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Long Days, Longer Nights (Closed)

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The moans were in a way more cause for alert than screaming or shrieking would have been. Vionora turned, setting down the crate she was holding, as they brought in the stretcher. It was already soaked through with blood, the canvas dripping rivulets of red to the stone floor. Aides hurried forward with clean linen cloths and other supplies as the patient was placed onto the operating table. Vionora went over to the heartglobe lamp turned it up to provide good light before coming to the tableside herself.

He was a human, a rogue by the look of the leather armor he wore – or what was left of it. It was torn by long gashes, some of them deep enough to lay open flesh to the bone; she could count ribs, and not because he was too thin. His eyes were open but he was not lucid, only moaning with pain and shock.

One of the other priestesses was focusing on the torso wound, so Vionora looked elsewhere. He had other claw marks, some not as deep, on his upper chest, and on his arms there were unmistakable bite marks. A wolf or worg attack then. They would need to take extra effort to prevent infection. One nasty gouge had just missed his eye, and while it would need attention, it wouldn't be life-threatening.

Vionora looked down, then, and saw the abdominal wound. She sucked in a breath, recalculating the rogue's odds of survival. Pink intestine glistened. Lacking entirely in squeamishness, she pushed up her sleeves, then placed her hands over the gore. It squished between her gloved fingers with soft, wet sounds as she called on the Light.

Six years, it had been, since her change in vocation. Almost exactly, with the Lunar Festival only a few weeks away. Still, directing the Light was difficult for her, a struggle to wield it with any strength. Their clinic rarely got cases like these, instead focusing on minor ills and injuries of the residents of Shattrath's lower district. The rogue would have had to have been turned away by both the Scryers and the Aldor to have been brought here. Here was the only place they did not judge.

When she had wrung every mote of Light she could through herself and into him, the wound was sealed. The other priestess had finished with the chest and head wounds, and their head priestess was working on detoxification of the blood. The rogue's eyes were closed now, his moaning stopped; at some point he had gone unconscious. Vionora wasn't sure he would ever awaken. She looked up at the head priestess.

"Zat ees all ve can do," Sha'nir said wearily as her hands dropped away. She was a Draenei, many centuries old. "Ve'll see if his eyes, zey open again."

Vionora turned away to go find a wash basin as aides moved forward to wrap up the smaller wounds. They only had a handful of helpers, far too few to handle the number of sick who showed up at the clinic's door every day, but they did what they could.

She turned the tap on with her elbow and waited for the basin to fill. When it was full, she hit the plunger on the bottle overhanging to dispense the disinfectant. Then she plunged her bloodied hands in, gloves and all, and scrubbed vigorously. They were enchanted to resist stains, and the water was soon clouded pink from the blood that washed off them.

"What do you think, Vi? I give him fifty-fifty."

The other priestess, Zahlia, was a human who had once been a rogue herself. Other than that, Vionora didn't know much about her, despite all the conversation the other priestess tried to make. Vionora picked up a towel to dry her still-gloved hands, not looking at her.

"You gotta have a sense of humor about this, sometimes," Zahlia said, a little defensively, to Vionora's silence.

I used to have a sense of humor, Vionora thought. A long time ago.

As usual, Zahlia adjusted to Vionora's silence. "At least our shift is almost over, right?" she said. "Good thing, because I dunno how much more healing I could even do tonight. Whew!" She peeled off her own gloves and dropped them in the launder bin, then looked at Vionora. "You know it's weird you just re-use the same ones," she said. "Even if you disinfect them. If we worked in a real clinic, they wouldn't allow that."

"I know," Vionora said, and went back to restocking the shelves.

Her shift ended half an hour later. Pulling up her hood and wrapping her cloak close, she walked out of the clinic and onto the uneven streets of the Lower City. Twilit evening had faded into full darkness, with only the heartglobe lamps, some broken, to supplement the light of the cosmos streaking overhead. Suspicious figures lurked and loitered, and more than one eyed her as she passed by; and though she walked without fear, it was not with confidence either. If she was attacked, she would doubtlessly suffer. She just did not fear that happening. The strange composure ended up keeping them away, as it usually did.

