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13 April 2012 @ 10:01 am
Killing Me Softly: In All My Dark Despair (Chapter 10)  

So much had changed through the years and yet, for her, things had always remained consistent and predictable.


Killing Me Softly

Chapter Ten

In All My Dark Despair

**O**

So much had changed through the years and yet, for her, things had always remained consistent and predictable. Ages had come and gone in the world and she’d fed without fear of challenge or contention of any kind. And as humans had progressed—from Grecian togas to Roman tunics, from Viking kyrtills to Scottish kilts, English breeches and waistcoats to American jeans and T’s—she’d feasted without compunction or the slightest ounce of remorse.  She’d satisfied herself on artist after artist, devouring as often as she pleased, as much as she pleased. She’d absorbed their petty emotions—hope and fear, desire and revulsion, love, jealousy, devotion, apathy, anger—all without any of them having the least bit of lasting effect upon her, because no human themes had ever been stronger than her own themes of malice, lust, and the insatiable need to possess and consume.  She’d never taken measures to protect herself from any type of corruption, because she had been certain she would never have the need.  No human was significant enough to trouble her.

But, she’d been wrong. Dead wrong.

She’d returned back to the concert hall to find her artist lying by the door. When she’d roused him he had remembered nothing of his brother ever having been there, and that made her feel a strange sense of self-reproach. She was able to get him to drink water, but when he had refused the food she brought, she forcibly compelled him to eat, and that, too, had injured her. During this whole time he continued to slowly shed his essence, and, what had started out as a niggling feeling became the equivalent of a full blown delirium. More and more of her energies were spent in fending off his polluted thoughts—stray, random notions of compassion, care, and fear for the very artist she was attempting to feed off of. She’d lain on the mattress all flushed with fever, shaking and drenched in sweat, unable to think beyond her own personal struggle. The artist had assumed she was ill because he had stopped painting, and he had jumped up and immediately gone back to work in order to try and save her. She tried to tell him to stop but she could not spare the energy for the war raging inside. And the more he painted the less resistance she had to overcome his taint.

He was poison. His viral fractals leeched onto her and fought against her own innate natures. It wasn’t merely the strength of his core themes, it was that they were acting in tandem, each playing upon the other until they formed a lethal combination that was breaking her apart.

The first theme was his unnatural devotion. His sense of loyalty and care for those closest to him was unlike anything she had ever encountered before. She had consumed many humans, and although she had experienced their allegiances, devotions and obligations with respect to others, this artist had embraced this theme to the point of masochism. Coupled with this theme was his abnormal drive to protect the objects of his devotion. This theme was the most savage with those he loved best, but it went far beyond that. He felt a duty to protect all humans, to save them all—to save them all from things like her.

And this theme is one that she had never yet come across, personally. She had known about those who hunted her kind. Throughout the millennia she’d heard rumors now and again of isolated instances in which they’d proved successful. But she’d never attempted to feed off of one. She never connected herself to anyone who knew her for what she was. To all others she had been a beautiful Muse, inspiring them, filling them with the ability to bring beauty into the world. But this artist knew her for the malicious, salacious creature that she was at her source. She had not known what he was when she’d first attached herself to him, but once she realized, she had been arrogantly delighted with the prospect of playing with the hunter, tormenting and reducing him to being her willing lap-dog. There had been no way, though, that she could have prepared herself for his hatred being more profound than her perverted and sadistic need to humiliate. Not only did he know who and what she was, but he had cultivated a lifetime of unrivaled hatred. And this theme was pouring into her, causing her to fight a self-loathing that she had never felt before. She was evil and wrong, and she needed to be stopped. And the compulsion was as strong as any magics she had ever possessed. His hatred for her was almost as strong as his devotion and protectiveness, and these alone were crushing her, but when combined with his final themes, she was being helplessly obliterated.

