“Making it out alive with the males.”
“Oh, is that all?” Crina quipped.
“You guys are just one big bowl of rainbows and butterfly soup,” Peri snapped.
“Okay wait,” Jen raised her hand to Peri. “I just have to know, how the hell would you get rainbows and butterflies in a bowl. If you did, who the crap would want to suck down some butterfly guts?” She shrugged her shoulders. “And who is Johnny Cochrane?” She asked Sally.
Sally and Crina both tried to muffle their laughter at Jen’s comments, but failed miserably.
“Go on and let it out,” Peri told them as she crossed her arms. “If you try to hold those laughs in your mouth any longer their liable to come out your ass.”
That comment broke the peace and they were all laughing. It was the kind of laugh that started in their toes and radiated up their bodies until they were writhing around like they had bees swarming inside. They laughed until tears flowed from their eyes and their stomachs throbbed with the effort from it. Peri stood there watching them, wondering how in the world any of them even dressed themselves in the morning.
“Are you finished?” She asked once the laughing had trickled down to a few random giggles.
“Wait,” Jen cautioned, and looked around as if expecting something then looked back at Peri. “I think we’re good.”
“As I was saying, the In-Between is dangerous, not because things will attack you, but because your mind becomes your enemy.” She began to walk slowly around the outer ring of their circle as she spoke. “We must get in quickly, and I don’t care if you have to sing the sound track to Greatest Love Songs of the Century a hundred times to keep your mind focused, then do it. If you have to shout as loud as you can over and over that you are real and your mind is lying then by all means shout. But, you must not give in to the thoughts.”
“If the guys can’t even do that, how do you expect us to be able to?” Elle asked.
“The males have been sent there. We are going of our own will. There is a big difference. Because we aren’t going there as a form of punishment, it will not affect us the same way. It will be a much weaker disruption in our minds, but it will still be there. It will dig in deep, rooting out your darkest fears, so you might as well face them now. I want you to close your eyes and picture what your worst nightmare might be. Make it real to yourself, breathe it in, feel it on your skin, bask in the heat of the fear it erupts in you. Once you have it in your mind, imagine yourself facing it and winning. Imagine standing up to that fear and telling it to….”
“Go suck it?” Jen added, helpfully.
“If that’s the terminology that gets the job done, Jennifer, then by all means, tell it to suck it until hell freezes over. The point is to face the fears that are going to be thrown at you, face them, and defeat them because the greatest fears are the ones your mind creates. Those are the only fears that can truly have power over you. Don’t let them.”
They all sat in silence, their eyes closed and their minds twisting and turning, taking them on turbulent rides through the terror that lie deep inside each of them. Peri watched as their faces changed and morphed as they went through the process of dealing with their fear.
One by one, they opened their eyes. Sally squinted against the brightness of the flames from the fire. She felt as if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She had pictured her greatest fear, had stared it straight in the face, and she had not fallen before it. That was her triumph. It was still there, simmering in the dark, but she had faced it, and it had not broken her. She wouldn’t let it. Not now, and not when they entered the In-Between.
Everyone finally settled down to get some sleep. Like every night, they took turns taking watch. Sally’s eyes drifted closed and she hoped that she would speak with Costin again. She hoped that she could tell him that tomorrow she would hold him in her arms. But, it wasn’t Costin she dreamed of. To her surprise, it was Jacque.
“Jacque?” Sally took a step towards her friend. They stood in the forest near a fire much like the one Sally had been sitting at before sleep.
“I’m fighting Sally. I’m fighting, but I need help.” Jacques words were laced with desperation and she looked tired, as if she hadn’t slept in weeks.
“What are you fighting Jacque?” Sally asked. “I’ve tried to help you but I can’t get through.”
“I’m pushing against the spell,” responded Jacque. I’m thinking of everything I can to bring myself back to our world. Fane told me to fight, that you all needed me. Please Sally, help me.”
Sally closed the space between them and wrapped Jacque in her arms. She couldn’t believe how real the embrace felt. Maybe her mind was just that desperate to have her friend back. She felt tears gather in her eyes as Jacque squeezed her closer.
“I’ve been so alone,” Jacque’s words were muffled as she pressed her face into her friends shoulder.
“We’ve been with you this whole time,” Sally tried to reassure her.
“I know. I can hear you, I just haven’t been able to move or respond. It’s like something has wrapped itself around my brain or something.”
“I will get Rachel and we will see if we can help you, okay? We won’t let you stay like this Jac, you need to know that.”
Jacque pulled back from their embrace and collected herself. A slow smile stretched across her face.
“You had better get me awake. I hear that we’re going in to rescue our men.”
Sally nodded with a smile of her own.
“Jen hasn’t started using military lingo just yet, but I figure it’s coming.”
Jacque gave Sally one last nod, as if to say: let’s do this. And then, Sally felt the dream fading, slowly morphing into another dream... one that she would never forget.
Lying around the circle, one by one each woman slipped into her own dream. The Great Luna was blessing them, helping them bolster their wills. They each got to meet with their mates. Brief that it was, they were able to tell them to hold on, that they were coming for them very soon. Tears streaked down their faces as their fleeting moments of time with their men slipped away.
Morning came much too quickly and the chill crept into their bones, drawing them to consciousness. The females were solemn and even Jen was more subdued than ever. But, a sense of urgency, which seemed to grow with every second, danced at the edges of their nerves. They gathered their few belongings, ate some Fae bread, and every now, and then smiled encouragingly to one another.