Chapter 12

He was more or less right. The album was out in early October and they planned another tour after Colin’s next transformation, which was on Friday 26th.

That day Ash went to Berwick and left Colin in the pub with the other band members, so that they could have a little celebration and he could slip into one of the werewolf rooms afterwards and go through the transformation there. It was convenient, because the nights were already too cold to be spent outside anyway.

Ash felt an increased level pain in Colin’s emotional pattern before she left. That could, of course, just mean he would have a really painful transformation, but she did not feel like taking chances, and quietly said to Harry:

“Please, take care of him for me, will you?”

“Don’t worry,” Harry nodded with a smile. “He’ll be fine.”

“So, how’s everything with you and Ash?” he asked Colin later. The antidepressants had done a good job and enabled him to be curious without having to suffer emotionally.

“Fine,” Colin shrugged.

“But you’re still just friends, aren’t you?” Harry persisted. “Even though every fool can see how much you’re in love with each other…”

“She doesn’t want to rush it,” Colin explained. “Apparently she had some bad experience in the past. And it can’t hurt to wait.”

“It can’t, eh?” Harry remarked.

“What do you mean?”

“I think you should do something about it. You’ve been together long enough, there’s no need to wait any longer. Sometimes you wait for the right moment, and then find you missed it and never realised it was then.”

The other SMPDM members understood only too well where Harry was heading, understood his patience had eventually worn too thin, and sat at the table with their breaths drawn in anticipation of the result of this conversation.

“What makes you say that?” Colin wondered, figuring out the guitarist was speaking of personal experience. Some very bad personal experience.

“In July last year, I met a beautiful girl in this very pub. She sat at the bar, and I sat at one of the tables. Occasionally we’d steal a look at each other… All that time I was plucking up courage to go to the bar and talk to her, but I couldn’t. And I told myself she’d probably come some other day again and I’d get my chance. She did indeed come, and I did get my chance to talk to her – a few months later, when she was already in love with someone else.” He was spitting out the words bitterly as if he wanted to punish Colin for what happened to him, but they could see he was not about to tell him whom he was speaking of.

“That’s sad…”

“Yeah, it is. But I suggest you learn from my mistake and tell Ash you don’t want to wait anymore.”

“What if I want to?”

“You don’t. And neither does she. It’s funny how it’s more visible to the outer world than the two of you.”

Colin suddenly smiled and decided to give up. “Ok, I’ll think about it,” he said. At that moment, he felt his hands slightly itching.

“Have to go now,” he reckoned. “I’ll talk to you guys in the morning.”

With those words he ran off.

“I can’t believe you did that,” said Jim when he was out of sight.

“Yeah, it probably wasn’t the best thing to do, but I desperately need to know it’s all resolved. It was killing me to see them somewhere there in between. They’ll sleep together in one bed, but never even kissed, never hold hands in public… it was driving me mad.”

“And you think you’ll be better once it’s resolved?” Alan asked, using Harry’s terminology.

“I hope so,” Harry nodded. “At least I won’t give myself false hopes or anything.”

“Well, good luck,” they wished him.

Harry sipped his beer. The image of Colin’s smiling face with the unbelievably reassuring look in it flashed before his eyes.

A second later he jumped up and shot out of the room, uttering a single curse before doing so. His fellow band members watched this reckless behaviour rather shocked; Harry had knocked over his chair in the process and never even looked back, not to mention picking it up. They came to the conclusion it would be wise to get up and follow him.

 

Harry found Colin lying on the landing on the top of the stairs. Quite amazingly, he had not transformed. Instead, his nose was badly bleeding and cold sweat was streaming down his face.

“Damn,” whispered Harry and kneeled down beside his friend’s body.

“Colin, Colin, do you hear me?” he asked urgently.

“Harry…” Colin managed, but did not seem entirely conscious.

Harry fought with the mechanism of the ring responsible for all the damage. “All rubbish about the silver, is it?” he grumbled while doing that.

Finally he managed to remove the ring from the wound. Next came stopping the bleeding. Harry had only limited resources to do that, but the other members of SMPDM that had just joined him in silent horror helped him out. Jim handed him a packet of tissues.

