Chapter 28:

Chapter 28: Scarred

Guardians of Dawn: Volume 1

While the other Guardians went about the rest of their day, Matt was still getting used to being back home. He’d spent more time in the hospital than he had at Strayhaven.Bookmark here

He was one of the only people still in the common room. Willow was taking a look at his injury like she’d promised. Matt propped his leg up on a pillow and she rolled back his pants leg.Bookmark here

Cynthia gasped. He felt the same way. The wicked gashes that twisted up his leg may have been closed, but they still weren’t a very pleasant sight.Bookmark here

“Don’t suppose you can do anything about those?” Matt asked hopefully.Bookmark here

Willow gave him a sad look and shook her head. “Sorry. I can stimulate cell growth, but it’s not like I can remove the wounds. I just accelerate the healing process. If it would leave a scar, then it leaves a scar.”Bookmark here

“And thus my dream of a shorts-modeling career dies a tragic death…”Bookmark here

Matt cracked a smile and Willow rolled her eyes.Bookmark here

“Does it still hurt?”Bookmark here

“No, not right- oop, there it is.”Bookmark here

The stabs of pain were getting more frequent. He couldn’t predict when they would come.Bookmark here

“Your leg still hurts?!” Cynthia was frantic. “But like… didn’t the doctor give you any pain medicine?”Bookmark here

Willow rolled his cuff back down. “Your leg is fine. It’s all in your head.”Bookmark here

“Huh? In my head? No, it really hurts. It’s getting worse! Can’t you use your Naturia to-“Bookmark here

“My Naturia can’t block out pain. And you don’t need me to heal you. In a few months your leg will be as good as new. Just give it time, Matt, and follow your physical therapy plan. I promise, your leg will heal.”Bookmark here

Willow’s words were a cold comfort when Matt felt like he’d stuck his foot in a bucket of lava. Bookmark here

“Why… why does it hurt?” He didn’t mean for that to come out as a pathetic whimper.Bookmark here

“It’s psychogenic pain.”Bookmark here

“Psycho-what?”Bookmark here

“Psychogenic. It’s pain caused because of psychological factors such as stress, depression, anxiety, fear, but it isn’t real. The only thing physically wrong with your leg is the damage to your muscles and nerves, and the medication is stopping that pain. Everything else is in your head.”Bookmark here

“Hear that, Matti? It’s all in your head! So just think that the pain will stop, and it’ll be gone, right?”Bookmark here

“Uh…” Willow was about to tell Cynthia that psychogenic pain was more complicated than that, but she was interrupted.Bookmark here

“Doesn’t work that way, red,” Nick called from across the room. He held an ice pack to his forehead. “Pain doesn’t go away just by wanting it bad enough, believe me, I know. No matter how hard I think Willow will be gone, nope! Still right there…”Bookmark here

“Oh, if only I could make you go away by wanting it badly enough… and as much as saying this makes me want to lose my lunch… Nick’s right. There’s a lot we don’t know about psychogenic pain. It might go away on its own, it might stay for the rest of your life.”Bookmark here

“The rest of my life?!”Bookmark here

Willow shushed him. “That’s unlikely. I’m talking worst-case scenarios. Most likely, as your leg heals, the pain flares will show up less and less often and eventually go away on its own. The only thing we can do is wait and observe.”Bookmark here

“Well, thanks Doctor Feelgood… I woke up this morning thinking my leg would be fine in a couple months, now I hear I might have this pain for the rest of my life…”Bookmark here

“Wow, you are really a glass half-empty guy, aren’t you?” Willow groaned, rolling her eyes. “Remember what we talked about? Positive attitudes and how they help healing?”Bookmark here

“Exactly Matti!” Cynthia chirped, clapping him on the back. “A little pain’s never been enough to keep you down before! And don’t forget, you’ve got your best girl here!”Bookmark here

Seeing Cynthia’s beaming smile did make Matt’s leg feel better. He smiled back and nodded, patting her hand.Bookmark here

“Yeah. Thanks Cynthia. Positive attitude.” Cynthia always did have a knack for bringing his mood up. “Hey! You know what? The pain’s already starting to fade a little!”Bookmark here

“That’s my guy! Before you know it, you’ll be up and at ‘em! And until then, I’ll be right here to help with whatever you need!” She promised. “…For three more days.”Bookmark here

“Well this is touching and all, but I should get going. Got another job in the works. Hope your leg feels better, Matt!” Bookmark here

Nick headed out of the common room and left the two of them with Willow. Picking up on the fact that the two of them wanted some time alone, she silently excused herself.Bookmark here

“So Matt! You need anything else? More water? Ice pack? TV remote?”Bookmark here

Matt was glad Cynthia was here, but now that he was focusing on something besides his pain, he could see that something was up with her. She looked a little pale, and was glancing at his leg a lot.Bookmark here

“Cynthia is everything okay?”Bookmark here

“Hmm? Yeah, your leg’s feeling better, right? You just said-“Bookmark here

“No, I mean is everything okay with you?”Bookmark here

Cynthia’s mouth flopped open. She clearly hadn’t been expecting him to ask a question like that. But she made a quick recovery, her smile returning with a vengeance.Bookmark here

