1965-08-03 - That Boy Will Be His Own Ruin
Summary: Vitale manages to make it back to the garage just in time to pass out on the floor, wakes up Elmo with nightmares in time to get stitched up and thoroughly kvetched at until he feels properly guilty.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
elmo vitale halgrim 



Like many dreams, it simply begins; one moment he is sleeping, the next he is here: seated facing a fire set in a pit ringed in stones that are riddled with carvings and runes. It's night, though not entirely dark due to the aurora shining overhead in curtains of green and gold and red. In his periphary is a simple one-room hut built of interlocking stones, with a thatched roof and a heavy wooden door. The aurora and the fire illuminate a forest around them in flashes of color, though in the dream the trees are just dark sentinels.

A woman sits across the fire from him. She's middle-aged, with features both handsome and severe: her wiry black hair shot through with silver and white, her black brown eyes suggesting hard-won knowledge, her angular face proud and commanding like a queen. She's dressed in a homespun skirt and linen blouse; one sleeve of the shirt is empty, and has been tucked into a pocket of the skirt. A spear sits across her lap, the blade bloodied, and in her hand is a blood-covered stone. A long chain of delicate flowers shaped like gold and white starbusts dangles from her wrist, blood marring the delicate structures.

She locks eyes with Vitale across the fire, and says in a language he doesn't know and can still understand, "Can you see?"

Something behind him roars, sending a shockwave through him, and he feels teeth sink into the back of his neck, and wakes up.

Vitale wakes up with a shout, his hand flying to his neck, unaware of his surroundings for the time being as he searches his neck for puncture wounds that he's certain are there or the teeth that would have accompanied them. He rolls to his side hastily, to get his bearings, figure out where the hell he is, find out if anyone is here with him when he cries out again, this time in pain, not fear as his leg, still injured protests the movement, the sudden pressure on the wound when he presses it against the ground, which is apparently where he had chosen to sleep for the night. He looks for the woman, the monster he had healed, the strange flowers, anything from the dream, ignoring his wound. "I can. I can see." He whispers to no one and anyone at the same time. "I can help. I can.. I did.. I did help."

Vitale tries to catch his breath, blinking back tears born of fear, pain and confusion. He presses the heels of his palms against his eyes and pulls in a deep breath that exits as a small sob, uncharacteristic of Vitale who liked to swallow all his emotions, especially fear. After another shaky breath, he moves his hands away from his eyes and really looks at where he is. He's managed to somehow make it into the garage it seems and all the way up the stairs to crash at the top of them. He doesn't remember most of how he got home, delirious from blood loss and a sort of strange fuzziness in his mind after he had healed that beast. He looks at the steps as he sits up and sees that he's trailed blood up them and also, here on the floor beneath where his leg had lay in rest. JP was going to kill him. He tries to pull his blood soaked pant leg up with a hiss to see the damage. The bear trap wound was still open and while it looked like it had healed some, it was still deep. Vitale hadn't had wounds stay like this before and it made his heart rate jump. He falls back down to a lying position, still dizzy with a loud thud. He's made plenty of noise to wake up the whole neighborhood at this point.

Elmo bolts out of JP's room with electricity crackling around him, hair lifting and tossing with it. V's bleeding on the floor. He registers that in a split second, and reacts: he stands over Vitale, fingertips glowing, tiny lightning bolts dancing between his fingers, ready to defend him. "Where they at, V?" he growls, because there's no immediate threat.

Vitale pulls in a deep breath and opens his eyes up again to see Elmo standing over him, electricity crackling around him, turning the air static, even pulling Vitale's hair up on end. "Elmo." He says, with such relief, as if this was all he was waiting for. "No.. no one is here. I did this.. I healed.. I healed.. someone? Something? I don't.. I don't know. Maybe… maybe it was a lady… I had.. I had a dream…" He reaches in his pocket and pulls out the scale he'd been given in payment and hands it up to Elmo before he sinks back down to the ground. "I'm so.. *tired*, Sparks."

