This is Issue #80 of DeathWatch, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find ‘A Beginning’ and read from there, if you need to catch up.
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Jules came to, screaming, reaching to put her hands over her face. She stopped, going silent, and looked up at Brody in bewilderment, and then relief.
And then… her expression crumpled, and she sobbed, gasping for breath as fat tears rolled over her cheeks.
Kieron rubbed her back, waited a moment, and then lifted the bucket, sighing quietly.
Jules stared at the bucket for a moment, as though not comprehending. Without any other warning, she suddenly retched, vomiting until she was red in the face, spitting to clear her mouth, and then slumped against the bed, panting. “My name was Waylan,” she breathed, coughing. “I died on an airship. A pulley hit me, knocked me off the rails. Might’ve crushed my skull before I fell. I pissed myself,” she said, rapidfire, letting it spill out of her. After a moment, she looked over at Kieron, fear and anguish on her face. “I can’t do this,” she whispered. “Why did this happen?”
“You are doing it. You’ll be okay. I don’t–I don’t know why, Jules, but I think I know how,” Kieron offered. “When you–when you died… after the Maxima exploded?”
“You said you shocked me back to life,” Jules remembered.
Kieron looked pained, then, and said, “Yeah, I think–I think the aetheric dust–my touch. I don’t know. I really don’t. But something happened. That seems as likely a point as any.”
“Are you trying to tell me you did this to me?” Jules’s voice was far from accusatory, but her expression was pained as she looked up at Kieron.
“Yes,” Kieron said, and then took a deep breath, “I understand if you’re angry; I had no idea it would happen, but I have to admit that I would’ve done it, knowing, because at least you’re alive, and–”
“Shut up, Brody,” Jules said, reaching up a hand to cup his cheek. “Seriously. I’d kiss you, except I just threw up. You saved my life. And it’s not like you can control this thing, whatever it is. I’m not mad. I don’t hate you. Right now I kind of hate my eyeballs, because they hurt — everything hurts, really, but I don’t hate you. I don’t blame you.”
“Well, that’s kind of you.” Kieron looked relieved; he held his hand over hers, briefly, and then said, “You’re likely to have these episodes when you come back. Nausea. Pain. At least through your first few slips. Then the pain comes and goes. Sometimes it’s worse. Sometimes not. I can’t figure out a pattern on that — but the important part is, at least for me, and Sha said for her brother, the aether engines make it less-so. I think you’re just going through growing pains, and then it’ll even out.”
Jules laughed darkly, and nodded. “Okay. Good to know.”
Kieron released her, and moved to get up, taking the bucket.
“Where are you going?” she wondered, trying to sit up. Her expression turned confused, and then her lips greyed out.
Kieron stepped forward with the bucket, and waited until she was finished. He set the bucket down so he could help hold her hair out of the way, and rub her back. “I was going to empty that, but it can wait, if you still need to use it. I’ll get you a toothbrush,” he offered. “And I’ll spell Nate, so he can come down and be with you?”
“Toothbrush is good,” she said, nodding. “Nate is…” She pursed her lips and frowned, looking up at Kieron as he stood in the doorway, feeling awkward. “Yeah, Brody, that… that’d be really nice of you.”
Kieron nodded, rummaging for only a moment before he snagged Jules’s toothbrush from where Nate stored them, handing hers over.
“How do you know where my husband keeps our toothbrushes?” Jules smirked at Kieron, one brow lifted in amusement. “I know you’re best friends and all, but did he forget to tell me you two are sleeping together?”
“Ah, uh… I–” Kieron began to stutter.
Jules couldn’t keep a straight face long, and laughed aloud, saying, “I’m sorry — I’m sorry, Brody. You’re just so easy to fluster, I–” For a moment, her lips were nearly grey again.
Kieron snagged the bucket, saying archly, “That’s what you get for trying to fuck with me. Instant payback.”
Jules’s eyebrows shot up, and she said, “You’re going to tease me while I’m throwing up?”
“I’m taking asshole lessons from your husband,” Kieron quipped.
Jules’s expression was priceless. She laughed all over again, delighted. It made her look even younger, and happy — until she got queasy again, at least. She hiccuped, grimaced, and shook her head. “Mmmno,” she said, gritting her teeth. “Okay. No laughing just yet. Laughing makes my stomach hurt. I’m going to brush my teeth and crawl back into this here bed.”
“I’ll leave this for you,” Kieron said, nudging the bucket closer to her. “And I’ll go get Nate.”
“Okay — and Brody?”
He stopped in the doorway, swaying with the motion of the ship as it sailed along through the sky. “Yeah?”
“Thank you. I mean it. It’s… I’m glad I don’t have to do this alone. I’m sorry you’ve had to for so long,” Jules offered.
Kieron couldn’t think of anything else to say as his cheeks darkened pink. He cleared his throat and withdrew, managing to return a quiet “You’re welcome,” before shutting the door.
* * *
The deck was still busy; people were rushing about, doing their jobs. It could’ve been any given morning, except that the rush and hum this time wasn’t caused by the sheer joy of it, or the need to get back over the Ridge as quickly as possible. Instead, they were skimming through low lying cloud banks, trying hard to get to the source of the distress calls they’d received — calls back in the direction they’d come, between them, and the fallen Maxima.
“Cadet! Where’ve you been?” Nate snapped irritably as Kieron ran up to him on deck.
“In bed with your wife!” Kieron crowed back, looking flushed and pleased with himself.
“What?” Nate’s expression grew unreadable.
Determined to give as much as he got, Kieron smirked as he went on, “Oh, yeah — after she left you, she was falling all over me, so I took her back to your room, one thing led to another, we ended up on your bed, she said she wanted to kiss me, a–”
When Nate swung his clenched fist, Kieron never saw it coming.
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