On the other side of the doors, we find Heath and Nik hovering in the middle of the room. Selene sits patiently on the couch, glancing up at us bored.
“So?” Nik raises his thick brows. “We’re all good?” he asks, looking to me specifically.
“Yes. Thanks…” I feel my cheeks flush. “Sorry about all this.”
“Do not apologize for things you cannot control,” Selene says, in a tone that reminds me of some kind of mystic.
“Right… So, can I go now? Am I… allowed?” I ask awkwardly. She wouldn’t let me any farther than the bathroom all night.
“Yes, you can leave,” she smiles. “I’m satisfied that the danger has passed. However, Andrei, I’m not so sure about her. Keep a close eye on her for a few days, alright?”
“Me? What did I do?” I pout.
“It’s what you haven’t done, Kaitlyn,” Selene sighs. “Your lack of an outburst worries me, given your history,” I blush harder. That was unnecessary. She didn’t need to call me out like that in front of everyone.
“I’ll keep an eye on her,” Andrei nods, glancing down at me as he leads me toward the door. I glance at Heath, standing silently beside Nik. I wonder what he’s thinking, after all this. It’s so hard to read his expression.
“Can I leave too?” he asks rather eagerly as we step into the hall. It makes me giggle.
I’m so distracted by what’s going on behind us that I nearly trip over Blue’s tail. He lifts his large head, eyes flickering between Andrei and I. He whines, concerned and distrusting of Andrei. It seems like dragons are much less inclined to forgive.
“It’s alright,” I assure him with a pat on the nose. He snorts as I turn to follow Andrei back to our room.
“I bet your surviving aunt would love to kill me,” Andrei mumbles as the door shuts.
“Grandmother,” I correct. “And I don’t think she knows yet. At least I hope not.”
“I half expect her to show up at the window in her dragon form, razor-sharp teeth seeking my blood,” he grimaces.
“Lucky for you her head won’t fit,” I laugh as I pull out a change of clothes for after the shower.
“I’m sure she’s capable of knocking down the wall,” he leans against the desk, watching me get ready.
“They never came hunting down Logan,” I muse, consciously avoiding looking at the desk. “What makes you think she’ll come looking for you?” I ask as I brush the knots out of my hair. It’ll be easier to wash that way.
“Well… I guess ‘cause you’re with child and stuff like that…” he shrugs. “I’m sure they wanted to eat me the first time I made you cry. That only makes this a lot worse.”
My mind shifts back to the dream-memory. “I seriously doubt that,” I grab a towel and head to the bathroom, brushing past him to get around the bed.
“Umm, should I wait?” he asks softly.
I hesitate in the doorway. “If you don’t mind.”
“Sure, take your time,” he nods, a sad but understanding look on his face.
I lock the door behind me and drop my towel on the back of the toilet. Turning on the taps to full heat, I start to undress while the water heats up. There’s a twinge in my gut for making him wait, but I just need to be alone for a little. I haven’t been alone in… I don’t remember how long. Even now, I’m not completely alone as the dragonling perches on the towel rail. I leave my clothes in the hamper and step into the boiling water.
As I scrub off a layer of dead skin and grime, I feel as though I’m washing away the evidence of everything that happened over the last two days. Tears wash away as soon as they fall and even after I’m clean, I sit on the tile floor of the shower for a while. Maybe ten minutes, maybe half an hour. I don’t really know. I find it difficult to get back up, to put myself back together.
It’s only when the curtain moves and a little black head peers in, that I’m reminded of Andrei waiting outside. Scoria is hungry and she’s getting impatient. I reach up to turn the water off, turning the heat back down. I rub the towel over my skin and hair, wrapping it around my chest before I brush my wet hair, tying it in a braid, as always. Scoria perches on my shoulder as I unlock the door and step out into the cold air of the bedroom.
Andrei sits at the desk, nothing on it, just holding his head, staring off into space. I wonder if he’d been doing that the whole time, or if he simply hid the suspicious papers when he heard the water shut off. Either way, I pretend not to notice. I can’t bring it up yet. Not here. Instead, I move past him to where I’d laid out my clothes and start to dress.
“Oh, you’re done?” he startles when I shift the clothes on the bed.
“Yep,” I reply as I pull my underwear on, the towel still wrapped around me.
He pushes the chair back, slowly moving to the bathroom. “I’ll be quick,” he says, walking in with his clothes still on. He lingers at the door, hesitating before closing it with a soft click.