Elmo's got that wild look in his eyes, ready to take on all comers. Lightning dances around Vitale, flickering between the floor and Elmo's fingers, like puppet strings. He hears 'healed someone' and dials it back, glancing down at Vitale with a frown. "You healed somebody?" There's a hiss as he lets the local ionic balance tip back to neutral, settling out the hum of static and the feeling that if you touch anything metal you'd regret it. He takes the scale and studies it, still frowning, angry and puzzled. "What is this?"

Vitale sighs heavily at Elmo as if he's the annoying houseguest here, blood loss making him a little loopy and a bit irritable. "Payment, I think? I don't know. He… She? Had these… on her body.. scales and feathers and fur.. like a bunch of animals smashed together." He tries to explain, waving his hands wildly from his place on the ground. "I hope she isn't mad. I called her handsome. I thought she was a guy.. she talked like a guy… but I think she was in my dream. But then… something tried to eat me.. why would it try to eat me, I h-helped…" He stammers slightly as pain throbs in his leg again. "I'm tryin' to sleep… why… you.. so loud..spskkksss.." the last word slurred. Vitale really has lost a lot of blood. How long has it been since he's eaten? Will that help? The wound is slightly exposed, pant leg pulled up partially.

Elmo mutters, "Jesus, V," and tosses the scale to the counter. Kneeling, he grabs Vitale under the arms and hauls, leaning back with all his slight weight to get Vitale to his feet and lug him to one of the chairs. He eyes that bleeding leg. All his reading up on first aid for Lindon comes in handy: he brings over one of the folding chairs and props V's leg up on it. "Am I gonna have to stitch you?" he asks Vitale, not really expecting an answer, on account of Vitale being delirious. "I can't feed you like this, you'll choke. I guess stitching it is."

"No, No, No, No, I'm sleeping!" Vitale complains loudly when Elmo pulls him to his feet, but he does help once on his feet, drag himself to the chair, not making poor Elmo lug all of his weight there. "I am a healy.. Will be fine, leave me alone, Sparks." Vitale complains, wincing when Elmo drags his leg up onto a chair. "I'm fiiine.. why are there spots on the ceiling? Did you put them there? Makes the ceiling look like a cow.." Clearly experiencing spots in his vision.

While Vitale rambles, Elmo is already washing his hands, getting his emergency sewing kit (hey button loss happens, and he wears a lot of buttons) and sterilizing a needle in the flame of his lighter. "Hang in there, pal," he mutters, counting to thirty in his head. "Gonna sew ya up with silk. Only the best for your bougie ass." The needle goes under the tap— fsssh —and he threads it perfect on the first try. Bright blue silk. Of course. He crouches next to Vitale. "Hold still." And starts stitching. The good news is, everything else hurts so much, that won't hurt hardly at all. "You're a real schmuck, you know that? You had to go an' heal someone you couldn't handle, didn't ya? Just had to bleed all over the damn floor, that's never gonna come out."

Vitale smiles slightly, indicating he's understanding some of what Elmo is saying when he says he's going to stitch him up with silk because of how fancy Vitale is, he even laughs a little. It's true though, that he hardly feels what Elmo is doing, the pain in his leg is so much louder than the needle and Vitale is unashamedly, silently crying. He might not even realize he is, fat tears making their way down the Italian's cheeks. "She.. She needed my help… it was a bear trap… I almost caught a raccoon. Do you think JP would let me have a raccoon?" Its hard to tell if that bit of ridiculousness is rambling or legitimate with all the rest of the blubbery and bullshit coming out of Vitale's mouth between cognizant sentences. "I'm sorry, Sparks… I know… but if we ever sell this place.. we can.. say someone… got murdered here… will up the value.. haunted and what not." He says slowly with a small muffled sob. It *hurts* man, and Vitale is not used to prolonged pain. "Don't be… don't be mad at me.. Sparks."