Harry pulled Colin’s head onto his knees and tried to find out how severe the injury was.

“Geez, that must’ve hurt,” he whispered to himself.

“What happened? Why hasn’t he transformed?” the others barged in after a minute or two of consideration.

“He forgot to remove that bloody ring from his nose,” Harry offered them a clue. “Must’ve been partly silver, and that’s what probably stopped the transformation as well. We’ll need to get him help.”

“Where?” they wished to know.

“In the hospital.”

“Are you mad?! What’re you going to tell them? Sorry, Colin Ferguson happens to be a werewolf and we’d like to have him alive if you don’t mind?”

“Jesus Christ, I’ll tell them he’s allergic to silver if I have to, but without medical care he’ll die!” Harry shouted at them.

Then, without waiting for an answer, he took out his mobile phone and dialled a number.

“Terry, it’s me. Listen, you know the old pub just across the road? Yeah, that one. I’ve got an emergency case here. I need an ambulance here asap, we have to get Colin into hospital or he dies.”

Luckily for Harry’s nerves, Terry showed more understanding than his friends.

“They’ll be here in a minute. Anyone tell me it’s a bad idea again, and I swear I’ll strangle you on the spot. Colin needs medical care and he’ll get it if that’s the last thing I’ll ever do,” he threatened. “Now, help me get him outside.”

Half an hour later, Harry was pacing nervously up and down one of the ICU corridors when Terry at last emerged.

“So?” Harry asked.

Terry shrugged. “There’s nothing we can do, to be honest. If he’s really allergic to silver like you say, he’ll have to fight the battle himself. Silver’s an element, there’s no way we can remove it from his blood stream…”

“Dammit,” Harry commented it quietly. He knew it, of course. Still, he had hoped the doctors would be at least of some help.

“We’ve done all we could,” Terry assured him. “But whether he’ll live or not, that’s up to him now.”

Harry nodded. And then he looked up, full of new bravery gained thanks to the new danger. He took a deep breath.

“Terry,” he said, “I need to tell you something.”

 

“But this is so totally insane!” Terry refused to believe his ears. “If your best friend wasn’t in a critical state next door, I’d think you’re joking.”

“Exactly. He might be dying.”

“But a werewolf, Harry?”

“Shhh,” Harry reminded him to keep the conversation as private as it began. “You’ll have to trust me, Terry. That pub across the road, that’s where not-totally-human creatures meet. You remember the interview Colin did with Ash? We thought we’d murder him for it because of the subsocieties he mentioned there. Those subsocieties were the not-totally-human ones we belong to.”

“Not-totally-human…” Terry repeated. “So there’s not just werewolves running around the city, right?”

“No,” Harry shook his head.

“Isn’t that… dangerous?”

“No, I assure you everything’s pretty safe. Colin never hurt anyone, we never hurt anyone, and anyone who feels like hurting someone gets locked away in a special room before they cease to.”

“This can’t be happening.”

“Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel, but unfortunately it is.”

“So, what are you?”

“Terry, where do I work?”

The doctor though it over, and then his eyes widened in horror. “No, you can’t be!” he protested.

“I am.”

“You’re at the transfusions to steal blood?”

“Yeah, in a way. I steal the old one, you know, the one that gets sent to the Faculty. I wouldn’t endanger anyone. Please, you have to trust me,” Harry begged.

Terry hid his face in his palms for a while. “All right,” he said then. “I wish it was all a bad dream I’m having after reading a Pratchett book, but somehow I do believe you.”

“Do you think you can save him with what you now know?” Harry’s eyes were full of desperation and faint hope at the same time.

“God, you risked your life just because you thought it might save him?” Terry wondered.

“Of course I did! Wouldn’t you?”

“Yeah, maybe I would. But I must disappoint you, Harry. The only way to save him for certain is to remove the silver from his blood stream. And that’s still impossible.”

Harry swore.

“But don’t worry, I’ll keep what you just told me a secret.”

“Terry…” Harry began unhappily.

“Hm?”

“I can’t stop stealing the blood, you know.”

“Yeah, I know. Don’t worry about that. By the way, what is she?”

“Ash? She read people’s emotions and foretells their future from them.”

