Andrei’s eyes close and his body relaxes. Selene steps back with a sigh of relief. I guess that means it’s done. He’ll remember everything, and hopefully, he’ll go back to normal. Right?
I lean away from his sleeping form. My chest is tight and it’s hard to take in air. Everything happened so fast. I just… need a minute to think. It’s so hard to think, looking at him when all I can see is the rage in his eyes. What if when he wakes up, he’s not better? I crawl back, the anxiety rising in my throat. I can’t look away from him, in case he wakes up again.
My hand reaches for the bed, to keep moving, but it finds open air. I gasp as I tumble over the edge, my head and shoulders slam into the floor first. I cry out with the pain and the surprise as the rest of my body follows to the floor. I lay on the cold floor, staring up at the bed. How did I get here?
My hair moves as the little dragon squawks and crawls out from a tangle of red. It’s upset and frightened too. It hops up onto my chest, it’s little eyes looking at me confused.
“Kat! Are you alright?” Heath’s deep voice explodes across the room. He runs around the bed, kneeling beside me. “You’re still bleeding. We need to get you healed,” he insists, pulling me upright by my arm.
“What?” I look down at myself, a red line growing across my stomach. “How did that happen?” I wonder aloud. It’s all a jumble.
“She’s in shock,” Selene states, standing behind Heath.
“No kidding! What the hell was all this about?” Heath huffs. “He nearly got her killed! Let alone me,” he rubs his neck
“Someone suppressed Andrei’s memories of a particularly traumatic time in the past. He tried to remember on his own but was only getting pieces. He could not distinguish where he was, or who you were,” Selene explains, quite matter of fact. That sounds right. That’s why he kept talking about Rose… but who was she?
“Will he be okay now?” I ask.
Selene sighs. “Let’s worry about you now. He’ll be out for some time,” she nods to Heath. “Carry her, follow me.”
Heath lifts me off the floor in his arms. The little dragon tumbles into my lap, chirping angrily at him. It’s still hungry. I raise my hand, stroking its head with my fingers. It’s little head rubs against my touch, making a strange purring noise. I rest my head against Heath’s shoulder as he walks.
“Is the dragon… alright?” he asks softly.
It looks up at him with curious orange eyes.
“Yes,” I reply for it. For her. I get a distinct impression it’s female. “She’s hungry. The others haven’t come back yet,” I muse, my gaze transfixed on the dragon. It’s the only thing that makes sense right now.
“I’m glad,” he smiles. “How can you tell it’s a she?”
I shrug. “I just know. It’s like… in the way that they think and feel.”
“What’s that like, I wonder?” he chuckles with interest.
“Chaotic, at best,” Selene replies, stopping at a door. “Come in. You can put her on the bed.”
“Blue,” I crane my head back before we step through the door. “Find the others. Tell them to come here.”
“To the window,” Selene adds. “We don’t need them tearing up the hallways.”
Blue snorts. His lumbering footsteps echo down the marble hall.
I feel the softness of the bed underneath me as Heath sets me down. He looks so worried. I smile at him. My eyes feel heavy. Why is he so worried?
“Don’t you pass out just yet.” Selene scolds. I blink a few times, struggling to keep my eyes open. “Come on, lift your arms,” she instructs, standing over me. Heath steps back against the wall. waiting.
I do as she says. She waves her hand and the fabric of my shirt lifts, sliding up my arms and over my head. I wince as it sticks, pulling on dried blood. I spot Heath’s cheeks flush pink.
“Don’t be like that. It’s nothing you haven’t seen already,” Selene scoffs without looking back. He coughs, turning red as he shoots her a fearful glare. I snicker and lay my arms back down. The little dragon hops around on the bed beside my head.
“Maybe I should… uh, go,” he looks to the door. The tightness in my chest returns, the warmth in my face draining.
“Don’t move,” Selene snaps. “Don’t think, don’t do anything unless I tell you to.”
“Okay,” he squeaks as his back stiffens. I breathe a sigh of relief.
