The Fire in My Blood: Ch 19

A pasty cream-coloured world slowly came into focus, along with a raging headache. More like Medicus’s sick yellow cement walls. I studied the lines between brick and mortar in apathetic indifference for a time. I kept my breathing shallow. It felt better that way. I had to wonder. I had been in my great-grandmother’s apartment. We had been talking. I had been holding onto my lion. Why was I here? It was too bright. I was warm but cold. A clicking sound grated at my nerves. Willing myself to focus on something other than the wall was like telling me to look into the sun. It hurt. It was uncomfortable. I didn’t want to play today. Let me go back to sleep.

“Lunam!” Hyacinthus drove my attention away from hibernation. I rolled my head until I could squint up at her, feeling like a cave newt introduced to the afternoon.

“Oh, thank the first fire,” Mater sighed at the foot of my bed. I blinked, trying to bring her into focus. My mouth was dry and tasted of glass and wood, and my fangs stuck to my lips. That nagging burn for copper was threatening to strangle me.

“Boss? You in the land of the living?” Medicus came over and shined a penlight in my eyes.

“Do I need to be?” My voice rattled around in my throat, tearing and scratching.

“Preferably. Abby and Sam are worried,” Mater’s voice was soft and smooth. I wanted mine to not feel like I had licked a lead acid battery. A little hand crept into mine. I turned to look. Sam held it, his eyes searching mine for some confirmation. “I’m alive, Sam. Everything going to be okay. You and Abby doing good?” I asked him. He nodded before bursting into tears and strangling me with a bear hug.

I’m sorry I worried you,” I patted his back while he cried himself out.  “I need to get up, Sam. That okay?” He pulled himself off me and wiped at his nose.

More than okay, sir. I’m glad you’re awake. Abby will be really happy.” He stalled his tears and shoved his hands in his pockets.

Good.” I went to remove the sheet I was wrapped up in.

“I wouldn’t move that,” Medicus suggested.

“Why not?” I moved it anyway. I had been stripped down. My stomach was wrapped up in probably forty pounds of bandaging. Breathing in was killer. “Can I get some pants?” I asked. “And maybe some privacy for oh say, five minutes?” I glanced toward the door on the opposing end of Medicus’s clinic that was used for the clean-up closet and lavatory. Medicus cleared his throat and ushered the women and Sam out of the main area to the hall. He returned and handed me a pair of trousers. “Don’t go buttoning those. No pressure on your stomach at all, Lunam. You hear me? I shouldn’t even be letting you get – oh, Hade’s first soul, you’re heavy.” He caught me as I tried to put feet to earth. I balanced on him for a solid minute as the pounding in my head made me watch my heartbeat in my eyes. Pain radiated across the back of my shoulders, stealing the oxygen from my lungs.

“I burned, didn’t I?” I asked. I was salivating at this point, and in pain, and needing to use the bathroom, and wanting that pair of pants on. My brain was not helping me with prioritizing, though.

“You blacked out and exploded. Not bad, but, bad. You knocked down the vacant building next to you, apparently.”

“Tempestatis and Cortex?” I turned to him as my heart dropped into my gut.

“No one else was injured. Maria Mater had Abby and got her out of the way. Cortex and Tempestatis had gone to chase after one of the Rubrum guys that attacked them.

“Then what?” I asked as he steadied me to the closet. How was I going to use that damn bucket? If I even thought of squatting down, I was liable to pass out. “Cortex caught the guy, momentarily. He bruised him up pretty rough, nothing a quick stitch and some plasters wouldn’t fix. Do not under any circumstance try to flex those abs lest you want to bleed out, you behemoth.” I’m not sure what type of fortitude the man had, or lack of embarrassment. He had probably seen it all. I had not. And would rather never remember that experience again.

“Mater called Clavis in with the tank. Thought you were going to bleed out where you lay. They got you back to me, and I worked my brilliant magic, if I might boast.” Medicus smiled, pleased with his job.

