Day Twenty-One

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SHE REGAINED CONSCIOUSNESS THE next day. She gasped at the pain in her body and patted herself down, peering at her hands, at the rain still soaking the world outside the cave, joined now by thunder.

She was alive.

Rance ran to her side. "You're awake," he whispered. His face melted in relief.

"I--What happened?" Her voice came out a croak. Her throat was sore. She looked around, but the cave was empty. "Where are they?"

His face changed, and the sadness in his eyes sent a jolt of panic through her. "How much do you remember?"

"The ledge," she said. "It was on me at the ledge--Rance, what happened? What is it? Who--" She struggled to a sitting position, leaning her back against the cold stone. It dug into the bruises in her back and she winced, but barely noticed it as Rance sat down beside her, taking her hand.

"It was on top of you. You were about to throw both of you over, and then..." His voice cracked. "And then Finn jumped on it."

Raina's heart stopped. "No."

He nodded. "He took it down with him. He saved your life."

"No," Raina said, her eyes filling with tears. She blinked them away, but they kept coming. "Finn can't be gone. He can't."

A tear slipped down Rance's cheek as he merely nodded. "After it happened, you were... unhinged. You screamed his name, over and over, until you couldn't anymore. We couldn't pull you away from the ledge. You refused to leave. Until we all realized how bad Calen was."

Raina's eyes widened. "What happened to Calen?"

Rance's face was pained as he spoke, like every word grated at him. "You saw its claws, how long they were. When it bit into his shoulder, it stabbed him. And it punctured his lung."

Raina's voice failed her.

"He's still alive, but barely. He's not going to make it."

The clapping of thunder could not come close to the cracking in her heart. She gulped down breaths and dug her nails into her palms until she drew blood, squeezing her eyes shut as thought after thought slammed into her like the winds of the hurricane, the storm that had started it all. "I can't do this," she whispered. "I can't."

"You can, and you will. We all will."

"I can't, Rance. Make it stop. Please, make it stop." She burrowed her face in his chest and he wrapped his arms around her, letting her sob into the shredded remains of the front of his suit. He let her grieve, let her scream into him, giving her the only comfort he could as he rubbed her back. The chain around her chest pulled tight and her body heaved, the pain strangling her until it closed down her thoughts, leaving her with nothing but an aching, teeming blackness, seeping out of her into the world, cloaking the cave like a curse, an impossible prison. They had lost Finn, and they would soon lose Calen. They had both deserved so much more than this.

At last, she sat up, her face swollen and her voice hoarser than before. She refused to let that darkness take refuge in her mind again, to let it join her memories of the crash. Rance merely waited, watching her, his face blank as he let her approach the facts on her own terms, at her own pace. She closed her eyes, focusing on the dampness of the air, the cold stone underneath her, the gentle spray brought in with the wind. She was here. She was grounded.

She opened her eyes. "What of Maeve?" she asked, wiping her nose. She sniffled. "She got hit hard. Where are the rest?"

"She's okay," Rance said. "Banged up, but okay. Kieran's scouting, making sure it was alone. And Arleigh... Arleigh lost an eye." Raina gasped, and he continued. "But she took it well. She and Maeve took Calen out into the storm. He asked for it, to feel like he was in the sky one last time."

When the strength returned to her body, he took her to them. She did not even feel the rain as she lay down beside Calen and wrapped an arm around him. "I'm sorry," she whispered.

He nodded and offered a small smile, his breaths coming out uneven and pained. "You didn't do anything wrong," he said. Despite their conflicts, the mistrust they had let get between them in the past, he meant every word of it. 

They lost Calen that evening.

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