To her thinking, something was fundamentally wrong with him, some malfunction or base defect, which if left unchecked, might eventually prove lethal to him. He could be undone and lost eventually with or without her influence. His sense of humility had been aberrantly warped and had twisted itself together with a profound lack of self-worth, and while she had come up against these themes in others, they had never been partnered so completely with an all consuming, stoic willingness to sacrifice himself for his loved ones or for what he perceived to be the greater good. His various themes had been mixed into a deadly cocktail, and it was this compound that spurred him to ignore his own failing health in order to try and save her.

She twisted in torment as another fractal attacked her, bringing reinforcements along with it—thoughts that urged her to protect her artist, to protect everyone, to put things right. She could feel herself weakening, great cracks opening up in her surface. Surely he was right. She was evil. She had known this and had never cared. Not once had she ever spared a thought for those she’d harrowed and killed, thousands of them throughout her life, and now as she lay there she could recall each one. She could see their faces and the Grace that each had possessed. She could see what she had stolen from them. Closing her eyes, she tried to shut the images out, tried to hold on to herself, tried not to be sorry for Calli and Polly and their loved ones she’d destroyed. Her fists clenched and she tried to hang on. As the evening progressed she lay unable to break his grip on her, unable to overcome his influence. She shivered and writhed in agony as she fought for her life as she had known it.

“Dean…” she begged, trying to get him to stop, trying to get the words out, but nothing but his name would come out. She folded in on herself and rocked back and forth trying desperately to fend his themes off of her. Dean looked at her and quickened his hands on the canvas. “Dean! Dean!!” she moaned incoherently as he spilled more of himself into her.

“Hang on, Leana.” He tried to reassure her. “Please hang on. I’ll fix this. I’ll fix you,” he nearly cried. He began painting furiously.

The Dark Muse lay helpless and watched in wide-eyed dread as her artist covered his canvas. He was corrupting her. He was breaking her. He was unmaking her. And most horrific of all, he was still filling her.

**O**

Sam was speechless for a moment, connecting the dots, trying to make sure his exhausted brain had heard her correctly. “He did what?”

“Well, you’re probably not going to find it in most of the history books, but legend has it that Robert Burns killed his Dark Muse,” Cleo said. “The story goes that he’d been attached to one for several years and when she’d finally bled him to the point of utter despondency, he had avenged his impending death by stabbing her in the heart with a silver skean. She died within minutes, but unfortunately for poor Rabbie, he died not long after. She’d apparently drained away so much of his life that he was unable to recover. He was only thirty-seven years old. Bless his heart.” She looked at him meaningfully. “I’m Scottish on my mother’s side,” she said as an obvious explanation for the gravity and authority with which she spoke.

“Are you sure of this?” Sam asked, his agitation palpable, or perhaps it was sudden hope.

Cleo put up her hand and tried not to give it more credence than she thought it deserved. “Well, I’m sure it’s a legend, Sam. I wasn’t there, of course. I assume some of it may be embellishment, but I have found that most legends have grains of truth in them. How many grains this story has, I can’t tell you.”

Sam didn’t say anything else, he quickly pulled out his cell phone and dialed. “Caleb,” he said excitedly, looking at Cleo. “I think I have something. I need you to look up everything you can find about a poet named Robert Burns. A friend of mine told me that there is legend in the art community that he once killed a Dark Muse with a silver blade, a skean, I think. Call me back as soon as you can, man.” He hung up and looked at Cleo. “I think maybe I see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

**O**

It was getting dark.  Nothing had changed in the room.  The lights were still the same as ever, yet Dean had to squint to see the canvas properly through the strange gloam that had descended.  The darkness affected both his inner and outer reality.  It permeated his heart and mind, leaving him stripped and empty.  He rubbed his head and tried to concentrate on the Song so that he could translate it to the canvas, but it was getting harder and harder to perceive. Standing quietly so that he could hear it faintly above his own heartbeat, he swallowed dryly and made a few tentative brushstrokes, but they were all wrong. He felt a surge of panic bubble up and threaten to overcome him, but he wouldn’t stop trying. Leana appeared to be unconscious, now.

