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Sphinx's Revelation

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Jace was rapidly coming to the conclusion that shaky hands and pots of ink didn’t mix.

He had dropped the pen several times now, and he was certain that the nursing staff were going to rip him a new one for the big black stain now blotting the sheets, and papers kept slipping off of the pile balanced precariously on the tray he had placed over his lap. He was also very, very aware of the grey eyes currently boring into his head as he stared down at his work.

The Guild Council had been taking turns watching over him (babysitting, more like) in the wake of the little… incident that had landed him in medical care, and it was current the Izzet representative, Ral Zarek’s week. The man was none too pleased about it, either, judging by the stormy thoughts coming off him in waves, and the stink-eye he’d been giving Jace the entire day so far. He wasn’t sure if it was because the storm mage was still angry about the maze, or because he kept dropping things. Maybe both.

The other man eventually broke the silence when Jace dropped his pen again, sending another spatter of ink over the sheets, his voice tinged with annoyance, but more gentle than Jace had been expecting.

"I don't think that anyone would begrudge you for putting off your paperwork a bit longer. At least get some help with it..."

“I’m fine,” Jace mumbled in reply, collecting his pen and carefully dipping it again, cursing under his breath as he trembling in his fingers worsened. He heard Zarek sigh, then the clatter of his boots as he pushed off the wall he had been leaning on and walked over. The pen and inkpot were taken from him before he could protest, set on the bedside table.

"You don't look very fine to me. Come on, you should still be taking it easy. Ravnica needs you at your best," the storm mage said, sounding almost reluctant to be admitting that. No matter how he had felt at the time, Ravnica did need Beleren now; he was the Guildpact Incarnate, and nothing anyone could do was going to stop that.

“The doctor says I’m doing better,” Jace mumbled back, eyes flicking up to look Ral in the face for a moment. The storm mage was briefly struck with how… blue they were. That seemed a bit abnormal, surely he should have larger pupils than that? They almost looked slitted. Was that a side effect of the sleeping spell he had been under?

But whatever. Ral carefully gathered up that stack of papers, too, setting that aside along with the tray. The ink-stained sheets were a bit bothersome, but he could just call for a nurse to replace them, he supposed.

“Better doesn't mean in good enough shape to do this. You're shaking like a leaf and you’re going to end up spilling ink all over these papers."

Jace just huffed softly and folded his hands in his lap to hide how bad they were trembling, and Ral sighed. It had been about a week since the incident, and Jace was indeed doing better, but he still had a long way to go. He still remembered how scary it had been to hear the news that a would-be assassin had forced their way past the haphazard guard and made an attempt on the new Guildpact’s life. Despite how… unpleasant his early interactions with Jace had been, he loved Ravnica and her peace more than he was bitter about losing, it seemed, and the day the Council had spent standing vigil while healers worked to undo the potent sleeping spell had been nerve wracking. It seems like the spell had left quite a few side effects, too, given the shaking, difficulty walking, and narcolepsy the young man had been left with. That would go away soon, hopefully.

"Look, I get it. You're probably bored out of your skull. I don’t think I could deal with being stuck in bed for a whole week, either,” Ral said surprisingly gently. The look Jace gave him in return made his chest twist slightly, the strange, unbidden urge to stroke the little telepath’s hair rising in the back of his mind, but he shoved it away quickly.

Not the time nor the person, Zarek, he told himself.

Jace finally talking again served well enough to distract him from that line of thought, though, even if he only caught half of what the telepath was saying.

“...go outside. Some fresh air would be nice.”

He blinked, but it was enough context to figure out what he wanted; some time in the courtyard. Fair enough, that couldn’t hurt at all. Might help his own boredom as well as Jace’s, too; watching him try and do paperwork was not how he wanted to spend his day. Jace was still looking up at him, and he was distracted again by those eyes; they weren’t always like that, were they? The pupils were definitely slitted now that he looked. Weird. Jace was fully human, wasn’t he…?

“Ral?”

“Oh! Uh, yeah, sorry, sort of… Got distracted, there. Yeah, I’ll go find a doctor and ask if I can take you outside. It should be fine, yeah? I mean, nobody is going to try something that stupid again, right? Especially with me there,” he said, puffing out his chest a bit before heading out of the room to find someone to talk to.

The hospital was sort of small, an Azorius-run thing that was mostly used to high-ranking Senate members to lay low when sick or injured. All on one floor, it had neatly numbered rooms and immaculate marble halls, and a small courtyard in the middle; that would be the best place to take Jace if we wanted air. He has being kept in the highest-security wing, which meant no windows, and no balcony.

