Ash – Toxic

No. No syringes. Bad. Not…

Someone shook Miya’s shoulder. She flinched. Bad. Go away. Distant talking drifted through her conscience. Orange goggles.

Someone poked her in the cheek. “Come on, Pokey. Get up.” Another poke to the cheek. “Pokey.” Another poke. “Pokey.”

Miya shot upright, fully awake. One of the triplets jumped back, out of the way of her reflexive punch. They locked eyes for a moment. No orange eyes. Then he stepped forward and poked her in the cheek again. “Pokey!”

She slapped his hand away. Which one are you? He kept his left hand shoved in his pocket. Fuck it. “Ben or Rob. I will kill you,” she said.

“Doctor from Amanda’s surgery is ready to talk,” Ben or Rob responded, a small half smile hovering on his face.

Oh. Miya got up to follow him as he left, stretching her neck to either side to work out the kinks from sleeping in a chair all night. “Is she…” began Miya, trailing off.

“Still alive? Yeah. Doc wasn’t smilin’, though.”

Miya nodded and took another look at the waiting room. The other triplet slept in another chair, his head leaning all the way back. His left hand had all of its fingers.

“Not going to wake up Rob?” she asked Ben, motioning to Rob.

“Tried. Couldn’t. He wasn’t jokin’ when he said he only slept two hours since we got here.”

What? “We’ve been here for almost a week. You can’t sleep two hours a week.”

Ben shrugged. “Apparently ya can. Come on, doc’s waitin’. Chris and the others are already on the way.” Others? Oh, right, the Watch.

He led her a short distance through a bland hospital hallway. Miya glanced around at the quiet, sterile surroundings. Her hand tapped on her leg. I don’t like this place. She looked over her shoulder. What am I even looking for? There’s no one else here.

“Here it is,” said Ben, bringing her attention forward. He pulled the door to the doctor’s office open.

Miya stopped short of the doorway. Chris and Roach leaned against a counter in the office. Quarrel sat on a chair, spinning a small gear on the side of her crossbow.

Even though the weak morning light came in through the shades of the third story window, the bright white lights in the ceiling washed over everything. Miya’s nose tingled from the scent of antiseptic. Her eyes darted back and forth. No scalpels or anything, right? Why is this room so small?

“Thank you for joining us,” said the doctor, behind a small desk. He glanced at Miya, still outside the doorway. A small frown formed beneath his thin goatee. “You can come in.” As if on cue, everyone seemed to look at Miya. Right, move.

She jerked a nod and found a second office chair between Quarrel and Roach. It creaked as Miya twisted it a couple inches to either side. Roach grabbed the backrest, cutting off the next twist and subsequent creak

The doctor placed his clipboard to the side and turned to the assembled group. “Your friend’s condition has stabilized,” he said, his voice matter of fact. “We stopped the worst of the bleeding, and removed two of the four bullets from her abdomen. It would have been too risky to remove the final two. As well, we have put her in an artificial coma for now, she will require at least a couple more surgeries. I have been using magic to help the healing process, and the worst is past, but she is by no means in the clear right now.”

The room remained silent for a moment. Miya closed her eyes. She’s not going to die. She’s made it this far, she can’t die now.

Chris spoke up, bringing Miya back to the office. “Do you think she will recover?”

“Do not quote me on this, but I am tentatively optimistic. However, it is too soon to tell,” responded the doctor. “Our staff has contacted her parents. They should be here in a day or so.”

“Parents? They know what we’re doin’?” Ben asked the others.

Chris shrugged. That’s a good question. She’s never talked about her parents before. The doctor looked quizzically between them, but didn’t question further.

“If you are going to be waiting for her, I suggest you find accommodations. At the very least, it will be weeks before we will be able to release Amanda.”

Chris took a deep breath. Great. A gang of psychos want’s us dead, one of us is already almost there, and I have no damn clue where we’re supposed to go. Roach and Quarrel exchanged glances; they’d kept quiet the whole time.

“Doctor,” began Roach, his voice as raspy as ever. Oh, now his brain is all healed and stuff. Miya tuned out the rest of the conversation. Spent the whole ambulance ride over here speaking Nahua to me. Amanda on the fucking gurney, and he just kept trying to say something. Fucking beeping machine, fucking tiny room…

Miya glanced around, looking for a black ball camera on the ceiling. Why am I looking for Control? She shook her head, as if to rid herself of the memories. I hate hospitals.

Chris nudged her. “Are you alright?” he asked under his breath.

“I’m fine,” she whispered back.

“… sorry, but that’s the best I can do. You are lucky we had an unoccupied room, though I am not quite sure why none of you are using it,” finished the doctor with a small frown.

“A friend of ours is in there. Because of their power they’re rather shy. But they still want to be nearby,” said Chris.

The doctor nodded. Not the weirdest power based explanation in the world by a long shot. “Very well. But please let one of the secretaries at the front desk know when they leave. Do you have any other questions for me?”