She had been moaning and thrashing about in agony. At one point she had screamed his name repeatedly as though she was begging him for something, but she couldn’t seem to get out any more words. He didn’t know what else to do so he had tried to work as fast as he possibly could, but that only made her worse until she abruptly stopped writhing entirely. That was about a half an hour ago and she hadn’t moved or spoken since then. He was failing her. She was ill because of him.

A tear dripped onto his palette and mixed with his paint. He filled his brush with it and swept it across the painting. The watery paste smudged the picture and dripped forlornly down the canvas. The colors were all wrong. They had been alive, breathing and pulsing, but everything was suddenly becoming flat, lifeless and empty. Dean squeezed some paint directly into the palm of his hand and he spread it on the canvas in thick blobs, trying to make it brighter, but it was useless. He splattered more fistfuls of paint, leaving confused, clashing smears. Looking at his painted hands, he could see only the barest tinges of blue where he’d once rippled and pulsed with vibrant, prismatic patterns. He smeared more paint on his hands and arms to try and get the color back, but no matter how much paint he rubbed on his skin, there was no life to it. He grabbed several more tubes of paint to try and finish his painting when Leana suddenly lurched up and crashed into him so hard that they both toppled over, scattering the easel and canvas as they fell.

Leana said nothing for a moment. She simply held him close and smoothed his hair. He wanted to get up and get back to work so that she would recover, but she held him and spoke gently into his ear. The sound of her voice was vastly different than it had been. The alluring gravel and enticing rhythms he’d grown accustomed to had been replaced by a profound sadness and calm resignation. Her voice sounded small and sincere. “Dean,” she said. “I need you to listen to me, now, OK? I need you to stop painting. I’m going to help you, I promise, but whatever you do, you can’t touch the paints.”

He turned into her and pressed his brow against hers. “But you need my help. You’re sick. You’ll die if I don’t.” His voice hitched and he could feel warm tears drip down his cheek. He opened his eyes and looked at her radiance. She was so beautiful with her vibrant, rich blue hurricanes and rainbow patterns wavering and rippling everywhere.

“No Dean. I won’t. And I’m going to save you, but you can’t paint anymore or else you’ll finish the transfer, and if that happens, even I will not be able to save you. I have to find a way to stop you from bleeding any more, even without painting you’re still transferring yourself to me.” She brushed his tears away with her fingertips, and without a glance she wiped them on her shirt.

He truly tried to understand what she was saying, but it didn’t make sense. She’d hurt him horribly for not painting before. Why would she want him to stop all of the sudden when she was ill? “But you said I needed to,” he started arguing.

She looked at him, trying to get through to him. “Dean,” she said with a quick thought. “Sam doesn’t want you to do this. You need to stop for Sammy, OK?”

Dean looked at her for a thoughtful moment. “Who’s Sammy?” he asked finally.

**O**

Sam Winchester was a determined man and come hell or high water he was going to get his brother back. Cleo saw a fire in his eyes for the first time in days. He was all movement and action. He’d spent some time going through his weapons in the trunk of his car, something that Cleo was utterly astounded by. She’d never seen such a motley arsenal in her life, and she realized for the first time that his job was a far cry from creeping around in dark corners with digital recorders and meters, guiding lost spirits into The Light. His job was brutal, and dangerous. It terrified her and made her extremely sad for these boys whose lives involved such violence.

Cleo looked over the mass of items. “What’s this for?” she asked.

“The salt? Salt is your basic spirit repellent. They hate it worse than slugs do,” he smiled grimly. He picked out a large blade.

“That looks, uh, sharp,” she said.

“Pure silver,” he explained. “I don’t have a skean, but I’m betting that it’s not the type of blade that is as important as it being silver. Silver is deadly to a lot of creatures: black dogs, shapeshifters, revenants, just to name a few.” He looked at Cleo who was gaping.

“I had no idea, Sam. How do you boys do this day in and day out,” she asked quietly.

Sam’s shoulders dropped a little. “I think that’s something that every hunter asks himself on a regular basis.” He continued rummaging and opened a case and grabbed a handful of silver bullets from it and started loading a gun.

