I Came and I Was Nothing and Time Will Give Us Nothing
Location: Kalailah (RZ17)
Timeline: February 17th 2390 0200
Layil and Brandt are in the encampment for two days, during which time they manage to be particularly helpless in the face of the disease that ravages the small area in roiling waves of patients that fill up not one, but two triage tents by the end of it. There's no vaccine or real treatment beyond stabilization, but the good news is that with the resources from Prometheus, most of the patients have a prognosis more positive than will probably die, although it's not exactly a sure thing, they've yet to encounter a casualty from it. It's on morning three, when Brandt and Layil are awake in their hut-the ambassador having shed the pompous robes he usually wears in favor of simplistic garb, the two of them having settled into a companionable repartee. Though, let's face it, days of tireless shifts between the clinic resulted in mutual exhaustion, although the Vulcan would never admit to such. Brandt begun to notice, though, that Layil was sleeping more and more as day two rolled into day three, and after waking up in the middle of the night to help Layil put on water for tea, he realized that Layil was looking particularly yellower than usual.
After Layil was seated with a cup of tea, Brandt sneaked into his medical bag to get his medical tricorder and unapologetically began doing a medical scan behind Layil's back to confirm or deny his suspicions. Unfortunately, what the scans were telling him definitely confirmed it. "I was afraid of this," Brandt said as he slipped the handheld scanner back into his tricorder.
It's pretty difficult to do anything behind a proximity telepath's back, though, and when Brandt returns to the kitchenette area, Layil regards him with a raised brow. "I take it the results are unpleasant," he tilts his head, familiar enough by now to detect Brandt's displeasure. The tricorder tells Brandt that Layil's body temperature is maxed out, and while he doesn't sweat like his Romulan brethren, his skin has taken on a lovely waxy, sunny color.
Brandt's concern is obvious on his face that has always been highly expressive. "Your exposure has been high. It was... bound to happen." Brandt sighed softly and worried on his bottom lip for a moment before he schooled his features. "We need to get you to triage. You need to rest."
Layil takes an inventory of himself, concealing a grimace that ordinarily wouldn't even make a blip on his radar. "It appears my body temperature is ten degrees higher than baseline," he concedes, "but Vulcans are quite resistant to disease. I am certain there is no reason to be concerned. My systems are entirely operational."
"Layil..." Brandt sighed softly and rubbed one hand over his face. Other Doctors and Vulcans. The worst patients ever. "Your temperature has spiked hard, your skin has turned a yellow pallor, you've been sleeping a lot more than normal, you've barely been eating. It pains me to say it, but you're sick, Layil. If you keep pushing yourself you're just gonna make it worse."
He's about to stand up and protest, but the movement sends a rush of blood to his head and Layil finds himself brought to his knees, a hand thrust out in front of him to unsuccessfully break his fall.
Fortunately, Brandt has impeccable above human reflexes, and he reacts the moment he senses that Layil is going down. The human sinks to his knees and manages to catch the Vulcan easily in his arms so he doesn't fall flat on his face. "Will you please listen to my medical advice this time?" he asks softly, imploringly.
It all at once feels like being hit with a truck, and Layil rolls to the side, completely limp as despite the lower gravity of this world lifting his limbs becomes an Olympic feat. "I... suppose... I have little alternative," the ambassador huffs, blinking up at the ceiling with bloodshot eyes. It's following the course of every other patient Brandt has encountered, with subtle symptoms at first that soon steamroll into full-blown infection within hours, and the minute characteristics he's spotted over the last few days don't take long at all to force Layil to comply.
Brandt tapped his combadge and ordered a medical gurney to their tent to transport another patient. When the emergency gurney arrived, Brandt took most if not all of Layil's weight as he helped the Vulcan up and onto it. He covered the Vulcan with a blanket, and made sure he was as comfortable as possible before he helped transport the ambassador towards the triage center.
Drs. Tayeh and Narae are already present in the tent as Brandt moves Layil through the triage center and decontamination, but really the only person here who is not at any risk is Brandt, which puts somewhat of a dampener on people's unrestricted movement. Nonetheless, Narae gowns himself up and moves to help Brandt maneuver the Vulcan's weight, getting him situated in an isolated corner of the large complex and drawing the curtain around him. "Sir," Narae gives a formal bow of his head to the chief medical officer before ducking out to check on the rest of the patients, leaving Brandt to treat Layil himself.
