01.01.04: In the Stars. (Part 4)

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Saari stood outside the bathroom door watching as Sylus took deep haggard breaths. At one point he did attempt to stand up, but he quickly collapsed. She barely managed to seat him back on the toilet. Now he only took a breath once in a while, but it was enough. It meant he was still alive and hope yet remained.

“My… dear… Saari…”

She stood up straight at the sound of Qaitax’s voice.

“Oh how sorry I am…”

“W-why are you sorry, My Lord?”

He shook his head, “Look at me. So frail… You told me this would happen… That I would be so weak…”

“A-are you regretting the merger?” she stepped into the bathroom, clutching her staff.

He shook his head, “I’d rather die free than remain a prisoner. I chose to help Sylus fight Haurex. I could have taken control and ran, but… We… We both wanted revenge…” he sighed, “How shortsighted…”

Saari was at a loss for words.

“He is accusing me of hypocrisy,” Qaitax laughed weakly, “I told him not to say these very things about himself and yet here I am… I truly am a mess…”

“Y-you will grow, My Lord. All of this is new to you. To both of us. You will both learn. I am certain of it,” she leaned heavily on her staff.

“And what of you, my dear Saari? I promised you freedom from me yet here you linger as my caretaker…”

“I would not have it any other way. I am here for you, My Lord. I know I am no longer obligated to do so, but…” her voice began to shake, “You are still my… My…” she choked back a sob, “You are still my family. The only family I have ever had. And like Sylus’ family is there for him, I am here for you. That will never change.”

A weak smile crossed Qaitax’s lips. “And you are content with that?”

Saari shrugged. “As much as I am afraid to do so I may one day branch out and see what this world has to offer, but I will forever be there for you, My Lord. Is that not how family is?”

Qaitax’s smile grew as he gave her a weak nod, “I truly do not know what the concept of family is, Saari, but I think that from what I’ve learned from Sylus, you have the right of it. I will never hold you back from your own interests. You are your own person now, my dear. You are free to do anything your heart desires.”

“Then my heart desires to be here with you.”

“Thank you… Saari…”

There was a long silence as the light went out of his eyes and Sylus returned to labored breathing.

“His family… Th-they were… Far more welcoming than I expected…” Saari wanted to keep talking, she dreaded the silence. “Wary, which is good, but still… They… They treated my horns… They didn’t think twice about helping me…” she shuddered, “My own parents wouldn’t have done that for me…” she sighed, “They saw the grotesque monster that I am and still… They opened their door to me… And touched my horns…” she forced a laugh, “No one but you has ever touched them. Ordinarily, I would be able to treat them myself… But… This world… I can barely see anything here… I am truly blind and…” her clutch tightened on her staff, “I am frightened.”

Sylus nodded slowly, his own broken voice slowly replied, “I think we all are right now, Saari.”

Though she had been hoping to hear from Qaitax again, his words were comforting enough.

“Everything is different. For all of us. It’s…” he winced in pain, “It’s scary.”

“You must preserve your strength, Sylus.”

“I-I’m so happy that… they… were good to you… I-I worried…”

Silence.

“I-I am sorry…” Saari spoke softly.

“For what?” Sylus quietly replied.

“For ever doubting you and your intentions.”

He chuckled, “You had every right to do so.”

She shook her head. “When we were in the Void, your mind wandered off. Lord Qaitax had to take control to keep me in your grasp and prevent your eyes from opening,” her grip slipped down her staff, “I asked him, then and there, to abandon you.”

Sylus slowly turned to her.

“I asked him to leave your mind adrift in the Void so we could escape.”

“Why would you tell me this?” She could feel Sylus’ dull gaze upon her.

“Because I am sorry.”

He looked away.

“Sometimes the truth is better left unsaid, Saari…” his voice was weaker than ever.

“I-I am sorry…”

“Do you really want me gone?” he turned to her once more, “Because here and now, I can go away. We’re so weak that if one of us leaves it might double our chances of survival. I can’t deny Qaitax and I have been discussing the idea…”

Saari shook her head. “No,” she gasped, “You cannot go. Neither of you can.”

“Why?” the word was barely a whisper.

