A Little Kindness: Chapter Seven
Explanation of AU
Chapters: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
In which Raine meets Hunter years before canon, and decides that a kid like him could use all the help he could get with an uncle like Belos. Even if they couldn't go much, they could try something, couldn't they?
Years down the line, Raine is exposed as a traitor to the Emperor's Coven, and they are bound by the brand on their own wrist. Hunter notices. And as to be expected, he has more than a few complaints.
It's not a big surprise on who he goes to for help.
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The moment Hunter touched down outside the Owl House and Katya stumbled off his staff, he was throwing open the front door (while firmly ignoring the complaints of the door demon) and whirling back to the others, who had just barely begun to touch the ground. Looking back on it, he supposed he may have looked a little deranged.
“Okay, okay, get them somewhere to lay down,” He began to list off. “Check if they’re starved or dehydrated, make sure there’s no tracker of some sort embedded on them, for Titan’s sake get them something clean, see if there’s anything conscious going on in their head--”
“Hey, Goldie, breathe.” Eda said, tucking in her wings as she gazed over him. “You look ready to pass out.”
“I do not.” Hunter retorted, though he did pause to take in a far deeper breath than he thought he needed, if only because he was a little lightheaded. “I’m listing down the essentials, because I need to go.”
“What?” Luz jerked up, clutching Eda’s staff close as everyone gave him varying confused expressions.
“Belos will be needing the Golden Guard for a breakout like this,” Hunter gestured with the hand not holding his staff towards Raine, still in Eda’s arms. “I’m here to make sure you don’t immediately kill them and go back before I get in even worse trouble than I already am!”
“Dude, you can’t fly back like that!” Katya waved in his general direction. “Doesn’t your back hurt?”
“Absolutely,” He confirmed, like he was commenting on the weather. “But I can cover this up pretty easily. Normally I’d say it works out for me,” He ignored the concerned looks that got him. “But Kiki knows that the person she fought got their back burned, so now it's a disadvantage.”
“Please don’t tell me you’re not seriously saying getting your back flayed off was a good thing.” Derwin said, pressing his hands together in front of his face.
“I said it would have been.” Hunter corrected. “And relax, would you? I can bounce back from this.” Hunter insisted, straightening himself from standing hunched over before instantly regretting it and leaning on his staff with a pained hiss. Yup, those felt like blisters. Fantastic.
Luz was quick to approach him, reaching hands that he cowered away from, he did not trust her to avoid accidentally touching an injury. He eyed her hands and noted the edges of his vision were blurring. A little worrying, but nothing to panic about. It was fine, this was fine.
“You need to have someone look at that,” Luz said, hands hovering just off from touching him.
“This is nothing,” Hunter insisted, forcing himself not to double over and gritted his teeth. “Just, don’t kill Raine on the first day they’re under your care, at least? I can’t-I can’t stay here.”
“Dude, seriously,” Even Amber was looking at him worriedly now, which did not help matters. “You need to sit down.”
“I need this to not blow up.” Hunter stressed, eyes snapping to Raine still in Eda’s claws, watching the sharp edges like they were already ripping skin apart. Eda cradled their head closer in her taloned hands under his stare, Raine still blank and limp.
“Hurt them,” He started darkly, pointing a finger towards Eda. “And you don’t want to know what I could do.” He warned.
“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Eda insisted, looking appalled at the thought. “You gotta breathe, Hunter.” She said, long ears flicking back, and some part of his mind said this was the first time she addressed him by his name. “We don’t need to panic just yet.”
“I’m not panicking,” Hunter shot back, hating how his voice cracked. Now wasn’t the time to freak out, now wasn’t the time to freak out. He could panic later, he could worry about all of this in the solitude of his room, but most certainly not here, and not now. “Just get them inside.”
Eda didn’t argue with that, for once. Hooty had gone quiet during all the bickering, head peeking out from behind the wide open door as Eda wriggled her way into her house, her height and wings making it difficult to fit through the doorway. But she made it in, without a scratch on Raine. Hunter followed right behind, walking stiff and forced as the others trickled in.