Once I’m dressed, I sit on the bed, leaning back against the headboard. I find it hard not to stare at the desk. I want to know what’s written on those pages. I want to know why he’s hiding it from me… but at the same time, if I take it in secret, it would only confirm his fears. I don’t want to make things worse. So I wait, stroking Scoria’s scales absently.
I hear the water shut off and a few minutes later, he steps out in a towel, hair still damp as he walks to the closet, looking for clothes. I watch him move around the room, waiting for him to be ready. When he’s dressed, he turns to me and nods toward the door.
“Are you ready to eat, or…” he shrugs.
I’m still not hungry, but I’m not really in the mood to do anything else either. I need to feed the dragon though, so I slide off the bed. “I’m ready.”
As I step up to him, I struggle with conflicting voices in my head. I want to be comforted by him and to make him happy, but at the same time, I’m still nervous. I don’t know what he’s remembered, or what he’s hiding. I decide to lean toward the former as he looks down at me with his puppy eyes. He seems to be reluctant to do anything, understandably, so I offer my hand for him to take. He takes it with a small smile, leading me back out into the hall.
The hall is quiet. Blue is gone by the time we step out again. We don’t talk on the way to the cafeteria and in the kitchen, I hover in the doorway. I want to stay close, but I’m wary of the sharp objects in the kitchen. I still can’t shake the lingering fear in the back of my mind.
“Anything you want to eat?” he asks with a sigh as he opens the fridge, unawares.
I shrug. “Something meaty for the little dragon.”
“And you?” he raises an eyebrow.
“I don’t know,” I mumble. “Anything is fine.”
He places a package of meat on the counter, leaning his hands against the marble. He pauses, turning his head toward me with a pained expression. “Is there anything I can do… to make you more comfortable around me?” Guess he’s more aware than I thought.
I meet his gaze and carefully decide my response. “Let me read them.”
“What?” his eyes grow wide with alarm.
I don’t falter. “The pages you’re hiding from me,” he grimaces, his eyes flickering from me to the floor. “Did you think I didn’t notice?” I ask.
He heaves a sigh, shoulders sagging. “No, you’re not stupid. I just… I… don’t know.”
I nod. “You promised you wouldn’t hide things. You said you’d let me help you.”
“I know. I broke that promise too. I didn’t want to worry you… you were so busy and… I was scared of what I might find. I regret it but… now I’m scared of what you’ll think. But, if that’s what it takes to make all this,” he waves at the air, “go away, then fine. I’ll let you read them.”
“Haven’t you figured out by now that I’m not going to stop loving you so easily?” I frown.
“I would understand if you didn’t… after last night…” he mumbles. “I don’t deserve your unwavering love.”
“I was scared. I was scared for you. I didn’t know what to do without hurting you,” I feel my eyes start to sting. “I thought I was losing you.”
“In a way, you were. I was so confused. Everything hurt and it felt like I was in two times at once. I couldn’t get anything straight. I didn’t know what was happening. I can’t apologize enough to make things right,” he stares at the counter as if he could bore holes into the surface with his eyes.
“Apologies don’t mean much if you’re going to keep hiding things and trying to do everything on your own,” I chide. “If you can’t trust me, you can at least trust your friends, can’t you?”
He’s silent for a while. I hear a hiccup and when he turns around he looks on the verge of tears again. “You’re right,” he blubbers. “I shouldn’t have hidden them. I should’ve trusted you more,” his eyes close as he tries to hold back the tears and he takes a ragged breath.
I move into the kitchen, around the counter, stopping in front of him. I tilt my head and smile, resting a hand on his chest. “You’re supposed to leave the silly mistakes to me, remember?”
“I know,” he pouts. “I…” he looks down at my hand, curiosity in his wet eyes. “I thought I could fix things on my own…”
“I hope you’ll think again next time,” I hum.
“Yes, I will. There won’t be a next time…” he sniffs.
I smile. “Good. Then you should kiss me and get started. You’ve got a couple hungry dragons to feed,” I tease.
“A couple?” he asks, wiping his face with his arm, then realisation dawns on his face. He lifts a hand to my cheek, leaning in for a kiss. I let my eyes close with the feel of his soft lips. All the confusion and pain melts away. It feels like coming home.
The little dragon squawks next to my ear, complaining. I flinch at the noise. She’s annoyed that we’re taking so long when there’s raw meat just sitting there, waiting to be cooked.
I reluctantly pull away from Andrei. “Is there anything I can do to help? I think she’s going to start eating us if we don’t hurry,” I laugh.