“Because you are loved. And though I have only just gotten here,” she fought back yet another sob, “I feel welcomed. More than I ever did in my own home. I was so very wrong to doubt you… I…” she bit her lip, “I do not want to lose what little I have gained.”

“So not exactly altruistic then?” Sylus laughed, “You’re way too honest, Saari, but I can appreciate that.”

With that, his eyes slid shut once more and silence filled the house.

Saari stood paralyzed and emotionless. She knew she’d made a mistake saying all that to him while he was in this state, but she couldn’t hold it back. She was ashamed she ever doubted the Qaitax’s decision to keep Sylus with them. But how could she have known? She was fearful for the fate of her parental figure. The only being who ever cared for her. How could she have ever known she’d be welcomed here on this alien world?

The front door burst open. Jeron and Daniel had returned, their arms full of medical supplies.

“Saari,” Jeron put his armload down on the couch, “Listen, we brought someone back with us…”

Saari stood rigidly upright.

“Just let her help. She’s a doctor. She’s smarter than all of us combined…”

“I will not let some stranger touch My Lord,” she was nearly snarling.

“Saari,” Jeron clasped his hands together, begging her to understand, “She’s our best bet. Please. Let her at least take a look.”

Aria slowly stepped into the doorway carrying a small bag of her own.

“Identify yourself!” Saari aimed her staff at Aria, “I will have no outsiders disturbing My Lord.” Nine snarled, mimicking her distrust.

She dropped her bag and raised her hands over her head. “My name is Aria Patel and… I-I come in peace?”

Jeron turned to her with a distinct look of “What the hell was that?” on his face. Aria shrugged in reply.

“I-I don’t know what to say. Is there some custom or ritual I need to fulfill to see your lord?”

Saari turned to Jeron then back to Aria.

“Saari?” Daniel put his bandages down, “He’s my Dad, too. Please let her see him.”

The boy’s words hit home. Saari was already on the verge of breaking down. The energy to fight quickly fled from her as she lowered her staff. She stepped aside allowing Aria to enter the hallway.

“You should, uh, consider turning some lights on,” Aria ran her finger over the television as she walked by, “Maybe dust a little…”

“Dad’s been gone a while and I was staying with Jeron…” Daniel breathed.

“O-oh… I-I’m sorry… Uh, can you take me to him?” she turned to Jeron.

“Right this way,” Jeron grunted as he picked up some of the supplies and lead her down the hall, “Huge warning and it’s the last chance you’ll have to not see what you’re going to see. It’s really bad, it’s really gross, and it’s a lot, and I mean a lot of tentacles.”

“I’ve seen Men in Black. I think I can handle alien tentacle monsters…”

“Hollywood ain’t got nothing on this…” Jeron pushed the door to the bathroom open.

Aria didn’t even flinch. She saw the same thing everyone else had, yet she stood there staring analytically at the situation. No hint of fear of reservations crossed her face as she took stock of the scene that was laid before her.

“That’s a hell of a laceration,” she muttered as she entered the room. “Mr. Synclaire?” No answer came. “Mr. Synclaire, can you hear me?”

A dim light came from his eyes as he slowly turned to her, “I do not recognize you.”

“Oh… Oh…” she turned to Jeron.

“Th-that’s Qaitax. The other consciousness in the body?”

“Oh… Right… Y-you mentioned that. In the car… Right,” she turned her attention back to the Voidlord. “I am Aria Petal and I am a doctor. I’m here to help.”

“Help? Qaitax laughed as he turned away from her, “You are wasting your time. We are not human. You cannot help us.”

Aria puffed air out her nose in indignation, “Well I’m here to try.”

She began by setting her bag on the floor and putting on a pair of surgical gloves. She then knelt down to examine the wound. Moving Sylus’ hand away she took stock of the tear in his flesh.

“I can probably close the wound, but I have no idea where all these tentacles need to end up,” she explained, “I don’t know how vital they are or how they have to be put back…”

“I could fix them if only they would stay inside…”

“Well… I can put them back in and close you up. Would that help?”

Qaitax stared at her.

“Would it?”

“It would help immensely.”

“Good, because I don’t think I have time to comprehensively learn the anatomy of a… What are you again?”

“We are a Voidlord.”