Eda gently set Raine down on the couch, leaning backwards so they stayed seated upright, though their head lolled to the side, lifeless. Eda was clearly disturbed by it all, her feathers puffing up and claws clinking anxiously together as she released them, very reluctantly, with one hand lingered on their arm.
“Great,” Hunter clapped his hands together, forcing back the feeling of his nerves also spiking at the sight. “Just...do what I said, the starvation and dehydration are the most important parts. The tracker is also important, but their survival is just a bit more so, no offence. Good luck.”
“Hunter, your back--”
“Is fine.” He hissed, wedging himself around Eda to stand before Raine. “We got Raine, now we just need to get them back to normal. We’re at the halfway mark, hopefully, but we’re not out of the woods just yet. We’ll worry about trivial matters later.” He gritted out, looking back and seeing concerned and frankly appalled expressions greeting him.
“Not that I’m worried, but,” King started, and despite his words, looked very worried. “Did you just say burns are trivial? Have you seen what your back looks like?”
“It’s the Boiling Isles,” Hunter scoffed, forcing himself to keep his eyes on Raine, because great Titan the shock was beginning to wear off, and that wound was starting to hurt a lot more “This is to be expected.”
“I don’t think that's--”
“Just forget it.” Hunter grumbled, digging around in the pockets of his cloak for a moment. He brushed by his mask, his palisman still trying to reorient itself (he didn’t know why he felt a little bad about that one, Luz had been the one to swing them, after all), and finally found the bar of candy that he’d neglected to eat earlier that morning.
He withdrew it, ignored the almost scolding look from Eda (he was vaguely reminded of the Guard Captains who would scold their scouts for putting too much work on themselves, whenever they thought he wasn’t listening), and used his other hand to lift Raine’s hand and place the bar in it. He paused for a moment, then enclosed Raine’s fist around the bar and stepped away.
“Don’t do anything overly stupid while I’m gone.” He said, stepping away from Raine with one last glance back, refusing to let himself show any more concern than he already had, and made a beeline for the front door.
“Wait, wait!” Luz darted up to him before the others, grabbing his wrist.
Hunter jumped, yanking himself free of her grasp as he whirled his head to hers, ears pinned back. Luz drew away and gave him a guilty, apologetic look. He was a little confused why she was giving him that look at all, and why it made him feel like an ass.
“Sorry, I just,” Luz dug around in her pockets for a moment, before withdrawing two glyphs and handing them to him.
He eyed her for a moment, but took them to look it over. They were ice glyphs, small ones. He glanced at Luz for a moment before stuffing those, too, into the pocket lining of his cloak.
“If you’re not gonna take anything for you back, the least you can get is some ice on it. Just make sure you wrap it before you put it on any skin,” Luz told him. “That’s not good for--”
“I’ve had ice packs before, Luz.” Hunter deadpanned, neglecting to mention most of them had been the equivalent of frozen meat from the Castle’s cafeteria or packs he’d have to steal from the infirmary in the dead of night. “But,” He started when Luz’s apologetic look didn't falter. “Thanks.” He said, in the most painfully awkward way he thought possible.
With that, and one last gaze around the assorted, who did not look all that comforted in contrast to the small smile Luz offered at his thanks, and a second lingering look on Raine, he turned on his heel and out the front door that they had neglected to close.
“Is he leaving already?” Hooty called, slithering free of being crushed against the wall to peek inside as Hunter raised his staff. “But he just got here! I wanted to ask him--”
Hunter, keeping his eyes locked on the horizon, and without a word, teleported himself into the sky.
He flew back to his window, keeping low so as to avoid being spotted by the guards running around like chickens with their heads cut off. He figured it’d only be a matter of time before they realized it was the Owl Lady and her human who helped break out Raine Whispers.
Hunter hovered in front of his locked window, using his staff's magic to unlock it from the inside and throwing it open. He slipped inside, suppressing a yelp as his back scraped against the window and he fell to the floor.
