The human body really was a truly remarkable piece of work. Though it housed within it a being not fit for life, a creature that disgusted Jizabel with its filthy urges, carnal lusts and insurmountable need for dominance and superiority, the physical form was to be admired. He adored the feel of cooling skin, the way his scalpel lagged only slightly, catching the resistance of finely toned muscles and membranes. And what lovely colors the body contained. No oils or tempera hues could ever quite replicate that deep glossy crimson of fresh, warm blood. It always turned out far too matte, too vivid, cartoonish.
But perhaps more astounding than the veins and intestines of a dead or dying man was the ways the body defended itself from unpleasnatries. The mind, he knew, played a large factor in this. More than anyone else, perhaps, Jizabel knew how the mind could convince one of almost any truth. And now he saw, when faced with something as jarring as a gunshot wound, the mind could whisper sweet lies to his nerves that no, he was not in pain. There was no damage, no major hemorrhaging. Nothing to feel suffering from. How much he had been molded by his father; his own brain picking up Alexis's sweet untruths.
The fall didn't even have enough force to break him from his shock, though he was sure it had broken something more physical. Somewhere in the back of his consciousness he knew he'd be in agony later. But he knew at the same time there would be no later.
All this rushed through his thoughts in just moments, and he scarcely had time to give each idea the attention it deserved, racing so quickly it matched the gravity that reached for him, drug him down to the solid marble floor below.
A barely heard cry, convincing him he had not lost all touch with awareness, but still there was no pain. Just a…a cold shock. He had fallen too quickly, jumped in front of his father too fast for his senses to catch him.
Perhaps…that was a mercy…
A strong pair of arms grabbed him practically the moment his body collided with the floor, and he felt [perhaps they were warm, strong, but he couldn't really tell.
"That's why I told you! It's useless to believe in him!" the same voice that had cried out to him as he tumbled now spoke in his ear, harsh and full of anger and…fear?
Those broad hands, dirty as they were, pulled his thin frame closer, onto his lap.
"A man like that, Jizabel, has a heart nothing can reach!" How familiar this voice, admonishing him. So much deeper than the Cassian he had known for so long, but so unmistakably belonging to his former assistant. No one else had ever scolded him with such concern.
Jizabel let this man nestle him into his lap, holding…clinging to him. His larger body encircled his, seeming to shield him.
"I had already warned you. Look! He didn't even change expression after you saved his life!"
Jizabel turned his face skyward, straining to see whatever Cassian was seeing. Father…his beloved father, up on the balcony he had soared from. He wasn't even gracing him with a glance, not so much as a tilt of his eyes downwards towards his dying son. Perhaps he felt this was the place for him, he thought. On the ground, so far below him, so far below so many, just as he had raised him to believe he was.
But another man, he had his full attention. Even as it seemed the entire structure around them was crumbling, he scarcely looked away from the man he held, bleeding, in his arms. And though the room groaned and rumbled and heaved with the force of falling debris, Cassian too was the only thing that seemed solid to Jizabel as he lay dying.
Oh , he knew he was. A dozen years training as a physician left one with a cruel harshness of the reality of death. Though his clothes bore little blood, he knew his body was spilling it internally, and his organs would be so badly bruised and bashed fro his impact.
And he…he still felt no pain, but there was a creeping chill climbing up his fingers, the tips growing numb.
"Why…did you come back, Cassian?" Jizabel asked, sure he should be surprised by the lack of power in his voice. "With the veritable hell consuming the world outside…I'm frankly amazed that you returned…"
Another remark hung between them, unsaid by Jizabel though both knew it would be just like him to think it.
Why would you come back, when you'd so successfully escaped from me?
Cassian had no answer for him. Well, none that would satisfy the unstable doctor. His sick mind wouldn't be able to grasp such an abstract concept such as loyalty and devotion, though he himself was such a perfect display of it. Instead, he peeled away the painted scars he wore, and the wig, revealing his face as it should be, as it should have been for so many years.
A vague smile, more a grimace than not, colored Jizabel's paling face.
"I wasn't able to kill my father after all…even though I knew your words were true."
It was hard to tell whether his words were filled with remorse, or even a bit of relief that he couldn't do it. Couldn't take the life of the man who had robbed him of his, so many long years before he lay dying.
"I appears that I couldn't betray my own nature/"
Sweat began to form on his skin, making it grow cold and clammy under Cassian's touch. How…how could he appear so calm? So accepting? While it was true Jizabel had never been one to fear the act of dying itself, as he'd seemed so often to be willing to throw his breath away, he knew beyond that, there was a fear of death, or what lay after dying.