“Nope,” said Ben. Chris shook his head. Ask what? Fucking nothing I can do, is there? Roach and Quarrel stayed quiet.

The doctor nodded again. “Very well. If anything happens, we will let you know immediately.” Quarrel got up from her chair, signaling the end of the meeting. “Oh, and Roach, please speak with my secretary later,” added the doctor. Roach nodded as he followed Quarrel.

“Excuse me, Miya?” said the doctor as Miya got up from her chair.

“Um,” began Miya, looking around. “Me?” How do you know my name?

The doctor nodded. “May I speak with you in private for a moment?”

“Sure.”

Chris, who’d stopped in the doorway, said, “I’ll be out here.” She nodded. He closed the door behind him as he left.

Miya turned back to the doctor and took her seat again. He leafed through some pages on his clipboard. After finding the page he was looking for, he said “Roach informed me that you are the mage who performed first aid on Amanda.” After a pause, he raised his eyes from the page. “Correct?” he prompted.

“Oh, yeah.” What the hell do you mean ‘correct’? You know damn well it was me if Roach told you.

“Good. There are some things we will need you to undo,” he said.

Miya blinked. “What? What’d I do?” What’d I fuck up now?

“There are still powerful streams maintaining her heightened blood clotting. The others have dissipated, but those still remain. They will kill her if left unchecked.”

“K… kill?”

The doctor’s brow furrowed. “Yes. Altering a specific part of someone’s biology like that is never good. If left unchecked, clots will form in her arteries and heart and there will be no amount of medicine in the world that can stop it.” He looked askance at her.

I’m an idiot. If I fuck up again I’m just going to kill her. “You don’t know how?”

“I can, but there is an excellent chance something will go wrong. The original mage has far more influence over their magical streams than anyone else. You didn’t know that?” She shook her head. “Where did you receive your education?” he asked.

From a druggie, back alleys, a couple random books I stole from the library, and an Overlord experimental facility like this fucking place. “I’m self-taught,” she answered.

The doctor’s bloodshot and dark circled eyes stared at her for a moment, then he drew a pen from his pocket and scribbled something on his clipboard without a word. Silence filled the room.

“What?” asked Miya after a moment. “I can’t try to heal her now, is that it?”

“No. I will not risk more damage to her.”

“You just said that anyone else trying to undo that would fuck it up.”

“Yes. Yes I did.”

“And you said that I could fix it. What happened to that?”

“I don’t think you know how to. A living human is more complex than a golem. Healing is far more complex than destruction.” Oh, OK, jackass.

“What the fuck are you trying to say?” Miya snapped, ready to jump out of her chair.

“I have met lots of mages like you. Magic is not just some club for you to bludgeon everything in sight with,” the doctor shot back, his voice raised.

“Don’t just stand there and condescend to me. My friend is about to die. I’m not just going to stand there and take bullshit from you if I can help it. Teach me or get the fuck out of my way.”

He leaned back in his chair. In a gentler tone, he said, “It was a very brute force method. There will be complications no matter what.”

“Like what?”

“It is too soon to tell. At a guess, heart problems. Strokes, maybe seizures from clotting in the brain. Again, too soon to tell.”

Miya slumped and hung her head. “Hey,” snapped the doctor. “There is not a doubt in my mind you saved her life. She was right about to die when you and Roach brought her in and I doubt she would have made it had you done nothing. What I am saying is you can’t take the same approach to reverse it. Dr. Noyola will be here in an hour. If you are serious about this, he can advise you. His specialty is more similar to yours than mine.”

Miya nodded. She drew in a shaky breath. “OK.” Don’t fuck up again. I can’t fuck up again.

“Just so you are aware, altering old streams is not like slapping a new one down over it. The sheer strength of the stream you placed in your friend is actually quite substantial, but that means extra care is required.

“You’re not going to scare me away from this.”

“I apologize. I didn’t mean to criticize, but it is vital that you know what you’re going to have to do. You’ll hear an announcement over the PA for you when Dr. Noyola arrives.”

Miya nodded. “OK. Thank you.” The doctor returned his attention to his clipboard as Miya left.

“… but why were you laughing?” asked Chris as Miya opened the door.

“Wasn’t anythin’ I could do ‘bout it. Can’t go back in time an’ stop her from getting’ shot,” answered Ben. “Oh, hey, Pokey.” No Roach or Quarrel?

“What did he want?” asked Chris. The three of them walked back to the waiting room.

“Did I tell you I jacked up Amanda’s blood clotting… thing, whatever?”

“Thing?” asked Ben.

“No… ability, that’s it,” answered Miya.

“Oh yeah. And no, ya didn’t.”

“OK. Well, I did. But now they need me to undo that, because it didn’t disappear like most magic does.”

“What makes this different?” asked Chris. They reached the waiting room with Rob still passed out on a chair. A tiny stream of drool escaped his lips.

