Yul reclined in bed, her silver hair blending into the white pillows that supported her delicate head as carton to egg. Her face looked gaunt and her eyes, not clear as before but opaque and dull like watered milk, seemed to blink less than normal, looking without seeing Mairi thought, like the eyes of a blind woman.

Mairi tried to probe her mind, as the good doctor had taught her, or to be fair, had attempted to teach her. The skill seemed simple, when one was the subject of a probe, like dancing without having to lead, deceptively easy, or so it appeared. Everything, she thought, looks easier when we watch someone else do it. Nevertheless, Mairi tried, with pure intent, to help, to aid, to succor a friend in need. Still, seemed like a violation, to probe another in this way, to walk in the halls of their memories and thoughts and emotions. Yet, somewhat ashamed, but not completely, Mairi couldn’t deny the seductive power of the probe, to see another naked, stripped bare without them knowing you were there. The power, even at this elementary level of skill, was nothing less than intoxicating.

Ease in. Stimulate her nodes of pleasure. Massage the throbbing pain of thought and unknown, of fear and regret. Slip out. That was the plan and as plans go, it was a good plan, a gracious plan.

“Mairi?” asked Yul.

“Yes?”

“What are you doing?”

Mairi looked up at Yul as if the action would hide her hesitation. “I’m sending good thoughts your way,” recovered Mairi as she stoked Yul’s hair across her forehead.

“I don’t think it’s working.” Yul spoke in a shallow and distant monotone, the way one speaks when illness has stripped one of all vanity. The tone unnerved Mairi. Yul continued. “I’m in pain and I can’t make it go away.”

“Where does it hurt?”

“Upper back, between my shoulder blades. It’s a dull ache, like someone has taken the small muscles in my back, those muscles you can’t reach and wound them up to the point of pulling my bones out of joint.”

“I’ll call the nurse. I’m sure there is something they can give you to relax those muscles, to help you sleep.” Mairi started to turn away.

“Don’t go. Won’t work.” Yul still didn’t make eye contact with Mairi.

“What do you mean won’t work?” asked Mairi, standing halfway between the bed and the door.

“No pill is gonna fix my pain and I don’t wanna sleep, I don’t want the nightmares.”

Mairi took a step toward the bed. “What nightmares?” She tried to probe but her skill wouldn’t let her past the wall of pain in Yul’s mind. Mairi’s head began to hurt, to throb, hard; and then she felt a searing heat, as if she had moved too close to the fire.

“I didn’t tell you because I didn’t see the point. I mean, what are you gonna to do about my dreams, my nightmares? You gonna fix them?” Mairi didn’t respond. “Saw no point in burdening you with that.”

“Well, sometimes just talking about it helps.”

“I don’t like talking about a problem only I can solve. I’m not interested in advice or sympathy or being judged.”

“I think the only one who is judging someone else, no offense, is you.”

“What are you talkin’ bout?” asked Yul, a tinge of indignation in her voice, her eyes breaking contact with the ceiling for the first time.

“You’re judging me. Making assumptions about what I may or may not do. You’ve decided what is best for me without ever giving me a chance.”

Yul frowned. “Okay. Try this on. Call Rog for me. Get him on the comm.”

“You know I can’t do that. They are operating under radio silence.”

“File that as exhibit A. Now tell me, what are my chances of surviving this operation?”

Mairi started to speak.

“Don’t lie to me. I can see it on your face. You want to help me? Just tell me the truth. Straight up.”

“Alright. Not good. But I think—“

“Let me finish,” snapped Yul. “File that as exhibit B. You starting to catch my drift?”

“Not sure I’m following you. Care to—“

Yul huffed with about the most energy she had shown in days and then raising her voice shouted, “I didn’t mean a single damn thing I said to Rog. Not a single frailing thing. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“I think he knows that,” said Mairi, almost regretting the words before they had left her mouth.

“Don’t frailing patronize me.”

“I’m sorry Yul. I—“

“What do you think he’s thinking right now? Tell me that? After my little outburst.”

“Well—“

“I’ll tell you what he’s thinking. He’s thinking he should have stayed. He’s thinking he frailed up. He’s thinking I’m nothing but a little shiott for having a pampus fit when he decided to go. And you know what? There’s not a frailing thing I can do about it now, right now, is there?”

Mairi moved to the side of Yul’s bed. Her voice softened. “Have I ever told you what I did, what I was, back on Hyneria?”

Yul turned and looked at Mairi, not so much for the words, but for the tone, a tone she had never heard uttered by the redhead. Mairi continued, “Do you know what a Chatelaine is?”

“Nooooo. I mean, no way. You? No. I—“ Yul’s eyes were locked on Mairi’s now as Mairi lean over, her hand slipping under the sheets.

“Way,” she whispered. “I have to tell you a secret.” Her hand gently started stroking Yul’s thigh. “You know the effect the vial has?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, you’re not going to need it. And you know what else?”

“Pray tell?”

“You’re not going to ever want to settle for it again.” With those words, Mairi’s hand slipped between Yul’s legs, and with a touch of her fingers to the repose of Rog’s delight, she saw the opening she needed and slipped into Yul’s mind. The good doctor was not such a poor teacher after all, or was it the pupil was just underestimating herself?

Categories: Story, Yul, Mairi

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