Title: Lux et Tenebris
Characters: Will, Helen
Pairings: none, for now
Summary: After an abnormal attacks, Will's resolve and friendship with Magnus is put to the test.
Lux et Tenebris
Will decided early on in their jungle trek that rainforests were his least favorite biome. It was raining hard as rivulets of water washed down his face and hair, mingling with the sweat on his brow and stinging his eyes.
Sure, at first an adventure through the Amazon to find a rare species of abnormal had sounded like something he would enjoy and he had to admit that he usually looked forward to the various world travels Helen Magnus had taken him on, but so far, this one had been nothing but a hot, sticky and mosquito infested nightmare.
He swore against the elements that battered him for the umpteenth time, but it wasn't the rain so much as the unbearable humidity that had him so grumpy. Normally he didn't mind a little rain, but it did little to cool him down as 90-degree heat combined with 100% humidity tended to keep things at a suffocating level of misery he had never known before. After all, he was a child of the city where shelter from the elements was only steps away at any time. But out here, even within their tents at night, the moisture and the heat always followed them, giving him little reprieve and making his mood all the worse.
Magnus on the other hand, was enjoying herself immensely. Despite the downpour and the wet clothing, she was smiling broadly as they made their way through the dense vegetation.
“We shouldn't be much farther-” She grinned back at Will trudging behind her.
“That's what you said three hours ago.” He complained, swatting yet another mosquito off of his neck.
“Indeed, and we are much closer now than we were three hours ago.” Helen stopped and pulled out her GPS, shielding it from the rain with her hand, “Just what I thought...I'd say we've got about three more miles to go and we should be almost on top of the nest that my friend Juan said he spotted.”
“Three miles?” Will asked incredulously, his shoulders slumping. Helen ignored his obvious dismay at having to hoof it for another five kilometers through the rainy landscape and kept on speaking, growing more excited with the prospect of getting close to their quarry.
“If we're lucky, there may even be some lacerta erectus hatchlings already. However, I'm especially hopeful that the mother will still be in close by and we can get close enough to tranquilize and tag her with a GPS transponder. That way they can continue to live here in the forest, but should the destruction of the rainforest encroach any further on their territories, we'll know where to find them quickly and get them out.. We have to be careful though, these forest runners or corredores de florista as Juan calls them, can be very protective of their young, so stay on your toes.”
“Kinda like a mother bear, huh?”
“Sort of...if a mother bear was a venomous reptile with four inch fangs that can run as fast as a cheetah. Then yes, that's a perfect analogy.” Magnus came back facetiously.
“I guess that means that this should be a piece of cake.” Will mumbled to himself under his breath. Magnus heard his grumble, but decided to ignore it, putting her GPS back and starting off again. However, Will's feet were in desperate need of a break and his back was aching under the weight of his ruck.
“You think we could take a little breather before we keep going?” Will asked, spying a downed log that would make a perfect bench.
“Again? We stopped only an hour ago. You're not tired are you?” She asked with a grin, but seeing that Will was quickly losing what little of his sense of humor was left, she relented with a nod. “Alright. I guess I could use a short respite as well, but just a few minutes, I'd like to get to the nest before sundown.”
Will took off his heavy rucksack and lowered himself to the log with a long sigh of relief then pulled out his canteen for a mouthful of water. Magnus followed suit, sitting next to him. She pointed to a copse of trees nearby as a family of howler monkeys playfully swung from the branches. A pair of adolescent siblings chased each other from limb to limb while their mother nursed her baby and watched. Their whoops and characteristic voices sounded through the jungle. Will couldn't help but laugh a little at their antics and Magnus was grinning widely.
“I just love this place.” She whispered to him.
“Wish I could.” He replied, swatting another mosquito as it bit his arm. He may be miserable, but her obvious enjoyment was infectious and despite the bugs, the heat and the rain, he was beginning to feel a little uplifted.
“I know this trip hasn't turned out to be as much fun as you thought it might be...”
