[This post is from Thom’s point of view.]
He could still feel Matt’s gaze on him and Thom sighed, rolling a shoulder and trying not to wince at the sudden lance of pain that shot through it. The wounds from a camazotzi’s claws were largely healed, enough so that he could usually forget they were there—until he moved the wrong way, stretched the wrong way. At least, that was what he kept telling himself. The more likely case was that the pain had receded toward a dull ache and was therefore drowned out by all of the other aches and pains that were sharper, somehow fresher.
Matt’s hammer clanged off the metal once, twice. The third time it fell off-key and Thom turned, frowning. Matt was looking at him strangely.
“You’re talking about dying.”
Thom blinked at him. While he wasn’t wrong, he’d thought Matt had caught his meaning before. “I wish I wasn’t.”
“Damn, Thom,” Matt breathed. “I—was it as bad as that?”
“The past few weeks sure as hell haven’t been a picnic,” Thom said, turning away again to watch the rain. Lightning spidered through the clouds as he watched, exhaling a sigh. “I think I’m on the other side of it now, though. Hope so, anyway.”
“I hope so, too,” Matt said. Metal scraped against the anvil for a second, then the hammering resumed. “Not sure what the hell we’d do without you.”
“You guys managed well enough while I was down for the count,” Thom murmured, almost too quiet for Matt to hear over the sound of the rain and his metalwork.
“There wasn’t a choice,” Matt said. “And we knew that we’d get you back sooner or later. This—all of this—this doesn’t keep standing without you, Thom. You know that.”
His stomach twisted and his fingers tightened around his sketchbook.
Maybe not now. But someday? Someday, it might have to.