Jizabel knew what likely awaited him after this. He could almost feel the flames licking along his skin already. All those years, all he had memorized, the recitation as fathers corded whip crashed onto his bare back. The wrath of God.
Somehow, the same block that kept the pain at bay (though the room was growing so cold…) seemed to keep him from processing anything so tumultuous. Neither of them did, it seemed.
Cassian's arms surrounded his shoulders, tugging purposefully at his tie and discarding it with a flick, and turning to unbutton his shirt.
Jizabel sighed softly as Cassian tugged his lapels apart, away from his throat, and busied his hands instead with stroking down the side of his face. It was as though he too realized the severity of this situation and wished him to pass comfortably. Somewhere in his numb chest, this…warmed Jizabel, somewhat, with what little ability to feel gratitude and compassion as his broken emotions possessed.
'I suppose if I'm hellbound,' he thought, and even the voice in his own mind was soft, 'it's only fitting that my last moments should be so peaceful.'
"Yes, that's very typical of you, to do something so foolish" he agreed, for Jizabel was nothing if not heavily rooted in habit, latching to what was familiar and calling it comfort. "I suppose now…all I can do is watch over you, in your final moments."
"Heh," Jizabel's smile lightened so slightly. Cassian spoke so gently to hi now…"I remember how you always use to scold me."
He reached up, and Cassian could see the tremble rising in his limbs. Finally his fingers fell to the black cross that hung always, always, around his neck. A precious gift from his father, treasured beyond anything else that Jizabel owned. He couldn't remember a time he wasn't wearing it. Even if he had it tucked away under his clothes, it was always there, lying against bare skin. Cassian suspected he loved it all the more that way.
With what little strength Jizabel had, he clenched the sigil in his fist and gave it one sharp wrench, breaking the clasp with a faint snap. Cassian's eyes widened slightly as he didn't hold it to himself, as he expected, but rather held it out to the butler.
"Riff, please. Give this to Cain," he asked, discarding this memento with scarcely a thought. "I'm sure that he'll be able to do what I never could…"
He'll be able to kill Alexis. To rid the two of them of the man who had robbed them of their lives, of their childhoods, their freedom, and for Jizabel, his sanity. It was all because of Alexis that Jizabel had ended up the man he was, that Cain had become so aloof and sheltered. He was the one who scarred their backs with his whip. True, one saw his marks with hatred, the other with thanks, but it had marked them, damaged them, deeper than either could know. And Jizabel could now understand that…at least a small part of himself could.
'How funny. I see my past the clearest when the world in front of me is fading'
He looked back up at Riff, at his crumbling appearance, and wondered if he himself appeared so frail
"But you're health is also fading," he noted contemplatively, his hand scuttling awkwardly across his chest in search of his breast pocket, and what was contained therein. "Your loyalty annoys e even now. You fought us the entire way, getting stronger with each passing year because of that dedication…"
Riff knelt just at Jizabel's reach, still holding the cross in his hand, the one placed so trustingly in his hold.
"Doctor…please!" he pleaded. "I need more time, to protect Lord Cain, your brother!" None of them commented on how foolish it seemed, to plead for Cain's life in this manner to Jizabel, who had regarded his half sibling with nothing but hatred since the age of 12. "Surely there must be a way."
Ah, there it was. The cold slim handle feeling perfectly weighted in his finger, Jizabel withdrew his scalpel from his pocket. Though his vision was starting to blur, the glint from the sleek blade's surface shone brightly to his eyes.
"Yes…there is a way," he breathed and held the instruments deadly tip to his lips, though somehow the risk of a small slice didn't exactly scare him now. "But you will only live for one more day."
As though that would deter him, and Jizabel knew it.
He could feel Cassian's grip on his shoulders clench at his words. His apprentice, his underling, he would know better than anyone else what Riff needed.
"Only one last day," he stressed, that familiar taunting tone rolling off his tongue, though so airy now, weak. "Will you still use this last day to serve him?"
"Even if it's just for an hour, I would!" he afirmed passionately. Just as Jizabel knew he would. Just as Jizabel would for his father.
He let his eyes slide closed; how nice that felt. He hadn't realized how weary and heavy they felt until they were closed, as though ready to fall asleep. And, in a way…he was.
"Then…so be it."