“A Voidlord. Right. Okay… I’m going to have to move you…” she stood up and turned to Jeron. “He’s a bit too big for me, do you think you could get him in the tub?”

Jeron leaned out of the doorway, “Saari, lend a hand? Bring some bandages, too.”

She was immediately by his side. Aria stepped out while they gently moved Sylus into the tub. More blood and more tentacles spilled out regardless of how delicately they handled him. Once he was lying down, he gave a sigh of relief.

“At least I will no longer die on the toilet, yes?” he forced a laugh.

“Okay now get out. I have work to do. If I need anything, I will ask for it.” Aria stepped aside to let them leave the tiny room. They did as they were told. Aria walked in closing the door behind her.

“If your true intentions are to eliminate us, please be swift. We have been this way for hours. We are tired…”

Aria shook her head, “No I’m not here to kill you.” She knelt down next to the tub. “So it’s okay if I just shove all these tentacles back inside?”

Qaitax nodded as he felt himself drifting away from consciousness.

“Hey!” Aria snapped her fingers at him, “I’m going to need one of you to stay with me.”

The light in his eyes went out, yet he remained conscious.

“Mr. Synclaire?”

He nodded slowly.

“My name is Aria Patel and I…”

“I know,” he breathed, “I heard you the first time.”

“Well forgive me for not understanding how this relationship works.”

“I-” he took a deep breath, “I didn’t mean to sound rude… I’m just…”

“You’re tired. I understand. There’s a lot of blood lying around that isn’t inside of you.”

Sylus nodded slowly. “So how did the boys drag a real live doctor into this mess?”

“I forced myself on them and they obliged.”

“You mean you wanted to come here?”

“I had no idea what I would find, but it was worth the trip.”

“I see…”

“I am very interested in the Mist and things pertaining to the Rift. I am no scientist, but I am a doctor and I wish to understand the impact of this substance on humans.”

“Noble.”

“No one else seems to think so…”

A momentary silence settled between them.

“I’m going to have to remove what’s left of your clothing,” Aria spoke suddenly.

“Oh,” Sylus groaned, “Yeah… In the way, are they?”

“And before I do, just let me say I’ve seen everything so don’t be alarmed.”

Sylus closed his eyes with a smile, “I’m kind of at your mercy right now, doc. Be gentle.”

She shot him a glare before she began cutting away his shirt.

“W-wait!” Sylus tried to set up, “They’re not real clothes!”

“E-excuse me?”

With a thought, ever fragmented article of clothing vanished.

Aria stared at him.

“Manipulated Void energy, aka the Mist. I-” he chuckled a bit, “I can use it to change my appearance. Well,” he corrected himself, “My clothes at least.”

“Does that work outside the Mist?”

He shook his head, “I’d be naked anywhere else. So… yeah… I do still need real clothes.”

“So… They’re clothing, but not solid clothing? They looked pretty torn up like real clothes…”

Sylus nodded, “For all intents and purposes they were real enough, but limited to the presence of the Mist.”

“Interesting…”

“Oh, one thing…”

“Yes?”

“D-don’t… uh… freak out…”

“About?”

Sylus bit his lip.

With a shrug, Aria retrieved a bottle of saline. “So, should I rinse them with anything?”

Sylus stared at her.

“These tentacles, should I rinse them before putting them back?”

“I-I don’t think that’s necessary…”

“This place is kind of dusty…”

“I-I think… I think it’ll be okay.”

“Well… If you’re certain… May I begin piling your entrails back inside of you?” she spoke as she put on a surgical mask.

“Wait.”

“Yes?”

“Uh… Th-this is… Going to sound weird, but… Can you look inside?”

“Look… inside?”

“Y-yeah….”

“What am I looking for?”

“A, uh, light.”

Aria narrowed her gaze.

“I-it’s kind of important…”

Leaning over, Aria lifted his flesh a bit and parted some tendrils.

“I see something glowing, not really a light, but a dim shimmer of sorts…”

“Okay that’s good enough.”

She leaned back, “So what is it?”

Sylus sighed, “Qaitax calls it our core… It’s, well, it’s us.”

Aria thought a moment, “So… You don’t have a brain?”

“Nah,” Sylus chuckled, “Completely empty like it always was. Head’s just for show.”

