Several weeks passed before Emery finally summoned up the courage to visit his father. Armand had told him the likelihood of the older man being moved to a less clinical facility hinged on how stable he was. Emery needed to see him; to see for himself how his father was.

Emery sighed as he settled the visitor pass around his neck. He hated how confined he felt and he was only a guest; he couldn’t imagine how his father felt in the hospital ward. People crowded the narrow corridor. Some seemed to think they were somewhere else. Others seemed unaware of anything around them at all, simply shuffling along until something, or someone blocked their paths.

“Emery, what are you doing here?” a familiar voice said. “Please tell me that you didn’t bring your brother here too.” The crowd parted and his father stood scowling at him from a doorway.

“No… just me,” Emery said. “I… wanted to see how you were settling in… see how you were.”

His father nodded and waved him into the room. Once they were alone, in what Emery realized was his bedroom, Nathaniel sat down on one narrow cot and gestured for Emery to sit in the room’s only chair. “I have a room-mate but he’s in the recreation room. I think he’s painting. He paints a lot. They want me to paint to but I don’t like the smell of the stuff. Does your mother… did you tell her… that I was here?”

The question took Emery off-guard but their father had disappeared before their mother had died. “No,” he said, recovering himself. “I didn’t tell her anything about it. Did – did you want me to?” He wasn’t sure what he would do if his father asked if she could visit.

He was saved from trying to figure it out when the older man shook his head. “It’s better if she doesn’t know. Are you… taller than you were?” he asked abruptly.

“It’s been six years, Dad,” Emery said softly. “We’re older. I’m almost sixteen. Miles’ll be fifteen. We’re forensic mages. I can sense… trauma. Miles can sense… the emotions of people around him. Can you-?” He broke off when his father waved him into silence.

“Does anyone else know about this?” the older man asked keenly.

Emery shook his head. “Only Morrissey – my supervisor. He figured it out when I got… near something dangerous and… nearly had an attack. He doesn’t know about Miles though. Hassett might have some idea… but he’s not a mage so he wouldn’t know the implications.”

Nathaniel frowned and began to pace the small room like a caged animal. “That might be even more dangerous,” he muttered darkly. “Do you know the charm to erase a specific memory?”

Emery nodded, his eyes widening slightly. “Dad, what’s going on? Are Miles and I in some danger? Are you in danger? Will you be safe here?”

“You said that you nearly had an attack… like your mother used to?” He was changing the subject but he seemed so anxious that Emery replied. It was a simple nod but the motion was enough of a response that Nathaniel slumped into a chair dejected. “You inherited her Auric Decay Syndrome? How long have you had it? Have you been taking care of it? What’s the prognosis?”

“I was diagnosed about five months ago,” Emery replied. He hadn’t intended to tell his father about this. He’d intended just a short visit; just to say hello and see how the older man was faring. “They have me on auric stabilizers and strengtheners. There’s a new medicine I just started that’s meant to heal the damage. They had me on bed rest but that got me so irritated that the doctor decided the stress of being cooped up was making me worse. I’ve got more good days than bad. The… new medicine seems to be working well enough. The shredding didn’t reach my auric core but my right arm is affected, and my left leg. They’re recovering, just slowly. Slower than I’d like.”

“Is there any pain?” Nathaniel asked. “How has your breathing been, and your heart?”

Emery smiled. The conversation they were having was the closest thing he’d had to a father –son chat in six years. “Both of them are fine, Dad,” he replied. “My arm hurts when the weather is foul. My leg gets tingly now and again. Other than that, everything is fine. Miles seems to have taken after you, aurically speaking. He has no problems.”

“Thank goodness. Emery… will you… I want to tell you to stay away. I want you safe, but…”

“I couldn’t stay away, even if you did ask,” Emery said. He caught his father’s hand. “I’ll visit… and I will bring Miles next time.”

“Not your mother though,” Nathaniel said firmly. “I… don’t want her to see me like this.”

“Alright, Dad,” Emery murmured. “Take care. If you need me, you can call me at the station.”

Nathaniel nodded and smiled a little as he stood to see Emery out. It was less nerve-wracking as he headed back down the corridor. The strangers still crowded around him but seeing his father reassured him that the older man was better. He seemed to know who he was now, instead of thinking he was the Ghost of Stevrim Caverns. All in all, Emery was glad he’d taken the chance to come visit. He hoped next time, he could get the courage to tell his father what had happened to Mom.

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