The first thing Xenia was aware of was that something was not quite right. What exactly she could not identify, but she knew something was not quite right. Her thinking was sluggish, confused, not nearly as clear as it usually was. She had always been distinctly a morning person and it slowly filtered into her brain that the room was bright already. Had she slept in?
Pain. That was the next thing she realized. Her body hurt. It did not feel quite real, but it hurt nonetheless. She made a soft sound of distress, trying to force her eyes open. If she opened her eyes maybe it would all be right. That was what you did to end a bad dream, perhaps it would work on this.
Unfortunately, opening her eyes did not work nearly as well as Xenia had hoped. It revealed details that began blurred but slowly came into focus although they gained no meaning from the clarity. Windows with a view of the sky. A wall with a corkboard on it, some notification pinned crookedly to it. A white blanket over green sheets.
Slowly sound intruded as well. Steady beeping, the hustle of people. Something that niggled at the back of her brain until she identified it as the sound of circulated air. A strange thing to recognize, but she did. Sounds of pain, electric sounds, people chatting or barking orders in phrases that meant little to her.
Smell came next and it was nauseating. Everything was far too strong. She supposed it had been intended to be clean, but it was not. Cleaning solution, medication, and under it all the smell of illness.
A hospital. It all added up eventually as the world came to her in fits and starts. She was in a hospital.
So she was not dead. That was a relief. Why? Why was she surprised to find that to be the case?
A tiny frown marred the skin between her brows as she tried to concentrate. Licking her lips, she found her mouth was dry and tasted quite unappealing. Was there water? There always was in the movies and on tv. There had been that one time Marcus had been hurt badly enough to be in the hospital. He had told her not to come, but she had gone anyway.
Marcus. It all came back in a rush, her stupid intent to go find him, the dogs, the pain. Dogs? Thinking about it now, there was no way those things had been dogs. She remembered now seeing the eyes above her face, eyes that held animal but held too much malevolent intelligence to be just a regular beast.
Her heart sped and she tried to wriggle out of the bed, tried to sit up. Pain burned into her neck and shoulder and she cried out. A tube was taped to her arm and she could feel the needle in it, a heart monitor clamped on her finger. She was tugging at them when an electronic wail came from the machinery around her and a nurse hustled into the room.
"Shh honey. You're ok. You're safe. Dunno what you remember, but you're here in the Heights. It's ok." The voice was soothing, the woman older but clearly strong enough as she held Xenia's wrists, waiting for her struggles to stop. She replaced the monitor and the wail quieted back down to regular beeps.
Xenia's heart still raced though. She had been attacked. Trying to wet her lips again, to find enough moisture to talk, she met the eyes of the woman beside her bed. "I bet you'd like some water, wouldn't you sweetheart?" was the soft and vaguely cheerful reply as the woman walked purposefully around the bed and over to a table Xennie hadn't noticed. A blue plastic cup with a straw was held before her mouth and Xenia took a sip. Just enough to wet her mouth. Then another, and she choked as she tried to swallow. The nurse soothed her, set the cup down, and slowly raised the head of the bed with a motor control.
"That's better. That will be easier. Here, can you hold it?" and her hands were wrapped around the cup. They shook, but not enough to spill the water. She managed a raspy thanks and began to down the water.
"I'm going to go get your doctor now that you're awake. You just try to stay calm, ok?" With that, the nurse was gone, bustling out the door.
Alone, Xenia finished the water and wondered where to set the cup. She could not reach the table without moving, and moving hurt, so she simply held it in her hands as she waited. Prodding at her memories was all she could do, and so she proceeded to run over what she remembered.
Big... dogs. Her mind shied away from the only other answer she could come up with because that answer belonged in the movies or on television, even in books. Not in her world.
Wait, did she remember Marcus? It felt like she did, one blurry moment of seeing him leaning over her. With a knife. Had he come for her, to save her? It was probably just a dream, just some fantasy that the drugs and pain had cooked up for her.
Taking a slow breath she tried to relax back into the bed. The doctor would come and tell her what he knew, tell her how bad the damage was, when she could go home. There would be paperwork too she was sure.
