Chad Grayson

An excerpt from Burden of the Stars

The cold assaulted Will’s skin as soon as he left the building. As he took in a few deep breaths, trying to find his stride, the sting of the brisk air made him cough. He ignored the protest of his lungs, and by the time he reached the end of the block, he’d acclimated to the weather and no longer sounded like someone dying of consumption.

              He ran, trying to clear his mind. He knew he’d handled things badly—that he’d over reacted—but he didn’t care. He just needed to get out of there, into the night, and find a way to calm himself. Physical exhaustion was going to have to do the trick.

              There was no traffic at this time of night, not in this residential neighborhood, so he didn’t even have to stop running as he crossed the street and reached the park. He hadn’t been lying when he said the trails were lit, but the lights were far and few between, so he crossed through shadow more often than he ran through bubbles of light] . He didn’t care; he just kept running, feeling the rhythm of his muscles stretching into place as he found a sustainable pace.

              Before too much time had passed, he heard footsteps behind him. Who in the fuck else was out here after midnight? he thought. He risked a look backward to make sure he wasn’t about to be mugged and spied a tall figure running behind him, a crimson hood over his head.

              This had to be Hal. Will cursed. Why had Amelia bothered to wake him? Well, Hal would have to keep up with him if he wanted to babysit. He kicked into high gear, running faster and faster, daring Hal to keep up with him. Of course, Hal matched him. He was eight years younger and still had his military conditioning as an advantage. Will wasn’t in bad shape, but his shorter stature made it a challenge to outrace Hal. Hal increased his own speed until he was just behind Will. Will reached deep, searching for more speed.

              He stepped down on his right foot, unexpectedly twisting his ankle. Pain flashed through him as he fell, his momentum thrusting him forward causing him to land on his face; he hadn’t even had time to bring his hands up to catch himself. The rough pathway scraped the skin of his cheek and forehead, and the impact wrenched his back so that he could do nothing for a few moments but lay there, stunned, pain pulsing through him; his breath still ragged from exertion and shock.

              “Whoa there,” Hal said as he knelt beside him. “You okay?”

              Will turned onto his side and tried to push himself up on his elbows, but his back responded with a painful spasm. He felt moisture trickling into his eyes and raised a hand to wipe it clear. His hand came away bloody. Great. Hal was scanning Will’s body for signs of serious injury, but Will pulled his legs underneath him as he got to his feet. As soon as he put any weight on his right foot, his ankle gave out, and he nearly fell. Hal caught him, slipping one arm around Will’s torso, taking the burden of Will’s weight against his own body.

              “Sit down,” Hal commanded as he lowered him to the ground again. “Stretch your leg out.”

              Will didn’t argue, but did as Hal said. Hal felt around Will’s ankle, which caused pain to ripple through his foot and leg. “Careful, that hurts,” Will said.

              “I think you’ve sprained your ankle pretty badly,” Hal said.

              “You think?” Will said, then thought better of his curtness. He was going to have to rely on Hal to get him back home.

              “I just mean, I don’t think it’s broken. You want to try to walk on it, or do you want me to call the doc? She needs to have a look at this.”

              “No, don’t call her,” Will said. “I think I can walk back to the building. She can look at it then.”

              “You’re sure?” Hal said.

              “Yeah, I’m sure,” Will said, pushing himself back onto his feet as carefully as he could. He took a couple of steps and nearly fell again.

              “Let me help,” Hal said, slipping his arm around Will’s shoulders and taking the pressure off his ankle. “We’ll make it work.”

              “I’m sorry you had to come out here,” Will said as they started to move back toward the building.

              “I think it’s kind of a good thing I did,” Hal said.

              I probably wouldn’t have fallen if I hadn’t been trying to outrun you, Will thought.

              “The doc was worried about you,” Hal said. “It’s my job to keep you safe.”

              “Thank you for not calling me a selfish asshole,” Will said. “You’d certainly have the right.”

              Hal laughed. “Sir, it’s not my job to judge your decisions.”

              “You don’t have to call me ‘Sir,’ Hal,” Will said.

              “You’re kind of above me in the chain of command, don’t you think?”

              “I think I’m probably not, at this point,” Will said. “God, I keep screwing everything up.” He didn’t even want to face Amelia right now. He’d done exactly what he’d promised her he wouldn’t do. What could he even say to her?

              “The doc’ll forgive you,” Hal said cheerfully, as if reading his mind. “But it’s probably a good idea if we don’t tell Tatsu about this.”

              Will couldn’t help it, he laughed. “Please don’t.”

              “Let’s just get you home so you can start fixing this,” Hal said, “and so the doc can start fixing you.”

 [MOU1]Love this imagery!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top