“How’s he doing?” Carolyn approached quietly, a makeshift ice pack in her hand, which she wrapped in the towel left for that purpose before crouching and settling it gently on Thom’s forehead. He flinched, hissing, before the tenseness it caused by the sudden shock of the cold pack subsided and he sagged again. She winced herself, looking away from him and toward me.
I winced along with both of them, exhaling slowly. “Jacqueline said touch and go. Might be more wrong than she can figure. We can hope otherwise, but…” I exhaled. “We can hope.” I fidgeted, chewing on my lower lip and staring at him. She knelt next to me, hugged me briefly.
“He’s too stubborn to die today, anyway.” She smiled gently and hugged me again, settling down on the ground with me. “How’re your legs?”
“Hurt like hell. Calves burning. I’d rather not be feeling my feet, but I don’t get a vote there.” I rubbed my eyes. There was another good reason I wasn’t leaving Thom—my body just hurt too much for me to get very far. I looked at her, shifting my own position slightly. “Don’t have anything to do now, huh?”
She shrugged a little. “Not until someone gives me something to do other than play runner. I don’t mind it too much. Time to think a little.” She rubbed her fingers, grimacing. “It’s cold.”
“I have a feeling it’s going to get colder.” I squeezed her hand, looking down at Thom. I rearranged his blanket. “You want something to do?”
A wry smile twisted her lips. “If you send me to do something, they’re not going to tell me not to do it. What do you need?”
“Not something I need—something we’re all going to need. Firewood. Before the rain comes. We’ll need firewood. If you go out along the edge of the ravine, you’ll probably find some deadwood dry enough for us to get burning later. If Matt’s done, he can help. He knows what to look for.” He’ll probably be putting together the pile—hell, the piles—anyway. God. He’s going to have to teach everyone how to cook on a fire, too. Thank god for Eagle Scouts! I looked down at Thom. He was one, too. Wonder how many of the staffers are. Davon and Drew? Does Rory know how to cook on a fire? I know he knows how to build one. J.T. knows how. Brandon? I know how to cook on a fire, just not well. Can’t build one to save my life, though.
“I’ll get started, then.” She stood, squeezing my shoulder. “He’ll be all right.”
I smiled up at her wryly. “Hope you’re right.” Think maybe you’re right. Doesn’t help the dread, or the fear. “If Matt’s done, have him bring my shit over here? I’m going to stay with him.”|
Carolyn smiled faintly, nodding. “Sure thing, Marin.”
I smiled back as she departed, waving a little over her shoulder at me. “Thanks, Carolyn.”
And so I was alone again with Thom. I found his hand under his blankets, squeezed his fingers gently. I pulled up the cold pack, to check the knot on his head. It didn’t seem any less tender, but the swelling seemed to have gone down maybe a little. He stirred slightly as I eased it back down again, but settled quickly, sighing softly.
“God, Thom. You certainly know how to push my buttons. Every last one of them.” He had his finger down hard on the worry button right now. I’d almost have been happier fighting with him.
…“Push, Marin! One more, that’s all.”
I was in agony, but pushed anyway, gasping for breath. The pain eased a moment later; whatever was coming out was out.
And started crying.
Jacqueline grinned at me as she worked to clean up the squalling newborn. “It’s a boy, Marin.”
I blinked back tears. A son. We have a son…
“You okay, Marin?”
I swallowed hard, struggling to steady myself as I looked up toward my little brother. He dropped my backpack and another bag nearby and threw a blanket at me, which I caught, wrapping it around myself. The blanket from my bed, in my room. From our parents, before they died. I smiled weakly at him. “I’ll be okay.”
“You sure?” He looked from me, down toward Thom, and then to me again. “Going to take some time to haul those last couple boxes out of your place.”
I snorted softly. “They’re packed up. We’ve got bigger things to worry about. Find my duffle?”
“Yeah, it’s in a pile under a tarp to worry about later. Carolyn needs my help with firewood.”
I grinned at him. “I know. Told her to find you if you were done with what you were doing in the buildings. Firewood’s more important right now, I think, as long as we have clothes and blankets, which I think we’ve got right now, right?”
He nodded. “Yeah. Terry and I hauled that stuff down and into one of the shelters first. Getting your keys helped expedite that process, I’ll tell you that.” He crossed his arms, leaning slightly against one of the ‘walls’ of the shelter. “Are you seeing things again?”
If anyone deserves to know, he does. After a brief hesitation, I nodded. “Snippets and fragments. Nothing huge.”
“You’d tell me if it was something huge?”
I smiled lopsidedly. “If it would make a difference, yes.” Otherwise, little brother, no reason to freak you or anyone else out.
Matt snorted at me. “Right.”
“Yeah, right,” I kept grinning. “Carolyn? Firewood?”
He rolled his eyes. “Right. Don’t let that one get you too riled up before he’s well enough for me to slug, okay?”
God, little brother. So protective. I shook my head. “Firewood, Matt.”
He waved vaguely and left me, jogging out of my range of vision a few moments later. For the moment, it was quiet. I wasn’t sure how long that would last. The smell of rain on the wind was getting stronger. It was coming, sure as the sunrise. They wouldn’t have much time with that firewood. Hopefully they’d find a good cache, and quickly.
I glanced down toward Thom. “Hope you heard that, Thom. No making me upset until Matt can make you pay for it.” I gently ran my fingers across his forehead. He stirred once again, as if he was struggling to wake up, but something wasn’t letting him. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what, exactly. I probably wouldn’t even ask when he woke up. It wasn’t worth the fight it would spark—and it would inevitably spark a fight.
I wish we didn’t fight all the time. I hugged my knees against my chest, staring down at him. Wish he and I didn’t feel so right when we aren’t fighting. Hell. Even feels right when we are. Why the hell do you have to keep denying it, Thom? Why? I shook my head at myself, at him. Well. He won’t be able to deny it much longer. Not when everyone else’s abilities begin to manifest.