Message For You (invite only)
Rowan saw nothing and heard nothing as he staggered through the entrance to Liefde. He had very little ability to focus and what he had was pinpointed on the office down the hallway that he dragged himself in to.
He had pulled his ruined hands inside his sweater sleeves. His hood was still covering his head but he wasn't naive enough to think that made him blend in. He knew there were burns around his nose, maybe his mouth as well although it had been tucked into his sweater. The rest of him felt numb. Truly numb. He kept seeing her face. The face of a little girl who shouldn't be dead.
So who was he now? Was he Icarus?
Why was he even thinking of it in those terms?
Cris's office door was unlocked; he was still working. Hopefully his partner was still inside. Although he hated for Cris to see this, not out of vanity but because he was loathe to bring trouble to Cris's doorstep, Rowan couldn't go anywhere else. So he pressed his bruised shoulder against the door and pushed it open, practically falling inside.
His knees were giving out and he expected to feel the cool polished floor against his face but what he felt, instead, was the fabric of Cris's suit. Instinctively Rowan reached out, but he drew his hands back with a strangled wheezing sound of pain at the motion.
Not one of his finer entrances, but certainly attention-grabbing.
Just this one last call and then he would lock up and go home. He hoped Rowan hadn't been waiting on him long. Cris hadn't seen him come in yet though so there was a good chance that his lover had worked a little later as well. Cris had a habit of looking out his office at the entrance to the Tower. This was especially true when he knew Rowan would be coming home.
Turning away from his door, he returned to his desk. "All right, MARI, put her through."
He had just finished speaking with Jane and assuring her that he would send her the funds for this sudden change in plans, when he heard the sound of someone coming down the hallway near his office. Cris saw Rowan's familiar form through the tiny gap between the blinds and the door and got up to meet him.
It was immediately obvious that something was wrong. Perhaps he just knew Rowan so well that even the slightest changes were obvious, or maybe it was a lover's intuition. He did not take time to analyze it.
Cris caught Rowan as he stumbled into the door. He held him close for a moment and whispered soothing words, telling his lover that he was home and that he was safe. Inwardly, Cris's heart sank even as he murmured sounds of comfort and calm. Rowan reeked of smoke and burnt flesh.
Slowly, he pulled back enough to look into his companion's eyes.
They looked wide and almost vacant with shock. Blisters stood out in horrible vividness on Rowan's otherwise extremely pale, almost bloodless, face. Cris placed his hands on his lover's upper arms pushing him back a little more so that he could get a better look at the rest of him. His hands were covered by crisp burned fabric. He suspected from the strength of the odor of fire on Rowan that his lover had smoke damage to his throat and lungs. His lover's rattling shallow breaths did a fair job of confirming that suspicion.
"MARI, open the door to my house. Call my daughter and tell her to meet me there. And Ume as well."
He suffered a brief moment of uncertainty about whether he should just pick Rowan up and carry him home or simply lead him there. However, more of his lover might be burned or bruised and he did not want to hurt him any worse than he had already been hurt.
"Come on, Love." He held Rowan by the shoulders, holding him up and leading him toward the door at the same time. "We're going home." Cris gave his companion a small smile, trying to put on a brave face to further ease the fear that Rowan must have felt. "I don't think the walk will be as much fun as our first walk together...but at least it is shorter."
MARI had helpfully done as he asked which saved him the trouble of pausing at the recognition plate. He led his lover into the living room and eased him down onto the sofa. Cris couldn't help remembering the time that they had amazing, desperate, passionate sex right here.
Pushing the strange errant thought aside, he firmly told his subconscious that Rowan was injured and not dead. They would make love again, on the sofa, on the bed and likely plenty of other places as well.
Cris carefully removed the charred sweater from Rowan's body, and slowly stripped his lover to his waist. He then quickly removed his own jacket, tie, dress shirt and tee shirt, until he was similarly bare. The clothes were left in a crumpled heap on the floor beside him.
"Drink from me, Love. You need to drink." He knelt on the floor, pushing himself between his lover's knees. Cris pulled Rowan close, arching his neck in an insistent invitation. Again images from the past overlaid themselves on his mind and for a moment he could see a naked, happy, healthy Rowan telling him that he could do what he wanted with him so long as he did it now.
At this moment all he wanted was to see that Rowan again.
He vaguely recognized their own entryway, and then the room went dark again. When he finally opened his eyes he was sitting down and Cris was pulling his clothing away. Good, it smelled disgusting. Very smoky. He watched Cris from red, irritated eyes, vaguely thinking he should help his partner undress too, since Cris had helped him, but his body felt very heavy. So he stayed where he was and closed his eyes again.
They snapped open again as he realized that the letter was in the front of his shirt. He took a breath to try to communicate that to Cris but all that happened was he began to cough. And cough. Hard, wet coughs that shook his whole body and brought the taste of blood to his mouth.
When he focused again Cris was kneeling before him, telling him to drink. Oh. Yes, that would help. He battled off another wave of dizziness that threatened to pass him out again and leaned forward instead, resting his weight against Cris. He couldn't hold his lover; his hands were too badly burned. He tried anyway, simply lifting his arms and resting them against Cris's waist to steady himself.
Then he turned his head in toward Cris's neck and bit carefully, the burns around his mouth painful. This would help. Blood flowed; he swallowed, trying not to cough again. The act was painful but his body responded. He drank some more. It felt soothing on his throat so he continued to drink. He knew full well who was feeding him, however. He couldn't drink deeply no matter how badly he might need it.
He pulled away long before he could cause Cris any discomfort. It wasn't nearly enough but his lover's blood helped clear his head slightly. That turned out to be unfortunate, for as soon as reason began to return it brought its friend pain with it and Rowan nearly passed out again as his hands, lungs, face, and throat all informed him that they were in need of far more attention.
Cris sighed and held Rowan close, wishing his lover would take a little more of his blood. He needed so much more blood to heal his injuries and then they needed to discuss what happened but not before Rowan was physically better.
[Its Rowan. He has been badly burned.] Cris sent back to his friend. Smoothing his hands soothingly of the parts of his companion that were not were not burnt or bruised.
[How did this happen? I'm coming down there. Is he okay? Are you okay?] Alfarinn's questions worried but focused were a comfort.
