2- In Which Lawson Comes to Terms
Elena didn't realize she had fallen asleep next to Lawson (she thought they only did that in movies). The slightest pressure on her fingertips woke her up, and she found that Lawson was awake as well, faintly returning her grip.
He hadn't moved his body at all, but he was looking down at her with his eyes. The bright green seemed to have dulled, appearing far away, as if they might melt right out of his head and slide down his cheeks. He breathed steadily, his chest barely rising as he did so.
Even though he somehow managed to look even worse than he did when he was asleep, she was glad to see him finally awake.
He turned his head just slightly, and as he did so, he winced and looked as though he was going to be sick. She sat up straight, cautious that he might hurl all over the place, but he managed to keep himself together. It was strange: even though she had seen him utterly sleep deprived when they first met, he had somehow never quite looked weak. Instead, he had just looked pathetic. Now, he not only looked pathetic, but also completely weak. It was unnerving because Lawson had really never looked weak before. She had no trouble assuming that he did not make a habit of it.
There were plenty of things he might have said to her just then, and every one of them would have been equally expected. Instead, he decided to go the unexpected route and quietly mumbled, "I'm happy to see you."
That right there she found surprising.
In spite of his pain, he smiled. It was only just barely a smile, though. The corners of his mouth hardly turned upwards, but Elena was glad she could see it.
"You've been asleep a long time," Elena said, looking around for a clock. "Two days, at least."
He started to raise his head, though he didn't have to raise it very high before he discovered that he was still in immense pain. Based on the look on his face, Elena judged she didn't have to tell him not to move.
"I should be better," he reflected in a voice that timid and thoughtful (perhaps sorting through in his mind various reasons for why this was). "Not well, but better than this."
Elena gently patted his hand and began to explain the complications arising from the bullet that had entered his body. You know, how the poison was altered somewhat so the treatment wasn't exactly what was needed at the moment to counteract it. Lawson only listened, his eyes blank as he pondered the implications of this new development.
"They found it wasn't really doing much at all," Elena continued, "so they stopped giving you the treatment all together to lower your fever. It's gone down a bit."
"So I am currently receiving no treatment for the poison in my system?" Lawson deduced.
"They've got you hooked up to something or other," Elena said, glancing up at the several bags hanging over his head, and he moved only his eyes to see as well. "They seem to be helping. I mean, you're not—dead…" She trailed off slightly, thinking maybe that was insensitive to say.
"What will be done when that is no longer enough to keep me alive?"
"Your guys are working on it," Elena assured him (though it didn't seem to bring him much comfort). "And so are Quentin's guys and Ryder's guys."
Lawson was still alarmed, though he was unable to show it. He settled into his place and closed his eyes, searching for the correct way to word his next question. Finally, he asked, "Did they find that man?"
It wasn't necessarily a difficult question to word, Elena reasoned, but she supposed it was very important to him so he wanted it to come out sounding the right way. And of course she knew exactly who he was referring to: the Stranger.
"No," she said meekly. "They checked the engine room and couldn't find any trace of him. They don't know how he could have gotten out, or even how he got in there in the first place."
"Good," said Lawson, which was a rather surprising reaction, considering she had basically told him that they had absolutely no information on the person who had done all this damage to him. And he was not interested in elaborating why he would think such a terrible turn of events was actually "good."
And so Elena asked, "How can that be good?"
"I want to take care of him myself," Lawson said. "I want to be sure to repay him for what he's done to me."
He suddenly raised his arm, slinking it out of Elena's grasp. She sat back and watched as he maneuvered it with great difficulty until it was resting on his face, right on the bandage taped in between his eyes. With care, he began to peel the tape off and removed the bandage, staring at the blood stain that perfectly outlined the size and shape of the scar that now adorned his face.
"Maybe you shouldn't have taken that off," Elena suggested awkwardly.
He couldn't see the scar itself, but Elena was sure he remembered it just fine and could imagine it perfectly in his head. It began just above his left eyebrow and dug through his eyebrow, then over the bridge of his nose and into the crease near the corner of his right eye. I mean, it wasn't even symmetrical or anything.
"This scar won't ever go away," he said.
"I think Vitamin D helps," Elena tried (or is it Vitamin E?).
He lowered his arm down so it was resting on top of his body, still clutching the bloody cloth. Elena thought maybe this was self destructive, so she leaned over and took the cloth from him and dropped it into the trash can near her.
The scar was bright red at its center and purple along the edges. In time, she thought maybe it wouldn't be as noticeable, but Lawson had no intention of listening to reasoning.
"I will kill that man when I see him," Lawson said.
"Don't you think we should get information from him?"
"I'll kill him."
"What he has to say is not important to me anymore. He tried to kill me, so I will return the favor. And then I will kill him."
(Elena sighed heavily at his over-repetition of the same fact.)
"I don't think he was trying to kill you," Elena pointed out. "After all, if he was trying to kill you, he would have. He had three really great and easy chances to do it, but each time, he didn't."
"Even if his intention was to kill me, it would have done him no good."
"I will rule the Clouds."
"Oh right." Elena tried not to roll her eyes.