“Fascinating…”

“Technically I could be torn to pieces but as long as that little light thing is intact, I can recover.”

“Very fascinating… Now then. May I begin stuffing your entrails back inside?”

Sylus tried to sit up, “I-I’m sure I can…” the second he reached for the wound, a sharp pain shot through his core. “I think the shock is finally wearing off…” he winced as he laid back down. “I-I guess… Y-yeah… Y-you can… I-if you want…”

Without another word, Aria began pushing his innards back inside.

“Some of them look pretty torn up or even torn off, what are the implications of that?”

“G-give me a second… I-I’ll see if I can get Q-Qaitax to answer…”

He closed his eyes a moment before they opened with the light in them once more.

“I can only speak from the perspective of the body I had before. Our current state is different and new to me so I truly do not understand how it works. Regardless, tendrils that are damaged beyond use or repair are assimilated back into the flesh of the rest. You need not worry about such conditions.”

“So… You digest your broken bits?”

Qaitax nodded.

“Do they grow back? Or does your system compensate for their absence?”

“A combination. That which is absorbed becomes part of the rest. The rest is fortified and grows and adjusts to make up for the loss.”

“What if this entire knot was just cut away?”

Qaitax thought a moment, “I would be incapacitated for a while, but the remainder would grow out to replace them.”

“Interesting…”

Once all of the tendrils were returned to inside his flesh, Aria reached for her bag. She withdrew a fresh sterile needle and sutures.

“I don’t have any anesthetics, so you might feel a pinching or tugging sensation,” she looked at the enormity of the gash, “I really hope I brought enough…”

Without another word, she set to work stitching the Voidlord back together..

Out in the living room, Jeron Saari sat quietly in anxious anticipation. Daniel was asleep between them leaning on Saari’s shoulder while Nine was sleeping restlessly at their feet.

“Do you truly think she can help him?” Saari spoke up.

“I have no idea, but she’ll do better than we ever could,” Jeron replied.

