Nine – 01

[This post is from Phelan’s point of view.]

They all felt the weight of it, somehow, even those that had forgotten the date, the ones that had stopped numbering the days. Phelan could sense it as he made coffee that morning, watched Tala as she flipped pancakes and minded the venison and potato hash. She was quiet, the twins fast asleep in their basket nearby. Others drifted through, snagging tea, making toast, then leaving again, heading to take over watches or head for the greenhouse, for work on the walls, or down to the river to fish. The day was dawning clear, the sky painted in oranges and golds. It felt like that day all over again, like that morning.

He hadn’t been where he was supposed to be that day. He’d still been in Chicago, delayed in departure, knowing that time was running short—but never realizing how short it had run. Kira had taken Teague and left weeks before and he’d known where he needed to go, what he needed to do, but there had been so many loose ends to handle in the city before he felt like he could go. Teague would be so angry with him when and if he ever found out about the delay.

He was supposed to be here, where he was now. The plan had been that he’d be with Thom and Marin and their friends when things came apart. It hadn’t happened—instead, it was weeks before he arrived, weeks where the survivors here had been forced to contend with things they couldn’t hope to understand alone.

But they survived—thrived, even—without me, so that still accounts for something. J.T. had decked him. The memory of it still made him smile. J.T. had been the first to remember him from a long-ago yesterday, from a life long gone. Marin and Thom had started to remember later, though not terribly long after. If the others had similar experiences, they hadn’t shared them yet.

“I deserved it,” Phelan murmured to himself as he poured a mug of coffee. Tala glanced up, her brow arching.

“Deserved what?”

“The punch.”

She gave him a confused look. He grinned.

“J.T. punched me.”

“Where? You’re looking pretty good if he did.”

Phelan laughed. “Not—not recently. When I showed up back then. He punched me.”

Tala canted her head to one side, a corner of her mouth twitching upward into a smile. “Oh. Well, then you’re probably right.” She spooned some hash onto a plate and held it out to him. “Breakfast?”

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