The reanimation phase was always the worst part. The nausea was always like nothing she had ever experienced from illness: an overwhelming urge to be emptied of every single thing she had been stupid enough to ingest. She would have vomited up every meal of her life if it would have stopped her head from feeling like this.
Practice had become instinct enough that she knew to turn her head to the left side. Right on target — Ben had left the stainless steel bowl in exactly the usual place.
She ended with a few spits, trying to clear the old blood out of her mouth, then shifted to lying flat on her back, panting.
"That all of it?"
"Yeah," she gasped.
"Here, let me wipe your mouth out." The shadow that resolved to Ben leaned over her, and he pushed the end of a handkerchief into her mouth, wiping down her teeth and under her tongue. "I think that got all of it. Rest a bit, and when you're ready we'll go back to HQ so you can have a restorative. This is a good location, and I threw enough charms over it that we're relatively safe."
Now that her stomach and throat were empty, her head was starting to clear. "What happened?"
"C'mon Lisa, you know you shouldn't be talking." She heard the rhythmic hiss and click of Ben's knitting needles. "The good news is, it's disabled, and it didn't look like it was going to get up again. The bad news is, 'giant robot' may not be the best term. More like giant magically animated... I don't know, suit of armour for a monster not of this reality. Something like that. Even after you lopped off all its limbs, it kept coming at us. No sparks, no hydraulic fluid leaks, so I really don't think it's mechanical." There was a final click and a pause, and then the knitting sounds started again, as if Ben had got to the end of a needle and started the next one.
"You really ought to switch to Magic Loop. All you ever make is socks."
"You're not supposed to be talking. And besides, I like double-pointed needles. They feel better to me. And I like the traditionalism."
"What did I..." Lisa rolled her head to try to see into the stainless steel bowl, but Ben's handkerchief covered most of the contents.
Ben gave an exasperated sigh and pulled the bowl towards himself. "Looks like your hyoid bone broke in three pieces. At least, you barfed up two pieces during the regeneration, so I guess the biggest chunk stayed in and reformed itself. If that hadn't got you, your lungs were filling up with blood pretty bad." He whistled. "Looks like your lungs got cut or burned too. Unless you had red velvet cake for breakfast?"
Lisa heard him push the bowl back towards her. She thought he would start knitting again, but instead he got up and walked to the other side of whatever it was she was lying on.
"We're in an abandoned warehouse," he said, as if reading her thoughts. "You're on an old table." She heard him walk back to his original spot near the bowl. "Do me a favour when you're well enough to move?"
She felt too crappy to try talking again, so she just tried to make an acquiescing expression with her eyebrows.
"When we get back to HQ, give me time to clear out before Susan shows up. Don't insist we both be there, like last time."
"Why?" she managed to choke out.
"Why? Because I don't want your spouse freaking out and accusing me of not taking better care of my work partner while we're in the field, then turning around and saying I'm sexist if I remind her of it when you're not recently dead."
She heard Ben knit a few stitches, then swear under his breath. "All right, I'm sorry for laying this on you when you can't talk. But seriously, work-life separation, okay? I know the coven's supposed to be one big happy family and all, but it isn't in real life. And also..."
"I owe you a pack of ninja throwing star stitch markers. This Fair Isle pattern is seriously messing with my head."
Lisa took a deep breath. It didn't hurt too badly, so she tried a few more.
"You need to find a girlfriend." Her voice had sounded normal for the first few syllables. Good, because even if Ben said this location was relatively safe, they needed to get back to HQ sooner rather than later.
"Waste your breath telling me something I don't know. Ten more minutes and you want to try sitting up?"
She managed a small nod.
"'Kay. Sit tight, stop straining yourself. Besides, I could use the quiet time to figure out this goddamned instep pattern."
Far away there was a deep rumble, like a hundred thunderclaps sounding at once. Lisa felt the table vibrate. The stainless steel bowl rattled.
"Don't try to move yet," said Ben. "I'm going to check the perimeter and see if I can figure out what that was. If you need to sound an alarm, knock the bowl off the table. Okay?"
"But not unless it's a real alarm, because you know how Olga is about us not leaving anything that could be used for curses..."
"I'll be right back."
Lisa concentrated on the pattern of half-rotted beams spanning the ceiling. She listened for any unusual sounds, but all she could hear was Ben's retreating footsteps.
Another rumble, this one louder, closer, or both. It made her teeth rattle.
If they didn't get back to HQ soon she was going to be in for a really shitty night.