Aria cradled Kahlan’s head between her hands, her ears were roaring with the frantic voices of the paramedics. The only real proof that Kahlan and Tory were actually alive was the regular electronic pulsing of the machine that was registering their heartbeats. The noises washed over Aria as she stroked Kahlan’s face gently. The front of Aria’s shirt was soaked through with blood; her fingers were coated with the slick crimson slime. She was leaving streaks of it down her sister’s face but she couldn’t stop. Kahlan’s hair was damp with sweat.
“Don’t do this Kay.” Aria begged. She cast a heartbreaking look to where the emergency responders were working frantically on Tory. “If you can hear me Kahlan, you need to hold on.” She whispered and pressed her forehead against Kahlan’s. “Please.” Her voice was desperate for her little sister to hear.
Tory’s breathing was coming in short, haggard bursts. With each breath she took, a fresh spray of blood escaped her throat. One of the paramedics was applying pressure to the wound with a towel but Tory’s blood was staining it a dark crimson. Aria couldn’t look at it. She watched the fluid snake through the IV line in Kahlan’s arm. Both her cousin and her sister were in dire need of blood and even though Aria would normally have been a match, now that she was pregnant she wouldn’t be allowed to participate in any kind of transfusion. Feeling useless, Aria ducked her head and prayed that the ambulance would go faster.
“Ari…” Aria’s head snapped upwards. She looked over towards Tory. Her cousin gave a faint nod. Her blue eyes that were always filled with laughter looked uncharacteristically somber, afraid. “Aria,” Tory repeated and swallowed. “Kahlan?”
“She’s right here.” Aria reassured her. She moved over so Tory had a clear view of her cousin’s face.
"Why isn't she moving? Ari..." Tory could hardly speak. "Okay?"
“She hit her head when....she hit it hard and blacked out. But she's going to be okay.” Aria stared down at Tory. “You’re both going to be okay.” A lump rose in her throat when she caught the look in the paramedic’s eye. She shimmed across the ambulance floor and slid her hand in to Tory’s. Aria leaned in and kissed her cousin’s cheek. The flesh against her lips was freezing. “We’re almost there Tory, just hold on for a little while longer.”
Too weak to keep her head up any longer, Tory lay back down. She shut her eyes as a fresh spasm of pain wracked through her body. Tears leaked from the corners of her eyes no matter how tightly she squeezed them. She muttered something incoherent.
“What?” Aria leaned in closer.
“I don’t want to die.” Tory mumbled. Her eyes were wet. “Please, don’t let me die Aria.”
They arrived at the hospital in a matter of minutes, though it felt like hours to Aria. The response team immediately took the girls to surgery. Aria lingered in the hallway for a moment before she took her cell phone from her pocket. It was a wonder that in all the chaos it had somehow stayed in her pocket. With tremble fingers she dialed her mother. “Mum…” She said slowly, choking on her tears. “Something’s happened.”
Aria heard silence on the other end of the line and knew her mother had sat down. “What’s wrong? Aria, what’s going on?” Arabella’s voice was panicked. “Are you alright? Is the baby okay?”
She broke down then. Sobbing in to the phone Aria said, “Kahlan and Tory….” Aria’s hands were shaking so badly that she could barely keep a grip on her phone. “I’m at the hospital but…Mum they’re both really bad.” Before Arabella could respond Aria lost her grip on her phone. She watched it tumble to the floor which instantly disconnected the call.
Wandering the hallways in a numb daze Aria somehow found her way to the waiting room and sank miserably in to one of the many dark green metal chairs that lined the walls. She looked back down at her hands and saw that her cuticles were flaked with dried bits of Tory’s and Kahlan’s blood. When the rest of the family arrived Kieran and Terra were immediately taken away to supply blood for their twins. The others gathered around Aria, everyone frantically asking questions.
“Aria what happened?” Her sister Laila pressed. “You’re covered in blood…” Her normally bronze complexion had paled several shades. She looked as if someone had startled her out of the shower with the news and Laila had tossed on whatever wrinkled clothes were on top of the laundry bin. "Oh my God...."
