“Damn it, Lunam! You were supposed to come directly to me when you returned from getting him!” Medicus bellowed. We were in the clinic, me on the gurney, Sanctus letting me lean on him. It was late into the evening. I had let Sanctus pull me in when he wouldn’t stop fretting about the fever. How he could tell it was a fever and not my fire, I had no idea. Must have been a Providentia thing. It felt pretty good to sleep on the gurney for the last five hours, though. Sometime while I was gone to the world, Sanctus found himself a pair of spare pants and a shirt that Medicus kept around for patients.
“So, it wasn’t the first moment. I waited until after the announcements. You were busy dealing with refugees anyways. Sanctus needs to be seen,” I deflected.
“Sanctus is not the issue, you stone-brained behemoth. Though I will be seeing to him after you, you…you!” He prodded a finger into my chest and ground his teeth in frustration as he failed to formulate another scathing remark.
“What’s wrong with him, Medicus?” Sanctus glanced between him and me with worry.
“Went and got himself skewered by one of Gemma’s men. Then! Yes, then he went and passed out, not before exploding and demolishing part of a building. So, unconscious with his Repercussion activated and mortally wounded! If that weren’t bad enough, I had to remove his appendix, deal with a nick to his Iliac crest and mend a good-sized gouge to his small and large intestines and wait for him to wake up after six days. When he does wake up, he doesn’t have the decent courtesy to wait to heal. No! He finds out you haven’t come home and immediately gets up and goes on a warpath, and your brothers and sisters help this delusional creature! He was supposed to come right back to the clinic. I was waiting here for him. Then I get called out to see literally everyone else in the Urbs. Bleeding internally was a real probability. Vestitor told me of the ash piles all the way into that throne room.” He was turning red as he spun from Sanctus back to me. “You swore you wouldn’t do more than talk. You will die of sepsis, you idiot!” Medicus pushed me back on the gurney as he started checking my chest and abdomen. I flinched when he found a hot, tender spot that was raised and a shade darker than the surrounding skin. “Damn it all!” He bit out as he rounded up one of my vials of anaesthetic, several scalpels, and some more scary-looking tools.
“You said it was just my appendix!” I rubbed at my gut.
“No need to tell you that when you were on the verge of meeting Hades for real. Of course, a deep knife wound to the stomach would put a hole in at least one organ. It’s not all muscle in there! Blood vessel walls and muscle are all your coagulant is good for. It’s not going to miraculously mend organs and bones.” Medicus’s tools hit the metal pan with a loud ping, making both Sanctus and me flinch.
“I could have done with that knowledge.” I cringed as the heat in my stomach wrapped around to my kidneys and up through my spine.
“Would that have stopped you going after your bond partner?” Medicus shuffled through his tools.
“Like infernus it would have. I’d go after him if you’d amputated my leg an hour before,” I snapped back, rising on my elbows. Sanctus patted my shoulder, forcing me to stay lying down.
“You didn’t need to know then. It wouldn’t have mattered to you.” He turned back to me with a full tray of sharp tools.
“No going crazy on me unless Hyacinthus’s here, Medicus! You don’t want me bleeding out!” I yelped, fending him off.
“Don’t I? Hyacinthus!” Medicus hollered in frustration. She came hurrying around from the backroom where she had been taking inventory.
“What? What’s wrong?” She skidded over to the gurney next to Medicus.
“Boss doesn’t want me killing him outright,” he grumbled as he went about sanitation protocol for himself and his tools. At least he was cooling down.
She slapped the clipboard on the counter and flipped the generator switch on, throwing the whole space into a brilliant shade of doom. “Don’t go killing boss outright! That’ll take all the fun out of it. I thought we talked about this? Slow and over the years. Give him grey hairs.” She pulled her own hair back out of her face and started prepping.
“You weren’t supposed to tell him the plan,” Medicus grouched.
“You’ll forget all about the plan, right, Lunam?” She swabbed me down with iodine.
“Never heard it.” I waved the idea off. The amber-brown fluid stank, it was cold, and the way it was applied tickled like all get out.
“Why didn’t you tell me it was that bad?” Sanctus demanded from me.
“Did you see me turning you down?” I quipped.
“You should have! I was sitting on you. That wouldn’t be good on your stomach at all. How did that not hurt? Hades!” he reprimanded.
