Winter – Chapter 28 – 01

            Neve shot upright in the bed with a cry as if someone had stabbed her in the side, eyes watering from that new pain even as the old pain made itself known again.
            “Whoa!”  The small blonde that had helped her in the field beyond the walls jerked out of her chair and came over to her beside. She touched her shoulder and tried to gently push her back down against her pillows.  “Settle down.  You’re safe.”
            “No,” Neve whispered.  “Something’s happened to Cameron.  Where is he?”
            “I’m not sure,” the other woman said honestly.  “He went to talk to Thom and Marin.”
            The names didn’t mean that much to her as Neve frowned, lips thinning to a tight line.  You need to find him.  Something bad happened.  He needs you now.  She tried to shake off the small blonde so she could get out of bed.  “I need to get to him.”
            “You’re running a fever of at least a hundred and three,” her caretaker snapped.  “You’re going nowhere.  Now lay back down.”
            Don’t you dare give up.  Neve swallowed a whimper and tried to push her away again, swinging her legs over the side of the bed, a stubborn set to her jaw.  Her injured leg screamed in pain but she fought not to let that show.  The woman with her growled in annoyance.
            “For goodness sake, just stay still.  Stay here and I’ll go find him.  Don’t try to walk on that leg or it’ll never heal right.”
            Neve hesitated, then leaned back, biting her lip.  “Hurry,” she whispered.  “Please, just hurry.”
            The blonde gave her a brief, hard look, then grabbed a jacket and ducked out the door, leaving Neve alone in the small, snug space.
            We must have made it, she thought.  Is Phelan here?  Is he still alive?  How long have I been out?  She frowned.  She couldn’t remember anything since laying in the snow and mud out in the field before the settlement’s walls.  They must be within those walls, now.  She took a few deep breaths, trying to gather herself.  Her side ached, a deep, gnawing pain that wasn’t from her own injuries.
            What happened, Cam?  What happened this time?
            She flinched at the sound of gunfire.  Gods and monsters.  What’s going on out there?  She bit down harder on her lip and hugged her good leg against her chest.  I should be with him.  I shouldn’t be trapped in here like this.
            Damn it, anyway.  She started to get out of bed again, deciding she didn’t care how badly she ended up—she wasn’t where she needed to be.
            Now where’s something I can use as a crutch?
            “What are you doing?”
            The woman in the doorway was thin, her hair pale brown and stick-straight, yanked back from her face in a messy ponytail.  Leaning against the edge of her bed, Neve lifted her chin to meet the other woman’s gaze.
            “Going to look for Cameron.”
            “I don’t think so,” the woman said, marching over.  Neve’s breath caught as she saw the barest glimmer of blue and green and gossamer wings perched on the woman’s shoulder, hanging onto her earlobe.
            What in heaven and hell and all the worlds—
            “Get back in bed,” the woman said sternly.  “Whatever’s going on out there is going to be over soon and then he’ll be back, I promise.”
            “What is going on out there?”  Neve asked as the other woman manhandled her back into a horizontal position.  The thin girl was stronger than she looked.
            “Some kind of fight,” the girl said.  “Par for the course around here, I’m sorry to say.”  She reached behind Neve and adjusted the pillows before gently pushing her down against them.  “Now lay still so you don’t undo all the work Jac did.”
            “Jac?”  Neve asked.
            “The first one who told you to stay put,” her new companion said as she adjusted Neve’s blankets.  “She asked me to keep an eye on you while she went looking for your lover.”
            Neve felt color stain her cheeks and looked away.  “Was it that obvious?”
            “Only to people who know how to look for it.”
            “And you do?”
            “Oh you bet,” the girl said with a grin.  “We got a lot of practice with each other before shit hit the fan.  That’s the problem with surviving the end of the world with a big group of friends.  Everyone already knows who was interested in each other.”  She blushed a little.  “Well, maybe not quite everyone, but the point mostly stands.”
            “Right,” Neve said, drawing the blanket tight as she became abruptly aware of the goosebumps rising along her arms and legs.  “Where did we end up, anyway?  I know it’s what used to be Michigan, but…”
            “Fifteen, twenty miles from the lake of the same name,” the woman said quietly, perching on the edge of the bed.  “On what used to be a college campus.”
            “Oh,” Neve said, trying not to reveal that her words barely meant anything.  Why did I even ask?
            Because you’re terrified that Cameron’s bleeding to death somewhere and you’ve got to keep talking so you don’t sink into some kind of pit, that’s why.
            The door burst open as her eyelids started to grow oddly heavy.  She snapped upright and swore at the pain that lanced through her chest.
            Then she swore again as she saw Cameron’s pale face and the blood welling from a wound in his side.

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