"He has a pet possum, why the hell not a raccoon. We'll just move in every disgusting vermin." Elmo's kvetching up a storm, but his hands are steady, tugging silk through the wound. Steady, and bloody. He's got Vitale's blood all over his bare chest and arms, too. "I'm not mad," he says, totally lying. "Where was this trap? Who was in it who was so important ya had to let your leg practically fall off?"

Keep them talking, that's what the first aid book said.

"Well, I'm already here, so we might as well move in a raccoon." A bad attempt at a joke. Vitale sniffles and looks down at Elmo. "You are too. You're very mad at me. I don't know if it's because I got hurt or because I bled all over the house and you now, maybe both, but you're really mad." He points out Elmo's lie around another small sob that only has to do with the pain in his leg. "I told you, you don't listen to me. It was like, a bunch of animals smashed together and I don't think that it's always that. I think maybe it's sometimes human… reminded me… reminded me of Severin, I miss Severin… the trap was in the park… fat raccoon led me to it… I could /help/ her, so I did. That's what we.. are.. s'posed to do, help each other."

"You took too much, V," Elmo snaps. Absolutley not mad in any way. "Took too much, ya weren't prepared, you're damn lucky you made it this far. You could be bleeding and delirious in a gutter and then where would we be? Huh? You fuckin' tell me!" He's put several neat stitches into Vitale's leg, enough to stop the bleeding and hold the awful-looking gash together. Bright electric blue lines march up the wound. Elmo ties it off just like he was tying off a hem and snips the extra thread. "You stay right there, you move, I'm gonna kick your ass." He gets up.

"I didn't know I couldn't take it! I didn't know that I could, neither. She wasn't human at the time but.. if she could change states.. she was just like Severin. She was *just like Severin*." He insists, and shit, now Vitale sobs, openly. "I'm s-s-s-sorry, Sparks. I know.. but I had to help her. I couldn't leave her like that. I had to help if I could. I'd take it for you too. For JP." His chest hitches violently and he makes himself cough with the hard way he cries. "She was like Sev-v-verin."

Vitale can hardly move at all anyway, but something about the way Elmo is fussing at him makes him act like he means to get up just to piss Elmo off, but then he leans back more heavily against the chair. "I was going to go run a marathon right after this, you never let me have any fun." He complains, trying to wipe tears away from his cheeks.

Elmo comes back to wrap Vitale's leg with gauze. He looks pretty pissed off, thick eyebrows low over his eyes. But when Vitale says that the person he helped was just like Severin…he sighs, closing his eyes for a moment. Then gets back up to fetch a washcloth. Coming back, he starts mopping Vitale off, cleaning up blood and dirt. "Shapeshifter?" he asks, quieter now, without the glass-sharp pitch of aggravation.

"I think so, I don't know for sure, but she could speak in English, so she must be, right? Ain't like they teach birdbearravens how to speak English. You had to be human first." Vitale says, still quietly crying, who knows if it's from the pain, or because he misses Severin, or delirium set into him and he isn't even aware that he's crying. "Are you gonna.. kick my ass when I have my leg back?"

"Maybe." Elmo wipes up Vitale's face. He's only scowling a little now. "You'd deserve it." Like Elmo could ever beat Vitale in a fistfight. They're both a mess, Elmo now bloodier of the two. He gets a bottle of Coke from the fridge, smacks the cap off with the bit of metal screwed under the countertop for that express purpose, and brings it back. It's not ideal, but it'll do. "Drink some a this. And tell me what this thing looked like." Because he's going to go kick its ass.

Vitale smiles slightly, tipping his head back to help Elmo with cleansing his face. He could definitely kick Vitale's ass if he used his mutation. "Well, if you're still mad at me by then, I'll let you and I'm sure you will be. Apparently you've got a big problem with me trying to get myself killed without your permission." Vitale teases. He lifts his hand to take the Coke from Elmo and does as he's told, drinking a little of it. "I told you, it was like… a bunch of animals mashed together, like someone had a vague idea 'a what a raven, a bear, a wolf and like… a dragon looked like and decided that they were all one animal."