"I suppose this is one method of integration," Layil coughs, turning his head away at the last second.
Layil was royalty, so of course he was treated with a higher sense of decorum and privacy than the others. Brandt thanks the other attendants for all their help, but once Narae was gone Brandt was left to tend Layil on his own, which he was perfectly OK with. He'd grown fondly attached to the Vulcan since they'd met and it twisted Brandt's gut in knots to see him so sick like this. Brandt brought him some ice chips, and sat down on the stool next to Layil's cot. "Well, since I met you, you have seemed like the hands on type," he said with a soft smile. He was trying to banter and maintain some semblance of normality despite how anxious and worried he felt. "Ice chips?" he offered the cup to the Vulcan.
He pushes himself up and paws at the cup, blinking blearily up at the ceiling. eyes streaked with green and yellow and dilated far beyond the norm. He's not sweating, he's pale, his lips splashed that sickly-chartreuse, normally olive skin mottled and as the time passes, he begins to scratch at his arm at the mild irritation that pops up and he grimaces, knowing he's not supposed to but-no, no, control. He's in control. Why isn't he in control? The fever. He has a fever and it is bad. Perhaps if he can access-he shuts his eyes, reaching into his own psyche, his own neurology, but he's scrambling to hold onto anything resembling biocontrol. He's frustrated and convalescent and-ugh!
Brandt placed his hand gently on Layil's shoulder. "It's gonna be alright, Layil. I've got you." Brandt offered him a warm, kind smile. "I'm gonna give you a few hypos to try to combat some of your symptoms," he said as he got up to grab a few hypos of medicine and such to treat Layil's symptoms; an antibiotic for the infection, an antipyretic for the fever, and an NSAID for the muscle pains. He also got some of the topical cream for the rash but he would need to ask Layil for permission first before applying it.
When he returned to Layil's bedside he pressed the hypo with the antibiotic to his neck and with a soft hiss injected the medicine. That was followed by the pain reliever and the fever reducer. Hopefully it would all help. "I can also apply this topical cream to combat the itching if you wish?"
Breathing heavily, Layil pushes himself into a seated position to regard Brandt with as much dignity as he can currently muster in this position. "It would be logical to do so, as the result of doing otherwise appears to be quite unpalatable," Layil says, showing his arm which not only has many wheals and bumps but also long lines where Layil had scratched hard enough to make a laceration. He's already more lucid than before, thankfully, though he doesn't look much better.
That was good to see, even if he didn't look much better it was obvious the pain and fever reducers had helped him at least cerebrally. Physically he still looked as sick as Brandt was sure he felt. The doctor cleaned the scratches before he took his time to gently rub the ointment into Layil's arm; sort of giving his aching muscles a gentle massage at the same time. "Would you be amenable to let me examine you for additional hives and rashes?"
Layil wasn't really amenable to anything other than laying there miserably, but he dutifully lifts himself into a seated position, cooperative (for a Vulcan it's practically eager, but perhaps Layil has experience with the clinical because the last time Brandt and him were in this position he acted much the same, acquiescing to just about anything the doctor saw fit to do, which absolutely isn't usual). "To borrow a Terran phrase, be gentle," Layil's eyebrows pop up, borderline playful.
Brandt couldn't help it; when Layil asked him to be gentle, a huge grin spread on his face despite the direness of the situation. Humor and playfulness at a time like this? Definitely a good sign. Or was it? From a Vulcan that was difficult to say as 'playfulness and humor' were not all that normal. Damn.
Brandt helped Layil out of his robs, and with the careful clinicalness of a seasoned medical professional, he examined the Vulcan as best he could. Where he found more hives and rashes be massaged more lotion into his skin, relaxing aching muscles in the process. Brandt had very strong, slightly calloused hands that expertly found knotted muscles or aching pressure points that he did his best to work out to help relieve the pain.
