28,167 / 50,000
Wrote a few extra words today, since I was on a good little roll, and figured I'd reach a good cut off before I stopped.
Hearing Brendan's wisecrack made Alphonse break out into a big grin. That was an unmistakable thing for him to ask. The man, now woman, would make jokes at the most inappropriate times, deflating a tense situation with just the right mix of humour into the room.
If the woman that lay before him was not Brendan, she had certainly done her homework on the subject. Not many people can appreciate a black sense of humour, let alone replicate one. It wasn't something Brendan advertised, either. Too often in his youth, he had made a joke at some tragedy in the wrong crowd, so while he may have been known for it amongst certain people, he waited until he knew a group before he started in on the gallows humour.
Not to mention, she had used the infernal "Al" nickname only Brendan used.
In response to the young lady's question of if several days had passed, Alphonse finally shook his head. "No, lad," he said, before he could stop himself. Once the word had escaped his mouth, he paused. The word still fit and felt right in his mind, if this was Brendan, but to have just called such a vision of loveliness lad, it sat ill at ease with the doctor.
Continuing, "No, you were only out for a few moments. A half hour at worst. How much do you remember?"
Alphonse took note that Brendan seemed totally oblivious to any changes. He/she had not noticed the different voice, nor had he made any mention, or sign that he could tell, that his body was now considerably different from the way it once was. Alphonse did not know what this could mean, if it meant anything, but he kept his wariness of the situation at the ready. His mind went into a full observation mode, looking for any signs that this may indeed not be his friend, somehow.
The woman adjusted herself on the bed, trying to get comfortable. Was it just the bed, as simple as that? Or was it something more? Alphonse could not tell yet, but it was possible that the body wrapped around Brendan's spirit felt uncomfortable because of the changes, and he was trying to get comfortable. Another point in the pro Brendan column.
He could see the woman pondering the question in her mind, a flicker in those bright blue eyes that were once a smokey hazel. Brendan tried to remember just what it was that he remembered, and eventually her lips parted, then she paused and closed her mouth once more, before finally continuing.
"Sorry, just trying to sort everything out first. It's all fuzzy, and blurry, but bathed in light. I've been in and out of conciousness so randomly, it's a bit of a jumble."
"That's ok, take your time. Neither of us are going anywhere."
"The project?" Her head tilted to the side, curious about the fate of everything since she had been knocked out.
"On hold for now, but not shut down. Please, continue."
"I remember the targetting chamber. I was trapped inside... What happened?"
Alphonse looked away, shameful of what he had done, the stupid mistake that had caused all this.
"That was entirely my fault," the doctor spoke softly, looking away and down at the floor. "I hit the wrong button. After we talked, I fixed the code, and meant to run a simulation again, but turned on the emitter firing program in reality, and not the virtual world.
He slowly turned his eyes back to the woman laying there, her eyes wide in surprise at the stark admission of guilt. But that had never been hard for Alphonse to do, he had always readily admitted to things he felt guilty for, even without just cause. What surprised her more was that what she remembered was true.
"And somehow, I survived," was all she said, and all that needed to be said.
Nodding, Alphonse continued. "Somehow, yes. Do you remember waking up afterwards? We covered much of this then, ever so briefly."
It was Brendan's turn to do the nodding. "Yes, I do remember waking up. And I remember some of the conversation. There was pain, also. Oh god, it was like I was back on the targetting chamber all over again."
"Do you still feel it? The burning sensation? The itching? Or even just the dull tingle, deep within you, like when you first woke up?"
A smile flashed across that new face staring back at Alphonse. He had often heard of Helen of Troy, with her face that launched a thousand ships. Alphonse suspected that this newly formed woman could easily have launched two thousand. He found himself constantly reminding himself that he was a much older man, even if it was only fifteen to twenty years, as well as this woman before him was no ordinary woman, and was in fact a woman only a short while ago.
The bright smile that shone throughout the room, competing to bathe it in a glow much brighter than the silver shimmering light from before, betrayed the answer, but she spoke anyways. "No, I don't feel anything! The pain, the sensation, it's all gone away! What did you do, Al? What was wrong with me?"
Alphonse coughed, and stroked the sides of his face, covering his mouth behind his hand as he contemplated a well-worded answer for the young woman.
"Honestly, it was nothing I did," he responded. "Unless it was because of the emitter's actions upon you, which I suppose the blame for anything it did could be laid squarely at my own feet, and no one else's. Especially the accident that caught you within its sights."
He looked at her for a moment, before going on. "What else do you remember? Anything?"
"I woke up, we talked. Oh god, my skin. It was all... I can't even find the words to describe it. It was like some freakishly bubbling soup."
Alphonse listened, the sight fresh in his memory.
"And you wouldn't leave, so I threw you out of the room."
