Don pulls his scarf more tightly around his face. It's the yellow and green plaid one his mother gave him last year, so long he has to wrap it around twice just so the tails don't drag in the snow. The wool scratches his his neck, but it's warm, and it keeps his nose from freezing on his nightly walks home.
"I'm heading home now," Don holds his phone closer to his ear, cupping his hand around it, trying to keep his ear warm with his earmuffs pushed aside. He sidesteps around a frozen puddle, nearly colliding with a man holding more than his arms' worth of neatly wrapped gifts. He stammers out an apology before continuing on, dodging grumpy shoppers and sidewalk booby-traps.
"Yes, I know what time," this time Don's the one being walked into, and he narrowly misses colliding with a bright red donation bucket as he flails. The girl with the bell gives him a look that's more of a glare, and he pauses in his walk to drop a few coins in the pail.
"Sorry Mama, it's really busy out here tonight." Don sniffles, holding a mittened hand under his nose to ward off a sneeze. "I'll call you back when I get home, okay? Yes, I love you too. Merry Christmas, Mama. Okay. Okay. Bye."
Don pockets his phone and hikes his scarf back up well over his nose, tugging his earmuffs back snugly over his ears. He shoves his hands into his pockets, fingers numb despite the thick mittens, and continues his trudge along the crowded, treacherous sidewalk. It's unseasonably cold for this time of year, not that it wasn't always cold and snowy and miserable this late in December, but the sub zero temperatures didn't usually kick in until the middle of January. Truthfully it isn't all that cold, it was still warm enough for it to snow, but it certainly feels like that. Maybe it's because he's getting older, but each year Christmas feels more and more like a chore. The excitement he used to feel when the first snowfall hit has turned to irritation, the joy of the holiday atmosphere shifting to annoyance.
On top of everything he has finals to worry about, having just finished the last of them earlier that evening. He's sure he could have done better, could have studied harder, could have taken more time on his lab work. It was over and done with, and now came the waiting for this semester's grades. Don feels like a cloud hangs around his head, one of disappointment and discouragement, and he takes several long, shuddering breaths, the early stages of a panic attack rushing through him.
"Stupid," He mutters to himself, voice muffled beneath his scarf. "Stupid, stupid, stupid."
Don steps off the curb, his little house just across the way, windows dark but for the few small electric candles he set up in them facing the street. It was all he could manage this year for decoration, that and the tiny synthetic tree he'd put up in his living room. His mother would never forgive him if he didn't have a tree for Christmas, it was bad enough that it wasn't a real tree.
Don's head is down, his eyes almost closed as he tries to fight off panic. He doesn't see the car as it skids on the ice, and it's too late by the time he hears the screech of the horn. He turns his head just in time to be blinded by headlights too close to him. Something hits him, knocking him into the nearest snow pile left by the plows. The air is forced out of his lungs. And then darkness.
It's a few moments before he realizes he just has his eyes closed. That he's not unconscious. Or worse. He blinks, looking up at a flickering street lamp, and takes in several slow breaths before he attempts to move. The pain he anticipates as he moves his limbs never comes, and he's only mildly dizzy as he sits up. The car has come to a stop a few feet away, the frantic driver tumbling out the door, long red coat swirling around his legs as he slides on the ice on his way over, and all Don can think about is how the man's heeled leather boots are the worst kind of boots to wear in winter.
"Are you alright!?" The man's voice is deep and rough despite the worried tone of his words.
Don shifts again, testing his arms, then his legs, then his neck. He nods, blushing faintly under the man's concerned stare. "I don't think you actually hit me."
The man in red extends a leather clad hand to help Don up, his brow scrunched up with worry. "Are you sure? It really felt like I hit something."
Don hauls himself up out of the snow with the man's help, brushing some of the snow off his pants as he checks himself over more thoroughly. Besides his backside from where he hit the packed snowbank, nothing even feels bruised. It's a bit weird, but Don's not going to complain about not being hit by a car while he was in the middle of a panic attack.
"Maybe we should call an ambulance just to be sure." The man has a hand in hair, rubbing at the back of his neck and looking Don over like he might fall into pieces at any moment. Don would laugh, if he wasn't mildly dazed.
"Really, I'm fine," Don offers the man a bright smile, adjusting his clothes after. "Trust me, I'm a med student."
The man hovers for a moment longer before finally taking Don's word, and Don is relieved when he gets back in his car and drives away. He draws in a deep breath, letting it out as a slow sigh. Despite being unhurt, he's still shaky all over, his knees trembling, and not from the chill. The after effects of an adrenaline rush, the lingering quiver from his panic, it's all proving a bit much for him, and he just wants to get inside and warm up with a cup of hot chocolate. He takes one of his mittens off to run his fingers through his hair, knocking clumps of snow away before they melt and give him a proper chill.
