| Why They Wander into the Woods |

/ By ink- [+Watch]

Replies: 46 / 1 years 254 days 9 hours 8 minutes 5 seconds

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  1. [Allowed] Tweedy

[center [size19 [font "Edwardian" Sure it's the end of the world, but don't blame yourself.]]]


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[center [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/7d/4f/cc/7d4fcc935b1455e54f7ec0184a551fc7.jpg]]
[font "Times" [size15 He didn't respond, noticing how Father Merlot drew away from him, how he [i flinched] away from him. He let him, after he had at least a whiff of his temperature, closing his hand and dropping his own gaze. It brought him flashes of the look on his face when he spotted his bag, the looks he gave him in the forest. He kept his hands to himself when the man separated them, clearing his throat softly and making a furtive glance to see if anyone saw that. The last thing he needed was to be accused of bewitching this man.

The doctor's breath huffed out, eyes returning to the priest as he denied his own import. Frustration lashed through him, but he stayed still. It reminded him of their conversation the previous day. And where it would be fool to expect change within an evening, it still gave him flashes of familiarity. That familiarity was found in remembering Zachary, and his own lack of self, lack of will. It was part of why he was here in the first place.

"[#00CCFF I'll be able to keep up better if I don't have to get called back here to respond to a report that you aren't taking care of yourself,]" the doctor said, holding eye contact when Christopher looked to him. "[#00CCFF You look exhausted, and I've been informed you've resisted any effort to persuade you to take a rest.]"

He kept his voice low, between them alone. "[#00CCFF I need your help with this. If there is no development, you do not need to push yourself to be ever-vigilant. I'd rather you didn't, in fact. I can't have you joining the sick, or the [i dead] for sheer exhaustion. It leaves you open to infection- both spiritually and physically.]" The doctor stopped, swallowing, and his eyes shifted away. "[#00CCFF I would know. It happened to me.]"

He paused a moment, hesitation clear in how his lips parted. His eyes averted, briefly, again. "[#00CCFF I was studying the dead,]" Nathan said, changing the subject, "[#00CCFF and seeing what they can tell me.]" His lips parted yet again after that, words perched on his tongue, before the man seemed to think against it and spoke no more. What came of it ended as a sigh.

He had something he couldn't do anymore, as a part of his condition. After it had been something so intrinsic to him for his whole life. His previous 'affliction' and now it had, in a way, ironically taken him over and now it had power over him. His shoulders slumped a moment, turning to look over at Sister Nancy. She would be the next one he spoke to. He didn't have much faith that Christopher would listen to him.

His voice dropped, nearly to a whisper, after he swallowed to finally speak again. "[#00CCFF I- didn't know him well.]" His hand brushed through his hair, tucking it behind his ear again.

"[#00CCFF I remember a disturbance,]" Nathan said, finally bringing his eyes back to Christopher. "[#00CCFF A boy, who had rows with the prior priest and with Sister Nancy, on occasion. He had brought his sister to me, occasionally, and she was ill. He wouldn't allow me to examine her, however, so I never knew what was wrong. I don't know where they live, so I couldn't follow up.]"

"[#00CCFF Since then, there has been no news, and I haven't seen him since then.]" He offered a bit of a shrug, helpless beyond that.
  Tweedy / 50d 10h 15m 17s
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[center [size15 [font "Edwardian" He was so caught up in his own worry, that the sound of Nathan's shoes against the stone floor didn't even register until he spoke. And when he did Christopher could do nothing to keep himself from jumping a bit, turning his gaze to Nathan only to quickly turn it away and back to Sister Nancy, not quite asleep but not quite awake either. [#483D8B [b "Things have been...calm. No outbursts from any of the patients other than Nancy trying to get out her bed this morning- and she was easily put back in. Like she could barely walk. Just muttering nonsense."]] His eyes caught Nathan's from their corner, finally looking at the man. Unaware Nathan was just checking his responses they followed Nathan's movements- until he asked when he ate or slept last.

Luckily he was awake enough to push down the feeling of warmth the worry gave him for a moment; though his dark circles would suggest that he should be too tired to. Nathan's a doctor, it's nothing personal, he reminded himself. Though it still caused him close up a little, taking a worried step back after Nathan put his hand to his brow. [b [#483D8B "I-I'm fine. Ate some eggs this morning, toast, got some sleep. I'm fine. We've bigger things to worry about."]] He couldn't handle some check-up. He hadn't seen a doctor in, what, a year and half now? He didn't want to start now. He didn't need to start now. And the closeness, after last night was...too much. He already worried for Nathan- with what he saw in his bag. And he worried for himself- anxiety bubbling in his chest that Nathan [i knew]. That he may be ignoring it now, but had seen Merlot's gaze linger.

He was quick to take the subject off of himself, for this, mainly by turning away and looking around the room at the patients. [#483D8B [b "They haven't brought anyone else in from the woods yet, so we've yet to see if there were any other casualties last night. They'll bring the other brother in, no doubt. More bodies for you to prepare, I...hope you'll be able to keep up."]] He gave a sympathetic look over his shoulder for a moment. He knew Nathaniel was overworked, in this- doctor [i and] mortician. He understood it, unlike Patrice who'd stormed in this morning.

[#483D8B [b "As for the patients, they've mostly been lethargic all day. None of them have tried to escape their beds, though all of them have been mumbling about going back, off an on. Nancy keeps mentioning the late Father but...anything else she's saying has been incomprehensible."]] He paused, thinking on the letter he'd reread just last night. Father Thymes had wanted help with someone-

[b [#483D8B "Doctor Crane-"]] He turned to face him, brow furrowed in thought. [b [#483D8B "You've lived here longer than me- have you- or rather- did you know Father Thymes well at all? Last night I was-"]] He looked at the wall, reaching up to grab a handful of blonde hair as he stared off into space to formulate his words. He [b [#483D8B "Looking through the letters I received before I got here to see...if I could find out anything about the town that would give us some...clue of some sort. And he'd written me a letter saying he needed help with some boy- I-"]] He released the hair, letting it fall messily over his face before looking back at Nathan. [b [#483D8B "I know it's unrelated to this but...I've been wondering how I could find out who that boy was. I thought since you prepare the funeral services with the church, maybe you'd have some insight? Even if it's just someone else I might be able to ask-"]] He didn't entirely know why the letter stuck out so much to him but...he just had a feeling to track it down. Maybe it was just to fulfill a deadmans last request to him.]]]
  Merlot / indulgence- / 59d 17h 12m 49s
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[font "Times" [size15 Nathan stopped when Sister Patrice strode in, pointing her finger at him immediately. Even as he had prepared for it, he was still shocked by how stiff he got, how hot his face was, and deep, stretching down into his stomach as if it had seized his spine. The man said nothing. His face became empty, keeping eye contact as she spoke.

When she had finished, he let out a breath, hands coming back into motion again in the cloth he had and set it over his shoulder.

An argument, a very logical one, hovered in the back of his mouth as she huffed at him and ordered his accompaniment. The man simply folded his hands, swallowing the sickened feeling in him of cascading anxiety. He was fully aware of his absence. But he was only one man, and he was the only man in town qualified enough to look at the dead and [i learn]. That was what he was doing when Patrice came.

But visibly, all he did with his hollow expression was fold his hands, clear his dry, thick throat and respond.

"[#00CCFF ...of course.]"

