His home was burning around him.
The scent stuck in his nostrils, the dead, blackened smell of burnt timber and melted metal and singed hair. He hoped it would come out eventually. And then he hoped that they could come out.
“Quick,” he coughed. He had one hand on each of his little twin brother’s backs, steering them toward the way out of the burning manor. Beckett and Myles stumbled a bit and cried out occasionally, but Artemis was reasonably certain that they weren’t injured. Or at least not as injured as he himself was.
Don’t think about it. Don’t think about the gash. Just get out. Just get out. Just get the twins out…
He repeated the mantra, over and over. He’d repeat it until they reached sunlight.
Myles collapsed when they were nearly out. Artemis could hardly walk on his own, and the deep gash in his side didn’t help, but he picked up the little boy and carried him.
Just get the twins out…
The smoke was everywhere, but that was manageable, because Artemis didn’t need to breathe at this point; he just needed the twins out. Some rafters and walls were falling at dangerous crisscross angles. And the flames would probably be permanently burned into his retinas.
Just get the twins out.
Beckett collapsed. Artemis picked him up, too. Couldn’t breathe. No air.
Just get the twins out.
His brilliant mind was dimming. The mantra continued. Didn’t need to breathe. Twins.
No air. Didn’t breathe. Twins.
When he reached the sunlight, a different kind of fire, he collapsed with his brothers, careful to fall to the side so the twins landed on top of him. He hardly felt it when they fell on top of the gash in his side and his breathing hitched spasmodically. He hardly felt it when delicate, gloved elfin hands pulled them the rest of the way out of the manor, to lay them on the ground. All that mattered was: They could breathe the clean air again.
Breathing in…out…everything was silent except for that.
A pair of mismatched eyes hovered in front of his blurry vision, frantically trying to say something, and then against his will, his eyes slowly closed.
Some time later, Artemis twisted his head to the side with effort, bony jaw line angled sharply, and found himself looking upward into Juliet’s face. She was covered in soot and sweat, too, but at least she could stand, so she couldn’t be badly hurt…but her face had a pained twist…
“…one else?” he mumbled. His tongue kept failing him mid-word, and he felt a sensation of being carried above the ground, swaying in the air—a stretcher?
“Domov…my paren…” The rest was a breath.
There didn’t seem to be enough air to breathe, now. Something besides smoke and ash was constricting his chest.
“Oh, Artemis,” Juliet whispered, and closed her eyes.