Brandt might be a professional, and none of his actions had ulterior motives or intentions, but it was very possible that if it weren't for his many years training on Vulcan, and his ability to segregate his own feelings from certain situations, this whole thing would have probably been far more awkward. Brandt was self-aware enough to understand that he was definitely attracted to the Vulcan, especially after they'd spent as much time together over the past week as they had. Attraction was hard to quell, and even beyond that he loved the Vulcan's mind. He was able to be clinical and professional as he tended the man, but he couldn't help the tiny inkling in the back of his mind that yearned and hoped for the Vulcan to get better so maybe someday he could give the man a massage for real...
OK, so, maybe Brandt was getting a little too far ahead of himself. He had to remember that Vulcans did not date. Their 'romantic interests' were incredibly different from humans. They mated for life, or in some cases, at least until death. As Vulcans were very long-lived, much longer than humans, and their mating customs were, shall we say a bit unorthodox, taking a human as a mate was practically unheard of... But then Brandt wasn't a normal human...
Still, he was aware of the very real possibility that he was letting his own romantic notions get in the way of logic and reality. Just because as a child he had fallen in love with the story of his great, great Aunt Amanda who had against all odds married a Vulcan out of love, did not mean that was even remotely in the realm of reality for anyone else. He needed to kick those notions out of his head quick before they got him in trouble.
When he was done with his examination, Brandt got up to wash his hands before he returned to help Layil back into his robe, then urged him to lie down. "You should try to get some rest."
This is the second time in so many days that Layil's been shirtless in front of Brandt and the idea seems to tickle him, an odd little expression on his face that anyone in their right minds might call amusement-but Vulcans didn't express feelings, so surely Brandt must be imagining that, right? Vulcans didn't have emotions.
Amanda was an outlier and certainly according to any Vulcan you ask, Sarek wasn't particularly forward with the grain either. You'd think maat'Surak would be more, you know, logical but even their maat'tela'at, T'Pau, had her own special place in Terran history as a frontierswoman, responsible for bringing the Kir'Shara into popular light when any rational analysis would tell you it had been lost forever.
The point is, Layil definitely didn't give Brandt a faint, barely-perceptible smile that creased his eyes up at the corner. He does relax back into the cot when he's bidden, moving gingerly against the application of soothing balm against his raw skin and concealing a grimace (at least that much goes unseen, he's not a total barbarian) well enough. "Appreciated, Brandt," he murmurs, voice raspy and hoarse as if he hasn't used it in some time.
Vulcans had emotions. Brandt was very well aware of that, he was just also very well aware of how their emotions had almost destroyed them thousands of years ago and so now they were what they were. Not lacking emotion just very much in control of them, of suppressing them to a point where they perhaps no longer understood the full scope or range of emotions or their meanings or value. Honestly, Brandt believed if more humans could understand that concept they wouldn't have so many psychological and mental health issues as they did.
Still, Brandt had noticed the tiny smile, the micro expressions that most humans would never have caught. He couldn't be too sure he wasn't imagining things though, so he didn't dwell. With Layil's thanks, Brandt gave the Vulcan a soft smile, and rested his hand on Layil's shoulder. "You'd do the same for me were our positions reversed, I'm sure." There was no need to thank him, in other words. "Would you like something to help you sleep?"
"I would indeed," Layil murmurs, "however I find myself grateful that the event of your illness isn't currently possible," he adds, sounding more like himself after Brandt's application of several different measures to combat the severe symptoms that continue to crop up. Instead of agreeing, Layil just pats the corner of his cot. "Do you require to attend to additional patients?" he inquires, before asking his real question.
It was heartening to both see and hear the Vulcan sounding more like himself. He wasn't out of the woods by a long shot but as long as Brandt could continue treating the symptoms, he was grateful and pleased with the outcome. The silent invitation for Brandt to sit beside him, on the same bed, was a little too intimate for their present predicament, at least in Brandt's still fully intact mind. He very much doubted the Vulcan would have made such an offer were he not sick. As much as Brandt wished to take him up on it, wished to be close to him, he couldn't in good conscience... So he pulled over a stool instead and sat very close to the Vulcan's cot. "At present, no," he replied with a soft smile. That could change, but he'd already attended most of his patients before they'd retired to their tent several hours ago. Most of them were sleeping or wouldn't need more care for a while yet. "So, you have my undivided attention."
