Under Cover of Darkness
By Laura Feltyberger
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Lesson Four

Sedrien watched Michael very carefully after that. There was something about how easily the younger man had accepted his Psionic nature that disturbed him. Michael’s attitude was exactly as Sedrien expected: detached and cool. Sed wanted to make sure that Michael wouldn’t crumble under the pressure of the emotions he was taking in. But there was something too perfect about Michael’s shielded veneer. Sed suspected that Michael was hiding something again.

He decided to take Michael to the hospice, show him the finer points of his talents and give him a chance to hone them. For two weeks Michael spent his nights with sleepless patients, listening to midnight confessions, mopping feverish brows, comforting nightmares and fears.

One night Sedrien found Michael with a patient named Andrea. Andrea was near the end, her lungs rapidly filling with fluid and medication could no longer help her. Michael sat at her bedside and held her upright as a coughing fit racked her frail body. When it was over he laid her back on her mountain of pillows and brushed her damp hair back from her pallid face.

“Mike, I just want this to be over.”

“I know you do. I don’t want you to suffer anymore.”

“Can’t you help me?”

Andrea had asked for assistance before. Everyone had refused her request, including Sedrien.

“Andie, you know I can’t do that. You have to see this journey through to the end.”

“I want to do that, Mike, but I’m scared.” She started to speak again but was cut off by another coughing fit. Michael held her until the spasms subsided.

Andrea seized his hand in a surprisingly strong grip. “Mike, I’m afraid. I can’t take it anymore. Please take it away.”

Michael held her hand and threaded his fingers through the hair at her temple. His eyes focused on hers, his tears falling on the white sheet, and he whispered over and over that she wasn’t alone.

Sedrien observed quietly from just outside the half opened door. She had asked Michael to take her fears as if he had done it before. Michael must have revealed his secrets to her.

Andrea’s shaking eased and the only sound in the room was her labored breathing as she fell asleep. Michael remained at her side resting, until he heard Sed push the door open.

“Michael, I’d like to speak with you later, at home.”

He’d taken Michael by surprise. He dashed the moisture from his face and tried to wipe away any trace of feeling with them. He’d been caught, that he knew for sure.

Michael had walked home from the hospice, thinking about Andie. She was terrified of dying. Michael sipped her fears away a little each night, only enough to give her peace. He refused to take anymore than that; he didn’t need to. He wanted her to face the fact that death was coming and she had to make her peace with it. Now he had to face Sedrien and make his explanations.

Michael returned to the penthouse close to sunrise purposely; it gave Sedrien less time to argue. Sed was waiting in the study and emerged after he heard Michael’s keys clatter on the table.

“You’ve been careless with Andie. Not only have you revealed your secret to her, but you have dropped all pretense of protecting yourself from emotional over-load.” Michael had never seen Sedrien so angry. His knuckles showed white as he clenched his fist.

“Sed, I can explain.” But Sedrien did not want to hear explanations.

“I don’t want you back at the hospice. See if Gavriel needs you at the club.”

Michael knew he’d been dismissed. Sed was not open to understanding Michael’s feelings on the matter. Michael wondered when Sedrien had last felt anything at all.

Michael couldn’t have been further from the truth. Sedrien felt not anger, but desperation. He didn’t want Michael giving up his gifts to Andie, not so soon after his own rebirth. He was afraid that he’d lose his last link to Martine.

Michael steered clear of Sedrien as much as possible. He stayed busy at the club. Winni gave him a friendly ear when he got so fed up with Sed he had to vent it on someone. The worst part was how cold Sedrien had become. He went about his business without acknowledging the argument they’d had.

Michael was in the wine cellar at the club when a frission of despair ran across his nerves. He couldn’t explain why, but he left the club and caught a cab to the hospice. When he arrived he headed for Andie’s room and bumped into a nurse. She looked relieved to see him.

“Mike! I am so glad you are here. She’s been asking for you for days. Sedrien wouldn’t call you. He said you weren’t coming back. “ She might have said more, but Michael didn’t hear her. He was running up the stairs.

Another nurse and a volunteer were at Andie’s bedside. Her breath rasped in and out of her chest as if it were filtered through a wet sponge. Her eyes were closed and her body seemed smaller in the hospital bed, wilted and withered by the illness. Michael knew this would be the end for Andie, and she had called him here.

He took the volunteer’s place at her bedside and took her hand as he’d done many times before. Her skin was cool and almost lifeless, as if she’d already gone. Michael knew better. She slept thanks to the drugs they were able to give her to keep her comfortable, but beneath it he sensed that Andie was very aware of everything that was going on around her, and she was frightened.

“Andie, I’m here. I heard you. I’m here.” Michael whispered, oblivious to everyone else around him. “Andie, I won’t let you go alone. You don’t have to be afraid. All the pain is going to go away, go away forever. Andie, you have to let go of the pain. It’s all right, I know you’re scared, but it’s all over now. You don’t have to hurt anymore.”

He talked to her for over an hour, listening to the rattle of her lungs as they struggled to keep her clinging to life for another few minutes. His voice droned on until he almost couldn’t understand what he was saying. He never noticed when Sedrien had come into the room.

Sed stood back and watched Michael with Andie. It was as if Michael had forgotten that he could ease her suffering and allow her to die with peace; he wanted her to find peace on her own terms.

Sed decided she’d suffered long enough and stepped forward to give her peace when he sensed something that broke and fell away from Andie’s chained spirit. Michael wept without knowing it. Andie finally let go of her fears: Michael’s words had reached her inside the brittle shell of her body. Both Michael and Sedrien felt her soul separate from her body, but Michael felt something else as well, the joy of her release. When her spirit joined the infinite ocean of eternity he felt the bliss of it and took it into himself.

In all his years Sedrien had never known a Psionic vampire who could drink joy as easily as sorrow. He marveled at it a while before leaving Michael to finish his goodbyes alone.

End of Lesson Four

Lesson One
 Lesson Two
 Lesson Three
 Lesson Four
Lesson Five

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