The birds started singing in the trees about the time that Anie had to start watching her feet while she walked. She lost her energy in the space of a yawn, and the growing light spreading through the sky on her right seemed wrong. She blinked heavily. Thea slowed, holding steadier, as Anie started to stumble. The others all pulled in a little closer, as if they might lean against each other.
The sun climbed heedlessly into the sky.
“When do we sleep?” Anie murmured.
“It’s not safe yet,” Chas said. But he was slowing too. The whole crowd ahead of them seemed to be stuttering in their steps. The trees were thinning, the ground evening out, but their feet seemed more and more hesitant to leave the ground.
Laea didn’t know a word for the sort of tiredness that was dragging itself through her.
She knew about bone-tired and dead on her feet, the sort that pulled her into bed like gravity and stopped every thought in her head halfway through its course.
She knew about exhausted and drained, the kind that begged for blankets to crumple inside and distractions to silence the thousand things that were chasing her.
If the cat had not looked up at her so pointedly, Evanna might have managed to overcome the urge to turn around and roll herself back into her blankets.
The fact that she had gotten out of bed in the first place, was nearly a miracle. The floor was cold and her mattress had gotten that perfect grip on her curves that was only possible after a full night’s sleep. But she pushed herself to her feet anyway, and slipped into her favorite sweater instead.
She opened the curtains, because the fresh yellow sunlight woke her up better than a bucket of water, even if it made her blink hard, and consider leaving her eyes closed. There was no warmth coming through the glass, but she supposed that warmth was just going to be reserved to comfier things that day.
“We going out tonight?” Sadie asked. She was yelling, three rooms away already, even though the echo from her slamming through the front door was just ending its echo.
Sitting on the couch in the living room, Dana shut her eyes. She was loud, and happy, and seemed ready to run wild over three cities tonight, if they had enough fun to offer. And Sadie could have turned professional in the art of finding fun, if she wasn’t so delighted in her amateur freedoms.
Dana took a deep breath. She wanted to answer. But yelling back seemed like an entire expedition she wasn’t sure how to start.
“It’s been a long day,” Kadie said. She ran one hand across the back of the couch in her brother’s rooms. She wanted to sit, and she didn’t want to sit, knowing that her own bed was waiting for her several halls away. She wanted to rest, and she wasn’t sure if that meant sitting a while, talking, laughing, and spilling words, or shutting her eyes and disappearing into thoughtless sleep.
“You have no idea,” Brance murmured. Sitting in the padded chair across from her, he smiled long and wide, with the sort of lazy ease that came with exhaustion. The smile came slowly, but started fast, with all the usual way-points between thought and action erased by his tiredness. He shut his eyes, seemed content to sleep himself, then lifted his head from the back of his chair looked at her when he felt her responding quiet.
Kadie smiled a little in return. She didn’t know what he had been doing all day. She was a little afraid to ask.
Kadelyn was tired, and not in any of the easy ways that could be cured with something sweet or bitter. She wasn’t yawning, and her eyes stayed open all on their own, but she moved slow just because she couldn’t find a reason to move quickly. Behind her, her bodyguard, Noach was keeping his same even stride. She could feel him slow to keep his heavy boots off her skirts, and she’d felt him slow a dozen times so far that morning. She considered picking up her feet, lengthening her stride, and decided not to pretend.
“Any further business this morning?” Noach asked gently.
Kadelyn took a breath, and shook her head.
“So, we’re headed home?” he asked, uncertainly.
She smiled a little. They did not always head home when she said they were finished. Sometimes they just kept working on whatever came to her mind, forgetting about the idea of appointments. Not today. “We’re going home,” she confirmed.