Title: Reflex
Time Period: May 6, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Leonard plays doctor and Algernon suffers a temporary break in decorum.

The street in front of the Hightower Veterinary Clinic has been busy ever since the fire at the warehouse, and the explosion in the harbour. It is not because of emergencies to do with anyone's animals, and rather most to do with treating the injuries sustained from the incidents. With Aislinn Rowntree temporarily out of commission, and Cordelia Ross heading first aid down at the scene with what little help she can get there, those that can otherwise walk or move someone else have gone to the next best thing.

Smoke inhalation, flesh wounds, burns, broken bones- it runs the gamut, and so far Leonard Hightower has been quite graciously handling it. Most of the family still lives within the vicinity of the clinic, and most of them are also helpful people, but it is Leonard and his aging father with the experience. William, however, has only one good leg, and is not much use other than to keep an eye on the treated and change bandages from his chair. Inside the clinic confines is another story.

"Oh, come now, it isn't that bad!" Attempts to placate a man with a giant piece of splintered wood through the skin of his forearm go largely ignored; biting into a slab of treated leather is not helping his cowardice, while Leon pries at the chunk of wood. Between cutting the skin open and pulling on it with pliers, the vet is soon able to get it out and begin a short wash before starting to close it again.

"You're worse than a mule, aren't you?" It might be less disturbing for the man he is working on, if Leon was not smiling his way through all of it, wearing a bloody surgeon's apron, with washed-out red smeared up to the sleeves rolled at his elbows.

Having spent more than his fair share of time down at the docks hauling injured parties in before the knife and a few before the shovel, Algernon has put off a checkup of his own for longer than is clever. He's blanched pale by the time he's let himself in to observe the tail end of Leonard's latest lifesaving effort, irritable with pain and exhaustion. Vest and dress shirt alike are tatty with scorches and soot, particularly brown around the roll of his sleeves and across his chest where the blood of others has had time to dry.

His nails are black with grit, his hair is lank with grease and grime and he is not happy to be here, in a place that services animals more than it does men. But his eyes are the same, shrill green and amber against the sorry rest of him.

At first glance, complexion and ill temper aside, there doesn't seem to be anything obviously wrong with him. Closer inspection may mark the closeness his left elbow keeps to his side along with an uneveness about the sit of his shoulders.

He doesn't announce himself. Unless there is a bell at the door. In which case the bell announces him.

There is- but the door is propped open by a wedge; Leonard is not turning anyone away who wishes to wait for a turn. Algernon passes into the front doorway when he is finishing the stitches on the man currently in the exam room. Leon is not there to greet anyone, being in the exam room- but inside of the front room there is a waiting room; it is empty, thankfully, as the street outside holds most of those that have been taped or sewn up. Anyone more serious is in the back, and the new ones, such as Mr. Fogg, are welcomed only by the empty waiting room, the dribbles of blood on the floor, and a bird sitting on a perch. The wall of the desk hides away the cabinets and the desktop, with the counterspace above being where the perch is nailed down. Perhaps he can't afford a secretary.

The dark owl has its back facing the door, and wheels its head around to look to the door when Algernon enters. It fluffs the feathers on its heart-shaped face, peering across the room when the man with his fresh stitches comes loping out. He doesn't stay long- only long enough to almost shove his way out.

You have another.

"You can come on back!" Leonard calls out from the next room, and the beckoning is punctuated by the slosh of water.

The owl, meanwhile, simply stares ahead with those dark eyes.

At shoving (or near shoving) Algernon bristles in a way few in Dornie have seen and told about, teeth shown and filthy hands open to grapple — or shove back.

He does neither, violent impulse hemmed in by a timely return of restraint and a slow breath enforced — no doubt — by an outside influence. For the best. The hair trigger spring of his pulse makes him dizzy and he's slow to pull the owl into focus. Species identification is stumbled by the color, and also by a heavier sink of apathy through tenuous curiosity when Leonard's voice calls him forth.

One last glance for the bird sees him on his way, resigned, haggard and drawn. No doubt he's suffered greater indignities somewhere along the line.

