Mack knew he was in trouble by the sensation of nothing that crept up his limbs. A numb, blank space gaining ground inside; his awareness fuzzed at the edges. He'd overextended himself in the worst way, pulling on reserves he hadn't given proper time to replenish. Drained since the moment he'd siphoned the violent chaotic energy overflowing from his apprentice before all this madness properly kicked off.
"Calponia," he murmured her name, twisting uneasily against the giving surface at his back. His sense of gravity was skewed, unable to pin down concepts of up versus down. He held his breath as his head swam, unsuccessfully trying to establish an equilibrium.
Fingers closed around his. A flood of golden warmth coursed through him from that gentle point of contact. Energy poured into him, revitalizing him in such an abrupt fashion it sent his head spinning anew in the opposite direction. He opened his eyes, trying to focus through the lazily turning world on the concerned face hovering over him. Grey green eyes above worry nibbled lips, a face achingly familiar and utterly wrong. He inhaled, squeezing the hand that held his as the world settled into place. Mack studied his apprentice in silence, wary to speak for what might escape his mouth. Through his wavering vision, he could still see the threads of the Edgewise trailing off her like shimmering water vapor. He might have shut the tavern out but it clearly hadn't done the same to him, offering him its energy through the living conduit of Cal.
Mack let his head loll to the side, covering his eyes with his free arm. He didn't let go of Calponia's hand and she didn't let go of him, but he couldn't look at her just now, ashamed he'd let his fears and doubts eat at him until it put everything in danger. He was still silently berating himself when he heard the quiet, muffled sniff, peeking out from under his arm to find his apprentice covering her own face.
"This isn't your fault, Cal," he said, answering the unspoken question that sang in the tension between her shaking shoulders. So quick to blame herself; so willing to take the burden of his stupidity onto herself. He reached up to tug on a hanging curl, pausing as he noticed shots of silver in her dark hair. A consequence of her temporary death, or maybe the fear she'd felt countless times since entering the multiverse of the Edgewise. He sighed, tucking it behind her ear. Calponia lifted her head to look at him, baring wounds deeper than he could truly or fully understand.
"Are you sure? You told me the bête noire weakened the Edgewise," she whispered. The suggestion was there, in how she wouldn't meet his gaze. She thought she was a burden to him.
Mack swallowed, prickled by guilt, and forced himself to sit up. "Listen here," he said, noting his location in the medical bay of the Aurai's Breath. He gestured to himself. "What happened up there? That's on me. I've been an idiot. Your curse might 'weaken' the Edgewise but not the way you think. A poor choice of words, again my fault." He took both her hands, pulling her focus even as he felt the Edgewise test his senses. He slowly allowed the tavern into his mind, a golden spool of energy that felt, somehow, relieved. There were still unanswered questions between the tavern master and his charge, but first there was Cal. He was terrible at this whole apprentice thing.
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***Winner of the Wattys 2016 for Hidden Gems*** The Edgewise exists everywhere and nowhere. A sanctuary to all realms, should you find the door. Managed by one Macklemore Edgewise, proprietor, guardian of the between places, and barman of mystery...