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hailing from the south, the frigid maine winter was not something musa had accounted for when he accepted his residency. he was slowly getting used to it, but musa doubted he would ever feel comfortable in this winter wonderland.
still, it was something he could easily admire; especially on mild days like this when the sun was out and the temperature was high enough not to be freezing but not so much that the streets were covered in slush. the city was beautiful like this.
it was one of his rare days off. desperate for the sun, musa wandered out into the snowy city, surprised at his own good mood. keystone wasn't a place he'd ever been before — too many people. he didn't usually do good with crowds; so many people congregated together was overwhelming. there were too many things to keep track of and he always ended the encounter with a nasty headache at best.
against his better judgement, he let his good mood and sudden adventurousness carry him. winter had not hurt hawker's row at all. if anything, it had enhanced business. the square was still draped in festive colours, and valentines motifs had been added to the mix. it was a scene out of a postcard.
he felt a familiar ache in his head start up as he joined the crowd, but it was nothing musa couldn't handle. it was a small annoyance compared to some of the nastier fits he had endured over the years. for a while, it went ignored, but a now familiar prickle in his shoulder made him pause. musa rolled his shoulder, trying to relieve his muscles of the tension that suddenly settled there.
occasional spasms were nothing new, but he had never had one reoccur so many times before. that was worrying. he wondered if it was a symtom born from hours bent over books and bodies. not the right place for it, his inner voice supplied. besides, he was pretty good at keeping a good posture. trying to think nothing of it, musa continued through the crowd, window shopping among the many vendors set up in the plaza.
the ache in his shoulder had been banished to the back of his mind, categorised as another annoyance, when musa bumped into someone. he didn't get to see their face — his attention was directed to the sharp pain blooming from the back of his shoulder. musa thought he could feel liquid seeping through his coat and dripping down his arm, but when he touched the spot, it was dry. there was just pain.
the living statue remained eerily still as the stereo to his left thrummed out an intoxicating beat. his silver-painted hand shot out towards some of the onlookers surrounding him, waving his fingers towards himself. "tip me and i'll perform." roam had already donated the change she received from her coffee when she approached, and had nothing else to give.
luckily a young teen dropped a dollar into the statue's designated donation bucket, and the man came to life. he moved robotically, interacting with an audience member who drew near. his dance halted after a few minutes like a machine unplugged from the outlet. and the routine continued on.
roam began to wonder how he could bear being covered in metallic paint for however many hours in the day. she was growing itchy just looking at him. then again, she could hardly stand staying in one form for twenty-four hours, so maybe she wasn't one to judge.
her eyes glazed over as she lost focus on the performer; this was beginning to bore her. unexpectedly, she snapped back to attention as she spotted a familiar head of hair in the crowd streaming along behind him. it wasn't familiar in the sense of someone she knew well, but rather a recent person of interest she had taken a liking to from afar. she wasn't planning to search for him today, especially not here, but you really couldn't miss that hair, and roam was an opportunist if she was anything.
like a snake through grass, roam slipped into the crowd. perhaps today could be the day she made legit contact, considering she was wearing clothes for once. really she was intrigued by how he always seemed a little.... on edge whenever she even looked at him from across the street. or something like that. interesting.
but now she was preparing the perfect accident. she chugged some of her coffee to avoid any mess as she walked down his predicted path. any second now and—BAM, their shoulders collided. roam felt the hot liquid dance in her cup as her body spun involuntarily from the impact, and she was immediately glad she had reduced its contents.
"shit, my bad," she said, reaching out for the half-stranger's shoulder. "are you alright?"
jeez, he must be pretty distracted considering he hardly even looked at her. roam backpedaled, going around to face his front as he touched his shoulder.
"hey, you alright man?"
he had been to countless doctors; seen an endless string of specialists (some in concentrations that he never even would have dreamed about!); taken countless medicines; refused countless medicines; even become a doctor himself — and yet no one even had an inkling of an idea about what was wrong with him. his tests were normal; other than his strange condition, musa was healthy as a horse. the only explanation they could come up with was an overactive midbrain causing him phantom pain.
it was all in his head.
musa clenched his teeth. it felt pretty real right now. sympathetic friends and family had suggested he take a more hollistic approach. a couple even suggested he try an exorcism. he had scoffed in all their faces. if science could not solve this problem, then what could some quack using unresearched, outdated practices do for him?