The owl turns her head back, heavily lashed eyelids closing into slits. Sage goes straight back to her nap. The exam room, save for the table, could use a mopping up; Leonard, at least, is washing his arms and hands in a basin when Algernon comes along. He picks a towel from his shoulder and pats them dry again.

"You look pale as bone." One hand gestures to the room, as welcoming as a medic can get at the moment. Then again, he wastes no time with bedside manner. Leon is much to used to handling animals, and herds Fogg the rest of the way in, taking note the tilt of his shoulders and the shrinking of his arm to his torso. "What've you got, here?"

Not that he needs to be told, precisely- Leonard can follow the trickle of blood up the man's back easily enough.

Herding is necessary, however awkward. For whatever reason, upon getting a sound look at Leonard, Algernon is bitten with a judgmental kind of skepticism that very nearly leans him into retreat. The first step he halves back in that direction is cut off short, though, and a lean to re-establish a measure of personal space reminds him of why he's here; secondhand reddish brown is tracked after the tread of his boot from the entry every step of the way.

"Shrapnel, I'm sure," he drones, hard-pressed to see for himself. There weren't many mirrors on the way over. Meanwhile, after a quick assessment of the room in its entirety, he reaches to retrieve a flask from his belt, not far from the sit of his revolver. The floor in the waiting area alone would be better suited to a butcher's.

"I wish I'd known I was getting so much company, I would have thrown down some burlap."

Maybe Algernon's beat of skepticism was not too far off. Leonard is still half-smiling, brows up on his forehead, eyes darting about to assess things. Asking permission is not something he usually does- his hands find points at Algernon's shoulder and the other palm at the back of his neck. Abruptness aside, his grip is like any physician's; firm enough, but not forceful nor hostile.

"Can you move your arm up, out?" Provided the patient does not pull away, Leon goes about taking him by the elbow and lifting the aforementioned arm. Tell me when it hurts?

Fogg has been assessed in his manner before — by tailors, more commonly than veterinarians — via touch, and does not (initially) shirk away despite an automatic flinch of tension. He doesn't even stop drinking. Having known before he entered what he would likely encounter inside and entered anyway, he is in a poor position to complain.

The unannounced rotation of his bothered arm, however — he failed to foresee. He has little more time than it takes to glance over in blank surprise before a hot pick of pain lances through his back and he retaliates. Spine seized upright, grasp to shoulder, forearm barred across apron and boot swept in underfoot, he drops Leonard wordlessly down into the mess he's made so far before he can think to drop what he's drinking.

"Ah-" Leonard manages to get out this noise of discovery before he finds himself suddenly looking at the ceiling lamp, dull pain in his tailbone. He grunts once, green eyes wide and hands propped in front of him as if he were being held-up.

"Well." What Leon does not do is voice his discomfort, giving the wounded militiaman a wary, bug-eyed look before carefully sitting up and scooting himself back a pace. "I think that answers my question." A clicking comes from the floor in the hall, talons on wood; that dark owl hops into view at the bottom of the doorway, back fluffed and shoulders held wide, head lowered to peer in.

Still sore up on high, hand held open away from his side, Algernon recovers his caught breath well after Leonard does. His savoir faire is slower still to resume itself, felt first and foremost in the way he fails to offer the felled man a hand up. "Sorry," he gravels instead, not looking (or sounding) very much at all like he means it. The glance he casts aside to mark the owl's approach is in no way apologetic.


Word choice, diction and demeanor share an edge of hostile invitation or even dare, should 'Leon' like to try again. At the same time, a slow sideways step away and a longer swallow from his flask (should) disarm any fears that he might follow up with a kick to the head. Or familiar.

"It's alright." Comes a more stony reply than before, as Leonard pushes himself up to his feet again. "I've been pushed around plenty before." By animals. And probably people. "I'm sorry if I'm not as gentle as missus Rowntree, but I am a vet." Just so that Algernon is plainly, passively reminded of this. "Usually my patients do not answer me."

"Let's get your shirt off, hopefully it isn't stuck to you, hm?" Leon pushes a strand of hair back before he makes some vague hand-gestures, prompting the other man to go first this time. If the purpose of that exercise was to put down interaction rules, it succeeded.

The beak-clacking the owl is aiming at the militiaman is not so much ignored as disregarded, and Sage hunkers down into squinting silence after a moment of it. No more funny business, looks like.

"And usually I am not playing host to fragments of a boat," Algernon replies, hard about the nose and harder about the consonants. His englishness does a fine job of emphasizing his impatience with this entire situation — owl included.

The flask (now empty) is set aside while he narrows his eyes down into her squint, an odd mix of intimate in his natural degree of acknowledgment and coolly disinterested in interaction. He isn't curious. More significantly, he's too preoccupied to pretend that he is.

In any case, he is capable of unbuttoning his vest (and then his shirt) with one hand. The act of shrugging away from them is made more complex — both by the fact that his sore side is involved and the degree to which damaged fabric has dried into damaged hide. He's stonily quiet once he's managed to twist bloodied clothing onto the stand next to his drink.

According to history written in scars around his flank and scrubby chest, Algernon has been some manner of soldier for most of his life. This particular wound, placed high against his right scapula, is not more than two inches across at its core. Unfortunately, even beneath a fair amount of caked blood and a bit of lingering shirt, it's clearly had time to fester.

The owl gives him nothing to worry about, at least for right now. She chills out there in the hallway, fluffing both wings and settling down.

"I take it I'm the first to see to it." You don't need to answer that. Leonard knows the answer. Rhetorical question. "Before I do anything else, I'm going to have to give it a good cleaning, make sure there's nothing left before I seal it." He seems to only be telling Algernon what he is about to do for the sake of not getting thrown down again.

"It's going to hurt, but I'm thinking that you're used to that by now." His hands still freshly washed, Leon is left to pick up his towel and put his hands to Algernon's back to inspect the wound further.

Algernon mutters something along the lines of congratulations for the dubious honor involved in Leonard being the first to inspect the angry pit in his back. The scotch still burning at the base of the throat feels insufficient, somehow; he is not as drunk as he would like to be.


He is accommodating enough to brace himself against the exam table while Leonard washes up, palms shoulder-width apart and spine laid bare. A flinch is stifled without being smothered entirely at first contact. Hardly surprising, accounting for the length of iron nail that's still buried beneath his skin.

He really should answer, or attempt conversation. It would be the polite thing to do. There's just nothing that seems worth saying to a man he doesn't know while he's bent half-naked over an exam table.

"Pulling it out is going to hurt too. I hope it's not far. The bone should have stopped it…" There's a bit of rustling outside of Algernon's vision, though one of his hands does not leave the vicinity of the open wound. "Quite like an arrow, or a bolt. This must have been going at a good speed to go so far down." There is a suspicious amount of talking, but noticing it probably comes a little bit late. "You should have gotten it out before it started agitating the muscle-"

"-here." As the last words come, Leonard sets the nose of the pliers around the head of the nail, and wrenches it out with zero warning. It comes out smoothly enough. Considering.

The sound Algernon makes is something between an incoherent shout and an equally incoherent clearing of his throat, claggy with tar and clearly heard out in the street. There's a second of conscious thought lost in the progression from brace to buckle over the table's edge. The same second sees a sensation Leonard may not know exactly how to place rippling back off the grip of his pliers: a numbing, or deadening of whatever magical sensation he might have.

Sage feels it as well — a woozy drain that lets off less abruptly than it struck.

Fogg, for his part, keeps close to the table he's folded himself against. Collecting himself. Drooling a bit, also. One hand finds its way to the corner of his mouth.

"Oh-" Leon's eyebrows knot on his head, and the pliers and nail slip out of suddenly clumsy fingers to the floor, his other hand still braced on Algernon's back. He wiggles his fingers in an attempt to get the numb feeling out. Like his hand fell asleep. Sage has a rougher time of it, however, and she sidesteps one pace before flopping off balance- she stands up again, rattling her feathers. "-hm."

"Clumsy me. I must be tired." And for a moment, so does his voice. He looks down and over to the owl, who flaps silently into the room and alights on the edge of the sink. "Perhaps. Probably." The vet clearly chooses his battles, however odd.

"Nail's out though. Clean wound, looks like…"

Saliva scuffed dry to the heel of his hand and back clamped rigid with fresh tension, Algernon pushes himself upright again once he's caught his breath. The scruff on his chin tips down first after the blood-thickened nail on the floor, and then back to Leonard, who he looks away from nearly as soon as he's pulled him into focus.


He nods, too discombobulated to pretend otherwise.

Suspicious activity aside, Leonard treats him no differently. That much goes a long way. He hits up the bottles behind him with his tingling hand, and luckily the one he takes up does not slip out of his fingers. Might as well get the painful part done with in succession. Algernon feels the dull burn in his wound before he hears the slosh of bottle, and the towel afterward leaves the wound pinkened and slick, grime being wiped free without perambulation.

That was strange. The bird lifts one foot to preen around her talons, leaving her input at that. A minute or so of cleaning the wound passes by before Leon steps away again to rinse his hands and dry them, and from his own perch, one Mister Fogg can see him retrieving the needle and stitching thread from where it has been sitting.

"The more you tear this one, the worse it's going to end up for your shoulder. If you can help it, don't force it open."

A dull burn is almost welcome in lieu of another iron spike in his shoulder; Algernon breathes easier at the consistent predictability of it past an initial rankle. In the mean time the cleansed area is without a doubt the cleanest part of him — whatever skin the towel has touched is a shade or two lighter than that around it.

Another nod has him sweeping hair out of his face, overall affect subdued. Polite, even, under a grungy veneer of lingering reluctance.

On the roof, Forge sits with overlarge paws drawn in close and ears laid flat, eyes boring orange on a level straight ahead.


"If it tears, find miss Ross or missus Rowntree, if the latter is awake. You could come back to me, but-" Leonard absently pats Algernon's good shoulder before beginning the process of stitching him up. "-you've seen my bedside manner already." It leaves something to be desired. "I'll have you done up in a moment, take it easy and don't sleep on your back."

Come home after this one. You're tired. The owl nearby lets out a chitter of noise, flapping up and flicking out of the door on silent wings.

There's no irritable objection to unexpected touch this time. Algernon tolerates it out of something like guilt, or at least chagrin, cold sweat still drying fast off the base of his neck with a third pass of his hand smudges the rest from his face.

"You have done me a service," he allows past a clench at this teeth for the first pass of the needle. "And I imagine your usual clientele is less aquanted with the idea of retaliation."

Stitches are careful, but practiced; Leon spreads a wad of gauze over it before wrapping a simple bind around chest and shoulder.

"You'll have to visit the apothecary for salve, but I know that the missus keeps things like that ready. I'm sure Cordelia can help you get some if you need it." There is a tap to his good shoulder again, and the vet is offering Algernon his shirt back a second later, giving him a weary little smile. "Hopefully you don't need to come back here. Not for you- if you've got a dog or a horse, sure." Leon gives a playful shrug and a quirky little smile.

Not normally the subject of playful shrugs and quirky little smiles, Algernon hesitates with shirt in hand, residual good graces working overtime to compensate for a natural reluctance to reward silliness with. Acknowledgment.

Particularly when it's a directed silliness that has uncomfortable implications for the secrecy he's managed to maintain thus far, but —

Ultimately he nods, shirt turned over and left as it is. Ruined. And unworn. "Thank you," he says, lingering rasp oiled over with a swallow. He steps towards the door. "I'll keep that in mind."

Outside from the roof, Forge will be able to see the dark shape of the owl flit out of the front door and past some of the people gathered on the street; it flaps up and across the yard beside the clinic, alighting on the top windowsill of the home next door with a tap-tap-tap to be let inside.

"Good night, and good luck." Leonard knows that the militia have a task ahead of them now- he's treated enough lingering things today to know Algernon will be back to work as soon as possible. Too soon, if you ask Leon.