He may have curled up on the tile for a moment, hands griping his hair as he told himself to stop freaking out, now is not the time, you’re going to feel better in a few minutes and think this was stupid, so quit it. But that was neither here nor there.
He heard a chirp and felt something bump against his side, and moved his arm just a bit to reveal his palisman, no longer delirious from being swung around haphazardly, looking up at him with concern.
“It’s fine,” He rasped, slowly releasing his grip on his hair. “You’re right, you’re right, I gotta keep moving.”
The cardinal gave him a look like he was the biggest idiot in the world, which, first of all, rude, and hopped out of the way as Hunter pushed himself to his feet, grabbing at his bed frame to help him up. He winced and hissed with the effort, wondering if he should bother to assess the damage of his back for himself before deciding against it. He didn’t have that kind of time.
So instead he unclasped his cloak, kicking the burnt fabric under his bed as his palisman cheeped and flew towards his closet, already knowing the drill by now. He pulled his med kit off his bedside table and sifted around in it before producing a roll of gauze and Vaseline.
He wouldn’t be able to move around much if he just wrapped some ice up to his back, so he’d just have to suck it up. This was his own fault, anyway. He’d been so anxious, back when he first realized of Raine’s capture, that he flew to Luz without his under armor, so now his back was fried, because he couldn’t stop to think for two seconds.
He lifted his shirt, bunching it up around his neck instead of taking it off, uncapping the Vaseline and smearing a bunch on his hand. He reached behind him and haphazardly slathered it on the upper part of his back, where the majority and worst of his burns were (and great Titan it stung like a bitch) and called it a day. He didn’t have the luxury to be precise.
As soon as he started attempting to wrap the gauzes around himself, his palisman flew over with a new cloak between its talons, dumping it on his bed. He gave up on the gauzes and tossed them aside. He’d live.
He pushed his shirt back down and snatched his cloak off the bed, draping it over his shoulders. His cardinal started to peck at his gauzes, but Hunter wasn’t paying much attention.
“Mask, mask, mask,” He mumbled, looking wildly about his room for a moment before almost smacking himself and dropping to look under his bed.
He felt wildly about until he clutched the fabric of his old cloak, yanking it out while berating himself for being so eager to hide it from sight he forgot what he still had within the pockets.
He hurriedly withdrew his mask and secured it over his face, throwing his hood up and snatching his staff from where he’d left it on the floor. He rushed to his door, grabbing the handle as he looked back towards his palisman, who looked ready to fly after him, whispering a “stay here” before bolting off.
He rushed through the hallways, darting around guards that either paid him no mind or uttered a quick “sorry, sir” when they came a little too close. He kept his eyes set dead ahead and resisted using his staff to fly towards his uncle's throne room. He’d look even more guilty if he did that.
“Oh, uh, Golden Guard, sir,” One of the guards said as he passed him, one hand raised. “The Emperor said he wanted to--”
“I know.” Hunter snapped behind him, not even looking back as he kept moving.
He tallied up the excuses in his head, crossing off the ones that wouldn’t work and knowing that no matter what he said, Belos wasn’t going to like it. He had no excuse that would save him from any retaliation, but then again, it was almost impossible not to.
So long he wasn’t suspected, it would be a win.
He looked up, and saw the throne room doors before him. He held his staff just a little bit tighter, ignored the curious looks from the guards posted in front of it, and pushed one of the doors open.
Emperor Belos was speaking to two Guard Captains, his gloved, clawed hand digging into the arm of his throne the only sign that he was agitated. Great, Hunter loved coming in at the worst possible moments.
Their discussion cut off as the sound of the door opening reached them, and three heads turned towards Hunter walking in.
He forced back the urge to slip out again and mumble an apology as he went, and instead strode as confidently as he could into the room.
“I was told you summoned me.” He said, like the Captains were the ones butting-in.
“You're late.” Belos said, which did not bode well.
“Apologies, sir.” Hunter said, priding himself on his voice remaining level as he approached the throne, dropping to a one-kneed bow and ignoring the surprised looks the Guard Captains were giving him, back feeling like it was on fire. “The hallways are filled to the brim with panicking guards.”