Selene shakes her head as my bloody shirt is flung across the room by unseen hands. She sits on the edge of the bed, her cool fingers pressing against the skin of my stomach as she checks the wound. “It’s not too deep. It should heal nicely,” she concludes. “The emotional trauma on the other hand… That remains to be seen.”
“Emotional?” Heath asks.
“This surprises you?” Selene hums, lifting her head to look at him. She reaches out and I hear the sound of running water.
“I just… I didn’t know what you meant by it,” his voice trails off, growing quiet.
“Tell me,” she hums as a wet cloth floats across the room to her hand. “You saw the fear and the chaos. Kaitlyn is a fragile creature. Do you expect this won’t have fallout?”
“I am n-”
“Don’t argue,” Selene cuts me off. I pout. She presses the warm cloth against my skin. It stings. “Hold still,” she instructs, her voice softer now. Heath watches from the wall, his brows pulled together in a constant frown.
Several minutes pass in silence. Selene dabs the cloth across my arms and stomach. The white cotton is quickly stained red. Finally, there’s a knock at the door. My mind flashes back. Andrei rushes toward me, his eyes wild, his fist slamming against the door beside my head. I curl inward. He’s never so violent. This isn’t right.
“Hey!” Selene shouts, her hands gripping my shoulders. I find her pale grey eyes. “Shh… It’s okay,” she whispers, placing her hand on my cheek. “Heath, be a dear and get the door. Do not leave.”
Heath stares at us as he moves past her to the other room. I try to sit up, try to see where he’s going. I don’t want to be here alone. What if it happens again? If Andrei wakes up and-
“Hey, Kat,” the towering figure of Nik enters the room with a smile, Heath close behind him. “I heard you had a bit of an accident. Mind if I fix that cut?”
An accident? Was it? How did I get cut? “Okay, thanks,” I mumble, laying back on the bed.
Nik moves around next to Selene. Heath scoffs, crossing his arms.
“I prefer someone with experience in healing, and being delicate, in this situation,” Selene shoots a look over her shoulder at Heath.
“What? Why?” I frown. What’s wrong with Heath?
“What’s wrong with me?” Heath raises his hands in question, echoing my thought exactly. I sense the tension and it makes me anxious. Don’t fight. Why is everyone fighting?
Selene turns, darkness in her expression. “What part of ‘fragile’ do you not understand? The only reason you are here is that your absence causes her anxiety.” Heath’s frown deepens.
“Don’t worry about it, Kat. You’ll feel better in a minute, ‘kay?” Nik grins, kneeling next to the bed. He places his hands on my arms first, a light green glow surrounding them. He then moves to my stomach. The stinging fades and I do feel better. “There, that wasn’t so bad, huh?”
I shake my head. He stands up and nods to Selene and she glances down at the bed. “Open the window. Dragonlings are coming to feed the little one.”
Nik moves away at her command. She reaches toward the other side of the bed. A dresser drawer opens and a shirt floats over to her. She offers it to me, so I sit up to put it on. I see Nik in the other room by the window, looking out curiously. A little red dragon flies past him, followed by a green, a blue, and a white. They flutter clumsily through the room until they see me and each one crash lands onto the bed.
The smallest of the young ones is at least twice the size of the baby. They tear apart the chunks of meat that they carry in their claws, offering the bite-sized chunks to the little one. Blood drips onto the bed as they rip fresh flesh from the carcass, some of them burning the pieces before offering them. It’s kind of sweet how they care for their little sister.
Selene stands up off the bed. “Alright, we’ll need to change the sheets after they’re done… Heath, I’ve canceled your plans with Markus today. Neither of you leave this room until I’m satisfied the shock has worn off,” she commands.
“What? O-ok,” he stutters.
“Under no circumstances,” Selene stresses. I look up from the dragons, curious. “Do you understand? Once the adrenaline and confusion wear off, I suspect she will be a flight risk, at worst…” she trails off, shaking her head. “Nevertheless, we will all look out for our dear Kaitlyn, yes?”
Heath nods. “Alright, I get it. No leaving. Stay here.”