“What happened to me?” I asked, rubbing at the bandages. My stomach and back felt like a lead pipe had been used to tenderize me. The spot where the knife had been was hot and seared when I got too close to it.

“You are now one appendix shy of a full house. Thing had to go anyways. It wasn’t looking too healthy.” He helped guide me over to the wash basin, though he wasn’t having to hold me up any longer. The wobbliness in my knees was seeing itself out.

“Lucky me,” I grumbled as I pulled at my trousers, wishing for a pair of suspenders. The longer I was upright, the clearer my body felt. Though the pounding behind my eyes was insistent that I address it, and the shifting colours was not a good sign.

“Lucky indeed. We thought we were going to be out a Caeruleum co-leader.”

“Sanctus? What about Sanctus? Did someone find him?”

Medicus’s face fell at the question.

“How long have I been asleep?” That was going to be my next task. Get back to the alley before all the scent disappeared.

“Six days.”

“Say what?” I blinked. Surely I hadn’t heard him correctly. I couldn’t have been out for six days. That was ludicrous. I could still feel the gravel of the road beneath my skin. Seconds, hours maybe, but not days.

“It’s been six days. You passed out, and we haven’t seen Sanctus since. Mater sent out a group to check the alley and see what clues they could find.” He helped me back to sit on the gurney.

Mater popped back into the ward side of the clinic. “Conscribo and Praesepe looked over the alley from top to bottom. They did find something,” she explained, though she didn’t sound as pleased as I would have hoped.

“Go on,” I growled. Sanctus wasn’t here. Therefore, he wasn’t in Caeruleum territory. Look, I can do mental math. And I can add up facial expressions like the best of them.

“Tracks from the guys who ambushed you and a couple others were leading him out of Caeruleum territory. They were heading toward Rubrum lines. A pair of guzzler tracks meshed with a bunch of others, though, and we lost them. Cortex took fabric off the guy who jumped Tempestatis. Had Vestitor look at it, see what he could figure out. Told us he wasn’t a scientist, but if there was a red diamond on the jacket, it was definitely one of Gemma’s main crew.”

“Has a delegation been sent?” I walked out to the hall.

She followed behind quickly. “Tempestatis has had a volley going along Rubrum line on our border. She hasn’t laid off. So, she wasn’t starting her siege over Sanctus in the first place. She hasn’t stopped in seven months now. This has to be about the water ration. Cortex has had teams sweeping out the Aurantiaco of any dissenters and sending them out of Urbs Aquarum. Some have chosen Stagnum Ignis -”

I had quit listening. Like infernus it was staying that way. “Why has no one been sent?” I demanded, interrupting her.

“No one’s made it through the line. She’s got her men bunked down hard. Said she’d only take delegation if you came. You were kind of dying. If she was asking for you, she either didn’t know one of her men stabbed you, or if she did, figured she’d hamstring us with an unreasonable demand,” she snapped.

“Then I’m going.” I opened the door.

“Like infernus you are. You can barely stand right now! You need rest. Get back in here and sit your ass down! Lunam!” Molly commanded, trying to get me to come back inside.

“I’m busy!” I bellowed, escaping the clinic.

“Nigrae Lunam! You can’t be up yet!”

“Watch me!” I bit back.

“That ain’t a flesh wound, you stubborn bear!” She stocked after me and grabbed my hand. “Ow!” she dropped it. She glared daggers at me.

I was burning up and having a time keeping it bottled. She was resembling a walking constellation, and I was fearing for not only her safety, but everyone in the clinic. “You really want to have me back in there right now? I don’t think Medicus’ll appreciate all his materials going up.” I was seething. “I’m hungry, and my Repercussion is not playing fair right now, Molly.”

“You open that laceration, and you’re gonna bleed out.”

“That Rubrum bitch is going to massacre him.”

