Chapter 43- Open Up
Brandon turned his face up into the warm water as his hands scratched at his scalp. It pooled in the crevices of his eyes and dripped past his ears and down his cheeks like tears. Fresh blood leaked from his sewn up side, the wound inflamed and filled with stitches resembled the maw of an angry deformed demon. The blood swirling down into the drain at his feet made him nauseous to look at so he didn’t.
So....Glen says the village is on lock down? And until it’s taken off red alert I’m stuck here?
Brandon mused to himself. Glen had appraised him of this information only a few minutes ago, but he was still struggling to come to grips with the fact that he was now a reluctant guest in the Shifters territory...until the threat had been neutralized.
But...what was the threat? IT can’t be me. Can it?
But he knew that the lock down seemed to have happened days after he arrived there. And while he was still sleeping. So he was sure that this sudden Lock Down had nothing to do with him. But he was still curious or just bored, so he spent a few more minutes stewing over the events that were keeping him in his savior’s home.
What causes a lock down in a Shifter Village anyway?”
Brandon asked himself. He knew so little about them, or how they operated that he found himself trying to imagine all kinds of things.
A flood? A fire? Perhaps it’s just a storm coming and they are locking down because it’s going to be bad. In that case I’ll be glad to sit still for a while and let it pass.
Unfortunately Glen hadn’t elaborated on what had caused the shift into lock down. He secretly had his own fears about what it was....or who it was that had arrived, but he kept those fears locked down tight. He knew that he had gotten far away from that person. Far away from his enemies. For now...he had to believe that.
He forced himself to stop thinking about what it was that was going on outside of that room. Outside of his own life. Brandon realized that whatever was going on in that Village....he was getting on with his journey. He wasn’t going to stay there for long. He didn’t need to stay there.
With those thoughts replacing all others, he began to take stock of how his body felt or ached as he continued to wash.
The wound smarted painfully as Brandon dropped his arms to his sides and let the water do all the work. Letting the soap that he had barely managed to reach up into his scalp and apply leak away down his back and thighs. It was only once his legs began to shake and the ache in his side became too sharp that Brandon dropped his head out of the water.
Shaking the water from his face as he reached out and slammed the knob to shower down. The warm stream stopped instantly and Brandon let the droplets from his hair run down his neck as he pulled the white towel down from the shower curtain and pressed it into his face. After a moment more to pull the last of his waning strength together he dried off his chest and arms before he pushed the white shower curtain aside and stepped into the spacious bathroom.
As he stepped out on to the ivy green bath mat at his feet he looked himself over in the mirror a few feet across from him. The steam in the room blurred his face and obscured his image. Which Brandon was thankful for. He really didn’t want to look at his haggard body, the weight he had lost over the last few months had left him little more than skin and bones. He could still see his ribs in his mind poking out like he was some kind of emaciated dog. It disturbed him.
Brandon took the time to dry his legs and back before wrapping the now damp towel around his narrow waist. Then Brandon walked to the bathroom door and just before he pushed it open a voice called to him.
“Hey! Just so you know, I’m out here!” Ezekiel’s voice echoed slipping into the bathroom through the gap beneath the door. “Are you done yet!?”
Brandon instantly steeped back form the door as though it were about to blow open and knock him over. It surprised him that he actully rembered the Shifters name and voice, but instatly he recognized both from memory alone.
“Are you listening Mortal?” Ezekiel called out to him. “Please come out. I brought you dinner fifteen minutes ago. It’s probably ice cold now, but you really should eat.”
Brandon squeezed his eyes together until little light flew past his sight, he fought the growing fatigue every moment he continued to stand. “Alright.” he said through the door. “I got it. You can go now.”
“Well....” Ezekiel said to him. “Actually I can’t. See we need to talk some more you and I.”
Brandon put his head against the door and put his hand on the door knob to keep his knees from buckling. “I don’t really feel that well.” he said. Surprised by how much he meant it. His strength really was fading fast and the last thing he wanted to do was talk to anybody about anything.
“Ok.” Ezekiel sighed from the other side of the door. “I promise I’ll leave you alone, but before I go you need to let me check your stitches. Mom says you still in danger of infection and water makes the stitches weaker so they could pop if I don’t make sure that you re-badge them the right way.”
Bone tired Brandon’s legs just refused to support him any longer. Slowly he keeled down in front of the door, releasing the knob he turned and put his back against the cool white wood.
“Hey...you ok?” Ezekiel called his voice making Brandon jump and sigh. His voice was nice, but Brandon hated it. He didn’t want him there. He didn’t know why, but anyone, but the blue eyed Shifter would have been better. Brandon jumped again when Ezekiel called his name again, this time his voice only inches away from the door.
