I wonder if Dark's neck is broken and his magic keeps it from getting worse. Maybe thats why Dark does the neck thing. Damien said did say that our body (now Dark's) is broken and we did fall from the stairs while looking up . . Now I'm just imagining Dr. Iplier doing a check up on Dark only to find his neck broken and maybe a few other things as well.
((Now, I have a few of my own wonderances for this that are different, but then you went and mentioned my doctor boy and damn it I like the way you think, mysterious configuration of being. Did you intend for this to become a thing? Because it is now. And sorry this took so long. It wasn’t quite turning out the way I wanted it to - in fact, I think it’s a god awful mess - but I hope you enjoy anyway!))
Warnings: Minor Graphic Detail, Mild Blood
It had started when Dark felt something move up into his lungs. It had been subtle, ignorable, and there had been no pain, not that something like him could feel any such physicalities anymore, so he had let it go in favor of getting on with his day. There had been much to do, idiots to manage, and the awareness had completely faded into the ether when there had been yet another kitchen fire that he personally had to see to.
And there the notion remained, until a cough brought it right back.
It was nothing; just something thoughtless, knee-jerk, and while he didn’t cough often if ever, it was still very ignorable. It twinged, like an itch from the inside, but a single, quiet cough was more than enough to alleviate the feeling once more. He didn’t have time for it. If King left one more peanut butter covered pinecone in the ceiling again, he was going to kick the pseudo monarch out for good. And Artiplier too for teaching that to him.
But it as the day wore on, so too did the coughing become more common. He kept it subtle, having to mindfully push the feeling down now, because goddamn it Wilford had let Silver leap off another building again while he filmed it and, while the injuries this time were trivial, he was going to break something again, if he didn’t just outright kill himself next time and - are you even listening Wilford?
The pastel being had been giving him a strange look the entire time during his tirade and, at first he had chalked it up to the flippant man not listening as per usual, but it was only now in the irritated silence that he could hear exactly what was wrong.
Dark had been coughing the entire time.
Suddenly, the itch was back with a vengeance, and he wasn’t sure when he had turned away with his mouth in his hands, racking coughs shaking his entire form, but there he was, hunched over with his back to Wilford as he desperately tried to get it under control. He felt a steadying hand on his back, heard his name called a few times in obvious concern, but his ears were filled with a high pitched ring that grew and cancelled all other noise until, with pop he felt more than heard, something within him finally gave. He choked suddenly, nearly gagging, as he felt something solid move up his throat to land sharply his tongue. It tasted sweet and smokey.
It took a short time and after a few seconds of aftershocks, his form stilled as the urge finally faded away. As the ringing died down, he could finally hear Wilford ask about his health again with a level of concern he hadn’t heard in ages from him, but, for the time being Dark could only ignore it, taking a handkerchief from his trouser pocket and spitting into it. He only saw for a moment before he pinched the cloth closed, hiding the object and everything that came with it from Wilford. But it had been more than enough for he himself to notice one very concerning detail.
Everything had been red.
He straightened up, quickly pressing the kerchief into his breast pocket in a single subtle movement as he fixed his suit - giving his neck a quick readjust as well - before sparing Wilford a glance and a few words of comfort as he excused himself. He could see out the corner of his eye as Wilford looked like he wanted to persist, but Dark was out of sight before the pink ego could get out another word.
And it was here and now he found himself in the doctor’s office, perched upon the man’s own rolling stool instead of one of the many available beds - Wilford may have been content to let his legs dangle like a child, but Dark refused to be so undignified - waiting as the doctor looked over the proffered cloth with a scrutinizing eye. He was hemming and hawing and it was beginning to irk the already rather keyed-up demon, but before Dark could offer the physician a single chance to shut up or else, the doctor turned around to face him with an interesting level of curiosity in his eyes.
“Well?” Dark prompted, hands folded over his crossed knees, his posture stiff as it usually was, even if the reasons weren’t the same.
“I’d say this is part of a bullet,” The doctor offered in return, holding the now clean piece out to him in a pair of surgical tweezers. It was chalky grey in color. “This came out of you?”