It was how he could deescalate the situation. It was the best option. But he needn't do even that, as it seemed the woman had more pressing matters than to ensure the doctor followed her. Insult swelled in him at her treatment and he closed his eyes, left to himself, face creasing in the emotion for a moment before he took a calming, deep breath. Upon letting it out, he shifted, returning to the laboratory and looking down at the individual he had on his table.

Their chest cavity was open, what of it was left rather. It was pieces of a body, one of the ones that had gone into the woods to follow whatever preternatural affliction had led them. He was searching for something, anything. Magic, if he dared use that dreaded term, had a messenger, a body. Even things like vampires and lycanthropes had evidence of their accursed nature within their bodies. Stress marks, or decay or a change somehow. That was what he was searching for.

Surveying his work, interrupted, the man exhaled and put a sheet over the body. With it, he took the body back, wheeling it into the cold storage cellar he had made and locked the door.

He gathered his things...

Doctor Crane stopped in the doorway of the makeshift hospital, having expected some form of panic, something [i wrong]. Instead, it was silence and relative serenity, compared to what he had seen just the night before. Invalids on beds, no blood, no screaming. And Father Merlot sitting and watching over them, looking like one of them, very nearly.

Frustration swelled in him at the calm scene that very much did not reflect what Patrice had told him was happening. He felt lied to. Not at all mentioning his insult when she called him useless.

Nathan gazed at the man for a few moments, hesitating in the doorway, before approaching.

"[#00CCFF Father,]" he greeted, giving him a nod as he looked him over. "[#00CCFF How have things been here?]" He set his bag down beside the man on a table.

He approached and bent a bit, looking into the man's eyes as he listened, humming in response. His eyes were clear, and he seemed responsive. The doctor watching how Christopher responded to Nathan moving a bit to one side, how he was able to follow. "[#00CCFF When was the last time you ate or slept?]"

"[#00CCFF How are you feeling?]" he enquired, bringing up his hand to press the back to the priest's brow.
  Tweedy / 86d 10h 13m 25s
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[center [size15 [font "Edwardian" [b [#1e90ff "It's not about [i what has] happened, it's about what will, Doctor."]] The woman called back, not hesitating even a second when allowed in. Upon entry she waited, impatiently, eyes dancing around the room. It looked every bit a morticians office. With being a nun, one would have thought she would care more for the deceased. Offer a prayer to them perhaps, or wish the well on their journey. But she showed no care to them as her eyes snapped quickly over to Doctor Crane the second he spoke.

[B [#1e90ff "What is [I wrong*], Nathaniel, is that there is a priest currently trying to play doctor in the basement of the church. And where are you during this? Taking care of those already deceased instead of prioritizing the living?"]] Quite a mouthful right off the bat. [b [#1e90ff "I understand that your job is important and that you have other patients, but the body count will only get higher and their won't be saving any [i living] patients should we not proceed to solve this."]] She was, admittedly, a very brash women. [b [#1e90ff "Now, if you don't have anything [I truly* ] pressing...I'd like us both to get back to the church, before Merlot is convinced by one of the stupid young girls to try something ridiculous like leeches to cure the sick."]]

He would never actually be convinced to try something like that, but Patrice was often...intense with her words, when trying to get what she wanted. She gave Nathaniel little time to respond, though some, as she turned and headed quickly for the door.

She could practically taste his stress from here. He was probably pacing back and forth, checking on the sleeping patients within a few seconds of each other. Willing sweat from the brows and [I praying] for an answer, or at least some sign it wasn't his fault. He always thought it was his fault. She could see him now, hands running through his hair, robes askance, continuously on the verge of having a mental break that might put the nail in his coffin, like always.

The stress of Nathaniel was adding to that, she knew When Christopher had noticed him a few times during their arrival, he'd mentioned him. Patrice warned him...but Christopher wouldn't be the priest she knew if he listened. Should Nathan have followed after her and caught up, the nun would have spoken. Given him a smile and [b [#1e90ff "I do appreciate your helping him, Nathaniel."]] And then silence.

Inside the church there was silence and stale air, the nuns and the young priest busy at work downstairs. Christopher, rather than pacing, had taken up spot in the corner, overlooking those they'd moved down with a crease in his forehead. Dark circles framed his eyes, and yet despite some suggestions he refused to lie down. He wanted to know why...why this was happening. These were good people, weren't they? A mother with their children. A nun who was friends with the old priest. Good people, members of the church. So why? Why were they sick? Why were they dying? What curse was this for them.

His hair was a mess, a clean robe donned and hands held together in front of him, nails digging in ever so slightly. An anxious habit. He'd wanted to call for the doctor and yet...couldn't bring himself to. So instead he stood their in the candle light, tense, waiting for a sign of sickness, a reaction to something, a...event. Something to he could study. Another outbreak from the mother, whining from the children. Anything. Just something he could work with.]]]
  Merlot / indulgence- / 120d 11h 30m 19s
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[font "Times" [size15 The doctor's office also contained his apartments, above the mortuary and practice on the first floor of his building. It also lay a good distance across the small town from the parish church.

His thoughts had kept straying to Christopher in the night. As the distance between them grew with each cold stride into the night Dr. Crane took, the tension in his chest lessened. A lot happened that day, and Nathan knew that the other man had seen some of it. But beyond that there was something nagging at him, something about Father Merlot.

They had been working together off and on for some time now. One or the other would send or be sent to fetch his counterpart at all hours for last rites, for assessments, even to see the priest himself with his knack for forgetting himself.

Nathan would make sure he was out of the way for memorial services, but Christopher would always seek him out, smile at him across the service, making eye contact with him at a distance as he offered a handkerchief to a bereaved family member, speak with him if they had a moment. And it hit him that Christopher was doing the same. He would look at Nathan- at times startled, in fear, the look in those eyes cutting into the doctor- and looking for him for- for what? He cursed his own inability to [i do] what was his profession, unable to patch the man's hands, to do [i anything] to help him. Shoving him off to Sister Patrice...

Nathaniel startled out of his thoughts, his hand pressing over his mouth at the sharp rapping on the door. At the familiar voice, for a moment, his anxiety suppressed before it registered that this was Sister Patrice, and she was talking to [i him]. Hesitant, the doctor fumbled for his ring and slipped it on before approaching the window and parting the curtains, letting the sunlight in on himself and squinting in it, reaching for the latch on the window and sliding it up. He shaded his eyes, catching sight of the black-clad woman. His hand then pushed back his hair that immediately hid her from his sight, looking down at her.

He wetted his lips, an anxious motion of his, mouth suddenly dry. "[#00CCFF Sister Patrice? What's happened?]"

He yet had the stained, well-used apron over himself from his work earlier, sleeves pushed up above his elbows. Flyaways still fluttered about his features in the air as he looked down to the nun in the street below.

"[#00CCFF You're at my practice door, it's open if you'd like to come in.]" he said, nodding to the stoop before her and ducking back inside, leaving the window open and going downstairs to meet her.

He was playing it casually, wiping his hands even as he felt the flutter of grim anticipation. He took and let out a breath, waiting for her to storm in and berate him for his tardiness. To shout. To hold something against him. To ask him, alone, about whatever had kept making her look so peculiarly at him like that when she saw him. His fears came flooding back at once at the advent of her approach now.

He swallowed, trusting that if there was still a god watching him that it would know that he had a very legitimate reason for being absent. He was starving and sleepless and it took some doing to find something untouched for him to eat. If only she knew of his affliction that she would excuse him. His fears. He was a good doctor, not prone to sending patients away from him like that...

