Two hours later Neal woke up to the quiet beeping of his wristwatch.  He sat up and saw that Evan and Daniel had returned, and they actually had found branches somewhere in the cave. 

            “Welcome back,” Neal said, “I see you found what you were looking for.”

            “Yeah, there are lots back there, just sitting on the floor.”  Evan said.

            “The cave goes back quite a ways.  It keeps narrowing past this chamber, until it’s like a corridor.  We didn’t go all that far.”  Dan said.  “It’s big, this place.”

            “Well, we’re lucky it’s here.”  Neal said.

            “Yeah, we talked about that.”  Evan said.  “About all the luck so far.”

            “Did you ever stop to think about how we got off the plane, Neal?”  Dan asked.  “Because I can’t remember.  I’ve tried.  But it’s pretty strange, don’t you think, to wake up on a mountain and see that the jet that you were in is on the next mountain over, blown all to hell?  It’s a little hard to believe that people can survive something like that.”

            Neal nodded gravely, “It’s worried me, too.  I don’t know what’s happening, or why.  Where’d our food come from?  Why was our luggage with us?  The answer is:  I don’t know.  But we’re here, and we have to do what we can until we get rescued.  There’s no point in asking questions we can’t answer.”

            “So what should we do then?”  Dan asked, obviously frustrated because he didn’t understand what was happening.

            “I’d suggest getting some sleep, like the others.  For now, that’s the best thing we can do.”  Neal said, and then walked away.  Evan shrugged at Dan, and then did as Neal suggested.

            Genevieve was still awake and sitting in the exact same position he had seen her in last.  Neal shook his head ruefully.  He walked over quietly, so as not to disturb the others, and then sat down next to her.

            “You should really go to sleep,” He whispered, “You look zonked.”

            “Not yet,” She said, despite the glazed look in her eyes and the circles developing beneath them.  Her voice seemed strained.  “I’m not ready to sleep yet.”

            “What have you been doing for the past few hours?  You must be bored out of your mind.”  He smiled at her hopefully, trying to get some kind of reaction.

            “Just thinking,” She answered in the same quiet tone she’d been using all night long.  It was as if she wasn’t really paying attention.  The way she kept staring into space was also kind of unnerving, too.

            “A penny for your thoughts,” He ventured.

            “I was just thinking about Ethan.  Stuff just seems to keep happening to him…  And I keep worrying.  He’s spent his whole life taking care of me and my sister, but no one’s ever really tried to take care of him…  He’d never let us, really.  He just keeps going through it all, stubbornly refusing to give in, demanding to do it himself.”

            “Stubborn as a mule, eh?”  Neal said sarcastically, rolling his eyes.  Genevieve didn’t appear to notice, as she continued speaking.

            “I keep thinking about what happened back there on the plane.  Why we didn’t die, and what Ethan was doing…  He was staring into space like a zombie or something, you know, just before he got up and smacked Jay.  Why did he do that?  And now I can’t ask.”

            “I’m sure he’ll be fine.  Try not to worry.  I bet that help will come any time now, and then they’ll get him to a doctor…”

            “Don’t patronize me, Neal, just because you’re two years older.  I know as well as you do that the storm will prevent that for a while yet.  The others may need your reassurances and confidence, but I don’t.  I’ll be fine.  Don’t ever, ever tell me what to think, and don’t lie to me to be kind, either.  I know better, and all it does is make you look condescending.”  For the first time during the conversation, Genevieve was looking at him.  Her rich blue eyes held his gaze and cut him to the quick, for in them he could see the stubborn, steely strength that was a characteristic of her family.  It was in her voice, too, that steel, and he could hear that she meant it.  “I’m a big girl, and I can take care of myself.  My brother, too, for that matter.”           

            Neal nodded, not knowing what else to do or say, and then retreated back to the fire and his bed.  He thought about what she had said as he settled in, and it ended up that Neal went to sleep having found a new respect for Ethan’s sister.   

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