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Focussing hard, he gently pushed down on the door lever, popping it open with a soft click and letting a crack of light through. From where he stood, he could make out a small child laid on the bed, still as death, tubes all over his body leading to complicated-looking machines. Ryder closed his eyes shut for a second, needing to stop himself from running away from the private room. It hurt his heart to see the pitiful boy lying there with pale skin, no flush of youth colouring his cheeks. A woman was seated by the boy’s side on a green plastic chair, but Ryder couldn’t see her face. A cloud of blond hair, tousled and long, fell down her back in waves, over the summery, bohemian dress she wore long to her ankles. Her hand was closed around the child’s, and Ryder could hear the sniffles of her preventing herself from crying.
As he hovered in the doorway, she spoke softly to the boy. “Oh, Thomas. Come back to me.” Her voice cracked on a sob, and a tissue was produced from her other hand, wrinkled from earlier use. “I need you, little man. You’re all I really have in the world. The most important person in my life.” Her golden head bent, and she whispered, “Don’t leave me.”
I can’t hang about eavesdropping. Time to get on with it. Clearing his throat loudly, almost dramatically so, Ryder swept the door open in a rush and stepped into the room, hoping she wouldn’t notice. Wait—what the hell are you doing? She can’t see you anyway. For a second, the cardinal rule floated around his head, but he brushed it away angrily.
The woman looked up towards him with glassy green eyes, her anguish reflected in their depths, and she sniffed loudly as she forced a smile onto her face. Hurriedly scrubbing at her face, she gave a hollow laugh. “Sorry, doctor, I didn’t see you there. Don’t mind me.”
Doctor? Oh, shit…she can see me. What the hell? Frozen to the spot, Ryder opened and closed his mouth like a goldfish gasping for air. His pulse became a livewire again, drying his throat with panic. The woman continued staring at him questioningly without looking away, raising her eyebrows and offering a sad smile when he didn’t make any sound. Snapping his mouth closed, Ryder managed a wry smile, brightly replying, “Please, it’s fine. It’s okay to be upset.” I don’t understand this. How can she see me? Greek has some explaining to do. I can’t take the boy while she’s here though. Hell, maybe I can console her a bit. Ankou and Morrigan wouldn’t mind that, right?
“Maybe, but I know I need to keep my spirits up, too.” Rising up sharply, the woman held a hand out, scrunching the worn tissue tightly in her other hand like a comfort blanket. “I don’t think I’ve seen you here before. New, yes? I’m Elizabeth Davies, Thomas’ mother.”
“I’m, er…Doctor Thompson. Yeah, I’m new. I’m…sorry about your little boy.” Thank fuck I’ve got a common surname.
Elizabeth cocked her head, shrugging her shoulders. “Thanks. He’s going to be okay though. I know it.” Another nervous laugh. “I know you guys say otherwise, but…I know my little man. He doesn’t give up without a fight.” She gazed down at the still child for a moment, her lip wobbling, before she burst into tears once more.
“Oh! Mrs Davies, please sit down,” Ryder gushed, racing to her side. Forgetting for a second that he had to concentrate his energies, his hand slipped through the small of her back, but she didn’t seem to notice. Charging himself, he placed his hand around her shoulders, helping her sit down as he moved his palm to rub small circles on her back. Crouching down, he smiled up into her tear-streaked face, suddenly taken by how much more beautiful she was up close. Tiny freckles dotted her nose and cheeks, and her lips were so pink they were almost blushing. “You’re right,” he agreed vehemently. Regardless of his mission, he had to give her some hope. At least at this moment. It wouldn’t be right to take that away from her. “It doesn’t matter what we say. We’re often wrong, you know.”
“Yeah?” Elizabeth asked, hope lighting her features for a moment.
Reaching over to squeeze her hand, Ryder whispered, “Yeah. So you hang onto that. Thomas will wake up, you’ll see.” What the fuck are you doing, Ryder? Grim Reaper, remember? You’re meant to take him to the Otherworld, not tell her he might wake up. He gazed up at the hope shining in her eyes, and he collapsed under her stare. Fuck it. Maybe he will wake up. Maybe Ankou and Morrigan are wrong about him. Ryder glanced around the room, frowning as he noted a ghostly figure of the little boy wasn’t anywhere in the room. After all…he’s not floating around like Abigail was. Shit, that’s it. He’s not going to die. Surely. It was the only explanation. Why else wouldn’t he be here? Although in his heart of hearts, Ryder knew it probably meant nothing, he couldn’t take Thomas away from Elizabeth just yet. Not when she was so broken. He knew how it felt.

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