“And let’s get you back to bed, young man.”
There was no response, not that Larry really expects one. Otto is so completely and utterly exhausted that he was already asleep as they were transported through space and time. Which is just as well, because it means that he isn’t conscious to point out that they were the reason he was out of bed in the first place.
Once they arrive back at the satellite, Larry somehow manages to nudge Tuddrussel’s foot while still supporting Otto’s head. “Here,” he says, “make yourself useful and take Otto to bed.”
Tuddrussel frowns. “Why me?”
Larry huffs, mindful of Otto even as he places one hand on his hip. “It’s the least you could do. I wouldn’t have needed to drag him along if you hadn’t interrupted the writing process.”
“Hey look, I had it all under control,” the burly officer protests with a snort. But just before Larry can argue further, Tuddrussel surprises him by picking up the boy anyway, unusually gentle as he carries Otto.
Still stunned, Larry is silent for a moment as he gets to his feet and follows the other to Otto’s room, watching as he actually manages to be careful while placing Otto down on his bed. When Tuddrussel steps back, he moves closer to tuck the blanket around the boy’s sleeping figure, smoothing down the sheets a little before gently removing his glasses.
“So, uh…” Tuddrussel says, shattering the silence.
“Shhh!” Larry hisses. It’s a bit unnecessary, since Otto hasn’t stirred since they arrived, but it’s still the principle of the matter.
Even so, Tuddrussel rolls his eyes beneath his visor and doesn’t bother lowering his voice. “The kid’s gonna be okay, right?”
“He should be fine once he gets some rest,” Larry assures him, placing Otto’s glasses next to the tissue box on the nightstand. Then he gently starts to usher the larger man out of the room with him as he adds, “Hopefully we won’t be assigned another mission for a while so that he’ll have the chance.”
Because if there’s one thing Larry learned on this last mission, it was that they were completely lost without Otto.
Once the door to Otto’s room closes behind them, they split up and go their separate ways. Larry can only assume that Tuddrussel was heading to the gym, so he doesn’t dwell on it too much as he makes his own way to the kitchen. The first thing he notices is the glass on the floor, broken in his haste to bring Otto back to the past. With a sigh, he moves to put the pitcher of orange juice back in the fridge first. Then he sweeps up the broken glass to properly dispose of, as well as clean up some of the residual orange juice that had spilled.
After the kitchen was cleaned, Larry notices that the chicken soup was actually low. Otto must have already had some while they’d been away, he muses as he begins to make a fresh batch. He doubts Otto will be up to eat again any time soon, but it will be good to have some ready just in case, and at least the soup will be easy to reheat. But with a recipe as simple as this, it isn’t long before his mind begins to wander, and he finds himself reflecting back on the mission. He still has to write the follow-up report, but it was getting more difficult to explain how their missions were being completed without mentioning Otto.
Because, no matter how they try to deny it, they have come to heavily rely on Otto for their missions. The boy has such a passion for history, which not only aids with determining the problem on assignments, but his love for the past had him invested in keeping the course of events straight, and usually kept the team on track when Tuddrussel and even himself – he begrudgingly admits – were unaware or distracted. Without Otto, they absolutely had no idea what they were doing.
And because of that, they are currently faced with a problem. Because obviously Otto needs to rest. But there is always the chance that they could receive another mission, and that’s when they’d be faced with a dilemma. They need Otto, but they couldn’t keep dragging him through time and space while he’s ill, otherwise he might take even longer to recover. And since Central HQ is still unaware of Otto’s presence on the satellite, thank goodness, they couldn’t simply ask for time off either, since Otto isn’t an official member of Time Squad.
There is the possibility of Tuddrussel also getting sick. If that happens, then perhaps they could request for some time off. But that option also wasn’t too appealing to Larry. Not only did Tuddrussel not get sick all that often anyway, but in the occasions that he did he was utterly insufferable. Despite only seeing Otto sick briefly, he can already tell that the literal child is an easier patient to deal with than his own fellow officer.
No, he thinks as he begins preparing a simple lunch for Tuddrussel while waiting for the soup to boil, there clearly isn’t any other option. The only thing he can do is to take care of Otto to make sure he was better before they are assigned a new mission.
Fortunately the rest of the day passes by without incident; they are thankfully not given any new assignments, allowing Otto to spend the day sleeping. Tuddrussel was off doing... whatever he does, although Larry suspects the other will be getting hungry soon enough. He’d been busying himself with cleaning the satellite in the intervening hours, and it was getting close to dinner time.
