Serefin had not spent much time in the clinic. Or, near the clinic really. As a blood mage, he could heal the injuries of others, at his own expense. And his own wounds were small, manageable things that didn’t need anyone to worry over. He had done much worse to himself before coming to Vallo, much worse had been done to him. And he survived just fine. The sterility of clinics and the bedside manner of other’s worry often threw him into a complicated mess of feelings that he purposefully liked to ignore.
But he did want to see the snooze room and the seasonal decorations, and possibly maybe talk about his problems. But that was supposed to last Tuesday, and while Serefin mostly had that situation under his control now, he had skipped coming by. He was trying to make up for it by being surprising and showing up unannounced.
And as he opened the door and weaseled his way past reception to get his sleep on—Serefin rubbed absently at his temple near his god-eye, what was sleep anymore?— he briefly considered turning around. Eventually he found the snooze room, and paused in the doorway, staring at the festive pumpkin pillows on the empty bed. It looked, well, nice. The whole place was welcoming without being suffocating.
He should have come by the clinic more often.
Serefin was already stepping inside, prodding at one of the pillows when he heard someone else come into the room. “I was only admiring the wild abandon in which even the most sterile of places can celebrate a holiday meant for heretics,” Serefin said as he looked up, and smiled at Dan. “I told you I would come.”
The pumpkins were handmade, actually, crafted by artisans who expertly wove the felted wool - in beige and orange, mainly, and Dan thought they were charming somehow. Maybe a little old-fashioned. But they made for nice festive decorations in the Snooze Room; the sheets on the bed were printed with cranberries and the comforter was soft enough to be made of clouds (it wasn’t, but Dan had picked it because this one because it was a good impression), and overall the room was meant to be a world away from anything medicinal or stifling.
He’d made note of Serefin being here, and hoped it was to take a nap. The youngster looked tired (but didn’t we all, these days?).
“Well, technically pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween,” Dan replied, adjusting the stethoscope around his neck. He came further into the room and shut the door behind him; the lights were dimmed on purpose, because anything too harsh prevented sleep. Blue lights, LED lights, were especially bad for slumber. “But I’m glad you like them. Feel free to test them out, and the bed in general. So - what’s been going on?”
Of course he noticed that Serefin hadn’t come into the clinic on the planned Tuesday (though, interestingly, Diego had - with a busted up face that Dan treated, maybe even doing a realignment for a broken nose) but figured he would show up eventually.
"Oh, you waste no time, don't you?" Serefin asked, giving Dan a look that was teasingly suspicious. "What if I wanted to talk more about these felted pumpkins? Or what other uses pumpkins have outside of Halloween? Perhaps I'm in the market for new sheets with—are those cranberries?" Serefin was stalling, just talking to fill the space while he figured out how to explain things to Dan.
He could just rest heavily on hypotheticals—Serefin had intended on just finding out ways to subdue his bastard brother if he ever stepped through the waypoints. But that was less likely than Serefin losing complete control of his sight and body. He made a sour face at the thought.
"Time got away from me the other day," Serefin said as he climbed onto one of the beds; Dan did say to try it out and Serefin wasn't going to waste the opportunity. "But I didn't forget about our plans to discuss things related to people who share at least half of the same blood as me."
He paused, then added as nonchalant as possible, "And the bitchhiker."
Dan sat in one of the cushy chairs in the room, setting down his clipboard on the dresser (there weren’t any clothes in that dresser, just extra blankets and whatnot) - and he figured that the bitchhiker situation was more dire than the potential of someone showing up here, because you couldn’t predict that sort of thing; the comings and goings changed like the tide, highs and lows and gravitational pulls that couldn’t be explained. Not really by science and not even by magic - it just happened. It was the way of this world.
“So is it - a similar situation with you and the bitchhiker?” he asked. “You wanted a plan for your brother, one that would also work for you?”
This was all just a guess. But either way, more details about what was going on might be beneficial so he could best figure out how to help.
Serefin tilted his head up to watch Dan sit down in the chair. This all felt very serious—which indicated that Serefin had to take it seriously. More than he had been. He worried at the edge of his eyepatch, feeling a deep ache in his eye, like a bruise that wouldn't heal. "They're different. My half-brother is corrupted by a god power. At least I'm reasonably sure that's what it is. I haven't had the pleasure of negotiating with him and his cult."
He wondered if Nadya had made progress; Serefin had sent her into the Salt Mines after all because he figured she would be able to appeal to the eldritch horror that was still calling himself Malachiasz.
