Nate was three days late in coming back. Patrick sent someone to
find him, and then sent someone to give everyone the news that they
had. He'd been trying to kill a monstrous beast, was what Kitty heard,
and then she heard, "He's pretty bad. I don't know how we're going
to get him to come back."
Not a good sign.
So when Rich ran up to Franklin, puffing, Franklin immediately assumed
the worst. It was becoming a habit. "Where is he?"
Rich answered, "Patrick and Domino are hauling him back now. They
had to." He looked at the ground. "That is, Domino netted him."
"Oh." Franklin closed his eyes, and took the scene from Rich's mind.
Domino had taken one of the spare fishing nets and thrown it over
Nate, tying it tightly. Nate had started screaming at her. Behind
them, the mangled carcass of a huge boar stared down at the proceedings.
Most of the meat looked inedible. Franklin said, "Shit."
"Yeah." Franklin could also sense that they'd barely saved twenty
pounds of meat, and Rick was feeling guilty about it. Rich added,
"D'you need anything from me?"
Franklin opened his eyes and looked at Rich, still a kid at seventeen
and unable to grow any facial hair, face red and arms bulging with
muscles from hauling big game around. The offer was customary, though
Franklin never took anyone up on it. Nate was his responsibility.
Franklin answered, "No, I'll be okay. Where are they bringing him
"By the gardens, I think."
Franklin sent Rich on his way, and went to wait. He didn't have to
wait long. Domino and Patrick were hauling Nate in with the tatters
of fishing net, yelling at each other and Nate in the same breath.
Patrick was impeded a great deal by the other net, wrapped around
his shoulders and slung on his back, which was full. Domino yelled,
"Okay, Pat, on the count of three, I think we can let -- Oh, thank
CHRIST, Franklin -- go."
"Right." Patrick nodded at her, and they both let go. Nate threw
off the net, still yelling about the boar of the gods, or something.
Domino and Patrick both fell to the ground, either from the recoil
of letting go, or Nate's telekinesis.
Franklin got hold of his mind, lightly, and said, "Nate, come here,
come on, Nate, just-- come on..."
Nate whipped around, and took a few steps towards Franklin. Domino
stood up, but when Patrick started forward as well, she held up a
hand in warning. Patrick stayed back, watching Nate carefully. Franklin
was just about to get close enough to put Nate out for good, when
Kitty ran up, screaming, "Franklin! Watch out!"
He looked over at her, just long enough for Nate to telekinetically
pick up a nearby crate and bash him over the head. Kitty watched in
horror as Franklin got a surprised look on his face, and wilted onto
the dirt. Kitty skidded to a halt in front of Nate, too frantic to
be careful, and asked wildly, "What have you done?!"
Nate stared at her, and was reaching his hands around to grab Kitty's
neck. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion.
And then Domino took the opportunity to knock Nate out, too, with
a piece of two-by-four to the back of the head.
Kitty stepped out of the way as Nate tumbled to the ground beside
Franklin, and life seemed to snap back into focus. Kitty took a deep
breath, exhaling shakily. Domino looked at her, eyes full of steel.
Quietly, Domino said, "So." Her jaw was clenched. "This is rich."
Kitty avoided her gaze, instead kneeling beside Franklin. She said,
belatedly, "I think he'll be okay. He's just--"
Domino interrupted. "Unconscious. Thank you. I'm not blind."
Patrick stood to the side, holding the bag of fish, unwilling to
say anything, unable to move. Kitty looked at him, suddenly, and sniffed.
Domino sighed, gesturing for Rich -- who'd just come up -- to take
the sack, and for Patrick to grab Nate while she picked up Franklin.
To Kitty, she replied, "That's the other thing I was going to mention."
Kitty asked, a little fearfully, "What?"
Domino glanced down at Franklin, and then around them. Everything
wasn't falling apart, check, and she turned back to Kitty. "Well.
It seems that there's nothing but water around us."
Domino tried to be gentle as she carried Franklin up the steps, and
into his bedroom. "Nothing but water. A shift just full of ocean.
So nothing but flonqing fish to eat." Franklin groaned, a little,
and fluttered his fingers. Domino looked at Kitty, suddenly, noticing
the piece of paper in her hand. "What's that?"
Kitty looked down, fingers crumpling it. "Nothing."
It was Bobby who found her that night, after everyone else had gone
to sleep worrying about Franklin. He crept into the kitchen, hunched
over, and saw Kitty, the light from a candle flickering over the room,
bent over the table.
She saw him before he spoke. "Bobby," she said gently. "How are you
"I'm fine." He tilted his head. "How are you?"
She offered him a cup of tea, which he took, sitting across from
her. "I'm not all right, I don't think." He stayed silent, and finally
she added, "I think, I think I distracted Franklin, today. I think
I was the one that made this happen."