[I don't know. Thank you. No and Not really. I will be when I know he's better.] Cris sent short answers to his friend's questions, while pushing the coffee table out of the way. He picked Rowan up carefully and laid him gently on the cream coloured rug. Grabbing his jacket, Cris rolled it up and placed it underneath Rowan's ankles. A vampire wouldn't die from shock but it didn't feel great going through it either so while not on the same level of emergency and fear of death that it might be for a human, the relief for the situation was pretty much the same.
"Everything will be okay, Rue. I promise." He rushed down the hall to the small pantry closet and pulled out several quilts. Bringing them back, Cris laid them over his partner's legs and then slowly unfolded them up Rowan's body. He held his lover's arms up while he tugged the blankets up to Rowan's chest. Very gently, Cris laid Rowan's hands back down on top of the blankets.
"Stay here, Love. I will be right back with some gauze and some..." He looked at the glass in Rowan's palms and decided it was better not mention it right now. "I'll be right back." Cris leaned down and gave his partner a gentle kiss on the cheek.
He walked calmly out of Rowan's line of sight and then fairly ran the rest of the way to the Doctor's area that was across the hall from his office. Cris had never carried emergency supplies in his own home because he rarely needed them for minor things and the large things...well those were generally big enough to require that he have someone look into them anyway.
[Do you need anything for the pain?] A doctor would know best obviously, so Cris hoped Rowan might still be able to answer the question. [I can find something in here if you tell me what to look for.] He would just make MARI understand that Rowan prescribed it. Otherwise the AI might not even let him open the medicine closets.
Cris picked up everything he could possibly need. Part of his mind was calm, pointing out that both the large set of tweezers and the small ones might come in handy. The antiseptic for a vampire might be unnecessary but he felt better about taking it. His movements were rushed and after dropping the roll of gauze and having it bounce and roll along the floor, unraveling as it went, Cris told himself very firmly to calm down.
"A nurse. We need a nurse." He said out loud, gathering up all the supplies and rushing back to his home. His hands were full of everything he thought might be useful. "MARI open the door again please." It occurred to him that Rowan was the best suited to caring for someone as anyone in the Towers. There were other doctors living at Liefde but they were either very specific in their field or, like Rowan, working so many hours elsewhere that they were rarely at home. They had several nurses, who were always over worked these days without a full time doctor present. Hopefully one of them was on duty and not attending another crisis elsewhere.
Coming back to sit on the floor in front of Rowan, Cris unloaded his arm full of supplies.
[Do you feel better, Love? Are you aware enough to walk me through this?] He sent to his partner so that Rowan wouldn't be tempted to talk.
Cris felt that he could work through this process on his own. He had certainly been on enough battlefields to see every kind of injury out there and that included burns. You didn't always have a medical team handy so everyone had to know at least the basics. Even in these modern times, Cris made basic emergency medical procedure mandatory for his security people. He refused to lose someone because their team mate couldn't perform CPR or didn't know the signs of shock.
However, getting Rowan to focus on the task at hand might calm his lover down and help him through the pain and shock. [Others will be here so that we can get you some more blood but until then can you tell me what to do?]
There were deep welts of charred flesh straight across his palms where he'd gripped the window, and here and there he thought he could see glass from his escape from the building. It didn't compare to the fact that there was a dead little girl in that building who'd been used as a play toy by some sick bastard to lure Rowan in.
And Cris knew nothing about it yet, because Rowan could hardly breathe without coughing up bits of bloody phlegm, much less communicate coherently.
He couldn't see where Cris had gone, and that panicked him even more. He rocked back and forth, curled in on himself under the blankets in an effort to somehow control the agony, feeling a little relief when Cris sent to him. Where was 'in here?' Rowan knew there was a medical office in the Towers, that must be where Cris had gone. He had some supplies as well, but he wasn't even sure Cris knew about them; he hadn't had occasion to use them at home.
[Yes,] he sent, managing to focus as pain brought the return of yet more thought processes. [Not much for vampires. Morphine... for later.]
The number of painkillers that could actually effect them was less than those that a human could use. Rowan couldn't take anything that would make him incoherent. Cris needed to know what had happened, what was happening.
He held his hands up again; it hurt to rest them on the blankets Cris had spread over him. He listed several items to Cris, trying to think through the pain, his sendings somewhat sporadic.
He would regenerate with time and blood. That was the good thing. It would be easier, however, if Cris could clean away the charred dead skin on his hands. Freshly torn skin mended a little faster. Painful, but true.
As Cris returned Rowan turned toward him, resting his head against Cris's leg. He continued to cough, his whole body shaking as he did. He nodded against Cris as his partner asked if he was feeling better. Rowan understood the question. Yes, he felt more coherent.
[Yes,] he responded when Cris asked if he could talk him through the doctoring process. [First... the pocket of my shirt. Front, left. Don't throw it away.] He had to let Cris know there was something there. It could wait a few minutes, that was the truth of the matter, but he didn't want anyone discarding his scrubs.
[Have to cut away the dead skin. Remove the glass. Wrap everything, it'll heal.]
He wasn't sure, though, if he could stand the process without anything to numb the pain. As it was, he was unable to keep still, writhing beneath the blankets Cris had put over him. He considered, trying not to cough up yet more blood, particularly on Cris. Morphine might be all right now, now that he'd had a chance to tell Cris about his scrubs.
[Need something now,] he finally told Cris. [Don't know that I can cooperate without it. Can you? Vein... in my arm. Start light. 2 cc's.]
He was trying to make sense. He really was. Hopefully Cris understood. The dose he'd given Cris would, hopefully, be enough to take the edge off so he could still function without being too out of it.
This message sounded urgent, though. So Aishe let Kiamhaat know where she was going, since he was nearly finished himself, and headed to Cris's home. MARI let her in, and she poked her head in the door.
Moving in fully, she entered the living room where she found a strange sight. Rowan was on the floor covered with blankets. Cris sat beside him, topless, his hands full, the floor littered with medical supplies. She took in the scene; Cris looked worried. Rowan was clearly injured. She saw his hands, held up before him, glistening red with burns, charred black in some places. His face was pale, there were some blisters around his mouth and nose, and every few seconds his body heaved as he coughed violently.
Aishe hurried over to them and dropped to her knees near Rowan's head, next to Cris. She gently touched her Creator's shoulder.
"Take what you need," she said softly, urgently, "and then tell me what else I can do to help. I can call Kem if you want."