Aria looked down at her hands and absentmindedly began to rub them on the legs on her pants again. “We were at the store and the girls were waiting outside while I paid. I heard the shots,” Aria said slowly. “Then I heard Kay…” She swallowed and continued, “I ran out there to see what had happened. Kahlan had hit her head against the concrete from the force, but I could see right away she wasn’t as bad as…” She broke off, her entire body shaking. “She’s been shot in the hip and in the knee and she's lost a ton of blood. Tory though, she got shot right in the stomach.”
Arabella hissed through her teeth. She looked at Aislin and asked, “Your parents are on their way?”
Aislin nodded. “They should be here any minute now.”
Arella clung to Laila, sniffling loudly and trembling violently with terror. Laila ran her long deft fingers down her youngest sister’s back trying to calm her down. “It’s alright.” She kept repeating even as her own eyes flooded over with stinging, salty tears. “They’re going to be alright.”
They sat there all night, mostly in silence; they fidgeted in their chairs unable to sit still for long and paced the long stretch of hallway. Miserable and exhausted Kieran sat beside Aria, his right arm bandaged tightly after he had returned from supplying almost two pints of blood to his sister. It was in moments like this that he cursed not having any sort of intuition bond with his twin, not knowing how she was fairing somewhere in the bowels of the hospital. But from the look on Terra’s face, she had no idea either.
It seemed like forever, and was well past midnight before a doctor sought them out. He was an older gentleman: his hair was completely white, and his eyes were hidden behind thick glasses. Aria’s heart sank. She could tell just by looking at his face the news wasn’t good. He was holding something clutched in one of his hands. Aria’s eyes caught a glint of silver. Her chest seized, she clasped her hands on top of her knees to stop them from shaking and stared at the blue and grey tile on the ground. Arabella and Brian rose hesitantly to their feet. So did Leo and Ava.
The doctor looked down at his chart again and wiped the beads of sweat off his brow. He reached up and adjusted his collar before taking a step forward. Aria held her breath. The man did not commit to either direction for a moment. Then slowly he turned towards her aunt and uncle. The man stretched out his arm and let Tory’s silver triquetra necklace fall like silk from his palm in to Ava’s trembling hand.
Ava O’Rourke sank to her knees while Leo held her tightly. Terra stood there silently, Aislin’s hands rested numbly on her shoulders. It looked to Aria more like Aislin was trying to hold Terra together and keep her from shattering on to the floor. The younger girl turned her face in towards elder sister’s chest and sobbed. Laila her eyes wet with tears looked up and across the room to her sister. Her eyes were helpless as she held Arella against her.
“Aria.” She jumped when she felt her mother’s hand clasp her shoulder. Arabella leaned in close and whispered Kahlan’s room number in to her ear. “I’ll meet you as soon as I can.” She promised. "After...well....after."
She ran down the hallway with the sound of her aunt’s sobbing echoing behind her. Aria’s eyes burned with tears. Each time she blinked more and more flowed down her cheeks and blurred her vision. When she reached her sister’s room Aria stopped dead in her tracks. Kahlan’s skin had always been light, but now it was a sickly shade of grey. There were tubes wrapped around Kahlan’s face, supplying a steady flow of oxygen to her nostrils. There were several different IV lines in both of her arms now. Kahlan also had a morphine drip attached to her as well. Her chest rose and fell shallowly but otherwise she didn’t move. Not even her fingers twitched. Around one of her eyes the skin had blackened.
When Arabella arrived she took a seat on a nearby chair while Aria sat on the edge of Kahlan’s hospital bed. She reached out and stroked her sister’s hand with her thumb. “How are we going to tell her when she wakes up?” Aria asked quietly. “How the hell do we tell her that Tory’s dead Mum?”
“I don’t know.” Arabella put her head in her hands, tears running freely down her cheeks. Arabella searched her younger daughter’s face for any sign of life. Kahlan’s face was almost completely rigid. “We still don’t even know if Kahlan will open her eyes again.” She admitted. “I've seen victims with injuries that seem much less severe than Kahlan's just...go. It all depends on tonight. That will be the most dangerous time.”
“Every time I turn on the news I’m afraid I’ll hear Murphy’s name.” Aria admitted. “Some kind of roadside bombing, a building collapsing: one thousand different nightmares.” She rubbed her stomach sadly. Aria clasped her hands on her knees to try and cease their trembling. “I should have done more than I did. Maybe if I had thought quicker I could have given Tory the time she needed.”