But whatever gods or devils followed him now, unless he was let loose and untethered from all now, he begged that she never learn. And that didn't stop the guilt. Nothing did.

"[#00CCFF What's happened?]" he asked, coming up to her, "[#00CCFF What's wrong?]"
  Tweedy / 137d 19h 41m 26s
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[center [size15 [font "Edwardian" Assuming it's not the land itself- the doctor had a point. It showed so many different hallmarks for so many different possible causes, the land could not be ruled out. And yet, if it was the land, why only start now? Why start when Christopher arrived, why start with the old Father of the church? Why something so vicious? Was it something in the air? Something in the dirt being kicked up into people's lung. What of the animals- did they show any signs? Were they as rabid as the people? He had to stop his theories. He could think on them more when he could write them down, for now...they were no help to him. In their raw form, just grasps of ideas his fingers tightened around. He could think on them logically with a second to breath.

His eyes, stressed and worried with the struggle of the day, rose to Nathaniel with weight to them. Eyelids heavy, the energy spent finally getting to him in the later hours. He smiled the best he could, slight furrow in his brow betraying his mood as his mind wandered into the corners of worry, the corners he could never quite fully block off. Some would say it made a good priest out of him- how worried he could be for others. Back then though...it was a hex. He shouldn't have worried so much about the man- he wouldn't be here now if he'd been more professional. [b [#483D8B "Well, at least it goes."]] His hands, returned to his sides with the items taken from the dresser, tightened around his hold. [b [#483D8B "I am...happy to offer support in this. And I thank you for yours."]] A tense, unsteady nod in understanding, and he was out the door. It was too much.

Items put away, his steps led him to basement, bloody and oiled hands burning for aid. Patrice turned to him with bandages before he'd even made it all the way down. [b [#1e90ff "You're too careless, you know."]] Her voice was hush, eyes never once going to his face as she bandaged him. [b [#1e90ff "You could fetch a different doctor. I could help you in this."]]

[b [#483D8B "Doctor Crane-"]]

[b [#1e90ff "Nathaniel Crane knows what he's doing? Yes, but do you?"]] Her demeanor softened, and both grew silent as she bandaged him. His hair in his face, robes covered in blood and dirt, and hands bloodied and soaked...she knew this was no fight for today. Right now, he was safe- if only barely. As she secured the wound she looked up at him, eyes gentle as she moved her hair out of her face. [b [#1e90ff "Go back upstairs. We'll keep setting up down here. You should rest."]] She knew he wouldn't.

He just nodded and turned back around. He'd always struggled accepting her worry. He paused by Mrs. Cannes door as he walked up through the hallways, listening in for a moment. He was still here for the moment?

[b [i "-look different?"]]

[b [i [#00CCFF "Do I? How so?"]]]

[b [i "I don't know...too many teeth. You have too many teeth. When did you have so many?"]]

He had to stifle a laugh, assuming it to be the rambling of a sick woman as he moved on and upstairs. As expected by Sister Patrice, there was little rest to be had for Father Merlot- though she checked in throughout the night to remind him to head to bed.

But he couldn't. He sat in his room, cluttered and unkempt, and scoured through letters from the Archdiocese about the town. But there was nothing- nothing that could have tipped him off to something being wrong here.

[b "It's a peaceful town, no exorcisms of note ever preformed, and a small population. The Father is growing old and needs assistance until he's taken home to God's side, and when he does pass we will decide then if you can stay and take over. For now, this will be a peaceful retreat as your repent and overcome you sinful acts."]

Every letter was similar. Where, in any of that, was a sign that there was trouble here? Eventually he found the one from the late Father himself. He felt...sorrowful thinking about the late Father Thymes. He hadn't gotten to speak to him much, but he had seemed to open his church to Christopher so kindly, despite the tragedies that had followed Christopher right up until his departure. He'd only read over the letter once, but still...he remembered it being welcoming.

He grabbed it from the pile, grabbed a blanket on his way to the bed, and wrapped up. He wanted some insight. He wanted this to stop. Curled up in pajamas and the warmest blanket he owned, a messy haired, heavy-eyed Merlot opened the letter to read once more.

[b "Father Merlot,

I have recently been informed you'll be coming to stay with us at my church. While I have been informed of what has led you here, I will be the first while I do not condone your actions, I forgive you. I hope that my church will be a refuge to you on this path of repentance. I won't ask much while you're here, just help give the sermons and take up some of my other work. Though there is a boy I would like you to help me with. I will explain the details when you arrive."]

The boy...right. In the chaos he'd forgotten all about it. The Father needed help with...someone. He wondered if he should follow up on that- but...he hadn't gotten the chance to find out who they were...and for all he knew the "boy" could be dead.

...He needed more information about Father Thymes. Surely someone in town knew the Father well?

He stayed up debating until his body finally betrayed him, but was still up early in the morning, removing dangerous items and checking on their patients, eventually helping the nuns move them down to the make-shift infirmary.

Patrice, however, did not help in this. It was late enough in the day for the doctor to be here- and she could sense the distress in the air around Christoper, worrying he was alone in this- worrying the doctor knew and that all was already lost. Merlot didn't dare go and confront the doctor and ask him for help. Patrice on the other hand...she had more backbone than damn near any woman or man she'd ever met.

So as they moved patients down, she trotted in full heels and robes to the doctor's door, and pounded heavily on it. [b [#1e90ff "Surely you didn't mean to oversleep, Doctor? There's still work to be done!"]] She called out, taking a half-step back from the door and staring up into windows to see if she could stop the man. She had her tricks, if she couldn't get him out.]]]
  Merlot / indulgence- / 147d 12h 25m 10s
[center [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/7d/4f/cc/7d4fcc935b1455e54f7ec0184a551fc7.jpg]]
[font "Times" [size15 The first to succumb, yes, the old pastor... If this was a preternatural curse set upon land via the man he would have to do much more digging than perhaps a man of science should know to do... He would have to ask very inappropriate questions to individuals, and possible victims that would not take it genially. Nathan's own hand went to smooth over his hair now as he shifted. Dear... God

"[#00CCFF That is a- assuming it's- not in the land itself, Father.]" the man said, voice cutting out at the last. "[#00CCFF We don't know its source- it has so many hallmarks of the preternatural, the supernatural... the physical. It seems as if a mutation.]"

Nathan's eyes lingered on the priest before him for a long moment, lingering on his features as he spoke. Words, yes, were penetrating his thoughts at a distance, but as the moon mounted on high, Nathaniel Crane found his eyes sharpening, his focus shifting to how he could see the little shifts from nervous, glittering skin, to flushed, dancing pink on high, alive bones of his cheeks. How his lips pursed and moved, plush and infinitely wrinkled and lined with how many words, sermons, promises from those lips. How he could see tendons and muscle move as if fine, sleek fish underneath water.

He blinked, forcing his attention back onto the man's eyes. He put a smile on his face, having fallen slack for a moment in inspection, and gave a dismissing gesture.

"[#00CCFF It is no matter, I manage it. Comes and goes,]" he responded, keeping his smile small, cultured away from his teeth and closed his lips, smiling pleasantly- focusing on pleasantness, softness as he pressed his hand to his ascot tie.

Nathan pressed his hand, safely, against himself. He wished not to fuel any thoughts that he and his possible witchcraft, his bestial curse, whatever Merlot might think of him now would be transferred through touch. "[#00CCFF My apologies,]" he offered, eyes down, but they returned to Christopher. "[#00CCFF But I need, as much as you do, support in this endeavor. It won't do to have you- vulnerable.]"

