Jeff put his phone away.
He’ll talk her into it. No doubts there.
Jeff walked over to Missy’s hospital bed.
Her eyes were still closed.
Her expression was plain calm.
“Tessa.” He laid his hand on top of her hand. “I’m here.”
Raven leaned his head back and he could feel the warm shower melt it all away.
All of the stress.
All of the uncertainties.
All of the dirt and ash from The Institute.
And it felt so good.
He didn’t think.
He just luxuriated in the water’s comforting fall.
He shampooed his hair one more time and bowed his head to rinse it out. The longer strands of his hair plastered their individual selves to his face. Shampoo bubbles cascaded down his shoulders, chest, and back.
Raven stood under the shower for a few minutes longer, relishing the comfort and self care that he had needed so badly.
No one barged into the bathroom.
No one had any questions or demands.
He enjoyed the peace of the moment for as long as he could.
But he knew he couldn’t stay in the shower.
He sighed and shut off the water.
All of his worries and cares came rushing back. They clung desperately to his neck and shoulders, trying so hard to weigh him down.
He stepped out of the shower and toweled himself dry.
Will she wake up tonight?
He blow-dried his hair.
Will I ever hear her voice again?
He straightened his hair.
Will I ever feel her touch on my skin again?
He put his clothes on.
His real clothes.
Will she ever touch my chest and kiss the middle of it again?
Will she ever return to being the woman I love?
Will she ever wake?
What if she does not?
What if she dies?
What will I do?
What will I do without her in my life?
He looked at his reflection and sighed with relief.
“At last. I look quite like myself again.”
Raven had left Sarah in the living room.
She tried to sit on the couch, but the couch was so wide and long. She glanced around the room.
There was too much space.
Around the room.
Between the chairs.
She shivered and tried to stay put.
But she was exposed.
She shivered again.
She wasn’t safe.
She needed to be safe.
She needed to hide.
She jumped up and hid behind the couch. Her knees were bunched up against her chest.
Sarah curved her arms over her head.
Flames. Flames everywhere. In her. On her. All around her. Run. Run. Run! RUN! RUN RUN RUN! BECOME FIRE!
She scurried out from behind the couch and ran.
She didn’t stop to think of where she was running. She just ran.
Raven noticed Missy’s pink pom hair clip lying near the sink.
He picked it up and turned it between his fingers.
Missy tried to put this in my hair.
I rejected it. I simply could not wear it.
I chose that plain leather one instead.
Raven left the bathroom and approached his bed. He dropped onto the mattress.
If she were here now…
He closed his eyes.
I would humor her.
I would let her put this one in my hair. It would make her happy. I am certain of it.
Sarah burst into Raven’s room and glanced around, desperate for a place to hide.
She saw the bed.
She didn’t question it.
She ran to the bed and hid under it. She laid there, shivering.
MLO had tried to escape the only way he knew how. He transformed into his other self and skittered up the walls to the ceiling.
She looked up at him and saw the panic in his inkwell eyes.
Then, the fire broke through the ceiling.
And he was gone.
She had no voice, but she cried.
For everything that she had lost.