A sharp light hit the back of her eyeballs. Ninah winced and swore at it. She tried to shove it away but her arms weren't obeying the order to lift a hand and make it happen.
"She's awake," someone said. She smelled something antiseptic.
"Ninah?" A strong hand took hers as a blurry face came close. "Ninah, can you hear me?" She knew the deep voice and tried to answer. He seemed relieved at her attempt which came out as a moan. "You're in the hospital," he said, brushing her hair back with a hand. "You've been in and out of consciousness for a day; you're fine, just scrapes and bruises. Rest, take it easy, and don't worry about anything."
She was pretty sure her brow was pecked with warm lips. The touch of a beard on her nose tickled. Her hands began to pulse.
"This is my fault," she heard him say to someone. "I knew it was too soon. Too fast. She wasn't ready."
Someone responded, but the medication in the IV entered her body and took over control of her will, putting her back to sleep. That was fine with her because she was beginning to feel pain in her hands
When Ninah awoke again, she was aware of the bed below her. The sheets were fresh and crisp, the air was cool, and the smell was still antiseptic. Loudspeakers frequently called for a doctor to pick up an extension or housekeeping to tend to a certain room.
She fell. She remembered falling into the ground. Nothing else. Ninah tried to remember how she got from the forest to the hospital, but nothing came to her. Her brain was sluggish, mainly from the drugs, although not so drugged that she didn't find the glow of wards around the room to be interesting. Why would Severance put wards up? Sleep overtook her again.
The door opened and Severance stepped into the room. From the readings at the telemetry desk, she had been briefly awake. The scans showed no signs of brain damage, and her body was healing well. The rest of the hospital staff were confused over his fuss for the unknown woman; if it had been one of his kids or Shara, they could understand, but what was this strange woman to him? When Dr Allen stormed the halls like a lion, however, people scurried to get him whatever he wanted, no questions asked.
Severance pulled up a chair next to her bed and opened the small, electronic notebook and pulled up her chart. She was soaking up the potassium drip, he saw, and wrote an order for another test. She wasn't dehydrated, so he wasn't sure what her body was doing with it all.
He put the Notebook aside and stood next to her bed, checking under the bandages on her hands. The cuts looked fine, no redness, and surgical glue held the worst of the cuts together, so he took surgical shears from the drawer and gently cut away the bandage.
He then put a hand on her head and another hand on the center of her chest. Normally, he would have found the proximity of her full, warm breasts to be a temptation; he reminded himself that he was a doctor and to quit thinking like a teenage boy. He closed his eyes and followed the chaotic energy lines within her.
In a healthy body, the main chakras routed the body's energy, that spark that kept a body breathing. From the root chakra, which is at the perineum, the body's qi, or chi, mana, flows up along the spine. Many people prefer to place the root chakra at the base of the spine, but Severance found that it made more sense if placed at the perineum. If one is going to drink up energy from the earth, why would it jump the lower body to the spine? It made more sense to place it at Malkhut, the bedrock of the earth, so that's where he placed it. When sitting on the earth, that's where the earth touched the body.
Usually the root was dark and warm, and he was pleased to see the healthy, dark bluish glow. He followed the glowing flow of chi up the center of her body to the sacral chakra in her lower abdomen. There was an odd color of chi around her reproductive organs, but it felt fine, so he continued up to the next chakra which was the solar plexus.
It was there, in her upper abdomen, that the chi began to waver.
In a healthy body, the main chakras sent the chi out to the minor chakras throughout the body, so it was normal to see smaller and smaller rivers of energy spread like tree limbs in the body. The slight kink in the chi at her solar plexus didn't really surprise him, considering her nervousness earlier in the day. Going off into the woods with a man she didn't know, to meet four other men she didn't know, could have ended badly in other ways but she listened to her instincts and went anyway. He stroked the line of energy with a warm inner touch, taking the energy back down and carefully bringing it up again, not too fast, just a gentle stroke to smooth it out.
Under his hands, he could feel her body begin to relax.
Her heart was strong, linked to many people she loved. A new, white link connecting her heart and sacral chakras gave him a slight flush when he realized it was her attraction to him. Well, that would be handled later, after he considered the idea, which he wasn't objecting to. He and Shara rarely played, although it was allowed by the group's rules to play within the group and inner circle family; if Ninah was accepted by the group, and she accepted the group, they would discuss it. He certainly found her attractive, both physically and her active mind, and he is now learning that she had a good heart.
He cleared his mental throat and continued up her central chi column to her throat chakra. From the strong pulse in the chi, he knew she usually had no problems with self-expression. He was already discovering this. There was some wavering in the chi, though, so he smoothed it out, hoping that she'd find the words for whatever it was she was having a problem expressing.
It was the area between her heart and mind that was blocked, the energy knotted worse than rush hour traffic in L.A.. What was going on here, he asked himself? With her strong shamanic work, her Third Eye chakra should be healthy and pulsing, but at the moment it was sluggish. He was getting a sense of confusion, new instructions that were having a hard time integrating with previous instructions. He did his best to try and smooth it out so that understanding could occur, but he had to admit something wasn't connecting right.
