Out With the Old... (invite only)
Alex wiped the back of his hand across his brow and leaned on the kitchen counter for a second. When he brought it away from his face he frowned. It was shaking. He just felt - shaky.
It had been a week since he'd come upstairs from the clinic. A week and a half since the surgery on his knee. He knew he should be feeling much better but these last few days he'd been feeling worse. Not a lot, but a little. He hadn't mentioned it to anyone. It hadn't seemed horribly relevant. He'd been pushing himself, eager to be active, happy to be up and around.
At the moment his heart was pounding unreasonably hard though, and his ears were ringing faintly. He abandoned the cup of tea he'd been making and made his way into the bedroom. Eiryk was at work; Alex had reassured his lover that it was just fine. He had so many people here at the Towers that he could call to for help.
Right now he didn't need help. He just needed to lie down and rest. A short nap, and if he didn't feel any better he'd go see Rowan at the clinic. That's what he'd do. He arranged himself carefully in their big bed and pulled the comforter over himself, passing out before his head hit the pillow.
He woke much later than he thought he would, late in the night but too early for Eiryk to be home yet. He was sweating onto his sheets but he felt chilled. He got up, made his disturbingly breathless way into the bathroom, drank some water, and took his temperature. It was fucking high. 103.
Alex made his way back out to the living room. "MARI," he said, and his own voice sounded thready and thin to his ears. What was going on?
When the AI appeared he said, "Can you please let Rue... Dr. Murphy... know I'm coming into the clinic? Please. Wake him up if you have to."
He declined her offer of assistance; he could get to the elevator on his own. Once again, he had to wonder at his own pride as the hallway turned itself from a few feet into a few miles long. Oh god, what was happening? There... double metal doors. He reached out, far, far, and hit the button although he was pretty sure MARI knew to stop the elevator for him.
The doors slid open as Alex's vision was already tunneling. Black fuzziness invaded the periphery and he gasped a little. There was someone in the elevator already, and Alex hoped they wouldn't mind lending a hand because damn it... the world was swinging wildly around.
"Sorry," he gasped, not even sure what he was apologizing for until he began to fall. "Oh. It's you."
Arms reached out for him, and Alex had a peculiar sense of deja vu as he fell into them. "Thank god it's you."
Just before the doors opened MARI stopped the discussion and said something strange.
"Alfarinn, I believe you should be ready to catch the next person wanting to board the elevator.â€
Frowning at the display of the AI on the control panel beside the door, he stepped forward as the car came to a stop. The doors opened and Alex fell into his arms.
He looked down at the other man and smiled. "We have to stop meeting like this, Alex, people will start to talk.â€
Bending down, he scooped the wobbly human up in his arms, holding him easily. "For someone who is supposed to be getting better you aren't looking so hot.â€ Alfarinn smiled softly. "Not that you look unappealing but you are not looking your best.â€
He looked over at MARI and asked. "Has Dr Murphy been notified?â€
"Yes, He will be awaiting Alex's arrival in the clinic.â€
"That seems incredibly prudent.â€
"I would agree and I believe that is why Alex asked me to alert him.â€
"Alfarinn," Alex said, his voice still reedy and thin. His heart was pounding and he was trembling.
The Elder's words filtered through to his ears and he tried to muster up a smile. "Sorry," he said again. "I don't know what happened. I went to sleep and then I woke up and... like this..."
He closed his eyes tight as the elevator began to move. Trembled again. "Don't feel so good," he agreed with Alfarinn's assessment. Then he snapped them open again.
"'Member you... you said..." he curled his fingers tightly into Alfarinn's shirt. His voice broke. "I'm not ready to die yet."
His head fell slowly onto Alfarinn's shoulder. It was too damn heavy to keep up. "Not like this," he mumbled.
The elevator felt like it was swinging wildly around. Alex gave a shuddering, soft cry as something inside his chest seized up. It hurt. Was this what dying felt like? He wanted Eiryk. He couldn't die until Eiryk was there.
Alex asked if he remembered what he had said to him in the stairwell. Leaning close, he murmured softly near Alex's ear. "Yes, I remember. Don't worry, Alex. I won't let you die.â€
"I will stay with you the whole time.â€ He smiled down at the very sick human in his arms. "Rowan can't kick me out of the room. I own the building.â€
He looked up as the elevator came to a stop. "If it comes to it then I will be watching. You don't have to worry. Will be right here the whole time. I promise.â€
The doors opened and he headed with as much speed as he dared to the clinic. Rowan was there already prepping himself and the room for Alex's arrival. Alfarinn set his charge down on the hospital bed and then backed up out of the way.
"Is there anything you need me to do?â€ He was mostly asking Rowan but the question could have been asked to Alex as well. He would do almost anything either asked, short of leave, which he promised he wouldn't do.
Thank goodness he hadn't been asleep. It wasn't his shift at the clinic but he was always on call, and he hadn't been doing anything he couldn't drop immediately. He was at the clinic in record time with Joanna, that night's nurse. He had an IV setup waiting already. Seeing Alex in Alfarinn's arms, though, Rowan realized he had very little time to figure out what was going wrong with his friend.
Alfarinn asked what he could do and Rowan glanced at him. "Phone," he said tersely. "Call Eiryk. Get him here now. Please."
After that he applied his attention to Alexander, giving directions to Joanna. "We need to get that IV line in," he said, glancing at her while he set up an IV bag.
"I'm trying," she said softly. "His veins are bad."