“Oh great,” One of the Captains muttered. “Sir, may we--”
“You are dismissed. Both of you.” Belos said firmly, head never turning away from Hunter. Oh, this was going to be a nightmare.
“Y-yes, sir.” The second Captain nodded, nudging their friend in a quick haste to hurry out of the throne room. There were no guards standing beside Belos at this time, likely busy trying to rally their fellow scouts. They’d be alone.
This was fine.
The door shut with a soft echo, and Hunter never let his eyes stray from Belos. He watched his every movement, and especially the ground before him, awaiting a spike. Belos started tapping his fingers on the arm of his throne and Hunter had to resist the urge to jump at the sudden noise.
“Where were you?” He asked, unnervingly calm.
“The library,” Hunter decided on. “I was in the upper levels, since I had the day off, and I had not been expecting I would be needed anytime soon. By the time I realized something was going on, I had to go back to my room to grab my disguise and headed out to help. But I was told by a guard passing by that you wanted to see me, so I doubled back.”
The library was rarely used in the Castle, and Hunter had for years been fascinated with the old confiscated books in it. He’d found countless hiding places where he could barely hear or be bothered by anyone, and Belos knew this all too well from finding him there when he was younger.
And, as a bonus, he’d passed plenty of guards on his way back to the Castle, only hiding when approaching his window. They knew better than to snitch and say that he’d looked injured on his way back, if they saw it at all. Injuries like that being reported in the Emperor’s Coven never ended well for either party, the injured being interrogated and practically punished for not being able to perform as well as before, and the one who reported it being berated for not stopping this from happening, even if they weren’t in the area at the time.
Not an exactly foolproof plan, but it's the best idea he had.
“The library.” Belos repeated, slowly.
“I’m sorry,” He said, swallowing. Best to start out with that. “I really hadn’t thought I’d be needed today. I was just...having a break.”
A break. A break, he says! Oh isn’t that wonderful, he hesitates, and then calls it a break. Genius move there, prodigy.
He stayed quiet, despite the panic, grateful for the mask to hide the range of emotions across his face. Belos watched him silently for a few moments, letting him sit in his turmoil. An old tactic, letting Hunter stew in his emotions to see if he’d crack. It stopped working when he was eleven.
“Are you aware of what happened?” Belos asked then.
“Yes, the guards explained it.” Hunter said, daring not to be relieved, not yet. “Raine Whispers has escaped imprisonment.”
“Do you know how?” Belos inquired, continuing before Hunter could answer. “Kikimora was there. She says that our old friend the Owl Lady was part of the attack, along with that human of hers.”
“Are we going to go after them?” Hunter asked, raising his head just a bit.
“No,” Belos said, surprising him. “Not yet. We know where their residence is, and to be quite honest, I do believe we can make this work to our advantage.”
“How so?” Hunter pressed, worry curling uncomfortably in his chest.
“Patience, you’ll know when it's your time.” Belos waved it off. It wasn’t his place to know yet. “Kikimora has also said that Whispers’ crew were part of the attack, after only having broken out of the Conformatorium, also with the help of some familiar faces, only yesterday.”
Hunter knew there was more to this, so he kept his mouth shut. He would not be berated for interrupting.
“She mentioned an unfamiliar figure that stole the mask off one of the guards.” Belos continued after a moment, and Hunter felt his blood go cold. “One with a familiar voice, she said. And a staff that held no palisman.”
His staff. His staff. Of course she would recognize the staff! There were a total of two staffs in the entire Boiling Isles that had no palisman, who wouldn’t notice that? Especially when it was literally shoved in your face.
“But,” Hunter started, and damn his stubbornness, because if by some grace of the Titan he could escape his, he’d cling to it like a dying man. He might as well be one. “But we own the only staffs that don’t bear palismen.”
“I’m aware.” Belos said coldly, still watching him.
“I, Belos, I assure you,” Hunter yelled at himself internally to stop stumbling over your words, he’s going to notice. “I was in the library, why in the world would I be part of a rescue for Raine Whispers of all witches?”