Whenever the staff caught him hands-on, they assumed he was praying to his multitude of gods. If one religion can pray with their patients, they all can. A few on the staff didn't like him doing it, but as long as the patient was in agreement, there was nothing the nay-sayers could do about it. Several people had seen the pentacle necklace around her neck, so they assumed she was in agreement.
The door opened again and Shara stepped in. Seeing Severance at work, he waited quietly and kept himself open in case his partner needed to pull him in for assistance. The woman on the bed was silent, almost as pale as the sheets, seeming smaller than the vibrant woman he saw in the woods and around her new town.
She had quietly stormed the town and set up shop all in the blink of an eye, as though she had come home. Perhaps she had. She had spunk, he'd give her that, and although he himself wasn't attracted to her, he could understand why his partner was showing signs of attraction. Shara had no problem with it; she'd be joining their clan soon, and he was secure in his relationship with his lover.
When Severance stepped away from the bed, Shara came forward. "How is she?" he asked. He put a hand on Sev's shoulder and gave it a squeeze.
"Sleeping," Severance said, taking a deep, cleansing breath as he sat in a chair. He continued to watch her. Her eyes were moving beneath the lids. She had relaxed into REM sleep; she was dreaming. Shara squatted next to him.
"This isn't your fault," he told Severance. He gave a stroke to Severance's thick locks.
"It is," Severance said, shaking his head and frowning. "This was too soon. I should have known better." He had thought her timidity was from caution at getting to know a new place and new people; most magicians he had met barreled in head first. She wasn't timid or shy, though, she was a shaman who had been dumped into a clan of magicians, and was feeling her way around. Maybe Shara should have been the one to lead her, Sev thought; being both Cherokee and a middle eastern shaman, she would have been more… two middle eastern shaman??
"Was it too soon?" Shara questioned, debating Severance's angst. "All the Watchers have been on the lookout for her, you know that; Jurgen almost caught up with her in Romania last year when she went walk-about. We all know something is coming down soon, and we need her support. If that means pushing her out of her comfortable world to help us, so be it. We don't have time to coddle her."
"And yet here she is," Sev pointed out, holding out a hand, "in a hospital bed. I should have gone more slowly."
Shara stood, his arms crossed as he studied his partner. "And I'm telling you you're wrong," he insisted. "There's a warrior lying under her skin, and she would have jumped into battle at anytime; she's hearing the battle just as we are. She's been bored. If she had followed the path the gods laid out for her, she would have been here two years ago and we could have all grown into this together."
"She isn't a warrior," Sev told him. "Take a good look around her store. We were wrong; she's a shaman, not a magician. That's why she was seeing differently than us."
Looking at Shara with his studious yet elegant glasses and his clean-cut clothes, no one would guess that he was almost as deadly as Irra. Shara had a conscience, however. His black hair, sharp cheekbones and almost hairless body spoke of his Native American ancestry, his height and the breadth of his shoulders came from his German mother's family. Severance liked Shara's family; while the older Germans were a little unsure of the entire same-gender thing, the Cherokees accepted them wholeheartedly.
While they talked quietly, a nurse would pop her head in, once in a while, for something that needed a signature. They were mostly left alone. The hospital staff was used to Shara on the wards whenever Dr Allen had rounds; Shara had a quietness about him that restless patients found soothing, and a gentle hand for scared kids. Severance also appreciated Shara's presence after a hard day.
"How long have you been together?"
The men looked at the bed where the patient was supposed to be asleep. Ninah was watching them through eyes that were still trying to focus. She lifted a weak hand and rubbed at her nose. The O2 cannula irritated her, so she tossed it off. She winced and looked at her hands. Severance reached over and put the cannula back on.
"Closing in on ten years," he told her. She was surprised.
"Really? Congrats," she said. "Most het couples don't last that long. Did I hear something about someone's birthday?"
"My youngest son, Daniel," Severance said. But she was asleep, almost unconscious, he thought; how did she hear them? "He'll be sixteen in a couple of weeks."
Ninah considered his statement. "I think I'm glad I'm lying down," she said. "First I discover that you have a male partner, and now you have a 'youngest son.' How many older ones?"
Severance smiled. "I'm divorced; I have four kids with my ex-wife, Nancy. Shane is twenty-four, Morgan twenty-one, Kerry recently turned eighteen, and Daniel as I said is almost sixteen."
Ninah tried to turn fully toward him as she processed the information. She knew he was older than her, but thoughts of family never entered her head.
"The oldest is twenty-four? What were you, a teenager? I think I'm feeling my age; I'm attracted to someone old enough to be a grandfather," she said. "No offense."
Severance laughed as Shara chuckled quietly at his side. "None taken. I was twenty-three when Shane was born, and fresh out of medical school. And no, as far as I'm aware, there are no grandkids. Although the way Shane and Morgan go through women, I wouldn't be surprised."
"What about you?" Ninah asked, looking at Shara. His smile was quiet and warm, his presence calming. The overhead lights glinted off his glasses. His long, dark hair hung elegantly around his face and shoulders. She decided that he was Native American, understanding the unusual clip in his speech.
