rag in my mouth and her on my chest with a needle coming at my neck.”
“Where is it now?” Carolyn asked, looking around. After a moment of searching, Jacqueline came up with it.
“Half full of something,” she announced, holding it up to the lantern light in an attempt to get a better look. “Not sure what it is, though.”
“Antibiotics,” Leah snapped. “He said he hated needles, so I figured that I’d need to hold him down.”
“I’m allergic to them,” Phelan said quietly, leaning against Carolyn.
Thom blinked. “You’re allergic to needles?”
Phelan snorted humorlessly and shook his head. “Antibiotics.”
Marin’s arms closed around Thom’s shoulders. He could feel the shiver that went through her. “The reaction could have killed you.”
J.T. looked between Leah and Thom, then slowly released his grip. “You could have killed him.”
Leah’s face was sheet-white, ghostly in the dim. “I didn’t know.”
“Now you do.” J.T. shook his head. He glanced at Jacqueline. “Can you handle this? I’m beat.”
She nodded. “Yeah, you two go back to bed. You, too, Care. You look exhausted.” Jacqueline leveled a finger at Leah. “And you need to ask before you give anyone anything. We can’t treat for anaphylaxis out here. Not anymore.”
Leah mumbled another horrified apology before she was herded off to bed by Carolyn and J.T.
Thom’s heartbeat finally began to slow and he relaxed into Marin’s arms once they were gone. Marin squeezed him gently and he felt relaxed for the first time all night. He watched Jacqueline start to give Phelan a once-over.
“We need to keep a close eye on her,” Jacqueline said abruptly.
“Oh?” Marin’s tone was curious, interested. He’d heard that tone before and hearing it now made him nervous again.
What are you thinking, Marin?
Jacqueline grunted. “Something doesn’t seem right about all of this,” she said. “I don’t know if you told her about the allergy, Phelan, but I know you told me and I told J.T.”
“I never told her,” Phelan said quietly, reaching up to rub his neck, as if he could feel the shadow of a needle that was no longer above him. “I didn’t think I needed to. She was just making the poultices, and the only thing that could end up in those that would give me a rash is poison ivy.”
“Why would she be trying to give you antibiotics in the middle of the night?” Thom wondered aloud, though his thoughts were already starting to get fuzzy. The adrenaline was draining away. Aches were catching up with him, and the screaming pain on the one side of his chest was going to make getting more sleep difficult unless he took something.
“That’s part of what’s bothering me,” Jacqueline said softly. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Tell her I’d rather have you and only you worrying about me,” Phelan said. “Time I started to teach you to mix up poultices and stuff anyway.”
Jacqueline blinked at him. “What?”
“It’ll keep her from thinking we suspect something’s going on,” Marin said. “It’s a good idea, Jac.”
“Do we—do we really think something’s going on? I thought I was just maybe being a little paranoid.”
Marin shrugged. “Maybe there is, maybe there’s not. Let’s just be cautious, huh? She’s been acting a little funny lately.”
“When did you notice that?” Thom asked, looking at her.
“Last week when Kel and I caught her coming up from the ravines by herself.”
That shouldn’t sound as bad as it does. Thom nodded a little, then started trying to get up. Marin quickly stepped in to help, scooping up his crutches with her free hand.
“I’ll tell her in the morning,” Jacqueline said quietly. “Leah, I mean.”
Marin nodded and relief flickered through Phelan’s expression. She gestured toward him. “Are you going to stay with him tonight?”
Jacqueline nodded. “I won’t go that far, anyway. I sent everyone else to bed, so I guess I have the watch now. If anything else happens, I’ll come kick you guys and J.T. awake.”
“Brandon’s with the animals,” Thom said, trying to smother a yawn behind his hand. Maybe I’ll be able to sleep after all. He put a hand gently against his ribs. The pain was slowly receding to a dull ache now. Maybe I didn’t do any more damage, either.
“Thanks, Thom. Sweet dreams.”
“Night, Jac. Night, Phelan.”
“G’night, Thom,” Phelan said. “Night, Marin.”
Marin said her good-nights and helped him limp back to bed. As his head hit the pillow, Thom murmured tiredly, “Do you really think she’s turned against us?”
“I don’t know,” Marin said softly as she pulled their blankets up over them again. “But I’m definitely afraid we’re going to find out.”
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