“That’s what I was wondering.” Belos said, standing from his throne. Hunter stayed rooted to the spot. “Kikimora was...quite insistent it had to be you.” He said, and Hunter could very easily visualize the scrunched expression Belos had.
“She--you know how Kikimora feels about me.” Hunter said, hurriedly standing, hands clasped tightly behind his back with a white-knuckled grip on his staff. “Surely you can’t honestly believe that I would do such a thing?”
“I’ll admit, Kikimora has always had a bit of an...issue, with you in particular.” Belos said, slowly walking down from his throne. It’d been a long-known fact that Kikimora wasn’t a fan of Hunter, and he will admit, her trying to murder him not that long ago was only a slight surprise. “Still, this is a grave accusation to make, even for her.”
“Uncle, I promise,” Hunter said, and he mentally slapped himself for pulling out the uncle card, way to be a jackass. “I hadn’t even known where you were holding Whispers. What could I possibly gain from helping them escape? The Day of Unity is fast approaching, and you know I would never dare stop that. I want to see your plan go through more than anyone else.”
And there goes that twinge of guilt. Because, yes, he did want to see the Day of Unity come to fruition. His uncle had always talked fondly of the human realm, with a faraway, longing look in his eyes. He could never keep Belos away from a place he so obviously missed. He wanted to see it, too. Belos wanted to show it to him. It’s what he had talked about for years. It might even be, dare he say it, fun.
Course, on the subject of needing all Coven Heads present, he’d already thought that plan through. If Whispers couldn’t be there on the very day, then surely Belos would have to grab the next most-powerful bard and promote them on the spot, it couldn’t be that hard, could it? Or maybe he could bring in Whispers, have them there to open the portal, and usher them out again. Belos wouldn’t care to have them then, his plan would’ve been completed.
He could fix this.
Belos was standing before him now, a towering figure looking down at him. The mask always unnerved him, even if it was more familiar than his actual face. Looking at his uncle's real face always had a sense of wrongness to it that he never really got over, as awful as that made him feel.
“Oh, Hunter,” Belos sighed, raising a hand. Hunter forced himself not to flinch as it brushed by his head, gently sliding his hood back before clawed gloves hooked around his mask. “I know you do.” He said, almost soft, as he peeled the mask away from Hunter’s face.
He schooled his expression to something determined, hardened, with his desperation hopefully being passed off as confusion. He stopped his ears from twitching down as he stared up at his uncle's mask, exposed.
“Perhaps someone made another artificial staff.” Hunter reasoned, never taking his eyes off Belos. “I--you know I don’t want to accuse Kikimora of lying, that’d be a little much now, so maybe--”
He snapped his mouth shut.
“I need you to be completely honest with me, do you understand?” Belos said, and on Hunter’s shaky nod, placed his other hand on Hunter’s shoulder, digging in and definitely piercing holes. “You are saying that you were in the library? The entire time?”
It was his final way out, to confess. And were this something different, Hunter may just give in. Because half the time his uncle asked like this, he already knew the answer to it, and was checking to make sure Hunter wouldn’t really lie to him. He felt the phantom sting of a crisscrossing scar along his thigh, one that had very nearly hit an artery. It was years old, but it served as the reminder it was made to be.
But he couldn’t afford to crack now. If Belos believed Kikimora’s words, then it wouldn’t matter if he told the truth or not. There was a small sliver of chance that he hadn’t already made his decision, and for what it was worth, he had to take it.
So, shoving down the gaping hole of guilt opening up inside him, he switched his expression to something accepting, as though he was reporting on something as simple as a routine patrol.
“Yes, sir.” He said, a finality. “I’m sorry, for not being here sooner. I mean that.”
All was quiet, and Hunter stared into the dark, gaping holes in the Emperor’s mask. He almost looked to the ground, for an oncoming strike, but decided against it.
“Very well,” Belos said, releasing his shoulder and stepping back. “I’ll admit, the idea sounded preposterous, even to me.” He said, not noticing Hunter’s shocked expression as he turned his back to him, walking back up the steps to his throne. “Perhaps we’ll have to look into the possibility of other artificial staffs off in the Isles.”