With that the two men shared an unsteady nod to one another. But before he left, Father Merlot turned, the clergyman telling him to take care. Nathan's mouth thinned, his stomach clenching. He had no knowledge of what he asked. But he managed a wry smile at it, and bid the man goodnight. With luck, it would be over quickly.

He returned to Mrs. Cannes's room, gazing upon her as he came in to retriee his bag. She was sitting up, gazing at him with what seemed sightless eyes, but he could feel her gaze. Her brows pressed together.

"[+gray Why doctor... I barely heard you come in,]" she breathed, twisting her fingers. He heard one joint give a pop.

His eyes stared at her, feeling caught. "[#00CCFF I didn't want to wake you.]" The strap of his bag crawled towards his shoulder. He didn't want to make any sudden movements to scare her. "[#00CCFF You were resting when I left.]"

"[+gray Silent as the dead,]" she said, reaching for a smile.

He watched as her fingers unlaced, wringing slightly. Sore, perhaps? "[#00CCFF ...Do you know where you are?]"

She seemed to strain again, head tipping a bit and brow knitting further, a squint pushing at her skin. "[+gray I'm at the church... Have I been bad?]"

The doctor swallowed, "[#00CCFF No, dear. Not you. I want you to rest now, for me. Your children need you.]"

She winced now, mouth twisting. "[+gray I don't want them. I can't bear to look at them, you know. I've had so many...]"

His throat tightened, and he became very aware of how small the room was.

She spoke like he was very near. And Nathan had the ability to be projecting to her while yet keeping his tone quiet, intimate between them. The same voice he gave to his night patients. Between them only.

"[#00CCFF You don't love them?]"

Her head snapped up to him, "[+gray No! I do. I can't help it. I've given them- I'm so proud of them. My babies!]" Her hands went to her face, pushing at it, fingernails digging into flesh. He could hear it. Like latex, he could practically smell the thin membrane, threatening to bleed. He went to her, in a blink his hands were on her wrists, grip soft.

"[#00CCFF Please, don't.]"

Mrs. Cannes startled, staring at him and froze where she was.

They were there indefinitely, Nathan gazing at her, feeling her heart racing under his hands. How her fingers flexed. And she stared at him. He stared back, stuck between an impulse and a fear.

"[+gray ...I've had too many, you see. I needed to get- free of some. And John was always a hearty boy. He could handle himself. So I let him...]"

Nathan's thumb pressed into her arm a bit, and then back again. "[#00CCFF It was you who brought the children to the forest, Mrs. Cannes?]"

Her eyes widened, glistening, so big, like little, empty moons that were struggling to see him. Filled, the tears threatened the edges of her lashes. "[+gray No... No! I didn't! I needed- I needed the Father- he had to find them. I needed help! They followed him! He took them! Where- where are my children?]"

Nathan's hands went to her arms, now, bringing her closer. Wishing his hands had living warmth to them, now, something comforting. "[#00CCFF Safe. Safe, Mrs. Cannes. I have them. The- Father Merlot has them in his care. Please don't worry. Don't cry.]" He hushed, lowering his voice. Perhaps if he did his, she would as well. He was supposed to be gone from this place, as the priest had said. He feared being caught, especially this close.

She sagged against him, eyes too wide. As if she could see into him behind her cataracted pupils. "[+gray But- Dr. Crane. Am I dead too?]"

He blinked, head shaking once. Not comprehending. "[#00CCFF You have pulse.]"

"[+gray I don't feel like myself.]"

"[#00CCFF You've become ill,]" Nathan said, rubbing his hand over her arm a bit, attempting to be comforting. Mrs. Cannes had been one of the first patients he had since moving here. It was her family that had insisted he come and stay with them when he had first come, going so far as to invite him to dinner. He drew back. "[#00CCFF I shouldn't think you would. That's why you're here, so we can take care of you. Do you trust me to?]"

Her eyelids drooped, shoulders dropping and she drew a hand away from him with no resistance from the doctor. "[+gray ... I don't know. I don't know anymore. You look different.]"

Fear became more of an insistent trickle as she spoke. The man swallowed, offering a smile. "[#00CCFF Do I? How so?]"

"[+gray I don't know...]" she looked over him. The woman's eyes were milky and distant, but now it seemed she regarded him with an avid, wondering attention beyond it. Mrs. Cannes took to a nod soon, "[+gray Too many teeth. You have too many teeth. When did you have so many?]"

He huffed, feeling empty, eyes never leaving her. "[#00CCFF Well, I- have a very small frame for my size, you know, Mrs. Cannes.]"

He rose to his feet again, nodding to her. "[#00CCFF Rest, now. I'm telling you to. I will speak with you tomorrow.]"

With that, he let himself out of the room with another wary glance back at her. The door closed, quiet, behind him and his eyes scanned over the hallway. Nathan sighed, turning to let himself out of the church and into the silent streets. He needed to feed himself. It wouldn't be long before more than just the Father and Mrs Cannes would be telling him he looked unwell. And at least it was only that, for the time being.

And with that, he blended in with the darkness in his suit. It would be some time before the doctor would return to the parish church.

He could feel the press of exhaustion against him, giving him the inkling that death was returning to stiffen his bones once more. Nathan's hand flexed, agitated, by his side before he combed it through his hair, pushing it back over his head and shaking it out behind his shoulders. Not now. No. He didn't need to disappear under such scrutiny he was receiving from the priest now, and surely if not he then his lackey nun. The one with the intelligent eyes. Patrice.

He chafed under how small the town was, how easy it was to be seen here. When he was a young man, he had wanted to be a well-known and respected man amongst the community. But now attention made his skin feel hot and feverish, vulnerable.

He could taste the longing on Christopher. Lucky for the doctor, they seemed around the same relative age and so his attention wasn't even more to chafe. But he knew how easily that desire turned to rage, to hatred, to coping. Fear repulsed Nathan, his face heating with the thought of [i being] that close, that wanted again. And in the safety of innocent infatuation, it made the man the perfect victim.

Nathan brought his eyes back to the mirror. He had put a flush back into his face this day. Bending to his hideous need, he was healthy again. Hands warm, alive, face full- as full as he would ever get. Nathan was always empty, he felt, hollow, lacking. And next to Zachary, he was always so small, even as the taller of the two.

But Merlot- would he see the difference? Was it too sudden? Was it too complete? He pushed his hands against his face again, groaning. Nathan had done everything to avoid going back to the convent that day. He had gone gathering bodies and bringing them for preparation. He had gone to get the Cannes boy and bring him back to evaluate... But he needed to check on Mrs. Cannes, his mother.

