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Shay Cormac is a walking disaster.

There is a disturbing lack of subtlety to this man; on anyone else Haytham would have been wary and unwilling to entrust a seat in the Order to someone who threw himself so recklessly at his enemies the way Shay does.

“You’ll die this way,” Haytham clucks as he examines the massive bruise blossoming over Shay’s ribcage.

“Perhaps,” Shay wheezes.

Haytham is almost certain that he has at least one broken rib. And if it’s not the pain that’s making him wheeze, then he’s probably done some damage to a lung, maybe bruised it almost as badly as he’s bruised his skin. “This will hurt,” he warns.

Shay nods, and his posture stiffens. “Go ‘head.”

Haytham presses his fingers against the bruise, feeling for any broken bones, and Shay lets out a soft, pitiful, strangled croak of pain, eyes rolling shut and his breath growing even shallower than before. Bumps and aborted sounds confirm Haytham’s suspicions: Two ribs definitely broken, and one that may be fractured. “You’ll be off your feet for a time,” he says. “These won’t heal easily.”

Shay bobs his head gently, the closest he can get to a nod without aggravating the intense pain in his abdomen. “Can I lie down?”

“Not yet. I need to bandage it.” Shay pales at that. “You ought to have seen that coming. You need to stop doing this to yourself.”

Shay doesn’t have it in him to offer a retort, and soon all Haytham hears from him is gasping and coughing and sharp keening and whining as he strives not to scream during the binding. This isn’t the first time Haytham’s wrapped someone’s ribs, and he takes care to do it properly, even if it hurts Shay. Better that he feels a great deal of pain now and have his ribs heal properly than slack off and have him in pain over time.

When it’s over, Shay is wheezing ferociously and a thin sheen of sweat coats his forehead. He’s shaking and pale, and Haytham, for all the blame he puts for this on Shay’s own inability to look after himself, feels a stab of something softer and kinder than his usual nature. “Lie back,” Haytham says, and carefully guides Shay to lie on the bed in the best position to help him breathe. He wipes the sweat from Shay’s forehead with a cloth and takes stock of Shay’s other injuries.

Pale as he is now, the numerous other smaller bruises stand out starkly against his skin. There’s one on his shoulder, another on his hip, and a few smaller ones sprinkled along his collarbone; none are as big or as ugly as the one on his ribs, however, and Haytham is satisfied that they were the only injuries requiring treatment. The other bruises will fade with time.

“You need to be more careful,” He says, with less ‘I-told-you-so’ and more ‘I’m-concerned-for-you’ in his voice. “You could have punctured a lung.”

Shay swallows, but doesn’t speak. He’s still shaking.

Haytham shakes his head and traces his fingers over the bruises. He brushes the skin, but applies no pressure; he is not a nice man by nature (polite, yes- nice, no) but he is also not a senselessly cruel one, and even if he were, Shay would rarely be on the receiving end of it. One does not behave cruelly to one’s bedfellows if they don’t have to- that’s simply begging for a knife at your throat mid-coitus.

Shay’s shivering increases at Haytham’s touch, but his breathing slowly evens out. “I’m not so sure I haven’t punctured a lung,” He pants. “I can’t breathe so well.”

You should have thought about that when you charged that overly-armored bastard! Haytham wants to snap, but holds it in. Shay is learning his- well, no, that isn’t entirely accurate. Shay is not stupid, but he does behave with a certain lack of caution or foresight. He has the knowledge, but lacks the sense to use it in the heat of a fight, when he becomes a whirlwind of limbs and metal.

“I don’t see any sign that you’ve punctured anything,” Haytham assures him, reaching down and pulling up the blanket to cover Shay’s trembling body. “You’ll be fine. But you need to stay still.”

“Stay,” Shay implores him. “I’m afraid I’ll stop breathing.”

If you do, there shan’t be much I’ll be able to do about it, Haytham thinks with his usual stark realism. If Shay stops breathing it will only be because there’s some deeper injury that Haytham has no method of treating.

“It’s only the pain,” Haytham tells him, sliding a hand up to comb through his damp hair, a small comfort made easier by its subtlety. “You won’t stop breathing.”

“Stay anyway,” Shay repeats weakly. Unlike his lover, the young Irishman is less guarded, less reserved, more willing to speak his fears and weaknesses to those he sees as trustworthy. Haytham is self-aware enough to know that he is not a trustworthy person, and he accepts Shay’s trust with the unease of someone who knows that he might one day be forced to violate it.

“Very well,” Haytham sighs. He takes a book and sits on the other side of the bed, gently applying his weight so as not to disturb Shay’s injuries. “Get some rest,” he orders as he opens the book.

Shay acquiesces, settling in- and then carefully reaches out and lets his hand fall to lie on Haytham’s lap. Haytham looks at it, at Shay, but the former Assassin’s eyes are fluttering shut. He may sleep, but he likely won’t sleep well, bad as the pain is; perhaps he finds physical contact with Haytham to be soothing.

After a moment of observing Shay, making sure he’s at least attempting to follow instructions, Haytham turns to his book. But he will, over the next few hours, damnably remember Shay’s concerns that he may stop breathing in his sleep, and he will look over periodically, compulsively, to check that his chest is still moving.

He’s fine, Haytham chastises himself as he tears his gaze away from the purple and blue mess that is Shay’s shoulder. He’s in pain, but he’s fine.

But still, every few minutes, he finds himself checking.

Just in case.

Because Shay Cormac is a walking disaster; but as it is, he’s Haytham’s disaster, and he’ll tend to him as needed until he can’t.
 
-End