by Shadowy Star
What You Don't See
He awoke to the murmur of two voices. Neither of them seemed to make the decision whether or not to wake him.
"He had worked the night before this mess started! And the day before that! He needs his sleep!" That was Nurse Celine, stern and clearly enjoying a possibility to uphold her reputation of being a giant mother hen.
"But we need the room!" that second was Doctor Jannifer Tameri, their gynecologist. "That poor woman out there is going to get her baby!" she said in a urgency laden voice.
"Hush!" the nurse made. "Not so loud! And besides, we don't know what injuries this young man's got!"
"Which is one more reason to wake Doctor Vryce!"
Damien raised his head. "I am awake," he stated, blinking a couple of times to chase away last remnants of sleep.
Doctor Tameri was standing in front of him, her blue eyes narrowed angrily. Nurse Celine hovered somewhat to his right and blocked his view on the door.
The gynecologist didn't say she was sorry. Probably because she wasn't.
"Well, as far as I got it you need the room," he addressed her.
"Yes," she confirmed. "That birth is going to be complicated."
He nodded. That was indeed a good reason to move his patient from this room. "Alright, you win," he said.
"What about him?" Doctor Tameri asked with a slight nod in Gerald's direction.
He rose to his feet and was explaining Gerald's condition to her as Nurse Celine waved in another nurse with a foldable stretcher.
"What time is it?" Damien asked the nurse.
She smiled. "This time? Oh, almost eight in the evening."
"Damn! My shift begins in half an hour!"
"No, it doesn't," someone disagreed firmly.
Damien turned around to face Doctor George Arend, the Director of 'Queen of Mercy' and the last person he needed to see right now. The Director's speeches were famous. For their length. All Damien wanted was to get Gerald into a room much quieter and then go back to work. Though go back to sleep would be nice, too.
"Doctor Vryce, I heard everything about your impressive performance today, last night and yesterday and of course, you are not going to work tonight. You have a two days break, and I want you to make good use of it. Am I understood?"
Damien blinked in surprise and managed to nod. That was most certainly the Director's shortest speech ever. It would almost go for normal conversation.
"You showed excellent organizational skills and when you're back in two days I want you in the office of the emergency room's chief physician."
Now Damien could only stare. He was being promoted?
"Thank you, Director," he said. He didn't think he was able to handle any more surprises today.
But of course, the next surprise came as the Director turned on his heel and left the room.
"What was that?" Nurse Celine sounded every bit as stunned as Damien felt.
"Congratulations!" the tiny gynecologist exclaimed and gave Damien's hand quite a shake.
Damien shook his head in an attempt to clear it and figured it to be a good opportunity to take his leave before Nurse Celine could mother hen him to death.
When Gerald had been put into a bed and that into their only vacant room –usually a store room for ICU supplies which was now empty since they didn't have any supplies left–, Damien yawned tiredly, stepped inside and made to close the door.
"Aren't you supposed to go home?" Doctor Ryller asked, wearing street clothes already and obviously on her way to hers.
Damien blinked again, thinking and speaking a far too difficult task for his exhausted mind.
"But'm home," he mumbled without thinking then and closed the door, completely missing the look of boundless curiosity on the chief surgeon's face.
Inside, he placed a chair he'd managed to snatch away from under Nurse Celine's nose close to the bed. They were out of pillows, too, but on his way here, he'd picked up a blanket which he now folded and positioned it onto the bed beside Gerald's midsection. He sat down and leaned forward, placing his right hand over Gerald's carotid and his left onto the folded blanket substituting a pillow. Sleeping like this, he hopefully would be able to feel a change in Gerald's pulse frequency. And it felt so right to be like this, to guard Gerald's sleep… Even if it would put a knot or two more into the already aching muscles of his neck, he thought dryly. With that thought on his tired mind and his head touching his makeshift cushion, he let himself drift off to the realms of sleep.
When he woke this time it was because of the wetness on his cheeks and though he didn't remember his dreams he remembered the intense feeling of loss in them. Plus the tears, it wasn't difficult to deduce he'd been dreaming of Gerald again.