“Aww, that's okay...I guess it could be worse.” He conceded somewhat sarcastically as he watched one of the young monkeys tumble onto his brother and pull at his tail, “We could be stranded inside an abandoned oil rig in the middle of the ocean with a maniacal vampire squid and enormous scorpion chasing us...oh wait, that's already happened.”
He grinned back at Magnus and she smiled at the memory of that adventure that had transpired only a few weeks earlier.
Magnus had promised Will a much needed vacation after that since a rendezvous with Sigrid, a psychologist from Iceland he met online, had been scuttled by that little misadventure. However, work had gotten in the way once again and that promised weekend off had been postponed. Then she had learned about this abnormal creature that she had sought after for so long and truth be told, Will had been her only choice to take along with her. Henry was too involved with updating the security systems at the sanctuary and the Big-guy was in charge with seeing to the daily operations. Kate was still an anomaly to her and she wasn't quite prepared yet for a solo trip with the brash young lady just yet. But she trusted Will, knew that he would have her back and knew that he trusted her just as much. Besides, she had already made up in her mind to make it up to him with a quick trip to Rio when all of this was done, offering him a few mojitos and some relaxation time on the beach, even if it really wasn't her thing.
The pair was quiet for a spell as they continued to watch the monkey family. With the rain was starting to let up slightly and a few more mouthfuls of water, Will was feeling refreshed and recharged enough to start off again on their journey. Helen too had polished off a few more gulps of water when she noticed the change in the monkey's behavior.
The mother monkey suddenly grabbed up her baby mid-feed and swung it onto her back. Screeching, she called out to her wayward older offspring and began charging through the treetops, fleeing the area with her children following close behind. In moments they were gone and the forest became eerily quiet.
“That was weird.” Will commented, feeling the change that had come over the jungle.
“Indeed. Something has scared them off.” Magnus looked around in concern. “But, it could be anything, Animals are highly tuned to anything that might be even remotely dangerous.” She sighed and stood, picking up her rucksack again while scanning the forest for any signs of danger, but seeing none, she was satisfied that whatever had frightened the monkeys was nowhere near them, but she remained cautious.
She tapped Will on the shoulder saying, “ We should get going, daylight is quickly fading.”
“You're the boss.” Will decided that her idea to get moving might be a good idea after all for the sooner they found their abnormal, the sooner they could head back and find some air-conditioning.
Thankfully, the rains let up into a sort of steamy mist as Magnus and Will trekked further towards their destination. It took them nearly an hour and a half to cover the next three miles, but eventually they came near the coordinates that Juan had supplied them, but there was no sign of the nest he had claimed to see.
“Perhaps he was confused about the location?” Will asked as Magnus grew more frustrated by the minute.
“Juan is an expert at this... he wouldn't mess something like this up and he wouldn't call me out here if he wasn't certain of what he saw. No, it has to be around here, we must have missed it. Perhaps we should circle around again.”
Will groaned a little at the prospect of trudging around the forest in circles. This was beginning to feel more like a wild goose chance than anything else.
“Maybe he should have just come out with us and shown us the way.” He grumbled to himself, but Magnus was not amused.
“I'm sure he would have if he wasn't needed back in Manaus ...he runs the entire sanctuary network for all of South America, you know. He's very busy.”
“And you run the entire sanctuary network, period. Yet, you're not too busy to go traipsing through the jungle.”
“Will, this creature has been something I have wanted to bring into the sanctuary's protection for many years. I couldn't pass this opportunity up.”
“I know that, I'm just saying -”
“Enough.” Magnus stopped suddenly and turned a scornful eye towards her much younger protege, raising her voice in sudden anger. “When does it stop? When will you learn that I don't go on these expeditions merely for my own benefit or curiosity, but because I am committed to ensuring that all abnormals have the same right to a decent life that you and I enjoy..”
“You don't think I know that?”