“I don’t supposed I’d be here if it didn’t,” Dark quipped back flatly, but his interest had been piqued. A bullet fragment? When had he been…
“Fair enough. Who had the mettle to shoot you anyway? Was it Wilford?” The question was flippant, joking even, though with an undertone of implication because honestly the doctor had seen that particular instance more often than not, but it still hit Dark like an open palmed slap to the face. He could already feel the memories stirring, some of which did not even belong to him, and it took everything within him not to let his shell crack in that particular moment because if it did, he knew the consequences would be far more dire than with what had become the normal variety.
However, in a multitude of seconds that felt like an eternity, Dark managed to quell the feelings and disguise them as a single, solitary, disinterested sigh. At least, he hoped it came across that way.
“It doesn’t matter.”
“I suppose not,” The doctor relented, either ignoring or oblivious to Dark’s pause as his attention returned to the lead fragment. Ignorance really was bliss. “But it obviously didn’t happen recently. See the flaky grey on the surface here? It’s started to corrode, which only happens after a long time exposure to types of alkali which doesn’t really - ”
“Correct,” Dark interrupted curtly, not at all interested in a chemistry lesson. “It wasn’t recent, but why is it happening now?”
Dr. Iplier shrugged, looking mildly put off for being interrupted, but true to his apathetic nature he let it go and pressed on. “Sometimes things just remain unmoved inside the body for years. I’d imagine it may have just been close by and, for whatever reason, just didn’t show itself until now. More to the concerning point, there are probably more in you that you aren’t aware of. Would you permit an x-ray?”
Now there was a question Dark hadn’t prepared himself for. It seemed absurd that he was thrown by such a simple request, and yet he couldn’t help balking about it all the same. What would be captured on that photo? What could be captured on that photo? He couldn’t afford to end the doctor if something more than what was currently happening turned up. The physician was quite the invaluable resource after all, especially for his blatant disregard of prying details. But all the same, it would be handy to know if this could potentially happen again, especially in front of others.
Especially in front of Will.
And it was with that argument that the demon finally begrudgingly agreed.
It was a surprisingly quick process and Dark was back in the stolen chair sans suit jacket and tie after just a few minutes. And it was only a few more before the doctor was shoving two freshly printed sheets of film into place on the light board before flicking the switch to illuminate them.
Now that was quite a sight. Seeing a set of bones and organs that he knew he himself had shaped was a curious thing, especially with the previous wonderance that, while his outward appearance may have taken appropriate form, his inward one may not have. And while he realized this was a silly contradiction, it had still held concern in his mind for a secret that nobody else could ever know about. Thankfully though, this didn’t seem to be the case.
But ever more curious were the lit up white spots speckled throughout his abdomen, and he couldn’t help but stare. He counted at least five, and none as big as the one that had so rudely extricated itself from him earlier. They didn’t even seem to be near anything necessarily vital either.
Not that that fact mattered anymore really.
So absorbed was he that he didn’t notice the doctor turn to him with a new level of concern, and Dark most probably would have continued to disregard him had he not made a rather urgent and out of place sounding request.
“Turn around,” The doctor demanded suddenly, his face taking on a panicky sort of grimness.
“Pardon?” Dark returned, surprised to find himself lost. That didn’t happen often.
“Turn around,” Dr. Iplier said more slowly, but with no less urgency than before. “I need to see your neck.”
“Whatever for?” Dark had an inkling exactly what for.
“See this vertebra here?” The doctor impatiently poked his finger into the very top of the second x-ray, right next to his neck and that’s when Dark saw it. Damn. “That’s supposed to be nestled up to the bottom of your skull. Not to mention all these little white lines running everywhere else are microfractures.”
“And?” Dark asked with an air of disinterest.
“Dark,” Dr. Iplier beseeched with exasperated concern. “Your neck’s broken.”
There was a beat before the demon responded with a simple and very dry, “Yes, I’m acutely aware.”
“And you’ve just been living this way?” That was a funny way to put it, but Dark refrained from commenting. “What the hell happened to you?”
The silence that followed was filled only with the hum of the x-ray display light.