[#00CCFF #00CCFF]
  Tweedy / 164d 9h 17m 42s
[center [pic https://imgur.com/fNfD7lE.png]]
[center [size15 [font "Edwardian" The doctor had questions- and they were welcomed graciously, even if he had little answer. They were a distraction- no, a focus, something to bring him back to the task at hand and make his mind stop wandering where it shouldn't be, if only briefly. His signs, however? Nathan didn't think Christopher had it, did he? He listened to Nathaniel's theory as he mulled on the answer, hand staying in his hair as he thought. [b [#483D8B "There's Father Thymeus...he was one of the first, if not the first...I don't know much regarding him, though... A few of the nuns, those closest to him so far, though Nancy never seemed...particulary fond of him. Some of the priesthood- other than those, it's just been random villagers- Or, it seems like it- I mean, surely they have to have some sort of commonality- it has to have some sort of [i chain] linking the individal cases together, does it not? The public is panicking yes, but surely there has to be more common ground between the victims than just living here..."]] He was mostly thinking outloud, at this point. [b [#483D8B "I'm just not sure what- but the people here are so [i quiet] in their lives that even as their priest I know so little about them that I can't draw any linking familiarities-"]]

He stopped and looked up when he saw movement from Nathan, hand lowering now with seeing Nathan's out toward him, before Nathan pulled it into himself and fixed his jacket. The doctor almost looked like he could pass out, and it brought Christopher out of the focus he longed to stay inbedded in. He looked unbalanced- more than that he looked anxious, and Christopher felt guilt grow around him like vines, growing inward with thorns and pricking at his skin. He wanted so badly to tell Nathaniel that he had nothing to fear- that Merlot wouldn't tell anyone what he saw today, that it would be their secret-

But it would be foolish...he knew better. There were no secrets between men...especially not men who had something to use. He listened to Nathan's explanation and his eyes were soft and sorrowful. [b [#483D8B "I-I'm sorry to hear that- I'm sure the work of today did not help much, with that-"]] He tried not to show the full extent of his worry, instead focusing on the objects, on their removal-

No? His eyes snapped fully over to Nathan, eyes snapping to the hand touching him. His heart sped up, anxiety filling him. He didn't even shake the husbands hands, in sacrament- the touch of another man made him anxious. Doubly so, here with Nathan, lit up by moonlight, looking like a beacon in a dark world. He was stunned as he made eye contact, as he lost his train of thought, as all he could do was stare wholeheatedly at a man telling him to take care of himself. Nathan released him and Christopher swallowed silently, closing his hand and lightly digging his fingers into his palm to steady himself. Months of lonlieness lingered in his mind and he wanted just a night where he didn't feel so alone-

But he could not allow himself that. [b [#483D8B "You're...you're right, this close to the forest I should...I should clean this up-"]] It would get him away from Nathan...but God, Nathan did not look well. He looked like he was about to be sick. [b [#483D8B "You should...get some rest, Doctor Crane."]] Don't use his name for now, it was too personal. Not now. These were his rules. And yet, he could not be as cold as he was telling himself to be. Nathan needed to be here, needed to help him in this...needed to be close... [b [#483D8B "I'm sure your letters are important, but...it will be hard to write them if you pass out, first... Just...rest a bit, please... And perhaps I will see you back here, when you have the chance? For the patients..."]]

He needed out of here. Needed to focus. Needed to pray. He needed the image of Nathan bathed in moonlight out of his head. Were Father Reynard here, he would be telling Christopher that it was witchcraft, that Nathan should be burned because [i he] was causing the thoughts... Christopher saw it differently- even if it was witchcraft, it was still him that allowed them so much power. He took the few objects he'd already grabbed, the risky items, and stopped by the hall closet to store them away, to be retrieved when...[i if] Nancy ever recovered. From there it was down to the basement, as Patrice was always willing to bandage Christopher's wounds.]]]
  Merlot / indulgence- / 208d 21h 35m 45s
[center [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/7d/4f/cc/7d4fcc935b1455e54f7ec0184a551fc7.jpg]]
[font "Times" [size15 He could feel himself, with the mount of the moon in the sky, breathe. Natha could scent the death of the day and how it swelled him with capability. Even more than he could do in the day, now he was at full tilt. And that, dangerously, was a hungry, uncontrollable power.

Nathan's eyes met Christopher's, hesitantly, and he could see the hunger in them. He could [i taste] the want in him on the air as if a perfume. It brought a bit of a flush rising as if a flame over his chest and up to lick at his face. His eyes dropped, feeling it bat against him like the temperamental heat of a flame, he could almost reach out and touch it. But he resisted- on a moral standing, and trusting that it was some preternatural thing that was tempting the Father now, nothing else. And that was dangerous. Brittle.

He nodded to Father Merlot, wondering if he knew- if [i this] man knew, who Nathan had not hours ago lectured about inaction and danger and responsibility- if he knew what Nathan meant when he said this. Perhaps he should stay and ensure this happened.

Nathan's eyes searched the floor as if they would see the answer there, slowly bringing themselves up and towards the man. And when they landed on Father Merlot, a fell intensity was in their depths. Not glowing like embers as they had before, but there was a fervence, a concealed moment that hesitated on eureka. But he had to question more.

"[#00CCFF What do you know of the victims of this plague before these individuals?]" Nathan said, voice soft, but quick, gesturing to the priest with a black lace roll of his wrist. "[#00CCFF What were your signs again? Emotional signs? Before fleeing into the woods.]" He came closer, hands coming out as if to clasp Christopher's, but he held back, folding his own instead against his chest. "[#00CCFF It may be a spiritual plague that is magnetized to a disposition, and that has now embroiled itself in public panic. Just like-]" he stopped himself from mentioning his previous experience with such a thing. He didn't even want to think it. A witch hunt.

His eyes went immediately to where Christopher's hand delivered itself. The nearness was enough to bring the iron tang of blood back into his nose, the physician drawing back. His hands pressed to himself.

The doctor's breath huffed out, seeing the blood smeared through Christopher's hair. His pupils widened, the man's throat bobbing. He shifted a step closer without realizing until his eyes returned to Christopher's, hand opening toward him as if to stop him. But then he pressed his hand back against himself, glancing down, and made to smooth his jabot, shifting the collar on his throat.

A breath escaped the doctor, a brittle, wry cough of a laugh as he almost smiled. But it was a raw, uncertain baring of the line of his mouth. Ah, such a simple thing.

"[#00CCFF I apologize,]" he murmured, eyes still avoiding Christopher even as he turned towards him, twisting his fingers together.

The man vibrated with an anxious energy, given to twisting his fingers in his others. He turned and paced for a moment across the room, eyes darting to Nancy on occasion.

"[#00CCFF I have low blood pressure. Not enough reaches my extremities. Rather permanent, I'm afraid.]" It was a common lie he gave. Rather it had been true once upon a time, and so it fell from his lips with ease. But his body had changed since then. Something else plagued him now.

His eyes snapped to Merlot again, hand following, sharp, grip tight but not painful. "[#00CCFF No.]" the doctor said, eyes pleading with him. "[#00CCFF Get it taken care of now. I beg of you. There are things in the night that can smell it on you.]" His fingers tightened a bit, unwilling to relinquish the arm now that he had it. Nathan swallowed again. "[#00CCFF Best- best be safe about it.]" he said, releasing him when he realized how hard he was holding him.

A pale hand tucked into a pocket on his coat and he pressed a handkerchief to his mouth.
  Tweedy / 212d 16h 32m 23s
[center [pic https://imgur.com/fNfD7lE.png]]
[center [size15 [font "Edwardian" In that moment nothing else was so mystifying as Nathaniel Crane, drenched in moonlight. Christopher's chest felt tight with feeling, as his body kept in everything that he was denying, everything he wanted so badly to partake in- that was forbidden to him. Forbidden by himself, no less, for truly on he was denying himself what he wanted. And what was it that he wanted?

He took in the sight of Nathan, eyes denying his own orders to keep them away. They stared longingly, hungrily, as if it was the last time he'd get to. And then he couldn't look any longer. The tightness felt bubbling now, and he couldn't afford for his body to get shaky with the panic. He didn't look at Nathan, though he did feel comfort in Nathan saying there was work to be done- there was always work to be done...and with that, maybe he'd stay...just a little longer. Christopher only dared beg for a little bit longer...

