Courtesy of a late-night message to a helper who knew an emergency when he saw one, Father was able to locate Peter Alcott at home, after being switched back and forth between the front desks of three different hospitals. When the doctor's beleaguered receptionist told Father that the doctor had finally gone home, Father felt no small amount of relief. Peter's wife had died some years previously and his daughter, Susan, had just started college on the west coast. Peter would be alone in the house and able to talk.
When Peter answered the phone, he sounded a bit groggy, but alert. Such were the hazards of being not only an on-call physician Above, but below as well. Father related the story of Lisa's leaving, Vincent's fevers and hallucinations, and Peter's voice grew progressively more concerned. “Will he submit to an examination, Jacob?” Peter asked and Father started briefly, wondering who this “Jacob” was. Then he relaxed, knowing that as long as he and Peter had known each other, the title of “Father” must still be strange on Peter's ear.
Father sighed into the phone. “I don't know. Yesterday, I would have said yes. Today...”
“All right. I'll be down shortly. Is he exhibiting any other strange behavior?”
“No, not now. When I last saw him, he was sleeping in his chambers.”
Vincent was sleeping, but not peacefully. He was in the Great Hall again, where Lisa danced for him in garments of a filmy pink substance that was nearly the color of her skin. She came near him and her scent rose higher and stronger the longer she danced. He had never smelled it before, but his body knew, had always known, what it was: arousal. She wants me. Lisa circled him, planted feathery kisses on his cheekbones and he watched as she pirouetted away....
...to dance with someone else. His dark half, dark where he was fair, kissing Lisa and his hands roaming all over her body, in the places where the leotard was tightest. Vincent clenched his fists. “This cannot be real,” he muttered.
The beast looked up from where he was nuzzling Lisa's shoulder. “It can be. If you have the guts to find her. She still wants us.” Lisa's dark eyes smiled and turned back to her lover.
Vincent's eyes snapped open and he smelled, impossibly, Lisa's scent, hot in the still air around him. He would find her. He would find her this night and make her his.
He brushed by the sentries as he rushed towards the entrance. She was his. Nothing could stand in his way. Nothing.
“His temperature was 103 degrees last night,” Father began as he escorted Peter from his basement threshold.
“Did you give him anything?” Peter asked.
“No,” Father replied. “You know about his unusual drug reactions. I didn't dare.”
“Well, I hope that we won't need them this time either, but---” Abruptly, a fury of clanking burst on the pipes. Peter knew the code well enough to know it was an emergency but any other nuance escaped him.
Father paled. “Dear God, it's Vincent. Quickly, Peter, we must go to the main entrance!” They rushed as fast as they could with Father's injured hip, but they heard the danger a long time before they saw it. A roaring, harsh and painful and furious.
As they rounded the corner, they saw Vincent, haloed in the glow of the sunrise through the light that entered into the main entrance tunnel. Father's heart sank as he noticed how dark the hair was around Vincent's hairline. Perspiration. He's burning up. Again. Vincent roared his desperation as he threw his body against the gate, only to find that it still held firm. The blue eyes were wild with fury and there was no recognition in that feral gaze.
Father stepped forward. “Jacob,” Peter began, but Father waved him off. “He's my son, Peter.”
“Vincent,” Father said firmly. “Come with me.” He was very careful to make no sudden movements, for fear of startling his son into some even more reckless action.
Vincent crouched down as if to attack, blue eyes dark and angry. The growling continued. Father took one more step forward. “It's time to come home, Vincent.”
His son crouched lower, leaning up against the gate and the growling came to a slow stop. “Father?” he rasped weakly. “What....?”
Father rushed forward to hold Vincent in his arms. “Vincent, it's all right. Do you feel up to walking?” He looked down at his son and smoothed the sweat-dark hair back from his flushed face. Fine tremors ran through Vincent's body. Fever, and now chills, and hallucinations. What are we dealing with here?
Vincent nodded. Clambering up on unsteady legs, with Peter on one side and Father on the other, they made their way back home.
Vincent had fallen into a deep sleep almost as soon as they reached his chamber. Believing he would sleep now that the adrenaline of the flight towards Lisa had dissipated, Father blew out the one remaining candle and led Peter down into the library.
“You were lucky tonight, Jacob,” Peter said, holding the cup of tea in his hands but not really aware of it. “How long has he been like this?”
“He's had the fevers off and on since Lisa left last week. The hallucinations are something new, so far as I know.” Father rubbed his eyes. It was just dumb luck that no one had gotten hurt; a sentry had seen Vincent rushing the gate but hadn't confronted him. If the sentry had tried to interfere, the consequences could have been disastrous. Vincent, enraged, was nothing to fool with.
“You'll have to sedate him,” Peter said quietly “Because that gate won't hold forever.”
Drugs. The one thing they tried to avoid using on Vincent ever since he was a small child, when a reaction to aspirin---aspirin!---had nearly cost him his life. They'd been lucky; Vincent was rarely sick and healed very quickly when he was injured, so drugs hadn't really been necessary since then. But now....
“I know,” Father said, defeated. He got up and walked unsteadily towards the locked cabinet in his study, the one that contained their emergency supplies of sedatives and anesthetics. He closed his eyes briefly. In rendering his son unconscious, even for a few hours, would he truly be helping him? Or would he be surrendering Vincent to the beast that clearly held him in his grasp?
And if he manages to hurt himself or someone else, what will you do then, Jacob? Father shook his head. He knew, he had always known, that Vincent's place among them had been bought by a large amount of willing ignorance. People were comfortable around Vincent largely because he acted and spoke and thought as they did, because he did so few obvious things that were foreign to what they knew as “normal.” The beast inside Vincent, the beast which Father suspected was fueling the rages and the fevers, was another matter entirely. Rarely seen since Vincent was a toddler and surfacing only in moments of terrible provocation since, Father had never forgotten his brief encounters with the darker side of Vincent's nature.
He unlocked the cabinet and withdrew his largest gauge syringe and a bottle of a strong sedative he used when setting broken bones. Perhaps this would give his son a few hours of rest while they tried to figure out what to do next.
Peter followed him as he crossed to Vincent's chamber and watched in astonishment as Father gently woke his son up. “Jacob, why...?”
“I've never lied to him, Peter,” the man now called Father replied. “If I'm going to make him unconscious, he should at least know why.”
Vincent's blue eyes opened, fever-bright in that pale face. “Father?”
“I want to give you something to make you sleep for a few hours. Is that all right?”
Vincent nodded weakly. “Before you do...did I hurt anyone?”
Father shook his head. “You've been very ill, Vincent. But no one was hurt.”
Vincent nearly sobbed in relief. “I just remember working on the pipes and---”
“I know,” he said gently. “Winslow told me. It's all right. Soon, you'll be well.” Uncovering one lightly furred arm, Father rinsed off a clean site and injected the sedative. “Sleep well, my son.”
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2 months ago