A/N The first section begins with Cat simply because at this point, she is several hours behind Heather. That bugs me; I can't do too many time jumps. In this light, we're going to spend a few 'hours' following Cat.

(Begin with Cat)

Four sets of eyes looked up sharply as Fiorenza and I entered the room. Fiorenza smiled at the three men pleasantly and said, "The two of you that I chose will be given rooms nearby. Kiera can decide where to keep hers." I lowered my eyes in faux demureness as she added, "Sisi, show them to the two closest available rooms." Sisi curtsied low and beckoned somewhat hesitantly to the men; Dante and the redhead moved to follow her, to her apparent relief, and she led them from the room. Ilom stood still, watching the two of us blankly as Fiorenza wandered to an elaborate sofa to sit, and I echoed her movements. "Where do you plan to keep him?" Fiorenza inquired, studying Ilom curiously. "In your rooms? I know some women keep their slaves in their rooms."

I might have blushed; I couldn't quite tell. The implication behind keeping a slave in one's room was slightly embarrassing, even though sex was something I normally joked about without shame. But I would never be able to treat Ilom like a slave, even though I wouldn't tell her that. "I might…" I replied slowly. "Would that…be a problem?"

"Not at all." Fiorenza flashed a smile at me. "You're my friend, so I want you to be happy. If it'd make you happy to have him in your room, then you're welcome to."

It was far too easy. I had little idea what to do with a girl who was willing to do anything to make me her friend, and even less of an idea with one who had the capacity. "I think… I might do that." Quickly I added, "Not for sex, I mean… just to have him around. I don't want to take up more of your rooms."

Clapping her hands together, Fiorenza cried, "Oh yes! We haven't given you a room yet! Oh, we should do that. Bring him." She waved to Ilom as she stood, and I did so as well, shooting an awkward look at Ilom behind the girl's back. It was certainly not the kind of experience life prepared you for, having the guy you liked suddenly become your slave – if only in name. He avoided my eyes, and, disappointed, I trailed after Fiorenza with Ilom following a short ways behind.

She led us to a room only a few doors down from her own, less lavishly decorated but still a far step up from what I was used to. I entered slowly, staring in wonder at the dark velvet and satin that covered the bed. I approached the delicately carved sofa, trailing my fingers over the velvet cushion, and glanced up at Fiorenza's shyly smiling face. "This is wonderful," I told her sincerely. "Thank you."

"I'm glad you like it." Her smile widened slightly and she added, "The bed should be big enough for both of you, though if you get tired of him, we can move him somewhere else. Will that be all right?" I nodded, still somewhat awed. Fiorenza glanced about and added, "It's late, though. I shall retire for the night. You stay here." With one last smile and a cheerful, "Good night," she glided from the room, closing the door behind her.

Once I was sure she was far enough away that there was no chance of her hearing through the walls, I turned to Ilom shyly, opening my mouth to speak; before I could, he'd caught me up in a fierce hug, pulling me against him unabashedly. Stunned, I could not do anything but cling to him desperately. It'd been a long time since we'd seen each other, and now, without any reason to pretend we'd never met…

"I was so fucking worried about you," Ilom whispered, his deep voice slightly husky. "They kept saying that their boss had found some girl and shut her up by herself, and it had to be you. Shit, I was afraid he'd done something to you…"

He pulled away enough to let his hands trail over my face, then shoulders and sides, as if checking me for any injuries; finding none, he let them return to my face and leaned down to kiss me possessively. It took my breath away, and my entire body grew warm. I realized with a start how much I'd really missed him, how much I'd worried about him. And apparently, the feeling was mutual.

Once Ilom had satisfied himself that I was okay, he asked softly, without releasing me, "Who's that girl? The one who took us here?"

"Fiorenza." After a moment's thought, I corrected myself. "Lady Fiorenza. She's…strange. Apparently she has some sort of weird power…when she gets upset, things end up flying through the air or something. I haven't seen it though…" Still faintly dazed by his kiss, I paused a moment to study his face. There was a gash under his right eye, just beginning to heal. That hadn't come from before we'd been captured, had it? "How have you been? And Dante? I barely saw him…" Ilom was silent a moment, and I narrowed my eyes. "They didn't hurt you, did they?"

A halfhearted shadow of his normal cheeky grin lifted Ilom's lips. "Not too bad. Give me a sword, I'll kill them all." Seeing my rising anger, he added, "We're fine, Cat. A little banged up." His fingers brushed down my arm. "You look exhausted. You haven't been sleeping. Shit, I've been so worried about you." He drew me close again, and this time I let my hands wander down his back; although his body didn't flinch, at certain places the breath would catch in his throat, proving once and for all that they had hurt him. If only I knew who had done it…they'd be dead in an instant.

"When Heather and Kaani get here…" I bit my lip fiercely. "Then we'll get out of here. When I'm…" I trailed off, then pushed on, "Give me a day or two. They'll be here then, and we can get out of…" A yawn interrupted my words, and Ilom snorted.

"You really are exhausted," he chided, tugging me towards the bed. "Come on, let's get some sleep. We'll figure everything out in the morning."