“I, yes, I’d be happy to help with that.” Hunter said, quickly getting a hold on himself, and the frantic racing of his heart, suppressing a wince as he rolled the shoulder Belos had grabbed.
“Oh, but, one more thing,” Belos said abruptly, turning back towards Hunter, who instantly froze. He now stood in front of his throne, the Golden Guard’s mask still in hand.
Hunter recognized it instantly, the tone of voice, and quickly flinched to the side as the stone at his feet suddenly shot towards him. All the same, he felt a searing tear just over the skin where his neck and shoulder connected.
“I’ve told you time and again,” Belos said as Hunter bit back a yelp, one hand raised to press at the blood seeping through his cloak. “To stop hiding in the library. I’ve already allowed you to go there despite its uselessness, on the condition you would be easily accessible. I don’t like repeating myself, Hunter. You know this.”
“R-right, yes, that,” Hunter nodded, ears pressed back as he looked up towards his uncle, forcing a half-smile. “That was my mistake. It won’t happen again.”
“See to it that it doesn’t.” Belos said, tossing the mask down at his feet. “You know I don’t enjoy disciplining you like this, but it appears to be the only kind that gets through to you.”
“I apologize, Uncle.” Hunter bowed his head, a dangerous move, but one that often worked in his favor. “You shouldn’t have to.”
“Yes, well,” Belos sighed, slowly sitting back down on his throne. “It’s how you learn. I’d hope that with time, these would become less frequent.”
“I’ll do better.” Hunter promised, slowly crouching, like he was faced with a tense, wild animal, and picked up his mask with his free hand.
“I know you will.” Was all Belos said, like he was being told something he’d known for a long, long time. “Send guards off to comb through the streets. Whispers will surely be at the Owl Lady’s residence, but it would do good to be sure. Perhaps we could find other hideouts of the BATs, stop them from going right back to their old ways.”
“Yes, sir.” Hunter mumbled, fixating his mask back to his face, hand tightening over his wound, glove already growing soaked with blood.
“See if Lilith can be tracked down, while you are at it.” Belos added, hand slightly raised to stop Hunter from leaving just yet. “She holds nothing of use to us, but could prove to be an annoyance if she’s still in contact with her sister.”
Hunter gave a brisk nod, and once Belos had waved his hand, he flipped his hood back up and sharply turned on his heel, stalking as steadily he could back towards the massive stone doors.
It went by in a blur after that, walking through the hallways among the sea of guards. He recalled telling a group of rattled scouts to search the streets and known hideouts of the BATs, throwing Lilith’s name somewhere in the mix in words he couldn't remember if he tried, and kept on moving.
When he came to, he had kicked his door shut and was standing in the middle of his room.
His palisman poked its head out from under his bed, cheeping worriedly as it flew up to his face, fluttering anxiously.
“Gauzes,” Was all Hunter said, slowly sitting on his knees before his shaking legs could give out, his staff falling from his hand like a loose stone.
That, he decided as he stared down at the tile of his floor, was more than enough terror for one lifetime.
It felt like fuzz was in his ears, and the ground was really beginning to blur now. Whether from pain or the shock of his whole ordeal waning away, he wasn’t sure. He leaned down and pressed his forehead against the cold tile, hands gripping tightly at his arms as he squeezed his eyes shut, breathing coming out fast and ragged.
Still not the best time to break down, but considering the range and turmoil of emotions he’d gone through in barely three days, he felt this was more than a little deserved.
He started to shake as he gasped for air, yanking at the sleeves of his shirt and starting to get a headache from how desperately he was pushing his face against the tile floor, like that would somehow help.
You need to make a plan, some part of his racing, cluttered mind shouted. If he finds out, he'll do worse than replace you.
He contemplated tearing his ears off, just to see what would happen.
There was a chitter again, and he felt something lightly whack against his arm. He jumped and whirled his head around, clutching at the place he’d been touched.