The halls are quiet as he makes his way to the kitchen, save for the light echo of his footsteps across the metal floor. He had noticed it earlier while cleaning as well, the lack of activity throughout the satellite. And he wonders if he was malfunctioning, because he should have been enjoying the peace he received, giving him time to finish up chores uninterrupted. Yet it was difficult to appreciate the quiet knowing that the only reason for it was because Otto was lying sick in bed. And without the boy, Tuddrussel didn’t have anyone else to engage in their usual antics. It left a strange emptiness in the silence, and Larry feels it so sharply that he finds himself missing the two humans running around and making a mess of the place.
Maybe he is malfunctioning.
After he finished cooking another easy meal for Tuddrussel, Larry reheats the chicken soup before gathering a few supplies together to bring to Otto. Then, just as the other food was done, Tuddrussel enters the kitchen and sits at the table.
“What’s for dinner, rust-butt?” the burly officer asks, his feet on the table as he reclines back in his chair.
Arranging a plate, Larry walks over and swats Tuddrussel’s feet away to place his dinner in front of him on the table. “Chicken enchiladas,” he announces with a sharp tone.
Tuddrussel frowns, but remains silent for a moment, which actually confuses Larry a little. “Well?” he prods, expecting some kind of challenge. “Is there a problem?”
The man’s frown deepens, then he shakes his head. “Uh...no,” he finally replies. “It’s fine.”
“...Oh,” Larry murmurs, his defensive stance fizzling out. “….Good.” With nothing else to say, he drifts away and back over to the stove.
He can hear the sounds of Tuddrussel inhaling his food – honestly, with the man’s table manners it was difficult not to hear – but before he can roll his eyes, the noises quiet down again. “Hey…”
Larry turns back towards the table, surprised to see Tuddrussel watching him. “What?” he inquires.
Tuddrussel chews on his fork as he seems to hesitate. “How’s, uh...How’s Otto doin’?”
It’s Larry’s turn to frown. “I’m not sure,” he responds honestly. “I haven’t seen him since we put him to bed. But I’m just about to check on him when I bring him a few things.”
The other officer doesn’t say anything after that, simply nods and goes back to his food, which once again stuns Larry. Was Tuddrussel actually showing concern ?
He doesn’t have time to linger on those thoughts, though, as he turns down the heat on the soup. Ladling some into a bowl, he places it on the tray with some medicine and a glass of water, before he leaves Tuddrussel to his dinner and heads out of the kitchen to bring it all to Otto.
Though he knocks on the door first, it still slides open before there is any response, and Larry peeks inside. “Otto?” he calls, though keeps his voice down in case the boy is still asleep.
But not only is Otto awake, he gives a startled cry and slams something – a book, presumably – shut. “I-I’m sorry!” he exclaims, trying to hide the object before dissolving into a coughing fit.
Larry is at his bedside in an instant, placing the tray on the nightstand before carefully rubbing Otto’s back. “Tsk, now you need to be careful not to get yourself so excited,” he chides gently. When the coughing eases, he takes the glass of water and holds it out to Otto. “Drink.”
Taking the glass, the boy drinks slowly, but still manages to finish half its contents before handing it back. “Thanks,” he croaks, and Larry notes with a frown how hoarse he still sounds.
He means to check on Otto’s condition, but the words that come out instead are, “What were you apologizing for?”
Otto blinks up at him. “Huh?”
It really isn’t what he means to ask, but now that they’re here Larry gestures to the book half-hidden under the pillow. “When I came in, you were reading. But what are you sorry for?”
“Uh…” A flush colors Otto’s cheeks, but before Larry can question it, the boy finally answers, “It’s nothing. I was...just confused, I guess. Sorry.”
Larry hums thoughtfully, then picks up the tray and places it on Otto’s lap. “Here. You need to eat a little and then take some medicine.”
Otto eyes the medicine warily, but he obediently starts on the soup. As he eats, Larry opens the panel on his arm and quickly types in a few commands before scanning Otto for the second time that day. Though the boy still had a stuffy nose and sore throat, the fever is now at 102 degrees.
“Well, your fever has gone down,” he observes. And while he’s glad for that, he’s also a bit surprised. Given Otto’s current behavior, he had suspected that the fever had actually gone up.
“I’m feeling a little better,” Otto asserts, though the roughness in his voice says otherwise. “I should be okay in a day or so.”
