It was a dream or a nightmare, I could no longer decide. But somehow I stayed with him all the way, even as the vimana careened, even as we leapt out of it and saw it crash behind us into the green hills. I stayed with him all during the mad run through the jungle. The last things I remembered were stone ruins and Doolittle's face.
I DREAMT OF CURRAN SNARLING, "FIX HER!" AND Doolittle saying that he wasn't a god and there was only so much he could do. I dreamt of Julie crying by my bed, of Jim sitting near, of Andrea telling me some frustratingly complicated story . . . The noises blended in my head until finally I could stand it no longer. "Would all of you just be quiet? Please."
I blinked and saw Curran's face.
"Hey," he said.
"Hey." I smiled. There he was, alive. I was alive. "I was telling the people in my head to shut up."
"They have medication for that."
"I probably can't afford it."
He caressed my cheek.
"You came for me," I whispered.
"Always," he told me.
"You're a damn idiot. Trying to throw your life away?"
"Just staying sharp. Keeping you safe keeps me in shape."
He leaned in and kissed me softly on the lips. I reached for him and he hugged me to him and held on for a long moment. I closed my eyes, smiling at the simple pleasure of his skin on mine. And then my arms grew too heavy. Gently he put me back on my pillow and walked away. I curled under my blanket, warm and safe and so perfectly happy, and fell asleep again.
THE TORTURE BEGAN IN THE MORNING WITH Doolittle holding up three fingers to my face. "How many fingers?"
"Thank God," he said. "I was beginning to worry."
"Where is His Fussiness?"
"He left last night."
I struggled with a ball of emotions: regret at not seeing him, relief he was gone, happiness he was well enough to walk. There truly was no hope for me.
Doolittle sighed. "Shall I tell you the usual? Where you are, how you are, and in what manner you have gotten here?"
I looked at Doolittle. "Doc, we've got to stop meeting like this."
A sour grimace wrinkled his face. "You're preaching to the choir."
Jim was my first visitor of the day, right after I'd been poked, pierced with needles, had my temperature taken, and generally been driven to the point of wishing I had not woken up for a few more days. Jim came in and quietly sat by me, very much the Pack's chief of security rather than my surly occasional partner. He looked at me with a solemn expression and said,
"We'll take care of you."
"Thank you." I couldn't take any more care at the moment. Doolittle's ministrations had nearly done me in.
Jim gave this strange little nod and left. Weirded the hell out of me.
Next came Julie, who crawled in my bed and lay there with a deeply mournful face while I chewed her out for letting Curran out of the cage early.
While she sat there, nodding to my lecture, Derek arrived.
"She left," he said. "She thanked me, but she couldn't stay."
"I'm sorry," I told him.
"I'm not," Julie said.
"I didn't expect her to stay," Derek said. His face was a stone mask and his voice was devoid of all emotion. Despite everything I had said, he must've believed she loved him.
"I was her way out, nothing more. I'm okay with that. Besides, things have changed . . ." He pointed to his face.
Julie scrambled off the bed. "For your information, I don't care!"
She took off. Derek looked at me. "Don't care about what?"
My kid had a giant crush on my teenage werewolf sidekick. Why me? Why? What did I ever do to anybody?
I squirmed into my bed and pulled the covers up to my chin. "Your face, Derek. She doesn't care what you look like. You go sort it out yourself."
Then I slept, and when I woke up, Andrea came in and shooed Doolittle out. She pulled up the chair and looked at me.
"Where am I and how have I gotten here?" I asked. Doolittle had offered to clue me in, but I knew I'd get a lecture-free version from her.
"You're in Jim's safe house," she said. "After rakshasas grabbed you, Curran went nuts. He pulled all of the shapeshifters out of the Arena - "
"There were more than us, Mahon, and Aunt B?"
"Yes, they were in the crowd. He thought the rakshasas might go for a big finish. Don't interrupt. We followed Jim through Unicorn Lane into the jungle, chased after the vimana until it landed - the damn thing lands every couple of hours, I guess to rest its propellers or something. We stormed in. There was a fight. I don't know what happened next. I was with the group that broke its engine. The next time I saw Curran, you were in his arms and you looked like shit."
"Okay." That was pretty much what I had figured.
Andrea fixed me with a hard stare and lowered her voice. "You shattered the Scarlet Star."
Crap. I didn't think she'd recognize the sword. "Eh?"
"Give me some damn credit. I'm this close to getting my Master at Arms, Firearm." Andrea wrinkled her face. "I've had all of my security briefings already. If it wasn't for Ted, I would already be a ranked knight. I know what that sword was capable of."
"Did you tell the rest of them?"
"Yes, I did." She didn't seem a bit sorry about it. "I told them how it worked and that if it wasn't for you, we'd be on the rakshasas' dining table."
"I wish you hadn't done that."
She made a short cutting motion with her hand. "That's beside the point. You broke it to pieces. It was forged out of Roland's blood and you smeared it with yours and broke it. I'm not stupid, Kate. Please, don't ever think that I'm stupid."
She had put two and two together. Only a blood relation would be able to disintegrate Roland's sword.
"Daughter?" she asked.
It's not exactly like I could lie. "Yep."
Her face turned a shade paler. "I thought he refused to have children."
"He made an exception in my mother's case."
"Is she still alive?"
"He killed her."
Andrea rubbed her face. "Does Curran know?"
"Nobody knows," I told her. You're my best friend. The only one I have. Please, please don't force me to kill you. I can't do it.
She took a deep breath. "Okay," she said. "It's good that nobody knows. Probably best we keep it that way."
I remembered to breathe.