“Hey Mortal. Did you pass out in there or something?” he asked through the wood.
Suddenly feeling crowded and trapped. Brandon felt himself snap slightly. Brandon screamed at him. “JUST LEAVE ME ALONE Shifter!”
Utter silence followed his outburst. Then Ezekiel tapped the door with his knuckle.
“So...is this how were going to keep addressing each other?” Ezekiel said to him, completely ignoring his screams. “You know we both have real names right?”
“What Shifter, don’t like what I call you?” Brandon sighed looking across the bathroom at the still steamy shower. “Trying to play nice? This isn’t a tea party.”
Ezekiel was quite from a moment....then he spoke through the door once more, this time with a probing question. “What’s your name stranger...if you tell me, I’ll stop calling you “Mortal” and you can stop. All I g me Shifter?”
" Jeez.. if I have to...My names is Brandon...just Brandon.” Brandon finally spat not really seeing anything anymore. “Now what Shifter? Will you leave?” he asked him back through the wood, but the Shifter surprised him, by addressing him in frustration.
“Its not Shifter! Now I have a name Brandon....You should use it.” Ezekiel snarled back through the door at him. In a commanding voice.
I guess he’s not going to leave me alone....
Brandon thought to himself. And Brandon didn’t answer.
Short of breath and suddenly feeling horrible he put his head back on the wood and closed his eyes. Fighting to find the strength to regain his feet.
How did I ever let myself get this weak? Brandon thought to himself.
“Did you fall?” Ezekiel suddenly said softly after his silence making Brandon jump once more. “Is that why you’re talking to me from the floor?”
“Fuck...Your name is Ezekiel right?” he called out as the silence from the other side of the door persisted.
“I dont care why you came. Please go away. I’m fine.....” Brandon began then groaned as the bathroom door was pulled open and he was forced to support all of his weight on his own. He looked up into the glowing blue eyes of a predator. Ezekiels pupils were slanted appearing at once alien and familiar from the night they had first met. The sight of the animal within, the Shifter within; stealing his breath away.
Ezekiel didn’t talk he just reached out as though he was about to grab Brandon’s arm, but Brandon shied away from him. Frustrated and scared to be handled by the man anymore.
“Leave me be.” he said glaring up into the Shifters eyes confronting the beast head on.
Brandon was expecting the Shifter to simply pull him up kicking and screaming, so he was surprised when Ezekiel simply smiled at him and took a step back.
“You can glare at me all you want mortal but you’re still my mother’s patient and right now I’m responsible for getting you put to bed and feeding you...” Ezekiel told him the smile on his face melting into a solemn head shake.
“Your way too tired to be any kind of threat to me right now. And I’m not leaving until I make sure that your bleeding has been managed. So just stop being a wild animal for two seconds and listen to me.”
“That’s rich. You have frigging glow sticks for eyes! Im not a wild animal. You’re the Shifter here.” Brandon rolled his eyes and looked away.
Ezekiel sighed and dropped his arms. The glow in his eyes slipped and his pupil’s dilated back to their normal size.
“You’ve lost a lot of blood, Brandon.” The Shifter said, using his name again. “I told you not to go moving around because you were bound to be anemic....not to mention weak as a baby.” Ezekiel regarded his positon on the floor frankly as he put out his hand. “You look as white as a sheet now....so let me help you before you pass out? I won’t do more then needs to be done. I promise....ok?” he asked him softly.
With no other choice and no will to continue the argument, Brandon conceded defeat.
“Whatever.” He scoffed quickly just to shut the Shifter up. Looking back at Ezekiel finally he could see that the Shifters eyes had stopped glowing, but he could still sense the animal in him, in his warm blue gaze. It made Brandon feel colder than before like he needed to hide himself away or be devoured in that glowing light. Shaking his head Brandon realized that Ezekiel was still waiting on him to make a move.
Annoyed at being forced to cooperate he slapped his hand down into Ezekiels palm with more force then was necessary. He used Ezekiels hand as lever as he strained to pull himself up. He knew that his sudden move should have at least made the Shifter stumble forward, but Ezekiel only closed his hand around Brandon’s hand and softly, if firmly pulled. Wrapping his other arm around Brandon’s bicep, he provided Brandon with an anchor. Ezekiel didn’t him give anymore assistance then that. Almost as though he could sense how much he was not wanted.
Once Brandon got to his feet he felt all the strength in him crumble like a dry leaf, he was powerless to take even one step. Once again Ezekiel seemed to sense his precarious state and with a slight pull on his hand he helped Brandon walk the last few feet to bed.
The man’s touch made his skin feel strange, the heat of him near made Brandon feel goosebumps rise along his back. His reactions to this beast made his chest tighten with alarm.