“Wow. Impressive,” Terry nodded. “By the way, where is she? Shouldn’t she be here?”

“She’s in Berwick to see her dad. I’ll call her,” Harry promised.

“Yeah, do that. I’ll check on Colin again.”

Harry found the phone in the corridor. Here came the difficult part. He had to tell Ash that he had failed her, that he had not been able to keep an eye on Colin, and now it might cost him life… And what if she thinks he had done it on purpose? He swore again and found her number in his mobile phone’s address book.

 

Ash was downstairs chatting with Lucien when she heard the distant tune of her mobile phone call alert.

“Harry! What happened?” she asked immediately. She had had a strange sensation all day long and almost regretted going to Berwick, but had told herself she could not be of any assistance inEdinburghanyway if Colin was locked away in one of the protected rooms. She would not have been able to hold him there….

“Colin’s in hospital,” Harry informed her before he lost the courage to do so. “He had an accident, forgot to remove the ring in his nose. It must have contained silver…”

“No…” she shook her head.

“Ash, I need you to come back as soon as possible. He… he might…” it was impossible to finish the sentence, but he was pretty sure Ash understood him perfectly.

She burst into tears, repeating: “No, no, please, he couldn’t…”

“Please hurry,” he urged her. “I’ll tell you everything when you get here, ok?”

At last she seemed to have recovered a bit.

“Ok,” she agreed, ended the call and stormed down the stairs.

“Dad!” she called. “Dad!”

And when he came investigating: “Dad, please, do you think you could take me toEdinburgh? Colin’s in hospital, he’s had an accident, he might even be dying…” At which point she just collapsed onto the floor, crying hysterically.

“Of course I will,” Lucien nodded, his face pale. “Come on, darling, be brave. He’ll need you to be when we get there.”

He pulled her up to her feet again, hugged her briefly and then sent her upstairs to get her jacket and handbag.

They barely uttered a word during the journey. It usually happened when they got to drive somewhere together (unlike when any of them travelled somewhere with Anna), and that night they had a good excuse for that. Ash was too worried to speak, and Lucien understood how she felt.

When he stopped the car at the car park in front of the Royal Infirmary, she virtually jumped out of it, thanked her father for being kind enough to give her the lift and made him go home again, telling him she had friends to take care of her should she need it.

Lucien did not argue. He watched as his daughter ran towards the building of the hospital, and then started the car and did as he had been told.

“Harry!” They met at the entrance. “How is he? Can I see him?”

“He’s alive,” Harry lessened her fear. “He’s at the ICU, I’ll take you to him.”

“What happened?”

“I’m sorry, Ash, it’s all my fault. I let him go, didn’t realise he had that ring still on… And when I did, I ran upstairs, but found him on the landing with his nose bleeding. The ring must have torn it during the transformation, and then the silver made the transformation stop… I’m so sorry…”

“It wasn’t your fault, Harry. No one could predict that,” she said as comfortingly as she could at that moment.

Colin was lying at the ICU room, connected to the electronic instruments that showed his irregular life signs. He was very pale, cold sweat still covering his face, and he was shaking all over.

“Is he conscious?” Ash asked carefully when they entered.

“As if he wasn’t,” Harry guessed. “He’s been calling you…”

Ash sat on the chair beside the bed, and lay her forehead on Colin’s arm. She was crying again. Harry took another chair and sat beside her, but dared not say or do anything. A few minutes later, she lifted her head and aimed her tearful look at him.

“He’s not going to die,” she whispered. “His emotional pattern is vague, and I can’t read it properly at the moment either, but I know he’s not going to die.”

“Are you absolutely sure?” Harry asked with hope in his voice, but still reluctant to believe the new possibility before any doubt was eliminated.

“I am,” she nodded.

“Thank God,” he breathed out.

“Where are the others?” she wished to know.

“I’ve no idea, to be honest. Those vultures would’ve left him to die. I nearly had to fight to have him taken to hospital.”

“Well, you can hardly blame them, can you?”

“They’re a bunch of cowards. Colin would do anything to save any one of them,” Harry pointed out. He was clearly disappointed, though not really angry at his friends.

“But Colin’s different,” she smiled and cast an affectionate look at him. “Colin went to the street and shouted out he’s a werewolf. They wouldn’t do that.”

