By: Sarah Mayberry

It was Blue who had inspired both him and Rafel to quit their fine arts degrees and secure their own tattoo apprenticeships, and it was Blue who had allowed him to ink his first painstaking lines into her skin. She’d been there when he and Rafel decided they were sick of working for other people, too. In fact, she’d been the one to name Brothers Ink, something she liked to remind them of every few months or so. Just in case they were in danger of forgetting.

“She’s got a broken leg, two broken ribs, a torn liver and concussion.”

Eddie lifted his head to find his brother standing in front of him, hands dug deep in the pockets of his jeans. Eddie had been so lost in thought he hadn’t heard Rafel approach.

“A torn liver?” Eddie asked, focusing on the important stuff.

“The doctor called it a laceration and said she’ll be fine with bed rest.”

Eddie pushed his hair off his forehead with both hands. Trying to think, to get past panic and relief to the place where normal services could resume.

“Can I see her?”

“I don’t know, I didn’t ask.”

Eddie stood. “You should have.”

Rafel followed him into the hospital, where Eddie made a beeline for the nearest nurses’ station and asked questions until he was directed to the surgical ward. From there he was taken to recovery, where he had to talk his way around a formidable looking woman who gazed at him through a pair of steel-rimmed glasses.

“Who are you in relation to Ms. Sullivan again?” the woman asked.

“Her friend. She doesn’t have family. I’m it.”

And Rafel, and the other crew at Brothers Ink, but Steel Glasses didn’t need to know that.

“You can have five minutes. She’s woken from the anesthetic, but she’ll be groggy and sleepy.”

Eddie washed his hands and followed the woman into the recovery room, passing three beds before they arrived at the one containing a small, blue-haired figure. Seeing Blue laid out so helplessly, a tube snaking from her arm to a drip, her right calf heavily bandaged, was like a punch in the gut. She was incredibly pale, the colorful fairy tattoos on her arms and chest and the bruises on her face standing out starkly against her skin.

“Five minutes,” the nurse said before walking to her station.

Eddie moved closer to the bed, reaching for the hand free from the drip. Blue’s touch was reassuringly warm, and his shoulders dropped a notch.

“Didn’t anyone ever tell you to look both ways before crossing the road?” he said quietly, his voice thick with emotion.

Her eye socket was a deep purple, and a dressing covered her temple. His stomach twisted as he remembered how bloody she’d been when he’d fallen to his knees beside her on the road. The paramedics had said more than once that her denim jacket and leather jeans had saved her from more brutal injuries, and he saw that her other hand was brown with antiseptic where they’d cleaned the road gravel from her palm.

A wave of queasy dizziness hit him, driven by a visceral awareness that someone he loved was in pain. He bowed his head over their joined hands, breathing deeply, trying for the second time tonight to contain himself. When the dizziness had settled, he lifted his head and gazed at her face once more, consciously absorbing the fact that she was warm and alive and breathing. The bruises would fade, the broken bones mend. She would continue to blaze her trail through the world, a five foot tall warrior woman with bright blue hair and attitude to spare.

“Thank you,” he said, pressing a kiss to the back of her hand. He wasn’t sure who he was thanking — the universe, maybe — but he understood exactly how lucky they’d all been tonight. “Thank you.”

Blue woke slowly, first becoming aware that her bedroom was too bright — she must have forgotten to close the curtains last night — and then that there was too much noise. Then the pain hit her — a bone-deep ache in her leg, a burning sensation in her hand, a stab of hurt when she tried to frown.

She dragged her eyes open, blinking in bemusement at the bright white ceiling overhead. A vague memory pressed at the back of her mind. Something bad had happened. Something terrifying and unstoppable.

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