He drew the blade to his throat, and the feel of steel against his shivering skin thrilled him. Control. That's what this was. An excited shiver ran up his spine, and he felt Cassiann hold him even more closely, fearing, no doubt, that he was cold. But no; warmth was creeping back up through his body, despite the blood running from it. Was it from the excitement of knowing his last action would not be in the service of Alexis, his father, who had truly killed him years ago? That his life wouldn't be given for him? Or perhaps…it had more to do with those arms draped so protectively around him, not wanting these minutes to be spent alone and in pain…
How silly of Cassian…he felt no pain now. Not now. And where he was going, he had no ability to shelter him.
"This is my last remaining blood. Use it wisely, Riffael," he commanded, perhaps the most domineering he could remembering being, but for something so important.
If Cassian was horrified, if he wished to stop him, to drag the scalpel from his weak grip, he made no notion of it. Perhaps he knew how important this was to Jizabel, to finally have one act of defiance, one choice, a final selection, made entirely of free will, and not moved by his father's puppet strings.
Jizabel didn't feel the blade, but he felt the heat splatter down his chest, droplets peppering his face, his hands, and prayed he had enough to give Riff those last final hours he had promised.
Blood. So essential from life, it was often the only thing that gave Jizabel any sense of living. But now, the warmth it offered, that had wrapped him in a comforting embrace that night, felt sickeningly cool, not at all like he remembered. But he wondered, feeling Cassian's arms seize around him, felt his lips pressed to his hair, if that wasn't just in comparison to a different warmth.
He was sure the wet splatters he felt down onto his cheeks, his brow, was not from his blood.
'Now, of all times. When it's too late to do anything for it,' his mind grew so disjointed. 'To me, love in this world was nothing but a fabrication, a cruel act I was never allowed to be a part of. Love never seemed to exist for me, Riffael. So I grew to hate you, and Cain, for the bond you shared…'
He couldn't breathe…
'And all this time, I felt I was alone-'
A hand clenched his, so cold. Or what it his own that felt like ice? He couldn't be sure now. Another hand, at his throat, and a pressure.
'Always alone, no matter how hard I sought. But perhaps…what I was searching for all this time was simply not in the form I expected.'
He couldn't see Cassian anymore. Was he still there? He had to be. No one else had ever held him so tenderly. No one else had shook like he was now when they saw him suffer. Not father, never father. Father was long gone. But Cassian was here. He had always been there…
'And…already within my grasp…!'
He wanted to grip his hand back; voiceless, sightless, he wished to let Cassian know he could feel him, knew he was there, but he couldn't find the strength.
But no matter. He somehow was sure, he already knew.
'Now I truly know, Cassian…that you're the one who saved me.'
How comforting was unconsciousness, the way it snuck behind you with warm, soothing corners to eventually wrap around and hold you tight, like a mother taking her beloved child in from the cold and ensnaring them in a favorite worn quilt. He welcomed it, let it take him, wishing for it to blind and deafen him further, to muffle his breath, which was already so hard to draw. Perhaps if he accepted this with enough grace, it could shield him from what was soon awaiting him; Jizabel in any more a state for logical thinking would scoff at this hope now.
As the deep blackness drew him in deeper, he couldn't help but be sure it was Cassian's arms that blessed him with these final seconds of peace before eternity claimed him as its own.
It only took moments, precious short moments, and for this Cassian was thankful. Though it was shredding at his stomach and making him feel more ill than he could ever recall being, he'd spent the long minutes since Jizabel's fall just praying that his death would be quick and as painless as it could be. And as soon as he saw him raise the gleaming blade to his throat, he knew it would be.
The thought horrified him, and he thought for a moment about prying the scalpel from his fingers as he moved to slice across his own throat. To see Jizabel so easily offer up his last moments was only proof about how little he cared for his own existence.
Or perhaps, he thought, clinging to Jizabel's now still body, one hand still at his throat in what was surely a futile attempt to stem the bleeding; it was his first and final declaration of freedom, the only indication he could give to say his life was his own, it was precious and worth something and his alone to give.
Somehow Cassian seemed to always know suicide would claim the doctor; there wasn't any other carriage death would drive to collect him, unless it had been driven by Alexis. Even then, Jizabel had just shown with full flair that he'd have willingly given his breath for his father.
Was it really murder, when the lamb came to the knife so willingly?