He tried to find a more comfortable position, eyes still closed, and groaned audibly at the ache in his neck.
Wait a second here. Why the vulking Hell was his neck hurting? And why was he sitting instead of lying comfortably in his bed, at home?
He opened his eyes at that and it was when remembrance struck. With the force of a lightning, thank you very much.
He was of course not at home, and the reason he was sitting on a very uncomfortable chair instead of lying in his very comfortable bed was sleeping peacefully right there before his eyes.
Carefully, he raised his own hand back to Gerald's pulse where he dimly remembered having placed it before falling asleep. The skin beneath his fingertips was soft and smooth and he couldn't resist stroking it feather-lightly with his thumb. The heartbeat sped then and Damien cursed himself three kinds of idiot. Gerald needed his sleep.
"Vryce?" Gerald asked, opening his eyes and drawing a sharp breath as if only now remembering he couldn't see.
"Good morning," Damien answered, holding his voice light. Gerald wouldn't bear to be pitied.
"Is it morning?" the other asked, only the slightest trace of bitterness in his voice.
"Yes. Well, at least I think so," Damien answered. "There's no window in this room."
He stood and stretched, feeling all the knots in his back at once.
Gerald tilted his head slightly, listening to the sounds he was making. Damien had to swallow the sudden lump in his throat at this.
The gesture was already that of a blind person.
"How do you feel? Does your head hurt?" Damien asked quickly.
The expression on Gerald's face was set, revealing nothing, as he answered. "No, my head doesn't hurt anymore, Vryce."
Damien noticed he didn't answer his first question but decided to let it go. With Gerald snarky like this, he could tell the other was feeling anything but well.
Because of that, he wasn't pleased when Gerald tried to sit up.
"What the Hell do you think are you doing?" he exclaimed, rushing to Gerald's side and supporting his back.
"What does it look like?" Gerald retorted acidly, glaring in his direction. Damien hadn't known until then blind eyes could glare like this.
"Like something as stupid as going out of bed without your healer's permission for example," he said and despite the situation he couldn't help smiling. "What were you intending?"
"Go search for the bathrooms, of course, since the bathrooms wouldn't come to me," the other man stated in a tone as if he was wondering how Damien could ask such a silly question.
Damien shook his head in disbelief but slipped his arm behind Gerald's back and helped him to a standing position.
"Want to try stand on your own?" he asked when for some unknown reason Gerald didn't shrug off his arm.
So he let go of Gerald's waist.
Later this morning, Damien went to obtain whatever the hospital cook had decided for breakfast and earned a stern look form both Nurse Celine and Doctor Ryller in the process but ignored both women just to return to Gerald's side. That was why he completely missed the look they exchanged. Otherwise, he probably would have panicked. Nothing escaped those two's curiosity.
"Time for breakfast," he said in an attempt at levity, finding Gerald exactly where he'd left him for a change.
"You're not expecting me to eat that, aren't you?" the other man asked sometime later, grimacing in distaste at the smell of slightly burned food.
"That's what you get when you're late for breakfast!" Damien exclaimed with forced cheerfulness. "Though I have to agree with you, it isn't exactly gourmet cuisine!"
"You agreeing with me? I'll mark that day on the calendar."
Damien couldn't help it. He burst out laughing.
"Do you think it funny?"
"No offense, yes," Damien said, still chuckling. "I just imagined you with a pen, writing 'The day Damien Vryce agreed with me.'"
Again, Gerald chose to glare.
"Describe what you're doing," Gerald ordered after their breakfast-turned-lunch.
"I need to learn the sound of everything anew," he explained. "So I would know what happens around me without seeing. Adept Sight isn't exact enough without ordinary sight to complete it. At least," Gerald contiuned, "we now have the answer to one of the oldest questions concerning Seeing the fae."
"Which is?" Damien asked, feeling having been transported back into the past for a moment – when he'd been listening to another one of Gerald's lectures on the fae.
