Once the doorway was safely closed behind them, Crystal shifted the sling forward, calling forth a bed to put him on. In the chaos the shower curtain had gotten covered in Ryan’s blood – or is it ichor now? How close to Apotheosis are you? – and Crystal reached for his nanoverse again to make sure he hadn’t died in the chaos.
Behind her, Isabel made a gagging sound, and Crystal summoned up a bucket for her to vomit into. “Whole thing finally hit your limit, love?” Crystal said absentmindedly, already forming a variety of tools to begin work on Ryan’s face.
“Ugh. Yes. How – I mean, is he…” Isabel didn’t seem to be able to finish a sentence right now.
“He’s alive, and he’ll be alright. I think.” Crystal looked over her shoulder and gave Isabel her most reassuring smile.
“You think? Sorry, I don’t mean to sound…ungrateful, it’s just…shouldn’t we get him to a doctor?” Isabel asked after wiping her mouth on her sleeve.
“I just jumped off a building and took out three helicopters before I hit the ground, and you think I can’t doctor?” Crystal responded with a wide grin.
“Um…I mean, those are two very different skills.” Reality was beginning to settle in for Isabel. Mostly. She was still so focused on her brother she hadn’t noticed that they were standing under an impossible sky indoors, but she had realized that she knew literally nothing about this woman other than Ryan trusted her, she had just saved their lives, and it had only cost Isabel a glass of water, some near-expired snack food, and an incredible kiss. Which means she’s one of the good guys. Not the kiss, obviously. But the rest of it. Isabel felt her cheeks flush, and attributed her overall reaction to…everything as a side effect of adrenaline.
“Damn, was hoping you wouldn’t notice that,” Crystal said lightly, turning back to Ryan. “They are different skills, you’re right about that. But Ryan’s past a doctor’s ability to help at this point, mainly because a doctor will be working based on normal human biology, yeah? As long as I can get Ryan to stop bleeding, it’ll be fine. He’ll have some nasty scars he’ll probably want to shapeshift away, but other than that, he’ll be fine.” As Isabel watched, Crystal began to thread a needle. “I’ve done post battle surgery on gods before, so this is an old trick.”
Isabel nodded slowly, trying to process everything that had happened in the last eight hours. “Wait. If he can shapeshift the scars away, can’t we just wake him up so he can shift himself healthy?”
Crystal shook her head. “Doesn’t work that way. You can’t shift away damage. He could turn into a dog right now if he was awake, and he had actually learned to shapeshift into an animal, but it would be a dog with a missing nose and holes in the cheeks.” She began to stitch together Ryan’s cheeks, and although it was nauseating for Isabel to watch, seeing how deftly Crystal’s hands moved did help put her at ease.
“But…well, why? If you could change into a different animal, can’t you just…fix it?”
Crystal paused in the stitching for a moment to chuckle good naturedly. “You’re definitely related. Love, you’re standing in a pocket universe between my nanoverse and reality, your entire life just got turned upside down, your apartment is being raided by the government, and you’re worried about the minutia of divine shapeshifting.” Although the words were mocking, her tone was kind, almost sympathetic. “Trust me, love. It’s better if you just roll with it.”
That got a bit of a laugh out of Isabel. “Ryan said you loved that phrase.”
“He’s not wrong.” Crystal cut the string and moved over to the other cheek. In her head, Crystal began a countdown. Five, four, three, two-
“Oh my God it’s full of stars!” Isabel exclaimed. Crystal grinned as she slid the needle into Ryan’s cheek. -one.
“Noticed that, did you?”
Isabel didn’t say anything, but just stood there for a moment, gaping up at the ceiling. “It’s…it’s so beautiful. Like that Hubble Deep Field picture, but all around me.”
Crystal continued to work on Ryan’s cheeks. “Yeah, I’m pretty proud of it. Hey, do me a favor since you’re staring at it love. Do you see any weird yellow gunk spreading between galaxies, or strange stars that are green and purple?”
“Ummm…” Isabel slowly turned around, focusing on individual points instead of trying to take it all in at once. “In a few places. Near the edges, or in little clumps here and there. Why?”
“That’s the corruption I was cleaning out. Didn’t think we had enough time for it to be all gone, at least.” Crystal finished the last bit of stitching on Ryan’s cheeks. “There we are. Now just to bandage up that nose and he should be good.”
Isabel bit her lip. “Thanks. I mean…for everything. You saved our lives.”
Crystal shrugged. “You’re very welcome, love. Ryan’s a friend, and you’re family of a friend. Oh, and if Ryan dies everything gets blown up unless we can find a new eschaton really, really quickly, so I guess I can’t claim it was entirely altruistic.”
“Fair enough,” Isabel said with a sound that was almost like a laugh. Almost. The undercurrent of panic to it robbed the sound of any real humor. “Oh God, my apartment…with everything going on, I left all my stuff behind!”
“Well, don’t beat yourself up over it. You kind of had some other things on your mind, yeah?”
“What? You think my brother bleeding from the face in the bathtub and helicopter shooting missiles at my living room somehow justifies me forgetting about my luggage?” Even with the panic, apparently, Isabel still had an endless well of dry sarcasm to pull from, and it got another peal of laughter out of Crystal as she finished patching Ryan’s nose.
“You know what,” Crystal said once she got her laughter under control, trying to match Isabel’s tone for dryness, “I suppose when you put it that way, it does seem rather silly of you.”
“Well, in my defense, a strange woman did throw me off a balcony.”
“That absolute bitch!” Crystal exclaimed, and then they were both laughing again, and then Isabel was sobbing and Crystal was tearing off her gloves and wrapping her in a hug. “There we go, love, let it out.”
They sat that way for a bit, until Isabel had finally gotten her tears under control. “Sorry. I just-”
“Just got hit with a huge dose of weird and were worried your brother was going to die and found yourself in a firefight for the first time in your life but too much was going on for you to process any of that?” Crystal asked, softly. “Honestly, I’m impressed you held it together that long.”
Isabel sniffed out a laugh and wiped her face. “Thanks. Again. So…what happens now?”
“We wait for Ryan to wake up. I’m not going to risk accelerating time on his head, since that could go badly. Once he’s up, we find out where he put his doorway so he can hop down into his nanoverse and use the time differential to heal up quickly, and then we go rendezvous with some of our friends who are looking for Moloch. After that, love, if I’m being honest – after that we’ll be winging it.”
“Okay. That – well, I appreciate the honesty at least.” Isabel did seem to be getting herself centered again. “So – what do you want to do while we wait for him to wake up?”
“Could you do me a favor and keep an eye on him? I’ve gotten most of my Hungers taken care of, but if I’m going to fully recharge I need to get some sleep in.”
“Oh.” Isabel’s face fell with that word, and had to wonder why she was feeling disappointed at that answer. Get a grip, Isabel, she chided herself. “I mean, yeah, absolutely.”
If Crystal noticed the disappointment, she was too polite or too tired to mention it. “Thanks.” She formed another bed and climbed into it. It took her only seconds to fall into a deep sleep.
Isabel settled back into a chair that had formed, alone with her thoughts and the most amazing view she’d ever imagined. She passed the time tracing the pathways of galaxies, and in time, drifted off into sleep herself.