Curled up in bed together, Ilom's arms around me protectively, I studied his face, a landscape unbroken by anger or worry in sleep. That wound under his eye worried me. What had he and Dante endured while I'd stayed in the good graces of first Dar, then Fiorenza? Although Dar hadn't exactly treated me like royalty, at least I hadn't been beaten… and Fiorenza was enamored by the idea of finally having a friend. I'd had little to worry about, and I vowed that now, neither Ilom nor Dante would either.

Snuggling close, I added silently that I would make Dar and his men pay for putting us all through this. And with that thought, and lulled by Ilom's steady heartbeat, I drifted off to sleep.

(Change to Heather)

The morning was cool on my face, but I was warm and comfortable under the blankets, with someone at my back… I opened my eyes slowly, blinking in the sunlight. Then I closed them again, content to lie there, and snuggled closer to my source of warmth.

"Sleep well?" Lips brushed against my ear as Kaani murmured the words, and I nodded drowsily.

Then it occurred to me that I'd slept straight through from our conversation last night; I'd never even taken my turn at watch. My eyes snapped open and I struggled to sit up. "Wait… it's morning!" I turned to Kaani, glaring accusingly as he blinked up at me from the bedroll. "No one woke me up!"

Calling from the fireside, Tybalt replied, "Kane took half of mine and asked if I'd take the other half and then yours… we both agreed that you needed the sleep. I hope you're not angry?" He stood and approached us shyly, carved wooden bowls filled with some sort of stew and a pair of spoons in his hands.

I sighed softly; it didn't do any good to fret about it now. I sat up, taking the offered food and a spoon. "No, I'm not angry… just… I could've done it. I wasn't that tired."

"Liar." Kaani folded his legs and sat up next to me to eat as well. "You passed right out. I doubt you'd have woken up even if we tried." He smiled slightly as I stuck my tongue out at him. "Just accept it. You were so worn out that you weren't going to do anybody any good."

I knew it just as well as he did; however, that didn't mean that I liked feeling so hopeless. Slightly put out, I spooned some of Tybalt's cooking up to my mouth and was pleasantly surprised. "Hey, this is pretty good."

Smiling triumphantly, Tybalt explained, "I like to cook, so it's just as well that I'm good at it, right?" His lilting voice seemed vaguely amused.

"Yeah, guess so." Kaani seemed to be much more begrudging of the compliment than I did. "Maybe a little weak."

He was still distrustful of Tybalt, and it bothered me. We'd all accepted Dante shortly after his arrival, which proved to be a good thing once he began traveling with us. If Tybalt was going to do the same thing, it was beneficial for us to get along. What exactly was Kaani's problem? Saying that the boy didn't feel trustworthy wasn't a good enough reason for me… and Kaani didn't seem to be making any effort at all, which irritated me.

Despite my best efforts, I failed to get any conversation started between Kaani and Tybalt, and so gave in and talked to each of them separately. Tybalt would smile graciously and cordially reply, but Kaani answered a bit more gruffly and absolutely refused to look at Tybalt. I made a mental note to have another talk with him about manners.

Finally breakfast was eaten, camp was broken and we were back on the road. It seemed like we'd wasted too much time to me, but I was rested and I set a quick pace for the other two. I desperately wished we had the horses Dante had left back at port, but even then we'd only have two for the three of us. Oh well, I thought, only slightly bitter. The only important thing was to find Cat. Once we did that, we'd be out of here and off to find the next Sage.

How was I to know if she was alive or not though? I still couldn't sense her at all, and the silence was driving me nuts. There was no help for it but to follow the road and hope that we'd reach her soon. And how were we to know when we reached her?

Lost in my thoughts, it took me a moment to realize we'd been stopped.

(Change to Cat)

I was trapped, unable to move, unable to breathe. I was drowning in a sea of blood; the bitter taste choked me. But as much as I tried to escape, I couldn't move. I opened my mouth to scream…

"Cat! Wake up!"

With a start, I awoke, curling onto myself instinctively. Ilom hastened to hold me, to comfort me, and soon my sobs subsided. "Cat, calm down, I'm here," he murmured, stroking my dark curls comfortingly. "It's okay. Calm down."

Once I was relaxed in his arms, he pulled away gently and asked, "What was that all about?" However, his concerned expression belied his gruff tone.

"A nightmare," I told him, slightly husky from crying. "It was just a nightmare."

"About what?"

I took a deep breath before attempting to describe the sensations I'd experienced in my sleep. Ilom listened silently, watching the tears well up in my eyes at the memory. Then he pulled me back to him and cradled me in his arms protectively. "I'm so sorry," he whispered against my hair. "I wish you didn't have to go through that."

I shook my head halfheartedly. "It's my problem…since I'm the Daughter of the Twilight…this is what I have to go through." Still, I leaned my head against his chest, feeling each breath he took. "It's because of Akki…"

Ilom nodded, tightening his arms around me. "I won't let her touch you again…I'll keep you safe."

Even with his promise, though, I still couldn't help but feel unsafe.

(End Chapter)

A/N I'm trying my hardest, people. I swear I am.

And yes, I know it's short. I'm sorry.