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Mat leaned back against the wall of his cell, not bothering to get up from the floor. It wasn't as though the hard wooden bench that served as both seat and bed was going to be any gentler on his aches and pains then the stone floor was and not moving took less effort then getting to his feet and crossing the cell. Forces, the guards had been particularly careful in their beating – there wasn't a single part of him that wasn't turning slowly purple. “You holding up all right, Kit?” he called.

“All right is a little much,” Acqua replied from the other side of the wall, her tone dark. “I'm going to have to take an extra dose of babybane when we get back to the guild.”

Mat winced slightly, but couldn't bring himself to be surprised. Storm guards, Maelstrom and a pretty young girl like Acqua always added up to the same thing. “I'll remind you if you don't,” he promised. “Need my tunic? On you it's enough to pass as a short dress.”

“Yeah,” Acqua replied. “But not until we're out. No sense giving them something else to rip up. How are you?”

“Hurting,” Mat replied honestly. “I'm going to be darker-skinned then Echo for awhile. But nothing is broken, I don't think.”

“Small mercies,” Acqua replied. “Don't suppose you have a lock-pick still hidden away? I have nothing on me, unfortunately. Gonna have to replace all my gear.”

“Same, aside from my clothing,” Mat replied, feeling himself over carefully. “Looks like we're gonna be waiting on the Guild, Kit. Still, at least they didn't get Echo as well.”

“Yeah,” Acqua agreed, sounding tired. For a moment Mat half wished that it had been Echo who'd been captured, she was more numb to the violation of her body then Acqua, who'd only lost her virginity a year ago.

It was one of the few things that Mat thanked Daniel for any more. At least he'd been pretending to love Acqua when he took her to bed. At least fake love was a better way to experience that for the first time then the brutality of the guards. “We'll be home soon, Kit,” he promised, shifting position so he could reach around the wall and take her hand. “First drink is on me tonight, all right?”

“That sounds good to me,” Acqua replied, squeezing his hand. “I'm okay, really, but it wouldn't hurt not to think for awhile.” She squeezed his hand. “Sorry about this, Mat.”

He didn't need to ask what she was sorry about. “It was a good opportunity,” he replied. “If you hadn't gone for it, I would have. It was simple bad luck that you were seen and worse luck that we took that wrong turn. It could have happened to anyone.”

“Anyone ever tell you it's rude to stop a girl feeling sorry for herself?” Acqua asked, laughing slightly. Mat simply squeezed her hand and the pair sat back to back in companionable silence, awaiting their rescue.


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Ann Rosa Starr

May 2012


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