Now that was a loaded question, and with the doctor looking down at him now with all the concern of a close friend, with almost the same face to match, it was reminding him too much of times he wanted to forget.
Times of when, during late nights at the office, a bespectacled face would just appear at the other end of his desk in the way only he could, wearing a knowing smile and bearing something to eat because he would often forget.
Times when that same face was sad for some unknown reason that just could not be spoken about, so he took it upon himself to cheer the man up with silly antics the same way he did for him.
Times where he would get so angry he would yell at the man just to come back later to apologize only to realize that no offense had been taken in the first place and their friendship was just the same as it had ever been.
… A single time where that face was on the verge of breaking entirely, and Dark could see him now, reaching out as he fell, the words echoing in his ears along with a hauntingly familiar, harsh ring.
Wait, that one wasn’t his.
“It was an accident! I swear!”
He needed to leave.
“Nothing that matters anymore,” Dark responded briskly, standing to pick up his coat and tie from the nearby bed and throwing them on with well-practiced grace. “Thank you for your time, doctor.”
“Now hold on a damn minute,” Dr. Iplier stepped forward as if he wanted to grab Dark’s shoulder, but then thought better of it at the last second. “I can’t just let you walk out of here knowing that you could keel over at any given moment.”
“I assure you that that’s no longer a problem.” Dark waved away impatiently, already turning toward the door.
“Your neck though! And all of that uncomfortable twisting I’ve seen you do. Those readjustments can’t be good for you. Aren’t you afraid of waking up one day and being completely paralyzed?”
“I defer to my previous statement.”
The doctor made a frustrated noise. “At least let me take care of the bullet fragments. How you haven’t suffered lead poisoning by now is a miracle.”
Dark sighed, turning back to the physician with a look of impassiveness. He knew the man wasn’t exactly heartless, but Dark honestly hadn’t expected him to be so insistent about his health. “Doctor, your concern is appreciated - truly - but going by that picture, I don’t see anymore near my lungs, so you have my word that it will be fine.”
“And what will happen when it isn’t?” Dr. Iplier fired back. He was implying more than just a health issue and the acknowledgment that Dark actually was a leader in all of this wasn’t missed.
“Then I suppose I have you to deal with the aftermath,” Dark replied wryly.
Dr. Iplier made a face. Apparently he was the only one allowed to make apathetic jokes in the face of a potential crisis. “That’s not funny. I’m not an EMT, Dark.”
“I have faith in you, doctor. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I never finished forbidding Wilford from encouraging acts of tragedy ‘for the sake of the show’ and would like to get back to it before someone else unwittingly winds up in your care.”
Dr. Iplier looked like he wanted to argue his point, but even he knew when to stop pressing - or perhaps that was just the lethargy - and he sighed, the sound heavy and laden with a weariness that Dark was all too familiar with. “Very well. Just… don’t hesitate to come back if any of it bothers you, alright?”
“You have my word.” And with that, Dark strode out with much more on his mind than he had going in. Of course the bullet would still be in there, shattered as it was. He wasn’t sure why it had never occurred to him. Just because his appearance had changed, didn’t mean the body had. It was the same principle as his unhealing neck, even if neither experience had happened to him directly. He was cursed to a nearly broken body that didn’t belong to him, held together with whatever power Celine had used and that void had bestowed upon him, physicalities stuck in a permanent state of stasis.
But he had no time for self pity. He had a building to oversee, and a goal to maintain.
And as Dark walked purposefully down and out of the hall, he didn’t see the man he was looking for, hiding just out of sight in a nook beside the door, frozen in place with eyes wide and an otherworldly flower clutched to his barely breathing chest.
Wilford had just wanted to check on his friend. To make sure he was okay because never before had Dark’s health ever come into question, and the coughing fit had scared him so much more deeply than anything else had in a very long time. But while he was on the way to barging in, he’d heard his name and then… He’d heard everything else.
His mind swam, memories stirring in the watery depths like ancient beasts, lashing out against him a tirade of blurry and out of order images.
A gunshot, a choke, a scream that seemed to echo from the very depths of his soul.
He couldn’t be. He wasn’t.
The flower fell from his trembling fingers.
He wasn’t a killer… was he?