Disclaimer: I most certainly do not own or in any way influence or have any insight into the world of the Hollows, although I do live in Cincinnati. This is just one of many possibilities of what might have happened, and maybe one day Kim Harrison will tell us what really happened. But for now, I fic.
Daisies and Hospital Beds
Rachel was dying. She knew it, and it sucked big old troll turds.
She took as deep a breath as she dared because today even breathing hurt, and she rolled her head to the left on the stiff white hospital pillow. Out in the hall, her parents talked with one of her doctors. Just one. There were so many. Some tried to figure out how to fight Rosewood Syndrome, and some were trying to figure out how she'd survived this long.
Her mom—who was so, so pretty, and everyone said Rachel looked just like, but personally, she didn't see it—had a hand to her mouth and was leaning against her dad. Daddy was tall and handsome, and he loved her so much and worshipped Mom (that was what everyone called it: worshipping; Monty worshipped her). But to day he was pale, almost as pale as Rachel, minus the freckles, and his face was drawn tight into lines around his eyes and mouth.
The doctor shook his head, his eyes flicking guiltily into the room and accidentally meeting Rachel's before retreating under a blush. He was a young doctor. When he left, Mom turned into Daddy's chest, her arms around his waist, and Rachel heard her crying over the beeps and hums of the medical equipment. Tears started to burn in her own eyes, so she shut them tight. Rachel didn't have enough energy to really cry today. Today her body felt like it had dozens of the big beanbag chairs that were in the children's playroom, all rainbow colored and dense, stacked on top of it, and inside of her was something lighter trying to float free.
Yeah, being seven and dying sucked troll turds.
A new voice in the hall made her open her eyes again. A man stood talking with her parents. He was dressed in a business suit and reminded Rachel of James Bond, if 007 had yellow hair.
A boy stood at this side in a green polo shirt, khaki pants, and white gym shoes that didn't even have one scuff. He had yellow hair, too, and he was probably the man's son. In his hand was a bouquet of daisies, which meant he was a visitor, not a patient. He looked too healthy to be another of the brat pack—that's what the grown-ups called the kids in the children's wing.
While the grown-ups talked, the boy shifted foot to foot. He raised his free hand to run across the top of his hair, but his dad smacked his hand away, and he dropped it back to his side. Clearly bored, he turned his face into the room, and Rachel watched him take in the uncomfortable waiting chairs her parents usually sat in, and sometimes Robbie when he came to visit her after school. His eyes moved on to the thick curtains across the windows printed with cartoon characters, then on to the beeping and blipping monitors, and finally to Rachel herself.
He had green eyes.
Trent hated hospitals. He hated the smell fo them –like bathroom cleaners and something else that made his muscles tight, something too sweet and icky-slick that stuck to the back of his throat. He hated that his mother was in one. And he hated them because his father hated them. Because if the doctors ever found out what they were, they were in trouble. Trend didn't know why, just that his father said so, so it must be true. His father didn't lie…not to Trent, anyway.
And if there hadn't been complications when Mother tried to have his little sister, she wouldn't be here now, and neither would he. His sister was already in the ground with a tiny headstone.
Trent had lost two brothers and a sister, so he knew that kids could die. He just didn't know they could die so slowly. When his father had heard that Mr. Morgan was here with his wife because their daughter had collapsed at home and wouldn't wake up, they had detoured from the human wing over to the children's floor. Now he stood staring at the little girl in the hospital bed, unsure what to do.
She was pale as white milk (which he hated; strawberry was better) but most of her face was covered in red-brown freckles. And she was tiny—not just because she was a couple years younger than he was, but because it looked like she was made of just bones with skin over-top. She looked like she had more hair than she did body. It was curled and knotted all around her skinny, freckly face.
She wasn't very pretty.
"Trent?" A woman's voice made him jerk his head back around as a soft hand touched his shoulder. It was Mrs. Morgan. She had tears in her eyes, but she was trying to smile. "I'm sure we must be boring you. Why don't you go on in and say hello to Rachel. She'd probably like a friend right now."
Mrs. Morgan's voice cracked at the end, and she squeezed his shoulder before turning her head away, bringing her hand to her heart.
He really, really didn't want to go into the hospital room with the creepy skeleton-girl, and Trent looked up at his father, hoping he would get Trent out of it. Maybe they could go see Mother now?
Father nodded his head into the room, crushing Trent's hope for an escape. "Go on. I have some things to discuss with Mr. Morgan."
He was dismissed, so Trent reluctantly turned to trudge into the room. He almost raised his hand to smooth his hair down (Mother said he had a cowlick that never stayed straight), but he knew his father would smack his hand away again. He said it was a weakness to let other see when you were nervous.
