A man of miracles
It is not at all unusual for patients in dire straits to develop a bond of sorts with their attending doctor. It’s not unusual but it doesn’t make it any less off-putting or inappropriate. That being said, Doctor Jonathan Emmet Reid is quite used to the effect he tends to have on some people, women in particular. He knows his appearance is the biggest responsible for it and the way he holds himself, carefully proper and kind at the same time, sets him as precisely the type of unachievable target some ladies love to pursue. It’s about the fantasy, his sister Mary would tell him time and again, more than it is about him specifically.
This whole thing seems to have arrived at a whole new level, though, since his turning. He can only assume that the eerie fairness his milky skin has gained and the less-than-human brightness in his eyes bear some weird appeal to the ladies. He does his best to fly under the radar, but it’s really difficult to practice medicine from a distance and so he ends up on a Tuesday night a month or so after starting his work at Pembroke Hospital having to explain to a round-faced woman that she needs only go to the apothecary for vitamins the next time she feels light-headed instead of coming to the hospital. After all, people are dying left and right from serious things…
The woman, Grace something, seems to barely hear him, her eyes glued to his face in a way that would be amusing if it didn’t make the hairs on the doctor’s neck stand up.
Nurse Hawking walks past where they’re talking at the reception with a knowing look and an entertained smile that makes Jonathan want to hide in his room, but he instead crosses his arms and tries to excuse himself for what he feels to be the fifth time.
That’s when he smells it.
Blood. Fresh. Lots of it, pumping out of open wounds with a sweetness so provoking it’s like it’s floating right under Jonathan’s nose. The doctor presses his lips together, trying to hide his fangs, but can’t help but breathe in, looking around as he tries to find the source of the tempting scent. It’s not normal blood, he thinks, but he doesn’t recognize any sort of infection and lately he has become very familiar with what infection smells like.
Voices come from the hospital gates and soon three men in uniforms enter carrying the barely conscious form of a fourth one. Jonathan averts his eyes from the bloodied figure two of the men support among themselves while the third one yells for help. It’s an emergency, he says.
“We need a doctor!”
The smell of blood clings to the back of his throat and Jonathan swallows thickly. He feels as thirsty as the day he woke up to this cursed existence, as lost as when he realized that he feed on his own sister. He had been getting better at controlling his thirst, hadn’t he?
What in God’s name is going on?
“Not him again…” Pippa Hawking complain as she and Nurse Branagam reach the reception. Pippa looks at her colleague and says, “I took him last time…”
One could argue that a hospital was not the best place for a blood-sucking creature to work with discretion, but Jonathan was never one to choose the easy route. Tonight, though, the task of keeping himself hidden is proving to be more difficult than ever. He licks over his teeth, feeling the throbbing protuberances that his fangs are, anxious for a meal.
“Dr. Reid, come on!” Nurse Branagan calls him and Jonathan snaps back to reality.
“I’ll take him.” He quickly says, approaching the group of men and leaning in to have a look at the semi-conscious man. He’s strong, alright, built like a bull, but is pale as paper and his eyes gaze at the doctor dazedly, unable to focus on his face. Jonathan’s dead heart clenches at the pained expression on the man’s face. “What happened?”
“We were attacked, sir… McCullum didn’t see it coming. It got him right before we put it down.” The man on the right explains and Jonathan looks at him in confusion.
“Before you put what down?”
“A fucking Skal…” the one on the left says, enraged, moving in such a way that the unconscious one threatens to topple over. The third man explains further:
“It was moving so fast. We almost couldn’t kill it…”
Jonathan immediately knows what type of creature they’re talking about and damn right they are a pain in the ass, even for him. The man on the right lets out a tired grunt and Jonathan gets moving.
“Here, let me…” He offers, leaning down to pull the bloodied man’s legs over his arm before picking him up without as much as blinking. He’s obviously not thinking clearly with the blood still slowly spilling from the man’s body so he doesn’t even notice the strange looks his action grants him. Urgently, he says: “Let’s find him a bed.”
“Careful, Doctor Reid.” Nurse Branagan warns, but starts promptly following him. “Boys, you better wait here.”
“No way! Where are you taking him?” The man who had his hands free asks and Jonathan realises, belatedly, how much younger than the others he looks, pale face still peppered by acne and hair a complete mess of red curls.
“The doctor is going to examine him.” Branagan explains as Reid walks ahead of her. He doesn’t see the impressed look Grace, still lingering in the reception are, casts him. The old Jonathan wouldn’t have been able to carry a man that big without serious strain, but immortality bears more gifts than just his horrible hunger. “Give us a few minutes. I’ll come let you know when you can see him, if you want to wait.”
“Don’t argue with me, young man.” It’s the last thing Jonathan hears the nurse say before she’s out of his hearing range, but he knows the argument continues because she doesn’t come after him until after he’s got the man – McCullum, he reminds himself – on the bed and has cut his arm and shoulder free of his clothes. When Jonathan touches his face, he opens his eyes and starts mumbling incoherently but stays awake long enough for the doctor to check his pupils. He’s responsive, alright, but dizzy from blood loss and has an impressive bump on his head.