“Sometimes I wonder.” She shot back. “You have been rather restless of late, what with your complaining about missing that damned conference and your constant whining-”
“Yes, whining. I know this life can be difficult, Will. But, if you are not prepared for the hardships that come along with it, then perhaps you would be better off going back to your life in the city.”
Will's jaw dropped open at Magnus' stinging words. He was at a loss for what to say and turned away from her. He felt his own anger rising. Here he was following her all over the frickin' jungle and she had the gall to tell him that he didn't understand the importance of her work.
“Magnus....” He turned around, raising a finger, about to tell her off.
“What, Will?” She shot back, annoyance clearly resounding in her voice.
“Nevermind.” He threw up his arms in resignation instead getting into a huge row with her. They had fought enough lately, so with a huff, he began to walk away from her accusing stare.
“Where are you going?”
“To take a leak.” He called back in an irritated voice, not bothering to turn around before he disappeared into the trees.
Magnus had immediately regretted the words she had lashed out at him, but he was already out of sight before she could apologize. It was unbelievable that she had lost control like that, it was entirely unlike her, but she had to admit to herself that her emotions of late had been more than a little erratic. She had built a carefully constructed wall around herself since Ashley's death, but since her daughter's birthday had come and gone without her, some of the mortar that held those bricks in place that had begun to crumble. For the past twenty-two years she had known a love beyond words for her daughter and now she was gone and the attempt to push aside the emptiness and utter, unbearable grief she was feeling so she could continue on with her work was growing weaker by the day.
She knew, that as a psychiatrist, Will was aware that she was doing her best to stamp down those feelings that lurked beneath the surface of her hardened exterior, but she pushing him and everyone else away was far easier than actually confronting those emotions. And now she had let some of the seething anger and despair she had been holding back slip out and Will had had the misfortune of being in the way when it happened. She resolved at that moment to find him immediately and apologize for her lapse in judgment.
“Will-” She started. “Come back...look, I'm sorry.” She began to head off in the direction he had taken off. “Will?” She asked as she failed to find him after the first few moments. He couldn't have gotten far, yet she could see head nor tails of him.
“Will!?” She called out louder this time, her anger resurfacing when he didn't answer. “I know what I said was totally inappropriate, but you don't need to stamp off like some child-”
Her ire dissipated quickly into worry when she realized that the jungle had grown silent once again and she could sense a change in the atmosphere. Her skin prickled with a sudden fear as she felt a danger in the air surrounding her. Reaching into her pack, she grabbed for her tranquilizer gun.
“Will....answer me. Where are you?” Her heartbeat picked up when he failed to respond yet again. Just ahead, she heard an ear-piercing screech that had her rushing to the noise, plowing through the dense foliage, heedless of the branches and twigs snapping in her face as she ran. She came to a sudden stop when she came upon a small clearing, finding her friend staring down a massive reptilian; the very forest runner they had been searching for.
Standing on two, muscular legs with all the appearance of a man yet with the head that resembled a dragon it opened it's mouth to display the massive, jagged teeth and fangs that could easily tear a man to shreds. The creature snarled and hissed with it's long, forked tongue, Flexing the long talons on it's hands. It's red, intense eyes darkened towards the young psychiatrist as he stood utterly stock still, trying not to tempt the foreboding creature looming nearby into attacking him. The reptile reared up and growled menacingly, seeming to double in size as it did so.
“Nice, lizard.” Will told it softly as he backpedaled, holding out his hand in a placating gesture as if to soothe the beast like one would a feral dog. Moving very slowly, Will pulled out the machete sticking out of his rucksack by the handle and attempted to keep moving backward, hoping that it would retreat as he did.
The creature let out another high-pitched wail, snapping it's sharp teeth and filling the jungle with it's cry. Helen knew that it wasn't going to back down and she needed to get it knocked out before it struck at Will.
Raising her tranquilizer gun, she took aim, but Will was standing between her and the reptile, blocking her shot.
“Will! Down!” She shouted.
