Waking up was painful. I still had a splitting headache and on top of that my chest and arms were on fire. It wasn’t completely unbearable, it was a sensation that I never wanted to feel again.
I shifted, trying to figure out where I was. I was lying on something very soft and comfortable, and I was really warm. Warmer than I needed to be in fact. I opened my eyes slowly and saw a smooth white ceiling. Turning my head to the side, I discovered that I was laying on my bed in the new house.
Then I noticed people shouting. It took a moment of confusion to recognize Jensen and Seymour’s voices yelling at each other. I struggled to an upright position, groaning at the lancing pain up and down my front. I glanced down at myself and found that someone had dressed the slashes I had sustained and redressed me in clean, and uncut, clothes.
I blushed furiously for a moment, hoping to heaven that it hadn’t been Jensen. That would have been an embarrassment I couldn’t handle.
I swallowed, pressing a hand to my forehead to try to stop the pounding drums, and crawled out of the bed. I staggered on my feet for a moment before gaining my balance, then slowly walked out of the bedroom.
As I got closer to the living room the voices got louder, and I was able to understand what they were yelling about. To my surprise, they were yelling about me. I hesitated in the hallway, listening to what they were saying.
“You push her harder than you push Jared and me!” Jensen shouted.
“How else is she going to survive?” Seymour shouted back. I heard Jensen growl before continuing.
“She’s not going to survive at all if you don’t stop dumping things on her that she can’t handle!”
Seymour huffed. “It looks like she handled this one just fine.”
“She almost died,” Jensen yelled. “If Cassandra hadn’t taught her what she needed to know, I would have come home to find her dead! As it were, I still found her lying in a pool of her own blood!”
“Cassandra taught… I’m the one who has taught her how to defend herself!”
“Cassandra was the one who taught her the spell she obviously needed to get rid of this latest ‘test’ of yours,” Jensen countered.
“I’m sorry,” Seymour shouted. “I didn’t mean to leave such a strong summoner!”
“Well it’s a little late for apologies now. If she dies it will be your fault!”
“I wasn’t the one who left her home alone!”
Tired of all the yelling and contention that I could feel, I stepped out of the hallway, hugging the wall for support. No one seemed to notice me.
“Oh, yeah, because I went job hunting, like you asked me too, then I’m the one to blame! How very juvenile, even for you!”
“Watch how you talk to me, boy,” Seymour growled. “I didn’t have to take you into my family.”
“Somehow I wish you hadn’t!” Jensen continued. “Then Katey might not be laying on her bed unconscious!”
I tried clearing my throat, but it was so sore from all the screaming I’d put it through, it just hurt as bad as my head. Instead, I ended up coughing hard enough to double me over.
“Katey!” Jensen rushed from where he had been standing to help me. I gratefully accepted his support, but as soon as I stopped choking I straightened.
“Stop shouting,” I said weakly. “I’m alive, aren’t I?”
“No thanks to Seymour,” Jensen grumbled. I glanced at him, then glanced around the room. Jared was hunched up on one of the loveseats, arms around his legs. Cassandra was sitting at the table, her head in her hands. Seymour stood between the dining room and the living room, an angry expression on his face.
As I watched, the anger fell away, replaced by exhaustion and regret. I glanced back and forth between him and Cassandra, wondering when they had arrived, and following that train of thought wondering how long I had been unconscious. A glance out the nearest window revealed the sun just barely coming up, so it must have been a very long time.
I looked up at Jensen, studying his worry-tense face. For a moment I was surprised at how handsome he was. I had always thought of him as a brother, but seeing him so protective of me brought up different feelings. I shook my head, then glanced back at Seymour.
“Thank you for coming back,” I said hoarsely. He nodded.
I sagged in Jensen’s arms, so very tired despite having just woken up. All the emotions floating around and everything that had happened left me so devoid of energy it was a wonder I had woken up at all.
“Alright, it’s back to bed for you, Redhead,” Jensen said, lifting me up into his arms as if I didn’t weigh more than a feather pillow. I leaned against his broad chest, so grateful I had someone I could depend on.
I didn’t protest when he lowered me onto the bed and tucked the duvet around my body. Instead, I smiled tiredly at him as he sat on the bed next to me.
“Thanks,” I said, and coughed. He nodded, a frown on his face. “What?”
“You really shouldn’t scare me like that,” he said. Then a small smile spread over the frown. “It’s not good for your health, or mine.”
I chuckled, then regretted the action, feeling wounded muscle and skin pulling painfully. I whimpered. Jensen reached over and brushed a curl off of my sweaty forehead.
“Get some sleep,” he said gently. I nodded, closing my eyes. But before he could move to leave, I grabbed his hand.
“No more yelling,” I said. “Please.”
He clenched his jaw so tight I thought it would shatter.
“No promises,” he finally answered. I nodded. It was the best I could hope for.
When Jensen left, I was left to think by myself. I was actually quite proud that I had banished that demon by myself, but I wished that I hadn’t had to. Even though I’d been alone, though, I knew that if Jensen had been there, he probably wouldn’t have known what to do. He was an amazing fighter, but he didn’t know Latin as well as I did.
As I tried to fall asleep, I thought about how lucky I was to have a family that cared for me. They didn’t always show it in the most conventional way, but it was still there. And I was glad for it. I didn’t know how I would have turned out with a different family.
After what had happened, I promised myself, half asleep though I was, that I would work hard to not end up bandaged up in the bed again. I would prove to Seymour that I could take care of myself, and that I deserved his care.End of Story Three