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When the Dust Settles

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Roxanne Moore’s night starts simply enough. She eats dinner (leftover Chinese) and goes to her apartment living room to sit on the couch and read the latest novel that’s captured her attention (a coming-of-age story off the bestseller list). But barely a chapter in, she hears the sound of her kitchen window unlatching, and then a series of thunks as something – no, someone – tumbles from the window to the counter to the ground.

Roxy freezes and prepares to grab something for a weapon, until she remembers that her apartment is on the third floor. There’s only one person who could come in that way – and only one reason why that person wouldn’t just knock on her door. She gets up, throwing her book aside, and dashes to the kitchen.

Sure enough, lying on the floor and groaning is Silver Shepherd. He’s probably aching from his fall through the window…or from whatever’s making him bleed all over the floor.

“Gabe, what the hell!?” Roxy shouts.

“Hey, doll,” Silver answers, looking up at Roxy and grinning sheepishly. “Um, can I crash here tonight?”

“I mean – I – I guess,” Roxy manages. She rushes to help Silver up, and in the process, gets a glimpse of an awful gash in his side, soaking his silver suit deep maroon. “What happened to you??”

“Stopped a mugging,” Silver says, wincing and gasping as Roxy helps him walk, “Thought there was one guy, but there was…was two…” He slumps suddenly in Roxy’s arms, and she yelps as she struggles to pull him along.

“Hey, stay awake!!” she cries, pulling him onto her dining table. Silver, ever the gentleman, always insists on bleeding on Roxy’s easily-cleaned surfaces rather than her fabric couch. She runs back to the kitchen for the first-aid kit, but it seems hopelessly unequipped to handle Silver’s injury. “How long ago did this happen? Why didn’t you go home??”

“Couldn’t,” he gasps, “Too far away.” Silver pulls his mask off as Roxy comes barreling back to him, and she sees how drawn and pale his face is.

“Okay, okay, okay, this isn’t – I can deal with this,” Roxy rambles, half to Silver and half to herself.

She pulls gauze out of the first-aid kit and presses it to Silver’s wound – hard but not too hard. She’s done as much before; gotten Silver stabilized after a bad altercation and let him sleep it off in her apartment. Roxy’s no doctor but she has common sense, isn’t squeamish, and doesn’t mind helping Silver heal if he needs it. He always apologizes profusely later for scaring her and bleeding on her table, and often takes her out somewhere once he’s better to make up for it.

But this time seems worse. Roxy keeps gauze pressed over the wound until it soaks through, then replaces it with more, and the wound keeps bleeding. Silver, meanwhile, looks worse and worse as seconds pass. His skin is white like bone, he shivers, and his eyes keep falling shut.

“Gabe, hey, stay with me!!” Roxy cries, panic starting to get to her, “I already told you, stay awake!”

“Can’t,” Silver gasps.

“Then we need the hospital,” Roxy insists, pulling away from Silver’s gash to wipe her hands on a towel and grab her phone. The amount of blood that gushes out without Roxy to put pressure on the wound solidifies her course of action.

“No,” Silver groans, “No hosp’l. Dark’ll be mad, had ta…bail me out last time…”

“You got shot three times defending a hostage! How can he get mad at that!?” Roxy demands.

But she’s been told about Silver’s housemates; she knows what kind of person Dark is, she knows there’s a reason Silver never lets her meet the people he lives with, not even his friends. There’s too much risk. Even her knowing about them is a risk, but a calculated one: It’s easier to avoid something when one knows what it is.

“Fine, no hospital,” Roxy mutters, growing frustrated as tears start to burn the corners of her eyes. “But what, then!? I can’t fix this, Silver!!”

“Noooo,” Silver whimpers, making a face like a kicked puppy, “Don’ cry, doll, s’okay…” He flops his hand out, seeking Roxy’s.

“Gabriel Markus Fischbach, if you die on me I swear I’ll never forgive you,” Roxy growls, breath hitching. She pulls off Silver’s glove to hold his (cold, trembling) hand.

“Get m’ phone,” Silver breathes, “Call…Doc…”

“Okay.” Roxy lets go of Silver’s hand with a jolt. “Okay!”

She dives for Silver’s phone pocket and pulls out his cell. She types the passcode (Silver told her what it was ages ago, even though she insisted he didn’t have to) and looks through his contacts. This is new; she’s never been in Silver’s phone. It’s surreal to see the names he’s talked about there as people she could theoretically talk to right this moment. But she quickly finds the contact labeled “Dr. Iplier,” and taps the button to call. Silver’s talked about him before, about how he’s the doctor for Silver and his housemates, about how he’s one of the nicer people in the house. After a few rings, the phone picks up.

“Hey,” says a voice, similar to Silver’s but a little older, a little more tired. “Silver? What’s up?”

“Actually, um, this is Roxy,” Roxy says, “Silver’s girlfriend.” She glances at Silver, whose eyes are only half open. Her awkwardness falls away as fear takes back over. “He’s in my apartment, he got stabbed, but he won’t let me call an ambulance! He told me to call you, please tell me you can get here–”

“Where’s your apartment?” Dr. Iplier cuts her off with the same no-nonsense tone that Roxy hears from the doctors in medical shows.

Roxy tells him, voice starting to shake.

“Hurry,” Roxy gasps, “I’m trying to keep him awake, but he’s bleeding so much and he won’t–” The sob sneaks up on her, cutting her off.

“Hey, don’t give up now,” Dr. Iplier says, a gentle edge to his serious tone, “Keep pressure on the wound and I’ll get to you as fast as I can.” He pauses. “Silver’s important to me, too. I promise I’ll hurry.”

“Okay, okay,” Roxy gasps. “See you.”

Dr. Iplier hangs up first, and Roxy is left to drop the phone back down on the table and scramble for the gauze again. Silver moans as she presses it into his wound.

“Sorry, baby, I’m sorry,” Roxy whispers, too close to tears to put any strength in her voice.

“Ro, hol’–” Silver coughs, flecking blood across his lips. “Hol’ m’ han…”

“I can’t right now,” Roxy whimpers. Her vision starts to blur, but she keeps pressing on the wound, keeps trying to stem the bleeding. She didn’t know this much blood could fit in a person.

Silver passes out a few minutes later, and Roxy’s in too much shock to even scream at him to wake up. She still cries, though, and hopes with all her heart that his futile plea for Roxy to hold his hand doesn’t end up being his last words.

When she hears a loud, rapping knock on the door of her apartment, it takes her a long moment to force herself away from Silver’s side to let Dr. Iplier in.

She hangs back to let him work and sits in her wooden dining chair, shivering like Silver did before he lost the strength to. She can’t speak out loud, but she does in her head.

“Stay with me,” she thinks at Silver, over and over, “Stay with me, Gabriel, stay with me.”