“Infernus, no. I wasn’t turning you down. I’ve waited too bloody long to figure out what your feelings for me were. Try walking around thinking the guy you are in love with probably thinks of you like a big brother or would be disgusted with you. It sucks!” I scootched toward the other side of the gurney when Hyacinthus helped Medicus on with a pair of gloves. She gave me the evil eye, and I slid back to where I had been.
“Little brother. And I did! And it does! But that doesn’t mean me sitting on you, or sex or necking or whatever you were about to let me do to you should have been an option if you were dying!” he belated.
“Not dying! Okay. Sort of dying. It hurts, and I’d like it to stop sometime today, but I’m not apologizing for what we did. Ain’t no way!” I told him as I sat up at Hyacinthus’s motioning to strip out of what remained of my clothing if only to keep from getting more blood on them. I set the offending garments on the bed behind her and clambered back onto the gurney, hissing at the disgusting texture.
Medicus turned to me with a mask on his face, a scalpel in one hand and a series of hemostatic clamps in the other. He motioned for Sanctus to put a mask on. “I take that back. I’ll apologize,” I stammered as Hyacinthus leaned over and shoved my anaesthetic into my abdominal muscles. The blossom of cold numbness left my hands shaking.
“You’d better. I’m glad you two got this figured out. Don’t go feeling guilty about this, Sanctus. You know how it goes with Lunam. He’ll ignore his hurt and his needs over everyone else’s until it practically kills him.” Medicus sliced into me, and I had to look away to not chuck. Sanctus took my hand. I squeezed down on it. The anaesthetic was effective, but there was still pain. And a lot of blood. And a lot of cleanup.
“I’d beg to differ, Medicus. I was being selfish this time around,” my voice cracked.
“Yeah, and now you’re on bed rest for the next three to four weeks until all of this heals properly this time! Sex is most definitely off the table in whatever direction suits your fancy for at least three months, and don’t even think of going near anything with a tight waistband. I will confiscate your favourite belt if you even eye it once. Liquid diet until I say otherwise. Don’t need you going blowing a hole in my repair job,” he huffed.
“Thank you for talking to Mater. I do want to be there for your bond tie. I am proud of you both.” He softened for a moment while Hyacinthus shoved clamps into my wound.
“Yes, thank you for thinking of us.” My sister-in-law pulled another set of tools close in for work.
“Now. Explain something to me, vampire. Why are you going all green around the gills for? You’re the one with the bloodlust Repercussion! Not like you haven’t seen more blood than I have,” Medicus chided. “We’ve had that particular discussion before.”
“Because it’s not usually my blood, and I don’t usually see my inner workings.” My stomach tried to weasel its way up my oesophagus.
“If any of us could see your inner workings, we’d all be able to predict your moods so much better,” Medicus hissed. “Are you going to pass out on me? You’d better not!”
“No one needs to know how I think. It keeps you all on your toes. It’s more fun that way.” I cringed as needle and thread made weird tugging sensations in my stomach in spots I’d never felt before. That was one bizarre feeling too far. Medicus snorted at me and continued working. My arm shook, and my fingers numbed. White noise filled my hearing over whatever Medicus was muttering.
“Lunam?” Sanctus asked as tunnel vision finally pushed me into the black.
I came around late the next morning. Mater was less than amused. Medicus had chewed her and the rest of my to be bond-tie family out too for encouraging us and put them on a wait date that put us out until the beginning of autumn for a ceremony. He wasn’t exactly wrong. I was to remain stuck in his clinic for another four days before he let me move back into the warehouse. Sanctus and I traded spaces with Aurelia and Paul. We took over the first-floor room that had been Vestitor’s clothing shop while they took my bedroom. To my living frustration after that heady moment in the antechamber, Sanctus took up the most chaste mentality I think any soul ever attained during that time, taking Medicus’s orders to the letter. Living on the first floor did make it easier for Medicus to come see me. Admittedly, it also kept me from having to face three floors of stairs. I was not ready to try that climb.
Maria Mater had me wheeled around to wherever I was needed if I had to co-lead meetings with her. She avoided exhausting me too much, though. I was thankful for that. She was the one who understood how to manage the people.
“I’m just here to look pretty,” I joked with her after one long meeting when she couldn’t understand why I was completely incompetent at socio-political negotiation. She whacked me on the back of the head for that.
“You’re our Hades, Lunam. There would be no Caeruleum without us.”
“I’m glad you’re my co-leader, Molly. Really.”
“You know, you’ve chilled out quite a bit since the prospect of bond-tying was brought up. I hope you’re looking forward to it. You sure you want to push it out until the middle of autumn? It is what it is, and it makes you happy, so I guess it’s fine. Should have tied you down sooner.”