The place she lived was a ground-level shack toward the back of the city. There was no lock on the door, as she had no possessions worthwhile of stealing, but after she entered, she did at least drop the bar. Privacy was still worth something to her.

Inside, she lit the lamp. The flame guttered a little in the low level of oil it was allotted. Living on donations did not allow for much luxury, especially not after the clinic took its share to cover its costs. She sat back on the lumpy mattress and looked at her hands.

She almost never took off her gloves. Even after six years, she didn't want to touch anyone with her bare hands. But tonight, something made her slowly grasp the material and pull them off.

Her hands were whole, unscarred, if pale. They were not terrible to look at. Except for some, when she slowly turned the right one over.

Even then, most people would have been baffled. The mark on the back of her hand was simple, innocuous. Two circles, nearly overlapping. It was faded, barely visible, as it had remained for these past six years.

Her brightly blue glowing eyes rose to look at nothing in particular as she lowered her hands to her lap. Where would she be another six years from now? Probably the same place, or an equivalent. Just trying to help others. To make up for all she'd done.

The night was long, but at least it would end.

Edited by Vionora

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Something awakened her. Vionora opened her eyes to the dark, where night sheathed the world, rendering it still and muffled. Reality might not have existed much further than the thin walls of her shack; maybe it didn't, despite what she thought she'd heard. Vionora waited to see if she heard it again.

She did – a thud outside her door. Then, the bar rattled. She pushed herself up from the mattress, head turned, and wondered what it was. A vagrant or drunkard seeking shelter, possibly. Or so she theorized until came the growl.

It was a low, frustrated sound that would have been hair-raising to most – the deadly vocalization of a beast thwarted in its efforts. It was the stuff nightmares were made of, a thing to incite blind panic. But Vionora did nothing, did not move, did not seek a weapon or to hide. She just waited for something to happen.

A strong impact lifted the door off its hinges, disengaging the bar, and sent it swinging open crookedly. Silence followed. Despite the noise, Vionora knew it was unlikely anyone would come investigate in this area of the city. She was alone with whatever it was, and in the doorway, a figure resolved itself: tall and broad-shouldered, but hunched. And although Vionora waited, it did not move. What felt like minutes ticked by in a still tableau.

Eventually, her once-again gloved hands pulled the blankets aside. Her bare feet touched the floor, the hem of her nightgown falling to her ankles. The stone was smooth under her feet as she walked over before the figure. Closer now, she could see it was furred, with a long snout and rangy limbs. A worgen.

Worgen had existed long before Accalia, and even when they had joined the Alliance, Vionora had not paid them particular mind. She understood it was a curse and not something special or significant to her. Not anymore. But she had never spoken to one, never been approached by one, before this.

It staggered suddenly, falling against the doorframe, and she thought maybe it was hurt, and that was why it had come. Her work in Shattrath had been long enough for her to be known to the locals as a healer, at least.

She started to reach out, but it suddenly struck out at her. Even if it had occurred to her to dodge, she could not have reacted in time.

Yet its massive, clawed hand stopped before it would have struck her, then came to a gentle rest against her face, the sharp tips doing nothing more than dimpling her skin. She could smell blood on its claws, the scent one she knew all too well. This close, she could see its eyes: a deep blue. They were not unlike her own.

Her hand had landed on its arm. Its fur was bristling, and its entire body trembled with suppressed violence. She didn't move, waiting to see what it would do, her gaze not moving from its. His. A man warred with a beast behind those eyes.

The worgen's hand dropped to abruptly shove her backward. She stumbled back, and he rushed into the room after her, knocking the door shut. The small table and chair, all she had for furniture besides the mattress on the floor, were shoved aside, the chair battering into her legs. She started to trip, but was saved from falling when the worgen seized her. He thrust her against the wall, jaws snapping at her face. Though she tilted her head back reflexively, she couldn't have said if it was to get away from the snarling maw or to expose her neck.

Again there was a pause, the hesitation engendered by the worgen's struggle with himself. Vionora became aware of something else. She felt something... Not the fear she was supposed to be feeling with those slavering jaws in her face, the violence aimed at her. The lack of that she dismissed. Not, it was something else. A need. A hunger. A brief pang was all she felt, and then it was gone, as faded and unreal as everything else. But it was enough for her to realize the nature of the worgen's struggle, and more than that, his identity.