Selene moves into the other room. When the dragons are done feeding they leave with the rest of their kills out the window they entered from. They’ll come back in a few hours with more food. I move to a chair while Selene directs the boys to remove the sheets, replacing them with clean ones. Once the bed is clean, she tells me to lay down again.
“Keep her calm,” Selene instruct Heath. “However you can. I don’t care.”
I lay on the bed and I see the pair of folding doors pull shut, separating the living room from the bedroom. Heath stands at the foot of the bed, awkwardly. The little black dragonling waddles over to me, curling up between my side and my arm like a cat. My fingers rub against her back absently, feeling her little chest rise and fall with each tiny breath.
Heath pouts, looking at the little dragon. “Can I touch her?”
I nod. “Come and lay down. She’s sleepy.”
“Are you sure?” he asks, moving around to the left side of the bed. He sits on the edge, reaching over to run his blackened fingers along her scaley back. She shifts slightly, adjusting her sleeping position as he strokes her.
“I’m sure,” I snicker as he flinches.
“Wow, it’s like petting a lizard at the zoo. Her scales, they’re tough,” he remarks.
“Lay down with me?” I request, hopeful. I like the warmth. I want to be warm again.
He looks toward the doors before slowly lowering himself onto the bed next to me. His arm slides under my neck, around my shoulders. I lift myself enough for him to move closer while he continues to pet the dragon with his other hand. I shuffle slightly, leaning my head against his shoulder. It’s so warm. My eyes feel heavy again…
I find myself in the cave, below the guild. I try to look around, but I realise my limbs seem to be restrained. I struggle against the bindings that hold my wrists and ankles. A bright light hangs over me, making it hard to see anything else until it’s pulled back.
“Don’t squirm, Kat. This won’t take long, I promise,” the velvet voice sends a shiver down my spine. As my eyes adjust, I see him standing at the foot of the cot where my legs are spread out.
“What are you doing?” I ask, my voice sounding far away.
He smiles sweetly. “I’m just going to solve that pesky problem of needing condoms and whatnot. It’s such a pain, don’t you think? Wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t need to worry about it?”
What? What does he mean? What is he doing?
“Now,” he pulls a surgical mask up over his nose as he leans down behind a curtain that I can’t see beyond. “This might hurt a little.”
A little… I feel a searing pain inside me. I throw my head back, my ears ringing with the scream that echoes through the cave. I fight against the restraints but it’s no use. It only makes it worse. Hot tears stream down my face. I feel metal claws scrape the inside of my uterus, hot blood flowing out onto the cot. It’s more pain than I’ve ever imagined possible, even with everything he’s done before.
The floor is hard and makes a loud crash when I land, jerking me awake. The room is pitch dark. I don’t recognize even the dark outlines of the furniture. This isn’t my room. I crawl back, gasping to breathe. Where did Logan go? How did I get here? Did I black out?
The darkness moves, followed by a voice. “Kaitlyn! Kaitlyn! Shh, it’s okay! You’re alright!” hands grip my shoulders.
I gasp in panic, pushing the hands away. “No!” I yell, scrambling back.
The hands return again, stronger this time. “Kaitlyn, relax. It’s just me, Heath.”
I push against the dark figure, orange flames spreading out from my hands. The fabric of his shirt catches, the flickering light illuminating his face. Deep blue eyes shimmer in the low light, dark hair swaying as he struggles to hold onto me, barely flinching. I recognize the face. It’s not Logan.
“That doesn’t hurt me,” he says calmly. “You know this. Come on, it’s okay now. You’re awake.”
I drop my gaze to my hands, pressed against his bare chest. The shirt burnt but nothing else. “I was dreaming?” I ask. My voice cracks, hoarse. I must have been screaming for real.
“Yes, you were. It must have been bad too. I’d be surprised if the whole wing hasn’t woken up,” he says calmly.
My hands tremble at the memory. I know it was more than a dream. Why did that come up, now, of all things?
“I’m sorry,” I croak.
“Don’t be. It’s not your fault. You’ve had a stressful day, and night,” he soothes, rubbing my arm firmly.
I lean forward, sliding my arms around his back. What am I supposed to do? The person that keeps the nightmares away… I’m too afraid to go back there.
