by Lise

Chapter Five

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 through?"

"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. "More fish?"

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 doing?"

"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 Franklin lunch.

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 head hurt."

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 the door.

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 floorboards.

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 a crate."


"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?"

"No, he--"

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 trickling in."

Domino sucked her breath in. The hiss was audible across the room.


continued >>

-(main) - (biography) - (discussion) - (stories) - (pictures) - (links) - (updates)-