The more blood the better; Kem would never hesitate to help a Clan mate any more than she would. She didn't know if Cris needed more blood as well. She was sure he'd already given to Rowan, himself.
Snatching up the black leather knee high boots, Ume ran out the door in her striped stocking feet. She raced for the elevator, finding it occupied by a really tall teenager with long blond hair. He leaned against the side of the elevator with his arms folded over his chest. He was near the doors when they opened and was glaring at the little computer monitor.
"Now we may proceed." MARI said cheerfully.
"Get on with it then."
"The elevator is designed to go at a certain speed, Alfarinn. I cannot make it go any faster."The computer's tone sounded as though it were giving a lecture.
Ume tried to look inconspicuous in her little black Lolita dress with its purple satin bows and crinoline. Her hair was hanging in two low pigtails with yet more bows. She was grateful that Cris already knew her hobbies and had seen her...well, naked. This would hardly be a shock to him. Ume found it freeing to work for someone who knew her so well. She wouldn't have thought that it would be that way but maybe it was because Cris, and his handsome partner Rowan, didn't judge her.
The elevator came to a halt on the main floor and she pushed out the door as soon as they opened, jostled by the teenager who had the same idea. He let her go first. Ume took off as quickly as her lack of footwear would let her. The kid moved past her so fast that she felt a rush of wind go by.
Huh, Ume guessed he wasn't really a kid then.
He was entering Cris's home when she slid to a halt on the marble tile. "Wait for me!" The blond reached out a hand to steady her. Ume gasped; it was cool, like being touched by death. Or someone who had just come from outside. Her mind tried to rationalize it.
"Sorry" He muttered and gave her a smile.
Ume shook her head, waving her hand back and forth in front of her face. No, it was no problem.
They both came upon the scene of disorder in the middle of Cris's living room. Rowan was stretched out on the floor covered in quilts. He looked blistered and his hands were burned worse than anything she had ever seen in her life. Even she could smell the lingering smell of smoke. "Shouldn't we call a doctor?"
"He is a doctor." The blond said, before kneeling down across from Cris. He looked up at the shorter woman that was present and gave her a small smile before looking down at the redhead. "Take some of my blood. Then some of Aishe's. If you need more yet more then..." He turned and looked up at Ume.
"Yes, he can have some of mine." Ume looked over at Cris. "If that's okay, Sir."
((OOC: MARI in green and our fearless leader in blue ))
He reached down and smoothed his fingers through his lover's hair. "All right, Love." Cris looked over at Rowan's clothing. He would not have thrown them away until Alfarinn could look at them, after that they were fit only to become compost. They certainly were no longer wearable and he doubted Rowan would want to anyway. "I will look in a moment. Whatever it is won't get lost."
Aishe came inside just as Cris was adjusting the dose of morphine to Rowan's request. Finding a vein was child's play to just about any vampire. They made excellent phlebotomists if they could control the urge to not 'drink on the job'. His sensitive fingers tracked along the inside of his lover's arm, feeling the slow, too slow, thump of a pulse. Cris held Rowan's arm, gently but firmly at the elbow. His movements were careful but sure. He eased the needle through the skin and slowly depressed the plunger.
Looking up at his child, he nodded. "Kem can glamour, as I recall?" It was a new ability for the latest Evenhet elder. He had been practicing diligently. Cris doubted many people knew about it but such information was of interest to him. "We might need more than one with the skill but if he is willing to help then one will be a start. He can calm Rowan, help him feel less pain." Drugs didn't work well on them but mind tricks did. Kem was old enough to potentially win a battle of wills with Rowan if it were required but he doubted his partner would fight the assistance.
"If we..." Cris looked up as Alfarinn entered with Ume right behind him. Normally he would smile at his friend's pointing out the obvious but he couldn't manage it at the moment.
"Yes,Ume. It is all right." Cris nodded to her. His gaze took in her attire and the boots in her hand. "I am sorry I spoiled your evening."
Alfarinn knelt down on the other side of Rowan and calmly took charge. Cris relinquished it, for once grateful to have someone else giving the orders. He knew his elder to be capable; he trusted Alfarinn with his own life and he guessed he trusted him with Rowan's; though that was harder to do.
The ancient bit his wrist and laid it gently over Rowan's burned lips. The gesture was an added concern for his companion's comfort that he had not considered. Rowan would have to stretch his mouth and those blisters in order to pierce the skin... he should have thought of that. Cris wove his fingers lightly through his lover's hair, his other hand griping Rowan's unburnt shoulder, and hoped that he was helping his partner in some way by being here. He didn't feel particularly useful otherwise.
Now that he was no longer in charge, Cris could feel scared and heartsick for Rowan's current pain and the fear he must have felt in that fire. His lover had gone through it all alone.
How did it happen? Why did it happen? He didn't notice the silent tracks of tears until the drops fell onto his legs and soaked through his pants.
[Soon everything will be better. Be brave a little longer, My Love.]
It said something about the extent of his wounds, that the morphine only dulled the agony. However, he could think a little bit better without intense pain pushing him to the brink of his endurance. He'd been about to scream when the drug took effect.
Now he simply coughed hard, bringing up seared bloody flecks of tissue. That was normal; he had to get rid of the bad stuff and regrow new. His mind took it all in. He'd thought the morphine would addle him some but the dose was small enough; he was all right.
Shortly after Aishe arrived Ume and Alfarinn showed up. Cris apologized to Ume and Rowan could hardly believe his partner was trying to assume blame for ruining someone's evening.
"My fault," he rasped, the words ugly and choked. It was hard to believe that voice was his.
"Decided to throw a party. Thanks for coming. Chips and dip in the kitchen."
The words gave way to another fit of coughing, during which he curled up once more and clung to Cris for all he was worth. Which wasn't much at the moment.
Alfarinn held his bleeding wrist to Rowan's mouth. Rowan turned toward it desperately, grateful not to have to open his mouth to bite. Blood flowed past his lips and down his throat again. Painful, still, but much needed. It was rich and strong, hardier, more potent than Cris's yet somehow cooler and alien. He preferred Cris, but he wasn't going to take Alfarinn's help for granted. He drank until the wounds on Alfarinn's wrist closed and then he turned his head away. He wouldn't drain a friend for his own benefit. There were plenty of people here, offering.
"Thanks," he murmured as he pulled away. His voice was much improved although still fairly ugly; the damage to his throat was not nearly as extensive as to other parts of his body.
