“What are you doing here?”
She was curled up beside him, on his left arm, her chin resting on his shoulder.
“I was wondering when you were going to wake up,” Beth said, still blinking sleepily.
“I’m dreaming. This is still part of that weird dream.”
Beth pinched his right arm, hard.
“This isn’t that dream, Jack.”
“Then how— what—”
“I should be asking you the same question. I fell asleep in my nice, comfy bed at home, and wake up here. With a stiff neck and a headache.” She rubbed at her temple, massaging counterclockwise.
“Yeah? Let me tell you about—” Jack stopped. The pain at the back of his head was gone, save for a lingering ache. His neck didn’t feel like it had an army of fire ants crawling up and down the one side of it.
“Hmm?” Her eyes were closed.
“Do you think you could maybe get off my arm? I can’t feel it.”
She stirred, then climbed over Jack, settling against his right side, curling up just the same way as she’d been at his left.
“That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind,” he murmured. “Are you going back to sleep?”
She already had.
* * * * *
“What is she doing here?”
The question, shrilled in two voices, jerked Jack back from the brink of a doze-turning-to-real-sleep.
He blinked, found his left arm and hand actually wanting to cooperate without too much pain in rubbing some of the sleep from his eyes.
Patty and her sister stood in the doorway, brown eyes wide with shock behind gold and silver-rimmed glasses. They were buttoned up in their furry brown coats, but had foregone the hats, their red manes held back by gold and silver combs. Jack chose to think their cheeks were red with cold, rather than, say, anger.
“Isn’t it still early for visitors?” Jack asked.
“It’s 8:05. We let you sleep in a whole five minute past visiting hours,” said Catty.
“Though we see that was five minutes too many,” Patty said, her voice somewhat tighter than that of her sister.
Beth yawned, stretched, scratching at her already-mussed hair as she pushed herself up.
“Is it eight already?” she asked, yawning again. “I’ll just go call my dad.” She scooted to the end of Jack’s bed, and hopped down between the gap in the rail and footboard. She hurried through the door, excusing herself as she squeezed between the twins.
“She’s been here longer than a few minutes,” Catty observed.
“What is she doing in her nightgown? Just what were you two doing?”
Jack sighed. No matter what he said, they weren’t going to like the answer, so he closed his eyes.
“Oh, no. You’re not ignoring me this time, John Jacobs!”
It wasn’t the use of his name that caused him to open his eyes again, but the unmistakable sound of an open hand meeting a cheek.
Patty held a hand to her cheek, which was starting to glow as red as her hair. Her glasses had been knocked askew.
“How— dare you!” she squeaked.
“How dare you!” Beth returned, hair seemingly ablaze as the fluorescent lights from the hallway shone through it. Her eyes held a golden light all their own. Though she stood shorter than the twins, she seemed to fill the doorway. She jabbed a finger towards the other girl. “Don’t you ever use his name like that.”
“Like what?” Catty asked, from where she’d pressed herself against the door, as far from Beth’s reach as she could get without moving too far from her sister. Beth stormed past them, going up to the side of Jack’s bed. She peered at him, biting her lip.
“I just wanted—”
“His attention?” Beth finished for her. “Well, you’ve got it.”
“Why… is he just staring like that?” Catty asked, letting the door swing shut.
“Because he has no protection against Naming. He’s been dangerously close to the edge of the Veil, and your sister is meddling where she doesn’t need to be.”
“Nonsense!” Patty said. “Jack, are you all right?”
He nodded, slightly. “Yeah.”
“See?” She turned her attention back to Beth, hands on her hips. “Jack,” she said, still staring intently at Beth, “suppose you tell us just what Beth is doing here.”
“John Jacobs, don’t answer her,” Beth said. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
Jack blinked. Shook his head, as though waking from a trance. “They’re going to do more tests on me today, and I’ve already got a headache,” he groaned.
“Jack? I asked you a question.”
He shrugged. “I don’t know, Patty. I woke up and there she was. But I think she fixed whatever was wrong with my neck.” He raised his left arm and rotated it at the shoulder.
Patty glared, and sucked in a breath.
“Don’t,” Beth said.
The other girl tried to look innocent.
“If you ever do that again, you will regret it. And not like Kyle in dodge ball.”
Patty straightened her back, causing Beth to have to look up slightly to meet the girl’s eyes. “You’re bluffing.”
“Patricia Rosalee Quincy, if you invoke Jack’s name with anything other than love or respect, I will make sure you regret it.”
“Patty,” her sister said, tugging at her sleeve. “I don’t think she’s joking.”
“What can she possibly do to me?”
“I don’t think you want to find out,” Catty said.