"shit my bad. are you alright?"
stepped back from the hand that reached out to steady him, musa tensed instinctively. he squeezed his shoulder with his opposite hand. the wet feeling was still there. seeing the coffee cup in the woman's hand, he assumed that she had spilled her drink on him.
"hey, are you alright man?"
she didn't, he found, when he tried to wipe his hand on his pants. he started at his clothes perplexedly, as if expecting coffee to beleatedly appear on them. gold eyes flicked up to her face, as if suddenly remembering that she was still there and he was expected to respond to her queries. "yeah—" his voice came out shakey and unsure. musa hated how much these strange sensations threw him off. "i'm fine, sorry. did i spill your coffee?"
she wasn't too sure what she was expecting—this was only getting weirder by the moment. with the way he favored his shoulder she could only assume something was wrong with it. an injury she guessed was most likely. a recent one maybe with the way he seemed to expect blood or something to be sticking to his hand. who knows. it was maybe a good thing she stopped to apologize, however intentional the action was.
even a child would have been suspicious of his response. and roam, having spent most of her free time watching people, was not convinced in the slightest. but of course "yes" and "i'm fine" were always the most acceptable answers up to a certain point.
"i'm fine, sorry. did i spill your coffee?"
roam waved off the question with a lax hand. "oh, no, it's more than half gone. but i should be the one apologizing. i ran right into you." she chuckled with an apologetic tone. she stepped a half an inch closer as she spied an oncoming passerby staring down at their phone, nearly getting crashed into as well. "are you sure you're okay? not be overly observant but your shoulder seems to be bothering you."
"oh no, it's more than half gone. but i should be the one apologizing. i ran right into you."
despite never seeing this woman before in his life, musa got the distinct feeling that she was familiar somehow and he should recognize her. he pushed that feeling to the side.
looking down, musa saw that indeed, his clothes and hand were dry. he rubbed his fingers together disbelievingly. they still felt like they should be covered in a warm, maybe somewhat sticky, liquid (there was even a chilling sensation when the wind brushed against them).
"don't worry about it," he managed a small dry smile, hoping she hadn't noticed anything... out of the ordinary. or at least didn't ask about it. the look on her face told him that none of his strange tendencies had escaped her notice. giving his shoulder a final squeeze, musa reluctantly let it go. the pain was beginning to subside a little, but he could tell that the ache would stay with him for the rest of the day.
"are you sure you're okay? not to be overly observant but your shoulder seems to be bothering you."
it seemed that good days only lasted so long.
"ah," musa felt quite awkward talking about it, "i have a neurological disorder." not entirely the truth. aside from occasional bouts of pain, he showed no other symptoms of the disorder in question; not to mention, it did nothing to explain a dozen other things his body did to make his life miserable. it was the easier than the long accounts he'd had to give to various doctors over the years, and he was sure this woman didn't want to spend the rest of her day listening to his grievences.
punctuating his statement with a casual shrug, musa followed her in sidestepping the rude passerby. engrossed in their phone, the person made no mention as they brushed passed him. musa flinched, hearing a crash in the distance. it sounded like an explosion.
alarmed, he looked to his impromptu companion as if she would know what was going on, and then to everyone around them. no one was reacting, like they hadn't heard a thing. turning back to her, he asked, "did you hear that explo—"
casually smashes your npc between two cars
"i have a neurological disorder."
there weren’t many people that left roam as curious if not confused than this guy. there was definitely something wrong but she had her doubts that it was what he said it was. the small nuances crossing his face said his response was something of an excuse. but was it just for her, or himself as well?