Rowan waved her away and took her place; she continued to set up the drip while he grimaced and poked at Alex, who was barely conscious. "Vitals," he said, his voice still terse, but not uncertain. Confident, determined, but calm. Inside he was screaming. Outside, the doctor was as cool as always.
"Alex? Alex, can you tell me what happened?"
Alex's eyes fluttered open; he looked like hell. His face was ashen, his eyes red-rimmed, two high spots of fever in his cheeks. Before he could respond his eyes drifted closed again.
Rowan continued in his calm voice. "Wake up, Alex. Come on. Open your eyes for me and tell me what's going on."
He worked as he spoke. There; after several tries the catheter was in. Fluids started. Joanna was gathering vitals and Rowan wasn't happy with the initial readings. Alex's temperature was over 103; he was tachycardic; he was shocky as hell.
Rowan set to cooling Alex a little. Ice packs, a cooling sheet to bring the fever down. Joanna took over for him after collecting the blood samples Rowan asked her for, and he move to Alex's leg to unwrap his knee and look at it. He narrowed his eyes.
At the outside it didn't look so terrible; the incision was pretty neat. The entire joint, though, was hot and swollen with bits of red here and there. There was infection there, no doubt about it, but why Alex hadn't said anything sooner was a mystery. Rowan had limited options for the sorts of drugs a recent chemo patient could have; he started up another antibiotic drip and pumped up the fluids a little more.
"Suspected sepsis," he said to Joanna, and whoever the hell else was there by then. He knew Alfarinn was still there. And Cris too. Whoever might have come and gone during his efforts to get Alex started with fluid and antibiotic therapy, though, he didn't notice. "There appear to be signs of infection in the right knee. Cultures won't return for another 48 hours."
If Alex could make it that long. Sepsis was serious. If he'd been ill for several hours, Alex's life was already in danger. Early treatment was key in these cases. If Rowan was too late, Alex was a dead man. And Eiryk lost his fiance. And they all lost a dear friend.
Things he couldn't afford to think about now; he was the doctor. He was calm and confident. He was Alex's advocate for life, which meant he had to fight as hard as he knew how to keep him here with them.
[Eiryk, return to The Towers immediately. Alex needs you. He is in the hospital, Rowan is treating him.] There was no time to be delicate with the information. Normally he might have spared Eiryk worry but this really was an emergency and a time for action.
"Eiryk will be here shortly.â€ He said to Rowan, Alfarinn and the mostly unconscious Alex. He sent it again to Alex, hoping that it would make it into his friend's subconscious if nothing else. It wasn't dreamwalking by any stretch. He wished he could give Alex a wonderful dream of everything being alright and him making it through this, whatever this was, but he couldn't. He could only tell him that his partner was on the way and would be by his side soon.
"I will try to let him know when Eiryk is here.â€ Cris said to Alfarinn and shrugged slightly. He had deep sleepers around him everywhere. Alfarinn's mind was the easiest to get into while asleep. Ironic since his friend was normally a difficult person for most people to read. Being bonded to him and being able to send seemed to make the connection between Alfarinn just that much stronger.
Rowan's mind was easy to reach for different reasons. His husband's mind, even in deep sleep, was as familiar to him as his own and as open to him. Rowan also could keep people out of his head with incredible ease but, unlike Alfarinn, his partner didn't seem to have the need to keep everyone out all the time.
Neither of them watching could glamour, which might have been of use. Cris and Alfarinn simply stayed out of the way. They both pushed into the corner away from all the machines and cabinets that might be necessary at some sudden moment.
Sepsis wasn't good. Cris looked at Alfarinn and his friend returned his gaze. They both had plenty of experience with Sepsis as warriors who had seen wounds get infected and go bad. Rowan hadn't proclaimed that the definite diagnosis but the fact that he was mentioning it at all suggested that there was a likely chance that the prognosis was accurate, otherwise he wouldn't have mentioned it as a possibility at all.
He kept up his mental link with Eiryk so that he could answer any questions that his friend might have. Cris also sent to Aishe and Kem to let them both know that Alex was in the emergency room down in the clinic. There was little room for all of them to crowd around into the place but they would want to know what was going on. As soon as Eiryk was here and they had no more need of sender he would move to the next room and get himself out of the way. Alfarinn was stubbornly refusing to move, even when he suggested that they could wait just outside. It was strange; Cris didn't know that Alfarinn had such a strong bond with Alex but his friend was watching the proceedings around the bed with keen attention, his grey eyes taking in each thing that happened, the beeping machines and the emotions that went through the people in the room.
Thank god it was a phone call because as soon as he heard Cris in his head Eiryk was out the door. He said a hurried good bye and ended the call without waiting to hear from his buyer, grabbed his car keys, and ran. He hit the wall once and a door as well but that didn't slow Eiryk down, he hadn't even taken the time to grab his suit jacket why would running into stationary objects stop him?
He pummeled Cris with questions during the longest drive back home he'd ever had, what was wrong, how was Alex, was he going to be all right and generally pumped him for details. Not that there was much detail right then. Speed limits were broken, lights were pushed and once he got to the Towers parking rules were completely ignored. Let them tow the damned car he didn't care. The only thing that Eiryk was worried about was Alex.
Although he didn't run once he got to the Towers he walked as fast as possible, he still managed to trip over air and face plant once before getting to the clinic. He didn't know what was wrong but what he saw made his blood go cold; IVs, ice packs, and worse yet Rowan looking very serious and Alex apparently being unconscious.
