The smell of the room is heavy with vegetal notes, perhaps to the point of nausea, but strong smells are familiar to her and the fact those don’t remind her of an operation room, of a morgue or of blood have lulled her into a sense of easiness she wouldn’t have when faced with most of the strong scents of her darkest memories.
She can vaguely remember from an old read what these smells are supposed to accomplish even if, to be frank, she feels like she’s in an old woman’s pharmacy: these are just odours you’d find in grandma’s cabinets filled with remedies that, for the most part, are actually outdated medicines that she should have thrown away decades ago, and some of them may even have been retroactively declared to be poison. These flowery yet bitter fragrances aren’t the most comfortable things (she’s never been a fan of strong perfumes either: she’s content with a stealthy deodorant fragrance for the most part) she’s ever smelled, but they could be worse, so much worse, and she isn’t here to enjoy smells anyway.
She isn’t used to dirtying her hands taking care of someone else. Even as a surgeon she had troubles having good doctor-patient relationships, no matter what she told good ol’ Stiles on the day of his fateful surgery; it’s not now that she mostly spends her time at work alone in a metallic crypt examining evidence that she’s going to develop good people skills. She can leave that to the people who are actually competent in that.
Even the man she now shares an official duo act with has better social skills than she does. This guy, this utter fool, managed to smooth his way into the FBI after all of his bioterrorist gig at Delphi Inc. without having witness protection and Caduceus Europe’s blessing. He still won’t tell her how he did it and she still can’t come up with a hypothesis about that weird phenomenon. That’s one mystery she’ll never solve, she imagines.
For a ghost of her dark past as a bioterrorism enabler, she sure cares about him. When did she stop minding his presence no matter what terrible memories and despicable feelings it brought up inside of her? Who knows: at this point, she’ll never know. She never realized when the background voices telling her this was just her past going after her stopped spewing their dark gospel; all she knows, now, is that they’ve died and rest somewhere inside her mind, perhaps waiting for the day said past will rise back from its shallow grave and bite her head off for good.
Maybe that they moved on together without her really thinking about it. Investigating on the source of a mysterious epidemic tends to do that to you: you never stop to consider what your feelings and relationships are. One moment she was all on her own, the next she had adopted a girl and had a partner that, to her surprise, she didn’t push away anymore. Talk about a surprise.
The journey that brought her is still vague, but it’s not like she’s been thinking about it for most of the day. The moment she saw how her assistant (she keeps calling him that, how odd) was staggering and tripping over his unmade shoelace (for someone loving to be dressed as a sharp as possible, it was more than a sign, more like a symptom), however, she knew what she was going to get herself into. Bail themselves out of there, drag him to his place, put him into some place where to rest, and stay there so he wouldn’t bail out on her right afterwards.
She could have not done that at all, now that she thinks about it. She perfectly could have just sent him home and continued with her day, but the thought of leaving Little Guy (another nickname that has stuck around, huh? He’s always avoided the question of his “real” name like the plague) all alone when he was warmer than the heater during the cold season sounded like a terrible idea and, frankly, was biting at her thoughts like sand hoppers do on your skin when bathing in the cold seawaters (bending to Caduceus Europe’s will for amnesty was… an experience, at times).
She’s getting carried away with her metaphors. Overthinking tends to produce that effect.
For once, she minds the silence that occupies the room, a modestly decorated bedroom with some music-related ornaments to break away from the whites and the warm greys. Usually, she’d have tried to silence anyone talking to her, especially at this time of the day (she did bail them out of the place with no intention of ever coming back there until tomorrow, after all: her brain must be used to working on something at this hour)… but not today, because today has been weird so far.
Little Guy, Agent Navel, whatever she called him back in the Eidoth Hellhole – to make a short story long, the one man who loves to tell Alyssa that she needs to take care of her “mom” because said “mom” won’t do it herself apparently (he isn’t entirely wrong, but ever since Alyssa came into her life, she’s made some efforts on that front) – apparently decided being logical was overrated and decided to come to work with what that doctor she brought him to (without ease, may she add) frowned at.
