It was in the dead of winter that Damien first ran the distance between his cottage and the city he’d renounced long ago.
It wasn’t the time to worry about taboos and borders. The shame that had kept him away from his home was compelling, but it was a force far more powerful that drove him through the night, pushing him against the stinging rain and bitter chill.
Her name was Sora, and she was as cold as death in his arms.
Damien tightened his grip, hugging the small thing even closer to his chest. Her heartbeat was too slow and her breathing was too weak; he feared if he loosened his grasp even for a moment her life would slip through his fingers.
Please be okay, he prayed, quickening his pace as the storm raged around him. You have to be okay, please! Just a little bit more, please, hang on!
Damien could make out the blurry lights of the city in the distance. It wouldn’t be much longer now.
Damien didn’t stop running until he reached his destination. Tucked in between two shops and pulled back from the street was a building that seemed innocuous at a glance, but was perhaps the greatest boon to those who knew of it.
Damien couldn’t agree more. When he reached the faded blue door a swell of relief seized his chest for a moment, only to pass when he realized that not a trace of life escaped. The door was firmly shut, the windows showed only darkness. He couldn’t hear a sound.
A snivel and cough came from the child in his arms, the poor thing’s sad mewls a reflection of the despair he felt in that moment, standing in the rain-soaked street. But the pain in her tiny cries hardened his resolve. Damien shifted her weight so he could carry her with only one arm, and raised the other to pound on that sturdy oak door as hard as he could.
“OPEN UP!” He shouted, fighting the roar of the storm with every breath, hoping whoever was inside could hear. “PLEASE! YOU HAVE TO HELP ME!” He struck blow after blow with as much strength as he could muster. He had lost his hands to numbness hours earlier, and didn’t give a damn how much pain he would be in come morning; the course of the night would determine if a broken bone or two would be nothing in the face of his joy, or a mere drop in the bucket of despair.
The storm was getting heavier; there was nowhere to go. Damien was no doctor, but he was certain that as weak as she was, Sora wouldn’t make the trip back home.
She had to open the door, she just HAD to! “You're my only hope! There's no one else!” He cried, tears streaming down his cheeks. His voice broke, but he kept slamming against the door in desperation, hoping that someone would hear.
Please, just give me a miracle… he silently begged. For her sake, just one miracle…
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?! This storm’s bad enough as it is, I don’t need fucking vagabonds banging my door down at all hours of the night, the clinic’s closed!”
Light pierced Damien’s tear-filled eyes, and he stumbled back as the door slammed open. Stepping out, framed by a corona of light like a Celestial from above, was an elven woman in a long white coat, cursing louder than the howling winds and staring at Damien with a look of utter loathing in her green eyes.
She was the most lovely thing Damien had ever seen.
“Doctor Leilandry…?” He managed to whisper out.
“Yeah, what?” The elf rudely demanded, her sharp ears twitching in irritation.
“Would you… please…” Damien pleaded, pulling back his cloak to reveal the girl in his arms. “I need you to save Sora-!”
Upon seeing the girl, the elf’s face immediately softened. She stepped back and quickly beckoned Damien inside. Filled with gratitude, he followed her into the clinic, warmth flooding over him as he left the storm to rage outside.
“Bring her over here, quickly,” the doctor barked, storming into a side room. She cleared off an empty bed and Damien set Sora down on it, shaken by what he saw when he stepped back. Hours ago, when Damien had charged into the night, Sora had looked dreadfully ill, but now she looked like a corpse. Her skin was pale and her dark hair clung to her face like a damp cloth, showing that in spite of his best efforts he hadn’t been able to keep the rain off of the poor girl completely. Her eyes were scrunched shut in pain and she wasn’t moving, her breathing so shallow he could barely see her chest rise.
“Doctor-“ Damien turned to the elf and found himself facing the sharp glint of a dagger lifted to his eye.
“Who’s the girl?” The doctor demanded coldly. Damien stared at her in surprise, raising his hands to show that he didn’t mean any harm.
“I… I don’t know what you mean,” he stammered. “Her name is Sora, she-“
“NOT what I asked,” the elf angrily hissed. Damien could see a warrior in her sharp features, from the way she walked to the way she held her blade, to the way her hair was cut short around her chin so as not to get in the way, everything about her screamed “combat medic”. The ears confirmed that this was the Leilandry he’d heard so much about.
