[This post is from Phelan’s point of view.]
“You have grass on your shirt.”
Phelan straightened from tending the pot over the fire, brow furrowing as he watched J.T. approach. The other man looked like he hadn’t slept at all the night before, which was cause for concern enough, but it was less the dark circles under his eyes than the expression on his face that gave Phelan pause.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, not wanting to speculate—odds were good his mind would come up with something far worse than whatever had kept J.T. up.
“Is that coffee?” J.T. asked, ignoring the question. That won an arched brow from Jacqueline, who sat cross-legged nearby, settled in to resume work on a quilting project even as Phelan busied himself with the coffee.
“It will be soon,” Phelan said, still watching him as he unceremoniously dropped into a sitting position near Jacqueline.
“Fantastic,” J.T. said, leaning back against one of the split-log benches and covering his eyes with one hand. “I need it.”
“You realize it’s nearly ten o’clock,” Jacqueline said, peering at him. “At least as near as I can tell. What’s going on? Did you oversleep?”
“Oversleeping would imply that I slept.”
“Well, that answers part of my question,” Phelan said, tone wry. He started filling the French press with coffee grounds. “So answer the rest. What’s going on, Jay?”
“I just—I can’t—” he broke off, making a frustrated sound. “I just keep thinking and it goes around and around and I try to stop but it doesn’t stop.”
“Now you’re not making sense,” Jacqueline said, brow furrowing deeper. “What keeps going around and around?”
He shook his head. “It doesn’t—”
“Don’t lie,” she warned. Phelan turned away, concealing a wince. He’d come to know that tone over the last year and it typically didn’t presage much good if it wasn’t obeyed.
“She asked us to help her and we haven’t,” J.T. said. “And it keeps eating away at me. I don’t want it to but I can’t help it. It just keeps bubbling up.” He sighed. “I think time is running out but I don’t know what to do about it. I’m not even sure where to start. How the hell do we figure out where to start?”