J.T.’s head pounded at counterpoint to his heart as he slowly came around, sprawled flat on his back in the mud next to Thom’s equally sprawled body. Rain was light on his face, but the clouds were black as night, promising that the rain wasn’t going to be light for long.
Constance’s ghost stood over him, an army of others behind her fading into the mist as it dissipated into the rain and the dim. The ghost shook her head almost sadly.
“I don’t know if we can do that again, Jameson.”
“You didn’t need to do it this time,” he said. His tongue felt swollen and he shivered, slowly sitting up. He could taste a little blood and hoped it was just from a split lip or a bitten cheek. “We were turning the tide.”
“There were more coming.” Her ghostly voice was distant, as if she was listening to something else, something far away.
J.T. swallowed a couple of times, willing his heart to settle down. He felt cold all over, from the tips of his fingers down to his toes. “How many?”
“It doesn’t matter, now. You’ll have time, though I don’t know how much.” The ghost looked at him squarely.
“You’ll need to be careful. Forever.”
He nodded mutely. Somehow, he knew that.
The statement, he also knew, had a double meaning. They would all have to be careful forever, but so would he in specific.
Her ghost nodded back. The mists slowly began to fade, the ghosts winking out of view one by one, carried away by the rain and the wind. Even hers began to fade from his vision.
“Thank you, Constance,” he said quietly, just before she vanished completely.
He saw the ghost smile, and then she was gone.
The rain got heavier as he forced his way up to his feet, shaky at first. He looked around slowly. The others were starting to come around. His heart began to pound again. Were they all still alive?
Shit. Marin. Thom. Kellin. He spun to the side. Thom was flopping onto his side like a fish out of water, groaning and coughing painfully, face spattered with mud and rain, white from either pain or internal bleeding—both things that J.T. would have to address as soon as possible.
Turning toward the pile of broken furniture, he could see Marin’s fingers twitch feebly. A relieved breath escaped him before he stumbled forward and started hauling pieces of debris off of her, muttering curses under his breath to keep himself going.
“Is she…?” Thom mumbled, slowly starting to sit up.
“Alive, yes,” J.T. growled, then waved for Thom to get out of his way. “Go sit over there and try not to do any more damage to yourself before I can fix you.”
Thom laughed painfully and crawled to a spot a few feet away, just under cover from the rain that was starting to fall harder.
Thunder boomed and lightning crackled in the otherwise still and silent air, alive only with the sound of groans as people came awake to find themselves either hurt or wet—in many cases, both. Carolyn appeared at his elbow and helped him clear the bits of broken furniture away from Marin’s fallen form.
“You look like hell,” Carolyn murmured at one point, glancing at him sidelong. He almost laughed aloud.
The words just slipped out. “And you look beautiful.”
She blushed and he caught her hand for a moment, squeezed her fingers, then let go again and got back to work. Now, as ever, wasn’t the time. It was never the time.
Together, they got the debris cleared away from Marin and J.T. reached down to gently lift her from the wreckage. She groaned softly, a dark bruise already forming on her forehead, above her eye, and a little blood dribbled from the corner of her mouth.
“Is she going to be okay?” Carolyn asked softly.
“Time’ll tell,” J.T. murmured, then turned to carry her toward the fire.
A crack of thunder sounded, so close and loud it shook everything, vibrated the very ground beneath their feet. It was as if that was the sound of the heavens tearing open, because the rain began to come down in curtains and sheets.
It washed away the blood and the signs of battle even as the survivors—all of them—scrambled for the cover of the tents that had become their home.
It might have been tenuous and temporary, but it was certainly home.
Want to help support Awakenings?
Want to chip in to support Awakenings? Buy Erin a coffee through ko-fi and fuel her creativity with a little caffeine.
Want to help support all of Erin’s writing endeavors?
Thank you to my supporters!
Thank you to all of my supporters at Patreon, especially Karen L. Klitzke and Brandon!
Where we’re listed