A/N: A oneshot idea leading up to the events of "Of Ravens and Wolves", wherein Jeb tells another one of his fairytales about the Outside World. Please R&R!
A Starry Night
He awoke to muffled sounds, voices. Darkness. A light constriction around his head. If he moved his lead-weighted arms to check, he might feel the soft texture of the bandage wrapping around his head and eyes.
His mouth was full of cottonballs, his throat dry and scratchy, and his body alone seemed o weigh a ton. He tried to speak, but it was so hard to do. His lips were numb and wouldn't work the way he wanted them too. Slowly, the voices came into better focus.
"Shhh, don't try to speak," someone was murmuring beside his ear. He knew that voice. Jeb. Jeb was here. He could feel his hand being gently clasped in his own, and it quelled the rising panic and made him relax a little more. Just the scientists again. Just them again.
Iggy made a strangled sound as a throbbing pain began inside of his skull. Jeb squeezed his hand. "Easy, kiddo. I know it hurts."
So calming, and smooth, and full of care. It alone almost took away the pain...almost. Iggy twitched his fingers feebly and felt another constriction on his hand, running up the skin of his numbed arm. "They say you can't have anything solid for a bit, so they're giving you nutrients intravenously."
What happened to me? Why does this hurt? This was a pain unlike any he'd felt in his time at the lab, not even from the time the whitecoats had wanted to test his bone repair and had systematically snapped and cracked his fingers, from when he was much smaller.
In this darkness, he could hear the whirring and clicking of the machines, the beeping of the monitors, the buzz of the lights, the faint sound of a full-human's (Jeb's) breathing. He could smell the sterile, wickedly clean scent of the room and the gadgets, the bitter tang of the chemicals, and that weird aftershave that Jeb used. He focused on it, as it was the only thing of familiarity that he could truly cling to.
He tasted nothing on his tongue. He felt the places where the wires and tape had been stuck to his chest and head under the bandages, but he was dying to ask this aloud. Finally, he was able to utter something coherrent. "...Wha...'ppened t'me?"
The fingers of Jeb's other hand brushed over his brow briefly. "Something that shouldn't have."
That wasn't enough. Iggy waited anxiously. If Jeb wasn't going to tell him... "What...they do...?"
A softer voice, with notes of reassurance. "They only tried to enhance your eyesight, Ig. We don't know what the results are yet, but soon you'll be able to see better than you were before."
His eyes? Iggy thought back through the waves of pain and found faint memories of what had happened before he had passed out: an oxygen mask, coming towards his face, and loaded syringes...he hadn't wanted that mask on at all, but the more he fought it, the sleepier he became.
Iggy remembered being terrified of falling asleep with that thing on, even though the whitecoats had gently coaxed him onto the table with their pretty words and excited smiles and had only used force when he began to realize and panic. Now he was here, just after the surgery, and feeling like a chunk of rock - unable to move, too heavy for itself.
The avian realized that he could not feel his wings.
"They've been numbed too," said Jeb helpfully, after noticing that the end feathers had twitched very slightly. "Give it a little bit to work out of your system. At least while you're recovering, you won't have to spend a few days in your crate."
Oh, like that was supposed to help?
But it was a positive. Personally, he would have preferred almost anything to that, but this nightmare seemed to have taken that thought a bit too far. However, something was nagging at him. "Why?"
"Why what, kid?"
Jeb was quiet a moment. "They started a new program, and you and a few others were chosen for testing."
Testing? What if it didn't work? He'd seen what happened to those that didn't survive the testing, and worse yet, those that did! Iggy involuntarily squeezed his hand in horror of the thought. What if he couldn't see again?
Then again, what if it did work? Would he be able to see better than he did already? As an avian, he could see for miles on end, and zoom in and zoom out when he pleased; what possible new feature might he have if they had decided to 'enhance' the vision?
"...Jeb?" He breathed.
He needed a distraction from all of this. He knew that there was only so much pain medication that could be absorbed into his system at one time, and if he hadn't suggested it already, then Iggy knew that it was at its maximum amount for the time being. Anything. "Tell me...about the Outside again..."
"Which part?" He said softly.
Jeb interlaced his fingers with his, and Iggy relaxed as he began: "The Starry Night painting was made by Van Gogh when he was in an Asylum. It is a large painting, and it depicts a spread of brilliant, huge, swirling stars in a vast darkness under a shining crescent moon, and all of this is above a small town." He held his fingers together, like a brush, and made the broad swirling pattern on Iggy's palm, and checks for where the moon and stars were.
"The town..." And here he swept the bottom of his palm and made the hills above it, "...has only its rooftops showing against the rolling hills behind it, and the rising mountains behind those, and looks so small compared to the sky, as though it is nestled securely on the curve of the earth."
Large, vertical, waving strokes. "And there is a tall, jagged, black something to the side which towers above all of them, even the mountains, a black citadel with no doors nor windows. It resembles a black flame, its tips spearing through the sky, and it feels that if one were to stand there at its top, and reach out, they might touch one of those stars."
Iggy imagined it quietly, and wished that he could see these wonderful things that Jeb said was outside of their world. He'd promised that they all would someday, and he longed for that day, so that he too could find these wonders and forever be a part of them, to experience each in turn. He daydreamed of a surreal, starry night...
Jeb went on about the textures and details of the painting from memory in great description, emphasizing his points on Iggy's hand, until the heart monitor had returned to normal and the brain activity stabilized into sleep mode. He held it for a while longer, then left the room, clicking off the lights as he did.
"I'm so sorry, Igs," he said under his breath, and walked away down the dimmed corridors, without another glance.