He looked at Cris and saw that his partner was crying, tears streaming from his bright blue eyes to fall unnoticed on his pants. The sight brought him back to himself even more. Although his mind was still reeling, still panicking, seeing Cris so upset galvanized him. He couldn't bear to hurt his love, so he had to pull it together. To comfort Cris. To help him.
"Help me sit up?" he requested softly of his partner, between fits of bloody coughing. Now that he wasn't about to pass out from pain and shock it would be more comfortable if he could get upright.
[I'll be all right, Cris. I'm here. Mostly whole. Little fucked up but it's okay. As long as you're here I'm fine.]
He wasn't fine, not at all, but he didn't think Cris would begrudge him the lie. And it was true that his partner's presence eased him. He'd nearly lost the remnants of his mind before when Cris had left to get supplies. No, he wasn't fine; he was barely clinging to reason and struggling to keep himself sort of calm and rational. Cris made that possible for him, gave him something to focus on.
As Cris took the syringe away Aishe touched his shoulder lightly, knelt down beside him, and kissed her Creator softly on his cheek. Sitting back she nodded, sending to Kem, asking him to come to Cris's and letting him know briefly what had happened, how urgent it was.
"He'll be here in a minute," she said.
Alfarinn entered with Ume then, coming over to them and immediately taking over. Aishe had never seen Cris relinquish control of a situation to anyone, and that told her the depth of his distress. She watched him as Rowan drank from Alfarinn, and she noted the tears upon his face. She didn't move her hand, just rubbed his back gently. She knew how she would feel if it were Kiamhaat on the floor, injured.
Rowan asked to sit up and Aishe glanced from Cris to Alfarinn. From the supplies on the floor it was clear that Rowan needed further care but Aishe did not think Cris should be the one to do it. He was too upset, too closely involved.
She hesitated t make the suggestion but she hoped Alfarinn, so much more in control, would back her up.
"Sit behind him, Cris," she said softly. She had seen how Rowan responded to Cris's distress. It had calmed him, oddly. She gave it some thought... it wasn't calm so much as focus. It was making him work past his own stress. "Hold him, talk to him. Alfarinn and Ume and I can take care of the rest if he can tell us what to do."
One Kem got there they could wrap Rowan's hands. It seemed fairly clear that that was the intent, with all the bandaging materials on the floor. In the meantime, following Alfarinn's example, Aishe rolled her sleeve back from her wrist and bit down deeply, ignoring the brief pain.
Leaning down she held her own wrist to Rowan's mouth. There was a sense of deja vu as she remembered a night, six or seven years ago now, that she'd cut her wrist with her pocket knife and held her arm to Kem's lips to make him drink. She still bore the scar; she'd bitten down over it in fact.
No force was needed here though. Rowan turned to her and drank from her gently, almost delicately as if he didn't want to hurt her. His touch made her shiver pleasantly; it was always different when being fed from. Alfarinn's bite made her feel warm and secure. Cris's had made her feel utterly sheltered, protected. Kem's was all love, happiness, euphoria. Rowan's lips upon her wrist weren't quite the same as a bite but the echo of it was there and it was utter pleasure. Under different circumstances she might have been embarrassed.
When he turned away Aishe frowned; Rowan was not drinking deeply from any of them. How could he heal like that? She'd never seen injuries this bad. She did remember when Kem had broken a rib and hurt his side. It had taken him half the night to mend everything back together. How long would it take Rowan's injuries to heal? They seemed extensive.
Alfarinn stood up as Aishe handed her wrist down to Rowan. He looked over at Ume and smiled. "May I? I promise to be gentle."
She blushed and looked over at Cris. He nodded his head. "He's mostly harmless."
Ume held out her wrist to the tall blond. He took it gently. She noticed again that he was cool to the touch and she wondered about that. Perhaps later when Rowan was okay she could ask Cris about it. She wondered how old this vampire was. Ume thought about how he had come in and started sorting things out and Cris had let him. She doubted that her boss would just let some punk kid take charge. Maybe he was old. Maybe all vampires became cold when they got older.
How the fuck old was that?! Cris had told her his age when she had asked him and Ume still couldn't wrap her mind around someone living that long.
The blond was leading her over toward Rowan. He guided her to sit down next to the injured man, across from Cris's daughter. Ume watched the woman through lowered lashes for a moment.
She understood, through asking Cris a million questions, that vampires did not accidentally make other vampires. There was no biting and raising from the dead or chomping on them three days in a row. He had said that they had to drain a person to the point just before death and then feed them their own blood. So Aishe was of his blood, literally. His chosen daughter. Ume envied the woman. It wasn't that she wanted to be a vampire; though, that might be cool. She wanted to mean so much to Cris that he would consider her special enough to make a member of his family. She wanted to truly belong with these people. Rowan and Cris, the funny security guys who came by and flirted with her when they thought Cris wasn't watching, the girls at the front desk who gossiped about everything and everyone. All of them.
Ume felt her hand being raised and her attention snapped back to the blond. He gave her a smile and then bit gently into her wrist. She moaned softly, and then blushed when she realized that she had uttered the noise out loud. Her whole body relaxed and her entire focus was on his mouth gently pressed against the tender underside of her wrist. The blond, Alfarinn, held her up. He pulled away from the wound and then nodded his head toward Rowan.
She looked over to find that Cris had helped Rowan sit up and was snuggled up behind his partner, his arms wrapped around Rowan's waist. Ume offered her bleeding wrist to the redhead. Alfarinn slid an arm around her back and leaned close as Rowan drank. His voice was a soft, sultry baritone as he whispered words just for her. "Thank you. You are very generous." She wanted to tell him that she would be willing to be generous to him any time he liked if he'd say things like that to her again. Of course, Cris had told her that familiars were protected by the vampire that they were bonded to and other vampires could not feed from them, at least not without permission.
Like this. Ume figured this was a special circumstance. Rowan very obviously needed all the blood he could get. "Do we need to find him some more people?" She looked over at Cris and then back at Alfarinn.
The blond shook his head. "He could stand some more blood, especially when we finish working on his hands. However, someone, isn't drinking very deeply." Alfarinn gave the redhead a stern look. "Let this blood do its work. A few of us can go feed and then come back and give Rowan more." Alfarinn turned to Ume and winked. "He'll take more blood one way or another. See?"