He wanted to run to his fiance and hold him, but between the tubes and Rowan and the nurse he didn't know where to go or stand. All he could do was give a strangled sob before going completely and utterly stoic. This wasn't right, this was very very wrong. Alex had been getting better, he'd been home, he'd been up and about, where the hell had this come from?! He knew that Rowan was doing everything he could and that his hysterics wouldn't help anyone or anything no matter how desperate he felt. Knowing that, however, didn't make him feel any better.
"Can I help? Do you need anything?â€
The answer would be 'no' of course but there was no way that Eiryk couldn't offer. He needed to do something right now. Waiting was not his forte and being helpless, especially where Alex was concerned, was not something he could just accept.
There was a poke, a tiny sharp pain then more of an aching pressure. An IV. Then he felt a strange coolness. And even more, refreshing coolness that spread over his whole body. That was nice. He was still shivering, but he liked that he didn't feel so hot.
He heard Cris in his head, telling him that Eiryk was coming. That was good. He tried to respond to Cris. [Tell him... sorry. Love him. Scared.] What was he saying? He was sorry for worrying Eiryk, he loved him, don't be scared. He was sorry he was leaving him, please love him when he was gone, he was scared. All of the above? Who knew.
He was floating now. He opened his eyes once or twice, looked past his friends to the man leaning against the wall in the corner with the pale hair. Then he closed them again and simply drifted. It was easier.
He roused himself once more when he heard Eiryk's voice. "Eiryk?" he croaked. "Eiryk?"
Looking up, he didn't see his fiance. He saw Rowan's face again, skin pale, wide mouth drawn into a thin-lipped determined look. "I'm scared," he whispered. "You're going to fix me, right Rue?"
He couldn't really wait for an answer. The ringing in his ears increased again and he let the blackness wash over him again.
Eiryk came in and asked what he could do. Unfortunately there was nothing that the rest of them could really do. Alfarinn wrapped a large hand around the man's upper arm. He spoke quietly to keep from disturbing the medical team. "Cris has let him know that you are here.â€ He guided Eiryk to the side of the bed that wasn't currently occupied with people. "Touch him, say his name and reassure him that you are with him. It will help. Then come stand out of the way with the rest of us warriors. I am afraid this is an enemy were are not equipped to fight.â€ They were equipped to cheat it but that was the very last option.
He helped Eiryk navigate the small room and stayed by his side so that he could pull the viking away if necessary. It was hard to step back from a loved one when they were in mortal danger but sometimes it was necessary.
Alex woke up enough to ask for Eiryk and he was scared, very scared. His words to Rowan were a spear straight through the doctor's heart. Rowan's guilt and pain were so sharp that he was sure even the non-empaths would have felt it. He hoped that Cris hadn't noticed but he was sure that his friend would know Rowan well enough to know the reaction even if Rowan managed to block the outward evidence of it.
[Ask Kem to hurry down here. We could use his glamour and he's the oldest person we have around with it.] Cris agreed and sent for Kem and after that told Aishe more of what was going on.
Cris was worried. He was also keeping a tight leash on his emotional state but Alfarinn was able to sense his friend's feelings more easily than most. Cris was concerned not just for Alex but for Rowan also and Eiryk.
"Kem is on the way, Rowan.â€ Alfarinn mentioned calmly, pulling Eiryk back to stand with the rest of the military defense team. If the room was attacked by zombies, a gang or a horde of marauding looters then they would have it covered, otherwise they were all feeling inadequate to the situation.
He turned his attention to his fellow Norseman. "Alex won't be leaving us. The pattern of his fate says differently. You will see.â€
Eiryk arrived and Rowan shook his head at his friend's question. "No," he said, his voice outwardly calm, gentle, even. "Just let me take care of him."
Alex roused himself at the sound of Eiryk's voice and Rowan soothed him, too. "He's here," he murmured. "We're all here Alex. Be calm."
Alfarinn pulled Eiryk over and Rowan nodded his approval of the move. Eiryk and Alex needed to see each other. Rowan should probably ask them all to leave, but his focus was on his task and he wasn't distracted. Too many years of medicine under his belt for that.
Alex's next words hit him like a blow to the soul. Rowan didn't flinch, didn't wince, didn't give any outward indication of how it affected him. Inside his heart shredded itself as his long-time friend's lover, his friend, Cris's friend, their family, looked to him to try and make this all better. And he didn't know if he could. Hell, he'd bumped up Alexander's antibiotics to the strongest ones he could have and here he was. Sick, possibly dying. He should have seen this coming. Should have insisted on more check-ups, more bloodwork, more more more.
His voice and hands remained steady, regardless of his inner turmoil. He had a job to do, and this was his battleground even if it hadn't been in the past. It wasn't as if he hadn't been in this position before. He'd had friends go under his knife. He'd saved some, lost others. This was closer to his heart though. It hurt more.
Unwilling to betray any emotion other than calm self-assurance, Rowan glanced up when Alfarinn said Kem was coming. "Good. Thank you," he said in an even tone.
Kem would be able to help calm Eiryk and the rest of their friends. Alex might be scared but he was very much out of it. Rowan was doing his best to send reassurance to Eiryk, but he was too focused on Alex to be much use. Kem, for all that he was new at glamour, was the next best thing. The Elder had gotten very good at it in the past few months; he'd had to.
Finally he looked up at the people in the room with them, arching backward, putting his hands on his hips. Alex's IV was steadily pumping fluids in. His blood pressure was very low but Rowan was already on top of that. His temperature was coming down a little bit, and his O2/sat was rising now.
"Without test results I can't say what's going on," Rowan said in an even, measured, confident tone. "But it looks like there's a bacterial infection if I had to guess. It's gotten into his blood stream and it's causing full system shock."
