This is Issue #36 of DeathWatch, Book II: tentatively called Heart Of Ilona, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find DeathWatch, the first in the series, or start from the beginning of Book II!
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“Here, sit up.”
“Come on. Sit up. Here. Drink this.”
“What? Why–no, don’t–“
“Shhh, it’s water. It’s just water.”
Jules sat up and opened her eyes, letting Coryphaeus bring a cup of water to her lips. When the first sip touched her tongue, she reached for the cup, his hand, him, and tried to drink faster, her eyes widening, the sudden realization of a killing thirst rendering her almost mad with need.
He pulled back, trying not to spill, and said, “Slow down. You have to slow down.”
Trembling, Jules laid back against Cory’s arms, and the pale of her eyes settled on his face, focusing.
“You’re awake. In your bedroom. It is,” Cory began, turning to look at the clock on the wall, and then back to Jules, “Four hours after mid-day, Jeudi–” He stopped, when he turned back to look at her; she had the most curious expression on her face. “What?” he asked. “What is it?”
Tears swam in Jules’s eyes, and Coryphaeus reached to carefully wipe them away, saying, “It’s all right. I’ve got you, Jules, I swear it.”
“I’m Jules?” She looked up at him, reached to touch his face, to run her fingers over his jaw.
He caught her hand, kissed her fingertips without thinking and said, “Yes. You’re Jules.”
She closed her eyes and leaned into Coryphaeus, and her shoulders shook as she wept with relief.
He held her, rubbing her back until she was finally calm, and then eventually laid her back down onto the bed, his expression caught up in wonder for how she had fallen asleep in exhaustion. He moved to get up, to get out of the bed and give her space to actually finally rest.
* * *
The difference between dreams and slips wasn’t subtle; slips were just like being awake — she just wasn’t herself. In slips, she felt death after death move through her; she saw the carnage of the fray, blood making mud within the dark green grass, explosions against a fierce, storm-grey sky. In dreams, she was herself, but the world was off; the sky was orange, the world was fire, and the death surrounded her, but didn’t touch her.
She was moving through the city, trying to get higher, trying to reach the sky, trying to get back to where she truly belonged, needing the clouds, the air, feeling like a downed bird.
She watched as a ship slipped through the orange sky, and a winged beast of gears and flesh leapt from its belly, diving for her.
She reached for it, triumphant, crying out his name–
* * *
She woke in Cory’s arms; when her eyes focused, she saw they were not alone, as Nixus was in the room as well. She felt her heart drop, and her expression flickered between uncertainty and pain, and the dream evaporated as quickly as it had formed. “Coryphaeus,” she murmured. “What–“
“I’m — I’m here,” he offered, his expression also uncertain. “You’re safe,” he promised.
Nixus watched them silently, standing in the doorway, leaning on the jamb.
“For now,” Jules said quietly, smiling sadly. “Cory — so many are going to die. So very many. We’re surprised by the attack; we’re outnumbered by the Krieg forces.” She moved to try to get out of the bed, saying, “You need to — you need to prepare. You need to warn the Ilonans. Except for the Princess.” Jules made an irritated face. “She can die. But the rest of them? There’s a boy — he freed me. Cory, you–“
He was releasing her, getting up, moving to pull out clothes for her, to drop them on the bed.
“What’s… this?” she lifted up her flightsuit, and looked at it, marveling.
“I had it cleaned, and I mended it.” The words were casual; Coryphaeus shrugged, looking at Jules, then Nixus, then back to Jules.
“Probably better than you do,” Nixus snorted, rolling her eyes.
“It’ll be the only thing he’s better than me at,” Jules said, throwing off the covers and moving to pull on the clothes, modesty be damned.
Cory turned away, wondering if he should be uncomfortable. Wondering if he was uncomfortable, looking at Nixus, who openly stared at Jules with a discriminating eye.
“What’m I doing once I’m dressed?” Jules wondered.
“That depends on what you want to do,” Coryphaeus said. “I have to go speak with the Guardian, about your visions. I believe a ship will help handle the symptoms of those visions. I have many different contacts within the Legios, but I will be on the ground, myself.” He explained himself carefully, gesturing with both hands as he looked at each option, trying to offer them to her with as much information as he could. “I will worry, if you go alone, but I will worry if you choose to remain with me, on the groun–“
Jules came around the side of the bed where he stood, and kissed him, gently, on the mouth, until he stopped talking. He flailed, briefly, his eyes looking toward Nixus as his cheeks darkened in a hot flush.
Nixus rolled her eyes and waved dismissively at them both, muttering under her breath as she headed back to the main room.
Jules pulled back, watching Coryphaeus’s face.
“What… what was that for?” he wondered, looking confused.
“For knowing this will be my decision,” she said. “I can tell you’d prefer to order me around and try to pin me down, keep me from getting in to more shit. M’glad you gave that up.”
“Well,” Cory said, sighing briefly, smiling as he shrugged. “You, ah. Finish dressing. I’m — there’s food in the other room.”
Jules nodded, and went to finish, throwing Coryphaeus a genuine smile on her way.
The legatus walked out to the other room, where Nixus sat on the edge of the table, eating a cold leg of gallina. She spoke around a mouthful of the roasted bird, “You’re right, Coryfrater. You’re fucked.”
Coryphaeus cleared his throat, looking at Nixus in resignation. “I know,” he said.
“So? Did you ask her?”
“Did I ask her what?” Coryphaeus asked, trying to be casual around the lump of sodden misery resting in his belly.
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