He turned his attention back to Rowan and raised his eyebrows at the redhead, apparently daring him to contradict his statement.
Cris had nodded to Rowan and had helped him sit up. He suspected that the position was better for the coughing anyway. He noticed, as he slid up behind his partner, that there was a large very dark bruise and a few blisters on Rowan's back. [Am I hurting you, Love?] It was across his companion's shoulders so Cris adjusted Rowan up a little more so that the middle of Rowan's back was pressed against his chest. [Better.]
He turned to Aishe and favored her with a brief smile. "A very good plan. Someone must have taught you tactics." When Rowan coughed again. Cris turned back to her. "Can you get him a towel from the pantry? Something soft."
Looking up at Alfarinn, he said. "Wait until Kem gets here before working on his hands, please." Alfarinn nodded his head and went into Cris's kitchen, coming back out with a glass of kool-aid and a couple of chocolate thin mints. He cast a glance at Cris, who lifted one shoulder. "She had a good sales pitch." The elder then held a handed his scavenged food to Ume and then helped her up and onto the sofa.
"I hope you know that you are taking a little vacation." Cris murmured softly to Rowan. [You will just have to suffer through lying in bed all day being pampered and spoiled. I know it will be tough but I am giving you no choice, My Love.]
((OOC: Mostly harmless leader in blue. Ume in purple ))
Aishe looked over to him and offered him a small, sad smile. He looked beyond her and saw Cris sitting behind a man with red hair, holding onto him tightly while the redhead drank from the offered wrist of a young Asian woman. Kem took in the details; both Cris and Rowan were bare-chested. There was clothing everywhere and a few blankets which might have been neat a little while ago were rumpled but still covering Rowan to the waist.
Alfarinn emerged from the kitchen as Rowan pulled away from the woman's wrist. Kem smiled tightly at him and nodded a greeting to his friend before returning his pale eyes to the scene before him and then following Alfarinn all the way in. The sight of Rowan's hands was gruesome. His mouth and nose were burned and reddened. He smelled of acrid smoke, not the good wood-fire kind.
Aishe reached up and squeezed his hand. He squeezed back and sat down as Alfarinn helped the Asian woman to the sofa. Kem understood what was needed; even if Aishe hadn't told him he was sharp enough to catch on. He'd never used his glamour like this before. It was the newest of his abilities and he hadn't had the practice that many others had but he did know how it worked.
"Rowan," he said softly, "I'm Kem. If you let me, I'll try to help you while your friends care for you."
The redhead, now leaning back against Cris, nodded at him and smiled tightly, his face a mask of pain. Kem couldn't take away the hurt. Pain was a sensation, not an emotion, but certain emotions could trigger the release of endorphins that were shown to dull pain and Kem could help that along.
Kem didn't need to be right next to Rowan to help him. The others would need to get in close to him to work so he remained where he was, off to the side a bit, able to clearly see both Cris and Rowan. He sat meditation-style, legs crossed, palms down on his thighs, and closed his eyes.
He needed Rowan to feel strong emotions. Thrill, excitement, euphoria, love, the sensation of climax; those were the triggers for pain-blockers. It would be easiest for him to begin with euphoria, he thought, so he started there. Kem had been a weaver very long ago. In learning to use his glamour he'd begun associating emotions with strands of thread. He gathered up those that spoke of extreme happiness, unbelievable joy, and with a mental picture in his head he wove them intricately around Rowan.
It took a few minutes; Kem was not as adept at this as others who'd had the ability longer but he did have the advantage of having other mental abilities. His discipline was good, his will strong, and Rowan wasn't fighting him much. There was some resistance but in a short time Kem cracked open his eyes and turned his head to nod at Aishe and Alfarinn before closing them again. He would need to stay focused.
((ooc: Permission for glamour.))
Cris helped him sit upright and the position brought him some relief although he was still coughing up bits of bloodied tissue. He could draw in a breath now though without wanting to scream. He leaned against Cris gratefully, wishing hard enough as to be almost painful, that he could touch his lover better than this. He needed hands again, damn it.
[You aren't hurting me,] he responded tightly to Cris. [Everything hurts, but it's hardly your fault.]
He drank from Ume next, her human blood nowhere near as effective as that of the vampires but no less appreciated. In spite of Alfarinn's admonitions he still didn't drink too deeply. He couldn't manage it. Besides, between the four of them he'd drunk enough. He didn't think any more would be useful now; he could only ingest so much at once.
Aishe had gotten up quickly and gone to the kitchen for a soft hand towel, as Cris had requested. She returned and handed it to her Creator then resumed her seat. They were joined next by yet another person, this one a tall man Rowan didn't remember seeing before. He'd definitely have noticed. Although his skin was lightly tanned his hair and eyes were very light. His long hair, worn similar to Alfarinn's, was even paler than the Elder's and his eyes were an eerie shade of very pale grey, rimmed with a thin line of black. Those were all the details Rowan noted at the moment. Perhaps later he'd speculate but for now he was doing his best not to revert into a screaming, crying child right there in front of this crowd of onlookers.
Kem's offer made his presence clear and Rowan nodded with relief at the prospect of someone who could help him control his own rising panic for now. It was just what he would have done to a patient, but unfortunately he couldn't glamour himself. Kem sat a few feet away and closed his eyes, frowning in concentration. There was a moment of tension between them as Kem pressed against Rowan's will and Rowan tried to drop his own walls. In that split second all the fear, all the terror and panic that Rowan was trying not to give in to had a chance to run rampant but the glamour washed over him and panic gave way to a sense of pleasure.
It was odd to feel it. Rowan knew instinctively that the pleasure was not his; he knew what he'd just seen, where he'd just been, but it receded into the back of his mind and became a memory for the moment. Rowan uttered a sound of relief and relaxed marginally, turning his head toward Cris and giving a soft, brief sigh.
[Yes, love,] he sent, his words tinted with echoes of what Kem was doing to him. [I'm... okay with that.] He wasn't ashamed to admit he would need time to recover from this. He hated to miss work but he would do more harm than good if he couldn't do his job properly.
He looked at Alfarinn and Aishe. "Sorry you have to do this," he said softly. His voice was much restored now but his chest and throat still hurt so he spoke very softly.
"You need to cut away the dead parts," he said, nodding down to his hands. "Then cover them with that gel there," he nodded his chin at the tube of lidocaine gel, "and wrap them up. That will do. It doesn't matter if the blisters break."