His chest ached, and he let out a long shudder he hadn't realized he'd been holding. To take his own life may have been the boldest thing Cassian had ever witnessed Jizabel do. Instead of being the cowards way out, an escape for the weak and broken (how highly befitting Jizabel) it became a voice for Jizabel to say in death what he could never bring himself to say while living.
Riff still knelt there, seemingly torn between grim horror and gratitude as Jizabel's blood cooled on his skin.
Cassian almost felt like growling at him.
"Well? Go! Go save him! If you waste even one drop of his blood, I swear, I'll never forgive you!"
Though Riff had little reason to fear Cassian, the latter being far too distraught to pursue a fight or chase, he nodded and clamered to his feet, running full kilt around the fallen rubble and debris and leaving a scattering of red prints of puddles as he went.
Cassian, meanwhile, had something of a far different matter to attend. He had no one left to save, only someone to tend to.
Jizabel was thin and light in his newly strong arms. Though Jizabel was not one to take affection from him, there had been occasions where the boy's mental state and emotional baggage became too heavy fro his shoulders to carry, and he would break again, too distraught or frightened to push Cassian away, and he would hold him in his small arms. Jizabel had never appeared overwhelming muscled or capable, but to Cassian's childish size, he was sturdy.
Holding hi now, he knew he was amazingly wrong. Jizabel was thin, from his self restricted diet and, undoubtedly, the same mass amount of stress that had grayed his hair so young. He was light and seemed to take up such little space in the basket Cassian made of his arms.
While Riff turned to save the man he still served, Cassian faced the dreadful knowledge that he'd arrived too late.
He'd promise to come back and save him, to take him away form his father. He'd promised HIMSELF that he wouldn't let Jizabel continue to rot away in the service of Delilah, as nothing ore than a pet for his father.
But he'd failed. He'd failed his superior in a way much more grievous manner than simply letting the butler get away, or failing to collect a particular trinket. No, Jizabel paid for this one far more dearly than with the sting of his father's whip.
There was so much noise in the distance beyond the now ruined building that had been his…home, of sorts for so long, but they were so far off and muffled. Still, Cassian felt sure he would have been able to walk the boy through a hall still brimming with people and still not heard a word said. He'd have been far too dazed, just as he was now.
He scarcely watched his step, a truly dangerous choice of walking with chunks of stone and plaster littering the floor. He'd glance forward enough to make sure he wouldn't take a tumble, not while carrying something so very precious. Life had jostled and marred Jizabel enough.
The deeper he walked within the winding hallways, seeking out a back passage, the more muffled the din above them became, being gently quelled by the heavy stone walls still remaining, if only tenuously. Hell, the entire structure may tumble down on them both at any moment.
He wasn't sure if he would care much, really. He supposed his only regret would be not being able to return Jizabel to the home he'd once loved, the only place he'd ever been really, truly happy.
His boots shuffled along, their echoes dim, noticeable only by the comparative silence surrounding them. Not another noise, by now.
Cassian halted his pace, and instantly held Jizabel's still body closer, as though he was still in need of his subordinate's ever present protection. He peered around wearily, sure that he'd heard someone, despite his former belief that they were the only one's still within these cavernous hallways.
But he heard something different entirely, not the brisk tread of footfalls that had reached his ears only moments ago. Faintly, a grating, wet hiss, too quiet even to echo.
He turned as quickly as his burden would allow, holding Jizabel even tighter. Emptiness. Nothing in the corridor but plaster dust on the floor.
He was ready to just chalk his paranoia up to his falling morale, , when it whispered into his ear a third time.
Jizabel was breathing. Barely, slowly, hardly noticeable, but his lips parted slightly in a struggle to draw in another breath.
Cassian couldn't be sure if it was horror or hope that surged his heartbeat, making it pound so hard against his ribcage he wondered if a bruised organ would be a very startling reality in the near future for him.
"J-jizabel!" he gasped, and sunk to his knees to take a second, closer look at him. Of course he didn't respond; he was still deep in the folds of unconsciousness, but his mind wasn't deceiving him; his chest rose once in a sputter and collapsed, no doubt taking in as much blood s air.
Something sparked a panic within Cassian, one that even in his adrenaline-surged brain could process immediately as being barely more substantial than a dream upon waking; it may be a reality, but a fleeting one, to quickly fade.
