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Crash and Burn
She'd been about to sign off to the night shift when an RTA sent the emergency room into a tailspin.

The girl was the worst casualty, spilling blood faster than they could pump it in. The power webbed through Morven in the same touch that found a line for the IV, her concentration split to the task; fumbling, twelve hours deep into a relentless shift. The team worked seamlessly around her. Barking orders and feedback from the machines. But the weaves were unravelling as fast as she could form them, the damage raging at a swifter pace than she could work. Monitors began a shrill warning; a drill on her focus. Somewhere distant she could hear her name pointed in question, the words muffled. Darkness misted in the edges of her vision like the night she had collapsed at Soren's feet.

You're going to lose her.

She drew deeper, could feel the sweetness begin to hurt as it surged and the flows strengthened. But even then she could still feel her slipping away, each touch of the power a drain, like the girl simply didn't have enough energy to support the work. No, no, no, no, no. There was sudden stillness around her, like the world had suddenly frozen. Morven chose not to acknowledge it. Her shoes slid in the blood underfoot as she tried to get a better grip; as if that would help anchor her; help the weave stabilise and penetrate. A colleague caught her elbow, pulled her hands gently away. Everything blurred when he glanced at the clock hanging overhead and called it.

"Time of death, four fifty-three am."


By now the red glow of sunrise was a memory, and Morven should have been home hours ago. Instead she'd only just snapped the gloves from her hands and clocked out, pausing momentarily at the door the nurses sneaked out to for a cigarette. Numbness cocooned her against the worst of it. The grief. The anger. She'd always had a temper; one liable to get her into trouble one day. But she'd swallowed it down to inform the family of their loss; absorbing those pale faces, the broken sobbing as worlds imploded, all the sharp edges embedding inwards. Knowing her failure was part of it.

She weathered it with the solemn professionalism she fought so hard to maintain during all her years training. Realised for the first time how tightly she had to hold on just to keep herself together.

Now, though, now she wanted to ram her fist into the fucking wall until the bloody pain eased out the knot in her chest. She choked the urge down instead, running her hand over the tight braid of curls at her crown; breathed in deep like Lyall suggested whenever the wolf bit chunks from her humanity. It didn't work, but it was better than grazed knuckles she'd have to explain later

A beep at her belt drew her gaze down wearily, then. By now her eyes burned raw with fatigue, but her brows still daggered low when she comprehended the message. The tight ball of kindling in her chest burst into abrupt flame.

Marcil was in theatre.

He must have been prepping for it even as the girl's life was bleeding out in Morven's hands. That little fucking shit! Her jaw set hard, and despite her exhaustion she began fumbling for her car keys, threading through the parked cars in blind haste until she found her own. She needed to get to the university hospital. Sage Parker was her patient and the bastard had no fucking right.

"Miss Kinnaird?"

She twisted from her car to find two suits approaching up the path. Government, clearly. Wonderful. Just wonderful. "Aye, that's me, and I've no time spare for words, not right now. Find me when I'm off duty."
Her palm rested on the door.

"Your shift ended at midnight, Miss Kinnaird, and we have already been to your apartment. We need to speak to you. It's a matter of some importance. This way, please."
The taller of the two, hair cropped short to his scalp, offered a tight smile. The fine lines about his eyes deepened, but his gaze was slate. A man running through the motions of pleasantry. Morven's lips pursed as he presented an ID holo formalised with the Ascendany's orange stamp. She could almost hear the low growl that'd be burrowing in her sister's throat had she been here. Her gaze moved to the shorter man, his face utterly impassive. Fuck.

"This needs to be quick. Understood?"


A nondescript office in the hospital complex housed their meeting. The smaller of the two men hovered by the door, hands braced in front of him. The other sat opposite her, caught amidst the glow of several screens pointed inwards, all shining with the hospital's logo revolving about as slowly as he chose to speak. He introduced himself and his colleague formally. Pointed out coffee steaming in a cafetiere, should she desire it (a nice way of saying she looked like shit; his flat lips almost quirked a smile). A jug of water too, if she preferred. Morven dampened the urge to bounce her leg under the table, the sheer leisurely pace with which he directed proceedings galling to every fibre of her desperate to be in theatre.

While he spoke he fiddled with the tech in front of him. Inserted a stick. Prodded a few keys. The glow against his pale skin faded, replaced with something darker, waiting. Finally he laced his hands in front of him and leaned in, the twin dark of his eyes meeting her own. He did not smile, not a hint; she counted the lines on his face while she waited for him to speak. Then, finally:

"Do you have any idea why we're here, Miss Kinnaird?"

