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Before The Storm
#1
Nox left Sterling in capable hands.  Raffe followed to make coffee - his offer having been what it was.  The strangeness of being alone with the darkness and hunger and the overwhelming pain was almost too much as he made his way to his room. He really wanted a shower, but that would require help and he wasn't even sure how to manage the bandages.  Leaving had been a bit of a rash decision.  But Dorian would help - he trusted him that much.  So when he made it upstairs with the lotus plant in hand he set the water plant down next to his bed and flopped down.  His wallet was out in halo screen mode as he pulled up Dorian's contact and sent him the coordinates of his location.  Unlike with Sterling's parents, he didn't say where he was.  He could figure that out on his own.  And Nox didn't really want to see Dorian and hoped he'd just send whatever mobile units he could.  Pain relief would be welcome as Nox rubbed at his arm over the bandage.  His own stupidity flashing through his mind as the events that took it replayed in his head.

Nox took a better look at his messages and had a second message from Thalia.  He smiled as she apologized for not being at the show.  She didn't miss much.  He'd show her the video when she came back.  

Sage had sent him a message with video and photos and information that the Ascendancy might want to know - he was looking for the man who tried to kill him - not once but twice.  At least that was the theory Nox was going on.  The ijiraq had been sent the first time by the Regus himself - Aria's word was as good as gold as far as Nox was concerned.  And the Ascendancy had seen that for himself.  The second time was of course only speculation, but maybe the information would lead to his capture.  Though Nox was pretty sure there would be no trial.

The pain was pushing through and Nox gritted his teeth trying to push it away.  He reached through the sludge and grappled with the power inside.  But even the ecstacy of holding the power could barely overpower the pain.  He pulled as much as he dared - which still felt like nothing in comparison to the Ascendancy's power.  While he was thinking of it he shot of a text to his contact. 

I need to speak to you.  It's important.  Very important - atharim important." @Ascendancy

There was only one message left in the queue, and even though he had assumed it meant only good things, Nox wasn't sure he wanted to actually see it but he opened up the message anyway. 

The dry humor made Nox chuckle.  It reminded Nox of Thal's last quip about having all his limbs.  She definitely made him smile and hoped she was still doing alright.  Why she went alone he didn't know but he hoped she was alright.  

Nox typed up his response with a grin.  He missed Jay and was glad he was still in good humor.

I bet it in a poker game.  He bet a leg.  I lost. Seriously, long story. Good to hear back from you. One day I'll tell you about the long shit hole story over a drink. Several more likely. @Jay Carpenter

The message sent and Nox could only hope that sleep would take him as he waited for a response from the Ascendancy.  He didn't expect the most powerful man on the planet to respond personally, but to respond would be nice.  The ping came shortly after Nox closed his eyes to fight back a wave of nausea.  It said simple, come in, someone will speak with you.

Someone.  There was a date and time and Nox sent back a quick reply in the affirmative before he put his wallet aside.  He rolled over and tried to close his eyes, but there was pain and discomfort and the darkness rolling inside.  He doubted there would be sleep and he rolled back to his back...
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#2
Thank god for Juliana.

Raffe made the coffees affably, keeping half an ear on the conversation. He delivered them with a smile, friendly but conservative and quite keen to keep out of the way. Juls seemed to have the situation perfectly in hand, and with a conspiratorial wink for Sterling he departed for upstairs. He shot Carmen a message as he did so, then shoved the phone in his back pocket.

The hallway was quiet, and most of him hoped Nox was actually sleeping, since he needed it. Distraction of the type Raffe knew he would be wouldn’t help with that, but he didn’t want to sit alone in his own room either; not when his thoughts kept circling back to that one phrase. I might not walk away from it.

“Knock knock.” He rested his head on the empty door frame. His smile was quiet.

Nox was flat out on the bed, but it was the worst impression of sleep Raffe thought he’d ever seen. The small room felt vast and empty without Nova, and strangely that pulled at his chest worse than seeing the bloodied pup flee into the darkness. Loss was one of the constants in life Raffe should have acclimatised to by now, but he never did.

He sat on the edge of the bed uninvited, leaned briefly to run his finger along the curve of one of the lotus’s broad leaves. He felt it shiver inside. It was doing okay. He turned to Nox. “Juls is handling the parents just fine,” he said, though there hadn’t really been any doubt of that. Kallisti looked after their own. “Make a little room for me?”
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#3
Nox didn't open his eyes for Raffe, the sound of his voice being more than enough to tell him who it was.  "Anytime.  Just shove me over." Nox smiled as he shifted to the side of the bed making room for Raffe.  "There is always room for you."  There was only a small difference in the times before where they'd shared a bed - with or without more clothes than Nox currently wore at the time.  The difference this time was in the fact that Nox wasn't worried Raffe would be gone the next morning.

