Richard drew a deep breath, and said, "I'm going to get some air. I'll be right outside, I promise."
I paused in the pacing to say, "I know you will."
He nodded, and he walked out. When the door was shut behind him, Travis said, "Thank God. One of you that nervous is enough for a room this size."
I looked at him. "Is Richard that nervous?"
Micah laughed. "Yes."
I hugged my arms tight. "I guess I'm so nervous that I didn't notice."
"You're entitled to be nervous," Claudia said from near the door.
I nodded, but not like I believed it. There was a knock on the door. I jumped, and turned toward the door, my fingers digging into my own arms. I wasn't hugging myself now, I was clinging, as if my fingernails were digging into that last piece of rock ledge before you fall screaming into the abyss.
Graham opened the door enough to stick his head in, and said, "The doctor is here."
"Let him in," Claudia said, and her voice held tension. Was I making everyone crazy with nerves?
Dr. North came in, with a glance at Ixion, still by the door. "Your men are making the nurses and patients a little nervous. Could they come in the room?"
I looked at Claudia. She was the one in charge. She nodded, and sent Lisandro to open the door and invite Graham and Ixion inside. Graham just found a piece of wall to hold up. He gave me a nervous smile that I think was meant to be comforting. Ixion scowled at the entire room, and didn't seem to know where to stand. The room was getting a little crowded.
"The window, Ixion," Claudia said. "Not everything that hunts us comes through doors." We weren't really in that much danger from direct attack, but it gave the man somewhere to stand that was far away from the bed and whatever we'd be doing. Though if there was a pelvic exam coming up, then everyone who couldn't be the father was leaving.
When Ixion had settled against the window, Dr. North looked around the room. "Do you want this discussed in front of everyone?"
"You just had me bring two extra people inside, doc."
He smiled. "I mean, maybe you'd want some of them to go to the cafeteria."
I sighed, and shook my head. How could I explain that if the news was bad enough I might need one, or all, of my support staff? I couldn't, so I didn't. "Just spit it out, doc, okay? The suspense is getting to me."
He nodded, adjusted his glasses. The door opened behind him, and Richard came in. "Did I miss anything?"
I shook my head.
"Anita," Dr. North said, "you're going to bleed if you don't stop digging your nails into your arms."
I stared down at my hands as if they'd just appeared at the end of my arms. My fingers were stiff with tension when I peeled them away from my arms. Little half moons from my fingernails decorated my skin. Almost blood, almost.
Richard offered me his hand. I hesitated, then took it. The energy spiked between us; we were both too nervous to be of much help to each other. He shut down, shielded up, and his hand was just warm and real in my hand. I appreciated the effort on his part, after he'd seen what I'd done to my own arms, but I finally lost the battle not to look behind me at Micah. I was too scared to play to anyone's ego. Too scared not to want to wrap myself in as much comfort as I could find.
Micah came to my other hand. Richard stiffened, not wanting it, and not able to hide that he didn't want it, but he didn't throw a fit. I squeezed his hand, and bumped my head against his shoulder to let him know how much the effort meant to me, because it did. It really did. The extra attention earned me a smile, that smile that brightened his whole face. The smile that once I'd have given my heart to see.
I turned back to the doctor, clinging to both of them, and feeling better for it. I'd have liked to play it cool, but I clung to their hands as if they were the last pieces of wood in a drowning ocean.
"I had them run the blood work a second time, Anita."
"That can't be good," I said.
"Is this where you ask her to sit down?" Claudia asked.
Dr. North glanced at her. "She can sit down if she wants." He turned back to me, with a smile. "Do you want to sit down?"
"Do I need to sit down?"
His smile widened, and he glanced at the men on either side. "I don't think so, but if you do, I think you've got enough support." He nodded at Micah and Richard.
"Just tell me, doc," I said. My voice strained, but normalish. Points for me.
"Can I be absolutely candid in front of everyone in this room?" he asked.
I fought the urge to scream, and managed to say, "Yes, yes, just say it. God, please, just say it."
He nodded, again. "Are you aware that you have lycanthropy?"
I nodded, then frowned. "I'm aware that I'm carrying lycanthropy."
"Funny you should say it that way," he said. "Your blood work is just unique, Anita."
"I learned a few weeks ago that I'm carrying leopard, wolf, lion, and something that the doctors couldn't even identify."
He gave me a look. "You know that it's impossible to carry more than one strain of lycanthropy. They cancel each other out. You can't catch it more than once."
I nodded again, squeezing the hands that held me. "I know all that. It's a medical miracle, yadda-yadda-yadda, just get to the pregnancy part. Do I have Mowgli syndrome, or Vlad's syndrome?"
He gave me very good eye contact, way too serious, and said, "Yes, as far as the tests can tell us."
My knees went, and I might have hit the floor, but Micah and Richard caught me. Someone brought one of the chairs up, and the men lowered me into it. They kept their hands on mine, and each of them put a hand on a shoulder, as if they didn't trust me not to fall forward. I wasn't that bad, not yet. Not yet.
"What do you mean, 'as far as the tests can tell'?" Micah asked.
"The two syndromes are like lycanthropy; you can't have both. A fetus can't carry both Vlad's and Mowgli syndrome. If Anita weren't carrying four different kinds of lycanthropy, a medical impossibility, I'd say we might have twins, but because of the other blood work, and some of the other tests..."
His mouth kept moving, but all I could hear in my ears was the blood roaring through it. Richard and Micah helped me put my head between my knees, and kept me from falling out of the chair. The head between my knees helped after a few moments. But I was glad for their hands on me, holding me in place. I don't faint, but I'd passed out before, and this felt awfully similar. Jesus, twins. Talk about karmic payback, with interest. Twins with two of the worst birth defects known to modern science. Sweet Mary, Mother of God, help me on this one.
Dr. North's voice came from just in front of me. He was kneeling by me. "Anita, Anita, can you hear me? Anita!"
I managed to nod my head.
"I don't want to give you false hope here, because to my knowledge the only way to test positive for these syndromes is to be pregnant, but you tested negative for pregnancy. Twice."
I raised my head, slowly; one, because it was as fast as I could move it safely, and two, because I didn't believe I'd heard what I'd heard. "What?" I asked, in a voice that didn't sound like me at all.
He was kneeling in front of me, and he was tall enough and me short enough that we had perfect eye contact. His face was sincere, worried around the edges. He spoke slowly, carefully. "You tested negative for pregnancy."
I frowned at him. "But you said..."
He nodded. "I know. I don't understand the test results either. In fact, the nurses and interns are arm-wrestling right now for who gets to help me do an ultrasound."
"Do you want the truth?"
"No matter what happens with the ultrasound this is a medical first, as far as any of us know. Either you aren't pregnant, and you've tested positive for two syndromes that we thought needed a pregnancy to test positive. Or you are carrying twins, from different fathers, and for some reason our tests deny that you're pregnant. Unusual enough. And don't forget, as we discussed on the phone, the Mowgli baby could be viable in weeks, but the other baby wouldn't be."
I just stared at him.
"What do you mean, doctor?" Richard asked it.
He gave an abbreviated lecture on Mowgli, and the potential for a speedy pregnancy. "Or something about Anita's blood work makes her test positive for all of it." He looked at me, still on his knees. "Are you a lycanthrope? I mean, do you shapeshift?"