Elmo's eyebrows go from louring to leaping up his forehead. "A—okay, was this thing about ten feet tall? Kinda like a wolfman with feathers? Got great big horns, like a shofar?" …Not that Vitale might know what the Jewish ram's-horn trumpet might look like, but that's Elmo's first though.

Vitale sits up quick when Elmo starts talking about the beast he'd seen with clarity. It makes him dizzy immediately and nauseous but he stays up, grabbing Elmo's wrist. "Yes! Yes! I don't know what the hell that word you just said is, but yeah, it had horns! And it was huge. Just like you're saying. Have you seen it?" Vitale asked, eyes a little unfocused.

"Yeah I've seen it!" Elmo looks at Vitale, eyes big. "That thing scared ten years off me! And it stole some a my wire, can you believe the chutzpah!" That's what he's mad about, of course. "…Okay, to be fair, I shouldn't say stole. It gave me a feather. So—" he looks at where he'd tossed the scale on the counter. "It gave you that?"

Vitale is shocked that Elmo doesn't immediately slap him once he realizes that Vitale healed the same thing he saw that terrified him. "Did it speak to you too? It got caught in a bear trap, was licking it's wounds when I found it. It didn't try to hurt me." Vitale explains, leaning a little further forward, mostly because he is suddenly very concerned that he's going to throw up. "Yeah, it brought me this scale back and dropped it. Then it took off. I.. uh… I might have told it about the coffee shop, where I wait for Jay every day, so it could find me again. But I didn't tell it about the garage."

Elmo gets alarmed as Vitale turns green. "Please don't throw up." He puts the cold washcloth on the back of V's neck. "I'm already gonna have to scrub your blood off the floor. Yeah…it didn't hurt me neither, but I kinda figure because it was full. It was chewin' on a deer. Kinda like a cat, you know? Wanted to play more than it wanted to eat. So you healed it." He sighs. "Because it reminded you of Sev."

"I am so fuckin' sorry, Sparks. Next time, I'll crawl into a gutter where it's much more publicly acceptable to bleed. You just finished yellin' at me for not doing that, but clearly that's what you would have *preferred*." Vitale grumbles at Elmo, and then starts mouthing off at him in Italian, getting a little bit of his sass back as Elmo sets the washcloth on his neck. "Cazzo coglione, Mi urla contro di me sanguinando sui suoi fottuti pavimento. Si, sanguiner%<242> internamente la prossima volta, testa di cazzo."

He doesn't look up when Elmo says that the monster reminded him of Sev and that's why he healed it but he sighs heavily. "Yeah, mostly. Also because she was hurt and needed help but a lot of it was… jesus. I don't feel good… be-because she reminded me of Severin."

"Sit back, goddammit." Elmo cusses and fusses and gently helps Vitale lean back. He puts the cold washcloth over V's eyes this time. "If you're feelin' good enough to run off at the mouth, I guess you must be okay. You said whole sentences. With big words n' everything." He goes back to the fridge, this time grabbing the icepick to chip off slivers of ice into a mug. Returning, he gets Vitale to get a couple in his mouth. "Just let 'em melt. When you can get up without passin' out, I'm gonna put you to bed." He sighs, unhappily studying Vitale. "I know you miss Sev. Maybe this wasn't the best way to miss him though, huh?"

"Stop.. fuckin' yellin' at me. I did what was right. If she.. was.. a mutant then I owed.. it to her to help her… Do you think I ain't paid a price?" Vitale says, gesturing to his leg violently, pushing all his fingers against his thumb to do so. "I came here because I couldn't go h-home.." Vitale coughs again, all his fussing is working him up with more energy than the poor man has. "They wasn't big words, I called you a dickhead and said fuck a lot, it wasn't very intelligible." Vitale tattles on himself easily, clearly feeling guilty for cussing at Elmo in a language he doesn't speak. "Said next time I'll just.. bleed internally since you.. so.. fuckin' mad at me for.. bleedin' on your.. stupid.. floor."