He was not susceptible to infection; burns didn't have the same danger for vampires that they did for humans. In that, Rowan was lucky. He would not develop an infection and he wouldn't die of dehydration. For his type, there was merely pain, pain, and more pain.
Rowan closed his eyes. "You'll probably need to hold me down," he murmured faintly. Even with the morphine and the glamour doing their best, he didn't think this would be a pleasant experience.
She exchanged a glance with Alfarinn when Rowan said they'd need to hold him. Rowan was bigger, more muscular, than their lanky Elder but she doubted he was in much of a position to fight them now. Alfarinn would certainly be the better choice to hold Rowan, which left Aishe to do the necessary cutting and cleaning.
They began with his right hand. While Alfarinn held it Aishe took the scissors and the hemostats that were available. Under Rowan's sporadic guidance she began to trim and scrub away bits of charred flesh from his hands. There were very few blisters; most of them had already burst or burned away. In a few places there was a stripe of shining white tendon where the skin had burned away entirely. From his palm she had to flush the wounds that had glass in them, pluck out any remaining slivers, and then trim away the edges of the straight welts across it.
The process wasn't pleasant for anyone. Aishe was shaking with nerves and stress by the time she was halfway through, trying to remain clinically detached but well aware that this was her Creator's lover she was butchering. She had to focus hard to see past the tears in her own eyes, but she kept her hands steady by some miracle. Rowan was doing his best to stay calm and still but it was not an easy task and he was unsuccessful on numerous occasions, jumping, uttering cries of pain, or thrashing. Kiamhaat was sweating where he sat as he tried to keep up his glamour and she apologized silently. It was difficult enough for him to try to push past Rowan's obvious distress, without adding hers through their bond. He had no way to shut her out.
That was the first hand.
Aishe carefully spread the pain-numbing gel over what remained of Rowan's right hand while trying to galvanize herself for the second one. He explained to her, briefly, how to wrap it. She did her best; his accent had grown thick with pain and he was gasping out a few words at a time so it was tough to understand but the basics were evident; cover the wounds, let them heal.
At his request she pulled up more morphine into a syringe. She could still see the spot where Cris had hit his vein earlier so she poked the needle into the same place, pulled the plunger back to make sure she was in, and dosed him once more. While she worked on his second hand he made it slightly easier by passing out cold for most of it. Unfortunately, he woke up before she finished, murmuring deliriously in a slurred voice that was definitely not English. She suspected it was German, an odd language for an Irishman to revert to, but at least Cris was able to translate. Aishe didn't get the gist of his words at the moment, but the words were eerie and dark, things to do with fire and blood.
Aishe wished he'd remained asleep. The discomfort was clearly intense. She finally straightened up and looked at Rowan's hands, now bound in several layers of white gauze and cotton padding, like snowy mittens. She'd cleaned the burn across his back although it was more like a bruise, and she'd attended to the healing burns on his face. There was little more they could do now, so she sat back on her heels with a soft sigh and looked around at the concerned faces that surrounded them. She wiped tears off her cheeks and took a deep breath.
"What else can I do?" she asked. She didn't think there was much. Rowan needed to rest now, and drink more. She would gladly offer more of her own blood if she thought he'd accept it, but at this point there was only one person in the room he hadn't drunk from and she was certain the offer was going to be forthcoming. He would, perhaps, be amenable to drinking from Kiamhaat since he had not yet done so, even though the rest of them were also perfectly willing and able to provide. Rowan seemed reluctant to drink deeply from any of them, and she didn't know why. This was hardly the time for manners, in her opinion. He needed all he could get.
Most all of his thoughts were focused on Rowan and he felt worse for bringing Aishe yet more bad experiences without being able to be as supportive as he should through them.
Through out the entire process of cleaning and cutting away the charred flesh from Rowan's hands, he murmured, stroked, held, and even occasionally kissed his partner. Whatever he thought would work. He wasn't even sure that Rowan noticed his efforts but he refused to stop. Rowan had asked him for support and this was the only way he could give it at the moment. He just hoped that it helped in some small way.
He had hoped that Rowan would have stayed unconscious for the second hand but he woke and began muttering in German. It was strange. His accent, thick with pain and drugs was different. He had a regional accent. It was not the type of someone who had learned text book German but one of someone who had lived a long time in a region. When Rowan was better he would have to remember to ask him about it, perhaps his partner had lived some of his vampiric life not far from Cris. It was a fleeting surreal thought that they might have met in passing many many years before.
But why was Rowan reverting to German?
Cris looked over at Alfarinn who asked him the same thing through the bond they shared. He shook his head and said he didn't know. Perhaps it was a clue to whatever caused Rowan to end up in a burning building in the first place.
Ume was clutching the glass of kool-aid in a death grip and was paler than he had ever seen her. Cris didn't think that was from the blood loss. Rowan hadn't drank that much. He hadn't even drank as much as she would have given during a blood drive at the local Red Cross. This was a tough thing to watch, especially if you knew the person it was happening to. He sent to her. [Ume, Are you all right? Can you do me a favor?]
[I...Yes, I can. What do you need done?] Ume looked down at the scene on the living room floor and appeared to be fervently hoping that the favor had nothing to do with helping cut Rowan.
[Go to my office and talk to MARI. Ask her to check the news and police reports and such for a fire earlier tonight around the time you left work. It might not be on the news yet but the police should know about it. I want to know what building he was in and why. See if there were other people involved.] If it was not the Hospital itself, which it couldn't have been, then why had Rowan gone willingly into a burning building. He was terrified of fire. Was there someone else involved? Someone who spoke German? Was that why Rowan was muttering about fire, death and darkness in such a strange choice of language? It was only a guess but he wanted to know about the building anyway and this kept Ume legitimately busy so that she didn't have to endure the macabre scene in the living room.
He couldn't rightly spare Aishe from being a part of it but he could at least do something for his familiar.
When they were done, he looked down at Rowan's mitten covered hands and then at the three people who had worked so hard to help the two of them. "Thank you. All of you. I could not ask for better friends and family." Cris turned his gaze to Aishe and reached for her.
"You can come here and give me hug." He gathered her to him one handed, the other still wrapped around Rowan. "Thank you, Liebling, I know that was not easy to do. You were as gentle as you could be. We both are very grateful." Cris felt that in this case he could speak for Rowan. His partner might not have sounded very thankful while the process was going on but he would be later and probably was now, at least somewhere in the rational part of his mind.
