It was much later than intended when they finally left the abandoned room. TO wouldn’t have minded staying there the entire night, but they couldn’t. If they stayed there, their absence from their pod overnight might be noted, and they knew that they would sleep in and potentially miss part of their physical training in the morning.
“Are you sure you’re going to be ok to go to the labs tomorrow?” GiDi asked as they closed the door to the abandoned room. “I mean… I know you can do it. And I know you have to, but if there’s anything we can do-“
TO shook their head, “No… I have to go back.” They hoped that what PQ12 said was right, and they would be unlikely to have to do any more dissections while they were working in the production labs.
“You’re sure?” DH asked suddenly, taking a step forward, “Because I know we could figure out something, we could-“ They stopped themselves mid-sentence, and looked at TO apologetically, their ears down, “I mean… I’m sorry. I know it’s awful. And it’s awful that you have to go. But I know you can do it. And we’re here if it gets hard.”
TO stifled a laugh, then pulled DH into a quick hug, “I appericate the sentiment.” They said, “And thanks for listening to me.”
“Aww,” GiDi said, smirking, “DH learned something.”
“Hey!” DH said as they snapped their head to GiDi, “I always learn things! TO teaches me lots of stuff-“
“Well, I’m just glad you listened.” GiDi said as they brushed dust off their uniform, “And hopefully next time something like this happens, you can work it out without needing me to mediate.”
DH released TO, and draped an arm over GiDi’s shoulders, “Nope.” They said, “You need to stick around. We’ll fall apart otherwise.” They said jokingly, “I’ll think TO is mad at me, TO will think I’m mad at them, and we’ll never talk to one another ever again.”
“You better not!” GiDi said as they narrowed their eyes at DH, “Seriously. When we get our placements we’re going to be seperated. You two better not hate each other when we get called back here.”
DH seemed to freeze and glanced back at TO, who could only look back with a slightly panicked look. GiDi looked from DH to TO, then laughed.
“What?” They said after a moment, “I know we’re going to be seperated eventually.”
“... I was hoping we’d find another strange synth like us. That way, when that time comes you won’t be stuck with someone awful.”
GiDi gave a small, sad smile and shook their head, “I know we’re going to be seperated. it’s going to happen.” They said, “And… it’s probably going to be awful. I just hope I’m teamed up with someone who doesn’t hate me.” They gave TO a big smile, “I’m sure the Officers in charge of paring up people won’t set me up with someone who might hate me!”
“We won’t let that happen!” DH said suddenly, “We won’t let you get stuck with someone you hate for cycles on end. We’ll…” They trailed off as they realized that TO and GiDi were looking at them with slightly amused looks. “What?”
“... We do want to try to find a way to make it better, GiDi.” TO said, “And if we can’t… well, it will be awful. But we’ll be back here sooner than later.”
DH realized what they were doing, flushed, and put their hands behind their back, “Right.” They said quickly. “And I’m sure we’ll still be in touch.”
GiDi grinned, and turned to continue on to the dormitories. As TO followed, DH walked next to TO.
“We’re saying that.” They whispered, “But… we’re still going to figure something out, right?”
“We are.” TO said. They still had no idea how they could manage it. Maybe they could even make an argument as to why the three of them should be sent off together? Maybe they could make a proposal suggesting the benefits of sending out groups of three, not two! A well researched report had worked for shower time after physical training, maybe they could change this as well!
Once they got to their dormitories, TO suddenly realized something they had forgotten to do. They didn’t mention it until they were in sight of their own pod, and saw that all the pods around theirs, save for DH’s, were closed up for the night.
“I’m sorry.” TO said to Gidi, “I didn’t get back in time to get you a pod near me, even though-“
“I kept you and DH away from the dormitory all evening.” They said with a grin, “You can hardly be held accountable.”
“Well.” DH said, “Simple solution. We’ve all managed to sleep in TO’s pod before. I’m sure we can do it again.”
TO felt their ears flick down as they looked to DH, “But we were so sore the next day!” They insisted, “Our wings were stiff, and -“
“We fell asleep then without meaning to.” DH said, “You and I were perfectly comfortable last night. I’m sure we can figure something out for tonight.” They looked at GiDi, “Besides that, I’m willing to say that neither of us are going to let TO be alone tonight, right?”