She should tell him how stupid he was for having gotten himself in this predicament all on his own when it was perfectly avoidable (she could always hope crime wasn’t that rampant in this city), especially since she ended up never getting called back to work after not even officially taking a day off for this. The words are on the top of her tongue, they’ve been ever since she realized he was going to work with the temperature of a precooking oven under his skin, but strangely, they’ve only barely found their way out, as if she shouldn’t have uttered them in the first place. Nonsense, she’d say if it wasn’t about herself and if she, somehow, didn’t know why she was behaving this exact way.
The silence in this room is odd. He isn’t sleeping, far from it, busy coughing now that he isn’t pretending not to be ill. Neither of them is saying anything, but she sometimes refreshes the cloth she put on his forehead (cliché, but effective at what it’s trying to accomplish, and less dangerous than the cliché of putting ice on one’s forehead – his fever isn’t nearly high enough for her to try wrapping some in a towel and hope it works as intended), and then they just fall back into silence with only their breathings and that of the oil dispenser to fill the heavy air in the room.
“What oils are these?” She eventually asks out of pure curiosity. She isn’t leaving anytime soon, so she may as well get to know things here and there…
“Eucalyptus and…” he tries sniffing it, but all he ends up doing is clogging his nose and coughing in a weird chain reaction, “lavender, I think.”
“Why for? The smells are strong, doesn’t it give you miserable headaches?” (She sure feels like one is settling in her brain from them, but she’d rather not admit to it since he knew her as a surgeon at some point, she’s got to keep the bravado a little). “That can’t be the ideal for someone in your current state.”
“I can’t smell much from it, to be honest…” He chuckles half-buried in his blankets before blowing his nose as if to prove a non-existent point. “Eucalyptus is good for sore throats… Lavender to relax… You should try some, Dr Kimishima, it does wonders.”
“I’m… not really sure about this, Little Guy. Have you read the back of the bottles you used before jamming them inside your device?”
“Should be fine… I do it all the time.”
It’s quite unbelievable just how much sickness tarnishes beauty. Usually, Little Guy is a slick young man whose suit is always on-point, black or white, as if he was going to attend his own wedding and needed to be as proper as humanly possible to do so. He sincerely looks like he can’t exist his house unless his haircut is as good as a model’s for a photoshoot and it’s a wonder how it doesn’t look like he just fixated it with hair glue or, to put it into savvy words, hair lacquer.
That conventionally attractive description she just made of him is, however, very much false at the moment. The man is sitting in his own sick, sweating profusely from the fever and what she’d guess to be two blankets too much (when she tried to take one of them off, however, he found his strength again and latched onto it, and even Alyssa is less childish than that). It gives him this weird aura of weakness that she’s never felt around him, probably because they’re both so emotionally closed to intimacy even on a platonic level that they’ve just never let their walls down around each other (or maybe it was just her – maybe she’s just terrible at reading people).
Until today, she supposes, or maybe that was earlier, and she never realized it – who knows, at this point, what her feelings are, it’s just one big blur she loves to ignore.
But, you know, she does appreciate the more intimate conversation, on second thought.
“Do you often do things as reckless, brainless and useless as attempting to work ill?”
Little Guy doesn’t reply, only giving her a moue and a pitiful attempt at a glare, so she just chuckles it off as if she didn’t actually want an answer to a question that is, in fact, important to her (but not to the point she wants to admit it is).
“I guess it was a valiant effort of yours to find criminals and bring them to justice, hmm?”
“You could say that, I suppose…”
The little smile on his face betrays his amusement. No, don’t smile back, it’s…
Wait, why shouldn’t she smile back? Isn’t she far away from the times where she’d avoided being associated to this man, back when they were both servants of Delphi, puppets at the service of a cause neither of them truly ever believed in? This… she shouldn’t think like this anymore, shouldn’t she? Plus, they’re all alone, in his bedroom, in a shabby little flat he doesn’t even spend much time in, judging from how dusty the corridor was (it was noticeable enough that she was wrote that detail down even as she dragged her colleague in his own home).