“I hope you are right…”

~~~

A few hours passed before Aria leaned away from her work. Sylus had only yelped a handful of times so she considered the procedure a complete success.

“Alright,” she picked up the saline again, “I’m just going to rinse you off and clean you up a bit so I can begin bandaging.”

As soon as the liquid touched his sutures, Sylus screamed in pain for the first time.

“It shouldn’t hurt!” Aria quickly pulled away.

“It does…” Sylus growled through gritted teeth, “Ah… Oh god…”

An alien yelp came from the living room as the door to the bathroom burst open. Jeron had his rifle at the ready. Nine came limping up behind him.

Aria stood up with her arms in the air. “He had a bad reaction to saline.”

“Sy?” Jeron looked around her.

“Saline bad…” Sylus groaned.

“Guess we learned something then,” Jeron lowered his gun.

“I’ll make a note of it going forward. It seems to only affect the wound but not his skin. I will try something else.”

“Th-thanks, Aria…”

“You’re too quick to raise your weapons…” she tried to hide the shaking in her voice.

“I-I’m sorry… Living like we have for so long… I just…”

Aria reached out and put a hand on his, “It’s okay, but you really must learn to trust again.”

“I-it’s hard… A-and…” he sighed, “I’d really like to not lose Sylus again…”

She nodded, “I understand.”

With a nod of his own, Jeron left the room.

“Okay,” she turned to face Sylus once more, “Warm water and soap it is.”

“Ah, in that case, I can take care of that,” Sylus tried to sit up, but a sharp pain in his abdomen immediately quelled his attempt.

“No, you can’t. Please don’t worry. Nothing can surprise me.”

Sylus leaned back, readying himself for her inevitable reaction.

Aria began by running the tub water to warm and retrieving soap from her bag. She lathered it in her hands and began washing Sylus off. Hair, face, chest, back, stomach… The lower she got the more fearful Sylus became. Gently pushing his stomach aside she gave a quiet “huh” before washing between his legs and down the rest of the way. Once he was rinsed off, she wiped her brow.

“Well, you are pretty big, I’ll give you that. Made me actually work to get you clean,” she laughed as she set her soap on the side of the sink. “Who may I ask to assist me in bandaging you?”

“Hm?”

Aria looked around unsure of how to phrase her wording, “I understand your concerns now, but while they mean nothing to me, I wouldn’t want you exposed to someone who might think otherwise.”

“O-oh… Ah… Right… Uh… Jeron. P-please.”

With a nod, Aria leaned out of the bathroom. “Your assistance, please, Jeron.”

Standing up, careful not to trip over Nine this time, Jeron joined her in the bathroom.

“I need you to prop him up while I dry him off and begin bandaging.”

“Hey, Jer…” Sylus forced a tired smile.

“Hey, Sy…” Jeron squeezed himself between the toilet and tub. Leaning on the side, he gently leaned Sylus up.

“Thank you,” Aria sang. “Comfy?”

Jeron glared at her.

“This could take a while…”

“Just get it over with.”

The room was largely silent as Aria applied the gauze and wrapped tape around Sylus’ torso. It took two rolls, but she gave a sigh of relief when she was certain she had enough of everything.

“Looks a bit… Lumpy…” Jeron motioned towards Sylus’ stomach.

“He said he could sort that part out himself. I’m really in no position to do it myself, so I trust he’ll be able to fix that on his own,” Aria replied as she tore the end of the tape. “There. Now you just have to move him.”

Jeron sighed as he squirmed out of his porcelain prison.

“Saari?” he called into the hall, “Last time we have to move him.”

Saari was beside him before he had time to blink.

“Mind taking his legs?”

The witch was visibly uncomfortable with the idea.

“I’ll put a towel over his legs,” Aria stood up from beside the tub.

That was enough for Saari to give a nod.

Moving Sylus was beyond awkward. Not only was he over-sized and heavy, but his back tendrils dragged across the floor. Aria had wiped them down when they lifted him, but they still had a very viscous sheen to them. Inevitably, someone would stumble on them. It wasn’t far to his bedroom, but it was the most arduous walk of either of their lives. It didn’t help that Sylus continued to protest as he drifted in and out of consciousness. Once they laid him on the bed, a sigh of relief was released all around. While Aria and Saari stepped back, Jeron remained fussing over the position of the tendrils hanging off Sylus’ back.

“Jer…” Sylus gave him a tired smile, “I-it’s okay. Really.”

“You have to lay flat,” he insisted as he pulled another tendril out from beneath him. “That should do it.”

As he finally moved away, a cold clammy hand grasped his wrist. He froze, but didn’t turn around.

“I’m sorry, Jeron,” Sylus could barely speak.

Jeron bit his lip, he knew this wasn’t the time to go off on him, but he had to say something.

“Don’t ever do something like this again,” he turned to Sylus with a mixture of fear and anger, “EVER, Sylus. Understand me? Because we won’t always be able to find you in time. So don’t run off. It’s not that hard.”

“I-I know…”

