Isellta is dying and I can’t stop it. I can’t help him. I can’t protect him.
Jay sat beside Isellta. “Hey, kid.” He gently brushed his bangs off to the side. “I’m gonna scoot you up into my arms. Don’t break, okay. Don’t go crumbling into dust or snapping to pieces. Okay? I’m gonna be careful.”
Isellta’s convulsions died down. He exhaled a stuttered breath and went still.
Jay shot a panicked look at Preyuna.
She shook her head. “He’s still alive.”
Jay breathed out a sigh of relief. “Okay, kid. Here I go. Just. Just hold on, okay? Don’t break. Don’t leave me.” He scooped his arms under Isellta’s neck and knees and carefully moved him into his lap. “It’s okay. It’s okay, kid. I got you.” He held him as close as he could. “I got you.”
Maelin sat behind Jay, but she didn’t touch him.
“You know, I. Mae and I have…What do you call it? Umm, hrrash ka kaed with each other. I don’ t know how many times. I. I don’t think the exact number matters right now. I just want to tell you that we’ve been together like that, but we’ve never really had the whole ‘Do you want kids? I want kids.’ talk. Mainly because I know. I know we shouldn’t. With Mae’s ongoing wanderlust, we really shouldn’t have kids. Not until things stabilize. I don’t know. If they ever stabilize.” He chuckled half-heartedly. “Yeah, I know. This is a great time to bring this subject up. You’re dying. Preyuna’s standing right here looking like hearing about my love life is not on her list of things she’s even marginally interested in.”
“That’s true.” Preyuna said.
“My point, after that whole messy build-up, is this: If I had a kid, I would want him to be just like you. ‘sellta, I wish you were mine.” His throat tightened. “I love you. I love you like you were my own flesh and blood. And it hurts. It hurts me so much and cuts me so deep to see you like this.”
Maelin touched his back. “Sweetheart.”
“I know me talking like this isn’t going to help you any. Probably will make you go through a whole guilt trip. Don’t. It isn’t your fault, kid. And don’t you worry. I’m not mad at you. I’m not angry. I just. I miss you so much.”
He kissed the top of Isellta’s head. “I’m going to miss you even more when you’re gone.”
There was music in the air and it was beautiful.
It was familiar. Isellta almost knew the song. He subconsciously knew the singer’s name. He knew the singer’s voice.
But he couldn’t think.
He couldn’t remember.
He let it slide away.
He needed to keep breathing.
He didn’t want to.
He wanted to stop.
But something inside of him kept urging him to fight through the difficulty and the pain.
He needed to keep breathing.
Something in that music made him want to keep breathing.
But he really wanted to stop.
The nae bi sha sat in his natural form.
He didn’t speak.
He didn’t think.
He sat there and watched Isellta’s struggled breaths.
He sat and waited oh so patiently.