Aye, she had an idea that the rumour of one too many miracles brought them to hound her doorstep. She'd known this would happen eventually, but keeping the secret had been secondary to making good use of it. Still, she cursed the ill timing. It made her feel more belligerent than she ought, even knowing that noncooperation on her part would only make things worse. Her lips pressed thin, but she didn't answer him. Silence reigned on the small hope she was wrong; she'd kick herself sharply if it turned out she spilled the secret freely when they were here for something else. Unlikely, but she hated regret.

He sighed. "It is required of all Custody citizens to register if they believe themselves in possession of Ascendant power. For the good of the Custody, and at the behest of Ascendancy himself. We believe you to be one such person, and yet you have not registered."

"Aye, I'm one of them. Aye, I haven't filled in the forms. Doesn't seem to me history's ever shown it to be a wise move. But I suppose you're not here to give me the choice."

He patiently swiped at the screen in front of him, ignoring the jibe. She could see the reflection of the registration form blinking in his eyes, that bloody orange text she'd stared at numerous times back in London -- when she'd first made the decision not to submit her life into the government's hands. Preliminaries began the interrogation. Her name. DOB. CID. When he asked her occupation her stony expression swiftly urged him to move on. Still he made her waste the breath saying it. Asshole.

"How long?"

"Since I was nineteen."

"And how did you first discover your ability?"

"That's not on the fucking form."
The words snapped out before she thought to control herself. The glare burning up in her eyes was as much frustration at her slip as irritation at her predicament. Sage's face flashed with every blink. The glint of skull. The glisten of brain. All those fucking wires weaving in an out; his parents' twisted love. How many times had she warned him? And he had promised to wait for her okay before he proceeded. Either he broke that promise or Marcil twisted him into it. He was a kid, and she knew how eager he was to jack back into the ether. The protectiveness swept over her again, and for one stupid moment she thought about re-purposing the fire in her veins. Just enough to get out of here. Deal with the consequences afterwards.

Her hand stayed, but perhaps only because she could feel how slippery the power had become; she'd wrung herself nearly dry trying to save the girl. A short sigh heaved out from her chest, a note of defeat. Trapped and cagey as an animal. She rubbed her face. Blinked out the tired burning. Tried to concentrate. Then leaned over to pour herself some of the coffee. Jerk awake her senses.

He watched her do it, stoical.

"My sister and I hiked a lot in the Cairngorms when we were younger. Tough terrain. Isolated wilderness, A real tough fucking show if you don't know what you're doing, and when you're really deep there's nowhere to go for help if you fuck up. One time my sister injured herself. A deep gash, flash o' bone in it. I bandaged her up and in the morning we hiked back out. Drove to the hospital in Inverness. But when the nurse peeked a look, the wound might have been healing a week already. No bone to see. Just an ugly scar now. That was the first time, I think. Not that I really ken the significance at the time."

She'd killed a man that night, but the guilt had never weighed on her. Even now, skirting around that little detail, her gaze was clear of it. He nodded, checked his screen.

"Summarise your abilities, please."

Her hands wrapped the cup. This time there was no hesitation. "I can ascertain injuries at a touch. Heal some of them, or aid it to happen more swiftly. Easier if I can see it, not impossible if I can't. Sometimes there's nae even a scar."
She paused, deliberating whether to add the new snippet tonight's tragedy made clear. In the end it all poured out. "Though it takes a certain amount of strength on the part of the patient, I think. I can give a boost of energy. Like adrenaline. Short lived. Sometimes that helps, with the minor things. I can ease pain too. And other, more mundane things. I assume you don't know the intricacies of it. How it's made up."
She shrugged. "It's easy to move things with it."

Less mundane things, too, but she wasn't stupid enough to talk of how the same power could shove a man backwards like he was a marionette; how easily bones snapped and cracked and twisted until that marionette barely resembled a man at all. How ropes of it could coil and tip that wretched twist of limbs into the rush of savage summer floods, never to surface again. She blinked, arms resting on the desk in front of her.

"Are you able to show us any of this?"
That, from the man at the door.

"Do I look like a fucking show pony, gentleman? Ask the next question."