“Come on, let’s get you back in the bed,” Heath offers, hugging me close. I nod slowly. And he stands up, pulling me with him as he walks back to the bed, sitting on the edge. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. It’s maybe best if you forget whatever made you scared. That’s… well… I try to do the same. Nightmares are a frequent occurrence for me too.”
I squeeze tighter, closing my eyes. “It wasn’t… just a dream. It was a memory, from before…” I mumble.
“Yea, I understand. Mine are like that too,” he rubs my back.
I pull one of my arms back, feeling my stomach. I still don’t feel a bump, but I know it’s there. Maybe it’s a motherly instinct.
“He doesn’t deserve you,” Heath mutters after a moment of silence. I look up to see him watching me.
“What? W-why?” I stutter, taken aback by the bold statement.
His expression darkens. “Because… he hurt you. He cut you, here,” he places a hand on my stomach. “He could have killed you both. It’s not right.”
I remember the moment now. How Andrei had flipped between himself and the madness that had control of him. He spun to attack Heath. I was too close. He wasn’t thinking straight. “It was an accident,” I shake my head. “He didn’t mean to.”
“Accident or not, it was reckless,” he insists.
“You can’t expect everyone to be perfect,” I frown. “He has a lot to deal with. I mean, he has to deal with me,” I pull away from Heath, fighting the comfort of his warmth. It’s not right. Is it?
He sighs. “Maybe you’re right, but, you got hurt this time because of him. How can you forgive him so easily?”
“How can I not?” I rebut. “I don’t know if I’ll feel okay right away… but I know he didn’t mean to. It would be different if he hadn’t been so disoriented. Like Selene said.”
“Right. No, you’re right. What am I saying. Forget it,” he shakes his head.
“I’m sorry,” I chew my lip. “I’m really glad you were there. I… I don’t know what I would have done,” I mumble. My mind wanders. What would have happened? I guess I’ll never really know.
“I’m glad I came back. I was really worried. Blue seemed anxious so I hesitated leaving the dorms. I’m just relieved things worked out somewhat ok,” he shrugs.
I laugh. “Somewhat. Yeah… I guess we’ll see,” I drop my gaze to my lap. “What happens if he’s not alright? What if he doesn’t go back to normal?”
His voice shifts slightly, a gleam in his eye. “Then you’ll have me of course, as it should be.” After he speaks, he looks surprised at what he just said and leans away slightly. “I’m sorry! I… I don’t know why I said that. Please, don’t listen to it, the lava,” he seems unsettled.
I can’t resist giggling. It’s almost comical, the way the lava takes over for just brief moments. “You be quiet, Lava. You’ve made enough of a mess for one day,” I poke his chest with a smile. He smirks, uncharacteristically. I narrow my eyes, suspicious. “You’re not going to behave, are you?”
“And when have I ever behaved according to your whims, little flame?” he asks, tilting his chin down as he speaks, glowing eyes looking at me mischievously through his curls.
I raise an eyebrow. “I’m sorry, who made you the boss?”
He chuckles seductively. “When you thought leaving me for Time would be more fun, I suppose. You weren’t in your right mind either. Well, you’ve had your fun. Now it’s time to come back, don’t you think?” he leans forward, eyes staring intently at me.
I lean back, catching myself with my hand on the bed. “I met Andrei before I met you.”
“No no, before that, way before that. Don’t you remember?” he reaches up, rubbing my cheek with his thumb.
I shake my head. “I don’t.”
He clicks his tongue. “Ohh, little flame. You forget, or you just won’t say. You ran away from me. You thought it’d be nice to see the world, to explore, but then, you found him. You found Time and you let him have your heart, leaving me alone… It broke mine, you know,” he pouts.
“That wasn’t me,” I insist.
His eyes pull away, frowning. “This isn’t good. I can’t… It keeps speaking for me,” Heath scrambles off the bed. “You shouldn’t respond to it, it’s making it worse.”
“You’re stronger than it,” I slide onto the floor after him. “You don’t have to let it.”