He was breathing. He was still alive. But surely for moments only, no longer. He had bled too heavily, the evidence still covered himself, Cassian and Riff, in the minute and a half since he had dug the blade into his skin. The hopeful spring that had begun to well and bubble in his gut almost instantly went dry. What difference did it mater if Jizabel had a few final heartbeats left? There was still nothing to be done, not with bleeding so profuse, his lungs most likely already shutting down as dribbles of blood continued to fill them. In fact, this revelation enraged Cassian far ore than it encouraged him to cling to a foundationless hope. All this meant was an even longer goodbye, more time watching the man he couldn't save slowly asphyxiate to death. Couldn't the bastard at least have a merciful death, where life had done nothing but torture him?
"God damn it Jizabel, why can't you just let go?" he demanded harshly. Grief for a man not yet dead ground his voice low and rough, a fact he berated himself for. Surely is Jizabel could, maybe, hear him, it should be nothing but sweet, tender words to reach his ears.
Lank strands of hair lay drying against his throat, normally pale gray waves, now stiff and stained red. He brushed his bangs aside as best he could, though sweat and blood held his mass of hair together in a large tangled nest.
"What the hell could you have left to keep you here? What are you holding onto, you sonofabitch?" hadn't Cassian always spoken to Jizabel with callous scolding? Surely for a man who thrived on the familiar and routine, anything but this would be to jarring for his dying body.
The younger man drew another breath, as sputtering and ill-taken as the last, far too much time between each. Cassian felt heat building at the back of his throat, swearing all the way up to his eyes, but he refused to cry. He wouldn't, not until after he was sure that Jizabel was…gone.
"Please, Jizabel. Just…just rest now. You need to t-"
Immediately Cassian threw himself over Jizabel's weak and cold form protectively, taking the jarring racket as another section of the once towering edifice crashing down into rubble. But when the seconds passed and there was no reverberations, no sections fo limestone or granite crushing their bones, he looked around, seeking the true source of the commotion.
It wasn't another explosion, or even any final remnants of what had already occurred. Rather, the cause of his initial panic was much…smaller.
Zenopia was lumbering down the corridor at an impressive speed for someone of his height, particularly considering the sizeable burden he was hauling. He was maneuvering a steamer trunk large enough that he could probably easily have used it as a hideaway, and judging from his struggles, it was packed. With what, Cassian couldn't be quite sure, but knowing the way the hermit's mind worked, he had a clue.
And suddenly Cassian felt his entire foundation slipping once more, the ground he knelt on seeming to slide together again, closing the chasm if only by inches.
Spurred by a barely lit flame flickering in his chest, Cassian hurriedly unbound one of his many layers, a thin scarf wrapped behind his neck, decided in tat instant that Jizabel needed it more. He knew even as he bound it over Jizabel's throat that it was effort borne of foolhardiness and emotional exhaustion, but there was a chance…
"You! Zenopia!" he bellowed, leaving no chance that the hermit could even pretend he didn't hear.
The doctor, already looking shaken and disheveled, gave an even more distressed sputter as he was forced to acknowledge Cassian' yelling.
"C-Cassian! Well, how wonderful you look!" he fidgeted awkwardly, eyes casting around in a most unusually paranoid manner, and never taking his hands off the trunk, which just reaffirmed Cassian's suspicions.
Though reluctant to take even those five paces away from Jizabel, Cassian had no time whatsoever to waste with second guessing. He strode up to the midget and his trunk, now knowing full well what it contained. Even if it could buy them a chance, a small sliver of hope…well, he'd take it.
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Thanks for reading, y'all. I appreciate all the feedback I get.
To Mystical- To tell the truth, it just never seemed suspicious to me. Many members of Delilah were around for the last day, so why not Zenopia? It always made sense to us that Alexis, having privy to the greatest medical achievements in the world, would always make sure they were available to him at any time needed, so to us, it isn't too illogical why he would request to have one of Delilah's doctors present during events. He has his bodyguard nearby at most times, after all, so to us, it's the same concept. And Jizabel doesn't count; I doubt he'd trust his life to his errant bastard. A bit into this chapter, you'll see a reference to medications being developed for the soul purpose of ensuring the Cardmaster's survival, which is essentially the reason why in this and several of our stories yet unposted, Zenopia or another physician can be found in Alexis's presence.
In any case, I hope you find that an acceptable explanation. I do apologize for the confusion- the two of us at times get so deep into our own canon, that we can often forget that things that have become part of our basic understanding of the series are actually nonexistent within the books themselves!