A few minutes of wandering led him to find a vedalken doctor in white robes, who seemed surprised to see him away from the Guildpact. A quick discussion (and a scolding for abandoning his post) late, Ral had netted himself a wheelchair and permission to take Jace outside. All in all a victory, despite having to endure being told off by an Azorius doctor. He sauntered back to the room (the one with 71 on the door, he remembered that much) with the chair, pushing the door open and announcing his presence cheerily.

The way Jace’s face lit up at the sight of him and the chair made that place in his chest ache again, which he did his best to ignore. Not the time. Just help Jace into the chair and take him outside, nothing else. He offered his hand to the smaller man, who took it gratefully; his legs were still weak, wobbly.

“Here, let’s get you all set…” Ral muttered, easily supporting Jace’s weight into the chair. He was so small… He looked much younger than he did when dressed in his blues and cloak, and he must use illusions to make himself look fit or something, given how different he looked close up like this. Almost cute.

Jace leaned back into the chair and shut his eyes once he was settled, resting his bare feet on the footrest. Ral noted one of his toes was missing, and wondered for a second how that happened; Jace wasn’t the type for physical fighting, so much have been something else. His bare arms, too, were exposed by the white bedclothes he had been dressed in, showing the lines of arcane tattoos and exposing thinner pale lines that must have been scars, a particularly nasty one down his right forearm that was straight and clean. His wrists were slender, and he had delicate, thin fingered hands, archivist’s hands, which currently clutched onto the arms of the wheelchair. He must not be used to missing both gloves. All in all, Jace’s appearance close-up was an enigma of sorts, and Ral was itching to crack into it, against his better judgment.

The way to get outside was fairly short, for an Azorius building, and he only had to pass two checkpoints, showing both his Guild locket and Council badge at each one. The courtyard was really quite lovely considering it was in an Azorius building, he had to admit; the grass was neatly trimmed and the benches were in perfect alignment, but the trees and flowers were lavish and filled the area with a sweet smell.

He parked Jace’s wheelchair next to a bench that was a few feet away from a flowering plum tree, and gently tapped his shoulder in case he had fallen asleep on the way. The younger man woke with a bit of a jolt, making a making a funny little noise as he did so, almost a purr. Ral cocked an eyebrow; did Jace always make that noise? Has anyone? One more for the pile of things he wasn’t sure if they were normal for Jace or not, he supposed.

“Here we go, this is much better, huh?” he said to Jace, making a vague, sweeping motion with one hand toward all the plants.

“Yeah… Thank you,” the Guildpact replied, shutting his eyes and taking a deep breath. It was fairly sunny out, the natural light illuminating just how pale the young man was, how fluffy and brown his hair was under that hood. The sun was even making little spots on his cheeks and nose visible… Freckles? Ral couldn’t even tell he had those normally, what with his face in shadow most of the time. They were… cute.

“Looks like you needed it,” Ral muttered, wetting his lips, which he had just noticed were dry. Weird.

“Yeah… Was I always so pale? I never noticed,” Jace said softly, leaning forward in the chair and slouching slightly. 

“I guess you just keep yourself covered up most of the time."

Jace just smiled crookedly in reply, and then made movements to try and get up out of the chair. Ral hovered nearby, feeling oddly worried about his charge, ready to catch him if he fell, but the young man managed to stay upright, even if he was wobbly. His bare feet plodded in the grass carefully, each step measured and careful, one foot in front of the other until he was standing just under the boughs of the plum tree. Pink and white petals fluttered down from the branches, a few sticking to Jace’s fluffy brown hair, no doubt from the residual static that cloaked everything Ral touched.

Reaching up, he gently pulled one of the branches down to bury his face in the sweet scent of the flowers, sending even more flecks of pink swirling around him to the ground, joined by yellowish dabs of pollen in Jace’s hair and on his bedclothes. Ral couldn’t help but smile a bit as he watched, finding the display rather endearing; Jace was… Cute. He could admit that without it getting weird, he figured. You can think people are cute, even if you don’t like them, right?

But… Maybe he did like Jace.  He really isn't that bad... He remembered how worried he was when they almost lost him, and it wasn't just because the Guildpact would be broken. When was the last time he felt like someone else was on his level? Someone he could actually call a friend? Probably why he feels like, despite that he really doesn’t owe Beleren anything, he didn't mind taking care of him like this…

He realised he was staring when he finally shook out of his thoughts to notice jace was looking right at him, from just over the blossoms spilling around his head. Those eyes… The cat-slit pupils were getting unsettling, and combined with the faint noise (purring?) that was coming off Jace…

Something strange was going on.