“sorry, i hope i didn’t sound too rude.”
part of her wanted to make something up to explain such a question like she was a body language specialist. perhaps she practically was one just from
she didn’t notice his alarmed expression at first, giving a casual double-take as he looked at her questioningly. roam cocked her head, wondering at his sudden alarm. she glanced behind her, thinking it may be something behind her but, like the other passerby, noticed nothing. finding nothing at all, she turned back to her companion thinking maybe his seemingly heightened senses would direct her towards whatever had set him on edge.
"did you hear that explo—"
roam flinched as the boom and squeal of metal interrupted them. a car horn blared incessantly, its mechanism likely broken in the crash. her head jerked towards the sound at the end of the block before returning to musa. she lifted a questioning eyebrow at him then without hesitation, she turned to walk briskly towards the sound, sure he would be close behind. already there was a raised level of chatter towards the scene's nucleus as a crowd immediately gathered.
roam slipped easily through the tightly-packed bodies, stepping over pieces of metal debris that had flown onto the sidewalk as she neared the front of the crowd. a few witnesses had already taken it upon themselves to pull limp bodies from the wreck.
ok i edited ty bye
the world seemed to react in slow motion, requiring a second deafening explosion to rock into action. no one seemed to remember the first one as all eyes turned to the busy street bordering one side of hawker's row. smoke was rising up into the cold air, and through gaps in the crowd, musa could see the silhouette of two wrecks.
during his med school rotations, he had spent a brief time in the emergency room. the pace had been too hectic for him and the stress had kept him in a constant state of illness. he remembered wondering how first responders stayed sane, because he was losing his mind. it was time to find out, he figured, following the woman and the flow of the crowd.
vaguely, musa was aware of his own symptoms. his heart beat like a drum against his ribcage, and he could feel pain spread across his extremities. strangely enough, it wasn't centered around his shoulder, but his midsection now. he was glad his body felt far away; this was probably the type of pain that left him breathless on the ground. moving forward, his body felt like a puppet, moving purely on autopilot.
"let me through, i'm a doctor," he called. it was mostly true. thankfully, people willingly stood aside for him. the scene of the crash was an ugly one. immediately, musa recognized the inattentive texter, who had narrowly missed bumping into both of them. sandwiched between two cars, he knew immediately that they were better off there until the paramedics arrived. there was no telling how much they would bleed once the pressure of the cars were removed.
thankfully, first responders were quick to arrive. other than the unfortunate person smashed between two cars, everyone else seemed mostly intact. musa did what he could for the poor person, then stepped aside and let the real professionals take over. wandering back into the crowd, he felt a few eyes on him. feeling awkward, he sought familiarity with the woman.
"that was uh... pretty crazy." he said, surprised by how steady his voice sounded. his hands shook.
something with the sight of the pedestrian crushed between the two cars caused roam's stomach to roil unexpectedly. she would've assumed she'd be the least affected by such a scene, having seen the guts and gore of wild animals up close and personal more than enough times, caused by her own hands at that. maybe witnessing such a primitive thing in the middle of the city was what did it. she could be an untamed creature taking the life of her prey, and she could be a samaritan of society playing her designated roll, but rarely did the two meet face to face.
confused by her own discomfort, she looked away, focusing on those climbing out of their vehicles. a man braced himself against the hood of his smashed car, unstable and light-headed. a woman bled from her brow as her hands went to her mouth upon seeing the pinned texter.
"let me through, i'm a doctor,"
roam glanced at her companion in vague surprise as he sped past her towards the crash. she held back with the majority of the crowd, having nothing to contribute.
not far off lying among the shattered glass, she spied what could only be the texter's cell phone. she stepped towards it, crouching to pick it up. the screen was a spiderweb of cracks, small chunks even missing here and there. somehow it still woke up as she clicked the power button on its side, showing a recently received text.
the wail of an ambulance signaled the paramedics' arrival, and she waited till they secured him on a stretcher before approaching and slipping the damaged phone under its owner's waist. her companion seemed relieved to join her as they both stepped away.
"that was uh... pretty crazy."