Cassian had been apprenticing under Jizabel for almost a year before his surgery. Well, an apprenticeship may not have been the best word, but assistant didn't suit him much better, he was more like Jizabel's gopher, his lackey, especially at first. He was an errand boy and little more, and he knew it. However, being in Jizabel's almost constant company for that time, he'd picked up scraps of medical jargon, cast off conversations about blood types and immunities that at the time had meant nothing, but had all the same managed to weasel a permanent place into his memory. He had little reason to recall anything of Jizabel's research, so long as he delivered the freshest bodies on time, but he couldn't help learning a little. Thus he knew, beyond doubt, that there would be something in that trunk that could save him.
"Open it," he barked, with an authority to his voice that was still foreign to hear. Before, his attempts at assertiveness would be heard through the lips, the tongue of a child, and would thus ring high and whiny, resembling a tantrum more than a valid argument. But Cassandra was tall and broad and his voice rumbled deep.
He watched the dwarf visible cringe, though he wasn't going to pin it entirely on his own power. He still bore Cassandra's face, his body, and Gladstone was nothing if not powerful, a fact Cassian often wished he could extort more. SO now that he had a reason to use it, he took advantage. "I said open it, now!"
"Now, Cassian, this is hardly the time for this! The building's going to crash down at any moment now!"
The building wasn't gone yet; it was a sturdy structure. It would surely tumble, but they had time.
Growing brave with his panic, Cassian grabbed hold of the front of Zenopias labcoat, and lurched him to the tips of his toes.
"You listen here, doc," he growled. "I don't know what kind of strange elixirs and medications you and Jizabel cooked up together, but I caught enough over this past year to know you've got something in there that can save him! What good does years of science do if it can't even benefit its own creator?"
As bulletproof an argument as he felt that was, he could see the skepticism saturating Zenopia's face, and he knew why. Jizabel, despite having such a high rank and possessing, in theory, quite a good deal of power within Delilah, the truth was his authority was amazingly hindered. Everyone knew it too, that his power reached very short, and never far from under daddy's shadow. So it was no wonder why Zenopia felt no requirement to help; If Alexis wasn't already dead he would be soon, and then what reason would they have to keep from kicking the animal? Even Zenopia, who wasn't as cruel as the others could be, was as selfish as anyone.
"Cassian, please listen to reason!" his eyes flickered over to Jizabel, so still, unmoving, but Cassian's sharp eyes could see the slight and labored sputtering of his chest. "The boy will be dead in a few minutes. Best thing you can do for him is to just sit with him while he-"
"He is not going to die!" and in a rageful fit, he gave the trunk the sharpest kick he could manage, and would have sent it tumbling if Zenopia hadn't thrown his whole weight into saving it. Truth be told; it obviously was packed full of valuables.
Breathing a heavily relieved sigh, Zenopia gave a look upwards, making a note of the rumbling walls. None of them had much time now.
Cassian noted this, and the skittish waay he looked longingly down the passageway.
"Listen," his voice shook. "If you help me, we'll all get out of here fast. I'll take you with me; I have a secluded place to stay. Help me save him, and I'll offer you shelter."
The doctor looked increasingly distressed; bits of plaster were falling down and peppering the floor. Obviously, Cassian had overshot how much time they had left. But Zenopia knew there was no way he could outrun Cassian, not with his new body.
He gave a long suffering whine, and began to fumble through his pockets, pulling out a ring of keys before instantly selecting a familiar black one. His hands shook as he fitted it into the trunks lock, and Cassian could hardly hold it against him; he too was riddled with anxiety, but not so much over the collapsing building. Jizabel had minutes, maybe.
Inside the trunk was more bottles and jars than Cassian felt possible to cram into i's interior. He'd been right about his initial hunch; it was full of an assortment of both the most practical and most sensational of their trials.
The doctor all but disappeared into the trunk and he quickly rooted for a specific bottle; the one he withdrew was as unremarkable as the next. Slightly cloudy, grayish-white, and no real odor to speak of as he uncorked it.
"Well, help me! Undo that diseased scrap! You want that wound getting infected?"
Cassian jumped to comply, perturbed but not insulted as much as he could be. He knew it wasn't very safe, wrapping his filthy scarf around an open wound, but it was a choice of risking infection if he did and assuring death by bloodloss if he didn't.
He unwrapped it, as Zenopia liberally doused the wound with the cloudy liquid. He watched transfixed as the running blood seemed to almost curdle and congeal before his eyes, stemming the wound.
