"Kate, you should be out there, having fun."
The sounds of celebration echoed from outside the tent; the last night before the soldiers returned to persecuting us and we returned to stealing from their masters. I was aware that some romances had blossomed, and knew that this would make it hard for everyone to return to how everything was... hell, I knew that as well as anyone. I looked down at Corin as he lay on the bed, the only patient left in the infirmary tent. Everyone else well enough to drink, eat, dance... he hadn't even opened his eyes.
"Kate, did you hear me?"
"Mmm?" I glanced up at Kiara. She and the village herbal woman were looking at me, hands on their hips. Kiara sighed.
"Kate, go. You have to make an appearance."
"No, I don't. Jem is handling it."
"So that's what it's going to be from now on? Jem handling things while you mope?"
"Dangerous territory Kiara." I glared at her defiance.
"Oh I'm sorry! I didn't realise you still had fight in you." I snarled at her and would have gone for my knife, but she held up her hands. "All I'm saying is that you're different. We need a strong leader, but we need someone with empathy. We need you and Jem working as a team like you used to, not just her. So snap out of it."
"Both of you can go and join the feast, or do whatever you please now."
"Kate..." She began.
"Go. Both of you." I said firmly, sitting down again. "I'll call you if you're needed."
"Kate we need-"
"-A leader. Which is what I'm doing right now. Leading. So follow orders. Go."
Kiara rolled her eyes and ushered the other woman out. She picked up some vials and a notebook, hiding them from view as she did so, then casting one last look back at me, disappeared from the tent.
I took Corin's hand in mine, felt the roughness, the warmth of it. Warmth was a sign of life, better than the coldness that had covered his skin when he had first been brought to the tent. I hadn't held his hand if there were anyone around; no one knew except Jem, although I guessed Kiara and the village woman must now guess... Jem. We had not spoken since... the battle almost. Other than in a professional capacity. I think I broke her.
"All because I kissed you." I murmured, looking down at the hand I held in mine. They had cleaned his fingernails; he was the cleanest I had seen him since the ball... I remembered how he had danced with me, how different it would have been if I had felt this way then...
"Why did I do that?" I asked him, or more accurately, his hand. "Why did I allow that to happen? I acted like some sort of insane person; I've never been like that... and you... what possessed you to kiss me? Why do you like me? Why did you save me? What are we going to do when all of this... goes back to normal?"
"That's a lot of questions for someone unconscious to answer." My head shot up and saw Griever in the entrance. He was looking at my hands, grasping Corin's. I let go quickly. "Don't worry... I won't tell."
"What are you doing here?" I asked, wiping away a tear that had sneakily found its way on to my cheek.
"I thought I'd come and see if you needed someone to steal your heart but , guess that role's already been taken."
I growled at him and he held up his hands, relenting, then came and sat on the other side. I looked from him to Corin and back, then let out a sigh.
"What am I supposed to do?"
"Kate, I can't even begin to understand how this happened but I can't tell you things are going to be easy. You can't just cut all ties tomorrow."
"Because I've never seen you this vulnerable before, and that means he's gotten under your skin. Or your trousers." He winked and I glared again.
"He has not-"
"-Ok, ok, you women still can't take a sex joke."
"Maybe because we're not used to it. The men who live with us are more... refined."
Griever guffawed loudly.
"Sure, that's why they're all getting drunken and chasing the village girls."
I rolled my eyes and then glanced back at Corin, who moved in his sleep. My breath caught, but he just shifted and stayed sleeping.
"Does Jem know?"
"So that's why she's acting up."
I nodded and glanced at him. He was looking at me pityingly.
"Don't do that."
"Don't pity me."
"Don't. It has to end, I know... Maybe it would just be better if I wasn't here when he woke up but... I just can't seem to move."
"He's got to be a good kisser. Not as good as me of course."
"So just go and kiss Jem." I retorted. His face twisted in to some sort of emotion that he quickly tried to cover up. "Oh my god... you want to."
"About as much as I want every other gorgeous Hawk..."
"Don't lie to me. You like her. Why don't you go and ask her to dance or something?"
"I've just come off watch. We're taking short shifts so we all get to enjoy the party. Which, incidentally, is where you should be."
"I'm not going."
"Kate, at least have a wash, change your clothes. Then when Corin does wake up, he'll see you looking good, not like you've been through... well a battle."
"Thanks." I rolled my eyes but I saw his point. But then did I want to encourage this? It all had to be over tomorrow, if he'd woken up or not... "Alright. I won't be long."
"I'll stand guard." He promised.
I took one last look at Corin and left the tent. I ran to my tent, gathering leather trousers and a clean white shirt and corset. My battle wear was getting stale. I hurried to the bath house and was grateful to find warm water there. I washed, feeling relief spread over me with the water. Once I was clean I dried myself on some sacking and began to dress. I only had my trousers on when someone burst through the door.
"Kate! Oh shit... sorry!" Norida looked away, embarrassed as I reached for my corset.
"That's ok Norida. You'll get them someday." I grinned, fastening the corset at the front quickly and deftly. "What's the matter?"
"What?!" I said, grabbing my shirt and shoving it on. "What's wrong?"
I cursed, grabbed my dagger from my dirty clothing and followed her out. I passed her, running as fast as I could and blew in to the tent in a whirlwind of tent material and my own hair which hung in damp waves around me.
Corin was sitting up, Griever next to him. Just behind me Norida burst in, followed by Kiara. They both scurried past me, Norida acting as Kiara's assistant. But Corin wasn't looking at them. He was looking at me.
I knew right there that this thing wasn't stopping tonight.