“I don’t fucking know. That doctor said something about it being strong or something, I don’t know.”

Ben nodded. “Ya want breakfast? Got up early, picked up a dozen,” he said as he offered a box to Miya.

She sighed. “Sure, I’ll take one.” He passed her the box, and she collapsed into the seat opposite him.

She sorted through the assorted donuts. “What’s this?” she asked, pointing to a log of a donut with a light brown glaze on top.

Ben leaned forward for a good look at it. “Maple bar. Think it’s got fillin’ of some kind.”

Fuck it, why not. Miya chowed down on the donut. She blinked. That’s a lot of sugar.

“Don’t they have a cafeteria or something where you’re supposed to eat?” asked Chris.

“You wanna get up an’ find it?” asked Ben with a smile.

Chris shrugged. They all settled into silence. Miya finished off the donut after a minute and looked around the waiting room. Quiet. Too quiet. Lights are too bright. Smells wrong. Miya tapped on the armrest of her seat. I hate this place. We’re going to leave soon. We have to. Thank god. She rubbed her hands on her pants, trying to get the sweat off.

“What time is it?” Miya asked the others in a rush.

“Eleven. Why?” asked Chris, looking up from his phone.

“I don’t know. We haven’t told Olivia anything yet. Think she’ll want donuts?” Ben nodded and passed the box to her.

“Will she even be awake? She sleeps twelve hours a day and didn’t sleep at all last night. No, the night before, sorry,” said Chris.

“I’m sure she’s fine. It’s been about twelve hours since you all got here.” I need to do something besides sit here. Anything besides that.

Miya strode off to the room they’d put Olivia in. Miya had dragged Ben back to the roof once Roach had wrangled a spare room from the hospital staff. Can’t believe he just left her up there. Ah, here it is.

Miya knocked on the door. After a silent minute of no sound from the inside, she hit the door again, putting a bit more force behind it. Come on, Olivia. Wake up. I don’t want to shout in a quiet hospital hallway.

“Um, hello?” Miya strained to hear Olivia’s response through the door.

Miya checked both ways down the hallway. “It’s me, open up. There’s no one else nearby.”

The door cracked open, just enough for Miya to slip in with the box of donuts. She blinked once she got in.

“Hi, Miya,” said Olivia from behind her.

“Hey. I wake you up?”

“A little.”

“Would some donuts make it better?” Miya offered the box.

“Oh! Can I have the cinnamon one?” she asked, looking up at Miya as she scratched at her back.

“Of course. Don’t need my permission.” Olivia took the box. “Wait, how did you know there’s a cinnamon one in there?”

Olivia froze, the cinnamon bun halfway to her mouth. “I, um, I smelled it.” Oh, probably should have guessed that.

Miya glanced around at the hospital room. The curtains were drawn over the windows, with a small couch built into the wall below. The fact that the lights weren’t on yet only compounded how dark it was in the room. The ruffled sheets of the plain white hospital bed looked far cushier than what Miya would have expected. I kind of like it dark in here.

Olivia plopped down on the bed, the frame creaking in protest. “Not going to fall asleep on us again, are you?” asked Miya, taking a seat on the couch under the window.

“No. Sorry about that. No, I’m better now,” she stammered. Someone likes her sleep. “Is, um, Amanda’s OK, right?” asked Olivia, changing the subject. “She’s OK, right?”

“That’s actually why I’m here. The doctor from Amanda’s surgery talked with us about ten minutes ago.”

“Oh,” said Olivia. She put down her half-finished donut, concern written all over her face.

“Yeah. They said she’s stable for now, and they think she’s going to make it.”

“Think?”

“Yes. They don’t know for sure.” Olivia wilted. “Hey, the doctor we talked to said he was optimistic.” I wasn’t supposed to quote him was I? Whatever.

Olivia nodded, her lower lip trembling a little.

“Olivia!” snapped Miya, grabbing her attention. “She’ll make it.”

“But… but…” Please don’t cry.

“She’ll make it,” repeated Miya. What else am I supposed to say?

“It’s like that cell all over again. I thought I’d never see you guys again. And now it’s happening again.” Miya got up and sat next to Olivia, on the opposite side of where she’d curled her tail.

“The rest of us are still here, Olivia. And she’ll make it. The doctor is a MD in magical healing, if anyone can heal her, it’s him.” I think. Whatever, that’s a white lie if I’m wrong. “You can’t sit there thinking she’s going to die. You’ll drive yourself crazy that way.”

Olivia took a deep breath and nodded. “Sorry,” she said with a sniffle.

“Don’t say sorry. Just… think positive. It can’t hurt.” Miya wrapped an arm around Olivia’s waist. Hugging her is a bit like hugging a pile of rocks. Olivia leaned on her. She seems happier with physical contact.

Someone hammered on the door. “Miya, the PA thingy asked for ya,” said Ben.

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