His palisman blinked up at him, head lowered in what could almost be called shame, a roll of gauze in its beak. He stared at his bird for a moment, thoughts temporarily disrupted as he let out a shaky breath.
“I’m here,” He breathed hoarsely, mouth twitching in what was probably supposed to be a smile. “Sorry, what were you saying?”
It was a bit of a joke he had, since he couldn’t understand a damn thing his palisman tried to convey. He got the impression he thought it was way more funny than the other did.
The cardinal only gave him its best scolding look that did not at all hide its worry. It hopped close and placed the gauze before him, cheeping incessantly all the while. It was something the bird had started doing whenever Hunter curled up in an emotional mess. Once Hunter started focusing on sound, the other senses slowly trailed in behind.
“Right, right, sorry.” Hunter mumbled, fumbling with his cloak for a moment before tossing it elsewhere in his room. While attempting to remove his shirt, he felt something wet on his face, and tore off his non-bloodied glove to feel around. Huh, tears. He usually noticed those earlier, he thought as he tossed his shirt somewhere on the floor, hissing when it moved against the burns on his back and sent a jolt of pain, making him wonder if he should give up again and go back to curling into a ball on the floor.
Despite that tempting offer, he shakily pushed himself to his feet, scooping up the bandages and pulling off his other glove, frowning at the blood on his hand. He sighed and wandered to the far corner of his room, legs stiff and back hunched. Just focus on the noise, he told himself. Focus on the gauze in your hands.
He’d shoved a cracked vanity mirror back into the corner, years back. It first started out as a much younger him wanting to see how he looked in the numerous uniforms he cycled through before he landed on his current one, maybe even caring about his hair or face for once. Nowadays, he never bothered with it unless he had an injury he couldn’t see himself.
He tilted his head to the side, ignoring the dampness on his face, an unsteady hand tracing right below the cut that went almost exactly along the junction of his neck and shoulder. It was still bleeding, but not quite as much as before.
This one wasn’t that deep, he reasoned as he turned away and dug around in his drawers. It probably wouldn’t scar. And if it did, it’d be faint, or eventually fade. All things considered, he got off very lightly, especially if Belos noticed him flinch. Must be in a better mood than he thought.
Or the Day of Unity’s taking up too much of his focus to care about Hunter bumbling about.
He withdrew a half-empty water bottle and small hand towel from his drawer as his palisman dropped a container of antiseptic wipes on his bed. He mumbled a quick thanks before grabbing it and placing it alongside the gauze on the desk of his vanity mirror.
He poured a bit of water on the towel before wiping it along his hand, cleaning off the blood and inspecting his hand for a moment before pouring a bit more water on the towel. He then raised the clean side to his wound, wincing only for a moment before going right back to it. At least the pain grounded him.
He fell into a repetitive motion, even if he kept fumbling with shaking hands. Clean the wound, make sure it wouldn’t get infected (as incredibly painful as it was, it at least continued to bring him back into the moment), check for grit or pieces of stone that might’ve fallen in, and wrap it up. He went into autopilot pretty much immediately.
Course, when he realized he should be thinking of a plan, since he could use something to distract his thoughts, he was already judging to see how he would wrap up the angry red gash.
“Right, those cloth pads, I need those.” Hunter said, mostly to himself. Did he have the sticky ones? He might’ve used those up. He meant to ask Bat if they had anymore--
Raine. He was supposed to ask Raine.
He felt something nudge his hand and looked down, seeing the cardinal with the very non-adhesive pads he needed in its beak, head raised as it shook them around.
“Thanks,” He offered a small smile and took the bandages.
Once he was done sticking them to his wound, deciding it’d probably be enough for now, he resigned himself to taking a look at the damage to his back. He took a deep breath and turned, peeking over his shoulder.
Red, angry burns stretched from the middle to top half of his back, with a few scatters of blisters, save for the places just behind his shoulders, where there was a notable contorting of his skin with larger clutters of the little bastards. It probably looked a little worse because of the clumps of Vaseline lazily smeared across his injuries. There was dried blood running down his back, with only a few recently opened blisters still freshly bleeding. He recalled a Coven Scout who once got mauled by fire bees, and decided that compared to that guy, he could survive with these blisters.