“Nice try, young man,” Larry chuckles, pointing to the bottle by the glass of water, “but you’re still taking some medicine.”
Otto groans. “ Fine .” There’s a bit of a whine in his tone, but Larry’s earlier assessment that he is a better patient than Tuddrussel is clearly accurate.
Larry takes the time to clean up the room a little bit while Otto eats, though it isn’t really necessary. While the room isn’t exactly tidy , it certainly isn’t the mess that Tuddrussel’s is. But the 3000 unit can’t help hovering around, wanting to at least make sure Otto takes his medicine.
No other reason, of course.
After throwing some used tissue into the waste bin ( ‘Disgusting.’ ), he turns back to see Otto placing his spoon back down on the tray. He leans over slightly, and while the bowl is still half full he decides it’s better not to force him to finish. Instead he picks up the medicine bottle and the spoon, measuring out some before handing the utensil back to Otto.
Otto’s face scrunches up in a grimace, but he takes the spoon and a breath, then sticks the medicine into his mouth. He makes a gagging sound, but still manages to swallow it down. “Ugh…” he grumbles before chasing it down with water.
Larry moves the tray back to the nightstand, and when Otto finishes the water he takes the empty glass and sets that aside as well. Then he starts to tuck the boy in as he says, “All right, now you’ll need to get some more rest.”
“I’ve been sleeping all day,” Otto protests, even as he settles back against his pillows.
“Well, you don’t have to sleep if you don’t want to,” Larry states matter-of-factly. “But you still need to rest.”
“But I’m bored ,” Otto complains, lifting his glasses to rub his eyes. “I don’t wanna just lie here and do nothing. But when I tried to read, I was starting to get a headache.” He takes in a sudden breath, and Larry grabs a tissue from the box to hand him just as he sneezes.
“Thanks,” Otto rasps with a sniffle, taking a moment to blow his nose, and Larry holds the waste bin up for him to throw it away once he’s done.
“Well, if you have a headache, you should rest your eyes,” Larry advises.
With a sigh, Otto nods, but still hesitates a little as he fidgets with the edge of his blanket.
And Larry, understanding by now when the boy wanted to ask him something, presses, “What is it?”
Still playing with the blanket in his hands, Otto draws out, “Will...Will you...read to me?”
The robot stiffens, taken aback. “What?”
“Please?” Otto pleads, his eyes wide with hope. “Just for a little while? To help me relax a bit?”
The 3000 unit huffs softly, his hands resting on his hips. He should really just say no; if Otto has a headache, he reasons, he shouldn’t be reading right now anyway. More sleep would really be the best thing for his recovery. Plus Larry has too many things to do before he needs to power down for the night.
But then, he had taken Otto to the past to fix their mistake instead of letting him rest. And while his fever had gone down, there’s no telling if it could be even lower if he hadn’t dragged Otto out of bed. Besides, he had decided to do whatever he could to assist with the boy’s recuperation.
All things considered, Larry supposes it’s the least he can do.
“Oh, all right ,” he finally concedes, sitting on the edge of Otto’s bed. “But just for a little while.”
“Okay!” Otto replies cheerfully, though his eagerness results in another coughing fit. Luckily it’s brief this time, and before he settles back he pulls the book out from under his pillow and places it in Larry’s outstretched hand.
Flipping the book over, Larry takes a look at the front cover. “ Presidential Biography: George Washington .” He quickly flips through some of the pages. “Haven’t you read this before?”
“Well yeah,” Otto admits with a shrug. “But that means I need less energy to focus on it. Besides, it’s one of my favorites.”
Larry guesses that’s fair enough, although wonders if perhaps this type of text is why Otto was getting a headache in the first place. He keeps that opinion to himself, though, as the boy takes the book back briefly and opens it up to a marked page. “Here’s where I left off,” he indicates to a paragraph on the page before handing it back.
Waiting for Otto to lie back down, Larry clears his throat, unnecessary as it is, before he starts to read the passage out loud. While the book at least paints a vivid image, he can’t help feeling a little ridiculous for reciting facts about the first United States president.
But after a moment he glances up at Otto, and notices the boy listening with his eyes closed and a content smile on his face. And seeing him looking so comfortable and at ease, the robot feels a small smile of his own tugging at the corner of his mouth.
So, after a pause to tuck the blanket in a little more around the small figure, Larry continues to read to Otto until the boy drifts back to sleep.