TO felt their ears burn, “Hey… hey, that’s not necessary!” They insisted, “I’m sure I can manage a night on my-“
“We are not.” GiDi agreed.
“And you don’t want GiDi to be away from us tonight, right?” DH asked TO.
“That… well.” They frowned, “I’d feel really bad. I promised-“
“Then this is a way of particularly fulfilling your promise, and a way for us to make sure you’re taken care of overnight.”
TO went to pinch the bridge of their snout, but hissed in pain as their hand came close to their injured flesh. The pain had built up through the evening, and they realized that they had forgotten to take the medication that had been given to them earlier.
“You do want our company, right?” GiDi asked, making their eyes big as their large ears fell limp. TO wasn’t sure if that was intentional or not, but it didn’t matter- TO wouldn’t be able to say no now.
“Of course I do.” they grumbled. “You two go up and see if you can figure out a way to comfortably squish us in.” they held up their empty water bottle, “I have some medication to take before bed. Keep the pain away.”
DH’s ears flicked down in guilt as they sheepishly looked up at TO, “Does it hurt really bad?”
“It’s starting to.” TO admitted, “But that’s my fault. They told me to take some with supper, and I forgot. I’ll just go take it now and go to sleep. I think it’s mostly to make sure I rest well.”
“We’ll go on up then.” GiDi said, pulling DH away, “I’m going to grab my blanket. We’ll have it all nice and cozy.”
TO nodded as they took off, smirking at DH’s confused look as GiDi pulled them away. They hoped that GiDi would tell DH that it was really fine, and that TO wasn’t angry about the nose. Their nose would be fine, even if they looked a little silly tomorrow.
With luck, DH wouldn't worry about it too much. Maybe that’s why they were acting strange– they just felt guilty about the nose. They shook their head as they wandered towards the water fountain. If that was the only reason that DH was acting strange, then it was fine.
TO heard something as they approached the water fountain. They frowned – most of the other synths were already asleep– but it was really no concern; TO wasn’t doing anything that wasn’t allowed. They were just getting some water.
There was a synth doubled over at the fountain, whimpering. It took TO a moment to realize who it was since they were doubled over with their head hidden by their limp wings but once TO saw them clutching at their arm, they realized that it was Q10, and they realized that the accelerant that they had been given must have kicked in hard.
There was another whimper of pain – almost a sob– followed by retching. The water fountain was turned on as Q10 rinsed out their mouth, spat, then stood there panting and gasping. TO noticed that there were holes in the arm of their uniform from where they were clutching themselves so hard.
In the brief silence that followed once Q10 caught their breath, TO cleared their throat. Q10 spun around, eyes wide with panic as they saw TO standing there. They narrowed their eyes, but said nothing as they stepped away, turning their back to TO so they wouldn’t see their face streaked with tears and contorted in pain.
Wordlessly, TO went to the fountain and started filling the bottle, ignoring the stifled whimpers of pain that came from Q10. They set the water bottle down to let it fill, and reached into their pocket to get their painkiller. No; Painkillers. They had two. They had forgotten to take one with supper.
TO opened the little capsule, and took out a pill. “I won’t be long.” They said as they took their water bottle from the fountain, “I was given painkillers for my nose. I just need some water.”
“Why should I care why you’re here.” Q10 hissed.
“You shouldn’t.” TO agreed. They took one of the pills, chased it with water, and set the other on the edge of the fountain. They turned and left without saying another word. They walked away, and heard Q10 lunge for the fountain. There was more retching, more gasping, then a pause. TO looked back, and saw Q10 looking at the pill on the edge of the fountain. They frowned, then looked over to TO, who only nodded and walked away, hurrying down through the rows of pods to get back to their own before Q10 decided to yell at them for getting involved in something that wasn’t their business.
It wasn’t until TO was climbing up to their pod that they considered that they might have been able to use that painkiller more efficiently. Maybe they could have saved it in case GiDi or DH got hurt –just in case they were denied painkillers. Maybe they could have used it to find out if DH’s theory that Q10 had a hand in the report sent to their overseer was true.
Well, it was no matter now; the painkiller was gone. Besides that, TO was certain that even if they had tried to get information out of Q10 by offering them the pill, Q10 wouldn’t have given in.
And TO would have given them the painkiller anyway.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell