Published: November 13, 2011
Much to Zbura's happiness, he was healing up quite nicely. While the wound on his shoulder from the hellhound was still quite visible through his bi-colored fur, it did not hurt nearly as much. In fact, he had returned to duty on time. He would have tried to go early, but the occasional pang of agony from his crack heartstone kept him back.
Figuratively speaking, he was feeling fit to fight.
Most of the time, his hooves, such an odd change even after weeks, they were kept busy as he learned to heal, eager to know everything and anything. He had many apt teachers.
One of which was a white and brown stallion named Dallas. His heartstone was nearly white in color, and his frighteningly pale eyes always made Zbura look away. Though he looked up to the skilled healer, he couldn't deny that the other's fatherly nature made him uncomfortable. It was impossible to be cross with him, but the young chestnut paint was always eager to be on his way.
Thanks to Dallas and many others, he was learning quickly and gaining confidence. He could handle cases on his own, and the idea of going on his next mission didn't fill him with dread. Instead, he felt confident that he could save his herdmates if he needed to.
Everything was perfect. For once in his life, it seemed to be going along so very smoothly...except for one tiny detail.
In the back of his head, no matter how hard it tried to ignore it, there was this...nagging. He didn't know what else to call it, but possible a fickle fixation. He wouldn't dream of called it an infatuation or dare joke that it was even a childish crush, but he could not deny that he was...fixated on another wraith.
This fixation was very odd, especially to him. Despite his sincere disgust and detachment from his own form, he couldn't stop his eyes from finding the male.
Occasionally, he tried to reason that this attention was only because the male was dark. It was only natural for a black swan to be drawn to darkness. Perhaps the bits of white that decorated the dark pelt also drew him. It certainly would make sense if they did, since most of his kind had white tips to their wings.
Just as he made himself believe it, a happy voice reminded him that Brod lacked some rather important features, including feathers, a beak, wings, or anything else that made a swan.
Finding his aqua and lime eyes on the dark form, he couldn't help but admiring the elegant, long neck. That was certainly close to swan-like.
Cross with himself, he tore his gaze away to glare at the grass. He had been eating, but his appetite had been ruined. Snorting with annoyance, he stamped as he silently scolded himself for doing it again, watching Brod. It was utterly ridiculous. Brod was an arrogant jerk, flat out a bully, and rarely had anything positive to say.
In a rather depressing way, he reminded Zbura of himself before he became a wraith and especially before he met Devon.
Another snort escaped him before he shook himself and headed towards the stream. Water always seemed to clear his head, and hopefully, it would get him away from the temptation of the nonsense that filled his mind.
Fortune chose not to smile Zbura's side, as Brod followed him, not seeming to realize that he was there.
Zbura dipped his muzzle into the water, drinking slowly, his ears twisted towards Brod, but his eyes carefully trained on the water. Though he was waiting for the snide comment, it never came, and he found it almost more annoying than being ignored. Snapping at the water, as if it were to blame, he jerked back.
The small outburst drew Brod's attention to him. Dark, greenish blue eyes flickered over him, but there was none of the usual arrogant humor behind them. Instead, they were cool and disinterested, a distant dismissal.
It was almost predictable that this would draw Zbura's attention and, whether he admitted it or not, concern.
For a moment, he considered it before tossing his mane and prancing closer to Brod. He was lighter on his feet and more adjusted to his size and build, so he could actually move gracefully. Once he was near, he nipped at his coat lightly, nibbling playfully. Though he tried to blame it on his new position as a medic, but he found himself being obscenely careful when around Brod.
Since the monyel had tried to steal his stone and cracked it, a jagged scar had run over it. It was neither large nor particularly obvious, but at times, it ached, almost as if to remind him it was there. He had been assured there was no sure for it, but when he was around Brod, it actually seemed more prone to aching, perhaps to remind him that though they had all died, they could still feel pain.
"What's the matter with you, grump?" Zbura asked teasingly, his ears flickering as he dipped his head playfully. Pawing at the ground, he attempted to act childish, though he had no real basis for this behavior. He had been created a fully grown wraith and only seen one or two young since coming to life.
A cool, level glare should have been dismissive enough, but Zbura acted as if he did not see it.
Butting his head against Brod's shoulder, he went to tease him farther, only to feel a sharp nip near the hellhound wound. Quickly, he jerked away, snoring with confusion. That was just enough time for Brod to lash out with his hooves, catching him square on the same shoulder.
Shielding back and grunting from the pain, Zbura's tail lashed as he watched Brod with confusion. He just barely managed to dodge Brod's second strike.
"Fight back!" Brod snapped, lashing out once again. There was a raging fury in his dark eyes, but Zbura stood still, letting the other hit him hard.
Twisting while the other was still nearly, he nipped the dark shoulder. Though he retaliated, it was to scold, not to harm. It wasn't meant to harm, and didn't do much except annoy the more aggressive male. Almost instantly, he lashed out at him again, catching Zbura on the flank as he bolted.
Wavering mid-step, he quickly got himself out of range before turning back to watch Brod. His vivid eyes were bright with anger, his heart thundered, and his inner voice roar for him to fight. That angry voice was muffled beneath the solid reserve to not go down that road again.
"What's your problem?" he demanded crossly, continuing to dance away from Brod's menacing approach.
"Coward!" Brod spat before charging.
Quickly, Zbura side stepped, not prepared for Brod to lash out with his hind feet. The full impact hit him, and he toppled onto his back. Wildly, his legs churned, his instincts urging him to protect his soft underbelly until he could regain his feet. It took seconds to stand again, but something about being on his back terrified him.
The anger in his eyes was resentful, blatantly offended. Though they weren't even friends, Brod had been the first wraith Zbura had met, so he always expected something more than the challenging aggression. This wasn't the first time he had seen the fury, but this was his first time being a victim of it. The change in perspective left him sore in more than one way.
"Fight back!" Brod challenge him, snorting and striking the ground aggressively. He wanted a fight, not really caring who it was with. Zbura was convent and that was all that mattered.
It was tempting, and that was betrayed by the way Zbura's ears flickered, but he continued to back away. Watching Brod wearily, his ears folded back against his head.
A limp was apparent in his left foreleg. It was sore from the older wound being agitated and the first severe strike. The rest of him hurt from falling. He refused to acknowledge any of it, not until he had gotten well away from Brod.
On the surface, he looked calm, annoyed, but calm. Beneath the surface, his blood boiled, and like a dagger digging at his patience, anger twisted through him. So badly he wanted to lash out, to hurt something, but he couldn't. He wouldn't let himself.
From the moment his eyes had first opened in his life, he had sworn to control himself. No one, especially not an annoying, pompous, irritable stallion that couldn't careless who he hurt, was going to change that.
His hooves took him to Maple Grove, and he looked for one of the medics that wasn't busy preparing to leave. Guilt filled him as he realized he should have been there, rather than out being lazy. In a way, it was just punishment that he got hurt.
Dallas seemed to be the only one relatively free, so Zbura hesitantly approached him, whickering a demure greeting.
Professionally, the pale eyes flickered over him once, taking in the obvious ruffling of the chestnut and white fur, the stiffness in his side, and the way he avoided putting weight on his leg. Then the seal and bay paintaloosa began to tend to him.
Zbura picked tentatively at the grass in front of him, not eating, but wanting an excuse not to talk. The serious way that Dallas took care of him made him feel as though he were in trouble for being stupid.
"Brod?" Dallas asked after a moment. His voice was more concerned than reproachful, and he continued to work as he waited for an answer.
The answer wouldn't come though. Zbura chose to hold his silence, rather than risk getting the dark male in trouble. He probably did deserve it, but the young medic refused to be the one to do it.
Sighing tiredly, it became painfully apparent that Dallas already knew. With nearly fatherly concern, he scolded Zbura, "You really should avoid him. You're lucky it isn't anything serious. If it was much worse, you wouldn't be able to go on missions for a while yet."
Zbura's ears went back, an open sign of shame. Even though they were near in age and maturity, he always felt truly shamed when Dallas scolded him. If it hadn't been for the fact that the words were from concern, he would have bristled, but he was sincerely worried, and that made him feel guilty.
Lowering his head farther in silent apology, he mumbled, "I didn't mean to cause you more work."
Snorting, it was painfully obvious, even to Zbura, Dallas didn't mind the extra work. He would rather know that his herd as a whole was safe and strong. Zbura didn't want to acknowledge that, not comfortable with the herd feeling, despite being a flock animal from birth. It was easier to just ignore it.
Until Dallas was finished, he remained silent, only shifted as he was told. By the time everything was done, Zbura felt fit to race or go on a mission. The thought of a mission made him feel excited, and eagerly prancing, he bid Dallas a quick farewell, before turning and galloping away.
On his first mission, he had been afraid. The new challenges and strange monsters shook him to his core. Now, he was eager, knowing more and feeling more useful.
The excitement caused a dull light to throb from behind the crack along his heartstone. It was almost as if he were unknowingly eager to risk his life.