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.
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.
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.
“Don’t suppose you can do anything about those?” Matt asked hopefully.
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.”
“And thus my dream of a shorts-modeling career dies a tragic death…”
Matt cracked a smile and Willow rolled her eyes.
“Does it still hurt?”
“No, not right- oop, there it is.”
The stabs of pain were getting more frequent. He couldn’t predict when they would come.
“Your leg still hurts?!” Cynthia was frantic. “But like… didn’t the doctor give you any pain medicine?”
Willow rolled his cuff back down. “Your leg is fine. It’s all in your head.”
“Huh? In my head? No, it really hurts. It’s getting worse! Can’t you use your Naturia to-“
“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.”
Willow’s words were a cold comfort when Matt felt like he’d stuck his foot in a bucket of lava.
“Why… why does it hurt?” He didn’t mean for that to come out as a pathetic whimper.
“It’s psychogenic pain.”
“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.”
“Hear that, Matti? It’s all in your head! So just think that the pain will stop, and it’ll be gone, right?”
“Uh…” Willow was about to tell Cynthia that psychogenic pain was more complicated than that, but she was interrupted.
“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…”
“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.”
“The rest of my life?!”
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.”
“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…”
“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?”
“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!”
Seeing Cynthia’s beaming smile did make Matt’s leg feel better. He smiled back and nodded, patting her hand.
“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!”
“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.”
“Well this is touching and all, but I should get going. Got another job in the works. Hope your leg feels better, Matt!”
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.
“So Matt! You need anything else? More water? Ice pack? TV remote?”
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.
“Cynthia is everything okay?”
“Hmm? Yeah, your leg’s feeling better, right? You just said-“
“No, I mean is everything okay with you?”
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.
“Yeah, Matti, I’m fine! No need to worry about me! I’m just here to make sure you’re okay!”
“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.”
Cynthia looked around warily before her eyes landed on Chloe, snoozing on her favorite couch.
“Not… Not here. Can we go somewhere private?”
Matt nodded and took his cane. He was grateful Nick had managed to repair the elevator. He led her into his room.
“…Kinda empty, don’t you think? Messy, too. Matt, I keep telling you that you need to take better care of-“
“Cynthia, you’re doing it again.”
“…Sorry.” She flopped down on his bed and sighed. “…Wow. You made the right move joining these guys. This bed is amazing!”
Matt sat next to her and took her hand. Whatever was bothering Cynthia, it was a lot worse than he’d thought.
“…So we’re doing this, huh?” Cynthia sat up, a resigned look on her face.
“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.”
She smiled back at him with tears in her eyes. “That’s my guy. Always thinking about other people.” She wiped her eyes.
“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.”
“I’m okay though. You don’t have to worry about me.”
“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.
“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?”
He reached up to brush the tears from her eyes, but she pulled away from him.
“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-!”
“Hey, hey, come on! I’m not going out there again until I’m in fighting shape, and next time-“
“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?”
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-“
“It already happened to me!”
Matt didn’t know what to say to her outburst. He just muttered out a muted “what?”
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.
“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.”
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.”
“Cynthia, I… I’m so sorry…” Matt had no idea she’d been through something like that.
“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…”
Cynthia hugged him tightly and began to cry on his shoulder.
“…I don’t know if I can keep doing it.”
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…
He wasn’t good at the words.
“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.”
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.”
“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?”
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.”
She kissed him on the cheek.