“Aria,” Arabella stood up and wrapped her arms around her eldest daughter. Aria turned her face in to her mother’s shoulder and sobbed. Whenever she closed her eyes she saw Tory’s wide, frightened ones staring back up at her, begging someone to help her. “You couldn’t do anything honey, there was nothing you could have done to save her.” Arabella tried to soothe her. “You were there for her at the end, and that’s what matters. You didn’t let her die alone.”
After several hours Kahlan’s breathing became more regular, her chest rising and falling evenly. A few hours after that, she began to shift uncomfortably in her sleep but wasn’t until nearly midmorning a full day later that Kahlan opened her eyes. The blinds for the room’s one large bay window were open and streaks of sunlight fell across her face. Kahlan blinked as the harsh light hit her face and slowly her eyes began to focus on her surroundings. Her sister was slumped against the wall, asleep. The walls were cream colored and mostly barren save for a small television mounted high on the wall in front of her. She rolled over on to her side, wincing as the mattress pressed against her stitches. The pillow her head was resting against was too firm for her liking. Kahlan stretched out her fingers and slowly dragged them across the heavily starched hospital sheets beneath her. They smelled strongly of some sort of industrial duty detergent causing her to wrinkle her nose and sneeze.
The noise was enough to jolt Aria awake. She met eyes with her little sister and immediately leapt to her feet. “Kahlan,” Aria said hoarsely and smiled in relief. “Thank God.” She turned towards the hallway, Arabella had left only a minute or two ago to get them food. Aria wanted to hug her sister immediately but didn’t dare out of fear of tearing her stitches. “Try not to move around if you can.” Aria advised. As gently as possible she rolled Kahlan on to her back. “Mum will be back in just a minute.”
Kahlan lifted the blanket covering her from her torso downward. She peeked beneath and immediately dropped it again, turning away in disgust. “Uhhh…” She muttered dejectedly.
‘Her leg. The entire knee was almost blown.’ Aria realized. “You’ll be able to walk again.” She promised and tried to smile reassuringly. “It’s just going to take a while until you get your full strength in it back.” Her smile faltered.
There it was.
“Kahlan,” Aria said slowly. She bit her lower lip; her voice was threatening to fail her. Finally, she managed to utter; “Kahlan, Tory didn’t make it.” Her voice was almost inaudible, but by the look that suddenly distorted her sister’s face, Aria knew Kahlan had heard her.
Kahlan felt a pit gnawing at her stomach, her heart dropped like a stone. It was as if a part of her had been obliterated, leaving behind only half of her to drag on and she knew that could only mean one thing. Kahlan stared up at Aria her eyes smoldering. “Tory’s gone?” Was all she said.
Aria knelt beside her sister’s bed and smoothed her hair back while casting frantic glances towards the hallway, but there was still no sign of their mother and so the obligation fell on her. Slowly she bobbed her head in a silent confirmation. Kahlan stared up at her blankly, her mouth opened in a small ‘o’ but still no words came. Aria choked back the lump in her throat and said, “It was quick Kay, she didn’t hurt for long I promise. She was very brave.” Gently, Aria stroked her sister's face. "All she cared about was if you were with her. And you were."
“No.” Kahlan muttered, she tried to sit up in the bed but Aria gently forced her back down. “No, you have to be wrong Aria!” She looked up, her eyes begging her sister to take back what she had said. “She can’t be!” Kahlan pulled the oxygen tubes away from her face and shoved her sister backwards. “Tory isn’t dead!” Tears fell freely from her bright green eyes, her face grew dark red. Kahlan’s heartbeat took such a large spike that a nurse came running just as Kahlan reached to attempt her pull out her IV line.
“What are you…stop!” Aria pinned her sister’s hands down. “No, stop!”
Kahlan began to thrash from side to side, threatening to spill completely over the side of the bed. Aria was holding on to her tightly, forcing her on her back in place. Grief swarmed in Kahlan’s stomach. From her throat escaped a single mangled wail that ripped through Aria’s ears as it echoed through the corridor. It was cut short however when the nurse slid another needle in to her arm. Kahlan instantly felt the warm daze brought on by the drug. She felt the pressure on her shoulders subside as Aria stepped back. “I’m sorry.” Her sister’s voice was warped. “I’m so sorry Kahlan.” It was the last thing she heard before the drugs forced her back in to the darkness.