He chews on the ice and Elmo gets some blissful silence for a minute, just the crunch of Vitale taking out his rage on ice cubes, but he's polite enough to keep his mouth closed for it. He swallows when Elmo says that this wasn't the best way to miss Severin, but doesn't answer him and with the wet cloth on Vitale's face, it might be hard to tell if Vitale is crying or the rag is just dripping.

Oh no. Vitale crying. It's Elmo's greatest weakness. Aside from all his other greatest weaknesses. "M'sorry," he mumbles. "Got me scared, that's all." Now he rubs at his eyes. "Heard you scream, found you layin' there bleeding, I was ready to murder somebody."

"You ain't… sorry.. that you yelled at me. You are mad that I bled on your floor and that you had to stitch my.. stupid… ass.. up. You're mad that I overexerted myself.. and you think I'm a fuckin' idiot… all of that's true, Sparks… you're allowed to be mad at me." Vitale says, voice dragging around sorrow and sleepiness. "I came here.. because I didn't… no one could.. what would they do if I went home like this… I'm sorry.. M'sorry I bothered you and pissed you off and scared you and I'm an idiot.. but I couldn't… I couldn't leave her there… She could have been Severin… and someone would have left him, bleeding from a bear trap… That's all I saw." Vitale wipes at his cheeks.

"I'm mad because you ain't takin' care of yourself," Elmo says, quietly. "Because you coulda really hurt yourself." Which his accent makes come out 'hoit'. "Hell, you did really hurt yourself. You scared me, V. M'sorry. Glad you're home." Home. Here. The shop. Not Vitale's family's mansion, but home with Elmo and JP and the team. Elmo very lightly strokes Vitale's mussed hair back from his face—careful, in case it triggers nausea.

"I ain't never takin' care of myself, that's not… that's not what this gift is for. It's for helping others. That's why I have it. It ain't for me." Vitale doesn't remark on Elmo's accent, doesn't pick on him for it. He doesn't have the energy and right now, he's working on making Elmo less angry with him. Picking on him isn't going to help that. He sighs a little, a tiny sniffle again when Elmo strokes fingers through his hair. "I had a nightmare, that's why I screamed."

"It ain't for nothin', V. It just is. Like bein' as pretty as your ma. It's just something that happened. It don't mean you gotta rip yourself up like this." Now that the adrenaline's burned off, Elmo sags into another folding chair, tired. And bloody. He wipes his forehead and leaves a red smudge. "After seein' that thing, you had a nightmare, I'm not surprised."

"Stop talkin' about how pretty my ma is, she's still *married* you know. And she's old enough to be *your* ma." Vitale grumbles at Elmo but it seems to stop the tears for now. He reaches up to take the cloth off his eyes. "I have to use it, I have to help people, I have to heal you and JP and Nate. I have to take care of you." He insists before his eyes adjust and he looks at Elmo. "You look like a massacre, Sparks. You gotta take a shower, I'll be fine. I won't try to move nowhere on my own. I promise. You can kick my ass if I do."

Elmo grumbles, "You have to take care of yourself, that's what you have do for us." He's got his hand over his eyes like the lights are giving him a headache. He smirks, though. "Well, if your ma ever decides to ditch your schmuck of a father, then I can ask her out." Teasing Vitale about his ma is a sure road to improvement. He looks at his hand, then down at his chest, and pulls a face. "You sure you're not gonna pass out? I can wait till I get you in bed."

"Elmo," Vitale says, voice coated with understanding, with concern, with care. "I know.. we ain't out of the woods yet, but I'm okay right now. Can you just… fuck, I don't care that you're all covered in blood, c'mere." Vitale opens his arms to Elmo, he'll have a hell of a time explaining this to his dry cleaner. The stupid injury could get infected, Vitale might not be able to make back the blood, there was a variety of things that could happen, but for now, Vitale was as good as he could be. "I ain't gonna pass out. If I feel like I'm gonna, I'll be a good schmuck and take myself to bed."