Bobby tilted his head. "That doesn't make sense
"No," she said shortly. "You don't understand. Irene-- and she laughed.
"It doesn't matter what Irene wrote down."
He put a hand over hers. "It does to you."
Kitty sounded frustrated. "But it doesn't make any *sense*! Every
step I make forward, I take two steps back. I mean, Nate told me he
saw claws, out there, and she talked about claws, getting into your
brain and twisting them around until everything else can leak in,
until little trickles can leak in. She said that Franklin would be
wounded by the Beast, at least I think that's what this means. And
I tried, I--" Kitty broke off, pulling her hand away.
Bobby stared into his cup, mimicking Kitty's posture. She sniffled,
and after a minute, apologized softly. He answered, just as softly,
"I don't understand."
"Neither do I," she said, and brushed away an invisible coffee-stain
from one of her pages.
The next day, they kept a vigil on Franklin, who was ordered to bed
for at least a day, maybe two, to nurse his bruised head. Ilsa had
joked about Nate having the thickest skull she'd ever met, because
he seemed fine, though was still unconscious from all the shift-residue
Franklin managed to burn out of his skull. Fixing Nate was the only
thing that Domino had allowed Franklin to do before he was put to
bed with a concussion.
Nate was blissfully sleeping, hadn't woken up in over eighteen hours.
Patrick joked about Domino not pulling her punches as they brought
She shrugged, unapologetic. "I never have."
Franklin was staring off into space, and Ilsa said, "Franklin. Are
you feeling all right?"
He blinked, twice, and refocused. "Hmm?" At their looks, he laughed,
hesitantly. "Oh, I'm okay. Tired. I didn't sleep well." Looking at
everyone with a sly grin, he added, "Every time I rolled over, my
Patrick chuckled. Someone had woken Franklin up every hour, because
of the concussion, so it wasn't a surprise he hadn't slept well. Ilsa
ushered them out of his room, saying, "You might as well catch up
on some sleep, have a nap. I'll wake you in an hour to check on you."
"Oh." He shook his head, lightly, replied with a wry grin, "Yeah,
maybe I will."
Domino and Patrick looked at each other in alarm. It was the first
time Franklin had ever willingly taken any rest since either of them
had arrived at the Oasis, the first time he hadn't complained about
being mothered or protected. They left his room, quietly, and shut
Franklin stared out the window, the pain in his head a faint throbbing,
right behind the eyes.
Nate woke up to the panicked cries of women.
Ilsa's voice rose among them, screaming something about bandages
and Franklin and rafts, but, he must have heard the last part wrong.
Nate grunted, rolling over, waiting for Franklin's sleepy grumble
to come from the other room and quiet them all down. Domino shuffled
in her sleep, grunting too, and curling up farther away from him.
He rolled over, and sighed. Ilsa's screams were quieter now, more
in control. Where the hell was Franklin, can't anyone get a decent
night's sleep anymore? He'd been out in the--
Nate sat up, groggy. He'd been out in the shifts. Domino scowled,
still fast asleep, and muttered, 'Huck Finn' in her sleep. Nate kissed
her forehead, and then extended his mind to figure out what the flonq
was going on.
He stopped at the bedroom next to theirs. Franklin wasn't there.
Kitty knocked on their bedroom door, softly, and he answered, #Come
in,# but the faint rapping was enough to wake Dom up. She opened
one eye, and saw Kitty come in, feet bare and making no noise on the
Kitty glanced at Nate. He eyed her. "Well?"
Kitty murmured, "Quietly, Nate. Mikhail's still asleep. I think it's
better if it stays that way. Especially if, if." She glanced out the
door, and said, "Mikhail, honey, go back to sleep."
Domino was already half-dressed, the laces of her boots stuffed inside,
untied. She said, "What happened?"
Kitty leaned against the doorframe. She looked so old. Her voice
sounded cracked. "What happened to Franklin yesterday. I, it's more
serious than we thought."
Nate was bewildered. "What happened to Franklin?"
Domino stood up, and brushed hair from her face. "You hit him with
"You'd been out too long." She cupped his cheek, and added, #He
didn't blame you. Once he woke up.#
Nate rubbed his eyes. "So what's wrong with him now?"
Kitty was uncomfortable. Her voice was high-pitched. "Well, the concussion...
seems to be more serious than we thought."
"Is he unconscious?"
Nate cut in impatiently, "Then how do you know?"
Kitty moved quietly to the window, and pulled the curtains. It was
mostly dark outside, with a gray tinge to the far west. Nate stared.
Their bedroom faced the quieter side of the Oasis, normally, a view
that was soothing as it was dull. It was dark out. Nate could still
see the little lines against the dark gray. Little lines that were
getting clearer, more defined. Egg-shell little cracks.
He frowned, said, "Is that...?"
"You're not wrong." Kitty was right behind him. "We think it's water
Domino sucked her breath in. The hiss was audible across the room.
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