Jeron leaned in close, “It’s not fair to Daniel, Sy. You’re his father and you could have died. Don’t do that to him.”

“To be fair, I was pretty sure I was dead already…” he laughed weakly.

“And yet here you are. Alive. Was it so hard to believe you stood a chance?”

“Honestly? Yeah. It was. I didn’t want to die on your doorstep, Jeron. I didn’t want to die on you… I’d rather die alone than force people to watch it happen…”

“Sy…” Jeron shook his head, “Even if there wasn’t a chance, you still should have come to us. We deserved to know what happened to you. Sure we would have ended up here eventually. If it wasn’t for Saari, it probably would have been when you’d stunk up the place and attracted every spawn for miles.”

“Jer-”

“No. I know you’re not well and I know you’ll need time to really think straight, but for the love of God, Sylus, don’t you dare ever do something like this to us again. We deserve better. You deserve better. So stop it.”

Sylus smiled as he released Jeron’s arm. Jeron, in turn, took Sylus’ hand into his. “Trust us, Sylus. Trust is to be willing to help. I don’t know everything about what you’ve been through, but the days of people giving up is over. Hell, Dan and I? We’ve been living in this hellscape for two years! Waiting for you!” Jeron snorted, “And you showed up just in time, we almost got ready to leave.” He patted the Voidlord’s hand, “We waited for you, Sy.”

Sylus shook his head, “You really shouldn’t have…”

“If you weren’t already beat to shit, I’d slap the shit out of you. You asked us to wait. And we did. I asked you to trust me…”

“Jeron… It’s not that I don’t trust you…”

Jeron closed his eyes.

“You’re the only person I do trust, but I… I don’t… I don’t trust myself…”

Jeron slowly opened his eyes.

“This… Body… it’s only part of the battle… I really thought it would change everything… but I guess it didn’t…” Sylus sighed heavily, “I’m so sorry, Jeron…”

Jeron patted his hand before stepping away. “Just promise me you won’t ever do thins again.”

“I promise.”

“Good. Now rest. I’ll get you some water.”

Jeron stepped out in the hall to meet Aria and Saari waiting for him.

“I think you have to remember that he just got back from wherever he was and was immediately torn apart,” Aria began as she swung her bag over her shoulder, “You can’t trust that he was thinking straight.”

Jeron sighed, “But wandering off? That’s exactly something he’d do…”

“Perhaps, but perhaps he didn’t mean to. I’m no psychologist, but I know people in shock and distress do things they don’t mean to do. No matter how it looks, take his actions with a grain of salt.”

Jeron turned to Saari who nodded slowly.

He sighed. “So what’s the care procedure?”

“Check the bandages tomorrow. If they look bloody, change them. If they look clean, let them sit for another day or two. Then change them regardless. I’m leaving you with all the supplies we brought. If you need anything else,” she retrieved a red marker out of her bag and took Jeron’s hand to write some numbers on the back, “Call me. Also,” she offered him the marker and her hand, “I might need to call you.”

Once their numbers were exchanged, Aria continued. “Unless things go very wrong, I’ll see you in a week. I’ll call to set up a time and place for pick-up. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to ask. Text is best for me.”

“Same,” Jeron replied, “What should we look for?”

Aria sighed, “I really don’t know. Excessive bleeding? I think the other being had a better sense of what was going on. Maybe he can tell you.”

Jeron pointed at her, “I-it’s uh… Covered in purple blood… I-is that… Bad?”

Aria waved at him nonchalantly, “This is a work hijab. I tend to throw these out a lot. Don’t worry about it. Now if it was one of my nicer ones, we’d be talking about compensation.”

Jeron snorted.

“Get him his water then take me home, if you don’t mind,” Aria nodded toward the bedroom.

Shaking his head, Jeron wandered into the kitchen.

“Let me see something,” Aria motioned to Saari, “Come in the bathroom.”

Confused, Saari did as she was told. Aria began examining her horns under the light of the bathroom.

“Your skin looks dry and cracked around the base. Is this normal?”

Saari shook her head. “They are very irritated.”

“May I touch them?”

“Gently, please…”

Aria ran a finger down the length of one of her horns, “Feels a bit scaley… Is that normal? Also are these bone or cartilage?”

“I-I don’t know… They weren’t always… ‘scaley’ but they are my eyes. At least, they used to be.”

“Hmm,” Aria sifted through her bag, “Here,” she took Saari’s hand and placed a small tube in it, “I was going to say coat the whole horn in it, but that scaling might be a natural defense system. I’m not sure. But what I am sure of is that the base is getting infected. Your sockets are red and swollen. Apply this twice a day to the area around your horns as well as the base. If it softens the scales, that should reduce chafing.”

Saari stared at her.

Aria threw her hands in the air. “Why is everyone so surprised I want to help?”

“I-it’s just…” Saari turned to the tube in her hand even though she couldn’t see it, “You humans… You have been so much kinder to me than my own people… Is my mutation common among your kind?”

