Author’s Note: At least they get Stone back.
Something was different. Stone could feel it the moment he opened his eyes. He couldn’t place it, but he knew it. He needed more than that fleeting sensation to pin it down, but he thought if he could, everything would be fine. Strange. Nothing was right, and yet he assumed that it would be if only he was able to get closer to that feeling.
Terra. He knew what it was. He could feel his sister. He hadn’t felt her presence in a long time, but he knew what he was feeling now, and it was her. She was here. Well, not here, but close. Close enough to give him more strength than he’d had since he first woke. He didn’t care about the drugs. They couldn’t hold him back from the earth, not with her near.
He forced his hand over, yanking out his IV with a grim smile. Sure, now everything hurt a hell of a lot more, but that didn’t mean that he was going to stop. He couldn’t flush the drugs straight out of his system like Cress or Occie, but he’d work on it all the same. If he got a hold of something to connect him to the earth, if he could find a plant or something organic, he could help his recovery.
The door opened—that was tame way of saying that since it slammed into the wall, crumpling into a twisted bit of metal—and he smiled. “Moira. I take it someone pissed you off.”
“Someone’s good at doing that, actually.”
She came over to the bed, putting a hand on his cheek, her eyes filling with tears. “Oh, you idiot. I thought you were dead.”
“I’m sorry. I thought I was, too,” he told her, brushing back a bit of her hair. Damn, she was beautiful. She looked down at the bandages on his chest, grimacing. He shook his head. “It’s not that bad. They’ve been keeping me down with sedatives. That’s what’s bad.”
“Yeah. Cress said if we didn’t get you out and back in touch with the earth that you’d die.”
“Your brother is good.”
“He’s also an idiot,” she said, moving to the side. “I don’t see a bed pan. Get prepared to puke.”
She shook her head. “Have to get the sedatives out of you one way or another, and I think you’d prefer that over the alternative.”
He nodded, leaning over the bed as she put a hand to the back of his neck. He didn’t want to think about what she was doing to his body as she forced the drugs out of his bloodstream and into his stomach. He gagged, vomiting it onto the floor. Moira kept the air flowing, making the stench dissipate, but that wasn’t much of a consolation.
“Better. Not going to be able to move on my own, though.”
“That’s what we’re here for,” Sherwin told him, coming over to the bed. He shifted it with the air, moving it away from the vomit so that Stone wouldn’t put his feet in it when he stepped down. “Um… sorry we took so long. Terra was… kind of a mess.”
“Where is she?”
“In the car. Cress said she’d be too much of a danger to you as she is, and he’s right,” Moira said, looking toward the doorway. “Where the hell have you been?”
Stone frowned, expecting to see Cress, but that was not his brother-in-law. The man in the doorway shrugged. “Don’t get bent out of shape, Windy. I was just causing a small electrical fire to make sure that the surveillance was gone.”
“Since when do we work with fire rogues?”
“Nice to meet you, too. I’m Flint. It’s a long story,” the firebug said, coming over to help lift Stone off the bed. “Damn. Maybe we should have asked your brother for a wave to ride him out on, huh, Oceana?”
She shook her head. Stone didn’t know what to think at the moment, but he wasn’t going to complain too much, not after what he’d been through. “Wait. Please don’t tell me your brother is taking on that water elemental on his own.”
“You met that bastard?”
“Yeah. Never got introduced, but we all kind of met him before.”
“That day that the water was wrong and you and Cress both looked like you were going to die…”
Moira cursed, and Sherwin echoed it. The fire rogue grunted. “Figures. He must have had plenty of reason to watch over Washburne considering he’s the closest thing to a match that bastard’s got.”
Stone shook his head, wishing he had the strength to pull away from the men helping him walk. They were carrying him, and he couldn’t fight their hold. He was too weak, still a bit drugged, and he hadn’t managed to get a hold of any dirt yet. “No. I don’t—Damn it. You all knew I was bait, didn’t you? That bastard didn’t care about me. He only wanted Cress, and he didn’t—”
Occie stumbled, hitting the wall with a shudder. She slid to the floor, and Stone cursed. “Occie, how bad is it?”
She looked up at him. “I… I can’t sense him. There was… It was sharp and horrible, and he was in a lot of pain, and then, now… there’s nothing. It’s like he’s gone.”
“We thought Stone was, and he’s not. Don’t go assuming that about Cress,” Moira said, pulling Occie onto her feet. “We have to go find him. Just hold on until we do, okay?”
Occie nodded, looking numb. Stone wanted to take her in his arms and comfort her, wanted to tell her it would be all right, but he couldn’t. She wouldn’t be okay again until she saw her brother, and even then, that was no guarantee. There might not be any way of pulling Cress back from the edge this time.