Hurting people was not easy for an empath. For himself and Aishe at least their empathy was something visual instead of something felt. Alfarinn, however, would have been able to feel every bit of Rowan's pain unless he made an effort to shut it out. He doubted his lover's subterfuge was up through all the pain, stress and drugs.
Cris looked over to see how Alfarinn was doing. He found that his friend had gotten up once more and was helping himself to his alcohol stash. Alfarinn had downed one shot of rum, poured another for himself. The man then poured another glass. He brought both back over to where they had congregated on the floor and handed the second glass down to Kem.
"You want one?" Alfarinn asked Aishe and then looked over at Cris, who shook his head and said "No, Thank you."
[Alfarinn, Could you look in the front pocket of Rowan's scrubs. He had been very adament about saving whatever was in there. I assume it has something to do with him being burned. If it does then I would like you to touch it before I do....if you don't mind.]
[Of course not.] Alfarinn gulped down the rest of the rum and set the tumbler on the displaced coffee table. He moved over to the pile of clothing. [Do you want help moving him upstairs?]
[No, not yet. I will carry him upstairs soon but for now I don't want to disturb him. Besides I don't want to let him go.]
((OOC: Our slightly inebriated leader still in blue. Ume in purple ))
Kem heard Cris translating Rowan's German for Aishe. A distant part of his mind noted that Rowan was not from Northern Germany. Funny, he'd thought Rowan was Irish. Then again, in the haze of delirium he could have spoken Martian and Kem probably wouldn't have thought much of it. He was plainly out of it.
When the ordeal finally ended everyone in the room seemed relieved, but still somehow tense. From what Aishe sent to him Kem understood that everyone had given Rowan blood but the redhead had not drunk deeply. So, opening his eyes but not really dropping his glamour, Kem crouched close and held his wrist to Rowan's mostly-healed mouth.
"Rowan. Please drink," he said softly. Then, remembering Rowan wasn't entirely coherent, he repeated the request in German, lifting his wrist, biting into it himself, and then holding it back before Cris's injured partner.
Rowan responded to it the second time, with the scent of blood not his own so close. He drank, not deeply, but enough that Kem didn't fear that he might starve. When Rowan turned his head away he withdrew his wrist.
"Good," he murmured comfortingly. Then, carefully, he let his glamour down.
Stepping away Kem exhaled a shaky breath and wiped sweating palms on his jeans. Only after feeding Rowan did he turn and retrieve the glass Alfarinn had given to him. He downed it quickly, offering Alfarinn a twisted half-smile. As far as Kem was concerned, they could do a few more like that before it took the edge off of this. He felt for Cris and Rowan.
Passing out was a blessing but even that offered little escape. He still felt pain, and fear. He could hear Cris's voice talking to him and he clung to it, even when the room disappeared from in front of his eyes, leaving him floundering.
Flashes of fire danced before him. He saw a little girl burning, her body on fire, and in the back of his head a little voice said, 'that's not how it went' but it didn't help much. Kem's glamour kept him sane; he reached for it, sought the shelter of that imposed peace and happiness.
Finally the flaming agony in his hands stopped, letting them dull down to manageable agony. Rowan drank again, not sure whose blood it was and not caring. It was strong, it was there, and he needed it badly now. When he pulled away it was to rest against something warm. Cris. Cris was still there.
The glamour faded and for a moment Rowan felt utter panic, and then he grappled with it and controlled himself. He opened his eyes a crack. The room was swimming around his vision. He tried to voice his thanks but he suspected what he thought he said was not what came out. It was a fleeting realization before he surrendered to drugs and let himself float idly around in his own mind for a while.
When she pulled away she had to wipe tears from her eyes again. She shook her head at Cris. "It's all right," she said. "I wish I could do more. What do you need us to do? I don't want to just leave. What if you need something?"
She looked at Kiamhaat. "We could stay here tonight," she suggested. There were furnished apartments here, and even if none were available they could go upstairs to Pak's apartment.
She looked at Cris, waiting for him to tell her what he needed. Surely she could do something else. There had to be a million things to do now. She just wanted to be there for them both, and particularly for Cris, who was so many things to her; friend, father, mentor. She loved him fiercely and therefor by association she loved Rowan with as much fervor, the man who seemed to make Cris so happy.
All he saw of the body were the places where Rowan's sleeve covered hands touched it. The way it rolled over was wrong. It took going over the mental image again for him to realize why he automatically assumed that it was a body and not someone alive. Alfarinn supposed the person could have been unconscious but he did not see images of Rowan carrying anyone out of the burning building or handing a person off to fire fighters. He most certainly would have picked up on that important event if it had happened. So dead. Also, small. The ribcage with Rowan's hands spanned it to turn the body over was narrow, child sized narrow.
He looked up and over at the delirious redhead and was overcome by another wave of sympathy for him. There would be more than physical injuries to deal with.
Going back to what he saw, Alfarinn tried to sort out any more useful information from it. It was hard to tell from the flashes but the building did not seem to be in good repair, even before the burning. There was no furniture, the paint was patchy on the walls, and there was some graffiti here and there as well.
The important images stop with the burning building. Older ones before that simply showed him images of Rowan at the hospital putting the hoodie on and leaving work, Rowan taking the garment off and hanging it on a hook, Rowan picking it up from a hanger and putting it on in the morning, Cris tossing it in a washer.
Digging into the front pocket of the scrubs, Alfarinn found a folded piece of paper. He pulled it out and read the lines there.
'Tis a night for games.
Wouldst thou play with me, little bird?
Fly with me, if thy wings can bear the heat
Or will they burn with the nearness of the sun?
Icarus, we begin tonight.
Look to the east, to the flaming tower
Wherein hides a tragic princess.
Save her, if thou wouldst.
Or let the flames save her, cleanse her, free her.
He swallowed hard, not sure if he wanted to see what the paper might tell him. Cris had given him another oddly worded little note that came from a dead vampire. Now this one had been given to Rowan. Alfarinn wasn't sure why anyone would target the humanitarian doctor. The only thing they knew for certain that the two recipients had in common was their species but there could have been something else. Perhaps this other vampire had been a nurse or a doctor as well. They had very little way of knowing.