Listen, poor Layil was just-this side of delirious so that was probably a good option, and the fact that Brandt could now tell he had a very faint expression on his face (in the range of that slight smile) was proof positive that this fever is no joke. The medical tent was mostly filled with, you guessed it, medical supplies, but there was an abandoned chessboard near the back and Layil leans up, indicating it with a gesture. "Do you play?"
It was a shame Brandt knew it was the fever causing it, because he rather liked seeing Layil smile. He looked where Layil indicated and saw a chess set. "Is that--" he got up to retrieve it, then brought over one of those sheely medical tables that could adjust its height. He lowered it as far as he could, enough to make it easier for Layil to see and then he sat back down, placed the box in his lap before he opened it and started setting up the board. "I dabble a little. My brother Alex is a fucking wizard at chess, though, I tell ya what."
Layil's eyebrows shoot up. "A fucking wizard?" LOOK he doesn't know Terran curse words, help. Once the chess set is laid out, he plucks a pawn from the top and moves it two spaces up, regarding Brandt with that still-curious expression on his features, which are somewhat obscured by the faint prickle of stubble lining his cheek and jaw , an indication of his status in a veritable lack of continuing personal hygiene, sorry to say.
Brandt blushes a little. "Uh, sorry. Fucking--" he clears his throat. "--is a Terran curse word. One my ma woulda probably slapped me over if she'd heard me use it just then." Brandt had noticed the stubble, but quite frankly he didn't mind. Layil looked good all clean shaven, but with a little scruff was nice too. When he was feeling better, Brandt might offer to give him a real straight-razor shave. "Anyway, my brother's not an actual wizard, I just mean that he's really good at chess. He's really good at a lot o' things actually." Brandt missed him... fucking SFI...
"You and your brother are close," Layil surmises, hearing the subtle change of tone-or more accurately, sensing the subtle changes in Brandt's mood, the way the air pricked up and everything became awash in that golden-hue Layil often associated with love, a basking warmth with spiky edges and oily black swirls threatening to rain down. A love-interrupted. Something was wrong in that relationship, but Layil didn't press it. He didn't push it. Feverish and disoriented, he finds himself overcome with the kind of empathy that Brandt cannot fathom. A Vulcan's internal emotional experience, unguarded, is simply inhuman. It's too much, and for a split-second Brandt feels it, too, at those corners of his mind, Layil's clumsy, delirious attempt to soothe him psionically. As soon as the Vulcan realizes what he's done, his eyes fly open wide and all that mental presence swiftly retracts back up into itself.
"We were. Before Scar died Alex and I were very close." Brandt had raised Alex since he was preschool age, so Alex had always been more like a son to him than a brother... which Brandt was very well aware meant that he hadn't just left Wyatt and Avery behind when he went on his Vulcan excursion to fix his broken brain and emotions. He'd left Alex, too. Even if the man had been a young adult at the time, he'd still lost both the people who had been like parents to him. Scar had been like a mother to him, too, after all. "By the time I got back from Vulcan he was--" He feels it almost immediately, that psionic presence in his head that's acting like a balm trickling through his nerves and senses, soothing away the pain and the guilt of what he'd done. His hand drops to the mattress of Layil's cot and he grips the sheets in his fist and his nostrils flair slightly.
Just as quickly as it had started, Layil's presence in his mind was gone. He pulled everything back so abruptly that it had almost hurt. His eyes popped open and they were slightly dilated. His face lifted to look into Layil's and he didn't know what he felt stronger; yearning or confusion. Yearning to feel the Vulcan in his mind again, and confusion as to how and why it even happened. Sure, he'd felt Vulcans in his head before, but never like that. "Are you alright?" Brandt asked calmly, obviously concerned for the Vulcan.