He laughs, but it comes out a little more like a gurgly hack. “Umm, well. I can cook the steak for her, but I’m still not sure what to cook you. What would you like?” he asks again.
“I really don’t know,” I sigh. “I don’t even feel hungry, let alone know what I’d want.”
“That’s not healthy,” he pouts, placing his hand on my stomach. “You haven’t eaten for a whole day, right? You should have something. What if I made you oatmeal? I could add fruits and nuts for flavour. Would you like something like that?” he asks.
“Yeah, I think I could manage that,” I blush, resting my hands over his. “For the baby, at least.”
“You need nourishment too,” he frowns, turning to the cupboards to gather the food he needs. “Would you mind boiling the water?” he asks, pulling the tin of oatmeal out of the cupboard.
“Okay,” I retrieve the kettle, filling it with water. I glance at the coffee machine next to it, tapping my fingers on the marble. I’d like the caffeine boost, but at the same time, I want to settle my stomach. I decide to open the cupboard and look at the teas instead. One of these should help, right?
The stove clicks as it turns on and I hear the sizzle of the pan. As I stare at the rows of tea, the smell of the cooking steak fills the room. My stomach rumbles, but not in a good way. My hand flies to my face, clamping over my nose and mouth. Why does it smell so vile? I try to breathe through my mouth, but it doesn’t help. I need to get away from the smell.
I spin on my heel and run out the door, stumbling into some chairs. The baby dragon tumbles off my shoulder with a screech, catching itself in midair.
“Kat?! What’s wrong?” Andrei shouts from behind. I can’t answer him now. I don’t want to risk opening my mouth.
My eyes find the door to the bathrooms across the busy cafeteria and I weave my way through chairs, holding my breath. The door slams against the wall and I go to the largest stall. I barely lean over the toilet before my body heaves.
I don’t have anything to throw up, but my body tries several times anyway. I feel the bile rise in my throat, burning as it’s forced up my esophagus. Some of it even makes it out, colouring the toilet water with a yellow tint and a pungent odor. When the heaving subsides, I fall back against the wall to catch my breath. My stomach aches from the effort and the walls sway in my vision.
“Kat? You in here? It’s me, Caroline,” Caroline calls in a sing-song voice, echoing around the tiled room.
“Yeah,” I groan. I didn’t even close the stall door.
I hear her steps approach until she appears in the doorway. “Are you ok?” she asks with worry in her voice.
I wave my hand dismissively. “Great. Just peachy.”
“You’re throwing up,” It’s not a question.
“Thank you for pointing out the obvious.”
“Was it something you ate?” she asks.
“Didn’t eat yet,” I rub my forehead. “Pretty sure it’s not food related.”
“Oh, how far along are you again?” she hums.
“A month? Maybe more?” I sneer at the air. I don’t remember.
“Could be morning sickness,” she states, leaning over my shoulder.
I sigh. “I dunno. Andrei was cooking and suddenly I just felt sick. Is that normal?”
“Yes, the same thing happened to my mom apparently. She used to love this cream of broccoli soup and ate it all the time. Then, when she had me, every time dad made it she felt sick. Couldn’t eat it,” she rambles. “What was he making? Sometimes the food can be different for each person.”
“Uh… Steak, for the baby dragon,” I push against the wall to stand up. “He’s probably worried. I should go back.”
“I told him I’d talk to you. Don’t worry. Maybe you can’t eat meat, that’s a common food aversion for many women. We could always talk to Gwen about something to help with that. I’m sure she knows more than any of us about this,” Caroline suggests.
I nod. “Okay. Yeah. Good idea.”
“Maybe, for now, it’s best if you weren’t in the kitchen while he’s cooking. You might feel worse. Want to sit with me while we wait for breakfast?”
“Sure,” I flush the toilet before I stumble out of the stall. “God, I’m not looking forward to more of that.”
“Well, the best we can do is figure out what you don’t like and try not to be around it, I guess. Unless there’s some magic spell to block the sense of smell. That would be handy,” she chuckles.
I pause at the sink to rinse out my mouth. “I wouldn’t know, but it wouldn’t hurt to look into.”
I stand back up and Caroline smiles. “I’ll look into it then!”
As she reaches for the door, I feel compelled to add. “Oh, uh, sorry for waking you last night.”
“Oh, I… Did Kaede really ask you? I can’t believe him. Yeah, don’t worry about it. Was everything really ok? It sounded… well, pretty bad,” a look of strong concern on her face.