“Are those ice glyphs still there?” He asked, still looking over the burns on his back. Yeah, these would probably scar. Shit.
His cardinal cheeped and flew back down to wherever his previous discarded cloak was, searching for the glyphs as Hunter picked up his water bottle again, eyeing it and then the burns across his back.
Well, better than nothing.
He poured the remaining water over his back, gritting his teeth against the pain, though it was more of a dull ache. He figured it probably would’ve been better if the water was cold. He’d take what he could get. At least his hands weren’t shaking as much now.
He started to grab gauze and properly wrap them around his back, too tired to bother with more Vaseline. The palisman flew back up with two ice glyphs in beak as he was doing so, and he paused in his wrappings to take one and inspect it. It looked the same as he remembered it, from where Luz had drawn it on stone. He wondered if it worked the same on paper, or if something a little different happened.
He finished up the last of his wrappings, with some help from his cardinal, and bit off the remaining gauze to set it aside. It still stung, just a bit, but he'd kept the bandage loose for a reason.
Forgoing any caution, he lifted the glyph and experimentally tapped it.
And promptly got a handful of ice that he immediately dropped on his desk.
The cardinal scolded him with chitters as Hunter waved it off, muttering about how “well, it didn’t break” as his only defense.
He picked up his hand towel and wrapped the ice in it, though his eyes remained on the second glyph. Curiously, he took that one from his bird, looking it over with a tilted head.
He set the toweled up ice on his bed, insisting it was “only for a moment” to his nagging palisman, opening up his desk drawers and digging around in it.
He pushed aside the notes he’d saved over the years from Raine, along with the guilt that accompanied it (and that good ol’ terror on what the hell was gonna happen to them now), and pulled out sheets of paper he had originally been intending to use to talk with Raine. He remembered getting the bigger papers so that he had enough pieces to rip off and talk with, and to write down all the name suggestions he had for his palisman.
He set the papers down on the floor, along with an old pencil, and grabbed his makeshift ice pack off his bed before laying down on the floor, setting the ice glyph off in the corner.
“Not like I’m gonna get much sleep anyways.” He reasoned as his cardinal flew down beside him to inspect what he was doing. “Might as well practice. Could use glyphs like these if I don’t have my staff on me.”
And he certainly couldn’t bring it anywhere on future ‘stealth’ missions. Too recognizable. He reasoned he could always use his palisman, but he had no idea how well that would work, they were very different kinds of magic. He’d only ever be able to use spells he already knew, anyway.
So, setting the ice pack on his back (with some struggling and help from his cardinal), along with ignoring the stinging that accompanied it, he grabbed his pencil got to drawing. Not like Luz would give the Golden Guard an opportunity to learn her kind of magic. Might as well take this chance when he had it.
His palisman settled down next to him, its little body pressing against his, sleepily watching him redraw the same glyph over and over until he got it perfect, hands slowly becoming steadier as the rest of the world faded into the background.
Pieces of ice that ranged from weird lumps to rounded circles filling the space beside the two, Hunter using his clean glove to pick them up when needed.
It was a distraction, a postponement of what he needed to be doing, and he knew it. He had dozens of plans and questions running through his head, and normally on nights like these, he’d stare at the ceiling until he’d sorted them all out, sometimes stretching even into the next day.
Once he wrote a long, rambling note to Bat--Raine--to see if maybe they had an idea, in some act of desperation. He promptly got a note that neatly laid out the obvious in two sentences, with the next five scolding him and telling him to go to sleep, he's getting delirious, he needs to rest more, he’s a growing kid, yadda yadda. He swore to never give them a note like that again.
He stared down at the last glyph he drew, tearing off the piece and looking it over. It wasn’t as neat as Luz’s, the circle not quite as perfect, the lines a little wonky.
With a quiet mutter and a determined frown, he set the glyph aside and got to drawing again.
Not like he had anything better to do.
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