"Coagulating agent," he said vaguely to a curious Cassian. "Taken directly from blood. Suppose to help clotting disorders."
'Or save a man from an assassination attempt,' he thought, knowing over the years there had to be at least one attempt on Alexis's life. Why else would something like this exist in a place where they'd rather work on brain transplants?
Whatever. He didn't care, really. Just did as he was told, and help Jizabel's head still as he poured a little down his throat; they couldn't be sure how deeply he'd cut. And if Zenopia wondered at all about the wound, or how it came to be inflicted, he said nothing, only used the last of the bottle on the hole in his chest.
"You do understand, Cassian," he began carefully, not wanting a kick aimed at himself this time, "that this is no guarantee? He seems to have already lost a great deal of blood. And the risk of infection-"
He shrugged off Zenopias words, not wanting to hear them, not wanting to think about getting Jizabel to safety, only to realize all he'd done is prolong a suffering death. He couldn't harbor the idea of being responsible for something like that. Instead, he scooped Jizabel, limp and cold, far too cold, into his arms. Outside would be warm, the sun might still be up even. That would warm him. And down in his caverns, he'd make a small fire, lie him next to it, cover him well…
If only he could survive that long. He had to. He had too much to say to him.
The damage was as extensive as he'd hoped it wasn't. It was a difficult exam, with, as Zenopia put it, sub-humane medical conditions, but it was a sewer, what the bloody hell else was he expecting?
Cassian watched, as he did what he could. He boiled saltwater and rubbed each instrument Zenopia brought out with copious amount of rubbing alcohol, in a possibly vein attempt to make the environment at least suitably antiseptic.
Zenopia told him very simply he wasn't interested in finding sanctuary in London's cesspools, and his desire to leave was evident by the quick job he was making. Or maybe it was more a testimate to how low he was counting Jizabel's chances for survival. All Cassian could do was follow Zenopia's sporadic orders, and otherwise sit out of the way, holding Jizabel's lax hand and combing back his hair.
All the while, he felt Zenopia's eyes wandering up to examine him also as scrupulously as he was Jizabel's throat, and Cassian couldn't blame him, He'd be staring as well, if the roles were reversed. Hell, even he wasn't sure, at that moment, what to make of this compulsion to sooth his former superior…but he knew somehow, at some point, he'd become more to him than an employer of sorts. Just what that was, he couldn't be sure…just a few months ago, he'd have been having a spitting match with an awake doctor, pointing out his character flaws at every whim. And God knew he couldn't wait to lay into him hard for this latest of insanely stupid stunts, but it did no good to scream at someone who couldn't scream back. There was time enough for that later.
"You know, Cassian. Jizabel probably isn't going to thank you for this, if he lives."
"He WILL live," was Cassian knee-jerk response, intently keeping his gaze on Jizabel's currently relaxed features, restful in unconsciousness.
"Yes. Well. In any case, had that even occurred to you, Cassian?" he asked, as he finally seemed to finish what he could he, and threaded a needle.
Cassian winced slightly; the thought of someone stitching such tender, thin skin made him more than uneasy. "Why wouldn't he? He'll be angry at first, but you weren't there, at the end. You wouldn't understand. You don't know him like I do."
"And how well do YOU know him, Cassian?" He enquired, eyes glancing up briefly before gouging his needle into Jizabel's throat. Cassian clenched Jizabel's hand tightly, as though to comfort him. Though he chose to ignore him, that didn't deter Zenopia in the least. "Listen, Cassian. This damage is extensive. If-IF-Jizabel wakes, I don't think he's going to be very pleased with the state he's in."
"I'll tend to him," Cassian whispered. "I'll take care of him. He'll get better."
"Only so much."
Finally Cassian glared. "And what's that suppose to mean?"
"Think, boy!" Zenopia snapped, uncharacteristically moody. "You think you can go slicing into your throat with a scalpel and not do permanent damage? He sliced clean through his larynx; both his vocal chords are bowed."
Cassian paused his brushing of Jizabel's blood-caked hair, to study the doctor closely for a moment. "I don't understand, what does that mean?"
"It means," said Zenopia, going back to his work with a gusto, obviously pleased to have Cassian's attention. "That he's probably not going to be thanking you when he wakes. Or berating you. Or saying much of anything. Ever."
Cassian suddenly could feel no difference between the cold flesh of Jizabel's hand and the once warm skin on his own. He felt the warmth flush from his face, drain from his chest, leaving him to shiver once in the molding sewer.