It… It must be these stupid essential oils of his that make her head spin. She should get out of there and a take a breather, plus; she needs to check on the time so she can be at school when Alyssa’s classes will end (since she isn’t working today, she can at least do that for her, can’t she?)… Get out of there. She needs to get out of there and stop inhaling the eucalyptus and the lavender and she’ll be fine.
“Would you like some tea?” She asks out of the blue, painfully aware that nothing natural has prompted this question from her, but at the same time intending to ignore it until forced to admit to it. Considering she’s facing a man whose eyes aren’t focusing anymore, all she has to do is keep her voice and demeanour as calm as usual.
“O-oh, sure thing.” He sounds surprised. Not good. “My teabags and broiler are in the cabinet of the kitchen I believe.”
The coughing fit, wet and coarse, that ensues makes her cringe a little.
“I’ll see what I can do about that. I’ll be right back.”
She makes an effort to conceal her doubts by slowly getting up and exiting the room as tranquilly as she always does, but once she gets to the kitchenette, all of her resolve melts away and she finds herself wondering why she got herself in this situation and, most of all, why she’s not leaving now that she has an opportunity. Clearly, if it was a chore to her, she’d have just excused herself out of there and never thought back on it… but she isn’t minding it. She doesn’t mind being a nurse, for some ungodly reason.
Well, at least, despite her awful cooking skills, she can make some tea just fine. You just need to boil some water and put a teabag inside of it. The boiler and bags may be a little hard to find because the kitchenette doesn’t seem to be used much, but they’re here and they’re functional, and now, all she has to do is wait and pick a flavour.
Surprisingly, for someone who always drinks coffee at work, Little Guy seems to love his teas, considering how many of those he has (or he just likes to buy them and then never drinks them, she’s known people like that, Miller used to always complain that he never found occasions to waste his stack of tea despite being British). Well, Naomi is no specialist in teas, but she can easily point out that those with fruity flavours are most likely better for a sore throat than something flavoured with caramel (who even drinks caramel-flavoured tea? It sounds disgusting). Chamomile tea sounds like the best option there, from what she knows about chamomile.
The water is taking its time to boil so her thoughts have free reign to wreak havoc inside her mind. Clearly, they’re still as foggy as they were back in the room and the essential oils have stopped imposing their presence to her, so it must mean they’re not to blame. Who is she fooling? They never were in cause. She and no one else is who is in cause here.
Ah, crap, the water’s already boiling – better get that off the currant and put it inside a cup she almost forgot to prepare. Musings can wait until she does that. She may as well find some honey (if there is any in here) so the throat sore goes away a bit faster. She remembers Alyssa really liking it when she was sick with the flu, once she could keep liquids in… Little Guy is bound to appreciate it too, especially if his throat hurts as much as his cough seems to indicate.
Here’s the honey, contained in these cheaper bear-shaped plastic containers. It’s a little… odd to pour honey with an animal upside down staring into her soul with these empty, honey-filled eyes, but it doesn’t last enough to disturb her thoroughly, she’s been through much worse. She knows she isn’t buying any of those anytime soon, even if Alyssa wants one. They’re a bit too eerie, even to her taste, to be around children.
The tea should be infused enough to be brought back, even if it seems a little too hot for consumption at the moment. Prep a tray with whatever she finds and it’ll be all good to go, including the little spoon to fix the badly stirred honey situation she’s got going on inside the cup. She really isn’t built to take care of people, merely to fix short-term issues.
When she gets back to where she came from, however, she’s greeted by a series of snores. Well… She doesn’t mind the strange feeling of serenity she’s having from the sight greeting her back into the bedroom: her usually slickly dressed workmate, lightly snoring, his blankets askew with a foot poking from under the bedding, unkept hair peaking in every direction known to mankind, looking oddly peaceful.
With a soft sigh, she puts the cup on the bedside table, pushing away some cluttering books to find it enough space to safely sit, then puts the saucer on top of the steaming cup. From there, she can either go back to work then pick up Alyssa from school, or she can stay here to keep an eye on him. Why wonder when she knows why she’s already sitting down seems like a waste of time, to be honest. She’ll just pick up a book in the pile that she created on the floor and bask in the rare serenity.
You know, maybe she doesn’t mind the eucalyptus and lavender scents.