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He ignored the shouting, to the best of his abilities. It sounded like another patient had come in, but the panic died down quickly.

It felt like hours had passed by the time the door creaked open.

Henri stood at the door in his blue scrubs, pale as Death. His jaw clenched and relaxed, almost at random, and his hand trembled when he closed the door behind him.

"You… might have to wait a while." he stuttered, gripping the doorknob so tightly that it looked like it would burst under his hand, "For the next visit, I mean."

Owen glanced at Curt's face, not unhealthily pale but still paler than Henri: "Why?"

Henri's jaw clenched even tighter.

"It's Damon." he said, "He passed out in the hallway. He'll be on IV for a few hours."

Owen felt his own face lose some colour.

"Oh, good God. Is he alright?" he asked.

Henri nodded with a forced smile: "Just low blood sugar. Happens all the time. He's been working a bit too much overtime, that's all. Not eating enough, you know. The works."

"If you say so-"

"I do!!" the nurse stuttered, "Say so. I mean. I do say so. I'll… go check on him. See you later."

"See y-"

The door slammed shut.

 

Damon was a no-show for three hours, but Hope came to visit once, at around 7am. She handed him a small cup of tea. It was that absolutely terrible tea from the vending machines, but it was rather calming to drink something hot and he thanked her anyway.

"Any change?" she asked him, nodding at Curt.

"Nothing I can see."

"Mh." she nodded, "I'm sorry about the delay. Damon's the only poison expert we have and he hasn't been feeling too well."

Owen gave her a tired smile: "I understand. Let the kid rest."

He noticed her hovering around a chair and silently invited her to sit down, which she did. Very gratefully. She'd pulled a night shift, clearly.

Hope yawned: "It's quite cold this morning."

Owen hummed an agreement. She rambled on and on for about ten minutes about the most disparate subjects, ranging from the weather, to her pet tortoise that had died when she was ten years old, to her girlfriend Camille's impossibly pretty eyes. The latter subject took up about 90% of the conversation, and Owen could almost picture this Camille's eyes by the end of it. They were hazel, apparently, almost golden, with the slightest hint of green. Though he didn't have a face to place them in, those eyes were there, as real as any other product of his mind, and as precious as the eyes of anyone else he knew. They were precious to him because he saw them through the rosy lens of love, one he knew very well, and he knew then that, if he were to describe Curt's eyes to Hope, she would see through him like he had seen through her.

"You love her." he said, simply, when Hope paused, for breath or to make up some other flowery description of her girlfriend. As pleasant as it was to listen to her, it was strange to hear her speak of her love so freely, so openly, to a stranger; it was strange to hear her speak of a woman the same way another girl would unashamedly speak of a man.

Hope, bright and chipper even when she was tired, nodded sincerely: "I love her." she repeated.

"When will you see her again?"

"Soon." she smiled, "Soon enough. She's on her way, I hear."

Owen couldn't help the proud twinkle that sparked in his eyes. God, she was so young. Couldn't be much older than twenty. And there she was, unafraid, beautiful, joyful, gushing about the girl she loved in the same way Owen had so often wished he could talk about his crushes.

He gave her a little pat on the shoulder. Her sweater was soft.

"If you do make it official, I wish you the best."

He meant every word of it.

She nodded enthusiastically, and he felt his grip on her shoulder tighten unconsciously.

"Really." he repeated, "I wish you every happiness. Hold her as close as you can. Take a friend's advice and keep it close to your chest until it's safe."

Hope nodded again, less enthusiastically, but just as attentively.

"Thank you, sir." she said.

She left soon after.

 

Damon's step was unsure when he walked in, but he didn't seem to have trouble standing anymore.

"Do you feel any better?" Owen asked him, patting the back of the chair beside him.

Damon nodded, with a tired smile: "I'm late. I'll need to take a blood sample."

Owen granted him silent permission to touch Curt by moving his chair back a bit, watching the young doctor as he put a tourniquet on Curt's arm and flicked his fingers against the crook of his elbow until he could see the vein pulsing, blue and tired, under the skin.

Curt didn't react at all.

Until the needle pierced his skin.

His eyes flew open then and, with pinpoint accuracy, his hand shot up to grab the poor doctor by the collar of his shirt. Damon yelped, but had the sense to let go of the syringe immediately, before it could tear the skin. Owen felt himself freeze, caught in the cataclysmic crash of a thousand different emotions ranging from joy to terror and from panic to amusement. Curt was awake. He was also attacking his fragile-looking doctor. The doctor who was trying to help him. He was alive. Awake?

Oh, Curt was awake, alright.

And he was well aware of Damon, and he had enough strength left in him to immediately put him in a headlock.

Owen finally found it in himself to move.

One hand on Damon's chest. The other under Curt's arm.

One decisive tug, and the doctor crumpled to the floor with a cough.

"Curt!" he shouted, pinning his partner to the hospital bed as gently as he could afford to, "Curt!! Calm down!!"

Curt looked him in the eyes.

For a split second, there, Owen saw anger. And then Curt tried to headbutt him in the nose and he had to resort to blocking his head with the crook of his neck, lifting his chin up so Curt couldn't bite him. Because Curt was not above biting and they both knew it. Owen thanked every deity he could think of that Curt wasn't there with a scarring wound, because it would have undoubtedly reopened.

" Curt !!" he yelled again, "It's me!! Stop moving !!"

He nearly crushed his partner when Curt finally got the memo and stopped moving. He moved away in a hurry, finally looking in Damon's direction to check on him.

He looked… frightened, which was understandable, but the way he struggled to get his shirt closed again was a little strange. Owen took a step towards him and felt something hard under the sole of his shoe. A button. How had the kid not realized he was missing a button?

He knelt in front of the doctor and handed him the button with an open palm. Damon paused.

" Oh …" he murmured, in a breath, "Thanks…"

Even as he put his hand forward to retrieve the button, his hand stayed on his collar, keeping it firmly closed.

When he excused himself and left the room in a hurry (bumping into the door frame on the way out), Owen finally turned to Curt. He felt whatever sarcastic or scolding remark he had thought about making slip away in a moment.

"Curt," he breathed, "you alright?"

"Been better." Curt shrugged, "Been a lot worse."

Owen hoped his laugh didn't sound too much like a sob: "Good. Good to know, dear."

"Now can you tell me where the fuck we are? Because I've been to enough hospitals to know this one may be slightly illegal."

Curt sounded like his usual self for once, if a bit raspy. Owen laughed out loud this time, out of both relief, amusement and the usual embarrassment that came with being seen beside Curt: "We're… so, um…" he started, trying to contain his laughter, "We're in this facility, which is owned by an… well, I don't want to say agency, let's say… association?"

Curt seemed to grow a little pale: "Who are they?"

"They're apparently called Chimera."

" What ?"