by Erin Zarro
A free serial story in the Fey Touched universe
I was awakened by my cell door being unlocked. I blinked, trying to remember where I was and what was happening.
Oh, right. I was being held prisoner by rogues who thought I could heal one –
And speaking of him, I watched as he came into my cell. He then closed and locked the cell door.
I blinked again. “What’re you doing here?” I shifted uncomfortably, my muscles sore. My back, where my wings would be if I unfurled them, hurt, too. Probably because I’d fallen asleep in a weird position.
Ry gave me an assessing look. “We’re roommates.”
“I don’t think so.” I tried to stand, but my equilibrium was all wrong. Ry came over and tried to steady me, but I pulled away quickly. “Do not touch me.”
“Okay, if you’d rather fall…” He shrugged. “Just trying to help.”
I eyed the swirling designs on his hands. “I just would rather you not touch me, all right?”
“Because of these?” Ry held up his hands. “They say it’s not contagious.”
“Only to rogues,” I said. “That’s what I heard.”
Ry went to the opposite wall, sat down, and pulled his knees to his chest. “So whatever shall we do?”
I went to the cot, because I was here first, damn it. And I wasn’t about to spend the night on the floor. I sat down, letting out a breath. What did he expect me to do? Heal him right here and now?
That wasn’t happening.
I turned away from him.
I couldn’t stand to think about him right now.
His people had kidnapped me, imprisoned me. Barely fed me.
And, wonder of wonders, wanted me to help them.
Ry cleared his throat, jolting me to the here and now. “It’s going to get worse, you know. I may not be….sane. The longer you wait – “
I whipped around to face him. “I did mention that I wasn’t healing you, right? Or did I just dream it? Because I’m pretty sure – “
He was in front of me and gripping my shoulders before I had time to bink. Or push him away. “Please. I don’t want the torture that’s coming. I beg of you.”
If he knew –
His hands were warm on my shoulders. The thin material of my shift made sure I was perpetually cold, but this…he was warm.
I could feel his pulse through his wrist, beating really fast –
I looked into his red-ringed eyes, and tried to feel disgust. We Fey Touched hunt his kind. Because they believed they were above the law.
But I… couldn’t.
“What are you doing to me?” With all my strength, I shoved him backward, and he – or, rather, his ass – hit the floor hard.
I tried to get my breath.
Ry’s face was flushed, but he gave no other outward sign of his embarrassment. He calmly stood and brushed the dust and dirt off his leathers. “Okay, I’m sorry I touched you. I shouldn’t have done that.”
“You didn’t just touch me,” I said softly. “You did something. Made me feel things I don’t actually feel.”
“That’s the thing,” he said conversationally. “It only works when the person actually does feel it. Somewhere deep inside.”
“Shut. Up,” I said, and laid down. I would try to sleep again.
Sleep never came.
In the night, I heard Ry thrashing on the ground.
I didn’t care. I didn’t care. I needed my sleep. And my strength if I was going to escape here soon.
But when he started grunting and moaning, I figured I was screwed.
I got out of bed and went to him. It was fully dark in our prison, so I couldn’t see anything. But I could hear. And feel.
He was soaked with sweat. His skin was scorching hot.
The first phase.
I swallowed hard. “What’s wrong?”
His head lolled toward me. “I’m…unwell.”
“No kidding,” I murmured.
His hand searched the darkness for mine. I didn’t know what came over me, but I allowed him to take my hand in his. “Please – “
“I can’t,” I murmured. “I’m sorry.”
“Tell me…tell me story,” Ry whispered. “Distract me from this pain.”
I swallowed hard. I didn’t know what would be remotely entertaining to a rogue. Stories of our battles would probably be awkward, so that was out –
“Tell me…about yourself.”
Myself? I supposed I could do that. “I’m an only child,” I said haltingly. “My parents were Hunters and they couldn’t have any more after me. They’d always wanted a big family.” I shrugged, even though he couldn’t see it. “I wasn’t lonely, though. I had playmates who were Fey Touched, and we all learned to fight together.”
“Ah…I was an only child, too…” Ry said softly, squeezing my hand. “My mom died young, and my father never mated again.”
“Most don’t.” I let out a breath. I couldn’t believe it. Here I was, talking to a rogue instead of plunging a dagger into his heart. And he was holding my hand, and…
I just felt sorry for him, that was all.
“I am sorry for your loss,” I said finally, licking my dry lips.
“I started fighting young… too. We have… that in common.” It sounded like he was smiling, but then he grunted, his hand squeezing mine tightly. Too tightly.
“Pain?” I asked, my heart flip-flopping.
I couldn’t heal him.
But…damned if I didn’t want to. That was the crazy part of being a Healer. You wanted to heal. To take away pain and disease.
But the end result….
No, I had to stay strong.
He was as good as dead, and I couldn’t save him.
“Ivy?” Ry asked, letting out a breath. “Is it…is it because I’m rogue? Because….because…I heard a peculiar rumor…”
I nodded. “Yeah, the Fey Queen who turned rogue via, what was it?”
“Right,” I said. “And supposedly she’d healed herself. But I also heard that it wasn’t a normal situation. That because the turning wasn’t a usual turning, it made it so she could heal herself.”
“Meaning…” Ry sounded horrifically sad. Like, broken heart, life is no good, kill me sad. I supposed if I were facing what he was facing, and there was a Healer who refused to help…
I was being a selfish jerk.
We owed nothing to rogues. They were anathema to us. So I needed to stop feeling sorry for him and stick to my guns and get myself out of there.
“Meaning,” I said, my voice shaking, “that there isn’t any way you could heal yourself. You chose this, Ry. This is the consequence.”
He grunted, groaned, and made an agonizing, wordless sound that I swear tore through my soul. “I didn’t know…”
I leaned in closer, because I didn’t hear what I thought I heard. “What, Ry? Are you saying you didn’t know?”
He grabbed my shoulders, surprisingly strong for being in so much pain. “That’s what I…said, Ivy.” His breath was warm.
“How?” I tried to move out of his grasp, but he was too damn strong. “Let. Me. Go.”
“Not till…not till you listen to me,” Ry said, giving me a gentle shake. “Listen…I didn’t know. It wasn’t a choice. I woke up from what I thought was a bender….and I was…rogue. There was no choice in it.”
He let go of me.
I pulled back, away from him. “That’s impossible. You just don’t remember making that choice. You were probably drunk or something. That’s all.”
“Funny…. thing,” Ry said. “I had myself tested. No alcohol, no drugs. No reason for me not to remember the night before. There was no bender, Ivy.”
I …didn’t understand. “But – “
“All rogues make a choice to turn, I know,” Ry snapped. He sighed. “I know! It’s been drilled into my head for…for years.” He grunted, then continued. “I didn’t make the choice, Ivy! Someone did this to me! Do you think I would have chosen it myself?”
“I don’t know,” I said evenly. What he was suggesting was freaking impossible. Rogues always made the choice.
But was it possible that he was telling the truth?
“You do know,” Ry spat. “You felt something earlier — pity. You know in your heart that I’m not a monster.”
I shifted. “Okay, let’s pretend this is all true and I believe you. What does that have anything to do with this?”
“Simple,” Ry said oh so patiently. “You return me to normal. Save me from this curse.”