"Which is whether the ability to See can be explained with additional receptor cells in retina or if it is a completely different sensory system that is translated by the brain into visual input. Since I can sill See with my retinas destroyed, it must be the latter."
Damien's heart shattered for the thousandth time since Gerald had been carried into his ER. Typical Gerald Tarrant the scientist for you. Searching for knowledge even in a situation when lesser men would have despaired. He ached to offer what comfort he could, knowing full well at the same time there was no way for that without Gerald taking it for pity. He knew how the other thought and worked, after all.
So he went through each motion Gerald was ordering, sometimes slowly, sometimes fast, sometimes somewhere in between. "Pick that up", "Put this down", "Comb your hair", "Sit down", "Get to your feet", "Put this here and that there"… All the things long familiar, things he went through every day without ever giving them a second thought now became precious because it was what Gerald needed, the only way how he could help Gerald at least a little.
One God of Erna. He would have gladly given everything he had for being able to Heal.
Damien stilled midway through buttoning up his shirt.
He could Heal. But was he willing to pay the price for that?
In two long strides he crossed the room, drawing a curious "Vryce?" out of Gerald who was sitting –or rather lounging– on his bed, concentrating on the sounds.
"Let me do this, Gerald," he whispered softly, sitting down and pulling the other into an embrace, an action designed to distract that sharp mind from what he was intending to do until it was to late. And, selfishly, to have the man he loved close, even if it was only for that little moment he would have before the fae consumed him.
Alright, Damien thought, that never forgotten, familiar calm of Healing coming back to him surprisingly easy. You can do this.
He let his eyes fall shut, still holding Gerald close.
And then, he opened his mind to the fae. It was much like back then on Shaitan's slopes, when Gerald's heart had ceased to function. Only this time, he knew, there wouldn't be a reprieve. He started praying. I give. Take me. In exchange give me the power to Heal. He expected the onrush of fae, blue and forceful and glowing but what instead answered was something quite opposite. Soft like falling rain, it filled the abyss of his loss, warm like morning sun, it melted away the ice of his despair, like combined light of the Core, it lit up his soul.
And Damien understood.
He felt like in the forest of the Terata, when a divine power had stilled both his rage and his hand. This power demanded nothing in return, it was simply there, available, accessible, responding. And finally he understood what had happened back then at the Lethe river when two sacrifices, offered and accepted, had interlaced, creating something new, something different...
Gerald's sacrifice had made the earth fae unreachable. The Patriarch's one had made the divine fae reachable. He highly doubted the old man had intended so as in he was trying to end the use of all fae on Erna but the Patriarch had prayed as his life blood had been joining Lethe's ice cold currents. Had prayed and thus, had opened another way for humankind to remain in contact with this incredibly responsive planet. A way open only to those of true faith, and as much as Damien had denied his faith lately as deeply he knew he still had it. His faith had changed during those years of traveling but it was still there and it was still strong.
Damien opened himself to that power, opened himself completely, without doubt, without hesitation and as it flowed through him, he suddenly knew it would be always there, waiting to be put to good use, to answer…
He dived into Gerald's body, so different from the one he was used to and yet so familiar, new and yet unmistakably Gerald's, searching for the injuries. He felt a power running within the deepest core of his being, a power he had never felt before, not even as the earth fae had still been Workable. He flowed in Gerald's veins, was carried to the broken bones and Healed them without effort or concentration, almost without thinking. The gash on the other man's forehead Healed almost without Damien noticing. As he found what he was searching for he didn't even stop to figure a plan of how to achieve his goal, he just went on, his senses expanding even further und deeper, down deep to synapses and changes in neuronal transmitters, and that was where he Worked… New dendrites sprouted, aligning themselves into patterns and groups, retinas being restored layer by layer…
He wasn't aware that somewhere still in the room, Gerald had screamed a desperate 'No' and was now demanding Damien to stop, thinking he was about to sacrifice his life. He didn't feel slender arms gripping his shoulders, hard, didn't hear darkest despair and deepest sorrow in Gerald's voice when he called Damien's name, didn't see hot tears on the youthful face. He didn't feel a slap to his face, a last attempt to bring him back… He didn't feel a hand on his cheek, a last goodbye… He didn't hear soft words that followed…
When he opened his eyes, he met a pair of beautiful black eyes that looked into his own, every bit as surprised as he himself was feeling.
