You wrap trembling arms around Rose’s waist and bury your face in her chest. You muffle a scream of painfearrage into her dress that seems never ending. You have no idea what to do with yourself, no idea how to make it stop and she’s hurt. You can tell she is.
And you know that means everyone else probably is as well. You’ve felt the rage and tear of the chucklevoodoos before, several times, in your life. You know what they can do, and you can’t do anything about it.
Your claws tear through the fabric of her clothing, but you manage to avoid clawing into her skin.
By the time you stop screaming you’re starting to feel so stretched thin and hollowed. You’re so relieved she’s here. It’s like an unraveling; an unwinding of the tension between your shoulders and in your mind.
A darkness of a different kind rushes up and you fall limp against Rose’s body.
You rub slow circles upon his back as he screams, crooning soft and low into the crown of his head as his claws tear into the fabric of your dress.
He tries to be gentle, still. Despite it all he spares your skin. Just as he had when you first met one another, when you were delicate and pale and he was still so strange.
The world changes when he loses consciousness. The air is no longer heavy with decay, or tinged with the metallic tang of blood; it is crisp and cool and all you taste is the earthiness of stone. The thrumming of chucklevoodoos ceases. Only in its absence do you realize how very far they’d crept under your skin. They had beat in rhythm to your heart, a second pulse that carried weariness and fear throughout your body.
You are no longer ill from your river crossing, but the sores from that putrid growth remain.
You shift into a sitting position, adjusting Vantas’ (dead, ha) weight on you but you don’t let him go. You continue to rub his back, to coo and croon at him. You close your eyes, remembering the heaps of warm pelts by the fire pit in the main room of the Hiveden. Around you, the bubble shifts to accommodate.
You sigh heavily, resting now on soft fur instead of hard stone.
For now, it seems, it’s over.