Closing his eyes, Alfarinn readied himself for the images to come. The most recent was Rowan unfolding the note to read it, his face pale, his expression shocked. Rowan's fingers pulling the note out of his pocket. Another hand holding up the note in front of Rowan and placing it gently into the doctor's front pocket. The note being written in the same space as before, the metal table, cold and impersonal. There was nothing useful after that.
Alfarinn stared down at the note in his hand, a puzzled frown on his face. Why hadn't Rowan noticed the person when he put the paper in his pocket? It was as if the person had been blended. They had been standing right in front of him so close in fact that it would have been uncomfortably intimate for someone who was not a very good friend or Cris. And the fingers had held the paper up, carefully dropping it into place without even the slightest attempt to be covert. At least not that he could tell from the paper's point of view.
Blended then? Were they dealing with a vampire who hunted vampires?
He stood up and went to get the bottle of rum from Cris's cabinet. Alfarinn brought it back to the living room and poured himself a drink and then poured Kem another one.
"Here, take a look at this." He knelt beside his friend. "Tell me what you sense."
((OOC: Look the amazingly handsome leader gets his own post! ))
Aishe helped him place the covers back over Rowan's legs and around his waist. He smiled gratefully at her and considered her offer. He was solitary by habit but not as antisocial as some of the people living in the Towers would believe. Cris understood that the success of a mission or battle depended on the entire team. In this case, the team of two, Rowan and himself, could use some help. It might be necessary to get Rowan more blood and he didn't want to leave his companion alone. New information might arrive and Aishe was a part of Security. If he needed some help delivering messages or finding out information then she would be there and available. Who knew what else might be needed but people nearby sounded like a good contingency plan to him.
"Thank you." Cris looked over at Kem and smiled, including the Egyptian in his thanks. "There is a guest bedroom here. You wouldn't have to sleep on the sofa. It is small. I partitioned it off from the large room that was originally supposed to be the office but the bed folds out and it is fairly comfortable. I promise."
He had slept there more than once, usually when injuries made walking up the steps to his room seem like too much effort for the reward. The sound of the waves were soothing and sometimes he ended up there after a long hard day. When he took work home with him he would curl up on that couch and read, study or research until the sound of the ocean lulled him to sleep. He hadn't needed a large home office when his work office was but a few steps down the hall. He mostly used the small office space left over for painting whatever thing he had brought home from his little workshop, which was located over in the Meridian Tower near Grisha's store. One shouldn't use machine tools, blowtorches, saws and hammers in the residential section. One might get arrested by the Security Chief for breaking the noise ordinance.
Cris looked over at Alfarinn to see what the man would find in Rowan's clothes. He frowned in confusion when he saw the Elder pull out a piece of paper. What could possibly be so important about a piece of paper that Rowan would be so adamant about it being saved?
Alfarinn was uncomfortable. He didn't need the ability to read auras to know that. He tried looking anyway and found the rock wall of Alfarinn's subterfuge up and in the way. Cris squinted harder, as if that might help him concentrate. He only saw a hazy pale yellow of apprehension. Through the bond between them he received very little. Alfarinn had been closed off while holding onto Rowan. No doubt he didn't think it would be productive if he succumbed to whatever Rowan was feeling, terror, panic or even the better glamour induced emotions that Kem had been sending him.
Whatever it was, the paper must have been important. Alfarinn stood up and went to retrieve the entire bottle of rum and then handed the paper to Kem.
Cris looked over at Aishe. "They are up to something." He made no move to go find out what that something was. He would find out soon. Right now he would stay where he was, hold Rowan and wait for the two Elders to fill him in.
He did send to Ume and asked her if she had found anything. Cris sensed her surprise at his sending, a thing she had grown accustomed to over the last few months. She must have been concentrating or else the scene she had witnessed tonight had made her jumpy.
The information that Ume and MARI gathered was that there had been a fire not far from the Hospital, in a more industrial section. It had been abandoned for a while, occasionally being used by squatters, dealers or whoever else might need a temporary shelter. The police reported one casualty. Ume said that MARI was currently waiting to be alerted with more information. The AI wanted to know if he wanted his people in the police department to be made aware of their interest in this case and to share whatever information they might find. He relayed through Ume that, yes, he wanted his people to be looking for anything else that might be useful.
So why had Rowan gone into what appeared to be an abandoned building? Ume had not mentioned anyone being saved from the building. So what happened? Had Rowan suspected that there were people inside? Had he been lured there? Had it been a trap? He so no evidence on Rowan's body to suggest he had been kidnapped and bound. Nor did that seem likely since he had sent to Rowan not long before his lover had been planning to leave the hospital. There were just very few reasons he could think of that would explain why his partner, terrified of fire, would walk willingly into a burning building.
Cris looked down at Rowan and wished he could turn back the clock. Whatever the reason had been; Rowan shouldn't have suffered for it. Cris planted a soft kiss on his lover's forehead, making a silent promise to protect Rowan better in the future.
When she looked at him with a question in her eyes he nodded, both to her and to Cris. "Of course we'll stay," he said, as if there had been any question. He smiled a little and shook his head at Cris. "We can sleep on anything."
In the meantime Alfarinn had retrieved something and come back to where Kem was. While Aishe busied herself cleaning, Kem knocked back the second shot of rum gladly. He took the paper from Alfarinn with raised eyebrows and read it to himself, his brows drawing together into a frown when the words sank in.
He'd seen the previous poem along with the sketch MARI had put together of the previous victim. He glanced at Rowan, who he didn't know, but who by all accounts had few, if any, enemies. As Alfarinn requested Kem closed his eyes and took in the details of the little paper's journey. A map spread before his mind's eye and he followed its journey, beginning overseas some years ago and arriving in Nachton only recently.
"Hasn't been here long enough for me to see where," Kem said. "I can't find much of use here. Do you still have the other one?"
Kem's ability was of little use in this situation with only one paper. He noted the perforations along one edge though, as if it had been torn from a notebook. If the other poem came from the same book he might be able to compare the two and figure out when the book had been purchased and where. It might give him a little insight as to where this person was located in Nachton, too. The two maps in his head would look identical up to the point at which the papers had been torn from the notebook and delivered, then their maps would differ. If he could get a location on where they diverged it might tell them something about where the letters were being written.
Not as good as an exact address obviously, but Kem would probably be able to pinpoint an area of a couple blocks or so in Nachton.
If he could get another paper like this one.