Well, he didn't want to come in, that was obvious. The grown-ups were making him, and Rachel had just enough gumption left to kind of resent that. She narrowed her eyes at him as if to say, "Come closer if you dare."
"Don't worry, I'm not contagious," she muttered—all she had breath for, but it sounded pretty nasty still, if she did say so herself.
The boy's eyes widened, and he blushed a little. It would have been funny if a sharp shiver hadn't just rippled through her body. It was her nervous system reacting to the antibodies attacking her body. Her immune system thought the enzymes in her blood that let her kindle magic were invaders who needed to be killed. But since her body made the enzymes naturally, down in her marrow right along with her blood cells that meant her body was attacking and killing itself. Everywhere her bloods went, the enzymes went, and so did the antibodies—from the tips of her toes to her brain.
And god love a vampire duck, it hurt!
"A-are you all right?"
Rachel opened her eyes. The boy was pale and looked ready to run for the door. Wimp.
"No, dummy, I'm dying."
He flushed again, rubbing his hand across his hair.
She looked at the bouquet.
"I'll bet those aren't for me."
He looked down, too, then straightened his shoulders. "No. They're for my mother. We're visiting her."
"Is she dying, too?"
Talking was making her even more tired, but Robbie was right when he said that Rachel took a weird enjoyment from watching people squirm. Most of the brat pack did. The doctors said it was a coping mechanism. Whatever.
"No," he snapped. "She's in the recovery unit because she lost too much blood trying to have a baby."
Well…that wasn't as fun as she'd hoped. And now she felt kind of bad for him.
She licked her lips. "I'm Rachel, by the way."
"I know," he said. "Your mom told me. I'm Trent Kalamack. That's my father."
He pointed to the man outside. The grown-ups were still talking, only now it was just the dads. Rachel's was gripping Trent's dad's arm as they spoke quietly, heads close together. It seemed like a very serious conversation. Rachel wondered where her mom was, but couldn't quite bring her head to guess or her heart even to care much. She just wanted to close her eyes and sleep, letting that light part of herself float away from the pain that made shivers run like broken glass over through her skin and weighed her down like hundreds of pounds of sand and foam beads.
Trent really hoped his father finished soon. He wanted to go see his mother and then go home. He had to feed his horse—he was ten, and he was old enough to have the responsibility of taking care of his own familiar—and then he wanted to see if he could get Jonathan to lie for him so that he could get double dessert tonight. He'd already gotten the man to omit certain details about how Trent got his homework done so fast. Now it was time to push Jon a little further.
He looked back at Rachel and wondered how he could speed this up so that he could go help his mother. That was partially why he was here. He and his father could share energy with her to help her heal and give her strength so that she could come home.
Then he wondered: if he could help Mother, could he do the same for the girl? If she wasn't so weak, her parents might not be so worried, and then he and his father could leave sooner. It would be risky, though. He wouldn't sit for days without flinching if his father caught him.
He turned his back to the grown-ups and took a step closer to the hospital bed. Trent licked his lips and tightened his sweaty grip on the daisies. He leaned a little over the bed and whispered, "I can help. I think."
Rachel's face scrunched up in confusion.
"I can do it with my mom, and I think I can do it with you," he explained. He shoved his free hand into his pocket to keep from smoothing his hair again. His father might catch him if he saw and then he was in trouble. "But you have to be quiet about it. It's magic, and it's a secret, and something really bad will happen if people find out."
"Like what?" she asked suspiciously.
He wasn't exactly sure, but he wasn't going to tell her that.
"Do you always ask so many questions?" Trent huffed.
"Well, for once, shut up. Do you want my help or not?"
He watched her think about it, her green eyes—different from his or his father's; they had flecks of blue and gold in them—were dull and glazed over. Then she nodded.
Trent took a deep breath and wondered how to go about this. He knew how to do this with his mother. It was easy, just a little push. But they shared blood. They were the same. He wasn't sure it would work with a witch.
Maybe if they shared blood, too….
"I need your hand."
Rachel lifted her left one, the closest to him, a little off the bed, but her face turned green with the effort. Trent took it and used the paper from the bouquet to slice a paper cut in the skin between her thumb and pointer finger. She hissed, then whimpered as he rubbed her sluggish blood into the cut. Then he cut his own left hand in the same place, his blood welling up more quickly than hers had. He linked their hands together so the cuts met—
—only too late wondering if now he'd get whatever disease Rachel had.
She must have seen his panic because she snorted.
"I told you. You can't catch it. It's my body hurting itself. It can't hurt you."
Trent gulped and nodded, lifting his eyes to meet hers again. He took another deep breath and closed his eyes.
