“Brainy! Where are you going?”
Brainy cursed silently to himself. Of course it would be him.
“Where do you think, Norg? I'm going to my room.” He said it in a biting tone, exaggerated by his pain.
“But you're injured,” said Lyle, coming up beside him and looking him over, “You're limping.”
Brainy had hoped he was hiding it, that he merely looked bruised and stiff. But his movements sent pain suddenly jolting through him in a way that was hard to mask.
“I'm fine.” Brainy turned away.
“Let me see,” said Lyle, a hand alighting on Brainy's forearm and his eyes still scanning Brainy's legs for injuries. He brought out his omnicom, and Brainy quickly snapped his hand over the display. It was unlikely he was injured enough to show on the mediscan, but he wasn't about to risk it.
He growled at Lyle through gritted teeth. “I'm fine.”
He tried to turn and walk off in a stomp, but the moment he moved he winced slightly and was forced to ease up and go slower. Forget putting on a show of strength; he flew away from Lyle and down the hallways. He heaved a breath of relief at being able to glide motionlessly to his room. He didn't step down to the ground even once he reached and entered his room. But he knew that could only last so long; he needed to treat himself.
He grabbed a bottle of healing ointment and went into his bathroom. If he found the process degrading, only the slightest thinning of his lips showed it. He wrapped himself tightly in a robe and left his clothing strewn around for once, rather than bend down and pick it up.
He was debating how to preoccupy himself next when he exited the bathroom and spotted Lyle sitting on his bed.
“Norg!” He jumped and winced. The ointment helped, but he still needed to avoid sudden moves.
“You're still hurting,” said Lyle accusingly, “Didn't the sealers take care of it?”
Of course, if he'd had a wound on his leg, a sealer would have accelerated the healing process, disinfected it, and provided pain relief. It was only useful for light surface wounds, though. Lyle must assume he was hiding something more serious, something the sealer couldn't handle.
Which was true.
“Get out of my room.” said Brainy. His voice was full of cold anger.
“Why are you hiding this?”
Lyle was the worst kind of person, always interfering and asking exactly the wrong questions.
“Out, Norg. I'm going to bed.”
“I can help you. Just let me.”
“You cannot help.” It was said with a little more despair than he'd intended.
Lyle pursed his lips the way he did when he was thinking. He almost always said something maddening after making that face.
“Stop trying, Norg. I am not a child, and I do not need your help.”
“I'm not treating you like a child, I'm treating you like a friend. Besides, what are you going to tell everyone when you limp past them tomorrow? Or are you planning on flying forever?”
Brainy turned away and bit his lip. No, he didn't know how he would hide it tomorrow. Thank you for pointing that out, Norg.
Brainy put a hand to his eyes.
The patheticness and hopelessness of his situation hit him right then, and he had to keep his hand over his eyes. He tried to take a deep breath without showing it; he swallowed it. Norg probably wouldn't touch him. He just needed a moment.
It was too long a moment, though, because eventually he felt Lyle's hand on his shoulder, then his arm around his back. Brainy shook his head but couldn't speak. The tears were hardly even coming, but his breath just wasn't there.
“Okay, Brainy,” said Lyle very quietly, “You have a couple seconds to say something or I'm hugging you.”
Brainy coughed, his air sucked out of him. How was he supposed to say something?
Like the other touches, the hug was very light. But Lyle was his height, so they were cheek to cheek, and Brainy knew there was no pretending he was all right. Not when Lyle could feel his stuttering breath.
He eventually felt the blood return to his face and the breath to his lungs. He managed to push Lyle away and sit down on the bed. He shook his head at him until he left.
Eventually, a few months later, he told him.