[b [#483D8B "That's a fair point, I'd almost forgotten-"]] The God himself Nathan was here for the reminder, [b [#483D8B "Luckily with them all asleep, we should have times to make rounds to remove anything dangerous before they wake up...I'll make sure it gets done."]] He looked down briefly at the nun in his arms...who knows what she'd have done, with a little more time. And with Mrs. Cannes in that room...if she'd awoken, would it have been a scene like the boys in the woods?

And what was the purpose of any of this? This didn't [i feel] like a regular sickness...yet he couldn't find a similar connecting string to justify it as anything else- he wondered if Nathan had any theories on it, yet- Nathan was a doctor, he'd likely seen much more sicknesses-

He walked into the next room and carefully settled Nancy into the bed. This room wasn't really empty...rather, it was her own... But tomorrow, the infirmary built...he supposed it would be. The doctor approached to look at the patient and Merlot's first instinct was to give him a little space, to attempt to move out of the way, but froze briefly in his motion when Nathaniel's hand touched his.

So cold to the touch, and yet Merlot felt like he was heating up. This was...his mind was wandering into soft corners, and he suddenly felt so...alone. He forced the corners sharp and tried to push it away but...

His hands were so cold- He opened his mouth to speak, to ask if Nathan needed something to warm himself with- but closed it tight. Would the concern be unwelcome? He stayed silent until Nathan spoke.

Emotional? He thought about it for a second... [b [#483D8B "I've heard the other nuns say she was a bit...moody, yes-"]] His mind was elsewhere- he had to focus on the now, on this, on helping the [i doctor] in this. [b [#483D8B "I've never seen her be emotional myself, though, not much, at least. Though the day I got here I did hear her get into a rather...[i heated] argument with the late Father..."]] He hadn't asked her what it was about...she didn't seem like she wanted to share much of anything with Christopher, just do her work and avoid him as much as possible...

Part of him wondered if she'd somehow heard what happened, before he transferred here...so he never pushed it...

Though looking at her now, he wondered if that had been the right choice. How many mistakes had he made today alone?

A sigh fell from Merlot's lips, thoughts overwhelming...far too many. The archdiocese would be cursing his name, saying he'd been given a chance to repent and seek peace and instead he was off hunting some plague with a witch- He ran a bloody hand through his hair, streaking the blonde with blood and telling himself he'd wash it later, he just...needed a second. He moved lightly to lean against a dresser in the room, into the ray of moonlight dancing against the wall and interrupting it's path. There was something about the night that poured melancholy into Christopher, filling him up like the wine glasses that called to him at this time. His eyes wandered back to Nathan, dull green again and heavy with thought.

He could worry about whether or not he needed to repent for his feelings in the morning...for now, Nathaniel was cold to the touch and... [b [#483D8B "There's a fire place, down the hall...if you're planning to head out for the night, you should at least warm up, first."]] He hoped he wasn't pushing it...but it was all eating at him. [b [#483D8B "I'll start removing things from the rooms, then get these bandaged..."]] He pushed himself up from the dresser, apologizing to Nancy mentally for getting blood on the stained wood. He could wash it off later. For now, the picture frames with photos of her family, the needles for sewing, anything that looked remotely sharp, Christopher picked up and planned to put in the storage closet for safe-keeping.]]]
  Merlot / indulgence- / 214d 55m 50s
[center [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/7d/4f/cc/7d4fcc935b1455e54f7ec0184a551fc7.jpg]]
[font "Times" [size15 He laid the boy down and pressed a hand, gentle, to his forehead, feeling that thrum of a pulse in the boy’s body. Alive. Still alive. Perhaps salvageable. Soft, blond hair underneath his fingers. And blood underneath his fingernails, in his teeth. Anxiety pushed against the backs of his eyes, fear. What of the conscience in this body? Suppressed or vanished?

Something occurred to Nathan then. He hesitated doing this in front of the Father but perhaps he would take it as prayer. With that thought Nathaniel bent his head toward the boy, inhaling softly, and testing his scent.

He stood slowly, taking his time turned away from Christopher to gather himself again.

The moon’s presence was a comfort to him when he looked out and saw its face in the sky. Darkness was safe for a man like him. Usually. Now, he held a bit of trepidation in it. He knew his nature came out a bit more during. And with how long and dangerous his day had been, he was beginning to struggle holding himself in check. He hadn’t eaten.

Nathaniel Crane stood facing Christopher, the moon slanted across his face and shining along his black hair. It had at one point been tied back but had in their panic come loose in soft locks about his ears and brow. His skin practically glowed in the moonlight. Compared to that darkness, the man was pale and his eyes so blue- bright, and had a limpidity to them during the day that now was guarded, cautious as he looked to the priest now.

His chest ached with fear as he realized how little Christopher actually saw of him during a service. His scar prickled as he thought on this fear, as if warning him like a new, hateful set of hackles. Sensitive in their torn, nerveless numb, reminding him. How the priest was looking now, [i seeing] Nathan had to wonder what the man was guessing at. He didn’t know what he had revealed so he had little idea how to play it off, being seen like this.

Quiet talks between them on the sidelines during a memorial or ceilidh were rare as Christopher was often engaged by the bereaved and sought guidance from. A pillar of the community. Constant to them. And Nathan ever present, quiet in the background.

His job generally made him relatively nocturnal. Caring for the deceased he usually took to as soon as he had them in his care, that is after he took care of the living. Most of his job was handling grief among his duties laying to rest a loved one gently in their shrouds and coffins and powdering them softly to take away the jaundiced glisten of decay. He didn’t use chemicals. They were expensive and hard to come by this far out of the cities.

Nathan looked back up to Christopher, eyes finally pulling away from his fixation on the blood on the man’s hands. His palms pressed together, swallowing, and nodded. Good. The man was taken care of.

His relief showed in the sigh that escaped him, the slight slump of his shoulders. He still had comatose patients to look after, and Sister Nancy who has chosen to rest as Nathan had bid her. In hindsight he cursed himself for acting as he had. But he had felt panic, rushing and hot and seizing, at the cry for him. He wouldn’t be immobile when there was need of him. But he had done something dangerously obvious in how he subdued the nun.

What he wasn't expecting after the observation from the priest was to be thanked. His eyes snapped back to Father Merlot, brows pushing together. Shock fluttered in his eyes, and a startling, raw bloom of hope that ached deep in him at being wanted, laced in confusion, shifted across his features. He was wanted. He was- wanted? Perhaps the Father had seen less than he thought. Had assumed little, or had assumed something divinely offered of him in how he had acted- aided by the god Christopher Merlot believed in. He tried to keep these things from his face and swallowed, nodding.

Nathaniel Crane was wordless at the sentiments shown, feeling something tighten in his chest. Fear was making him feel delicate, confused at what he had hope was an invitation to continue helping.

“[#00CCFF I’m glad to be of help,]” he rasped with a nod, eyes dodging away. The doctor then licked his lips with a pale tongue. “[#00CCFF There’s still work to be done,]” he adds, taking a step toward the man. He gestured with a tame hand, fingers thin, pale and kept them close to himself, hiding their tremble. “[#00CCFF We need to make sure the rooms don’t have anything the patients can harm themselves with.]”

With that said, he followed Chris into the room he was settling Sister Nancy into. Her breathing had evened out a bit, and she was malleable for him, making a soft mewl in her sleep as she settled onto the bed that she was delivered unto.