He knew that he'd see Raffe again - the whole working together thing, but even if Raffe wasn't there when he woke up this time, Raffe would be there.  He didn't plan on leaving, and right in that moment Nox needed that.  He'd lost his mother, then his father, his sister, Bas, Lucas, Aria and now he'd even lost Nova.  And there was even a small part of him saying he'd lost Dorian too.  But that wasn't a forever loss - just a trust issue.  One he probably needed to restore.

When Raffe laid down beside him Nox pressed his face against his neck and draped what was left of his arm over his chest and entwined his fingers in Raffe's pressing his shoulder into bed and alleviated as much pain as he could from the impeding injury. "Almost as good as a pain killer." Nox said then took a deep breathe of the man next to him.  Cheesy corny he didn't care. It was the god honest truth, he needed that contact more than he needed anything else.
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#4
He kicked his shoes off and squished on the bed. They weren’t built for two, but it hadn’t much mattered the last time either. Nox curled into him and for a moment all he could feel was the pounding in his chest. The breath was light against his neck, but he was supremely conscious of it; such a quiet and unassuming intimacy. He rested his cheek on Nox’s head, running his thumb across their entwined fingers.

It was the first time they had been properly alone all day. The heat of their stolen moments lingered, stronger than the memory of bullets and monsters, at least to Raffe. It shivered him with the longing of recapture, remembering the hunger and the need and the way Nox had looked at him at the hospital. All it would take was a stroke of the other man’s jaw, to tip his chin up. He imagined it a hundred times as he listened to Nox breathe. Until he realised he should probably stop. For his own sake. 

In any case he didn’t want that first time to be marred by pain, nor the shadows of infection: the fear of control slipping, and the darkness pouring in. He was mindful of the injury too; sure that Nox needed rest, not distraction, even though he felt sure he would welcome it. Doubts circled like pariah; that maybe there wouldn’t be another time, that if Nox even came back at all he might come back more broken. But they were selfish desires, and Raffe was rarely selfish.

His eyes closed.

“You know it wasn’t a get well soon present, right? And it wasn’t entirely because of the show.” His voice was all scratchy by now, like needles punctured on the inside, but a whisper was manageable. “It was a welcome home present.” He was quiet a moment. The confession was something difficult, in a way; showing a side of loneliness that might not be pretty to see. Nox had warned him about getting hurt, but he might as well have warned the sun not to rise. Raffe couldn’t help that now Nox was in his life, he didn’t want him out of it again. The lotus wasn’t exactly a gift that could be taken on the road. Home was like a heartbeat; it meant a great deal to him.

“I keep them on my sill. Not lotuses in particular, just plants I mean. Any kind. I get them cheap from the market, the ones that are suffering, and I fix them up. Which is in no way a metaphor, in case you’re wondering. I’ve moved around a lot. It’s the one thing that’s constant.” The words were low, just filling in the silence. A distraction for himself, too. He’d carry on until he was sure Nox was asleep. “So what you know about monsters, I know about botany…”
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#5
Nox drifted in and out of consciousness - pain-induced and just plain weariness combined with the fact that Raffe was in his bed. He wanted more, but right then sleep was quickly overtaking him, even the pain wasn't fighting the weariness from the day's events. He'd exhausted himself with all the power he'd used, and it was now taking a toll on his body. Raffe's voice was like a lullaby, he tried to stay awake as Raffe told him about the lotus plant. The flower he'd bought before he came to the hospital. Home...

Nox's voice faded in and out of sleep as he spoke. "We moved around so much I never slept in the same bed for more than a week. My mom used to say Home was where the heart was - where the ones you loved were." Nox yawned and snuggled closer if that were even possible. "I've never had a real home till I came to Moscow. And this is the first time that the two things have met, loved ones and permanency." Nox smiled against Raffe's neck. "I promise I'll be back and you can teach me all about botany..." The worlds slowed and trailed off into a long breathe followed by another. Sleep finally taking Nox into oblivion. Hopefully, only darkness would reign.

continued here
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#6
Sleepy words drifted up in response. One phrase in particular curled up in his chest, and for a moment just about stopped it. He’d kind’ve known he was in over his head; he was a foolish dreamer, but he wasn’t a blind one. He rubbed at his chest, surprised Nox couldn’t feel his heart suddenly beating in there, because right now it felt like it was about ready to leap out. 

Raffe’s smile was brief at first. He didn’t really trust it; he doubted Nox had meant to say that, and maybe he wouldn’t even remember in the morning. A symptom of pain. Of feeling safe. And Raffe could live with that. He’d have to, right? But for now he kissed the top of Nox’s sleeping head and felt that smile fighting for free reign of his expression. Even his own common sense warned him against the little glow of happy as the seed took root, but for now he only tucked his free hand behind his head, and let himself feel it.

It was a long while before he fell asleep.
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