Josh looked up from the magazine he’d been reading and spotted Leo hobbling his direction on his crutches.
The man passed Josh and hissed “I’m not here” under his breath before ducking in an alcove behind Josh in the hallway. Leo flattened himself against the wall and put a finger over his lips, both the motion and his eyes begging Josh to “be quiet.”
The source of the human’s stress strode down the hallway a moment later, his long coat flapping behind him.
“Hello, Markus,” Josh said, smiling. “You look frazzled.”
Their leader huffed and scanned the hallway with his eyes. “Have you seen, Leo?”
“I can’t say that I have,” Josh lied, shaking his head. He took a—hopefully discrete—step to the side to further block any chance Markus might see around the corner. “Did something happen?”
“No, but we had a PT session scheduled and I can’t find him,” Markus said. He took once more look around before he took a step. “He can’t have gone too far.”
“I thought you had his vitals hooked up to your sensors,” Josh asked. “Wouldn’t that tell you where he is?”
Markus dropped his shoulders. “North made me turn the program off. She said I was too distracted keeping track.”
“She might have a point,” Josh said. “You do tend to dote on him.”
“He still needs care,” Markus shot back. “Leo almost died a month ago and the healing process can be slow with injuries that severe.”
“Just let me know if you see him,” Markus said.
He clapped Josh on the shoulder and continued his search.
Leo and Josh both waited for the sound of a door closing at the end of the hallway before the man snuck out of his hiding spot. The human had bags under his eyes and his hair was ruffled, free for once without one of Simon’s beanie projects.
“Thanks,” Leo said. He threw his head back and stretched it, cracking his neck as he went. Josh held the magazine to his chest, folding his arms over the small tablet. Leo took Josh's “I just lied for you” look to heart and explained himself. “It’s not that I don’t appreciate what Markus is doing, but I need a break from the mother-henning. He treats me like I’m ninety and so sure a bone’ll break if I cough the wrong way.”
Josh cracked a sly smile. “You did almost die last month.”
“Don’t you start too,” Leo said. He reached over, still leaning on his crutch, and pushed Josh in the shoulder. “I’m fine. My leg’s still messed up, but the rest is mostly healed.”
“You should still probably make sure to do the PT session with Markus, though,” Josh said. “You want your leg to keep healing, don’t you?”
“Why’d you lie to Markus if you were going to tell me to go see him anyway?”
“I didn’t say it had to be today,” Josh said. He nodded down the hallway in the opposite direction of Markus. “You can come hang out in my room until North gets back from her trip into town. She’ll keep Markus distracted.”
“Sure,” Leo said. He ran a hand through his hair, smoothing it down and readjusted his crutches. “Lead the way.”
They made it about five steps down the hallway before they were caught.
“There you are!” Simon exclaimed, clapping his hands together. “Josh! You found him. Give me a second and I’ll call Markus to let him know.”
Josh and Leo exchanged a look as Simon tilted his head as he completed the task and indirectly let their leader know that Josh had covered for Leo.
“He’s on his way,” Simon said. He looked at Leo and crossed his arms. “You’re never going to fully recover if you skip your PT sessions.”
“So I’ve been told,” Leo said. He patted Josh on the shoulder. “Sorry, man. We tried.”
Simon looked between the two and asked, “Did I miss something?”
Josh laughed and shook his head. He braced himself as the door at the end of the hallway burst open and Markus came through it with an irritated—though somewhat amused—look across his face.
“Leo,” Markus said as he approached.
“Markus,” the human answered back in the same tone.
Josh snuck away while they stared each other down and mentally apologized to the human as he skipped away and left the man to his fate.
Maybe he’d make Leo a batch of cookies to make up for it.