Will hadn't heard Magnus approach as he had been too distracted by the giant lizard to notice her standing behind him. Taken by surprise by her order, he whipped his head around, taking his eyes off of the creature for the briefest of seconds.
That was all it needed.
Moving faster than anything Magnus had ever seen before, the beast had Will on his back before he ever had a chance to react. It pounced on him ferociously and he desperately tried to fend off the creature's long, sharp teeth and claws with his machete, swinging it wildly. The blade however, was easily swatted out of his hand with one clean sweep of it's long arm and flung it into the trees. Wasting little time with accuracy, Magnus shot her tranquilizer and the dart landed in the runner's meaty leg. Howling in pain and anger, the beast sunk it's claws into Will's chest.
“Magnus!” He cried, as the creature dug in deep, tearing through his clothes and into his flesh.
Helen had made sure that the sedative she loaded into her tranq. gun had been a powerful one before they left for the jungle, yet the creature showed little sign of slowing down. In fact, it had grown increasingly irate. Fueled by adrenaline, it opened it's gaping mouth wide, baring it's long, glistening fangs, intent on ripping the young man pinned underneath of it apart.
Instinctively, Will threw up his hands to hold the creature's mouth from tearing out his throat, but he was fighting a losing battle and angry at being unable to rip into it's prey, it spit a spray of fluid from it's maw directly into his eyes.
Letting out a shrill cry of pain, Will somehow kept his hold on the beast even as the liquid burned and seared his eyes and face.
At the same time, Magnus had loaded her gun with another dart, quickly took aim and shot again. This time it landed into the runner's neck and it reared up, insanely angered yet forgetting it's victim and focusing it's red eyes directly on her. It leaped off of Will's chest and began charging towards her. As soon as it's feet hit the ground though, it stumbled. The drug, finally beginning to take hold as the beast fell to it's knees, unable to go any further then fell face first to the jungle floor.
“Oh God, Will!” Magnus sprang forward even before the runner had hit the ground and was racing to her friend lying writhing and bleeding on the ground. She landed hard on her knees beside him, trying to assess his injuries, but Will had his eyes screwed tightly shut, groaning and rolling onto his knees, burying his face in his hands hoping to stop the pain in this eyes, but it did little to help.
“Hold still, turn over.” Magnus ordered. She whipped off her rucksack and grabbed her canteen from inside. Will was still on his knees, so she gently took him by the shoulder to help him roll over. He maintained his hands over his face and she nearly had to pry them off to get a look. She gasped a little at the sight after she removed his hands; his eyes were puffy and swollen while blisters marked the rest of his facial skin. Knowing that the venomous acid the runner spit could not only make him terribly ill, but could blind him permanently, she needed to act quickly.
“I need to flush you eyes, Will. Can you open them for me?”
“Not sure.” He responded through clenched teeth, but allowed Helen to pour the water from her canteen onto his face. He tried not to flinch as she pried open his eyelids. She cursed when she saw that his contacts were still in and and did her best to take them out for him without causing him any further pain, but he couldn't help but hiss as light entered his eyes and burned his retinas. Using her canteen, she drained as much water as she could into his sore eyes to flush away the toxin until there was none left in her canteen.
“I think that should do it.” She tried to reassure him just as much as she needed to reassure herself.
Will managed a little nod, screwing his eyes tightly shut again. Even with them closed and in the darkened shade of the trees, the light from the sun was searing and tears flowed uncontrollably.
“Go ahead and lie down, I'm going to have a look at those claw wounds on your chest.” He felt Magnus' hand on his shoulder, pushing him slightly in order to lay him down on his back. He had almost forgotten about the claws that had sunk into his chest, the pain in his eyes greatly overshadowing all of his other injuries.
Once on the soggy ground, Helen ripped off the last remaining shreds of his shirt, carefully pulling it out from underneath him She breathed a sigh of relief seeing that he had four round, but minor punctures to his skin. Thankfully none of them went very deep and a couple of bandages and some antibiotics would be all he needed for them.