Don is just about to head for his house again when he hears a soft groan behind him. He turns, almost falling over when he sees someone lying crumpled in the snow, right next to where he fell. A man, Don thinks, judging by the tone of the groan, though the extensive length of hair splayed out over the snow might have suggested otherwise. He's wrapped up in a long navy pea coat, but with little else to ward off the elements, aside from a pair of heavy military style boots.
Don squawks loudly, flailing his arms around before he kneels down beside the man, brushing his bangs out of his face and checking his head for any obvious wounds. "Are you okay? Can you hear me? Don't try to move."
"Shit," the man groans again, shifting slightly. He tenses, bringing a hand up to cover his mouth, and mutters something soft that Don only recognizes as a prayer from his childhood spent fumbling through Sunday school. The language is oddly familiar, but it's not quite Latin. And Don's not sure where the feeling comes from, but he gets the impression that it's much older. Much more sacred.
Don pushes these thoughts away as the man tries to stand, putting a hand against his chest but not pressing too hard, in case of any broken ribs. It's obvious now that this man was the one hit by the skidding car. Why the driver in red hadn't noticed him lying right next to Don is something he's not concerning himself with.
"Don't try to move, I don't know how badly you're injured yet." Don fumbles a little, still trying to get the man to lie back down without using too much force.
The man opens his eyes, and Don gasps softly. His pupils are normal, it's not a concussion that makes Don gasp. No, it's the man's irises. Wider than they have any right to be, and the most striking shade of blue Don has ever seen. That rich blue the sky turns before the grey of a storm rolls in, flecked with the deep shade waves take just beneath the crown of sea foam. Poems could be written about this man's eyes. Ballads sung. And snap the hell out of this, Don Dogoier, now is not the time to be waxing pathetic about a stranger's eyes.
"You can see me?" The man's voice is frantic, his eyes going wider. He really needs to stop looking at Don for a minute so the poor med student can think clearly and remember what to do.
"I'm going to call an ambulance, okay?" Don says calmly, trying to keep his voice even and soothing. The man is obviously panicked, and more than a little bit confused. Don can deal with this, he's been training to help people in this sort of state. "Please, just don't try to move."
"No, I have to go." The man struggles against Don's hand, not hard, since Don isn't pushing him down roughly, and manages to sit up. His hair, only half tied back in a long ponytail, spills over his back and shoulders, and Don is so distracted that the man manages to struggle to his feet before he can say another word against it.
The man looks up at the sky, searching frantically for something, muttering more of that strangely familiar language under his breath. He moves to take a step and his face scrunches up in pain, the man doubling forward and clutching at the front of his coat with one hand, the other reaching back over his shoulder. "Oh. Oh no."
Don scrambles to his feet, flailing slightly as he slips on the snowy sidewalk. He moves up beside the man, sliding an arm around his waist. His coat feels bulkier than he looks, though maybe the man was just wearing a lot of layers beneath. Odd, since he wasn't wearing gloves or a hat or anything else to protect him from the elements. Don is at a loss for what to do. He takes one mitten off and reaches up to touch the man's cheek with the back of his hand, frowning deeply at how chilled his skin is.
"At least let me get you inside so you don't freeze to death out here." Don barely waits for the man to vaguely nod his head before he starts ushering him toward his door. He keeps one eye on the man's movements as they make their way up his front steps. He's not limping, so that's one good sign, but he is leaning heavily into Don, and his face is still pale and showing obvious signs of pain somewhere.
Don manages to get his door unlocked and open one handed, kicking it shut behind him. He moves them to his living room, flicking the lights on and then guiding the poor man to sit on his small couch. He checks the man's temperature again with the back of his wrist, his skin still feeling far too cold.
"If you take your coat off I can check you over and make sure nothing's broken, though I still think we should take you to the hospital." Don leaves the man for a moment to adjust the thermostat, shedding his scarf and ear muffs on the way. He waits until he hears until he hears the furnace kick in before he turns around again, tugging his other mitten off.
Don was pretty sure nothing else could shock him tonight, too much had happened in too short a time, but nothing could ever prepare him for what he sees as he turns back around. The man is sliding his arms out of his pea coat, slowly and carefully. He's shirtless underneath, but Don hardly has time to notice that, not with what extends from the man's back, right around where his shoulder blades are.
Two great wings extend carefully, hesitantly. Snow white feathers rustling like a bird that's been caged for too long and doesn't quite remember how to fly. One wing stretches out to its full length, as if it's testing its strength. Unfolded it takes up half Don's tiny living room. The other wing attempts to do the same, but right away it's obvious that something is very wrong. It's bent at an awkward angle, and as it tries to stretch a great glob of blood rolls from a point where a fine porcelain bone protrudes, coating many of its feather with angry red.
The man bends forward in obvious pain, reaching back over his shoulder with one arm again. He takes in several slow breaths, then looks at Don, his face falling when he sees the expression on Don's face. "Oh. So you can see those too."