"I don't work with women," he said in a smooth tenor voice. "No offense."
Ninah smiled back at him. "None taken. Ow." She put her head back on the pillow, deciding that it was too soon to try and sit up. Severance watched her fight her own body.
"What the hell happened?" she asked, closing her eyes.
Severance frowned, kicking his legs out and slouching in the chair. "I'm not sure," he admitted, lacing his fingers across his stomach. "After you fell, we needed to call emergency to get you out. You were too deep for us to rescue you. Do you remember the firemen or the med-techs?"
Ninah tried to shake her head. "No," she said instead. She looked inward, struggling with foggy memories. "I remember….. darkness."
"You said, 'illuminate'," Sev told her, watching her carefully. She seemed surprised.
"I did? I don't remember it." She thought about it, trying to force her brain to remember. "No," she said. "Nothing. I have another question, though; why are you guys shimmering?"
They looked at her blankly.
"What do you mean?" Severance asked. He began writing an order to get her eyes checked.
She waved her fingers at them, trying not to bend her hand at the palm. "Your aura. It's shimmering. Both of you. I noticed it on the other guys, too."
The men looked at each other. "Don't see it," Shara said, looking at his partner's familiar aura. "Just your normal light blue and green."
The room darkened, the lights flickering for a moment. Ninah ignored it. Shara jumped into the over-world for a look around. He stood in the center of the inner-space and sent more energy to the shields. The silence that happened echoed like a thump on fresh baked bread. Satisfied, he returned to the room. Severance glanced at him. Shara gave a brief shake of his head.
"You're a guardian," Ninah commented. The men looked at her again. She glared at them. "I'm a little jumbled, not psi-blind," she told them. "Why are there wards around the room?"
Shara leaned toward Sev. "She's good."
"The wards are just a precaution," Severance told her. "We still don't know what's out in that forest or if it followed you back."
Ninah looked from one man to the other. She found the 'up' button on the side of her bed and pressed it. When spots hit her eyes, she stopped, brought up some earth energy to ground things, and waited for the spots to disappear. Nausea arose in her throat so she closed her eyes for a moment, sending the earth energy to work on that, too. When she opened her eyes again, Severance was waiting with a pink, kidney shaped basin. He put it down when he saw she was alright.
"I think we might have gotten off on slightly mismatched footing," she told him. "Just because I enjoy hanging out in bookstores and spreading money around, doesn't mean I'm an idiot. How about we try this again? Why are there wards in my room?" She reached out from within and neutralized the wards. Irritating noises from daily hospital life were suddenly clearer in the room.
Neither of the men were expecting to her to act upon the wards, especially not in her condition. Severance began to once again re-evaluate a few things as he thoughtfully twisted his goatee. He was becoming annoyed with himself.
"I thought you weren't a trained magician?"
"And that makes me a neophyte?" she asked in irritation. "Listen, Mr. Wizard; while I appreciate the fact that you obviously have more worldly experience than I, that doesn't mean I don't know how to hear the planet. And why the hell am I seeing you guys dressed in ancient battle gear and me tossing levin bolts around? I can do that, too, you know. Wanna see?" She could see it in her mind, how to gather the fire-energy and direct it. Her hands began to tingle with warmth, which wasn't doing the soreness of her palms any good. What the hell, she thought, startled at the unexpected image.
"No!" Both men spoke quickly, holding up hands to stop her. See? Shara silently said with his eyes, there's a warrior under that skin.
The men gave thoughtful, nervous strokes to their chin-hairs. Ninah absently wondered why all the gay men she had met had either a clean-cut pretty-boy face or had a goatee surrounding their mouth.
"I'm fully aware that the universe brought me here for a reason," she said. "And it wasn't to sit around in a nifty book store. I'm fully aware that you two, along with your other two buddies, are going to be important people in my immediate future. Hell if I know why, but there it is. Something big is coming, and I'm not sure I want to be around when it gets here. A walk in the woods put me down. You know more than I do about this, so drop the kid-gloves and give me a reason to stay, because right now all I want to do is find a cave and wait it out."
They needed her with them, not hiding out somewhere. She was too strong to not participate in whatever was happening.
Shaken, Severance stood. He stepped up to her bed and carefully took one of her hands in his. The hand felt a little warm so he put his hand to her face. She felt fine.
"I need to make a few calls," he said. "When you get home, we'll have a meeting." He gave her arm a pat and left the room.
Shara stood and looked Ninah in the eyes. She had no idea what he was thinking or what he saw, but she held his gaze. Hands behind his back, one wrist grabbed comfortably by the other hand, he finally gave a strange half bow from his shoulders, and silently left the room.
Ninah took a deep breath, easing the tight cramp in the center of her chest that began when she knew she'd have to speak a few truths. She took a sip of water, put the bed back down, and shut her eyes again. Just for good measure, she turned the wards back on.
"You could have handled that better," she told herself. She picked up the phone and called her store to check on Thayer. Oh, gods, please tell me no one called my mother about this!