"Well, I think I'm alive," he said, letting go of the other. He had been too focused on his Healing to remember the divine fae demanded nothing from him but faith.
"That's quite obvious," Gerald said, his now seeing eyes looking Damien all over, as if to ensure he was really there, unharmed.
Then, burning, hot anger entered those eyes.
"Vryce, you're an idiot!"
"Your gratitude is overwhelming as usual," Damien replied sarcastically, pressing his palm to his wondrously burning cheek. Well, when did Gerald ever thank him for saving his life? Alright, technically he didn't save Gerald's live this time but still.
"Why did you do this? I didn't ask you to!" Gerald's voice was hoarse, human, full of an emotion behind the anger that Damien couldn't decipher. "I might have been blind but I would have managed! Why would you risk your life for me?"
Damien looked at the other, smiling sadly.
"Erna needs you more than it needs me. Think of what you can do for humanity, for this planet, for humanity on this planet."
"I don't vulking care!"
Rage caught up with Damien then. "Yes, you do! Now that Erna finally has a chance to reach the stars!" he exclaimed. "With all your knowledge, just think about it. And then think of what I can do. No comparison."
"Idiot! Of course there is–"
"I think it would be better if I leave," Damien said, cutting Gerald off. Forcing himself to calm down, his voice going colder than ice. He needed to leave before he could say something that would endanger the other man's new life. "Since you obviously dislike the fact of my presence here so much."
"If this is what you want," Gerald replied equally coldly, his eyes revealing nothing, every emotion he might have showed now safely hidden away.
"What I want doesn't matter," Damien said bitterly.
He turned around and walked to the door. He couldn't remember to have done something harder before except perhaps watching Gerald leave at the Black Ridge Pass back then. As he reached for the doorknob, there was a hand and an arm, pressing the door back into its place. And then, a slender body shoved itself between him and the door. No anger was in those black eyes, only despair.
"You can't possibly think I would endanger someone I lo–" he broke off and turned his head away from that gaze burning like black fire.
There was a sharp gasp from the other man, and a slender hand rose as if to turn his face toward Gerald's but fell back halfway.
"Damien," a hoarse voice said. "Look at me. Please."
Unusual, this. Surprised, he looked at the other man just in time to see the expression on that beautiful, unfamiliar face change from one of utter despair into one of – what indeed? Intense relief combined with disbelief and something else, something human and pure and real.
"So this is why…" And silence fell as if Gerald wasn't able to speak anymore.
His eyes still locked with that gaze of black liquid fire, Damien saw the slender hand rise to his cheek again, the long fingers slightly trembling. The touch was warm – human warmth, burning and scalding and wonderful.
"You do not endanger me," Gerald whispered, voice again full of emotion but this time Damien could read it effortlessly. "Not you." With that, he leaned forward, his hand finally cupping Damien's cheek, his thumb gently tracing Damien's lips.
Damien could see the faintest trace of a smile upon the other's face, and he smiled as well, as he bent forward and met Gerald halfway. The lips on his were warm and soft, and he smiled even more broadly.
"Did you honestly believe I would let you go, now that we've finally found each other again?" Gerald chuckled faintly against his mouth.
At that, Damien shrugged and did not answer.
"I will never let you go," the other man added.
Damien laughed softly. "Why should I want you to?" he asked, and put his arms around Gerald's slender body, sensing a sharp gasp again.
And then, there were only Gerald's lips on his, and Gerald's body pressed against his, and sun-warmed wooden floor to catch them.
1) Have no idea if there are ICUs on Erna, though. Just suppose with fae-born Healing no longer available medical care would be the first to evolve.