“More silver?” she asked. Sam nodded and continued to work deftly. “So are there a lot of you?” she asked, “people who hunt these things?”

“We’re not the only ones, but I wouldn’t say it’s a common profession. The pay and benefits are terrible,” he said with a dry, humorless laugh. “Still, there are several people out there trying to keep the rest as safe as they can.” He closed the trunk of the Impala, sheathed the knife and tucked the gun into his waistband.

“Thank you for that, Sam,” Cleo said, her face shattered with sympathy.

Sam nodded a little in acknowledgement. “Won’t mean a thing if I don’t get Dean back,” he said and moved to get back in the car.

“You’ll get him back, Sam. Let’s keep going,” she said.

**O**

“Sam is your brother. He’s the most important thing in the world to you, and I’m going to help you get him back. But you must do what I say for a little while longer,” Leana said. She helped him rise and got him settled on the mattress. Tears kept dripping from Dean’s eyes, but he made no response. There was a huge hole in him that he could not seem to fill. If he once had a brother, he didn’t understand why he couldn’t remember him or why he wasn’t with him. He rested his elbows on his knees and held his head in his hands trying to hold back the descending darkness. There was nothing good in his world anymore except Leana and she was dying, too. Because of him. The guilt was overwhelming and he could not fend off his grief and self-condemnation.

Leana knew she would have to make some decisions and act quickly. Her personal inner struggle was over. Though, unlike Dean, she remembered everything. She knew what she was. She knew what had happened. She knew how she’d been altered, and none of it mattered more than putting right this wrong that she had done. She would not let an innocent man die. But she didn’t exactly know how to save him, either. As Dean rocked back and forth weeping silently, she sat next to him and laid her hand on his back and rubbed gentle circles trying to offer him what solace she could. Their connection was still open, and he was still bleeding into her, but she knew he didn’t have more than a couple of hours before his darkness would be complete. She tried to think of her options.

She knew she could not simply sever the connection, since Dean would stay locked in his present state. She had almost all of his life-force contained within her. If she reversed everything and returned him to himself she would have to be with him to do it. And once the transfer was complete she would be herself again, and she would kill him on the spot and then go back to killing others. She couldn’t let that happen. She had to make sure she never killed again, but she didn’t know how to do that, either. But as she sat there thinking about it, another blue lotus shaped fractal slowly bled from him. “There has to be a way,” she said aloud.

Dean stopped rocking and looked at her, desolate and bereft. “Did I really have a brother?”

Leana was deep in thought. She looked at him. “Yes,” she said. “You have a brother. He was a big pain in my ass, in fact…” she said and stopped with a sudden thought. Sam had been a huge pain in her ass because he had been able to get the doctors to stop everything cold. They had done something to Dean’s brain that had ceased the flow between them. She got up. “It’s not a cure, but it will give us more time to find a way,” she explained, even though she knew he hadn’t a clue what she was talking about. “Come on Dean. We have to go.”

She helped Dean up and got him moving out the door. It took some time because he shuffled languidly and seemed fearful of each new room they encountered. When they reached the door to outside, he had clutched her in a panic. “Don’t make me go out there. It’s dark, please let me stay here. It’s too dark,” he pleaded with her.

The muse looked him in the eye, “Don’t be scared, Dean. I’m here. As long as I’m around, nothing bad is gonna happen to you. OK?” She led Dean cautiously out to the car.

**O**

Sam answered on the first ring. Even behind the wheel of the car he was still all movement and kinetic energy. “Caleb, what do you got?”

“Your friend is right. There is a legend that the poet killed a Dark Muse. He used a silver blade, but the only other information that I was able to dig up concerns succubus lore itself. The strongest succubi can only be killed by those they are draining. Dark Muses are some of the fiercest of their kind, so it looks like the only way she’s going to go down is with a silver knife to the heart by the person she’s currently affecting, which is why Robert Burns apparently succeeded.”

Sam gripped the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white. “So Dean’s going to have to do it?” Sam huffed.

