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A Great Yawning Nothing

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She downs the last shot, snorts, blinks. Salia slides from her body, presses her palms to Glad’s cheeks as Glad sits in the chair with her chest to the backrest. Sawtooth reaches for a knife and the bonesaw. Glad’s nictitating membranes close, the languid, calm movement usually reserved for other places they inhabit.

“Are you going to be okay?” Salia asks, pushes Glad’s hair back out of their face. Glad is sweating: face, shoulders, chest glimmering in the high light of the ragged office, shirt sticking to their back and arms. There are three electric light fixtures here, their buzz uncomfortable somewhere deep in Salia’s soul, but tolerable for now.

“I do trust Sawtooth’s hands,” Glad replies, and she sighs, and her head tilts down, and Salia presses her hands a little tighter to Glad’s cheeks. “I am going to be fine when this is all over, don’t you worry.”

Sawtooth peels Glad’s shirt from her arm and shoulder, then ties a tourniquet made of canvas around Glad’s arm, above the place the cold, shriveled limb regains its color and vitality. There’s a moment of shuffling, and then he holds out a piece of folded leather. Glad takes it, places it between her teeth, and leans down on the chair, rests her chin on her forearm, curls her hand around the support for the back of the chair.

Salia brushes Glad’s hair back again. Glad sighs out of her nose, and smiles.

Sawtooth rearranges things, silently, stretches Glad’s arm across the table, moves to sit in her armpit, and Glad leans on him momentarily, sighs again, looks up at Salia.

Sawtooth contorts to pat Glad’s shoulder awkwardly, and she laughs, and she’s still laughing when he makes the first cut. The laugh turns into a gasp, then a squeak, and then she bites down on the leather hard enough Salia is surprised it doesn’t shear in half.

Salia hears the scrape of metal on bone before Glad goes slack, and the leather falls from her mouth with a whimper. Her eyes unfocus, behind the membrane, and Salia pats her face. The metal-on-bone continues as she checks Glad’s status--still breathing, still alive, but gone from herself.

That’s good.

It’s good.

Sawtooth works quickly, but there’s still a lot of blood all down his apron, across the table, onto the floor. The stitches in Glad’s stump are neat, though, three flaps of skin tied nicely together. He wraps it in bandages while Glad is still out, offers Salia a card with instructions. She goes to tuck it into a pocket, then tucks it into the pocket of Glad’s coat instead.

Sawtooth is mostly the one who moves Glad, though Salia slides under her arm and helps. They put her on a cot in the backroom of the clinic, put her stump up on a pillow to elevate it. Sawtooth pulls a blanket up over her chest to offer some modesty. He reaches over to pat Salia’s shoulder, gestures to the camp chair next to the head of the bed. Salia sits down, and Sawtooth leaves.

Glad stays out for a half hour, and Salia spends the time fiddling with Glad’s folded shirt and coat. She’ll need them both to get back to the apartment, but whether she'll be able to walk at all is questionable. Sawtooth comes back to check in once, brings a glass of water that he leaves on the table. Salia thanks him and he nods.

Glad comes to with a groan and a whimper, and Salia reaches for her shoulder. The touch is gentle but Glad still jerks away, and Salia takes her hand back.

“Do you know where you are?” Salia asks.

“I am in the clinic,” Glad murmurs. She goes to sit up, winces, and lays back down. “My name is Glad and you are Salia and I am Tycherosi and I lost my arm to the side effects of lookin’ a great yawnin’ nothin’ in the eye.”

“Sounds like you're back,” Salia agrees.

“How’s it look?” Glad asks, and turns her head to point at her stump with her chin.

“Neater than I expected. A lot of blood. Sawtooth did a good job with the sewing though.”

“Can I take a look?” Glad moves to sit up again, rolls part way onto her good side to lever herself up. She wobbles when she's upright, breathes hard, bends forward to put her head between her knees.

“It’s bandaged right now, but those will need changed tonight. I’ll get you a mirror then.”

“I do suppose I can wait.” Glad smiles. The blood soaking the bandage is black, so black, and even though she’s seen Glad bleed before it startles Salia every time. The oldest blood is red, but a lot of it is void, still. Void, edged with red.

“Do you think you can make it back to our apartment?” Salia asks. She passes over Glad’s shirt.

Glad takes her shirt and half-unfolds in in her lap. She considers it for a moment.

“I think staying here until morning would be the better option.”

“Alright.” Salia tries not to sigh.

“You can go home for the night, come back in the morning. It’ll be fine.” Glad gives her a crooked grin. “Get some rest somewhere more comfy than the infirmary backroom.”

“I’ll be back in the morning,” Salia murmurs, and she leans over to kiss Glad’s forehead. “Make sure you drink enough water, maybe eat something too, alright?”

“Sawtooth’ll take care of me, don't you worry,” Glad replies, and grins. She winces after a split second. “Don’t worry,” she repeats. “Go home and rest.”

Salia runs her thumb along Glad’s cheekbone and settles back on her feet.

“Be safe, okay?”

“I will.”

Glad tips her chin up, smiles, and Salia smiles back before she turns away and heads for the front of the clinic.