"You're not a predator," she whispered.

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A huff of breath flared the worgen's nostrils like a scoff. He raised his free hand as though he would strike her, only to once again stop himself short. Angry, he instead shoved her against the wall. Bounced roughly against the surface, she dropped to her knees as he let go and stepped back a pace.

This, too, was familiar. From there she looked up at him, unafraid of what could come next.

He closed his eyes and bared his fangs, jaw clenched as he growled. The fur along his neck bristled with the shudder crawling down his spine. But eventually, his shoulders rose and fell with heavy breaths, and he opened his eyes to look at her, more man than beast in them.

"I am not a lot of things, but I am also just as many," he grumbled.

The timbre of his voice, even made guttural and rough, was one she would never forget. She reached up to touch her chest where he'd shoved her. It felt as though she'd been run through with an illusory sword; skewered by a ghost. Dreams shared her memories with reality. She looked up at him again, not speaking.

Then the worgen's hands came up to clutch at his head, clawtips behind both his ears, and he growled out a painful sound. He started staggering around the small shack and stumbled to a knee before he fell back with a thud against the wall. For a moment it seemed as if he'd curl up, but through some force of will or another, he pushed to his feet, and made it three steps before the fur had rescinded and his visage had reduced to that of a red-haired elf.

Elek panted heavily and blinked, glancing around as if unseeing. He was shirtless, with only tattered pants for clothing. His hands briefly felt for any surface to catch himself, but, finding none, he fell to the floor on his rear. Rubbing at his right hand with his left, he shook his head as though in hopes that would clear it.

Vionora rose to her feet and crossed the short distance between them as he dragged himself back to lean against the mattress, legs outstretched before him. Beside him, she knelt down, studying him in the near-total darkness. His relief was palpable, but it wasn't relief to have reverted back to his original form. It was the form that had provided him the relief.

"Accalia's curse grips you still," she said, "and you welcome it."

"Sometimes I do," he admitted, "oftentimes I do not." He was silent for a moment, then went on. "In all these years, it never really went away. Always clawing at the back of my mind, howling in my ears. I tried isolation... to hide myself from the world where no one would suffer my failure to contain it. I tried keeping myself too drunk to move at night, which... worked pretty well, all things considered."

He shook his head and looked down at the back of his right hand. There, though it was too dark to see, she knew he bore a mark that looked identical to hers: two nearly overlapping circles, faded to almost invisibility. However, their two marks, despite appearing identical and originating from the same Old God, were very different. She listened as he continued, an almost rambling confession.

"But... I gave that part up recently. I don't know if the Call is stronger now, or if it had always been this way. It's easier, you know... to let it out... than it is to keep it contained. And sometimes... sometimes I even want to."

Vionora considered that. After a moment, she pulled off her right glove to expose her own mark again. It was dormant, as it had been for six years, but she looked at it just the same. "The Lunar Festival is approaching," she said. "She is always at her strongest then. But never strong enough... never again." She looked at him. "Even so, we'll never escape her, it seems."

He looked back at her, and was forced to close his eyes. It had been like that for him ever since they'd escaped the dream prison, on the rare occasions they'd seen each other; there were moments where he could barely stand to look at her. At those times, she knew, when he looked at her, he saw everything he'd done.

But all he said was, "That's been the hope, year in and year out, that she'll never return."

She was silent once more, and he kept his eyes closed for awhile with his memories. Eventually, he spoke again.

"There are days when I wonder if it would be better to simply die." He opened his eyes, casting a glance at her. "I can honestly admit I am afraid, though. Not of dying; rather, not knowing whether or not doing so won't just simply let 'him' out completely."

Settling to the floor beside him, Vionora curled her marked hand in her lap. His words inspired no greater concern in her than his threat of violence had earlier. "If you die," she said presently, "you won't care one way or another." The words hung heavily, but it was not for that reason that after a moment she added, "I don't really know why I'm still alive."