As soon as Brandon was close enough to the bedside table he snatched his hand away from Ezekiel and transferred all his weight to the table top.
His sudden move shook the stand making the lamp beside him wobble and the light flicker.
“Just...give me a sec.” Brandon mumbled water dripping down from his bangs to land on the wood beneath him. Trying to find his center. His peace.
His back was to Ezekiel now, but Ezekiel could hear Brandon panting though he refused to look anywhere but down.
Ezekiel wanted to ignore Brandon’s obvious displeasure with his proximity, but he didn’t want to violate his feelings of unease anymore then he already had. Ezekiel knew it was best to keep his distance as he watched Brandon shaking and shivering in his towel.
He could see the blood leaking out of the stitches sewn into Brandon side, a steady stream of crimson pooling around and soaking the edge of the white towel wrapped around his waist. The image was too stark, the blood to bright. He didn’t like looking at it.
Ezekiel left Brandon and walked back into the bathroom. Flicking open the drawers beneath the sink he pulled out two fresh white wash clothes and a bottle of peroxide. Then he walked back into the bed room and walked over to the bed.
As he got closer to Brandon Ezekiel couldn’t and didn’t stop his eyes from wandering across Brandon’s bare back where he took in the glaring evidence of where Brandon’s skin had been slashed open more times than he could count on his hands. Evidence of abuse inflicted over and over.
Of course Ezekiel had gotten a glimpse of the scars on Brandon’s chest and back when he had first opened the bathroom door. He’d been beyond shocked, but had wisely concluded that right then wasn’t the best time to show it. The pure white scars that braided up and down and left to right stood out on Brandon’s skin that was pale now due to his injuries but which was only a few shades lighter then tan.
As he looked at the vicious lashes and old cuts Ezekiel could barely stop the hiss that crawled up off of his chest, but he keep his inner leopard locked away with effort. Instead he clenched the cloth in his hands as he stepped forward. “Brandon can you sit down on the bed for me? I need to take a look at your stitches.”
“No.” Brandon said still looking away from him. “I’ll stand.”
“Stubborn man....” Ezekiel sighed as he came up beside Brandon and quickly popped open the bottle of peroxide and splashed some onto the cloth, then he kneeled and gently swiped the stream of blood leaking from the edge of his red and ragged wounds. Brandon didn’t seem inclined to speak so Ezekiel worked in silence. He began to clean the area as gently as he could still he wasn’t surprised when Brandon hissed in pain as he gently pressed a dry cloth onto the stitched wound to take away any of the access liquid and blood.
Ezekiel took Brandons hand and put it over the towel telling him silently to keep on the pressure, before he let go. Ezekiel released a breath as he stood saying “That cuts bad, I don’t know how long it will take too heal. You also have a fever that’s why you’re shaking like a leaf right now.” Ezekiel told him as he sat the bloody cloth on top of the table next to Brandon’s hands. Seeming to hesitate a moment Ezekiel suddenly questioned him. “You said you fell down? But we both know that something cut you. Its pretty clear to see.”
Ezekiel asked him trying to catch his gaze. Brandon turned his head to look at him. His entire posture was guarded and hostile. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.....” Brandon said then closed his eyes and looked back down like just the act of talking hurt him. His cool avoidance was odd. It sounded forced to Ezekiel ears, devoid of emotion like he was trying to stay calm and detached from the situation.
“Something hit you, cut into you it’s clear as day” Ezekiel tried to compel him to co-operate by stating what he felt was obvious, but Brandon mostly ignored him.
“IF something hit me, I hit it back.....” He supplied unhelpfully putting a heavy emphasis on “IF”.
“Don’t worry about it so much Ezekiel...” He breathed tightly obviously fighting the pain in his side. “I can deal with anything that comes at me....so imagine whatever you like and move on with your life. Ok?” He mused, and to Ezekiel it seemed like the man was speaking more to himself the too Ezekiel at all.
His words and reactions gave Ezekiel a glimpse into a darker thoughts that only managed to leak out in this strangers tired words. But he notice that the mortal never showed it on his face. For some unknowable reason, Brandon the mortal, only seemed to display what he wanted to. Not what he was thinking.
Ezekiel nodded to himself as he took away the cloth from Brandon’s side. The bleeding had lessened co put his finger next to the wound and softly tested out the inflammation around the wound and the stitches.
He could see that there was still blood crusting around the thin strings holding Brandon’s side together, but for the most part he was happy with what he had managed to clean away. Ezekiel sighed as his eyes fell on a few of the older scars branching down his right shoulder and stopping just sigh of his ribs.
I don't have the words...What the hell has he been through?
Ezekiel asked himself.
If I can just get him to talk to me...
But as Ezekiel looked more and more at all the damage that had been done, he had to wonder if he was only fooling himself.