Sharon’s note: People can learn a lot from animals. I’ve met several disabled dogs, ones that were blind or deaf or had three legs, and they don’t seem to care. They learn how to deal, then get on with their lives. It’s not as easy for humans, and my theory is it’s because we’re badly trained. The hardest thing to deal with when you’re disabled is the mental hurdles you throw at yourself. There’s this weird feeling of shame, like the fact that you’re hurt is your fault. I don’t know where it comes from, the urge to think that it’s a failing, but somewhere we all pick it up. We should be more like dogs, and instead of blaming ourselves, get on with things. Warning: Author knows just how much harder that is than it sounds.
I splashed water on my face. It wouldn’t hide the red eyes and slightly raw nose, but it washed away the tears. If I didn’t leave the bathroom soon, the nurses would come looking for me, so I opened the door to find Sean next to my bed in his wheelchair, flicking through channels on the TV.
“This is why I don’t have cable anymore. There’s never anything on.” He threw the remote on the little table next to my bed with a clatter that made me wince.
“Not that you’d have the time to watch it even if you did.” I hobbled forward, the left wheel of my walker creaking.
“Hey, you’re out of the chair.” Sean beamed at me, swiping a hand through his steel-gray hair. Even being parapalegic, my mentor was one of the lucky ones. A lot of hunters didn’t live long enough to get older. Days like this, it didn’t feel like I was going to.
“Yeah, I just can’t get off of this thing yet.” I tapped the handle as I maneuvered around so I could get into bed. The tiny knob on the side of the wheel caught the edge of the bathroom door, jolting my entire body. I closed my eyes and swallowed down a curse.
“Bad day, huh?” Sean’s voice was soft, understanding. It made me want to hit him.
“No, I’m not dead. It’s supposed to be a good day.” God, I hated how bitter I sounded. I dropped onto the bed and grabbed my legs to help them up. “Sorry. It’s just that I’ve been here for months. I work my physical therapy every day, but things are going so slow.”
“How’s the pain?”
“You know me, the pain doesn’t really bother me, it’s just . . .” I tucked the blanket back over my legs and took a couple of deep breaths. I would not cry again. “Is this it, Sean? Is this as good as it gets now? I keep losing little bits and pieces, and I fight like hell to get them back but . . . I’m tired. No matter how much I sleep I’m still so tired. Even if I have energy physically, I feel like I’m fighting with myself just to get up in the mornings, because I need a break from being tired.”
He moved his wheelchair expertly so that he faced me. If I had done that I would have hit the walls. “You know what you’re feeling is normal, right?”
“Yeah, I know.” I crossed my arms, like holding them against my stomach could suppress the sick feeling.
“And you’re talking to the shrink, right?” He put a hand on my ankle over the blanket.
I shrugged. “I don’t like this one. She’s talking about expectation management, but I’m not ready to accept that this is normal now. Not yet, anyway.”
“I’ll make sure they get you someone else. We don’t want you kicked out because you punched a member of staff.” He grinned, and it was contagious.
“You mean like you did?” The story of Sean punching a nurse while hallucinating from a witch’s spell was one that got passed around every year at the Hearth Christmas party.
“I didn’t get kicked out over that. Everyone knew I wasn’t in my right mind and no one held a grudge.” His mouth twisted as he tried to keep a straight face. “I even sent the nurse flowers.”
“Yeah, I think he appreciated that less than the punch.” I giggled.
Sean took a deep breath, and assumed a more serious expression. “Look, I did come to check on you, but I also need a favor.”
My nose wrinkled. “Not a lot I can do in here, but sure. What do you need?”
“Rumor says that the Frankenstiens have one of their special agents in here for one of their special surgeries.” He looked as unhappy as I felt. The group called themselves the Ambrosia Institute, but everyone knew them as the Frankenstiens. Their group trademark was grafting parts of the creatures they hunted into their bodies to make themselves stronger. In theory I didn’t have a problem with using the corpses of dead prey, even Hearth had its own labs for research purposes. My problem was that the Frankenstiens were sometimes more excited about getting a new part than they were worried about the guilt of the creature they hunted.
“They do all their mods in house. What are they doing here?” I snarled the words.
“I don’t know, but rumor also says there’s a rare VIP creature in the hospital right now. The Frankenstiens have broken the truce in places like this before in order to get a new body to play with.”
Sean was right to be worried. The hospital was one of the few truly neutral places where anyone could come to heal. If Hunters broke the truce, it might not matter that it was only one group that did it. There would be a war, and war always caused collateral.
“Okay, I’m your eyes. If I even get a hint that they’re up to something, you’ll know.” It felt good to have a job, even if it was just recon.
Sean patted my leg. “That’s my girl. Now, do you want lunch? I was going to send out for burgers.”
I smiled. “Please. They keep trying to make me eat healthy, and if I’m going to be on a stake out, I need junk food.”