Hours passed in that damn office, unpacking and unpicking her words; the bare bones of the registration form, and much more besides. They were interested in the healing, she realised; its strengths and limitations, so far as she understood it. She'd never paused to consider that it wasn't something everyone with the power was able to do, and even now did not really care. Impatience was sharpening her to a blade's edge, battling the sheer fatigue weighing heavy as a cement shroud. Sage might be dead by now. Or they might be sealing up the incision and wheeling him to recovery. And she hadn't been there for any of it. Despite vowing, and meaning it with her very marrow.

She rubbed her face again, asked him to repeat another question stuffed in her ears like cotton wool. Sometimes he paused after she'd finished explaining something, eyes wavering as he read text on the screen, but by now she'd stopped noticing -- or wondering what the fuck it was he clearly referenced. The coffee pot was empty, even the dregs stone cold. Her thoughts were a strange collision of jittery and sluggish as she checked her wrist watch for the third time that minute. He'd been quiet the whole time, perhaps reading through to make sure he had not missed anything. Finally he stood, jerking down the hem of his jacket. When the stick uncoupled from the screen, the holos flickered and brightened to their usual screens. "Thank you for your time, Miss Kinnaird. We will be in touch."

Morven stood too, slicking back her hair once more, blinking rapidly. He offered his hand as he passed her, but she ignored it. Moments later they were gone. She was not far behind.

She needed to get to the university; she needed to find Marcil.
Somewhere in the rational part of her brain, Morven knew driving was a stupid risk. The afternoon sun was high in the sky, glaring bright through her windshield and shooting arrows into her tired eyes. She'd been at work since midday yesterday, and with Sage before that; sleep just a distant memory at this point. The remnants of the coffee buzzed enough to keep her going, but she could still feel all her blunt and clumsy edges. Blood pounded pain in her temples as she shifted gears and cursed the traffic.

It took an age. She parked in a graceless slash across the lines and dug the keys savagely back into her pocket. The glass fronted building glinted, an elegant older sibling to the scabby state run facility Morven had chosen to serve her first term as a junior doctor. The doors swooshed at her entrance into the air-conditioned foyer. Ordered white; sterile and cool. A far cry from the impoverished Guardian's emergency department.

She was wearing her uniform, ID badge strung about her neck, but still had to argue at reception to prove who she was and convince the damn woman to dig out Sage Parker's file. She scanned the report quickly, eyes all blurred up -- though she was only really looking for the obvious. Alive. Relief blossomed in her chest, but guilt too, and a startling amount of loose anger sparking like wild lightning in her chest.

Then she caught Marcil in the corner of her eye, pure chance, as he strode along the corridor with a nurse at his heels. He gesticulated over a datapad; animated, pleased.

And the rage built before she could stop it, rushing towards an outlet. She slammed Sage's file back onto the chest-height desk.

"Marcil! Filthy fucking scunner. He was my patient."

The doctor looked up, alarmed, as her voice razored out -- followed by her blaze across the corridor. The nurse already stepped back, shooting a fraught look at the reception desk.

"You could have fucking killed him. I should have been there."

He frowned down at her. "But you weren't. The boy needed surgery. Excuse me."

Dismissed. Flatly unrepentant for the injustice. Her temper snapped. And she shoved him. Hard.

Yells filled her ears as he stumbled back. Everything blurred into a slow blink, and suddenly she was restrained from behind. Ahead, Marcil's face glared, red and angry. The datapad smashed and sparking on the floor. Fuck. Someone had her arm yanked so far back the pain shot hard in her shoulder; enough to make her grimace.

"Deranged girl. I'll have your licence."

She spat before she thought better of it. Security hauled her out.
She flattened her forehead against the steering wheel.

Keep the heid; she'd only had to keep the heid. But calm had been a world away when Marcil's smug face came into view and the injustices of Sage's story fired her up like a rocket. It wasn't the first time she'd acted without thinking, compelled by something deep in her psyche. But it was the first time she'd succumbed while wearing doctor's white.

She needed to get home, but finally some sense wormed its way into her head and took belligerent residence over her recklessness. She couldn't drive in this state, not safely. Shouldn't have even done it the first time, let alone with the blood of consequence still so fresh in her mind. God, but she could still feel it running through her fingers, the utter futility of pouring everything in -- hope, pain and sweat, the desperation to beat death itself -- only for it to spill out just as fast. Only to fail. The cries of that girl's family were like the wails of ghosts, haunting her even now.

She sat back, pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes, and pushed her thoughts into a practical direction. She needed to get home, she needed to sleep, and then she needed to fix the fucking mess she'd made. The gentle rocking of the tube was liable to lull her to oblivion; not an option. At least a taxi driver would rouse her if she drifted -- he'd need to to get his damn extortionate fare. But when she turned to search for her bag on the back seat, she realised with abject horror that it was still in her fucking locker at work.  This time when she bashed her head down, the horn blared a sharp blast of misery out into the parking lot.