“Sanctus is taking Medicus’s warnings seriously.” I shrugged, lacing my fingers behind my head. “Somehow, I don’t think that would work with you.” I cast an appraising glance at my co-leader, raising a suggestive eyebrow.
“I don’t know. I might have found someone good with my lack of interest in some things.” She pulled her piles of papers spread on the table into a neat stack.
“Woah, hold up, who?” I demanded, sitting up to still her fidgeting.
“Not telling.” She extracted her fingers, and continued gathering up her documents.
“Uh, no. You encouraged me and Sanctus. Cough it up, partner.” I wiggled my fingers at her.
“Maybe a girl who looks after a stack of books,” she muttered behind a handful of papers.
“She have a comfy couch and a soft smile and teaches your niece how to draw?” I teased.
“Maybe.” She smirked, her cheeks deepening a soft pink.
“Oh, this is going to be fun.”
“You’d better not, Lunam!” she protested.
“Where’d you put that com, Molly. I’m calling Cortex and Tempest. Where’s that ledger of yours? Who in infernus is she family tied to? We’re getting this done.” I rose to go rummage the shelves around the meeting room for the elusive com that tended to disappear in the clutter.
“I should have never given you that note about a treasure box from Cortext and Tempestatis.” She followed me and grabbed the com from on top of a file before I spotted it, slipping it into her pocket.
I eased up on my teasing. “I’m glad you did.” I leaned up against one of the shelves. It rocked under my weight. I eased off it, wary it would fall over on me when I moved.
“What are you going to do when you and Sanctus are tied?” She pulled over a box of files and papers. Finished with her meeting notes, she was still chewing on acquisition documents from the two territories.
“How do you mean?” I returned to my chair to study ceiling tiles, exhaustion hitting me in the back of the head. I had moved out of needing a wheelchair to get around, but staying upright for more than a couple hours was debilitating, especially the running flair of heat that would seep down my leg if I maintained one position for too long. Medicus had told me it could be permanent. With physical therapy, he hoped to see it go away completely.
“We need one of the co-leaders in the base. You took it so I could get my apartment and some privacy. But you’ve got kids and a soon-to-be husband. You all have been making do the best you could with that old clothing room, but reality is, you need space more than me.” She set down her pen to rest her chin in her hand and study me.
“I had been thinking, actually. You know that old field out back?” I asked. I could see the golden hour hitting wheat heads behind my eyelids. The cold smell of wet ground after the rain. That quiet whisp of grass rubbing against grass.
“Yeah? It’s been derelict for some time now. You thinking of building on it? The register says the land’s still for sale if I remember right.”
“I don’t owe anyone chips, and I’ve accumulated for years. I was thinking of buying it and putting a house there. Praesepe has been teaching me how to grow berry bushes and fruit trees since we got the orchards from Aurantiaco. I was contemplating starting a vineyard on it. He said they’ve run out of land to try their hand at grapes out near the greenhouses.” A two-story house, like the one my great-grandmother had lived in as a child on Earth. A white kitchen. A barn with livestock off the back. Space for Sam and Abby to run.
“It would leave you close enough to base that if someone needed a co-leader to manage, they’d be able to get to you.” She pulled a ledger off her shelf and opened it to the land deeds of Urb Aquarum. Tempestatis and Scriba, along with literate prior members of Aurantiaco and Rubrum had taken the four weeks of my bed rest to fully compile the map and housing data. Drawing her finger down the line and flipping three pages over, she found the listing for the property. “That’s a chunk of chips there, Lunam. It’s huge. I didn’t realize it was that big. Why has it been left all this time?”
“Most of its woodland, and we didn’t have the dozers to pull stumps. Aurantiaco had most of that heavy machinery. I can clear some of the deadwood out and clear the underbrush now that I have access to the equipment.”
“You mean you’ll have someone clear it. You lift anything heavier than cup of water and Medicus about blows a gasket.” Molly chuckled.
“Fair, and that’s only for a few more months. I’ll be able to help again in a couple months. I don’t want to destroy the woods out there, just set the house at the edge between it and the field. Probably have Prasepe run his herds on it for a couple years to fertilize while we root vines in the greenhouses.” I was lost to that fantasy world. The idea of watching Sanctus eating grapes, laying in a hammock with him, the sun playing in his hair. “It’s a worthwhile bond-tying present.” I smiled, closing my eyes to dream of that golden glowing life.
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