Did they know who had brought her? How had she gotten here? So many questions, no answers.
A man appeared at the door and smiled gently at her as he walked inside. He looked, to Xenia's untrained eye, like someone who did more physical work than just stitching people up. The tiny frown found its way between her eyebrows again as she looked at him, puzzled. There was something there, not that she could quite figure it out.
"I'm glad to see you with your eyes open. It was a bit touch and go last night when you got here. Now, do you know where you are?" The friendly face was closer now and she could see tiny lines at the corners of his eyes. His hair was mussed as though he spent a lot of time running his fingers through it. Not bad looking, not that she cared. She felt too battered and beaten to be thinking about that. And there was Marcus.
She shied away from that thought, trying to pay attention. "The nurse said... the Heights? Hospital, unless this is a very strange version of heaven." Her smile was weak, but she tried for levity anyway. It had always seemed the best way to prove her awareness.
"Good, good. Definitely not heaven, as much as we wish it could be. So... what can you tell me about what happened to you? The man who brought you in could not tell us anything, only your name. Your wallet was with you, so we got the information we could out of it." He sounded sheepish at having sorted through her things, or more like having had a nurse do it. She tried to smile at him, to tell him it did not matter.
"I'm... not quite sure what happened. I think... a dog attacked me. I came out of my apartment building and something hit me. It bit me. Here." She gestured with her hand, not quite willing to touch the bandages that covered her neck and shoulder. Swallowing, she looked back to the doctor. Her eyes were wide, fear tightening the lines of her face. A glint caught her gaze as he moved his head and she was surprised to see that he had earrings in one ear.
"It's ok. Please, calm down, Ms... Tudor," he said as he looked at her chart, then back at her. "We got you stitched up, although you'll be sore for a while and probably have a nasty scar. If you want we can call someone from plastics, see what they could do about it. There was... a lot of damage." Something in his voice was off. It sounded almost as though he was... displeased. Well of course he would be displeased. She had been injured. Somehow, she did not think that was exactly why he was displeased, however. His expression confused her also, making her think just for a moment that he was pondering wringing some necks.
"Call me Xenia, please." She tried another smile, a weak version of the shy smile Marcus knew so well.
"Of course. And please, call me Greg. Dr. Greg if you must." A conspiratorial wink surprised her, and he looked suddenly much more human and much less forbidding. "Is there anyone we can call for you? We want to keep you for a day or two more, but there were no numbers in your wallet. There is also, of course, paperwork. I'm sorry about that." Again he offered her a slightly sheepish grin and she found herself smiling in return. She still felt vaguely unsettled by him, like there was something she was not quite understanding, some undercurrent going on that she missed.
"There's... nobody. Just me. My family is a long way off and they can't afford to fly out here." Marcus wouldn't come. She wished he would, but there was no point in calling him. He had said she would never see him again and, pain-induced visions aside, she believed him. Calling him wouldn't be fair. He didn't want to have to worry about her anymore, and this would just put him in an uncomfortable spot.
"I see." Was there a hint of doubt in the doctor's voice? The confusion must have shown on her face because he continued. "I just hate seeing someone as pretty as you all alone. There should be someone here for you. Look, if you need someone to talk to, here's my private number." He handed her a card with a number scrawled on the back already. She thought nothing of it, not really, but that fact would stick with her.
"The police will be by later. I shooed them off earlier, told them to let you rest, but we have to call them and so I am sure they will be back for a statement. I certainly would not want to run into the... dogs, did you say? that bit you. It must have been a very large dog. You have bruises on your shoulders, ribs and back that will make you stiff for a while." The look of concern on his face was genuine enough, and it had her relaxing back into the bed.
He walked up beside her and did something to the bag at the end of the iv tube. Drowsiness started to tug at her. "Sleep. It's the best thing you can do right now. I've given you some more meds for the pain, that should help."
She did not hear him leave. Slumber and oblivion had already claimed her, taking her off to dreams of racing through a forest.