I wash and put away used glasses. My hands shake so much I have to catch one with magic before it shatters on the floor.
Too long. I’d spent way too long in the last world. I hadn’t kept up with the flow of time in this one. The upcoming battle is still a bit away, but closer than I thought. I still have plenty of time, I keep telling myself, at least a season. Time for recon and ether-nudges that could have a decent effect on the outcome.
I gather bits of hair and blood from the boys. Touching their foreheads, I judge about six hours before they wake which will place it well after dawn. That will give them the rest of the day to find and enter my home.
Daylight is a little protection. Darkness hides all manner of ills, and most of the Black Knights and pawns utilize the night. Still, there are many others not affected by the sun or moon, many who can watch and act during the day.
Jim’s footsteps on the stairs are a nice reminder that someone will always care about me. Well, at least for as long as he lives anyway.
He enters, sees the boys asleep, one on his bed, one on his sofa and gives me a look that older brothers would give little sisters. I go to him and bury my head in his chest, soaking up the solidness of him, his living heartbeat.
I’ve done this a time or two, prepared for battle. It never ends exactly the way I want it to end. Sometimes I lose people I love.
“When I tell you, I want you and your family to go to my place. Don’t ask questions. Just take your wife and daughter to my home and wait there until I tell you it’s safe.”
He takes my shoulders and pushes me far enough away to read my face. Yes, Jim has bits of genetic magic. Yes, I’ve helped him practice his skills. Yeah, knowing me the way he does helps him read things I don’t let others see.
He studies my eyes, well Chloe’s eyes since I had put her face back on before Nick returned.
“Just be ready when I tell you.”
He takes my hand and leads me to the closet. Pulling out one of two duffle bags, he unzips it. Inside are dangerous pointy things and guns.
“We’re always ready, Kimi. That one has food,” he says pointing to the other. “Those have clothes and hygiene stuff,” he waves his hand over three backpacks shoved to the back – one for each of them, Jim, Leslie and their daughter, Lily.
“I gave the boys your instruction book,” I warn.
“Don’t need it anymore and you know that.” He puts the suitcase back in the closet. “You’re going home now? Leaving them here?”
“Yes, but I’ll have to leave soon, maybe a week. I want to keep it from touching here.” I gesture to the boys. “They’ll come find me tomorrow. If you see them, send them to the high school.”
Jim grins, the lines around his eyes crinkle. “Really? Still playing?”
“Always. You know what they say about all work and no play.”
He wraps his arms around me and I rest my head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat. One beat for Leslie, one for Lily, one for Leslie and one for Lily. He lives for those girls. It makes my heart warm to know that it is my fault they are together and happy. They are my weakness.
“I’ll try to remember that if the world ends.”
Have I mentioned I’ve known Jim for a very long time?
“That won’t happen.”
“There are no guarantees, Kimi. Haven’t you learned that already?”
I scrunch up my face. I refuse to believe that I cannot make everything right by mere will alone.
Jim laughs and puts his hand on the back of my head. He kisses my forehead.
“How old are you, girl? Centuries older than us mortals? You look like pure petulance.”
Finally, I do stick my tongue at him. “Silly human who knows too freakin’ much.”