Elmo leans over into Vitale's arms, wrapping him up in a hug and mashing his face against his shoulder. "V, you really are scarin' me," he says in a wavery voice, part kvetch, part plead. "You're gonna throw yourself at somethin' too big for you to take one of these days and I'm gonna lose you."

Vitale wraps Elmo up in his arms, tightly, running a hand along his back. He listens to Elmo's fears. He doesn't interrupt him to complain that Elmo's fears are misplaced. He looks at his leg over Elmo's shoulder, the wound still there, had to be stitched closed. The pain still there. It's all a new feeling to Vitale, pain was something he had numbed himself to because it nearly always lasted a second, this was real, Elmo's fears they weren't misplaced they were also real but Vitale has nothing to offer Elmo by way of reassurance that this wasn't going to be the death of him. He didn't want to lie. He pulls Elmo a little tighter. "Maybe, maybe we can get JP to make one of the new rules; Vitale can't be insanely reckless. You know how serious he is about his rules. I'll… I'll try to be better at this, Sparks.. I just.. if someone's hurt.. I have to help them."

"We already got that rule," Elmo mumbles into Vitale's shirt. "Rule is, we come home alive. That's the rule. Okay?" He pulls back to look at Vitale with red-rimmed eyes. "That's your rule now. Promise me, V."

Vitale sighs heavily when he sees Elmo's red rimmed eyes, pulling his lips back across his teeth to make a squeaking sound. "Awww, Sparks," He complains, rubbing his thumb beneath Elmo's eyes and then taking the rag to wipe the blood from Elmo's forehead. "I did come home alive," he points out before he places his forehead against Elmo's wet one. "Alright, Elmo, alright. I promise I'll come home alive, always and I'll try to come home a little less bloody, from now on."

"It's the next time that scares me," Elmo says, mouth curled down, eyebrows tilted up. His is a face made for sorrows. "Or the time after that." He hugs Vitale again, hard. "Okay. Think about how much I'm gonna yell at you if I catch you tryin' to heal too much." He holds up a hand to V, only his littlest finger extended. "Pinky swear, V."

"Awww, come *on*, Sparks. The pinky swear?! That's like making a deal in blood!" Vitale complains but with a smile. He extends his pinky out, but his hand shakes a little bit as he does it. He wraps his pinky around Elmo's own and then kisses his own fist, to make it extremely serious. "There ain't a time you ain't yellin' at me, Elmo. You might have to start kickin' my ass to make a point." Vitale's sleepy smile is wide though and he laughs a little at the notion.

Elmo matches Vitale, little fingers hooked together, kissing his own fist. "Now you gotta do it. You pinky swore. You know me and JP take that shit seriously." He's smiling too, though, and leans in to kiss Vitale on the forehead. "C'mon, I'm puttin' you to bed. You gotta rest. When you get up, you have to eat."

"Spa-arks," And he drags out the 'a' for a good long while as he kvetches at having to get up. "Just roll me into the bedroom and leave me on the floor, I'll be fine down there." He whines, even as he gets his hands up on the arm rests of the chair and starts trying to push himself up. "Help?" He asks, reaching for Elmo as he gets to his feet. And that might truly be the first time that Elmo's ever heard that word leave Vitale's lips.

Elmo maneuvers in, grabbing Vitale by the waist and getting his arm across his shoulders. "Hokay, buddy. On three. One. Two. THREE—" and he pushes them both to their feet. "Oy gevalt," he grunts, pausing to brace himself. "I gotta eat more of your ma's cooking if I'm gonna drag you around like this." He gets them into Vitale's room, mostly through sheer determination, and sits Vitale down on the bed. Fussing over him, he messes with the covers and getting him settled in. "You okay?"

