They Walk Among Us
“How did this happen?” I spoke without realizing it.
Raven shrugged, his eyes telling me things I didn’t understand at the time. Something was going on with him, but I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to think maybe his wounds weren’t as bad as we first thought. Yet I still remembered all the blood and open cuts on his face. The way his skin appeared dirty from the bruising.
He handed me a paper, which I lifted to the light shining in from the hallway. I laughed softly, and shook my head at him.
“I’m sorry, but you’re still going to have to stay here tonight.”
Wrinkling his nose, he pouted and I laughed again.
“The police will be around in the morning to talk to you about your attack.”
His black eyes widened with fear, and he vigorously shook his head, almost falling out of bed from the motion.
“Why don’t you want to press charges? Do you know who did it? Are you afraid of them?” I was bombarding him with questions, and he didn’t have any way to answer me.
I waited while he scribbled frantically. He tore off the note and practically threw it at me. I caught and read it, frowning as I finished.
“You know who beat you up, but you don’t want to report them. Not because you’re scared for yourself, but because of your sister. Did the men who did this have something to do with you trying to find your sister?”
Raven nodded, and wrote down some more. I pulled a chair up closer to his bed, sitting in it with a mental sigh. It wasn’t often I got to sit down during my shift, and even though Raven confused the hell out of me, I found myself intrigued by him. A frustrated growl came from Raven, and I reached out, resting my hand over his. He met my concerned gaze with his own full of anger, fear, and pain.
“Calm down. We’ll work this out, and we’ll find your sister.”
My inner solitary personality cringed at my crazy promise to help Raven find his sister. How did I know Raven wasn’t lying about needing to find his sister? How could I be sure Raven wasn’t using me for drugs or conning me for something else? My inner adult self warned me of all the bad possibilities Raven represented, but my inner slut ran around with his ears covered and singing at the top of his lungs.
I didn’t want to listen to my brain warning me. I wanted to take Raven into my arms, and kiss all his worries away. I wanted to promise him the world, and his sister as well, even though I knew our odds of finding her in New York was slim to none.
Raven pointed at me with a clear question on his face, and I nodded, happily chucking any wise and cautious voice out the window.
“Yes, I’ll help you, but you have to promise me you’ll stay in this room until tomorrow morning. You’re going to have to talk to the police, but you don’t have to actually tell them anything.”
He looked skeptical, and I waited to see what he would do. I really couldn’t stop him if he decided to leave at that moment. He was an adult, and could check himself out whenever he wanted.
I didn’t want him to leave. Partly because I worried his injuries were worse than we thought, even with them looking healed now. The other half of my reasoning was if he left, I might never see him again, and every part of me cried out at the possibility of losing him.
Idiotic really. I had never gotten so attached to any of my patients so quickly. I’d met Raven earlier that night, and we hadn’t had any sort of conversation. The thought of him leaving shouldn’t hit me like a kid losing his best friend or a boy with his first crush.
A knock on the door brought my attention to where Jackson stood in the entrance. The frown on the nurse’s face caught me off guard. I stood, putting myself between the man and Raven.
“What’s wrong, Jackson?”
“There are some men here to see you, Doc. I told them you were on break, but they insisted they needed to talk to you.” Jackson sounded disgruntled.
I smile. Of all the nurses who worked with me, Jackson tended to be the most fiercely protective of my privacy.
“Did they say what they wanted to talk to me about?” Even as I asked, I had a pretty good idea what they were there for. The reason most people come to see me.
“They want to talk to you about the Opalites.” Jackson curled his lip. “I don’t understand why they keep coming to you. Don’t they have their own experts?”
Raven gasped, and I looked over at him to find him staring at me. This time the fear was the uppermost emotion in his eyes. Was Raven like most of the humans, scared of the Opalites simply because of the horror stories passed down from family to family? Those stories were used to keep children in line, and to keep people from accepting those different from us.
I’d spent my entire life, studying and learning all I could about the Opalites, and from everything I’d found out about them, they hadn’t been a danger to us. Humans simply over-reacted when the aliens arrived on Earth.
“All right. Tell them I’ll be down in ten minutes. I want to finish up here first.”
“Yes, Doc. Sorry I couldn’t get them to leave.”
I waved a hand in Jackson’s direction. “Don’t worry about it. I’m used to the government not taking no for an answer.”
Jackson’s footsteps moved off while I studied Raven. The younger man fidgeted with his pencil and paper. I narrowed my gaze, staring at his fingers. Long, slender, and elegant, they looked like the hands of an artist or musician. Yet something sparked in the back of my mind. An image of hands like that, but I couldn’t remember where I saw it, and whose hands they were.
I touched Raven’s shoulder, and he looked up at me.