As soon as they were out of earshot, Leta pressed, “What is it?”
Daelen paused before her, rubbing his chin. “How long ago did he sustain the injury?”
“Just over six weeks ago.”
He nodded, then lifted his eyebrows at her. “And walking still produces a 7 pain level? Even exaggerated that’s…” He shifted his lips thoughtfully. “Concerning…”
“It is,” Leta agreed quickly. “But I also lowered his dosage of painkillers. And he’s moving much more than last week.”
“That’s good to hear,” Daelen said, though he didn’t look any more relieved. “Any progress is something worth celebrating. But at this point…” His voice faded off until he asked suddenly, “You said you weren’t able to treat the wound until a few days after the incident?”
“Right. That’s why the wounds are so severe.”
“It’s possible that the damage from that initial period is more permanent than I’d hoped,” he admitted, his tone growing more quiet. “And what of his mental state? He seems…agitated?”
“Oh — he’s always like that,” Leta assured quickly. “Trust me.”
Daelen spared her a short smile, but it soon swept from his face. “And the hallucinations?”
“They’ve — well, he’s still having them,” Leta admitted.
“That,” Daelen sighed, “is what I was afraid of.”
He took to pacing around her, full of thought. “In my experience, in these kinds of situations, the physical state can be held back from full recovery by mental or emotional barriers. If a patient doesn’t believe they can recover, if they don’t want to recover, if there’s a significant stress getting in the way of their recovery, that takes a physical toll. I can see it in your patient clearly. Even when he’s speaking to you, he doesn’t always seem like he’s entirely present. I’m afraid that until he’s able to reign in these ‘nightmares’ as you say, he may not be able to truly recover.”
He paused, and looked at her directly. “Leta, I’m — I’m afraid he may never walk without support again.”
But that was hardly part of the plan, thought Leta at once, as if correcting him. Visions of Fiearius sprinting up the Dionysian’s ramp passed through her mind.
She found she couldn’t speak; she said nothing. Was this, she wondered, how her patients felt when she talked to them back in the clinic? Did her bedside manner hurt as badly as this?
Daelen studied her face, terrible worry in his eyes. “There are options,” he went on gently, composed as always. “First and foremost, he’ll need a psychiatrist. Perhaps someone who knows about these ARC treatments.”
“No one knows about the ARC treatments,” said Leta at once, sounding more impatient than she would have liked. “That’s the problem. They’re Society experiments; no one outside the Society knows anything about the program.”
Daelen went on mildly, as if he hadn’t heard her. “Then, our next step will be finding him a specialist. He needs a someone with experience in muscular recon–”
“How would we get a specialist, Daelen?” Leta interrupted hotly, her voice straining with despair. “A specialist from a Society institution, you mean. He can’t just walk into a hospital, he’s a wanted fugitive.” She shook her head, feeling exasperated, exhausted, and most of all, scared. She’d spent six weeks with Fiearius in the infirmary, and it may have been for nothing.
Daelen went to reply, but Leta raised her hand sharply.
“Look, I’m all he’s got,” she said, her voice shaking. “So that’s going to have to be enough.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
He hadn’t meant to overhear. He wished that he hadn’t. But as Leta and Daelen argued quietly in the hallway, Fiearius could not stop himself from tilting his head in their direction and listening as their hurried voices carried his way.
What he heard made him freeze in place.
So he really wasn’t getting better then. The news did not shock him: in fact, he felt like nodding along in agreement. Even as he sat on that crate, watching people trudging along the snowy docks just outside, he could feel his sickness creeping in on him. He was learning to cope. The visions and reality were more easily separated. But if Daelen was right and they were keeping him from walking…
But that prognosis wasn’t what was making him want to sink to the floor in defeat. The part that truly got to him, that made his stomach clench in discomfort and shame burn behind his eyes, was the sinking despair in Leta’s voice.
She had been trying so hard to make him well. The past month and a half, she’d dedicated her existence to helping him. And yet he failed her over and over and would keep failing her until he could rein in this mania.