"yeah, it was almost like you sensed it coming or something." roam raised an eyebrow at him. before he could respond, she shrugged. "but that guy was walking through here like he owned the place and everyone in it. karma's a real bitch i guess."
roam realized she still had her coffee and polished it off, though it had grown plenty cold by now. she crushed the cup and tossed it into a nearby trashcan. "anyway, i'm hungry. you know any decent places in the square?"
something about her words struck a cord within him. the adrenaline pumping through his veins only made the sudden torrent of anxiety worse. musa took deep breaths as subtly as he could, hoping she wouldn't notice. he tried to laugh it off; his lips felt distant, like they belonged to a different person.
"nah, i just responded really fast." the words that came out felt like someone else's. someone confident and unshaken. he shrugged, hoping she would take it at face value. there wasn't any other explanation for it, really. "it's what we're trained to do." never mind that he wasn't really a real doctor. he had the degree and title, but working with cold bodies was much different from trying to keep the life from leaving a warm and breathing one.
"they could definitely have paid more attention." pushing shorter strands of hair out of his face, musa sighed when he realized he forgot about the blood on his hands. he sighed, defeated. "nothing escapes karma, i guess."
surprised they weren't immediately parting ways, musa scanned the buildings that lined the square. he was sure he looked like an idiot, standing there with his mouth open wondering which of the numerous restaurants would even let him cross their threshold (he was a walking biohazard at this point). musa hoped one of them would. he didn't want to get on the subway looking like he just murdered someone.
"uhhh, how about that one?" he pointed to a restaurant clearly labeled family owned since 1984. they might be nicer than your typical disgruntled fast food employee right? vaguely, he realized she might have been looking for an exit, rather than for the lumbering, blood covered idiot to invite himself to lunch with her. it was too late to correct that, he supposed. "i'm, uh, musa. by the way. i'd say nice to meet you but..." he half heartedly gestured to his disheveled appearance.
"sharp instincts are always good." it was clear he didn't want to stay on the subject much longer. better to respect that and not push the matter. "i can imagine that's even more so if you're a doctor."
roam nearly chuckled at the blood still stuck to his hands. they'd definitely have to do something about that if they wanted into any of these restaurants without the host thinking they literally killed someone. they could take care of that once they get to that point.
"roam. and don't worry about it, i look ten times worse on a pretty regular basis." she gave him a quick grin of consolation.
she led the way to the cute little mom and pop diner her companion pointed out. it looked like there was a short wait inside and roam hesitated outside the door. "uhhh... you wait here and i'll reserve a table and grab some paper towels from the bathroom so no one screams the second you walk inside." she glanced at him for a confirmation of some kind before heading through the door.
roam greeted the hostess, reserved a table for two then asked for the restroom. the lady pointed to a short hallway towards the back of the diner. she headed straight for it after double checking that musa didn't decide to dip once she was out of sight. grabbing some paper towels, she wetted them under the faucet and headed outside.
"here." she handed them over so musa could wipe himself down "might wanna actually wash once we get inside but it looks like we'll get seated soon."
"thanks." the word came out more like a question than a phrase of gratitude. musa gave her a strange look. doctor or not, people didn't usually react so amusedly to people covered in blood. it was a good thing, he figured, following after her and letting her take the lead.
"that's a lie," his voice was filled with mirth. her lightheartedness lifted some of the seriousness off the atmosphere. musa was thankful for that. "don't fool yourself, you look great."
there wasn't really anything that could've made waiting outside any less awkward, so he just tried to weather the curious and alarmed stares that turned his way. musa tried to smile and wave at them, but the looks only got more alarmed and people passed by even faster. he hoped none of them called the police.
"thanks." it was a relief when roam returned. gratefully taking the towels, he did his best to wipe off. "i'll do that definitely then we can get some —" a loud beeping startled him. musa hoped his flinch wasn't too obvious. pulling the pager out of his pocket, he took a quick glance at the code on the little digital screen and sighed. so much for a day off. "the lab is calling me, i have to go, sorry. it was nice meeting you roam, see you later."
it wasn't until later that he realised seeing each other later was going to be kind of hard without exchanging contact information.
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