“Why are you so bent out of shape about this? You’re more level-headed about getting your men back when Rubrum and Aurantiaco take hostages, and you know it. True we obliterated Mercurius, but before that. We’ve done this enough times.”

I span on her, stopping her short. She looked up at me, startled as the colour drained from her face. “Not my men.”

“He is.”

“Not yet.”

“You accepted him into the Caeruleum, formally. He’s one of your men.”

“I never claimed brother ties with him. He isn’t one of my men.”

“What are you saying, Lunam?”

“I want him to be my vir.”

“You’re in love with him?”

“Drown me in the canal if I find Gemma’s killed him.”

“You’d rather die if he’s dead than continue supporting all of us? Your family?”

“There’s not going to be much left of Urbs Aquarum if I see his body.”

“You’d explode?”

“I’ll burn the whole damn Dome down. I will take a knife to the stomach for you, Cortex, Tempestatis, Abby, Sam. There’s something else here, though, for him.” I pointed at my head.

“You’ve had other partners in the past.”

“One night stands, a weekend fling, and you know it. Never dated. Never stuck around longer than mutual benefit. I never considered bond ties.”

“How long has this been going on, Lunam? You’d actually share bond ties?” She looked at me in confusion.

“You taught me the Urbs Aquarum ways. I’m not allowed to say anything about bond ties, and you know it. That’s for the families to recognize. But this thing, it’s been spiralling in my head since the day I met him.” I swallowed that admission.

“Love at first sight isn’t a thing.”

“Molly, I don’t think you can understand this one.”

“I’m asexual. Doesn’t mean I can’t fall in love, asshole. First sight is just lust.”

“You’re telling me this after I’ve literally had him laying in the same bed with me for the last couple months and waking up every morning thankful that he’s there. I breath him in, and all the tension from the day slips away. I close that door in the evening and can listen to his discoveries, his improvements, his joys and bottle it up inside me for the next day. I’m not leaving him there another day, Molly. I’m bringing him home.” Bravado is great, but it doesn’t keep away ringing in the ears.

“Easier to do if you aren’t dying in front of me,” she quipped, catching me as I sank down to the ground. 

I put a hand to my side where a radiating pain was shooting from the front of my stomach to the back of my lung. Blood came away, sticky and dark. “Damn it.”

“See. Told you, he-man. Go rescue your damoiseau in distress after we get you bandaged enough to keep you from bleeding out. I’m not holding a transfusion bag for you while you trade barbed words with Gemma.”

“Fair enough.” I let her pull me up and drag my sorry ass back into the clinic where Medicus gave me a full-on death glare for mangling his work. “I’m sorry,” I apologized to Molly quietly while Medicus went about cleaning everything all over again.

“Hey. I get it.” She brushed it away.

“You did incinerate that guy that got me, right?”

“Hey, no one touches my Caeruleum, let alone my niece and nephew.”

“Thank you for watching out for us, Maria Mater.”

“Any time, Lunam. Mommy and daddy have to be on the same page most of the time,” she teased.

“I only had to explain that once for Abby and Sam to the rest of you people, and now the whole of Caeruleum is still calling us Mom and Dad?” I drew in a flabbergasted sigh.

“And right now, mommy’s telling you to eat.” She shoved her wrist in front of me. I frowned, but that lilac smell had my eyelids drifting down involuntarily. I glared at her. I still wasn’t comfortable taking her blood.

“Keep it up, Lunam. We’ve had volunteers in here for the last six days trying to get you to eat. Your brain’s gotta be on for the Repercussion to quit, and tomato juice ain’t cutting it.”

I huffed and sank my fangs in her wrist for the first time. She squeaked, startled at my suddenness. It got her to stop for a minute. “Have you fed off him?” she asked, her voice having gone low. 

I flicked a dismissive glance her way. “Absolutely not,” I replied when I had finished. She took enough of the edge off to get the throbbing migraine down to a stabbing headache. I’d need more. Hyacinthus came forward to offer me help.

