“Help me up, would you?’
Ries stared at Kevin, still pale and still feeling limp against her, while the smell of smoke tingled her nose. “I don’t think that’s a very good idea.”
He looked passed her at the wreckage of the Merkabah. “Come on, let me get an idea of just how much trouble I’m in.”
Plenty if he kept this up. Ries weighed the options. Argue and struggle to get up by himself, likely collapsing again, or help him and get this over with quickly. She sighed audibly and got a firmer grip around his shoulder while taking his hand. She would help. She didn’t have to keep her disapproval unknown.
Kevin flashed her a weak smile. “Thanks.”
She hauled him to his feet while he clung to her. “Damn, it really did do a number. Remind me not to do that again.”
“I would, gladly, if I thought you’d ever listen.”
“I want to see that thing first,” Kevin said with a nod toward the broken Aion, blithely ignoring the comment, and Ries wondered why she bothered when he was in this mood.
He leaned heavily against her and they made their slow progress toward it. Kevin half-fell into a crouch by the remains.
“The archaisms were bad enough,” he said after studying it for a long moment. “They’re upping their game.” He glanced up at her. “You know what these things are like, right?”
Ries stared down at the remains. “In Erebonia…”
“It may be too early to tell. We haven’t seen them.”
“Yet,” Kevin muttered. He nudged a chunk. “But from the information we got? These things aren’t far off. Who knows what they’re cooking up next?”
He reached up and Ries helped him back to his feet. The Merkabah was next and when they got close, Kevin gave a low whistle. “They’re really not gonna be happy.”
Ries side-eyed him. They wouldn’t be, but as much as she hated to admit it, what choice did they have? They were losing. Twisted and singed metal, a gaping hole, yet it was entirely possible the Merkabah could be even worse shape, obliterated. And they could have been lost along with it. She strengthened her hold on Kevin. He saved all their lives, and if she could ask for one thing it would be that it would be enough. For them. For him.
“Ries? Are you okay?”
She blinked and caught the worry in his face. How much of her thoughts had she let show? “I should be asking you that.” She focused on the wreckage before them. “There’s nothing more we can do here. A contingent will be sent to collect everything.”
“Heh, gave them quite a show, didn’t we?” Kevin said and swayed.
“We can worry about that later,” Ries replied. “Come on.”
There was a large boulder in the grass close by. It would do for the moment, and she guided him to it. “Rest for now,” she prompted and tugged him down with her to lean together against the rock. Perhaps not the most comfortable of places but the grass was soft and the sun warm.
Kevin sighed, his eyes starting to droop. “All up to them now.”
“May Aidios guide them.”
His head dropped against her shoulder. Asleep—she prayed for only a short while as memories of the last time surfaced.
She gently brushed stray hair from his forehead. “Idiot,” she muttered with a soft sigh and a softer smile despite her worries.
There was time for a short rest now and they would still be able to reach Armorica before night fell where comfort and safety could be found. He saved them and if she feared which insane act would be his last, she stowed the worry away. She leaned back against the boulder. He would be here for a long time yet to come. They were partners after all.