Author’s Note: This story is… demanding. All day it wanted to be worked on, did not want to wait its turn. Now I seem to be blocked on my other projects, and I blame this story. I do.
It’s rather difficult to find a balance between telling enough and not dumping too much information on anyone all at once. Not sure that I found it here, not with so many people and personalities vying for attention. It might be easier to give Enya’s perspective on all of them, since she’s an outsider.
“You went to see her.”
“You make that sound like an accusation. If you have something to say, Terra, say it and be done with it.” Cress did not open his eyes. He would blame it all on his exhaustion, and he could. Leadership had never been what he wanted, for all they said he was good at it. His temper was less volatile than most, and with the kind of personality clashes that were all too common among them, it took a wet blanket to cool everyone off.
“You know what she’s saying. I think we’re all getting a bit sick of you playing favorites,” Sherwin said, and Cress could hear grunts and murmurs of agreement from the others. Damn it, he did not have time for this. Not now.
“I’m not playing favorites.”
“Like hell you’re not.”
“Enya’s never been like the rest of us, and you all know that,” Oceana said, and he smiled. He could always count on his sister for support, at least in public. She kept their disagreements from the others. He opened his eyes, nodding to her, and she smiled, a thin one that told him she was just as unhappy with him as the rest of them. Her eyes shifted colors, troubled and turbulent.
“Yeah, but now that Stone’s dead, we can’t afford to be picky. There’s not enough of us left,” Moira said, taking the same position as her brother. “We need her.”
“Like we need a bullet in the head,” Cress said, getting to his feet. “The only thing Enya has ever been is a liability, and you know it. Stone’s death shook us all—literally and metaphorically—but we’re not going to be stupid about this now. Come on. Time to move on.”
Oceana let out a curse as she stepped in front of him, blocking his path and getting a good look at him. “Damn it, Cress, how long have you been—”
“Since Stone died, at least,” Moira answered for him. He turned toward her. Her expression had softened, some pity in her eyes as the wind picked up her hair and twisted it around her. “We were all too upset to notice.”
Oceana shook her head. “It’s not your job to kill yourself keeping the rest of us calm.”
Sherwin studied Oceana, shaking his head. “It’s not like you could have taken over for him. Stone was your—”
“Don’t.” Oceana’s eyes went dark, and Cress reached out to touch his sister’s arm. She leaned into him, burying her face in his shirt. She’d never be willing to discuss what Stone might have been to her had he lived, and Cress didn’t know that she should. That kind of life was not for them. They did not get picket fences and houses in suburbia. Enya came the closest to having that, but even she was alone.
“We don’t have time for any more arguments. We have to move. We’re still too close to where we lost Stone.”
“And whose fault is that, anyway?”
“Oh, now we get to what you really wanted to say,” Cress said, shaking his head at Terra. “I spent the entire day covered in mud because you fell apart on all of us—and your brother died, so I understand why you did that—but if you’re going to turn on me now, then go. I don’t need someone else around who refuses to listen to my orders. We’re supposed to be a team, remember?”
“She’s talking out of her head,” Sherwin said, putting his hands on Terra’s shoulders. “None of us… Let’s face it, we’re all one giant mess right now. We look like a tornado came through and bulldozed our town, and we don’t even have a town.”
Moira rolled her eyes. “Sherwin’s hyperbole aside, we’re all raw and hurting, no matter how close we were or weren’t to Stone. This is what they want, though. If they can break us, pick us off one by one… They will. That’s how animals do it. They pick on the weakest member of the herd.”
Terra yanked herself free of Sherwin’s hold, ready to attack. “Stone was not the weakest member of the herd.”
“No,” Cress said. His words were cold and harsh, and he knew he’d gone too far. He was not supposed to be ice. “You were. He died protecting you, and you’ll have to find a way to live with that sometime. I don’t expect it to be anytime soon, but until you can keep yourself in control, stay back and stay silent. The last thing we need is division.”
“We need the team.” Oceana straightened her posture, drawing on her own strength, trying to compensate for his exhaustion. “We’re all nothing without the team, and we know it. Cress is right. We have to go. Sherwin, you drive. Cress needs to rest.”
Moira touched Terra’s shoulder. “Come on. In the car.”
Terra put a hand to her head, her hair falling around her face in messy tangles as she shuddered. “I can’t believe I did that. Cress snapped at me. He never snaps at anyone.”
“He’s worn thin. We all are.”