“Yeah, and if he’s under her control, I’m not sure how you are going to convince him to do that. I’m telling you, man, they are extremely hard to take down. Such as it is, though, that’s what we’re looking at.” Caleb said. “I’m sorry I don’t have better news for you.”

“It’s something,” Sam said bleakly. “Thanks Caleb. We still have to find him. We’re checking a few more places. I’ll call you back as soon as I can.”

“Ok Sam, good luck,” said Caleb.

Sam snapped the phone shut. “Fuck!”

**O**

Dr. Rania Liron sat at her desk. It was after 9:00pm, but she didn’t want to go home. She didn’t want to lie in bed and have to think. She had another case file in front of her, and this is exactly where she wanted to be, buried in work with tangible, concrete, quantifiable data in front of her. She had no time to react as the door flew open and she was propelled back against the wall. Her brain and gut failed to communicate and she felt a see-sawing lurch of fear and revulsion when Leana popped her head in.

“Sorry for the dramatic entrance, but I couldn’t have you trying to call for help,” she explained. She gripped something just out of Rania’s view and pulled. It was Dean. Rania couldn’t respond, since she’d been rendered mute again, and her limbs would not leave the wall, but she couldn’t help but feel the smart of tears behind her eyes at the sight of him. He was unsteady and filthy, unshaven and unkempt. The paint that spattered him from head to toe only set off how desperately pale he was. His arms and hands were completely covered as though he’d been wading up to his elbows in paint. But none of that compared to the despondency and hopelessness she saw in his face. When she’d seen him at his worst before, he’d been fighting with every ounce of his being. There was no fight, now. Whatever this thing had done to him, it had broken him. She glared at Leana, because that’s all she could do.

“I’m sorry,” said Leana, shutting the door behind her. The door shimmered for a moment and then disappeared entirely. Rania stared with round, frightened eyes and watched Leana guide Dean to a chair and sit him down gently. “I need you to help me with Dean. I need to you to fix him for me. I am going to let you down, but if you scream, try to escape, or call for help in any way, I will toss you back onto that wall and I’ll kill him right in front of your eyes.” It was an empty threat, and she knew it, but she needed to get her to help Dean. “I mean it. I won’t hurt you or do anything if you only just help him, OK?” She watched Rania blink once and took that as a yes. Leana nodded. “OK, then,” she said and released her.

Rania slid to the floor and took a moment to collect herself. She got to her feet warily and put her hands up as though she were being held at gunpoint. She cleared her throat, testing to make sure she had a voice again. “Wh—what do you want from me?” she asked.

“Just stay calm and help Dean.” Leana stood back so that she could go to her patient.

Rania knelt down and took his pulse. “What did you do to him?” she said looking at Leana, but she wouldn’t answer. Rania checked his coloring and gently pinched his skin. He was dehydrated for sure. “Dean,” she said. “Dean, can you hear me?” His red-rimmed, morose eyes met hers, but he didn’t respond. “Dean, can you tell me what hurts?”

Dean put his head in his hands and tried to stifle a sob. “The sadness will last forever. The light’s all gone. Everything is gone,” he said miserably. He looked at her again with utterly heartbroken eyes. “Did I have a brother? I can’t remember.”

Rania looked at him with horror. “Dean?” She turned and faced Leana, “What the fuck did you do to him?” she said losing complete grip on her professionalism. Leana stepped forward and put her hand up.

“I don’t have time to explain it, and you wouldn’t understand or believe it anyway, so I just need you to do whatever it was that you did to him last time he was here. I need you do that thing to his brain again,” she said.

“Electroconvulsive Therapy?” she blew out a haughty breath. “No. No way. Just leave him with me, and I’ll look after him. I won’t say anything to anyone about you. Just leave, now.”

“I’m not leaving, and you are doing this procedure. It’s the only thing that will save him, you are just going to have to trust me on this. I’m sorry, but you have no choice. So let’s just go to where ever it is that you do this and do it right now.”

