Chapter 33

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I was drowning.

Thick fluid filled my nostrils, my mouth. I choked, gagged. Fought for breath, succeeding only in sucking down deeper gobs of the fluid. I couldn't see the surface. Everything was blue. I tried to move but my limbs would not respond.

I was drowning.

"Breathe, Captain. It's oxygenated. Just breathe."

I was drowning. I hurled myself against my unseen bonds.

"Doctor, he's..."

"Yes. Putting him under now."

Drowning.

I was...

***

My dreams were haunted by her.

Hair aflame. Green-kindled eyes. Smooth, pale flesh scorching my fingertips. I ached for her, but knew I would be consumed in her conflagration. The combustion of our souls.

Still I reached for her.

I reached for her and burned.

***

The hand was cool and soft, fingers entwined in mine.

I opened my eyes.

Partridge's head was suspended above me, cheek flattened. Her eyes were closed. Asleep.

I tilted my head to one side. I was in a medical pod.

Partridge had rested her head on the plasglass cover above me. Her breath fogged and cleared and fogged on the transparent surface.

One of her arms was inserted into my pod and she clutched my right hand in hers.

I took a breath. Then another. Deeper, longer. I was alive.

I must have disturbed her. Her eyes opened and she looked down into mine. So very blue. Shaded almost indigo in that moment.

I couldn't think of anything to say, so I didn't. I lay there and watched her eyes. Watching mine.

We didn't move.

I drifted into her blue.

***

The warming fragrance of stew greeted me. My head spun, for a moment I thought I was in the Brash Monkey. I opened my eyes, expecting to see Margo, but it was Rivera.

He smiled at me. "No more sleeping, Captain. It is time for eating and rejoining us poor mortals, no?"

He raised my bed into a sitting position and placed a bowl of stew on a table that arose out of the frame.

"What happened? How long?" My jaw was working. My voice was smooth and easy. My throat was clear. I felt fine. In fact, I felt magnificent. I stretched under the covers, wincing in anticipation. But there was no pain. Just the languid comfort of the slow release of tension. As though my whole body was yawning.

"A full week, Captain. Seven days. Your recovery is a thing of many wonders, Captain. I have never seen the like."

One day I was going to have to sit down and calculate exactly how much of the past few months I had spent unconscious. "Where are we?"

"The s'aanDaya is two days out from Elshabe, Captain."

I had missed the first two jumps in my own vessel.

"The crew? Is everyone..."

"Hush, Captain. Now is for eating. After is for talking. Partridge has not let anyone else see you, not one time. She says not until you are well. She is formidable, no? After this meal has been eaten, I will tell her that you are well. Good?"

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