Then he reached. It was like tapping a line, which he'd been doing since he was really little, but deeper somehow. He didn't know the words to explain. Maybe there ere none. It was just was. He reached deeper than the lay lines that ran around the world; the lines ran on top. He was reaching beyond that, to the center. To a place more real than the lines could ever be for him, no matter how powerful.
He reached down through the layers of brick and steel and concrete and wires and tubes that made up the hospital building…down to the ground, down to the soil. And then he went further. He could feel the thrum of the traffic on the streets and sidewalks and practically deserted subway system of Cincinnati, but he pushed past it to a place of quiet. Then a different rhythm picked up, like a heartbeat. It tasted of hot metal and liquid rock, bright behind his closed eyes, flickering in green and red and yellow, swirling together…pulsing.
And then he pulled it up to him, through him, down his arm, and into Rachel. Right into her blood.
She would never, ever, ever have imagined anything like this. Nothing in seven short, pain-filled years had made her think that anything could feel this way. It smelled like warm rocks in the summer sun and the burned metal smell of her mother's cast iron cauldron when she accidentally left it on the stove too long and something kind of sweet and spicy—almost, but not exactly like dry leaves in the fall, or the morning air in springtime, and she thought maybe that was Trent she was smelling. And it came to her like fire and cool water and sunshine and twilight and dark, damp night after it rained. It flowed into her through their mixed blood and burned away the tiredness.
And where it burned, it soothed, too. The aches and shivers eased, then lessened, then almost disappeared completely. Rachel wanted to cry it felt so good, but now she was too happy to cry.
"Holy cow," she whispered.
"Trent," his dad snapped.
Trent dropped her hand, breaking the connection. He whispered something in a language she didn't know, but it was definitely a bad word. Then he stepped back, transferring the bouquet of daisies to the hand with the cut.
The loss of the connection made Rachel dizzy, and some of the pain came back.
But not all. Nowhere near all.
It felt like ten of those beanbag chairs that had been on top of her were gone. She could breathe and it only pulled a little. She could move, and it mostly didn't hurt. The light thing inside her felt a little more tied down now.
Whatever he'd tried, it worked.
Maybe he wasn't so bad after all.
Trent winced. His father had caught him, he just knew it! He could already feel this teeth gritting with the effort not to cry out.
He looked down at Rachel to see if the power sharing had even worked. He thought he felt the green magic go into her, but he wasn't sure. After all, she was a witch, not an elf, and they used magic differently.
Her eyes were wide and they looked alive now, the blue glowing amid the green, and the tiny gold flecks flashing like trapped sunlight. Her skin wasn't quite so pale, either. She planted her hands on the mattress and pushed herself up further on the pillow behind her head. And even though she grimaced and grunted with the effort to move herself, she didn't go green as only lifting her hand had made her do before.
"We're going, Trent," his father called stiffly.
Trent nodded and turned to go, his back straight and head high to show nothing of guilt or repentance. If he didn't act like he did anything wrong, maybe his father would think he hadn't done anything at all.
It was worth a shot, anyway.
On a second thought, Trent pulled one of the daisies out of his mother's bouquet, snapped off most of the stem, and put it in the little paper cup of water on the table next to Rachel's bed.
"Remember, you can't tell," he whispered.
She nodded just a little, her now-bright eyes sparkling a little and a smile that was part happy and part dangerous with secrets and surprises (Trent hated surprises more than he hated hospitals) pulled her mouth up for the first time. He felt his cheeks go hot red and his stomach clenched, though he couldn't say why, and he quickly went to meet his father at the door.
He heard Rachel call to her father as Trent followed his own down the hall to the elevators.
"Daddy, can I have some Jell-O? The red kind, not the yucky green stuff, and not the blue kind, either. The red Jell-O, or the orange if they don't have red. Please?"
"That was very risky and very stupid, Trenton," Trent's father hissed, his hig hand coming down on the back of Trent's neck.
"We'll discuss this at home," he told him in a clipped voice as they waited for the elevator to come up to their floor. "At length, I think."
Trent gulped. "Yes, sir."
A moment later, they were alone in the elevator car, and Trent tried not to squirm. He tried not to even rustle the paper around the daisies. He had to be quiet and still and not draw any more of his father's attention or displeasure.
"Rachel will be coming to camp in a few years," his father announced.
Not sure why Father was volunteering this information, Trent said nothing.
"Any childishly romantic feelings you think you have for her, get them out of your system there."
Now Trent burned with shame. Stupid Rachel! He'd only met her for five minutes, and his father thought he had a crush on her? Gross!
See if he was nice to her ever again, whether she came to camp or not!