Vitale laughs at that, that Elmo needs to eat more of his ma's cooking. "Well, hopefully the damn thing heals by morning and you won't need to worry about it, but I'll send over an order to my ma when I call her in the morning to let her know I ain't died nowhere. Tell her you've finally accepted that your ass is too damn little and you need some more lasagne in your life." He tries to support the majority of his weight on his good leg to help Elmo get him to bed. Once there, he yanks off his bloodied shirt and pants, desperate to get out of them. He feels extremely faint once more, all that energy coming over to the bed making him dizzy. "Yeah.. Yeah… no… I don't.. I feel like the room is spinning but other than that, I'm okay." He brings a hand to his head and pulls in a labored breath. He moves his other hand to Elmo's wrist. "Sparks? Can you sleep with me after you're done with your shower? Please? I don't… I don't want to be alone." He begs, frightened that another nightmare might plague him.

"Hey, hey, easy!" Elmo doesn't succeed in preventing Vitale from moving too much, but does help him get undressed. "Okay, okay, just…just lie back. Don't move. You're all outta blood, you can't be movin' like that." He puts a hand on Vitale's chest like Vitale is a rambunctious dog he needs to urge to stay. Then looks at him, a little curious, and smiles. "Sure. Sure I will."

"I needed to get away from them. They smelled like blood and it was making me more nauseous." Vitale defends, breathing heavily and shakily. "I still got some blood. Enough to sass you with." He says, laying back heavily on the bed when Elmo puts a hand on his chest. "You promise you're gonna come back right? Even if I'm asleep when you get here? You promise you'll sleep here?" Vitale actually sounds frightened, which must be a new sound to Elmo.

"I promise! V, I promise." Elmo's worried afresh by that frightened tone. "I'll be right back. Okay?" He scoops Vitale's soiled clothes off the floor on his way out. When he comes back, he's damp and smells only of soap and clean water—no more stench of blood. True to his word, he eases into bed with Vitale, careful so he doesn't jostle him.

Vitale is dead to the world once Elmo gets back, but his chest is rising and fall and not weakly, which is at least a good sign. When Elmo gets into the bed, Vitale doesn't seem to register any of it, continuing to sleep and sleep hard. He needed rest and to eat to heal usually, so this probably wasn't surprising to Elmo. For most of the night, that's how he stays, pulling in deep breaths, but at some point, near morning, the sun just beginning to break through the horizon, Vitale starts to stir as another dream filters through to him.

Again Vitale finds himself in a forest, but there's the sense this one is much older than the woods inhabited by the woman with the spear. There's no specific visual cue for this; it's simply a bone-deep knowledge. Through gaps in the trees he can see the sky is flat gray and overcast. The air is unnaturally still. Nothing stirs it, not even small forest animals, birds, or insects going about their business.

He follows a game trail to a small grove of ash trees. In the center is the remains of a long-dead bonfire ringed in old, bleached bones. A man stands before him across the bone circle, emaciated and near to death, if not already there and walking when he shouldn't. He's wearing a homespun kilt or skirt, but no shirt, exposing the sagging hollows under his ribs and a huge hole in his sternum, bloodless and dark. His features are almost impossible to discern, so much of them are gone. His hair and beard, straw-brittle and stiff, hold hints of former strawberry blond glory, and his skin is ghastly white. In one hand he holds a stone, dripping blood; in the other is a crude bone knife, also covered in blood.

He opens his mouth, and though it seems he's trying to speak no sound comes out. A raven alights on the man's shoulder, its black radiannce a stark contrast to the man's pale form. The man doesn't seem to notice. The raven fixes Vitale with one glinting eye and then the other, and croaks, which wakes him.