“Bah!” he laughs, making me jump from the sudden power of his voice. “He can’t speak for me. He minces my words, but together, we could fix that, no? We could be strong,” he hums, leaning towards me.
He grits his teeth, frustrated. “Stop it!” he growls, squeezing his eyes shut.
“You mean with me, you could be strong,” I realise. “You need me.”
“We always needed you. It was fun with you. We could burn things and never stop. I wish you’d remember. It would be some much more exciting if you remembered,” he coos.
“I’ve burned enough things in my life already,” I recoil from the voice. “Why would I want to hurt more people?”
“There’s nothing wrong with burning things down. People rebuild all the time. People come back. There’s always more of them. We saw it ourselves. You enjoyed it then. He’s changed you. A shame,” his head shakes.
I clench my jaw. “Let him go.”
“Come on, little flame. Let’s have fun, like the old days,” his fingers trail down my neck. I shiver.
A growl comes from his throat and he suddenly snaps his hand back. “Shut up. Stop scaring her! Kat, I’m sorry. I don’t know what to do! Tell me how to stop him from talking! Please,” his eyes beg me for control.
Like I would know…
“I’ve never seen an element take control like that. I think, maybe it’s taking advantage of your emotions?” I guess. “You have to overcome it, take control back. That’s the only thing I can think of,” I lean back against the side of the bed. I have no idea if that even made sense.
“Clever girl, you are. Don’t fret. We’ll talk again later,” Heath sighs, cupping a hand to his head as he shakes it, his curls bouncing back and forth. “Oh my God, that was awful. You must think I’m insane,” he groans, avoiding my eyes.
“I suppose I would if I didn’t know what that was,” I concede. “Are you okay?”
“I am, I guess. Still, maybe it’s best if I did leave. Fire and Lava clearly had a troubled past that it wants me to drag into your life. Until I learn to control it… maybe we should be careful how much time we spend alone together,” he suggests.
I feel the panic well up in my throat. “Don’t you think you’d learn better and faster if you stayed? How would you ever know you truly have control if you leave? It was never a problem before,” the words rush out in a jumble.
“Exactly, it wasn’t a problem before. I never heard a voice before. I know, I’ve come to like it here, and you’re here, but… What if the lava wants more? Who else could teach me to rein it in if no one else has ever had a problem with their element speaking for them? I’m just trying to think logically. I don’t want to leave, but, maybe it’s the only way. I don’t know!” he tries to make sense of it in a rush.
“Where else could you go that it would be safe to learn to control it? This is where you belong!”
“I know… I can’t think of anywhere, at least not this second. There aren’t any other secret magic organizations are there?” he asks, almost in jest.
My eyes sting as I reply in exhale. “No. We’re it.”
“Fine, I just… let’s be careful. Will you help me?” his eyes beg in the darkness.
I nod. “Of course I will, you dummy,” I push lightly against his arm. This emotional rollercoaster is getting ridiculous
“Thanks, and if I can help in any way, just let me know,” he gives me a weak smile. “How do you feel? Better?”
“I’ll survive,” I rest my head against the bed. There’s a little croak and a puff of hot air on my forehead. I look up to see the tiny dragon’s head.
“You seem to, no matter what. That’s a good sign,” Heath muses.
“I suppose that’s one way to look at it,” I roll my eyes.
“We haven’t eaten since this morning. We should have one of them get food, no?” he asks, nodding to the door.
“Isn’t it late? It’s dark out. Maybe they’re sleeping,” I reach for my pocket. “I can order something, if you’re hungry,” I find my phone and flinch at the bright light of the screen.
“Aren’t you?” he watches curiously.
I glance up at him briefly. “Oh… uh. Yea. I guess,” I lie. I feel nauseous, actually. After everything that’s happened, food is the last thing on my mind. Thinking about eating, my urge is to go to Andrei. I want to watch him cook, to see the excitement in his eyes. I know that’s not possible right now, though.
I find the internal Guild app for the kitchen, recently redesigned by Kaede. “Here, you can choose whatever you like. It’ll arrive in a few minutes,” I offer him the phone.