It’s easier to control himself now that he’s not out in the open, but this up close Jonathan can smell both the man’s blood and his sweat and hair. He has strong features, McCullum, but has his eyebrows drawn together in an agonized expression that makes the doctor sigh, pained.
“Doctor Reid, how is he?” Nurse Branagan asks, startling the doctor who hadn’t noticed her entering the room. Clearing his throat, he declares:
“He has several lacerations on his arm and shoulder, but should be fine.” Jonathan’s shirt, however, will need some washing, he thinks as he looks down at himself. At least his coat is still clean. “I’m more concerned about the bump on his head.”
The nurse nods in agreement.
“Will he have to spend the night?” She checks.
“I think it’s for the best.” The doctor ponders. “I’m going to clean and dress his wounds now, but I’m worried about the fact that he’s not entirely conscious…”
“You do what you think it’s best, doctor.” Branagan says, obviously relieved to have Jonathan do what would usually be assigned to her. The doctor notices nothing, though. “I’ll tell his companions to come see him come morning, if that’s alright.”
“It’s quite alright, nurse. Thank you.” Jonathan says, standing up in order to gather the supplies he needs.
McCullum reacts twice while Jonathan is treating him. Once, when the antiseptic touches his wounds. He hisses and swears under his breath, but doesn’t seem to come back to earth. And again when Jonathan finishes dressing his wounds and stands up to look at his head. The bump is not as serious as he had previously thought, he notices as he examines where the hair is shorter on the back of the man’s head, but the movement has his patient mumbling:
“Goddamn it, I’ll be up. Just… just give me five more minutes, and… I’ll be up… I’ll…”
Jonathan represses a laugh, but can’t help but smile. It’s only then that he notices the dark circles under the man’s eyes.
His final diagnosis: exhaustion. The blood loss is a plus. And his remedy is to let the man sleep, what he doesn’t believe will happen if he lets his companions take him with them. The doctor gathers his instruments and moves to the sink to sterilize them but before he does, he gives into the ridiculous impulse to bring one of the metal pieces, still stained with blood, to his lips.
Yeah, in retrospect, maybe he shouldn’t have done that. It’s not something he has done before. Really. It’s just that… nobody’s looking and the smells is so enticing.
The moment the blood touches his tongue the entire room, the hospital and the planet disappear from his cognizance. It’s electrifying, it’s what it is, and Jonathan groans deeply. He has to brace himself, fingers white against the sink, in order not to turn around and jump on McCullum. It takes him a couple of seconds, but he eventually gets himself together.
And feels like a complete creep.
“You wanted to see me?” Jonathan asks as he enters Dr. Swansea’s office.
“Oh, yes, Jonathan. Please, come in, come in. Have a seat.” Swansea’s smile falters as he speaks. “I heard you met Geoffrey McCullum today.”
“I wouldn’t call it meeting. I treated him, but he was barely there during the entire process.” The vampire considers. “You don’t seem too happy about it, Edgar.”
“Well, it’s not that…” Swansea explains in a hurry, but he doesn’t look any less concerned. “Do you know who he is?”
“A guard of some sort?”
“A g-? No, not just a guard…” Swansea mumbles with a weird laugh. “He’s the leader of the Guard of Priwen, Jonathan.”
“The Guard of Priwen?” Horror starts dawning on the vampire doctor. “The vampire…”
“The vampire hunters, yes.” Isn’t that something?, Jonathan thinks to himself, some phantom memory of the hunter’s blood still on his tongue. “This is neutral territory, you see, but I’m not sure if they’re aware of your, well, condition.”
“They didn’t notice.” Jonathan quickly says. He’s sure of it.
“No, of course not. They probably weren’t paying attention…” They were so frantic with McCullum half passed out in the reception. “It could be a problem, though, considering how much McCullum likes to show up here.”
Those words get Jonathan’s attention.
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, every couple of weeks the bastard goes and almost gets himself killed and has to come here, being hurt beyond the Guard’s medics’ abilities.” Swansea explains and Jonathan has the strong impression that the director is not McCullum’s biggest fan. “Is he going to be alright?”
“Yeah. I don’t know for how long, though, with his reputation…” Jonathan half-jokes, repressing a yawn. Sleep is tugging at his eyelids already. “If that’s all, Edgar, I’ll excuse myself. Bedtime is almost here.”
“Oh, of course, of course. Have a good night, I guess?” Swansea look out into the gradually brightening sky. Jonathan stands up, feeling the exhaustion of the night catching up to him. He still has to think about the things he experienced tonight and he can’t do that with Swansea looking at him with such worry. Before he leaves, however, the director calls: “Jonathan?”
“Yes?” The vampire replies tiredly.
“Please be careful.” Swansea gravely asks. Jonathan forces himself to smile in what he expects to be a reassuring way.