She had no family this side of the world, and no time for a social life that might have garnered friends. The only person she could call was the last person she wanted to. And he might not even answer.

Still, at this point, she was fucking desperate.

She dialled the number; spoke as soon as the receiver clicked.  "Y'need tae come and get me. I'm at the MSU campus hospital. And I've had a shitty day. Days. Fuck, I can't remember the last time I slept. A girl needs tae sleep, right? Else she's liable to prove herself an utter bampot."
She screwed her eyes tight. Fought down the frustration that she'd completely fucked any chance of checking on Sage today -- and probably a lot more than that, but the enormity of her stupidity was just too big to comprehend right now.  "Don't be a dick. Come now."
She ended the call, chucked her phone on the passenger seat. Tipped her head back to stare at the sloping roof. Hoped the bastard would actually come.


A bash on the driver's side window jolted her awake. Morven blinked blearily, eyes throbbing with the rude effort of clawing back to consciousness way before she was ready. She rolled her head, and set eyes on the most beautiful thing she could imagine seeing right at that moment. Even if it was Sören. He was dressed smartly, tailored all over in deep navy, no sign of the trinkets and charms at his wrists or neck. His hair was neat, his beard groomed. The deep amber of his good eye narrowed to a frown as he opened the car door.

"You scrub up well."
She grinned despite herself, knowing how the shadows dug under her eyes and the mass of her hair was frizzing its way out of her braids. It wasn't like he ever responded to harmless flirting anyway, but it was a rare fucking day when she was actually pleased to see him. She shifted to grab her phone and eased herself stiffly out of the car.

"I'm late for a meeting with a prospective client. You've picked a most inconvenient time to play the damsel, Morven."

"Aye, well if you want to talk about inconvenience."

"I don't want to talk at all. Why can't you drive home?"

"Because I'd rather not end up a bloody smear on the road, if it's all the same to you."
She snapped the words, but he only shrugged, not even a little bit curious of her predicament. For a moment he stared in that mildly infuriating way that made her feel like an insect under glass, like he was weighing the fucking request (and if he was, she was seriously contemplating stabbing her keys into his good eye), then he turned and gestured to the humming vehicle behind him.

"I'll take you to mine. It's closer than the delightful neighbourhood you call home. I am already late."

Fine. That was fine. She ignored the insult, locked up her car and slid into the passenger seat gratefully, biting back from giving the irritated finger to the impatient traffic beginning to build behind his vehicle. Someone already sat in the driver's chair; she belatedly realised Sören's new look was apparently accompanied with other accoutrements of seeming wealth. Not that she'd ever dug about too deep into his business. Was she supposed to be sitting in the back? Uh, fuck. She deigned not to care
Suspended without pay.

It seemed Marcil hadn't lied when he threatened to ruin her career.

Fortunately Soren did not seem to mind her staying. She barely saw him anyway; he was nearly always out doing whatever it was that occupied his days and often his nights, and when they spoke it was nearly always because he required something of her. 'Does this mean anything to you?', 'Protect this, Morven, it's important', 'Look at this for me, and tell me if you feel anything.'

His apartment was far finer than the tiny place her hospital wages paid for; it should have been luxury, but it was difficult to take her mind off work. The shifts she was missing, the people she did not treat, the lives she did not save. She knew Sage had survived his surgery, but nothing of his continued welfare -- though she'd tried to convince one of her colleagues to release his address. Perfectly illegal, but she'd tried anyway, and been utterly stonewalled.

It surged enough frustration that she almost slammed her fist into the desk, though she managed to refrain. She couldn't exactly afford another infraction to her record; it was bad enough she even asked.

A dose of caffeine did little to take the edge off the guilt, but it was too early in the day for anything stronger. Ensconced in a small coffee shop she called her sister instead, but Lyall was typically unsympathetic, insisting that it only proved Morven ought to come home. The Cairngorms were beautiful at this time of year, and the impassioned tone with which Lyall tried to lure her back stung her heart with nostalgia. Even just for a holiday, while this mess blew over. But duty's claws dug deep. Morven wouldn't leave.

A familiar face greeted her upon her exit. She tucked the phone in her back pocket, expression pinched with suspicion "You again," she said flatly.

"Miss Kinnaird. A moment of your time please." The suit gestured to the open car door, and Morven frowned.

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