He looked at Eiryk, while brushing his hand through his own hair and sighing. "I won't lie to you. This is serious. We're trying to get him stabilized now and he's responding pretty well to what we've done so far but the next twenty four hours are critical. If it is sepsis, the longer it goes untreated, the higher the risk. I don't know how long he was sick before he collapsed. How was he before you left, Eiryk?"
Alex was a stubborn man; there may have been no indication Alex felt anything but fine. Rowan needed to try to get an idea of how long this had been going on - although honestly it wouldn't change the therapy at all.
"You should all probably wait outside for now. I need to do a few more tests. I need a blood sample - not from the IV catheter, and I'm going to drain some of the fluid out of his knee and try to take a culture from that as well. It's going to take some time, there's nothing anyone can do to help, and I'd prefer to be alone with my staff for this."
His tone was unyielding. Some things, Eiryk and their friends didn't need to see. Rowan needed, too, to be able to control the environment Alex was in while he worked on him. He bent a great many rules while in his own clinic and at the hospital but this one he couldn't do. He needed to focus entirely on Alex. Period.
He wanted to charge to Alex, to hold him, to fix whatever was wrong, but he was afraid to move, terrified he'd get in the way and make things worse. Fortunately Alfarinn took care of that. Eiryk grabbed up one of Alex' hands and held it in both of his, kissing Alex' finger tips.
"I'm here Alex. It'll be OK. We'll get you sorted out, I'll make you some soup, and maybe you should take it easy for a while longer instead of pushing. I'm here though until you get better.â€
Having found a place that seemed out of the way Eiryk was reluctant to move. He wanted very much to keep some kind of contact with Alex. It took some effort to move him away from his fiance but, still worried he'd get in the way and make Rowan's job harder, he did reluctantly allow himself to be moved.
Eiryk was terrified. He could face anything himself, or for Alex but he couldn't do anything here. He was just in the way, useless. He knew that Rue was a good doctor, -very- good and he trusted him to take the best possible care of Alex but looking at his long time friend it didn't take much to know how serious this was and while he would rather not be mislead about how Alex was doing, it did not reassure him at all.
He looked to Alfarinn and was surprised to hear anything reassuring and he sounded so confidant. There was no answer he could make. Eiryk had never been able to see such things as fate, he might believe them, but right now he wasn't sure of anything. He couldn't even make an answer, he could only nod tightly.
"Fine... he said he was fine. I wouldn't have left if...â€
Eiryk cut himself off. He should have seen this coming. He should have known something was wrong, he shouldn't have let Alex push himself, he should have insisted he take it easier, he should have had Alex go down to the clinic more it was just down stairs it wouldn't have taken any time at all; this list of should haves real and imagined would be a mile long very shortly.
Alex could, had to, beat this. He knew how bad something like this could be. He'd almost died from the gash that was no the scar on his chest. The fever, the delusions, and the fact that you couldn't do a damned thing about it and it looked like what Alex was dealing with was worse. Someone had to be there for Alex through all of this and Rue wasn't going to let it be him. His normally sunny face clouded with rage at the very idea of being separated from Alex. Fortunately, he wasn't completely unthinking and checked his temper.
"Fine... Fine. I'll be right out side just get me if... .... just let me know...â€
For all he meant to leave, and would leave he wasn't ready to voluntarily walk out of the room. Cris or Alfarinn would probably have to shove him out the door.
"I can't send for anything if I don't know you need it.â€ If there was something any of their abilities or anyone's abilities could help with then Cris seemed willing to find them and retrieve them. Anantya, Tacharan, clanless, werewolf...it didn't matter. Unfortunately no one had any magical ability to help heal.
"I could call Claire if you think another doctor would be of help.â€ Cris asked Rowan. Claire was a good doctor and a vampire but he wasn't sure having another doctor would do anything more than what Rowan was already doing. However, two hands might be better than one and Rowan would accept the assistance if he thought he could use it.
Alfarinn sent to Cris. [Go out with Eiryk. I will stay in here. I promised Alex I would stay when I brought him. I don't think Rowan really wants an audience for what comes next. Especially not Eiryk.] No doubt Eiryk had seen many a festering wound in his long lifetime but they had not often belonged to his fiance and the doctor wasn't one of his closest friends. It was hard to watch someone be hurt even if it was for the person's own good and it would be easier for Rowan to do it without worrying about sparing Eiryk and Cris from a sight they shouldn't have to see.
Cris nodded to him. [Send to me if Rowan needs anything.] The Security Chief briefly kissed Rowan on the cheek. "I love you and I will be here when you need me.â€ Then he turned and walked to the door, looking back and waiting for Eiryk.
When they both left, Alfarinn found a far corner and tucked himself into it. "I'm not leaving. I promised Alex I would stay.â€ He crossed his hands over his chest and then untucked one long enough to wave toward Alex on the bed. "Carry on. I will stay out of the way.â€
He shook off the tiny sliver of doubt that said his best might not be good enough. He couldn't dwell on that; that was always a danger in this field of work. Maintaining his air of calm he smiled briefly at Cris. "Joanna and I can handle it, but I promise I will say something if we find ourselves needing help."
Another pair of hands wouldn't be useful at this point; Rowan had faith in his staff and even if Joanna was a little nervous he was going to put his vote on her. She was a competent nurse.
Cris's soft kiss on the cheek was like a knife to his heart, good and bad, bitter and sweet. God, how he wanted Cris to stay. Wanted to curl up in a corner and pretend none of this was happening. Rowan was every bit as much a fighter as his husband, though, and that just wasn't an option. He lifted his hand, still steady although inside he was shaking, and caressed Cris's face as he bent to return the gentle kiss.