Meanwhile, Will was having a hard time focusing beyond the pain in his eyes and he flung an arm over his face to shield his eyes from the light. He shook uncontrollably now that the adrenaline that had fueled his fight against the creature was gone and groaned miserably.
Reaching for her rucksack, Helen opened it and foraged inside for the med kit she had stored in there, pulling it out and grabbing a roll of gauze and a handful of bandages. Sensing his discomfort, Helen released her sleeping bag from her rucksack as well and laid it over him.
“Better?” She asked. He nodded, it's warmth was welcome, but he continued to shake as the wet ground soaked him from underneath.
She unwrapped a couple of cotton pads then touched the arm covering Will's face, removing it so she could place the pads over his eyes. She winced seeing that his eyelids were now a dark shade of purple, completely swollen shut and leaking bloody tears. She gently wiped his eyes first then placed the pads over each of them. He whimpered slightly while she wrapped the gauze around his head several times in order to hold the cotton in place.
“D-didn't you say th-these things were v-venomous?” He tried to ask past the shudders coursing through him. He didn't like the hesitation in Magnus' voice when she replied. He heard the crinkling of more bandages being opened.
“They are, but their venom isn't usually lethal.” She answered while pulling down the sleeping bag from his chest and dressing his wounds there.
“I'm afraid there hasn't been much research into the effects of the their toxin on humans. We know that they can kill monkey's with their spittle.... "
"And I g-got it in the eyes." He finished for her.
“I know, there is the possibility that it could be absorbed into the blood through the capillaries of the eyes ” She sighed, “But, I'm hoping I acted quickly enough to wash the poison out before that occurred. Also, you are much larger than a monkey, so one would have to assume that it would have a weaker effect on you. I think we should focus on getting out of here and back to the sanctuary, I can better treat you there. I'm going to call Juan, relay our coordinates and have a helicopter pick us up.”
Magnus searched in her rucksack again for her satellite phone.
“I'm s-sorry...” Will started, licking his now painfully dry lips, wishing he could stop shaking for long enough to get the words out clearer. “s-shouldn't h-have walked off l-like that”
“No. What I said was totally inappropriate.” She told him. “I shouldn't have said what I did, I lost control and I'm not even sure why. If anyone needs to apologize, it's me.” She patted his shoulder.
“I know th-that y-you had a hard time since A-ashley....”
Helen closed her eyes, not wanting the conversation to go in that direction and it was plainly clear to her that speaking was becoming a chore for Will.
“No need to talk now. Just rest, Will.” Magnus stood to make her call, but Will blindly reached out a shaky hand. She understood his need for contact and to comfort, so she took his hand, feeling the heat and vibrations of his body through it and sat back down again beside of her ailing friend. “You're going to be fine. You have my word on that.”
Making her call to Juan, she relayed their position to him and twenty minutes later a chopper from Manaus, the closest city with a sanctuary, was on its way to their location. As they waited, Helen could only watch helplessly as her friend grew worse with each passing minute. The cramping had spread to all of his muscles and he mumbled incoherently, lost to the pain and fever that the toxin was producing. He was violently ill several times and Helen used the last of the water remaining in Will's canteen to keep him hydrated. However, despite her best efforts, the water too often came back up.
She ran a hand across his sweaty forehead after his last bout of dry-heaving, his skin hot and clammy, but he seemed to garner a bit of comfort from her, his moaning abating somewhat under her touch.
"Don't leave m-me in the d-dark." He pleaded with her, his voice barely above a whisper before losing his lucidity again. She couldn't help but be reminded of the small boy she had comforted all those years ago when his mother had been killed. He had been in pain and traumatized then and barely aware of her presence as well, but she knew that he needed to hear her voice, to be assured that she wouldn't leave him alone, that he was safe with her.
“I'm here, Will. I always will be." She spoke softly into his ear as she held his hand to her chest, "I won't let you go.”
To Be Continued
( Part II )