As soon as the door closed behind Dankwart, Ignatius came over to his patient.
“Now, that you’re up to speed”, he said and leaned closer. “I have to tell you a few things more.”
Titus stopped playing unconscious and met the steely gaze of two grey eyes.
“The first of it is that Dankwart might have had his mind on other things right now, but I’m quite capable of seeing the liquid drip off your slab across the room. You might at least stall the flow.”
“I’ll try to remember”, Titus said darkly. “And the other things?”
“Next is that you don’t pull needles out by yourself. Ignoring the rites like this is an affront to the Emperor. Your spine got damaged. If you move too suddenly before you have healed, we might as well have delivered the Emperor’s peace to you right then.”
“I’ll hold still, don’t worry”, Titus said with hardly concealed menace in his voice. He might be only a sergeant now but that still was a higher rank than a brother apothecary.
“Now, what do you want to tell me about Vox?”, he demanded, clearly seeing where the conversation was heading.
Ignatius lifted his eyebrows in acknowledgement, causing Titus’ jaw to tense. Vox had always done the same when he had concluded something.
“First of all, I want to impress upon you that Vox’s second heart hasn’t started to beat again since he took that Tyranid claw for you”, the apothecary said, mercilessly targeting the open wound.
“I caught as much, thank you”, Titus replied icily.
“Very well, sergeant”, Ignatius said with a tense tilting of his head. “Second”, he continued. “We sons of Sanguinius get very old. Many of us see five-hundred years. Some a whole millennium or more. Our librarians, however, only very occasionally exceed two-hundred. You have to know that for a psyker holding on is much harder than giving up. They need a good reason to keep doing it. Faith alone got the librarians I met, up to about two-hundred years, usually a little less. The ones I saw living beyond this, had friends to hold on to.” Ignatius paused for a moment and let his gaze wander over Titus. The fierce reproach, the Angel Vermilion had displayed so far, dwindled a little as if he had stumbled over a memory that made him sad and soft.
“I don’t know how old Vox is”, he continued in a more gentle tone. “Even Dankwart doesn’t but he’s older than he looks, I’m sure. He’s also wiser than many men I’ve seen. He constantly reaches out to the people around him. Many of us reach back as you might have noticed but many aren’t strong enough to carry his weight with him.” A grim smirk crept into Ignatius’ features. “Dankwart tells me you’re a good man”, he informed Titus. “He didn’t do it for the first time just now. So, he must be utterly convinced of this and that puzzles me after what I saw of you. I don’t understand any of your kill team. I saw you in action. That was impressive, I don’t mind telling you but I don’t think I’ll ever fathom why Aegis loves you like they do. The way they speak about you. The way they accept what you are doing to them and to Vox especially. It goes far beyond anything your rank or your prowess in battle should allow for. Well, and I ask myself: If someone worthy of so much love and devotion, that he must be a good man indeed, has started to make errors like you, why doesn’t he stop?”
Titus gritted his teeth.
“Does he fear to face himself?”, Ignatius continued. “Does he fear that he won’t find forgiveness?” The eyes of the apothecary were hard like steel. Ignatius leaned down to him.
“Other than Dankwart, I know why Vox had that fit yesterday”, he said and the dangerous reproach returned to his features. “My sergeant told me. If you can do something like this with words alone, our little brother must love you indeed. He would never have opened himself to you otherwise.”
Titus swallowed and cursed the hotness rushing to his cheeks.
“Sergeant”, Ignatius set out to conclude his speech. “You should wait until we have arrived on Erioch and Vox has had his surgery. The medication Dankwart uses on him will probably even get us there but afterwards, you have to sort yourselves out. For better or for worse. Don’t get me wrong”, he asked. “I’m not trying to order you or even to counsel you. I’m just telling you of a necessity you can’t ignore. Vox clearly has reached the end of what he can do alone. You might just be the one who can help him carry his load. So, should you not find yourself able to resolve matters, at least have the decency to kill him before the warp takes him.”
Titus was at a loss for words. The man was just like Vox. Finding all the nerves. He only lacked her gentle touch.
“You show a tremendous amount of insight, brother”, he finally managed.
Ignatius frowned. He cocked his head to one side and straightened up from his position.
“What do you know about Blood Angels and their successors, brother sergeant?”, he inquired.
Titus was surprised by this question.
“Well… I’ve worked with Dankwart and Vox…”
“Oh, dear”, Ignatius said calmly. “A black shield and the most reluctant for words I have ever found among our kind. Just note then that in our home chapters we are not just apothecaries. We are sanguinary priests. We tend to more than the physical well-being of our brothers.” He regarded Titus for a moment longer and his icy demeanour thawed again.
“I will send you to sleep now”, he told his patient.
“Is this for my physical or mental well-being?”, Titus wanted to know aggressively.
Ignatius laughed quietly.
“Your emotional well-being, sergeant”, he said and laid his hand on Titus’ shoulder. There was not the least sign of reluctance to hold the resentful glare of his superior.
“You will have to lie still for two days, so we can be sure you have healed enough”, the apothecary informed him. “Do you really want to spend all this time brooding over whatever has gone wrong here?”
Titus thought about this.
“No”, he conceded then.
“Good”, Ignatius said softly. “Let things subside. Rest and then try again. I don’t know what Vox has done to offend you but please consider if you haven’t paid him back enough.” He patted Titus’ shoulder. “Meanwhile, you are not alone. I’ll be right here when you wake up”, he promised.
Titus stared at him, his voice failing. Vox had said that on their first night together. Aeons ago on the ‘Lawbringer’.
The sanguinary priest intoned the healing ritual and called down the Emperor’s blessing on Titus. With his remaining hand he touched his patient’s forehead, the freshly closed wound on his abdomen and finally reinserted the needle into a convenient vein.
Titus sank into the darkness, troubled thoughts meeting him on the way. They transformed into strange dreams but got lost soon. Most Astartes did not dream and not even Titus’ memory was sufficient to hold on to them.