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Chapter 3 - Awake

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Ash woke up, startled. He had fallen asleep in the comfortable chair. The pale morning sunlight was filtering through lace curtains covering large bay windows at the far end of the room. A new day had dawn and hopefully a better one. He stood up and stretched yawning.

Jace had hardly moved during the night. He went nearer the bed to reassure himself his friend was still breathing. Seeing the shallow rise and fall of his chest, he suddenly felt foolish. Of course he is still alive, it was just scratches and a knock on the head wasn't it? Jace was a survivor. He always had been.

"Hey," he nudged his friend gently "get up ..." no response. He tried a different approach. "HEY! Get up man, we are going to be late for class. Get moving!"

The blond youth touched his friend's forehead. Warm. Was it the beginnings of a fever? He let out a breath he didn't know he was holding when Jace finally moved.

Jace's right hand travelled slowly upon the cool satin sheets, feeling the silky texture. Suddenly his eyes snapped opened. A sharp intake of breath as he tried to get up but fell back in pain as his sudden movement pulled at his tethered left hand.

"NO! No! Not again ... !", he gasped looking around wildly. His face had paled at some unseen horror.

"Whoa! Hey man, it's okay. It's just me."

"What ... ?" Jace's face was a mask of shock and panic as he struggled to get up again. "My hand! No! Let me go!"

Wide fearful grey green eyes stared uncomprehendingly at Ash as he tugged desperately at his hand. Ash had never seen Jace look like that before. It was scary. Jace was usually so composed and controlled. Guarded, the word came to him unbidden. It was a look that he would remember for a long, long time. His heart was racing as he yelled at Jace to calm down.

"Hey! It's me. You are going to be okay," better play it down. "You were in an accident. You're safe now."

Ash touched Jace's shoulder to reassure him but quickly pulled back his hand when his friend flinched violently.

"JACE!" he yelled at his face. What the hell? Jace, in a rare unguarded moment. What actually happened to him? What did she do to him? Jace wouldn't talk about it not even to him. He was suddenly angry at the woman who had ruined his friend's life.

"Where ...?" Fear. Confusion. Pain. Myriad expressions chasing each other on Jace's face. Hope.

Hope? What the hell? Shit! "You are safe. Not home okay? Okay?? Not home? You are out of that house! You hear me?!" Ash's voice rose in a panic, he was clutching Jace's shoulders and shaking him violently in desperation. "You're safe! Hey!" he was yelling his head off.

"Oww! Get off me! That hurts, you nut! Oww, owww, my hand! Get off!!" Troubled green eyes blinked rapidly as Jace got his bearings and tried to push his friend off feebly with his free hand.

"Stop! Stop it! You're killing me!! Ash! Get off!!" he yelled and immediately started coughing uncontrollably, gasping for breath.

Ash fell back panting. "You scared me, idiot." He watched cautiously as his friend caught his breath and took stock. "Don't do that again or I will kill you."

"Do what?" he asked sullenly, confusion clearly written all over his face. " ... Owww," Jace closed his eyes. His breathing was still ragged as he tried to regain control of himself. When he opened his eyes again, it was filled with pain. He scowled at Ash.

Thank God, Ash sighed in relief, Jace was back from whatever hell he had been.

"Never mind." Ash untied his friend and lowered his hand. The bandage needed to be changed he noted guiltily. The struggle had exaggerated the wound, it had started bleeding again.

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