The doctor leaned around Father Merlot, his hands still pressed together in front of himself, and watched with curious animation. And when she was set down, the man stepped around the priest, a hand out to give the two men space, and his eyes avidly on the woman.

As he passed, Nathaniel's fingertips brushed against Christopher's hand before he pulled the hand away in an apologetic motion, curling it to himself. The man's fingers were cold.

He leaned down to one knee at Nancy's bedside and she made another soft, wincing sound as he drew nearer. Nathan hushed her softly and drew closer, but kept his distance at the farthest he could scent her properly without making it obvious he was smelling her.

Sister Nancy's scent was near normal. Her incubation period so slight, so early, and so sudden. "[#00CCFF Such a strong response in such a short time...]" he wondered aloud, "[#00CCFF Is Sister Nancy known to be particularly- emotional?]"

It suddenly occurred to him. A child, a known tantrum thrower, where every emotion was a full body experience and the comparatively worst thing that could ever happen. And a woman in a cloister. Devout, aescetic, or repentant, or driven to the nunnery. Strong, emotional people. A mother, stressed day to day with the weight of three tiny worlds, and a husband and a household. Poor farmers in a small town...
  Tweedy / 214d 17h 30m 46s
[center [pic https://imgur.com/fNfD7lE.png]]
[center [size15 [font "Edwardian" The emergency was dealt with and yet still a tension hung high in the air. Not hot, racing, stabbing tension- rather something cold, slicing into his chest and burning far more than the kerosene in his wounds. He never considered himself [i close] to Doctor Crane...he knew their relationship was entirely professional, minus his...lingering eyes. Yet this feeling in the room could only be described to him as cold distance, possibly distrust. It wasn't too unfamiliar...

But his heart ached the same as if it was new. He bathed in the silence from the doorway as Nathan put the boy down and settled him, bathed in the moonlight coming through the window, and inside he stirred. He had something of a stability with Nathan- he was there at funerals, a steady face... Any other priest would likely be shouting the accusations of witch at the man already...

The church would want him to do the same... But Christopher couldn't. He'd never been the witch hunt type, anyway...

Besides, this...plague, curse, possession- [i whatever it was]...he couldn't do this alone...

He eyed his hands, bloody and covered in oil, his robes, tattered and torn and covered in dried and new blood...and then Nathan as the silence broke, gleaming in the small amount of moonlight shining in. He smiled, but sadness reached his eyes first. [b [#483D8B "Yes, she...she'll be able to bandage it just fine."]] He didn't want Nathan to leave. He feared if he did he'd never come back...he'd run, avoid being acccused...

Nathaniel asked if he needed assistance and he didn't answer the question. [b [#483D8B "Thank you...for everything today, Doctor Crane..."]] The title was probably far more appropriate than yelling his name had been earlier... [b [#483D8B "The members of the clergy...the other doctors in this town...they've done nothing to help in this, no matter how much I preach in front of them for action... You may be the only person in this town willing to do anything for these people..."]] His eyes landed on Nathan, nervous by his words, yet gentle as they looked at Nathan. [b [#483D8B "And I don't think there's anyone else I'd rather be helping in this..."]]

It was the only affection he'd allow himself. He needed to get things focused back onto work. They weren't friends...they couldn't be. ...there wasn't time, for that...and it was too risky, anyway... The doctor surely had no interest in being anything more than partners in stopping this, as should Merlot...

He turned, took in a deep breath, and glanced over his shoulder back at Nathan, heart racing and body hiding it. [b [#483D8B "You should come back when you get a chance...check on the patients. I have minimal knowledge in medical but...I'll keep notes, for when you come back."]] If he did.

For now, he rested Nancy in bed, made sure she was settled, and rounded up the remaining members to start on the infirmary. In the meantime, he grabbed his journal, leather-bound and dyed with berries, and took notes of the conditions of the four they'd saved from the woods.]]]
  Merlot / indulgence- / 215d 1h 38m 18s
[center [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/7d/4f/cc/7d4fcc935b1455e54f7ec0184a551fc7.jpg]]
[font "Times" [size15 As things calmed, the great pressure in the room lessened. A breath was let go,the static snap of [i something] in the air relaxed as Nathan stood, useless for a few moments, his lips twitching with how he felt he shouldn't be touching this woman who was now for all intents and purposes passed out in his arms.

His eyes moved and watched Father Merlot come up to him. And he [i stared]. Nathaniel was still, his face paling, eyes dropping down. Fear poured down into him. He didn't feel the taste of a prayer on his skin, he only felt how dry his mouth had become, how tight his throat. He swallowed the tremble in his hands, he knew Christopher Merlot was staring at him very closely now.

He took a quick step back from the clergyman as he was released of his charge, eyes down. He pushed his hair behind his ear and looked at the pile of clothes on the floor, now stained and stinking with fuel. It cut through the air and distracted him, but eventually Nathan's eyes, startling blue, turned to Christopher.

He glanced at him, and then away again, shifting back and feeling his skin twitch a bit with the smile. It wasn't one that reached the man's eyes. It was, perhaps, the first smile he had seen on the man's face and after such an event he wasn't sure it boded well for him. And so soon. So early into an investigation.

Their attention was taken when the door opened, the doctor staying where he was with a glance at the resting body of the boy he had put, leaned against the wall, by the portal. Nathan's eyes glanced to the woman and then away again, down at his hands, the bag the boy was slumped against. He hummed absently in acknowledgment of what was said. He kept himself busied elsewhere as the two spoke.

Nathan moved without a word to pick up the young boy, the one he was forgetting the name of. It was either William or John... The Cannes family had the three children, and the boys were William and John. He couldn't recall which, but one was now in his arms, and the other was deceased in the woods.

He followed after Father Merlot as bidden, keenly aware that he had left his bag in Mrs. Cannes' room. But he didn't fear her, he feared the sisterhood and their priest. He stepped around the Father and laid the youngest Cannes down, settling his head, and brought a bit of sheet over him to at least capture a bit of warmth for the bloodied child. Heart still beating.

He turned, staying where he was and laced his fingers together, making to calm himself. Nathan's eyes moved back to the narrow window in the room and at how low the sun had become. The sky was pregnant with night. And he needed it.

He shook his head, eyes inevitably moving to Christopher's hands. Cut, bleeding, old blood and new. His pupils widened a bit.

"[#00CCFF We need to-]" his voice trailed off as he shifted, turning towards the man with kerosene and blood on his hands. It must sting. He swallowed, unlacing his fingers and stepping towards Merlot. They stopped in the air and tucked back against himself, the man also stopping. "[#00CCFF Treat the wounds.]" He cleared his throat. "[#00CCFF But I'm sure Sister Patrice can look after you. I need to write a letter.]"

He felt his throat tighten as he said it, face creasing a bit. Everything about before their rush to the woods came back. Armand, Zachary... he needed to summon one or both back. Who knew how many people had come to his door needing him this day. He couldn't know, he didn't want to turn them away. Not knowingly.

The man's thin lips pursed and he shifted a bit, glancing at Merlot as he sagged a bit under Nancy's weight. "[#00CCFF Do you need assistance?]"