“He told you about that?” Harry asked.

“Yes, he did,” she nodded. “Harry…” she started after a short pause.

“Hm?”

She couldn’t go on, nevertheless. As she lifted her head to him, she saw a man standing behind him.

“Hi, you must be Miss Seymour,” the man said. “I’m Terry McIntyre.”

“Terry’s my colleague,” Harry explained as she shook hands with the doctor. “And since tonight he also knows about the not-totally-human world.”

“He told you he’s a vampire?” Ash asked Terry.

“And much more,” the doctor sighed. “Don’t worry, though, I’ll keep it to myself. Anyway, has he told you how Colin is?”

“I would have, if I knew,” Harry remarked. “All I know is that Ash knows he’s not going to die.”

“How do you know?” Terry turned to the girl.

“Don’t ask,” she shook her head. “Just believe me. I don’t know myself.”

“Harry says you can tell what people feel…”

“Usually. There’s a cloud of death and pain surrounding Colin at the moment. I already know he won’t submit to it, but I can’t tell you more before that cloud subsides. How long can it take before he wakes up?”

Terry made an indecisive gesture. “Several days?”

“I’ll know more then,” she said. “Can I stay with him?”

“If you want to… But he’ll probably take some time to come round,” he reminded her.

“I know,” she nodded.

“So, what was it you wanted to tell me?” Harry began when Terry had left.

“Not much. Just that I’ve been a great idiot. I mean what was I thinking? I shared bed with awful creatures that had no idea that people should behave morally, or that lived deep in their dreams and kicked all around them when they found out the real life was different – and now I’ve met someone who respects me, who loves me for what I am, who shares my view of the world and everything, and I barely even let him touch me for more than half a year! I could have lost him tonight, for God’s sake, and he’d never know how much he means to me…”

“Nothing’s lost, Ashley,” he said quietly. “You’ll be fine. Both of you.”

“That doesn’t excuse me.”

“Maybe not, but at least you now know what you really feel, and what you should do.”

“Yeah, I guess I know that,” she agreed.

 

She barely left Colin’s bedside for the next three days. Harry occasionally came to have a look at both of them, even the rest of SMPDM arrived to check on their singer, and all of them wondered how Ash managed to sit there all the time, eating almost nothing and hardly leaving the chair beside the bed.

She was not too comfortable like that, but this kind of self-torture felt like the right way to pay for what she believed she had done wrong in the relationship. She had to show she was prepared to do anything at all for the man she loved, even if there was no one above to make a tick in their virtue notebook for that.

When Colin eventually woke up early on Tuesday morning, she was asleep with her head on the bed and one of her hands on his. For a few moments he studied her as if he had never seen her before. He did remember her, but his brain seemed too weak to be capable of certain ways of thinking.

“Ash,” he whispered and gently touched her hair with his free hand (at which point it stroke him how much it had grown during those seven months since he had first seen her).

She lifted her head sleepily, but upon meeting his eyes she smiled.

“Welcome back,” she said.

“You mean I’ve been here before?” he asked, looking around.

She laughed. “No,” she shook her head. “I mean welcome back among the living, sweetheart.”

“What happened to me?”

“You can’t remember?”

He thought for a while. “I remember pain,” he recalled then. “Then everything went black… Harry was there…”

“He saved your life,” she informed him.

“How? What happened?”

“You forgot about the ring. It tore your nose during the transformation. Harry managed to get it out before the silver did more damage.”

“So it’s true then…” he said. He looked crestfallen.

She nodded.

“What is this place?”

“The Royal Infirmary. From the inside,” she smiled.

“They took me to a hospital?”

“How else do you think they’d save you? If they left you lying on the stairs?”

“No, probably not… What day is it?”

“Tuesday.”

“Which means that we haven’t gone on tour, right? How did they arrange that?”

“It’s been cancelled,” she said. “Look, we’re glad that you’re alive, and we can’t be sure when you’ll be able to sing again. You’re still pretty weak, there’s no way they could determine how to postpone the tour.”

“I know. And the fans? How did they react?”

“They’re shocked. And they wish you to get well soon.”