"I always need you," he murmured, so softly that no one but Cris could hear, the only admission of fear Rowan would make. "I love you too."
Rowan returned to Alex as Cris and Eiryk left the room, but he didn't hear Alfarinn leave as he washed his hands, dried them with a sterile towel, and held his arms out for Joanna to help him on with sterile protective wear. He wasn't going to be doing surgery but he was still going to have to open Alex up. Joanna prepared the things he would need, covered in their sterile wrappings, and Rowan began to clean and prep Alex's knee.
He glanced aside to Alfarinn, nodding and lifting his shoulders. "Fine," he said, his tone brusque but soft. "I didn't want Eiryk to watch this. Or Cris, really. Stay there, stay quiet, please, and we'll do just fine."
He knew Alfarinn would do just that; Cris would have too, and Rowan desperately wished Cris could have stayed. It wasn't fair to Eiryk though. If anyone should get to stay it should be him and yet, he was also the last person who needed to be in here. At least someone was here.
"I'm not losing him," Rowan said softly, half to himself and half to Alfarinn.
His attention focused down to the little exam bed Alex lay on, and he picked up a sterile syringe with a local anesthetic in it and got to work.
Two hours later, he finally stood and straightened. He handed Joanna several vials and a petri dish and she moved them away. Alex had remained quiet and still for most of the procedure, the fever having exhausted him. His vitals weren't horribly stable; his blood pressure wasn't has high as Rowan would like to see it and the preliminary test results and bloodwork showed his guess to be right. Alex was going into septic shock.
He scrubbed at his eyes and sighed. He nodded at Joanna, who went to retrieve a bag of stronger broad-spectrum antibiotics. It would take more than a day to culture Alex's blood and find out exactly what bacteria was causing the infection. The heavy-hitting drugs might make him sicker, but not using them was a death sentence.
Later that day, he had to dash back into the room and shove Eiryk aside when one of Alex's monitors went off. Rowan had to give Alex a vasopressor to get his blood pressure up.
The following night, Alex stopped breathing and Rowan had to intubate him and get him on a ventilator.
Shortly after that he had to add new medications in as Alex's blood thinned and began to bleed out spontaneously.
It was after that, nearly two sleepless days and nights after Alex had been brought into the clinic, that a red-eyed Rowan turned to an equally red-eyed Eiryk and said in a voice that could no longer hide behind a false sense of calm, "Eiryk. I'm sorry. I don't... I don't know what else to do. There aren't any more tricks up my sleeve."
His face was grim and bleak, and he didn't know how else to say it at this point; if Alex were to pull through now, it would be a fucking miracle from heaven. He rested a shaking hand on Eiryk's shoulder, too exhausted and too upset to try to steady it.
"I'm going to call his friends. They should see him."
Alex hadn't woken up once, and Rowan thought perhaps that was a blessing. Maybe. God, though, how he wished Alex would look into Eiryk's eyes one more time and tell him it was all right. Anything. Something.
He pushed himself away from the wall and went out to where Alex's friends had been spending their free time in the small waiting area of the clinic. His sea-colored eyes were searching for Cris. Alfarinn was there; he had been hovering a lot lately. Rowan hadn't realized he and Alex were so close. Aishe and Kem were there; Adam was there. Becky was working at the moment so she, too, was there. But it was Cris Rowan was looking for, and he leaned himself against the door frame to hide the fact that he could barely stand upright.
Cris's communication was inevitable and Rowan didn't have to wait. When he was given the opportunity to talk to Cris, he sent, [It's bad, love. He's leaving us. I can't do anything more. I'm not giving up, I can't give up. But I don't have any magic cure for this. Shit, Cris... just... hell.]
Out loud, he said in his calm tones, "I'm still trying everything I can. But I think you should all be prepared."
Those words didn't come easy.
There was no question of him sleeping. He'd not fall asleep and miss something, whether it be Alex opening his eyes for a second or things getting worse, Eiryk wasn't going to take the chance of not being able to be woken. He was here for Alex and he'd not leave.
Although Rowan's efforts had become increasingly drastic, to his eye, and Eiryk knew that wasn't good and Rue had explained some of what he was doing and what and why as well as what was going on he wasn't ready for what Rue said. Eiryk had been hit with a lot in his life, both literally and metaphorically, but those few words he couldn't even process.
There was no blame, he didn't think for a second that Rue hadn't done anything and everything that could be done but that didn't make hearing that any easier. There was nothing for a second and then a pain like nothing he'd ever known, it tore at him from the inside out and it was all Eiryk could do not to cry out.
Alex couldn't die. He simply couldn't. He was so young, so wonderful. There was so much he hadn't seen or done, they hadn't even gotten married for gods' sake. Beyond that the world was just a better place with his partner in it.
He could -not- loose Alex. It wasn't an option. He wouldn't be able to face anything without Alex. Their home, the bed they shared, telling Thora, absolutely everything in the whole wretched world reminded him of or made him think of Alex.
Eiryk clung to Alex. He didn't think he could handle people coming in to say good-bye. It just wasn't right. Not right at all. Desperate not to face any of this he started rambling at Alex, slightly mad with grief it was in inconsistent combination of Swedish, English and Greek, begging Alex to come back, begging any greater power that existed to bring Alex back, to have him recover.
It was time for modern medicine to step aside and let him keep the promise that he had made to Alex.