Medicus finished cleaning while I fixed my Repercussion. “Mommy! Looks like Daddy wants to take a lover,” Medicus whispered beneath his breath. He ran a new series of stitches along my gut and completely doused it in coagulant.

“Mommy would prefer he takes a lover who keeps him home. Keeps him from being a stupid grouch,” she growled.

Holy shit I didn’t realize coagulant stung! I’d rather put my hand to the guzzler’s muffler after an hour running before touching that stuff without my anaesthetic again.“Medicus!” I beseeched, my voice hitting an octave I had not visited since my cadet years.

“Deserved that,” he chuckled at me, pulling me to sit up.

“You knew this hurt?” I balanced against him.

“Of course it stings. Try telling your nerve endings to bind up with each other in seconds. That hurts.” He took a proffered roll of gauze and bandaging from Hyacinthus.

“Hades, give me the anaesthetic next time while you’re at it.” I fought to stay sitting upright, but dizziness was seeing me to leaning over my knees.

“Infernus no. You needed to remember this for next time.” Medicus motioned for Mater and Hyacinthus to help keep me upright in my dizziness while he wrapped my gut. It wasn’t going to bleed out from the coagulant, but it hadn’t miraculously healed my internal problems.

“I’m not planning on getting another flesh wound.” I gripped onto Maria Mater’s shoulder at the flash of searing heat that ran from my hip into my trap when Medicus applied pressure to the spot and put another layer of wrap on it.

“You didn’t plan on a flesh wound the first time.” He had Maria Mater and Hyacinthus help lay me back down on the gurney.

“True.” I waited for my blood pressure to even out, slipping in and out of the present. Half an hour later and less likely to pass out, I was able to stand up and not bleed all over the clinic floor.

Medicus was not amused with my plan, glowering at me as I buttoned up a white shirt Maria Mater had brought me. “If you’re going to endanger my handiwork, bring Sanctus back. Bring him back safe. And for the love of the first fire, tell him how you actually feel.”

“Medicus?” I pulled a pair of leather suspenders over my shoulders to keep my trousers up.

“You turn puppy-eyed with him.”

A note strangled in my throat.

“Oh, don’t think the rest of us haven’t noticed.” Medicus checked the tightness of my waistband and suspenders.

“Was it that freaking obvious?” I waited for his approval that I was not going to damage his work.

“Hello. Did you see yourself dancing with him at New Years? Everyone in Caeruleum who came knows you’re infatuated. How long have you two been sharing a bed? Of course, it’s obvious!”

“I – we – haven’t…”

“Haven’t what? Don’t go telling me you haven’t had sex yet! Bull.” He crossed his arms.

“Of course not!”

“So you have?”

“No. We haven’t. I knew a lot of kids back during my cadet days who came from homes with multiple siblings. They’d share beds with their brothers and sisters because their parents couldn’t afford more than that. I figured he was used to that with his siblings and tried my damnedest to keep it platonic for him. Not everyone is like me, and I try to not assume they are.” I pulled my trench coat on.

Medicus sighed in exasperation. “No pressure. At all.” He muttered under his breath before speaking up. “You’ve gotta be joking. Boy, go bring him home, and you’d better make sure he knows how you feel.” 

I swallowed my surprise. 

“Now. That coagulant of yours has at least knitted the skin together. I don’t know how much it’s helped with internals. Just don’t do anything stupid. Got it!” he shoved a finger in my face. I nodded my head mutely. “When you get back, you get your butt back in here. The last thing we need is for you to be bleeding internally. And no! Don’t you dare go burning the Dome down around you! I very well like my job and would like to keep doing it!” Medicus warned.

“Sorry, Medicus,” I mumbled quietly.

“You’d better be,” he snapped. His shoulders softened. “I understand, Lunam. I do. I get that firey burn of yours, and your feelings are stuck to it. Come home and bring our Sanctus back with you.”

Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.

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