[chapter eight]

Disclaimer: If you've heard of them, I don't own them. Everything else is mine, so no stealing, pretty please. ;-)

**

Jimmie stared sightlessly at the wall across from his father's hospital room.

His father had been admitted two days ago. The doctors had diagnosed pneumonia, and insisted on admitting Gary and keeping him on strict bed rest. His father had drifted in and out of sleep, but for the most part, he slept silently in the uncomfortable hospital bed.

Nothing the doctors had done so far had brought relief. His mother had prayed about a thousand rosaries. Jarit and Jessie had paced a groove into the hallway outside his father's room.

Jimmie had just sat.

He had qualifying in a day and a half, and he couldn't even think about chassis setups or sticker tires. Thank god for Chad's expertise and Jeff's notes, or Jimmie would be walking into qualifying completely blind.

Jimmie sighed and looked up at the ceiling, his emotions wrestling inside him.

With a huff, he stood up and walked over to the pay phone, searching his pockets for some change with shaking hands. Trying not to think about what he was about to do, he dialed Vrai's number and waited for her to answer.

It had been weeks since they spoke.

Since he had stormed out of her shop and away from his own power.

No mind messages, no connection, no dreams, nothing.

Jimmie had never felt so empty.

"Hello, this is Vrai." Jimmie slumped in relief at her voice on the other end of the line.

Jimmie cleared his throat. "Vrai, it's uh…it's Jimmie. Look, I know for me to call you is beyond reproach after…well, after the other week, but I didn't know who else to…I don't know what to…"

Vrai made a soothing sound into the phone. "Jimmie, what is it? You sound terrible."

"It's…it's my father. He's in the hospital…pneumonia. I just…I feel like I need to do something, or help. And the only person I know that could help is you. Will you help me, please?"

"What do you want me to do?" Vrai asked, her voice guarded. "You want me to come wait with you, keep you company? I will, if you…"

Jimmie shook his head forcefully, though she couldn't see it. "No…I mean, yes, of course…but…"

Vrai gave an audible sigh. "You want me to try a spell to heal him?" She paused, then continued. "That's why you called, isn't it?" She demanded, her voice rising slightly from its normal even pitch.

Jimmie closed his eyes. "Yes. Partly. Mostly because as I sit here, every minute I'm not thinking about Dad, I'm thinking about you. Not magic, not power, just you. I need you, Vrai. Please…"

Vrai was silent so long, Jimmie wasn't sure that she hadn't hung up on him. "Vrai?"

"Which hospital?" She whispered. "I can't promise that anything I do will…"

Jimmie cut her off. "I don't care. I just…I need you here. With me. He's at Mercy. Room 1415."

"I'll be there as soon as I can, Jimmie." Vrai said softly. "But again, I can't…"

"I don't need the magic, Vrai. I just need you."

"I'll be there soon." Vrai reassured him. "If you can, find a picture of your father for me to use in casting the spell, alright?"

Jimmie agreed and they hurriedly made their goodbyes, Vrai to gather supplies and Jimmie to gather his wits.

As he hung up the phone, Jimmie felt like he had just run a marathon as he gulped in gusts of air at the thought of Vrai on her way to help him.

He wanted to help - he wanted to harness whatever power he had - he just didn't know how.

He just didn't know how.

chapter nine