“Ash…” he stopped her urgently. “I’m not a werewolf anymore. I can feel something’s missing. I’ve tried to analyse it, to figure out what was wrong with me, and now I know… The wolf part is gone…”

She stared at him for a few moments, to gain confirmation of what he just said, and much to her surprise she did.

“I know,” she nodded. “I guess you just got your wish granted, then…” she added, but didn’t expect him to feel cheerful about that.

“It was a blasphemy to say that,” he shook his head unhappily. “I’m not myself anymore, I’d never wish to become half human and half lost…”

“Let me be your other half then,” she said without really thinking about it.

“What?”

“Colin, I realised a few things while you were on the verge between death and life. There was no reason to wait for anything. Love’s enough, and I’m going to prove it to anyone who holds any doubt. Let me be your girlfriend. Please.”

He laughed. “I can’t let you, Ash.”

She looked up at him, rather astonished.

“You’ve been my other half since the day I first met you,” he explained.

She smiled. “Ok. I guess the time has come for some demonstration in that case, right?”

 

Even when Ash left his bedside that afternoon (persuaded to do so by Colin, Harry and her own exhaustion), Colin did not stay alone too long. Harry popped in for a little chat that evening as he was leaving from work, and on Wednesday morning he got a visit from Mark. The boy sat down on the chair a bit uneasily, even though he saw a smiling face whenever he dared look up.

“How do you feel?” he asked.

“Well, as far as my health’s concerned, I’ve been better, but at the same time, I’ve never been so happy in my entire life,” Colin beamed at him.

“Happy?” Mark repeated, perplexed.

“Oh yes. I’ve got an angel for a girlfriend,” Colin told him the news proudly.

Upon hearing that, even Mark’s face brightened up. “As if we didn’t tell you long ago,” he said.

“I know.”

“Where is she?”

“Went home to get some rest. Did you know she was with me all the time?”

“Sounds like her,” Mark smiled, then went serious again. “Colin… I don’t know what we’d have done if Harry wasn’t there. I mean, it did occur to all of us that taking you to hospital would be a good idea, after all that’s what everyone’s raised to think, but I don’t know if we’d have acted like Harry. We’d have doubted whether it’s the best thing to do – and not only because you are what you are, but because we all know silver’s an element, and we’d have thought they wouldn’t be able to help you anyway. And we’d have probably hesitated so long that you’d be gone before we’d have decided.”

“Mark, I’m fine,” Colin assured him. “You don’t have to worry about it anymore.”

“I know. I just don’t want you to think we’re a bunch of shameful vampires who don’t care about a friend,” Mark explained.

“I never thought that. But come on, let’s stop talking like this, I want to keep myself in a good mood. Mark, I still can’t believe how lucky I am!”

“I suspect there are more people who can’t believe that,” Mark wanted to say, but kept quiet.

“So, will you stay together once they let you go home?” he asked instead.

“Well, I suppose we’ll consider that,” Colin shrugged.

“It’s great to see you shine like this.”

Colin smiled. “I just reflect the sunlight I get. And I’m getting so much it feels like being in Heaven. Are you sure I didn’t just die?”

“No, you didn’t,” Mark shook his head decisively. He did not believe in Heaven.

“You’re right. You wouldn’t be here if I did. Anyway, how’s the world outside this window?”

Mark, quite logically, knew more about the “world outside this window” than Harry and Ash, who had basically spent most of the time either by Colin’s bed or, in Harry’s case, at work. But Mark only had a limited number of lectures to attend and apart from that he was free to roam wherever he desired. Thanks to which he was able to give Colin details on other not-totally-human creatures’ reactions to the accident, on the reactions of the fans and the media, and even provide him with British and world news that Colin had missed.

He stayed for nearly two hours, which left the patient so exhausted he fell asleep immediately after Mark’s departure, and did not wake up until the evening. A few minutes later, Harry stopped by.

“Got a message from Ash,” he announced. “She said she’ll be back tomorrow morning. And I will be, too, I’m on an early shift.”

Colin did not mind. He was still tired, and did not feel like bothering anyone by asking them to stay with him while he was sleeping. He said goodbye to Harry and prepared to have his mind taken over by dreams again.

That night he had his first nightmare.

 

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