"Wh-what are you saying? That Jizabe''s going to wake up mute?"
Zenopia just pulled the thread through another patch of Jizabels skin, and gave a far too chipper nod, obviously pleased that her was being listened to now.
"If his vocal chords are paralyzed, he won't have much a voice to speak of. Definitely nothing above a hoarse whisper, and that's best case scenario. And Don't get me started on the breathing troubles!"
Cassian tried to block out the words, suddenly wishing to be as wonderfully obvlivious to the horror and gore as the patient himself was. Jizabel lie so peacefully, so deeply unconscious. Ashen pale, but under the gray and blue, there was pink tingeing once more. His finger tips and lips were no longer pale, but becoming rosy again, from the fire and the layers and layers of blankets piled on him.
A moment later, Cassian wished he hadn't done such a thorough job. He thought he imagined the twitching of fingers, that it was his own shocked muscles just spasming, but he couldn't wish away the flutter of eyelashes he saw next.
He felt his body grow even more numb, from horror more than shock this time.
"Zenopia…" he whispered as faintly as possible, receiving a bemused 'hmm?' in response. "He isn't…waking, is he?"
Such sensationalism was all it seems to take to get the dwarfe's attention. He looked up, in time to see Jizabel's blonde lashes flutter again, then clench violently tight.
"Well, sure seems it. Musta got the blood stopped just in time. I knew those protein derivatives were effective!"
Cassian, however, had no time to marvel about the wonders of modern Delilah science. He was too busy watching the boy with panic filling his chest as his light eyes finally peaked open a sliver, only to then snap closed with a scream.
Or he assumed that's what Jizabel was trying to do. His mouth was open, and usually pretty face twisted and pinched horrifically.
"Jizabel!" the name came out breathy as a gasp, as he dropped forward to bring himself as close to him as possible. "No, no, Jizabel, go back to sleep!"
Behind him he heard Zenopia, as unhurried as ever, digging through that trunk again, and he prayed it was morphine he was searching for.
Shaking thumbs reached up to tenderly brush the tears streaming down Jizabel's cheeks, and Cassian was beside himself with panic, watching Jizabel's semi-conscious state in so much pain.
"Just…just lie still, Jizabel!" he shushed, leaning down further and pressing his forehead to Jizabel's. "Zenopia's getting something to help, so just rest…Jesus Christ, only you would insist on being awake for your own surgery, you complete idiot!"
He doubted Jizabel could hear him. Even if he could, what good were a few pretty, empty words when you awoke to someone stitching your gaping throat shut? He just prayed he wasn't lucid enough to truly know what was going on, only to feel the pain. Though that was bad enough in itself, he hoped to spare Jizabel the horror of the situation. It was grisly enough to see as a third party.
Zenopia was at his side a moment later, quickly dousing a spot on his arm with alcohol before deftly sliding in the needle. Cassian continued to shush him, smooth his hand down his cheek as he whispered small murmuring words.
It couldn't have been more than 3 minutes before Jizabel's already gnarled and choking breath finally began to find rhythm again. Slowly his face relaxed, the deeply grooved wrinkles smoothed out as the medication took effect.
Cassian's own breath released in a rush. He gasped once more, and tried to calm himself as Jizabel was now calm. If only he took had the aid of opiates.
Zenopia seemed completely unfazed as he finished the black row of neat, tiny stitches, and with Jizabel now deeply under once more, Cassian was the only one left in the dingy, poorly lit sewer that seemed to be suffering from any distress. Indeed, just a few minutes later, as the doctor was packing up his tools and wiping his hands clean, he seemed almost chipper, though Cassian suspected this was more for the fact that he could now get the hell out of there without fear of repercussion from the stronger of them.
Without a word, he pulled his coat tight around him again, as it was now dark and cold with evening fog, and left at Cassian's side a syringe and a rather generous bottle of morphine.
"Thank you," Cassian murmurs under his breath, not even looking at Zenopia as he gave that small token of appreciation. Behind him, he sensed Zenopia pause.
"There's enough there to last about a week," he said offhandedly. "Or, more than enough to show the boy a small mercy, if you can let go of your selfishness long enough to think about him in all this."
Before Cassian could even let it sink it, what he meant, Zenopia was well on his way, his small, quick footsteps and the scraping of his steamer trunk becoming more and more distant, fading, and leaving in its wake one of the loneliest feelings Cassian had ever experienced.
Once again, thank you for reading, and please, do drop a line!