Traveler - Arwen Elys Dayton

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“Shinobu?” Quin asked when she saw him stirring. “Are you awake?”

“I think so,” he answered slowly.

Shinobu MacBain’s voice was thick and groggy, but he raised his head to look for her. It was the first time he’d moved in several hours, and Quin was relieved to see him conscious.

She carefully tucked the leather book she’d been clutching into her jacket pocket and crossed the darkened hospital room to where Shinobu lay, in a bed that looked too short for someone so tall.

Even in the dim light, she could make out the burns on both of his cheeks. They were mostly healed, and his head was now covered with a thick, even growth of dark red hair—but she was stuck with the memory of the singed and blood-caked hair the nurses had shaved off when he was admitted for surgery.

“Hey,” she said, crouching next to the bed. “It’s good to see you awake.”

He tried to smile, but it ended up as a grimace. “It’s good to be awake…except for every part of my body hurting.”

“Well, you don’t do anything halfway, now, do you?” she asked, letting her chin rest on the bed’s railing. “You’ll help me even if it means throwing yourself off a building, crashing an airship, and getting cut in half.”

“You jumped off that building with me,” he pointed out, his voice still thick with sleep.

“We were tied together, so I didn’t have a choice.” She managed a smile, though the memory of that jump was terrifying.

Shinobu had been in the London hospital for two weeks. He’d arrived close to death—Quin had brought him by ambulance after their fight on Traveler and the airship’s crash into Hyde Park. She’d been in this room, walking restlessly and sitting and sleeping in its uncomfortable chair, ever since. She had, in fact, turned seventeen several nights previously, while pacing between his bed and the window at midnight.

Behind Shinobu, the hospital’s monitors beeped and whirred, glowing lights traveling across their screens in shifting patterns as they measured his vital signs. They were the familiar backdrop of Quin’s days.

She lifted his shirt to look at the deep wound along the right side of his abdomen. The nearly fatal gash he’d received from her father, Briac Kincaid, had healed into a tender purple line, seven inches long. It had been sewn up so neatly, the doctors said the scar might disappear altogether, but at the moment the wound was still swollen and, judging from Shinobu’s expression, terrifically painful whenever he moved.

Aside from that injury and the burns on his face, he’d entered the hospital with a badly broken leg and several crushed ribs. The doctors had bathed the wounds liberally with cellular reconstructors, which were forcing him to heal at an accelerated rate. There was one drawback: the process was rather excruciating.

Quin brushed her fingers over a lump beneath his skin near the sword wound, and Shinobu caught her hand.

“Don’t make it drug me, Quin. I want the doctor to take those things out. I’m sleeping too much.”

To help with the quick-mending wounds, he’d been implanted with painkiller reservoirs near his worst injuries. If the pain became too intense, or if he moved too vigorously, or if someone pushed on the reservoirs directly, they released a flood of drugs, which usually knocked him out. That was why he’d been mostly unconscious for the past two weeks. This brief conversation was already one of the longest periods awake he’d had in days, and Quin took it as a very good sign. The doctors had told her his recovery would happen this way—slowly at first, and then accelerating unexpectedly.

“You’re refusing drugs now?” she asked him archly. Shinobu had been on very friendly terms with illicit substances back in Hong Kong, a habit he’d only recently broken. “You’re full of surprises tonight, Shinobu MacBain.”

He didn’t laugh, probably because that would have hurt, but he pulled her closer with the hand that didn’t have an IV running into it. Quin eased herself onto the narrow bed, and her gaze instinctively swept the chamber. The room was large, but bare of furnishings except for the bed, the medical machinery, and the chair in which Quin had been living. Her eyes stopped on the large window above the chair. They were on a high floor of the hospital, and through the glass was a panoramic view of nighttime London. Hyde Park was visible in the distance, emergency lights still erected over the broken bulk of Traveler.

Shinobu pushed his shoulder into hers