"That's three car accidents in two months, Blake."
"I know, Dr. Davis."
At the sound of her older brother's voice, Celia Buckley struggled to open her eyelids. It felt as though they were waited down by dumbbells. Through the throbbing pain in her head, she tried to process the background noise so she could figure out where she was. When she inhaled deeply, the bitter tang of antiseptic burned its way up her nasal passage.
A hospital? She was in the hospital? The last thing she remembered was driving from the condo to the trendy new Italian restaurant downtown to meet her brother for dinner. She'd stopped for the light at… no, she'd been braking for the light and there had been a flash and…
The pain and frustration in Blake's voice had Celia longing to reach out and comfort him. She could picture the crease in his forehead and the thin line of his lips. Green and purple lights danced in her mind as timelines split. The course of action Blake took depended upon how Dr. Davis answered his question. Either way, it didn't bode well for her. One of the machines behind Celia's head shrieked warningly.
"Yes, in a way. We've had this discussion. They are a distraction, Blake. The world fades away, so to speak, for Cecilia when she has one of her episodes." Dr. Mark Davis, the Buckley family doctor two generations, sighed wearily. "I am afraid, for her own safety, that we resume our conversation about medical alternatives. There are ways of repressing Cecilia's visions."
Celia squawked out a weak protest. She couldn't stop her visions. They'd been an intricate part of her life practically since birth. She couldn't imagine a day without the timelines splitting and reforming before her eyes. Though she didn't spend every waking moment watching the timelines, they appeared to her at least three or four times a day and helped guide her actions.
She felt Blake's thumb gently brush across the curve of her scraped cheek. His hands were trembling. "She's been relying them on more heavily. She thinks she has something to prove to the others in the Network. She's overcompensating for something, or trying to… I don't know."
"I can't force her, Blake, she's an adult. Apart from the headaches, which she's assured me have gone away, they are not physically harming her," Dr. Davis responded softly. He paused when another machine buzzed loudly. "She should wake soon. I'll be back shortly."
Celia waited until she heard the door open and close before lifting her arm in search of Blake's hand. Long, warm fingers wrapped around her smaller, colder digits. Blake squeezed her hand softly before ghosting a kiss along her knuckles. She finally won the battle against her stubborn eyelids and met his concerned green gaze.
She opened her mouth to speak, but her throat was dry. Her tongue darted out to lick chapped lips. The longer she was awake, the more aware she was of the aches radiating from nearly every inch of her body. "I'm sorry, Blake," she whispered sincerely.
She couldn't imagine the horror he'd felt when he'd gotten the call about yet another accident. He was her rock; he wasn't just her brother, he was her best friend. She repaid his unending devotion and patience with terror and heartache.
"You could have died, Cecilia!" His grip on her fingers tightened; a muscle jumped in his jaw. He wanted nothing more than to shake her until she saw reason. "Had you been going any faster, had the other driver not slammed on his brakes…"
"I am so, so sorry." Tears welled up in her eyes. He was going to take her license and her car. That had been a common thread in all the scenarios. As much as the loss of freedom hurt, she had to admit his reasoning was valid. It was too dangerous for her to operate anything more than a cell phone in case one of her visions hit while she was alone.
"This has to stop. You can't wander around like a… like a damned zombie! You live in this world, Celia. In this timeline. Stop looking at all the what-ifs and possibilities and just let things be!" Blake released Celia's hand and raked his fingers through his short, blond hair. He spun away from her, resisted the temptation to bash his fist into the nearest wall.
"I know," she echoed his earlier words.
"It's going to kill you, Celia." Blake's shoulders slumped. He pushed a stool closer to the bed and collapsed onto the padded seat. His hands framed his sister's face, thumbs brushing matted curls of fair hair off her forehead. "You have to promise me that you'll stop. You'll talk to Dr. Davis and take the medication he prescribes. No more visions. Please."
Throat thick with emotion and heart breaking, Celia nodded jerkily. She couldn't deny her only brother something he obviously felt so passionately about. Losing their parents had nearly destroyed him. Losing her might actually finish the job. Though she thought of her visions as an additional limb, more vital than an arm or leg sometimes, Blake was all she had left.
It was the first promise she would ever intentionally break.