Seventeen: "Worrywart"

       Matthias limped away, his soft "Good night, Cecily" echoing in his wake. Sighing, I turned and made my way through the winding halls. I hadn't meant to be such morose company, but I'd found myself distracted by worrying in a dozen different directions - Harry, Stark, Ilie, Zamorna, etc. - that my usually adequate social skills were at their worst. Matthias had pegged it quite accurately. I was glum.
       It was annoying the hell out of me.
       I didn't bother to light the lamps, just pulled off my boots and flopped into bed, though I knew the Sandman was not passing by anytime soon. I listened to the faint sounds of the night that made their way through my window. The problem is, I'm not used to worrying. Well, not much. I worry about Harry all the time, even when I know he's safe. But that's different. I worry about him, but I'm not responsible for him. And that's the catch. Suddenly, I'm responsible Or at least I feel responsible. When you spend thirty-odd years only feeling responsible for yourself, it's a serious world-turner to suddenly feel otherwise.
       I wonder how Matthias has handled it all these years?
       I realized suddenly I was having the same conversation with myself that I've almost every night had for the last three weeks. Great. Not only am I having anxiety attacks, I'm also redundant. I really wanted a drink (or four) then, but figured taking this Pattern thing with a hang-over wasn't going to be in my best interest. I resigned myself to sober ponderings and eventually fell asleep.


       Ilie was positively gleeful when I told him about Stark's return to Dragos. As I had been expecting a fit, I counted my blessings and let him have his delusions of success. We were walking down the hall when I mentioned not-to-casually that my next stop was the Pattern.
       He stopped dead in the hall, his wings rustling in that way that I'd come to associate with a frown. "And just where do you intend to do after?"
       I gave him a frown of my own. "My bed, thankyouverymuch. Unlike Miss Stark, I have better sense than to go off galavanting into shadow when I have no way back."
       He didn't take the bait; instead, in that no-arguments voice said, "You will come to me. And I will put you in your bed."
       Lose one brother...
       I sighed. "Fine. I'll come to you. And you can help me to my room." Having offered that compromise, I beat a hasty retreat before he could disagree.


       It was dark when I woke, the first (and only) thought in my mind that dying was actually worse than the Pattern, but not by a whole hell of a lot. I didn't have much chance to ponder the comparison, because I went right back out.
       My dreams were mixed with vivid memories - once, I saw Jasper standing with my father at the First Gate - but most had faded by the time I awoke again, this time to painfully bright sunlight streaming in. I would have prefered a hangover.
       On my way down to breakfast I remembered some of what had passed yesterday, after I'd collapsed in Ilie's arms. I specifically remembered arguing with him (pathetically) that I was more than capable of getting myself to bed as we came to the top of the stairs, to find Matthias there.
       Matthias, who was, of course, sitting at the table as I dragged myself in for breakfast.
       "You look tired," he observed wryly as I slid into a chair and tried not to fall asleep in my gruel.
       "Been worse. Been better, but been worse." I propped my suddenly too-heavy head one a hand. "I hope I didn't make too much of a babbling fool yesterday."
       He smiled then. "No, you were just... argumentative."
       "Uh huh." I dug into my gruel, which was dotted, surprisngly, with raisins.
       Matthias told me then that as soon as Griffin, who'd also taken the Pattern the day before, awoke, they'd put the king on it. As I made my way back to my room for a nap, I wished Grayson luck. He'd need it.