Chapter 64: Family

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January 10, 2358

Valor Prestige Hospital

Valor, America

It was almost midnight when the door to her room opened. In an instant, Ari dimmed the tablet and waited as the doctor entered the room. The door was eased into place so that the light from the hall could illuminate most of the room, without shining on her bed directly. Which would have been considerate if Ari wasn't curled up in the chair on the other side of the room.

The left side of her mouth pulled up into an expectant grin when the figure turned around and found the bed empty. It was just like old times when she heard him sigh, "Damn it, Ari, get back in the bed."

Turning the tablet back on, she was careful to keep her eyes averted as she answered, "All of my sensors are in place. I'm not dead yet. The monitors can tell you that."

For a moment, Jace continued to stare at her while she scrolled through the news. Instead of replying or making more demands, however, he turned and headed to the monitors. Nothing was said as he recorded her nighttime numbers and current activity levels. When he did speak, it was as her doctor. Nothing more.

"Have you slept at all, yet?"

"I've been asleep for six days. I am far from tired."

He quickly tapped that into his notes.

"Where's your mom?"

"Sleeping. Like I expected you to be," he added in a mutter she was sure she wasn't meant to hear.

"So you'll only brave entering my room when I'm unconscious?" she retorted, raising her eyes to study his face.

His eyes met hers and she could see by the set of his jaw that he was going to say something. More than likely, it was going to be an excuse, and she smiled in daring as she waited. That's when his jaw set and he told her the truth.

"I don't want to fight with you, Ari. Not now. For one whole day, I would like to know that you're alive and healthy and okay. And the only way I figure I'll ever get that whole day is by staying out of your way. So, please, just let me have that much."

Ari listened to the weary desperation in his voice with a pleasure she didn't bother to hide. After what he did, and how he made her feel, he deserved to squirm a little. And yet, that one day didn't sound so bad.

"What time?" she asked, causing his eyes to widen in surprise.

"What do you mean?"

Fighting a grin, she repeated, "What time will you be back here to fight with me?"

Jace was far less successful at controlling his own smile. It pulled up one side of his face and he had to turn away from her for a second before answering. "About eleven. Give us time to really fuel up before we get going."

Ari nodded once and returned her attention to the tablet. "See you at eleven."

Shaking his head, Jace headed for the door. And just before he left the room, he said, "Try and get some sleep, Keir."

Ari ignored him.

*

January 11, 2358

Valor Prestige Hospital

Valor, America

The four of them laughed as Cai once more failed to catch a grape in his mouth. Amaris, on the other hand, flicked one off a fingernail and snapped her teeth around it in less than three seconds. Cai shook his head in mock shame.

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