"Forgive me," Layil croaks hoarsely, his voice thick and affected beyond anything Brandt had ever heard from a Vulcan outside of pon farr before. This is part for the course-the fever's a doozy, ravaging the otherwise disciplined and military-utilitarian minds of the Romulans around them; it's no surprise that it's affecting the Vulcan in the same way, though he's diligently attempting to keep it under control. There's only so much a person can do, and Brandt's already got the distinct impression that Layil simply isn't on the same level as other Vulcans. He's either not as well-trained, or something happened that's causing him to lose touch with his own internal biofeedback protocols, but either way he is sick and it's showing. "Forgive me. I've no intention of violating your privacy."
"For what it's worth, I do not see it as a violation. Maybe if I were ashamed, or had something to hide, but--" His smile was soft, affectionate even. Brandt's concern was obvious, but he was not offended in the least. "I'm more concerned about you. If my presence is unsettling or upsetting you I--" He didn't want to leave, but he also didn't want to make Layil more uncomfortable than he obviously already was. "I can find you another attendant if you'd prefer?" Someone who wasn't as open or susceptible as Brandt was. The human was practically yearning to feel Layil in his head which could not be helping the situation any.
Layil just gazes at him a little wide-eyed and shakes his head, having startled himself. "No-" he murmurs, soft. "I have not lost control in this way since I was a child. I fear I might harm you. You may be more resilient than the average Terran, but you are psi-null. You are not immune to such an intrusion, and I've no wish to break barriers that should not be broken." It's clear that Layil isn't just a regular, run of the mill touch-telepath. "It must be the fever," he reasons.
What if he wanted those barriers to be broken, though? He didn't voice that thought out loud. "It's not just a fever. This sickness is wreaking merry havoc on your insides and out. Do you think doing some meditation exercises might help?" Brandt wanted to hold his hand but that was an entirely human impulse and the last thing he wanted was to make Layil more uncomfortable or to cause him to lose the control he was clinging onto still. "I could put on some serenity music and light some incense?"
"That won't be necessary," Layil huffs-it'd be a laugh on any other person, and it just goes to show how far-gone he is. He slowly maneuvers himself to a fully seated position and crosses his legs, lotus-style. "There may be another option. While it isn't dangerous to you, it would be intrusive, and uncomfortable. Exactly the things I wished to avoid by withdrawing this far into my own mind." It's something Brandt has become used to as they've started to talk with one another; Layil's presence not just physical, but mental as well, a warmth in the room that shimmers and flexes with Layil's movements and thoughts, but now it's gone. The room is empty and cold, Layil's keeping himself firmly locked up.
"Well, consider it payback for all the poking and prodding we had to do to you earlier," Brandt said, as he mimicked Layil's position as best he could, crossing his ankles, and resting his hands on his knees and trying to slow and clear his mind. "What do you need me to do?"
"If you are certain," he murmurs, and raises his hands, settling his fingertips over Brandt's face. Brandt nodded without hesitation. "What this will do is allow me to tap into your neuropsychology, and enable me to regain control by focusing on your own stability as a touch-point. The side effects are somewhat intrusive. I will learn a great deal about you, and you will learn about me. In a meld this deep there is no choice but to reveal yourself, so I would understand if you have reservations." It's the only way forward he can see without completely destroying the minds of everybody around him in a fit of delusional rage, but it's Brandt's choice. No one should be subjected to that unwillingly.
Saejil had told Brandt about deep melds like this before: how rare and intimate it could be. Brandt thought for a moment... did he have anything to hide? Most of his 'shameful' secrets Layil was already aware of but the true depth of his pain and loss... well Layil already knew loss like that himself... Did he have anything to hide? The answer was honestly no... but it went both ways... Brandt would know Layil's own past as well... Was Brandt ready for that? Honestly, yes... Maybe that was naive of him, but he was eager to be closer to the Vulcan. He met Layil's eyes seriously for a moment before he lifted his hand to gently touch the back of Layil's wrist; a comforting gesture for himself more than anything. He gave Layil a nod. "No reservations here, darlin'... I'm ready..."
Layil gives him a curt nod in return. "Very well. Let us begin." His fingertips splay exactly over Brandt's meld-points, under his eyes and across his orbital bone. "Betau nash-veh kashkau tor tu'kae. Betau nahp-lar tor tu nahp-lar. Terau k'dular kae. K'dular kashkau teretuhr..."