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Brain Damage

When I woke up, the red haze over my eyes was so thick that I couldn't make out any shapes at all. There were light spots, dark spots and darker spots. I couldn't tell where I was by listening. It was too quiet, but it was cold and smelled like sterile bandages. It seemed safe to assume that I was no longer on Xebec. That didn't mean I was somewhere I wanted to be. I sat up, thinking I could just get up and go, but all I saw was red. I tried to use Shaman to see, but all that got me was a headache. So I had to be a good little boy and wait for someone to come and check on me.

I heard the door open and close. When I looked, I saw a brilliant white aura with sparkling purple streaks. There was a small smear of fire at the left shoulder. I knew his name was no longer Rune. It was Ryan Phoenix.

"I was wondering if you were ever going to wake up," he said.

"How long have I been out?" I asked.

"Almost four days. You're missing all the parties."

"So it's over."

"Except for details."

"How are you doing?"

"I'm okay."

"Yeah, right."

"Okay, it fucking sucks right now. Everything feels different. I bleed. I can't smoke any more. I can't hold my liquor for shit. Your mom is drinking me under the table. Regan thinks that's funny."

"You'll get better at that. Keep practicing."

"I told Tristan and Duncan what happened with Jake. They hate me."

"I don't blame them."

"I didn't want to do it, Talon. I really didn't. And I gave him a choice. He chose death. I wanted you to believe you couldn't make me come back to your side. You didn't need to waste your time on me."

"You should have just told me what you were doing."

"Would you have let me do it?"

"No."

"That's why I didn't tell you. There was no other way."

"But you almost turned for real."

"I didn't think I'd be tortured like that. I thought I was strong enough to not let all that get to me. I forgot how damaged I am."

"You didn't come to see me just to give me your excuses."

"No."

"So spill it. What's on your mind?"

"I want to ask your permission to ask Regan to marry me."

"That's a little old fashioned."

"I think you understand why I'm asking for permission."

"You did some really stupid shit. You made everyone believe you'd betrayed us. You killed someone in order to make us believe that. That's not to mention what you did before I met you. I don't think you were ever a bad person, and I don't think you'd ever do that kind of stuff again. The first time you showed yourself to her when she was five, she told me she thought you were an angel Firefly sent to her to protect her. It seems like it's the other way around now. But let me tell you, if you ever hurt my daughter even in the least little way, I'll kick your ass because now I can."

"I'll keep that in mind."

"I never gave her your ring."

"I know. I didn't expect you to."

"Do you want to ask her now?"

"No. I'll wait 'til your up and around again."

"What if she says no? I don't think she will, but what would you do?"

"I would completely lose my mind, kill everyone then kill myself."

"You're still a psycho. That's good to know."

"Seriously, I think I'd just go away. She's the only reason I'm still here. If she didn't want me, I'd really have no reason to stay anywhere. That still sounds insane, doesn't it?"

"Well, you are insane."

"I should go now. I have to um, you should you need to rest, I guess." He turned away from me and went towards the door like the room was about to burst into flames. I almost felt sorry for him. Adjusting to life as a mortal was going to be hard. It was going to be even harder for him to live with the things he'd done in the past knowing that one day, he'd die and be judged just like everyone else. But he'd brought it on himself. He'd be all right. There was a reason his aura was white.

"Hey, Ryan."

He stopped with his hand on the doorknob and looked over his shoulder.

"Thank you."

He was silent for a minute. Then he smiled. "You're welcome," he said. He didn't tell me I was the only one who'd thanked him for saving the universe.

I felt better the next morning, but I went though most of the day in a daze. I was a hero. I was the one who'd saved the universe. I tried to tell everyone it wasn't just me, but that was useless. They wanted me to be the hero. I was the slacker who finally lived up to his potential. That was a nice story to tell for the history books. The orphaned murderer with the psychological disorders wasn't the hero the universe wanted. It all worked out. He didn't want that kind of recognition. Not that I did, but I was better suited for it.

There was a big dinner party in my honor that night, and it only took me a few hours to get comfortable enough to enjoy it. Ryan proposed to Regan, she said yes, and my mom proceeded to drink him under the table again.

They were married six months later, after things had started to settle down, and Irial was getting the new republic established. It was a small ceremony in a tiny church on Lore with only close friends and family in attendance. Irial had offered to get Valeska to let them get married in the fancy chapel at the Falkenberg estate, but they wanted it simple.

I wanted to see the whole thing without the red haze, so for the first time since the end of the war, I looked through Shaman. I knew it would be the last time I saw anything though the red haze. When they kissed, my head began to throb. I felt something spill down my cheeks. It wasn't tears, though tears weren't far behind. I had to let go of my sight. The red haze faded to blackness, and I felt something hard push out of my left eye and land in the palm of my hand. I couldn't see it, but I knew what it was. I was holding God's tear in my hand.

See ya, Shaman