He was looking forward to getting to know Alex better. Even he could tell that he was a valuable asset to their clan and beyond that a well loved member of the family. Cris loved him, Aishe loved him, Rowan and Kem loved him and that said plenty about him.
The dynamic between the four friends was a nice balance right now and being a parent, even a vampire parent, was a tough road sometimes. Not everyone took to it with Aishe's good cheer and easy acceptance. Sometimes the child resented the parent for taking away mortality, even if a choice had been given. Alfarinn was capable of being that person and he would rather it be him than Eiryk or Cris. They needed Alex's love and not his resentment.
He reached for his phone and texted Aishe.
Alfarinn put his phone away and waited. He looked over at the doctor about to fall over and the blond by Alex's bed that was also looking more and more like a zombie than a vampire. It would all be better soon. He just needed them to hear what Alex had wanted.
So he could get on with getting it done.
((OOC: Aishe's texts in blue and with okay from Aishe))
After her short conversation with Alfarinn and before anyone could actually go into Alex's room, even before Rowan left, Aishe stood and said, "No. Wait."
She got everyone's attention fairly easily, and she swallowed and shifted nervously, but her nerves only popped in because of the fact that she'd held information back from them.
"I have something to tell you all. Something about Alex. And you need to know it, it's important. But not here. Can we go to your place?" She looked at Cris, looked to Rowan. Cris nodded. Rowan opened his mouth.
"I..." he croaked. Aishe cut him off. "This is important. I need you to hear it."
Becky stepped in, took Rowan's wrist in her hand and squeezed. "Rue, go. I can watch over Alex for a few minutes. You won't be long?" That last was addressed to Aishe. She lifted her shoulders.
"I don't think so."
Rowan was shaking his head, reluctance written all over his pale, strained face. Aishe turned to Cris, nodded toward Rowan, sort of a 'you handle him' look, and headed into Alex's room.
It wasn't pretty in there. The chimes of various monitors, the hiss-whoosh of the ventilator. Eiryk's broken noises. Those hurt, too, but Aishe came in and dropped her hand on Eiryk's shoulder.
"Eiryk. I need you to come to Cris and Rowan's for a few minutes. Just a little bit, and let Becky watch over Alex. I need to tell you something that Alex told me months ago."
She turned him a little to face her, forcing him to look at her. "Eiryk. Please, I need to tell you everything he said to me. It could change your life. It could save his. Please come with me now. Before it's too late to help him."
Eiryk still thought Alex wanted to remain human. She had to tell him now, that Alex had changed his mind, that he'd reconsidered but wanted to keep it close because he didn't want it to be his 'easy out' of a tough time. No one had anticipated this, though. Alex had come through surgery fine, was recovering, was active again and healing. No one could have seen this coming.
Aishe pulled on Eiryk's hand. "The others are waiting there for us," she said, hoping Cris (and Kem) had been able to convince Rowan to leave. "We need to talk now. Alfarinn and Becky will stay with Alex for a few minutes. Please, please trust me Eiryk. This is more important than you know. It's more important than sitting at Alex's side right now."
She had never asked Eiryk for a favor, the entire time they'd known each other. Nor was Aishe the frivolous sort. She was practical and sensible, and the only person she really unbent enough to goof around with the way the others did was Alfarinn. Hopefully her personality would speak for itself; she would never lie to Eiryk about anything this important.
"It's life or death, Eiryk, that you come to Cris and Rowan's with me now. Right now."
Eiryk was spending every moment possible sitting beside Alex. He looked as though he were ready to fall over but was afraid to. If stress and emotional pain could kill a vampire then Eiryk would be in serious trouble and they would be worried for more than Alex.
It was killing him to see Rowan pushing himself beyond his limits and blaming himself for something that he couldn't have foreseen. He knew that Rowan would go over and over the days after Alex's surgery looking for something he could have done differently that would change the outcome. If he found anything, real or imagined, Rowan would blame himself all the more.
Cris wondered if Eiryk blamed Rowan or will some time in the future, and that concerned him too. Maybe Eiryk hadn't had time to consider it yet and maybe he still held the hope that Rowan could find a way to save Alex's life but if nothing could be done then how long would it be before Eiryk wondered if something more could have been done?
They might lose their friendship on top of losing Alex. He wished Alex hadn't expressed a distinct wish not to be turned. Maybe it was cowardly of him but he didn't want lose Alex yet. Surely Alex expected to have time to grow old and grey before giving in to mortality. This couldn't possibly have been what he wanted.
He had asked Rowan to save him, to make it all better. Rowan couldn't, not like Alex had intended, but Alex clearly wasn't ready to die. And they weren't ready to let him go.
If only he would just wake up long enough for them to give him the choice... He'd beg and plead if that would help. They just needed Alex to wake up so that they had a chance to convince him.
"Rowanâ€ Cris reached out and wrapped an arm around his husband. [Is there a chance he will wake up? I know what he said he wanted but...] Rowan would know what he meant and the ethical quandry that he was working through.
Aishe came up to them and said there was something important that they had to discuss. It concerned Alex. For it to be this urgent at this moment meant that it was very important indeed. He nodded agreement when asked if they could use his and Rowan's house. "Of course.â€
Looking at Rowan, he squeezed him tight. Becky came over and assured Rowan that she could watch Alex for a few minutes. [You have done all you can, Love. We need to consider what options are left and we need you there. You are the one able to tell us what might be medically possible and I think that will be important. Besides, you are about to fall over, Rowan.] Cris looked up at his redhead, tears shiny but still held back in his eyes. [I am proud of you. You have fought very hard for him with every bit of your skill and heart. It kills us all that it was a battle that couldn't be won but if you are going to do any more then you need some rest. Let us hear what Aishe has to say and then decide what to do from there. Okay?]