"A Chaste Beauty told me once." At first, Elena thought he was referring to something she had said because she did not remember ever telling him outright that he would win this whole ordeal. Then she remembered that there were tons of Chaste Beauties in the past and he no doubt encountered several of them.
"She told you that you'd rule the Clouds?"
Elena drummed her fingers on the edge of the bed, and then took his hand again to guide it back to its proper position. He only watched her.
"Lawson," she began delicately, "did you ever think that maybe she was just telling you what you wanted to hear at the time? You can be pretty scary when you want something. She might have told you that just so you wouldn't cut her hand off or something."
This was a throwback to one of the first things Lawson had threatened her with.
"I'm sure that isn't the case," Lawson said.
"I was only eight at the time. She had nothing to be afraid of."
Elena involuntarily sighed, "Awww!" at the thought of Lawson as an eight-year-old. Sometimes, it never even occurred to her that he had ever been anything except the person in front of her.
Lawson looked up at her with his eyes, appearing amused with her reaction in spite of everything. "Ms Elena, I'll have you know I was quite adorable," he said.
"I'll bet," Elena said with a little laugh.
"Thankfully, I outgrew it quickly."
Somehow, she found that hard to believe. She liked to think that he stayed young looking for a long time. Considering how young Cole looked, she imagined (and desperately hoped) that Lawson remained way-too-young-looking well into his teens and had only recently become adult-shaped.
"Were you a well behaved kid?" she asked curiously.
"I would say so," Lawson replied. "My mother might say otherwise."
As soon as he said the words, he drew in a deep breath and closed his eyes, shaking his head back and forth ever so slightly. Clearly, it was his intention to never bring up his mother, and he had accidentally done so during his moment of weakness. The memories he was currently enduring heightened his pain, so Elena moved her hand up to his shoulder and rubbed it gently.
He opened one eye and saw her hand.
"Phinn told me what happened to her," Elena said quietly.
He exhaled the deep breath he had pulled in. "That's an odd thing for him to do."
She decided not to tell him that Phinn (more on Phinn later) had used it as a scare tactic to make her afraid of the Others (more so than she already was). According to the combined stories of Phinn and Quentin's wife, Jenny, Lawson's mother (named Adrianne) had been killed by the Forces about a year ago. It was a brutal way, of course, because the Others didn't know any other way. All evidence pointed to the undeniable truth that she had to be a gorgeous woman, and Elena was guilty to admit that it made her believe the tragedy of her brutal murder was even worse.
Lawson did not like to think about it. He naturally felt he was at fault for her death because he had been unable to protect her at the time. Of course, he wouldn't admit this fear (he was too strong for haunting pain like this).
The look on his face was the closest Elena was ever going to get to seeing the sadness over his mother's death. He was probably the type to grieve in the privacy of his own bedroom (not in the company of others—as in privately).
She cleared her throat once it had been a little too silent for a little too long. "I had a vision," she began, figuring that always put him a good mood so it was an easy way to cheer him up.
He nodded, inviting her to continue.
And when she realized what she had to follow up with, she knew this was not going to put him in a good mood after all.
"And…" she went on regretfully. "It was pointing me to the Kingdom of Hail for answers."
"Don't say its name," Lawson warned.
(No one was supposed to ever say the name of other Kingdoms. In special spots in their own Kingdoms, this message would transmit to the owner of the name of the Kingdom that had just been said. In order to avoid this, everyone just didn't say the full Kingdom names, and instead just stuck to the end. This was something Elena should have known but, hey, she's not too bright, so these things happen.)
"I think going to Hail will get me some answers about what to do and what happened to you," she tried again.
"Turner?" Lawson clarified.
"Yes," Elena said. Lawson despised his younger brother, and that was a secret he did not bother keeping.
"Perhaps your vision was telling you that Turner is responsible for what has happened to me," Lawson suggested passively, but she could tell he was just trying to think of reasons for her not to go (no matter how outrageous they were).
"You know that's not true."
Lawson's frown deepened. "Fine," he said. "Go there if you must."
"I will," she said. "I would have gone anyway, with or without your permission, I hope you know."
"I just wanted to let you know where I would be. I know you don't like it when I go over there."
"And do you plan on stopping off at the Storms?" (This was Phinn's Kingdom—the Kingdom of Storms. More on Phinn later.)
"No, just Hail," Elena assured him.
He seemed exhausted, and maybe now was the best time to go anyway because he really needed to rest more. For what he had gone through only a day and a half ago, he needed all the rest he could get.
Elena slowly got to her feet and walked towards the exit, feeling somehow dejected as if he had dismissed her angrily (as opposed to reluctantly). She stopped in the doorway and looked back at him to see his eyes were closed, as if he had already gone back to sleep (which wouldn't be that surprising of a thing for him to do).
She returned to his side and lightly touched her palm to his forehead, carefully avoiding the scar which was now fully visible without the bandage. His fever had gone down considerably ever since they stopped feeding him the treatment, but his head still felt hot. He did not stir when she touched him.
As gracefully as possible, she leaned over and kissed him very gently on the forehead, and he offered nothing in response. She backed up, keeping her eye on him until she was in the doorway again, and then quickly shuffled out of the room.