Vitale wakes in absolute terror, sweat has broken out on his forehead and he writhes violently, rolling likely, right into Elmo in the process, possibly elbowing him hard but immediately leeching the pain off of Elmo. "I helped! I helped you! I helped! Please! Please." Vitale's eyes are closed shut tight, like he's in pain and all the movement is making his heart pump dangerously fast, a mutation he has not yet learned to control, transfers that pulse to Elmo when they touch, ramping his heart beat up as well, less dangerous on Elmo who has all his blood.

Elmo, sleeping, wakes up with a yelp when he gets an elbow in the ribs. Electricity jumps to life but he extinguishes it hurriedly when he remembers where he is. He sucks in a breath as his pulse rockets to match Vitale's with dizzying speed. "V!" He grabs him by the shoulder. "V! Wake up!"

Vitale's eyes fly open but his pulse doesn't slow, not even a little. He's still trying to fight off some unseen enemy, hand finding Elmo's wrist on his shoulder and gripping hard enough to hurt, but the pain doesn't stay, Elmo can't feel much of anything and Vitale leeches the pain off of him and *whines* at the throb in his wrist when the shape of his own fingers form bruises into his skin. "El.. Elmo? Elmo?" He whimpers at his best friend, like he can't see him at first, his eyes are a little unfocused, glazed from heavy sleep. "Please make it stop. I helped. I helped!"

Elmo's own bruise appears on Vitale's ribs and doesn't fade. He's panting through his mouth, his racing pulse telling him to panic. Danger! Fight! Flee! "V, I'm here, I got you, pal, I—" He clenches his teeth, fighting the urge to hit something or run or both. Forces himself to let out a breath, long and slow, squeezing his eyes shut. When he takes another breath, he lets it out in a shaky little Yiddish song.

Shluf mayn feygele
makh tsi dayn eygele
Shluf mayn kroyndele
di bist a parshoyndele…

It's a real challenge to sing while he's trying to hyperventilate, and it works wonders; Elmo's breathing slows down, until he's crooning gently to Vitale. "Hay-da-lyu-lyu-lyu…"

Elmo's pulse drops as Vitale's does as Elmo sings to him. Vitale's breath comes in little pants but his frightened eyes find Elmo's and focus on him, listening to his song, allowing it to soothe him, to reach into his panicked chest and calm his heart. He stops moving and settles down, reaching for Elmo's wrist again but this time he isn't squeezing hard, just holds Elmo's wrist. Tears are formed in Vitale's confused and frightened eyes but Elmo's song seems to stay them.

Elmo sings it twice, the second time a lot slower, clearer. Singing it to Vitale with a mother's tenderness. When he finishes, trailing off the last 'lyu', he lets his head drop to Vitale's shoulder. "I gotcha," he murmurs. "Yer okay."

It takes Vitale a moment before he shakily wraps his arms around Elmo, slowing his breathing by a lot. "Sorry," He whispers, voice hoarse with sleep and with yelling. "Dreams.. another dream… a dead guy.. a raven… I want it to stop." He whimpers and sounds very small beneath Elmo.

Elmo hugs Vitale, stroking his hair, his back. He's shivering. Although his heart rate is back down, that shot of adrenaline was no joke. "Raven," he mutters, mind kicking into gear. The creature in Central Park seems part raven. Then, soothing Vitale again, tells him gently, "You gotta get some rest or you ain't never gonna heal."

"Every time I sleep the nightmares!" Vitale exclaims, sounding thoroughly terrified. He pulls in another shaky breath, arms still weakly wound around Elmo. "I'll try. I hate.. Never gonna heal no stupid bird ox bear thing ever again, Elmo, never."

"Good call." Elmo's holding Vitale to him. It's full-on cradling at this point and there's no use pretending otherwise. "They're just nightmares, V. They can't hurt ya." …That he knows. "They're scary but I'm here, okay?"

"You gonna stay? Until I go back to sleep? I'm sorry, Sparks, I know I'm such a pain." Vitale says weakly, this time because his eyes are already falling closed, his breaths deepening as he starts to return to unconsciousness.

"Are you ever," Elmo sighs, and settles in.

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