His daughter went to speak to Eiryk. He trusted her capable enough to convince the man to at least come and listen. If not then he knew that Aishe could enlist the aid of Alfarinn who was still in the room with Alex. He would be willing to help with most anything his daughter needed, especially when she said it was important, even if that meant picking Eiryk up and hauling him bodily into the house.
Aishe's request came as a surprise. She was the last person he'd expected to call a sort of intervention - for an unknown reason. And Rowan very much did not want to leave his clinic right now, regardless of the fact that he may or may not collapse any second. Cris had his arm around his waist and Rowan leaned against him rather than the door frame. Poor Cris; he felt the pain as keenly as anyone yet he was still trying to be the guardian, the glue holding them all together.
Kem was there suddenly, looking into Rowan's eyes with all the intensity in his own silvery pale ones as Aishe moved past them into Alex's room.
"Rowan, trust Aishe. She wouldn't do this if what she had to say wasn't that important."
"I know," Rowan said, his voice sharp with frayed nerves and no sleep and even less blood. He realized his fangs were out as they nicked his lower lip. He struggled for a deep breath and felt Cris's arm squeeze around his waist.
Becky pressed her hand to his wrist and Rowan tried to smile at her. He sighed when she said she'd be there and that hurt too; Rowan made a point of telling her he trusted her. He could hardly reinforce that opinion by refusing to let her watch over his sick friend for just a few minutes. God, they were all so fucking appealing. And rational.
None moreso than his husband, though, whose eyes were brimming with unshed tears. That tore him apart even further. Everything he was failing at here, was hurting Cris too. And Kem. And Aishe. Rowan was suddenly glad he wasn't human; he had the overwhelming urge to find a sink and vomit into it for the next half hour.
Cris was right; Rowan was about to fall over. And in spite of the severity of Alex's situation, Rowan didn't expect him to die right now. Probably not even that night. He was fading instead of growing better, though, and there was only one road left to him. How long he lingered was really up to him.
"Yeah. All right. Let's go."
[Sorry love,] he sent apologetically. [You've been so strong. I'm sorry I'm leaning so hard on you. Again. Literally, too.]
And he was, as they headed out of the clinic. Rowan's legs were dead weight and the hallway was spinning. He was leaning on Cris, and Kem had his arm around Rowan's shoulders too, helping to steady him. He felt a peculiar calm detachment and he turned as they reached their home and snapped at the Elder.
"You don't have to do that. It's fine. Just let me feel what I feel."
Kem regarded him levelly. "Stop killing yourself over it. It's not your fault."
Rowan scowled and turned away toward Cris, feeling bad for snapping. "Let me feel what I feel," he repeated, his accent so thick he barely understood it himself.
Kem dropped the glamour and Rowan felt the full force of his own guilt come crashing down on his shoulders, staggering under the weight of it. He barely made it to the couch, falling heavily onto it, relaxing back into the cushions and then jerking up ramrod straight. Relaxing, he'd fall asleep. He couldn't do that yet.
He'd fallen in love with a human. A human who didn't want to be a vampire. Eiryk had known that would be an issue someday He'd just not expected it to be so soon. They should have had years together, time to travel, see the world, to learn and grow together. Watching Alex slip away was killing him. If only there were some way for him to trade places with Alex. Eiryk would cheerfully let this sepsis kill him, or just walk into the sun, if it would save Alex.
The hand that fell on his shoulder wasn't asking him to leave and so Eiryk just let it be. Even when Aishe started to speak and asked him to leave Alex he didn't move other than to shake his head and continue to speak to Alex.
When she forced him to look at her Eiryk snarled, he couldn't keep his feelings in check. All his fear, grief and anger went into that expression. It was a huge 'no'. He wasn't going to leave. Whatever Alex had said months ago would wait. It had waited this long and he wasn't going to loose his last few hours or minutes with Alex for anything. He remained rooted to his chair looking longingly at Alex, but Aishe wouldn't be deterred. He simply stopped listening.
It wasn't until Aishe said that it might save Alex that any of her words penetrated the little world he'd fallen into. He slowly, reluctantly, looked up at Aishe. He'd never known her exaggerate and he honestly didn't believe that she would make him leave if it wasn't extremely important. She wouldn't make him leave Alex if it wasn't imperative.
"Not long... not long. He needs me. I need him he can't be alone if... when...â€
It was rather incoherent but he was agreeing. He couldn't believe he was leaving Alex like this, that he was leaving Alex now, but if there was any chance they could save Alex he was going to take it chance.
He couldn't remember where Cris and Rowan's home was and blindly followed Aishe. Thankfully it wasn't their home. Going home without Alex wasn't an option for Eiryk. Even Rowan and Cris' place was questionable he could see Alex siting there, laughing and it was a knife to his heart.
Rue was there, Cris was there, Kem was there but Eiryk only had the energy to just nod absently at them and slouch against a wall.
"What can we do for him?â€
He pleaded with Aishe. She knew something, or thought she did, and he needed to know while he still able to stand on his own too feet and could act on the information rather than fall over half dead. If there wasn't anything, he needed to get back to Alex.
Alfarinn's hands slid over her shoulders protectively and she puffed out a short little sigh of relief, reaching up to pat his cool skin, taking reassurance from it. She continued to talk to Eiryk and soon had his attention again, though when he agreed to come with her to Cris and Rowan's she side-stepped him carefully. She bent over Alex's prone form and kissed his cheek, then whispered into his ear.