Rania could feel Leana forcing her limbs to work against her will. As the door suddenly re-materialized, she started stumbling toward it. She tried to tell Leana to stop, but she had no voice again. “I’ll give you your voice back when we get to where we’re going. Just keep moving.” Leana helped Dean up and the three of them moved quietly through the corridors. When Rania stopped in front of the ECT room, she motioned that she didn’t have a key. Leana touched the door and it opened. Once the three were inside, Leana touched the door again and it wavered and disappeared entirely, shutting them inside. Leana released Rania from her silence. “OK, now do it.”

Rania coughed and rubbed her scratchy throat, staring defiantly at Leana. “Who the hell are you?”

“Well, I’m not Mother Theresa, I don’t have patience for this so get a fuckin’ move on, sister.” Leana wasn’t even sure where that outburst came from, but it felt right. She pointed to the machinery. “Get started,” she insisted.

“You don’t understand,” Rania said, backing away from the muse. “This procedure takes several people. We need an anesthesiologist. I’m not performing this with Dean awake.”

Leana helped Dean up onto the table and had him lie down. She whispered something in his ear and he suddenly went limp. “We don’t need an anesth…whatever it was that you said. See? He sleeps.”

“What the hell did you do?” Rania went to Dean and tried to rouse him.

“He won’t wake until I tell him to. He’ll be fine,” the muse said.

“We don’t have the muscle relaxant. His bones could possibly break if we do this without it. At least let me go get some, please.” Rania begged.

“Do you have to leave the room to get it?”

“Yes, but it won’t take long,” Rania promised.

Leana stood firm. “Forget it. I’ll do what I can to make his muscles relaxed.”

“Please don’t make me do this to him,” the doctor asked with tears welling in her eyes.

“You don’t understand,” Leana said with her patience spent. “This is the only way to save him. I’m sorry that I’m putting you through this. I’m sorry that I’m putting him through this, but it’s the only way to stop what’s happening to him. If you don’t do it, he’ll be dead in about an hour. I have over three thousand years experience with what’s happening to him. Trust me. I know what I’m talking about. Do this now or he dies.”

Rania wept as she applied the electrodes to Dean’s head and hooked him to the heart monitor. She studied the monitor and shook her head. “No. No way. He’s too weak for this. Don’t put him through this,” she tried one last time. Leana didn’t answer. She simply stood at the side of the table and held Dean’s hand and softly caressed his face. Leana looked at the doctor expectantly and nodded toward the machine. Rania inserted the mouth guard and turned the dials on the machine until the correct settings had been achieved. “It’s that green button right there. Press it and hold it down for exactly two seconds. I won’t do it. This is going to be entirely on you,” she said, her voice clotted with hatred. “If your magic doesn’t hold, and he seizes, you’re going to have to help me make sure he doesn’t hurt himself. Don’t hold him down, but make sure he stays on the table.” She took her spot by the other side of the gurney and braced herself for what was about to happen.

Leana gaped a moment at Rania, but she didn’t force her to do it. Leana sighed and looked at the green button. She bent down to Dean, kissed him and spoke softly. “You’re going to be all right, I promise. You’re the bravest person I’ve ever met. I’m sorry for this.” She looked at the green button and sighed. With a nod of self-encouragement she pushed the button and held it down for exactly the two seconds that Rania had instructed her to.

Four hundred volts applied directly to the brain is stronger than Succubus magic.

The moment Leana depressed the button, Dean let out an involuntary wheezing growl and his eyelids pinched tightly from the shock. Then his eyes went wide and stark as his body became tonically rigid. Rania tried to concentrate on Dean, but Leana began to wail in distress. The muse caught his arm as it flailed out and panicked as she looked at his hands that were frozen into claws.