"We—he would need to be bound, binded. Whatever it is that you can do to gods." Serefin hummed in consideration. "The best solution would be to just stab him the moment he appeared, but you would probably suggest I don't do that, right?"
Admittedly, Dan had never bound himself a god before - but he was familiar with ancient evil, an evil that had been borne of primeval hatred. The cycling of power, on and on, forever through time - the Overlook had plagued him since he was a mere aged five, and he was much older now. He’d also only just gotten rid of it here - but if he could find a way to defeat it, he was certain he could help Serefin with this problem as well. If it ever came down to that.
“Maybe not with the stabbing,” he agreed, though there were a few monsters he’d have to be convinced to not stab on sight also, if they ever showed up in this place. So he understood the temptation. “But personally - I’m familiar with binding evil. Ghosts, in my case. They weren’t gods but I had someone - a friend - who showed me how to turn what they wanted to consume into their prison. I could do that for this...thing. For whatever is in you.”
The lockboxes. All of them in a row, sitting there in the bitter neverending cold of a hedge maze.
For whatever is in you. Serefin took one brief second to close his eye, a little pained at how helpful people were being. The thought of dragging another person along for whatever had happened to him felt guilt-inducing. But he couldn't risk more harm if he couldn't actually keep Velyos at bay alone. What a strange position he found himself in.
"I think what is in me," Serefin said, though his face was scrunching up miserably through every word, "is going to hurt more people. I think what it wants to consume is—" Me, but that sounded even too dramatic for Serefin. There was a very real fear that no matter what happened, getting rid of Velyos or not, he would die regardless. It was not a good thought to have late at night or right now.
He sat up, the horizontal position making him restless and distracted. "When I died, I woke up with him—an old god, a banished one who wants to wake the others." Serefin gestured to his eyepatch. "You have to understand that I am not against what you're offering, only that I'm certain that your soon-to-be wife would murder me if I had anything to do with ruining your wedding day. I don't know what he would do if someone tried to imprison him again."
Serefin didn’t have to finish the sentence - what Dan had locked away, once upon a time, had wanted to consume him too. Wanted to get their razor-tipped talons into him, wanted to feed on his psychic essence until he was consumed by the jackals those ghosts were, mind and body, bones spit out. Maybe he didn’t truly understand this particular darkness in Serefin (Dan hadn’t talked to it, after all) but he recognized it. There was a lot of darkness like that, in any world - something that gripped your heart in a cold clench; a feeling, a word carved into a wall (REDRUM), whatever drilled into your soul.
“Well, that might be true,” he admitted, with a gravelly chuckle. He and Allison had been planning their wedding and it was a lot - it was also coming up quick, so the Big Day would be here before they knew it. “You’d have to be ready for it as well - I’d have to take a look around in your mind. Everyone organizes their thoughts and memories differently and it’s who we are as people, so - it requires a lot of trust.” Basically he was just checking that Serefin actually did trust him to do this. But he wasn’t afraid of battling a banished god on the psychic plane - Dan didn’t balk from much, after taking out a clan of child-killing vampires.
Trust was a funny thing to Serefin. Maybe he trusted too easily or not enough. Maybe he wasn't used to having more than two whole people that he could depend on. He could barely trust himself not to make the wrong choice in a bad situation, but the people here—Jacob, Diego, Evie, and now Dan—had proven more than reliable. They had spent one miniscule moment caring for a stranger. If that wasn't a sign that there was goodness in them, a capacity to be trustworthy from the beginning, Serefin didn't know what was.
He shrugged a single shoulder, a bitter defeated gesture. Serefin had hidden so much of his previous life from everyone—how long did he think he could really get away from it? He had called them layers, to Evie. But they really were complications.
"You might as well get a peek around," Serefin said, twisting his forearm in his hand. All his nervous ticks were coming out. "But if I let you in, there's no backing down if you do not like what you see in there. Not about him, but about me." There was a beat, before Serefin added, cheekily, "You really have a set of brass balls on you, Dan. Not a second spent indecision. I say there is a god in my head, and you don't even blink."
The ‘brass balls’ compliment made Dan laugh a little. Or at least, he was taking that as a compliment anyway.
