Ellis was there when Devin finally awoke.
It had been almost two weeks since he had brought his catatonic colleague home to Manhattan from across the pond in Wales; in that time, Devin had not spoken a word, and seemed unaware of the world around him. Honoring the mages' time-honored tradition of privacy, Ellis had not taken him to a mundane medical facility, but instead trusted in the knowledge that his friend had come through a period of stillness like this before. It was only that fact, and the confidence of Devin's guardian angel Luciel, that kept Ellis from fretting more than he already was.
Every morning, he rose from his bed in Devin's guest room and went to check on his friend, and every morning had been the same: no response or acknowledgement from the stricken young man. Regardless, Ellis always helped to prop him up into a sitting position, to give the mage some semblance of life, rather than letting him lie in bed all day as if in a coma. Then he'd walk the few blocks to his bookstore to keep shop, stopping to grab a coffee and pastry on the way. If anything happened to Devin that required his assistance, Luciel could easily alert him.
But nothing untoward happened, and every evening, Ellis closed up his store and made the walk back to Devin's place to find little to no change. Every so often, it would seem as if Devin has moved his arm or tilted his head, but he was still mentally unresponsive. Luciel seemed to be taking this in stride; he believed that since Devin's lowest levels of magic were still present, the mage was not lost to them and would eventually recover. Not being nearly so close to Devin as the angel was, Ellis had to simply trust in that. It was very hard seeing the usually forceful and temperamental young man reduced to an almost vegetative state, but Devin had no known family, and few friends, so Ellis was determined to see him through this, to be a human touch if the younger man needed it. Luciel was, of course, more than capable of caring for his charge, but he was an angel, after all, and if Devin awoke and needed something as simple as a shoulder to lean on... well, Ellis would be there.
On this particular evening, the red-haired mage was sitting in Devin's den reading the Times when he heard the quiet sound of cloth rustling. He looked up, startled, right into Devin's strangely dimmed eyes. The usual stormy-sky blue seemed more like a summer haze at the moment, but perhaps that was to be expected after his ordeal. In contrast with his dull eyes, the mage looked feverish, color high on his pale face. Hurriedly, Ellis moved to help his friend, who was leaning heavily on the doorframe as if he couldn't stand on his own.
It had been a very long time since Ellis had been this close to Devin while the younger man was awake and aware; he had forgotten about the almost supernatural charisma that Devin radiated as easily and as unconsciously as breathing. He imagined he could feel the other mage's hair brushing against his own, and fought the alarming urge to simply lean over and nuzzle the fever-flushed cheek just inches away. Even on a good day, Devin would probably give him a black eye for such a trespass, and after ...whatever... he had just gone through to end up in this state, that kind of unwanted intimacy might send him back into shock. And then Luciel would probably give him a black eye. Clamping down on the unwelcome, still nascent thoughts, Ellis instead concentrated on helping Devin reach the sofa.
Silent until this point, the younger mage let out a quiet grunt as he dropped onto the cushions, then looked up at Ellis, his expression unreadable. "So."
Ellis sighed as he resumed his seat. "So. How do you feel? ...What do you remember?" Now that he thought about it, he couldn't be sure Devin had any idea that they had returned to New York. Or if he knew anything that had happened at all since his sudden incapacitation.
"I feel like shit, and I'd rather not talk about what I remember," the blonde man said flatly, but the look in his eyes as he spoke reminded Ellis of a frightened animal. "How long has it been?" He glanced around at his apartment, seeing everything much the same as he left it, since the other mage had tried to disrupt as little as possible.
"About two weeks." That prompted no particular reaction. "...Do you want something to drink? Eat? Read?"
"I could use a... fuck, I don't even know. I want to be unconscious again." Devin leaned his head back, looking up at the ceiling.
That didn't sound encouraging. Ellis rose and tentatively sat next to his friend on the sofa, keeping a polite distance. "Devin... Luciel's been worried about you..." And so have I, of course, but...
"Yeah, well, that's kind of his job, isn't it?" Slowly, Devin sat up and turned to look at Ellis, some of the light returning to his eyes, but not in a reassuring way. "And how about you? Have you been babysitting me the whole time?"
"Well," the red-haired mage began, a little unnerved by Devin's stare, "I've been going to the shop for most of the day, but otherwise, I've been here with you, yes." Was the headstrong younger man irritated by that? Understandable...
"Heh. Don't you have anything better to do?" The tone wasn't particularly insulting, but then again, everything Devin had said so far had sounded rather flat, as if he were too weary to express emotion. Maybe he was.
"Better than taking care of a friend? Not really." He would have said more, but at that moment Devin leaned in quickly, almost losing his balance doing so, still staring at the other man in that unsettling way. Ellis caught his shoulders and found himself looking the younger mage straight in the eye.
He couldn't help it; his breath caught for a moment. He felt as if Devin were looking right through him, or worse, right into him, but for the span of several heartbeats, he couldn't look away. Would the irritable mage see what he had been thinking earlier? What would he make of it?
Finally, it was Devin who looked away, pushing off of Ellis slightly to right himself. "Shit, I'm getting as bad with this stupid eye thing as Allista--" As the name began to fall from his lips, the blonde man's demeanor changed entirely. He seemed to crumple, and quite suddenly he had fallen into Ellis again, this time hunched over and shivering.
Ah... Reality strikes, Ellis thought sadly, gently putting his arm around Devin's shaking shoulders. It seemed that Devin hadn't noticed his feelings at all, which was just as well. No, the younger man's thoughts rested entirely with the love he had lost. "Let it out," Ellis murmured. "Just... let it all out."
Devin seemed to stiffen for a moment, angry at being seen as needing comfort, but he finally made an unintelligible sound of misery and rested his forehead on Ellis's shoulder, all strength seeming to drain out of him. He didn't weep, but his agony was so clear that the older mage felt his own eyes growing hot.
Motion at the edge of his vision made him glance up to see Luciel standing there watching them. The angel raised a finger to his lips to signal for silence, and smiled sadly. Of course he was glad to see his protégé awake, but no one wanted to see someone they loved suffer this way. Ellis gave him a weak smile in return, and sighed silently. Devin was very still; was he asleep again?
"... Just a moment." The man's voice was raw with some intense feeling, and Ellis knew it would be more than a moment before he could compose himself.
"Take your time," he said gently to his friend. "After all, I don't have anything better to do."
A little exploration into the relationship between Devin and Ellis. What could this mean?! ;) I don't expect Ellis to pop up in any meaningful way in "Desperation", though I could be wrong, so in the meantime, hopefully he'll be a bit more fleshed-out in these shorttakes.