“What did you do?” Noah asked. He sounded far away. That couldn’t be right. He stood inches away from me.
“This one’s on you,” I meant to say. I didn’t hear anything come out, though.
“I’ll make you pay for this,” he said.
Noah knelt down and pulled me into a sitting position. When had I laid down? This felt worse than being drunk. I’d never used up all my magic before; I didn’t even know I had this limit. The world looked dull and black edges threatened to swallow my vision. Noah’s angry, green eyes would have scared me if anything could. I didn’t have room for fear anymore. Numbness consumed physical and emotional sensations. Noah aimed the knife at my gut in slow motion. Would it still work after soaking up the demon? That thought probably should have worried me. What if it did, and I got trapped inside that crystal with the demon? It didn’t seem to matter. I couldn’t stop this. Acceptance settled over me.
Noah Smith’s head jerked to the side, and he fell over before he could plunge the knife into my stomach. He dragged me with him. I looked into lifeless eyes, not comprehending what had happened. The darkness drew in closer. Someone else grabbed me and pulled me up, but that proved too much for my weakened system. I lost consciousness before I saw who’d come to my rescue.
I woke up alone in a room I didn’t recognize. The dull walls, adjustable bed, and beeping machine next to me told me someone had brought me to a hospital. I didn’t remember why at first. Never in my life had I woken up so exhausted. How was it even possible to wake up this tired? Shouldn’t my body have just stayed asleep? Memories came back to me in fragments. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t remember anything past Noah Smith’s dead eyes. We’d won. Smith’s allies wouldn’t have brought me to the hospital. But I didn’t know what happened to the DPI team. Had they all gotten through the firefight okay? Someone pushed the door open before I could figure out which button would summon a nurse.
“You’re awake,” Boone said. Relief rushed through me at the sound of his voice. He smiled at me like I’d performed a miracle.
“Don’t look so disappointed,” I joked. I noticed stitches crossed his forehead into the hairline at his right temple. Other than that, he looked fine.
“The doctors didn’t know what was wrong,” Boone said. “I was considering going to the market to find you a healer.”
“How long have I been out?” I asked.
“What happened? Is everyone else okay?”
“Mostly. Jameson needed surgery to remove a bullet from his arm. Thankfully, Smith’s people weren’t great shots. They mostly had the guns for intimidation,” Boone explained. “Once they ran out of bullets, they gave up.”
“That’s good. Sorry about Jameson’s arm,” I said. I struggled to put a face to the name but couldn’t.
“It’s not your fault. Things would have gone a lot worse if you didn’t take out the demon,” Boone assured me. I wasn’t sure he understood how lucky I’d gotten.
Someone knocked on the door, warning us rather than asking permission to enter. The nurse looked up from their tablet. “Oh, you’re up.”
“Yeah,” I said. No wonder he hadn’t bothered waiting for a response. He hadn’t expected me to be awake. To be fair, I wasn’t sure how long I’d stay that way.
“How are you feeling?” he asked. He noted things from the machines monitoring me.
“Exhausted,” I said.
“Don’t fall back asleep just yet. I’ll get the doctor,” the nurse informed me.
“I’ll do my best,” I promised.
I didn’t need the doctor to tell me what had happened. They likely couldn’t track magical energy in the body. I’d emptied mine out. They couldn’t do anything but watch as I recovered. That assumed I would recover. It sank in that the walls weren’t the only dull thing around me. Everything looked off. It felt like looking at the world through mud-tinted lenses. I knew a witch could be cut off from their powers. The Coven bound dark witches’ magic when they couldn’t be rehabilitated. But I’d never heard of someone using up all their magic.
“What’s wrong?” Boone asked, apparently reading the concern on my face.
I tried casting a spell. Nothing happened. “My magic’s not working.”
“What?” he asked.
“Mr. Clark,” a doctor asked from the door before I could answer Boone. “How are you feeling?”
“Tired,” I told him, unsure if I should mention my powers. It wasn’t like that’s something they could test for.
“Right. Can you tell me a little more about what happened? Your colleague mentioned you fought a demon.” The doctor said it so nonchalantly I’d have thought people came in with the same story every day.
“Do you have much experience with magic, doctor?” I asked, dragging out the last word, implying the request for his name.
“Matthews. And more than anyone else on staff here. Unfortunately, that hardly makes me an expert,” he admitted. “We treated your burns and kept you hydrated, but all our tests came back normal.”
“I used up everything I had,” I said, unsure what else to say. He’d basically just told me he had no idea how to help me. Maybe I didn’t even need help. For all I knew, I was panicking prematurely.
“Interesting. Has that ever happened before?” he asked.
“No,” I said.
“So a long period of unconsciousness might be the natural way for your body to handle that?” he hypothesized.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” I said.
“Right,” he said. “Well, we’ll keep you for observation another day, and if everything seems normal, I think you’ll be okay to go home.”
“All right,” I agreed.
“You should eat something while you’re up. You’ve got a menu on the table there. I’ll send someone by to get your order soon,” the doctor said.
“Thanks,” I said. He excused himself, leaving me alone with Boone again.
“You’re not going to tell him about your magic?” Boone asked.
“It didn’t sound like he’d know what to do about it even if I did,” I answered.
“Let’s just give it some time,” I said, sounding calmer than I felt. “I’ll ask around. Like the doctor said, this could be a perfectly normal bodily reaction. Do you have my phone?”
“Yeah,” he said. He didn’t look convinced by my wait-and-see plan, but he dropped the subject and handed me my phone.
I had several notifications. I reassured Lugh and Flynn via text and asked Lugh to look into my problem. They asked where they could visit me, but I sidestepped the question. The DPI saved my life, but I still hesitated to let them near my friends. If the doctor discharged me as soon as he’d suggested, they wouldn’t have to wait long to see me.
After ordering some food, my eyes got heavy again. If not for Boone, I’d have fallen asleep again before I got a chance to eat. He kept me awake with his perspective on the previous night. A bullet grazed his head when Smith’s men first opened fire. The DPI agents took cover and returned fire until the group of middle-aged men surrendered.
Smith abandoned his men when it became clear they wouldn’t win. He must have thought he’d still get my magic and get out. Boone came after him and got there just in time to save me. I could tell killing Smith bothered him after arguing against my vengeance. If I had to guess, he struggled to convince himself of a distinction between killing to immediately save a life and killing to potentially save future lives. I didn’t have the energy for that debate. It would only make him feel guilty. So, I thanked him for saving my life instead, ate an early dinner, and fell asleep again.