“There’s nothing about you that could make me back down, or go back on my word,” he assured. Thanks to the Shining, he was a decent judge of character too - he saw Serefin for who he was, not for just the god in his head. “We all have aspects of ourselves that we’re not proud of, or that we wish we could change - good parts and bad parts. You deserve to try to make a life here just like anyone else,” and Dan really believed that. Maybe it was hard, given the instability of this world (it wasn’t just a washer load off balance, but a washer load off balance and filled with overexcited monkeys) but everyone who wanted to try should be able to try, without worry of gods potentially sitting in the driver’s seat.
He let out a thoughtful hmm, fingers tapping on the armrest of the chair he sat in. “What will it take to convince you to try a nap in this very Snooze Room?” he asked, since it looked like Serefin could use one. Maybe just an hour or so, where he wasn’t overrun with snowballing thoughts or worries.
"You say that now, but you haven't been inside. Perhaps you shouldn't trust me so quickly." Murder, torture, disregard for religion and the people who aligned themself with it—Serefin's memories were a book on grotesquely terrible people. Until he started to blatantly ignore his father's orders. War made him a different person, but so did dying.
All of that made Vallo desirable for another chance. Pressures of his inheritance, the resurrection, the political coup that was forming around him all weighed so heavily around his neck. But they ceased to exist here. He could try, if he had a truly clean slate. But then Velyos grumbled deep in the recesses of his mind, a reminder of the one roadblock.
The whole reason Serefin was here in the first place.
"I suddenly feel tricked. This was never planning out solutions." And sure, Serefin perhaps gave a scathing-but-longing glance to plush comforter at the end of the bed he was currently sitting on. Sleeping anywhere remotely public was too risky. "You can try, but to avoid your inevitable disappointment, you do not have what it will take to convince me."
Dan caught the longing in that gaze (he wasn’t born yesterday). Technically, he didn’t even need to try - to be convincing, that is. He could just induce sleep (or work some other mind fuckery that he tried not to do, but he wasn’t about to go that route if he could help it).
“I’ll keep watch - no one will bother you,” he promised. “Are you sure you’re not...a little bit tired though?”
A rhetorical question, as a little bit of the Shining flexed - a sleepy feeling projected, a blanket settling around Serefin. This feeling was how Mother Earth felt, when summer passed and she regenerated for the return of spring - it was a familiar song, with well-worn chords and the Sandman riding along to come and greet you.
Didn’t that comforter look amazing?
Those sheets were soft, weren’t they?
Oh, Dan was sneaky. And frustratingly clever. Serefin went from holding up his hand to stop Dan from saying anything else and shaking his head "no, he wasn't tired" to nodding "yes, completely". The comforter did look amazing, the sheets were soft. The parts of Serefin that made sleeping impossible without wine or a swift punch to the face were all giving up now. His whole being clung to the exhaustion, and instead of fighting it, he let it drag him under. Let it drag him down to the bed, where his head hit the pumpkin pillow: his new nemesis.
"Perhaps, for a moment. A few minutes, if that will stop you from asking," Serefin conceded with a dismissive wave of his hand. The nudge from Dan was just enough to tip the scales that Serefin often kept in precarious balance between consciousness. Which only proved that Serefin desperately needed the Snooze Room and not for critiquing decorations.
"If I start to—" Serefin yawned, and struggled to keep his eye open to get the last part of this out.. "I might sleepwalk." That's what he was calling his situation with Velyos for the time being, sleepwalking. "Do not stop me, it will be more dangerous to you than me. Just allow me to walk right out and inform Diego and the Fryes immediately."
Dan scooted the chair closer to where Serefin lay, cuddling up to pumpkin pillows (also known as, inglorious bastard nemeses). “I’ll let them know,” Dan agreed, though he hoped it wouldn’t come to that. An hour nap was well-deserved; Serefin looked dead on his feet (a macabre sort of comparison, but still true).
And he helped out with eaaaaaasing him into slumber - usually, when he did this, the folks he helped were on their way out, leaving this world. But the Snooze Room meant he was mainly assisting tired Vallo denizens plagued with insomnia, not figuratively holding hands during the transition from life to death. He also would fish for a happy memory, or ask someone to pull it to the forefront of their mind in order to get them to relax fully, but Serefin was drifting quickly - no need to do that.
So he was simply a gentle guide, projecting feelings of peace and calm - a glistening lake, mirroring the stars in the night sky, ripples ruffling the stillness. A lazy wind pushing against grass that hadn’t been mowed, sending dandelion seeds on their way -
Sleep, he encouraged Serefin, without saying a word.
(a welcoming warmth, coating him as good as caramel over a fresh harvest apple)