He was laughing under his breath at her first remark. "You're right that I shouldn't care," he said, "yet I do regardless." His shoulders rose, then fell, and he gestured at her, toward her marked hand. "And you? You've been hiding here ever since to heal the wounded in a dying world?"

Vionora blinked once. She hadn't thought of her actions as hiding, nor thought too deeply about Shattrath of Outlands being her choice of location. This was simply where she had been needed, so she had come here. "What should I have been doing?" she asked, the words not in the least defensive, only intending to consider his response.

But he just rubbed at his brow with his hand and pressed his thumb along the edge of an eye. "Well, at least you don't deny that's what you're doing here," he remarked. "The fact that this world is dying is exactly why I come here. Fewer people, fewer casualties. Maybe that's a bit hypocritical, but I remember the blood from those first months across Azeroth with this Curse."

There had certainly been a lot of blood. Vionora remembered.

After another short time, he rose to her feet, and she did as well. Now he looked at her, not letting himself look away, for several long moments. "I'd thought you were dead," he said eventually.

Noticing her cloak on the floor when it had been strewn in the chaos, she picked it up and offered it to him. "Would you have been sad if I was?" she asked, meeting his eyes.

He took the cloak and wrapped it around himself. It would offer some protection against the cold, but he didn't look ready to leave. "Disappointed, really," he told her. "I see death as wasted potential. You had a renewed ambition to change the world. A want to make up for the damages caused, a dream to repay how you could for mistakes made. I'd always hoped you'd been able to do that."

She remembered feeling that way. After they escaped... she had felt at peace, for the first time in her entire life. She felt as though her life had meaning. But, with time, it had simply slipped away from her. As senseless as their time in the dream prison had been, she had come to the realization that nothing she did in reality made a significant difference, either. It had sapped her will, taken away her meaning, and now, all that remained was this sense of obligation that kept her going. Going, but not living.

"What do you do to make up for your sins?" she asked him.

It took Elek a moment to reply. "I've fought, I've bled. I took part in the siege that removed Garrosh from power. I don't think there's ever been... atonement, really... but endless work trying to prevent other people from making even worse mistakes than myself. There was a point in time where I thought I was doing it all to be selfless, but deep down, I never could shake the knowledge that fighting is all I know."

It struck her how similar their situations were, and yet their natures so different. He didn't know how to do anything but fight; she didn't know how to do anything but give up. And it wasn't he who had beat the will to fight out of her in the real or dream Statholme – before their paths had ever even crossed, she had tried to commit suicide. It was an integral part of who she was, to give up. No wonder in the end she couldn't find meaning in anything, and that he turned to mindless violence, the kind that would gut a human rogue just to watch him suffer.

Unthinking, she lifted her hand, her bare right hand, and pressed it against his chest. The feel of his skin on hers was unexpectedly intense, and only by the sheer thickness of her indifference did she not snatch her hand back immediately. He inhaled sharply and, after a moment, brought up his hand to trail his fingers over hers. His surprise wore into a calm as he looked into her eyes.

"Will I see you again?" she asked.

His expression went unreadable. "You make that sound like I should be leaving soon," he said, taking her hand from his chest and giving it a gentle squeeze. It had been so long since she had been touched that she'd forgotten what it felt like. That it was him made it all the more acute. In any world, there didn't exist a single person who knew either of them like the other did.

"This is where you ran to... not where you live. Do you intend to stay?" she inquired. She tried to take her hand back, but he didn't let go, so she ceased trying. It didn't bother her; she would just wait until he let her go.

"This is where you ran to, also," he responded. It was a quicker reply, his words become more glib. "As for staying, it's not a matter of whether I intend to. I am free to, though, if you'd like it."

"I don't need companionship," she said. "But if you need a place to sleep… you can stay."

She could see her lack of affect bothered him; the implication he could do whatever he wanted, and she wouldn't care. And it was the truth. She saw his eyes narrow the way they did when he was angry. It used to be he did that before he hit her. Now, it was less murderous and more a wish to smack some sense into her, but it was there all the same.

But then, it changed. The blood left his face as he stared at her, stared through her, as though he truly saw her for the first time.

She didn't ask him why. It didn't really matter.

"I'll stay, then," he said, quietly, "and I'll be here come morning."

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