It was that thought that made him unable to just sit there by himself any longer.
Planting his cane against the Beacon’s metal floor, he painfully pushed himself back to his feet, wincing as he did. He didn’t know where he was going, but he started walking nonetheless, deeper into the ship’s maze of halls and stairways. It was a slow trek and he found himself clutching the walls for support as his feet lead the way.
He eased himself down a set of stairs until he finally stopped, of all places, in the brig. It was a long hallway of cells, all of them empty save for one.
Steadying one hand against the wall, Fiearius eased toward the chamber that held Dez. A pane of thick clear glass separated them. Inside, Dez sat lounged against the back wall.
He raised his eyes toward Fiearius expectantly, like he knew it was only a matter of time before he arrived here. Fiearius hadn’t seen him since he’d affronted him in the infirmary over two weeks ago.
For a long moment, neither of them spoke. At last, words fell from Fiearius’ mouth before he could consider them.
“Why did you help me escape from Satieri?”
Dez blinked his eyes, his expression stoic. “Because you weren’t supposed to be there.”
It was about as unsatisfying of an answer as Fiearius could have received. He tiredly put his hand to his forehead. “I really wasn’t looking for your Ridellian ‘path of the dov’ha’ bullshit, Dez,” he groaned.
“It’s not bullshit,” Dez said simply, coming to his feet. He stepped closer to the glass. “And that wasn’t what I meant. Do you remember the night you left Satieri?” he asked suddenly, taking Fiearius by surprise. “The night you fled, once and for all. When you asked me to come with you?”
Fiearius snorted indignantly. “How could I forget? You left me a damn reminder on my face.” He pointed to the thick scar across his brow and down his cheek
Dez’s brow creased in mild thought. “If it’s any consolation, I think it makes your face less forgettable.”
“It’s not,” Fiearius growled. “Get to the point.”
“When you asked me to leave,” said Dez, “I should have said yes.”
At that, Fiearius froze. In all his years of knowing Desophyles, he had never shown an ounce of remorse or regret. For anything. He was unfeeling, and he simply did not operate that way.
Dez continued, “It took time to realize, but I understand now. To the Society, we’re all disposable. You. Me. Aela, Denarian, my brothers, may the dov’ha claim their souls. It’s always been that way. But seeing your life about to be tossed away, I knew. I knew there was another option. I knew that we, you and I. We can fight back. That’s why I helped you escape.”
Fiearius simply gaped at him. Then, he barked a single-note laugh. “Yeah, Dez, you and me can take down a centuries-old institution, absolutely. You’re fucking insane, you know that? Insane and, frankly, wrong. You can’t fight them. That other option you discovered? Is to run.”
“For you, yes. For me, yes. But for us.” He lifted his brows. “Do you realize the power you have embedded in your wrist? You are their Verdant, Fiearius, whether they want you to be or not. You have more influence than you believe. And I. I have worked closely with the Council for four years. I can teach you how to use it.”
Fiearius scoffed indignantly. “You’re an idiot.”
“You’re a coward.”
Fiearius’ glare narrowed on him before he finally rolled his eyes and looked away. But as much as he wanted to leave the brig, his feet didn’t move. There was a reason he came down here. It was in the back of his mind, nagging. He just wasn’t ready to admit it to himself.
After a careful pause, Dez asked, “Why are you down here, Fiearius?”
Fiearius shut his eyes and told himself to walk away. To go back upstairs. But then he thought of the infirmary, the walking lessons. Leta’s utter defeat. His worried brother.
“You were right,” Fiearius grunted, opening his eyes. “For once. About what you said a few weeks ago. They’re not going away. The…nightmares, hallucinations, whatever they are. I can fight them off, but…they’re still there. I can’t do this anymore.”
Dez did not look at all surprised in the slightest. He nodded along, even when Fiearius stared him straight in the eye and said, “I don’t trust you. And this changes nothing between us. And I’m not fucking help you fight the Society. But…if you’re sure it works. If you’re sure Flush will fix this….” He took a deep breath. “I’ll take it.”