“No!” she sobbed. “Dean, I’m sorry!” As Dean entered the clonic phase of his seizure, Leana howled non-stop. Rania wasn’t sure if it was guilt or some kind of empathetic pain, but Leana was physically shaking along with the patient. She noticed when Dean would have a particularly strong convulsion in a certain limb, for instance, Leana would have a corresponding reaction in the same limb, just on a smaller scale. Dean’s body jerked with spasm after spasm and Leana pelted him with kisses anywhere she saw movement, as though that would somehow make it all right. She moved up to his head and began chanting a strange, desperate ululation into his ear, but it didn’t stop the seizure. She went back to storming him with kisses as she wept bitterly, telling him over and over again how sorry she was. Rania couldn’t grasp what the hell was happening with this girl, but she couldn’t spare any more thought on it because Dean suddenly started to aspirate. She quickly turned him onto his side as vomit began spurting out around the mouth guard. Rania immediately removed it and got the vomit out of his airway as the seizure wound down. As Dean relaxed, Leana, too, went limp, breathing heavy with her head buried in Dean’s chest. She was sobbing quietly. Rania checked Dean’s vitals. His pulse was rapid and weak and he was in a complete postictal state, unresponsive to any outside stimuli. Rania quietly examined him for any possible broken bones, but she didn’t find anything overt. She really wouldn’t know for sure until Dean was awake and could communicate any potential fractures.

Leana finally lifted her head and looked at Dean. “I’m sorry,” she said again. “I didn’t know it would be like this.” Her eyes were wet. She ran her hands through his paint speckled hair. “Shhhhh,” she cooed. “It’s going to be all right. At least it’s stopped now. I’ll find a way to fix you. I swear it.” She looked at Rania. “It worked. He’s not bleeding into me anymore. Thank you. I have to take him with me, now,” she said as she unhooked the heart monitor and electrodes. “I’ll need your help to get him to the car.”

Rania’s eyes bugged. “Are you fucking insane? Are you trying to kill him? Do you have any idea what you’re doing? This man needs immediate medical attention. You can’t take him.”

“Actually, I’m sane for the first time in three thousand years. I’m trying to save him. I don’t exactly know what I’m doing, but I know we won’t find the answers in this hospital. If he needs medical attention, then that’s fine. You will come with us and help him as you can. Other than that, the discussion is over. Now help me get him to the car!” Leana grabbed Rania by the wrist and shoved her toward Dean. “Now watch him while I go get a wheelchair,” she said. She re-materialized the door and passed through it and dematerialized behind her. She returned a moment later with a chair.

“His pulse is too fast,” the doctor warned. “He also needs fluids, he’s dehydrated,” she said.

Leana sighed. She knew Rania was right, but there was little she could do right then. “I have water where we’re going,” she said.

“He needs it intravenously. He can’t drink if he’s unconscious,” the doctor said.

“If you can pick up what you need on the way out, fine. Otherwise we’ll have to make do with what we have back at the hall,” Leana said. “Let’s go.”

Somehow they made it out to the car without being stopped, but Leana wouldn’t let Rania go to any other floor for the supplies that she wanted, so Dean was going to have to be coerced to drink when he came around.

Rania had no idea what was happening or how she had ended up in this nightmare. She sat in the backseat of the car trying to hold Dean steady. There wasn’t much she could do for him with no equipment or supplies. She hoped she wouldn’t have to watch him die. Leana weaved them through the downtown streets for some time. Rania wanted to make sure Dean’s airways were clear so she tried to reposition him with his head in her lap, but she felt him hit something hard in the pocket of her lab coat. She reached in to move it out of the way and gasped a little when she realized what it was.

It was her cell phone.

She quietly kept her eyes on Leana who was concentrating on getting them to where ever it was that she was taking them. Rania very quietly scrolled through her recent phone calls and clicked a button and stuck the phone back in her pocket.

**O**

Sam felt the weight of the world was crushing him as they finished searching the pottery studio by the park. The momentum that Sam had going from the earlier breakthrough in regards to the weapon and method of killing the succubus had evaporated. His exhaustion was complete and he didn’t know how he was going to go on. Cleo sensed his decline and tried to offer him what little comfort she could. She patted his shoulder. Before she could say anything to him, though, his cell phone went off. He looked at the ID.

“Hello. Rania?” he answered.

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