Lost Inside Chapter Seven
Benny stared at the blood soaked rag around his hand. Ellis made him drive to the clinic to see Dr. Pannar. He’d tried to make Benny get out and let him drive, but that wasn’t going to happen. Benny didn’t own much, but he loved his truck.
He avoided thinking about the fist sized hole in the dashboard he’d probably pay out the nose to fix. He had the money, but what if Ellis said Yuri needed treatment from some high priced specialist?
Fuck. Benny ran a hand through his hair. When was he going to stop doing stupid shit? His life was one poor decision after another. At least this time he got hurt, instead of people around him. Davis would kick his ass if anything happened to Ellis, and Velaku had left him with Benny.
“Let’s take a look.” Dr. Pannar unwrapped the strip torn from Benny’s shirt then tutted when he saw the gash between his knuckles. “Well, at least it’s not some poor guy’s face you cut your knuckles on this time.”
Benny snorted. “It wasn’t some poor guy last time. He was drunk, and broke a stool over his buddies back before I knocked his ass out until the cops could come collect him.”
Ellis shook his head. “Well, at least you heal fast, since you’re so good at your job.” He rolled his eyes.
If he hadn’t been kicked out of his clan, Benny would likely have ended up the muscle. Not an inner circle Enforcer, but one of the peons who was taken along to stand along the wall looking mean. Benny was even bigger now. If he had to protect Yuri again from whatever cat was stalking him, he’d be able to this time.
“Tell me about Yuri.” He ignored the sharp sting of the numbing medication before Dr. Pannar began stitching up the cut. Ellis held up his hand when Benny opened his mouth to snap.
“Give me a minute.” He reached into his backpack and pulled out a notebook stuffed with some loose papers and held together with a big rubber band.
“I wasn’t able to find out much information about Yuri’s injuries after”—Ellis flicked his gaze up to Benny’s, then stared hard at the paper in his hand—“well, afterward.”
“Jerret had a college friend with a basement set up as a safe house. We hid there for two days until the Alpha left on a business trip.”
“That explains a lot,” Dr. Pannar said as he snipped the thread on the last stitch.
“What?” Benny wanted to know. Ellis was scribbling something in his notebook.
Dr. Pannar dumped the scissors back into the plastic bin and pulled off his gloves. He pushed his stool back a foot. He sighed. “Delayed treatment. Usually when a person has a traumatic brain injury, doctors will provide medication to reduce swelling or even perform surgery. Yuri didn’t get that, so the swelling inside his brain likely cause more damage than the initial injury from whatever blows he took.”
Guilt swamped Benny. He should have protected Yuri, or gotten him out of the Tiger clan’s territory sooner.
“So it’s my fault?”
“No!” Ellis shook his head violently. “You can’t think that way. You were hurt too, Benny. I talked with Jerret and he told me Yuri convinced you his father would be upset, but would eventually accepted your mating. How could you know? From the beginning of your mating, you’ve done the best you could for your mate. You suffer daily, don’t try to pretend you don’t, just to protect him.”
“But he could’ve been okay, if he’d had treatment?” Benny asked Dr. Pannar. He had to know.
The doctor held up his hands and wove his fingers together in a loose circle. “Think of the brain’s pathways like a tree. There are passages for information to relay that cover the entire organ, connecting the various parts together into a cohesive whole. But these pathways are delicate. Trauma, bleeds, even something as simple as a mild concussion can cause damage.
“Yuri’s pathways were damaged when he was hit. The pressure as his brain swelled caused damage. Based on the symptoms and neurologic changes Ellis has reported, I’d say he also had a few bleeds. Those caused damage as well.” He separated his thumbs and two fingers on his hands. “So now, Yuri’s brain works like this. While some paths still exist, others have been severed.”
He wiggled his free fingers, but didn’t touch them together. “Sometimes the brain can come up with new paths”—he touched the middle finger of one hand to the opposite thumb—“like this, or they can create new ones.”
Benny blinked. The way the doctor explained it made sense to him, but… “Are you saying Yuri could get better?” He held his breath, waiting for the answer he so desperately hoped to hear. He clenched his hands.
“Hey, be careful.” Ellis leaned forward. “You’re going to pop your stitches.”
“I would certainly not appreciate my handiwork being destroyed so soon.” Dr. Pannar’s wings rustled as he leaned behind him and pulled some gauze off the counter. “Let me wrap that up while Ellis explains a few things.”
“Whatever.” Benny didn’t care what the doctor did as long as someone answered his question. He stared at Ellis.
The smaller man fidgeted with some of the print outs, pulling them out of the notebook and shuffling them into a thin pile. He tapped the top one. “Do you remember the attack, when Bob was hurt?”
“The killer whale?”
“Davis said you healed him, but we were to keep that quiet.”
Ellis nodded. “Right now we don’t know what I did. Bob said he might have some answers for me, but we haven’t been able to go visit his clan yet.”
“Do you think you could heal Yuri?” Benny’s hand trembled in Dr. Pannar’s grip. The older doctor steadied his hand, and kept wrapping without saying a word.
Ellis hesitated. “I-I don’t know. What if it didn’t work? Or something happened and made it worse? Right now, he is slowly healing. He might never regain who he was before, but he’s not a grown man with a child’s mind. He might recover enough without any interference.”
Benny sensed a but when Ellis paused. “Tell me, please.” The ups and downs of the day, from pain to fear to anger and despair, to now see some glimmer of hope again… it was almost too much.
“What do you know about Snake venom?” Ellis asked.
