“How is he?” Dean Warlic asks, standing from the Specific Hospital Waiting Room chair when he sees Nurse Helia Quinn approaching. “Is he conscious?”
She has a clipboard in hand, intermittently drumming her fingers against its back, and her lips are drawn tight. There is a line of tension to her shoulders.
“He’s conscious,” she says, beckoning for him to follow her. “He’s… very conscious,”
“Is something wrong?” he asks, concerned for what her attitude and body language may imply for the state of the patient. The situation that had landed him in hospital had been rather spectacular, after all, and he doesn’t think he has ever seen Helia quite like this.
She is silent, shoes clacking against the floor. Warlic recognises the silence as her thinking, not simply her not answering his question, so he waits.
“Not wrong, per se,” Helia says at last. “Let’s just say that we found that our dear Star Captain has a… reaction to certain painkillers. Not allergies or anything threatening, but…”
They stop walking, now outside the door to the room of the one Warlic came to see. Helia sighs heavily, reaching up to rub her temple and the clipboard in her hand obscuring her face for a moment. The line of tension in her shoulders draws taut, and then, abruptly, drops away, her entire body seeming to sag with relaxation, though more of the kind from letting go of stress than truly feeling relaxed.
Her arm drops back to her side and she looks to him with an expression that he had thought was reserved solely for the parents of small children.
“Frankly, sir,” Helia says, sounding two parts exasperated and three parts despairing “Right now, Sys-Zero is as high as a kite,”
And then she opens the door.
The hero is already there when they arrive. Warlic already knew that and so did Helia. They are, apparently, holding a conversation with Sys-Zero.
It’s rather one-sided, though, since Sys-Zero is the only one talking. The hero is sitting in a chair next to the hospital bed that he’s in, with one hand clamped firmly over their mouth and a manic grin peeking out from behind it. Their entire body is shaking with suppressed laughter and their eyes are suspiciously shiny. The other hand holds a blatantly obvious video recorder that Sys-Zero is somehow oblivious to.
“…so you absolutely can’t put an energy blade next to a birthday cake unless you want it to-” Sys-Zero cuts himself off midsentence when he notices that Warlic and Helia have entered. “Helia! You’re back!”
Then his eyes - uncovered because there is bandaging wrapped around his head and his goggles are sitting on the bedside table - flicker to Warlic. A wide, lopsided grin grows on his face.
“Heeee-” he pauses to take a breath “-eeeya, Warlic!”
His tone is chirpy and cheerful, though the words are a little stilted, and ‘as high as a kite’, Warlic decides, though archaic, is exactly the way to describe him at the moment.
“Hello Sys-Zero,” he replies, pulling a chair up on the opposite side of the bed to where the hero is sitting. “How are you?”
“I’m… in the hospital,” Sys-Zero answers, as though this is a perfectly logical answer to the question. Under normal circumstances he would assume sarcasm - a hint of ‘what do you think’ underneath the statement of the obvious - but this time his friend seems to be utterly serious. The grin has not a hint of mischievousness in it. Warlic sighs.
“Yes, you are. Do you remember why?”
“Yep,” Sys-Zero answers, popping the p. He doesn’t elaborate further.
Warlic raises an eyebrow and Sys-Zero’s face lights up in comprehension.
“Oooooh,” he says “You want me to tell you,”
The captain looks down to his left leg, wrapped in a cast and held up, to the bandages wrapped around his midsection, and to the elevation sling pinning his arm to his chest. Then he looks back up to Warlic.
“My mecha went bang,” he states, utterly serious.
The hero makes a sound somewhere halfway between a dying hyena and a highly distressed gorillaphant.
Warlic suddenly understands why Helia had the expression she did when she told him of Sys-Zero’s condition. He turns to look over to where the nurse had been standing and realises that she slipped out when nobody was looking. He honestly can’t blame her.
He turns back to Sys-Zero and the hero and finds that in the five seconds it took for him to do so, the hero has somehow managed to get Sys-Zero back onto a tangent about why energy blades and birthday cakes don’t mix (“well all kiiiiiiinds of cakes really. But especially birthday cakes. And wedding cakes. Wedding cakes are the worst but birthday cakes are even worser”)
He resists the urge to drop his head into his hands and groan.