“You’re Doctor Leilandry, right?” Damien wasn’t comfortable with violence. He didn’t know what he could say to calm this woman down, but he needed her calm, he needed her treating Sora, not holding him at knifepoint! “You’re the only one I could go to, you have to-“
“I know who I am,” the doctor cut him off again. “My question is who the fuck are you, and more importantly,” she said, tilting the knife to Sora, “who the fuck is she? Because you might think you can fool me with this ‘caring father’ routine, but I know a vampire when I see one. So tell me, what’s a human doing running through a storm in the dead of winter with a dying vampire girl in his arms? Is this some sick trafficking thing?”
“What?! No, she’s… please, none of that’s important right now, you have to save her! You’re the only healing mage in this part of the sky who treats non-humans, please! Forget about me and just tell me what’s wrong with her!” Damien exclaimed.
The doctor stared at him for a moment, apparently stunned by his words. “…Fine,” she said, flipping the knife back so the blade was pointed at her wrist. She flung it into the wall and it stuck, wiggling a bit for an added threat. Without missing a beat, she stepped past him, pushing him aside. Damien sunk back into an armchair, suddenly realizing just how tired his legs really were.
All he could do was watch the doctor work, and hope she would be able to help the sick girl. He stared in silence, unable to look away from Sora. He feared that if he took his eyes off of her for even a moment she would be gone.
“Her encroachment is at a reasonable level, so that’s good,” the doctor said, lowering the hem of Sora’s dress to cover her chest back up, concealing the dark marking over her heart that labeled her a vampire. “I’ll take a look at her teeth next.” Taking out a small, thin tool, the doctor peeled back Sora’s mouth and poked inside. Damien knew what she would see. Sharp, retractable fangs coming down over her normal teeth, perfect for drawing blood.
“…Everything looks normal here,” Doctor Leilandry said, standing upright. “When was the last time she fed? And I mean properly fed, not some old blood from a butcher. Vampires can’t live off that stuff, they need it fresh from the vein.”
“We… We were just about to eat tonight,” Damien stuttered out. It stood out vividly in his mind, offering Sora his arm to drink, only for her to fall ill right before his eyes and collapse like crumpled cloth. “When she… she…”
“And before then?” The doctor prodded.
“Days,” Damien muttered, shaking his head. “Maybe a week, maybe a little shorter…”
“Well, I don’t know about the feeding habits of vampires in their development, but from what I can tell her encroachment is fine. As for her temperature…” Doctor Leilandry pressed her hand over Sora’s forehead. It was glowing a soft green. She held it for a second and then pulled it back. “She’s hot.”
“Is… Is that bad?” Damien asked worriedly.
The doctor shrugged. “Fuck if I know. This is the first time I’ve treated one of her kind, for all I know that’s the temperature a vampire’s supposed to have. Was she warm when you carried her here?”
Damien shook his head, he could still feel the deathly cold of her skin against him. “No, she was freezing.”
“Temperature fluctuating… not a good sign,” the doctor muttered, beginning to pace the room. “Well… this should be something. Tricky case, here.”
“Can’t you just… use Healing Magic to, well… you know?” Damien asked, waving at Sora.
He got a cold look in response.
“No, I can’t just ‘you know’,” she growled. “Healing Magic isn’t some cure-all, I have to know what I’m actually treating. I could end up making things worse if I just start going at her without any ideas. No, this is something I’m going to have to do some research on.”
She turned towards the hall, much to Damien’s horror.
“You… are you just going to LEAVE her here?!” Damien cried. “But she’s…”
“I’m going to light a fire and then brew some tea,” the elf scowled at him. “Tonight is going to be a long one, and I need to keep my strength up, thank you very much.”
Then her face softened. “Listen. I can’t say right now if her life is in any danger or not. I’m sorry, but I don’t know enough about vampires. I’ll do the best I can, but… you should prepare for the worst.”
Damien’s heart sunk. He didn’t want to hear things like that. He’d barely known the poor thing for a month, he couldn’t just lose her like this. He couldn’t lose someone again, not after everything else he’d lost. He hated feeling this powerless.
“Is there… is there anything I can do?” He asked.
“Stay out of my way,” she scoffed. “…And stay by her side.”
“Wh-What?” Damien glanced at Sora. He was going to do that anyway. “Why?”
“She might not survive the night,” the doctor said quietly, lowering her eyes. “Given what I felt from her fever, if she does make it to morning she’ll probably recover. Only time will tell for now. So sit with her, make her comfortable, it’s the most you can do for her right now. Can you do it?” She gently asked.
Damien rose from his seat and walked to Sora’s side. His hand was throbbing with pain but he didn’t care. He placed it over hers, her small fingers trembling in his grasp. “I will,” he heard himself saying. The rest of the sky was a thousand miles away right now, Sora was all he could see.
Damien sat beside her and brushed the hair from her face, stroking her cheek, and prepared himself for the longest night of his life.