“It was,” I glance at the door. “Um, don’t mention it to Andrei though. It’s one I’d rather he didn’t hear about.”
“Oh? Was it another dream?” she says.
I lean back against the sink, staring at my feet. “I had a dream about what Logan did when he… When he made it so I couldn’t get pregnant. I don’t know why it came up out of nowhere but I’m kind of glad Andrei wasn’t there.”
Her visibly shivers, cringing. “That’s awful and wrong. That’s something only a doctor should do. I agree, if Andrei knew, well, he’d be really upset. It’s not like he can do anything about it now,” she chews her lip, thinking. “I remember, you mentioned this before, when we first met Gwen in Africa and she told you you were pregnant. She said you were fine though. So, I wonder if all the healing we did before then has anything to do with you being able to get pregnant. Perhaps we healed more than we first intended.”
“Yea, that’s what I figured. There’s no way it could have happened otherwise,” I gulp. I can almost feel it, like a phantom pain.
“Right. I’m glad our healing’s helped you at least. I think it’s a wonderful thing, to have children. I’m only concerned… well, about you and Andrei though. You guys are dating and all, right? Has he…” She blushes, dropping her voice even though we’re the only ones in the bathroom. “Has he proposed to you yet?” she whispers.
I blink. “Proposed? Like… marriage?”
“Yes, marriage. That’s what proposed means, silly. If you’re going to have a kid, you might as well be married. You’ll be raising it together and whatnot, and you’re already in the same room,” she winks. “It’d only be proper that he ask you, if you ask me.”
I blush. “I, er… No, he hasn’t said anything like that. I don’t know if it’s crossed his mind. I mean, we never even talked about being mutually exclusive or like, when we considered ourselves officially a couple. It just sort of… happened,” I ramble, flustered. I hadn’t even considered the idea.
“You don’t have to say it for it to be a thing. You’re practically already exclusive, considering you’re with child. I know Andrei only has eyes for you. He’s like that, you know. He would never entertain another girl when he finally got one to date him. I think he always went into a relationship thinking it was the one. Especially after… well. After that,” she looks sideways as she speaks.
“Right…” I nod slowly. A sense of dread washes over me. “Should we, uh…” I point to the door. I don’t like where this conversation is going.
“Oh, sure. If you’re ready,” she starts, turning for the door. “You feeling better?” she pauses before exiting.
I shrug. “Ish.”
“I can let Gwen know unless you would rather do it. Kaede got her a phone and she’s learning how to use it,” she grins, leading the way to the table.
“Sure, if you don’t mind. Could you let Andrei know everything is okay and that I’ll wait out here?” I ask as I sit down at the table she stops at. Kaede sits with his laptop out, clicking away. He glances up briefly.
“Of course. I’ll be right back,” she walks off toward the kitchen.
I cross my arms on the table, resting my head on them with my face down, blocking out the light. Why is it suddenly so bright?
“Tell me about it. I didn’t sleep either,” he mumbles as he continues to tap the keyboard.
“You don’t even want to know,” I groan.
“Oh, but I do, you see. I always want to know,” he smirks.
I tilt my head to peek at him with narrow eyes. “You want to know how I dreamed about Logan carving out my insides, being under house arrest because everyone thinks I’ll take off, or how I threw up bile at the smell of cooking meat?”
His fingers stop and he leans forward, chin in his hand. “Yes. I do. I love hearing the latest scoop about Kat. Also, I want to know if Andrei’s told you yet,” he flicks his head, moving the long hair out of his eyes.
I lay my head back down. “No. He’ll let me read it when we get back.”
“I see. Good, good, ‘cause I told him he should and I just wanted to be sure. So, have you checked your social media lately?” he shifts back to the laptop.
“Should I?” I ask. What does that have to do with anything?
“You might want to. There’s an interesting video going viral on the Guildgram app,” he looks up, watching for my reaction.
I close my eyes. “Do I even want to know?”
“It involves you,” he taps his nose.
I lift my gaze, suspicious. There’s no way there’s a video of me and Heath, right? I mean, if that was the case, he wouldn’t be so casual. I grunt and pull out my phone. “Show me then,” I slide the phone toward him. I can’t be bothered to go searching.
He takes the phone, installing the app and tapping away until he finds a video. He slides it back to me. “Watch that. It’s already got over 300 likes,” he grins.