Aria shook her head, “Never seen anything like it before and I’ve not read anything about it in any papers, but that doesn’t mean anything. Everyone’s different. Oh, and if that makes the irritation worse or it isn’t getting better in a week, tell Jeron to let me know. I can get something else.”

Saari clutched the tube tightly as she nodded in reply.

“Here,” Aria held her hand out, “Let me put some on so you know how it feels before I leave.”

Saari cautiously returned the tube to her.

“Don’t worry, I’ll give it back if it doesn’t hurt.”

Squeezing some of the contents onto her fingers, Aria placed the tube back in Saari’s hands before gently applying it around her horns.

“How does it feel?”

“Stings a little, but not unreasonably.”

“Good. I’m going to put some on the base of the actual horn too. Let me know how that feels.”

Saari pulled back a bit the second the salve touched her horn.

“Hurt?”

“Unexpected… No one but myself has ever touched them… I didn’t realize how sensitive they were…”

“Should I stop?”

“N-no… I-it’s okay…”

Aria rubbed the last of the cream into Saari’s horns and around her eye sockets.

“There. That should do it.” Aria rinsed her hands off, “Just do what I did and it should start helping. I also had a thought. Do the tips ever feel irritated?”

Saari thought a moment, “I always feel something, but I cannot be certain it is discomfort. They have always felt the same.”

“Okay, so hear me out. I was thinking, you might have a case of very extreme dry eye.”

Saari stared at her.

“No really, hear me out. I can get some eye drops. Maybe applying them could reduce the scaling…”

“But they’re not normal eyes… I cannot blink to cover them…”

“What about wearing something that could do that?”

“I would worry it would strain my vision, but I already see very little on this world…”

“I just feel like the scaling doesn’t have to be there. You might have nice calcified cartilage under there.”

Saari gently touched her horns, “You mean… they could be smoothe?”

“It’s just a hunch.”

“I would like to try.”

“Then I’ll bring a ton of drops with me next time. See if we can clean you up a bit. Keep using the cream for now. Twice a day. Tell Jeron to give me the results and I’ll either bring more or get something else.”

“Tell Jeron to what now?” Jeron was walking back down the hall with a jug of water.

“I have given Saari something to help treat the redness around her eyes. She is to use it twice a day for a week and report the results to you which you, in turn, will report to me.”

“Oh I will, will I?”

“Yes. You will.”

Aria’s stern glare made Jeron quickly reconsidered talking back again.

“Sounds good,” he replied sharply before continuing on his way into the bedroom.

“Here ya go, Sy. One giant bottle of water. Which I just realized you probably can’t even lift…”

Sylus slowly regained consciousness, “Just stick a tentacle in there.”

“Excuse me?”

A tendril weakly wiggled its way towards him.

“I can rehydrate if you just put that in the bottle.”

“You can drink through them?”

“And respirate, or so Qaitax says…”

“So… Drink and breathe?”

“Hydrate and respirate. I think there’s a subtle technical difference. Though I would love a glass to go down my throat. Dry as all hell…”

Jeron wandered off and returned almost immediately with a tall glass of water. With a smile, Sylus drank it all in one gulp.

“Delicious.”

“So, uh, are you okay for now?” Jeron took the glass.

“I-I think so…”

“Not gonna wander off or anything stupid?”

Sylus rolled his eyes, “Like I’d get far with you watching me like a hawk.”

“Damn right.” Jeron turned to leave.

“Wait.”

“Yeah?”

“Th-thank Aria for me… please?”

“You can thank her yourself.”

“Jeron…”

“When she comes back and you’re feeling better you can thank her yourself.”

Sylus closed his eyes, “Fair do’s.”

“I’ll be back to check on you in the morning, alright? Holler if you need anything.”

Sylus smiled. “Thank you, Jeron.”

“You’re welcome, Sylus.”

With that, Jeron stepped into the hall, closing the door behind him. He found Aria in the living room describing different kinds of bandages to Daniel and Saari. She was opening some and putting them in Saari’s hands so she’d know what she was looking for. Nine sat nearby pretending he knew what was going on.

“You know,” Jeron leaned on the entrance to the hallway, “You’re too kind.”

Aria shook her head, “I’d be kind if I did this out of the goodness of my heart and while I do mean well, it isn’t just from the heart. I stand much to gain from my interactions with you all.”

“Then let me rephrase myself,” Jeron cleared his throat, “You’re too patient.”

“No such thing. Patience is a necessity in this line of work.”

Jeron shook his head.

“Alright, well, that concludes this brief overview of bandages and tape. Between the two of you, I think you’ll be okay.”

“Thank you, Aria,” Daniel and Saari replied in unison.

“Home then?” Jeron headed for the door.

“Yes, please,” Aria replied as she retrieved her bag.

“Wanna come with, Dan?”

“Nah, I’m good here.”

“Well okay then. Off we go,” he opened the door, “After you, doctor.”

 

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