“Yeah, Matti, I’m fine! No need to worry about me! I’m just here to make sure you’re okay!”Bookmark here

“Cynthia, I know you well enough to know when something’s wrong. When you’ve got something bothering you, you’re always excessively friendly and helpful, even more than usual, to give you something to take your mind off of the problem. So what is it? Talk to me.”Bookmark here

Cynthia looked around warily before her eyes landed on Chloe, snoozing on her favorite couch.Bookmark here

“Not… Not here. Can we go somewhere private?”Bookmark here

Matt nodded and took his cane. He was grateful Nick had managed to repair the elevator. He led her into his room.Bookmark here

“…Kinda empty, don’t you think? Messy, too. Matt, I keep telling you that you need to take better care of-“Bookmark here

“Cynthia, you’re doing it again.”Bookmark here

“…Sorry.” She flopped down on his bed and sighed. “…Wow. You made the right move joining these guys. This bed is amazing!”Bookmark here

Matt sat next to her and took her hand. Whatever was bothering Cynthia, it was a lot worse than he’d thought.Bookmark here

“…So we’re doing this, huh?” Cynthia sat up, a resigned look on her face.Bookmark here

“Cynthia, you’ve listened to me time and again about my issues with my brother. You know I’m here for you, right? You can tell me anything.”Bookmark here

She smiled back at him with tears in her eyes. “That’s my guy. Always thinking about other people.” She wiped her eyes.Bookmark here

“When I heard you were attacked by an Emergent and landed in the hospital, I was horrified. I thought… well, I’m sure you can guess.”Bookmark here

“I’m okay though. You don’t have to worry about me.”Bookmark here

“The fuck I don’t! Look at your leg! It’s… what if that happens again?! The next time an Emergent attacks, you could lose it! Or an arm, or even…” She was too afraid to finish.Bookmark here

“Hey, come on. I knew what I was getting into when I commissioned with the Guardians. I knew that the Emergents might hurt me. You knew that too, right?”Bookmark here

He reached up to brush the tears from her eyes, but she pulled away from him.Bookmark here

“That… That was before! What if… what if an Emergent attacks you while your leg’s like that, huh?” Cynthia demanded, getting off the bed and pacing around the room. “Or, or… or you could be asleep! And it could just emerge and rip your throat out, or… or-!”Bookmark here

“Hey, hey, come on! I’m not going out there again until I’m in fighting shape, and next time-“Bookmark here

That doesn’t matter!” She cried. “You were attacked in the street, remember?! Emi told me! An Emergent emerged in the center of town and attacked you, and you almost died then, too! What if… what if it happens again?”Bookmark here

Matt shook his head. “No, no, that was just a freak accident, it’s not like that’s going to happen again, don’t worry about-“Bookmark here

It already happened to me!Bookmark here

Matt didn’t know what to say to her outburst. He just muttered out a muted “what?”Bookmark here

Cynthia flopped face down on the bed. She’d finally told someone. All that tension building up inside her since the attack on Carthade was gone now, and she just felt exhausted.Bookmark here

“It was a few weeks ago. Before you were sent to the hospital. Carthade… an Emergent emerged inside the walls. It killed… so many people. People I knew, people I… people I worked with. I just… I broke down.”Bookmark here

She looked up at him. “That’s why they put me on leave. Something like that… I guess it shook me more than I thought it did.”Bookmark here

“Cynthia, I… I’m so sorry…” Matt had no idea she’d been through something like that.Bookmark here

“Your boss, Sarah Dawn, she went to a conference in New Margilia the other day. Emergents are appearing in populated areas now, and if that’s the case… then you’re not safe. No one is. I signed up for Central Services so I could help people and keep them safe from the Emergents, but now…”Bookmark here

Cynthia hugged him tightly and began to cry on his shoulder.Bookmark here

“…I don’t know if I can keep doing it.”Bookmark here

Matt hugged her back. He didn’t know what to say. Cynthia was great at making him feel better, but when it came to the other way around…Bookmark here

He wasn’t good at the words.Bookmark here

“Cynthia, you… you’re an amazing girl. And I don’t know what you’ve been through, but I know you’re tough. You’ve helped me out so much, and I wish I knew what I could say to help you. But one thing I know is that you’re amazing. You’re tough.”Bookmark here

Cynthia sniffled. She still remembered that Emergent and the sight of all the blood it had spilled across the streets of Carthade. It made her tremble. “I don’t feel tough.”Bookmark here

“Cynthia, as long as I’ve known you, you’ve used your Naturia to run towards danger, not away from it. You’re brave. You’re just… a little shaken. But I know you’re the kind of girl who can get back on her feet, okay?”Bookmark here

Cynthia smiled through her tears and hugged him a little tighter. “You need to get a little better at your comforting speeches, Matti. But you definitely… are making progress. Thank you.”Bookmark here

She kissed him on the cheek.Bookmark here

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