The Ghosts of Christmas

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The Ghosts of Christmas

Post  Headcase on Wed Dec 23, 2009 8:29 am

She could walk again. Hear. Speak. All on her own, maybe even better than she could before. Sophie'd seen to that.

Her family was safe, and better, quick to take her back in and support her.

She'd beaten PSI badly enough that she knew they'd think twice before coming for her again. She'd freed someone else from similar circumstances, too, and was not letting the company go.

This was the hard part, she realized, as she walked through Mercy with barely an odd glance. She'd waited all of ten minutes in the lobby, then strolled right in -- this time of year, the hospital was too busy for everyone to keep up. She was wearing the dress illusion again, so that she felt a little more formal, a little more focused. She touched the package under her arm. She had what she needed, but she was still scared to death of what she was about to face. She knew she had to do this, from the moment she told Jonathan, or she'd never be able to completely move on.

She opened the door to the shared room. It'd taken her over a week to find him, and he was officially a John Doe. No surprise, really -- they'd burned his face pretty badly (though she could still see the ink), and hands, and his teeth were in sorry shape. She was sure she didn't need to look too closely to realize why the doctors couldn't find the cause for his coma. He was breathing through a tube, and eating through an IV.

She stood over him, looking around to make sure no one would notice, then down at him. Two nurses argued quietly, casting cautious glances toward a patient behind a curtain. Even from here, she could hear the poor woman's rasps. The nurses hurried away, and apart from the woman choking in the clean air.

And apart from him.

******

"Thus they kept Sir Launcelot's corpse aloft fifteen days, and then they buried it with great devotion. And then at leisure they went all with the Bishop of Canterbury to his hermitage, and there they were together more than a month. Then Sir Constantine, that was Sir Cador's son of Cornwall, was chosen king of England. And he was a full noble knight, and worshipfully he ruled this what do you think you're doing, Eric?" He clapped the book shut, his tone never changing.

"Lighten up, Davis," she said, slipping from the threadbare sheets to the stained linoleum in front of him. She smiled at him, in just her black sports bra and panties, her eyes shining red as she pushed the evening drip away. "The bosses say no touch, so I'm just taking her for a jog." She bounced at the last word.

"Mr. Richter wants you to talk to the family, not to joyride." Davis set the book on the cheap plastic endtable, rising from the matching chair. "We can't afford to have anything happen to her."

"The asset will be fine, Davis. Jesus." She shook her head, walking across the bare apartment floor to the door.

"It's progressing, and you're supposed to monitor that. You think Mr. Richter won't double-check you? You think he'll let this thing go any further south than it already has?"

She turned on her heel, sneering. "I think Richter's fucked the pooch so badly that it doesn't matter. I think he's treading water, sending subordinates to Medusa who don't know he's lying, and I think she doesn't know we're down to the one asset after ten fucking years. I think he's wiped and dropped the moment someone checks his work against the facts, and I think the asset'll last just long enough for them to cut it open and poke around to see what kind of hack job he did.

"They've got other people to do probes, Davis." She leveled an accusatory finger at him. "And the little tricks she does? Not worth the risk of the 'progression' reaching term. Even Richter won't risk that, and frankly, if I notice that thing twitch one more damn time, I've half a mind to call Medusa myself and let her know about the freakshow."

"You wouldn't, Eric." He leveled his gaze, tried to speak calmly. "She'd demand to know what took you so long."

"And I'll cop to being a perv. Better that than whatever the asset'll turn." She smiled at him, arms wide, and took a bow.

"Get out of her. Now." He didn't let the anger creep in, he just left an edge.

"Fuck you," she spat. "Where the fuck do you get off trying to play good cop? We all know you're no better than the rest of us."

Davis chewed the thought. Looked her in her pearlescent eyes. "I'm going to pretend you don't mean that, and that you're just annoyed that I'm pulling rank."

"No, I mean it." She flipped him off, her finger showing a neglected hangnail. "I've seen your wife, Davis. You think any of us don't know what you do when you're alone with her? Shit, you've been reading her fairy tales when we're around, act like you're not fucking her when we're not, and somehow I'm the sick fuck? Fuck you."

"Get out of here. Now." Davis willed himself to remain calm. "I'll handle today's visitation."

"You? What're you going to do, bore the family until they leave? You don't know them well enough to pass." She started walking to the door again. "I'll be back in an hour, plenty of time."

{LEAVE HER AND GO.}She shuddered, dropping from her stance and into Davis' arms. An angry red afterimage glared before disintegrating.