“Alright…” he takes it and scrolls through the options. I wait, watching his eyes dart back and forth. When he hands it back, soup and a baguette are selected. I press the ‘order now’ button, and wait. A tray appears on the dresser. “Are you sure you don’t want anything? not even a coffee?” he asks.
I shrug. “I’m okay. You go ahead.”
He stands, retrieving the tray before returning to the floor in front of me. He crosses his legs, tearing off a piece of bread and holds it out to me. I swallow the bile in my throat at the sight of it, but before I have a chance to speak, the piece is gone. The little dragon hops off the bed, onto my lap, snatching the bread from his hand. It makes a strange gurgling noise as it chomps.
“Well, at least someone’s hungry,” Heath smiles at the dragon with a fatherly affection I’ve only seen while he held her, still in the egg.
“I guess we should think of a name for her, shouldn’t we?” I scratch her tiny head. She growls at me. She thinks I’m going to take her bread. I snicker and shake my head.
“Don’t worry,” Heath whispers to the dragon. “She’s not hungry.” It looks up at him, her head tilted curiously. She seems to understand him but is more interested in his food. She abandons the bread, crawling out of my lap, toward the tray on the floor.
“Hey,” I try to catch her. “That’s not yours!”
“Nah, it’s ok,” Heath chuckles. “A name, huh? How about…” Heath thinks, swirling his soup with the spoon, “Scoria? It’ another name for magma.”
I glance between him and the dragon as she sniffs the bowl. “That’s pretty. I think she’d like that, if she wasn’t so distracted.”
“Yea? Then, do you want something to eat, Scoria?” Heath bends down, holding the spoon out to her. “Maybe I should order a steak, hmm?
I nod in agreement. “Yea, meat is probably best. Hold on,” I pick up the phone again. As I reopen the kitchen app, I notice a symbol on the top left; an unread message. It’s from Kaede. I quickly order the steak before I forget.
<Hey, everything A.O.K? Car’s freakin’ out about haunted hallways. What should I tell her?>
I frown. I guess Heath wasn’t kidding about waking up the whole hall. I tap the screen to reply.
I wonder if they know what happened earlier. Has anyone checked on Andrei? I’m sure Selene can keep tabs on him from here, but… The phone buzzes in my hand.
I roll my eyes.
<Didn’t stop – helped. It’s okay. Go back to sleep. I’ll see you guys tomorrow.>
He replies quickly.
I chew the inside of my lip. I guess he doesn’t know.
I wait for his response while biting my thumb. Heath moves to get the steak from the dresser.
<Really? Thought that was impossible for a Time mage. How’d she fix it? Wipe his slate clean? lol>
I reply, adding a second text.
<You’re not making cents. Hold on, Car’s snoring. brb>
“Who’re you texting? Is someone up?” Heath asks, holding out a fork with steak on it to the dragon.
My gaze snaps up, startled. I feel myself blush. “Sorry. Kaede asked if everything was okay. I, uh, woke them.”
“Hah, you have quite the scream, that’s for sure,” he chuckles.
I scratch my cheek. “Yeah, well, you would’ve too.”
The phone buzzes again.
I hesitate, my thumbs hovering over the screen.
I take a deep breath before I continue with a second text.
Three responses come in quick succession; <Anyway, sounds rough. I don’t know any Rose. But you know how many jumps he’s made. Maybe it’s some girl from the past! ;p Wudn’t put it past Andi to flirt in the past>
I’m surprised. I didn’t realise he’d told anyone else about the missing pages.
<Yea, I think so.> I respond, ignoring the comment about Andrei’s flirting.
<hmm, sounds fishy. Want me to snoop tomorrow? Or now? I’m wide awake, like an owl. lmao>
<Ok, I’ll be careful. I’ll take my war hammer with me. jks. Where’d he put the paper?>
I try to remember.
<Papers, plural. Desk drawer, I think?>
<ok, see you on the other side.> He follows the message with an image of a Warhammer.
I roll my eyes again, setting the phone down on the floor. I wonder if that was a good idea?
By Krystyna Yates