[#00CCFF #00CCFF]
  Tweedy / 216d 16h 49m 35s
[center [pic https://imgur.com/fNfD7lE.png]]
[center [size15 [font "Edwardian" Everything happened so fast that Merlot, well-versed in responding to things in a rush, practiced in demons turning on him in half of a second in sudden movements, required a moment to process what was going on. Only a second ago he was on the floor calling to Nathan in true panic and fear- and now she was dangling against the wall- held by a man Christopher held in- what kind of regard... He felt himself pause longer than he wanted even as Nathan [i ordered] him to put out the lamp. His chest rose in a deep breath and as his eyes lingered on Nathan and his mind fully processed that something about this man- [i this man] whom his eyes were constantly stuck too- was not...[i right]. He moved his hand to sit up and get into work, gaining a minor cut in the motion but- his few seconds of processing were over and the church was soon to be on fire if he were to do nothing-

In this, he could not choose to do nothing. He heard the sounds of the nun behind him cry of fear and frustration and his heart raced, but he focused at the fire. His eyes lingered in the oil as he grabbed clothes from the dresser to carefully wipe up the oil, contain it away from the fire long enough for him to place the lamp up and start turning out the fire itself. Going through the motions, avoiding getting lost in them. Douse the fire, remove the oil, remove anything that posed risk of starting it again. All while listening to Nathaniel behind him, the light shining through the window bearing witness to Merlot's pause as Nathan told the nun to [i Listen].

Was this proof of Christopher's own unholiness? To be so drawn to- if this was the way he feared it was. He heard no more arguing from the nun, the fire was not a threat now. He turned toward Nathan, breaths long and low, mind wandering in the silence. Nathaniel looked back and Merlot's eyes went where they always did- but those weren't the same eyes looking back. God what had he-

But Nathan was the only person [i helping] instead of [i running]. Even Chris had wanted to run and yet-

Nathaniel Crane, doctor and mortician, possible witch, did not run. He helped the people- he [i helped] when Merlot cried for help, both this morning when he called for the doctor and now. If this man, this- [i whatever he was], was more willing to help than the members of the clergy then-

He needed more time to think, than this. He stepped forward to take the nun from Nathaniel, a simple [b [#483D8B "Here."]] Falling from his lips. Once in his arms he took a second to just...[i stare] at the nun. [b [#483D8B "We'll need to find an empty room to place her...and the boy...and his sister."]] Don't think about it- He looked at Nathan, pausing for a moment and letting his eyes settle.

Nathan was still a comfort, and it was still a relief to see him okay. Witch or not, he had helped in this.

...more than anyone else...

He managed a smile at the doctor.

[b [#483D8B "Grab her brother- I think there's some empty room this way-"]] He paused, the door creaking open behind him, and then the sound of heels clicking against the floorboards. [b [#483D8B "Patrice?"]] The young Matilda rested in the nuns arms, held like a toddler on the hip. [b [#1e90ff "I see you got everything under control-"]] Merlot let out a breath like a laugh, [b [#483D8B "We have Nathan to thank more for that than I-"]] She eyed Nathan, a smile on her lips- likely the first Nathaniel had really seen from the woman. [b [#1e90ff "The girl will be fine, you'll be free to check her over when she wakes, Doctor. For now, where do you plan to keep them all, Merlot? If this keeps spreading and we're able to...restrain more, we'll eventually run out of empty rooms-"]]

Christopher paused for only a second before deciding an answer. [b [#483D8B "For now, the empty rooms. After everyone is placed you and the remaining nuns can build an infirmary down in the basement."]] Patrice paused. [b [#1e90ff "What of Father Thymeus' things?"]] [b [#483D8B "You can place them in my room for now- I'll figure out what to do with them later-"]] The nun nodded, and moved past the men to find Matilda a non-occupied room. Merlot motioned for Nathaniel to follow him down the hall to do the same for her brother and Sister Nancy.

[b [#483D8B "I imagine after all this you need rest, Nathaniel..."]] Merlot said as they entered the first room to place the boy down, waiting by the door for the doctor. [b [#483D8B "I can make up a room away from the infected if you'd like to stay the night, rather than take the long walk home..."]] Nathan hadn't been looking great clear back in the forest- Merlot knew the man must need rest by now. [b [#483D8B "Patrice and I can take turns watching over the patients for the night."]] Patrice passed by the room and peaked in, smiling once more at the two on her way to the basement.]]]
  Merlot / indulgence- / 216d 21h 57m 24s
[center [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/7d/4f/cc/7d4fcc935b1455e54f7ec0184a551fc7.jpg]]
[font "Times" [size15 As soon as the syllable for Nathan was in his throat, as her weight settled on him, it was off of him. Nathan had moved in a blur of motion. One hand was delivered into the high collar of her vestment, the other fisted in the front of her, near her abdomen where he was supporting her weight. Sister Nancy was off of her feet, shoes dangling in the air and unseeing eyes blinking, confused, at the ceiling.

Nathan's head snapped back to Merlot, "[#00CCFF Put out the lamp!]" he ordered, voice rough. "[#00CCFF Put it up!]"

The kerosene lamp base itself was mercifully unbroken, but the fuel was leaking out of the upturned item with a terrifying proximity to the flame, out the tall chimney and onto the floor. The smell, uncontained by the base of the lamp now, was pungent and leaking over the fragile, broken chimney. It leaked, ruby red, all over the floor, glinting on the open flame and soaking around the broken glass.

Sister Nancy gave a thin, rising cry of fear that turned sharply into frustration at the end. She wriggled in Nathan's grasp and brought his attention back to her.

"[i Release me-!]" she cried, fingers gnarling on his sleeve, the other grasping his hand holding her, digging in her nails.

Nathan's throat tightened, fear making his teeth clench. He looked to her, "[#00CCFF Look at me.]" the physician ordered, voice low, serious. He carried warning in his tone. Her eyes moved to his, unclear, but focused, seeing. "[#00CCFF Relax.]"

She went limp against the wall, head lolling back, but eyes still on him, brows arched; confused, lip trembling. Her hands still held him, but were loose now.

"[i I need to go,]" she protested.

"[#00CCFF Listen,]" Nathan's voice took on a sultry spice to it, low. Fear was eating at him, the thrumming, adrenalized terror that he knew what he was doing right in front of Christopher. He could see this. But he had to focus. There were three infected on the premises and his job right now was to keep them from eating Merlot, or infecting him physically if this affliction moved like an infection and not the emotional way he feared it might. And, also, to make sure the church didn't burn down while he did so.

He kept telling himself he had no choice. He had no choice. He had done well thus far. The smell of kerosene was blocking out the blood staining the boy's clothes, Merlot's, and his own. His throat and nose burned with it. It was a cleansing, chemical smell.

He peeked back to Christopher to see if he had the lamp under control. And when he did, Nathan's pupils had disappeared, swirling open into nothing to the point that they were his whole iris, and inside was that crimson/gold light. Reflecting like an animal's.

Sister Nancy's head lolled forward with a moan and she pressed it against his forearm holding her up, the one at her collar.

"[i I want- let me rest now...]" Sister Nancy mewled, soft, hand flexing on his sleeve, the sound of tears in her voice.

He looked back to her, lowering Sister Nancy to her feet on the floor where her legs didn't support her, or she wouldn't. He hummed, lips pursing, letting her bodyweight fall against him rather than to the floorboards, and arched to support her with his own. It was all a bit awkward. He felt his face heat, glancing up and away from her as her hands slid up and closed in his upper sleeves of his coat, pressing her face into his shoulder, like a sleeping child, where she settled quite candidly. His face twisted in discomfort as he was left with her like that, arms around her middle to keep her from slipping to the floor.
  Tweedy / 226d 16h 17m 21s

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