I tilt the phone so I can see and I reluctantly press play. I recognize the danger room with me at the center. It’s from a few days ago when Nik and Heath were outside. I hadn’t changed to the fire form for a few minutes, after which I had to catch a sword in my hands and got cut. I watch my own moves, mentally making notes. It’s sloppy. I’ve been lazy, with so much going on, and with the pregnancy… I’ll need to train more, even if I can’t until after the birth.
“What’s that?” Andrei inquires, setting a bowl of oatmeal on the table in front of me and leaning over my shoulder. The steak is nowhere to be seen. I jump, dropping the phone flat on the table. Scoria lands on my shoulder, burrowing into my hair and curling up on the back of my neck.
“It’s a video Kaede wanted me to watch,” I mumble as I pick the device back up, hitting the button. “Supposed to be popular on his internal social media thing.”
“Woah, that’s you. Wow, you have a lot of likes,” Andrei hums.
“It’s a new app I launched a few days ago, akin to Instagram, but only available for people on the Guild Network. You have to have an account with the Guild to get it and it’s magically blocked from being seen or downloaded by people on the outside, in case it ever did leak. I’ve been working with Cliff to develop the social connections of the residents here on the island, hoping to craft a semblance of the current modern world in here. So, what do you think? One of your fans seems to have recorded the Danger room practice and uploaded it,” he explains.
“I think I have enough problems with weird fans,” I pout, resting my head on my hand, elbow on the table. I turn off the video and poke the oatmeal with the spoon.
“Well, the beauty of my version of Guild-gram is, Cliff and I developed a spell that recognizes faces. So, if your face is in the video, you’re automatically tagged and notified, even if you don’t have the app. If you check your Guild-mail, you’ll get a notification. Then, you have the right to approve it of remaining publically seen on the network. So, if you don’t want it, you click no, and it’s automatically taken down. No questions asked,” he boasts.
“Except I wasn’t notified and didn’t approve this video,” I point out.
“Did you check your emails? It comes down after you decline,” He points out.
“Shouldn’t it not be posted until there’s permission?” I raise an eyebrow. “What if it’s a video of someone doing something awful, or something awful being done to them?”
“What, got something to hide?” he jests. “Hm, maybe you’re right. Maybe I should change that,” he taps his chin in thought.
I sigh and try to eat the oatmeal. It’s still warm and rather bland. Maybe that’s for the best, with my stomach upset. The last thing I need to be worried about it someone posting a video of really anything that’s happened in the last few days. That would really be bad.
“Do you not like the oatmeal?” Andrei asks, taking the seat next to me as Caroline joins us. She sets a mug of tea down in front of me and sits next to Kaede, pinching his arm, hard.
I shift to sit up more, reaching to take Andrei’s hand. “No, I just don’t feel well. It’s fine.”
He lays his hand on the table for me and squeezes gently. I tune out Kaede’s chatter and focus on finishing what’s in the bowl.
“So, I texted Gwen in the kitchen. She said she’ll stop by later for an examination,” Caroline pipes up.
I look up and nod. It’s nice to have someone who’s sort of a doctor around. I always went to Ambrosse, but I hate bothering her. These days, I feel like I’d be practically living in her office if I did.
“You look like you could use some sleep,” Caroline hums. That’s an understatement. Andrei turns to me with a knowing look in his eyes. How little he really knows.
“Yea, like a week’s worth,” I chuckle. “Hoping to get back to our room as soon as we’ve eaten.”
“That might be best. I’ll let Gwen know for you. You focus on getting some sleep,” Caroline nods.
“Not just sleep,” Kaede winks. “Trust me, it’s juicy.”
I kick him under the table. Why would he think I’d enjoy reading about another woman? I know that must be a large part of it, from what Andrei kept saying last night.
“Oww, that hurt. Car, she’s beating on me,” he fake whines.
“Good. Someone other than me should,” she says flatly, sipping from her cup.
I look to Andrei, exasperated. “Can we go back now?”
“Yea, of course,” he nods, reaching for the nearly empty bowl.
I push back from the table, carefully picking up the cup of tea. “Thanks, guys. See you later,” I try to smile at the two.
“Kat, if you ever wanna talk, just text me, ok?” Caroline says, pinching her brows together in worry.
I clear my throat, risking a glance at Andrei. “Yea, for sure.”
Andrei takes the bowl into the kitchen quickly before returning. I sip enough of the tea to avoid spilling it as we walk and we make our way out of the cafeteria. He doesn’t offer to space skip, and that’s a little worrying. He’s been so eager to use it, I wonder if something’s wrong, but I don’t want to ask.
By Krystyna Yates