This time, at last, Phoenix woke up in the Underground.
When his eyelids fluttered open, a bolt of light split his mind in two. His eyes began to adjust, and he recognized the friendly features of the room: a soft blue, and a deep blue, and metallic glittering.
Alexis put her hand against his forehead, running her thumb through his hair. She smiled, in a troubled way, her mind like a thunderstorm, until she was interrupted by the clearing of a throat across the room.
“Are you gonna break this to him sooner or later?” Liam asked upon noticing Phoenix beginning to stir. “I mean, are you just gonna get this over with or give him time?”
“I’ll explain it to him as soon as he wakes up.” She made her way over to a counter, and then bent over it suddenly, her whole heart weighing down on her palms. “We are so lucky he’s waking up,” she murmured, in a daze. “He might not have woken up.” She looked Liam directly in the eyes and repeated, “We’re so lucky he’s waking up.”
Clearly uncomfortable, Liam avoided her stare and averted his gaze to his feet, which he tapped impatiently against the floor. He agreed with some non-committal syllables.
Alexis shook her head abruptly and thrust her hand down into a drawer, lifting from it a handheld mirror. Fingering them rim of the silvery glass, she watched her own furrowed face for a moment before stepping again to Phoenix’s side.
“Phoenix? Can you hear me?”
Phoenix blinked, through shallow breaths, his eyes focusing, unfocusing, and rolling back into his head. Liam smacked the wall with the back of his hand.
“How am I supposed to explain this?” he shouted. “How am I supposed to keep my job?”
Alexis continued stroking Phoenix’s forehead, attempting to warm his lungs with her encouraging smile. “Come on, Phoenix. Pull through this.”
Phoenix, in response, coughed violently. Blood flew from his lips, landing in scattered spots against the blue wall. His eyes were wide now, although they were still useless to him; the rich gemstone irises were drowning in bloodshot vessels.
“His dad is a Magistrate!” Liam moaned, his knees buckling under him, his face contorted with pain. “A goddamn Magistrate!”
Phoenix gripped the bed tightly, and only tightened his grip when his shorter fingers threatened to drop him. Then he screamed.
The words he screamed, unintelligible to the others in the room, thundered through his icy chest.
“I have to go back for her!” he struggled to say. “She’s still up there!”
Now fully upright, he flung his legs over the side of the bed. His shaky arms were barely sufficient to support him, however, and he slid back onto his side, whimpering.
“Phoenix, what is it?” Alexis cooed.
Phoenix smacked the Doctor out of the way, and rolled himself so he was partially upright on the floor. “I have to get her!” His throat, burned by the cold, shot agony through his body with every word he uttered, but he pushed forward, trudging across the floor.
“Phoenix, stop!” Alexis yelled, grabbing the boy’s arms and pinning him back to the bed. She scowled at him as he writhed in her grasp. “You have to stay here. Okay? You have to stay here.” But Phoenix’s body continued thrashing until Dr. Latimer’s medicine put him to sleep.
Liam stood, frozen, in front of the door, stiffly holding his gun in front of him. It was as though he’d been plastered there, drained of the blood and color to move a muscle.
Alexis massaged her arm where Phoenix had pushed here away. “We’re so lucky he’s waking up,” she murmured to the statuesque Liam.
Even in his sleep, Phoenix’s abbreviated fingers attempted to find an answer by feeling his abbreviated nose. Dreams, in glaring white, haunted his sleep.