The doctor straightened in his chair. That had caught him off guard. Alphonse was expecting Brendan to have no recollection of those events, in part because Alphonse wasn't certain he himself believed they were real. He thought the trauma, the sudden unconciousness, and the general impossibility of the events would have been blocked from Brendan's mind.
However, it wasn't that simple. "You said you threw me out of the room. How did you do that. You were in pain, weak from several days unconcious, and quite unfocused. How could you have thrown me out?"
Brendan looked confused. "Why are you asking me," she asked. "You were here, I threw you out. If anyone would know, it would be you. I just...I just picked you up and threw you."
So, Brendan's memory isn't entirely intact, he thought.
It was dangerous, but Alphonse forged ahead. "Oh, I know what happened to me, yes. Although I need to be certain that you know what happened. Try to remember. How could you pick me up? You couldn't do that on your best day, at least not for very long. And today? Today is far from your best day, lad."
A look of pain sunk into the young woman's eyes, and her cheeks. Brendan could not understand why Alphonse didn't believe him, especially if he was there.
"Think, Brendan. What happened?"
He could see the wheels turning behind those azure orbs. Brendan found it hard to think, the time after that very hazy in his memories. He was also distracted by the feeling of mistrust he was picking up from Alphonse.
"There was the pain. The fire. And something else. A light, no, that was the light from the emitter's barrel, wasn't it?"
"No. This was after, when we brought you here."
Brendan continued to concentrate, fighting past the thick fog hat permeated his mind around the memories. Was it just the stress of the day, or was it something more? And why did he feel so strange after waking up?
"But there was a light. I do remember it now. A blinding, silver light. It was so close to the radiation coming from the emitter, but so different as well. It glowed, and wasn't just light. It almost looked like glowing metal, and that -" Brendan stopped, considering the words he wanted to say, knowing it's what he believed to have occurred, but it still felt so wrong as well.
"The silver light, that was what picked you up. What threw you out of the room. More than that though, the light, it came from me, didn't it? I did throw you from the room, and still never left the bed, at the same time."
His altered, softer voice grew even softer as he recalled the events that had gone on just prior to his transformation. It lowered to a whisper, as his thoughts wandered back to the moment, the memory more of a fading dream, than something that had happened less than an hour ago.
"My gods, it worked? The emitter actually worked? If what I remember, if that's what actually happened...!"
"Calm down, we're still investigating just what happened to you. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, lad. Do you remember anything else," Alphonse pressed onward, hoping for information about anything that may have happened once the door had swung shut, some insight into the events inside the mercurial light.
"No, nothing else. I...The light threw you outside, and then it grew, filling the room, as if someone had left a faucet of the stuff running, somewhere. Next, all I remember was waking up with you standing where you are now, and staring at me."
Those eyes narrowed, looking at Alphonse with a critical gaze, considering him, and his actions, since Brendan had woken up.
"Why are you staring at me like that? What aren't you telling me?"
Alphonse turned away, embarassed. He hadn't realised that he was staring so intently upon the form of a pretty woman as much as he was. He knew he was looking at her, but he thought it was purely about assessing her, to discover if she was truly his old friend transformed into her.
"Please, forgive me. I didn't realise I was doing that. There's something you need to know. The emitter, it appears that it did have some affects on your body."
Those eyes went from critical, to surprised, and to afraid in the blink of...well, the blink of an eye.
"Oh no," Brendan spoke, terrified and horrified of what could have happened. "It turned me into some hideous, bubbling blob! That's what was happening before I attacked you! And that explains why I'm feeling so strange, and so lumpy. Oh god, oh god!"
The panic rose in Brendan's voice, and his breathing quickened, as he began to hyperventilate.
He made to grab at the various things stuck to, and in his body, wanting to be out of the bed, if not the entire lab, as quickly as possible.
Alphonse moved with an unusual swiftness for him, and grabbed his friend by the shoulders, holding Brendan steady, and forcing him to lock gazes with the doctor.
"Calm down, Brendan. You are not some hideous monster." Far, far from it, he thought. "Just take a deep breath, and have a look for yourself. But you are changed. That much is true. You will still be able to walk out those doors and be part of the world, have no fear."
Brendan listened to his mentor's plea, hearing the words, and locked down by Alphonse's piercing brown eyes. He focused on his friend, drawing strength from him, and finding his inner calm, finally slowly nodding.
Alphonse let go, not moving his hands too far away just yet, in case Brendan should have another panic attack.
"Is there a mirror," was all he asked, barely lifting his voice above a whisper. "Best to just get it over with."
Ducking into the small bathroom adjacent to the hospital room, Alphonse soon returned with a small hand mirror, and held it out for Brendan.
He took it in his hands, and lifted the reflective surface up, and Brendan would have surely noticed the small, softer - some would say dainty even - hands at the end of his equally soft arms, if not for the vision of beauty that looked back at him from the mirror completely taking his attention away from any other detail at the moment.
"I think I would have been better off as a hideous monster."