"We remember our promises, Alex. I'll take care of Eiryk for you. You just let Alfarinn take care of you. We love you. And I'll see you again very soon."
She led Eiryk out of the clinic after that, down the hallway to her Creator's home. Inside, it was a picture of tension, stress, pain, curiosity, interest, all woven across the faces of those she loved the most.
[All right, merit?]
Kiamhaat's face was concerned for her. She smiled at him and moved to the center of the room. [I'm fine, 'Isu-mery. Alex will be too.]
[Happy for that. But curious. You know he didn't want...]
[It's not like that.]
Aishe addressed everyone then, but a lot of her words were for Eiryk. "Look, I know this going to be hard to believe but you have to understand. Alex and I are... close. I guess, it's like he's a brother or something to me. Or a friend. I don't know how to describe it. We talk to each other about things, things we have questions about. I knew he was sick... early on."
She took a deep breath and stared at Eiryk. "Even before that Eiryk, he was asking me a lot of questions. About... how I was turned."
Aishe glanced around at everyone but she moved toward Eiryk. touche his shoulder gently. "He asked why it wasn't Kem. Who it was who did turn me. How it felt, if I had any regrets that it wasn't my lover who turned me."
A pointed glance over her shoulder, a smile at Cris. "Which I don't."
Kiamhaat was smiling softly, nodding, no doubt having guessed by now where she was going. But she dragged it out to give Alfarinn time. He said he needed time.
"He changed his mind, Eiryk. Do you hear me? Alex changed his mind. He told me he wanted it, you understand? Alex doesn't have to die. Alex doesn't want to die. He wants to stay with you, he wants to get married to you and live with you. He loves you more than sunlight, more than hiking in the summer or rock climbing in the morning. And he would hate knowing I'm telling you this and not him, but he didn't know this was going to happen or I know he would have said it. So you get it from me, and you have to believe me."
She turned and looked at everyone else. "You all have to believe me. Alex wants to stay with us. Really. Right now, all we need to know is which of us should be his Creator."
And she couldn't help herself, but she was looking at Cris and Rowan. It shouldn't be Eiryk, and Kiamhaat - well, she was sure he'd do it. But of the five people in this room the best ones were sitting there on the couch looking completely wrecked. And the sad thing was, as she watched, Rowan just lost it entirely. He shook all over, then turned into Cris, wrapped his arms around his husband, and burst into tears.
Cris made it very clear to Rowan that he was happy to let his husband lean on him in any way that he wanted. He practically carried his partner to their house and settled him on the sofa, sitting down next to him and wrapping his arm around Rowan's back and snuggling as tight as he could with his husband sitting up ramrod straight.
Aishe started speaking, explaining that she and Alex were close. He thought that was sweet but worried that she would be losing that brother. It wasn't something he could save her from. Cris glanced up at Kem and wondered if he was thinking much the same thing.
She said that she didn't regret not having her fiance as her creator. Raising his eyebrows, he smiled faintly. "I hope not. I can not exactly take it back.â€
He sat very still, listening to every single word as she explained that Alex had told her that he had changed his mind. Cris believed her because she wouldn't lie about this but he looked at her aura anyway because this was important and it was an action that couldn't be unmade, as he had just said.
Her aura was complex but the emotions all suggested exactly what he would expect to see. She was feeling relief and worry, hopefulness and happiness. She was hiding something or holding something back but that might have been something in the conversation with Alex that he had said to her that was more personal but that she didn't feel she should say. Most importantly, he wasn't seeing any guilt or deception.
"Alex wanted this.â€ Cris looked at her and waited for her to confirm it yet again. He looked at her for a little longer. [Did he have a preference for who he wanted to be his maker?] Perhaps that was what she was hiding, what she didn't want to say was that Alex had made a choice and it might not make others happy. He didn't think anyone in the room would complain about who turned Alex so long as someone did it. [I would do it if that is what he wanted. I know I made you take your time to be sure but Alex doesn't have the luxury right now so I hope he thought about it plenty in the time it has been since he told you. I also would not be upset if he did not want it to be me.]
Rowan curled into him and sobbed. Cris wrapped both arms around his husband and held him tightly. "It will be okay.â€ He murmured softly to his partner and sent to Aishe. [If he had a preference then we should know about. Just let me know, Liebchen, and I will make sure it happens.] He didn't think there was anyone here who wouldn't turn Alex so the biggest question would be whether anyone would try to demand the honor. Cris doubted it but if it were a worry of Aishe's then he wanted her to know that he would help.
[It will be alright, Love] He kissed Rowan's head as he held him. [I know you wanted to get him healthy again but we will not be losing him and that is most important.]
"Alright, Let us figure this out quickly and with Alex's best interest in mind. Is there anyone here unwilling to turn Alex?â€ Cris looked around the people in the room. "I didn't think so. Now we need to figure out who would be the best person to support him as a new vampire. Sometimes lovers turning lovers works out perfectly. But I think in this case you might want to consider letting someone else turn him.â€ Cris turned his sharp blue eyes to Eiryk. "He had doubts, my friend, and because of that he might later come to resent whoever turned him. I do not want that to be you. Plus the beginning is not easy and sometimes you have to help vampire children make hard decisions and see them at their most vulnerable and their worst. Those are things that can become a strain on an intimate relationship.â€
Having put in his pieces of advice, he leaned back with Rowan still in his arms and rubbed his husband's back, splitting his attention between the others in the room and the redhead in his arms.