Lee disappeared shortly after dropping Xaxac off, so Xac was left with nothing but his thoughts. With his arm strapped to the wood he couldn’t even knit, though he was almost certain he didn’t need the thing anymore. He could move his hand perfectly now; he could feel the arm again, and it felt fine. There was nothing wrong with him.
But there was something wrong with the house, maybe even the whole plantation. Where was everyone? And why did Jimmy leave? Was Jimmy always going to leave? Why didn’t Lee care that Jimmy had left?
He needed to talk to Alley. Alley really didn’t need this right now, didn’t need to be alone, didn’t need to lose someone else. She was already having a hard time, already hormonal, already having mood swings.
He missed her.
It had been so long since he had seen her, and she had been such a huge part of his life for so long.
How had his life become so different so quickly? What had happened to him?
Time ticked by slowly, and Xaxac thought very seriously about taking off the wood still attached to his arm. It was pointless. There was no more pain, no more numbness.
He walked to the window and looked out over the vast fields stretching toward the back of the plantation. Much of it had already been harvested. He could see the greenhouses from the sitting room, and thought of what he had learned from the book Lorsan had read; the entire planet was a greenhouse, and there were, apparently, worlds beyond the glass, the firmament, worlds beyond the stars where gods dwelt.
According to that book, Thesis had created him, too, had created all life on Xren. The elves were made in Thesis’s image, but he had created everyone. It was strange… it was odd to him that a loving god would create people, create beings like the elves to watch over them, and still allow the things Xac saw in the world. Jimmy shouldn’t have left. He should be here, for the baby.
And elves were supposed to take care of them.
Xac looked down at his arm and thought of Agalon, reading that book while he ran from Billy for his life.
Agalon wanted him to know not to run. He was taking care of him. This was a punishment, like being spanked. Agalon had known he would heal from anything Billy could do to him.
He was taking care of him
He loved him.
It didn’t even hurt anymore.
“Let me get a look at him,” the vet said, and Xaxac jerked toward the sound of the door opening. How long had he been staring out the window? It wasn’t morning anymore. Had he zoned out? Was he getting that good at not thinking?
“It was broken,” Agalon said, “ripped it out of the socket so hard the muscle tore. I healed him and give him a potion, so now I’m just prayin I set it right.”
“How you feelin little bunny?” The vet asked, and Xaxac smiled up at him.
“I’m fine!” he chirped, “It don’t hurt at all no more!”
“That’s great, darlin,” the vet said, and lifted the arm by the hand as he spoke to Agalon, “The humerus?”
“I reckon,” Agalon said.
“Darlin, make a fist for me,” the vet said, and Xaxac obeyed him, “Your arm don’t hurt no more?” Xac shook his head, so the vet continued, “Let’s take the splint off and see what the hell happens.”
He untied the bandages that held the wood to Xac’s arm, winding them as he did so, took the wooden planks and set them on the writing desk, then moved the arm at the elbow.
“That hurt?” He asked, and Xac shook his head, “Alright, darlin, move it in circles at the shoulder, arm above your head, alright? Full circle.”
Xaxac obeyed him and the vet stepped back to give him room.
“He’s got full range, Kai,” he said, and to Xac asked, “that don’t hurt?”
“It did when I hit the ground,” Xac said, “But not no more.”
The vet grabbed his arm and twisted in the place that had once hurt so badly that even a touch had sent waves of hot pain radiating through his body, but this time he felt only the twisting and squeezing.
“That don’t hurt?” The vet asked, and Xac shook his head.
“Touch each finger to you thumb,” the vet said as he demonstrated, so Xac did.
“He’s fine, Kai,” the vet said, “good circulation, no nerve damage, you set it right. The skeletal structure of the limbs is about like elves; it’s hard to mess up.”
“That shifter healin’s somethin else…” Agalon said, “Even with the potions it’d take days to heal… this is… good to have.”
“Yeah,” the vet agreed, “You give us a scare, little bunny. You gotta quit doin that.”
“I’m sorry,” Xac said and pouted.
“I’ve been over um and over um,” Agalon said, “there ain’t nothin in the rules that says you can’t enter a shifter. Nothin. I don’t reckon anybody’s ever tried before.”
“It’s too late,” the vet said, “and honestly, Kai, he’s not in the best shape. He’s cute as hell but I don’t reckon he can knock anybody down.”
“He wants to exercise,” Agalon said, “He’s said over and over he wants to exercise. And he’s so fast…”
“I like to run around!” Xac said enthusiastically, “But um… I was thinkin… I kinda… I wanna do somethin again, Aggie? If I can?”
“Whatcha mean, Honey Bunny?” Agalon asked as he walked over and put an arm around him, and Xaxac instinctively snuggled into his side as he spoke again, to the vet, “Nelly, you gotta stay for lunch.”
“Aggie?” Xaxac asked, trying to sound as meek as he could, “Is mama back? I’m scared to eat without her. The last time I eat without her, I got sick.”
“She ain’t your mama, Honey Bunny,” Agalon said, “But rest assured that ain’t gonna happen again. I took care of it.”
This didn’t really answer his question, and the lack of an answer made him nervous, but he looked up at Agalon, smiled, then snuggled further into his side.
There was a new boy serving them in the dining room at lunch, which made sense with Jimmy gone, but Xaxac didn’t know him, and didn’t like the way he kept staring at him. He was much younger than Jimmy had been, probably lacked a good two or three years, and wasn’t nearly as good at being invisible.
He had no interest in communicating. His eyes said nothing, and his posture gave nothing away. He simply stood with his hands folded behind his back unless he was needed, and sometimes not even then. Xac’s glass often got below half empty before he noticed.
But that was fine.
It didn’t really matter. It wasn’t like any of it really mattered.
Xac hoped Jimmy had had a chance to give the blanket to Alley. Surely he had, last night. Surely they had spent one last night together, knowing he had to leave.
“What I would do if it was me,” the vet continued when Xac tuned back into the conversation, “Is carboload him, then supplement with vitamins. That actually probably wouldn’t hurt you none either, Kai, everybody’s usin vitamins nowadays. They come in little capsules.”
“I saw the ads,” Agalon said, “I just don’t know about none of that… fad health stuff. It’s a ‘buyer beware’ kind of thing.”
“These work, I swear it on my practice,” the vet said, “All kinds of stuff out there, it’s good for you. You get him some calcium, some D, some B, put it to exercisin? He’d be unstoppable.”
The cornbread was too heavy. Whoever had made it hadn’t used enough baking powder. It tasted like a Johnny cake. His mommy hadn’t made it; she knew how to make cornbread.
Salads tasted the same no matter who made them.
“How much would all that mess cost?” Agalon asked as Xaxac chewed in judgement.
“Not that much, not from me,” The vet said, and Xaxac thought that salads tasted the same no matter who made them.
He thought the conversation might be more lively if Lorsan was still in the house. He found himself missing him. He missed a lot of people. At least he knew that Lorsan and Jimmy were at the military academy; Jimmy might get to see royalty.
But where was everyone else?
Salads tasted the same. No matter who made them.
“You wanna run out to the fighters before you run off on me?” Agalon asked, “Give them a look over?”
“I can if you want me to,” the vet agreed, “I reckon they’re fine. Might wanna pull back on the magic next time.”
They both laughed, but Xaxac didn’t get the joke.