He looked down at her, brushed the hair from her face. Sightless, cataracted eyes stared back. Davis lifted her gently -- she was so light, another thing Mr. Richter found disconcerting, despite appearances of health -- and carried her back to bed.

He laid her down, arms side by side. The cheap bedding felt like paper. He thought of his wife. Today was their anniversary, not that he could get the day off. Not that it'd have helped much, either. The doctors found the spot on her lung, and they'd not since been in the mood to do much more than hold each other. He touched his ring. He couldn't bear to think how she must feel right now. He sat down, and prayed that the earth would swallow him whole.

Davis looked down at her. The records said she was 29, but she looked younger. The prime of her life, really. She was beautiful, even with the brand and the eyes. The red shots of hair were a little much, and she was still more girl next door than girl of anyone's dreams. He thought about it, though. How long it had been. How long since he first felt the need, and how badly it had hurt to deny it.

"I want you to know, Ms. Sanford, that I'm very sorry for this," he said, opening the drawer under the end table. "I can offer a thousand excuses, but that's all they can be. Nothing can ever make this right."

He held up the syringe, its contents a murky red, peering cautiously at the saline solution in the drip. Even if he were a medical expert, he had no idea what the shot would do to her anymore. Nobody had. The needle was for emergencies only, if her rider had been compromised. A thin stream confirmed the needle's integrity. He took a breath, plunged it in and thumbed the cocktail all the way in. The saline turned pink. He was committed now.

He looked down on her again, gently sweeping her hair from her face. "We've got three hours before they come for us. It should be plenty of time." He plucked the IV feed from the pole, and tied off her arm with the hose. "Eric's right, too, much as I hate to say it. Mr. Richter's over budget and deadline. We'll all be lucky to last the year. Mr. Richter. Eric. Me. We're all going to get what's coming to us." He tapped the vein ready, and held the IV to it. "You, too. There's no reason not to do this." A quick motion brought it in, and he turned the valve.

He leaned over and kissed her, softly, on the forehead. "They'll come for you. Hide where they don't dare follow. Try to find friends, and try to work on what they gave you. Use it against them. They'll send Eric for you, too, probably, assuming I don't stop him tonight. Remember how small and limited he really is, for all they've unlocked in him."

Davis stood, looking at his reflection in the window. He couldn't see anything but the trident on his jumpsuit, and on his face. He closed his eyes, and reopened them to find he was wearing an red-accented three-piece suit, and a matching bowler hat. "Remember this trick, too." He touched her forehead again, then walked for the door.

He'd get his wife flowers. They'd talk. They'd kiss again, almost certainly. He'd leave, and then he'd find the other monster that had held this poor girl down. He opened the door, looking back. "I'm sorry, Ms. Sanford." He left the door ajar.

It was the right thing to do. He breathed in, and started down the stairs.

He missed the first step.

{I'm sorry, too, Mr. Davis.}

*****

The poor woman's rasping had stopped, and ended the memory prematurely. Milly left the package by his bedside, and hurried, her legs passing through the imagined fabric of her dress. She threw the curtain aside with too much force, bringing it crashing down.

The woman was choking, her throat blocked, the veins by her eyes bulging through skin like faded leather. She trembled, unable to even reach for her neck.

Milly touched her hand, and bit her lip from the pain they shared. She felt the nerves in the spine and brainstem, that forced the painful reflex that was causing her to try to breathe. She felt how quickly the brain cells were dying, and how many that were already gone. She told the muscles to relax, the pain receptors to go to sleep, that they'd done their job.

Milly looked down at the ring on the woman's hand, and smiled to her, the eyes still seeing a few moments longer. "I met your husband once, and he did me a good turn. See him once more, before you go." The other woman looked at her strangely, but the memory flickered. Milly held on to it for her until there was no one left to show.

Milly stood and walked away as the machine whined. Just far enough, so when the nurses came running, they thought she was walking towards instead of already there. They pushed her aside, mumbled, and the doctor came in. Milly was already back by the package, their backs turned. They were so busy, they wouldn't hear a thing.

She tore open the package, and held it to the light, considering the tiny miracle she'd just taken part in, one of so many since. What came next would never be a miracle, merely necessary, and she held it in her lap.

"It befell in the days of Uther Pendragon, when he was king of all England, and so reigned, that there was a mighty duke in Cornwall that held war against him long time. And the duke was called the Duke of Tintagil..."

Headcase

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