Broken:Hidden Book Two(2)

By: Colleen Vanderlinden

I don’t know how many hours I spent whaling away at the punching bag Stone installed for me after Nain’s death. When I wasn’t beating up on bad guys, this was my place.

My knuckles bled, healed, cracked, and bled again. My arms were tired, but not tired enough to make me stop. Constant motion, hitting, was the only thing keeping me sane. I stopped punching, looked up at the sky. It was probably a little after three A.M. I’d been at it since I got home from taking out the werewolves a little after midnight.

I punched the bag again. Harder. I would not cry.

Before Nain, I’d been so good at avoiding feeling things. I had managed to keep emotions, mine and others, in their own compartment. I recognized them, but they didn’t affect me.

He changed everything.

I stopped punching for a minute, rested my forehead against the punching bag. The air around me was frigid. It didn’t matter. My breath formed clouds in the dark night.

I tried to remember to breathe. I wished I could stop. Stop breathing, stop feeling, stop living. Just, stop.

I felt Brennan’s presence nearby. Shook my head, tried to pull myself together, and started punching again. Sure enough, within seconds, the roof door was opening, and he strolled out, dressed, as usual, in jeans and a flannel shirt. I glanced at him, continued whaling on the bag.

“Are you going to sleep at some point tonight, or spend all night up here, hitting things?” he asked, leaning against the wall.

“Am I keeping you up, Bren?” I asked, well aware of the snarl in my voice.

He shook his head, watched me for a while in silence. I kept punching, hoping he’d go away.

“You’ve been up here every night for weeks. You’re busy the rest of the time with meetings and keeping this place running and fighting big bads. Everyone has to sleep sometimes.”

“I sleep when I need to.” This, along with everything else in my life, had changed with Nain’s death and its aftermath. Meeting Nain had helped me tap into my powers, and losing and avenging him had taken them a step further. Or, a few hundred steps further.

I barely felt human at all any more.

“You’re going to eventually lose your temper and incinerate that one,” he said, gesturing at the bag I was hitting. “And then Stone will put another one up for you, and he’ll be happy because it gives him something to do for a while and he can feel useful again.”

“He’s busy enough. He’s still out there kicking ass.”

“But you’re keeping him away from the really bad stuff. That’s the stuff he lives for, and you know that. You take all the bad shit, and you leave him and the rest of us with the supernatural equivalent of traffic stops.”

I stopped punching and looked at him, finally. “I’m not in any hurry to lose anyone else right now. I’m sorry if that offends you, Brennan. And if you’re here to lecture me again, you need to leave. Because I’ll be honest,” I said, hitting the bag so hard it swung, creaking on its chains. “I’m really not in the mood tonight.”

“Six months,” he said quietly. “You’re not the only one who’s been keeping track.” We stood in silence for a few minutes. “Sometimes it feels like we lost both of you that night. Those first weeks afterward, you were a zombie. Now, you’re like a machine. We all understand. We’re mourning him, too.”

“Did you strike the blow that killed him?”

Brennan just looked at me.

“Then you have no goddamned idea how I feel.”

“You know as well as I do that he knew it would happen that way,” he said quietly. I sensed nervousness in him. “He knew it would kill him, and he told you to do it anyway.”

I turned away. “How did you know that?”

“He left me a letter. Father Balester delivered it, after. He knew.”

“I know he did. I got to hear his thoughts as he died.”

“So maybe you should stop blaming yourself. Maybe you should blame him for putting you into that situation. Or maybe you should blame whoever was ordering Astaroth to capture you. But you can’t keep blaming yourself for something you had no control over.” He paused. “And that last part is something I do have experience with, and you know I do.”