“I know it hurts like a motherfucker when you mess with a Snake, or a Snake’s mate, and they bite you.” Benny shuddered and Dr. Pannar huffed.
“Thank goodness I was done fastening that.”
“Sorry,” Benny said. “Why do you ask about venom?”
“Well, venom is made up a complex mix of enzymes, proteins, and polypeptides. It’s individual not only to different species of Snakes, real and Carthera, but to each Snake. Additionally, Carthera Snakes have the ability to change the chemical make-up of their venom to inflict pain or pleasure.” Ellis flushed a little as he said the last.
“We all heard exactly how much Dav’s venom doesn’t hurt you,” Benny said. “The bar wasn’t very busy, but the door to the back room wasn’t shut when Dav ‘showed you the new wine he ordered’ that’s stored in those racks at the back of the room.”
Ellis’ mouth dropped open, and the pink flush on his cheeks darkened to a deep red. He spat out a few incomprehensible sounds, then snapped his mouth shut. His nostrils flared as he took a few deep breaths. “Damn Snake’s gonna pay,” he muttered.
“As happy as I am to see you with a smile on your face, you could stop anytime.” Ellis narrowed his eyes at Benny and flashed his new fangs.
“Sorry.” Benny wasn’t.
Dr. Pannar rolled his eyes. “I do have other plans for the day.”
“Sorry, Doctor.” Ellis handed the paper to Benny. “This is why I mentioned venom.”
“Composition of Neurotoxin Snake Venom and Possible Medicinal Treatment Research.” The title said something a lot more complicated but Ellis’ handwritten notes in the top margin was at least understandable English.
He had no idea what all the phrases meant, like endogenous chemicals transmitting signals from the neuron to a target cell across a synapse or correlating results from initial cerebral activity patterns and later cerebral activity pattern to determine synaptic plasticity pre-and post-neuropharmacology tests.
He stared at the page blindly, the tiny print swimming. Damn it. Benny wasn’t a brain. He left that kinda stuff up to his brother.
“What does this mean?” He gripped the papers tight, crumpling the edge.
“It means I think we might be able to treat Yuri with venom.”
They wanted to what? “Venom. What the fuck? You think I’m going to okay you biting my mate? I could have died when Davis bit me, and I’m healthy!” Benny’s heart raced, the memory of the agony he’d felt still sharp.
“Yuri’s healthy too! He just has these spots in his mind where the pathways don’t connect anymore. With a venom treatment, we might be able to kickstart those paths just enough so they can reconnect.” Ellis stood up and pointed to a date on the print out for the study that concluded just three months before. “It’s a long shot, and we’d have to find some doctors who know a hell of a lot more than we do, but this is a viable idea! They’re already studying it, Benny. We’d just put it to the test.”
Benny jumped to his feet. “My mate is not a lab rat to test crazy theories on!” Benny shouted. “I won’t let you hurt him.”
Ellis took a step back. He looked stunned.
“I would never hurt anyone.”
“Tell that to Mishtar.” Benny spat out the traitor’s name. “You bit him and look what happened.”
“You don’t… I-I didn’t….” All the color drained from Ellis’ face. He sank into the chair as if his legs were unable to support him. Benny’s chest heaved, but Ellis barely breathed.
Dr. Pannar cursed. He jumped up and grabbed a small tube. He broke it open and a foul stench filled the small exam room.
“Fuck!” Benny’s eyes watered and he covered his mouth and nose. Ellis took a deep breath when the doctor passed the open vial under his nose and open mouth, then gagged.
“That tastes awful.” His mouth worked and Ellis grimaced. The doctor handed him a wastebasket.
“If you’re going to get sick, do it in there,” he said grimly. Ellis nodded weakly and spat several times, hugging the small bin close.
“And you!” Dr. Pannar swung around, his wings flared behind him. “You need to sit down and listen! Ellis has been working non-stop trying to help you for days now. He is the most compassionate man I’ve ever known, and if you think I’ll put up with you insulting him again, you have another thing coming.”
The doctor wagged a finger in front of Benny’s face and then poked him in the chest. “This is the second time I’ve seen you think the worst of him, the third that I know of, without a shred of evidence. Stop thinking with all these damn muscles”—he poked Benny’s chest again—“and start using your damn brain!” He cuffed Benny’s ear.
Benny stared at the slender doctor in shock. No one had spoken to him like that since he’d gotten his last growth spurt, much less when he developed the razor sharp claws and fangs of the Tiger clan males after mating.
“Now, are you going to apologize, and listen to what Ellis is suggesting… or should I call Davis and Velaku down here?”
Benny sank back against the exam table. He felt like the world’s biggest ass. Dr. Pannar was right.
“I’m really sorry, Ellis. Mishtar was a traitor, and the things he planned would have hurt all the Carthera. You did everyone a great service when you killed him, and I had no right to say something like that to you.”
Ellis still held the wastebasket close. Dr. Pannar took it, tossing in the broken vial when he didn’t speak. “Hey, don’t start second-guessing yourself now. I told you I think this is a good idea, and I meant it. And tell this idiot you don’t hold his stupidity against him. Think of how you’d feel if anyone told you they wanted to do something that could hurt Davis, and how you’d react.”
Benny picked up the papers he’d dropped. They were out of order, but that didn’t matter since he didn’t understand them anyway. He held them out to Ellis. “Would you please explain what all this means? I know you are trying to help me, and Yuri, and I promise I’ll listen this time.” He held his breath, waiting to see what the one person who’d offered him the first hope he’d had in over a year would do.TBC