“Hey, Warlic. Warlic, Warlic Warliiiiic. Dean Waaaarlic,”
“Did you know that if you vomit but try really hard to not let it come out of your mouth, it just comes out of your nose instead? Like when you laugh really hard while drinking something and it comes out of your nose but smellier and more sore because it’s vomit and vomit has acid in it,”
“No, I didn’t know that. Is there a reason I needed to?”
(And how do you know that? he decides he’s better off not to ask.)
“So that you know not to keep your mouth shut when you’re sick,” Sys-Zero sounds genuinely confused about this.
The hero makes the hyena-gorillaphant noise again. This time Warlic doesn’t even bother to try and resist the urge and just drops his head into his hands, elbows propped up on his knees, and groans. Loudly.
This is going to be a long visit.
Sys-Zero has been explaining the absolute imperative importance (his words) of not cooking pasta while sleep deprived for fifteen minutes by the time Helia returns. She manages to slip in unnoticed by either Sys-Zero - absorbed in imparting his highly important warning - or the hero - who may actually explode from the amount of laughter they’re holding in soon – and gives Warlic an apologetic smile.
“I had other patients to check on,” she says. “How is he?”
Warlic groans wordlessly, leaning backwards in the chair he is sitting on to look up at her in a way reminiscent of a teenager moaning at a parent.
“He’s been at this for fifteen minutes,” he says “and before that he was trying to explain the physics behind spaceflight,”
Helia winces sympathetically.
“That must’ve been hard to listen to,” she says.
“He got most of it right,” Warlic all but whispers. He leans forwards again, burying his face in his hands again and almost wishing he were anywhere but here “He’s been explaining why not to cook pasta if you haven’t slept for two days for fifteen minutes but he was able to correctly explain astrophysics,”
Helia looks like she’s trying very hard not to laugh and just nods.
This is the point at which Sys-Zero notices her presence.
“Helia!” he exclaims, tone almost sing-song “Helia. Heeeeeliiiiaaaa. Helia. Did you know your name sounds like helium? Helium makes people’s voices go higher! Well, it doesn’t actually. Breathing helium makes your voice squeaky ‘cause there’s a different gas in your vocal tract so your voice is actually faster. The pitch doesn’t change!” he grins widely, and then one more time chirps “Helia!”
“That’s very interesting, Sys-Zero,” Helia says, voice sounding strained and clearly mentally counting to ten. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m tired,” Sys-Zero says. A few seconds later he yawns, proving his point. “I think I need to use the sleep,”
The noise that the hero makes this time is rather more like a starship engine in distress than any form of animal.
Helia, somehow, manages to keep a straight face.
“Then you can go ahead and do that, Sys-Zero,” she tells him “Dean Warlic and the hero can go, and you can sleep,”
“But…uh…” Sys-Zero looks almost sheepish “There’s a problem with that plan, Helia,”
Warlic has a feeling that they’re both going to regret it when Helia asks “Why?”
“Because…I don’t think I remember how to use the sleep,”
This, apparently, is the straw that breaks the metaphorical mechacamel’s back in regards to the hero managing not to laugh. They crack up completely, arms wrapped around their waist, the recorder slipping from their hand and thudding when it hits the floor. They laugh so hard that they wheeze and tears leaks from their eyes. Eventually, they slip from the chair and onto the floor, curling up into a ball and continuing simply to cackle. Warlic is fairly certain that their face is beginning to go blue from lack of oxygen.
He sighs, standing from his chair, and walks around to them. Helia is trying to explain to Sys-Zero that “no, you haven’t actually forgotten ‘how to use the sleep’ and that all you need to do is…” so nobody really pays attention as he picks up the recorder and then helps the student up from the floor. They are still laughing, though they are beginning to be able to stop and breathe at intervals, so he has to sling one arm over his shoulders and help them walk.
He says goodbye as they leave the room, Sys-Zero barely noticing and Helia simply waving without looking away from the bed and her attempts to explain that you can’t just forget how to sleep Sys-Zero it doesn’t work like that.
Warlic half wonders if he should convince the hero to delete the footage on the recorder for Sys-Zero’s sake, or ask for a copy of it. Half wonders, because it takes him only point oh two seconds to make his decision.
Copy of the footage. Definitely.