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Chapter Twenty-Six, Aftermath

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Bennie snapped awake, breathing hard. She still felt fire pulsing through her.

She jerked upright in the bed, trying to get her bearings, only Aila's soothing voice and Sean's strong arms kept her down.

"Perce," Bennie said when she found her tongue. She turned her eyes to Sean's pain-ridden face. She couldn't even look at Aila.

"You tried, Bennie," she said. "You tried."

Bennie looked down at her hand; the one Perce had taken in his before her transformation.

The mark she had grown so used to seeing on his hand, on her shoulder, was there on her own.

Bennie's face crumpled with pain, and Sean grabbed her tightly in both arms.

"We'll be okay, Bennie," He said, but his voice quivered, and he shook as he held her.

Bennie tried to control her own emotions. She had the least reason to cry, and Sean was about to break down. She had to help him.

A pair of smooth, gentle hands reached around Sean and Bennie together. Gemini held them close, silent and still, but tears ran down her flawless face. Sean's racking sobs broke Bennie's wall. She reached out to take Aila's hand, the fairy still silent and white-faced with grief.

Bennie tried to speak, tried to tell them what Perce had asked her to in her dream, but she couldn't. Not now. Now she just needed to be there, with her family.

Family...

Mom.

Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you say something?

Bennie cried.

***

Aila had gone away to report to Esla about Bennie's condition, Gem's family, safe from Dwendol thanks to Perce, had come looking for her, and she left quietly. Sean had fallen asleep at a single note Gem had hummed and was curled in a chair by the bed.

But Bennie was awake. No music could give her sleep; no song could give her respite from all that had happened, all she had done.

I fell right into the trap. If I hadn't gone, someone else may have been able to rescue Perce eventually. If I hadn't gone—

"I know what you're thinking," Aila said. "And you're wrong."

Her sudden appearance made Bennie jump, and she slammed into the bedside table and sent a metal water cup to the ground with an abnormally loud clang. Sean merely stirred slightly and shifted position, turning his head uncertainly, like a little boy who lost sight of his dad in a crowded room.

"Am I?" Bennie said, not questioning the fact that Aila probably did indeed know what she was thinking.

"If you hadn't gone for Perce," Aila's voice betrayed her pain when she said his name, "He'd still have been gone forever and without any goodbyes. You would have a chance to gain the powers that are your right. They'd have died with Perce, and you'd–we'd–never stand a chance against Reyortsed.

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